"What's for Dinner?!" I'm always thinking about it, thought I'd share.

"What's for Dinner?!" I'm always thinking about it, thought I'd share.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Feta, Sun-dried Tomato, and Herb Spread

Thank you to our dear friend Heike for sharing this dynamite recipe.  This is has become a standard go-to appetizer for parties and get togethers.  It couldn't be easier to make, serve with really good crusty French bread and everyone will be wowed!

1# crumbled feta cheese
1-2 clove garlic, minced
1/4 C. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (I like to add a little of the oil from the jar)
To taste, chopped herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, and/or basil)
1/4 C. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.  Can be made a day ahead.  Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kona Rib Eye Steaks

(2) 14-16 oz Rib eye steaks (I prefer bone-in)

Spice Rub:

Equal parts fine ground coffee, kosher salt, and brown sugar.

Add a generous amount of the spice rub to steaks and rub into the meat.
Grill or barbecue until med-rare.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Slice and enjoy!!

Middle-Eastern Pasta Salad

Kosher salt
1 pound tricolor pasta, such as bow tie or fusilli
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 teaspoons dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
2/3 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned
1/4 cup diced onion
2 large pickled pepperoncini peppers, diced
3 tablespoons halved black olives
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 1/2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons grated romano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain, then rinse with cold water to cool.
Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in enough of the oil to make a smooth dressing; season with salt and pepper.
Combine the sun-dried tomatoes, basil, onion, pepperoncini, olives and oregano in a bowl. Add the cooked pasta, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the vinaigrette and both cheeses and toss. Chill until ready to serve.

Orzo Pasta Salad with Garbanzo Beans

1/2 pound orzo
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small to medium zucchini, diced
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas, drained
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup feta or goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook to al dente.
Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet, add zucchini, onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook 6 to 7 minutes until tender, add chick peas and heat through. Toss with herbs, orzo and cheese, adjust salt and pepper and serve.

Pasta Salad with Mozzarella, Tomatoes, and Olives

1 garlic clove, peeled
2 cups coarsely chopped pitted green olives (from about 6 ounces unpitted whole olives), divided
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound gemelli, fusilli, or rotelle pasta
2 pints cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1 8-ounce package small (cherry-size) fresh mozzarella balls in water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

With food processor running, add garlic clove to bowl through feed tube and process until finely chopped; turn off machine. Add 1 cup chopped olives, capers, red wine vinegar, anchovy paste, mustard, and crushed red pepper. Using 6 on/off turns, process to chop coarsely. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup olive oil, forming coarse puree. Transfer to bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup olives. Season olivada to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Olive mixture can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Transfer drained pasta to large bowl. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over pasta; toss to coat. Cool, stirring occasionally.
Add olivada, halved tomatoes, mozzarella, and oregano to pasta; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekly Menu June 25th - July 1st

Dinner out in Birmingham with Elizabeth
Omelette with Aged Cheddar and Asperagus, Roasted Red Pepper and Onion Coulis
Vegetable Potato Hash
Baby Arugula Salad with Honey-Mustard Pretzel Croutons, Lemon, and Olive oil
Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Papaya Salsa
Quinoa with Grilled Vegetables
Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
Baby Greens Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes tossed in a Chive Vinaigrette

Turkey Kafka with Spicy Greek Yogurt Sauce
Cucumber, Tomato, and Feta Salad with Dill
Warm Flat Bread
Muli-grain Pasta with Roasted Garlic and Eggplant, Tomato Sauce
Garden Fresh Salad with Herbs and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette
Steak and Martinis down at the lake

Barbecue Ribs

Spice Rub:
2 Tbsp. finely ground coffee
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cracked black pepper

1 or 2 racks pork ribs (baby back or spare ribs, whichever you prefer.  Rinsed, dried, and silver skin removed)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Lots of your favorite barbecue sauce (make your own or store bought, your choice.  If I'm not making it, I like "Baby Rays" or "Bone Suckin' Sauce")

6-8 hours prior to cooking;
In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix all spice rub ingredients together.   I put on latex gloves before handling the pork.  Rub spice mix onto both sides of ribs, rubbing mixture into the meat.  Place on sheet tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
You can either cook the ribs first in the oven and then finish on the grill or on the barbecue only.
If using the oven, preheat to 375 degrees and then cook ribs, covered for 1 1/2-2 hours.  Preheat grill and get very hot.  Once ribs are done, slather on sauce.  Brush oil onto grill being careful of flare ups (this will aide in clean up and make sure the ribs don't stick).  Place ribs onto grill and char each side being careful not to burn the sugar in the sauce.  Serve with cole slaw and a salad, enjoy!

If using just the barbecue.  Heat your charcoal, once ashen and hot place grill over and brush with oil.  Place ribs over coals turning every 30 minutes until done (1 1/2-2 hours).  Once done sauce and continue to heat each side until sauce is hot with slight char.  Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Weekly Menu June 18th - June 24th

Grilled Rib eye Steaks with a Roasted Garlic and Herb Butter
Sauteed Broccolini
Fingerling Potato Salad with Smoked Bacon

Father's Day - Dinner at Andiamo's (I'll be having the Veal Chop)

Fish Tacos
Broccoli Slaw with Red Onions
Fresh Guacamole with Garden Salsa

Vegetarian Marsala Burgers
Baby Greens Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Lebanese Chickpea Salad with Cucumbers and Tomato Medley

Pasta with a Smoked Turkey Bolognese Sauce
Italian Chopped Salad

Smorgasbord Night - clean out the frig.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Grilled Turkey Burgers with a Sun-dried tomato Aioli

1# ground turkey
1/2 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

To make the Aioli, mix all ingredients in a small bowl and reserve.

To make burgers;

If making thick burgers I like to finish in a 400 degree oven so I don't over-char the outsides while leaving the middle under done.   If making thin burgers you can skip the oven.

Place a small pan over med-high heat with a small amount of olive oil in it.  Once hot, quickly saute the onions and garlic.  Put turkey meat in a large bowl, add onion mixture and the rest of the ingredients for the burgers.  Mix thoroughly (I like to use latex gloves and get my hands into it).   Make into patties.  Either grill or sear the burgers until fully cooked.  Serve with Aioli and a fresh salad of baby greens and fresh tomatoes.  Any way you enjoy burgers will work with these.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Steak better than a Steakhouse

Doing great steak is not as hard as you think and doing it as good, if not better than your local steakhouse is definitely not as hard as you think.  Of course there are the "Meccas of Meat", those places that do exceptional beef, I am not talking about those places.  These are places that have the facilities to dry age their meat for 28 days or longer, get prime cuts of beef, have the staff and equipment to prepare those steaks better than most of the cook-at-home crowd.  In the Detroit area, some of those would be, Roast at the Book-Cadillac, Lelli's in Auburn Hills, Cameron's in downtown Birmingham, Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham, Ruth's Chris off Big Beaver, Fleming's, Capital Grille at Somerset, and the Rugby Grille in the Townsend.  Now those destinations command $45 or more for a cut of beef and dinner for two, with wine and tip, will set you back $250 plus.  Listen, I am not against any of these places, Jeanne and I go often through out the year.  What I am saying, is that if you want to enjoy a great steak once a week (or more) you can do it yourself with terrific results at a fraction of the price.  You just need to know a few simple tricks of the trade.

It starts with the quality of meat.  Remember, "less is more", so buy great aged meats versus the cheaper ones.  It's not about quantity, it's all about quality.  Go with a smaller amount of high quality beef, an 8-ounce prime cut will be so much more flavorful and satisfying than that lesser quality "gi-normous half a cow" steak so many are into.  When doing beef, I buy either Prime beef or Certified Angus and prefer bone-in Rib eye.  The marbling (fat content) is what makes a steak and this cut has it all, super tender, great fat content, extremely flavorful and lends itself well to aging.  I also love bone-in NY strips, another great cut.  Leaving the bone in increases the flavor when cooking and tends to help add to the fat content which again aides in the aging process.  It is so worth it to find a good butcher that sells grass feed beef with no hormones, no antibiotics etc.  If you can find one that offers locally raised, even better.  The truth is, average supermarkets carry average beef.  If you are looking for a market in the Detroit area that has great beef I think Plum Market, Papa Joe's Gourmet Market, Whole Foods, and Hiller's have tremendous quality.  I also go to Embassy Meats down at Eastern Market (ask for Barry, he owns the place, always there) and my friend Matt Burnstein's shop Marketplace Meats in Waterford off Commerce and Union Lake Rd is terrific. 

Next, how the beef is handled prior to cooking also makes a difference.  Some of the high-end markets carry dry-aged beef.  If you can find it, get it.  If you've never had aged beef, it is fabulous.  The aging process removes water, so it intensifies the flavors.  It also increases the tenderness of the beef.  Pretty much every premier steakhouse ages their beef.  If I can not find dry-aged, I like to do it myself before I cook it.  This is not essential, but boy does it make a difference with the taste.  If you are willing to go through a little extra time and energy, your efforts will be greatly rewarded.  I realize there are different views on this procedure if doing it at home.  Not everyone is a fan, I understand.  I've been aging beef in my home frig. for years now and never had any problems.  If I am working with individual steaks I age them for no more than 3 days.  If  I have a larger piece of beef, say a roast or prime rib, 7-10 days.  I have never been comfortable with aging for longer at home.  I've read many articles and blog posts that claim they will age beef at home for up to 2-3 weeks.  I say, have at it, God bless, but that's beyond what I am willing to do.

To age steak at home, here's how I do it.  Take the beef out of its original wrapping.  Rinse it with cold water and then dry it off.  Wrap it in cheesecloth and place in a glass baking dish.  Set it in the refrigerator, down at the bottom, where it is coldest.  It is very important that your frig is clean and free of foods that have strong odors (the beef will absorb the flavors its around).  Let sit for 24 hours, then take it out, unwrap, the rewrap with the same cloth (so cloth doesn't stick to beef).  Place back in frig and repeat each day.  If you are aging a large cut of beef you can unwrap and rewrap every two days.  When beef is ready, unwrap and discard cloth, cut away the tough outer layer and you will be left with a spectacular tasting piece of beef ready for cooking.   

Next comes the seasoning of the steak.  Most people I observe in the kitchen or around the barbie,seem to be in one of two camps; either they don't use enough seasoning when cooking or worst they completely go hog wild with the seasoned salts, mixes or cajun spices.  Proper seasoning is an essential step in preparing a killer steak.  I'm a purest, I only use kosher salt and cracked black pepper when preparing steaks.  By all means, you can experiment with different spices, seasonings, marinades, oils etc.  For me, I prefer the classics, no frills, a great cut of beef and S&P; a match made in heaven.  Just before you are ready to cook your beef, season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Gently rub the seasoning into the meat on both sides.  Remember, when you slice your steaks only the outer edge will have the seasoning on it, most of the slice will not, use more than you think.  The seasoning acts as a flavor enhancer.  Without it, even the best cut of beef will taste "dull" or muted.  This will take some practice and is probably the number one area cooks either get wrong or need to improve on.  This obviously makes a huge difference not just with steak, but everything you prepare.

The proper cooking of the steak is critical.  Obviously, there are many different ways to prepare a great steak.  Cooking over hot charcoals or wood adds a smoky flavor.  You can pan sear and finish in the oven or under a very hot broiler (the only way its done at the legendary Peter Luger's in Brooklyn).  At home, I prefer using a very hot grill and then finish my steak in the oven.  The best steakhouses use grills or broilers that have very high BTU outputs and can get over 1,000 degrees.  This sears the beef's exterior, makes a "to die for" char on the outside and locks in the juices.  Your outdoor grill is probably the hottest cooking source in your house and your best bet.  First, I mark my steaks on the grill and then finish them in a hot oven, 400 degrees.  I do this because if I am cooking a thick steak, I don't want the outside to get too much char or burn and leave the inside too rare.  When preparing a thinner cut, I will just use the grill for the whole job.

Step 1, turn your grill on and let it get really hot.  This is another mistake many at-home cooks make, they never let the grill or pan they are using get hot enough.  When what you are cooking on or in does not get hot enough, the food never sears.  You literally end up steaming what you are cooking which leads to pale looking food that's tough.  Searing only happens when things are really hot.  This makes a huge difference.  So, to test your grill, hold you hand, palm side down a couple of inches above the grill, if you have to pull it away after 2 or 3 seconds, it's ready.   Brush the grill with some olive oil, vegetable oil works too and lay your seasoned steaks down.  For those of us who also like our food to look as good as it tastes, lay your steak down on an angle.  Only use tongs to move the steaks, never use a fork.  A fork will puncture the meat and you will cause most of the juices to flow from the steak and the juices equal flavor.  I learned the "10 and 2" method.  Imagine the face of a clock, lay the steaks down facing two o'clock.  Let sear for 2-3 minutes and then rotate to 10 o'clock.  Let sear for 2-3 minutes and turn, once, setting the other side at two o'clock and repeat.  This will give you those beautiful diamond shaped grill marks that you see in the finest restaurants.

Step 2, finish steaks in the oven.  Beef heats to a medium rare doneness in 15 minutes per pound.  Take this into account when cooking.  One of the most difficult things for cooks to master is telling the doneness of their steak or roast without poking it with a thermometer or cutting into it.  Both will cause the steak to loose it's juices and you will end up with a dry piece of meat.  Learn how to do it by touch.  It's really not that hard.  A neat trick I learned to help you learn how to tell the doneness of your steak is performed with your hand, palm facing up.  Using your right hand, put your thumb and forefinger together, don't squeeze.  With your other hand touch the meaty part of your hand just below the thumb.  This is what rare feels like.  Now touch your right thumb and middle finger together.  Again, touch the meaty part of your hand just below the thumb, this is what medium rare feels like.  Thumb and ring finger together will feel like medium-well and using your pinky and thumb together will feel like well done.  This will take some practice, but it's so much better than making your steak a pin cushion.  I like my steaks medium rare.  For those who like their steaks well done, well, I'd say you may want to eat other fare than a prime dry-aged piece of beef.  Maybe chicken or pork.   Prime beef was made to enjoy rare, med-rare, or at most medium.  Even the most skilled cook will butcher a well done steak.  At best, it's dry and most of the juices that make a great steak, great, have been cooked off.  At worst, you get a hockey puck and you might as well buy shoe leather and cook that.  I offer, make an effort to, over time, learn how to enjoy your steak less well done.  I would first start by eating them med-well and then gravitate to medium.  You may never get to medium rare or rare, that's ok, but at least you will taste what that great juicy steak was meant to taste like.

Lastly, step 3, the most important step!  Once the steak is cooked, remove it for the oven and let it rest on the stove top or counter top for 10-15 minutes.  A larger cut for 20-30 minutes.  Do not touch it, prod it, and for God sakes what ever you do, DO NOT CUT INTO IT!   Resting the beef will allow for all the juices to settle back into the muscle fibers.  If you cut into the steak right away, the juices will pour out leaving you with an extremely dry, flavor lacking hunk of meat.

Now, you are ready to serve a fabulous steak that will rival even the best places in town.   As always have fun, involve family and friends, and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Oregano Marinade

This is a fast and easy way to add a punch of flavor to just about anything.  It's one of the staples in my kitchen, I usually use it when preparing either lamb, beef, chicken, pork, or fish.  It's also great for grilling vegetables.  Whatever you choose to marinade let sit in it for an hour minimum, but for best results let sit for up to 8 hours.

1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp Oregano, chopped
1 Tbsp. Parsley, chopped
1/4 C. good olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Pour over food, cover and refrigerate.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ginger and Garlic Tofu Pad Thai with Spring Vegetables

3 Tbsp peanut oil
1 block extra firm Tofu
3 green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, scrambled, cooked and reserved cold
1# rice noodles, cooked and chilled
1 C. snow peas
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small boy choi, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced on the bias
1 C. broccoli florets
1/2 C. vegetable stock (if not concerned about this being vegetarian, can sub. chicken stock)
Soy sauce, to taste
Oyster sauce to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 Tbsp. chili paste, optional, more or less to taste
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts
4 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped

30-45 minutes prior to cooking this dish, cut tofu into 1 1/2" cubes.  Arrange on tray, cover with paper towel and place in refrigerator.  This will draw much of the water out of the tofu and allow better browning when cooked.

On a back burner, heat, to boiling, a  pot of salted water for reheating the noodles.  Have a hand strainer ready for draining the noodles.

Heat 2 tbsp. of the peanut oil in a large saute pan until it starts to smoke.  Season tofu with salt and pepper and in batches fry on all sides until golden brown and crunchy.  Remove and reserve warm.   Add additional oil to pan and heat until hot and shimmering.  Add sliced sweet onion and green onions, stir and cook until translucent.  Add carrot, bell peppers, and broccoli florets, saute for 2 minutes.  Add garlic and ginger.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often as to not burn the garlic.  Add boy choi, snow peas, soy sauce, oyster sauce, stock, and lime juice, cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are al dente.  Add tofu and scrambled eggs to mixture.  Add chili paste. 

In a small bowl put the corn starch and mix with some water to form the consistency of cream.  Stir this mixture into the stir-fry to thicken the sauce.  Cook for 2 more minutes while stirring.  Finish dish with cilantro and correct seasonings with soy sauce and black pepper.

Drop a serving of noodles into the boiling water, heat for 30-45 seconds.  With strainer remove and drain well.  Place hot noodles in serving bowl or on plate and top with a portion of tofu and vegetables, make sure to spoon some of the sauce over.  Top with some of the chopped peanuts and enjoy!

Morning Energy Shake

1 C. Orange Juice
1/2 C. Lemonade
1 banana, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces (use frozen to make thicker shake)
1/2 C. (packed) coarsely chopped kale leaves, center stalk and stem removed (Spinach also works well)
1/2 kiwi, peeled
2 pitted Medjool dates, coarsely chopped (can sub. 1 Tbsp. honey)

Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Puree until smooth, stopping and scrapping down the sides of blender as needed.  Divide between two 12-ounce glasses and serve.  Enjoy!

Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Herbs

1 15oz. can Chickpeas, rinsed, drained
2 Tbsp. Chopped fresh Basil
2 Tbsp. Chopped fresh Parsley
2 Tbsp. fresh Lemon juice
4 tsp. extra-virgin Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
1/3 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher Salt, black pepper

Combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add Parmesan cheese and toss gently to blend all ingredients.  Season salad with salt and pepper.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekly Menu June 12th - June 17th

Grilled Turkey Burgers with a Sun-dried tomato Aioli
Mushroom Ragu
Roasted Fingerling potatoes with Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
Multi-grain Pasta with Eggplant and Vegetable Ragu, Parmesan cheese
Baby Greens Salad with a Grainy Mustard and Honey Vinaigrette
Pan Seared Ahi Tuna with a Sesame Crust
Wilted Spinach wilt Roasted Shallots
Quinoa with Sweet Baby Peas
Bean and Potato Enchiladas with Fresh Salsa
Mashed Avocados
Chopped Salad with Sweet Onion Vinaigrette
Grilled Summer Vegetables with a Balsamic Glaze
French Lentils with Roasted Garlic dressed with an Oregano Vinaigrette 
River Feast - Detroit, Dinner out

Weekly Menu June 5th- June 10th

Grilled Chicken Burgers with BAcon and Avocado
Broccoli Slaw
Vegetable Stir-Fry with Rice Noodles
Grilled Sea Scallops with Lemon, Garlic, and Herb Oil
Grilled Asperagus
Quinoa and Roasted Vegetables
Turkey Meatloaf with Wild Mushroom Gravy
Oven Roasted Potatoes with Chives
Garden Salad with Eggplant Tapanade and Citrus Dressing
Falafel Sandwiches with Tahini Sauce
Tabbouleh Salad
Humus and Pickled Vegetables

Dinner out - Sushi at Samurai Sushi