Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Many More Manhattans to Come: A Virgin Cocktail Experience

Chef Reiton was in a rare mood tonight.  He made a martini for dinner—the man who hated gin until about a year ago.

I was so proud of his drink choice, I asked him what I should make for my dinner, and he spouted out, "A Manhattan!"

"I've never had one before," I confessed, and that was that.

As he read directions to me over the phone (he's currently playing Captain Reiton), I poured and stirred and strained—and then sipped.

Gloria hallelujah!

If you want to have your virgin Manhattan experience, too, I'll help you out.  Here's what I used:
  • 1 3/4 oz. Sazerac Rye whiskey
  • 3/4 Martini & Rossi Rosso sweet red vermouth
  • dash of Angostura bitters
Add ingredients to a mixing glass.  Fill glass with ice and then stir swiftly for 30 seconds.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with a Luxardo cherry (you can buy them in a jar on the shelf at good liquor stores.  Please, for God's sake, do NOT use those neon dyed imposters that belong on top of a sundae and nowhere near a cocktail!).

Manhattan, baby, I have a feeling you and I are going to get along just swell!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

1,000 Chicken Salads: Yet Another (Summery!) Chicken Salad Recipe

Chicken salad recipes are like... well, you can look up the proverbial quote of Simone Elkeles to get my comparison.  To keep the title of this blog kosher, let's just leave it at: everybody's got one.

So I know that the recipe I am sharing with you tonight is not going to necessarily be a recipe that you've been gagging for, nor is it one that you will find yourself passing on to your children's children.

But I will tell you this: it is good.  It is different.  It is summery.  You should try it.

Here are the ingredients before they were blended with the dressing:

The chicken was leftover from my spatchcocking last night, as any good chicken salad chicken is (leftover, not necessarily spatchcocked...). And I ate the salad plain.  No bread.  You get the real taste of it that way (and you aren't eating any grain).

Here's the recipe for 2 servings:

You will need: a medium bowl; a small bowl; a small whisk; a fork

Put the salad ingredients into the medium bowl:
  • 2 chicken thighs, meat diced
  • 2 chicken legs, meat diced
  • 1/2 chicken breast, meat diced
  • cut into 1/4-in. cubes:
    • 1/2 small cucumber, seeded
    • 1 large radish
  • 1 green onion, sliced thinly
  • 3 large basil leaves, slivered
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4-in. piece of jalapeno, minced
Put the dressing ingredients into the small bowl:
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 Tblsp. sour cream
  • dash of nutmeg
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk the dressing ingredients until completely blended.  Pour over the salad ingredients and toss until everything is coated evenly.  Chill if making ahead, then plate, garnish with baby basil leaves and blueberries, and serve.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Learning to Spatchcock a Chicken: A How-To Video

I have no idea where the term 'spatchcock' came from.

There is a part of me that wants to apologize every time I say it.  Then there's the other part of me that wants to scream it at the jack who just cut me off...

In any event, I was first introduced to spatchcocking by my dear friend, Staser.  He walked into my classroom one morning and announced that he had spatchcocked a chicken for dinner the previous night.

There were a few moments of silence before I could respond with: "What???"

I soon was to be enlightened on exactly what spatchcocking was, but it wasn't for a good year or so before I finally had the nerve to actually try it.  It just sounded so complicated...and dirty.

My foodie friends, there could not be a more efficient way to cook an entire chicken than to spatchcock it before you grill or roast it.  I don't even think cutting it up is as quick (all those damn joints and all!).

And for those of you who learn like me--through reading AND seeing--I have created a rather homemade video of me doing the deed, just to help some of you out who still can't bring yourself to try out the technique.

I've decided to make this the first of a video series called: "How the Hell Do I...?"  If you have any further suggestions for video topics, let me know.  We may just have to learn how to do something together!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What to Do with All Those Cucumbers?: A Quick and Easy Cucumber Salad Recipe

They kill me, cucumber plants.  

Every day I go out and inspect my garden to see what the new day brings.  I love the suspense and surprise of finding what 24 hours of sun can do to a plant.  Inches seem to be added to a lettuce tower.  That cherry tomato is finally the right shade of red.  The basil has sprouted some new flowers.

But none of those babies can beat the cucumber plant.  I swear to God, fruit just magically appears on those suckers.  Every morning I go out and turn over every leaf, looking for some pickings and finding just babies, and the next morning I lift a leaf, and I'm like, "WHOA!!! Nice cucumber!" Full grown, fat deliciousness just hanging and waiting for me...

I love suspense, so I'm cool with these games.  I'm also cool with what I've been doing to them at dinner time:

The quantities below made enough for me eating solo; double or triple as needed.  And remember, this is a salad, so you can adjust quantities of ingredients to taste however you like.  As David Rocco says, "QB!"

Tools Needed: 1 small bowl, a fork, a juicer of some sort

  • 1 small cucumber (about 6" long), halved lengthwise and sliced thickly
  • 1/2 a small shallot, very thinly sliced
  • juice of 1/2 a small lemon (you can go lighter but don't go over; it's too much)
  • 2-3 large basil leaves, rolled up then thinly sliced
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a tiny dash of cayenne peper
  • a few shaved slices of jalapeno (optional)

Steps to Make: 

1.  Squeeze the lemon juice into a small bowl.

2.  Add the cucumber slices and the kosher salt.  Toss well.

3.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and toss well.  Let the flavors meld in the fridge while you make the rest of dinner, tossing the salad once in awhile until ready to serve.

And that's it.  A summer salad that is light, zingy, and clean.  Perfect match for a burger, some ribs, or a grilled chicken.

Spatchcocking, anyone?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Grilling Cauliflower: A Match Made in Heaven

I admit it.

I know it's kind-of weird, and maybe a little "off-color," so to speak, but--

I LOVE cauliflower.

I love it steamed.

I love it steamed then mashed.

I love it steamed and obliterated in a food processor with salt and pepper and shit-tons of butter.

I love it roasted.

I love it roasted with lemon zest.

I love it roasted with lemon zest and garlic cloves.

Any way you want to serve it to me, I'll happily accept.

But you know what I tried the other night and went ga-ga over?

Grilled cauliflower.

Heavens to Betsy, you must try! Rinse that head, then cut off golfball-sized hunks of crown with a little bit of stem and throw those pieces into a medium bowl.  Pour in a good couple tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle on some cayenne pepper, salt, and fresh ground pepper, then get your hands in there and toss, toss, toss! Grill over medium heat, turning every 5 minutes, for 15 minutes total, and you will have heaven laying on your plate.  

Trust me.  Ignore the lack of color and the cruciferous family bloodline.

Just grill and EAT.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Simple Summer Garden Salad Thoughts

The past three months, for me, have been--how shall I put it? Is "neurotic" too strong of a word?

I think maybe not.

I live in Wisconsin, and in 90 days of time I have: 
  • sold a condo in Illinois
  • packed and moved all contents of said Illinois condo to Wisconsin/Goodwill in two days
  • cleaned this condo the following weekend
  • closed on same condo
  • resigned from and wrapped up my two school libraries
  • had my stepson graduate from high school
  • vacationed for a week in Puerto Rico
  • bought a house in Boston
  • ferociously (not an overstatement—ask Chef Reiton) prepped our Wisconsin house for listing
  • listed our Wisconsin house for sale
  • attended a week long family beerfest reunion in NC
  • sold the house in Wisconsin
Seriously, I don't know that I have ever been more physically and psychologically exhausted in my entire life...

Thank God for my garden.  

Every morning I sit on our newly redone front porch with my coffee (yes, that is what I look like in the morning, and that is my freaking adorable momma's boy),

and then I do the next most relaxing thing I can think of: water my plants.

There is something incredibly calming and therapeutic to the act of watering a garden.  It takes mindfulness and observation in order to not make a mess or drown your plants, and in doing so, you begin noticing the momentary details of each flower or shrub or vegetable.

Like how today, the bumblebees were all over the snapdragons and the Russian sage.  And that bud on the rose bush that I noticed two days ago? It is now in full glorious bloom within 48 hours time. The really old zinnia seeds that I haphazardly scattered in random parts of the yard before leaving for NC? They are taking off like mad.  I may actually get to see some of my favorite flowers before we move. And the lettuce? The lettuce has gone from shrub-like to tree-like in a matter of days.  So—this is what I've been eating every night (lettuce and cucs from the garden; still waiting on the tomatoes):

God, I love summer.  

Summer and veggies and freshness.  

And the reminder the three of them collectively give me to love the simple things.

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