Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Seared Sea Scallops with Broccoli Rapini

Broccoli Rapini is in season, so you may be able to find it on sale. I bought a bunch for $1.50, which was nice as the scallops were NOT on sale.

Broccoli rapini is not related to broccoli.  Its flowers do look like broccoli and, well, it has broccoli in the name, so I see how a person could be confused.  It is related to the turnip. If this is the first time you have ever eaten broccoli rapini, be forewarned:  broccoli rapini is bitter.  Very bitter. Dumped on your wedding day bitter.  And bitter is not a taste common to the American palate.  Bitter is very common to the Chinese and Italians and as such rapini is popular in both those cuisines. You should give bitter a chance.  It has a wonderful bite to it that can become addictive. The stems are the most bitter, so the less stem you use, the less bitter the dish.

Scallops on the other hand are sweet.  They offer a nice counterbalance to the bitter rapini.  It is very important that the scallops be dry before you cook them.  It is also very important that you don’t overcook them.  Nothing is better than a juicy, sweet scallop.  Few things are worse than the erase like texture of an overcooked scallop.  Be careful.  If in doubt, undercook.

I served just scallops over rapini.  If you feel you must have a starch, I suggest a simple couscous or orzo tossed in butter with toasted pine nuts.

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  large pot, large bowl, colander, knives and a cutting board, kitchen scissors,  paper towel or clean tea towel, zester, a small bowl, 2 skillets, tongs
Time:  Prep:  15 minutes (includes blanching)   Cooking: 15 minutes

  • 1 bunch broccoli rapini (12-16 ounces)
  • Ice
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 small shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 orange
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Rinse the rapini and snap off the woody stem right below the flowers.  Fill a large bowl or pot with ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add the vinegar and the rapini.  Allow the rapini to boil for 4 minutes.  Lift the rapini from the boiling water and plunge it into the ice bath to allow it to cool and to stop cooking.  This process is called blanching. It keeps the rapini green when you sauté it later and it also reduces some bitterness.  Pour the rapini into the colander and allow it to drain.  You can blanch them up to a day before you need them.  Just drain them thoroughly and keep them in a container in the fridge.
  2. Rinse the scallops and remove the side muscle.  This is easier to do with the kitchen scissors.  Pat them dry.  Zest the orange into the little bowl.  Then cut the orange in half. Set aside until later.
  3. Slice the shallot and garlic as thin as possible.  Cover the bottom of one skillet in olive oil.  Place it over medium heat and add the shallots, garlic, and pepper flakes.  Cook until the garlic is fragrant (about 2 minutes).  Add the rapini, tossing to cover the rapini in seasoning.  Sauté the rapini until it is wilted, but still crisp.  Remove from the heat and keep warm.
  4. Heat the second pan on high.  Add the olive oil.  Salt and pepper both sides of the scallops.  Make sure the scallops are dry and that you don’t crowd them in the pan.  Cook them in batches if you need to, because if you crowd them they will steam rather than sear.  Place the scallops into the very hot pan.  Allow them to sear, no more than 3 minutes. Don’t do anything to them while they are searing.  No nudging, pressing, nothing.  After 3 minutes flip them over and sear for 2-3 minutes on the other side.  During the last few seconds of cooking squeeze the orange juice over the scallops.  If you are cooking the scallops in batches, wipe the pan out and start over with every batch.
  5. To serve lay down a bed of rapini, top with the seared scallops and sprinkle with the orange zest.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Corn and Black Bean Salsa

My doctor required that I eliminate a great deal of food from my diet in an attempt to isolate some food allergies.  After not eating grains, dairy, added sugar, legumes, night shades, or any preservatives for a month, I realize that I don’t want to return to my old eating habits. I find myself carefully reading the ingredients label to make sure that I am eating as few chemicals and as much actual food as possible. You would be surprised how difficult it is to find products without added sugar, nitrates, and other non-food.

I created this Corn and Black Bean Salsa because I couldn’t find any salsa without xanthum gum.  I carefully read the cans of beans until I found one that contained only black beans, water, and salt. I bought frozen corn because often frozen is better than fresh, but again, much reading was required to find corn that only contained corn.  Everything else is fresh.

I tossed shrimp in salt and a little cayenne pepper and roasted them.  I filled whole wheat tortillas with the salsa, shredded cabbage, and the roasted shrimp.  YUM!  The salsa was even better the next day.  I just ate it right out of the bowl with a spoon.
Servings:  2 ½ cups
Time:  10 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, knives and a cutting board, a can opener, a strainer, a zester, and an airtight container

  • 1-15 ounce cans of black beans
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes  
  • 3 green onions
  • Three baby bells in various colors (or ½ a green bell pepper)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest and juice from 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Fresh cilantro to taste
  • Salt
  1. Open and drain the beans.  Place them in the strainer and rinse them thoroughly with cold water.
  2. Roughly chop the tomatoes.  Slice the green onions as thin as possible. Seed the peppers, remove the white ribs and chop them. Smash the garlic.  Tear and add as much or as little cilantro as you want. Toss everything together. 
  3. Zest the lime over the salsa.  Then squeeze the juice from the lime, making sure to catch all the seeds.  Add the cumin and a little salt.  Gently stir.  Taste and adjust the salt.
  4. Eat right away or put in the fridge until needed. This tastes even better the next day.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cabbage with Bacon and Apples

Cabbage with Bacon and Apples
I have terrible allergies and am having autoimmune trouble, so my doctor has asked me for the next 30 days to eat no dairy, no grain, no sugar, no legumes, no preservatives, and no night shades (tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, or eggplants.)  When she told me this, I wondered, “What’s left?”  Veggies and meat and creativity.  So in an effort to heal myself I have really stretched my imagination.  I wrote down a list of all the food I was allowed to eat and began to think.  I remembered that my grandmother used to feed us veggie heavy meals with meat as a seasoning instead of the main ingredient.  That was probably to save money more than it was to be healthy, but the food was tasty.  She often made cabbage soup and cabbage rolls. So she was my inspiration for this dish.

I went to a grocery store in town that makes its own bacon.  The butchers do not add any nitrates or preservatives.  They sell bacon ends, which are meaty rather than fatty.  If you do not have access to a good butcher then use ham ends instead.  You can use purple cabbage or a mixture of green and purple for added color.  Just know if you use purple, it will color everything.

I will continue to make this even after I am allowed to eat normally again.  It is delicious.  It is also really fast and easy to make. I actually caught myself craving the leftovers today.  It is savory, sweet, and a little tangy.

Serving: 4 main dishes or 8 side dishes
Time: Prep: 10 minutes, Cook: 35 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring spoons and cups, cutting board and knives, a bowl of water, a large (5.5 quart) sauté pan, tongs

  • ½ pound nitrate free smoked ham or bacon ends
  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • ⅛ teaspoon celery seed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Slice the cabbage into thin ribbons. Slice the onion into rings. Chop the garlic. Wash and chop the apples.  Put the apples into a bowl of water until you need them.
  2. Put the bacon in the cold pan and place over medium heat.  Allow most of the fat to render from the bacon, tossing often enough to stop the bacon from burning (7 minutes). Drain all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pan.
  3. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft (about 5 minutes) tossing often.  Add the cabbage and toss.  Sprinkle on the fennel, celery seeds, and salt.  Add the water.  Cook until the cabbage is tender (about 15 minutes.) Drain the apples and toss them in during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Toss often.
  4. Add the vinegar and adjust the salt & pepper. Serve warm.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jerk Chicken

In case you haven’t been paying attention, I like spicy food.  Jamaican Jerk is about as spicy as it comes.  Jerk is both a spice rub for pork and chicken and a technique for cooking the marinated meat.  The technique requires smoking which I do not know how to do.  So, I just made the marinade.  It is delicious.

The main ingredients in Jerk seasoning are allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers.  After, that recipes diverge.  I have eaten Jerk chicken in many different restaurants and a few of those were located in Jamaica.  So I messed around and came up with a rub that I find pleasing.  You can make this and then mess around yourself.

I know that I always say to use gloves when cutting hot peppers.  This time I am not kidding.  To give you an idea of what I mean when I say hot, the hottest jalapeño is around 4,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale while the mildest Scotch bonnet is around 100,000 SHUs.   The Scoville scale is the amount of the spiciness of chili peppers measured in Scoville heat units (SHU).  It is a function of the amount of capsaicin in the pepper.  Capsaicin is the chemical that makes peppers hot.  It is concentrated in the seeds and white ribs inside the chili.  Also, when making this I like to buy the allspice berries whole rather than ground.  The flavor is more pungent.

This recipe makes more than you need for 4 thighs.  However, it keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.  Marinate pork chops with the leftovers.

Servings: 4
Time:   Prep: 5 minutes; marinate; 2 hours to overnight. Cook: 45 Minutes
Hardware:  measuring spoons and cups, a cutting board and knives, no powder latex gloves, a rubber spatula, a spice grinder (if you are using whole allspice), a food processor, a large plastic container with a lid, a large heavy bottom skillet that can be used both on top of the stove and in the oven, tongs, thermometer, a jar to store the extra jerk

  • ½ cup allspice
  • 1 large yellow onion (½ cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 scotch bonnet peppers (can substitute habaneros)
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 1 ground)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 bone in chicken thighs
  • Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.

Jerk Chicken-Spicy, Island Yumminess
  1. If you are using whole allspice grind it to a powder.
  2. Peel the onion and quarter it. Peel the garlic.
  3. Make sure you are wearing the gloves from here forward.  If you prefer less heat, remove the seeds from the peppers.  I just remove the stems.
  4. Put the onion, garlic, and pepper in the processor and pulse until the onions are liquefied.  Scrape down the sides of the hopper and add the allspice, sugar, thyme, cinnamon, and the teaspoon salt to the hopper.  Pulse until everything is incorporated, stopping to scrape the hopper.
  5. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.
  6. Place the chicken in the large plastic container and top it with about ⅔ cups of the marinade.  With the gloves still on rub the marinade into the chicken, getting it under the skin.  Place the chicken in the fridge for at least 2 hours but you can leave it in overnight.  Scrape the leftover marinade into the jar and put it into the fridge.
  7. Make sure that you place everything that the peppers touched into the dishwasher.
  8. Remove the chicken about ½ hour before you need it.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375˚.  Heat the olive oil in the skillet on medium high
  10. Add the chicken skin side down.  Turn the pan down to medium and cook for 8 minutes.Turn the chicken with tongs and cook for 7 more minutes. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 35 more minutes or until the thermometer read 165 when inserted into the thickest part of the largest thigh. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with Pineapple Salsa or Peach Salsa and black-eyed peas over rice.

Pineapple Salsa

This salsa tastes great served over Jerk Chicken or Pan Seared Caribbean Grouper. Regular pork chops can be made special by topping them with a tablespoon or two of Pineapple Salsa. It can also just be served with corn chips. It is really easy to make and will keep for a week in the fridge.

Servings:  Makes 1½ -2 cups
Time:  prep: 5-10 minutes; Rest: 2 hours-overnight
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a cutting board and a large knife, an airtight container

  • 1 pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ a green pepper or 3 baby bells
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt

  1. Break down the pineapple.  First cut off 1 inch from the bottom and then 1 inch from the top.  Then use the knife to cut off the outside as close as possible. You may need to use the knife to cut out some of the eyes.  Then cut off the flesh down to the hard core.
  2. Chop everything and toss it together.  Taste and adjust salt.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.