Smoked Tomato Bisque

This is a great summer soup.  Though it is served hot, it’s spices and flavors have a wonderful ‘cooling’ effect

on your palette, making it great for warm summer nights.  The word ‘bisque’ has such an appeal.  Bisque.  Right away we think of flavorful thick soups, seasoned just right, garnished with little surprises that only please.  Lobster bisque: the classic.  Smoked tomato bisque:  unique, but extraordinary nonetheless.  

What is a bisque?  Without going into technical details and definitions, a bisque is any pureed soup thickened with rice.  Rice is added to the cooking soup, the rice swells and over cooks, and when the soup is pureed, the rice becomes your starchy thickener.  The consistency of a rice thickened soup is unique and cannot be replicated with other thickeners, like a roux.  Just like a chowder is any soup with potatoes and pork, bisque, by definition, is easily modified.  Puree and thicken with rice.  You can make almost anything into a bisque.

I love summer tomatoes, and I love the addition of smoke in summer foods.  Think summer bbq with tomato salads.  Make the bisque, serve with a slice of toasted French bread and garnish with fresh basil and goat cheese.  It could not be better.

Smoke Tomato Bisque

Prep time:  15 minutes
Cook time:  Total 3 hours
Yield:  1/2 gallon finished product

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, fine chop
1 leaves of basil, fine chiffonade
3 lb vine ripe tomatoes (sweeter and riper the better)
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups rich chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 yellow onion, medium chop
kosher salt
1 slice smoked bacon, diced
black pepper
1 cup long grain rice, cooked
1 bay leaf
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, chopped
1 chipotle in adobo sauce
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil (no extra virgin)
French bread
Sliced goat cheese

Method:

Smoke the tomatoes:  Score the tomatoes with a paring knife, and lightly coat with oil, salt and pepper.  Either use a cold smoker, or a wood grill.  If using a wood grill, line a baking pan with ice.  Cover the ice with plastic wrap and place the tomatoes on the wrap.  When your grill is prepared and you have added your hardwood (hickory is best for this application), place the pan with tomatoes on the grill, in the coolest and most indirect place.  Cover and slowly smoke for about 45 minutes.  Place the tomatoes in a strainer and let sit for about 1/2 an hour. This will allow the tomatoes to release excess water and cool.  You can gently squeeze them to help remove water.

Make the soup:  In a medium size stock pot, begin sweating the onions, bacon and pepper in the olive oil.  When translucent  add the garlic and all herbs except the fresh basil.  When highly fragrant, add the tomato paste and stir to evenly coat everything.  Cook for about 1 minute stirring constantly.  Add the smoked tomatoes, chicken stock, rice, and chipotle.  Cook over low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.  Turn heat off and heat cool slightly.  Transfer everything to a blender and blend, in batches. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, using a ladle to force the soup through.  Return to a clean pot and return soup to a gentle simmer.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Add the cream and cook for about 10 minutes.   If it’s too thick, add a little more chicken stock.  If it’s too thin, gently simmer it until it thickens.

Ladle soup into hot bowls and garnish with the goat cheese and basil.  Serve with good French bread.

Enjoy.

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Affogato – Italian Dessert

Ah, the Italians and their food.  Why is it so good?  Why can we not resist it?  Going beyond the wonderful

world of pasta and tomato sauce, Italian food has so much to offer, most of it being excellent.  Simple preparations, amazing flavors, pleasing to all the senses.  Everyone loves Italian food.

True to a common theme within this blog, a lot of Italian food is simple, relying on a few harmonious flavors to work together, without a lot of extra seasonings.   Balance is once again key, and knowing how to pair foods together.  Synergy is the result.  One plus one is three.  Explosion of flavor.  Where has this food been my whole life?  This post is no exception.

Affogato is a very simple dessert.  In reality, it’s two ingredients combined perfectly.  Gelato (or very high quality ice cream) and espresso.  Gelato is of course Italian ice cream, and differentiates itself from other ice creams in two ways:  It has a very high fat content, usually through the addition of egg yolks and heavy cream.  And contains very little air.  Ice cream machines have a tendency to incorporate a lot of air into the ice cream through the churning process, but due to higher fat content of the gelato base, less air is found.  It makes for a very smooth, rich and creamy product.  In this case, coffee, amaretto or vanilla are the most appropriate flavors.

It’s exceptionally easy.  Put a few scoops on the gelato in a glass and pour hot espresso over the top.  That’s it.  Simple perfection.  Many restaurants add coffee or sweetened liquors, chocolate shavings, chopped nuts or serve sweet biscuits on the side.  But the essence of the dish is simplicity.  Let the natural and wonderful flavor speak for themselves.

Affogato

Prep time: 1 minute
Cook time:  5 minutes
Yield:  2 portions

Ingredients:

3 small scoops coffee or vanilla gelato (or very high quality French ice cream)
1 shot of espress

Method:

Place the gelato in a frosted glass.  Serve with the espresso on the side, so one may pour the espresso over the gelato just prior to consuming.

Eat right away.

As a variation, serve sweet Italian biscuits, amaretto liquor, chocolate shavings or chopped hazelnuts on top.

Enjoy.

Chilled Honeydew Soup with Mint

Talk about easy and DELICIOUS!  This recipe is summer time in a well chilled bowl.  Bursting with natural

flavor, this soup is healthy and refreshing.  It can be made a couple days in advance and works very well for summer parties, dinners, desserts, or any time you feel like cooling down with something delicious.  Enjoy it the way it is, or use it as a base for other things, like fresh fruit skewers, scoops of frozen berry or citrus sorbet, or as the base for a new and wonderful summer cocktail (think melon mojito).

Ripe summer melons need very little, if anything at all, to accentuate their natural flavor.  They’re very sweet, so a touch of acid (lime juice) will provide the necessary balance, and the mint adds a refreshing counter flavor.  You can easily substitute mint with basil, thai basil or lemon basil.

This will cool you in the upcoming hot summer months, refresh your palate before or after any meal, and enable you to make something fast and easy when spending time in the kitchen may not be your priority.  In restaurants, I used to make these as pre-meal ‘shooters’ during the summer months.  They were so popular, customers would ask for glasses of the mix to enjoy with their meals.

On a side note, you can easily sub the honeydew for watermelon, or any other exotic summer melon (cantaloupes don’t work as well, their flavor is harder to work with).  The trick in producing this soup correctly is ensuring you strain it thoroughly.  You want to remove any bits of fiber or grit, producing the cleanest and most refined product possible!  I like to add small scoops of melon balls as a garnish, but you can easily add berries, grapes, diced sweet fruits like pineapple, or nothing at all!

Chilled Honeydew Soup with Mint

Prep time:  5 minutes
Inactive cook time:  approx 1 hour
Yield:  6 portions

Ingredients:

2 medium sized ripe honeydew melons, peeled and seeds removed
3 mint leaves, very fine chiffonade (roll the leaves together and thinly slice- google it for a better idea)
3 mint leaves whole
juice of 3 limes
1 tbsp honey
1/2 a cantaloupe and 1/2 sweet melon, your choice (watermelon, honeydew, casaba, crenshaw, or whatever looks good and is ripe)

Method:

In a food processor or juicer, process the honeydew and whole mint leaves.  Strain through a very fine mesh strainer (or let drip through a large coffee filter).

While the liquid is straining, scoop the other melons using a small melon baller.

Add the honey and lime juice (don’t use all the lime juice at first, leave a little to adjust the seasoning).  Add the chiffonade mint leaves and melon balls.

Adjust final seasoning with lime juice.

Serve chilled in cold bowls.

Enjoy.

Mexican Pork Marinade

This is a wonderful marinade, full of robust flavor, not subtle at all, and steeped in the Mexican flavor palate I love.  I am choosing to label this as a pork marinade because I think pork works best, but of course, you can use it with a broad range of proteins.  Skirt steak and chicken thighs would also be especially good.

Just to recap, a marinade requires two things:

  • An acid
  • A base flavor profile

In this particular example, the acid is easy: white wine vinegar.  There’s nothing subtle about that.  Our base flavors are peppers (fresh and re-hydrated dry), and aromatics such as onions and garlic.  The acid will tenderize and break down the pork, and allow our wonderful base flavors to work their way inside, permeating the meat in its entirety.

What a great marinade!  Try it the next time you want to make something truly authentic Mexican!

Mexican Pork Marinade

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  15 minutes
Yield:  About 2 cups prepared marinade

Ingredients:

2 roma tomatoes, ends trimmed, cut into wedges
5 gloves of garlic
1 yellow onion, rough chop
5 serrano chilies, stems removes
5 dried guijuelo peppers, stems removed, seeds shaken out
1 tbsp salt
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 stick cinnamon
3 whole cloves
5 lb bone in pork shoulder, cut into large pieces (3″x3″), trimmed of most fat

Method:

Fill a small pot 3/4 full with water and add a good pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat off and add the dry peppers.  Let steep for about 10 minutes or until soft.  Put all ingredients in a food processor, including the re-hydrated dry peppers.  Add about 1 cup of the pepper water.  Blend until smooth.

Pour over pork pieces, work thoroughly, and cover tightly (or place in a ziplock bag).  Let marinade overnight.

Cook however you see fit (simmering in broth, like carnitas-style is best).

Enjoy.

Internet Recipes – Ginger Lemon Honey Tea

So here you are, looking at recipes online.  Everyone looks at online recipes.  Type in a dish, ingredients, method, or technique and instantly hundred of recipes appear.  The question is, how do you trust an internet recipe.  How do you know which one is best?  Do you choose the recipes with the flashiest pictures?  How about the star rating.  3 stars?  Not good enough for me.  Maybe it’s the author.  Paula Dean wrote this recipe, it must have southern charm.  Bobby Flay wrote the next one, it must be full of southwest flavors.  Emeril?  Tyler Florence?  Big name chefs, big time recipes?  Maybe, maybe not.

The number one problem with internet recipes is credibility.  Anyone can post anything, and how do you know what’s been testing and measured to perfection?  Food network recipes have, but that doesn’t necessarily make them good.

My entire blog is based on internet recipes. What makes my recipes good?  Because I say so?  I started this blog in August 2012 and to date have had just under 20,000 views spread over 13 countries.  How many of my readers have actually tried my food?

If you want to find an internet recipe that works, shop around a little.  Look at 5 recipes for the same dish and look for consistencies.  If 4 out of 5 call for garlic, the dish probably needs garlic.  If 1 out of 5 call for cumin, the dish probably doesn’t require cumin.  Look for patterns and similarities.  Look for credibility.  It’s like learning how to cook:  recipes are technique driven.  Techniques are patterns.  Mince, sautee, simmer… These techniques are not unique to any recipe.  Recognize patterns and you will find your way.

People have said to me many times, ‘I want to learn how to cook, but don’t know where to start’.  To answer seriously, I recommend picking your favorite 3 dishes and start producing them.  Make mistakes.  But learn.  Maybe your onion needs to be cut thinner, maybe your sauce is too thin.  Maybe you overcooked your rice.  Maybe next time you need more salt.  The next time you make the dishes you will improve.  Now your onions are thinner and your sauce a little tighter.  Each time you cook the dish, you improve.  After some time you realize that you’re really improving on technique, not just the recipe.  Consistency.

Also, if you’ve never made the recipe, and you’re shaky on your basic techniques, go simple!  It’s more impressive to make something simple but half way good, than to make a complicated disaster.

Please don’t forget, my recipes are mine.  I have made everything listed on this blog, and most of them are restaurant or professionally oriented.  They are not meant to be easy or user friendly, though many of them are.  Some are meant to simply entertain.  Really, who’s going to make sweet bread stuffed rabbit leg provencal at home?  But it’s fun to know how.

If you love to cook, you’ll find your way.  Look for patters, look for consistencies, and more importantly, look for things that don’t belong.  It’s a smart way to cruise for new recipes without getting into trouble.  Remember, a lot of internet recipes are posted by people who are genuinely proud of their food.  You can feel their passion.   And experience their mistakes…

Ginger Lemon Honey Tea

Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: 1 large cup of tea

Ingredients:

1 tbsp wild flower honey
1 medium knob fresh ginger, peeled

juice of 1/2 lemon, fresh squeezed

Method:

Slice the ginger into into 1/4 slices lengthwise and smash with the flat side of a knife.  Place all ingredients in a large mug.  Pour almost boiling water into the mug and stir to incorporate and dissolve the honey.  Let steep 3 minutes.

Enjoy.

Buttermilk Spoonbread with Cheddar and Bacon

Not quite bread, not quite pudding, spoonbread is a southern classic and an addictive side dish, perfect for

probably every bbq meal.  Or any meal at all. The primary differences between spoonbread and cornbread are moisture and cooking technique.

Before getting into the specific differences between cornbread and spoon bread, I want to take a few minutes and talk about what makes corn bread good.  Good means NOT dry, NOT flavorless and not crumbly.  I believe that too many cornbread recipes found on the internet result in very dry and bland bread. Not by the author’s fault; I’m sure the recipes have made by the authors many times and through experience, they have developed a ‘feel’ for the bread.  They know by sight and touch when the batter is ready, when it needs a little more liquid, when it’s worked enough, and so on.  Experience matters, and the subtle touches cannot be learned through an internet recipe.

This is an internet recipe.

Therefore I will not try to describe the subtle nuances.  Flavor and moisture come from a couple places.  First, do not use water, milk, or cream.  Buttermilk will add all the flavor and moisture you will need.  Second, and I hate saying this, but in this particular case, fat equals flavor (and moisture).  Add melted butter, and don’t go light.  Do not use margarine, shortening, whipped butter, lard, or any substitute. Use real, unsalted, organic high quality butter.  And last, don’t be afraid to add bits of savory items to the bread.  Add a little grated cheese, bacon bits, scallions, whole sweet corn kernels.  These are the things that have authentic flavor and will transform your bread into something wonderful.

My spoonbread recipe is nothing more than a glorified cornbread recipe, with a lot of delicious savory items, cooked in a skillet.  The batter is a little tighter than traditional cornbread and the end result is a little denser.  By no means does dense mean dry.  It’s moist, flavorful, delicious and remarkably easy.

Buttermilk Spoonbread with Cheddar and Bacon

Prep time:  20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup organic stone ground cornmeal (bob’s red mill is perfect)
1/2 cup unbleached organic flour
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, gently melted
1/2 bunch scallions, very thin sliced
 1 cup mild yellow cheddar, grated
3 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled (save the drippings)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 red bell pepper, pith removed, very small dice
2 large organic eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method:

Heat your oven to 400 and make sure you have a rack in the center of the oven.  In a mixing bowl, whisk the  melted butter and sugar together until well combined.  Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well.  Continue to whisk until light and smooth.  Add the buttermilk and whisk until combined.  Add all the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt and gently stir to combine.  It’s very important not to whisk this.  Overworking the batter can develop glutens which will make the bread tough.  The batter should be thick.  Add the peppers, scallions, bacon, bacon drippings, and cheese.  Stir gently to combine everything.

Heat an iron skillet or oven safe straight-sided saute pan over medium high heat.  Add the vegetable oil.  Using a large kitchen spoon, add the batter to the pan spoon full at a time.  In the end the pan will be completely full.  The point of adding the batter spoonful at time is to give the hot oil a chance to work into the batter, adding another element of flavor and texture.

Let the batter cook on the stove top for about 2 minutes, or until you see the bottom becoming light golden brown.  Transfer the pan to the hot oven and let cook for about about 25 minutes, or until the middle is set.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.  Flip the pan onto a cutting board or plate.  Slice into wedges.

Best served with any southern style meal or bbq.

Enjoy.

The Next BBQ Sauce

It may be early spring, but in my mind, it’s time to start rolling out the first of the year bbq.  The weather is only getting better, the days are getting longer, nights shorter, and the sun is finally warming things.  Pretty soon, early spring produce will give way to summer peaches and tomatoes, and the wonderful grilling season will be in full swing.

So let’s talk about grilling food.  Almost anything can be grilled, smoked, finished on the grill, slow cooked on a grill, and so on.  But more important than the proteins are the flavors.  Grilling flavors are by essence- by definition, BIG.  Bold flavors, spices, heat, tang, sweet- these are the things we crave when we bbq.  And the sauce is the king.  A great bbq sauce will never ‘save’ a bad or poorly prepared dish, but a great bbq is a perfect finish to your already great dish.  It takes it to the next level.

My bbq sauce is nothing new or unique.  If you google bbq sauce recipes, you will probably find thousands of recipes that look similar to mine.  Simply put, I do not want a unique sauce.  I want a great sauce.  I want the sauce to be delicious, balanced, heavy in the right ways, and familiar in the right ways.  BBQ sauce should taste like bbq sauce.  I add several varieties of dried peppers, caramelized onions, caramelized sugar, and a lot of other things that develop a deep, rich flavor.  It’s delicious.  If you’re going to make bbq sauce, this isn’t the ‘easiest’ recipe, but it’s fantastic and won’t disappoint you.

BBQ sauce

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time:  1 hr
Yield:  2 finished cups

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 yellow, thin sliced
1 tsp whole dry corriander
1/2 tsp whole dry cumin
 4 allspice
3 whole cloves
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups beef stock reduced to 3/4 cups
2 dried chipotle chilis (not in adobo sauce) or morita chili
2 dried new mexican chilis
2 dried guajillo chilis
1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp vegetable oil

Method:

In a medium heavy bottom sauce pot, heat the oil and begin caramelizing the onion.  When the onions begin to darken and caramelize, add the white sugar.  Stir occasionally until the sugar begins to caramelize (light amber color).  Add the brown sugar and continue to stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Add the vinegar and stir to dissolve.  Let come to a boil and continue to stir.  Add the ketchup and reduced stock.  Bring to a simmer and turn heat to low.  Add all other ingredients.  Cook very slowly for about 1 hour.  The sauce should be thick.  Strain everything.  Sauce is now ready.  Either keep warm and use right away, or cool quickly and store.

Best served on anything grilled, especially chicken or ribs.

Enjoy.

Morel Mushrooms with Spaghetti Carbonara

Another spring favorite, morel mushrooms.  Fresh morel mushrooms are highly seasonal, expensive, and

prized for their delicate texture and fragrant aroma.  Aside from being earthy, they have almost a perfume like appeal; very unique and impossible to replicate.  Their delicate texture requires delicate handling.  They cannot be over-exposed to water, over cooked, or stored for too long (unless frozen).

Morel mushrooms lend themselves exquisitely to other ‘stronger’ ingredients.  They are a complimentary addition.  Typically you see them with the typical spring items, like fava beans, asparagus, farm eggs, and so on.  Being a mushroom and therefore earthy by nature, I love to pair these with dishes that benefit from their wonderful texture and aroma, and are not necessarily ‘spring’ dishes.  And when cooking, many times, the best method is a simple saute with butter, salt and pepper.

In this dish, I am incorporating sauteed morels into a classic spaghetti carbonara.  The richness of the pasta sauce along with the farm fresh eggs match the delicate earthiness of the morels perfectly.  And of course, if morel mushrooms are unavailable or prohibitively expensive, the recipe is great without them!

Carbonara is named as such due to the high amount of ground black pepper in the dish (resembling carbon, hence carbonara), and is derived primarily from some sort of cured pork (bacon, pancetta, hams), parmesan cheese, and fresh eggs.  I use a little cream to help start the sauce.  I think you will find this recipe easy and quite delicious.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Morel Mushrooms

Prep time:  5 minutes
Cook time:  25 minutes
Yield:  4 portions

Ingredients:

1/2 lb fresh morel mushrooms, gently wiped cleans and cut into quarters.
1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
2 large organic farm fresh eggs
1/2 shallot minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup pancetta, cut into small dice (place pancetta in the freezer 1/2 hour before dicing, it makes it much easier)
1 lb spaghetti, cooked until al dente, drained, tossed with olive oil and cooled
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley fine chop

Method:

Mix the two cheese and the eggs together to form a paste.  Add a liberal amount of black pepper to the paste and set aside.

In a large, heavy bottom skillet, begin slowly rendering the pancetta.  When the pancetta is crisp, remove all the pieces from the pan with a slotted spoon.  Turn heat to high and add the mushrooms, cooking quickly.  Remove again with a slotted spoon and let rest on a couple sheets of paper towel.  Add the cooked spaghetti and shallots to the remaining oil in the pan and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the cream and let reduce until slightly thick.  Season with a good amount black pepper and a dash of salt.  Add the cheese paste  and work into the sauce.  Once the sauce begins to thicken, turn heat off.  This is a quick cook and shouldn’t take much time at all. Add the pancetta, mushrooms and parsley to the pan.   Toss a few times to fully incorporate.  Check seasoning.  Using a pair of tongs, twirl the pasta into a warmed serving bowl, sprinkle a little more cracked pepper on top and serve right away.

Enjoy.

Lemon Spring Asparagus

Once again, we are embracing the changing of seasons.  We, as chefs, are now embracing another change in

cuisine.  Hearty winter stews and braises give way to lighter salads, fresh first-of-the-year produce, and the lovely spring menu changes we’ve been waiting to write all year.  Spring.  Who doesn’t love spring?  Of course, and as I’ve said before, the seasons in southern California are sort of a continuous blend, rather than the definitive change you see elsewhere.  So, with this post, I am referring to New England again.  Winter is hateful, which makes spring so much better.

Spring menu items.  The first thing chefs think of is produce.  The first produce chefs think about are asparagus, morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, and wild ramps.  They seem to highlight and represent spring cuisine. Then it’s the proteins:  Spring lamb, hams (pork slaughter is in the fall, therefore hams are first ready in the spring), game hens, the first halibuts coming out of Alaska… all wonderful and refreshing items.  Farm fresh eggs.  We focus on lighter, healthier and brighter items now, leaving the deep roasts and red wine braised meats for next winter.

Of course, with agriculture the way it is today, and our ability to source items across the globe, the ‘seasonal change’ is felt less in food these days.  We can buy fresh asparagus year round.  Canada grows hydroponic vine-ripe tomatoes all winter.  Do we loose our appreciation for these wonderful things?  No.  That’s almost as if I’m insinuating that we loose our appreciation for spring.  Our moods change.  Our cravings change. Our habits change.  Our palettes change.

One of my all time favorite spring foods is asparagus.  And I don’t think I’m alone.  Real asparagus.  I am now speaking as a chef, and leaving spring philosophy behind.  Spring asparagus (green or white) should be large stemmed and woody.  If the diameter at the base is over an inch, you’ve got the real deal.  Pencil, or very thin asparagus, while purposeful and still delicious, will not work, should you want to showcase the ingredient as a springtime item.  Asparagus needs to be peeled (carefully!  they’re easy to break), just like a carrot, to remove the outer tough layer.  Asparagus always needs to be blanched in boiling salted water, regardless of how you intend to finish it.  And, asparagus does not need a lot of extra seasoning to make it shine.  It has enough natural flavor to carry its own weight.

This recipe is one of my more simple recipes, and is incredibly easy to make.  The true flavor of asparagus is brought out through good cooking technique, and using fresh spring asparagus.  There’s no reason to be overly fancy.  If you’re going to make asparagus, give this recipe a try:

One tip:  Asparagus needs to be cut, or trimmed.  The base portion of the stalk is always fibrous or woody, and not very easy to digest.  The best way to determine where to trim the bunch is by taking one stalk, and gently bending it until it naturally breaks.  This is the correct length, and the remaining stalks in the bunch should all be trimmed to an equal length.

Lemon Grilled Asparagus

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield:  Enough for 4 people

Ingredients:

2 bunches large stemmed asparagus, peeled and trimmed.  
Zest of 2 lemons, finely minced
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Method:

Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a rapid boil.  Have a maxing bowl filled with ice water ready (ice bath).  Submerge the asparagus into the boiling water and cooking until slightly tender.  This will take about 1 minute.  Immediately remove the asparagus from the boiling water and plunge into the ice bath.  Once completely cool, remove the asparagus from the ice bath, drain well, and gently pat dry with a towel.

Prepare a grill to medium heat.  Toss the asparagus with a VERY small amount of olive oil (excess will drip into the grill cause flareups, improperly blackening the asparagus and leaving a ‘jet fuel’ flavor), dash of salt and pepper.  Gently grill until slightly charred.  Remove and toss the asparagus with a tiny bit more of olive oil and the lemon zest.  Serve right away.

Best served with any spring or summer dish.  It goes particularly well with bbq themed meals.

Enjoy.

Lebanese Meatballs

Epic.

It’s the only way to describe what I am about to give you.  Flavor, texture, aroma, balance… it’s all there.  It’s delicious.

And easy

Why Lebanese?  Why not?  We could make Greek, Italian, Portuguese, or whatever ‘region’ you want to go to.  I love the flavor used in Lebanese cuisine, and wrapped up in a meatball, it’s wonderful.

There is no specific trick to making these.  A meatball required a few fundamental things:

1.  The meat base.  In this case we are using a blend of beef, pork and bison.  You can easily sub bison with lamb or more beef or pork if you’d like.

1.  The binder.  A starchy binder (panada) is essential to holding everything together.  Here we are using excellent quality bread soaked in milk, which adds flavor, texture and helps the binder bind.  An egg is also necessary to moisten, flavor and ‘hold’ everything together.

3.  Flavor profile.  For this recipe, I am relying the diverse spices of Lebanese cuisine.  Whatever spices you add, make sure you add enough to make them intense.  With the beef and binder together, it requires a great deal of spices and seasoning to truly impact the dish.

Again, the recipe is fast, easy and incredible.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Lebanese Meatballs

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time:  45 minutes
Yield:  5 portions

Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground beef 85%
1/2 lb ground pork 85%
1/2 ground bison
3 slices French bread, boule, crusts removed
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 cup toasted pinenuts, chopped into pieces
1/2 small yellow onion, grated
1/8 cup good quality feta cheese
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1 large egg

Method:

Place the bread on the bottom of a mixing bowl and pour the milk over.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Add the meats, dry spices, salt, and egg.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the cheese and continue mixing.  The mixture should hold together when formed into meatballs.  If the mix is too wet, add a little more bread (or use panko bread crumbs).

Heat an oven to 350.  Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.  From the meatballs into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Place on the sheet pan and roast until cooked through (about 35 minutes).

Remove from oven and finish the meatballs in your favorite sauce.  I would suggest a spicy tomato sauce with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and sumac.

Whatever you choose to do, it will be delicious!

Enjoy.