Archive for August, 2011

This Season’s Corn on the Cob: Never Been Better

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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I don’t know what it is about fresh corn on the cob this year, but I swear it’s never been better. We’ve been enjoying it at least once or twice a week and haven’t tired of it yet.

In fact, every bite still elicits an involuntary “THIS IS SO GOOD!” response.

Such bounties often are attributed to special weather conditions, so if corn this tasty is the result of a too-cold winter turned sopping-wet spring turned oppressively hot-and-dry summer, I may have to rethink my rants to Mother Nature.

Anyway, I know all the cool kids are grilling their cobs these days but I’m still partial to the old-fashioned way. Just dunk ‘em for a few minutes (no longer!) in boiling water, brush with butter and pour on the salt and a little pepper. Heaven sent.

Feeling a little frisky?

Substitute “hot salt” (or add a sprinkling of red pepper) then drizzle with lime for a Southwestern flavor, or go Italian by brushing on a little pesto.

Time to Upgrade Your Burger & Dog Toppings

Friday, August 26, 2011
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We’re getting painfully close to Labor Day weekend, when a flurry of cookouts will celebrate the last hurrah of summer.

If your plans call for plain-jane burgers and dogs, consider jazzing them up a bit with these high-falutin’ condiments …

  • FLAVORED MAYO – Stir in a spoonful of pesto, olive tapenade, chopped chipotles, smoked paprika, curry or a little wasabi.
  • FRUIT RELISH – Chop up apricot preserves, apple jelly, a little horseradish, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves, to taste, and season with salt and pepper. Or just buy a jar of prepared chutney!
  • SPICY KETCHUP – Stir in a little Dijon mustard, roasted garlic, even a little vodka. Ooh-la-la!
  • CLASSY CONDIMENTS – Stack on curried pickles, wild boar bacon, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms or roasted garlic.
  • FANCY CHEESE – Add a slice (maybe two?) of smoked Gouda, a sprinkling of crumbled bleu or an herbed chevre.

When Good Food and Good Design Meet

Monday, August 22, 2011
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Fans of good food (and design) will drool over this new coffee-table book.

“Menu Design in America: 1850–1985,” is a beautifully illustrated, fascinating history of what we ate while dining out in the 19th and 20th centuries. And there’s as much focus on menu aesthetics as there is their content.

The book features menus from cruise ships, railroad dining cars, zeppelins, famous nightclubs and, of course, restaurants that went on to become national institutions. Through their progression, we see how U.S. restaurants evolved from serving mostly European-influenced dishes, to developing uniquely American creations before venturing into ethnic cuisine.

Very cool.

It’s National Potato Day! Try These Tasty Spuds

Friday, August 19, 2011
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Garlic Fondant Potatoes

Garlic Fondant Potatoes

In honor of National Potato Day – today! – skip the greasy fries and boring mash in favor of this recipe for glorious Garlic Fondant Potatoes.

It’s not a “quick” recipe, taking about 40 minutes stovetop from start to finish. But it’s a classic dish that makes an excellent accompaniment with grilled or baked fish, poultry or meats.

Fondant Garlic Potatoes

Ingredients
2 large potatoes
1 oz. butter
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz. chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes, cut a thin slice from the top and the bottom of each (enough so it can stand upright on its own) then cut each potato in half width-ways. The ideal size is around 2-inches deep, but a little more or less won’t matter so long as all the pieces are the same size.
  2. If you want the traditional round-sided barrel shape, use a plain dough cutter (around 2-inches in diameter, depending on how large your potatoes are) to cut uniform shapes, then trim the sharp edges from the tops and bottoms to give a more rounded effect.
  3. Heat the butter and olive oil over a medium heat in a small pan which has a tight-fitting lid. Once it starts to foam but not color, add the potatoes, season with salt and pepper and sauté gently for around 5 minutes, basting from time to time, until golden brown.
  4. Turn the potatoes over and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes, basting once or twice, until golden brown.
  5. Very carefully add the garlic and enough stock to come about one third up the sides of the potatoes. (Take care as it will splutter fiercely.) Bring to simmering point then cover with a lid, reduce the heat and cook very gently for around 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. Check half way through the cooking and add a little more stock if necessary to prevent it drying out and sticking. Serve with any remaining liquid poured over the top of the potatoes. 

Serves 2. Recipe courtesy of www.Recipes4us.co.uk

Home-Canned Tomatoes Star is Savory Chicken Dish

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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If you caught today’s column (http://bit.ly/qeC47b) in the Daily Mail, you know I be lovin’ me some homegrown tomatoes.

In addition to the bounty recently shared by a neighbor (thanks Carla!) we also received several jars of  home-canned tomatoes from one of my wife’s clients. My head is spinning with ideas, but here’s how the first two jars made their debut …

I seasoned some boneless chicken thighs with a little salt, pepper and garlic and placed them in a Dutch oven. I covered them with the soupy tomatoes, stirred in a little fresh basil and simmered on low all day.

By the time dinner was served, that chicken was infused with great flavor, was juicy as heck and was so tender a fork slid through it like a knife through hot butter.

Fantastic — and about as easy as you can get.

Jazzing Up The Ol’ Classic “Soup and a Sandwich”

Sunday, August 14, 2011
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I know I’m not breaking any new culinary ground here, but today’s delicious new take on a traditional lunch is definitely worth sharing.

There are few things kids (or adults, for that matter) like better than a bowl of tomato soup with a melty, toasty grilled cheese sandwich. But the “gourmand” in me has a difficult time serving something so simple when there are all KINDS of interesting things you could add!

Shrimp or crab, maybe another vegetable or two in the soup. A slice of salami or fresh herbs in the sandwich.

Not wanting to rock the boat too much, I made today’s soup with a little fresh chopped basil stirred in and a sprinking of Romano cheese on top.

As the commercial goes, “Mmm, mmm, good!”

“Taste of Home Cooking School” Coming to Charleston

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
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The “Taste of Home Cooking School” is coming to the Charleston Civic Center’s Little Theater at 2 p.m. Sept. 17, 2011.

During a two-hour interactive session, guests will watch culinary expert Cheryl Cohen demonstrate 10 new easy-to-make recipes they can re-create in their own kitchens. Door prizes will be given away during the event, and all guests will take home a gift bag featuring an assortment of products and coupons, including two Taste of Home magazines.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. this Monday, Aug. 15, at the Charleston Civic Center box office and www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets for reserved seats are $15 each. A limited number of VIP tickets will be available for purchase at the box office only. These include special reserved seating, a backstage meet-and-greet with Cheryl Cohen, an autographed hard bound Taste of Home cookbook and free parking.

Doors to the lobby vendor area will open at noon and doors to the theater will open at 1:30 p.m.

For more information, call 304-345-7469 or visit www.tasteofhome.com or www.charlestonwvciviccenter.com.

Get Your Family Recipe on Grocery Store Shelves

Monday, August 8, 2011
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If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing your favorite recipe appear right on the supermarket shelf, here’s your chance!

Two lucky winners of this year’s West Virginia Recipe Challenge will be given the opportunity to develop their recipes into a marketable product – complete with packaging, production, strategic business planning and everything they’ll need to bring their family favorite to the store.

This grand prize for existing entrepreneurs is valued at more than $2,000, while new entrepreneurs will receive services worth more than $10,000.

But you must act fast! The deadline to register has been extended through this Wednesday, Aug. 10, and winners will be chosen at the West Virginia State Fair in Lewisburg next week.

For more information, call 304-645-1090, visit
http://www.wvstateu.edu/announcement/2011/07/13/enter-2011-wv-recipe-challenge or look up “West Virginia Recipe Challenge” on Facebook.

When the Drive-Thru Calls, Minimize the Damage

Monday, August 8, 2011
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Whether we like to admit it or not – yes, I’m talking about you, Food Guy! – even the most disciplined among us reach for the convenience of fast food every once in a while. And indulging in the occasional biggie-sized triple bacon cheeseburger with fries isn’t going to completely derail our healthier-eating habits.

But if you find life steering you through a drive-thru, there are “better” choices you can make.

  • At McDonald’s, instead of a Sausage Egg McMuffin (450 calories) try a Fresh Fruit and Nut Oatmeal (290 calories) or Yogurt Parfait (160 calories).
  • At Dunkin Doughnuts, the Sausage, Egg and Cheese on Croissant (690 calories) does a lot more damage than the Egg White Veggie Wake-up Wrap (150 calories).
  • At Wendy’s, skip the Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich (500 calories) in favor of the Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich (370 calories) or a Grill Chicken Go Wrap (260 calories).
  • At Burger King, pass on the Whopper with Cheese (710 calories) – this is me, crying – and try the Tender Grill Chicken Sandwich (470 calories) or Veggie Burger (410 calories).
  • And at the convenience store, Smartfood Popcorn (100 calories) beats out Potato Chips (averaging 140-250 calories).

Sometimes “Bad” Means Oh, So Good!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
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The boys and I have this fun game we play at dinnertime.

Whenever I make a dish I’m particularly proud of, I deliver it to the table — head down in shame, all sullen-like — apologizing in advance for how bad it’s going to taste.

“I tried so hard to make you something nice, but this just didn’t turn out at all.”

Their faces light up like fireworks, because they know I’m pulling their legs.

They dig in and immediately burst into a chorus of “yums,” lapping up every last bite. Then they play their own trick on me.

“You’re right, Daddy, we didn’t like it,” they say, with frowns that quickly turn upside down. “We LOVED it!”

The latest installment of these shenanigans happened just a few days ago with a dish that garnered immediate entry into The Food Guy Hall of Fame.

I sauteed some Italian sausages and then set them aside to rest. In the same skillet, I cooked down a bunch of red and yellow bell peppers (cut into strips) in the scant sausage fat that remained, adding a little water at times until they softened a bit.

I ordinarily would have used beer, but I was feeding the kids. You know, Child Protective Services and all.

As the peppers cooked, I mixed up a pan of grits made with homemade chicken stock. When all was said and done, I had gorgeous bowls of creamy grits topped with sauteed peppers and sliced Italian sausages, with a little drizzle of pan drippings around the edges.

It took fewer than 30 minutes — which included frequent breaks to referee fights — and it was restaurant-quality good.

When my wife walked in the door and saw all of our empty plates, the boys hung their heads and apologized that the dinner was so bad we had to feed everything to the dog.

She looked bummed but sat down, took a bite and then fake-gagged.

“You’re right boys, I don’t like it.”

They squealed.

“I love it!”

Five satisfied bellies and one puffy chest. That’s a good night.