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What’s for dinner: Fresh Veg with red sauce

It's been a while since I've written anything here, but this evening's meal has me inspired to share, due to both it's lip smacking goodness and it's brilliant ease of preparation. Added delight: It's healthy. Yes it's true - I cooked something without bacon. A rare event, indeed. I'm sure you're hungry, so let's get started.


The bill of goods:
  • 1 qt. jar of your favorite organic red sauce. Mine was roasted garlic & onion.
  • 1 handful of fresh baby asparagus. remove the bottom inch & halve.
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, washed and minced into 1/4" ribbons
  • 1 handful of broccoli, chopped into whatever size bits you desire
  • 2 small zucchini, halved and chopped lengthwise, about the size of a typical french fry.
  • 1 pack of udon or 8 oz of whatever other pasta you prefer
  • fresh shredded mozzarella cheese to suit your cheese loving needs
  • salt & pepper to your preference
For hardware - your favorite knife, a pot that all the above can fit into comfortably and a lid to cover it. This one is fast and easy. Chop all your veg and pile it into the pot, pour the red sauce on top, give it all a stir to coat and simmer, lid on for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to let everything come up to a nice warm temperature. check your veg often, pull it off when the asparagus are just slightly tender, but still give a good crunch. mix in your noodles (udon is ready to go, but if you're using some other pasta, prepare it separately while the veg is on.) and cover, let everything sit for a few minutes. Once it's all warm, scoop up a heaping helping into a bowl, top generously with the mozzarella and season to suit your desires. I let the cheese warm up and get a little melty myself, then it's go time. One of the faster meals I've made this week and absolutely deeeee-lightful. Enjoy! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

What’s For Dinner – Cheese Snob Edition

An afternoon discussion on another forum led to a stop at the local specialty food store to visit their cheese counter. The mongers were more than happy to feed my addiction and I came away with 5 examples of rotted milk at it's finest to indulge myself for the evening and stave off any cold shakes which could develop from lack of curd. Bucheron CheeseWhile all cheese is fair game, I have a strong tendency lately toward those made form goat's milk. That in mind, I procured the following: Fontina Fontal, Brie Florette, Bucheron, Montchevre Blue and Pyrenees Onetik. The Fontina is a cows milk cheese. Semi firm, mild and nutty in flavor. Nothing special. Probably won't bother with it again. Nothing wrong with it, mind you, simply underwhelming. Moving on to the Montchevre Blue - a very mild blue. I had expected, given it's goat milk origins, to have something with a lot of bite. It's simply not to be. Soft, buttery and as far as blue cheeses go, one of the mildest and least offensive I've tasted. This one too will probably receive a pass in future purchases. A new flavor to my tablem te Pyrenees Onetik is a sheep's milk based french cheese that is very buttery, has a wonderful texture and goes will with unsalted crackers do to having a bit higher of a saltiness to it. Sheep's milk cheeses are still new territory for me, so I haven't much to compare it to. The Bucheron, pictured above, is another frech variety made from goat's milk which I qualify as one of my absolute all time favorites. I've been enjoying this cheese for a while now and I never lose a taste for it. Bucheron is aged in log like rolls, with an inner core of tart white goat cheese, soft and a bit dryer than the little logs one finds in the regular grocery. The outer ring is a greyish color, very smooth and very salty, finished by a tender rind that is best left on and eaten, to privde a little extra texture.  Eaten in wedges, to combine all three zones of this treat is best. I am never disappointed with this cheese. Last on tonight's menu, is this week's winning new discovery - the Brie Florette, a goat's milk Brie. Very soft, creamy and absolutely the worst smelling thing in the bag. This cheese has a very characteristic aroma from which I expected a very tart and rotten flavor. I was pleasently surprised by a very smooth, buttery brie with just a bit of the token goat's milk tartness around the edges. This brie is better than any other I've tasted and I'm absolutely placing it on my regular purchase list. If you like distinct flavors and smooth textures, you'll find great rewards with the Bucheron and the Brie Flourette and milder more traditional market cheese experiences from the Fontina, Pryenees and the Montchevre Blue. Happy Fromaging and feel free to share your thoughts in the commets. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

What’s For Dinner: Fried Green Tomatoes

Well... More like an after dinner snack. The garden is full of big green orbs and I couldn't resist. I dressed up the kind Grandma makes with a little extra seasoning. Still fast and easy: Fried Green TomatoesThe Goods:
  • 1 large green tomato
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • garlic powder to taste
  • paprika to taste
  • Corn meal to coat
  • 1 dollop of bacon grease or other cooking lubricant
The Process: Preheat your pan on medium heat and drop that bacon fat in there. Evenly coat the cooking surface. Drop a pile of corn meal onto a paper plate. Slice the tomato. I prefer a thin cut, around 1/8th of an inch. Sprinkle salt, pepper paprika and garlic to your liking. press te seasoned side of the tomato into the cornmeal to get a nice coating on there. repeat for the other side. Slide your coated tomato slices into the pan and brown each side. Plate, let them cool for a minute or two and enjoy. Any simpler and it would be a salad. Does your Grandma have a better FGT recipe? Let me know in the comments. -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

What’s For Dinner – Smoked Pork Ribs

Dinner on sunday was two racks of the most amazing ribs I've smoked to date. Sweet, spicey, juicey, fantastic texture, tender but not mushy - I'll definitely be sad when I finish the left-overs from this meal. I shared with friends Sam, a fellow foodie and exceptionally skilled chef and Tommy, who is just plain picky and hard to feed. Both gentlemen plowed through, declaring much finger-licking goodness. A meal well done. This was a two day process and well worth the advanced prep. The dry rub can of course be made any time and stored in an airtight bowl. THE GOODS: The Rogue Estate Dry Rub #2 contains the following dry ingredients, which may be adjusted to suit your own tastDry Rub Ingrediantses. note - all of the spices I use are sourced from Penzeys for the absolute best power and flavor of any dry spice:
  • 8oz dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt (kosher, iodized, sea, whatever. it's all the same rock, people.)
  • 3 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tbsp oriental mustard
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • 1 tsp lemon peel
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
combine the dry ingrediants in a sealable bowl and set aside. Good for 3 to 4 racks of ribs, depending on how heavy you prefer to coat. I personally am not shy with the rub, so I get 3 racks from a single batch. Dressing the Ribs: first - wash them thangs. Cold water, scrub with your hands and rinse em good. lay the racks out to dry on paper towel and pat the meat dry until it's just tacky. dispose of the paper towel. A dry workspace is a good thing so wipe up any spills. Use a sharp knife to help you remove any obnoxiously large hunks of fat and other connective tissue that isn't very tasty. Flip the Rack over so it's face down and peel away as much of the membrane as you can and dispose of that as well. Leaving the rack face down, place 1 sheet of your cling wrap a few inches larger than the rack flat on the workspace behind said rack. Apply the rub to the meaty parts on the exposed underside of the rack. It won't take much. When those few spots are coated, flip the rack over onto the cling wrap. With the Rack now face up, apply the rub liberally to every bit of exposed meat, get it into every noook and cranny, on the ends and all around. Grab a second sheet of cling wrap and lay it over the now thoroughly seasoned rack and do whatever folding is needed to seal the two sheets together on al four sides to give you a nice neat package. move it to a shallow pan or tray to catch any leaks and put it in the fridge over night. Cooking day: I use a hardwood charcoal fire in a horizontal 35 gallon drum-type smoker with an offset fire box. Being that fuels and builds are debated with the ferocity greater than most religions, the aforementioned configuration is my personal preference and whatever you use will do just fine as long as you keep the fire separate from the meat and you keep it cooking slow and low. Plan ahead! The number one ingredient in any BBQ recipe is TIME and lots of it. We're doing these slow and low, so give yourself at least 5 hours before you plan to serve. Pull the ribs from the fridge and let them warm up to room temperature while you're out setting up your smoker and your fire. Set up your fuel so you have an area of indirect heat large enough to accommodate your racks of ribs. I like to keep my smoke space in the 185-200F degree range for most of the process and finish up just a little hotter at the end. With everything hot, place the ribs in the smoker, small end farthest from the heat source and add the first installment of applewood, close the lid and walk away. Have a beer. Come check the thermometers in 10 minutes to make sure your internal temps are holding between 185-200F degrees and that there is smoke happening. If all is well, walk away.the finished product Mow the lawn. Call your mom. Wash dishes. Whatever you do, don't keep popping the lid open every 5 minutes. The heat and smoke do their best work if kept inside the smoker where the ribs are. Add fuel and fresh wood chips as needed to maintain consistent heat and favor in your smoker. At the end of hour 3, switch from Apple wood to the Jack Daniels wood. Also if you're so inclined, pull out the leftover dry rub and give everything a light sprinkle. At the end of hour 4, do some spot checks with your meat thermometer. Your ribs should be right up there with the air temp in the smoker with the lid closed, 185-200F degrees. give a little pull with your fingers or a fork on one end - meat should come off easily. Using your tongs, move the ribs from the smoker to a cookie sheet or other service tray that can hold the racks and catch the drips. The meat is still cooking, so it's time to cover it with some foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Once rested, you can grab the big knife and split the ribs up however you prefer, stack them in your serving vessel and enjoy. I'm thrilled with this recipe. That said, I'm always eager to learn new things and improve my techniques, so if you have any suggestions or if you follow my recipe yourself, leave me comments below! -///
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.

New Feature 2: What the hell is he smokin’?

I'm a man of many vices and I'm O.K. with that - I make an effort to moderate my less than FDA approved indulgences. That said, tonight's other new feature is a chronicle of my "dirty" cigar hobby. It's true, in this day and age of anti-all-things-tobacco - I enjoy a good cigar.  I've never done any illegal narcotics, nor have I ever been a cigerette smoker or binge drinker, so this is my one real bad one. Let's enjoy it together, shall we?? ;) Tonight's volunteer from the humidor is a Trinidad Lonsdale. Tonight\'s volunteer
  • Trinidad Cigars
  • Wrapper: Ecuadorian Sumatra
  • Binder: Connecticut Broadleaf
  • Filler: Dominican, Nicaraguan and Peruvian
What started out as a light smoke has quickly and enjoyably evolved into a very rich and spicy treat. This one has been in my stash for a while, a gift from my sister. I'd never smoked a Trinidad before, so not knowing what to expect, I'd left it be for a few months. It's a perfect stick for tonight - super easy draw, great flavor and not an obnoxiously long commitment of time. I'll enjoy this one here in my office as I watch the sun setting outside my window.
A consummate nerd, yet still plays well with others.