As I have read about foodie connections happening all across the blogosphere, I personally got to experience one. When I began blogging last year, I never thought that foodies were such beautiful people. The experience that I have had cooking and blogging has been damn near life changing. Whoda thunk that my love for food and cooking could be so well received. I really wish that all of you could taste some of what I make and I wish that I could taste all of your delicious creations. Well, last Saturday night, one fav foodie and I got together to share.
A lot of you may recognize the woman in the picture with me. No it’s not my wife Beck, she is camera shy, that is Bren from Bren’s FlaNboyant Eats. She is one of my favorite bloggers. I found out by chance that she was local. We had been visiting each other’s blog for some time now and one day Bren writes to me, “we should just get together and talk food all day.” I said, okay, let’s do lunch.
Well, lunch never happened; a couple of missed opportunities, scheduling conflicts, Bren thinking here is another married perverted Internet psycho food loving killer come to butcher and broil me then blog it as brisket. You know, the normal hit and miss.
As it turned out, we managed to pull it off. I must say, I had a great time. Bren suggested sangria and I had already been thinking the same thing. So I asked her, she’s the professional, and since I had only ever opened a bottle, what to get for it. Well as the picture below tells, I went overboard and made the sangria like a frat house hunch punch. Nevertheless, it was good. And I drank a lot of it. I am sure that Bren will tell you more about my indulgence than I am willing to share.
Allow me tell you about Miss Brenda. I have always been a fan of her blog, but there is sooooooooo much more to her than her cooking. I am telling you people, she is a Latin force!!! She made me tired just watching her sit on the sofa! She has, not nervous energy, but pure energy! Wow, thoughts of spinning Information Society in the club in the eighties just flashed in my head! I used to spin that song an awful lot back in the day. No, I am not drinking the sangria, yet, I just like that song
As I was saying, Bren is a serious dynamo! Emeril even called her that. She is a serious go getter. She writes for travel magazines, she brought me one, she runs a boutique, she is a jazz singer, she is a professional chef, a personal chef, teaches cooking classes, and who knows what else. Breathe with me! Again, I’m tired thinking about all of that!
Watch out people! This young beautiful lady will be coming to a TV channel near you very soon. I am sure of it.
Oh, while there is more to come with two newly founded foodie friends, there was some food involved. I made fish tacos. Now I had always had some sort of aversion to fish tacos, but after watching Tyler Florence make them, I wanted to try them. I also prepared three spicy sauces too, along with my black bean salad.
Let me tell you folks, being a run-of-the-mill home cook and having your food called excellent by a professional chef is a humbling experience. And I thank Bren for her visit. You really must check her out.
Ever since I can recollect, there has been a hot-topic debate over what barbecuing actually is. When I was growing up, we had “barbecues” and that meant anything being put on a hot grill, i.e. hot dogs, burgers, ribs, chicken, and then cooked relatively fast. This method is actually grilling. So, in fact, when my family was to have a barbecue, they were to be actually grilling the food not barbecuing it. Grilling is tender or lean cuts of meat put on a hot gas grill or over hot coals and fast cooking.
Barbecue, is low and slow. Please do not barbecue your steak. You won’t like it if you did…getting visions of shoe leather here. Barbecuing usually involves tougher cuts of meat and can, doesn’t always, use smoke. In my case, there will always be smoke. In most circles, barbecuing uses some sort of sauce; either homemade or store bought. People have tendencies here as well. Do we sauce while we barbecue? Do we pass the sauce when it’s finished? Do we sauce at the end of the barbecue? I typically like to apply a savory rub, wrap the meat in plastic wrap, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. I do not sauce until the cooking is complete and sometimes not at all. I do, however, apply a mop sauce periodically while cooking. This is usually a combination of citrus, apple cider vinegar, and oil. Applying the mop sauce, or mopping the meat, keeps the meat moist during the smoke. I am using hickory and apple wood to smoke these.
First things first: ribs should never, I repeat, never, ever, be boiled. Granted, you may speed up the cooking time, but boiling washes away so much flavor. Really it does. If you are short on time, smoke the ribs for 1 1/2 hours, wrap in foil with some mop sauce, and finish in a 350 degree-f oven until tender.
Okay, when it comes time to cook, I pull the meat out of the fridge about an hour before to bring it to room temperature. I place a foil roasting pan filled with apple cider vinegar, beer, or some liquid under the grate where the meat will be to catch the juices and deliver enough vapor to help keep the meat moist. I get my smoker going with charcoal, hardwood charcoal if I can get it, and bring the temperature up to about 180 to 200 degrees-f. Then onto the rack at the farthest part of the barrel. That is where the meat will sit for the next 4 hours. I then begin loading the fire chamber with wood chunks that have been soaking in water for at least an hour. The wood will begin smoking, feeding that smoky goodness through the barrel, over the meat, then up and out the spout. Throughout the process, more fuel will be added to maintain 225 degrees-f. No peeking! If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’!
After about 1 1/2 hours, I begin mopping the ribs with the mop sauce. This is done about every hour or so. The ribs get smoked for a good four hours, but mind you, I don’t baby sit them. It’s too hot for that. I sit in the house sipping an adult beverage while the smoke does its thing. I check the temp and the volume of smoke every 45 minutes to an hour. If there is no smoke, I add wood, if the temp is dropping, more charcoal goes in. Simple really. And with practice, the reward is a juicy, succulent, tasty rib. I don’t believe that ribs should “fall off the bone", but be really tender to the bite with enough structure to hold on the bone. I don’t like mushy rib meat. Typically I like baby back ribs for this application, but this time the spares were on sale. At least something is.
I have to give many thanks to Krysta over at Evil Chef Mom for snail-mailing me some of her homemade blend of chili powder. I used this on one rack of ribs and my stand-by Memphis-y rub on the other. To get her secret recipe, please stop by her blog and drop her a line. It is really tasty!
For the beans in this dish, I used Rancho Gordo’s Yellow Eyes. After a 2 hour soak, into the pot with all the molasses and speck, and into the oven for 5 hours. They came out with a not so sweet sweetness and a hint of savory. But the texture of the bean was the best. This babies really held up to the cooking.
Have you used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated or ATK? Did you change or modify an ingredient or two or four? Well, ahem, you are a recipe pirate in their eyes. They have a team of enforcers who comb the foddie blogosphere in search of you dastardly recipe poachers and soon the jack-booted nanny-state enforcers are coming to a blog near you! Scared yet?
No really, CI and ATK are the recipe “owners” of all the land. Read this post and try to contain your outrage.
Another salad added to my repertoire is this farro salad with grilled vegetables. I got the inspiration for this from one of Bobby Flay’s shows. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember which show it was; probably “Boy Meets Grill” since there is plenty of grilling going on for this dish. There is grilled eggplant, which yields an incredible flavor, grilled red onion, and grilled tomatoes! The veggies get tossed in sherry vinaigrette with farro.
Before this dish, I had never cooked with farro. For those of you who may not know, Google it! Actually it is a nutty tasting grain similar to spelt. If you don’t know what spelt is, it’s a grain similar to farro. I had seen it, farro that is, as an ingredient in a few blogs here and there, so when I saw a bag of it in Whole Paycheck, I snagged some. Funny thing about that, the farro had no cooking instructions! So, I Googled, and found several different methods depending on the type of farro. This was confusing! One site would have me soak the farro for 8 hours and then soft boil it for 2 hours. I kept thinking “this is grain” not beans! Turns out, I had semi-pearled farro. This significantly cuts the cooking time. It only took about 20 minutes. I started tasting at 15 minutes in. I can say that I am impressed with this grain. It is the mother of all grains; it’s the “OG", original
gangster grain from which all others are derived and also fed the ancient Egyptians. Apparently on the nutrition front, farro is a powerhouse packing fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A, B, C and E! I’m diggin’ this. So, go get you some farro, semi-pearled please so you don’t have to crack, hull, and soak it yourself.
In my last post I wrote about my minor “set back” which is having gained more weight than my knees care to carry. Progress is being made. There is no noticeable weight loss as of yet as I still resemble Buddha, just with an slightly aging athletic build. I have, however, been committed to a workout plan and I am finally, after several sore body episodes, able to workout every day. The goal is twice a day, once on the morning and then after work. That plan may get altered a bit though as it is 100 degrees here and my garage has no air conditioning. Thanks to all the well wishers comments on my last post. Very encouraging.
So here is another delicious salad I highly suggest that you make. This is one of those, “hey we just grilled some whatever and don’t know what to do with all this heat leftover.” I knew I was going to be grilling steaks so I planned ahead to use the residual heat for the veggies in this salad.
So I get on the scale. Why, I know. The scale’s LCD registers a reading. It reads, “get the hell off of me!” Yeah, I’ve had a bit of a set back. I got myself down to 217 lbs by accident when I had my last gout attack. I vowed to stay low and to actually get lower. Yeeeeaahh. Not so much. I’m back in the 240 plus club.
So the wife and I agree to go back to a regiment of working out and eating more salads and just plain healthy foods. I have to have some cream thrown in there somewhere and she is a sugar freak, so maybe we need some kind of culinary 12 step program.
I have a garage full of exercise equipment. I knew that I was getting old when 10 years ago, I bought a membership to a gym and I never went! After knee surgery, I could no longer play basketball, I couldn’t run. I don’t jog. I hate jogging. When I was in the Army, the PT test was 2 miles, I’m doing it as fast as I can, somewhere around 11 minutes. I hate to run, but I love the feeling after. Weird huh?
So my garage, is filled with what looks like a chamber for the Marquis de Sade. All painful, rather pain inflicting apparatuses holding car cleaning towels and flesh eating spiders. I guess what I mean is, lots of money - no usey! So we begin with the BowFlex. Of this thing de Sade would be proud. It is more painful than your best dentist, trust me! I have an elliptical and a really nice treadmill. The spiders especially like the treadmill. The treadmill has a really annoying woman on their CD which plays in the treadmill, who annoys me, and works the hell out of me; increase the incline…"work those buns!” I’ll have another donut, thank you!
So I have started working out again. I want to lower my blood pressure, loose 35 pounds, look good in a swimsuit again, NO NOT THE BORAT SUIT!!!, and feel better all around. My goals are attainable and I will get there. But I’m gonna go have another slice of Beck’s mud cake…be right back!
Okay, so here is a dish that was absolutely amazing. I mean it. People, make this! It is a salad, but more like a salsa, if you want it to be. I’m all about the salads right now. Those of you who come here often are about to experience a deluge of salads and healthier, somewhat, dishes, along with my favorite bechamel or cheese covered anything!
This salad/salsa came from Becky’s Women’s Health rag. And let me profess once again, make this! I usually hate using canned beans of any kind, but these worked out just fine.
The recipe called for a smoked tomato vinaigrette from a bottle or jar and did not provide a recipe, so you get mine. I made it up and it was good. We actually used it more than once.