Wednesday, December 29, 2010

sweet, salty and crunchy winter salad

The Perfect Winter Salad!

Salty stuff. Sweet stuff. Crunchy stuff. Chewy stuff. It doesn't get much better than that - and there's bacon!

This salad is as delicious as it is beautiful, with rich greens, jewel-toned fruit and contrasting sliced almonds. The delicately sweet dressing is incredibly simple and complements the other flavors to perfection.

You can prepare this with mixed greens (particularly pretty and tasty with radicchio tossed in) or use only spinach, or a combination of all. You can substitute pine nuts for the sliced almonds if you like, but I do really feel that the dried cranberries (not raisins) provide the best flavor in this salad. Be sure to try this with Mandarin orange segments also. *swoon*

This is a terrific side salad to serve with a simple meat-and-potatoes type dinner and it's a surprisingly tasty accompaniment to many curried dishes. And it will make a spectacular salad to ring in 2011, whether as part of a cozy dinner for two, or as a start to a healthy new year.

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I like to use safflower oil because its mild flavor doesn't compete with the other ingredients)
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons wine vinegar (try using a raspberry blush balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar or a simple white wine vinegar)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk ingredients together thoroughly and set aside.

For the salad, toss together:

  • 5 to 6 cups mixed salad greens, including spinach if you like
  • 6 slices cooked lean bacon, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 green onions, white only, thinly sliced
Lightly toss salad ingredients with the dressing and serve immediately, or wait until ready to serve before adding the dressing.

Also, if you're preparing the salad in advance, add the almonds at the last moment so they will stay crunchy.
Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

now for something a little different - meatball kofta

Tired of turkey?
Had enough ham?
Yes, holiday leftovers are wonderful... everything tastes so good the next day, you can cram almost all of it between a couple of slices of bread for an impromptu Dagwood sandwich, and you don't need to cook for a few nights. But... sometimes I'm the victim of holiday "leftoverload" and I get a craving for more exotic flavors.
Meatball Kofta is truly one of my top 10 (well, at least top 20) favorite dishes. Hm, "top 20 favorite dishes" sounds like a good blog topic, by the way. *gets out notebook*
Depending on the recipe, Meatball Kofta is either Asian or Middle Eastern, and is traditionally prepared in a tagine. The beautiful part is that, although it would be rad to actually have the tagine, you don't really need it; a large skillet will do. The simple meatballs are simmered in a tomato mixture, then served over rice or couscous (or try it with spaghetti or fettuccine).
Meatball Kofta makes a quick and inexpensive change from the repetition of the usual rotation of weeknight suppers and just might become a new favorite of yours as well!
For the meatballs:
  • 1.25 pounds ground beef, lamb, chicken or turkey (or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley if you prefer)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Use your hands to combine all of the meatball ingredients together thoroughly, then form into small meatballs no larger than one inch in diameter.
For the sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or flat-leaf parsley if you prefer)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
Coarsely chop and remove seeds from whole peeled tomatoes.
Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a tagine or large skillet. Cover and let simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to incorporate oil. If too thick, add a small amount of water.
Place meatballs in the sauce. Lower heat slightly, cover and cook until meatballs are thoroughly done (I like to allow them to cook for at least 30 minutes). Near the end of cooking time, uncover if sauce needs to thicken a bit.
This recipe does not make an extremely "saucy" dish - if you think you would like more of the tasty tomato mixture, double up! Serve with rice, couscous or pasta, and don't forget the crusty bread for dipping in those delicious juices.
Makes about 3 servings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

take time to smell... the potatoes!

Love cooking but hate being stuck in the kitchen while all the fun is going on elsewhere? Eliminate some of those last-minute details by preparing dishes ahead of time.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole
is the perfect accompaniment to nearly any "roast beast," from beef tenderloin to ham to turkey or whatever else rocks your holiday table!
The potatoes can be prepared a day in advance and reheated, eliminating the frenzy of draining, mashing and presenting mashed potatoes at the last minute. Let come to room temperature before placing in the oven, cover and allow about 15 to 20 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for thorough heating.
And yes... you can add cheese to the mashed potato mixture, and even sprinkle some atop the casserole itself. Oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaahh! For something a little different, try this recipe with Yukon Gold potatoes. You'll love the flavor, texture and color. Or use plain salt and substitute half of the cream cheese with a flavored variety, like chive and onion.
Have your holiday your way, and make time to enjoy it!
  • 12 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt (or use a bit more plain salt to taste if you prefer)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed and softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk or more as needed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Butter a 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large saucepan boil potato cubes until tender, about 15 minutes (but check to be sure). Drain and mash potatoes then add onion salt, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, and salt and pepper. Beat together with a spoon or use a hand-held mixer. Add enough milk for a smooth consistency.
Spread mixture in the buttered baking dish, sprinkle with a bit of paprika if you like, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes if re-heating the next day; if serving the same day, bake for 1 hour.
Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last-minute Christmas gifts, fast and cheap!

Everybody Loves Beer Bread!
Need a quick, last-minute gift idea but you've already spent way too much money this Christmas? Need a couple of quick stocking stuffers but your pockets are stuffed with bills and receipts? Or do you just want to create something homemade and thoughtful but you're running out of time?
Well, here is a solution that just might be the answer to all of the questions above: whip up a batch of beer bread mix with only four simple ingredients (and your grateful recipient will only need two!).
The following recipe will make one delicious loaf of beer bread and can be customized as you like. On the Lonesome Road we like to add some rosemary or crushed fennel seeds; a bit of dill would be a good addition, or possibly a light touch of lemon zest and black pepper. Personalize the recipe to your recipient's tastes or make a few suggestions for them.
The basic beer bread recipe is:
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
That's it! Simply combine and package in resealable plastic bags, then place the plastic bag in something more decorative: a hand-stamped paper bag, a vintage canning jar, or an old tin; maybe a antique bread loaf pan. Trim with homespun, raffia, ribbons - and a tag with directions (see below).
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix contents of package with one 12 oz. bottle or can or beer. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Pour 4 tablespoons melted butter over batter in pan and bake one hour.
So simple! This bread is terrific with cozy winter soups and casseroles, slathered with softened real butter. The person(s) who receive this beer bread mix will love the homemade thoughtfulness and simplicity of the gift. And isn't that what giving is all about?

Friday, December 3, 2010

sunday dinner redux, side dishes edition - sweet potatoes!

Gooey... Sweet... Caramel-y...
Butterscotch-y Sweet Potatoes!
Sweeten up your Sunday dinner with these rich and decadent sweet potatoes. This is a simple (and overall, healthy) side dish that will not have you scrambling to the store for exotic ingredients, and it's a great dish to bring for gatherings since everyone loves it!
A tiny touch of cinnamon makes this dish perfect for all winter and autumn festivities, or can make a simple dinner pretty special as well. Pair these sweet potatoes with a pork roast, roast turkey or chicken or Cornish hen, or even a tender slow-cooked beef brisket.
And, it really doesn't take that much extra time to start from scratch instead of using canned sweet potatoes; just be sure to use a sharp peeler and knife for cutting. Also, do yourself a favor and don't buy the funny-shaped ones that look like obscene body parts or garden gnomes, etc.; you'll hate yourself later when you're trying to peel them.
  • 6 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into large cubes and boiled for about 10 minutes
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place cooked, drained sweet potato cubes in an ungreased 13 inch x 9 inch baking dish; set aside.
Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, half and half, cinnamon and salt in a medium-sized saucepan and boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.
Pour sauce over the sweet potatoes, cover and bake 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more, basting sweet potatoes with that delectable sauce.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Friday, October 29, 2010

sunday dinner redux - halloween edition, GHOOOOOOOOUL-ash!

The Real Deal - Hungarian Goulash
What a perfect dish for Sunday dinner - on Halloween! Bela Lugosi would be proud.
This isn't macaroni and ground beef in a bland tomato sauce - this is Hungarian goulash, the real thing! Full of beef, peppers, paprika and the uniquely nutty flavor of caraway seeds, goulash is a dish that has been badly maligned over the years and turned into a mockery of its original deliciousness.
Goulash was a dish originally cooked over an open fire, first enjoyed by Hungarian herdsmen (the word herdsman is "gulyás" in Hungarian; this is where the name "goulash" originated). It is now one of the most beloved national dishes of Hungary and there are several spin-offs of it, versions with cabbage, beans etc. But this is the basic recipe and it's perfect as a warming, nourishing meal after a night of trick or treating in the dark, chilly sidewalk jungles. As you can imagine, this tastes wonderful when made a day ahead; just re-heat and serve over buttered egg noodles.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground paprika
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 medium red bell peppers or a combination of colors: red, green, orange, or yellow and cut into 1 inch squares (I used ripened Cubanelle peppers; our garden was overflowing with them and I love their flavor, much like a mild banana pepper)
In a large Dutch oven, brown the beef in the olive oil (not too many at one time, otherwise they will not brown properly). Transfer browned beef to a plate and reserve.
Add onion, garlic, paprika, caraway seeds to the oil and browned bits in the Dutch oven. Cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until onions and garlic are tender but not browned.
Return the meat to the pan, add broth and tomato sauce, combine all and cook, covered, for 1-1/2 hours or until meat is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the chopped pepper squares and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until peppers are lightly tender but not mushy.
Serve over buttered egg noodles. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Vermont cheese soup ... by Vincent Price?!?

"A man who limits his interests, limits his life."
- Vincent Price
As an old movie fan in search of interesting Halloween recipes, I once decided to research horror movie stars, hoping to find a treasured recipe from the likes of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., etc. Imagine my surprise when I hit the motherlode - actor Vincent Price was a gourmet and a foodie! Who knew? In fact, Price authored several books including "A Treasury of Great Recipes" with his wife Mary. When I first discovered this, I knew that I had to have this cookbook and amazingly I found it on the shelf at one of my favorite consignment shops.

"A Treasury of Great Recipes," first published in 1965, is a tour of some of the Prices' favorite restaurants with accompanying recipes. The book is not only noteworthy for the fabulous recipes, but also for taking the reader back to a time of elegant dining at famous restaurants like The Four Seasons and Sardi's. The restaurants' menus are as fascinating as the stories and recipes, a true glimpse into a different era in fine dining.

This wonderful Vermont Cheese Soup recipe is from "A Treasury of Great Recipes;" Price felt that it sounded kind of "far out." I don't particularly think so, but I do think that it's absolutely delicious. It isn't an overly-thick soup like those that have lots and lots of flour and other thickeners. And, though the recipe says that this will serve 4, it's really closer to 2 as it's written (unless you're serving the soup as an appetizer in very small cups).

The only changes that I made to the recipe were the use of black pepper instead of white pepper (I just don't like white pepper, it always tastes like dust to me), and I used milk instead of cream (which may be part of the reason why the soup wasn't super-thick). But if you like white pepper and want to use cream, by all means do so. And, even though I typically use low-fat cheeses, I used regular Cheddar cheese for this recipe since the cheese needs to melt nicely for the soup and that has not been my experience with lower-fat versions.


  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 leek (white part only), chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (you don't have to be too precise with the chopping; the vegetables will be strained from the broth later)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • salt to taste (I found that I did not need to add any salt; the stock and cheese were salty enough)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat chicken stock to boiling and add leek, celery, and onion. Simmer for 45 minutes then strain into a clean saucepan.

Mix 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water, stir into soup and cook until slightly thickened (you'll have to increase the heat a bit at first).

Add the Cheddar cheese and stir in until cheese is melted. Add pepper and nutmeg, and taste to see if you need more salt.

To finish, combine 1 egg yolk with 1/2 cup of cream. Mix together and stir in 1/2 cup of the hot soup. Add this mixture to the soup, stirring rapidly and cook for 2 more minutes (don't let it boil). If you wish, add 1/4 cup dry white wine just before serving. Serves 4 (very small cups) or 2 (larger bowls).

Friday, October 22, 2010

beer - not just for breakfast anymore!

The National Pork Producers Council declares October "National Pork Month" (or "Porktober" as some like to call it). The Lonesome Road kitchen could not let this momentous culinary event go by without at least one porcine preparation. It was hard to narrow it down, but a tasty barbecue sauce will win almost every time.
This Beer and Molasses Barbecue Sauce by silvergami superman, beer aficionado, Team Bacon! compadre and all-around great guy Allegro Arts has just the right combination of things we like on our gravel road outside of prison town: beer, a touch of garlic, full sweet flavor - and NO KETCHUP.
Mr. Arts recommends using a darker beer like a Sam Adams porter or cream stout, or even a good hoppy beer like an IPA. Here on The Road, we used a Sam Adams Octoberfest with terrific results.
This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce so you can either sauce up anything that moves or freeze some for another day!
  • Two 12 oz. bottles of beer (one for you, one for the sauce)
  • 1/2 cup dark molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • One 12-ounce bottle chili sauce (Mr. Arts recommends Heinz; on the Lonesome Road we used Homade, probably because I love the cute little round jar.)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic (finely diced)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (like Colman's)
In a saucepan, pour in 1-1/2 cups of beer.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over medium/low heat to reduce it to about half of the original volume, about an hour; drink the remaining beer while you wait for the sauce to thicken. When done, the sauce should be sticky but still runny.
To use, baste repeatedly over meat while grilling to build up a caramelized coating.
Mr. Arts recommends this for pork and chicken (check out the pork chop, above!), and I'm thinking that this would make a tasty and different dipping sauce - and would probably be fantastic mixed in with some baked beans.
To see more of AllegroArts, check out these links:

Above: amazing "silvergami" fine silver jewelry by Allegro Arts.

Friday, October 15, 2010

the weekend baker - the great pumpkin!

The Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2010...?
Imagine going to your favorite supermarket and.... the canned pumpkin shelf is EMPTY! You speed from store to store, in search of that elusive can of pureed curcubit. Panic begins to set in as you realize that you may never again see a can of pumpkin on a store shelf. Never, I tell you!
That's certainly how I felt recently. Fortunately I found a can hiding in a cabinet in my kitchen but it could have been curtains for pumpkin pie and pumpkin bars this year. I jokingly told people that I was going to sell that can for thirty bucks on Ebay. Then I discovered that people really have been doing that.
The cause of the shortage depends on who you talk to and where you get your news. The Washington Post says that there was too much rain, making it difficult to harvest the pumpkins. During a recent visit to a pumpkin farm in my area, I overheard the grower telling a customer that the plants were not being pollinated properly and that was the problem. Either way, I've recently noticed that supplies of canned pumpkin seem to be returning to stores and now we can all breathe a little easier about that Thanksgiving pie!
Another autumn favorite is pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting. Delicious, a favorite of all, and easy (if you can just find a can of pumpkin).
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2/3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I like to use safflower)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Beat together eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl. Combine all of the dry ingredients and gradually add to the pumpkin mixture, mixing well.
Pour batter into an ungreased 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then frost with cream cheese frosting.
For the frosting, beat together:
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter (half of a stick), softened
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk, or as needed for desired consistency
Spread frosting over bars and decorate them if you wish (they look very cute with candy pumpkins, or with icing "webs"). Makes 20 to 24 pumpkin bars.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

cheap eats - the comfort food edition

Chilly Nights and Frost on the Pumpkin...
it's time to put on a big, comforting pot of hot lentil & sausage soup!
I literally do not eat soup in warmer weather; being someone who is fussy about seasonal foods, temperatures and the like, I can't just sit down to a hot steaming bowl of soup when it's 90 degrees outside. But in the fall, that all changes, I can't get enough warming, homey soup!
Lentil soup is one of my favorite comfort foods, especially when it's prepared with spinach for added flavor, vitamins and iron. Since lentils do not require soaking it's actually very quick to prepare and so full of fiber, high in protein, and low in fat. And, the price is right too; a bag of dried lentils costs around $1.50 and will make so many delicious main dishes in less time than it takes to go out and grab a big, fattening, artery-clogging burger and fries.
  • 12 oz. Italian sausage, cut into slices (I use turkey Italian sausage but you can use a traditional pork sausage, or even seasoned veggie crumbles)
  • 1-1/2 cups dried lentils, picked over and rinsed briefly
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 10 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • one large russet potato, chopped (I leave on the peel for more nutrition)
Begin by browning the sausage slices in a large soup pot; turkey sausage and veggie crumbles will yield little or no extra fat so you will probably have to add a bit of olive oil after browning in order to cook the onion and garlic.
Cook onion and garlic until wilted then add the lentils, broth, spinach and seasonings. Bring to a medium boil then turn down to a medium-low simmer. Partly cover and simmer for about 45 minutes; taste seasoning and correct if necessary (the amount of thyme and basil you use will depend on the seasonings in the sausage, and the amount of salt you need will be determined by the broth used).
Add the chopped potato and cook until potato is tender (another 20 to 30 minutes or so). Serve steaming hot with crusty French bread and butter. A sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese is a nice touch for the soup, or some crispy homemade garlic croutons.
Makes about six servings.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

necessary indulgences

Fun at 4:20. Or not.
Slow Down and Smell the ... Bacon. Or Cinnamon Apples.
There's nothing quite like having a day to yourself. No slogging along thanklessly for "The Man," no scurrying around running errands all day. No hurried weeknight dinners designed around everyone else's schedule. Eat dinner at 4:20? What am I, ninety years old? Didn't I just eat lunch about 3 hours ago? 4:20 might be time for something but it's not time to shovel in an uninspired supper.
So today was MY day to indulge myself with a nice brunch. Not only do I get tired of off-schedule eating and the accompanying crummy dietary habits it creates, but I like to cook - when I have the time to stretch out and experiment. Not just slapping something in the oven on a pizza pan for twenty minutes and calling it dinner.
This particular day I was craving something breakfast-y and this scramble with bacon, caramelized onions, and melty rich Brie cheese was just the thing. A side of sauteed Granny Smith apples dusted with cinnamon was the perfect accompaniment.
Maybe I'll incorporate it into a weekend breakfast someday.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

pimento cheese y'all...

White Bread's Best Friend!
Ever caught a strange food craving from a friend? A few years ago a friend of mine was having fearsome fitful cravings for pimento cheese. Couldn't get enough of it. Soon, the contagion spread and vast tubs of pimento cheese were being consumed on the Lonesome Road as well.

Alarmed by many of the unpronounceable ingredients in many brands of store-bought pimento cheese, I began to research recipes for this food of the cheese gods and discovered that it is amazingly simple. And, it's one of those preparations that tastes so much better when homemade. Plus you can control the fat content by using low-fat dairy products. Well, sort of.

Of course, the classic accompaniment to pimento cheese is white bread but I do like it heaped (too high) on stone-ground wheat crackers as well. Pimento cheese is really very subtle and mild, it combines best with flavors that aren't too assertive (no chicken and biscuit-flavored crackers, please). The amount of onion and garlic powders in the recipe can vary according to taste; personally I like to taste cheese, with a little extra seasoning.

And by the way, my pimento cheese-loving friend is partnering to open an online shop full of delightful accessories for young girls - check for Herding Turtles on Etsy soon!

  • 8 ounces low-fat Neufchatel cheese
  • 8 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise (substitute half sour cream if you like)
  • 8 ounce jar of diced pimentos, well-drained
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder, more or less to taste
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, more or less to taste
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine ingredients thoroughly; check seasonings and adjust to your taste.
And, try not to eat it all at one sitting.

Friday, September 17, 2010

the season's first pot of chili

Chili Weather!
Each year I wait in anticipation for The Perfect Fall Day, the day when you know the time is right. The day when.... it's cool enough to make that first pot of chili in the fall!
Well, yesterday was that day on the Lonesome Road. As the days grew shorter and farmers started to harvest, I knew it would be soon so I've been stocking up on the ingredients while checking the weather forecast each evening. Finally the day was here!
I usually use ground turkey in chili for its low fat content and (usually) lower prices. This time however, I splurged on some lean free-range ground buffalo. What an amazing, rich flavor! A bit on the pricey side, but hey, it was autumn's first pot of chili, an equinox celebration!
You may also notice that I don't include chopped peppers in this recipe. That is just a matter of personal taste; I don't care much for cooked peppers but certainly feel free to add them if you wish; I would suggest poblano pepper for its mild and almost smokey flavor.
I'm not one who serves chili with a side of fire extinguisher; this is not a spicy hot chili. The amounts of ground dried chipotle and cayenne pepper can be increased to suit your own heat tolerance, or you can simply use a hotter chili powder blend.
  • 1 pound lean (90/10) free-range ground buffalo (yes, you can use ground beef, turkey or vegetarian crumbles if you prefer)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • One 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, liquid and all
  • One 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • One 15 ounce can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons oregano
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 8 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) dried chipotle chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon (or more to taste) cayenne pepper
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, brown and break up the ground buffalo a bit and add the chopped onion and minced garlic, cooking until softened but not browned.
Add the diced tomatoes; fill the empty 28 ounce can with water and add to the pot. Add tomato sauce, spices and beans, combining thoroughly. Cook on a low simmer for as much time as you can allow; an hour will be fine but the longer this amazing brew cooks, melding spices, juices and free-range goodness, the more magical the flavor will be!
Offer toppings like shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese, sliced jalapeno peppers, sour cream, chopped raw onion, or chopped cilantro.
Serves approximately 6.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

cheap eats - thrifty side dishes edition

Penny-Pinching Potatoes ~
Potatoes Lyonnaise
What a beautiful name for a dish that is so easy, so inexpensive and so incredibly delicious. How can you go wrong with potatoes, onions, and garlic in butter? Plus, it's a dish that's not only pleasing to tastebuds but to your wallet as well.
"Lyonnaise" typically describes a dish prepared with onions, specifically fried onions, but also refers to the cuisine of Lyon, France. Lyon is also well-known for its high-quality pork products and of course, for Beaujolais Nouveau (among other wines).
But for now, the Lonesome Road Studio Kitchen is swooning over Lyonnaise Potatoes, a perfect side dish with roasted meats, something warm and cozy during chilly nights. Try leftovers combined in a frittata - just incredible!
The Ingredients:
  • 8 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 degrees Celsius).
    Place russet potatoes in a pot of water; bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes.
    Drain, quickly rinse with cold water and set aside.
    Heat olive oil in an ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. Add onion slices and saute until slightly browned. (It may seem like a lot of onions, but they will cook down and become absolutely delicious!) Add garlic and saute about 10 minutes more, until onions caramelize. Transfer onions and garlic to a bowl.
Can't you just smell those onions cooking?
Melt butter in bottom of pan, scraping up browned bits. Add potatoes and onions and stir gently to combine wih butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 25 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and lightly browned on top; you can also raise the oven temperature for a bit to brown the potatoes more, or broil very briefly.
Serves 6.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the weekend baker

The Flavors of Fall ~
Zucchini Spice Cake
If you're lucky enough to have a bumper crop of zucchini squash (or know someone who does), quickly whip up this incredibly moist, spicy and delicious Zucchini Spice Cake. It's wonderful on its own, or with a bit of applesauce. (If you really want to frost it, I would suggest a cream cheese frosting similar to pumpkin bars.)
The original recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks by the folks at Victory Garden; I've tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes but in general you can personalize the spices to your preferences. I've also considered substituting some of the vanilla extract with a tiny bit of maple, but haven't experimented with that yet, as well as versions with walnuts and/or raisins. I'm too busy enjoying this recipe as is!
The recipe is simple to adjust if you're up to your ears in zucchini and wish to make 2 or 3 cakes. It is also perfect for school lunches (how about baking the batter in fun cupcake form?) and it freezes absolutely beautifully. It's a recipe that you will turn to again and again.
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil (I prefer safflower in this recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups grated zucchini (or, you can use yellow squash as well)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 degrees Celsius).
Combine dry ingredients. Beat together the eggs, brown sugar and pure vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients, stir in the grated zucchini. Pour batter into a greased 8x8 inch (approx. 20x20 cm) baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (or if you can't resist the wonderful spicy fragrance a minute longer!).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

bacon makes everything better!

Meat Candy!
Lately a lot of people I know have been doing jalapeno poppers with various fillings - and all wrapped in bacon. And grilled. Can it get much better than that?

The usual fillings seem to be cheese, and the usual "fillee" seems to be jalapeno peppers. Well, the Lonesome Road garden had an overabundance of beautiful, mild Cubanelle peppers recently, so I decided to make stuffed, bacon-wrapped grilled peppers as a main dish.

Cubanelle peppers are similar to "Italian Frying Peppers" and are perfect on the grill. To begin with, cut a "T" shape on one side of the pepper; the horizontal cut at the top near the stem, and then straight down but not through to the other side of the pepper. Carefully clean out the seeds and trim off excess ribs, then stuff them!

I stuffed mine with pre-cooked hot turkey Italian sausage halves cut to fit the length of the peppers, plus mozzarella cheese (they don't have to be stuffed until bulging, just comfortably enough to get them back together again). Wrap each pepper with a slice of bacon and secure with at least two toothpicks, one at the top, one towards the bottom. I did soak my toothpicks in water for a while first, even after I heard grill guru Steve Raichlen say that it really makes no difference if you soak wooden skewers or not; they burn anyway. And um, yeah. He was right. That's why he's the guru and I'm not. Anyway.....
Grill over a medium-hot fire until the bacon is thoroughly cooked, watching carefully and turning often (this takes around 20 minutes but can take longer depending on the heat of your fire). By the time the bacon is fully cooked, the peppers will be perfectly cooked; firm, not mushy, with a wonderful full flavor.

Count on two peppers per person, more (of course) if the peppers are small. Be sure to try them stuffed with chorizo and Cheddar cheese as well, for more of a south-of-the-border flavor. In fact, let your imagination run wild... why not pre-cooked meatballs and provolone, then serve with marinara sauce; or shredded chicken breast, marinated tofu (facon-wrapped, of course!), Middle-Eastern-inspired ground lamb and feta cheese... oh, I could go on and on.
(But first I should check the garden and see how many more Cubanelles we have left!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

the unofficial start of fall?

Above, "The Big Kahuna Burger," one of three Pulp Fiction-inspired artworks by Lonesome Road Studio.
September 1st, and many are calling this "the first unofficial day of fall." And, this weekend is Labor Day weekend in the United States, so grills will be up in smoke at least one more time before the snow falls. (Or, if you're on the Lonesome Road, you put on your coveralls, fire up the torpedo heater and grill anyway.)

An easy-going, casual holiday like Labor Day is best served with a low-key, fun menu and tops on the list is burgers. There's a burger to please everyone's taste: beef, buffalo, lamb, turkey, chicken, black bean, veggie, a huge portabella cap... the list is endless. And maybe more endless than the list of burgers themselves is the toppings that you can put on them. Want a Greek burger? Just crumble a bit of feta cheese, add fresh spinach leaves, tomato and onion and top with tzatziki sauce. How about an old-fashioned bacon barbecue burger? Have a pizza burger with mozzarella and provolone cheese plus marinara sauce, maybe sauteed mushrooms and pepperoni slices... or a Mexican burger with salsa, avocado, sour cream, jalapenos and olives.

If you think those are creative ideas, check out some of the ideas at Chicago's Kuma's Corner, one of the most heralded repositories of insanely inventive burger dining in the area:
  • The "Judas Priest" - with bacon, bleu cheese dressing with apples, walnuts, and dried cranberries
  • The "Slayer" - French fries topped with a ½ lb. burger, chili, cherry peppers, andouille, onions, jack cheese, and... ANGER
  • The "Lair Of The Minotaur" - caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, bourbon-soaked pears
  • The "Insect Warfare" - panko-crusted goat cheese, bacon roasted corn and green chili medallion, topped with roasted corn, cilantro, green chili salsa and paprika creme fraiche
  • The "Black Sabbath" - blackening spice, chili, pepper jack, red onion
  • Or maybe just the House Burger, complete with a fried egg.
You get the idea.
So while you're flipping (and not pressing, please) that burger, dream up a little something out of the ordinary and say good-bye to summer with the sandwich equivalent of a 21-gun salute!
And while you're at it, take the groovy poll in the upper right; poll closes at noon on Wednesday the 8th of September - come back to Bite This! to see the results!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

cheap eats - grilling edition

Stretch Your Grilling Dollars with London Broil
Got filet tastes on a hot dog budget? Satisfy your "steak tooth" with London broil for a change. London broil is considerably less expensive than traditional steaks and can be stretched farther. It has a deliciously big beefy flavor and when cooked properly, can be just as tender and satisfying as any old sirloin.
The term "London broil" is actually a term for the method of preparation, not the cut of meat itself. Typically London broil used to be flank steak but nowadays it could be a cut of from the round or sirloin as well. The meat is first marinated for tenderizing and flavor, then grilled to perfection and sliced across the grain to serve.
( Heh. Yikes, didn't notice that at first.)
Begin by pounding the beef if you wish, but this will be wonderful even if you don't.
Prepare a marinade with:
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons of red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (like Colman's)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • lots and LOTS of black pepper
Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag and add the meat. Refrigerate at least overnight, 24 hours is ideal.

Before you light the grill, take the meat out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature; this can take about an hour. I think this is one of the single most important things you can do to ensure proper cooking on the grill. That, and if you aren't doing this already, switch to real hardwood lump charcoal like Cowboy Charcoal Co. It really makes all the difference in the world; it produces a much more even and reliable heat with no yucky chemicals, petroleum residues or weird composite materials mixed in.
The meat will take 20 minutes to grill, about 10 minutes per side (assuming it's at least one inch thick). No constant flipping, flopping, poking or pressing down please, just let it cook (well, okay, you can give it a quarter-turn to make some nice-looking grill marks, but don't get carried away). When done, the meat will be perfectly medium-rare. Transfer to a platter and let it rest for another 10 minutes, then thinly slice across the grain.
The classic accompaniment to the meat and its lovely juices is mashed potatoes, but it makes a fine fajita as well. Since it doesn't re-heat very well, I suggest serving cold leftovers as part of a big salad with lots of fresh greens, beefsteak tomatoes (of course!) and maybe a red onion slice or two. Throw in some mushrooms while you're at it.
See, eating on the cheap doesn't have to be boring, unhealthy or unsatisfying!

Monday, August 23, 2010

so... many.... tomatoes!

Well, it has finally happened. The Lonesome Road Studio Kitchen is about to be inundated with a bumper crop of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness. Eventually I will be getting out the heavy equipment and spending some time making pizza sauce to freeze, but in the meantime I'm making dishes that really emphasize the freshness and quality of a good garden-ripened tomato. In fact, just a couple of days ago, I made a delicious insalata caprese, a simple Italian salad of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella, olive oil and um.... oregano. Basil is the traditional herb of insalata caprese but we have plenty of fresh Greek oregano on hand so that is what went into my salad.

Hm. Will these become pizza sauce? Or maybe a nice cool Panzanella (Italian bread and tomato salad)?
Look at the size of these things!

Greek oregano.

Isn't this just gorgeous? And so fast and easy to prepare, it literally takes minutes. Just slice the best ripe tomatoes you can find, and layer alternately with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. You can actually buy 7 ounce containers of the sliced cheese, which makes this even quicker. If serving for a special occasion, a large beautiful platter works well but I also use an 8 inch by 8 inch glass baking dish for the job. The salad can be chopped if you prefer, but the slices look prettier and and are obviously faster to prepare.
Drizzle with a high-quality olive oil, then sprinkle with slivered fresh basil (or in my case, oregano tastes very nice as well). Season liberally with sea salt and black pepper and allow to sit in your refrigerator, covered, for a little while. Before serving, allow the salad to warm up a bit to almost room temperature. An 8 inch by 8 inch dish of insalata caprese will serve 4 to 6; if you have any leftovers it is delicious tucked into an omelet for breakfast the next morning.

Monday, August 9, 2010

the dog days of summer are upon us...

Beat the heat with fresh, fast and lemony Shrimp, Feta and Basil Linguine Salad!

A Lonesome Road Kitchen exclusive - I created this delicious, cool and simple Mediterranean-inspired linguine salad during a particularly steamy hot spell on the gravel road outside of Prisontown. (!)

Yes, the dog days of summer are upon us here in the northern hemisphere. Seriously. Or, "Siriusly." The dog star Sirius is rising with the sun and temperatures are in the 90's in the Chicago area and looking to stay that way for a while. In fact, the city is poised to break a record for the most consecutive days of over-80 temperatures this summer. Phew!

So now is the time to dig out all of those salad recipes you've been wanting to try; if I do say so myself, this one is especially tasty and worth a try in your salad repertoire. Except for a few brief minutes to boil the water for the linguine, this dish is "stove-free." It also makes good use of garden bounty, if you now happen to be inundated with tomatoes and peppers of the all-at-once variety. The salad's ingredients are flexible; you could also create an all-out seafood extravaganza, or add even more veggies including cucumbers, or olives, or whatever you like and have on hand.

The salad starts with a beautiful basil-infused linguine; many larger supermarkets or gourmet shops carry many varieties of pastas now and it's fun to experiment with flavors. Add some cooked shrimp, tomato-basil feta cheese, veggies and my simple vinaigrette, and you have dinner or lunch for 3 or 4 on a hot summer day.

For the shrimp, feta & linguine salad:

  • 8 oz. basil flavored linguine, cooked per package directions
  • 1/2 pound cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
  • one 4-ounce package tomato-and-basil flavored feta cheese
  • 2 large plum tomatoes, chopped and seeded
  • 2 Cubanelle peppers, chopped and seeded
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons minced red onion
  • juice of one small lemon

Combine cooked pasta, shrimp, cheese and veggies, then liberally squeeze on lemon juice. Using the lemon juice first really gives the salad great flavor before you add the dressing.
Then, whisk together the vinaigrette:

  • 6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced basil, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pour vinaigrette over the linguine salad ingredients, tossing gently and thoroughly to combine.
This does taste even better the next day!
Makes about 4 servings.

Friday, July 16, 2010

nothing says summer like...

Mixed Sugared Berries with
Sweet Vanilla Shortcakes
and Homemade Whipped Cream
Luscious fresh fruit shortcakes - the perfect summer dessert. In this version, the sweet vanilla shortcakes taste like a big delicious soft vanilla sugar cookie! Pair that with summer's freshest, ripest fruits and a dollop of real, homemade sweetened whipped cream, and you have one of the best summer desserts around!
Start by preparing the fruit earlier in the day; sprinkle 2 to 3 pints of fresh berries of your choice with a couple of tablespoons of white sugar and refrigerate until a luscious syrup is created.
The shortcakes may be prepared in advance as well, I like to prepare them in the morning while the temperatures are still cool for baking even though they only require about 15 minutes in the oven.
Buttermilk makes these shortcakes tender and the lightly sweetened vanilla flavoring makes them absolutely delectable and a little different. Try adding 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract and reduce the amount of vanilla slightly; this is especially good with fresh peaches and/or cherries!
You can sprinkle a bit of sugar on the shortcakes before baking, but I like them just the way they are, plain and very lightly sweet.

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons COLD butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk (up to 1 cup, as needed)
  • 1 tablespoon light vegetable oil (I often use safflower)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Combine dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. Quickly cut in the cold butter pieces until the flour mixture looks crumbly. Combine buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour buttermilk mixture into it; stir wet and dry ingredients together only until just combined. Do not overmix, this makes the shortcakes tough. Add a little more buttermilk if mixture seems dry; the dough should be slightly sticky.

Place dough on a floured surface and sprinkle the top of it with a bit more flour. Pat out to a 1 inch thickness with your fingertips (this can be pretty sticky; be sure your work surface is floured well). Cut out shortcakes with a biscuit cutter (I don't have one so I used a glass instead; worked just fine!). With this recipe I made 4 shortcakes; there will be leftover dough. Instead of gathering up the leftover dough and working it too much, I just made some small drop-style biscuits and baked them right alongside the cut shortcakes. They're delicious served hot with butter and preserves or honey.
Place cut biscuits on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven.

When done, the shortcakes will have nice lightly browned tops and will be a beautiful golden color. Allow to cool, then serve with the sugared berries and top with homemade whipped cream. Delicious!


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