Thursday, December 29, 2011

classic spinach dip - with a twist, of course

The best spinach dip I've ever created? Yes, it has bacon, which automatically puts this recipe in the running for "best ever" but there's just something about it that is so ... satisfying. Great combination of textures - a little crunch, some creaminess but not overdone, my newest version of spinach dip has it all.

Serve at an elegant holiday party or other special occasion, or bring along to your next al fresco dining experience with a bottle of wine and a bit of charcuterie and good cheese. Like all spinach dips, this looks beautiful served in a crusty bread bowl; this version is particularly suited to dipping with pita chips. And if you haven't tried the Archer Farms Hummus Chips with Sea Salt from Target, get a bag now. Absolutely delicious little snack, and so good with this dip!

One 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 slices hardwood-smoked thick cut bacon
4 heaping tablespoons minced water chestnuts
6 tablespoons mayonnaise (NOT "salad dressing")
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 to 3/4 dried oregano (try a little dill just to change it up sometimes)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

In a skillet, cook bacon slices until crispy and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. While bacon is cooking, squeeze out as much water as you can from the thawed chopped spinach. Mince the water chestnuts and combine with the spinach. When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces and add to spinach-water chestnut mixture.
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and black pepper. Stir into spinach mixture, mixing thoroughly, and add feta cheese, breaking up any larger clumps of feta cheese. Season to taste with salt (I find that little or no salt is needed with the bacon and feta cheese).
Makes about 2 cups of spinach dip.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

chicken-lime-tortilla soup hits the spot!

Love chili? So do I, and once you've perfected "the" recipe, it's tough to change. After all, you've tweaked and pinched and sprinkled to the point where you've reached perfection; why mess with it?

For those who love chili but are past the wild experimentation stage, try a hearty, satisfying chicken tortilla soup. This one has two kinds of chicken plus white beans, southwestern-style spices and the earthy flavor of corn tortillas. Like chili, this tastes delicious the longer it simmers, and is even better the next day. Feel free to add your favorite soup veggies; this tastes great with corn kernels or diced summer squash. Tailor it to your own tastes, I know that some people do not like the flavor of cilantro but if you do, load up! Garnish with sour cream, avocado, more cilantro, a little green onion, and tortilla chips baked with a sprinkle of lime and salt. A Lonesome Road Studio exclusive...


1 medium yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb. ground chicken

one 14.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)

3 cups leftover shredded cooked chicken (I used grilled chicken; wonderful addition!)

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons dried oregano

3 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder blend

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

one 15.5 oz. can white kidney beans (cannellini beans), drained and rinsed

Juice of one small lime

5 soft corn tortillas, cut into squares or strips

Directions: In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic together in olive oil until tender. Add ground chicken and cook thoroughly, breaking up as chicken cooks. When chicken is completely cooked, add tomatoes with their reserved liquid, plus the broth, oregano, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. Stir to combine and add leftover shredded cooked chicken. Bring to a boil then quickly reduce heat and simmer over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes but, the longer the better.

About 30 minutes before serving, add white kidney beans, juice of one lime, and the soft corn tortilla strips. Stir to blend and simmer for at least another 30 minutes, then garnish and serve.

Makes approximately 6 to 8 servings.

Can't get enough chicken tortilla soup? Check out this recipe published here last winter...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

the easiest party nibble ever - cheese crisps

Crispy. Chewy. Cheesy. And incredibly easy. Party nibbles don't come easier than these cheese crisps simply made with slices of Monterey Jack cheese and a sprinkling of your favorite herb blend. That's it!

The super-simple recipe is from "Pasta & Co. By Request" by Marcella Rosene, one of the many many cookbooks residing on the Lonesome Road cookbook shelf. Published in 1991 and distributed by Sasquatch Books (gotta love that, heh), the cookbook contains tons of delectable recipes from the Pasta & Co. take-out food shop in Seattle, Washington.

I used part of an average 8 ounce rectangle-shaped block of Monterey Jack cheese, cut 1/4 inch thick slices, then cut the slices in half to make twelve small squares. I figured that the slices would spread out in the oven, so I left a lot of space around each one when placing them on the nonstick baking sheet. My spice blend of choice was Bragg Organic Sprinkle, a delicious seasoning blend of 24 herbs and spices. You can use your own favorite seasoning, or maybe just a bit of garlic salt. The cookbook suggests herbes de Provence with lavender or hot paprika but neither of these really tripped my trigger, I was looking for something very savory. Sprinkle a bit of seasoning on the cheese squares and bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. The cheese will emerge browned and bubbling (yum!) from the oven. Transfer the crisps to a wire rack covered with paper towels.
There was quite a bit of greasiness left on the baking sheet and I was considering using a low-fat version of the cheese for the next batch but not sure if the quality would be the same since lower-fat cheese tends to be not quite so melty. Another idea is to substitute Pepper Jack cheese for the Monterey Jack - I'm wondering how they would taste dipped in a little hot salsa? Pretty good, I'll bet.
Enjoy these tasty little noshes at your next holiday get-together, for a Super Bowl party (I won't even mention the Green Bay Packers) or just whip up a batch to have on hand for snacking or serving along with a nice steaming hot bowl of tomato soup. Just remember to make much more than you think you will need; these will go quickly!

Friday, December 9, 2011

low and slow cooked holiday brisket

Set aside a day to enjoy the pleasures of slow food cooking; maybe while you're wrapping all of those holiday treasures, or simply relaxing and enjoying an afternoon of football. This delicious beef brisket will take up some of your sweet time cooking, but once you have the ingredients together all you have to do is enjoy the wickedly wonderful aroma... and dinner later.

This recipe was a web exclusive published in the December online version of Cowboys & Indians magazine here; and in fact, the Silver Palate cookbook from which the recipe is adapted is also perched on one of the many Lonesome Road cookbook shelves. In true fashion, I experimented with the recipe a bit as well. I used some amazing Washington state Walla Walla onions from our big garden, chopped and put up in the freezer for all those winter soups, stews, chilis and more. And I lightly sprinkled a bit of hickory Liquid Smoke on the brisket before spreading with tomato paste. Because I used the Liquid Smoke, I eliminated the salt listed in the recipe. But don't forget to grind liberal amounts of fresh black pepper on the brisket!

Jane the Dog casually waiting for a brisket to jump out of the pan.

On the Lonesome Road, this brisket was perfectly accompanied by cheesy mashed potatoes and a crisp baby spring lettuce salad. The leftover brisket tastes even better the next day and makes awesome sandwiches on a crusty roll. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

buttery, cinnamon-y holiday winter squash

As soon as the first chill in the air arrives, I begin to crave the tastes of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice. Okay, maybe a little ginger, but it's not one of my favorites - small doses. And with fall and winter (and holidays') migration to more roasted and baked comfort cooking, I love this buttery, spicy, creamy winter squash creation on the side.

Very easy to prepare from frozen winter squash puree, but if you had a bumper crop of acorn and butternut squash in your garden this year, by all means use your bounty. If you use fresh squash, be sure to bake it with butter and brown sugar in the center! If simply using a frozen puree, follow my adaptation of another mouth-watering recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Prairie" by Stephen Langlois.


One 10 ounce package frozen pureed winter squash, thawed

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 tablespoons milk or cream

Salt to taste

Simply heat thawed pureed squash and add butter. When butter is melted entirely, incorporate honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and milk or cream. Season to taste with salt.

Makes approximately 3 to 4 servings and is easily doubled.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Turkey with Gravy and Cranberry!"

Just as the Adam Sandler Thanksgiving song says, some things are meant to be paired together. A traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner without the cranberries? Or all of those delicious leftover turkey sandwiches?
The Lonesome Road takes a couple of different turns when it comes to cranberries. One likes the jellied cranberry sauce in the can, you know the one - it makes that embarrassing noise as it sidles out of the can onto a plate, in a perfect log shape. The other one (that would be me) likes whole berry sauce, and I like flavors that accentuate and contrast with the tart flavor of fresh cranberries. That is why the following recipe is one of my all-time favorite preparations for cranberries.
Not quite a "sauce," this is more of a relish. Fresh lemony flavor combines with vinegar and sugar plus the whole arsenal of fragrant autumn spices to create a sweet and tart side dish that perfectly accompanies pork, duck and pheasant as well as turkey.
The original recipe is from one of my most cherished cookbooks, "Prairie" by Stephen Langlois. The cookbook is a collection of seasonal and regional recipes from the Chicago area (Prairie was located on Printers Row in Chicago but has since closed). Enjoy!


1-1/2 cups malt vinegar (you can use red wine vinegar to cut some of the acidity; malt vinegar is very piquant)

Juice of 1 lemon

2 cups white granulated sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

One 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries, washed and picked over

In a medium non-reactive saucepan combine the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, corn syrup and spices. Bring to a full boil over medium heat.
Add cranberries, lower heat and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes or until the skins have cracked and the mixture has thickened. Store in a non-reactive container for at least 2 or 3 days before serving so flavors have a chance to blend. Makes 1 quart.

Friday, July 15, 2011

vegetables as far as the eye can see!

It's that time of the year when parts of the kitchen garden are yielding produce by the piles and you could eat salads for three meals a day and it still wouldn't make a dent. But that's what you waited for all winter, right? So let's do some interesting things with all that beautiful summer bounty!

One of my favorite summertime vegetable preparations is from the terrific cookbook "Herbs Love Tomatoes, Peppers, Onions & Zucchini" by Ruth Bass, published by Storey Books. On every page there is a mouth-watering recipe using simple ingredients to make wonderful everyday meals. When you're up to your eyes with garden vegetables, the recipe "Marinated Vegetables with Tarragon" is one that you will turn to again and again.

Simply prepare 4 cups of vegetables, your choice: tomatoes, snow peas, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots... whatever you like and have on hand that day.

Mix up the marinade:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup tarragon vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

4 tablespoons chopped green onions, white and part of green

1 teaspoon dried tarragon (double the amount if you have fresh tarragon available)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons sugar

Arrange veggies in a shallow dish, pour the marinade over them, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to one day, stirring once.

Serves 4 to 6 veggie lovers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It's good to play with your food!

"It's good to play with your food." That is the mantra of David and Patricia at Dell Cove Spice Company, home of fabulous spice blends and more to make your home cooking and entertaining even better!

The Lonesome Road experience began with a collection of Valentine-themed spice blends - The Pin-Up Girl Spice Kit, containing two each of five mixes: Indian Spice, Southwest Chipotle, Italian, Sweet and Spicy BBQ Rub, and Gourmet Pizza Topping. The Sweet and Spicy BBQ Rub is what is seen in today's Bite This! post, and it is terrific!

The rub was used on a one pound pork tenderloin. Even though time was limited to one hour of seasoning in a resealable plastic bag in the Lonesome Road refrigerator before grilling, the pork was flavorful and so savory, with a nice crust and juicy interior. The Sweet and Savory BBQ Rub is also perfect with chicken, with its unique hand-crafted blend of quality ingredients including sea salt, select dried veggies, real sugar, dry smoke spices and... coffee.
And how adorable is this packaging?!
So go on, get cooking, and explore Dell Cove Spice Company for spice kits, unique cocktail sugars, popcorn and popcorn toppings, edible party favors and more. Their online shop boasts of new exciting autumn and Christmas cocktail sugars, and they are happy to customize your order "from personalized labels to specialized culinary themes and bulk orders." Check them out today!

Friday, July 1, 2011

declare independence from boring potato salads this July 4th!

Brewhouse Potato Salad with Bacon

Only the first day of July and already I'm bored with the usual cook-out side dishes... until now. I wanted to create a really good potato salad with a tasty beer-based dressing and so I did a bit of research. After some tweaking I came up with my very own Brewhouse Potato Salad: slightly sweet with a touch of bacon-y goodness; the perfect accompaniment to sausages and grilled pork or chicken... and a cold one, of course!

To begin, scrub 2 pounds of red-skinned new potatoes and cut into quarters. Cook in boiling water until just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the potato pieces.

While potatoes are cooking, cook 6 slices of bacon in a skillet until done. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease. Set aside the bacon on paper towels to drain. When cool, crumble the bacon into bits.

In the 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat, saute 1 medium onion, minced

then add:

1 cup beer

3 tablespoons malt vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

Boil mixture for 5 minutes until slightly reduced, then remove from heat and whisk in:

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

(honey mustard also works well; I used Sierra Nevada's Spicy Brown Porter Mustard)

4 tablespoons mild olive oil

When potatoes are cooked and drained, add:

1/4 cup minced parsley

2 green onions, white parts and part of light green, sliced thinly

Toss potato mixture with the dressing, 1/2 to 3/4 more teaspoons sugar (to taste), salt and black pepper to taste, and the crumbled cooked bacon.

Let salad sit for a while for the flavors to blend; Brewhouse Potato Salad with Bacon is best served lightly chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Copper River salmon on the grill!

Just look at the rich color of this Copper River salmon! "What's the big deal about Copper River salmon?" you ask. Well, not only is it just about the best salmon we've ever tasted on the Lonesome Road, but it's incredibly good for you as well.

Alaska's Copper River is the tenth largest river in the United States and like its name suggests, is home to rich copper deposits along its banks. It is this river that where the Wild King, Sockeye and Coho salmon must travel 300 miles to spawn and this requires extra storage of omega-3 fatty acids. Alaska seafood also contains the lowest levels of contaminants like methylmercury, and Copper River salmon is sustainably harvested.
Above: Almost done! Here on the Lonesome Road, we simply grilled the Copper River salmon on oak planks (why mess with perfection?), but you can check out this link for some pretty swanky Copper River salmon recipes!
"Atlantis" original art belt buckle by Lonesome Road Studio.

"Never drink water; fish **** in it." - W.C. Fields

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

garden season - finally! (?)

Well now, this certainly has been kind of a weird spring in the Chicago/northern Illinois area! Mainly below-average temperatures with no lack of rain, followed by a brief spell of highs in the '90s. Hopefully we've "weathered" (groan) most of the unpredictability of spring and can now settle in and get a decent garden planted. If nothing else, there will be a bumper crop of mesclun on the Lonesome Road; check out the little volunteer lettuce plants (above) from last year's garden... can't wait until they're big enough to make a fresh and tasty backyard salad!

Look closely - this little dude (? - I'm not really interested in determining the sex of toads, LOL) was discovered during some rototilling. Thankfully he escaped in time...

I'm sure that everyone in the state of Georgia will hate me for saying this, but I really prefer Walla Walla onions, and they are planted in the Lonesome Road garden for the first time this year! We also planted California white garlic, there is nothing like fresh garlic instead of that puckered-up, dried-up grocery store junk. I also hope to make batches of buttery slow-baked garlic, delicious when used for garlic bread, added to soups or pasta sauces, mmmmm!

Ah, a dog's life! Jane the Dog enjoying a bit of fresh air and sunshine. She enjoys the garden too - Jane loves fresh carrots.

A Lonesome Road garden tradition - Roma-style tomatoes. I always hope for a bumper crop for making pizza/pasta sauce to freeze in the fall.

These are just a few of the things you'll find in the Lonesome Road garden. This year's plans also include popcorn, green and yellow string beans, snow peas (the husband's favorite), cucumbers, pumpkins and melons (please please please, no squash bugs this year!), carrots, and probably lots and lots of volunteer dill (like every year). Hot peppers? Definitely, as well as herbs like oregano, thyme, and basil.

[while we're on the subject of salads... try this yummy Tequila-Orange salad dressing. Perfect on mixed greens, spinach + a bit of julienned jicama and avocado!]

Whisk together: 6 tablespoons fresh orange juice, 4 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons tequila, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 4 teaspoons honey, 1 small garlic clove, very finely minced, sea salt to taste

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

in a pinch? try a pinch!

With a few basic ingredients you can create a homemade seasoned salt mixture that tastes wonderful on everything from grilled meats to steamed veggies; shake it on rice or pasta, scrambled eggs, French fries, almost anything. And, no MSG! Simply combine 3 tablespoons fine sea salt, 1 tablespoon good-quality sweet paprika (for something really interesting, try substituting smoked paprika), 1 tablespoon celery salt, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander.

Easily increase these measurements to make a larger amount to have on-hand for the upcoming grilling season, or anytime you want to add a dash of flavor.

The chicken (above) was sprinkled with this delicious seasoned salt mixture and grilled to perfection; later this summer during sweet corn season I plan to mix up a large batch of the salt, adding some to melted butter for drizzling all over those golden ears of summer sweetness, maybe with some grilled Texas toast on the side. Oh yeah.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

what the heck is haluski?!

Can't take another cod fillet during
meatless Lent Fridays?
Try hearty Polish Haluski!
Before I worked for a newspaper that serves a city with a large central European population, I had never heard of haluski. Ever.
A little snooping around revealed to me that this traditional Polish-Slovakian cabbage dish was very similar to something my mother used to make and I decided to give it a try.
The dish makes a great vegetarian main dish (perfect for Lent) or you can sneak in a bit of bacon on your carnivorous days (as shown in the photo). Using homemade egg noodles makes all the difference in the world but if you're short on time, use good-quality store-bought noodles (like I did). And, if you want to add more protein to this dish, try what others do: stir in some cottage cheese.
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, cored and either shredded or cut into strips
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter (you may need more)
  • 8 ounces cooked egg noodles, either homemade or store-bought
  • salt and pepper to taste
Begin by heating butter in a large saute pan or large deep skillet until lightly browned; this is one of the tasty tricks of cooking haluski. Add chopped onion and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Add shredded cabbage and saute for 5 more minutes, tossing thoroughly with the browned butter-onion mixture. Cover and cook another 5 to 10 minutes then add the cooked noodles. Combine everything thoroughly, add a bit more butter if the mixture seems "dry" and cook over low heat, stirring, until noodles are heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Makes 6 servings.
Another tasty addition to haluski is caraway seeds; add them just before covering and cooking the cabbage-onion mixture.
Some people substitute rinsed sauerkraut for the shredded cabbage; I have not tried this version but I think I could learn to love it.
Can't get enough cabbage? Check out:

Friday, March 11, 2011


Meatless Fridays ~
A great time to try something new!
Although the Lonesome Road doesn't observe Lenten practices, the customs and rituals of others always inspires me to try (and share) new recipes. This is one that really has become a tried-and-true favorite. Simple, inexpensive, healthy and so delicious, the Middle Eastern dish Mujadara is easily made with lentils, rice and lots and lots of caramelized onion slices. This is truly a great choice for meatless Fridays during Lent but don't be surprised if you incorporate this dish into your rotation.

Start out by sauteeing in a large, deep skillet:
2 medium onions, sliced
in 6 tablespoons of olive oil.
Cook onions until they are deeply brown and caramelized, even a bit "crunchy." Remove the onions to a paper towel-lined plate.

Add 1 cup of long-grain rice (I love to use jasmine rice) and 1 cup of lentils to the skillet. Quickly saute the rice and lentils in the caramelized onion oil, adding
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground black pepper

Add 3 cups of water to the rice-lentil mixture and bring to a boil. Cover the skillet very tightly then cook over low heat for at least 25 to 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice and lentils are tender.

To serve, top with the crispy browned onions.
Serves 4.
(Although lentils typically do not require soaking in water, I've found that a 1 or 2 hour soaking before preparing this dish helps the lentils cook in exactly the same amount of time as the rice, without becoming mushy.)
Can't get enough bean recipes for meatless Lent Fridays?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

it's called "fat tuesday" for a reason

Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!
Time for the feasting before the fasting - Mardi Gras!
Since the Lonesome Road's favorite place to get authentic Cajun chow is woefully small and will be a mob scene tonight (especially with Dennis Stroughmatt of Creole Stomp performing)
I'm just going to throw on some beads and whip up a little of my own jambalaya tonight!
(Looks like this guy's had enough Mardi Gras already!)

I seldom really make jambalaya the same way twice, at least not consciously. But even though it's a great dish for improvisation, and for using up some leftovers like cooked chicken, don't just indiscriminately throw things in a big pot with some rice - "hey, I found a leftover hot dog in the back of the fridge, let's throw that in!" The recipe that follows is a general guideline to the way jambalaya is prepared on the Lonesome Road; there is room for customization but remember not to stray too far from the heart and soul of the dish.
For example, I love using andouille sausage in jambalaya. This chicken andouille from Trader Joe's is one of my favorites and combines perfectly with the other flavors of the dish but if you prefer kicking it old school and using a traditional Cajun French-style pork andouille sausage - go for it!
Another must is to use the Cajun "Holy Trinity" of seasonings - bell peppers, onions and celery - in the preparation of jambalaya. And last, include black, red and white pepper in most all Cajun concoctions, the theory being that each one of these pepper varieties produces their sensation on different areas of the tongue.
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp
  • 1/2 pound smoked spicy sausage, like andouille, sliced
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
In a large Dutch oven, cook the sausage in the olive oil until browned; add the onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic and saute until onion is golden and transparent.
Add the uncooked rice and cook, stirring briskly, until rice just turns golden. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce, stirring to combine with the rice-sausage-vegetables mixture.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and add cooked chicken, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, and the three peppers. Cook, covered, over low heat for about 30 minutes. Add more liquid, or cook longer, if you need to.
When rice is tender, add shrimp, cover and cook for 10 minutes or so, or until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.
Season to taste with salt and more pepper if you wish.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Variations: Add some leftover chopped pork if you like. I also like to include crabmeat once in a while. And of course - use crawfish if you can get it!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

aphrodisiac week - day two - x-rated veggies!

Asparagus - Exposed!!
Everyone has heard tales of the mighty asparagus spear, inspiring lust in all who dine on it. Once again, its rumored powers may only have started because of its contours, but asparagus is a good source of folic acid, which can boost histamine production necessary for the ability to achieve the Big O.
You don't have to go overboard with asparagus as they did in nineteenth century France, where bridegrooms were served three courses of the vegetable at prenuptial dinners. Enjoy it in a light primavera-type pasta dish, serve steamed on the side with classic Hollandaise, or try something a little different - an airy, light beer tempura asparagus appetizer.
  • 16 asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed off
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying (not olive oil)
In a large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add water and beer to the dry mixture. Whisk together slowly until tempura batter is smooth. Pour batter into a shallow dish for dipping the asparagus spears.
In a medium saucepan or skillet, heat the oil until a drop of the batter fizzes and bubbles; then the oil is hot enough.
Dip half of the asparagus spears in the batter, transfer carefully to the hot oil and fry for about 3 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Fry the remaining dipped asparagus spears. Serve immediately.
Of course, this is a terrific tempura batter for other vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, etc. and for fried shrimp as well.

Monday, February 7, 2011

aphrodisiac week - day one - oysters, aw shucks!

Just in time for Valentine's Day...

This week, "Bite This! The Lonesome Road Studio Kitchen" is highlighting foods rumored to be aphrodisiacs, those lust-inspiring edibles purported to enhance romantic activities.
Truthfully, most foods with claims of aphrodisiac properties were simply deemed so because, well, they tend to look like body parts that do the deed. Bananas. Asparagus. Oysters. In their defense, there has been scientific research regarding foods historically considered to be aphrodisiacs and in some cases there is evidence to support some of the hype.
For one example: oysters. Casanova ate 50 raw oysters every morning for breakfast; did this really help to "lift his spirits" or did he just really dig bivalves? Well, there is scientific proof that oysters are high in zinc which is necessary for sperm production (this fact doesn't particularly make me feel hot and bothered, but to each his/her own). And then, there's the Dynamic Duo of Sexytown, D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate! These two substances, which are abundant in oysters, have been shown to increase testosterone levels in lab rats (lucky rodents!). On the down side, they also increase estrogen as well, not exactly famous for increasing the sex drive. Oh well, I guess you can't win them all.

For those who do enjoy vaguely vaginal bivalves now and then,

try them with gremolata...

Most raw oyster aficionados like to promote the "going down" with a dash of Avery Island's best. There are other tasty choices as well... like gremolata.
Gremolata is an Italian condiment that most typically accompanies the Milanese braised veal dish osso buco. Its fresh, intense flavors of lemon, garlic and parsley are also well-suited to seafood and can be mixed into pastas, rice dishes, vegetables and salads.
Simply combine:
  • 4 tablespoons finely minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For a more "saucy" gremolata, add a bit of olive oil. You can also process or grind the ingredients for a slightly smoother texture. Some recipes use minced anchovy or capers as well. However, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper is the basis for gremolata; what you add and how you use it is entirely up to your imagination. And if oysters are involved, who knows what may happen. *wink*

Friday, February 4, 2011

something a little different for The Big Game...

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Part of all the Super Bowl hype is the food... who doesn't look forward to that big pot of chili that's been simmering away in the crock pot all day, or a big platter of hot wings, and the ubiquitous little cocktail wieners? Serve up your favorites but also try something a little different; chicken tortilla soup just might become a new tradition for the big game!
I created this recipe by doing a little research and combining several ideas into one big pot of tasty chicken tortilla soup; the recipe is made easy by using canned tomatoes and roasted red peppers from a jar for convenience (hey, the cook wants to watch The Packers lose, too, hehe!) but if you prefer the from-scratch route, by all means do so, with fresh garden tomatoes, just-picked sweet corn from a local farmstand, and your own special marinated roasted red peppers!
  • 14 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 15.25 ounce can "fiesta" corn, the type with red and green peppers, drained
  • 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with medium-hot chiles, with their liquid
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups tortilla chips, broken in half
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice of one small lime
Simmer boneless chicken in water or broth until cooked through (about 25 minutes) then cool and shred. (Save liquid for another use, like cooking rice or vegetables, or just add it as part of the 8 cups of broth you'll need for this recipe.) Set aside shredded chicken.
In a large soup pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil. When translucent, add the shredded chicken, broth, roasted red pepper, corn, tomatoes and chiles, and the oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt and black pepper. Combine thoroughly and allow to simmer together at least 45 minutes (you can use less time, but the longer it cooks, the better it is!).
At the very end of cooking time, add the tortilla chips, cilantro and lime. Quickly combine, then serve hot, garnished with lime and cilantro. Another delicious and pretty garnish is multi-color tortillas cut into strips, lightly toasted in the oven then drizzled with lots and lots of lime juice and sprinkled with sea salt.
This makes approximately 8 servings and... if made in advance, it will be even spicier the next day.

Monday, January 31, 2011

gimme some skin!!

Super Snacks for The Big Game!

Whether you actually watch the football action, or just tune in for the commercials, everyone can agree that the Super Bowl is one of winter's finest foodfests.

What is it about football that encourages such gastronomic indulgence? True, I've been to some major league baseball games where there was tailgating but nothing like football games, or the incredible spreads at home parties everywhere. Fire up some pork chops before the big golf championship? Whip up a giant cauldron of chili for the gymnastics tournament? Not likely but who knows, maybe football's savory spirit will someday infiltrate other sports as well.
While you're cursing the quarterback or laughing at the newest Snickers commercial, feast on a few of these luscious bacon and cheese potato skins. You can bake the potatoes in advance to save time; quickly remove the foil from the potatoes after baking to reduce any "wrinkliness" in the refrigerator later.

If you're using bacon for your skins, I highly recommend the flavor and quality of Applegate uncured "Sunday Bacon." As a card-carrying Team Bacon! member, this product is one of my favorites. You will not believe the hardwood smoke aroma of this bacon! It does not shrink up into shriveled little strips, and there is very little excess grease to pour off. Truly a quality cured meat!

On the Lonesome Road, we generally try to use low-fat dairy products; however, there are some instances when this isn't the best option or doesn't produce the best results. Potato skins are one of those instances; I prefer to use full-fat cheese for its melting qualities and it generally seems to brown better.

When you're ready to assemble the potato skins, cut each baked potato in half and scoop out the insides so there is about 1/4 inch of potato in each shell. Then, the shells will need to "dry out" a bit so that they will be crispy when finished. Sad truth: frying the skins before filling them really does taste better, much like a McDonald's apple pie. However, if you're trying to cut down on a few fat calories you can bake the shells first. I've done this by putting them on a foil-lined pizza pan in a 450 degree Fahrenheit oven for ten minutes face-up, then flip them over and bake another 15 minutes or so. Potatoes will be ready when they no longer stick to the foil when they are face-down.

Now the fun part! The fillings are entirely up to you but I like a classic combination of Cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions or chives.

For a change, try some of these ideas:
  • herbed cream cheese
  • blue cheese
  • chili
  • taco meat
  • chorizo
  • chopped smoked ham
  • Canadian bacon
  • hot or sweet Italian sausage
  • broccoli
  • mushrooms
  • chili pepeprs
  • olives, green or black
  • giardinera
  • black bean and corn salsa with Jack cheese
  • your favorite pizza toppings + marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese
  • fresh spinach, garlic and feta cheese
When your masterpieces have been created, simply broil until the cheese is bubbly.

Depending on the size of the potatoes, plan on at least two skins per person but if the potatoes are small or if I am at the party, do allow more!

Friday, January 28, 2011

the weekend baker - the boozed up edition

so this banana walks into a bar...
and made a little bread!
Got a couple of bananas laying around with more age spots than your grandmother? Don't just toss them out (well, maybe in your compost pile), try this luscious, rather grown-up Lonesome Road version of banana bread.
As most of you know, the secret to a really good banana bread is to let the bananas ripen to the point where the skins are black. Underripe bananas will not give you that rich flavor and moist texture. What some of you may not know is that a little splash of booze makes a pretty tasty banana bread. I've used whiskey in the bread pictured, but rum (try banana-flavored rum!) is also an excellent addition. Also, be sure to try the raw sugar in this recipe; you'll love the way it tastes in coffee and tea, hot or cold cereal, or just about anything!
Bottoms up!

1 1/4 cups raw sugar (like Sugar In The Raw)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons good-quality whiskey
2 cups mashed overripe bananas (about 2 to 3 large ones)
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan (not necessary for a non-stick pan).
In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine raw sugar and melted butter.
Add milk, eggs, whiskey, and bananas.
In a separate large bowl, combine dry ingredients.
Add this to butter-banana mixture and combine until JUST mixed- do not over mix.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake at least 1 hour or until pick inserted in center comes out clean.
I also like to make mini-muffins and the smaller individual-sized loaves (pictured); adjust baking times accordingly; I check the small loaves after 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool in the baking pan.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

cheap eats - National Soup Month edition

Baby, It's Cold Outside ...
What better month than January to shine the spotlight on soup? Cold blustery days that chill us to the bone, seemingly never-ending snow, and days that grow dark too soon.
A hot pot of soup is just the remedy for all of that. A Lonesome Road favorite is potato leek soup with bacon - it's simple and satisfying, and relatively inexpensive. In this version, I've pureed the soup ingredients without the addition of milk or cream, using the potato cooking water to do some of the thickening (and also adding vitamins that you would have just tossed down the drain). This soup is also a great way to use up a big bag of potatoes that are all looking at you with the beginnings of little eyes everywhere. By all means do not use rotten potatoes! But while peeling potatoes for this soup, just trim off the eyes and save money by not tossing out half a bag of potatoes when they all at once become past their prime.
When I created this soup I was lucky enough to find leeks on sale - a bundle of three for just over two dollars; other than the leeks this recipe is very cost-effective (although I like to splurge on center-cut bacon, a much better deal for the money spent).
The recipe makes quite a bit of soup; you will have enough for a nice light supper and for some nice warming leftover lunches as well, saving you even more money.
  • 10 to 12 medium to medium-small russet potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 3 medium leeks, white and part of light green, rinsed thoroughly and sliced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth (depends on how thick you like your soup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 10 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Cook chopped bacon in a large soup pot until thoroughly cooked. While bacon is cooking, peel and quarter the potatoes and boil them in 4 cups of water until tender (about 10 to 15 minutes).
When bacon has cooked completely, remove with a slotted spoon to a plate with paper towels to drain thoroughly and reserve.
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the soup pot. If potatoes have finished cooking by now, set them aside; do not drain. Saute chopped leeks and onion in the bacon fat until translucent. Add potatoes and their cooking water (which should be partly evaporated). Add 4 cups of broth and thyme, and continue cooking mixture together for another 30 minutes.
Puree mixture in a blender or food processor then return to the soup pot. If you prefer a thinner soup, add more broth. Stir to combine then add crumbled bacon (reserve some as a garnish for the soup) and flat-leaf parsley. Simmer together another 20 to 30 minutes and serve, garnished with more cooked bacon crumbles.
For something a little different, try using Yukon Gold potatoes. Their buttery yellow color will produce a very pretty soup with a slightly different flavor. Of course, if you have leftover ham, substitute that for the bacon if you like but you will need to saute the leek/onion mixture in a bit of butter. A sprinkling of cheese or chopped chives also makes a nice garnish, and if you like, chopped green chiles are also an ingredient to consider.


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