Unexpected Pairings?

A funny thing happened on the way to the refrigerator.  I was looking for something that I could kind of have for dessert but did not want anything that was too terribly sweet. A current resident of the fridge was a sixpack of Strongbow Hard Apple cider and I was kind of wanting one of those after cleaning the house from the top to bottom but there were also those hyper thin, triple ginger cookies I got from Trader Joe’s.  I was almost ready to have either one or the other but, not being terrribly thoughtful about the process, I decided to have a stack of these nifty thin cookies AND a Long Bow over ice.  I was not quite sure that this was going to work or if I was way off the mark with regard to the flavors but the result was unexpected and amazing!  What a great dessert! The cool crisp of the hard cider combining with the sweet and spicy of the ginger was excellent!  A substitute for the Trader Joe’s cookies would be the Moravian ginger cookies from Old Salem (near Winston Salem, North Carolina). I highly recommend this pairing.

Enjoy!

There were the 300…

And there were with Leonidas the 300 who fought to the death for Greece and Sparta.  Ah but there will not be that kind of carnage here in this space, unless of course the vegetables rise up against the proteins in mortal combat, but, I am really not expecting that to happen. This is more the story of a man cruising the aisles of Trader Joe’s stalking a jar of fire roasted artichokes.  For weeks, I saw them, pining to see what they had to offer in the way of taste but, I did not have a recipe in which to use them and to get them just to get them might be a waste.  What to do, what to do? As with most stories, the saga does not end there. This past week, tired of chicken and fish, I found some turkey tenderloins which looked pretty good and thought that I could treat them like a pork tenderloin and stuff them in a Mediterranean way but without the cheese. Having picked up a container of spinach and artichoke dip, I thought that if I were to combine at least the two major ingredients from the dip, everything would turn out okay and it did.  The result is this recipe.  I had great success with this and hope you get to try it too.

Spartichoke

(Mediterranean stuffed turkey tenderloin)

(makes 2 – 3 servings)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 – Turkey tenderloin, boneless, skinless

1 ½ – Grilled, marinated artichoke, chopped fine

1 ½ cups – Frozen chopped spinach, cooked

½ – Medium sweet onion, fine diced

1 ½ tsps – Lemon juice

1 ½ tsps – Coarse ground Kosher salt

1 tsp – Dried mint leaves

Coarse ground black pepper (to taste)

Greek seasoning (for the outside the roll)

Filling:

In a medium skillet, do a couple of turns around the pan with olive oil and over low/med heat sauté the onions until softened and become translucent being careful not to fully caramelize them. When these are done set them aside. Next cook the spinach. I used the frozen to cut down on preparation time and so that I could put them in a microwave for the requisite 4 minutes but you could wilt fresh in chicken stock, cool and then finely chop. In a large bowl put the grilled artichokes, spinach, roasted red bell pepper and sweet onion and fold together so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Next, add seasonings, lemon juice, salt, pepper and mint and mix until seasonings are evenly coating the mixture. When this is complete, place mixture in the refrigerator for a few minutes to try to get it to the same temperature as the turkey tenderloin.

Tenderloin Preparation:

Take the turkey tenderloin and place on some plastic sheeting, cover with plastic sheeting and gently pound with a meat hammer moving from the center (where the tenderloin is thickest) to the edges working the meat until it is about ¼ inch thick. Make sure not to break through the meat because then the stuffing would fall out. The tenderloin should end up being the size of a regular dinner plate. Note: you can always do a second tenderloin if you are making this for more than 2 or 3.

Construction Instruction:

Take the tenderloin and place on a large, flat area covered with plastic sheeting or a large dinner plate. Next take the stuffing that was created and spread this evenly over the tenderloin. Then, starting from one side, roll the tenderloin up to create a roll. When you have your roll take some 100 percent cotton string (the kind that can be used for cooking) and truss the roll to keep it together.

In a large skillet, do a couple of good turns around the pan with olive oil and put to medium heat. Next gently take the tenderloin roll and place in the pan and sprinkle Greek seasoning on the top. Brown all sides of the tenderloin and when complete take the roll and place in a baking dish in which there is 1/8 inch of water. (keeps this moist). Bake at 340 degrees for 40 minutes.

-Meal served with tomato and cucumber salad and baked rice.

Enjoy!

Back in the Saddle Again…

It has been a long while since I posted last but I am hoping to change that with a slight change of direction for the blog. I will try to include musings, if you will, on some of the local food scenes I tend to visit, commentary on cooking and preparation or possibly some of the quirky ideas I have regarding food combinations. Don’t worry, I will still do recipes as I convert them from the scribblings of a “madman” (that’s me by the way) to electronic format.  How about that, I do have a recipe prepared for today. By way of an explanation regarding my absence from the blogosphere, I guess one might say that stress and being preoccupied with other aspects of my life took over and I am now deciding to take my life and what I enjoy back.  I hope you enjoy the new direction.  For me, this seems to be a comfortable way to proceed and get back on track with my food love affair.

“Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible you know.”, as some of you older folks may know, Euell Gibbons used to ask this in his commercial for Grape Nuts (a fine cereal, in my opinion). He went on to explain that pine nuts were a part of the tree which could be eaten and then he began to expound on the virtues of the cereal. As you may or may not know, pine nuts are an integral part of pesto sauce but I have always found that the flavour was not as pleasing as some other types of nuts. The taste of traditional pesto, yes even the homemade, had a slight “varnish” quality that I could not get past.  I struggled with that for a long time but decided to substitute pistachio nuts and some other ingredients to change the taste.  The result was the my version of basil pesto. If you try this I hope you enjoy it and please let me know!

Pesto Chango!

(Basil pesto sauce)

Ingredients:

2 – Cups, packed basil leaves

2 – Cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 to 6 – Fresh mint leaves

1/4 – Cup roasted and salted pistachios

2/3 – Cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 – Cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese or (if you have a lactose intolerant person in the house you can substitute 1 to 2 tablespoons of coarse ground kosher salt)

1 – Teaspoon lemon juice

Coarse ground black pepper to taste

1/2 – Tablespoon Lemon peel (grated)

Construction Instructions:

In a food processor, put the pistachios and pulse them several times to reduce them. Repeat the process with the basil, garlic, and mint. When this is complete, add the olive oil, lemon juice Romano cheese, pepper and lemon peel to the food processor and puree the ingredients together.

I use this sauce on chicken and salmon but it also works well with light pasta.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Everyone needs a quest…

First, I have to apologize for not posting last week.  I was not prepared as I had too many recipes which had not been converted to electronic format and the food notebook is well, for lack of better words, something that looks like the rants and scribblings of a lunatic.  The notes do not translate well (kind of like seeing Swahili for the first time) and are not electronic.

Now I believe that everyone needs a quest or something to strive for.  Is it wrong that my current culinary quest is to stuff  everything in the cabbage family?  I have been looking at Savoy cabbage for quite some time, not in an inappropriate way mind you, and have been wondering with what I could possibly stuff it. I wanted to have something lighter than regular stuffed cabbage which leaves you with that, I don’t know, feeling that you just ate a bowling ball. I decided on chicken because the boneless – skinless breasts take on flavors well and are easy to work with and frankly, I have already done the “shrimp thing”.  Finally, I cannot lay claim to thinking of the Frank’s Sweet chili sauce as a topper for these beauties because my wife came up with the idea during her heating them up for lunch the next day.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.  Mind you, this recipe is a bit labor intensive but so very worth the effort. I shared this with some of the ladies at work and they loved them!

Putting on the Savoy

(Chicken stuffed Savoy cabbage)

(Serves 4-6)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

2 – Chicken breasts, boneless – skinless, baked, shredded and fine diced (I went ahead and did 3 with one of them becoming an awesome chicken sandwich the next day)

1 1/2 cups – Basmati rice, about 4 servings (I used Uncle Ben’s for simplicity) prepared according to package instructions.

1 – Small head of Savoy cabbage

1/3 cup – Green onions, chopped (Stuffing mixture)

1/3 cup – Mushrooms, fine chopped, I used cremini mushrooms (baby portabellas) (Stuffing mixture)

For the roasting of the chicken:

1 tsp – Kosher salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1/2 tsp – Smoked paprika

6 sprigs – Thyme leaves

1 tbsp – Rosemary leaves, fine chopped

1/4 cup – Chicken stock

Preparation – Take the chicken breasts and place in a small baking dish in which you have put the chicken stock, season with the salt, pepper, smoked paprika, thyme and rosemary. Bake them at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes or until they are done (internal temperature 165 to 170 degrees) and set aside to cool. Note: you can always do the chicken a day ahead if you would like to cut down on preparation time on the day you are stuffing the cabbage.

While the chicken is doing its thing in the oven, core the cabbage head by taking a 3 to 4 inch deep cone around the stem of the cabbage. The cone should be about the same length as a good paring knife. Place the cabbage head in water topside down and boil for about 35 minutes (nifty it is the same amount of time as the baking time on the chicken, eh?) or until the leaves begin to soften. Once the cabbage head is done, take and set in a colander to drain and cool.

Construction Instruction

Rice – I used Uncle Ben’s rice because it is easy and only takes 10 minutes. Cook the rice according to the package directions drain well and set aside.

Stuffing Mixture – Take your chicken and fork shred and fine dice and toss into a very large bowl. Next add, cooked rice, green onions and mushrooms. Now you are ready to fold everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

 

Creating the stuffed leaves – First, make your “production line” in a pretty large working area of the kitchen with the colander that contains the cabbage, then the stuffing bowl, a large flat plate on which to stuff and fold the cabbage leaves then your baking dish. In the baking dish (a deep 9” X 13”) or similar dish (the one that I use is about 2 ½ “ to 3” deep) put about a ¼ inch (about a 1/3 cup) of chicken or mushroom stock in the bottom to keep the leaves moist during the baking process. Working from the outside of the cabbage head take a leaf and place on the plate with stem side toward you, spoon about a couple of tablespoons worth of the mixture in the center. The amount of mixture will vary with the size of the leaves.Then, take the stem side and fold over top of the mixture so that the end is at the edge of the pile of mixture, next, fold each side to the center and finally take the far end and fold toward you. Take the completed packet and place with the smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat, this process until you have a layer of packets along the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

 

Plating – I plated these 2 to 3 per person and allow each person to put the amount of Frank’s brand sweet chili sauce they desire on top. I served this with a double helping of stir-fried vegetables.

 

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

 

 

There’s a conflict in the kitchen?

I need to explain myself regarding the title. There is this small outdoor restaurant in Pittsburgh called “Conflict Kitchen” which does recipes native to a place that is in conflict with the United States.  They do the recipes for usually 3 to 4 months and then change to another area of the world with the same criteria.  The latest place was Cuba and the recipes were awesome! Perfectly cooked black beans and rice, shredded pork done in their “Mojo” marinade and shredded beef done in tomato sauce, and other yummy flavors of course, which was to die for.  I applaud the chefs who put this food out and I have to say the food was better than what I had in Miami.  This restaurant was the inspiration for my Mojito marinade.

Sorry there was no post yesterday but it was the last leaf roundup before winter sets in up here and it took a bit of time.  If you have been following the latest posts, I told everyone  that I was working on a new pork (and chicken for those who roll that way) marinade based on the rum drink the Mojito.  Little did I know that another name for “Mojo” marinade is “Mojito” marinade and everyone has pretty much the same take on it.  I wanted to do something different, my own spin, so to speak. The result is a marinade that is kind of a marriage of the rum drink recipe and a traditional Mojo marinade.  I used the marinade on boneless pork chops which I seared off in a pan before popping them in the oven at 325 degrees for about 45 to 60 minutes.  I served them with black beans and rice and a nice cucumber salad.  Without further delay, here is the recipe.

Not Your Mama’s (Mojito marinade for pork and chicken)

Covers 1 ½ to 2 lbs of meat

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

1/3 cup – Extra virgin olive oil

1 oz – White rum or you can substitute 1 tsp of rum extract

8 to 9 – Mint leaves, chopped

1/8 to 1/4 cup – Cilantro, chopped

2 to 3 limes – Juiced, (the limes I used were pretty large as limes go so you may have to use more as you want to have about 1/4 cup of juice)

1/2 cup – Orange juice

1 tbsp – Brown sugar ( I used a minimally processed sugar)

5 – Garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp – Ground cumin

1 1/2 tbsp. – Dried oregano leaves

1 1/2 tsp – Lemon peel

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tsp – Kosher salt

Construction Instruction:

Combine all ingredients in a large glass bowl, whisk until thoroughly combined. Cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. You are really going to want these ingredients to become intimate. Once this mixture has set for the requisite amount of time put your pork or chicken in a large plastic bag that seals very well, add the marinade and allow the combination to set in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The longer you marinate the better the flavors are going to be.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Ain’t so shabby and possibly a bit crabby…

I told you yesterday that crab was on sale, and well maybe I over purchased, but something good did come out of it. I believe I am now “one” with the seafood aisle. However, being one with any aisle in the grocery store may be a dangerous or at the very least expensive, thing to be but if something is on sale and it looks good, I get it and see what I can do with the ingredient. Before I forget, there are some ideas that in the process that may become recipes soon, mojito marinaded pork (cannot decide on what cut to use at this point) and, I know it may seem excessive but another form of stuffed cabbage.  The cabbage of choice this time will be savoy and the filling finely chopped chicken and other goodies.

You know funny thing happens to me when I hear someone say things about food and this recipe is no different. I was flipping through channels the other day and I heard someone on the television say the words “crab rice”. I did not pause on the channel or go back to find out why they were saying crab rice but it planted a seed. Now to most people those two words would not conjure up any type of response except perhaps maybe revulsion or a “why in the world would anyone do that?” question. I am different, as can be attested by most people who know me, because my mind went straight to, ” I wonder what I could put in it? and how do I preserve the delicate flavor of the crab?”. The result of some deep thinking about it is this recipe (yes, yes, I do deep thinking about food, okay?) . Interesting note, the crab rice was also excellent cold on tomato slices with a bit of balsamic vinegar as a dressing. Who knew?! Now without further delay here is the recipe.

Not so Shabby Crab Rice

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

1 lb – Crab meat ( I used  lump (it was on sale you know) but if your tastes extend to the less expensive use claw and back fin)
1/2 – Red bell pepper, diced small
1/2 – Green bell pepper, diced small
3 1/4 inch slices – Sweet onion, diced small
1 cup – Green onion greens, chopped (about ¼ inch pieces are good)
3 cloves – Garlic, diced fine
¾ cup – Diced mushrooms (I used a mixed mushroom blend that uses Cremini, Portabello and Shitake)
¾ cup – Parsley, fresh, chopped fine
1 cup (uncooked) – Wild and Basmati rice blend prepared according to the instructions (leave the rice on the firm side)
Note: I did not use instant or quick cooking rice for this recipe because it tends to get mushy
1 tsp – Lemon pepper
¾ tsp – Cayenne pepper
¾ tsp – Celery salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Construction Instruction:

Preparation –
Prepare the rice according to the package instructions using vegetable stock instead of water. You will want to make sure that the rice absorbs all of those nice flavors. Once this has been completed set this aside and begin to prepare the vegetables. Dice all vegetables before beginning because you will put them in the skillet according to their firmness. This will help you maintain the integrity of the vegetables. (And so they will actually look like vegetables when you are done.)

In a large skillet (mine is 12 inches across and 3 ½ inches deep), pour a couple of turns around the pan of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and bring up to temperature remembering to keep the heat at around medium or lower because olive oil has a pretty low smoke point and you do not want to burn the oil. Once the oil is at temperature, add garlic, red and green peppers and the sweet onion and sauté until onions start to become translucent and peppers begin to soften (about 3 to 5 minutes). Next, add the mushrooms and continue to sauté those until they begin to get soft (about 1 to 2 minutes) and last add the green onion greens. Turning down the heat push the vegetables to the side of the pan and place the crab meat in the center and slowly work the vegetable mixture in to the crab until mixed thoroughly then season with lemon pepper, cayenne pepper, chopped parsley and celery salt. Fold mixture until seasoning coats the mixture evenly. (about 4 to 5 minutes) Once you have the crab mixture complete, take a large bowl and place rice and crab mixture in and fold together until crab and vegetables are evenly distributed. Put the mixture in a 9 X 13 baking dish and place in a 275 degree oven for 30 minutes.

The crab rice was served with steamed fresh broccoli as a side. One of the most interesting things about this dish is that it is very good cold over slices of fresh tomato with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

The things you find…(an “On the Edge” recipe)

You will never guess what was on sale this week! Go ahead, guess! Can’t guess? Well, okay, I will spill it, crab meat! I know that this may not excite everyone like it does me but it can only mean one thing (for me at least), stuffed fillet of sole or flounder! (You could use either because they are pretty much the same kind of fish, flat with thin filets) This is an older recipe of mine that has seen some modification over the years.   I most recently did a makeover of this recipe for the “On the Edge” series and nobody is the worse for wear. Gone is the whole cup and a half of regular breadcrumbs. These were replaced with a much smaller amount of whole wheat breadcrumbs which have a bigger flavor and texture. Also, less olive oil is used in this recipe to cut down on the fat and there is less salt. Overall, this is a much healthier version of the same recipe but the flavor is still there. As  a friend of my daughter’s put it, “it was like a party in my mouth!” I would normally serve this with a wild rice pilaf and green and wax beans but instead served this with a tabouli salad (cracked wheat) which had tomatoes, some onion and dressed with the juice of a lime. So without further adieu here is the recipe.

I’m Stuffed
Baked crab meat stuffed fillet of sole (or flounder)
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
The Stuffing –
16 oz – Pasteurized claw crab meat
1/3 – Red bell pepper (diced fine)
1/3 – Green bell pepper (diced fine)
3 thin slices – Sweet onion (diced fine)
4 cloves – Garlic (fine minced)
¼ cup – Fresh parsley (a small handful) (diced fine)
¼ cup – Whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp – Coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp – Kosher salt
2 splashes – Red wine vinegar
¼ cup (or less) – Extra virgin olive oil

The “Stuffee” –
1 lb – Sole or flounder fillets (you will need 4 fillets) (note: look for long fillets)

Construction Instruction (stuffing) –
Combine, crab meat, red bell pepper, green bell pepper, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley pepper and salt in a large bowl. Mix this together thoroughly making sure to break up the crab meat and combine the ingredients so they are evenly distributed through the mixture. Next take and add about half of the olive oil in the mixture and test. That is right, test. You have to do a “squish” test to see if the mixture will hold together. If the mixture holds together after you squish a ball together, it is ready but if not add enough oil until it does. (I would only add about half of what you had left and test again and repeat as necessary)

Construction Instruction (fish) –
Take the fillets and cut them lengthwise down the center into strips that are about 1 ½ to 2 inches wide. In a 9 X 13 baking dish that has been sprayed with PAM cooking spray, take a large spoon and with your hands create 4 equal mounds of the stuffing. Next, take the fillets and with the even edge on the bottom of the dish wrap around the base of each mound. Repeat this in the opposite direction with the other half of the fillet. (Note: the fillets will have a wide end and a thin end and the object will be to have the same amount of fish around the outside of the stuffing. This can be accomplished by matching the thin end of one fillet with the wide end of the other fillet.). Repeat this step for each mound of stuffing. What you should end up with are 4 mounds of stuffing where you can see the top of the mound and a circle of fish around the bottom. Make sure to put about 1/4 cup of water in the bottom of the baking dish. Bake this in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. You will know that it is done when the fish has gone from translucent to white or very, very light golden brown.

Enjoy!
The Well Fed Cyclist