Sorry, brisket fanatics from Texas. My apologies, pulled pork addicts from North Carolina. If I had to pick my last meal on Planet Barbecue (I sure hope I never do), I’d order ribs. Perfect for July 4th celebrations, ribs offer it all: gnawable bones that provide structure and flavor, presenting a broad surface to the smoke and fire. Well-marbled, rich-tasting meat at with a price that remains relatively affordable -- especially when compared to steak.
Ribs possess other advantages. Versatility is one: all the major meats types come in rib form, from the ubiquitous pork and beef to the more rarified lamb, veal, and bison. Ribs can be cooked using a myriad of methods, from direct and indirect grilling to smoking and even spit-roasting. (You’ll find the latter at Brazilian-American rotisserie restaurants, like Fogo de Chao.) Many pit masters use multiple methods -- smoking the ribs for several hours first, for example, then flash-searing the sauce onto the meat directly over a hot fire.
Even rib portion sizes vary widely, from the paper-thin strips of kalbi-kui (beef short ribs) direct grilled on charcoal braziers at Korea town restaurants to the plate-burying slabs we’ve come to expect from barbecue joints in Memphis and Kansas City.
But most of all, ribs are just plain fun to eat, evoking a primal memory of when our cave-dwelling ancestors roasted huge hunks of meats over campfires, ripping them apart with their bare hands. Admit it, part of the pleasure of ribs is that you get to eat them with your fingers.
Last spring I had the pleasure of interviewing chef and restaurateur Deborah Schneider about salsas for a San Diego Union-Tribune article “Simply Salsa.”At the time, her award-winning 2006 cookbook, Baja! Cooking on the Edge!, named one of the “Best Cookbooks of the Year” by Food and Wine magazine, had just been re-released.
I was tickled. Schneider’s cookbook was the first one I bought after moving to San Diego eight years ago. I thought, I’m gonna talk salsas with Deborah Schneider! Followed seconds later with, It’s salsa. How much can we possibly say about about it?
The interview lasted an hour, though Schneider readily admitted that she could have talked for several more. (Her passion about salsas and their place in Mexican cuisine is deliciously genuine and contagious.)
Now, you too can talk salsas (and moles) with Schneider with her latest cookbook, “Salsas and Moles: Fresh and Authentic Recipes for Pico de Gallo, Mole Poblano, Chimichurri, Guacamole, and More.”
In her introduction, Schneider says this book “is designed to teach you essential Mexican cooking techniques and one very important skill: how to introduce and balance big flavors to create sensational effects.” As someone who has made several of the book’s recipes, I can say that the design works.
Did you know July is National Hot Dog Month?
I guess it makes sense since this is the month when Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place. I think this year, fifty-nine hot dogs were eaten in 10 minutes and then an overtime round was required because of a tie. Ack! Fifty-nine dogs plus the tie-breaker round...no thanks!
We don't have hot dogs around here very often, but when we do, we like them slathered with chili and cheese. And not just any chili, it has to be sweet and super tangy. I love chili with cumin and cayenne but not on a hot dog. I prefer something that really forces my taste buds to stand up and salute. This is why I came up with this recipe. Hold me.
These chili-dogs have an amazing burst of flavor like you have never tasted before. The tang gives you this awesome puckering sensation in your mouth but in a very good way. It's not overpowering, it's just right.
There is no place I’d rather be in the summer than the breathtaking coast of Maine...
And nothing I’d rather eat, anytime of year, than Maine lobster.
But if you can’t get to Maine, here’s a way to experience the region’s magical flavors (and this year’s record setting lobster harvest) in a healthy and delicious way: Skinny Lobster Salad and Light Lobster Rolls.
Unlike the salads and rolls you’ll find at the ubiquitous lobster stands that dot the roadsides of Maine, this one has no mayonnaise…which lets the natural flavor of the sweet lobster come through and drastically cuts the calories and fat.
(On it’s own, lobster is a fairly low calorie and nutrition dense food…with just 145 calories, less than a gram of fat and 29 grams of protein per cup of cooked meat. Mayo? About 900 calories and 80 grams of fat per cup!)
And by adding in chopped celery, green onions, green peas, lemon zest and fresh herbs, this lobster salad also has more fiber, color and texture….making it not only healthier, but much more beautiful and flavorful than any lobster salad you’ve had before.
To be honest, I haven't been feeling very inspired in the kitchen lately. I've been busy with lots of things including travel, and when I'm home I've been trying to eat the food in the freezer since it is on the verge of overflowing. But yesterday I was at the store and I found local king salmon on sale and some beautiful white corn. I thought about the mango I had and just like that, a plan came together.
Sometimes ingredients speak to you and the lightbulb goes off. I diced the mango to serve with dessert a few nights before but it was firm and a little too sour. That's not good for dessert but it's excellent for salsa. The salsa can be used with chips, with roast chicken or scallops. It's actually pretty good without the tomatoes too. I was a little undecided as to which way I preferred it, so try it both ways and you tell me which you like better!
This recipe has a lot of parts, but you can make the salsa and the sauce for drizzling ahead of time. You can even use already cooked salmon if that's what you have on hand. Even though it's cooked on the stove and not on the grill, it really tastes like summer--the fresh corn, tomatoes and salmon look like summer too. Here's to a little summery inspiration!
Two of my absolute favorite foods are fried chicken and potato salad. There's something so unabashedly comforting about these foods that I am not ashamed to admit they're my favorite. I love them maybe because my mom would make them every year on my birthday or because it's simple and unassuming to prepare. And who doesn't love fried chicken and potato salad? Just the word fried is enough to make anybody like it. And creamy potato salad with the traditional mayo and eggs is always a crowd pleaser. It's typical summer picnic food in an old-fashioned way. Lucky my birthday is in July.
For me summer wouldn't be complete without these two classics. But there's nothing wrong with updating mom's recipes. I take traditional fried chicken and give it a healthy modern and slightly Southern twist. Dare I say it: I like skinless fried chicken! I use chicken tenders that I bread in the usual flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs but add cornmeal for an extra crispy crust. The potato salad: I like a runny, creamy, tart, and sweet dressing. In addition to chopped eggs, I also add crumbled bacon. Eggs and bacon go hand in hand after all. And finally give it a Scandinavian twist with chopped dill, which adds brightness. It's irresistible flavor will have your friends coming back for more. Get ready summer, Here I come!
A simple pasta is a life saver. How many nights are you rescued from eating out of a box just because you know how to throw together a good simple pasta? First tip: Don’t just rely on tomato sauce to coat the pasta. I love good sweet, milky ricotta and when I’m at a store where I can find it I tend to go overboard and buy a bit too much. So it’s ricotta on toast for breakfast, ricotta with fruit for lunch and ricotta as the “sauce” for a quick seasonal pasta.
In this dish I started with ricotta, then saw I had some pesto, added a couple of tablespoons of that, then added some crunchy sweet baby tomatoes and slices of green onion. While I was waiting for my pasta water to boil I discovered a couple of tiny zucchini with flowers attached and an ear of corn that needed to be used up. So I cut the niblets off the corn, sliced the zucchini in half lengthwise and shredded the flowers with my fingers.
I added them during the last five minutes of pasta cooking time. Voila. The (extremely critical) Mom gave it two thumbs up. The big “technique” here is to add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water to the ricotta mixture to loosen it so that is coats the noodles. I didn’t add parmesan because I wanted the clear flavors of the vegetables to dominate. But please add it if you’re a cheese hound.
With summer vegetables appearing in the farmers' markets, a vegetable risotto is a perfect way to feature the bounty of the garden.
This past Sunday at the Palisades Farmers' Market, we picked up several ears of fresh corn and some baby zucchini. We also bought carrots, spinach, Italian parsley, scallions, green garlic, squash, asparagus, English peas, spinach, and broccoli, any of which would be good in the risotto.
To make risotto requires a variety of rice – Carnaroli, Violone or Arborio – with a high starch content, the source of risotto's distinctive creamy quality.
For the liquid, you have a lot of choices: vegetable, chicken, meat, or fish stock, wine, even water with a pat of butter added for flavor. You'll achieve the best results if you use homemade stock with its fresher taste and lower sodium content.
Risotto likes a steady hand, stirring frequently for 18-20 minutes. Because the rice both releases starches into and absorbs the stock, there is a window of a few minutes when the rice is simultaneously al dente and the broth creamy. Past that point, the grains bond together, becoming gummy like porridge, which still tastes good but isn't risotto.
The most traditional Greek salad recipe, and the kind of Greek salad you will usually encounter in Greece, does not typically include lettuce, but is more a bowl of raw chunky vegetables with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
The flavors of this dish just get better and you can store leftovers and use with grilled meats or in sandwiches made with pita pockets.
The rich, zesty vinaigrette gets great authentic flavor from the fresh oregano, and is further enhanced by the fresh mint and parsley.
Marinating the onion and cucumber slices in the vinaigrette helps tone down the raw onion in the salad.
We’re all bound to go overboard during summer and you know what? That’s fine with me. Because if any season speaks to me about the bounty of food it’s certainly summer.
What I love most about summer cooking is that it gives us certain cooks a pass on formality. A little of this, some of that, it’s a good time to veer just a teeny bit from the exact science of cooking. Perhaps this is because the cooking wildcard known as The Grill can’t be controlled but coaxed, befriended but never bossed.
I’m sure some folks with expensive built-in outdoor gas grills may have better luck with this but me? I don’t have that. I’ve learned to love a flame that acts like a mischievous child — give it the right upbringing and it behaves. Ignore and neglect it and it”ll disappoint you and disappear.
When I head outdoors to cook I’m usually armed with very little other than food & tongs. There might be a spray bottle near to keep flare-ups down but I like to keep it simple during summer. Those big and bold warm-weathered flavors don’t really need a lot of fuss.
At my local farmers' market this past week, I found some thick, hefty ears of corn that had been growing all summer with swollen kernels to match. They reminded me of the juicy ears of corn we had used at Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco when we made a wonderful corn soup with a fresh tomato salsa. As soon as I saw those ears of corn I knew I would make that soup as soon as I got home.
As I visited with each farmer at the market, exclaiming over all the beautiful produce, I was able to buy the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomatillos and jalapenos that I needed for the salsa that would top each serving of corn soup.
The soup doesn't take long to make. Removing the kernels of corn from the cob is not difficult when you stand each ear of corn on its wide end in a large bowl. Using a sharp knife or an electric knife, cut away the kernels from each ear. I ran into a friend at the grocery store today who told me when he does this job, he props an ear of corn in the middle hole of an angel food cake pan and then cuts the kernels away using an electric knife. The corn drops into the cake pan
by James Moore
I generally don’t care for Sangria, except for when I’m in Spain - it just seems to taste better there. Sangria makes a perfect summer drink when entertaining, because you can make large batches ahead of time.
This recipe is based on one I received during my stay at Le Meridien Barcelona from the General Manager, Gonzalo Duarte Silva. They...Read more...
by James Farmer III
My house wine is sweat tea, but there are a couple concoctions I simply relish as much as tea. One is Mrs. Wilson’s Rosemary Lemonade and the other, a “James Farmer” – this Farmer’s version of an Arnold Palmer.
Dear friends of mine in Montgomery host me and “put me up” (or more so put up with me) when I’m staying in town for the night, and Mrs....Read more...
by Susan Salzman
The local farmers market today was filled with several varieties of stone fruit, rhubarb, strawberries, and melons. Melons were everywhere. Red, orange, green, and white. I grabbed whatever I could carry, I couldn’t help myself.
After washing, cleaning and cutting all of my veggies, I stared at the amount (and size of the fruit) that now rested...Read more...