Thursday, July 29, 2010

who loves french fries?

everybody loves french fries, especially me. me, my brother, sister all pretty much grew up on all american burger on merrick road in massapequa. pretty much anyone who has ever been there will swear by their french fries.  of all the pictures we've put on our website, the one i get the most comments on are the french fries (go figure!) so, in honor of a major craving i have right now for a fat cheese burger and homemade french fries with spicy mayo; which, incidentally is what I'm making for dinner, i decided to do a post on those delectable fried potatoes we amaericans cant do without. enjoy and we encourage you to comment and submit your favorites for a future post.

can anybody guess what kind i'll be having for dinner?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cooking as a competitive sport

You don’t need to have reality TV aspirations to engage in some good old cook-off fun.  We recently had a big extended-family weekend out at our country house where Michael & I had an unofficial guacamole competition.  All good-naturedly, of course, we bickered about who made “the best” guacamole and then proceeded to alternately make it every night for four nights in a row in effort to prove our cases. 
            Up to their ears in guacamole, the samplers were quizzed on which ingredients added up to the better dish.  Michael insists the spicier the better, with hot chili sauce and fresh, hot peppers.   With kids around I usually skip the heat but I like mine extra lime-y and garlicky.  Michael’s is usually pretty consistently smooth and I make mine lumpy and chunky.  The rest of our recipes are pretty much the same, but the most important thing we agree on is finding perfectly ripened Haas avocadoes.  It’s not even worth making it if they’re not, in my humble opinion.  If you’ve got those, some S/P & lime juice it’s hard to go wrong and almost anything goes. 
            The good news is that the testers got to eat a lot of really awesome guacamole.  And, truth be known, it wasn’t about competition at all, but about sharing good food and exchanging ideas about how to improve, change, mix-up & spice up our old ways.  For the next family event I’m thinking of challenging the brothers (Michael & Eric) to a BBQ challenge.  Pulled pork, Baby-back ribs, BBQed brisket…. Yum!    Cooking can be social, and such a pleasure, if you make it fun. 

Guacamole Recipe
3 ripe Hass Avocados
½  medium onion, diced
1 medium tomato, chopped
½ c fresh cilantro, chopped
1  Jalepeno pepper, seeded & diced
1 clove fresh garlic, minced or smashed
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper

Mash the avocadoes.  Stir in the other ingredients using your taste as guide.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

How does your garden grow?

For me, there are few things finer in the category of food than picking a perfectly ripe fruit or vegetable off its plant and savoring it on the spot.  From discovering a trove of wild raspberries on a hike to planning and planting from seed, the moment of harvest still excites me the same.   
As a city dweller, it can be hard to stumble on truly wild anything, but no matter what your living situation, you CAN grow something!  Over the years I have come to realize that it doesn’t really matter whether you have a garden the size of a small house with a gaggle of crops and compost your every scrap, or if you’re coaxing a little Home Depot runt of a plant to life in a window box outside your studio apartment.  Either way, the result of harvesting your treasure is pure pleasure.   My family makes fun of me because I talk to my plants like they’re my children and talk about them like it too.  I don’t know if it makes them grow any better, but it does connect me to them, which keeps me from letting myself get lazy and not taking care of them properly. 
If you haven’t tried vegetable gardening yet, it’s not to late!  All of the better farmers markets in town still have seedlings.  I recommend tomatoes to start for lots of reasons... they are fun and easy to grow, they grow fast and usually give a generous harvest, their foliage smells amazing and also because it is a HOT HOT summer that makes tomatoes tremendously happy.   Splurge on a bigger seedling now that it’s mid-summer and you’ll be picking yours by the end of August.  
Tips for growing tomatoes:
1.  Don’t plant too early!  I had to replant my whole crop this year because we got a late frost & they all died.L   Mother’s Day is usually the rule for the NYC area. 
2.  “Petting” your tomatoes supposedly encourages growth.  You literally brush your hands up and down the foliage in long swooping strokes.  Next year I plan to do an experiment to see if it really works, but for now I continue to make a fool out of myself, just in case it does.
3.  Once the plants have taken off, you should trim back the “suckers,” or the stems that do not produce fruit.  This lets the water & nutrients get to the parts of the plant that need it most, not the parts that ‘suck’ the resources from them.   It is easy to tell the suckers once you take a good look.  The stems that produce tomatoes get fine little hairs all up and down them, followed by flowers.   The suckers have smooth stems and never flower.  Don’t trim them all because then your tomatoes could fry in the sun.  Let just enough suckers remain to give them some shade. 
4.  You don’t have to wait for the tomatoes to completely ripen on the vine… as long as they’re of size and starting to turn, they will ripen just fine on your counter (don’t put them in the refrigerator).  This is especially my advice if you have any sign of pests or wildlife also waiting for harvest time.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

recipe of the week: grilled ahi tuna with local grilled corn salad

when its as hot as its been these past few weeks, people want to eat light food that wont put them in a hot food coma.  bearing that in mind, my girlfriend was doing a photoshoot last week in my brooklyn backyard garden, so i decided to make a dish to add to the amazing decor. 

its a very simple, vibrant, tasty dish to prepare. 
sushi grade tuna cut into 6 oz. portions
fresh local corn
ripe avocado
heirloom cherry tomatoes
red onion
lime juice
extra virgin olive oil
grapeseed or canola oil

people have all sorts of ways they like to cook their corn. i prefer shucking the corn, boiling it in a pot of water, milk, butter, and old bay seasoning.  simmer for about 10 minutes then remove the corn and let the liquid drain off. once its not dripping any longer, put it on the grill and rotate until it has some nice charred color on it.  put it aside to cool.  rub a little grapeseed oil on the tuna to keep it from sticking to the grill, season it &  mark on the grill.  to get the nice crossmarks on it, turn the tuna 90 degrees once it has a nice grill mark on it. do both sides.  set tuna aside while you finish the salad. 
with a serrated bread knife stand the corn up and cut the kernels off into a bowl.  cut the tomatoes in quarters, halves, or leave them whole if you like.  slice the red onion as thin as possible. if you happen to have a japanese mandoline, it works perfectly.  otherwise you can dice, or chop it.  cut the avocado in half remove the pit cut in half again and remove the shell.  place the quarters on a cutting board so it is straight up and down. cut into 3 even slices, roll it onto its side, slice it again, then turn it sideways and cut into a small dice.  mix all your salad ingredients in a bowl with some fresh lime zest or lime juice, a little evoo and season as you like.  cut the tuna in whatever shape you like, place the salad on a plate with the tuna and VOILA!!