Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Hot Diggity Dog

A walkup to a Labor Day tradition

Looking ahead to Labor Day weekend brings on a hankering for grilled hot dogs. Load them up with your favorite condiments and toppings for a meal on a bun. The meat component basically evolved from the common sausage, which originated in Germany. You can call them hot dogs, wieners, red hots, franks or frankfurters. Remember that hot dogs are sold fully cooked while sausages are sold uncooked. The meat used can be a combination of beef, pork, and chicken or all-beef (kosher) ingredients. Hot dogs are cheap so enjoy them with all the trimmings. Don’t skimp on quality either so spend just a few more cents on good wieners. We also like buying franks that extend beyond the bun to fully appreciate the hot dog experience.

There are several stories surrounding the advent of serving the sausage with bread; it is most likely that the Germans were the first ones to eat it with bread. The hot dog bun (as we know it today) is an American invention that became popular at baseball parks and fairs. You know the saying: “It’s as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.” Did you know that there is a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday’s Last Spoonful: Peach Party

A sexy smelling juicy fruit

Bite into a ripe peach and beneath the fuzzy skin, the soft, juicy flesh may leave you wanting more. (How is that for an extra sensory experience?)The flavor of ripe peaches is mostly sweet and mildly tangy. The scientific name for a peach is Prunus persica. This fruit is native to China. Peaches come in two types: clingstone and freestone. Clingstone peaches have pits that stick to the flesh (difficult to remove) when sliced open; freestone peaches have pits that do not cling to the flesh. Additionally, there are white peaches and yellow peaches. White peaches have a paler outer skin and a lighter flesh color that is nowhere near yellow. A ripe peach is medium-soft to the touch with a reddish-blush coloring its outer skin. Also, smell the fruit for a strong and pleasant peachy scent to indicate the fruit is ripe. Peaches almost taste like a more acidic ripe mango. We suggest adding julienned peaches to your favorite coleslaw or fresh salad.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday’s Side Dish: Cinnamon Basmati Rice

A Bollywood rendition for rice

Everything comes together in this side dish, which is an East-Indian departure from the usual baked potato or macaroni salad carb component to a meal. Basmati rice has a delicate texture and popcorn-like aroma that compliments the tart golden raisins and sweet peaches. Adding a cinnamon stick helps bring out the nutty flavor of the basmati rice. The recipe here is one we have used. Different variations of this dish may call for peas, pine nuts, crushed almonds, or minced cilantro. Substitute golden raisins with regular raisins or sun-dried tomatoes. If you’re willing to spice things up, add a pinch of ground cumin or cardamom.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Fake Fried Coatings

Putting a crunch in oven fried

Corn flakes are key to great oven-fried coatings. Generic brands are just as good as name brand cereals in this instance. Combine with panko and you are on your way. If you are unable to find panko, substitute with crushed saltine crackers or homemade toasted bread crumbs. Extreme health nuts can make our recipe with the chicken skin removed. Also, try the coating with fish filets or pork chops. Change things up in our recipe by taking out ½ cup of the panko and then replacing it with finely grated parmesan or Asiago cheese. Adjust the cooking time (shorter) to make oven-fried shrimp or scallops.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday’s Cupful: Cinnamon Bliss

Sprinkle to your health
The sweet scent of cinnamon is unmistakable. True cinnamon aka Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) originates in Sri Lanka and has long been a prized spice. Most of the cinnamon sold in grocery stores is actually cassia or Chinese cinnamon, which the trade market considers inferior to Ceylon cinnamon. Health benefits of this ingredient include help in metabolizing food and an anti-clotting effect on the blood. It might actually help lower blood sugar, according to some reports. The flavor of cinnamon is sweet and earthy – almost comparable to licorice (though not quite as pungent). This ingredient is a staple of dessert and pastry recipes. East Indian curries and savory dishes often call for cinnamon. Add cinnamon to your favorite coffees or teas. What is your favorite food with cinnamon?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday’s Bread Bowl: Oven Fried Chicken and Peaches

Sweet, savory, and crispy -- oh my

Use white meat or dark meat for this recipe that knocks out the fat and mess of deep frying. It’s important to let the chicken rest for 15 minutes after removing from direct heat so be careful not to overcook it while it is still in the oven. Try this variation of baked chicken with peaches. The crispy outer coating locks in juices and flavors.

What you will need:

8-10 chicken pieces (we opted for thighs and drumsticks)
5- 6 yellow peaches, pitted and halved
Ground cinnamon
1 bowl (big enough to hold all chicken pieces)
1 large casserole pan
Pam cooking spray
2 baking pans
1 large Ziploc bag
1 ½ cup milk
¾ cup yellow mustard
3 eggs
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cups plain crushed cornflakes
Pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking and Directions:

Place chicken, milk, mustard, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in bowl. Mix well and coat chicken with spices. Cover with plastic wrap. Let chicken marinade for an hour. After chicken has been marinating, crush cornflakes in Ziploc bag and add panko crumbs. Beat eggs in casserole dish. Turn your attention to the oven and set it to 350 degrees for preheating. Next, dip each chicken piece in egg mixture and then place chicken into bag with bread crumbs and toss. Place chicken pieces - space them out- on baking pans that have been sprayed with Pam. Spray chicken lightly with Pam (another option is to drizzle just a bit of olive oil over top) to avoid drying out. Take peach halves and place each in spaces between chicken pieces. Do not pack too tightly or cooking time will need to be lengthened. Sprinkle cinnamon on peach halves before placing pans in preheated oven. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Take out pans and let it sit for 15 minutes so that the chicken can rest. Serve and enjoy!

* Peaches are in season where we live, but use canned peaches if fresh are not readily available. The key will be to thoroughly drain the canned peaches and then let them sit on a plate in a cool, well-ventilated place for a bit to drain some more.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Artificial Crab Salad

Versatile surimi offers options

Try adding chopped surimi in different veggie salads. We recommend using it with mayo-based or infused olive oil dressings. Cucumber and imitation crab sticks are a good combo because they have opposite textures while their flavors combine for a great overall taste. Broccoli works well too with the surimi. Add some pine nuts or sunflower seeds to make a heartier salad. Spice things up with your favorite seafood seasonings. We also suggest making crab salads the night before the party. Turn it into a great sandwich filling with a baguette

Helpful Hint: It’s easier to handle and slice surimi if it’s partially frozen (much like cookie dough).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Seafood Ceviche

Creating a crabby meal starter from cans

Seafood ceviche is a refreshing burst of seafood, chopped onions, garlic, lemon juice, and minced cilantro. This dish is popular in Latin American countries and most likely originated in Peru. In a pinch, it’s simple to make using canned seafood. Yes, you read that right – canned. (And of course, it's a nontraditional version.) Prepare it and let it chill four at least an hour before serving so that all the flavors pickle and fully season the seafood.

What you will need:

1 wooden spoon
1 medium size bowl
Clear plastic wrap
2 - 6 oz cans canned crab meat
1 – 10 oz can canned baby clams
1 garlic clove minced
1 small yellow onion - chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro - chopped fine
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation and directions:

Open and drain canned seafood. Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour. Garnish with sliced scallions and serve with warm corn or flour tortilla slices.

Optional: Add ½ jalapeño chopped

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday’s Helping: Artificial Crab

Picking the unreal thing

Imitation crab sticks? Yes, they’re packed with a seafood flavor because they are made with white fish, such as croaker, blue whiting, and Alaska pollock. They’re also called surimi (from Japanese meaning minced fish). Many Asian countries use this ingredient in various dishes. The sticks' crab-like texture and flavor are unmistakable in some Japanese Maki sushi rolls. Meanwhile, Koreans chop crab sticks and make seafood omelets or savory seafood pancakes. We suggest making a salad with it, adding it to pasta salad, or frying it, tempura style.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Gettin' Crabby

Craving crustaceans, but what to get?

The crab is king for many seafood lovers. A visit to Maryland wouldn’t be the same without enjoying steamed blue crabs or authentic Maryland-style crab cakes. Here are just some of the different types of edible crabs found around the world.

Blue Crabs – are known for their beautiful appearance in the wild in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Mid-Atlantic on down the Coastal Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico. Their shells have blue and green colors. Maryland law requires that crabs must measure at least five and one-fourth inches across. Served steamed with seafood seasonings like Old Bay or turned into crab cakes.

Dungeness Crabs – are harvested from the shores of Alaska down to the coast of Mexico. Dungeness crabs can be as large as 10 inches across. Their consistently large size means more bang for the buck and or more crabmeat per crab. Regional crab lovers enjoy the crab meat dipped in drawn butter and lemon juice. Dungeness crab meat can be used to make crab cakes.

Spanner Crabs – also known as frog crab because of its appearance. These crabs are harvested off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. There are restrictions against harvesting females. Their price is increasing since their popularity is rising with exports to crab hungry Asian markets. We’ve enjoyed the claws of steamed spanner crabs at the Taste restaurant in the Westin Hotel in Guam. At Taste, diners can pick their crab pieces with other seafood selections and have them grilled with garlic and peppers.

Spider Crabs – refers to several crab species (Snow Crabs, Alaskan King Crabs, Japanese Crabs) that have a similar appearance: small body, spiny or pointy shells, and long legs. These crabs are prized for their crab legs, which are often found at fine-dining buffets. We’ve watched crabbers harvesting Alaskan King crabs on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

Stone Crabs – Floridians swear by stone crab meat. Only the claws (one per crab) are harvested and the crab must be thrown back into the sea. Claws must equal one and half inches or more in order for harvest. Don’t worry because the crab can regenerate a new claw. Additionally, the claws are proportionally larger than the rest of the crab’s body. The claw meat is enjoyed all along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. Claws are served with drawn butter and lemon juice.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Steamed Blue Crabs

Dancing at dinner time with Chesapeake crawlers
Ah, the bang, snap and pop of crab mallets and crushers means steamed blue crab lovers are filling up. Crab connoisseurs know the four grades of crabmeat: jumbo lump, lump, white, and claw meat. Jumbo lump and lump crab meats are highly prized above the others for use in recipes, such as Crab Imperial. Crab eaters will dip the meat in vinegar and Old Bay seasoning. Some add Tabasco or a squeeze of lemon juice. Steamed crabs are sold by the dozen or by the bushel. Crowds enjoy blue crabs at seafood restaurants on the East and Gulf Coasts, especially throughout the summer and into early September. Crabbers will sort crabs by size and gender. We always get males anyway as a nod to helping preserve the harvests for future generations. Harvesting of female blue crabs is limited by law in many areas. Did you know? There is a fine in California for harvesting any female Dungeness crab. What other types of crabs have you tried?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Corn and Black Bean Salsa

A winning black and yellow combo

Corn and black beans offer an interesting blend for the senses. The colors are a feast for the eyes at any party or potluck. This is a viable alternative to tomato-based salsas. The sweetness of corn kernels blends with the earthy flavor of black beans. Add chopped onion, salt, black pepper, chopped garlic, minced jalapeño, and minced cilantro for a spicy and yummy salsa. Also, squeeze some lime or lemon juice. Serve with tortilla chips or pita chips. Or, put a spoonful on top of grilled fish as a condiment.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Cream-Style Corn and Bacon

Looks can be deceiving with this breakfast treat
While the dish's appearance might leave something to be desired, cream-style corn and bacon make for a filling breakfast. Canned cream-style corn does the trick with sauteed onions and just a hint of garlic. Start by heating up a frying pan with two tablespoons of cooking oil on medium high heat. Now, add half of a medium-sized chopped yellow onion and a chopped garlic clove. Brown onion and for a minute or two, then add garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add sliced bacon (three to four slices cut into one inch pieces) and fry until crisp. Finally, pour in one 14.75-oz. can of cream-style corn and mix well. Let everything reach a simmer and then lower heat. Leave pan on low simmer for five minutes. Serve hot with toast or steamed rice. Wondering what else to make with cream-style corn? Food Network's Southern cooking diva Paula Deen offers this suggestion.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: Stalking Corn

Sweet kernels are a gold standard

Yes, we really are children of the corn. Around the world, maize or corn may be found. Historians believe the plant was first cultivated in Mexico. The Spanish are credited with bringing this crop to Europe where it eventually spread to Asia. The major type of corn cultivated in the U.S. is called dent corn, which has a rich taste. Standard dent corn is best eaten just hours after harvest. Farmers now cultivate hybrids that are known as sugar-enhanced or supersweet varieties. These hybrids will hold their flavor and sweetness several days to a week after harvest. There are also specialty corns like popcorn, Asian baby corn, and purely ornamental corn.

The best roadside and farmers' market vendors of corn know that chilling the cobs helps them retain their sweetness. At our nearby farmers' market, the bins that contain the ears are packed with ice. At a roadside stand in Delaware where Nelly bought the last batch we tried, the farmer kept freshly picked ears in a plastic wagon cooler with ice at the bottom and a damp towel across the top to maintain moisture.

Helpful Hint: Shoppers should look for ears that have bright green husks that are still tightly packed around each ear and the bottom, where they have been cut from the stalk, should not be dried out.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Corn Seasonings

Different ways to perk up your ears

Make the most of the ears of corn by seasoning them three different ways: flavored butter, infused olive oil, or dry rubs. We already discussed garlic butter in an earlier post. Just pat some garlic butter (or any other flavored butter) on freshly cooked corn on the cob. Another option: Have herb infused olive oil available to drizzle on instead. We suggest basil or rosemary infused olive oil. Or, turn it up a notch and infuse with a chili pepper. Lastly, sprinkle a favorite dry seasoning like paprika or garlic salt right on the cob. Add some dry parmesan powder for a cheesy twist. Mrs. Dash or even Old Bay seafood seasoning can also spice things up. Have any other ideas for a flavorful addition to corn?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Corn Times Two

Grilled vs. microwaved
Nothing beats fresh corn on the cob. Corn is in season now. Color varieties available include: yellow, white, blue (purple), and bicolor. We suggest grilling or using a microwave to cook corncobs. Forget boiling or steaming (methods that can easily lead to overcooking and loss of flavors). Grilling corn adds a smokey flavor to corns’ sweetness. Meanwhile, the microwave method locks in juices and flavors. We wrap corncobs in damp paper towels and then place them in a plastic bag for zapping in the microwave. An average-sized cob will need anywhere from 2-3 minutes on high. Grilling corn involves placing them right on a hot barbecue grill. Before placing the corn over the heat, peel back the green husks and remove as many of the silk threads as possible. Use a clean, soft brush if necessary. Then, re-cover the corn with its natural green sleeves. Have the butter or garlic butter ready at the table when serving with a meal. More on types of corn and seasonings later in the week.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday's Last Spoonful: Eggplant Breakfast

Waking up to a yummy surprise
A reader (Thanks, Jenel of Arizona!) of The Mixed Stew asked for a recipe for egg-wash fried eggplant, which apparently more residents on Guam had for breakfast than we could have even imagined. Mom makes this healthy breakfast entree, which usually is gobbled up in a jiffy. The cooked vegetable absorbs and extends the egg flavors. It is fine served alone with that traditional Guam breakfast starch -- steamed white rice. Or serve the eggplant with breakfast meat.
Fried eggplant -- an "almost" omelet

What you will need:
1 sauce pan
1 medium-size bowl (filled with ice water)
1 frying pan
1 shallow casserole dish
3 cups water
6 Japanese eggplants *(see Helpful Hint below)
4 large eggs or 5 medium eggs
¼ cup milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Pinch of salt and pepper
Cooking and Directions

Combine eggs, pepper, salt, and milk in the casserole dish. Beat egg mixture well and set aside. Start off sauce pan on high heat with water. Bring to a boil. Slice eggplants in half (lengthwise). Place eggplants into boiling water. Let the eggplants cook until just soft. Remove eggplants and immediately submerge them in bowl of ice water. Next, take them out of ice water bath. Let excess liquid drain off and pat dry with paper towel.

Now, heat up frying pan on medium high heat. Add oil to heated pan. Dip eggplants in egg mixture. Immediately place dipped eggplants in frying pan. Let them brown slightly, or more if you prefer, on one side. The timing will vary depending on the thickness of the eggplant. Turn over each piece once and let brown on other side.

*Helpful hint: You can also use the round Italian eggplants for a version of this. Simply cut the large eggplant into 1/8-inch slices or thinner, blanch each slice in boiling water to soften and then dip pieces into the egg wash so that each side is coated. Then fry in heated pan with oil like above.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursday's Side Dish: Soy Cucumber Salad

Cool off with this cuke recipe
Cut cucumbers and dress them with vinegar and soy sauce. It’s a cucumber salad that’s popular in Guam – especially at parties. We suggest adding some sliced hot pepper to jazz things up.
Sliced cucumbers in soy sauce
What you will need:
3 large cucumbers, cut into 2 inch wedges
1 small onion chopped
¾ cup soy sauce
¼ cup vinegar, palm vinegar is preferred but cider vinegar will do, too
1 large bowl
1 wooden spoon
kitchen plastic wrap
Pinch of salt and pepper

Preparation and directions:
Combine soy sauce and vinegar in large bowl. Add cucumbers, onions, salt, and pepper. Mix and toss well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour. Then serve.
Helpful hint: Nelly prefers to use seedless (also known as burpless, hothouse or English) cucumbers for this dish. If "regular" cucumbers are being used, it helps to first cut the vegetables lengthwise and then lightly scrape off most of the seeds and pulp before cutting the cucumbers into wedges. Don't worry about being too neat about scraping everything off. This reduces the water content in the dish.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday's Helping: To Market, To Market

Farmers' market rave

Farmers’ markets are hopping across the country. Nelly and I are big fans of farmers’ markets for their fresh produce. Last year, a vendor introduced Nelly to a type of heirloom tomato that has a pineapple flavor. Look for unique varieties of fruits and vegetables that don’t show up in big-chain grocery stores, such as white eggplant, white cucumbers, striped tomatoes and purple beans. We’ve found large red onions with leafy green stalks that are sweet and less acidic. Giant ears of corn sold from huge wooden crates by the dozens at our nearby market often attract customers.

Maple syrup, honey, and organic eggs are some other specialty food items available at farmers’ markets, depending on the region. Who knows? You just might find smoked salmon and different smoked cheeses at the market one day.

The outdoor weekend flea market on Guam has fresh produce year-round. Produce and their by-products are in abundance. On a recent trip, Mom bought some aromatic coconut oil -- a must-have at home as a soothing salve for stomach aches.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday's Cupful: Pick Tomatoes

Ever had a Tiny Tim or a Pink Girl?

Tomatoes are native to the hot Central and South American regions. The Spanish are credited with spreading tomatoes around the world. The fruits’ tart and tangy flavors make it a welcome ingredient in many dishes. Tomatoes may be found in Mexican salsas, Italian pasta sauces, and American burgers. Tomato pastes and canned tomatoes, which we talked about in an earlier post, are also available for cooks.

Varieties include cherry, plum, yellow (or non-acidic), and different heirloom tomatoes. Years of growing tomatoes has led to many heirlooms (cultivated for desired characteristics) and hybrid varieties (known for being disease resistant). Some have cool names like Better Boy, Supersonic, Tiny Tim, and Pink Girl.

Cherry and grape tomatoes are great for grilled shish kebabs and tossed salads. Meanwhile, plum tomatoes are best for making sauces and canning. Slice up large heirloom tomatoes and put them in club sandwiches. Also, try green heirlooms for fried green tomatoes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday's Bread Bowl: Gonzo for Gazpacho

Tangy tomato soup puts zing in summer
Gazpacho originated in Spain and Portugal. Separate this vegetable soup from the rest of the field. Gazpacho is best served ice-cold and packs a refreshing hit against the summertime heat. This soup is also easy to make. There is no actual cooking involved; additionally, tomatoes and cucumbers are in season during the hot summer months. Make a huge batch for your next outdoor barbecue and serve it in a punch bowl. For a real treat: Provide toppings like sliced scallions, chopped cilantro, and sour cream. Add Tabasco for an extra kick!