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Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Taste of Summer- Sweet/Savory Fruit Salad and a Southern Maine Adventure.

My extended family (including a few family members and many "should be family members" friends) took a trip recently to our favorite "BYO-everything but lobster" joint in Kittery point, Maine for father's day. The forecast in Boston called for unrelenting heat and possible thunderstorms, but Southern Maine was expected to have a lovely day in the high seventies. The group of 13 of us (Plus 3 dogs) caravaned out at 2pm, coolers loaded up with bread and cheese and hummus and crackers, and between the group of us not one but 4 salads (shepard's salad, corn and bean salad, an eggplant salad from The Family Resteraunt in Brookline, and my own watermelon-herb salad featured today). We arrived at the pier, snagged one of the only tables available, which happened to be under no cover whatsoever, and began to unpack. Tablecloths first, then out came the wine glasses and wine was poured for nearly everyone, then the cheeses and bread, chips, crackers and hummus, dishes of water for the dogs, we settled in as always as if we lived there.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A grilling lesson from my father: two types of cedar plank grilled fish

On a recent Sunday night, my father called to invite me to a dinner he and my mother were having with some friends. Of course my first question was "What are you making?". My second question was "Can I document it for my blog?".

 And so, I bring you a grilling lesson from my father, backyard grill master, whose many talents include but are not limited to: making some of the best, juiciest hamburgers ever, smoking fish and meats, grilling vegetables and fruit to smoky perfection, and making so many homemade rubs for ribs you can't keep count. He is a big fan of experimentation in the field of grilling (as well as in other cooking fields- he recently introduced me to French-toasted croissants, an odd idea that turned out actually quite good, if extremely high in calories), and has recently introduced grilled artichokes and fennel to our usual grilled vegetable lineup, two things I have to say would never have occurred to me to grill, but came out lovely.

Today he is grilling 2 types of fish on soaked cedar planks- halibut with a lemon white wine marinade, and mustard brown sugar glazed steelhead trout.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

On The Way...Grilling with my Father

Currently working on a post about a grilling lesson from  my father, the post is pretty long- with lots of pictures. It should be up in a few days, but until then, I hope this picture will get your mouths watering:

cedar plank grilled halibut and steelhead trout

Back to Basics

Last month on an impulse I signed myself up for cooking classes through a local adult ed program. Basics of Cooking: I. There was an interesting range of students in the class, across a range of demographics, with incredibly varied comfort levels when it comes to cooking- from recent college grads just out of the dorms who haven't had much opportunity to cook, to a handful of 60+  men, one of whom made a joke on the second class (we had made 2 types of soup the class before) that he'd been eating soup all week, because it was the only thing he knew how to cook. While I do consider myself to in general be pretty comfortable with basic cooking at this point (at least compared to 6 months ago) I still felt like I was lacking an understanding of basic techniques and really wanted a solid foundation. There were some things I had tried to teach myself from articles or books (for example the proper way to dice an onion) that are so much better understood when you have a professional chef there teaching you, letting you know what to do differently and reassuring you when you do get it right.

At this point my class is nearly drawing to a close, and I decided to cook myself a nice back to basics dinner tonight and try out some new techniques and revisit my old standbys. So I decided on pan fried chicken, sweet potatoes and spinach salad.

Pan fried herb-y chicken thighs, rosemary sweet potatoes and baby spinach salad

I think it came out fabulous (and my taste-testing roommate agrees) my cooking class taught me to feel much more comfortable as I  chopped the sweet potatoes (though I wished I owned a bigger knife!) and I used my two big lessons on pan  frying learned in the class too- how to tell that the pan is hot enough before putting the meat on the pan, and that once the chicken is on the pan you better not move it or touch it until it is good and brown! I think it was misunderstanding these two things that had made pan frying such a challenge to me in the past- I would put food on the pan when it wasn't hot enough (or worse- too hot) and then I would turn and check it and move it around so often it never got nicely browned.

 I prepared the chicken just as we had one day in class- with a little olive oil and fresh herbs and that's it. The sweet potatoes were an old standby for me- cubed, coated in a little olive oil, and sprinkled with fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. And on the side a simple baby spinach salad with a quick vinaigrette: balsamic and red wine vinegars, olive oil, garlic mustard, and the remaining fresh cut herbs, and topped with a few unsalted almonds.

The whole process went so smoothly- none of the usual ridiculousness, nothing burned, everything was timed well,  I  didn't slice off any fingers... I think I should go back to basics more often!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

ice cream cookie sandwiches

On a hot, humid summery night can you imagine anything better than this homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich? Me neither. Made with dark chocolate broken into chunks, and a bit of whole wheat flour, these homemade cookies made a perfect base for rich, cold vanilla ice cream. yum.

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