Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cedar Plank Salmon

If you still have the grill out, this is a great late season dish and so easy to make. The smell and flavor of the cedar with the salmon seems like a perfect combination.

Julian's Cedar Plank Salmon
I also do this with teriyaki marinade, but today it's just the lightly seasoned fish so we can taste a bit of the cedar flavor. I'm using the McCormick Grill Mates Salmon Seasoning, but any favorite seasoning or just salt and pepper will work fine. As you can see I'm serving it with a side of baby Brussels sprouts that have been par boiled and then finished in a skillet with butter and garlic. Add to that a side of roasted trii-color fingerling potatoes, and you have a lovely autumn dinner.

Salmon freezes well and they vacuum pack it now, so it really is quite good. In the photo above I'm using a piece of previously frozen sockeye salmon, skin on, from Costco. Sockeye salmon is less fatty that the classic farm raised, more pink, salmon, and we prefer it, although either type works fine.

Cedar plank
Olive oil
Seasoning of your choice
Salmon fillet (thawed if previously frozen)

Soak the cedar plank for 30 minutes to 2 hours, the longer the better. Preheat the grill until it reaches about 375F degrees. Rub the salmon on both sides lightly with olive oil. Place the salmon flat (and skin if still on) side down, and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings. Turn off the burner directly below the cedar plank and place the salmon on the plank in that spot. Close the lid and monitor temperature to maintain it around 375F degrees. Once the grill returns to temperature, then cook for 30 minutes. Remove salmon from the plank to plates and serve.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Bison Strip Steaks with Mushroom Sauce

Bison vs. buffalo. Is there a difference? There is, but in the United States, bison is sometimes called buffalo so usually in the U.S. it's all the same thing. In much of the rest of the world the term buffalo refers to water buffalo, a different but related animal.

Julian's Bison Strip Steak with Mushroom Sauce
Today I'm grilling a a bison strip steak that is full of favor without being over-powering. People often ask is bison gamey or smelly, chewy or tough. The taste of bison is very similar taste to beef. It has a coarser texture and a slightly sweeter flavor. It does not taste gamey and there is no aftertaste like some game animals such as moose. Further, it is very high in protein (much more than beef) and has half the fat of beef. It is because of this latter issue that you do not want to overcook bison, or it will become tough.

The mushroom sauce adds to its earthy flavor and as such I think it is an autumn favorite. The bison steaks I found were not exceptionally thick (about 1-inch) and weighted just about eight ounces each. So they were pretty easy to cook. If you have the sous vide equipment, you can use the device to get the steaks to just about five degrees below your desired temperature (medium-rare usually) and then finish them on the grill. This really is the best way to get any steak the exact temperature.

Today I'm grilling them without sous vide first because they are pretty thin and as such they are easy enough to get cooked consistently from side to side. Really thick pieces of meat benefit from sous vide treatment, as it cooks the meat very evenly. The grill cooks from the outside in and a thick piece of meat will be various degrees of doneness throughout.

Just right... .pink throughout yet not bloody.

You don't really need any recipe for the grilled steaks, other than to season them lightly with vegetable oil and a bit of salt/pepper or other grill spices, before quickly cooking them. Use a very hot grill and let them cook for 3-4 minutes per side if they are 1-inch thick. Test for doneness with a meat thermometer and remove to a serving plate and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Mushroom Sauce

This sauce can be used any time you're making steaks or other dishes for which you want a brown mushroom gravy. It tastes equally good on mashed potatoes.

Prepare the mushroom sauce at least one-hour in advance of dinner. The ingredients below do not need to be exact.

1/2 cup Sliced button mushrooms (fresh or canned)
4 ounces butter
small shallot or half a small onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2/3 cup red wine
1 cup beef broth/stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch


Place the clean sliced mushrooms in a medium sauce pan with the butter, onion, salt pepper and garlic. Place over medium heat and stir while cooking until the mushrooms release their liquid (about 5 minutes). Add the wine and and let the mixture heat until simmering. Cover and cook at a low simmer for 20-30 minutes, to let the alcohol evaporate and the mushrooms to cook down. Add the beef broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to very low simmer burner, cover and let cook for another 20 minutes or so. Taste and correct seasoning as necessary.

In a small dish, mix together the corn starch with 3 tablespoons of cold water. When well blended, turn up the temperature to medium and pour the cornstarch into the warm mushrooms and stir to combine. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens somewhat, taste and again and reduce temperature to as low as possible and keep warm until ready for serving.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Avocado Breakfast Toast

All the rage now, this breakfast dish is a variation on guacamole and served on toast.

Julian's Avocado (Guacamole) Toast
You really can serve it for breakfast, brunch or lunch. It seems every restaurant in Chicago that specializes in the morning meals has a variation on the menu. It's nice because it is vegetarian until you sprinkle some bacon on the top (delicious!) and it's also filling. If you think people will be turned off by the avocado title, call it guacamole toast and the'll be all in.

The ingredients are pretty much up to you and very open to whatever your family likes best and when you're serving it. Add a little cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce if your family likes a little kick at brunch or lunch. Add some crumbled cooked bacon on top for the meat lovers in the house. Sprinkle with some grated cheese and give it 30 seconds under the broiler for the dairy fans.

My basic always-included items are:

  • chopped fresh seeded tomatoes
  • finely chopped onion/shallot
  • minced fresh garlic (don't over do it)
  •   (substitute garlic powde
  • Squeeze of a small lime or a dash of lime juice.
  • Italian/French bred for toasting
  • fresh, ripe avocado

Cut the avocado (1/2 per person) in half and remove the stone. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash leaving some small whole chunks. Add the above and your favorite ingredients and gently stir together being careful not to turn the mixture into a paste.

Toast (in the toaster or in the oven) some good quality, crusty French or Italian bread. If you like, rub a little olive oil on it and sprinkle on a little seasoned salt of your liking. When the toast is ready, cut into pieces easy to pick up.

Place the toast back together on a plate to form the original piece. Top with the avocado mixture and serve.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Pesto Brussels Sprouts

Looking for a new way to make the old sprouts have a bit of Italian flavor? The answer is, of course, add some pesto sauce.

Julian's Pest Brussels Sprouts
You can make your own if your basil plant is still producing. If you follow my Facebook page, you know I take all of the end-of-season basil and make a big batch and freeze it into single use cubes, that provide pesto sauce all winter long. Of course, you can use store-bought pesto sauce as well, but as in all things the final dish can't be better than the sum of its parts, so choose your pre-made pesto with care.

4 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (about 2lbs)
1/4 cup pesto
Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese for topping
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine Brussels sprouts and pesto in a large bowl. Season with a small pinch of coarse salt and pepper. Prepare a cookie sheet with side by lining with aluminum foil and spraying with food release or olive oil. Spread the coated sprouts evenly and bake for about 20 -25 minutes, until browned and crisped. Give the baking sheet a small shake about halfway to turn a bit and insure they do not stick.
Once sprouts are nicely and evenly browned, pull out of oven and top with some Parmesan cheese. Turn off heat, and put baking sheet back into oven for about 5 minutes to let cheese melt.

Tossed with pesto and ready for the oven.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rustic Peach and Cherry Tart

With peaches still in season and the stores having dark Washington cherries, today I'm making a simple dessert. The flavor pair exceptionally well together and everyone enjoys it especially with a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream.

Julian's Rustic Peach and Cherry Tart
You can make this with your own pastry crust or follow my recipe which is easy in a food processor. Or you can purchase a pre-made crust. It will be good too, but you may need to rough it up a bit to give it that rustic look. Make the crust a few days ahead and keep it in your refrigerator. It will actually be better than if you make it fresh and use it immediately.

Inside Slice View
I've given you the above photo, so you can see it's not quite the same as a traditional pie, which is usually deeper because of the pie dish. The rustic tart is formed on a cookie sheet and filled there, so it is called a tart because it is more flat.

Below I've given you some very basic ingredients with ways to change the recipe to use what fruits you have. Finding good tasting fruit is really the key. Peaches should be peeled, but as we know that requires a dunk in boiling water, a chill in an ice bath and then sliding off the skins. Nectarines don't need peeling. So use whatever good fruit you can find and whatever you have time to prepare. My favorite combinations are peaches/cherries,  plums/raspberries, peaches/blackberries, apricots/blueberries, and nectarines/raspberries.


1 pastry crust, my recipe or store bought.
1 pound peaches, nectarines, apricots, or plums
1 cup cherries or berries  or a bit more
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3-5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch or Clear Jel
1 teaspoon of flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon course sugar for sprinkling


Peel peaches if using. Halve and pit stone fruit and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges, leaving the cherries whole (but pitted) or cut in half. Gently wash and dry berries. Combine fruit in medium bowl (you should have about 3 cups) and toss with lemon juice. Combine the granulated sugar and starch., and sprinkle over the fruits and toss gently to combine.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare your crust and place on a flour-dusted parchment lined baking sheet with sides. Check the fruit mixture and see how much juice has been rendered. If it is too watery, drain off the excess juice or add more corn starch and combine. 

Mound fruit in center of dough, leaving two inch border around edge. Carefully grasp one edge of dough and fold up over fruit, leaving an open area in the center. Repeat around circumference of tart, overlapping dough and pinching together as necessary to secure, but do not press dough into fruit. Working quickly, brush dough with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar. 

Bake until crust is deep golden brown and fruit is bubbling, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool tart on baking sheet on wire rack 10 minutes. Using wide metal spatula or pizza peel, loosen tart from parchment and carefully slide tart off parchment onto wire rack; cool until warm, about 30 minutes, or to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve with good vanilla ice-cream. 

Note: Tart does not hold up well and should ideally be consumed the day it is made.

Julian's Rustic Peach and Cherry Tart with Icecream

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Seared Scallops Recipe with Orange Rum Sauce

Scallops are easy and quick to prepare and so this dish is perfect for a weeknight. This sauce makes them a little different than other recipes you may have used and serves well over a variety of different side dishes. I'm using rice here but you could as easily serve over orzo pasta or even polenta.

Julian's Scallops with Orange Rum Sauce
1 pound scallops
3 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup rum (aged/dark preferred)
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 large orange
flat leaf parsley chopped

One hour before dinner, thaw scallops if frozen in cold water. When thawed or if fresh, rinse and pat dry. Set the scallops on 2-3 layers of paper towels and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of salt. Turn and salt the other side with one more tablespoon. Place a paper towel on top and let sit for nearly an hour. The salt will draw out excess moisture. When ready to prepare, use a clean paper towel to wipe off any excess salt and moisture that may be on the surface of the scallops. Set scallops on a plate.

Remove the zest from half of the orange and reserve. Cut in the orange in half and juice the entire orange saving the juice. Discard the remainder. 

Drizzle the scallops with a olive oil and sprinkle them all over with chili powder, red pepper flakes and freshly cracked black pepper. Just before placing in the skillet, sprinkle with sugar.

Preheat a cast iron skillet on medium-high heat until very hot (about 10 minutes). Add just enough vegetable oil (not olive oil), to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the scallops one at a time with tongs working quickly. Do not overcrowd the pan. The scallops should not touch one another. Sear the first side for about 45-60 seconds until browned. (Once you have the last scallop in the pan, the first should be ready to turn.) Turn and sear the other side for 30 seconds and remove. Do not overcook or they will become tough. Transfer the scallops to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Remove the hot skillet to a neighboring cold burner and take a step back and pour the rum into the pan. It may ignite. If so, let it cook down until the flame is gone. Put back on hot burner over medium heat and add the minced garlic. Stir and scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the orange juice and bring to a simmer. Allow to reduce by about half (3 minutes or so). Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted and half of the chopped parsley. 

Transfer the scallops into the orange rum sauce and coat. Serve over rice, polenta, or orzo pasta. Spoon remaining sauce over the scallops after they are plated and garnish with chopped parsley and the orange zest. .

Orange Rum Sauce ready for the Scallops

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Orzo Pasta with Pesto Sauce - Scallops Optional

With plenty of fresh basil around this time of the year, it's easy to make up a small batch of pesto. Or if you're like me, you may have some already in the fridge or frozen in cubes from last season. In any case, today I'm using it on orzo pasta. If you make a fresh batch and don't use it all, just put it in an air-tight container and use within a week or two.

Julian's Orzo with Pesto Sauce and Seared Scallops
If you haven't heard of orzo, it's a small rice-shaped pasta that works great in soups or even simulates risotto. Most stores carry it and most brands make this small noodle.

Simply cook the orzo per package directions and toss with a couple tablespoons of pesto. Top with grilled shrimp. pan seared scallops or whatever you prefer.

That's really all there is to it. So simple, no recipe or directions are required.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Smoked Trout Appetizer Dip

With summer coming to an end, I like this simple, cool appetizer which goes great with cocktails. This tasty cold spread can be made with any of the smoked fishes, such as salmon or trout. I'm using trout today which I friend provided me and which I prefer. It's mixed primarily with boursin cheese. You can purchase this flavored cheese like I did, or you can make your own. If you decide to make it, I like Paula Deen's recipe.

Julian's Smoked Trout on Crackers
5 ounces boursin cheese (garlic and herb preferred)
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot (or green onion)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4-5 grinds fresh black pepper
2-3 dashes of hot sauce (optional, more or less)
5 ounces smoked fish (trout, salmon, etc.)
Chopped parsley, dried or fresh, for garnish
sturdy crackers or small cocktail toasts

With the cheese at room temperature, mix it together with the sour cream, shallot, lemon juice, pepper and hot sauce until well combined. If the fish is still on the skins (ideally and as shown here), flake it off into the bowel with the cheese mixture being careful to insure that no fish bones remain. If the pieces are too large you can give them a quick pulse in a food processor. Stir to combine the fish with the cheese mixture to the consistency you prefer. Serve with crackers or small toasts.

Tuscan Penne Pasta with Garlic Shrimp

This dish is rich and delicious. You can substitute the shrimp for chicken if you prefer, or even just leave it out all together. It contains a cream base, spinach, sun dried tomatoes, white wine and shrimp sauteed in garlic.

Julian's Tuscan Penne Pasta
This is an easy weeknight dinner which I make in a my ceramic wok. While I'm preparing the sauce I boil the water and cook the pasta. Then I simply transfer the pasta into the wok filled with sauce, toss and serve. Your family will love it.

Ingredients (serves 4 adults)
Ready to Plate
2 tablespoons salted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 pound shrimp peeled and cleaned shrimp
       tails on or off, our choice
1 small yellow onion, diced
5 ounces jarred sun dried tomatoes,
       removed from oil and cut into strips
1/2 cup mushrooms stems and pieces, optional
2 teaspoons dried chopped parsley
2 teaspoons dried chopped oregano
2 teaspoons dried chopped basil
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
3 fist-fulls baby spinach leaves
1 pound penne pasta or similar noodle

Heat a large pot of water to boiling, adding 2 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil. While the water heats continue with below steps. When water reaches a boil, ad the pasta and cook per package directions until just al-dente.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and add 2 tablespoons of the garlic, reserving the remainder. Stir for about bout one minute until fragrant and add the shrimp. Saute on both sides until pink and cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. During the last minute, sprinkle with a little of the dried herbs (parsley, oregano and basil). Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet/work and add the onion. Cook stirring regularly until the onion is tender, about 3-4 minutes. During the last minute, add the remaining garlic. Cook one minute more until garlic is fragrant. Add the sun dried tomatoes and optional mushrooms, and cook for 1-2 minutes to release their flavors. Add the herbs and then add the white wine. Cook stirring regularly until wine is reduced by about one-half.

Reduce heat to medium-low, add the cream and bring to a gentle simmer, while stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. When hot, add the cheese and stir in.  Add in the spinach leaves and stir into the sauce until wilted and combined

Add the shrimp back into the pan and stir in. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Plate and sprinkle with extra shredded cheese.

Garlic Shrimp in Butter

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sweet Corn Cooking Methods and the Corn-Cucumber Salad

Questions about the best preparation method for sweet corn are common.  From my cooking experiences, the methods are many and none are really better than others. It really is more a matter of the result you are looking for and the other foods you are preparing.

Julian's Corn in a Water-Milk-Butter Bath
I've tried just about every cooking technique known regarding sweet corn on the cob. From microwave to classic boiling, they all have their place. So here are some tips on the various methods, including how to select and store your corn prior to cooking.

Selection:  The color of the corn is not related to sweetness. There are very many varieties of sweet corn today. When I was a child, all corn was not particularly sweet. But today most all supermarket varieties sold 'on the cob' are sweet. Many have sugar contents approaching 35 percent. Look for corn in the husk (don't buy peeled) with silk that is clean and not dried out, with a husk that is green and pliable. If you do peel back a little husk, check to make sure a kernel is plump and juicy with your finger tip or nail. The single most important thing about sweet corn, is getting freshly picked ears.  

Storage: Do store the corn in its husk inside your refrigerator, ideally in the higher humidity vegetable drawer. If space is not available, put the unhusked ears in a bag with a damp paper towel. Use the corn as soon as possible, but do not store more than four days as the sugars will convert to starch.

Taste Testing is a Great Job in Julian's Kitchen!
Cooking:  You can roast (in the husk or out), microwave (in the husk or out), boil in water or a water/milk/butter mixture.  If I'm grilling I roast the corn on the grill. Husked and dry roasting directly on the grates gives you some classic brown marking. When slathered with butter it is delicious. The dry roast seems to bring out the sweetness. You can also clean and wrap your husked ears in foil, which in effect steams them. Of course some people like them in the husk and you can do this by peeling the ears back, removing the silk and replacing the husks. Add some butter or oil under the husk on the corn if you like, along with any additional seasonings.

In the microwave, if I'm in a big hurry, corn will cook completely in just 5 minutes. For this I usually husk, clean and season the corn, then place it on a pate covered with plastic wrap.

Finally, boiling has two options.... water or the water, milk, butter combo shown at the top. I've tried both and don't taste any noticeable difference.

For 6-8 ears of corn,  bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Shut off the heat and add the corn and let the corn stand for at least 10 minutes and not longer than 30 minutes. This insures the corn does not overcook.

Sugar: Finally, what about adding sugar to your corn for any of these methods? Corn kernels are nearly impermeable at least for the short cooking time we are talking about for any of the above methods. You can add sugar if you want, but it won't effect the taste. Add sugar if needed (rarely) and other seasonings just after cooking.

If you've got good sweet corn, it tastes good no matter which method you choose.

Corn-Cucumber Salad (sometimes called Mexican Corn Salad)

This recipe is very flexible and can be adjusted to the ingredients you have on hand or prefer.

Julian's Corn-Cucumber Salad

4 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small diced red onion
1/2 red bell pepper
2 chopped seedless cucumbers
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons diced green chilies
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 - 4 ounces grated aged Parmesan cheese

Clean and husk the corn and cut it from the cob. Over medium heat in a large heavy skillet, heat the oil slightly. Add the fresh corn and cook, stirring regularly for about 3-4 minutes until the corn is tender.

In a large bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients. Add the corn and toss to combine. Allow salad to sit for about 30 minute too let flavors develop.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Grilled Knob Onions with Balsamic Reduction

Sweet grilled knob onions make an excellent side dish in the summer time when they are plentiful. Most any onion will grill nicely, but I prefer to use the knob onion (which is like a large scallion, and sometimes called a globe or bulb onion.)

Julian's Grilled Knob Onions with Balsamic Reduction
Although the term "spring onion" is used colloquially to encompass all onions with edible greens, and although nomenclature varies by English-speaking country, scallions and spring bulb onions are not the same. Knob onions are onions harvested as babies, usually with bulbs of 1 to 2 inches in diameter. If left in the ground, they would develop into mature onions. Scallions, on the other hand, would never develop a round bulb. So you are looking for a knob onion as pictured here.

Simply grill them until tender and drizzle with a balsamic glaze or reduction. I purchase my glaze pre-made at the store most of the time. If you want to make a balsamic reduction do the following.

Balsamic Reduction
Mix balsamic vinegar with brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until glaze is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Glaze should coat the back of a spoon. Let cool and pour into a jar with a lid; store in refrigerator.

Select about one onion per person. Clean them by removing any root end that exists and tear off any outer loose skin or damaged/dry stems. Cut the onions in half leaving on the leafy stem top. Coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a hot grill with the cut side down and the tender green leaves over a cooler section of the grill. Alternatively, you can wrape the tops in foil to prevent burning. Cook until tender, only 3-5 minutes, turning once halfway through. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Peruvian Grilled Chicken Skewers

This classic Peruvian recipe (Pollo a la brasa) includes flavors common to Asia, due to large migrations to Peru from the region and now account for nearly 5% of the population. Peru is said to have one of the world's most important cuisines because it is an exemplar of fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history.

Julian's Peruvian Grilled Chicken Skewers
Pollo a la Brasa (a rotisserie or roaster chicken) is one of the most consumed foods in Peru. The origins of the recipe for this dish date back to Lima in the 1950s, when two Peruvian residents invented and registered the patent  for the rotisserie grill machine used to cook the chicken. Traditionally, the dish is served with French fried potatoes, salad and various sauces (Peruvian mayonnaise, ketchup, olive sauce, chimichurri and aji (chili) sauces of all kinds).

Off the skewer and onto the wild rice.
The strongly flavored soy-based marinade used for this dish is lightened with lime juice and seasoned with a few spicy ingredients to give it a little kick. It's certainly not 'hot' but you'll know they are there, which is why I like to serve it on a bed of white or wild rice, as shown here. These spices are offset with brown sugar, which helps it to brown nicely on the grill.

In Peru you often find served as a half chicken per person, although their chickens run smaller than their U.S. counterparts. I've taken the standard recipe and used only dark chicken thigh meat and placed them on skewers, which I think you will enjoy, Dark boneless, skinless thigh meat grills nicely and doesn't dry out easily.


Marinade and Basting sauce:
4-5  large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup soy or teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger

For the chicken:
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Vegetable oil for grill


Combine all marinade ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Reserve 1/3 cup for basting in a airtight container and refrigerate. Cut the chicken into 1-inch or so cubes. Add the cut chicken to a plastic zippered storage bag and add the remaining marinade. Turn the bag to evenly coat chicken with marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours or even a bit longer.

Heat gas grill to medium high or start a medium hot charcoal grill. Thread chicken onto skewers (if using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes.)

Clean grill surface and coat with an oil-dipped paper towel using tongs. Place skewers on grill and cook, turning one-quarter turn every 3-4 minutes until cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Brush each cooked side with the reserved basting sauce. Chicken should be charred in spots.

Remove the chicken skewers from the grill, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of white or wild rice.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Avocado Tuna or Chicken Salad

This smart choices replaces the mayonnaise you typical use in a tuna or chicken salad with avocado. I've made it several times now and served it to guests. To my surprise the guests didn't realize it wasn't mayo in the salad

Julian's Avocado Tuna Salad
If you are looking for a healthier alternative (vegetable fat-avocado vs. animal fat-mayo) or you have someone who is allergic (they do exist) to eggs, then this a great option. I however don't make it for either reason. I simply like the way it tastes!

You can use your own preferred tuna/chicken salad option or follow my recipe below. The key here is having really good canned tuna. Consider a premium brand like American Tuna.  I purchase this at Whole Foods and one 6 ounce can is good for two dinner salads. I used to only buy this brand. However, now Kirkland Brand (sold at Costco) is my go-to brand for white chunk line-caught tuna. It's as good as the American Tuna brand but more convenient. When you open the can you'll see why. A big firm, nearly single cut of tuna is inside. It's all meat and little water, and highly recommended.

If you're not familiar with how to pick or know if the avocado is perfectly ripe and ready for preparation, check out this webpage.

Ingredients (serves 2)

1 ripe avocado, cut in half, pit removed, diced, skins reserved
8 cherry tomatoes,
1 small stalk of celery, chopped
1/2 small onion or 1 shallot, finely chopped
1 small handful of parsley, chopped, about 2 tablespoons
1 6-ounce can solid white albacore tuna in water, drained
Juice from half a lemon/lime
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Spinach leaves (or you choice of lettuce)
Olive oil and vinegar dressing
Fresh chopped parsley for garnish

Prepare the ingredients as noted above. Note that you do not have to be exact. Add the avocado, celery, onion and parsley to a small mixing bowl. Stir them together mashing portions of the avocado to create a mayonnaise like base. Leave a few chunks of avocado so you can see and taste it in the mixture. Now gently turn in the tuna and add the lemon, salt and pepper. Don't over mix or it will make a paste, which is not preferred. We want to see and taste some chunks of tuna as well. Make a bed of spinach or lettuce that has been tossed in a light dressing. Stuff the avocado half and place on the bed of spinach/lettuce and sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley. Serve.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Sore Muscle Summer Smoothie

With summer here and lots of gardening going on, I have some sore muscles. This anti-inflammatory smoothie does the trick and helping to relieve the pain. It also tastes good!

Julian's Sore Muscle Summer Smoothies
All ingredients are known to help to reduce inflammation in the body, and have a “cooling effect” as well. Pineapples have a long tradition as a medicinal plants, and are known known for their pain relieving enzyme bromelain.   Today I'm making a double batch, as shown above. Below recipe makes one drink.

As I noted in a prior posting, you do need a good quality blender to make smoothies. For more information on that read my post on Nija vs. Vitamix. I also give you some other great smoothie recipes on that page.

1 small rib celery
1 cup cucumber
1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 lime wedge (peeled and seeded)
1 cup coconut water

Place all of the ingredients in your blender and select the "smoothie" option. Alternatively, select puree, which you may need to start and stop a couple times to ensure the ingredients are fully blended.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tomato Watermelon Salad with Gorgonzola

Popular recently, the flavors of the sweet watermelon, acidic tomato and salty cheese go amazingly well together to make a perfect summer salad.

Julian's Tomato and Watermelon Salad
The success of the dish of course depends on having the very best and most flavorful local ingredients. If you can't get them, better to make something else or substitute as necessary.

1 part fresh rip tomatoes
1 part fresh sweet seedless watermelon
fresh basil leaves
crumbled Gorgonzola or Feta cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar reduction
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Clean and cut the tomatoes and watermelon into equally sized pieces. Wash and dry the fresh basil leaves. Place the tomatoes, melon and basil in a serving dish. Sprinkle with the cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil and Balsamic vinegar reduction over the salad and top with a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Olive Tapenade

This spread, often used as an hors d'œuvre and spread on bread or crackers, is a provincial recipe of the region surrounding Europe's Mediterranean sea. This area, which grows many olives, make use of them in many ways, but perhaps the most popular is tapenade. The classic tapenade includes various types of olives, capers, olive oil, garlic and sometimes anchovies.

Julian's Olive Tapenade
The word tapenade comes from the French, but it's equally popular in Spain and Italy. Sometimes Americans refer to this as muffuletta, because they've had it on Sicilian bread called muffuletta which became popular with Italian immigrants in New Orleans, Louisiana who spread the bread with tapenade. But the true name is olive tapenade not muffuletta.

I purchase pitted olives of several varieties and I do all of my chopping in the food processor, which makes it quick and easy. My sister does the chopping by hand, which insures the ingredients are not processed into a paste. We both prefer a small, fine chop to a puree but in Europe you find it both ways. If using the food processor like I do, make sure to just do one ingredient at a time and quickly 'pulse' so as not to puree the olives.

My Sister Hand Chopping Olives
Make a large batch if you are expecting guests to drop in during the week. It's popular and they can eat a good bit, piling each cracker or small bread piece with a teaspoon or more of tapenade. I find a large bowl like the above will hold in my refrigerator for about a week.

I have no specific recipe to provide you but my most common ingredient list looks like the below. Once all of the solids are chopped I just mix together some olive oil and vinegar and toss with the mixture. Add salt if necessary after tasting.

Black Olives
Green Olives with/without pimentos
Kalamata Olives
Castelvetrano Sicilian Green Olives
Garlic (2-3 cloves only)
Red pepper (small or half)
Capers (optional)

Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar

Chop all of the ingredients one by one into a very fine small chop (but not puree). Stir gently together. Mix together 3 parts olive oil to one part wine vinegar and toss. Only a light dressing is required. Add more dressing and salt if necessary after tasting. Refrigerate and let flavors combine for several hours before serving on crackers or small pieces of bread. Makes an excellent spread on toasted panini sandwiches.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pineapple Orange Layer Cake

With warm weather upon us, I thought I'd share this cake which I make when I'm at our island home, CalypsoBlu. It's cool and refreshing, easy and fast to make and always popular.

Julian's Pineapple Orange Layer Cake
It uses a boxed cake make as its base and includes a pre-made whipped topping. It's not my usual 'all from scratch' recipe, but when there are many things to do outside you don't want to spend all day baking in the kitchen.

1 box yellow cake mix 
      plus ingredients the mix requires (usually oil and eggs)
1 can mandarin oranges 11 ounces, drained
1 can unsweetened crushed pineapple 20 ounces, drained
1 package dry instant vanilla pudding mix 3.4 ounces
12 ounces Cool Whip or stabilized whipped cream

Prepare cake batter according to the directions on the box. 

Reserve 3-4 slices of the oranges for garnish. Add the remaining drained oranges and beat into the prepared cake mix until small chunks remain. Pour into two 9-inch round baking pans that have been sprayed with food release or oil (Pam).

Bake at 350F degrees for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes and then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely. 

In a bowl, stir together the drained pineapple and dry vanilla pudding mix. Fold in the Cool Whip and combine thoroughly to prepare a frosting.

Place the first cake on a serving plate. Spread some of the frosting on the top of one layer. Place the other layer of cake on top of that. Spread the remaining frosting on the top of the cake. Garnish with reserved oranges.   Refrigerate uncovered at least 2 hours before serving.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Clams Casino

Clams casino is a clam on the half shell with breadcrumbs and bacon. The dish is popular with Italian-Americans, and when I was growing up it appeared regularly on the menus of every trattoria near and far.

Julian's Clams Casino ready for garnishing.
According to Good Housekeeping Great American Classics, the recipe for clams casino was originally developed in 1917 at the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, by maître d'hôtel Julius Keller for Mrs. Paran Stevens who requested something special for her guests.  During this period in American history if a restaurant wanted to be noted, it came up with a dish that involved the baking of shellfish, and many did. However clams casino and oysters Rockefeller are among the few surviving dishes from this trend.

I've got my small clams on an escargot plate to hold them steady.
Preparing the Clams:  Before you try making this dish, watch a few of the online videos and read this step-by-step instruction on how to properly clean and shuck your clams. I do mine from the back the same as the guy in the video link I provided, but both methods work. It takes a little practice. Also consider how you will bake and serve the clams. As the bottoms of the shells are rounded, they don't sit easily and you don't want them to tip. Above I'm using an escargot plate. Anything with an indention will do, even a bed of salt (for cooking and serving) or seaweed (for serving only).

Clams Casino

The recipe makes 12 clam servings. If you are using them as an appetizer, than two-three per person is likely sufficient. 

Clams ready for fillings with clam juice preserved. 

4 slices bacon
12 large clams

1/4 cup minced shallot or onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon paprika
Chopped parsley for garnish

In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp over medium heat. Crumble, and set aside. Reserve bacon drippings in the skillet.

Wash and open the clams (as noted above) being sure to cut them loose from the shell after you have it open, but leaving each in the bottom half of the shell. Take care to preserve as much of the liquid inside the clam shells as you open them. Discard the top shell.

Preheat oven to 450F degrees.

Warm the reserved bacon drippings in the skillet, and place pan over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and stir until golden brown, another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a separate dish. Stir in the oregano, parsley and cheese. Toss in the crumble bacon and combine. Set aside.

Wipe out the skillet. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute 1 minute.

Spoon the butter/garlic mixture into the clams. Spoon the bread crumb mixture on top of each buttered clam. Sprinkle with paprika.

Place the clams on a cookie sheet or in any type of oven save dish that will hold them steady making sure they will not rock and spill the ingredients. Bake for 7 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fresh Blueberry Lemon Cake

With fresh blueberries now in abundance and knowing they always pair well with lemon, I set off to find a cake that utilized both summer-fresh ingredients.

Julian's Blueberry Lemon Cake
The original recipe came from the website which is heavily filled with advertising which makes pages hard to load and read. In any case, the recipe turned out well, although I added the two sauces. (Recipes at the bottom of this page.)

Her recipe calls for a 9-inch spring form pan and as I only have a 10-inch version, I used that. The 9-inch pan would give you a better result. My baking time was also reduced to 40 from the 50 minutes she reported.

2 large eggs
1 cup (210 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 medium lemon (zest and juice), separated
1/2 tablespoon corn starch
16 ounces (450g) fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar to dust the top, optional

Lightly butter or spray with food release a 9-inch spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment. Preheat Oven to 375F degrees.

In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 2 eggs and 1 cup sugar on high speed 5 minutes, or until light in color and thick. Add sour cream, oil,  vanilla, salt and mix on low speed until well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour with baking powder. Add 1/3 of the batter to the egg/sugar mixture and on low speed, mix until combined. Add the remaining flour 1/3 at a time, mixing to incorporate with each addition. Finally, add 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and all of the lemon zest and mix on low until combined.

Rinse blueberries and drain well. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries with the corn starch and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Toss to combine until there is no dry white cornstarch showing on the berries.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Top with half of the blueberries. Spread with remaining batter then sprinkle the rest of the blueberries evenly over the top, pushing them slightly into the batter (about halfway).

Bake at 375˚F for 40 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Check at 40 minutes and test regularly. Do not over-bake.

Let cake rest in the pan 15-20 minutes then remove ring and cool until room temp or just warm. Carefully lift the cake off the pan base and peel off the parchment. Place the cake on your serving plate.  When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar. Do not dust in advance.

Optional Sauces

4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put egg yolks into a medium heatproof bowl; set aside.  Whisk together lemon zest, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the lemon juice; whisk until sugar and cornstarch have dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; gradually whisk one-third of the lemon mixture into the reserved egg yolks. Pour mixture into pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface. Keep at room temperature if using the same day to maintain the sauce consistency. Refrigerate for longer storage. Thin with some additional warm water if needed before serving.

1 pound fresh blueberries, wash and stemmed
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Place the berries into a sauce pan.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and corn starch. Stir to combine. Cook over  medium-low heat until the berries soften, stirring regularly until they make a sauce. Let cook down to desired consistency. The longer you cook, the thicker they will become.  Keep at room temperature if using the same day to maintain the sauce consistency. Refrigerate for longer storage. Thin with some additional warm water if needed before serving.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Beef Brisket - Slow Cooker Method

Most people only enjoy beef brisket when it is served as corned beef around St. Patrick's day, but this meat has a nice flavor on its own and can easily be prepared in a slow cooker. In fact, a slow long cooking is required to make the meat tender and to bring out its very beefy flavor.

Julian's Trimmed Beef Brisket
I got my brisket at Costco and like all things there you get a large piece. To fit it into the Crockpot I cut it in half. The recipe also calls for chili sauce and here any variety you prefer will do. I've used the classic Heinz Chili Sauce (not very hot) to the quite spicy Sriracha. I would say I prefer the less spicy in this recipe.
1 (3-4 pound) beef brisket, trimmed of fat
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
 1 can beer (12 ounces more or less)
 1 bottle tomato-based chili sauce
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
Preheat the slow cooker on the high setting. Trim excess fat from the brisket and cut it in half if necessary so it fits in your slow cooker. In a hot skillet with a little vegetable oil, brown on both sides.

Season the brisket on both sides with salt and pepper, and place in the slow cooker. Cover with a layer of sliced onions. In a medium bowl, mix together the beer, chili sauce, and brown sugar. Pour over the beef making sure both layers get coated. Close the lid.

Cook for 3-4 hours until tender. Remove the crockpot lid and let cook another 30=45 minutes to reduce the liquid. Remove to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let the brisket rest and cool slightly before slicing.

You may return the sliced meat to the slow cooker to coat in the sauce or plate the meat and spoon the sauce over. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Grilled Stuffed Lobster

Today I'm grilling lobster and this one happens to be of the warm-water Caribbean variety. That's because I'm staying at our St. Thomas villa where these lobsters are large and plentiful.

Julian with Grilled Stuffed Caribbean Lobster
I had previously discussed stuffed lobster and the various varieties and I'd given you the recipe from a great local restaurant in St. Thomas. But today I'm making these on the grill and stuffing them too, so I wanted to share a bit more on this topic.

Stuffed and Ready to Eat
Now whether you get cold water (Maine) lobster or warmer water (spiny Florida or Caribbean) lobster, they are all dispatched and cooked in the same manner. The primary difference between the cold and warm water varieties is the lack of pincer claws in the warm water lobster. It is for this reason you'll want to select larger specimens if you go with spiny lobster, as the only real meat is in the tail.

Boiling and steaming lobster is perhaps the most popular method. That's because it is killed and cooked all in one step, by placing into the already hot pot. However if you are going to stuff, grill or bake lobster, you need to send them on to that great ocean in the sky (kill them) first. To do this it is best to put them in a cold, dark place and let them sit quietly for a while. Warm water lobster in a cooler with some chunks of ice will do the trick if left for about an hour. For a cold water lobster you'll need an even colder environment (more ice in your cooler or your freezer) for at least 15-20 minutes. The cold and darkness rather put them into a deep sleep and make it easier to handle them.

One Quick Cut and It's Done
Wearing a heavy glove, one at a time move the lobster to a cutting board. With a sharp tipped chef's knife, place the point just behind the head. On a cold water lobster there is a small hinge in the shell at this point. On a spiny warm water lobster, there is usually a small dot on the shell. With the blade facing toward the front of the lobster, plunge the point directly down through the shell and quickly push it forward cutting the lobster's head in half. The lobster is now dead. Turn the knife the other direction, insert into the same spot and cut the lobster tail end in half.

Then cut the other end in half.
Spiny lobster have a harder shell with spikes and you'll need some muscle to cut it in half. Heavy gloves are a must as the shell is after all 'spiny'. I sometimes use kitchen sheers especially for cutting the underside of the tail which is more of a thin but tough membrane.

One you have the lobster cut in half wash out the insides removing the internal organs and creating a place for your stuffing. Prepare any additional lobster one at a time.

While the grill is heating, prepare the stuffing below. Note it uses left-over rice of any variety. I usually have some white or yellow Spanish rush in the refrigerator. You can of course make fresh and include it after it is cooled.

1/2 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 stocks of celery, finely chopped
3 green onions, all of the white and a little of the green, finely chopped
             (or substitute 1/3 of a yellow onion)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Tabasco hot pepper sauce, to taste, 3-6 dashes
1 egg
1 cup cooked rice (any type)
3/4 cup of lump crab meat

4 tablespoons melted butter for basting
Paprika for color

Combine all of the above ingredients except for the rice and crab. Stir in the rice and gently fold in the lump crab trying not to shred it completely. The mixture may seem a bit dry, but the lobster shells will provide more moisture while it grilling/baking, so do not be concerned. Stuff the lobster body cavity, brush the lobster tail meat with butter and give it a light dusting of paprika.

Basting with Butter before Grilling

Place on a pre-heated grill (about 400F degrees) meat/stuffing side up and close the lid. Grill for 15-20 minutes until the lobster tail is cooked through. The lobster is done when the meat is opaque and feels firm when pushed with your finger or the temperature reaches 145F degrees at the center of the tail when measured with an instead read thermometer.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bacon Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin

This is any easy and fast weeknight dinner. Pork tenderloin can be both delicious and tricky. It is small and lean and if over-cooked can be dry and chewy. In this recipe the tenderloin is protected by a wrapping of bacon, which also adds fat to keep it moist and flavorful.

Julian's Bacon Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin
I purchase an individual fresh tenderloin at my local grocer. If you get yours in those vacuum packs that are nearly as big around as your wrist, understand it is two pieces of tenderloin inside, which is twice what I'm using the recipe below. If you plan to make the two of them, double the recipe.

I'm using the popular Major Grey's Chutney in this recipe, which you can find at most grocery stores. However, you can substitute another chutney or jam of your choice. I've used peach preserves with success in the past.

erves 4
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 to 6 slices bacon
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup Chutney (Major Grey's preferred)
2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the silverskin (the silvery-white connective tissue running along the top) from the pork tenderloin with a sharp knife, if the butcher has not already done so. Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels.

Lay the bacon strips parallel across a cutting board spread about the same as the length of your tenderloin. Place the tenderloin on the bacon.

Combine the brown sugar, salt, paprika, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub all of the mixture into the pork tenderloin turning it as necessary to coat all sides. Wrap the tenderloin with the strips of bacon, securing along the sides with toothpicks.

Ready for Browning
Heat the canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, or other oven-proof skillet, over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the bacon-wrapped tenderloin and sear — do not disturb it while it's searing — until deep caramel brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Flip the tenderloin and continue searing until the other side is browned.

Mix the chutney and mustard in a small bowl and brush generously over the top of the tenderloin.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook the tenderloin until a thermometer reads 140°F, approximately 10 to 14 minutes.

Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tenderloin to finish cooking and for the juices to redistribute into the meat. Remove toothpicks and slice into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for serving. Serve with any leftover chutney on the side.

Sliced and Ready for Serving