Cedar Planked Salmon for Sunday Dinner

For Sunday Dinner this week we grilled Cedar Planked Salmon, Brussels Sprouts and baked potatoes. Claudia made a nice salad, and baked an incredibly delicious chocolate and peanut butter cake for dessert.

For the salmon, I simply soak the planks in water for a couple hours, then place them on the grill to char a bit before turning them over and setting the salmon on them to cook for maybe 20 minutes. The salmon had been seasoned with Pork Producers seasoning, Old Bay and a sprinkle of Turbinado Sugar. I did the Brussels Sprouts on the plancha with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Claudia used a yellow cake mix, adding peanut butter and chocolate to some of the batter, and then drizzling Wilton PB melt over the chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Field Roast Franks, Chicago Style

Field Roast Frank, Baked Beans

Where I live in Greater Chicagoland, there is a particular way that we eat hot dogs, with yellow mustard, chopped onion, and a sweet fluorescent green relish that looks like something from a toxic waste spill. This is all usually topped with hot sport peppers, a dill pickle spear, some tomato wedges and celery salt for the finishing touch. You get extra points if you place all of this in a steamed bun, and if the hot dog in question is Vienna brand.

I broke with tradition for our Labor Day cookout this year. Instead of grilling burgers or bratwurst, or Vienna dogs, I cooked Field Roast vegan Frankfurters. I grilled off some Italian style chicken patties for the girls (who are carnivores), and made some sweet and savory baked beans as well.

I have to say that these Field Roast products are fabulous. I have never been one for “meat substitutes” and would rather just leave the meat out of a dish (for instance, chili or red sauce) or eat something else. The thing about these products is that they are meat. It’s just that they are grain meat instead of animal flesh.

Highly recommended.

Happy Labor Day!

Potato Curry and Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage Sausages

Potato Curry, Puri, Field Roast Apple SageI’ve just begun to learn to cook Indian fare. Spicy, plant-based dishes seem to give my body what it craves, and I’m enjoying exploring a cuisine that I’d not spent much time with in the past.

I had made potato curry for a weeknight meal on the spur of the moment awhile back, and it turned out right, so I decided to make it this week for Sunday Dinner. Also, I wanted to try out some Field Roast sausages on the recommendation of my friend, Eban Crawford. I picked up a package of their Frankfurters (saving those for tomorrow’s Labor Day cookout), some Brats, and the Smoked Apple Sage Sausages at Kankakee Natural Foods Friday in anticipation.

I also wanted to try making puri, which is an Indian whole wheat bread that has been rolled thin and then deep fried to puff up. The potatoes and puri combination would have been standard prasad at Kainchi Temple in India where an entire generation of Westerners went to learn from the great Indian Saint Maharaj-ji Neem Karoli Baba in the 1960s and 70s. The vegan sausages would not have been served, but I figured they would make a nice accompaniment, and add a little protein to the meal.

Everything turned out right. The curry could have used a little more kick, as far as I’m concerned. The puri bread was good, though I think for the bother, I would just opt for store bought naan from here forward. Maybe it’s one of those things you get a knack for and can speed the process up with experience. At least I’m no longer afraid to deep fry things.

The sausages were outstanding. Texture was amazing – so very much better than TVP products, and no soy involved for folks who are watching their intake. They delivered on a beautifully balanced sage and smoke flavor. They were just a tiny bit sweet to my taste, but I think that’s because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m really looking forward to cooking the franks on the grill tomorrow.

Recipes

Potato and Vegetable Curry

Sauté two big onions, rough chopped, in olive oil with salt and pepper.

Add several cloves of garlic and a couple pieces of fresh ginger, minced, and cook until fragrant.

Add these spices and toast until fragrant and well distributed.

  • 2 t Garam Masala
  • 2 t Curry Powder
  • 1 t Mustard Seed
  • 1 t Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 t Chili Powder
  • 1/2 t Turmeric
  • 1/2 t Paprika

Add 1 Can diced tomatoes.

Add 1 package frozen mixed vegetables.

Add 3 pounds of potatoes, cubed.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock.

Cover and cook on low simmer until potatoes are tender.

Make a slurry with one can of coconut milk and 3 T cornstarch, add it to the pot and cook uncovered until the curry thickens.

I think next time I would add some red pepper flakes at table to kick up the heat a bit.

Puri

I followed Swasthi’s recipe for these, as shown in the video below.

The frying was easy once I got the oil hot enough, and after the first two or three, the rest of the batch puffed up fine. It was pretty time consuming to prep and roll the dough out, though. As I mentioned above, maybe that’s a matter of experience. I’m glad that I tried them, but not sure I would invest the time again.

Vegetarian Pho

Vegan PhoI love Pho. It’s one of those foods that is not only tasty, but also soothing and comforting.

I learned to make it using beef bones and round roast. Since we have several folks in our family who do not eat meat, I had considered trying to make a vegan version, but since I thought there was no way that I’d be able to duplicate the satisfying richness of the “real thing” I didn’t attempt it until recently.

Lately, though, I’ve been moving more and more to a plant based diet myself. So I reviewed as many recipes as I could, and ultimately realized that I might be able to adapt the beef-based recipe that I already knew and loved.

Once the broth was done, here are the first impressions that I posted on Facebook:

I tried a plain cup as I doled it out into quart jars. Tastes pretty much exactly like the classic version, but lacks a teeny bit of the richness. Thinking that a little ghee or olive oil at table would fix that, if anybody notices. Maybe a little soy to kick up the umami. By the time I load my bowl up with scallions, hot peppers and sriracha, I don’t think it will matter to me.

This turned out to be true, but I really wanted to get it to the point where I could say “this is every bit as delicious as the original, and I don’t miss the beef at all.”

So I added a little more soy, some MSG and a teeny bit of olive oil to the broth, and it was perfect!

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 1/2 teapoons whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds<
  • 3 whole star anise (or 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed and 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed)
  • 3 red onions, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, rough chopped
  • 1 (4-inch) piece ginger, cut in 8ths
  • 7 Tablespoons Turbinado Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons fine sea salt (not iodized)
  • 1 1/2 Gallons Veggie Stock (I used the organic version from Aldi)
  • Soy Sauce
  • MSG

To Cook

Step 1:
Char onion, carrots and ginger either under the broiler or on the grill.

Step 2:
Toast cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, coriander, and star anise in a dry skillet over moderately high heat, shaking pan occasionally, until spices are aromatic, about 1 minute.

Step 3:
Bring stock to a boil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, ginger, and Turbinao sugar. Simmer for half an hour.
Add spices, and 2 1/2 tablespoons salt; simmer until spices are infused, about 1 hour.

Step 4:
Pour broth through a fine wire-mesh strainer. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 T salt, a little MSG and soy sauce.

This makes a lot of broth. I think next time unless I was serving a huge crowd, I would cut the stock down to a gallon. The good news is that it stores well, in quart jars in the fridge, or even frozen.

To Serve

Prepare dried thin rice noodles (banh pho) per package directions.

Place noodles in the bowl with sautéed mushrooms, tofu, or whatever else you would like, and add hot broth.

Top with:

  • julienne of  Napa Cabbage, bok choy, broccoli or such
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • basil leaves or small basil sprigs
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • sliced scallions
  • Fresno Chiles or Jalapeños, thinly sliced into rings
  • bean sprouts
  • lime quarters
  • sriracha

I’d love to hear back from you if you try this recipe, and any ideas you have for improvement. It definitely goes to the top on my “favorite recipes” list right off the bat, and I can’t wait to cook it again for the folks in our family who weren’t here during this first attempt.

I also look forward to sharing more plant-based fare on this weblog. As someone who has loved flesh-centric cooking for decades, it is both a challenge and a pleasure to work on alternative dishes which are just as satisfying, but fit a little better with a life devoted to health, spirituality and environmental concerns.

I’d always told folks that if I ever post “I’m enjoying this tofu” on social media, it’s code for “Help! I’ve been kidnapped!” But after trying it in this dish, I’m looking forward to what else I can do with it. 🙂

It’s The Cowboy Way

 

Chicken Fried Steak (and Chicken) – Sunday Dinner 14 April 2019

It was Aunt Pat’s last Sunday with us, so we fixed one of her favorites.

Chicken Fried Steak

I had always been afraid of deep frying for some reason, but after a trip to Horseshoe Hill in Fort Worth last year, I had to get over my fears and learn to cook chicken fried steak. Since Claudia isn’t a fan of the steak, I made breaded chicken for her once and it turned out well, and so now I usually make some of each. Aunt Pat’s favorite is chicken, and she asked for this meal as her last in our home before she moves to California later this month.

The recipe is here. I used eye of round steak for mine and Cousin Joe’s, and chicken breasts for the rest of the table. This batch turned out better than any I’ve ever made. In the past, I used a cast iron Dutch Oven on the theory that it would hold a steadier temperature, but I’ve had uneven results, with some cutlets burned a bit and others under done. This time I used a steel pot, and it was much easier to adjust and keep the temperature of the oil right around 350 °F.

Claudia made garlic mashed potatoes, a nice green salad and some killer green beans for sides, and I made a batch of Cowboy Caviar. Wine was a 2014 Crystal Creek Cellars Columbia Valley Riesling, which was a steal from Aldi’s.

Oh, and Claudia made Lemon Lush and Chocolate Lush for dessert.

Lemon Lush

We’ll be missing Aunt Pat at our Sunday Table. We’re thankful for the time that we’ve had together these past couple of years, and send her off to her new adventures in the Golden State with our best wishes and all of our love.

Crock Pot Lasagna

Sunday Dinner – 7 April 2019

I don’t know that I could live without my crockpot. I use it at least once a week during the fall and winter for a big pot of soup or stew. And when we’ve got a jam packed weekend with barely any extra time to spare, it is a lifesaver. I know there’s a lot of hype about the insta pot, but really, if you’ve preplanned, to me the crockpot is the way to go.

One of my standbys for the crockpot is lasagna. You prepare your lasagna exactly like you would if you were putting it in the oven, with just a few minor differences:

  • I don’t cook my lasagna noodles, even if I’m doing it in the oven. You definitely wouldn’t want to cook them if you’re using the crockpot
  • I used one 24 oz jar of pasta sauce and added an 8 oz can of tomato sauce, and some tomato paste that was left over and in the fridge (mainly just to use it up). I didn’t add a bunch of extra liquid to the sauce like I would if it were going into the over because the crockpot should actually create that moisture. The last thing I wanted was lasagna soup…
  • spray the heck out of the crockpot with cooking spray – you’ll thank me later
  • start with a very thin layer of the meat sauce on the bottom, then noodles, cheese mixture, shredded cheese, meat, noodles, cheese mixture, shredded cheese, meat & top with even more shredded cheese. You might have enough stuff to make more layers, and it always depends on crock pot size.
  • don’t be afraid to break the noodles into various sizes to cover your layer..the shape of the crockpot isn’t exactly conducive to easy layers

I actually assembled it all on Sunday night, then turned the crockpot on low around 11 a.m. Sunday morning. It was perfect when we sat down for dinner at 5.

Brian said it was the best lasagna he’s ever had…gosh I love him…

Lasagna Plated

Of course, Sunday dinner would not be complete without a salad. The usual fixings, except I kicked it up a notch and shredded some fresh parmesan on top. For the dressing I used a raspberry balsamic vinegar because it’s Aunt P’s (I’ve been calling her that lately…not sure why!) favorite.

I picked up some Italian bread from Aldi, sliced it fairly thin, buttered it, sprinkled it with parsley garlic salt and shredded parmesan and popped it into a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes until it was crunchy.

I really need to broaden my Italian dessert horizons. My go to is tiramisu. It is so easy, people! The hardest thing about it is finding the lady fingers, and the past couple of times I’ve used Stella D’oro Margherite cookies and honestly, if you let it sit just a little longer than if using the lady fingers, I think I prefer them. I’ve been making this for a good 10 years now and I can tell you, once I got my Kitchen Aid mixer, it only got better! Here is the recipe:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 Tblsp sugar
  • 1 lb mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups strong espresso (or REALLY strong coffee), cooled
  • 2 tsp dark rum
  • 24 packaged Italian lady finger cookies
  • dark chocolate for shaving/grating

In a large bowl using electric mixer with whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar until think and pale in color, about 5 minutes.

Add the cheese and beat until smooth. Add 1 Tblsp of espresso and mix thoroughly.

In a small shallow dish, add remaining espresso and rum, stirring well. Dip each lady finger on both sides, about 5 seconds or so. Line the bottom of a 13 x 9 with half of the lady fingers, breaking them as necessary to fit the bottom of the dish. Don’t worry about them touching each other – they will expand some.

Evenly spread half of the mascarpone/egg mixture on top of the lady fingers. Arrange another layer of soaked cookies on top of that, and finish the the rest of the marcarpone/egg mixture.

Cover the tiramisu and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, and up to 8 hours, before serving.

I grate squares of Tcho dark chocolate on top just before serving.  (Tcho is seriously the BEST dark chocolate that I’ve ever had, and you should totally check out their website, or visit if you happen to be in San Fran).

Tiramisu

Music was Claudio Villa, and wine was a nice Bolla Chianti.

This week we also had the pleasure of my cousin Joe joining us. It’s bittersweet because we won’t have Aunt P every week with us here shortly…

Another Rotisserie Chicken

Sunday Dinner- 31 March 2019

Rotisserie Chicken

This week we inaugurated the Weber Kettle Rotisserie for 2019, with a whole chicken and drip pan potatoes. It was a small fryer this time, a little less than four pounds. I used the Custom Culinary spice for dry brining, and chunks of cherry wood on the coals. I also cut up about four pounds of potatoes and par cooked them in the microwave for 15 minutes before putting them in the pan.

Because of the cold temperature, after an hour the interior of the breast was still only about 147 °F, so I moved everything to the Genesis gas grill, with the chicken on top of the potatoes, to finish.

We served this with one of Claudia’s lovely green salads and raided the freezer for some delicious local sweet corn that our brother-in-law, Jeff, had given us. Wine was Butter Chardonnay, and Aunt Pat brought a lemon meringue pie from Blue’s Cafe for dessert.

Greek Fest 2019

Sunday Dinner – 24 March 2019

Yes, we do an annual Greek Fest in our house. No, we are not Greek. It’s usually in the winter to early spring as it’s a hearty, comforting meal. It only happens annually because it took me a solid 5 hours in the kitchen this year, and that’s with assistance from Brian, Mom and Aunt Pat. It takes me that long to recover!!!

When we went to Steubenville OH several years ago for the annual Dean Martin Festival held on Father’s Day weekend, we stumbled on the Greek Orthodox Church’s annual festival on the Friday and I think it’s fair to say that it changed my life. I went back to work and explained to my coworkers this amazing food I’d eaten, and that’s how I got the moussaka and spanakopita recipes – a photocopy of a newspaper article from 1983 that had the recipes that I still use today.

Lots of chopping and multiple steps to this meal. Nothing inherently tricky from a cooking or baking perspective. But it is worth every minute!

To start we had a Greek salad with romaine hearts, thin sliced red onions, cucumbers, tomato, oregano, kalamata olives and feta tossed with a homemade balsamic vinegarette (olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, sugar & oregano).

The spanakopita was served with the salad while the moussaka finished baking. I will say that to have another set of hands to deal with the phyllo is critical (at least for me). That and keeping the dough in a dampened cloth so it doesn’t dry out too much. (scroll down to the end for the recipe)

The moussaka was beautiful. If you’re unfamliar with this dish, it’s Greek lasagna, but using sliced eggplant instead of pasta, and bechamel instead of a heavy amount of cheese. I used three eggplants, which my husband pre cooked on the grill to save me some time, but I could’ve used four. I also use 1 lb of lamb and 1 lb of ground beef to add another dimension to the flavor. And as typical of my style, I used more cinnamon that the recipe called for, as well as additional tomato paste and wine (1 C instead of 1/4). The bechamel was easy peasy, but I had to use ground nutmeg instead of fresh (since I dropped my last nut in the bread pudding from Mardi Gras weekend). Normally I just buy shredded parmesan but this time I bought a wedge and grated it for each of the layers. (keep scrolling for the recipe)

So I have a confession. I’m afraid of frying anything using more than just a scant coating of oil in a pan, so my usual dessert for this dinner is cream puffs. But that didn’t feel authentic enough for me. Boy do the Greek people like their deep fried dough or what??? I didn’t want to overload on phyllo, either, so baklava was out. A search for Greek desserts resulted in this Revani cake. It wasn’t too intimidating as I’d made a Basbousa cake when we fixed Palestinian food. The beating of the meringue separately was new, and the orange flavor was different. But it was very good, especially with the cinnamon/brandy syrup. Whipped up some homemade whipped cream and it was DELICIOUS. I would definitely make this again.

Revani

 

We started with a Greek Retsina wine from Tsantali, which was supposed to have hints of pine. Totally tasted like cheese that just started to mold to me. That didn’t stop me from finishing my glass though. The ladies around the table agreed it was not a favorite, so we switched to a bottle of F. Stephen Millier’s Lodi Shuraz instead. MUCH better pairing for me.

Aside from the leftovers in the fridge, it’ll be 2020 before I eat this meal again. Although I do have a roll of phyllo dough left to do something with…more spanakopita it is!

 

Here are the recipes, as printed in the Mattoon Journal-Gazette on 23 June 1983.

Moussaka

  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 3 med. eggplants
  • Butter for frying
  • 4T.butter
  • 3 Ig. onions, chopped fine
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 3 T. chopped parsley
  • 14 tsp. cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 1 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese Breadcrumbs

White Sauce:

  • 4 T. butter
  • 6 level T. flour
  • 2 cups hot rich milk
  • 12 tsp. salt
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2 egg yolks, well-beaten

Cut the eggplants (unpeeled) into thick slices and fry quickly in butter on each side until light brown. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and saute the meat until brown. Add onions and cook for 10 minutes longer. Add tomato paste, diluted with wine, the parsley, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and when cool, mix in eggs. Meanwhile, combine ingredients for white sauce: Heat butter and blend in flour, stirring steadily; when bubbling slightly, add milk slowly, stirring constantly. Continue cooking over low heat until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat and add salt and nutmeg. Pour finished sauce over the beaten egg yolks. Grease a medium-sized, square or oblong roasting pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Arrange alternate layers of eggplant and meat with’ bottom and top layers of eggplant. Sprinkle each layer with cheese and bread crumbs. Cover with white sauce. (The sauce forms a thick . crust on top of the Moussaka.) Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Bake, in a 375 degree oven for about 1 hour, or until top is golden. Remove from oven and allow to set for a few minutes before serving. Cut in squares.

Spanakopita

  • 3 pkgs. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 lb. phyllo sheets
  • 1/2 lb. cottage cheese
  • 1/2 lb. butter, melted
  • 2 T. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 2 small dry onions
  • 1/2T.salt
  • 1 T. dried mint leaves
  • 1/2 C. grated Greek Cheese, (feta)
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 bunch green onions
  • 1 T. dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 4T. flour

Chop onions and soften in 1 stick butter. Take thawed spinach and squeeze dry. Put in large bowl. After onions are softened, add parsley. Beat eggs. Cool onions. To the spinach add cheese, egsg, dill, mint, flourv cottage” cheese; ” and pepper: t Stir. Add onions after they have cooled. Oh bottom of 9-11 pan place ten buttered sheets of phyllo.

Put spinach mixture over phyllo in pan. Cover with 14 more buttered sheets of phyllo. Cool in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. Cut the top of the Spanakopeta (like a cake, 4 down and 6 across). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool before serving.

St. Paddy’s Day 2019

Sunday Dinner – 17 March 2019

St. Paddy Snow

The scene out our back windows Sunday Morning showed no hint of green, as a late season snow had covered everything in downy white. Inside the mood was festive though, with St. Paddy’s Day Radio from Sirius XM streaming throughout the house. I began peeling carrots about 7:30, and had them sautéing with onions and shallots before eight. I’d picked up two nice flat cut corned beef briskets (Morton’s of Omaha) from Aldi. They went into the pot next, along with malt vinegar, pickling spices and a can of Guinness.

Corned Beef in the Pot

After that simmered for five hours, I added about three pounds of red potatoes and a couple small heads of cabbage cut into wedges.

This was the second year using this recipe from Sunset Magazine. It turned out perfect this time. Last year I’d used cheaper point cuts from Jewel or somewhere, and it was good, but this year’s meal was dramatically better.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Claudia made dark chocolate Guinness cupcakes with vanilla icing and caramel that were awesome.

Guinness Cupcakes

For the wine pairing, surely you jest.

Irish Libations

So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Pho

Sunday Dinner – 10 March 2019

Pho

I love the Pho from Koi Asian Bistro, and have thought about making my own for years, but was a little intimidated by the process. I actually bought a 12-quart stock pot more than a year ago, for the express purpose of making a batch, but didn’t get around to doing it until this weekend.

I used Chef Qui Tran’s recipe, from Nudo House in St. Louis. I followed the recipe to the letter, with the following exceptions. Not finding knuckle bones, I substituted soup bones and shanks. For the rock candy, I used Turbinado Sugar. Star anise wasn’t available in our town, so I used anise seed and fennel seed. Finally, in place of the flank steak, I used bottom round roast.

We served the broth over rice noodles and thin slices of the beef, with bean sprouts, scallions, red onions, Jalapeño slices, lime wedges, Sriracha and chiffonade of basil.

Claudia made an incredible lime and ginger dressed salad for the side, and a Vietnamese coffee mousse for dessert.

Coffee Mousse

Wine was a beautiful Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc from Franc Dusak, which paired perfectly. The other choices would have been rosé or Pinot Noir, but I can’t imagine those being any better.

I think the only change I would make next time would be to brown the bones and onions under the broiler a bit before starting the broth. The other note is that this should be served piping hot, which I was inattentive to because of the timing of the meal this time.

A little of the Sriracha goes a long way, by the way. I put some on every bite of meat, which was fine, but by the end of the bowl of broth, it had added quite a bit of spice. Caroline seemed to like it. A drop or two on a tiny slice of meat, and she said “Oooh!”