Too Awesome to Not Blog About

June 16, 2015

mahi-mahi-on-the-grillFirst off, don’t get too excited…this does not mean we are back to regular posting after a 3-year hiatus. Someday, perhaps, but not now.

That said, the recipe we concocted Sunday night was so ridiculously delicious that it could not go unpromoted. And even more astounding is that nothing was looked up online, no ideas were culled from outside sources. This developed independently in my mind, and sure satisfied the ego along with our palates. Actually, “satisfied” is way too tame a term to describe the meal; “heaven on a plate” is more apt.

It started with a delivery of fresh strawberries from the farm co-op we belong to. Then the idea of pairing them with jalapenos flowed through the brain, and a sauce was born. But on what shall this sauce reside, I wondered aloud to no one in particular. “Fish!” shouted a voice from the empty cavern of my skull. Ok, fish it is. And then I thought grilling the fish would be a fabulous idea. So at the grocery store, I perused the oceanic offerings and noticed something this market doesn’t usually carry: red snapper. Beautiful skin-on filets with that pink hue coursing throughout the fishy flesh. And it’s way easier to grill fish with skin than without because it doesn’t fall apart (plus that thin crispness is to die for). I’d never grilled fish with skin before, but this meal was taking shape in my mind and I had to follow through.

So I put the sauce together, got the fish oiled up and seasoned, and I planned to serve it over rice (I should have also included asparagus or some other green vegetable, but I was too focused on the fish and sauce). I did grab a shallot and threw that on the grill as well, and man, am I glad I did. The sauce has a great balance of sweetness and spice, which really perk up the relatively bland fish, the rice soaks up that saucy goodness, and the shallot added an awesome bite of umami that tied everything together.

All in all, I was in such awe of this dish that I felt compelled to return to the blog. Hopefully it’s a harbinger of more recipes to come. Enjoy!

Snappy Snapper with Strawberry-Jalapeno Sauce

(serves 2)

2/3 lb. red snapper filet, skin on

olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cups fresh strawberries, stems removed

1 small or 1/2 medium jalapeno, stemmed (keep the seeds!)

1 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Heat a well-oiled grill to medium heat. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, then thinly coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. When grill is ready, place fish skin-down directly on the grate. Cook about 8 minutes, checking for doneness by folding the filet from one end toward the other – when it flakes, it’s done (do not overcook!).

(If you’re grilling onions or a shallot, put them on the grill with the fish, turning once to char both sides.)

While fish cooks, put strawberries, jalapeno, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a food processor and blend until well combined. Heat in a saucepan over low heat until warm. Serve fish (and onions/shallot if using) over rice, then pour sauce evenly over everything. Eat!


The Infinity of Rick Bayless’ Divinity

August 24, 2012

You know, it’s getting to the point where if Rick Bayless gave me a recipe for stewed monkey brains with rabbit feces, toilet paper and chalk, I’d probably make it…and it would be delicious. I’m not sure how we hadn’t made today’s recipe thus far, but it’s fantastic. It’s almost like a chunky chicken and potato salad hybrid, infused with oregano, vinegar, spicy chipotles, crunchy Romaine, and sweet and creamy avocado. Rick’s original recipe calls for the chipotles to be seeded, but we kept the seeds and added a little honey to offset the spiciness a bit. We used a rotisserie chicken, but any leftover chicken you have would be fine. It’s a one-dish meal, perfect for warm summer days. Enjoy!

Chipotle Chicken Salad Tacos with Avocado, Red-Skin Potatoes and Romaine

(serves 4)

1 large red-skin potato or Yukon Gold, sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 tbsp. salt
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, chopped

1 tsp. honey
¼ small white onion, finely chopped
6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) coarsely shredded cooked chicken breast
2 cups sliced romaine leaves – slice them about ¼ inch across
1 ripe avocado, cut into ¼ inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 warm corn tortillas

Place the sliced potatoes into a large microwavable bowl, pour in ¼ cup of water and sprinkle generously with salt. Cover and microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and let cool, reserving cooking liquid. Add the vinegar, oregano, chipotles, honey, and onion to the bowl with the potato water to make the dressing. Mix and then add salt. Use a fork to break up the potatoes into ½ inch pieces, then place them in a large bowl. Add the chicken and the dressing, and toss to combine. Refrigerate it for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Just before serving, add the lettuce and avocado, and drizzle with olive oil and toss gently to combine. Serve with warm tortillas. Eat!


A Tale of Two Tunas

August 23, 2012

Until about a week ago, the only tuna ever prepared at the MHK was the kind that comes in a can with some misnomer about a chicken named Charlie Tuna or something like that (actually only Mrs. MHK has made that). But we love tuna in restaurants, especially raw as in sushi or a tartare. So recently we came across a couple of tuna recipes that sounded great, so we gave them a shot. We were disappointed with both, but I don’t think it had to do with the recipes themselves – it had to do with the quality of the tuna. It seems restaurants get a much better tuna than our local supermarket does. You can tell just by the smell – ours smelled a little fishy, and that comes from not being super fresh. Plus it wasn’t nearly as tender as you find in restaurants. The dishes otherwise tasted good.

The first was a seared tuna with Bajan seasoning – Bajan, apparently, refers to the type of cuisine found in Barbados…who knew? But as you can see from the recipe, the flavors were really nice – garlic, jalapeno, shallots, and fresh herbs made for a nicely balanced marinade. Had the tuna been of better quality, it would have been a knockout dish.

The other recipe we tried was from the awesome Sriracha Cookbook for Turned-Up Tuna Tartare. With heat from the Sriracha and wasabi powder balanced with citrus from grapefruit, plus shallots and green onions, the marinade was delicious. But again, the raw tuna cubes just didn’t do it for me…slicing them thinly may have helped a bit, but I really think it’s the freshness and sub-sushi grade of the tuna that is very discouraging. But that’s why we do what we do – always trying new things, and we always will. And you’ll have to hear about it. Enjoy.


The Breakfast Cupcake

August 22, 2012

So at my day job, a colleague brought cupcakes in for a birthday celebration. They were so good, I begged her for the recipe so I could share it with all of you. Yes, they were that good. They were a perfect reconstruction of a hearty breakfast – buttermilk pancakes, bacon, and maple syrup. They didn’t taste like dessert – they literally tasted like a plate of pancakes and bacon with maple syrup. Uncanny. The pancake cupcake was a stroke of genius; the frosting was surprisingly light and delicate, not dense and overpowering. And the sweet and smoky bacon on top was the icing on the…well, you know what I mean. I really expected it to be too sweet with all of those sugary components, but it was just right. Thank you Deb! Enjoy.

Pancake Cupcakes with Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon

2 cups Bisquick (original, baking mix)

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

¼ cup butter, melted

4 tbsp sugar

Preheat your oven 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients until blended. Fill lined muffin or cupcake tins. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until your tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

Maple-Butter Frosting Recipe

1 cup softened, unsalted butter
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. maple extract/flavoring

¾ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner’s sugar

Beat the softened butter, cream cheese, brown sugar and salt in a medium-sized bowl until fluffy. While you continue beating, add both the maple flavoring and the vanilla. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and gradually increase the speed to high. Continue beating until the icing is fluffy. Chill the maple-butter frosting for one hour before using.

 Candied Bacon 

4-6 bacon slices
Brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place rack in center of foil. Dredge bacon slices with brown sugar and lay on rack. Bake until sugar is melted, about 8 minutes. Turn bacon over and continue baking until bacon is deep brown and glazed, 12-14 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Cool bacon completely on rack. Cut into 1/4-inch dice or crumble.

Assemble cupcakes and add bacon to the top. Eat!­


Seoul Food

August 21, 2012

I don’t know if there is such a thing as Korean soul food, but if so, I think this would qualify. It’s so absolutely delicious, bursting with the aromatic flavors of garlic and ginger, sweetness from brown sugar, salty soy sauce, and fiery pepper paste and pepper flakes. The original recipe, from www.maangchi.com, calls for pork belly. We didn’t feel like going to the Asian market, so we used boneless pork chops and they worked just fine (though we did slightly overcook them). But you could certainly use chicken, thinly sliced beef, or tofu and it would still be terrific (you’ll just need to adjust the cooking time depending on the protein you use).

The pepper paste gochujang is what really gives the dish a great texture – you can find it in your Asian market in varying degrees of spiciness (get at least the medium one – it’s not that spicy).

We served this with a fantastic new product we found at Trader Joe’s – frozen kimchi fried rice. Despite being microwaved in a plastic bag, I was fluffy, moist, and flavorful. There weren’t many pieces of kimchi in it, but it was a little spicy and very tasty. Good for the Seoul. Enjoy!

(Insert unpronounceable Korean name) Spicy Korean Stir-fried Pork

(serves 4)

1½ pounds boneless pork chops, cut into bite size pieces about ¼ inch thick

1 medium onion, sliced

3 scallions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. minced ginger

1/3 cup gochujang

2 tbsp. hot pepper flakes

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. soy sauce

½ tsp. black ground pepper

2 tsp. of sesame oil

1 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Heat a wok or deep skillet over high heat. Place all ingredients except the sesame seeds into the pan. Mix and stir with a wooden spoon, until the pork is cooked thoroughly, about 7-8 minutes. Transfer it to a serving plate, sprinkle sesame seeds on top, and serve with rice and kimchi. Eat!



August 20, 2012

Not much else to say, really. We’ll be here on September 2nd!


Refried, Reborn

August 17, 2012

It just goes to show – no matter your age, you’re never too old to start liking a new food. For the last, well – 40-ish years or so – I had never made a particular item in our kitchen. And with our love of Mexican food, it seems unlikely that this item, very common in Mexican cooking, has never made it to our table. But the fact is that for the last, well – 40-ish years or so – I have had a disdain for this comestible. We’re not sure what caused a change of heart, but this week I purchased, cooked, and ate…beans. Many of you just became completely indifferent to this post, but for those of you who have known me for a while, you know that eating beans here is a big deal.

Now before anyone gets too celebratory, I must concede that it was refried beans that I made – but again, for someone who has never ever, ever prepared or even liked beans, this was a culinary event. So what was the motivation after all these years to finally consume some legumes? Back in December we visited a place called Gloria’s Café in Los Angeles, a Salvadoran restaurant with terrific food. At said eatery we were served refried beans, and they were terrific. For some reason that experience came to the forefront of my foodie brain this week and I bought a can of Goya’s Rancheros Refried Pinto Beans to make some bean, rice, and cheese burritos. The “Ranchero” refers to the beans being cooked with tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and spices, and even on their own, they were quite tasty. Wrapped in a flour tortilla with rice and cheese, they were even better.

The main reason for my not liking beans is their texture – I just don’t enjoy those semi-firm, slippery little buggers. But frijoles refritos are very mushy, so that helps explain why I can tolerate – nay, like – that varietal of bean. And it only took me, well, 40-ish years to figure it out.

Oh, you want the recipe for the burrito? Sure – ok, it’s pretty complex. Take a large flour tortilla. Cook some rice. Heat the beans until hot. Spread the beans on the tortilla. Scoop some rice on the tortilla. Crumble cheese on the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla. Eat. Enjoy!


Cobb-led Salad

August 15, 2012

There is some controversy regarding the history of the Cobb salad. Some report that the owner of L.A.’s famous Brown Derby restaurant, Robert Cobb, created it himself in the late 20’s or early 30’s; others say it was his head chef that created it, and still others say the chef created it and named it for the owner. (Those of you who watch the show “Curb Your Enthusiasm” may recall an episode where the origin of the salad is questioned.) Our theory is that “Cobb” is actually short for “cobble,” in that this salad was simply cobbled together with various ingredients. Regardless of its past, it’s a tasty salad that, when done the right way, bursts with flavors and can be relatively healthy. This recipe features most of the usual Cobb salad ingredients, with a nice shallot-infused vinaigrette with a hint of mustard. The real key to a good Cobb is the freshness of the turkey or chicken. We bought a rotisserie-cooked turkey breast at the market and chopped it up; it really elevated the salad to a new level. The bacon and blue cheese add some saltiness and tang, the tomatoes give it sweetness and some acidity, and the buttery avocado adds some creaminess that really ties it all together. Plus the dressing really brings out the flavors well. It’s a simple version of a simple dish – but when the simple things are done right, it’s always delicious. Enjoy!

The MHK’s Cobb-led Together Salad

(serves 2)

1 shallot, minced

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. spicy/Dijon mustard

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 head leaf lettuce (Boston, butter, green), chopped

2 cups cooked turkey or chicken breast, chopped

4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped

1 Roma tomato, diced

2 oz. blue cheese crumbles

1 ripe avocado, sliced

Mix the first five ingredients together in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Arrange lettuce on plates. Top with turkey, bacon, tomato, cheese, and avocado. Drizzle dressing over each salad. Eat!


Trader Joe’s in Albany: We’re Goin’ In!

August 14, 2012

Ok, one more Trader Joe’s-related post. Sorry, we just can’t help our excitement. On Sunday we finally ventured to the strip mall that houses the California-based grocery store that is so beloved by its fans around the country. We expected a massive traffic jam, both with cars and with people at 11:30am, but we were pleasantly surprised. We cruised into the parking lot, directed by a police officer, and found a space almost instantly (ok, we had to walk about 50 feet to the front of the store). Inside it was definitely busy, but no busier than we remember any run-of-the-mill Sunday back in California. And it just felt so good to be there – like we were home. We had to keep reminding ourselves not buy everything we saw that we wanted, as we have done when stocking up at TJ’s in MA or downstate. This one was in our own town! We could just come back in a few days! Or tomorrow! Or a few hours later! We’ll just have to get used that. We did stock up on some frozen meals and lunch-type items like the lobster sushi roll, kim chee fried rice, black bean and cheese enchiladas, ginger sesame noodle salad, green chile and cheese tamales, spicy Thai chicken salad, and the Middle Eastern Feast (falafel, pita, hummus, and tabouli). We also picked up a jar of their awesome tomato-less corn salsa, a box of Joe’s O’s cereal, all natural Hansen’s soda, and their delicious dried tortellini. We also picked up a couple of sweet treats that we hadn’t tried before – Fleur de Sel caramels and their Stone Ground Salt and Pepper Dark Chocolate. The caramels, supposedly made with hand-collected sea salt from the French coast, tasted just like plain old caramel candy to us – not sure where the salt went. The dark chocolate was very interesting – we could definitely taste the salt, and the pepper came through in the back of the throat after swallowing each bite. It was a good layering of flavors; the chocolate was sweet and a little bitter, and then the saltiness and the bite of the pepper came through. Not sure if we’d get this regularly, but it was quite unique.

And with that, we promise to go for a while without posting about Trader Joe’s…unless something blog-worthy arises. Enjoy.


Chicken: Inspired

August 13, 2012

“Chicken is so boring!” That mantra is something not only uttered by certain 5-year-olds who reside at the MHK, but also by plenty of adults out there. We feel sorry for anyone who feels that way – yes, a plain cooked piece of unseasoned, skinless chicken is boring, agreed. But honestly, if that’s the kind of chicken you’re eating, you have no right to hyperbolize chicken and its excitement factor. We submit that even the pickiest chicken eaters out there will go nuts – peanuts – for this recipe. This dish, presented by the Hannaford Supermarket magazine, is made with common Thai ingredients like coconut milk, curry powder, ginger, fish sauce, and peanuts, but it’s not really something you’d see on a Thai restaurant menu. Regardless, it’s frickin’ delicious. The sweetness of the coconut milk and peanut butter is balanced by the kick of the garlic and ginger, the salty fish sauce, and the aromatic curry powder, and the turmeric adds some earthiness and bright color. We served this with a salad made with a cilantro-basil dressing. Add some rice for a complete and healthy meal that tastes fantastic. Enjoy!

Thai-Inspired Chicken Thighs

(serves 4)

1 tablespoon light coconut milk

1 tablespoon peanut butter

2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce

1 ½ to 2 lb. boneless chicken thighs

1 tbsp. chopped roasted peanuts

Preheat grill to medium high. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, turmeric, curry, sugar, and fish sauce until evenly blended. Pat the mixture all over the chicken thighs. Let marinate at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Brush hot grill with vegetable oil. Place thighs on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until well marked. Turn and continue to grill until done, about 5 to 6 minutes more. Divide on to plates, sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Eat!