Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conserving energy, staying cool and chilling......

Summer has been quite something for our little part of the world and so far there aren't any signs that it will mellow out, so everyone has switched into a "shut in" kind of mode, people are staying home during the day and only coming out after dark (yes, vampire city lives!) in order to stay out of the sun and heat as much as possible.... and with temperatures over 110 degrees, can you blame us? (although the news always reports much lower temps.... they must have a different kind of thermometer I guess...)

So now that we've turned into "mole" or "bubble" people, what do we do all day? Got plenty of little projects all over that keep me entertained from two writing projects to reading to spur of the moment items that I had forgotten about; of course part of my day revolves around how to keep the house cool while still making great goodies for my guys to eat that everyone "feels like" regardless of what the weather is like outside.

I've been doing lots of research lately, on all my projects, so I've got some variations on some classics you might like, and maybe even give a try..... I get lots of replies to my posts but I'm sorry to say that most say "dishes sound great, if I was more adept at cooking maybe I'd give them a try" or "makes lovely reading" but few actually tell me they've been produced at home and what their results were.....

Here are some of my new "tweeked" dishes that we have liked (yes, we do make and eat them) and I won't post anything that wasn't given "thumbs up" by us......

Grilled Seafood Salad.- Always a great dish to present, you shouldn't have to wait until summer......

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb sea scallops
1 cup shredded radicchio
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup diced tomato
3 tbl chopped fresh coriander
2 tbl chopped fresh mint
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 tbl fresh lime juice
hot sauce (optional)

Heat grill to high and grill seafood on each side, turning once, for about 4 min. Don't overcook or it will turn the seafood tough. Remove from heat and cool. Cut seafood into bite-size pieces. Toss with remaining ingredients and season to taste and chill. If preparing more than 2 hours ahead of time, add radicchio just before serving.

Tabouli Salad.- Not just healthy, but so flavorful and simply great!

2 cups cracked wheat (bulghur) (I leave this off sometimes....)
2 cups very hot water
1 cucumber, chopped
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch green onions, (8) sliced
1/2 cup fresh chopped mint
2 cups fresh chopped parsley (I do half cilantro and half parsley too)
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbl pepper
2 tsp salt, or to taste

Soak the cracked wheat in the hot water until the water is absorbed, about 30 min. When it's ready, drain any excess water, if necessary, and squeeze dry.

Meantime, prepare the vegetables for the salad and mix the dressing ingredients together. Set aside. Stir the prepared wheat, other salad ingredients, and dressing together in a medium bowl. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
NOTE: I also add black olives, cucumbers or anything else that suits my fancy....

Rosemary Maple Chicken.- Doesn't that sound delicious?

1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted butter
3 long sprigs of rosemary
2 - 4 lb whole chickens, rinsed and patted dry (one is never enough, great leftovers!)
4 lemons, cut in half
2 bunches fresh thyme and rosemary
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper

Place the maple syrup and the butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Bring to a simmer and then remove. Remove from stalk and bruise the rosemary with the back of your knife and place it into the maple butter sauce. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature.

Stuff each chicken cavity with 4 lemon halves, half of the rosemary and half the thyme sprigs. Truss chickens with butchers twine (tie the legs together to close). Mount the chickens to the bbq rotisserie spit and secure in place in the center of the rod so that they will cook over the middle grate of the barbecue when the rod is in place. (I cook it on the grill or on a Coke can instead since I don't have a rotisserie)

Drizzle the meat with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Remove the rosemary sprigs from the cool butter sauce and set 1/2 cup aside for basting the chicken. Fill the barbeque injector with the remaining sauce and inject the maple rosemary butter into the thickest parts of the bird until it is plump and juicy. Prepare barbeque for indirect rotisserie cooking by keeping the middle burner off and leaving the 2 side burners on medium heat 350F . (Or split the charcoal in half and leave the center empty). Place a drip pan on the center grill. Mount the rotisserie being sure that the chickens rotate over the middle grate where the drip pan will catch any run off juices. Close lid and cook the chicken for 1.5 - 2 hours basting with the reserved maple rosemary sauce and any pan drippings every 20 min. Chicken is cooked when a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 160F. Remove the chickens from grill and cover in tin foil for 15 min before carving.
NOTE: I've even done these in the oven (with liquid smoke) and they still work!

BBQ Pulled Pork.- Don't let this recipe turn you off, it's easy and comes out great!

Dry Rub: (if you make more just store and use on other things, pretty good)
1/4 cup brown sugar lightly packed
2 tbl cracked black pepper
1/4 cup paprika
1 tbl garlic powder
1 tbl onion powder
2tsp coriander powder
1 tbl dry mustard powder
1 tbl coarse salt
1 tbl ground cayenne

BBQ Mop: (you can use this or just use the sauce for everything...)
1 2/3 cups ketchup
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tbl Worcestershire sauce
4 tsp paprika
4 tsp dry mustard powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt

Dipping Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
2 cups tomato sauce
1 can whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce diced fine (start slow, very spicy)
1 tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 tbl molasses
2 tbl apple cider vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup apple sauce

BBQ Pork
1 - 6 lbs. pork butt or shoulder
12 cups mesquite wood chips (8 cups soaked in cool water for 1 hour and drained)

BBQ Rub:Combine rub ingredients in a small bowl, mix until all ingredients are evenly combined. Place pork on a tray and rub the mixture into the flesh using slight pressure to tear little pockets of flavor in the meat. Place rubbed pork in a large sealable bag. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

BBQ Mop:Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined. Reserve 3/4 cup of the mop to pour over the pulled pork when finished cooking. During the cooking mop the pork every 1/2 hour using a mop brush.

Dipping Sauce: Place all sauce ingredients into a medium saucepan and place over med high heat. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 min. Remove from heat and set aside.

The following day, let 8 cups of wood chips soak for 1 hour in cool water. Drain wood chips. To make the smoke pouches, place 2 cups of the drained wet chips with 1 cup of the dry. Mix until evenly distributed. Wrap chips in foil to fit the size of your barbeque burner. Using a fork, pierce the package several times all over to allow the smoke to escape. Repeat with remaining chips to create 2 pouches in total. Prepare barbeque for indirect cooking. Leave 2 burners off and one burner on. (or if using charcoal, split in half and put half on either side) Place a drip pan on the side of the barbeque that is off. Place a smoking pouch on the side that is turned on, directly over the burner. Place the pork on the grill over the drip pan. Cook for 5-6 hours (about an hour a lb) changing the smoke pouch when smoke dissipates. During the cooking mop the pork every 1/2 hour using a mop brush.

Remove the pork from the grill and loosely cover with foil. Let rest for 30 min. Using your hands (rubber gloves recommended) or a fork pull at the pork meat. It will come off in threads. Serve pulled pork with reserved barbeque mop sauce and dipping sauce on soft rolls.

Creamy Strawberry Souffle.- Rich and creamy, just lovely!......

1 lb fresh, ripe strawberries, hulled
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch salt
3 large eggs, separated
1-3/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin
Pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Prepare the soufflé dish: Cut a piece of foil or parchment, longer than the circumference of the soufflé dish. Double it for stiffness. Wrap around the outside rim so that it rises at least an inch above the top of the dish, and tape to secure.

Purée the berries with 1/4 cup of the sugar, the lemon juice and salt. Strain and reserve. Put the yolks in a non-reactive bowl with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of the berry purée. (Reserve the remaining for another use.) Set over a water bath, making sure the bowl does not touch the simmering water below, and whisk until the sugar dissolves and it is warm in the centre. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set aside. Put 1/4 cup of water into a ramekin, sprinkle over the gelatin, and let soften 5 min. Set the ramekin in the hot water in the saucepan and let it melt, about 2 min. It should be translucent. Whisk this into the berry mixture, and let the whole cool until it thickens slightly. Don’t let it set too far.

Beat the whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually incorporate the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat to thick, shiny peaks like whipped cream. Whip the cream in a separate bowl. Stir a spoonful of the whites into the berry mixture to lighten it, gently. Scrape the remaining whites and cream on top and fold the whole together. Spoon into a 6-cup mold, cover, and refrigerate until firm, about four hours.

To serve, remove the collar and spoon into dishes. This is best eaten on the day it is made or the next day. After that, the gelatine starts to break down.

Your Own Orange Wine.- Make something unusual and very tasty to enjoy!

1 bottle dry white wine
1 medium organic orange
1/3 cup sugar
8 coriander seeds, optional

Open the wine. Pour out half a cup to enjoy while you carry on with the recipe. (This is not a whim: a bit has to come out or the bottle with overflow when you add the other ingredients, but it's nice to have while you work, lol) Shave the zest from the orange with a vegetable peeler. Remove every trace of bitter white pith from the back with a sharp knife. Poke the orange zest into the bottle of wine. Funnel in the sugar. Drop in the coriander seeds. Recork the bottle. Turn it upside down and right side up a few times until the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate one week, giving the wine a shake once a day. Strain into a carafe and serve well chilled as an aperitif.

Well, there you go, some suggestions for your summer menus. Nothing hard or strange, just tasty and worth the wait, for sure. I hope you will try and see....

In the meantime I think my afternoon will consist of trying to get done with at least one chapter on one of my projects, but maybe that's too much and I should just settle for getting the outline fine tuned first, so many ideas which change from day to day..... Having a little trouble getting going and started, feeling lazy and just want to take a nap (I'm terrible at naps too) but it's already 3pm and the day won't last much longer so let's just get on with it..... nothing much else going on, quiet afternoon and the most exciting thing happening right now is watching Kitty sleep on my pillow (her very favorite place to be!), now there's a good napper! My best to all of you, talk soon..............

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