Best! Cocktail Sauce

There comes a time when you just really need cocktail sauce.

Good cocktail sauce – not that stuff from the market that somebody calls cocktail sauce.

It needs to be loaded with horseradish and lemon juice; the lemon adding a note of brightness to the sinus clearing horseradish, and mebbe, if you’ve been good, it should have some other spicy flavors added that round things out and make you sit back and say, “cocktail sauce!”

This, my friends, is that sauce; based on a recipe from the barefoot contessa, my version ups the horseradish and lemon juice a bit, and I start with a spicy ketchup, which just makes things that much more interesting.

INGREDIENTS
•1/4 cup ketchup (78 Red Spicy, if you can)
•1/4 cup chili sauce
•2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
•2 tbsp horseradish
•1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Hot Sauce
– or your own fave

Stir the ingredients together, then transfer to a jar, cover, and stash in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve as you will. Air fried salt and pepper calamari works a treat, but I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to shrimp cocktail either.

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Pistachio (!) Pesto

Like most folk, we love us a nice pesto, but, I have been hesitant to make it because, well, I don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the quality of the pine nuts most usually associated (along with the basil, and garlic, and olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, of course) with pesto.

Well… as it turns out, pine nuts are not required, more like strongly suggested, and when I came across a recipe for pesto with pistachios, I was more than good to give it a whirl so I dusted off the food processor…

INGREDIENTS
•1-1/2 cup (packed) basil
•1 cup olive oil
•1 cup pistachios (shelled)
•1/2 cup parsley
•1/4 cup grated Parmesan
•1 tsp lemon zest
•3 cloves garlic*
•1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
•1/4 tsp Kosher salt
•1/4 tsp black pepper

*This was a nice pesto and all, but next time I make it, I am bumping up the garlic to five, or mebbe even six cloves of garlic.

Making pesto is almost stoopidly simple:

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor fitted with the metal blade, then pulse until you have a paste that looks like this.

Toss with your fave pasta (I added some Blanched Asparagus to the pasta), and serve.

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad

I decided to shake up our Brussels sprouts salad game.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, we love a Browned Brussels Sprouts Salad with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto, but Taste of Home had provided me a decidedly healthier option – with no prosciutto, no bacon fat, and no Southwestern Ranch Dressing.

But…

Would it be as good?

Well, duh, no! I mean, there is no prosciutto, no bacon fat, and no Southwestern Ranch Dressing! Still and all, this is a very nice salad, and, if you really need to, you could always drizzle a bit of ranch in on top of the vinaigrette. So, come along and try it!

INGREDIENTS
Vinaigrette:
•2 tbsp olive oil
•1 tbsp rice vinegar
•1 tbsp Dijon mustard
•2 tsp honey
•1/4 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1 garlic clove, minced

Salad:
•10 oz bag shaved Brussels sprouts
•1/2 cup diced sweet onion
•1/3 cup dried cherries
•1/3 cup chopped pecans

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together (and immersion blender works a treat here), then pour over the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss well.

Transfer to a covered bowl and stash in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.

How’s that for a bonus? A salad that you can put together that actually tastes better after a nice rest in the fridge?

We enjoyed ours with Air Fried Swordfish to make for a pretty healthful meal, but, if you really need some creaminess, go ahead and add some ranch dressing, or mebbe even Medianoche mayonnaise; which would tie in nicely with the swordfish.

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Blackberry Cheesecake Tart

Full disclosure: the recipe, as I copied this from Smitten Kitchen, was called “Blackberry Cheesecake Galette;” but our dinner guests and I agree that, however I planned on serving a galette, I was, indeed, serving a tart. And a tasty one at that.

The cool thing is that, tart or galette, this was very simple to toss together – due mostly to the fact that I have recently discovered the joy that is supermarket pie crust (I figure, if it is good enough for my sister, who is a phenomenal cook, it is fine for me).

INGREDIENTS
•1 pie crust
•1 cup blackberries, halved
•1/2 cup sugar
•1 tbsp lime juice
•1 tsp cornstarch
•8 oz cream cheese, softened
•1 egg, plus 1 egg white
•Zest from about 1/4 lime
•1/2 tsp vanilla
•1/8 tsp salt

Glaze/Topping:
•1 egg yolk
•1/2 tsp water
•Sugar
•Chopped nuts (I used pecans) – optional

Heat your oven to 350º, bring your pie dough out of the fridge, and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a nine inch tart pan.

Note: you can also use a regular pie pan, or a nine inch springform pan, both with cooking spray applied.

Toss the blackberries with one tablespoon of the sugar, the lime juice, and the cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Beat the cream cheese together with the egg and egg white until fluffy, then beat in the rest of the sugar (seven tablespoons), the vanilla, lime zest, and salt.

Line a large rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and place your tart/pie/springform pan of choice in the middle.

Place your dough in the pan, letting it hang over the edges, then add the cream cheese mixture, smoothing it out as needed for even coverage over the bottom of the pan.

Add the berries, swirling with a toothpick or small spatula to distribute them throughout the cheese mixture.

Whisk the egg yolk together with the water in a small bowl.

Fold the edges of the crust over the top of the filling, then brush with the egg yolk mixture.

Sprinkle some sugar over the crust, then, if using, scatter the chopped nuts over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, then transfer to a rack to cool.

Store the cheesecake in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Building a Better Burger

Everyone, it seems, has a secret burger recipe that makes theirs the best by far; and then they go and share it everywhere.

Me too.

I am not gonna claim that this is the ne plus ultra of burgers. But it may just be approaching that status.

Craig Claiborne’s ultimate burger featured butter, lemon juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Actually, quite a few folk add Worcestershire, and some add egg and cracker crumbs; which brings us to this tasty test run.

If you recall our current fave Glazed Salmon, I have been thinking that the actual glaze might could work well on much more than just salmon. Like… pork chops. And chicken.

And then, I got to wondering… burgers?

You know what? Works a treat!

INGREDIENTS
•1 large egg, lightly beaten
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce
•1 tbsp sweet chili sauce
•1 tbsp brown sugar
•1 tsp paprika
•1 tsp parsley
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp black pepper
•1/2 cup Panko or crushed cracker crumbs
•2 lb ground beef (or meatloaf mix)

Note: I used gluten-free Panko crumbs, and these were nice burgers, but I am thinking that next time, I’m gonna go with cracker crumbs – like Ritz, or mebbe Chicken in a Biscuit.

Combine the  egg with the hot sauce, chili sauce, brown sugar, and seasonings together in a mixing bowl, then stir in the Panko or cracker crumbs.

Let rest for five or ten minutes to let the crumbs soak up some of the liquid, then add the ground beef and mix well by hand.

Form into balls, then press down to form patties. Use a spoon to press a hole in the center of each patty – this will help insure the patties don’t puff up during cooking.

Layer the patties between sheets of wax paper and stash in the fridge for an hour or so before cooking.

When ready to cook, heat your grill or a large skillet to medium.

Add the patties and cook for three or four minutes per side. I added sliced sweet onion after flipping the burgers.

Once both sides have been nicely browned, remove from the heat and add sliced cheese of your choice – my husband prefers Velveeta for burgers – then cover the pan (or grill) and let rest for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Serve as you will. Arby’s Sauce is nice.

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Air Fryer Swordfish

One of my go-to fish mongers had 30% off fresh swordfish, so I picked up a couple of steaks for dinner.

Now, I almost always slather swordfish in mayonnaise before braking or grilling, and I usually soak most any white seafood, and so I figured a bit of both would work a treat.

My husband was not feeling the love to grill that night, so I went to da google, and da google provided me with a decent looking framework for swordfish. Who knew?

Of course, I changed up the recipe, incorporating my milk soak and, instead of oil and seasonings? Medianoche Mayonnaise seemed, to me, to be the ideal solution.

This. Was. Lovely. And simple.

INGREDIENTS
•Swordfish steaks
•Milk (I used whole)
•Salt, black pepper, and garlic blend
Medianoche Mayonnaise*

*Medianoche Mayonnaise is wicked simple to toss together, but feel free to use a bit of regular mayo, or ranch dressing, or even just some olive oil.

Note: I used this McCormick Himalayan Pink Salt blend, which was really nice, but feel free to choose your own seasonings.

Arrange the swordfish in a single layer in a flat-bottomed container, then pour milk over to cover. Cover the container and stash in the fridge for a couple of hours, flipping the swordfish over once or twice.

About 30 minutes before you plan to cook the swordfish, remove from the milk (discard the milk) and season both sides with your chosen seasonings.

Brush both sides with the Medianoche Mayonnaise and set aside to rest for 20 minutes while you preheat your air fryer to 400º.

Note: some air fryers do not need to be preheated, check your owner’s manual.

Apply cooking spray to the air fryer rack or basket, and arrange the swordfish in a single layer in the rack or basket.

Air fry for ten minutes, flipping the swordfish over after five minutes.

Serve. We had ours with a shaved Brussels sprout salad.

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Medianoche Mayonnaise

Literally “midnight” mayonnaise, this is offered as a late-night Cuban sammich spread (hence ‘midnight’).

I came across it somewhere or other a few years back, and it all finally made sense!

I mean, I have always liked the idea of a Cuban sammich – ham, pork, cheese, pickle, and mustard – grilled until the cheese is nicely melted.

But…

Where’s the mayonnaise?

Then, I discovered this easy to make option, and then I discovered how very, very good it is on so much more than a ham sammich.

INGREDIENTS
•1 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 cup Italian dressing
•1 tbsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

Add the ingredients to a bowl or an immersion blender beaker, then whisk (or blend) until smooth.

Note: to use this as a salad dressing, mix in two tablespoons of sour cream.

Transfer to a jar, cover, then stash in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavor to develop before using.

On a sammich? Sure.

In a salad (with that added sour cream)?
Of course, but…

Consider brushing it on swordfish, the air frying or grilling.

Tasty!

Details?

Tomorrow!

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Island-Style BBQ Flanken Ribs

A long, long time ago, I worked as a designer for a large medical school in Boston, and, seeing as how we were in the city, we got visits from food trucks at lunch. I didn’t always indulge in the food truck fare, but when this one Jamaican Barbecue Guy showed up, I was at the front of the line for his barbecue beef short ribs on, what I *think* was Coco Bread, or something very like it.

Heaven in a sammich, and I had not had anything like it in years. Until…

I got a multi-pot for Christmas, and came across a Korean Barbecue recipe for flanken-cut beef ribs that we loved.

So, I then started looking at recreating my food truck Jamaican barbecue and, if I do say so myself, I think I have come close to nailing it! Or, at the very least, these are very, very good short ribs!

Note: flanken-cut ribs are beef short ribs cut across the bone so you have a long, thin strip of meat with a couple of bone slices in it. Wicked easy to cook, and so very good!

INGREDIENTS
Sauce:
•1/2 cup Barbecue Sauce
•1/4 Banana Mango Chutney
•2 tbsp lime juice
•3 or 4 cloves garlic
•1 tbsp Sherry Peppers Sauce*
•1 tsp ginger
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste
•1/2 tsp mesquite liquid smoke
•1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
•1/4 tsp allspice
•1/4 tsp black pepper
•1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
•3/4 cup pineapple or orange juice

Ribs:
•3 to 6 flanken-cut beef ribs
•Sliced onion
•Olive oil

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Combine the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.

A note on the sauce: you do not have to use my barbecue sauce and banana mango chutney; your own fave barbecue sauce and chutney from the store will work a treat.

Set your Multi Pot to “Saute,” add the oil and, when hot, add just enough of the ribs to fit in a single layer in the bottom of the pot.

Note: I cut my ribs in half to better fit my pot.

Cook the ribs for about two minutes, just the bottom side is browned, then turn them over and cook for another two minutes to brown the other side.

Remove the ribs to a paper towel lined platter to drain, then continue browning the remaining ribs in stages until all are nicely browned and drained.

Turn the pot off and let it cool for a bit.

Wipe out the interior of your cooled Multi Pot container to remove any remaining fat from browning the ribs, then add the barbecue sauce and sliced onion to the pot.

Arrange the browned ribs on top of the sauce, then close and lock the lid.

Set your pot to “Pressure Cook” and then set the timer for 25 minutes under “High” pressure.

Once the cycle has finished, carefully release the pressure – I find placing a clean kitchen towel loosely over the valve helps to disperse the steam in a less “forceful” way.

Your ribs are now tender and done, but, there is one more step to take for maximum enjoyment…

Remove the ribs from the pot, cover loosely, and keep warm, leaving the sauce in the pot. Set your pot back to “Saute” and cook the sauce a bit more, stirring often, until thickened and reduced.

Set your pot to “Warm” and add the ribs to the now nicely thickened sauce. Stir to coat and cook until heated through.

If you have coco bread, by all means serve the ribs wrapped in some. If not, these are really pretty nifty on my new fave Best! Mashed Potatoes.

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Best! Mashed Potatoes

Last year, I came across Tyler Florence’s crazy good mashed potato hack, where you actually boil the potatoes in heavy cream, and then save that cream (and all that potato flavor) to mash the potatoes!

Like I said, crazy good, and I had chickened out a bit and used half and half instead of heavy cream.

But, then, I was making flanken-cut short ribs and wanted mashed potatoes; but I’ve stopped using half and half.

Who knew?

Unsalted chicken stock, a bit of whole milk, and Irish butter works a treat!

INGREDIENTS
•16 oz bag small potatoes
•2 tbsp butter
•2 tbsp olive oil
•1 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1 tsp garlic powder
•1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
•1/2 tsp dried sage
•1/2 tsp dried rosemary
•1/2 tsp dried thyme
•Milk and unsalted chicken stock to cover the potatoes

Note: I used small white potatoes, but red and Yukon Gold are good here, too.

Wash the potatoes, cut in half, and soak in cold water for 30 minutes or until you are ready to prepare them.

Drain and rinse the potatoes and add to a pot with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Drain the potatoes, saving the cooking liquid, then mash and stir in enough of the cooking liquid to make the potatoes well and truly mashed to your personal preferences.

Note: I like using a hand mixer to get smooth, “whipped” potatoes, but you do what you like.

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Vacation Pork Chops

We were off on vacation at one of our fave spots; a pretty fully equipped cabin in the woods in Door County, Wisconsin, and had decided on dinner “in.”

The thing is about visiting a particular place at least once a year for two decades is that you learn a few things…
1) bring your own chef’s knife, etc., because, nice cabin or not, theirs are not so good.

2) the local market is a smaller version of our everyday market, with the same prices,

so, no need to pack a bunch of foodstuffs for the three+ hour drive (bonus!).

Full disclosure: I did, indeed, pack a few things, like my fave hot sauce, our preferred coffee, and some gallon-sized zipper food bags, which I use a lot. I also pre-made the pasta base for our new fave Chopped Salad.

Our trip to the market yielded us these pretty tasty looking pork chops, a bottled vinaigrette for a marinade, and a bagged chopped salad kit to add to our prepped ditalini pasta.

INGREDIENTS
•Bone-in pork chops
•1 bottle Greek vinaigrette – or your fave
•1 tbsp hot sauce
•Gallon-sized zipper bag
•Olive oil (for the grill)
•Barbecue sauce

Note: these chops were huge, and there were just the tow of us, so I just used two. This recipe should be more than enough for four, or even six, smaller chops.

Stir the hot sauce into the vinaigrette until blended, then pour over the chops in the bag, close the bag, toss to coat both sides of the chops, and stash in the fridge on a rimmed plate (to catch any drippage) for a few hours or, always more better, overnight; flipping the bag over when you think to.

About an hour before you plan on grilling, bring the chops out of the fridge to come up to room temperature, and, hey, why not open a nice bottle of wine? We had a favorite rosé from Dragonette cellars in California.

When ready to cook, heat your grill to medium high, remove the chops from the marinade (discard the marinade).

Brush olive oil on the grill before adding the chops. Cook for ten to 15 minutes per side, until the center of the biggest chop registers 145º in the center, brushing each side with the barbecue sauce as you go.

Remove the chops to a platter, cover loosely with foil, and set aside to rest for five minutes or so while you toss the salad together and gather folk around the table.

Perfectly cooked, nicely flavored chops, and I didn’t even miss all of the spices and seasonings I would have used at home.

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