An Abundance of Blue

I love the color blue.  But blue food – not so much.  Unless, of course, you’re talking about blueberries.  For the last several weeks blueberries, a fruit I love,  have been really reasonable.  As a result I buy lots of them.  Usually I just wash them and eat them as they are or mix them with other berries.  I could make a blueberry pie; my grandmother made the best blueberry pie ever, but we can’t eat a whole pie by ourselves.  Correction, we could eat a whole pie by ourselves but that isn’t wise.

Last night we were having boneless pork chops for dinner.  I recalled how I had made a pork tenderloin with a blackberry sauce and thought I would use the blueberries instead.  The trouble is that the blackberry sauce calls for ingredients that are not necessarily compatible with blueberries.  So I improvised.  Since we love the taste of blueberries I really wanted them to be the star.  But I also knew I was going to be using a coffee rub on the pork chops so the sauce needed to complement that as well.  I hit upon four simple ingredients: blueberries, sugar, water, and balsamic vinegar.  And it was great!  The sauce worked perfectly with the chops.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 cup blueberries, rinsed and stems removed
  • 1 tbl sugar ( I used bakers sugar but you could use regular sugar as well)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbl Balsamic vinegar

Place the blueberries, sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until  most of the blueberries break down.  Add the Balsamic vinegar and stir.  Keep sauce on a low heat until ready to serve.

The coffee rub I use has the following ingredients; coffee, unsweetened cocoa, sea salt, brown sugar, sweet paprika, onion, black pepper, garlic and cumin.  I lightly coated the chops with the rub and then grilled them on a really hot griddle pan.

I served this mashed potatoes, carrots and snap peas seasoned with Penzeys Fox Point Seasoning.  This picture doesn’t do the sauce justice but trust me, it was a perfect counterpoint to the coffee rub!

Blueberry Sauce on  Boneless Pork Chops

Blueberry Sauce on Boneless Pork Chops

Posted in American Food, Cooking, Family, Food, Fruit, meat, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh The Pressure

George and I love barbecue.  There is nothing better than a pulled pork sandwich smothered in sauce with fresh coleslaw and oven roasted fries.  And living in New Mexico pork shoulder is really easy to come by.  The last time I made pulled pork I purchased a skinless, boneless pork shoulder and made it in my slow cooker.  This time I decided to try something different, and faster, by making it in my pressure cooker.  I also decided to  go more “authentic” by purchasing a bone-in shoulder with the skin on.  After all, bone, like fat,  equals flavor so why would I want to forfeit flavor for convenience, especially since I was using a pressure cooker.

Won’t happen this way again.

Let’s start with the skin. Pork skin is tough – and hard to remove from raw meat.  And , in retrospect, why did I think paying for that big hunk of pork skin was a good idea.  I briefly thought about making pork cracklings but decide my heart and patience weren’t in it ( a good thing for my heart!)

The bone just made the shoulder harder to fit into the pressure cooker.  I suppose I could have taken the meat off the bone and proceeded from there: but after my almost one hour spent removing the skin from the meat I wasn’t ready to spend a lot more time carefully removing the bone. And no, I am not confident enough with a cleaver to attempt to cut the bone into pieces.  Absolutely no good would have come from that! The bone also prevented me from fully trimming out the cut, which meant there was more fat in the meat leading to an excessive amount of fat rendered  into the braising juices.

So I stuffed the meat into the pressure cooker as best I could, added the liquid and spices and put it on the stove.

I have to admit it turned out well.  The meat was done in about 1 hour – a lot faster than the all day slow cooker method.  It was cooked just right, juicy and easily shredded.   The recipe I used had the added benefit of making its own sauce by reducing the braising liquid but even after reducing and defatting the liquid was still too greasy and just didn’t have the consistency I was looking for in a sauce.

I will try this recipe again  – tho I will use a skinless, boneless pork shoulder and aggressively trim the fat out of the piece.  And I really liked the flavor that the rub gave the meat.  I may even use that rub if I make the pork in a slow cooker.  Here are the ingredients of the rub:

Pulled Pork Rub  (for 4 lb boneless pork shoulder)

  • 3 tbl packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbl paprika
  • 2 tbl chili powder
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all the ingredients and rub into meat. And a note on the paprika.  For those of you that follow my blog you know I am a big fan of Spanish Bittersweet Paprika.   In this case I used regular Hungarian Hot Paprika as the braising ingredients included liquid smoke.

And I have just had a thought about my next attempt. Why use liquid smoke when I can use my stove top smoker to impart a smokey taste.  After the meat smokes for a short period – enough to add flavor but not to cook it – I can put it in the pressure cooker and proceed from there.  Now I’m excited!  Looks like George will be getting another round of pulled pork in the next few weeks!



Posted in American Food, appliances, BBQ, Cooking, Food, meat, New Mexico, Pork, Pressure Cooker, Recipes, Stove Top Smoker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Salmon Mousse – Part II

I originally posted this recipe fro Cold Salmon Mousse with Cucumber Sauce in July of 2011.  Wait, my blog is over 4 years old?  How did that happen – as in where exactly did 4 years go???  But I digress.

The dog days of summer are upon us – tho it stays about 75 degrees in the house – and that means it’s time for hot weather food.  There is nothing better than a cold dinner after a 1 hour commute home – at least that is what George tells me.  When the weather is this warm I aim for at least one cold dinner a week.   This week it is Salmon Mousse.  So why repost this recipe? Because I discovered the perfect complement to the dish.  And it was all in the interest of using up a green I had in the crisper. Actually, I was trying to decide if I needed a vegetable or salad to go with the mousse.   And yes, the sauce has cucumbers, but I always feel like I need to add another vegetable as a side.  As I stared into the vegetable crisper I spied the Arugula, aka Rocket.  Hmm, a bed of spicy, peppery Arugula might be a great counterpoint to the salmon and cucumber.  And it is!  The Arugula has just enough of a bite to complement the creamy mousse.  A winning combination!  So here is the new version of:



  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 lb cooked salmon, skin and bones removed.  Can use canned salmon that has been drained
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz Arugula, rinsed and dried

Soften the gelatin in lemon juice.  Place the gelatin mixture, boiling water and onion in the workbowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Add the mayonnaise, paprika, chopped dill and salmon and process until just blended.  Add the sour cream and pulse until combined.  Pour into an oiled 4 cup bowl, dish or mold.  Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

Fresh Cucumber Sauce

  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and grated on a box grater
  • salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • Mix the grated cucumbers with a little salt in a bowl and let rest for 1 hour.  Drain the cucumbers and combine with the remaining ingredients.  Chill for at least 2 hours.  Makes 1 cup

To Assemble

To serve, place a handful of the rinsed and dried Arugula on a plate.  Top with a serving of mousse.  Spoon some sauce over the piece of salmon mousse and top with fresh dill.  Pass additional sauce.

Posted in American Food, Cooking, fish, Food, Meatless Meals, Menus, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bolognese – It’s Got Nothing to do with Bologna

I was thumbing through a copy of Bon Appetit last week and caught sight of a editor note about a Bolognese recipe that used chicken livers.  Chicken Livers?  In a red sauce?  The actual recipe was in an issue that had come out two months prior.  Fortunately, I save all my issues for  a year so I had no trouble tracking the recipe down.  And there it was – Bolognese made with chicken livers.  Before you click off this page in disgust, let me assure you there was beef, pork and spices involved as well.  I am one of those people that like liver and my husband is a chicken liver pate fan so I figured I would give it a shot.  The original recipe comes from Mike Easton of Il Corvo, this is my version.  There are three components to this dish; the spice mix, the sauce itself and the assembly.    And here’s a quick heads up – start this in the morning or you won’t be eating till midnight!

Bolognese Sauce

Spice Mix

Spice mix for Bolognese Sauce

Spice mix for Bolognese Sauce

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns






Most of the ingredients for the sauce .  Missing are the milk, red wine vinegar and the peppers.

Most of the ingredients for the sauce . Missing are the milk, red wine vinegar and the peppers.

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 oz. chicken livers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, more for seasoning
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 cup roasted red or green pepper, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 14 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 1/4 lbs ground beef chuck (20 % fat)
  • 1 lb ground pork shoulder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar

Pasta Assembly

  • 12 oz fresh pappardelle
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup finely grated fresh parmesan cheese


Recipe Steps

Bolognese spice mix toasted and ground up.

Bolognese spice mix toasted and ground up.

Begin by assembling the spice mix.  Toast the spices until fragrant, about 2 minutes,  in a dry small skillet over medium heat.  Toss often to prevent burning.  Let cool, then finely grind in a spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices.  The spice mix will look like this when completed. Set aside



Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat  Add the chopped livers and stir to coat with oil.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deeply browned 5 to 8 minutes.  They should look almost burnt.

Add onion, thyme and peppers.  (The original recipe calls for Peppadew peppers.  I didn’t have any so I substituted the roasted peppers I had leftover from a dish I had made the previous night.) Stir to coat.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and browned, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in spice mixture and 1/12 tsp salt.

Add the tomatoes and wine.  Stir and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Add meat and stir well.  Add the milk and stir well to ensure everything is evenly coated. The mixture, as you can see, doesn’t look very appealing.

Bolognese ready for the oven.

Bolognese ready for the oven.

Cover the pot with a lid, place it in the oven and bake for 6 hours.  Yes, SIX hours.

Remove the pot from the oven and stir.   The sauce will need to be pureed.  You can do this in batches in a blender: the sauce will be very hot so take care not to overfill the blender.  Or you can use an immersion blender – also referred by some chefs as a boat motor – to achieve the correct texture.  I use an immersion blender – much easier to clean up.

To assemble the dish drain the pappardelle, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta water.  Place the cooked and drained pappardelle in a pan over medium heat with the butter and toss to coat.  Add about 2 cups of the sauce and mix well.  Add the cooking liquid as needed to create a sauce that coats the noodles.

Once again I was so anxious to eat that I forgot to take a picture of the completed dish.  We did have leftover sauce so I may take one when we have the leftovers and just add it to this post.  This sauce is so worth the time and effort.  But don’t take my word for it – give it a try yourself.  And an added bonus – the house smells great!


This dish can also be served with rigatoni.  I asked George if he wanted rigatoni, which I already had in the pantry or pappardelle, which I had to make fresh.  You can guess which he picked.  Oh well, I was already into this dish for over 7 hours, what’s another hour to make fresh pasta!

Posted in Chicken Livers, Cooking, Entree, Food, Ground beef, Italian, Kitchen tools, meat, Pasta, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moussaka on My Mind

The first time I had Greek food I was probably well into my twenties.  And I fell in love.  Spanakopita, Pastichio, Moussaka, Lamb with egg and lemon sauce, and of course, Saganaki.  The only thing I am not fond of is Baklava – not a big fan of the nuts.

Living in Chicago it was easy to get great Greek food. In the late 70’s there were actually two areas of the city that featured great Greek restaurants; now they seem to be concentrated in Greek Town. One of my favorites, the Greek Islands, opened a second restaurant in the Western suburbs.  That is where we introduced our kids to cold octopus salad when they were 5 and 6 (they’re only 16 months apart.)  And this past April I had the pleasure of introducing my 16 month old grand-daughter to octopus salad and she loved it!

Recently I received a free sample of Greek Seasoning from Penzy’s Spices and it started me thinking about making Greek food.  So tonight we are having Moussaka.

Moussaka is not a dish you can decide to make at 5pm hoping it will be done for dinner at 7pm.  I started the prep work on this at about 3:30 and anticipate eating about 7 pm.  Do not despair, you aren’t cooking that whole time – there’s alot of wait times involved.  I know it will be well worth the effort!

Moussaka Serves 4

  • 1 medium eggplant peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1tbl butter
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Penzy’s Greek Seasoning
  • 1 tbl dried parsley
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 egg beaten

Bechamel Sauce

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tbl all purpose flour
  • salt and ground white pepper to taste


  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg

Prepare the Filling:

Lay the peeled and sliced eggplant on a cookie rack.  Lightly salt both sides of the eggplant slices and allow them to sit for 30 minutes to draw some of the moisture out of the eggplant.  (Note: you may want to put a folded piece of paper towel under the eggplant to trap the moisture as it is released from the slices.   After 30 minutes has elapsed, pat the eggplant dry and dice into 1/2 inch cubes.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over high heat.  Add the eggplant and quickly fry until browned. Set aside on paper towels to drain.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the ground beef, onions and garlic.  After the ground beef has browned, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, greek seasoning and parsley.  Stir well.  Add the tomato sauce and wine and mix well.  Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow to cool and then stir in the beaten egg.

Prepare the Bechamel Sauce:

Scald the milk in a saucepan.  While the milk is scalding. melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Watch the butter carefully as it melts; you do not want it to brown.  Add the flour when the butter is melted and has stopped foaming.  Whisk the flour in the butter until it is smooth.  Lower the heat and gradually add the scalded milk to the roux, whisking constantly until it thickens.  Season with salt and white pepper.

To Assemble the Moussaka

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8×8 inch baking dish.  Place 1/2 of the diced eggplant in the bottom of the dish. Top with one half of the meat and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Repeat with the remaining eggplant and meat and another 1/3 cup of the cheese.   Top the dish with the bechamel sauce, being sure to get sauce all the way into the corners. Top with the freshly grated nutmeg and the last 1/3 cup of the cheese.

Place the baking dish on a jelly roll pan covered in foil – this makes cleanup alot easier if the dish overflows.  Bake in the 350 degree F oven for one hour.

I ‘ll serve this with a green salad and a glass of white wine – I didn’t think ahead and buy Roditis!  I expect the leftovers will be just as good on Thursday.


Posted in Cooking, Family, Food, Greek, Ground beef, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome Lucy!

I digress from my usual posts about food and cooking to introduce the newest member of the family.  As many of our previous guests know, about 6.5 years ago we rescued a ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback named Boz.  Lately we have been talking about getting a companion for our best buddy and yesterday was the day.  So we are pleased to introduce Lucy.

Lucy making herself at home.

Lucy making herself at home.

Lucy is another rescued ridgeless Rhodesian Ridgeback.  She is a senior dog, probably about 8.5 years, which makes her older than Boz.  She’s a bit more delicate, weighing only 67 lbs but is just as tall.  We were lucky enough to find her on the first day she became available for adoption.  Her poor nose is healing from a very bad sunburn.  And while her owners ( who surrendered Lucy) claim she was inside all the time, the state of her nose says something else.

Over the next two months we will be integrating her into the family so she will not be available for a meet and greet.  But when she’s ready we know you’ll fall in love at first sight – just like we did.

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Skating Along

Last week George and I made a trip to our favorite fresh fish place to buy some squid.  I usually buy a pound or more, divide it into 1/4 pound portions and freeze it until I need it for paella or seafood pasta dishes.  I always look to see what other fish they have; something beyond the usual suspects of trout, tilapia or tuna.  I was amazed to spot Skate!  I’ve never really seen skate in a store and have seldom seen it on menus unless I was close to the ocean.  I’ve always wanted to try my hand on skate so, since it was sitting there looking sooo lovely on a bed of ice, I decided there was no time like the present.

For those of you who have never seen or had skate, it is a ray.  In fact, my Fulton Fish Market  cookbook, states skate is closely related to sharks and looks like a ray.  The “wings” of the fish is what is sold.  At my store the skate came with the skin removed but still on the bone.

As soon as I got home I scanned my cookbooks for a skate recipe.  Not finding anything that screamed MAKE ME!, I turned to the internet.  There are surprisingly few unique recipes for skate.  Most of them seem to be a variation on a theme.  I found one by Emeril Lagasse that I thought would work.  Upon further searching  in my cookbook collection, I found one in my Escoffier Cookbook that, while lacking the amounts of the various ingredients, listed the same ingredients as  in Emeril’s recipe.  If Escoffier writes about it, I am all in.

I actually had the wing from a small ray; larger rays must be boiled but the wing from small rays can be fried.

The first thing I had to do was to figure out how to cut the wing into four equal pieces.  This would not be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that my piece of skate had a bone at the top akin to those you find at the top of a strip steak.  I wasn’t cutting through that.  So my next option was to see if I could detach the bones in the wing from the large bone.  Not being a trained fish monger I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that without destroying the meat.   I opted for the tried and true method of removing the meat from the bones.  The bones in the wing are semi transparent, like the quill in a squid, but look like the bones of a finger with lots of joints.  Creepy but cool at the same time.  I also discovered there is an equal amount of flesh on both sides of the bones.  So I carefully filleted the wing and then divided the two sides so I ended up with four pieces.  From then on preparing the dish was a piece of cake!

Skate with Brown Butter Caper Sauce

  • 1 lb of skate – skin removed (if you can get skate that is off the bone you need only purchase about 12 oz.)
  • Flour for dredging
  • 2 tbl grapeseed oil (any vegetable oil will do – I prefer grapeseed)
  • 6 tbl butter
  • 1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbl capers, drained
  • 1 tbl parsley, chopped  – chop additional for garnish if desired

Remove the skate meat from both sides of the bones.  Cut into four equal pieces and set aside.  Place bones with any meat still attached in a pot with equal parts water and white wine and poach until meat is cooked through.  Remove from pot and when cool, scrape any meat from the bones.  Set meat aside and discard bones.

Season the uncooked skate with salt and pepper and dredge in flour to lightly coat.  Shake off any excess flour.  In a skillet large enough to hold the skate pieces, heat the oil until hot but not smoking.  Add 2 tbl of the butter and add the skate after the butter stops foaming. Saute the skate on each side for 3 minutes or until each side is golden brown.  Transfer to a warm plate and hold while you are making the butter sauce.

Wipe the out the skillet with a paper towel and return to the heat.  Add remaining 4 tbl of butter and cook until butter has begun to brown and has a nutty fragrance. Add the lemon juice, capers and 1 tbl of chopped parsley. Stir to combine well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Divide the fried skate between two plates.  Top with the poached skate removed from the bones and then the sauce.  Finish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley.

I served this with fresh green beans and home made bread – potatoes didn’t seem right and I wasn’t in the mood for long grain rice.

In the final analysis I will make this again, tho next time I may actually bake the wing whole and then remove it from the bone – just to see if it works.

And I suspect skate that has to be skinned is a challenge for someone who doesn’t do it on a regular (like every day) basis so I would strongly advise against going the skin on route!  But if you do, let me know how it works out!

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