Monthly Archives: June 2011

Ribs from the Smoker with Mac and Cheese

Man, this was a serious meal!  Both the ribs and mac and cheese were so good I had to have seconds of both, and I was about to pop. I thought the ribs were damn near perfect, but the hubs thought they should go longer.  They were not to the “fall off the bone” stage which he prefers (but I know many people don’t),  but neither of us had any problems putting away most of the rack.  We did our ribs on the smoker, but you could totally do them in a grill – just do them over indirect heat, and it will take about half the time as a smoker.  As for the the cheese in the mac and cheese, I think you can vary it somewhat, but you want to be considerate of how well each cheese melts and make sure one cheese does not overwhelm the entire dish.   I chose not to bake mine – I  wanted it to be super creamy, not crunchy how it gets in the oven.  I did not finish the mac and cheese with toasted bread crumbs on top because I did not have any, but that is really the only way to take your mac to the next level.  Next time.

I think I will take 5 pieces just for myself

Smoked Ribs

From Steve Raichlen’s BBQ USA, Apple City championship ribs from Murphysboro, IL

  • 2 rack baby back pork ribs (ours weighed about 3.5 pounds)
  • 2 quart plus 1 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack if it still on it.

Place ribs in a large non reactive roasting pan or in a clean plastic garbage bag and pour the 2 quarts of cider/juice over them. Let the ribs marinate in the fridge covered for at least 4 hours, or as long as overnight.  Turn on occasion so they marinate evenly.

Make the rub.  Mix the paprika, brown sugar, black pepper, chile powder, garlic powder, mustard, celery salt, coarse salt, and cayenne in a small bowl and stir up with your fingers to mix.

Drain ribs and pat dry. Sprinkle rub over ribs until nicely coated on both sides –  about 1-2 tablespoons per rack.  You’ll have rub left over.  Rub the coating over the meat with your hands.  Let cure in fridge covered for about 4 hours.

Set up your smoker or your grill with indirect heat.  Use wood chunks if you have them, such as apple wood.

We cooked our ribs in the smoker for about 4.5 hours.  For a grill with indirect heat, I would recommend  1 1/2 to 2 hours.  When ribs are done, they will be browned and the meat will have shrunk back about 1/4 inch from the ends of the bones.  For a grill, mop ribs with juice evey 30 minutes.  For a smoker, mop ribs with juice once every hour.

Cut ribs into pieces and serve.  Feel free to use some BBQ sauce, but we were happy with the ribs just as they were.

So good we did not even use BBQ sauce!

Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound noodles, penne, macaroni, or something short and tubular-ish
  • 1/2 cup Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup Baby Swiss, grated
  • 1/4 cup Blue Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water

Bring salted pot of water to boil.  Add pasta, cook, and drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.  Return back to pot, adding all of the cheeses, the butter, and some salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Add a 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and combine.  Decide if the consistency looks good, or if more cooking water should be added.  Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary with additional salt and pepper, and serve.

Can you say unhealthy? I know I can say delicious.


Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

As I’ve said before, living in the South for a few years turned me on to some new foods that I’ve now come to realize I can’t live without.  Fried green tomatoes falls into that category.  And, because I’m a piglet, whenever I make a batch, I usually make a really fattening dip or vinaigrette to smear on them, and, when I’m feeling extra oink-ish (read: almost always), I scrounge around to see if there is anything else around the house I should fry up.  Onion rings, pickles, zucchini, what have you. With the blue cheese dressing, you can use it for a dip, a spread for sandwiches, or for topping a nice wedge of iceburg lettuce with some juicy tomatoes and cooked bacon.  As for the fancy-schmancy basil oil, my basil plant is growing like crazy and I have been making anything I can with it.  I thought this oil seemed pretty versatile, and I liked how it looked pretty on my plate.  Totally feel free to ignore this part of the recipe should you so choose.

I had a few radish greens from thinning my garden so I threw them on top to be fancy

Fried Green Tomatoes with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

Makes enough for about 4 appetizer portions of 3 tomato slices each

  • 3 decent sized green tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe below)
  • Basil Oil, optional (recipe below)

Slice tomatoes into about 1/4-1/3 inch slices.  Put into shallow dish and cover with buttermilk.  (You may not need all the buttermilk, or you may need a little more depending on size of your pan – you just want to make sure the tomatoes are pretty much covered with buttermilk.) Let soak at least 10 minutes.

Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper in shallow dish.  Set up breading station: Tomato/butttermilk dish, next to it seasoned flour, next to that parchment (or wax) paper lined sheet pan or plate.

Add vegetable oil to a heavy skillet (I use a cast iron pan). I add enough oil so that it is about 1/2 – 1/3 inch deep.  Heat on medium until oil reaches 350-360 degrees.

Bread tomatoes.  Remove tomato slice from buttermilk and shake off excess liquid.  Dredge in seasoned flour and shake off any excess.  Set on pan.  Continue until all tomatoes have been  breaded.

Start frying tomatoes.  Depending on size of your pan, add 4-6 tomatoes to pan, but don’t over crowd.  Let brown on one side for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn with tongs (be careful to not let grease splatter!) and let brown on the other side another 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pan with tongs, holding each tomato on end over the pot for a few seconds to allow extra grease to drip off.  Set on paper towel lined plate or pan.  Lightly season with salt.  Continue this way until all tomatoes have been fried.

Serve with blue cheese dressing and a drizzle of basil oil.

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dresssing

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 clove garlic, minced into a paste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except blue cheese in small bowl.  Whisk until smooth.  Stir in crumbled blue cheese.  You will have leftover dressing to use in other things. It should keep in the fridge for one week.

Basil Oil

  • About 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • pinch of salt

Blanch basil:  Bring a small pot of water to boil.  Set up a small bowl with  ice water.  Add basil leaves all at once to the boiling pot of water.  Let blanch for about 15 seconds.  Immediately transfer basil, using a slotted spoon or tongs, to the bowl of ice  water.  Once cooled, drain and very gently squeeze excess water from basil.  Set on paper towels to finish draining.

In a blender, add the oil and salt.  While the machine is running, add half the basil and process quickly.  Once pureed/incorporated, add remaining basil.

When not using oil, keep stored in fridge, but bring to room temp when getting ready to use.  It should keep in the fridge for about one week.


Ricotta Gnudi (Gnocchi’s cousin)

I keep wanting to make gnocchi, but something about it seems very difficult.  Something about the potato and starch and glutens and, I think, also, Tom Colicchio always completely railing anyone on Top Chef anytime they make it that it is “heavy” and “doughy” and “tough” and even “inedible”. As opposed to what they should be – light, fluffy, pillowy.  So, I was reading this month’s Food and Wine and came across a recipe for Gnudi last weekend, and I thought, “Aha! This is it! This is my bridge to gnocchi!”  Gnocchi’s base is normally roasted potatoes that have been put through a ricer, flour, and egg; gnudi’s is ricotta, flour, and egg.  They become dumpling-like, and then you boil them and then toss them in whatever you have created to go with them.  My creation is below.

Ricotta Gnudi with Oyster Mushrooms, Fresh Peas, and Bacon

Adapted from July 2011 Food and Wine, from Nancy Silverton’s cookbook Mozza Cookbook


  • 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, plus more for serving (ideally Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • All purpose flour

Mushrooms and Peas

  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, roughly torn into large pieces
  • 1 cup fresh peas, blanched (used frozen if you don’t have fresh, but no need to blanch frozen ones)
  • 4 slices bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stick butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/2 cup reserved cooking water from gnudi

In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup of Parm, the egg, butter, and nutmeg. Sprinkle 1 cup of flour over the ricotta mixture and fold in.  Dust the dough with more flour and shape into a ball.  (If seems really sticky – like too sticky – mix in more flour).  On a floured surface roll the dough out to a rope and cut it into 36-ish pieces. (I split it into 2 balls and made two ropes and then cut it)

My rope of dough cut into pieces

All my little gnudi soldiers, ready to be cooked

In  large pot of boiling salted water, boil the gnudi until tender and cooked through, about 6 minutes.  Drain, reserving a cup of cooking liquid.

In the meantime, make the mushroom-bacon sauce.  Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium until brown and crisped.  Drain and set bacon aside.  In a large skillet, heat some olive oil (about 1/4 cup should do) over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook until mushrooms are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the peas and cook about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute.  Add the bacon and about 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking water.  Mix well until water reduces to about 1/4 cup.  Turn heat down to medium, and start adding butter.  Add two chunks butter and stir until melted into sauce.  Add 2 last nubs of butter and mix into sauce.  Taste for any final seasoning.  Add Gnudi and toss to coat, adding just a bit of cooking water if sauce seems too dry.  Serve and pass extra grated Parm alongside.

Breakfast Salad

We have a new restaurant in town, and I’m already in love with one of their salads.  At American Harvest Eatery, they try to source most of their products locally, and their theme is kind  of an upscale comfort food thing, without being stuffy.  With radishes and mixed greens being in season, and us having harvested quite a bit of each from our garden, I decided to try my hand at re-creating this salad that includes radishes, bacon, croutons, greens, a hot sauce vinaigrette, and then finished with a sunny side up egg.

My take on American Harvest's Breakfast Salad

Breakfast Salad

Makes 4 small-ish salads

  • 4 handfuls of mixed greens (maybe 6 cups ish?)
  • 6 slices bacon, cut up
  • bread, cut up into crouton-sized pieces -about 2 cups worth (Ideally day old bread that is not super soft)
  • 12-15 radishes, cut in half long-ways
  • green onions, sliced thin
  • 4 eggs
  • Hot Sauce Vinaigrette, recipe below

Cook bacon in pan on stove over medium heat, until bacon is cooked through and browned.  Drain off grease (throw grease out or save for some other use.)

Toss bread with about 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Bake on sheet pan in single layer in 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes, shaking pan once to move around croutons, until brown and crisp.  Set aside to cool after they come out of oven

Toss radishes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven in single layer on sheet pan for about  8-10 minutes, shaking pan once during cooking.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Just before cooking eggs, toss greens with bacon, green onions, croutons, radishes, and vinaigrette and arrange on plates.

To cook eggs, heat a non-stick pan over medium to medium high heat. I just do 2 eggs at a time.  Coat pan with some fat (reserved bacon grease from earlier if you so choose – or just spray it with some Pam cooking spray – whateves).  Once pan is thoroughly heated, gently crack egg into pan.  The idea here is to keep the egg in a somewhat nice oval so the white does not spread all over the pan and they keep a consistant size so they cook evenly and look pretty.  Season with salt and pepper and let cook, turning heat down to just a little under medium if need be.

To get egg white cooked without over-cooking the yolk, add about 1-2 teaspoons of water per egg to the pan after egg has cooked for about 2 minutes and then cover with a lid for about 2 minutes.  Remove lid and let cook about another 30 seconds to one minute, and egg should be good to go at this point and can be placed on top of salad.

Radishes from our garden.

Hot Sauce Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon sriacha
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • about1/3 cup vegetable oil

Whisk sriacha, mustard, vinegar, and honey together in a bowl.  Slowly whisk in vegetable oil until mixture is emulsified. (I use veggie oil here instead of olive oil because I feel like the olive flavor is too pungent for this.)  Season with salt and pepper.


Rum Punch

I’ve recently decided that punch is close to the best thing ever.  I had a bourbon pineapple one recently, and loved it, and figured that making a big pitcher of one to enjoy on a Saturday afternoon would be just about perfect.

Rum Punch

  • 8 ounces dark rum
  • 4 ounces light rum
  • 2 ounces triple sec
  • 16 ounces orange juice
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup mint, roughly torn up
  • 1 can ginger ale

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher and serve over ice.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Salad

We had quite a bit of leftover chicken from smoking two whole chickens, so I decided to make chicken salad with some of it.  I used mainly the white meat for chicken salad.   I wanted to complement the smoky flavor of the chicken so I went with a kind of sweet, spicy, smoky combo.  We served ours on a whole wheat English muffin, but you could use whatever bread strikes your fancy.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Salad

  • About two cups chicken meat (I used breast and wing meat), picked off the bone and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 heaping tablespoons homemade mayo
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder (or some type of smokey chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon hot red chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

Mix chicken, green onions, pecans, and dried cranberries.  In a small bowl, combine mayo, both chili powders, and sugar.  Mix mayo into chicken mixture and season with salt and pepper.  Serve on bread of your choice.

We Got Ourselves a Smoker!

My husband had been angling to get a smoker the past couple years, but we had yet to find one that was in our price range, while sill being fairly quality.  We managed to find one last week, and put it into use on Saturday.  We have a beef brisket on order to do next weekend, but for our first venture, we went with chicken.  We served it with a country-style potato salad and some Swiss chard from our garden.

Smoked chicken with potato salad and Swiss chard from our garden.

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