Grilled summer peaches

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Probably one of the best things about living in Virginia is access to fresh Georgia peaches at almost any store. Last night was one of those sit on the couch together with wine and netflix marathon. About half through our endless episodes of undercover boss the need for some snacks set in, but neither wanted to leave the house. Thankfully I am pretty handy in the kitchen #trophyhusband.

I love grilling fruit either on the grill or via a grill pan, but apparently this is something that many people think is crazy. This I learned last night when a overly wined up girlfriend kept saying “you’re going to wreck my peaches for breakfast tomorrow paaaauuulll.” So to quite the haters in your life and show them magic of grilled fruit make sure that you brush it with some very high quality olive oil this adds another layer of flavor and will make the grilling possible so it doesn’t stick and burn.

Peaches, plums, and even apricots make perfect grill companions, as do all other stone fruits. They’re more delicate,  so leave the skins on and then peel them afterwards (or just leave the peels on). There are few summer desserts tastier than grilled peaches with ice cream, but they also pair well with grilled pork tenderloin, chicken, or steak.I like the in salsa with red onion and jalapeno as well.

grilled-peaches

For the dessert above its really easy to make and super tasty on a summer night.

  • 4 peaches cut in half brushed with high quality olive oil
  • 4 table spoons of honey
  • small bunch of mint chopped fine
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of ricotta impastata

Brush peaches with olive oil and place onto a hot grill maybe 400 if you can get a temp off of it. Let the peaches sit for 5-6 minutes until soft but not gushy they will pull away from the grill with no problem that’s when you know they are done. Drizzle the honey over the still hot peaches let sit to cool down a little. Add chopped mint into the ricotta stir to bring together.

This is also really good with ice cream as well or if you have crushed nuts or granola to put on top is a added bit of crunch.

 

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I really wish the CIA had brainwashed me…

So yeah I’ll take that brain scanner to forget what a awful meal this was. I normally will never write a true negative post, but of the all places I never thought I would pen these words from its the Culinary Institute of America. To say it was a utter disappointment from service to concept would be doing this place a service.

The night is July 7th 2016 my 30th birthday. I am not one for birthdays nor milestones just never been that guy, but my brother wanted to treat me to a solid meal as a food lover deserves. Living in the Hudson Valley we are lucky to have this place in our backyard, too bad I wish we could burn it like the wood pallets in our fire pit because this meal was terrible.

American Bounty

The American Bounty was just awful from start to finish.  First before we even get to the food I will say this place is beautiful its about all it had going for it.

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I’ll start with this, I understand these are working culinary students, but they are at the premier culinary school in the USA. Sorry, but you’re held to a standard. Our server was fit for a chili’s at best. I knew we were screwed from the get go when my dad asked what wine would you recommend and the response was ” I don’t drink or know anything really about wine, so I really don’t know I bet they are all pretty good”  I’m sorry, but what?  You’re literally trained here on wine and you work here…you should as a professional have at least talking point on wine if you don’t drink it. I am not a wine guy at all, but I know enough at the restaurant to offer a recommendation if asked. So after picking one we thought would be solid we moved on to food. We asked well what have you liked that stands out to you?  I know a crazy thing to ask a person who goes to culinary school and works here, but apparently we are out of line with this one. Our waitress responds with “well I don’t really eat here so I don’t know, but I bet its all pretty good” I’m sorry what the fuck did you just say…. so we just ordered based on our gut no thanks to the awful server. This chick didn’t even bother to bring our food out on time like people got entrees when appetizers were coming out don’t worry the food is equally as bad as the service for 20-45 a plate!!!

First Courses: From bad to worse

chicken salad

So they bring us this little cracker with chicken salad and some pearled melon juice as if it was some kind of epic foodies experience to try and cover up for our clueless waitress. It was good as far as chicken salad goes….like we should of left when the damn culinary institute brought us chicken f-ing salad. Also are people really still making fake caviar with juice and gelatin? Thought that died out in top chef season three…

oysters cia 1

My brother and I split a dozen oysters served with a beet mignonette. The only good part of this dish was the oysters. The only way I can describe the beet sauce was basically smuckers jelly. It wrecked anything that the oyster could possibly taste like. Whoever thought this worked well shouldn’t be allowed to put things near a menu.

zucchini flowers

This dish the zucchini flowers, muscles, and clams in the smoked broth was good I will say of anything that was presented it was good and that is about it. Good not great, but to be the star of a shit show isn’t saying much Wendy’s put on a better meal after we left here.

I would like to add that our waitress was allergic to shellfish.  Completely fine, but her acting like every dish I ordered was going to set her a blaze and the dramatic bright purple glove and having other servers come remove plates was a little over the top. Once again you’re a professional now act like it. A clear glove with a white napkin over it to remove the plates like a professional who is getting tipped on a expensive meal.

cia smoked lobster

I’m still looking for the right words to describe how bad this was. I don’t think bad, awful, poor are the right words. So this “smoked” lobster is par smoked apparently at some earlier point then boiled to hell in butter at dinner service. This lobster was so rubbery and tough ISIS wanted to recruit it. This dish sucked just over all was awful. They had this random pea puree on the side that was good. I asked for more, but apparently the Culinary Institute of America doesn’t have enough to offer me a little more on a 34 lobster claw. There is nothing about this dish I can speak well of. Bland, overcooked, not thought out, and lacking any kind of seasoning.

Overall I was excited to go, but was quickly let down it started with service ended with the meal. I’ll never back to try any of their restaurants again.  If you find yourself in the Hudson Valley don’t waste the money there is far better local fare close by. I would like to add that I later on sent them a facebook message expressing the service and quality to never hear back. Glad to see the poor hospitality starts from the top down.

 

 

 

Pop-Ups and hot days

The pop up restaurant every chef’s dream often showcased on shows like top chef and in the movies. In reality not the easiest thing in the world to pull off for many reasons. Lucky here in Norfolk a husband and wife are trying to pull it off once a month.

Chef Nate who is doing is residency at the Norfolk’s Legrand Kitchen sous-chef takes over once a month on Sunday’s to create their own pop up restaurant Pro-Tiem. I got lucky to check out their pop up at a local b&b owned by friend and other restaurant owner Jamie Summs of 80/20 burger bar.

chef nate

Overall not a bad day I will have to say the heat was a bitch to have the event outside, but gave me a reason to drink more cocktails. A nice touch offering local wine and two signature cocktails created by the house bartender. I opted for the Gin Nikki which was gin, mint, club soda, lemonade, and lavender. Refreshing to say the least on a 90 degree Virginia day.

gin nikki

Food offerings came out in a series of passed plates which were different than the normal sit down course style offered at their traditional pop ups at Legrand. Grilled flank steak with avocado mousse was good for the hot day. The steak was cook well seasoning was enough not to overpower. The avocado mousse personally didn’t do much for me, just kinda bland and was just there didn’t add anything really to the dish other then to cool the heat of the pepper on the meat.

flank steak

Side offerings of charred baby vegetables and chimichurri. The churri was really good I started to put it on everything I could get my hands on. It went really well with the steak actually.

roasted veg

Mixed salad with Greek yogurt and edible dirt was an interesting combo for the hot day. Overall I liked this dish, but the dirt wasn’t super good it was comprised of toasted barley, wheat, and granola. While it added the crunch the dish needed some of the toasted notes were a bit tough to chow down on.

pro tiem 3

The seared pork belly was my second favorite dish of the day. Belly was salty, buttery, and fall apart in your mouth good. The black garlic puree was an awesome addition of sweet and sour to the salty smooth belly.

seared pork belly

Ahhhh the pickled shrimp I must have ate probably twenty of these guys that day. The pickling liquid was so flavorful and added this crisp bite to the sweet shrimp that was perfect for a hot day. The liquid had notes of smoked paprika, rice wine vinegar, and citrus.  These bad boys were good just as they were cocktail sauce not needed, but the smoked tomato sauce brought them to a whole different level.

skrimp

jamie and me

pro tiem 2

Asian glazed wings

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Credit for these goes to drunken Saturday Paul and his hulk like rage to need to eat upon coming home. So several lessons learned when making these first being make sure the oven is clean in your 1910 built apartment with zero kitchen hoods, because this place was filled with smoke. Second I make damn good wings something my dad never could pull off. I remember as a kid he would always make wing touting he was “the best” at it…well now many years later and several states away I can say they were always pretty bad. Soggy, no crispy texture, and just covered in hot sauce basically my dad boiled chicken in the oven with hot sauce and called himself the greatest wing man to hit the 845/914 area code.

This post isn’t really about the wings as much as the glaze. It is something I use on chicken, pork, or fish this time it just happened to be on wings.  To get wings crispy  pre-heat oven to 450 spray baking sheet with pam place wings skin side up bake 25-30 minutes hit with glaze toss back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes.

Glaze for roughly 12 wings:

  • 2 tbls rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tbls of soy glaze/ teriyaki glaze any of those thicker asian glazes will work
  • 2 tbls of rooster sauce aka chili paste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Small handful of diced scallion
  • 1 tbls of fresh zested ginger if you have it if not a small pinch of salt

Combined in a bowl coat wings bake again coat again before serving. Same applies for chicken breast. If using on fish or pork coat at end of cooking process.

 

 

 

Spiced Lamb & Beef Tagine w/Lemon Garlic Couscous & Labneh

 

 

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Been while, but now that I have unlimited free time figured might as well.  Tagine for anyone who is actually reading this is a North African stew and can be made with any meat or rice you want. I used couscous, lamb, and beef combined with a spice blend known as ras el hanout. How in the hell did I get to know of this dish? I ate it once while working at sea with a libya crew lord knows what type of meat it was, but from my broken arabic that I speak I was able to ask for a basic recipe then pieced it back together via various google searches.

What I like about the dish is it can be anything you want spicy, sweet, or savory. It is also a really good way to clean out the left over veggies you got laying around.  I’m sure my mom who is probably the only person reading now knows I buy Swiss Chard I’m in trouble when I go home for never eating it as a kid.

Below Makes 2 Servings probably around 800 calories each

  • 10 ounces ground lamb and beef 50/50
  • 3/4 cup couscous
  • 4 gloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch of swiss chard
  • small handful of mint
  • 3 dates I used Medjool a much sweeter date, but sure any will work
  • 1/4 cup white onion diced
  • 1/4 tomato chopped fine
  • 2 table spoons tomato paste
  • 2 table spons of Ras El Hanout i bought mine in a small bag in the ethnic grocery store aisle. Per the bag it is cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, and dry turmeric
  • 1/4 cup Labneh cheese can sub plain yogurt.

Step 1

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Using a peeler, remove the yellow rind of the lemon, avoiding the white pith; mince the rind to get 2 teaspoons of zest. Quarter and deseed the lemon. Dice onions and tomatoes into small cubes. Separate the chard leaves and stems; roughly chop the leaves and thinly slice the stems, keeping them separate.  Pit and roughly chop the dates. Pick the mint leaves off the stems; discard the stems.

Step 2

Add some olive to the pan get it hot then add half the garlic and season that son of a bitch with salt and pepper.  Cook till its brown then drop in the couscous and add 1 1/2 cups of water. Boil then let stand for 6 minutes or until the water is absorbed then fluff it with a fork. Sounds stupid but it works add the lemon zest and juice fluff with the fork taste for seasoning set aside.

Step 3 Starting the tagine:

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Multitask people multitask While the couscous cooks, in a large, high-sided pan (or pot), heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the the veggies aand remaining garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and softened. Add the tomato paste and ras el hanout; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant and the tomato paste is dark red.

Step 4: Add the meat…cook till brown…move on

Step 5: Add a little bite of water maybe 1/2 cup to a cup depending on how stewy you want it. I went with 1/2 a cup I wanted it to be a little thicker and saucy.

Step 6:

While the tagine simmers, in a bowl, combine the labneh and the juice of the remaining lemon wedges; season with salt and pepper to taste. Mixed with couscous and mint place into a bowl add tangine on top.

Add red pepper flake for extra  spicy and various herbs I had basil in the kitchen, tarragon,  and sage.

Thanks to blue apron for the idea

 

 

Basil Mojito

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Basil ah sweet sweet basil. You tricky whore you are. Can be sweet or savory a garnish or a critical component of dish. You are the global call girl of herbs being used all over in all kinds of cooking.

Above its a photo taken from my days pretending I was Tom Cruise in cocktail and swooning trophy wives into poor choices and blackmail. Its a easy cocktail to make on a day like today 67 degrees and sunny.  I’m going to give two variations on the drink because some of you people don’t like gin (go find a bridge and jump now)

Starts off like a regular mojito grab a set of tins if you don’t own them get a pint glass add basil. If you can find sweet thai basil or lemon basil it will generally work better because its sweet. If your a purest or a filthy Italian like me regular basil is just fine.

Add 3 tablespoons of sugar and a 5-10 leafs of basil. Throw some ice down and muddle till its a pulp.

Add in 1-2 shots of gin (I like tanqueray rangpur due to the lime content)

Add grapefruit juice and sprite to fill leave about a 4 fingers of space at the top. Shake like mad man then pour over ice.

Now if all of that horrifies you the gin and grapefruit juice change out the gin for white rum and the grapefruit juice for sprite and lemonade.