Something Completely Different

Summer has arrived here on California’s mid peninsular coast, and with it promises of warm days and balmy afternoons. This years Fourth of July weekend was no exception. Old glory barely waved in a light breeze, the smaller birds chirped and twittered and a mated pair of Eurasian doves sheltered in the shade of a mighty oak that hangs over the backyard, no doubt discussing plans for their future family. A picture perfect day for a DSC_0096barbecue with friends and family, plenty of hot dogs, hamburgers and beer – a classic celebration of the land of the free. We live in a great country by any standards, unless you are addicted to cyber chat rooms and subscribe to the ruthless taunting of those with nothing better to do than talk smack about the United States. But I digress. This post is dedicated the pursuit of all things barbecue and the thoughtful prose it evokes.

We are a nation of nations, a melting pot as it were – and I love the opportunity to learn another cultures food and adapt it to the barbecue. My Quincho, an Argentine concoction, is testament to that. So when a good Spanish friend of my wife’s offered to teach me how to make Paella on the grill, needless to say – I was all in. I immediately ran off to my nearest “Sur La Table” cooking equipment mecca and procured the largest Paella pan I could find. She was a beauty, measuring about 2 feet across in diameter.  Such a pan will feed about sixteen people of average to hearty appetite.

Conchita – our Spanish ringer – showed up ready for action and my mind was a sponge, awaiting the secrets of such a time honored dish. She began by inspecting the grill. She was very satisfied it would do the job (in fact she was rather impressed, which made me right proud).  I surveyed her ingredients and took careful notes, expecting exotic combinations and unfamiliar spices.  I constructed a list as I inventoried them.  This was to be a seafood paella.  There are many other types, and I will likely whip up my own version in the near future as I get better at it.  The measurements below are the best I could surmise based on the way Conchita made it.  They are close enough.  Do take note that these measurements are for a big pan as described above, if yours is smaller adjust accordingly.

  • 3 Crabs – cooked and cracked
  • 24 Scallops
  • 44 Prawns
  • 20 Squid Cleaned and the body portion sliced into rings.  For some reason she didn’t use the tentacles.  I would.
  • 20 Small Clams, washed and cleaned of any sand and grit
  • 2 Red Peppers, chopped
  • 2 Small Onions, choppedDSC_0086
  • 2 Heads Garlic, minced – Mama Mia!
  • 2 small cans of green peas (with the juices)
  • About a Teaspoon of Saffron Threads
  • An entire box of Uncle Ben’s Rice.  Whoa.  Wait – Uncle Ben’s?  I was expecting Bomba or Arborio – She swears by this stuff because it doesn’t stick.  And trust me – she is right. Use twice as much hot water as rice, reserving one cup.
  • 10 Oz jar of martini olives
  • Half a bottle of Chardonay
  • Corn Oil – Not Olive Oil – she says it’s too strong.

First you must build your fire.  This simple act trips up more people than you would think, DSC_0072 (2)myself included.  Why?  Because the size of the fire (or amount of lit coals) is going to set the tone for your cook.  Heat + Food = Cooking, right?  Well likewise, too much heat + food = burning.  Building a fire is a manly pursuit and as in all things manly bigger is better, so we endeavor to build a great pyre.  Here’s where a woman’s touch teaches us to calm down.  Pay attention as this will serve you well in other barbecues to come.  Your fire should be big enough to bring these ingredients to a simmer, but since they will simmer for an hour, not so big as to scorch those on the bottom.  Enough Said.  Once the coals have ashed over, spread them in a circle about the size of your pan.

Place the pan over the fire and coat the bottom with oil.  When the oil is hot add your onions and bell peppers.  They should sizzle and begin to cook.  When translucent and

The Master Stirring it Up

The Master Stirring it Up

soft, add your garlic.  Keep things moving here because we don’t want the garlic to burn.  After about a minute, add your squid.  Cook this for about 3 minutes.

Add the crab and stir again.  Sprinkle the rice evenly over the top of the crab.  Do not stir.  Take the cup of hot water you reserved and stir the saffron into it.  Let this sit for about 5 minutes.  Add the infused Saffron water to the rest of the water and add the water to your pan over the rice.  Do Not Stir.

Now add the shrimp by placing them one at a time around the pan.  Do Not Stir.  Add the scallops the same way.  Do Not Stir.  Add the clams and the peas.  Do not Stir.

We wait for the rice to begin to absorb the simmering liquid.  After about 30 minutes you should be able to see the rice again.  Loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil.  After about 10 minutes add the wine and replace the foil.  After 20 minutes, remove the foil and place the Olives around the pan one at a time.  The rice should be plump and thoroughly cooked and the clams should all be opened.  Discard any closed ones.

DSC_0087Your paella is now ready to serve.  This is exactly the way I learned it from Conchita.   Feel free to experiment – use chicken and sausage, whatever you find interesting.

Like America, paella is a great melting pot of cultures, tastes and textures with a common theme (rice/freedom) bringing it all together.  And like America, you are bound to have a few closed clams – but why focus on them when the dish is so wonderful?  Happy Fourth of July to everyone.  Cheers.

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Posted in Barbecue, Food, Grill, Quincho | 3 Comments

The Lesser Known Lobster

Highly prized for it’s tender delicate meat, the Maine lobster is somewhat of a holy grail for chefs and cooks all over this country.  They reside on the rocky bottom of the cold Atlantic along the US eastern seaboard as the name might suggest.  They have a large dominant right claw used to crush their food or their enemies (unsuspecting chefs included) – whichever the case might be.  While the culinary uses of the Maine lobster a widely known and exploited, the creature outgrows it’s tail meat after reaching a pound.  In other words, the larger the lobster is, the less tail meat there is.

This leads me to seek out the Maine’s poor relation – the humble Rock Lobster, extolled in song by the B-52′s.  Sold as tails (they have no claws) they are easy to find, inexpensive and heaven on the barbecue.  I recently stumbled across a 6 pack of these tails at my local Costco and was immediate overtaken by the desire to get these home and grill them.

Here’s how to prepare them once you find them.  Being careful of the spines – which incidentally can poke you pretty good and with some added lemon juice can make you wince in pain and get your eyes to watering – hold the tail by the thick part, away from the DSC_0068tail end.  Using kitchen shears, cut through the shell almost to the tail.  Take a chefs knife and cut along the opening you just created through the tail meat almost to the bottom where it’s little feet are.  This allows you to butterfly your tail making it a perfect match for your grill.

Take enough basil to thinly slice for all of your lobsters (about one big leaf for each one), a clove of garlic or two – minced, and the fresh juice of a lemon and sprinkle it into the cuts you made for your lobster tails.  Let them set for about 30 minutes.   If you are into heat, you can drizzle your lemon juice over a sliced habanero pepper and strain it on to your lobsters.

While the lobsters are soaking up that delicious concoction, melt a stick of butter with another minced garlic clove, the juice from another lemon, a splash of dry white wine and a few more slivered basil leaves.  This is your basting liquid.  You need to baste these tails because they WILL dry out if not handled with care.

If you haven’t already done so, prepare your fire in your grill.  We want a hot fire – a four count.  Place your hand over the fire and hold it as long as you can stand it.  If you can DSC_0071count to four without pulling away, your fire is ready.

Go and get your lobsters and your baste.  Open the lobster up.  Don’t be afraid to crack it open enough for it to lie flat on the grill.  Baste it with a little of your butter and place it on the grill, flesh side down.  Leave it there for about 5 minutes.  It should hold it’s shape after this.

DSC_0077When they’ve nicely colored and they are ready to turn – after about 5 minutes – flip them back over and let the other side cook through the shell.  Baste the meat frequently with your butter.  Let this cook for another 5 minutes.  They should be a bright red color.

These are so simple to prepare and so delicious I don’t know why I don’t grill them more often.  They are real crowd pleasers.  And if you have any left over the next day, you can easily pull the meat out, chop it up and make lobster rolls or lobster quesadillas.   Serve them with lemon wedges and clarified butter for dipping.  I’ve used lime wedges here, but that’s because I was doing a mexican take on them.  You are only limited by your imagination!

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the Maine lobster outgrows its tail meat after reaching one pound.Read more : http://www.ehow.com/info_8252085_difference-maine-rock-lobster-tails.html

the Maine lobster outgrows its tail meat after reaching one pound.Read more : http://www.ehow.com/info_8252085_difference-maine-rock-lobster-tails.html

the Maine lobster outgrows its tail meat after reaching one pound. The larger the Maine lobster’s overall weight, the less tail meat there isRead more : http://www.ehow.com/info_8252085_difference-maine-rock-lobster-tails.html

the Maine lobster outgrows its tail meat after reaching one pound. The larger the Maine lobster’s overall weight, the less tail meat there isRead more : http://www.ehow.com/info_8252085_difference-maine-rock-lobster-tails.html

Posted in Barbecue, Food, Grill | 3 Comments

The Taming of the Brisket

Last Saturday started like most Saturdays do around my house, with me stumbling down the stairs and my wife happily making breakfast.  The dog was still in bed, on her back with paws skyward dreaming about whatever it is that dogs dream about.   My wife hands me a coffee cup full of nice hot coffee as I pass and I take my place at the table in front of the newspaper.

The day looks to be perfect.  It promises to be in the 80′s with no wind and there are no clouds in sight.  As my wits coagulate, my thoughts turn towards BBQ.  Maybe something slow smoked… I am in the mood to bite off more than I can chew.  My wife should have stopped me in my tracks at my first mention of it the day before – Brisket.  I shall smoke that hallowed piece of Texas, that holy grail of smoking.  That frustrating, widow making, agony inducing, smoky and tender slice of heaven.  One of these brisket smoking sessions is enough to make me question my entire existence let alone my smoking manhood.

Off to the butcher I went, visions of perfect brisket in my head.  There in the case, amongst the tri tips, the new yorks and the rib eyes – is a center cut of brisket just waiting for me.  I have a Barbacoa Rub I’ve messed with over the years that I knew would be perfect for my 5 pound hunk of perfection.  I’ll smear the stuff liberally all over it and let it sit overnight.  Here’s my rendition of the best smelling stuff I’ve put my nose to in a while.

  • 6 TBS White Vinegar
  • 2 TBS fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 4 dried Guajillo and 2 Pasilla chiles (or a couple dried chipotles work too), stems and seeds removed – torn in pieces
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, rough choppped
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 whole allspice berriesBarbacoa Paste
  • 1/2 Small onion, rough chopped

Dump the works in a food processor and blend it to a paste. Makes about a cup or so. It will smell incredible and be messy as heck.  Wear an apron, it gets everything red.  Guajillo Chiles are about my favorite dried chile to work with.  They are not too not and have a deep rich smoky flavor that brings me back to old Mexico.  And yes, I have been to old Mexico.  I readied my brisket on a cutting board and smeared the elixir of the Aztecs all over it.  I wrapped this tightly in saran wrap and (at my wife’s insistence – something like “DO NOT let that thing leak all over the fridge!”) put it on a sheet pan and placed it in the fridge.

Spice Rubbed Brisket

 

 

 

 

Fast forward back to Saturday morning, me with my coffee and paper and thoughts of perfect brisket.  It’s 9am.  I get the smoker out of the garage and ready a fire.  My idea here is to get the pit to 210 degrees, the meat to 190 degrees and myself to 4 beers.  What follows is an actual diary of my day.  I suggest you keep some sort of diary with the variables you care about when you smoke so you can repeat successes and avoid past failures.

9:48 PST. Fire is lit.
Pit Target: 210, Current: 0
Beer target: 4, Current: 1 (I know it’s early, but the BBQ gods are offended if I light the fire empty handed)

10:31 PST, Put the meat on, add oak and hickory chunks, vents at 50%DSC_0492
Pit target: 210, current 220
Beer target: 4, current 1

11:47 PST, Add 12 briquettes, vents at 30% – now things are humming right along
Pit target: 210, current +-210
Beer target: 4, current 2

1:56 PST, Add oak chunks, add a dozen briquettes vents at 30%
Pit target: 210, current 210
Beer target: 4, current 2 (Need to catch up here)

2:57 PST. Pit was running low, I added lit coals – the temperature spiked to 290, I panicked and initiated emergency vent shut down sequence – back under control. 240 and dropping.  Italy is Beating England in World Cup and I am mightily distracted by the event.
Pit target: 210, current 240
Beer target: 4, current 2 (slacking)
Meat Target: 190, current 157

4:28 PST. I am officially the victim of the “Stall” or the Plateau – Not abandoning hope yet.  Read about it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-goldwyn/physicist-cracks-bbq-mystery_b_987719.html

Pit target: 210, current 210
Beer target: 4, current 3
Meat Target: 190, current 161

7:30 PST – Meat removed from pit. Covered and rested for 10 minutes in pan (juices reserved and mixed with a little KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce)

Pit Target: 210, final temp 210
Beer Target: 4, final count 3 + 1 late afternoon Johnny Walker
Meat Target: 190, Final temp +-195

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This is sliced thinly across the grain for maximum tenderness.  The smoke ring was not as pronounced as I would have liked, but the smoky flavor was undeniable.  The flavor was magnificent and sandwiches will be coming out of this for a week.  I should note that these brisket sandwiches are a simple affair.  Just brisket, a little sauce and white bread – although I would not begrudge you a kaiser roll slathered with some pit beef horseradish sauce.  But DO NOT put this on a ubiquitous ciabatta roll.  Please.

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Posted in Barbecue, Food, Smoking | 7 Comments

Grind’em if you Got’em

When the plane landed at SFO some 5 and a half hours from JFK (3 movies to be precise) I disembarked back to my springtime world of warm days and blustery afternoons.  The heat in the San Joaquin Valley is less dense than the coastal cool air and creates a vacuum that sucks my unsuspecting air over to Los Banos and Stockton in the form of a windy afternoon.  I spent the day Sunday sleeping off the jet lag and moseying about the house.  Fortunately there was Memorial Day to regain my culinary footing.  Sunday started out slowly.  By mid afternoon I hadn’t decided on what to grill, and I was running out of time.  As usual the grand dames of the street – The Oaks, Sycamores, Magnolias and Crepe Myrtles rustled in the oncoming spring breeze.  The royalty here are the redwoods.  Huge, old and beautiful, my house is surrounded by them.  They barely moved.  I stared at them for what seemed like an hour, the endless blue sky a perfect backdrop for such a regal tree and my drifting mind.  Still no idea.  I looked in the garage for inspiration and there it was – The meat grinder.  My mind raced with ideas, finally settling on classic hamburgers – a perfect foil for memorial day.

I flew to the butcher and procured 1 pound of boneless short ribs and 2 pounds of chuck.  Gorgeous stuff mind you.

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This is cut into 1 inch pieces and placed on a sheet pan.  I place the sheet pan in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  The meat is firm to the touch.  The grinder is readied with the 1/4 inch cutting plate.  I switch the power on and it sounds like a turbine engine about to take off.  This reminds me to keep my digits away from this thing.  Little by little I push the meat into the shoot and worms of ground meat is extruded out the end of it.  This actually looks more appetizing than it sounds.

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At this point proceed to build your patties.  Make a careful ball of meat about the size of a baseball without packing it too tightly.  Place it on your sheet pan and gently press down, forming your patty.  When you are done, cover these with saran wrap and place them in the fridge until you are ready to toss these on the grill.

Build a nice hot fire in your trusty barbecue and when you can hold your hand over the grate for about 4 seconds, you are ready.  Place the burgers on the grate and do not touch them for 4 minutes.  Using a thin metal spatula, carefully flip these over.  You may apply cheese if you wish.  Wait another 4 minutes.  Your burger is probably ready.  I say probably because 1) I don’t know how thick you made your patty.  2) I don’t know how hot your fire is and 3) I don’t know what kind of watch you have.  Toast your buns (oh please.  the ones for your hamburger) and build your burger.

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Posted in Barbecue, Food, Grill | 2 Comments

Viva El Ziploc

DSC_0432 (2)One could go on ad nauseum with respect to the great technological leaps of mankind in the later part of the 20th century.  The computer and the ubiquitous internet, nuclear power, medical advances, television and a host of other noteworthy achievements no doubt top the list.

But my vote for the greatest invention of the 20th century?  It goes to none other than the humble Ziploc storage bag.  This thing is my unwavering kitchen companion, indispensable for marinating my meat, storing my pre-chopped and pre-measured ingredients, retaining left overs and even minor sous vide applications.  You see, I marinate my target meats overnight before the big day and stor e the meat in the fridge in ziploc bags.  This year’s Skirt Steak was awash in a sea of beer, onions, garlic and spices while the chicken thighs drowned in a bright red and citrusy achiote marinade.  After this years Cinco De Mayo dust cleared, I had to figure out the back story on the bags.

220px-Gallon_Ziploc_boxThe ziploc bag was originally invented by a gentleman named Borge Madsen on January 27th, 1951.  Not much is known about him that I can find other than his patents were purchased by the Flexigrip company.   Originally they produced plastic inserts in binders with a zipper closure to hold pencils, erasers, rulers and the like.  In 1961, Flexigrip licensed a patented plastic zipper bag from a Japanese company, then licensed the rights out for the supermarket market to Dow Chemical in 1964.  With a broader culinary vision in mind, Dow renamed the bags “Ziploc” bags and started selling these in 1968.  In 1997, they sold the line to SC Johnson and company – and the rest is as they say – history.

Of course this brings my to my lovely Cinco De Mayo Marinades.  These are my absolute

Skirt and Chicken, thanks to Borge Madsen

Skirt and Chicken, thanks to Borge Madsen

favorites and always a hit for Tex Mex flavors.  I use two different ones – a beer based marinade for Skirt or Flank steak and an Achiote marinade for chicken (also great on fish).

Beer Marinade for Skirt Steak

You could use this marinade for just about anything, but I’d suggest you steak with robust meats like beef, lamb, pork or wild game.  This will work for about 3 pounds of meat.

  • 1 12oz Dark Beer (Like a Negro Modela)
  • 1/2 Cup Canola Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
  • 5 Cloves garlic, Minced
  • 1 Jalapeno, Minced (yep, seeds and all)
  • 1/4 Cup Cilantro, Chopped
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 TBS Pure chili powder (I use New Mexico)
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Dried Oregano

Whisk all the ingredients together and marinate skirt steak in the fridge overnight in – you guessed it – ziploc bags.  I always place the bag on a sheet pan just in case the thing springs a leak.  Grill over a hot fire about 3/4 minutes a side and rest, covered for 5 minutes.  Add salt and slice the steak thinly against the grain for fajitas.

 

Achiote Marinade

Achiote paste is made from the “annato” seed and is very popular in the Yucatan.  The brand I get is El Yucateco.  You can find it in Latin Markets.  It has a citrusy, mustardy scent with hints of iodine.  It turns just about everything bright red, including your clothes.  Great for around 4 pounds of chicken, lamb or fish.  This marinade goes together in a snap.  You use boiling water in it, so for food safety’s sake, please let it cool before you marinate anything.

  • 2 TBS yellow mustard (plain ole ballpark mustard)
  • 2 TBS Kosher Salt (I like the Diamond brand)
  • 1 TBS Achiote paste
  • 10 Cloves Garlic, peeled and mashed flat with the side of a chefs knife (you read right – 10)
  • 5 Dried Guajillo Chiles, stemmed, membranes and seeds removed and torn into pieces.
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 Cup Boiling Water (Finally – a good chore for the microwave)

Place everything into the blender, food processor, Vita Prep or water machine you have and blend it until a smooth concoction is formed.  Let the mixture cool.  Pour over chicken or fish in the Ziploc and marinate (fish – maybe 4 hours, Chicken, lamb or meat overnight).  Grill over a hot wood fire and enjoy.

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Easter – The Moveable Feast

Easter is never on the same day.  It’s a lunar holiday so I always feel a bit Pagan when I really think about it.  In 325, the First Council of Nicaea (I imagine there was a second also, but I digress) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the March equinox.  How positively Druid like.  They accomplished some other stuff too, according to wikipedia, evidently the authoritative source on the subject – Like:

  • Settlement of the Christological issue of the nature of the Son of God and his relationship to “God the Father”
  • The construction of the first part of the Creed of Nicaea
  • Promulgation of early cannon law.

All religious history aside, Easter comes and I can throw my Lenten fast out the proverbial window and get down to some serious chow.  This year I gave up peanuts, so I my suffering was kept to a minimum.

For this Easter I promised the In-Laws a traditional Armenian Easter grill.  To me, that meant Chicken Skewers, Lule Kebab and a plethora of side dishes.  Preparation is the key for these sorts of things.  The night before I always prepare my meats.  I marinate the chicken in a thick Keffir cheese called Labne with garlic, onions and other spices.  I mix the beef and lamb with cumin, onions, allspice and pepper paste.

CIMG6715CIMG6718I mold the meat mixture onto the skewers the morning of the barbecue.  Raffi, a kind and gentle Lebanese neighbor of my wife’s gave them to her before we were married when he moved away.  He passed away a few years ago and each barbecue always honors his memory somehow.  These are covered with plastic wrap and put back in the fridge to firm up, otherwise it’s not much fun trying to keep the meat on the skewers.

The chicken (I use boneless, skinless thighs) also gets threaded on the skewers that morning and returns to the fridge, but not before I dust them with allepo pepper and some sumac for good measure.  I’ll divulge my secrets for Lule Kebab and the chicken marinade below.

Lule Kebab

This is my own recipe, developed over time while eating and critiquing lots of Lule kebab prepared by some pretty respectable Armenian grill masters.  Feel free to add or subtract at your whim.  I’ve been told its pretty good by many people with last names ending in “ian” so I’m proud to call it mine.

  •  1 Lb Ground Chuck (80/20)
  • 1 Lb Ground Lamb
  • 2 1/2 Tsp Allspice
  • 2 Tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 Cup Minced Parsley
  • 1 Grated Onion (grated over the meat so you get the onion juice)
  • 2 Tbs Pepper Paste
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Mix ingredients thoroughly by hand (with wet cold hands)and refrigerate the mixture for 2 hours at least.  Mold on to flat skewers and refrigerate until ready to grill.

Yogurt Marinated Chicken

This is a Turkish inspired marinade.  Most Armenians (although they’d never admit it) are similar to Turks in many ways, having come from the same parts of the country.  They differ widely in political views (for good reason) but that’s for another post.  Use this on Chicken or lamb with incredible results.

  •  2 Tbs Aleppo Pepper
  • 1 Cup Labne (or PLAIN Greek Yogurt or Strained PLAIN yogurt)
  • 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tbs Pepper Paste
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 6 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lemon, sliced crosswise into thin rounds
  • Sumac and extra Aleppo pepper for dusting

Mix everything together except the garlic in a large bowl.  Grate the garlic over the bowl with a microplane.  Mix well.  This makes enough to marinate around 3 pounds of chicken or lamb chops.  Marinate large cuts for around 4 hours to overnight.  Shake off excess marinade and dust with extra sumac and Aleppo Pepper before grilling.

Chicken, Lule and Vegetables on the grill.

Chicken, Lule and Vegetables on the grill.

I always use a separate skewer for vegetables and meats because they cook differently.  The chicken and vegetables go on first, followed by the lule after I’ve turned the chicken once.

Of course, no Middle East feast is complete without an abundant selection of Mezza (appetizers).  At my house, this always is made up of Hummus, Mahamara and Baba Ganooj.

A trio of Purees - Humus, Mahamara and Baba Ganooj.

A trio of Purees – Humus, Mahamara and Baba Ganooj.

Hummus is a puree of Garbanzo, garlic, Tahini (a sesame paste that smells a lot like peanut butter) and lemon juice.

Mahamara is more Arabic in nature.  This is puree based on roasted red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, spices, olive oil and pomegranate molasses.

Baba Ganooj is pretty much just like Hummus, only it’s made with a wonderfully smoky roasted eggplant.

Tabuleh Salad and Foul Medames (fava)

Tabuleh Salad and Foul Medames (fava)

For our salad its usually parsley, bulgur, some tomatoes and lot of lemon juice.  This is called Tabuleh salad.  I always make a pot of fava beans with cumin, garlic and lemon juice.

Then there’s always a never ending supply of dolma (stuffed grape leaves), basturma (a middle eastern pastrami) nuts olives and lots of beer.

This year it was a smash hit and everyone was happy, full and thankful for another opportunity to get together.  Just writing this puts a smile on my face, remembering the good day – and looking forward to the next.

 

 

 

Posted in Barbecue, Food, Grill | 2 Comments

Falling Behind

The verdant green leaves on the Crepe Myrtles have taken on a rosy red hue.  They fall from the tree at the mere hint of a breeze, lazily fluttering down until coming to rest on the DSC_0018JPG  DSC_0020JPG DSC_0021JPG DSC_0022JPG sidewalk.  These days, there is more raking than mowing.  The stately irises have spent their bright purple and cream vestiges and the hydrangeas are all but done.  A barely noticeable change in the daylight is afoot.

Being a lover of all things outdoors, these changes inspire me.  They mesh wonderfully with my love for outdoor cooking which, is usually the outlet for this new found inspiration.   This weekend however, finds me biting off a little more than I can chew.  There’s a charity event my wife is running for the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford we have to attend tonight.  A hoity-toity affair no doubt, but all for a good cause.  Tomorrow we leave for Carmel to celebrate our anniversary.  It’s pretty dog friendly and we like to bring the mutt.  All this adds up to no BBQ for this weekend, but a lot to think about and reflect upon.

What a wonderful year this has been, packed with a multitude of changes for me.  I’ve switched careers (swapped a 35 plus year career in hi tech engineering for one in commercial real estate), and my wife and I adopted a Havanese puppy in August (her name is Daisy and she is adorable).  These two things alone have changed everything – I am more reflective, a lot less stressed and a lot less rich (hopefully that will change soon enough).

So as Thanksgivings approaches, I think about the things that I really can be thankful for.  My lovely wife, a tireless worker who is cheerful through the worst storm.  The great people that I met this year.  My love for entertaining friends and fabulous Asado’s I cooked.  My family, that weathers my changes with grace and support.  As I wax nostalgically, I know it’s almost time to start prepping the thanksgiving meal, one of my favorites.  I’d love to share it with you, so I’ll be sure to write up the experience.  Until then, Daisy needs to get ready for Carmel.

Daisy and the Sausage

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