New Orleans, The Big Easy

New Orleans, what can I say about this incredibly charming city?  It welcomes you with open arms, greets you at every street, and fills you with wonder and respect.  But at first glance, New Orleans is smelly, dirty, disorderly, and overrun with drunk people.  But if you allow yourself to get to know this city, its history, its present, and its people, you will fall in love with it … with them all.

HOW IT BEGAN …
My lovely friend Melissa and I traveled to New Orleans on a girls’ trip.  As I had not been there before, I was excited to explore this new place.  Melissa did not tell me much about New Orleans; she wanted me to make up my own mind.  And thus, it began.

The cab ride from the airport to the hotel was very pleasant.  Our cab driver was kind and friendly.  After we checked into the Renaissance New Orleans Arts Hotel, we decided to go out for a walk, to get to know the city, and to find a good restaurant for dinner, as it was almost that time of day.

As we began our journey, I was pleasantly surprised that people were walking around the streets holding their alcoholic drinks.  I guess things are different in New Orleans.  Soon, we came upon large gatherings of people, police, and road barriers.  It was evident that a parade was on the way, but what parade?  As we assembled with the rest of the gatherers, we were told that this was the Halloween parade.  It was so much fun!  Seeing all kinds of people participating in an event like this was awesome.  People from all walks of life, all ethnic backgrounds, were mingling and celebrating together, without any invisible, manmade borders.  This display of camaraderie was beautiful to see.  And though the city seemed overpopulated and unkempt, it was exciting and full of life.

GETTING TO KNOW NEW ORLEANS …

After the Halloween parade, we walked the streets, including the incredibly lively Bourbon street, and found this beautiful and very charming restaurant close by, Kingfish Kitchen & Cocktails, Diners’ Choice winner for 2015.  We began our dinner with cocktails, Pimm’s Cup to be exact.  It was made with fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice … needless to say, it was absolutely refreshing!  Melissa had the Rabbit Cordon Bleu with Collard Greens, and I had the BBQ Shrimp and Waffles, as I have never had waffles in a savory application before.  Melissa’s meal was amazing!  I never cared for collard greens; however, these greens were delicious.  They had the perfect acidic and smoke flavors.  Nothing about them was over powering.  The rabbit was stuffed with ham and cheese; it was breaded and fried to perfection.  It was not greasy at all.  It was accompanied with a creole mustard cream.  The slight acidity from the greens and the tartness from the mustard cut through the richness of the rabbit, yielding a harmonious bite, a perfect balance of flavors.  My shrimp was perfectly cooked.  Then again, I would not expect any less from any good New Orleans chef.  The flavors of the shrimp and the waffle with the toasted garlic, the poblano pepper jelly, and the Hopitoulas cream were authentically southwestern.  Bobby Flay would have been proud.  My only issue with this dish, however, was the waffle’s soggy texture; I would much rather have had a waffle with a crispy exterior, where I poured on the sauce or syrup immediately before consuming the dish.

The next morning, we decided to have brunch at the Salon by Sucré.  We first walked into this beautiful and elegant patisserie style shop and were greeted by a very professional and friendly staff.  The gorgeous pastries adorned each wall and counter.  Then we went up the large staircase, and in front of us was a small, but beautiful bar.  The restaurant upstairs had a Southern charm, yet a European influence.  It was beautiful!  I had the Charcuterie Sandwich with a side salad.  What can tell you about that sandwich?  It was the most delicious sandwich I had EVER had in my life, and I had many sandwiches all over the world.  Sucré’s was by far the best.  They start with a freshly baked French or Parisian baguette, they smear Pork Rilette on it, and top the sandwich with Salumi Gentilé, Lomo, and a generous portion of Grayson Cheese.  That combination with the mixed green salad, lightly tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, was intoxicating!  I lost track of time and motion … I lost all awareness.  All I could think about was how incredibly delicious and all sensory consuming this sandwich was.

By now, it was raining.  It pretty much rained off and on the whole time we were in New Orleans; more on than off. We decided to walk off our brunch, regardless of the rain, by getting to know the city on foot.  Again, we went to Bourbon street and walked through the rest of that area, until we reached Jackson Square.  Obviously, like any self respecting visitor, I took many pictures.  After walking all that time, we decided to reward ourselves with the one and only Café du Monde beignets.  Even with the pouring rain, this café was so busy.  And Oh My!  The beignets were so delicious!   They were thick, but light, and fried (of course), but not greasy.  I know they were only fried dough topped with powdered sugar, but they were better than any fried dough with powdered sugar.  Melissa and I opted for the hot chocolate, instead of the chicory coffee.  It tasted like any packaged hot chocolate, nothing special.  But it was an experience, I will not soon forget.

Now, to walk off the beignets.  We went to the French Market, where many people were selling all kinds of things, hot sauces, nuts, art work, handmade bracelets and jewelry, Mardi Gras masks, and even jade from Pakistan.  We bought a few things for our loved ones back home after some lively negotiations, chatted with some vendors, and watched the rain come down all around us.  We continued our walk around the city, until we came upon Central Grocery Co., the home of the original muffuletta.  I would like to say one thing; initially, when Melissa planned our trip to New Orleans, I was excited about two things and two things only, the muffuletta and the beignets.  To my shock and dismay, I was slightly disappointed with the muffuletta from Central Grocery Co.  It was very oily, and it needed a little more vinegar to cut through the cheese and the deli meat.  Aside from that little change, the meat, cheese, and olive salad to bread ratio was perfect.  We continued our walk.  We passed many night clubs with lively Jazz music emanating from their speakers, in an attempt to draw in many patrons.  After a very long day of exploration and delicious eats, it was time for some rest and relaxation.  We still had quite a few restaurants we wanted to visit, but they will have to wait for the next day.

On the third day, Melissa and I, being huge fans of Vietnamese food, decided to have a late breakfast at Nine Roses Café.  We started with the Chicken Spring Rolls and the Chicken Steamed Bun Sliders, followed by a hot bowl of Beef Phò.  The chicken spring rolls were fresh and tasty, not the best, but close enough to be in the running.  However, the steamed bun sliders were AMAZING!  The flavors were perfectly balanced, as sweet and savory were in perfect harmony.  We moved onto the beef Phò.  The beef was tender and the broth was good. Again, not the best I have had, but pretty good on a rainy day. And yes, it was raining again. After our Vietnamese experience, we walked around the city on a quest to find District Donuts Sliders Brew.

After much walking, we took the trolley. It took us by Lafayette Square and other notably historic places. Our stop was near a cemetery, an above ground cemetery. Now, that was an experience for me. Generally, I do not like Halloween (sad, I know), cemeteries, scary movies, dirty places … but this was something altogether different. As we decided to check out this old cemetery, it felt like a completely different world, like we stepped into another dimension. And it was … old, beautiful, eerie, and forgotten. I felt an overwhelming loss that gave way to sadness, yet I was happy to see this part of New Orleans’ history.

A few streets down, was District Donuts Sliders Brew. I had a Vietnamese Coffee and a Hazelnut Donut. Both were good, but not amazing. Melissa had Lemonade, an Apple Cinnamon Donut, and a Chicken Slider (which she shared with me). She absolutely loved her donut; she said it was the best donut she had ever had! She tried the slider, and liked it, but she was not a fan of the coleslaw. I, on the other hand, LOVED the slider and the slaw. I have not had such an amazing chicken slider in a long time. It was made with fried, yet not greasy, chicken thigh, topped with a sweet and spicy slaw, candied jalapenos, and crispy chicken skin, all in between two slices of fluffy bun. It was absolutely delicious! As this was our midday snack, we decided to walk around that area, since we had not done so before.

Dinner time was approaching, and since my friend, Melissa is very good at finding delicious restaurants everywhere we travel, she suggested we go to Lilly’s Café. I know it’s another Vietnamese restaurant, but it had very high reviews. We ordered the Beef Phò. One spoonful, and we were both experiencing a tingling sensation, followed by loss of hearing and vision, but with intensified feelings toward that lusciously intoxicating nectar of the gods … We had found it! The best Phò we had in both our lives, here in the US!  The angels began to sing, and we fell into a trance.

As our trip was coming to an end, we strolled back toward our hotel stopping at the Carousel bar, the bar at Hotel Monteleone.  It was a beautiful bar.  There was a carousel in the middle of the room, and yes, it turned very slowly.  The carousel and the tables in the bar area were full of people enjoying all sorts of libations and finger foods.  We were told that Carousel had the best Pimm’s Cup in town, so we ordered it.  It was less fruity and more tart than the one we had before.  I have to admit that I liked Kingfish’s Pimm’s cup much more than Carousel’s, but we still had a lovely time chatting and people watching.  So, after our short relaxation, we headed back to the hotel, where we took a cab to the airport.  Again, our cab ride was very pleasant.  Our driver was a very kind and engaging.

As we sat on the plane awaiting its departure from this city back home to my city of Dallas, I couldn’t help but to reminisce about the last few days I spent in New Orleans … oh, how I’ve grown to love this city.  The food was delicious, the people were kind and welcoming, the streets were full of history, and the music was lively.  I decided then that this will not be my last trip to this charming and exceptionally unique city, but the first of many.

 


Apple Upside Down Cake

Saturday evening, my family asked for dessert, as they often do.  I am generally opposed to feeding them something store bought made with subpar ingredients, preservatives, and additives; so, I made them a very easy and quick Apple Tarte Tatin like concoction, or an Apple Upside Down Cake, since it is not as refined as a Tarte Tatin.


APPLE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

FOR THE APPLES:
5 Granny Smith Apples
3 tablespoons organic Butter
1/3 cup packed Light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Brandy or Cognac
1 Lemon – zested
Pinch of Salt
FOR THE CAKE:
1 cup AP Flour
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
2 organic Eggs
3 tablespoons organic Butter – melted
1 cup Half & Half or Whole Milk
1 tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt

Begin by peeling and slicing the apples.  In a large skilled or sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple slices.  Add the sugar and salt, stirring them in to dissolve, making sure not to break or tear the apple slices.  When the apples have caramelized in the sugar and butter, add the brandy and the lemon zest.  Cook for another few minutes, until the sauce in the pan has reduced to a syrup like consistency.  Remove the apples from the heat, and allow them to cool.

Grease a 9.5″ pie pan and gently layer the cooled apple slices in a round configuration.  Pour the brown sugar syrup from the sauté pan all over the layered apple slices.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt; add the sugar.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs together.  Add the vanilla, half & half, and melted butter to the eggs, and whisk to get all the ingredients combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to get a homogenized batter.  Pour the batter over the apples, and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the cake to rest for a few minutes, then place a large enough plate over the pie pan, and flip the pie over onto the plate.

You can serve this delicious apple cake warm with vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream, or a dusting of powdered sugar.  Whichever topping you choose, I hope you enjoy.


Lebanese Lentil Soup w/ Lemon & Swiss Chard – 3adas Bil Hamod

Every time I think of this Lebanese lentil soup, I am transported to the distant past, when I was little, and my mom would make this delicious lentil soup for me, my dad, and my sister.  I remember coming home from school, starving.  I would walk into the kitchen, and the scent was just intoxicating!  Onions, garlic, and cilantro sautéing in extra virgin olive oil.  It was such a lovely treat, especially, on a cold afternoon.  Even though, my mom has made it many times since, my most vivid memories are from the days of my childhood.  Now, it is up to me to create those vivid food memories with my own family.

LEBANESE LENTIL SOUP WITH LEMON AND SWISS CHARD 

1 small yellow Onion
1 large head of Garlic – minced
2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 bunch Cilantro
1 1/2 cups brown Lentils
3 quarts Water
1 bunch Swiss Chard
1/2 to 1 Lemon per bowl – juiced

Start by rinsing the lentils.  In a large sauce pan over medium heat, simmer the lentils in water, until they are soft.

Finely mince the onion and garlic, and finely chop the cilantro.  In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until they are translucent.  Add the cilantro, and sauté for another few minutes.

Wash the potatoes, and cut them into small cubes.  Sauté them along with the onions, garlic and cilantro mixture for about 5 minutes.  Add the cooked lentils and all their cooking liquid to the dutch oven.

Wash and chop the swiss chard.  Make sure to remove the very bottom part of the stems, and discard them.  Add the swiss chard to the pot, cover, and simmer over low heat for 3o minutes.

Now that the soup is ready, juice about half a lemon per bowl of soup.  As I am Lebanese, I squeeze one whole large lemon for a bowl.  I hope you enjoy this deliciously healthy soup.

 


Pommes Anna

In the last two posts, I told you about the Seared Rack of Lamb with Salsa Verde and the Asparagus with Tomato and Garlic Confit.  Now is the time to talk about a delicious potato dish from France, Pommes Anna.  A classic Pommes Anna has potatoes, of course, butter, salt, and a bit of pepper.  My version has garlic and thyme added to the ingredients, just because garlic, thyme, and butter make for very fabulously delicious potatoes.  I, also, make and serve this dish in individualized portions.  In my opinion, that makes it prettier to serve.

POMMES ANNA

5 large Yukon Gold Potatoes
1 stick organic Butter (8 tablespoons)
2 large Garlic cloves
16 sprigs Thyme
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

After rinsing and drying the potatoes, slice them into uniform thin slices using a mandoline.  Make sure to dry them thoroughly, as they will be a little wet.  In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on low heat.  Finely mince the garlic, and add it to the melted butter.  Pick the thyme leaves off the sprigs, and add them to the garlic and butter.  When the butter, garlic, and thyme become fragrant, remove them from the heat, and add them to the potatoes, along with the salt and pepper.  Toss the potato slices with the butter concoction, until the slices are thoroughly coated.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease a baking pan / sheet.  Take a handful of buttered potato slices, and gently stack them onto the baking sheet. Do so, until all the potatoes are stacked in individual little towers.  Top them with a couple of thyme leaves and freshly ground black pepper.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for about 40 – 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through, and the edges are golden and crispy.  Serve alongside you favorite main dish.  I served it with my seared lamb and salsa verde.  It was very delicious!  Bon Appétit!


Seared Rack of Lamb w/ Salsa Verde

I LOVE LAMB!  Fortunately for me, so does my husband.  So, when I presented him with three different menus I conjured up for him to choose from for his birthday, he picked the lamb.  Since lamb is generally not lean, it needs a little bit of freshness and citrus to cut through the richness of the fatty meat.  Salsa verde would be the perfect condiment for the lamb.  It is the bit of citrusy freshness that is needed to balance the dish.  This version of salsa verde has anchovies in it.  Trust me, you will not taste anything fishy.  My husband does not like the assertive flavor of anchovies, yet he loved the salsa, as he could not taste it.  The anchovies lend a depth to this condiment, that would otherwise be absent.

SEARED RACK OF LAMB WITH SALSA VERDE

2 racks of Lamb – Frenched
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
4 Shallots
4 sprigs fresh Rosemary
3 tablespoons organic Butter
1/2 cup Sherry wine (optional)

You may choose to trim the fat off the racks of lamb, but I highly advise against it.  Seared and caramelized lamb fat, to a Lebanese like me, is the most delicious seared animal fat!  Plus, it keeps your meat moist, as you cook it in the oven.  That being said, take the lamb out of the refrigerator, and allowed it to sit on a clean counter, until it is close to room temperature.  Lather each rack of lamb with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, liberally sprinkle the salt and pepper on both the racks, and let them sit to the side for a couple of minutes, while you get the sauté pan ready.

In a large sauté pan on medium high heat, pour in 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add 2 tablespoons of butter.  When the pan is very hot, place one or both racks of lamb in the pan fat side down.  Do not over crowd the pan, and do not mess with the lamb for at least 5 minutes.  You want to get a very nice sear and brown color on the that lamb.  Add the peeled shallots and rosemary sprigs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Turn the lamb over to sear the other side for another 5 minutes.  Turn the lamb back over to fat side up, and place it in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes, until you get a thermometer reading of 125 degrees Fahrenheit.  (While the lamb is in the oven, make the salsa verde – recipe below.)  Take the lamb out of the oven, remove it from the pan, cover both racks with foil, and allow the lamb to rest for at least 5 minutes, and until an internal temperature of about 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.  This will give you a perfect medium rare lamb.  If you like your lamb cooked longer, leave the racks in the oven longer.  Just make sure to allow the lamb to rest, when taken out of the oven.  

Return the sauté pan back to the stove over medium high heat, after removing most or all the fat, then add the sherry to all the delicious brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Allow the sherry to reduce to a syrupy consistency, while scraping everything off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat off, and strain the sauce you just made, if you want a silky smooth sauce.  If you want a rustic sauce, skip this step.  Add it back to the pan, and finish it off with a tablespoon of butter, gently stirring it into the sauce.

SALSA VERDE

2 cloves Garlic
4 Anchovy fillets – packed in oil
1 tablespoon Capers – packed in vinegar
3 tablespoons Italian Parsley – finely chopped
3 tablespoon Sweet Basil – finely chopped
2 tablespoon Mint – finely chopped
1 Lemon – zested & juiced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

Using a mortar and pestle, mash or grind the garlic with the salt into a very fine paste.  Add the anchovies, and grind to fine paste as well.  Finally, add the drained capers to the mortar and pestle, and mash the entire mixture together.  Place the paste in a bowl.  Zest and juice a lemon, and place both in the bowl.  Finely chop all the herbs, and place them in the bowl as well.  Add the extra virgin olive oil and black pepper to the salsa.  Stir it very well, and allow it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.  You can also make this salsa a day before, and leave it in the refrigerator until the next day.  If you choose to do so, cover the salsa with a little more olive oil to keep the greens from wilting and losing their vibrant green color.

Now that the lamb has rested, with a very sharp knife, cut the lamb into one chop or double chops.  In a serving  plate, place the lamb chops, either alone or with a side or sides.  You may use the sherry sauce made earlier for a more deep and rich flavor, or use the salsa verde for a more vibrant and refreshing flavor.  You can always use both!  My daughter preferred the sherry sauce, while my husband preferred the salsa verde.  I used both.  So, plate however you would like, and ENJOY this most delicious of meats!


Asparagus w/ Tomato & Garlic Confit

This weekend was my husband’s birthday.  Every year, on his birthday, I make him a special meal followed by a dessert of his choice.  For this meal, I made him a Seared Rack of Lamb with Salsa Verde, Asparagus with Tomato and Garlic Confit, Pommes Anna, and Rebecca Rather’s Tropical Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting, Kevin’s favorite.  I got up early on Saturday to get started on all those delicious dishes.  The next few posts will contain the recipes from my husband’s birthday meal.

ASPARAGUS WITH TOMATO AND GARLIC CONFIT

3 lbs Asparagus
1 pint Cherry  Tomatoes
1 head Garlic
4 sprigs Thyme
1 to 1 1/3 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
3 quarts boiling Water
3 tablespoons Salt

In a small sauce pan on low heat, pour in the olive oil and add the peeled garlic, tomatoes, and thyme sprigs.  Let the tomatoes and garlic cook or confit for about 2 hours, or until the garlic is very soft.  Remove them from the heat, and remove the thyme sprigs.  You may go ahead and remove the tomatoes and garlic from the confit oil.  Make sure to reserve some of the confit oil for the asparagus, and the rest for another dish or bread dipping.

Meanwhile, clean the asparagus and remove their wooden ends.  Slice them diagonally into 3 or 4 equal segments.  In another pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add 3 tablespoons of salt, then add the sliced asparagus.  Parboil the asparagus for 4 minutes, then place them in ice water.  This process stops the cooking process, as you don’t want the asparagus to be overcooked or mushy, while retaining their deep green color.  After a couple of minutes or so, remove the asparagus from the ice water and dry them thoroughly.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, pour 3 tablespoons of the reserved confit olive oil, then add the sliced asparagus, half the salt and pepper.  After the asparagus have warmed up, gently toss in the tomatoes and garlic with the rest of the salt and pepper.  Gently mix everything together, then place them in a serving dish.  This is a very delicious and bright side dish.  It goes very well with meat and fish dishes.  In this instance, the main dish is lamb, which will be featured in the next post.  I hope you enjoy this very yummy side dish!


Spanish Chorizo & Potato Hash Topped w/ Olive Oil Fried Eggs & Mediterranean Tomato Salsa

When it comes to chorizo, I love the Spanish variety above all else.  The flavor is amazing!  It is made of pork, smokey paprika, garlic, and herbs.  It can be spicy or sweet.  The texture is hard like a salami.  It is delicious as part of a charcuterie spread, in a rustic soup, as garnish on a creamy soup, on crostinis, or as part of a hash topped with extra virgin olive oil fried eggs.  I first had Spanish chorizo at a tapas bar in the north of Spain many years ago.  I haven’t stopped eating it since.

SPANISH CHORIZO AND POTATO HASH TOPPED WITH OLIVE OIL FRIED EGGS

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 yellow Onion
2 cloves Garlic
12 oz Spanish Chorizo
4 yukon gold Potatoes
1 tablespoon Rosemary
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

The EGGS
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 organic Eggs
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 grinds Black Pepper

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.  Dice and sauté the chorizo, until some of the fat is rendered.  With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked chorizo, and place it to the side.  Remove half the fat from the skillet.  Make sure not to dispose of it down the drain.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Finely chop and sauté the onion.  Meanwhile, dice the potatoes and finely chop the garlic and rosemary.  When the onions have become translucent, add the cooked chorizo , the potatoes, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper into the skillet.  Stir and allow the hash to sauté for a couple of minutes, then put the skillet in the oven for about 30 minutes.  While the hash is in the oven, begin making the Mediterranean tomato salsa.

MEDITERRANEAN TOMATO SALSA

3 tablespoon sweet Basil
1 tablespoon fresh Oregano
1/2 pint Cherry Tomatoes
1 Lemon – zested
1 clove Garlic
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Finely chiffonade the basil (slice it into long thin strips), finely chop the oregano, quarter the cherry tomatoes, finely mince or grate the garlic, and zest the lemon.  Place all the ingredients in a bowl with the salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  Stir everything together, and leave the salsa in the refrigerator for the remainder of the time, until you need to plate your dish.  This allows all the flavors to meld together.

Once the potatoes are soft on the inside, yet caramelized on the outside, remove the hash from the oven, and allow it to rest for a couple of minutes, while you make the eggs.  In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat, then gently crack and add the eggs.  With a spoon, scoop some of the hot oil over the egg whites.  This will allow the whites to cook faster, thus keeping the yolks beautifully runny.  Once the whites are firm, turn the heat off and remove the eggs from the skillet, and place them onto a plate.

In a serving dish, plate the hash, then top it with one or two eggs, depending on what portions you are serving per person.  Gently top the eggs with the fresh Mediterranean tomato salsa.  Serve and ENJOY!


Char Grilled Garlic & Rosemary Encrusted Pork Loin

Pork Loin, when done correctly, is very delicious, moist, and flavorful.  When done poorly, it is dry, flavorless, and completely inedible.  The key is to brine your loin for a couple of days.  The brine helps keep the moisture in the lean meat, when it is grilled.  It also adds a good subtle flavor to it, depending on what you put in the brine.  For my brine recipe, refer to THE BRINE part of the recipe and instructions in the Char Grilled Chicken w/ Olde Tymers Savory Herb Dry Rub & Chimichurri post.

CHAR GRILLED GARLIC AND ROSEMARY ENCRUSTED PORK LOIN

6 – 8 cups Brine – cooled – recipe in previous post as stated above
2 lb Pork Loin
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large head Garlic – minced
2 tablespoon finely chopped Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

After making and cooling the brine, place the pork loin in a large container, add the cooled brine, cover with a tight lid, and place in the refrigerator for 48 hours.  Remove the loin from the brine, dry thoroughly, and place it on a large enough platter or in a large dry container.

Finely mince the garlic, and finely chop the rosemary.  Place them in a small bowl with the extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Combine the rosemary and garlic mixture, then lather it all over the pork loin.  Cover the pork loin with plastic wrap or a cover, and place in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours.

Before you cook the pork loin, take it out of the refrigerator, and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.  You may sear the pork loin, then finish it in the oven; you may grill it on a grill pan; you may put it in a rotisserie; the ways of cooking this pork loin are endless.  I love eating food grilled with charcoal.  So, that is how the pork loin was cooked … on a charcoal grill.

After the loin has reached an internal temperature of about 160 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the grill.  It must be left to rest, covered with a piece of foil, for about 10 minutes.  This allows all the juices to redistribute, so the meat will stay moist.  On a clean cutting surface, slice the pork loin into 1 inch thick pieces, then plate.  I served my pork loin with butter sautéed mushrooms, olive oil sautéed shallots and French green beans, and parboiled Dutch potatoes that I finished in brown butter.  The pork was incredibly moist and flavorful! I cannot tell you how good it was!  I know this method is lengthy, but it is well worth it.  Bon Appétit!


Spinach, Mushroom, Havarti & Egg Tarts w/ Gremolata

One Saturday morning, I decided to make breakfast for my family from what was already in the refrigerator.  I did not want to go to the store or the farmer’s market.  It was my lazy day to lounge about, while enjoying a hot cup of perfectly brewed organic Guatemalan coffee.  I decided to make them spinach and mushroom tarts, topped with a sunny side-up egg and gremolata for freshness.

SPINACH, MUSHROOM, HAVARTI, AND EGG TARTS WITH GREMOLATA

4 Ramekins
2 tablespoons organic Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic – minced
1 large Shallot sliced
6 large Crimini Mushrooms
5 small sweet Peppers
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme – finely chopped
2 cups baby Spinach
4 tablespoons Heavy Cream
6 oz Havarti Cheese – grated
pinch Red Chili Flakes
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper

In a large enough sauté pan, melt the butter and heat the olive oil on medium high heat.  Add the sliced shallots and minced garlic, and sauté them until they are translucent, making sure not to burn the garlic.  Add the pepper.  Slice the mushrooms and sweet peppers, and add them to the sauté pan.  Allow them to cook for a few minutes, then add the finely chopped thyme, salt, and red chili flakes.  Sauté them for another few minutes, then remove them from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  On a clean cutting board, run your knife through the spinach, and place an equal amount in each of the four ramekins.  Top the spinach with the mushroom, shallot, and pepper mixture.  Add a tablespoon of heavy cream to every ramekin.  Grate the Havarti cheese, and top the ramekins with the cheese.  Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

While the spinach and mushroom tarts are in the oven, make the gremolata.  After which, you can make the eggs.

GREMOLATA

3 tablespoons flat leaf Parsley – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh Oregano – finely chopped
1 Lemon – zested
1 clove Garlic
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

After finely chopping the parsley and oregano, place them in a bowl.  Grate the garlic clove, and place it with the herbs.  Add the lemon zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Mix well, and leave to the side as you make the eggs.

EGGS

1 tablespoon organic Butter
4 organic Eggs
Pinch of Salt
4 grinds of Black Pepper

You may make the all the eggs at one time or individually.  I have chosen to make all four of them at the same time in a large non-stick sauté pan.  Melt the butter over medium high heat, then add the eggs to the pan.  Let the eggs cook until all the whites are firm.  Salt and pepper the eggs.  Place each egg on top of each of the ramekins.  Gently spoon a little of the gremolata over the egg.  Serve and enjoy.


Seared Flank Steak w/ Black Gold Coffee Dry Rub

A few days ago, I decided to use the Black Gold Coffee Dry Rub that I generously received from Dead Rooster Co.   When I first smelled this rub, I thought of chili with a gentle hint of coffee, as the cumin and cinnamon were a little assertive.  Even though my family loves chili, it is summer in Dallas after all, and chili would have been great on a cold day.  So, I thought I would use it on a steak instead.  I also wanted to use my cast iron skillet.  So, I bought a flank steak, lathered it with extra virgin olive oil, then massaged it with the coffee rub.  I let the steak sit in the refrigerator for a few hours.  I seared it, and then finished it in the oven.

When I served the steak to my family and friends, who were visiting from out of town, they really loved it.  The rub tasted nothing like chili.  It was very bold and deep in flavor, yet it was very smooth.  The coffee, cumin, cinnamon, and rest of the spices worked very well together to yield a completely unexpected flavor.  It actually tasted like chocolate!  I have never had steak and chocolate together, but if this is what that combination would taste like, then I am all in!  It was very delicious!  The spice level of the rub was just right for the depth of its flavor and the heartiness of the meat.  I also made a very simple butter sauce and a light citrusy arugula salad to go with the steak.  That was the perfect combination!  The salad added a bit of freshness, and served to lighten the dish a little.  One of my friends actually asked me for some of that amazing Black Gold rub to take home to Montreal.

SEARED FLANK STEAK WITH BLACK GOLD COFFEE DRY RUB

2 lbs Flank Steak
3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Black Gold Coffee dry rub
4 tablespoons organic Butter

Begin by rinsing and thoroughly drying the flank steak.  Drizzle only 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on the steak, and lather it well on both sides.  Sprinkle the coffee rub all over the steak, making sure to massage it well into the flesh.  Cover the steak with plastic wrap, and leave it in the refrigerator for as little as 1 hour.

Remove the steak form the refrigerator, and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat, pour in the rest of the olive oil.  When the oil is hot enough, gently place the steak in the skillet, searing it until the bottom forms a caramelized crust all over the meat.  That process should take about 2 to 4 minutes.  Flip the steak over, and allow it sear just like before, until the meat forms a beautiful brown crust.  Remove the skillet from the stove, and place it in the oven for about 5 – 7 minutes, depending on the oven and the size of the steak.  Meanwhile, make the arugula salad.

ARUGULA SALAD RECIPE

Take the beautifully cooked steak out of the oven, and place it on a clean surface covered with aluminum foil, so it can rest for about 10 minutes.  Remove most of the olive oil used in the cooking process.  Place the skillet back on the stove, and melt the butter over medium heat, while stirring with a wooden spoon.  As the butter melts, the stirring will help pick up all the little bits of flavor stuck to the bottom of the skillet.

On a clean cutting board, slice the steak into strips, against the grain, which will give you a more tender piece of meat.  Plate the slices of steak as you wish, and top them with the melted “butter and brown bit sauce”.  Place a little arugula salad on the side.  Serve and ENJOY!  You will love this rub!