A Simple (?) Cantaloupe Salad To Cool Down Dinner

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Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumber, Pancetta, and Feta

The madness of summer heat is upon us and I’m craving simplicity. This is the time of year to make like a chef: Embrace the simplicity, and allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. Which isn’t always as easy as it sounds. That’s because simplicity is complicated. Easy may seem like the simplest choice, but true simplicity is rarely easy. Does that make sense? Let me try it this way. Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Which sounds profound, but I think he was just sharing the cooking notes for his own Cantaloupe Salad.

Which I can relate to.

Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumbers and Pancetta

My original intention was to keep this Cantaloupe Salad very simple. I was going to take shards of cantaloupe and slices of cucumber and toss them with tarragon and vinegar and be done with it. Then I started thinking about tarragon and vinegar. They taste great together but have you ever noticed what happens to tarragon when it comes it contact with a strong acid? It turns black and slimy. Which may be simple, but it wasn’t something I could embrace. So decided to add just one more step to my simple cantaloupe salad. I infused the vinegar with fresh tarragon and tossed the leaves once they got slimy. Simple, right?

However, in the course of my prep work for this salad, I tasted my super sweet summer cantaloupe and realized all those honey notes were going to need some balance. I still had a block of feta leftover from the Baked Feta I made earlier in the week… I’m sure you’ve noticed how simple it is to crumble feta.

After that, it didn’t take long for me to notice a package of forgotten pancetta in my refrigerator and suddenly I recalled reading about a salad recipe that drizzled hot pancetta oil on cold cucumbers. Doesn’t that sound good? I’d already planned on cucumbers for my simple salad. How hard would it be to drizzle my Cantaloupe Salad with hot pancetta and tarragon-infused cider vinaigrette?

Need I go on? We’ve all been there… GREG

Cucumber Slices

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumber, Pancetta, and Feta

Cantaloupe Salad with Cucumber, Pancetta, and Feta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Published

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ ounce fresh trragon
  • 1 ripe cantaloupe
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounce thinly sliced pancetta (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 ounce crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Infuse the vinegar: Pour the cider vinegar into a jar, gently crush the tarragon stalks and leaves in your hand and place them into the vinegar, pushing them down into the liquid as much as you can. Screw on the lid and set aside, occasionally shaking the jar, for a minimum of four hours and up to overnight.

Slice the melon in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Remove the melon flesh in large, juicy shards, saving as much of the juice as possible. Place the fruit and juice into a mixing bowl. Slice the cucumber into ⅓-inch thick rounds and add them to the bowl with the melon. Place the melon and cucumbers in the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, fry the pancetta in the olive oil until very crisp, then remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the fat in the pan.

When ready to serve warm the pancetta fat over a medium heat, then remove the tarragon from the vinegar and pour 4 to 6 tablespoons into the hot fat, be careful it may sputter. Stir in the shallots and add a few grinds of black pepper. Quickly pour the hot dressing and wilted shallots over the chilled melon and cucumbers, tossing to combine. Transfer the salad to a serving plate and garnish with reserved pancetta, feta cheese, and more black pepper.

 

Sticky Baked Feta with Figs Wrapped In Radicchio Cups

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There’s another heat wave in Los Angeles. That makes two so far and we’re not even to our hottest month of the year (that’s September). Which means we’re still eating tapas-style at our house. The last heat wave I featured Greek Gigantes on toast. This time I’ve got Sticky Baked Feta. Sure it’s hot but I’m not saying I won’t turn on the oven. I’ll just say I’m using the oven judiciously. Because a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, a swirl of honey and a quick blast of heat will transform a standard block of crumbly feta into an unexpectedly luscious spread. I threw in some figs and mint for added sweetness and wrapped the whole mess in radicchio cups for some bitter balance.

Served alongside a few jarred staples from the refrigerator it’s a colorful warm-weather supper.

Pretty, yes… but how does this taste? Well, now comes the hard part. As I sit here intent on pecking out just the right words to define this Baked Feta I’d like to share a little secret. Describing food is not as easy as it seems. I constantly struggle to find better, brighter, more evocative terms to keep you hungry. To aid me in this task I keep a list of foodie words. I call them my “delicious words”. A blogger should learn how to describe taste without having to use the word delicious over and over again. I have a list for “best” and a list for “perfect” too.

So when I consulted my “delicious words” this morning – the baked feta still fresh in my mind – the word sticky jumped right out and said, “eat me”! Because sticky is a delicious word. Sticky Buns. Sticky Pudding. Sticky Baked Feta with Figs. I guarantee it will stick to your fingers. You’ll probably have to lick it off your lips. Now doesn’t that sound… delicious. (Oops! I just couldn’t think of a better word). GREG

radicchioFigs and FetaFigsbaked feta Sticky Baked Feta with Figs Wrapped In Radicchio Cups

Sticky Baked Feta with Figs

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2-4Source Adapted from Frankie UnsworthPublished
Sticky Baked Feta with Figs

Ingredients

  • 1 head radicchio
  • 1 (3 to 4-oz) block of feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoon honey (at room temperature, plus more for serving)
  • 2 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (at room temperature)
  • 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns
  • 3-4 fresh figs (trimmed and quartered or halved, depending on size)
  • ¼ cup toasted walnut halves
  • ¼ cup whole fresh mint leaves (loosely packed)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl prepare an ice bath. Trim the base off the radicchio and carefully separate the leaves and put them into the bowl of ice water to freshen.

Line a small, rimmed baking dish or ovenproof bowl a little larger than the block of feta with enough parchment to come up and over the sides. If they are available you can create the same bowl-effect using 4 whole fresh fig leaves.

Put the feta inside the parchment or leaf bowl you created and drizzle with about half of the honey and pomegranate molasses then use a small offset spatula to coat the block on all sides. Drizzle the remaining honey and pomegranate molasses in the center of the block letting it ooze wherever it likes. Bake for 30 minutes, maybe a bit more, until golden and sticky. Remove from the oven and carefully lift the cheese while still in the parchment or leaf bowl, letting as much of the liquid drip back into the baking dish as possible. Transfer the cheese to a serving platter. I found that a thin, pliable fish turner is the best tool to make the transfer successfully. Scatter the pink peppercorns on top of the cheese and arrange the figs, mint leaves and walnuts attractively on the platter. Serve with the radicchio leaves, patted dry.

To eat, scoop some of the sticky feta into a radicchio cup and top with a piece or two of fig, some walnuts, mint leaves, and a drizzle of extra honey.

 

A Lighter (Simpler) Fresh Tomato Pie

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A Lighter (Simpler) Fresh Tomato Pie

In my first book Savory Pies there’s a recipe for Fresh Tomato Pie. It’s a pie I often think about and almost never have the energy to make. You see this pie is best in the summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Exactly the wrong time to make a complicated pie involving a cheesy corn cracker crust and a whole lot of oven time. My traditional version of a Fresh Tomato Pie requires pounds of tomatoes sliced and layered with a truckload of mayo. It has a ton a flavor and heap of calories. Which is why I recently began thinking about converting my Fresh Tomato Pie into a bit lighter and a bit simpler Fresh Tomato Tart.

Changing a classic pie into a tart could be a risky endeavor, every cook in the South probably has some version of this pie. I’m sure there are bound to be arguments on what exactly constitutes a proper Fresh Tomato Pie. So I’m asking, please, keep those arguments to yourself. Because this time the pie may be a tart, but it’s still inspired by my memories of eating a slice while sitting on a sofa under the blazing hot shade of a porch in Cairo, Georgia.

This was the first time I had Fresh Tomato Pie. It was the early 1980s – just before my first spring break from college. My girlfriend Pam (yes, girlfriend!) loved food. She came from a very culinary family. A strictly Southern culinary family. Her food traditions included cornbread at most meals. Well, I mean meals that didn’t include biscuits. You get the idea.

College kids today would be shocked, but when I was in college most kids passed spring break in the homes of their parents. Pam and I both had parents who demanded this of us, so we did as we were told (another thing that would shock kids today). Despite exams and all the busy work of a semester’s end, Pam insisted we have one more meal up north in Cairo, Georgia with her Great Aunt Delores. Aunt Delores was a great cook and I rarely passed on an opportunity to eat with her. Even if it meant driving one hour north just to eat, turn around and drive 6 hours south to my parent’s house.

Which is how, on a typically hot spring break afternoon in Georgia, we pulled up to Aunt Delores’ driveway in my little Toyota. Aunt Delores hated that car. She always made me park it “round back”. I guess so the neighbors wouldn’t think she knew any “people like us”. I could never figure out if it was the fact that my license plate identified us as “people” from Florida, or that we were the kind of “people” who would drive a foreign car. But the car always set Aunt Delores off on the wrong foot.

Fresh Tomato Pie

Despite the heat Aunt Delores started a lot of mornings with the oven cranked to high. On this particular day, I’m remembering she had a pie in the oven. It was a classic, Southern-Style Fresh Tomato Pie – loaded with mayo and flavored with the same crunchy seeds that always remind me of Bread and Butter Pickles.

Well, this recipe for a Southern-Style Fresh Tomato Tart takes that pie and (tries) to bring it up to date. I wonder what Aunt Delores would think.

Unrelated to this story, Pam and I broke up soon after we enjoyed this pie. It was never meant to be as I was beginning to discover. I dropped out of college and left Tallahassee. I moved to California just a few months later. I may have broken Pam’s heart just a little bit, but I needed to find my true self. I knew I could never do that under the watchful gaze and determined words of Aunt Delores.

I did hear through the grapevine that Aunt Delores was a bit furious about my leave-taking. Yet, I continued to get Christmas cards from her for many years to come. I heard she passed away in a nursing home well into her 90s.

Her pie and (now) this tart live on. GREG

Heirloom Tomatoes Fresh Tomato PieFresh Tomato Pie

Southern-Style Fresh Tomato Tart

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Published

*You may alternatively stack two 10-by-10-inch Pepperidge Farm pastry sheets on top of each other and roll these out to a 10-by-15-inch rectangle.

Southern-Style Fresh Tomato Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 pound heirloom tomatoes (various sizes and colors if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (plus more for seasoning)
  • 3 ounce grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 scallions (white and light green parts finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • freshly cracked back pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 1 (14-oz) package all-butter puff pastry *(thawed in the refrigerator if frozen)
  • dill sprigs (for serving, optional)

Directions

Cut the tomatoes into ⅓ to ½-inch thick slices. Arrange tomatoes slices on a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with a thick layer of paper towels. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and top with another layer of paper towels. Let the tomatoes stand at least 10 minutes so that the paper towels absorb the excess juices and the tomato liquid doesn’t seep out while baking and make the crust soggy.

In a medium bowl stir together cheese, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, scallions, chopped dill, brown sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and season with a big pinch each of salt and black pepper. Set aside.

On a lightly floured work surface using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry to about a 10-by-15-inch rectangle that is about ¼-inch thick. Lay the rolled puff pastry sheet on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Chill at least 20 minutes before proceeding.

Meanwhile, set the oven rack in the lowest position. If you have one place a pizza stone on the rack and preheat oven to 425°F.

Once the pastry has chilled spread cheese mixture evenly over top, leaving a 3/4-inch border. Discard the wet paper towels covering the tomatoes then pat the tomatoes dry with fresh paper towels. Lay the drained and dried sliced tomatoes in a slightly overlapping single layer on top of the cheese mixture, maintaining the border. Use the prettiest slices you may not need them all. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake until crust is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes; let cool at least 5 minutes before sliding the tart onto a serving plate. Top with dill sprigs (if using) before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Gigantes Plaki (Greek-Style Giant Beans)

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Gigantes Plaki

It’s been hot in Los Angeles, but I’ll never be one of those people who just won’t cook in July and August. I can’t subsist on ice cream and limp lettuce. So when it’s very (very) hot I try to keep a cool head and devise low-effort meals. The trick is to choose make-ahead dishes that are worth the effort. Well for me just about anything slathered on toast is worth the effort. You can make a whole meal from build-it-yourself crostini. It’s kind of like the “cheese and crackers” model that you loved as a kid. While cheese is nice, these days I’m also more likely to broaden the choices of what might appear on the platter. It’s a common practice known as meze in Mediterranean cultures, pintxos among the Basque, and I swear the Hawaiians call it a pu pu platter. However today I want to talk about just one element from my “pu pu platter” – what the Greeks call Gigantes Plaki, or giant beans.

Usually served with bread, Gigantes Plaki (Giant beans baked in tomato sauce, sometimes spelled gigandes) often appear alongside things like olives, feta cheese, tzatziki, and hummus, as part of a meze spread before dinner. However, I served a similar meze platter as dinner when I made these beans. As I said it was hot and the beans (which I cooked early in the morning before the heat set in) were the only thing that required the oven.

Gigantes Plaki

Busy schedule? No worries – Gigantes Plaki can easily be made in parts or stages. They’ll last for days in the refrigerator too. GREG

PS I found these beans at Rancho Gordo.

Gigantes Plaki

Gigantes Plaki (Greek Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 12Source Greek Baked BeansPublished
Gigantes Plaki (Greek Baked Beans in Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried gigantes (or big dried lima beans)
  • 1 cup small diced onions
  • 1 cup small diced celery
  • 1 cup small diced carrot
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (plus more for serving)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water (or more as needed)
  • crumbled feta (oprtional)

Directions

Soak dried beans overnight or at least 7 hours. Boil for 50 minutes and RESERVE 2 cups of cooking liquid before draining beans.

Saute chopped onions, celery, and carrot in olive oil over medium-low heat until tender. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add parsley, mint, dried oregano, and a generous amount of salt and pepper, mix to combine and cook for one minute.

Add crushed tomatoes, stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes. Add reserved bean cooking liquid and bring sauce up to a boil. Remove from heat, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to bake the beans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Layer cooked gigantes beans evenly in 9×13 baking pan and pour sauce over top. Add about 1 cup room temperature water (don’t let it get too soupy) and bake, uncovered, for 2 hours in the heated oven. Stir approximately every half hour or so, adjusting the moisture level with more water as needed.

Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with feta (if using) and a sprinkle of parsley.

Purslane Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

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Purslane Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

Most of the year Panzanella isn’t even on my radar. Then, just about this time every summer, I pick up a tomato and with one whiff I find myself thinking about this classic Italian stale bread salad. It’s a salad that somehow seems too simple to be as good as it always is. As with many peasant dishes born of necessity, there seem to be endless variations on Panzanella. Afterall, it’s not much more than chunks of day-old bread and juicy summer tomatoes tossed with whatever veggies you have on hand. Red onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers are popular choices, but there’s nothing stopping you from adding any of the other goodies from your farmers market haul. I came home with purslane in my bag this week so I made a Purslane Panzanella Salad.

Despite its simplicity, a Purslane Panzanella is more than just another tomato salad with croutons. Good Italian bread is important. Ciabatta will do in a pinch but unsalted Tuscan pane sciocco is traditional. Whatever you choose it must be stale. Don’t waste your time trying to make it with fresh bread – it will just disintegrate. The secret is to let the bread and juicy tomatoes sit long enough so that the hard bread becomes chewy. This is what transforms this simple salad into a bona fide cannot-stop-eating-it summertime sensation.

Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) also known as Verdolaga, Pigweed, Little Hogweed or (my favorite) Pusley, is a succulent plant that is found most commonly in Mexican, Greek, and Middle Eastern cooking. It sounds exotic but actually, it’s a weed and it grows rampantly in Los Angeles’ Mediterranean climate. I could easily pick some on my daily walks to throw is seasonal salads, but I don’t. I’m too afraid of dog pee I guess. Fortunately, it’s readily available at the Hollywood Farmers Market. It gets very little attention as far as I have noticed. In fact, I have walked past bunches of it every Sunday for years without looking twice. But this week I was looking for an unusual ingredient to toss into this salad and Purslane Panzanella Salad seemed just the answer. GREG

PS I swear I didn’t know this before I “dreamed up” a Purslane Panzanella Salad, but soon after I made it I found this quote from a 16th-century Italian text about Panzanella. In it the Florentine painter and poet Bronzino says:

“Un’insalata di Cipolla trita

Con la porcellanetta e cetriuoli

Vince ogn’altro piacer di questa vita.”

That is: “A [bread] salad made with chopped onions, purslane, and cucumbers surpasses all other pleasures in this life.”

Purslane in a BowlStack of Heirloom TomatoesPurslane Panzanella Salad (Italian Bread Salad)

Purslane Panzanella Salad

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from The KitchnPublished
Purslane Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ounce Italian style rustic bread (with crusts)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)
  • 2-3 good size heirloom tomatoes (or more if small, about 4 cups chopped)
  • ½ red onion
  • 2 cup purslane (loosely packed)
  • 1 cup whole fresh basil leaves (loosely packed)
  • 4 ounce diced aged goat cheese (optional)

Directions

Slice or tear the bread into bite-sized cubes. Spread the bread cubes over a baking sheet. Leave uncovered overnight to stale and harden. Alternatively, bake in a 300°F oven until hardened on the outside but still slightly soft in the middle, 8 to 12 minutes, tossing once or twice during baking. Do not toast the bread all the way.

Combine the olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a jar. Shake vigorously. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Shake or mix the vinaigrette again just before serving.

Chop the tomatoes and cucumber into bite-sized pieces. Slice the onion into thin slices.

Combine the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onion in a large mixing bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over top and fold to thoroughly combine. Let the salad sit at least half an hour or up to 4 hours before serving. Stir occasionally so the juices and vinaigrette are evenly distributed.

Just before serving stir in the purslane and basil. Garnish with goat cheese (if using).

Slow-Roasted Pork Butt Tacos with Carrot-Habanero Salsa

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Slow-Roasted Pork Butt Tacos with Carrot-Habanero Salsa

I recently came home from the market with a four-pound pork butt. Which is not the same as a swine’s Gluteus Maximus. The butt is actually the shoulder and it’s one of my favorite parts of the pig. I had big plans for this butt and had hoped to present a humble cut of the pig in an elegant presentation inspired by a Roasted Pork Shoulder I’d seen on Chef Mimi’s blog. However, once I got it home it sat in the refrigerator for a day or two and I began to get the feeling that I’d better do something with this meat soon because a butt is a terrible thing to waste.

So, as a default position, I decided to slow-roast it using a brown sugar rub in the most casual fashion I know. But then what? Tender, shreddable, fall off the bone Slow-Roasted Pork Butt may be delicious (ok, crazy delicious) but elegant it is not. In the end, I threw together an unusual Carrot-Habanero Salsa from Wes Avila and I made tacos. I wonder if tacos had been my secret plan all along. GREG

Pulled Pork ShoulderCarrot-Habanero Salsa Slow-Roasted Pork Butt Tacos with Carrot-Habanero Salsa

Slow-Roasted Pork Butt

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Published

I use a brown sugar rub for this Slow-Roasted Pork Butt that I usually make on the fly. It typically includes brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and lots of black pepper. Plus whatever else I have handy. All kinds of great rub recipes can be found and most any one of them would work great here.

Pulled Pork Shoulder

Ingredients

  • 1 bone-in pork butt (shoulder) (at least 4 pounds)
  • ½ cup brown sugar rub (see notes)

Directions

Lay the pork butt on several pieces of plastic wrap that crisscross to create a large surface. Sprinkle a generous amount of the brown sugar rub all over the meat, rubbing it into the surface as well as you can. Let it rest for 15 or 20 minutes then repeat with some additional rub. Bring the plastic wrap up and around the meat on all sides, wrapping it tightly. Set the wrapped meat in a bowl or on a rimmed plate and refrigerate at least 24 hours.

When ready to cook bring the meat to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Unwrap the meat and place it on a rack set inside a roasting pan. Cook the meat in the oven for 5 or more hours (depending on the size of the meat) or until the outside is black and crusty and the interior reaches 190 degrees F.

Remove from oven and move the meat to a large bowl. Use two forks to shred the meat from the bone. Discard bone.

The meat is ready to serve or can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for future use. Reheat before serving.

Onion-Mint Relish

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Wes AvilaPublished
Onion-Mint Relish on Tacos

Ingredients

  • 2 cup thinly sliced white onion rings
  • 2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup whole fresh mint leaves (lightly packed)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

In a bowl, combine the sliced onion, oregano, mint leaves and salt and stir until mixed. Set aside to soften. Stir again before serving.

Carrot-Habanero Salsa

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 ½ cupsSource Wes AvilaPublished
Carrot-Habanero Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped white onion
  • 1 cup peeled and thinly sliced carrot coins
  • 1 yellow bell pepper (seeded and thinly sliced)
  • 1 habanero chile (stemmed )
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions

In a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and then saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Then, add the carrot and cook for 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the bell pepper and saute for 3 minutes. Add the habanero and cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with salt. Slide all the ingredients into a food processor and puree. When smooth mix in the lime juice.

 

Reverse Sear Ribeye: Every Single Time

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Reverse Sear Ribeye

Reverse Sear Ribeye. If you’re looking for a steak that’s cooked to medium-rare from edge to edge with a thin well-charred crust, this is the technique to try. I’m using an oven set to 250 degrees F. and a smoking hot charcoal grill, but you can do the searing with a cast-iron skillet on the stove top too. If you’ve ever cooked meat using sous vide technique then the idea of slow-cooking a steak before finishing it off with a hot sear will seem familiar. However, despite the fabulous results, I think sous vide takes a lot of the joy out of cooking. I probably cook pricey cuts of beef like this bone-in “tomahawk” ribeye once or twice a year. I consider it a special event – one of which I want to enjoy every minute.

This post came about in an unusual manner. I was at the market and I impulsively bought a giant “tomahawk” steak. I say impulsively because it’s not a steak I usually see at the market. Besides, I don’t buy $50 slabs of beef on a whim. Except of course when I do…

You see, I made this unusual (for me) purchase because I’d coincidentally seen my brother post a most-impressive Reverse Sear Ribeye on Facebook. It was even a “tomahawk”. It was an amusing post and he gave very precise cooking instructions for his Reverse Sear Ribeye in just two or three sentences. I’m glad his high school buddies were impressed and I enjoyed reading their comments of awe. However, a big flashy steak is not really my “thing” and I had no plans of jumping into the “tomahawk” game. Still, I found myself thinking about his steak more and more as the days went by. I’m not saying there was any sort of sibling rivalry at play. Don’t get that idea. My brother is a chef trained in the French tradition and he’s a far better cook than I’ll ever be. Honestly.

Reverse Sear Ribeye

The thing that intrigued me about his reverse sear ribeye is how easily formulaic the process seems. As long as you start with a steak that is 2-inches thick and weighs a bit more than two pounds this technique should work every single time. I like cooking procedures that work exactly as expected every single time. I make a two-pound Tri-Tip in the oven by a simple formula. Not only is it one of my most popular posts, but it makes weeknight cooking as simple as it can be.

So before I had time to chuck that “tomahawk” back in the case I decided to give my brother’s oven-to-grill method a try.

Guess what? It works perfectly. I’d love to say it works perfectly every single time, but let’s face it, this may be the only single time I spend $50 on a steak. GREG

PS In case you don’t know a “tomahawk” steak is cut from somewhere between the 6th and 12th rib of the beef cow and weighs between 2 and 3 pounds. Technically it’s a bone-in rib-eye with extra bone. That extra portion of bone is Frenched to give the steak its distinctive “handle” resembling something Fred Flintstone might order at the Drive-In. You know, that steak that turns his car on its side.

Tomahawk Bone-In Ribeye Reverse Sear Ribeye

Reverse Seared Ribeye

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 3-4Source Adapted from Grant HenryPublished
Reverse Seared Ribeye

Ingredients

  • salt and black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 1 (2 to 2 ½ lb) bone-in ribeye (2-iches thick)
  • canola oil (as needed for grates)

Directions

Generously season the steak on all sides with salt and pepper. Place the seasoned steak onto a wire rack set into a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 hours to dry the surface of the meat. This will result in a better crust.

Bring the meat to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Place the steak in the heated oven and cook until an interior temperature of 125 to 128 degrees F is achieved, 40 to 50 minutes depending on size. Use a thermometer to be accurate.

While the steak cooks prepare a charcoal grill for high heat. Once the coals get going put the cooking grates in place and lower the lid. Adjust the vents so that the interior temperature will reach 600 degrees F. It may take some fiddling to get the temperature just right. Use a thermometer for best results.

Once the steak comes out of the oven opem the grill and carefully oil the grates. Use a oil-soaked rag and an oven mitt. Place the steak directly on the grates and lower the lid. Sear the meat until nicely charred on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use your judgment.

Move the steak to a cutting board and let it sit for a couple of minutes. A reverse-seared steak does not need to rest as long as meat cooked by other methods. Slice and serve.

Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches

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Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches

If you’ve been hanging around kitchens for any length of time you probably have a particular favorite cheesecake. The jammy Strawberry-Topped Cheesecake is popular, or maybe your favorite cheesecake is simply sliced and served as in this lemony version from Mark Bittman. Cheesecake is a staple and most cooks have a fairly certain point of view about which type they prefer. However, if you’re not one of those cooks, or perhaps you just don’t care for the traditionally creamy styles that grace most menus then I’d like you to set these prejudices aside and consider making this Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches your favorite cheesecake.

It’s a seemingly unusual cheesecake, especially if you compare it to a New York Cheesecake. Partly because it’s dense and moist with an uncreamy crumb that has more in common with a pound cake than a no-bake cheesecake. But more importantly, the fruit element in this Cream Cheese Bundt Cake isn’t jammy nor is it fresh and juicy – it’s made with dried peaches.

I know from experience that dried fruit isn’t always a crowd-pleaser. I’ve seen plenty of folks spend most of their Starbucks coffee break patiently plucking currants from a scone. Of course, you can’t talk about the lack of love for dried fruit without using prunes as a case in point. Admit it, you’ve had a box of the wizened little wretches in the back of your pantry since 1994.

That said, dried fruit can be a bakers friend. Because getting just the right balance of moisture, sugar, and flour to make a successful cake often means that fresh fruit is off-limits. One of my most memorable baking fails was a Martha Stewart recipe for fresh strawberry-studded cookies. If you go back and read my post about them you’ll see I tried several ways to tame the moisture from those fresh berries. Dried fruit doesn’t weep when baked the same way many berries and stone fruits do. GREG

Cream Cheese Bundt Cake with Dried Peaches

Dried Peach Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10-12Published
Dried Peach Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cup dried peaches (cut into ½-inch chunks)
  • 2 cup fruity white wine
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 8 ounce cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ½ cup all-purpose flour (scooped and leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • powdered sugar (for dusting, optional)

Directions

Place peaches and wine in a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a low boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the liquid is syrupy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow peaches to completely cool in the liquid. Do not drain.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare a bundt pan by lightly coating the interior with non-stick cooking spray and a light sprinkling of flour. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use a hand-held mixer to blend together the butter, cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating in between additions until well incorporated.

Add the flour and baking powder to the mixture in several additions and then use a rubber spatula and fold the dry ingredients into the batter between additions. Add the peaches along with their liquid and continue to fold the ingredients together until just mixed through.

Transfer the batter to the bundt pan. Tap the pan firmly on your kitchen counter several times to settle the batter into the folds of the pan.

Bake in the heated oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready. If not, place back in the oven for 3-5 minutes and perform the toothpick test again.

Allow the cake to cool for five minutes and then turn the cake out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving. (Optional)

Perfectly Seasonal Roasted Cherry Toast

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Roasted Cherry Toast with Ricotta Cheese

Los Angeles has all kinds of restaurants. Exotic ethnicities and regional American specialties. Meat. Seafood. Vegetarian. Vegan. Old-School. New-School. Fast Food. Slow Food. But have you ever been to a really great toast restaurant? Well, we’ve got one of those too. It’s called Sqirl. I want you to fully appreciate how unlikely the success of this restaurant is. Think about it – this is Los Angeles and people are lining up on the sidewalk to eat toast. This is where the no-carb fad was born! I love Sqirl (and I don’t mind carbs) but honestly, it’s hard for me to make it over there just so I can have excellent toast for breakfast. So I’ve stolen some of Sqirl’s best tricks and I often top toast with all sorts of creative combinations at home. Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast is my latest example.

Ban the butter and tell jelly to step aside – the ritual of smearing stuff on toast doesn’t have to be boring. Roasted cherries make a delicious warm compote that cuts through the full-fat flavors in good ricotta cheese, while earthy thyme complements the sweetness. Besides, if you’re like me you buy cherries whenever you see them this time of year. All summer long. It makes no matter how many bushels I already have, or how many fruit flies I have to chase around the kitchen. I always think I need just a few more cherries. Why not try some roasted cherries? You’ve done everything else you can think of with them already. I just know you have. GREG

PS I served this Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast on slices of whole-grain rosemary bread from Roan Mills Grains. The earthy touch of rosemary gives this toast a savory boost Smucker’s can only dream about.

Roasted Cherry Toast with Ricotta CheeseRoasted Cherry Toast with Ricotta Cheese

Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Andrea BemisPublished
Honey-Roasted Cherry and Lemon Ricotta Toast

Ingredients

  • 1 cup ricotta (drained and at room temperature)
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 2 cup pitted fresh cherries
  • 2 tablespoon honey (plus more for serving)
  • 2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • fresh thyme sprigs (as needed)
  • 4 slice whole-grain artisan bread (cut ½-inch thick, then toasted)
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped raw almonds
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

Stir together ricotta, lemon zest, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt. Ricotta mixture can be refrigerated, in an airtight container, up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

On a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, toss cherries with honey, lemon juice, remaining olive oil, and 4 or 5 fresh thyme sprigs; season lightly with salt. Bake in the heated oven until the juices begin to thicken and the fruit is very soft about 17 minutes.

Generously spread the toasted bread slices with the lemon ricotta mixture and dollop the cherries with some of the juice on top. Garnish with chopped almonds and the tender tips of torn thyme sprigs. Serve with flaky sea salt and more honey on the side.

Chorizo Hash: Because I Have a Food Blog

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Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Oh, look! I have a blog. It seems to be a food blog. I almost forgot about it. It’s been 12 days since I last posted. I’ve never gone quite that long between posts before. I’m a bit surprised at how little the lack of attention has bothered me this past (nearly) two weeks. There was a time when such a lapse would make me feel antsy. But I’m still eating and I’m still blogging and I’m still glad you’re here. So I made hash. A Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs. I’ve thrown in some moderately spicy elements like fresh poblano peppers and chipotle powder, but this isn’t too far off the classic hash you might order at your favorite diner.

Let’s see, what else do I need to say? It’s been so long since I’ve done this I almost forget how to blog. Oh yes. I need to get my keyword into the text two more times. Chorizo Hash. Chorizo Hash.

There I’m done. May I please be excused from the table? GREG

PS I know, I know mom. Cakes are done people are finished.

Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published

It’s important that the skillet and hash be hot when the eggs are cracked into the wells for baking.

Fingerling Potato and Chorizo Hash with Baked Eggs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes
  • water (as needed)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 12 ounce Mexican chorizo (casing removed and discarded)
  • vegetable oil (as needed)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon chiptole chili powder
  • black pepper (as needed)
  • 1 poblano pepper (stemmed, halved, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 1 yellow onion (peeled and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 4 grilled piquillo peppers from a jar (chopped, you can substitute roasted red bell peppers)
  • olive oil (as needed)
  • 4-6 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoon grated cotija cheese
  • chopped fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
  • sour cream
  • salsa (optional)

Directions

Add the potatoes to a pot cover with water and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil then cover the pan until mostly cooked, about 7 minutes. Drain well and spread out on a baking sheet to cool.

Meanwhile, drizzle a little vegetable oil into a large skillet and cook the chorizo over medium heat until brown and rendered of all the fat, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to move the chorizo to a plate leaving as much of the fat as possible in the skillet. There should be about 2 tablespoons, if not add a bit of vegetable oil and set the skillet aside.

Cut the potatoes into ½-inch thick rounds; set aside.

When ready to make the hash preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, heat the fat left in the skillet from cooking the chorizo. Add the potatoes in as close to a single layer as possible. Stir in the paprika and chili powder and cook, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are beginning to get browned, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the poblano peppers and onion and cook until the peppers have softened, the onions begin to brown slightly, and the potatoes get crusty about 3 minutes. Return the chorizo to the pan and add the chopped grilled piquillo peppers; gently stir to combine.

Take the skillet off the heat and make 4-6 small evenly-spaced wells in the hash, exposing the bottom of the skillet, and pour a small bit of olive oil in each well. Break an egg into each well, sprinkle the eggs with salt and black pepper and scatter cotija cheese over the hash.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the eggs are cooked to your taste, about 5 minutes for firm whites and soft yolks. Serve immediately with optional accompaniments like fresh cilantro, sour cream and/or salsa.