Life > Lemongrass > meatballs

2014-03-12 08.13.13I love cooking with lemongrass… in all forms. I buy it fresh whenever I see it and I alway keep a “tube” of it in the fridge. Look in the fresh produce area of your grocery store for herbs that come in squeeze tubes– almost as good as fresh and they are so handy when I am in the middle of a recipe and missing fresh herbs.

Lemongrass: lemony, yes… light, fresh, tart. I use lemongrass in most of my Thai or Vietnamese dishes, it provides so much flavor, especially when combined with ginger, garlic, citrus juice and fish sauce. One of my favorite dishes is Lemongrass Pork Meatballs in Lettuce Cups.

Dinner a few night ago:

Lemongrass Pork Meatballs in Lettuce wraps

Rice Noodles with red peppers, scallions and shiitake mushrooms

Pickled radishes and shallots

Lemongrass Pork Meatball
1 lb ground pork
1/2 chopped cilanto
4 TBLS finely chopped lemongrass
2 shallots minced
black pepper to taste

The great thing about these meatballs is that they are mostly pork… no breadcrumbs or fillers. They are juicy and tasty and go great with hot or cold noodles and with lots of fresh herbs.

Mix all the ingredients together and either saute in a pan with 2 TBLS oil or bake in a 375 oven for about 20 minutes. I like to saute them so I can keep a close eye on them and make sure they stay juicy.

The SECRET SAUCE
It is only the most magnificent sauce ever! Vietnamese table Sauce goes on everything…

1/4 C of fish sauce
1/4 C of lime juice
1 stalk of lemongrass finely chopped
3 TBLS brown sugar or light brown sugar
1 clove of garlic
1 TBLS of freshly grated carrot
2 tsp finely chopped Thai chiles (adjust for your heat tolerance)

add all the ingredients and let set for 30 minutes or more… I keep a jar of it in the fridge.

PICKLED EVERYTHING
You can do a quick pickle very easily…
fresh veggies along with a mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, peppercorns, etc.
Heat up the vinegar and sugar and spices just till the sugar dissolves and let cool. Add your choice of julienne veggies like: onions, radishes, cucumbers, etc and let them sit for as little as 20 minutes… I keep a jar of “pickles” in the fridge and add them to salads, sandwiches and meatballs.
ENJOY! Bon Appetit :)

Rock Them Fellers

photo (24)

Improving on the mighty raw oyster… puhleeeese. Freshly shucked with a little splash of tabasco, it’s such an amazingly simple and sumptuous bite. From my title, you may know where I’m going with this, there is that legendary creation that most definitely comes close; Oysters Rockefeller.

Thank you Antoine’s for moving to New Orleans, most likely that contributed to your culinary exploration of  ocean creatures and choosing the oyster when the shortage of snails demanded creative solutions.  Created in 1899 by Jules Alciatore, son of the restaurant’s founder and named after John D. Rockefeller because of the ultra-rich sauce, Oysters Rockefeller continues to elicit ooos and aaaahs from food enthusiasts everywhere.

I resisted the temptation to stray from that most purist of briny goodness,  the raw or slightly steamed oyster with hot sauce on a saltine, for many, many years. While on a trip with my husband in California some years ago and driving along the coast north toward Mendocino, we stopped at an “oyster shack” to try some highly recommended West Coast oysters.  When they arrived, we asked about sauce… hot sauce, cocktail sauce… crackers? “No, we don’t have those, how about Mignonette Sauce?” I had been eating oysters all my life and never heard of it, but its delicious on oysters… shallots (on my favorites list) pepper (top of my list) and vinegar. But back to O. R.

Good food drives most of our travel plans; it’s just so important! Most of the time the reward of “finding” a great new place or exciting, delicious dish is well worth the time it takes to research and fit meal opportunities into our itinerary. I hate to admit it, and will most definitely correct it on our next trip to New Orleans, but we have never dined at Antoines. I LOVE New Orleans and the amazing food options from muffeletta sandwiches from the market to super fine dining available throughout the city.  Galatoires on Bourbon Street  has very good fellers and they surprised me when I asked for a recipe and my waiter handed me a postcard with their recipe, apparently they have been approached before. I will try that one… but I haven’t yet. Presently, my favorite place for Oysters Rockefeller is in Savannah at Vic’s On the River. I enjoyed a plate 9 days ago and that prompted my decision to cook some last night. Vic’s was kind enough to share a list of ingredients they may or may not use in their’s but no recipe. So as usual, I searched some recipes online looking for what I would imagine to be the very best representation. I ended up going with a recipe on Bon Appetit and making a few variations.

Here is the recipe… a starting point, I almost never follow a recipe exactly… I like to add my favorite ingredients where I can and make the dish my own.

INGREDIENTS
1 garlic clove
2 cups loosely packed fresh
spinach
1 bunch watercress, stems
trimmed (I didn’t use any… but added extra spinach)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3/4 cup (11/2 sticks) unsalted
butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Pernod or other
anise-flavored liqueur ( I used Sambuca)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground (no… I couldn’t locate mine, so I added an little extra Sambuca)
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I did a Tablespoon)

1 pound (about) rock salt
24 fresh oysters, shucked,
shells reserved
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
cheese

PREPARATION
Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 450°F. Finely chop garlic in processor. Add spinach, watercress and
green onions to garlic. Process, using on/off turns, until mixture is finely chopped. Transfer mixture to medium bowl.
Combine butter, breadcrumbs, Pernod, fennel and hot sauce in processor. Process until well blended. Return spinach
mixture to processor. Process, using on/off turns, just until mixtures are blended. Season with salt and pepper. DO
AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Sprinkle rock salt over large baking sheet to depth of 1/2 inch. Arrange oysters in half shells atop rock salt. Top each
oyster with 1 tablespoon spinach mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake until spinach mixture browns on top, about 8
minutes.
ORIGINAL RECIPE on BonAppetit

It was amazingly easy! I wish I had found larger oysters, and will try to get better ones next time. We really loved this first attempt at making these at home… so fresh and bright and delicious. If you LOVE oysters, you should get to shucking and give these a try.

p.s.
My very, very favorite and unforgettable oyster dish is the wood-fired spicy roasted ones at Cochon in New Orleans… if you planning a visit you should definitely stop in!

The Last Fresh Leaf

2014-02-19 17.22.17-1Sun… yes

70+ degrees… yes
Waiting till for Spring to plant my garden boxes… no
Luckily, they can be protected should we have a freeze here in sunny Florida.

One thing leads to another; That defines my cooking style. Go to the produce market and see the loveliest of plums or peaches…make a tart. Fresh stalks of lemongrass = a Vietnamese influenced dish… and so it goes.

Yesterday was really lovely and warm and my earthboxes were not so lovely; stringy 4 ft. tall tomatoes plants with 3 tiny blooms at the very top, bright yellow dill flowers and woody basil stalks. Time for re-planting. I like to wait till the very, very last possible harvest before tearing out everything and starting new. Even the tiniest of gardens can add so much wonderful flavor to home-cooked meals. So… I planned to make spaghetti, my husbands favorite, but as I picked the very last of the sweet basil and purple basil and picked some of the last meyer lemons from my tree I decided to keep it light and fresh; basil chicken with mushrooms and artichokes over porcini mushroom egg pasta. Bon Appetit :)

Earthboxes great for small, super productive gardens!

Is This the Secret Sauce?

2014-02-17 19.05.48-1

Why yes… yes it is.

I always make a “secret sauce” with rack of lamb; sweet, savory and sometimes with a little heat and au jus. My husband always ask, “is this the secret sauce?” And of course it is… secret for the day, not the same as last time though. I’m not one to stick to a recipe. Cooking for me is a creative endeavor… just like painting. I look at the possible ingredients for the meal, find some inspiration in my pantry and fridge and go with it.

Rack of lamb looks a little intimidating… I finally bought it a few years back after enjoying it at a restaurant. I decided it was just red meat and I can cook most any other kind, so why not. Not much pre-cooking preparation is needed. I like to make a mix of freshly ground peppercorns and kosher salt, freshly minced rosemary and lemon zest… that’s it, add  enough olive oil to make a thin paste and slather the racks on both sides. Let them rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer.
My “special sauce” will remain secret… ha ha. seriously, it will. I will again say that I love sweet and savory, like garlic and shallots and red wine, honey…cherries mmmm. Make a sauce from the flavors you like and after you have cooked your racks of lamb either on a med/hot grill or in a 425 oven for about 25 minutes (if you have a convection option, use it) , let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes, then slice between the bones and add any jus or meat drippings to your sauce.

I usually make roasted potatoes with rosemary and pepper… tonight I used pink and wild black peppercorns :) I also made one of my favorites… garlic green beans.

Buy good quality ingredients, season with fresh herbs and good quality spices, and you will have good food!

next time… musts for your pantry!

Okay,You Asked For It

OKAY… not everyone asked, but at least 3 people I know asked why I’m not blogging about food… and gardening and some of the other activities that I get involved in, besides art. So here I am. This new blog will be replacing my art blog and including so many other things.

  • cooking
  • the beauty of ingredients; peppercorns, mushroom, shallots (one of my favorites), did I say peppercorns?
  • cleaning  no, no
  • birds and bird activity
  • weiner-dogs
  • baking
  • canning
  • ART OF COURSE