Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mom's Tasty Portobello

My friend Ann and I have gotten into many kitchen capers together in our lifetime, some of them reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory. She now lives in upstate New York, but when she lived in Ann Arbor, we did lots of cooking projects together. We'd can salsa together every summer. We'd make corned beef and cabbage together on St. Patrick's Day - no one in her family or mine likes it, so we'd eat it together. If I made a soup that no one else would eat in my house like curried cauliflower, I'd send some up to her house because she'd eat it and love it. We took a class to learn how to tap our own trees and make our own maple syrup. Our "sugar shack" was a hot plate plugged in on her front porch and we boiled sap there for days to make about a pint of syrup. I'm sure the other neighbors thought we were insane!

Another project we did was raise funds for our neighborhood playground. One of the fundraisers for it was to compile a neighborhood cookbook entitled "Favorite Recipes of Loch Alpine". In the book, Ann submitted a really good recipe for marinated flank steak called "Mom's Tasty Flank Steak" which was her mother-in-law's recipe. The marinade is equally good with portobello mushrooms.

Mom's Tasty Portobellos

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice - bottled is fine for this recipe
1 T. thyme
3 green onions, sliced - save some for a garnish

2 - 4 large portobello mushroom caps
Hot buttered noodles

Place marinade ingredients in a plastic bag, and add caps. Marinate for at least 8 hours, remove caps from marinade and gently squeeze them to remove excess marinade (they are like sponges). Reserving marinade, grill or broil caps until heated through. Heat reserved marinade in a small pan. Serve mushrooms over buttered noodles with reserved marinade - garnish with green onion slices.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fish Fry

One of the tenets of Catholicism is the Friday Night Fish Fry. Tonight, we partook of the Dexter Knights of Columbus Fish Fry. Here's a list of all the local ones that I can think of:

Dexter Knights of Columbus
St. Mary's Chelsea
The famous fish fry at Old St. Pat's, Whitmore Lake
St. Mary's Pinckney
St. John the Baptist Howell

I had my dinner at the Dexter Knights of Columbus this evening.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tuna Pan Bagnat

Cooking without meat is requiring more prep than I realized. This morning, it dawned on me that I would have to prepare the tuna casserole for dinner at 5 am, and then put it in the fridge so my daughter could put it in the oven before I get home from work. We only have an hour from the time I get home until it's time to leave for piano lessons. My husband commented how he so loves tuna casserole (I'll blog about that recipe on another day), but how sick of it he will be when Lent is over. I never make tuna casserole during ordinary time.

For lunch, I also had tuna. I made a sandwich based on a recipe in this month's Cook's Illustrated. I love tuna, but too much tuna is a bad thing. Have you seen the Environmental Working Group's Tuna Calculator? Evidently I can only safely consume 3 cans of chunk light tuna per week or I am at risk of too much mercury exposure. Who knew? The original recipe called for premium tuna - I spent $4 on a can of Italian tuna packed in olive oil and was underwhelmed. Probably the biggest calorie offender in a sandwich is the bread - this recipe uses a really good baguette hollowed out to minimize calories and maximize the flavor.

Tuna Bagnat (inspired by this month's Cooking Light)

1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (6-ounce) can chunk light tuna in olive oil, drained
1 hard-cooked large egg, chopped

1 (8-ounce) whole-wheat French bread baguette
1 garlic clove, halved
1 cup thinly sliced plum tomato (about 1)
About 12 fresh basil leaves

Combine filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut bread in half horizontally. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 1-inch-thick shell; reserve torn bread for another use like the topping for a future tuna casserole. Rub cut sides of garlic clove over cut sides of bread; discard garlic. Spoon filling on bottom half of baguette. Arrange tomato slices and basil leaves over tuna mixture. Cover with top half of baguette. Wrap filled baguette in plastic wrap, and let stand for 20 minutes. Cut filled baguette into 4 (3-inch) equal portions.

Serves 4

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday - Fasting and Abstinence

Today marks the beginning of Lent, and so I fasted. According to the rules, the Catholic Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. So today I drank a lot of coffee, and at noon I had a bowl of vegetable orzo soup from the work cafeteria. I went to an Ash Wednesday service at lunch and the pastoral associate talked about fasting and how the hunger is supposed to remind us of our hunger for God in our lives. She also mentioned that Lent is an opportunity for us to do something different from our usual routine. I left the church thinking I sure must need God, because I sure was hungry! The vegetable orzo soup just made me starving. I should have just had more coffee!

The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of our own choosing. We must do some penitential/charitable practice on these Fridays. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste. I have decided to abstain from meat the entire 40 days and blog about it every day as my break from my usual routine. I'm wondering how this will turn out?

So for dinner, as it is every Wednesday night, it was take out pizza. No pepperoni today, which is a culinary bummer for me. We just had mushrooms on it, and I topped mine with Alpino Spicy Pizza Topping. This stuff is has all sorts of vegetables and olives and it is spicy enough to give your pizza a kick. I bought it at Meijer's....very good. So, no recipe for today, but check here often during the Lenten season.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lent - My 40 days of meat free

Pardon me while I get religious for a moment....I haven't posted much about my religion on this blog, mostly because it's about food, but I've decided to "go there" from now until Easter. I am Catholic, and for Catholics, we are asked to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Here's a great article from a favorite blog of mine by a Catholic nun about Lent - it's called "Why Lent Rocks". It's about using the time of Lent to free us from the things that are bind us. Fasting and abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church is something that's confusing to many non Catholics, but what it means is that by abstaining from meat, it means no meat or poultry - seafood is allowed.

For this Lenten season, which begins this Wednesday, I am planning on abstaining from meat for the entire 40 days, and posting on this blog about what I am eating. I am hoping that I will gain some freedom in my cooking and that my "meat and potatoes" family will come to appreciate some other types of entrees. I will still cook meat for them, but it will probably be an add on to whatever vegetarian dish I'm making as an entree, or we'll have seafood at least on Fridays. This is going to be hard for me, as I love meat. Plus, I tend to get anemic unless I eat red meat several times a week, but I can take iron to make up for any potential shortfall.

Here's where I need your help. Can you send me a link to your favorite meat free entree recipes, or blog about them and send me the link? Thanks!

Swiss Steak - local style

Locavorious, which is an Ann Arbor based company that has partnered with several small farms in the communities around Ann Arbor, offers frozen produce subscriptions, similar to shares offered by community supported agriculture (CSA) farms. During the peak harvest, they prepare and package local produce at its peak freshness, and preserve it in a community freezer. I got a pound of their frozen tomatoes from my fellow Michigan Lady Food Blogger Rena and promised to create a recipe with them. So yesterday, I made Swiss steak. Swiss steak isn't a native dish from Switzerland, rather, it refers to the way you can tenderize a tough cut of meat by sprinkling it with flour and pounding it with a meat mallet. I didn't physically "swiss" this steak because I had some top sirloin steak from TMZ Farms in my chest freezer and thought it would be tender enough without the added step.

This recipe would be wonderful in a crock pot - cook it on low for 8 hours. It also would be a terrific camping recipe in a cast iron dutch oven. To make it while camping, cut the beef into 2' chunks first and cook with 8 coals on the bottom, 14 on top for about 40 minutes, rotating the lid and pot every 15 minutes or so. Locavorious' tomatoes were from Tantre Farm. The other ingredients could have been locally grown carrots and parsnips which I could have kept in my suburban root cellar. This year, I checked out a great book about root cellaring from the library and was motivated to give it a try. I "put some food by' - a half peck of apples and pears that I bought from a roadside stand in Romeo last fall by putting them on a shelf on an interior wall of my attached garage. It worked beautifully! They stayed fresh and crisp and didn't freeze. Next year, I will preserve root vegetables, probably in a box of sand in my garage, too. My potatoes were from DuRussel potato farm and can be purchased at groceries throughout Michigan.

Swiss Steak

1 lb. frozen whole tomatoes
3 peeled carrots, cut in 2 inch chunks
3 peeled parsnips, cut into 2 inch chunks
3 medium sized potatoes, cut in quarters longitudinally
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 lbs top sirloin seak
1 bottle of your favorite local beer (I used homebrew)
1 1/2 c. vegetable juice (make your own or use V8)
1 t. dried rosemary
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Hot cooked noodles

Preheat oven to 300 F.

Put vegetables in the bottom of a 6 qt. dutch oven, and place meat on top. Pour beer and vegetable juice on top, sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper to your personal taste - I recommend a tablespoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of pepper. Cover and cook in oven for 2.5 hours. Serve beef over hot cooked noodles with vegetables on the side and sauce ladled over the top.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I spent last weekend in Vestal, NY at my good friend Ann's alpaca farm and I got to eat the famous local dish of Central New York, the spiedie. A spiedie is basically marinated meat on a stick, and it doesn't taste like shish kebab. Every restaurant has their own variation on the menu, and they are traditionally served on bread or a hot dog bun. I enjoyed eating chicken ones from the Spiedie and Rib Pit as well as the Skylark Diner, and on past trips I have sampled the pork and lamb ones and I love them all.
Ann says that when she makes them at home, she uses Salamida's State Fair Original Spiedie Sauce and since I haven't found it in Michigan, I set out to make mine from scratch. After much online research, I probably found 20 different spiedie sauce recipes, so I borrowed some ideas from each and made up my own recipe. The trick to making spiedies is to marinate the meat for at least 3 days before you put them on skewers to grill. This recipe can be used to marinate up to 3 lbs. of the meat or poultry of your choice.
Spiedie Sauce
8 bay leaves, crumbled into small pieces
4 t. oregano
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 c.up distilled white vinegar
1 tsp. pepper
3 tsp. salt
Mix marinade in a plastic bag and add meat or poultry of your choice cut into 1 - 2" square cubes. Marinate in the fridge for at least 3 days, turning the bag over 2x a day at least. Skewer meat and grill until cooked through. Remove skewers and serve on hot dog buns or white bread. Also, spiedies are great on salads!