Basque Piperade

Basque Piperade, or more properly, Piperrada, is an absolutely fabulous tomato-pepper sauce from the Basque country; the name derives from the Basque word for pepper. As with so many signature dishes, everyone has a recipe and they’re all different. In broadest terms, piperrada contains green and or red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers, tomatoes, and onion. Like that, it may be served as a side dish like a salsa or a base for stews, more like the basque version of mire poix. With the addition of a protein, (Eggs, ham or sausage), it becomes a hearty main course. The generally agreed point is that any version should be powered by red Espelette peppers, Piment d’Espelette in the French, and Ezpeletako biperra in the Basque.

Pimente d'Espelette

That legendary chile comes from its namesake town and a few surrounding communes in the Pyrenees. For about 12 years now, they’ve had AOC status, meaning that just like Champagne and Dijon mustard, they gotta be grown there to be called the real deal Espelette. Introduced into France by explorers hundreds of years ago, they’ve become a veritable cornerstone of Basque cuisine, and a key ingredient in piperade. An pepper festival is held annually in October, with colorful ristras of drying chiles be decking the towns. Espelettes score around a 4,000 on the Scoville scale, making them about like a Jalapeño in heat output.

Fresh and dried Espelettes are available online, but caveat emptor, there are also a lot of fakes. I get mine ground from World Spice; they’re genuine AOC chiles and the quality is consistently high, https://www.worldspice.com/spices/piment-despelette. Be prepared if you decide to dive in; an ounce will set you back about twelve bucks. That said, if you want to make the authentic dish, you need the real chile; they have a fruity, earthy heat that reflects their terroir; like legendary grapes, that certain je ne sais quoi comes from nowhere else. Here’s my version.

Piperade

5-7 fresh, ripe Tomatoes

1 large Sweet Onion, chopped

1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped

5-6 small, sweet Yellow and Orange Peppers, seeded and chopped

1-2 Hatch Chiles, (Hot or Mild as you prefer)seeded and finely chopped

2-3 cloves Garlic, crushed and finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground Piment d’Espelette

1/2 teaspoon local Honey

1/2 teaspoon Sal de Mer

1/4 teaspoon ground Pepper Blend

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, peppers, garlic, salt, paprika, black pepper, and sugar, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.

Add the tomatoes to the cooked vegetables and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.

Transfer to a glass or stainless container and allow to cool thoroughly before serving.

Will last for a good week refrigerated in any air tight container.

Vas-y!

 

 

Super Bowl Chicken

 

Here in the great northwest, our beloved Seahawks are, miracle of miracles, poised to play their third Super Bowl and first back-to-back appearance therein. I was born and raised in New England, so I'm kinda tied to both contestants. That said, I find Tom Brady insufferable and Belichick a troll, so…

 

GO!

SEA!

HAWKS!

 

If you've not settled on your fare for Da Big Game, consider this: If a nicely grilled chicken is a thing of beauty, then a brined, butterflied bird wins every pageant. Chicken on the grill is hugely popular for good reason, but it’s also a common victim of overcooking, which results in a stringy, dried out final product. A brined, whole chicken stays plump and juicy, even on outdoor cookers.

The process can easily be done between morning coffee and kick off. Here's how.

Purchase a local, whole, free range chicken; fresh and local beats frozen every time. Read this piece through, check your spice cabinet, and head to the seasoning section of your market for anything you don't have, including pickling or canning salt. This non-iodized version has a very fine grain and dissolves readily, even in cold water. Add to your list a local Pilsner, Chardonnay, or a sparkling cider as an accompaniment. Grab some hearts of romaine, some Champagne vinegar, a few lemons, some sharp Asiago cheese, some butter, fresh sourdough, and a head of garlic as well.

 

Start your brine with a gallon of fresh, cold water under 40° F.

Weigh and then stir in 10 ounces of salt; stir to thoroughly dissolve. Toss in,

Juice and zest from 1 small lemon

1 Tablespoon whole Pepper corns

1 teaspoon Sage

1 teaspoon Savory

3 Bay Leaves

 

Pull all the guts out of your chicken, then set the bird in a bowl large enough to handle it and enough brine to cover completely. Weight the bird with a plate to keep it submerged. Brine the bird in the fridge, (or outside if it's cold enough), for 2-3 hours.

Pull the chicken out and discards the brine.

Let the bird rest uncovered in the fridge for 1 hour. Prepare this citrus powered wet rub while your chicken is resting, so the flavors have time to marry.

 

1 Tablespoon black Pepper

1 teaspoon Smoked Sweet Paprika

1/2 teaspoon granulated Garlic

1/2 teaspoon granulated Onion

1 Tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil

Juice and zest of 1 small Lemon

Juice and zest of 1 small Lime

 

Making a chicken relatively flat is easy as all get out, and if, like Monica, (Sorry, Babe), you have a love-hate relationship with sharp knives, it’s a perfect process for you. A pair of decent kitchen shears is all you need, and here's how you do it.

 

flip your bird over so it’s breast side down.

Take your shears and line them up just to the right or left of the spine, and cut a straight line all the way through from one end to the other. Repeat on the other side of the spine.

That’s all the cutting you’ve got to do. Grab the spine and pull it free of the bird.

Now, turn the bird Breast side up, arrange it evenly, then give it a firm squish with your palms, as if you're giving it CPR. With a firm push or two, you’ll end up with a beautifully butterflied bird, ready to rub and cook. Tuck the wings in against the body, so they'll cook evenly.

Apply the rub liberally and allow it to rest for 15 minutes.

 

Preheat your grill.

 

While that's working, cut your romaine hearts in half, shave a generous pile of Asiago, quarter your lemons, and prepare this simple vinaigrette.

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Champagne Vinegar

Juice and zest of 1 small lemon

Pinch of Sage, rubbed fine

Pinch of Sea Salt

A few twists of fresh ground black Pepper

Combine all ingredients and whisk briskly. Allow the dressing to sit so the flavors can marry while you cook.

 

Cut slices of sourdough roughly 1/2″ thick, then cut those into cubes. Mince a couple cloves of garlic. Melt 4 ounces of butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Toss in the cubed sourdough and sauté until they start to brown. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until croutons are golden brown, taking care not to burn the garlic. Remove croutons to a clean paper towel and set aside.

 

Start the bird breast side down and grill for 15 minutes. This allows some of the fat to render and the skin to crisp up nicely. Using tongs, carefully flip the whole thing once, and grill for about 20 minutes more.

Check the internal temperature with a quick read thermometer, looking for 155° F.

Remove the bird from the fire and allow a 10 minute rest. The bird will continue to cook during the rest, ending up with an internal temp right around 165° F.

 

Lightly brush each half romaine heart with Olive oil, then squeeze a lemon quarter or two over them as well. Lightly season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Set hearts sliced side down on a moderately hot grill and tend carefully for 1 minute. Flip and grill for another minute. You're not looking to cook the lettuce so much as you're adding a bit of grilled flavor and smoke, heating the oil and citrus somewhat while keeping the insides relatively cool.

Remove hearts from grill and arrange on a platter. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and toss on some Asiago shavings. Arrange remaining lemon halves around hearts.

 

Portion chicken into breasts, wings, drums, and backs and serve with the salad, croutons and the beverage of your choice.

 

GO HAWKS!

 

 

We can pickle that!

If you love pickles like we do, you’ve pretty much always got several jars in your fridge. In addition to cukes, we’ll typically have store bought capers, olives, and pepperoncini. That list is a great source for fridge pickling brine you can now add to carrots, chiles, green onions, green beans, radishes, garlic, and whatever else strikes your fancy. 

Got a favorite brand with a just right pickle flavor? Save that brine and jar, and replace those kosher dills with a mix of jalapeno, garlic, onions and carrots. Top things off with fresh vinegar if needed, and you can add additional pickling spices as well if you like. Allow your new batch to marinate for 2 or 3 days, and you’re back in business. Fridge pickled goodies will last a month or two, although they’re so good, they’re unlikely to survive that long.

Try something a bit outside the box, like pearl onions in leftover caper brine, or cherry tomatoes in pepperoncini brine; experimentation is bound to lead to fresh ideas and new favorites. Let that outside the box thinking color your spice selection as well. Here’s the perfect chance to experiment with a single jar; develop something you love and you can expand to a batch run later. In addition to providing wonderful treats for a Bloody Mary or martini, pickled veggies add great zing to everything from salads or omelettes to soups and stews.

Next time you’re in the produce aisle, see what looks good and grab a little extra to pickle with. As always, carefully inspect and chose top quality for this endeavor. Try something that maybe you think you don’t like or aren’t that familiar with, like Bok Choi, Fennel, or turnips. A quick pickle brings a very tasty note to an otherwise dull character; try pickled celery and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Once you’re home, thoroughly rinse your produce in clean, cold water. For radishes, carrots, chiles, green and sweet onions and cukes, top, skin, seed, core, etc, and then cut them into whatever form you prefer your pickles in.

Fo green beans, corn, or peas, a quick blanch and shock will help preserve texture and color. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil, and have an ice bath standing by that, (50%-50% ice and water).

Toss your veggies into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, the transfer them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice bath. Leave them there until they’ve cooled completely. Remove and you’re ready to pickle.

When you’re ready to pickle, pour the remaining brine into a clean bowl or pitcher. Wash your jars thoroughly, and either sterilize them in your blanching bath, or run them through your dishwasher. Do the same with lids and rings.

For whatever you prepare, make sure they’re well packed, with at least an inch of brine above the tops of the contents, and seal the jars well.

Oh, and don’t forget to dust the rim of your Bloody Mary glass with chile salt.

Simply Super Salad

We’ve got pals coming over tonight for dinner and some guitar playing.

We’ll be doing a nice surf and turf with grilled Angus beef and butter poached true cod; for stuff that rich, you really need a refreshing salad that’ll cut through the fairly hefty proteins. This simple version is a long time fave of ours. The shallot, arugula, and garlic chives are a bit outside the box, and a real delight as well. If you can’t find fresh garlic chives, grow some; they’re easy to raise in a window box herb garden and go wonderfully with lots of stuff.

For the Salad,
2 Cups fresh Arugula
2 medium English Cucumbers
2 medium Tomatoes
1 small bulb Shallot
10-12 Garlic Chives

For the Dressing:
3-4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 fresh Lemon
Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Peel, seed and thinly slice the cucumbers. 

Core, seed and dice the tomatoes. 

Mince the shallot, and chiffenade the garlic chives.

Zest and juice the lemon.

Combine all the dressing ingredients, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. 

Combine all salad ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and toss to thoroughly coat veggies; allow the salad to rest, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.

Serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Enjoy!

Tomato Time

We’re up in northern Minnesota for a gathering of the Luthier Community, and the heirloom tomatoes at Grant and Christie’s, some 25 varieties, are coming ripe every day. I’ve been in hog heaven cooking for the gang, let me tell you.

Here’s a post over on Big wild Food for you to play with.

E & M

Cole Slaw, the right way.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an unabashed Yankee; I was born and raised about 18 miles north of Boston, in Concord, Mass. In that neck of the woods, a Saturday Night Suppah more often than. Or included baked beans, brown bread and freshly made cole slaw. Cabbage is much maligned, methinks, and shouldn’t be. New England is a place where it is celebrated in many dishes, and I carry that tradition to this day.

Slaw can be as simple or as complex as you like, but it general, a few truly fresh ingredients do the trick best. Cole slaw dressing from the store, with very, very few exceptions, is utter crap, filled with nasty fats, sweeteners, thickeners and preservatives you really and truly want no part of. House made is always best, period: Here’s how I do my favorite version.

For the veggie mix,
Green or Red Cabbage
Sweet Onion
1 small Carrot
Small handful Celery Leaves
1 Clove fresh Garlic
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Pepper

Rinse and slice roughly 1/8 head of cabbage very thinly (about 1/8″), across the grain. Cut into more or less bite size pieces.

Cut 2 or 3 slices of sweet onion the same way.

Rinse and use a peeler to shave the carrot into very thin strips, then cut down to bite size as above.

Chiffonade the celery leaves, and mince the garlic.

Combine all in a non-reactive mixing bowl, season liberally with salt and pepper and toss to blend.

For the dressing,
1 Cup real Mayonnaise, (Homemade is always best)
1 Tablespoon Agave Nectar
1 teaspoon Malt Vinegar
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Pepper

Combine mayo, agave and vinegar and whisk to blend. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.

Combine dressing nod veggie mix and blend thoroughly. Place slaw in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, (and up to overnight), before serving, to allow flavors to marry and develop.

Potato Salad, Good & Evil

I love potato sald, not the least because you can make a big ol’ batch and it’ll just get better for the couple of days it survives. I often get asked for my recipes, so here they are, mayo based and vinaigrette. Both of these are best made at least 8 hours before service, or over it, so the flavors can do their business.

Citrus Vinaigrette Potato Salad
10-12 medium Potatoes, (I like to mix white, yellow, red & blue for special occasions).
2 Slices thick cut, smoked Bacon
2-3 Green Onions
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, (Orange or yellow are fine too)
3-4 stalks Cilantro
5-6 stalks Garlic Chive, (Use one clove garlic and a small wedge of shallot as an alt.)
1/2 teaspoon Dill Weed
1/4 teaspoon Celery Seed
1 fresh Lime
1 fresh Lemon
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Pepper

Rinse and boil potatoes until fork tender, but not mushy.

Fry bacon until nice and crisp; set in paper towels to soak up excess grease.

Plunge spuds into ice water and shock for about a minute. Transfer to a colander and allow to thoroughly drip dry while you continue prep.

Rinse, remove ends, tops, seeds, etc and dice green onions and red pepper. Chiffonade cilantro and garlic chives.

Cut potatoes into roughly 1/2″ chunks. Dice bacon.

Combine potatoes, bacon, onions, red pepper, garlic chive, and cilantro in a large mixing bowl and combine well. Season with salt and pepper as you see fit.

Juice lemon and lime into a small mixing bowl. Add vinegar, then add enough oil to achieve a 3:1 oil to citrus/vinegar ratio. Add dill weed and celery seed and whisk to incorporate.

Pour dressing over salad and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

While the oil based salad is light and herby, when I make may based salad, I’m looking for unctuous, creamy goodness.

Mayo Based Spud Salad
10-12 medium potatoes
1/2 Sweet Onion
3 Hard Boiled Eggs
15-20 medium Black Olives
2-3 Dill Pickles
1-2 cloves Garlic
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Real Mayo
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon Creamed Horseradish
Sea Salt
Fresh ground Black Pepper

Rinse and boil potatoes until fork tender, but not mushy.

Boil eggs until hard boiled, about 10 minutes.

Plunge spuds and eggs into ice water and shock for about a minute.
Transfer to a colander and allow to thoroughly drip dry while you continue prep.

Rinse, skin and fine dice onion, olives, and pickles.

Mince garlic and capers.

Cut potatoes and eggs into roughly 1/2″ chunks.

Combine potatoes, eggs, opinion, olives, capers, pickles and garlic in a large mixing bowl; season with salt and pepper.

In a small mixing bowl, combine mayo, mustard, and horseradish thoroughly.

Spoon dressing onto salad and gently incorporate thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.