lamb chop vs. Lamb Chop

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Sometimes, introducing someone new to the family can make tensions flare. Since introduction, the flames have tapered down, but haven’t fizzled out yet. So rather than worry about the sparks, we decided to light a candle instead. A birthday candle, that is.

Zoe came to visit about a month ago.  Yes, another sweet dog in a sad situation in need of a good home.  “Two is a couple, three is a crowd,” Tom said.  “Don’t bring another dog home.”

I didn’t listen.  A trait that doesn’t always work out well for me.

“She’s not staying,” I assured him.  “We are just watching her for a few days.”

Winston was very jealous.  He pouted.  He hid under the bed.

Ginger was very aloof.

But Zoe wanted to stay forever.  She showered Tom and I with kisses and love. So many kisses.

Winston wanted Zoe to go back to from wherever she came.  Harrumph.

Zoe tried to win him over with her charm.  She rubbed past him and tilted her rump up near his face.  Submissively, she rolled over and kicked up her feet in play.  She thought he was swell.

Nothing but pouts.  His once perky ears, flat as pancakes.

Then one day, Winston decided to play!  Soon they were romping and rolling and running around the couch.  On every completion of the race course, Winston would stop and keep looking to me for permission to continue; a big sloppy smile with tongue hanging out of his mouth.

There is some barking.  We are working on that.  There is tension, sometimes; like when Ginger blindly stumbles into Zoe, she attacks.  Or when it is time to lick the bones from the lamb chops . . .  Everyone is happily licking away; two lamb chops, three dogs, four hands . . . (insert dog fighting noises here) you can imagine those sounds.

What happened?  Who knows but two bones went in the trash immediately, one dog skulked off as one was lifted quickly out of harms way.  The third dog, Ginger, was clueless, where did everyone go?

Zoe has wiggled her way into our hearts though and Winston, albeit still a bit jealous, has found that it is kind of nice to have a spry gal pal that plays and loves.

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“Zoe, no bark!!!”

Welcome to your forever home Zoe and Happy 9th Birthday!

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“I like salmon cake!” No lamb for them tonight.

 

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LAMB CHOPS seared with dijon, garlic & herbs

Here’s the deal: I love lamb. Lamb chops, lamb roast, ground lamb . . .  I used to call Buddy “Lamb Chop” sometimes. He was so scrumptious and delectable. We used to kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!  How we miss that kid.

He was also known as “Peanut”, so now that we have Zoe, I think “Pine Nut” seems to be a more appropriate fit for her, since she is half his size.

To make a tasty lamb chop, it can be as simple as sprinkling them with salt, then smothering the little chops in dijon, lemon juice, garlic and herbs.  A hot grill or skillet sears each side, leaving the middle cooked as rare as you prefer.

I use a scant 1/2 tsp of salt + 1 chopped garlic clove per pound of lamb. Pepper is free-flowing  from the grinder and a dab of Dijon mustard with a small handful of fresh herbs. Mint, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or parsley are all good choices.

Drizzle with olive oil, rub in the seasoning and let sit for an hour, covered at room temp.  On a heated grill or a very hot skillet, cook for a few minutes on each side, making sure they are browned nicely before turning them over.

This is wonderful served with al dente cooked green beans, tossed in cooked lentils, tucked over thick, roasted eggplant and a dollop of creme or a good-quality feta cheese.

Alternatively, you can roast a leg of lamb like I did here and serve it tossed in lentils and arugula, as I did here.  Still, roast the eggplant on the side and make the following sauce to drizzle over:

YOGURT SAUCE

This is a super-simple sauce.  All it takes is the best yogurt you can get, plus, cumin, coriander, grated parmesan and cucumber.  That said, I used a new yogurt that was AMAZEBALLS!!!  (called White Mountain Organic Bulgarian Yogurt from Austin, TX).

Mix together the ingredients below:

1/2 cup yogurt (see brand above, or use the best available to you)
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground corriander
1 TB finely grated parmesan
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB grated cucumber
Fresh ground pepper to taste

ROAST LAMB, ARUGULA, LENTIL SALAD

So, another way to slice this is by doing a nice salad of arugula and lentils topped with yogurt roasted lamb and roast eggplant.  Not so much a recipe a recipe as a way to serve some great things all together as a meal.  Improvise!

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“Nothing to see here.  Party on!”

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Pine Nut vs. Lamb Chop!

Club Paris: Filet Mignon – the best damn steak I’ve ever had

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As you all must have guessed by now, I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, where forty years ago still existed the myth that everyone was an Eskimo, ate whale blubber, owned a team of sled dogs and lived in an igloo.

Seriously, it was the number one question other children asked of me when my family and I vacationed in Hawaii or California.

“Do you live in an igloo?”

I was a little annoyed at their ignorance, but should probably have been more appalled at what they weren’t being taught in school.

There was not much of a downtown, not many noteworthy restaurants and if you wanted the latest in clothing or music you had to get it from the “Lower 48”.

We were always a few months behind the top 40’s on the radio and unless you considered plaid flannel or down parka’s a fashion statement, Alaska was certainly not the instigator of new trends.  Yet amazing how flannel and puffy jackets have made their way into our fashion “sense”?

Even so, there were a few restaurants that I came to love as a child and still cherish in memory as an adult.  The Lucky Wishbone, of course (that goes without say)!  Clinkendaggers, Mauzi’s, Sorrento’s, and the elusive Double Musky Inn (which I never ate at as a kid but imagined it to be the fancy place with a dark, moody interior, soft candle light and super good food; my imagination couldn’t have been more inaccurate, as I learned as an adult when I finally went).

Ahhhh, and then there was Paris!  Club Paris, that is.

Club Paris is a hole in the wall in the best sense, a 1950’s wood-paneled little place that introduced me to my first filet mignon, prime cut.

I remember my first visit; I went with my best friend’s family and was blown away by the flavor and texture of that steak.

That three inch high, perfectly cut, cooked and prepared piece of beef that tenderly slid into my mouth and melted like butter against my tongue.

The outside was brown-crusted but inside was bloody, juicy and rare.

Up until then I don’t think I had ever bitten into anything so incredible.

Although I remember the atmosphere being dark and smokey (and certainly smoke-filled it was at the time), feeling almost foreign to the types of places I frequented with my own family; I really can’t picture anything in my mind other than the actual piece of beef sitting on my plate and the flavor that lingers on my palette, even to this day.

I am not sure why I never went back, over so many visits, over so many years.

I wanted to.  I meant to.  I didn’t…

Until last year.  December 20, 2017 to be exact.

Mom took Tom and I to lunch after she and I received a much appreciated massage from a place located across the street.  It was still dark, but no longer smokey.

It had not ever been remodeled, I suspect.

Our waitress was likely the same one I had the first time I ate there 35 years prior!  She was not one to sugar-coat anything and was impatient with extraneous words.  Needless to say, I went from being called, “Hon” to not, in a hurry.

I got the steak sandwich.

It was basically a filet mignon with a slice of toast cut into a triangle set on the side, per our server’s recommendation, and was she right!

Yum!  This was the steak I remembered.  Three inches high, seared to perfection, dark crust and blood-rare inside.

I have never been to France, but, I will always have Club Paris!

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Pickled onion, courtesy of Irma Cardona-Edwards Enterprises International DBA, Irma Inc

FILET MIGNON WITH PICKLED ONION AND ROASTED TOMATO

I like a rare steak.  Very rare.  You can cook yours a little longer if you like, but I am going to keep mine rare.

My sister-in-law, Irma, has an impressive cellar closet filled with homemade pickled veg in her Alaskan kitchen.  She is also in the process of making her own wine.  I added her pickled onions to the steaks as an after thought, but one that worked out really well.  It was a nice accompaniment to the lushness of the steak.  Soon you will be able to buy them from Irma Inc (we hope) but until then, she offered to write up the recipe for you to try at home…stay tuned…I will be posting it soon.

INGREDIENTS

(2) 6-8oz center-cut prime filets of beef tenderloin, 2-3″ thick
1/2 tsp kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Grape seed oil for cooking the steak
2 TB unsalted butter
1 tsp chopped garlic

2 Kurabata tomatoes (or other smallish variety)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
Olive oil to drizzle on tomatoes, plus salt and pepper to taste

2 medium pickled onions (recipe to follow…soon)

PREPARE

1. Season the steak with salt and pepper at least an hour before cooking or earlier in the day.  They will want to rest outside of the fridge an hour before they are cooked.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 F

3. Cut a small circle of the core stem away from the top of each tomato and stuff in a garlic clove.  Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of oil.

4. Roast the tomatoes for approximately 30 minutes, until tender and wrinkled but still plump with juices.  Set aside in a warming drawer until ready to serve.

5. Melt the butter with the garlic.

6. Heat a cast iron skillet until it is very hot.  Add a little grape seed oil and as soon as it is hot enough to rolling smoothly across the pan, add the filets.  Don’t move them for 2-5 minutes, keeping at a medium-high heat.

7. Once the bottom is nicely browned (which you can see by looking at the side), turn the filets over and let cook until another lovely crust forms.  This might be a total of 7-10 minutes.  Test by inserting a meat thermometer into the side horizontally.  Look for a temperature of 120-130F for rare and 135-140F for medium-rare.  Don’t forget that once you remove it from the heat, it will continue to cook while it rests.

8. Immediately pour over the melted butter and garlic, let it sizzle, then transfer it to a plate, along with the juices, to rest for a few minutes while getting the rest of the dinner plated.

TO SERVE:

On warm plates, place one roasted tomato and one filet.  Put one pickled onion on top of each filet, holding it in with a decorative pick (if desired).

Pour the steak juices over and if you like, drizzle each plate with some aged balsamic, or just the pan juices work too.

It would also be nice to roast some asparagus alongside during the second half of cooking the steak (after it is turned) and perhaps a few halved, roasted potatoes would serve well alongside too.

If you prefer, just toast some white bread, spread it with garlic butter and reserve your greens for a salad with blue cheese dressing instead.

There are no poor choices here.  As long as you cook a good steak!

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Where’s the beef?

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And in case you didn’t notice last week….  Hello!!!

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Yes, I’m talking to you!

 

Hello Refreshing Crab + Grapefruit & Avocado Endive Bites

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I need a refresh.

I need to be refreshed!

Takin’ a break from the heavy, with a little trip to the lighter side; let me give you the scoop:

I’m done saying goodbye for now. Too many goodbyes lately. It is time to say hello!

Hello grapefruit and avocado. Hello to blue cheese too. I’ll take the crab over being crabby.

But be sure to keep it on the light side though.

Who else loves finger food?

 

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Did someone say food?

CRAB + GRAPEFRUIT & AVOCADO ENDIVE BITES
makes approximately 16-20 pieces

Need an appetizer? Short on time? Look no further.

Fresh crab needs little more than a little citrus to play dress-up, but with a few extra moments, and the right accessories, you can have a platter of appetizers that will wow and impress; ready to go in 15 minutes or less, or your money back. Wait, did you give me any money?

The thing about crab, is that it should be about the crab. Avocado and grapefruit are the accessories. As with any good accessory, it must add color, texture and/or a little pizazz.

The thing about appetizers is that they should be easy to make, easy to eat and leave your palate refreshed, revived and ready for more.

The thing about this appetizer is it is versatile. Don’t feel like grapefruit, trade it in for an orange? Tired of avocado? Lose the grapefruit and try on some beets and apples instead. Feeling herbaceous? Mix in a some chopped herbs such as dill, tarragon, cilantro or thyme. Your’e one of those? Skip the cheese, whisk in a little more oil.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 lb fresh Dungeness crab, picked over for any shells

1 TB freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 TB finely chopped shallot
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 TB good quality olive oil
1/2 oz mild, creamy blue cheese, crumbled (approximately +/-)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 green endive head
1 red endive head

A few grapefruit segments minus the skin, cut into small chunks
1/2 an avocado, skin removed, cut into dice

Micro green pea vines for garnish (if you can’t find, use another green herb or micro green garnish)

PREPARE

Don’t let the long list of steps fool you. Each task is quick and straight forward.

1.  I like to start by making sure the crab is clean and dry. Start by putting it in a bowl. If you shucked it yourself, make sure you pick away any brown stuff left over from cleaning. Using paper towels, squeeze out all the excess moisture.

2.  In a separate bowl, preferably glass or stainless, combine both citrus juices with the shallot. Add the mustard and stir to combine.

3.  Whisk in the oil.

4.  Add about 1/4 of the blue cheese crumbles and whisk to blend the cheese, smashing large pieces so they combine with the liquid. It is fine to have some chunks but they should be small. Taste, then add more of the blue cheese until it is blue enough for you. It should remain citrus-forward in flavor; remember, it is all about the crab. You will be stirring the remainder of the crumbles into the crab.

5.  Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

6.  Trim the ends of the endive heads and carefully remove each leaf, setting them out on a plate.

7.  Spoon a small amount of the vinaigrette onto each endive leaf then add the remaining vinaigrette to the crab mixture, tossing to coat well. Stir the rest of the blue cheese crumbles into the crab.

8.  Place a few pieces of avocado over each endive leaf then top with some crab mixture.

9.  Top each leaf with one or two avocado pieces and grapefruit chunks.

10.  Garnish each leaf with a micro green or herb sprig and transfer each one to a platter.

Voila!

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Why hello lil’ monkey!   Who are you?

Lamb Stuffed Cabbage (and an announcement)

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Some things last longer than others, it’s just the way life is.

Cabbage is heartier than lettuce.

Pickled vegetables last longer than fresh.

And we humans, live much longer than our beloved dogs.

A few weeks after Buddy left this earth, we went to “the cabin” for the weekend; our first trip there without him smiling crazily in the back seat with his sister, or curled up comfortably on my lap.

Instead, his remains were in a beautiful wooden box as smooth as his once silky hair, yet so small it seemed unlikely he could fit inside. The box sat next to Ginger in their double wide “deluxe snoozer” that they traveled in on so many occasions in the past.

After a lovely, but very emotional weekend, on the way back home we stopped (as we always do) at Hunter Farms. As I was paying for my fresh produce, the Farmer’s daughter mentioned that my box of goods was much smaller than usual.

There were many wonderful things that would usually have ended up in my cart, like the blueberries I hadn’t even bothered to look for, fresh, plump, sweet; the ones Buddy loved to eat.

Or the nectarines that were so plentiful, it seemed too much trouble to choose which ones.

There was also a single head of cabbage, larger than any other I had ever seen. I almost picked it up, but passed it by instead.

I do love the cabbage from their garden. It is always the perfect cross of bitter and sweet, just as our last few months with Buddy had been.

After I finished checking out, her words compelled me to go back and claim the last cabbage. “That will be $1.00”, she said.

I used part of the cabbage to make a coleslaw flavored with apples which I paired with fresh halibut. I used it in a stir fry, as well as the base for my sesame-chicken salad. We used it on sandwiches instead of lettuce, tossed briefly in spiced crema for our tacos, and we ate some plain, sliced the way I used to slice it for Buddy.

Weeks had passed with not eating it at all but it was still there, crisp, sweet and ample enough to continue feeding us more. It had not browned nor gone limp. It remained with us reminding me of the cabin, the Farm and of Buddy.

A few nights later, I made lamb-stuffed cabbage for supper. It brought back memories of Buddy making large circles around the outside of the cabin. He used to walk all the way around from the gazebo in the back yard, over the gravel path, along one side and across the front drive that led him around to the other side, past the garden and back to us again.

This went on and on for upwards of an hour, nose pointed forward, with a serious face and without breaking his stride.

He did not stop to sniff things along the way, as Ginger surely would, nor did he squat or lift his leg to pee.

He was on a mission, yet I am still not sure what that mission was? The first time that he did this was the first time we had cabbage from Hunter Farms, a number of years ago.

So it is fitting that the dinner I served to introduce our new family member, Winston, to some close friends, was the stuffed cabbage. I used another cabbage I brought back from Hunter Farms three weeks ago. It too was still fresh, and continuing to nourish.

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We certainly hope Winston stays just as fresh, and stays a very long time.

We proudly introduce to you: Winston Bender: 12 lb, 6 oz

Winnie the Poo
Born January 1st, 2007

LAMB-STUFFED CABBAGE – serves 8

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The first version I made was with un-cooked, un-soaked, long-grain white rice.  I used

only 1 cup.  It was still a bit crunchy and didn’t fluff and vocalize loudly in the dish.  I can’t say it wasn’t tasty because, it was.  I just felt the absence of rice and wished the rice had been been more prevalent and soft.

This version replaces long-grain rice for short grains.  The short grains flew over from Italy to join the lamb as outsiders in what is actually a traditional Polish dish; hence the need to soak them for a bit in hot water to soften after their long journey.  The almonds and currents were party crashers as well.

INGREDIENTS
1 large head green cabbage
Salt and pepper to season
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups tomato sauce (I use my basic tomato sauce which I keep on hand, frozen but you can use jarred if you don’t want to go to the added effort)
Lamb mixture:
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
1 3/4 cups Italian short grain rice (such as Carnaroli or Aborio), soaked in boiling water overnight or at least 1 hour
1/3 cup slivered almonds, crumbled by hand
3 TB dried currents
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dry oregano
1/4 fresh-packed parsley, chopped
Vegetable mixture:
2 TB butter
2 TB olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 small leek, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeño, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Kosher salt
Garnish:
French or Sheep and Goats milk Feta, crumbled
Chopped fresh parsley

PREPARATION
1. I like to get the cabbage ready first but it can be done at anytime. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. To help make it easier to separate leaves, turn the cabbage over to expose the stem. With a long, thin knife, carve around the stem and dig it out as best you can (as if you are going after it with a cookie cutter).

3. Add the head of cabbage to the boiling water. The outer leaves will loosen first. Keep removing the leaves whole as they loosen. After several minutes the whole cabbage should be soft enough to have all leaves separate. Set the leaves aside.

4. In a saute pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil.

5. Add the onion, leek, jalepeño and red pepper. Cook over low heat until soft, approximately 10 minutes.

6. Add the 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp Kosher salt.  Stir this in for a few minutes on low and then shut off the heat and let it come to room temperature.

7.  In a medium sized bowl, combine the ground lamb, drained rice, almonds, currents, salt, oregano, currents and parsley.  

8.  Add the vegetable mix to the lamb mix and stir to combine.

9.  Divide mixture into equal portions.  There will be approximately 1/2 cup per leaf of cabbage but will vary depending on size of leaves.  You can make small packets or large packets accordingly.  If you have some small and some large leaves, adjust portions accordingly.  You will need enough cabbage leaves to cover bottom of deep skillet and cover the top.

10.  Put one portion onto each leaf, adjusting quantity according to size of leaf, and roll them up, tucking in the sides.

11.  Layer the smaller or extraneous cabbage leaves over the bottom of a deep casserole and place the rolls on top, seam side down.

12.  Pour chicken stock and tomato sauce over rolls.

13.  Top with a layer of cabbage leaves and cover pot.

14.  Transfer to 350-degree oven and let cook for 1 1/2 hours.

15. When fork tender, Remove from oven and let sit a 1/2 hour before serving.

TO SERVE
On heated plates, spoon some tomato sauce down and top with one or two rolls (size and hunger-dependent).  Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped fresh parsley.

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Winston:  “I think I’m gonna like it here”!  Ginger:  “Good to have you aboard lil’ one.  You came to the right place for sure”.  And the new journey begins…

Minus Four

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The patter of Buddy’s paws beneath his bull-legged stance have always been a musical note to us.  They came in to our house, fast, making a quick tckckck sound as they scampered over the wood floor, onto the wool carpet and landed smack in the middle of Ginger’s bed.

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…yet clearly not the last time he would plop there.

The bed was one of many, but a favorite of hers that sat prominently at the end of our, then, glass coffee table in the living room.  There was a sunbeam on the pillow that particular afternoon and Buddy took to it as if it were his own.

Everyone took a breath to see the other shoe (paw) drop, so to say.  Ginger, who was also ten years old at the time, had been an only child since coming home and was never very accommodating to other dogs.  She saw him claim her bed, walked over and sniffed him (sniff, sniff, sniff) then, matter-of-fact, turned and walked away.  No drama.  No drama, yet.

It wasn’t long before his little legs were walking beside her on a tandem leash around the neighborhood and then back home where he planted himself on the kitchen rug, a place he frequented often, mostly because I was there, and so was the food.

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The sound of Buddy in and out of the kitchen always stayed near me as if I had a shadow, a shadow I was most happy to have.  It took him years to realize that if he stayed on the couch while I was cooking, I would still come to him offering samples.  Ginger of course, had figured this out long ago and sat on the back of the couch next to Tom, watching Buddy and my every move.

Scampering to and fro.  A yelp first, quietly using the inside voice, moved quickly to the bark.

That signature, all in, loud, ear-shattering bark.  He knew how to be heard.  No wall flower, that one, little pee-wee that he was.

But his insatiable hunger for the morsels on my cutting block, in my pan or in the oven were frantic.  He wanted it all, and then he wanted more.

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Especially as of late, he was frequently carried around the kitchen in my arms.

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And I started to realize that we were soon one, rather than two.

But on the ground he had four legs.

They were always in the kitchen, with me.

They will always be in the kitchen with me.

Though the kitchen will never be the same again.

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When there were 10

Our dear, sweet boy, in his beautiful, frail body, let go of the physical world Wednesday night,* August 23, 2017 at 5:51 pm.  A perfect gent to the end, complete with a sunbeam on his silken head, resting on his favorite blanket in our laps on his favorite spot on the deck after, moments before, having spent time in that same sunbeam while resting in Ginger’s favorite bed.

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“Thanks for sharing your bed Ginger”

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Pals forever on “our” BuG bed

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“Life with you has been unforgettable!  I am a happy boy!!!”

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“Thanks for the incredible journey…”

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“…and the incredible ride!”

Good bye Buddy, I love you!

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“I’ll always be near…”

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*Rest in peace Laura’s dear Amber on the same day three years ago.

Sweet & Sour (summer beverages & other life moments)

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Life is precious!

We all know that I realize… but sometimes it is worth mentioning out loud.

We often take for granted the things that make us breeze through life without (much of a) care.  And then we don’t, because we are no longer breezing by.

Rather than letting life get you down, take a moment to breath in that air, especially when it is no longer breezing by.

Excuse me for a moment, for being slightly cheeky and perhaps even mouthing off something a little cliché, but let me just say, it really is thyme to stop and smell the roses, and the hydrangea, lavender, tomato plants, rosemary, basil and sage.

It is thyme to pour yourself a cocktail, drink in the summer air and wash it down with a big handful of gratitude, for the here and now.  Tomorrow is another day, but right now, it is what we have before us that makes us happy at this moment.

Yesterday, is gone.  Buddy is not.  From here, we are taking it day by day.

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Happy Summer (from our lil’ garden gnome).

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Serves 2 (up to 4 if more of a cooler with more spritz and less kick)

From the garden:
A sprig of thyme (for more time)
A few small basil leaves (because I said so)
A few lavender leaves (for calm) with a couple flower sprigs or leaves for garnish (yeah, so sue me, it’s pretty & smells nice)
6-8 blueberries (for gentle color & sweetness)
Wedge of lime (a little bite & zest)

Put garden contents above in stainless steel shaker & muddle with just a splash of vodka for mixing the contents.

Fill 12 ounce hi-ball glass or double-walled Bodum glass (to prevent condensation and ice from melting) half full with ice.

Put a few ice cubes in shaker to cool, add vodka as desired (a few glugs to half of shaker) and add lemonade to make remaining liquid 3/4 of shaker.

Shake and pour into glasses, it’s ok for the ice to fall into glasses as almost all of the ice is already in them.

Fill glasses about 3/4 full and top with lemonade for more juice/citrus or soda for less sweet and more fizz.

Squeeze and garnish with thin, fresh, lemon wedges on top or hang over rim.

Add a sprig of lavender flower for garnish, if you can sacrifice from your plant, but you can just enjoy looking at it in its container/garden from your deck or patio instead if it is just starting out.  We’re all striving for longevity you know.

Buddy and Ginger in jungle

Life can be a jungle…

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…just remember to keep on truckin’,…

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…stay close to your family,…

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…they usually have your back!

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It is perfectly acceptable to take a nap!  Rest, rejuvenate…but do it in the shade!

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That looks like a good nap, Buddy…

 

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…Shhhhhh, Ginger, I’m Earthing… zzzzzzzz

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In dedication to everyone’s furry family members, past, present and future; life would be sour without ever meeting.  And to our fellow pet lover and blog friend, Rachel’s beloved Butterfly, who passed away last week, but is still smelling life’s flowers.  Rachel, he will always be with you and play happily in everyone’s hearts he touched!

Potato, Po-taw-ta, Tomato, Tom-aw-ta

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There are, arguably, many ways to do or say anything; Point A to point B has many paths, and cooking basics are no exception.  Take for instance, “classic” potato salad.  It can vary drastically depending on where you live or how you were taught to prepare it.  Even “Mom’s Classic” potato salad will be different at Mr Roger’s house than it will be at the Casto residence.

With egg or without, celery or pickles, or cornichon perhaps?  Are there green onions?Mayonnaise versus Miracle Whip (yikes!).  One thing is for certain, potato salad is classic barbecue fare and even if it is not Tom’s favorite, it will always have a place at our table (albeit mostly in front of me).

Then, of course, there are the ribs.!  I can’t image a Memorial weekend or Fourth of July without them.  There are some people who are really serious about their ribs; I mean really seriously loyal; to their region, culture and craft-kind of rib-eating and making; serious business.  Usually it involves that perfect mix of spice, a particular cut of meat, a lot of smoke mixed with a low amount of heat, hangin’ out for a long period of time under cover.  Time can be our enemy, but it can also be our friend!

For those of us that just enjoy the succulent, meaty flavor of tender, tear-off-the-bone meat and are willing to forgo (or simply don’t have) the 18 hours, the proper tools, patience or know-how to do otherwise (a category that I am willing to be a part of), our ribs can be ‘fridge to fork in approximately 3 hours…or less!

They can be rubbed, par-boiled, marinated, or all three.  Grilled, broiled, smoked or baked.

Spicy, smokey, sweet.

Saucy, dry, meaty or lean.

Depending on your region, there is certainly, a predisposition for the proper method, spice and cut.  In my local region, which I consider to be wherever my dinner plate sits, I am happy to indulge myself, greedily, to any of the aforementioned methods and even some of the unmentioned ones.

I love ribs, period!  I have a special affection of the pig-provided kind.  Throw in a plate of potato salad, made using hard-cooked eggs (my only rule) and I am eating my own little happy meal.

When I am the cook, my go-to ribs are usually par-boiled in a flavorful liquid, then dry rubbed and slathered with home-made (or even bottled if tight on time) barbecue sauce.  This is all done usually hours, or days, before I plan to eat them because as they sit, they become even more flavorful.  This makes them a very forgiving treat.

They are slathered and stored on a foil-lined baking pan.  When we are nearing dinner time, I light a grill and sit the ribs out on the counter to come up to room temperature.  They take a 10 minute sauna in the grill with the lid down as the corn (yes, I usually have corn on the cob) cooks too.

After they are heated through, I remove them from the foil, move the corn to the top grate so they are not on direct heat and put the ribs, top down, on the hot, lower rack to brown.  When they have grill marks, I turn them over and brush with more sauce and let sit just a few minutes until I can get everything plated to eat.  More sauce on the side if you like, and Tom does!  It is hard to go wrong, as long as you don’t let them burn, too much, that is.

When I was young, my Mom’s go-to ribs were cooked solely in the oven, uncovered and slathered in peanut butter barbecue sauce (home-made).  They were often not on the bone, also known as country spareribs, which meant, more meat, less bone.  It was a recipe from my Great Grandma Brown.  I could eat piles of them!!

As they were cooking, I used to peak my head in the oven, willing the aroma to encompass me.  Mom would shout out for the oven to be kept closed, so the heat didn’t escape.

I waited and waited, enjoying every moment that I was able to drink in the smell.  I would peak into the oven with the oven light turned on.  I watched as they transformed from pale paisley to a rich, burnished brown.  The peanut butter wasn’t an overly obvious flavor but the depth and richness it offered permeated the meat.

Ironically, I don’t cook my ribs that way, even though if I did, I am sure I would be hooked once again.  Maybe if my Mom sees this, she will make them for me, next time she is in town?

Needless to say,  color me happy is what the (somewhat) recent weekend was about!  Heading off for a short visit with my in-laws during Memorial weekend, I was eagerly anticipating Lois’ ribs; the same she had made for us last year, adapted from Ree Drummand’s, “Spicy Chili Pork Ree-Yubs”.

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Sun-soaked, fresh-air delivered, we had come in from the waterfront after kayaking off Alderbrook Resort on the Hood Canal; even Buddy was in tow (of course).  Ginger, not being a water breed, stayed on shore with Grandma keeping guard of the lounge chairs (a very important task).

Two, or in our case, 3 hours in the oven are about the sweet-spot for these ribs that Lois made us on our return.  We passed our time well, back at the cabin, out in the gazebo, fireplace blazing, while munching on smoked trout-filled endive and deviled egg nosh.

It is now sometime between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July; more specifically, it is Father’s Day (Love to all our Dad’s…Kent (my Dad), Tom (Tom’s Dad), John & Bill (our other Dads), Mark, Scott and Jeff (our brothers who are also Dads)…and so on…Uncle Corky, Grandpa George, Tom C. (my Dad-in-law on my brother’s side) and Joe Gildner (our good friend and newly married-off-oldest daughter Dad) and Piotr (our good friend and a really good Dad)…

Oh, and a Happy Father’s Day to my love, the daddy of our furry kids (I’m talking to you, my Tom)!

On the menu tonight is, you guessed it:  Ribs, corn and potato salad.

Don’t worry, the potato salad isn’t for (my) Tom, it is for all you other Dad’s out there that actually enjoy a good potato salad!  Tom will be taken care of too, no worries there, for those of you that are worried.  He does alright.

So, rain or clouds be damn, fire up the grill and let’s get this party started!

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“Castoway’s” Classic Potato Salad – Courtesy of Lois (Bender) Casto

“2# potatoes (I used Russet, but have also used red, skinned ), 3 hard-boiled eggs, 3 rbs celery, 4 green onions.  Dressing: 1/2 cup mayo, 1-1/2 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.  If too tart I add a sprnkle of granulated sugar.  I boil the potatoes whole, then peel and cube, but you can peel and cube before cooking too. Either works. It’s just a basic recipe.”

I will vouch for this one and basic as it is, the simplicity makes it delicious. Think of it as a little black dress; it can be gussied up, accessorized and taken out on the town or worn on it’s own, in which case, it will stand up for itself!

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“It sure is nice to be King for a day; so glad I am a Prince!  Happy Father’s Day Dadfy!”

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“Oh Buddy, you are a Prince!  Of course that is only because I am a Princess.”

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buddy_xvii

Art by my talented “Uncle” Pete (Woychick)

Dear (not my real) Doctor,

Please, allow me to explain:
I only recently met you… and  I was in a dire straight.  I came to you emergent; facts (and fiction) were all you had to assess.  I understand your concern, for me and for my comfort, but things aren’t always what they seem.

You see, I’m British, which basically means I have bad teeth.

I also mostly look disheveled; you might not be following the latest hair trends!

Yes, I am rather wobbly; I have not been frequenting the gym.  I lounge, a lot.

Since I am pretty sure you implied my time was up here, I felt it important to fill you in on all the most important facts.

Don’t misunderstand me; I know my blood work says otherwise and you have no (fact driven) data to disagree… I do understand your conundrum but, respectfully, I must tell you, you were wrong.

I am still here, because I want to be here!!  Against all odds, I remain where I should be, where I need to be, for now.

I have the staring role in “Its a Wonderful Life”!  For God’s sake!  Why the hell would I want to leave?

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I may not be as tan as George Hamilton but my coloring is better… I think our robes may be similar though.

I am still here because I am not ready to leave.  I need more time with my family and they require more time with me.  

They require much more… time.

Sometimes there is a different force, a higher power than Western medicine can see.  I don’t blame you for your thoughts.  You don’t know me like Dr. Rice or Dr. McCoy do.

For instance, I am eating.

I am eating!

I am eating ! !

Eating lots ! ! !

I want more food; please keep feeding me more!!!

I like to drink water from a glass, just like my family; I only ask that there be ice (is that weird?).

I want to sit outside and smell the fresh air that is turning from winter to spring, finally!

I want to hear the birds chirping (but to Mr. Crazy Blue Jay, I say, “quiet please”).

Did you know I am listening to the children that are beginning to come out to play?  I wish they laughed more though; why must they always scream instead?

I wish I could see my bunny and chipmunk friends in the yard; I can smell them and know they are there, happily eating and playing in my yard.  That makes me happy.

I love my sister, Ginger, and (most importantly) she finally loves me.  She acts independent but I know she would really be lonely if I were not here.  I don’t want her to be lonely.

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Ginger keeping watch whilst I nap in the sun.

So for now, I will stay put.  I will give love and be loved.  I will continue to eat… because, I am fed very good food.

Something worth living for… don’t ya think?

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Time for shade

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ASPARAGUS + CAULIFLOWER SOUP 

I like all things green and so does Ginger.  Right now, asparagus is at it’s local best and we were lucky enough to have Dr. McCoy bring us 4 spears, cut fresh from her garden, mere hours before, when she came over to give me my bi-monthly acupuncture (we were nice and shared two of the stalks, intended for us, with her cat, Rocky, before she got here).

Mom was not willing to sacrifice these lovelies to soup but did allow 1/2 of one stalk to stand in for our soup’s garnish.  Ginger and I lapped this up for our weekend “soup course” but especially enjoyed the freshest of fresh, thinly sliced asparagus from Dr. McCoy’s garden.

This soup is dog-friendly and delicious but it is also easy to divide it into our portion and your portion.  You can add other, human-friendly, things for your portion, such as full fat yogurt or cream, lemon juice, salt & pepper, butter, spices…. whatever you can dream up.  We (us pups) can eat some things extra too, but no need since this soup, as is, is simple, pure and delicious.  Good for a hot Spring day that turns to a cool Spring evening.

Coconut oil is healthy for us and has been added, recently, to our daily food to help us keep on weight since Ginger and I are both on a low protein diet.  We can’t complain since it adds a delicious flavor.

FYI, Mom added to their portion, the juice of 1/2 lemon, a few pinches of salt, some grinds from that silver cylinder device, a dollop of Elleno’s plain Greek yogurt and a bit of chopped shallot.

INGREDIENTS

Approximately 12 stalks of fresh asparagus, bottom bit snapped off and discarded.
Approximately 12 florets of cauliflower.
8 oz homemade chicken or vegetable stock or high quality, low-sodium store bought.
1 TB coconut oil.

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Roasty, toasty

TO MAKE

Put the asparagus and cauliflower on a baking pan and rub with the coconut oil just to coat.

Roast @ 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables to a Vitamix, blender or food processor and add the broth.  Process until very smooth.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with thinly sliced fresh asparagus cut on the bias (whatever that means).

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How much longer do we need to hold this pose?!  I’m hungry!

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Me first!

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Okay, you too Ginger…

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Yay, Spring!

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Best to hang in the shade, Happy Mother’s Day everyone, but mine is the best!

seventeen

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Everybody has a birthday.  A day of the year which marks the 365th day (times how ever many repetitions of that quantity of days there have been) since they were born.   It seems such an arbitrary number, especially since for me, it is unclear on which day the 365 day countdown began.

I know I was born sometime in April because there were cherry blossoms in bloom outside.  And I like Spring.  Yet, this particular year, it seems it can mean the beginning of the month, or on the other hand, it may mean at the end of the month.  It’s all so confusing.

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This year we have been celebrating my birthday since the 10th of the month, but today I was given my very special party hat, on this 29th day in April.  I am pretty sure that Dad was confused about that other day of my birth since he is only going on old paperwork when I was in limbo, those days shortly before he was my Dad.  Mom “knows” it was the 29th, but truth be told, I also know they didn’t think I would be here long enough to celebrate this particular date, so it’s been birthday month ever since.  Nothing wrong with that.

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I am told that this year I am 17 years old, in silly human years,  more confusingly, 84 years old or so in dog years, when actually to me, it seems that I am, more precisely, 6,205 days lived (period).  Wow.  When you get to be a wise and handsomely mature guy like me, you know it isn’t a given to count on that 365th day to come around again so it is prudent to count everyday, as a gift.  Everyday is a gift.  I am happy to be here and happy to still be with my loving family, many special stuffed animals and comfy blankies, with many additional thanks to my dedicated care-givers, Doctors and friends.

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The years, or even days, don’t define who you are, but what you do with them are important as to who you become, or how happy you are living them.  I will know when it is time to say goodbye, but for now, I will wear my party hat with glee, eat my (flour-less) cake and kiss my sister.

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“Happy birthday dear Buddy…”

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I might look like I am old to some, but to my parents, I am still their little boy.

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I feel young inside my head, that hasn’t changed.  I might have all sorts of things wrong with me medically but the irony is, the thing that hurts the most right now is my mouth.  So, my advice to you young ones is this: “brush your teeth”!  Lucky for me, my voracious appetite overrides those dang few teeth I have left.  More meeeat!

Love, Buddy

 

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Eggs courtesy of Dr. McCoy , my Acupuncturist & friend.  Well, courtesy of her chickens that is…

Flour-less Buddy Birthday Cake 

The only requirement for this cake, that is of the utmost importance, is this:  Use the freshest of eggs and garnish with peas (my favorite thing) and a hunk of cheese to hold the candle.

INGREDIENTS

1 tsp organic coconut oil

1 farm fresh egg

3 fresh snap peas, cleaned and sliced

To make, heat the oil in a small skillet.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg.

Add egg to the skillet and madly shake the pan to keep it from burning.

Skillfully tilt and shake with the occasional scooping on the edges with a spatula.

When it is mostly cooked through, swiftly toss the cake in the air to fold it over itself.  turn onto a plate and top with the sliced peas.

Ginger says this is actually an omelet but it’s my birthday so it’s cake if I want it to be.

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My turn next Month!

 

Lamb Belly Breakfast Pizza (slash) Gyro

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Imagine this:

You step outside your office into a crisp, rain-driven evening. A quick walk around the corner and through the cobbled square leaves you standing in front of a door, that once inside, is like a glimpse into past meets present; a fabulous butcher shop (slash) hip, industrial luncheonette. It is Friday night, so the bustling lunch has transitioned to the traditional tasks of cutting meat and doing business.  Stepping out of the rain as you remove the fashionable hat shielding the wet from your head, the cool air, all at once, turns warm and inviting, and better yet, dry!

There is a woman standing in front of the counter. She has dark hair pulled back into a ponytail and is wearing a Seattle-stylish outfit in gray and black, tall boots, smart hat and long tailored jacket with just enough sluff to be part of the casual, fun crowd. She is having a conversation with the tall, boyishly charming, young man who is behind the counter. He is slicing a beautifully marbled slab of beef into delicate, thin slices, effortlessly as if he is entertaining a guest at a dinner party. They know each other, you imagine, as their conversation is friendly and familiar.

The man briefly looks up and you are greeted, by name. You smile and turn to the women to ask her what she will be making with her slices of steak?  “Stir fry,” she says. “What is the cut of meat you are slicing?” the women asks the man.  “The Denver cut,” he replies. You had never heard of that cut prior to visiting Rain Shadow Meats but had considered buying it the week previous, settling on the thick rib-eye instead.

He wraps up the woman’s package and effortlessly begins preparing another as the conversation continues. You occupy yourself by eyeing the glass case, carefully assessing each plate of meat and pulling menus together in your head.

As the woman finishes up and pays for her packages, she finishes her story and tells the man that she will see him again soon. With that, she gathers up her goods and shoots you a quick smile before dashing out the door into the night.

Russ turns his smile to you and has already guessed as to what you will choose first. It is the steak sitting in the corner of the case, looking so enticing with it’s perfect coat of preserved lemon and parsley protecting the tender meat within. You have gotten this before and have come back more than once for more.

“It is the Denver cut this time,” he discloses, “not the ounglet” (the onglet is your favorite).

“I will take two” you reply.

“You won’t be disappointed.” he assures you, and you know you won’t be.

As you finish up your order and are about to check-out, you notice something you hadn’t seen before; lamb bacon. With breakfast in mind, you were going to ask for pork bacon but after a quick chat with Russ and then yourself, you decide you need to try the lamb bacon while it was in supply. Russ says they either have plenty or none; they make it in-house and when they run out, it can be awhile before they have more.

Russ says it starts out tasting of bacon then turns to a unique flavor instead.  It is essentially cured lamb belly, just as pork bacon comes from the belly of the pig. As he slices the six pieces requested, you are reminded of pancetta with the round form and swirling of fat and meat. Russ has a client that buys this to make gyros for dinner.  Carrying a bag filled with a dozen eggs, two thick-cut pork chops, steak, ground beef, the lamb belly, and a container of pickled onions, that is the last thought you have as you walk out the door.

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(…gyro, gyro, gyro).

As you fall asleep that night, lamb bacon invades your dreams and in the distance you can hear the echo of the word gyro (…gyro, gyro, gyro). The next morning as sit with your morning coffee, you begin to think about breakfast. Without hesitation, you go to the freezer, pull out some naan and begin mindlessly fixing a lamb belly bacon pizza / (slash) gyro.

Starts out like bacon, turns into something else.

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Lamb gyro (slash) breakfast pizza (serves 4)

This is an easy breakfast that is even easier if you use store-bought hummus, garlic sauce and romesco.  If you can’t find lamb bacon, substitute lamb sausage or ground lamb formed into oblongs, flavored with cumin, salt and pepper.  It starts out looking like a pizza, fold it up and you have a breakfast gyro.

INGREDIENTS

4 dime thick slices lamb bacon (lamb sausage or gyro meat if you can’t find the bacon)

4 pieces mini stone fired flatbread or naan

4 TB hummus (make your own or use your favorite purchased brand; I like Wholefoods brand)

2 TB Romesco sauce (make your own or purchase your favorite brand such as this)

Karam’s Lebanese Garlic sauce (It can be shipped within the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii)

4 eggs (salt, pepper for seasoning, butter for cooking)

Parsly for garnish

PREPARATION

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Put the lamb bacon slices on a baking sheet and cook until slightly browned and cooked through, approximately 10 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
  2. Put the flatbread in the oven to heat through. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. They should be soft, slightly browned and hot. Put them in a warming drawer, or wrap in slightly moistened paper towels to heat again in the microwave before plating. You could, alternatively, put them in the toaster just as you begin cooking the eggs.
  3. Heat a little butter in a skillet and fry the eggs to your liking (season with salt and pepper but go light on the salt as the bacon is salty too).
  4. As the eggs finish, put one flatbread on each of four plates. With a small rubber spatula or butter spoon, spread approximately 1/2 TB Romesco sauce over each, followed by 1 TB hummus over each.
  5. Put one slice of bacon over top of each flatbread and squirt some garlic sauce over top.

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6.  Top with an egg and garnish with some parsley. Eat it as a pizza or fold it over to make a gyro.

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That was tasty!  Time for a nap.

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Time for a spa day…