52cookbooksSo, you know Bobby Flay doesn’t really fail us often but one of the things that I really truly like about him is that he ‘competes’ with the small local big guy and often loses.  I think he loses by design.  The premise of the show is this.  Small local guy doing one dish really great that they are known for.  Bobby challenges them to a ‘throwdown’ to see who does it better.  Bobby creates something that is that thing in essence but in a modern or tweaked out kinda way.  They are both judged.  Depending on the judge, but most often, the classical presentation (the Local folks) win!  A few weeks ago Z picked out a recipe from the Throwdown Cookbook for our 52 Cookbooks dinner and it turned out to be out of Throwdown.  A recipe for green chile queso burgers.  So, in essence, we were going to use his recipe to beat someone making a Hatch green chile burger.  I seriously love me some spicy Hatch chiles.

True story and side note.  My final year of college and I decided to go home for Spring Break.  My parents decided we should road trip down to Santa Fe for some good eats.  Not our first rodeo to this destination.  We hit the road and about six hours later (from Denver) we were there in the freezing cold spring slurry rain of Santa Fe.  We were there to eat breakfast burritos smothered at Tia Sophias, Chile chowder at the Blue Corn  and not less than one sopapilla (think beignet with honey instead of powdered sugar) at Thomasitas.  Oh, and see art galleries on Canyon Road.  It was pouring down rain and I had to buy a hat because I was cold-still have the hat and the memories of a really nice visit.   I hope that I can someday take Z there because he would enjoy every minute (except probably for the art galleries.)throwdown

Anyhow, back to the burger.  He chose this burger and I have to say, it’s solid.   First I pickled some red onions using Bobby’s recipe and only letting them steep as I made the dinner-they were perfect and tart crunchy.  I made a pepper jack queso-easy, thick and a little spicy.  I made beefy patties and toasted the buns  For good measure I crisped a couple of slices of bacon and made some tots.   So, here’s where I went sideways and made my own life easier.  He gave a great recipe for roasting the chiles and steaming them to remove the skins.  Honestly, my grocery store doesn’t have great produce.  So, I used canned green chiles.  Dumped them on there and Bob’s your uncle (and mine coincidentally) dinner is served.

This cookbook is fun and self deprecating and modest which is usually how I find Bobby Flay to be.  He is good but he doesn’t say, hey, I’m good.  I like that about him.  He may not be real but he definitely feels like it.  We use this book as a jumping off place to create and mod our own things, just like this burger.  Our muffaletta comes from here initially but we’ve made it our own.  That is a good place to be.

all pasta isn’t created equal

52cookbooksIf you do any reading of food blog or magazines or watch more than one show on the Food Network you get some of the same mantras over and over ad infinitum.  They include but are not limited to:

  • don’t cook garlic on too high a heat.  It will burn and be bitter.
  • when zesting a lime or lemon only take off the thinnest colored part of the skin.  The white pith is bitter.
  • use the best ingredients you can afford.  I never know what that means.  I think for me it is use the best I am willing to pay for.
  • Always think in a high pitched almost mock Italian when thinking about prosciutto, parmigiano or spagitti.  (You know I know how to spell spaghetti.)

giadaGiada De Laurentiis is a force.  Food Network loves her and over the years she has kind of come into her own and become more like …herself.  I don’t like to watch her so much as I feel like her falsetto Italian words are grating the edges of my soul.  I do have one of her books however and we’ve made good work out of several recipes inside so I suppose I can’t complain about her too much.  Maybe I’m just jealous.  Z requested this recipe from everyday italian  last week when he was sick with a sinus infection.  His happy place in comfort food is noodles.   Buttered noodles, ramen noodles, macaroni & cheese, Alfredo, etc.  We had a package of Prosciutto in the freezer along with a bag of orechiette in the pantry from our last Trader Joe’s run in Sarasota.  Combined with fresh wedge of parmesan we were off to the races.  This book is nicely Italian in that it isn’t ingredient heavy.  This is basically pasta, olive oil, bread crumbs, prosciutto & parm.  All things we regularly have around even if nothing is waiting for their use.  It’s a half hour type recipe.  The ‘sauce’ for the pasta comes together while the water comes up to a boil and the pasta cooks.  I threw in some steamed broccoli and a bottle of Lambrusco (also from TJ’s) to round it out.   A side note about the TJ’s orrechiette-it isn’t my favorite.  It’s a bit too cupped and even is a huge pot of salted water they tend to stick together into little stacks of hats which I don’t love.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.  The cookbook though, is an easy reader and the recipes come from that happy Italian place where they sit around the table every night to something luscious and comforting.  Dinner is served.


down in lunch lady land

excessive ingredient alert!  This is only an alert.  I was seduced by the cover and heft of a cookbook a year or two ago by Guy Fieri.  You know him, bleached blond spikes on dark roots, bling for miles and host (former?) of Minute to Win It!  He wrote and/or inspired a cookbook called Food, Cookin it, Livin it, Lovin it.  It has spin of fun graffiti style art and lengthy ingredient lists and is kind of bar food that tastes good because it’s fried or has cheese in it.  I have been on a only cooking stuff that is easy kick and somehow I diverted into this.  10 hundred (copyright that!) ingredients and deep frying.  For the love of all that’s holy.IMG_3414   Anyhow, I made Guy’s Sloppy Joe’s with Maui Onion Straws. Spicy-spicy and faintly sweet ground meat simmered down to a thick paste and topped with fried sweet onions.  We used Vidalia’s instead of Maui’s-it being Florida and all.  We used Martin’s potato buns and the recipe fed us 3 or 4 times.  We could have easily halved it but since you are going the distance on measuring and pouring ingrediants you might as well be all in.  I guess all those ingredients melded together in the pan to create something better than the sum of their parts.  Deep frying isn’t really my favorite and to cut down on the process I used a stovetop pot and shallow fried just to ease the mess.  The onions were seriously awesome.  I think that adding fried onions is roughly the same as adding bacon.  Anyway, I have had the song by Adam Sandler in my head for days now and you would be well served to not go watch this link but run to the store and get the ingredients for slop-sloppy joes.

*this is my four hundredth post-who would’ve thought?


I don’t know what it was or is.  I don’t feel like writing or even reading the blogs I really enjoy.  Just easily distracted and …meh.  I don’t know if it is the heat of impending summer or the business that preceded vacation coupled with the hit the ground running post.  I started two posts and had drama.  One deleted on accident somehow.  One never came together.  Then I just gave up.  I’ve variously heard – ‘just give it 12 minutes.’  ‘Go home and write a blog.  So, here I sit, gin and tonic with an extra squeeze of lime in hand and four or five topics I could write on.  I guess I’ll pick up where I left off.IMG_3376

I met Robert Irvine.  You know, of Food Network fame.  Restaurant Impossible?  He was the host of a fundraising event for Florida Hospital called the Gourmet Soiree and we were graciously given a pair of tickets to attend. The event kicked off with a silent auction – we bid on some cooking classes but were outbid.  They also had a live auction where the apparently wealthy bid on thousands of dollars of vacations and BMW’s.  It was fun though.  The event centered around the idea of living to a healthy 100 which is an initiative of Florida Hospital and each table was honored to have their own chef.  Our table had ‘chef’ Mark of a local(ish) butcher shop called the Meat House.  If you are looking for quality and rarer cuts and proteins, you should check it out.  Each table worked with their chef to prepare a healthy dinner, sort of in a Iron Chef Quick Fire kind of way.  We had to rush to the Whole Foods supply tables and pick up the other ingredients for our dishes.  We had something like 47 minutes to prep and cook dinner for 8.  Mark made us chimichurri marinated steak, lemon chicken and we all attempted zucchini cakes that ended up as zucchini …hash browns.  Only two pans and two burners at each station complicated the cooking and the room was FILLED with smoke.  Everything was tasty though and we were treated at the end to a Robert Irvine recipe of panna cotta with an interesting mango and avocado salsa on top and some funny black bean (I think) chocolate thingies on the side.  Each table snacked on hummus, tapenade and flatbreads and veggies while they made their own shallot vinaigrette for salad.  It was a fun night and we were glad to have gone.

khooing over Rachel’s food

during Christmas time I dvr’d the show, Little Paris Kitchen Cooking with Rachel Khoo.  Rachel Khoo is the most delightful British girl living in Paris cooking some semblance of French food with her own twists.  I’m not sure Parisians want things with a twist but they may be more flexible than I’ve been led to believe.  I kind of think in general, thiIMG_3203ngs have been perfected to a certain standard in France and that is how they are expected to be.  But again, she is a gorgeous girl with the cutest accent.  Stew = schtew.  I love that.  She cooks everything in a tiny – microsized really, kitchen.  She has basically two burners and a toaster oven.  She has a tiny little dutch oven and I think only one electrical plug.  I wanted to eat her food so I ordered the cookbook from Amazon.  Ah, marketing.  The first thing I made was an easy little croque madame.  Basic white bread (they have that in France?) is rolled out, buttered and pressed into a muffin pan.  An egg, gruyere studded bechamel and black forest ham are dropped in and the whole mess is baked for 15-20 minutes.  A perfect Saturday morning breakfast with the buttery toast and cheesy sauce elevating my usual egg on an english muffin.  I’m looking forward to future meals in this grand little scale.