Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Long and The Short of It

OK, I write very long posts. My husband would agree.  And my grammar is horrible, I know.  I could use an editor.  I do my best to try and catch my mistakes, but heck, I'm human.  Even spell check can get it wrong sometimes. For example, it kept flagging "tomatillo" as a misspelled word in this post. Besides, I'm not writing my blog to win an essay contest.  I just like to cook and I want to share my experiences and recipes with you in hopes that it will inspire you to cook.  As for my long posts, I guess I have a lot to say. So, I''ll try to manage the lengths of my posts better.

So, I really don't have a story that goes along with these recipes that I am sharing with you today, so this is the short part. The inspiration to try these recipes comes from what's available at the market right now, and they are easy and summery. They do have some ingredients in common. They both use fresh corn and tomatillos. The Grilled Corn Chowder that I made was a huge hit, and I used the poblano peppers from my garden.  I lightened up the calories by not using flour or cream. If you want a creamier texture then add cream, but reduce the amount of stock you use. My daughter had two helpings of the chowder and she had it for lunch the next day.  The second recipe I made a few weeks ago when I grilled some flank steak.  This Chunky, Corn and Tomatillo Salsa was awesome on top. This would also be delicious on grilled chicken.  I hope you try them both and that you have been enjoying the summer so far. M :)

Grilled Corn Chowder (Adapted from Recipe.com/Better Homes and Garden, July 2013)

4 ears fresh corn, husked, silk removed and rinsed
2 poblano peppers
4 tomatillos, husks removed
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
16 ounces chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 small yellow potatoes, cooked in microwave, diced and divided in two portions
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced
Olive oil
Optional toppings: Avocado, cilantro, sour cream

Fire up the grill.  Lightly brush vegetables with olive oil and cook corn until tender (and has some light charred color), and poblano peppers and tomatillos until they have a medium charred appearance.  This may take 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool.  Once cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs, dividing into two portions and seed and chop peppers, separating in two portions too. In a large saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Over medium high heat cook onion, seasoned with salt and pepper, until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add cumin and 1 portion of corn, 1 potato, 1 poblano pepper and 1 cup of broth.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Place grilled tomatillos in blender and transfer 3/4 of mixture from pan and puree.  If mixture is too thick and won't blend add a little extra broth.  Return mixture to pan. Add remaining corn, poblano pepper, jalapeno pepper, potato and broth. Adjust seasonings. Simmer low for 15 to 20 minutes.  Garnish with avocado, cilantro or sour cream.  Serves 4.

Chunky Avocado, Corn and Tomatillo Salsa

1/2 ripe avocado, cut in small chunks
3 tomatillos, roasted on grill
1 green onion, white and green parts chopped
8 grape tomatoes, cut in half
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 ear of corn, husked, silk removed, roasted on grill, kernels removed
Salt to taste
Optional - chopped cilantro

Puree tomatillos in blender. Mix tomatillo puree with the rest of ingredients.  Adjust seasonings. Enjoy as a salsa, or as a topping for steak or chicken.  Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Recitals and Radishes

Last week was a busy one. Summer school started along with poms camp for my daughter and basketball camp in the afternoon for my son. My hours at work switched over to summer hours, 8 to noon, and I get to spend some quality car ride time with my son who is working in the warehouse. Plus, this past weekend my daughter had her annual dance recital.  This is my favorite time of year.

It is my favorite time for many reasons.  First, the stress level in the house is way down.  The craziness that goes along with the regular school year just isn't there.  No lunches to pack every morning, no buses to catch, the sun is shining and everyone seems genuinely more happy.  Everyone isn't rushing about. With my work hours shifting to mornings I feel like I can accomplish more in the afternoon.  I don't feel so hurried to try and get an errand in or prepare for dinner as when I work in the afternoon during the fall and winter. I don't have to worry about an after school snack or driving someone to an activity, and that 3 o'clock tiredness I usually feel during the school year is gone. Poof!  Gone!  Summer is a miracle medicine!

Secondly, its recital time. There was excitement in the air at our house, mixed with a little anxiety.  There were lists to go over - rehearsal times sheet, the show performance list, and a checklist of extra items that were needed, such as tights, a nude colored leotard and lots of bobby pins. My daughter checked these lists numerous times to make sure she knew when she needed to be at rehearsal and what she needed to bring and when her performance was in the show line up.  She was in 7 dances this year, the most she has ever been in, and that meant 7 costumes to pack up and make sure no parts were missing. This year she needed a hat for one of the jazz numbers, so I made that. I was amazed at my talents and what I could make out of .50 cent red glittered can cozy from Michael's, a bag of red feathers and a fabric rose hair accessory from a tap costume that wasn't being used.  I love that my daughter at 14 still asked me to do her hair and make-up.  Though this year, as I tried to apply eye shadow, apparently I wasn't doing a good enough job and I was fired as make up artist.  But, that's OK. I knew the time would come when she would do it by herself and that time came this year.  I enjoy sitting and watching the rehearsal and it is the time when I can video and take pictures during my daughters performances, since they don't allow this during the actual show. I love to see all the glittery, feathery, flowy costumes, the dramatic make-up, the low buns, high buns, pony tailed hair dos plastered down with hair spray, gel and numerous bobby pins. I even love to hear the technical chatter from the studios art director and owner about lighting, music, and the dancers stage placement. A lot of hard work goes in to these performances. Most of the moms and dads anxiously await the next day for the performance and to see how well money was spent, to see how much was learned, and to see the joy on the faces of their daughters. The last one is what it is really all about! Happy tears well up in my eyes every time I see my daughter dance.  She has the grace, the confidence, the ability and stage presence that is all her own as she lights up the stage with her smile. I am so proud of her!

So, with all of the excitement and new schedules of the past week, there has been an adjustment and shift to summer living. I am recharged and recalibrated, and so is my pallet.  My taste buds are longing for the delicious fruits and veggies of the season. The weather and the fresh produce inspire my cooking and during this time of year I turn to Italian and Mediterranean recipes. My little garden has begun to produce and I pulled out my first crop of radishes.  I made two wonderful salads using them, which were perfect quick sides to make last week.   The first recipe I adapted from a beautiful cookbook, "Recipes from an Italian Summer", and my husband said that this salad was like summer in a bowl.  He practically ate the whole bowl. Seriously, that is how good this salad was.  The next one is from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook.  I think this may have been her first cookbook that she wrote using all the recipes from the magazine because there is no year listed in the title. I'm checking the inside of the book as I am writing this.  It was published in 2000 and the forward from Martha says that the book is an accumulation of 10 years of recipes from the magazine, which started in 1990. The recipe for Chunky Radish Salad has a definite Mediterranean flare with the use of dill, cucumber and feta.  Really refreshing and light.  I have planted some more radish seeds and they have already started to sprout.  I'm looking forward to trying some more recipes using radishes.  I hope you try these two recipes.  Enjoy! M:)

Radish Salad with Corn and Olives (Insalata di rapanelli corn olive)

3 ears fresh corn, shucked and rinsed
12 radishes, trimmed and sliced
1 small red onion, chopped
Juice from 1/2 of lemon
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper or to taste
5 basil leaves, chopped
12 pitted green olives, sliced
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Place corn in a pot of boiling water and cook for three minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool. Combine lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Whisk to combine well.  Remove kernels from cob using a knife and place in bowl with radishes, onion, chopped basil and olives.  Pour dressing over and mix well.  Serves 4 to 6.

Chunky Radish Salad (Adapted from Martha Stewart)

12 radishes, trimmed and sliced (or quartered for chunky)
1 medium English cucumber, quartered and chopped
8 ounces feta cheese
12 yellow or orange cherry type tomatoes, cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

Combine radishes, cucumber, tomatoes, and dill.  Mix together the olive oil with vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add dressing to vegetables and mix in basil leaves and feta cheese.  Serves 4 to 6.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Lean Green Bean

When I was growing up the only green beans I knew of came from a can or a frozen box.  A popular side dish at our family dinner table was frozen French style green beans with melted Parmesan cheese from a can. "Cheesy Beans", she lovingly called them.  I think she felt that she had to name them in order to get us to eat them. It was as if they were called something, other than what they really were, we would find them more appealing. Its like with broccoli. My sister in law Jan called them "trees" for her children, and when I had my children I called them "trees" too.  That was the only food that had a name, thankfully!  The only other time we would have green beans would be on Thanksgiving Day.  You all know that gloppy green bean casserole with the crunchy onion topping. That was THE popular side dish back in those days, and it still is popular with some today (why?). I admit I loved both of the green bean dishes my mom made when I was younger, but as an adult I discovered fresh green beans to be so delicious. Why cover them up with condensed soup and salty fried onions from a can?

Fresh green beans are a beautiful bright green and are crisp, something that canned green beans just are not. Just the thought of the smell of canned green beans grosses me out. The color of frozen green bean have a much better color and I don't mind them if I can't find fresh ones. With summer upon us, now is the perfect time to find fresh green beans at the grocery store or farmer's market. I've come up with a few new ways to liven up green beans all summer.  You can enjoy these dishes hot or as a cold salad.  I hope you try them.  
M :)

P/S -  Thank you to my taste testers Sammie and Carmel.

For all the recipes use 4 cups of green beans, washed and trimmed.
Steam them either in the microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes, or use a steamer in a pot and simmer until still a little crisp, about 8 minutes. Mix in the ingredients while the beans are still hot. Serves 4.

Pesto Green Beans
3 tablespoons prepared pesto sauce
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Pesto and Parmesan Cheese

Mediterranean Green Beans
2 tablespoon sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese

Oops! I forgot the olives

Asian Green Beans
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
3/4 cup cooked, shelled edemame
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
You could add some chili garlic sauce for some heat

Sorry no picture. My taste testers ate them before
I could snap a photo. But they were fantastic.
You'll have to trust me.

Lemon Garlic and Basil Green Beans
1 to 2 tablespoon olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
5 basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Adventures in Dining - Everyone's A Critic

I must say about 9 out of 10 dinners are pretty well liked by my family. There are those times, however, when a recipe looks better on paper than when you actually make it. I wanted to make mahimahi tonight because tomorrow I was going to submit the recipe to Daily Buzz Food as a part of  their "Write With Us" program. I came across a recipe from Gourmet Magazine's Gourmet Today cookbook. With no picture, the recipe sounded interesting enough to try, but I would have to make a minor adjustment to the portions, and omit the cilantro which was in a pineapple salsa like condiment.  My husband really dislikes cilantro. I decided to substitute the cilantro by using ground coriander seeds. I had everything purchased and planned out. I was excited. I made the pineapple topping ahead of time, so I wasn't rushed trying to do it all at once. I tasted the mixture. I liked it. It was sweet and spicy. I thought I had a hit!

I wrapped some fresh corn in foil and placed the package on the upper rack of the grill so it could steam before I started to grill the fish. After the fish was done, I plated it and spooned the pineapple salsa mixture over the top, sprinkled with parsley, from my garden, and snapped a photo. It looked really good. I proudly presented the dish and sat down as everyone helped themselves. "This is 6 ounces." I told my husband. He is tracking his calories on an app.  I cautioned my family about a bone in the center. "The man at the store said there is a bone in the piece. If he had cut it out, the fish would have fallen apart." The table is silent. Everyone is eating. Usually a good sign when people are enjoying their food. I then asked, "So how is it?". My son immediately questions, "Is there garlic in with the pineapple?" I tried to somewhat play down the fact that there was garlic in with the pineapple by saying it was cooked, like it would be better if I said it was cooked. He then said, "Garlic doesn't belong with pineapple." Then my husband said that the pineapple mixture is too spicy. "I wish I had some warning that it was going to be spicy.", he says. Then my son chimes in, "Ya, pineapple should be sweet. And you said there was a bone, and I was looking for a bone, and there is no bone." And then to top it all off my son adds, "And the corn is under cooked. Plus, I know you guys are watching watching your weight, but these portions are ridiculous." Ah, out of the mouth of a growing boy, but sheesh!! The two of them really let me have it. Though they were giving me a hard time, it was all said in fun, and we laughed about it.  My son suggested that next time I season the fish so that it was slightly spicy, and keep the pineapple part sweet, and omit the garlic. So, I'm still going to give you this recipe with the suggested changes, because my family wants me to make it again. I appreciated the constructive criticism. But really, did they have to be right?  

Grilled Cajun Mahimahi with Pineapple  
Serves 4 to 6

2 cups fresh pineapple, cut in small chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 tablespoon fish sauce (found in Asian aisle at grocery store) could be optional
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
4 or 6 mahimahi  fillets - either 6 or 7 ounces.
Prepared Cajun spice seasoning mixture, from Emeril Lagasse or Paul Prudhomme

Heat oil in a medium sized pan over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, do not brown. Add pineapple, coriander, fish sauce (if using) and salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.  Allow mixture to cool down to room temperature.

For fish, season with Cajun spice mixture and brush both sides with olive oil. I brushed a non stick type grilling plate with olive oil too. Place fish skin side down and cook for 4 minutes. Turn fish over and cook another 4 minutes. Top with pineapple mixture.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Are Any Recipes Really "Original"?

As I look at all the cookbooks I have accumulated, think about the cooking magazines I have, and watch the numerous cooking shows I like, I have to wonder. Is there really an original recipe?

If you think about it the recipes from hundreds of years ago were the ancestors of today's recipes. Our great grandmothers and fathers, and people before them, all had recipes, and what we have now are distant cousins and half brothers of the originals. So then, the idea of putting together a particular list of ingredients and instructions create a recipe. Who can call it their own? Can you publish it?

Is there really such a thing as an "original" recipe? I think the answer is no. I like what this contributor to Quora.com, Jonas M. Luster, has to say on this. He says that, "Any and all recipes are simply derivatives of 27 basic preparations. The only part of a recipe that is original are the instructions." The instructions are considered "creative work" and are protected by copyright laws. The list of ingredients are not protected. Luster also states, "Every time someone claims that a recipes can be protected I challenge them to the same: show me an original recipe. Anything that has not been done for centuries or, in case of the so-called "modernists" or "molecular" cuisine, since the 80's by fast food, freezer isle, or candy makers."

"Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook."
"Only original works of authorship are protected by copyright. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying it from an existing work."(http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl122.html)

Why isn't the list of ingredients protected by copyright laws? My guess is that anyone could come up with any combination of ingredients. Take for example the day I had the genius idea of making a Nutella milk shake. For two whole minutes I thought I had an original idea, but then a friend who lives in Brazil saw my post and said her kids have them all the time there.

I am certainly NOT a lawyer, and I am sure there are many more points to this subject, but MY main point is about originality. I understand the "rules" to be this. If you are a blogger, for example, and use an already published recipe, you may use the list of ingredients, but you can not use the authors word for word instructions of how to prepare the dish. To quote Luster again, "It stands to reason that anyone who can't describe the process of making a dish in their own words (again, ingredients and ratios can't be copyrighted to begin with) has no business publishing recipes, but the vast number of "foodie blogs" out there who do precisely that tells me there's a market for that stuff. And it's totally legal."

So, these cookbooks, magazines, and now food bloggers entering the arena, are essentially "copying" recipes? I came across a question that was asked on Chowhound.com, back in January of 2008, that had some interesting comments. The question header says "Recipe Plagiarism" and Roland Parker asked, "

"Is using a recipe published in a cookbook for a business venture a form of plagiarism Are recipes protected by copyright laws? So, I'm asking all the chefs and caterers and store owners out there: do you routinely borrow other people's recipes or do you establish your own recipes (even if it's only changing one ingredient out of a long list, does that alone make it "your" recipe?"

Sisterfunkhaus responded to the string of comments, "If they are, then there are a lot of Food Network stars including Ina Garten, RR, and Paula Deen, as well as The Pioneer Woman who would be in big trouble. I regularly recognize their recipes from The Joy of Cooking, The Betty Crocker Cookbook, and exact recipes my mom has made for years and got from who knows where. Sometimes I will even go look something up because I know I have seen or eaten the recipe before. They will often adjust the amount of salt or one other ingredient so it will seem like it's theirs. Now, I know many of the recipes are theirs, but many are not."

Take these two recipes for example. The first one is for Raspberry Tea Squares. I have shared this recipe before in a previous blog post and gave credit to the book where it came from, which was "Make It Easy In Your Kitchen" by Laurie Burrows Grad. The second recipe, from Ina Garten's new cookbook "Foolproof", and one I have shared on my Facebook page and gave credit to Ina, is for Raspberry Crumble Bars. Both of these recipes when cooked look very similar, and taste the same. The difference in the recipes are in ratios of some of the exact same ingredients, and one has salt, and the other doesn't, and one has all spice, and the other doesn't, and Ina's recipe adds granola. If you don't add the granola, you've got Laurie Burrow Grad's recipe.

So, can you alter a previously published recipe and call it your own, with instructions in your own words? Yes. Can you use a published recipe, not make any changes to it and call it your own, even if you describe the instruction in your own words? You probably shouldn't. You should make reference to where you got it from. Among cooks I feel you should give credit when credit is due. If I choose to share a recipe from another source I will say where it came from. If I have altered a recipe from another source I will say "adapted from" next to the recipe title. All recipes are adapted from one another in some way. The "original" however, may be very hard to find.

** These may be the 27 basic food preparations Mr. Luster may have been thinking.  There are in fact many more: baking, frying, grilling, stewing, boiling, steaming, roasting, slow cooking, microwaving, simmering, leeching, soaking, salting, preserving, canning, straining, mincing, dicing, slicing, cutting, grating, grinding, pulverizing, drying, hydrating, dehydrating, freeze drying

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