Cheesy Corn Spoonbread

Have you missed me?  Right, sure, who am I kidding?  It's not that we haven't been eating, just that food hasn't been jumping off the plate, saying "I am so worthy of a post, take my picture."  So, shoot me.  Until last night, and a magazine clipping I pulled out from a saved stack in my big plastic container.  Looking for something altogether different.  This Cheesy Corn Spoonbread cried out to be made.  Despite the cheesy name. Plus everything required was in fridge or pantry, sometimes a minor miracle in itself.  I do not recall the magazine name, the only clue at the bottom of the page was "bestdishes2009".  When I Googled the recipe title, Paula Deen's name came up.  So, we'll give her the credit.

It is not too complicated, and for once, I didn't change anything.  Aside from cutting the recipe in half.  The original serves 6, and as you can see from the dish, it was quite enough for Bob and I.  With a wee bit left to go with my lunch today.  My usual assemblage of left-overs.


Pastitsio, or around here, Hamburger Mac 'n Cheese

There are times when giving the Greek, French, or  Italian name for a dish, you draw a blank, deer in the headlights, look from the little congregation gathered around the dinner table.  It's whattttt???  And, a vernacular translation is in order.  But on this one, flavor aromas alone will do the job.  My translation was more for reassurance.  No, you won't be eating strange yuckky food.  Bob said it's the best Mac 'n Cheese he's had.  Sorry all you Greek people out there, that's probably close to an ethnic slur.

You've probably all come across Pastitsio before, especially on Ruth, the Pasta Queen's site, I know I have, even saving a recipe to my file.  So, finally the day arrived.  All ingredients were present and accounted for, and we said (me in the Royal sense) let's do it.  Fabulous.  A keeper.

I think what had put me off previously was the idea of making two sauces.  I know, it doesn't take much. However, as it turned out, that was no big deal.  First you get your ragu going, and while it simmers on a back burner, the pasta water can come to a boil, and while that's happening, you throw together a simple Bechamel (White Sauce) with cheese.  Dump in the pasta, and everything comes together in three layers.  Pretty easy, really.  Especially when you make things even simpler by adding a good quality prepared tomato sauce to your ground beef after it has browned.  The Greek seasonings add a lovely touch of the exotic.  Unless you are Greek.  Then, it's a taste of home.


Smoking Salmon for Charcutepalooza

Since the latest challenge from the folks at Charcutepalooza was hot smoking meat or fish, and we were blessed to be given a 3 lb. piece of wild red salmon by our hunter/fisherman/pilot friend, the selection of what to smoke this month was pretty obvious.  Not so clear was the" how to" of it all, though  I had the feeling that if sufficient directions were found, and I followed them step by step, then my first attempt at smoking wouldn't be a complete disaster.  And, I was right.  That salmon smoked up beautifully, moist, flavorful and tender.  I cut the piece in half lengthwise, so there would be skin on just one side of each, and so it wouldn't be so thick. Next it went into a salt and sugar brine flavored with toasted, crushed coriander seeds, 5 Spice and yellow miso for 2 hours at room temperature.

We have a Grillware charcoal BBQ, which has a thermometer on the hinged lid, which made things simpler.  Also a hand crank to raise and lower the grill level, which made adding extra chips and coals easier.  I went on the side of less charcoal being better.  You can add heat easier than taking it away, was my thought.  I used apple wood chips, soaked overnight, but they dried out after an hour, and weren't smoking much, so I threw on some fresh green guava wood pieces to continue producing smoke.  I had 2 old metal pans of water under the fish, as advised.  So, the salmon went for 3 hours at very low heat, and got a good dose of smoke along the way.

So many ways to serve this wonderful smoky flavored fish. One of my favorites was Open-faced Smoked Salmon Sandwiches on whole grains bread.


Lomi Lomi Salmon Stuffed Avocado and Laulaus

This month we were given the challenge/assignment by Daring Cooks to do edible containers.  First off, I made stuffed mustard cabbage leaves with a filling that included  fish and fresh corn, baked in a broth.  Since I was not all that happy with the way they turned out, it was back to the drawing board.

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

My final decision was to go Hawaiian.  I have lived here for the better part of my life, though have never posted about two staples of the luau scene.  So, that had to be remedied.   Lomi lomi Salmon is made with salt salmon, and usually served as a side with Lau laus, kalua pork and poi.  Especially poi, as its blandness is a perfect foil to the intense zap of onion, lemon and salt salmon.  I thought an avocado half would serve that same purpose, while holding the salad like a little bowl.

Between the two dishes, you need to plan ahead and start early.  This salmon recipe makes a gargantuan amount, which I cut way down, buying a small package of (8 oz.) salted salmon.  I used two small tomatoes and only 1/2 an onion, and 2 green onions.  That gave plenty for 4 avocado halves.


Green Mango Fritatta

I am a breakfast person.  Just love a nice bit of fruit, along with some pancakes or crepes, or omelet, or popovers, Dutch Baby, or muffins, toast and sausage, or bacon and eggs, or pastry or..... you get the picture.  And, sometimes this morning  meal  is a good place to do some creative experimentation.

There was a lone, little green mango under the mango tree.  Maybe a bird knocked it off.  But, that sort of thing was meant for inventive use, not to be wasted.  Too small for anything major, just right for my breakfast. Green mangoes, just barely starting to color, are similar to tart green apples, perfect for Green Mango Pie, and I've used them in Dutch Babies, which this creation is an off-shoot of.  I began with sourdough starter, an egg, a bit of yogurt, salt, sugar and baking soda.  That's it.  Well, the mango, of course.


Zucchini Crudo and Blowdrying Chickens

Zucchini and summer squash in this form, thanks to Michael Symon, are a revelation.  A whole new vegetable, almost.  They tenderize and soak up herbal flavors beautifully. So simple, making for a fabulous salad, especially now that we are looking forward to hot weather, and the season of abundant squash.

Get out your mandolin, a few veggies, lemon, dill, some garlic, and you're off.


Veal Scaloppini Marsala with Peppers

Not to complain (too much anyway), but the Natural Foods Market here doesn't have the greatest meat selection in the world.  Boo hoo.  Poor me.  No neighborhood friendly butcher. So, when I laid eyes on a lone package of veal, cut for scaloppini, you can believe I grabbed it quick.

One of my favorite dishes is Scaloppini Marsala from an old Italian cookbook, which I believe has been mentioned before on this blog.

It merges beautifully with a variety of vegetables on a bed of Linguini.  Rachael Ray adds mushrooms and green olives, but since I had these vari-colored peppers, that was the happening thing.

You might have to pound your veal scallops between sheets of wax paper if they aren't as thin as they should be.  Mine were just about perfect and I only had to beat on one or two, just a bit.


House Za'atar, Togarashi, Ras el Hanout, Jerk Blend , BBQ Salt, or Whatever.....

I was reading in my March Bon Appetit about various spice blends available from all over the world.  A bottle of Za'atar had already found its way to my spice cupboard, I've been throwing together a Hawaiian BBQ Salt for some time,  and made some Ginger Salt, but a few of the others mentioned also sounded intriguing. Well, I admit to being a spice sucker, having recently ordered ground Wattle seed from Australia, and fennel pollen from Northern California.  However, more of those things need to be incorporated into my cooking.

Then, as happens, a light bulb went off when I read a few of the ingredients for Togarashi, A Japanese spice mix.   That ground kelp sitting around, ever since I had filled a spice bottle from the bulk section, winding up with a zip-lock extra, and I am ashamed to admit, none of it getting sprinkled anywhere. Yes, perfect for my very own Togarashi, together with a small baggie of extra chili powder waiting in the freezer, with similar MO.  Red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, salt and a jar of tangerine peels I had dried, now languishing in the pantry.  Those we (my granddaughter, the label person and I) picked through, dried some more, and ground, to add a nice fruity flavor.

It is very close to Spring, and I am willing to bet that you too have miscellaneous herbs and spices which are not being pressed into useful service.  Combined they may give a wonderful, quick zip of mysterious flavor, to an omlette, a soup, piece of sirloin, fish fillet, etc.  Think of all the possibilities, besides Spring cleaning.  For instance, do you just happen to have some dried rose petals?  :) yeah right, but some people may, so crumble them, and add to it ginger, turmeric, peppers and voila, Ras el Hanout.  Which, it is suggested would be great for baked fish, or rice pilaf.  A bit of dried lavender from your summer garden?  Combine it with basil, rosemary and thyme for an "Herbes de Provence."  Be encouraged to mix it up with the spices on hand.

This will go over to Week-end Herb Blogging, this week hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.