Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos

Remember the vegetarian black bean chili we made recently? It makes for a great taco. I'll admit that after the third day of eating a hot steaming bowl of chili you'll need to switch it up a bit, so a good alternative is tacos. If you start with an organic corn tortilla, like Trader Joe's, or homemade if you're so inclined, they will taste even better.

First, I threw together a quick salsa as I had some leftover San Marzano tomatoes in the fridge, and a little bit of salsa left in two jars. This is not a required ingredient, I just wanted to finish what I had on hand. Hate to waste!  To that I added:

2 cups of chopped San Marzano canned tomatoes
1/4 sweet white onion, chopped
2/3 cup of organic sweet corn (blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes)
1 small green pepper, diced, and sauteed in olive oil until tender
1/4 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp ground thyme
5-6 squirts of hot sauce (more if you like it hotter)
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1/2 finely chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix it well and let sit for an hour. Adjust seasoning to taste, if necessary.

My taco ingredients:
Trader Joe's organic corn taco shells (warm in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes)
Place in serving bowls:
Grated carrots
Very thinly sliced cheddar cheese (shredded is fine, too)
Homemade salsa

Build your taco and enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cape Cod Gem: Inaho

One of my favorite restaurants here on the upper Cape is Inaho. This Japanese restaurant rivals some of the best on the Pacific coast, and certainly many in New York City. Our NYC family members always request to dine here during their visits, and rave about it every time.

The owners attend to every detail with the utmost care and devotion. The simple Asian inspired decor is comfortable and serene. The fish is the freshest you can find, and our server explained the process they go through to ensure that this consistent high quality is maintained. In twenty years I've never been disappointed.

I started with the Tuna Carparccio which is served with a light soy sauce and lemon dressing. The dressing is so delicious that I keep the plate and dip my hand rolls into it. Our server understood completely.

David enjoyed the hijiki salad with carrots and edamame. It's both delicious and good for you, as it's high in fiber.

Then it was a spicy scallop, and a spicy tuna hand roll for me. The scallops were sweet, and the nori was still crisp. The spicy mayonnaise had just enough bite to it, and the rice was plump and sticky.

David enjoyed the salmon roll, which I didn't try (you'll see why in a second) but he said it was very good.

They make a vegetarian jalapeno roll with sweet potato that my father introduced me to several years ago. The sweet potato is cooked tempura-style, then rolled with the pepper and rice. It's incredible!

We also shared Tails in the Air. Tempura shrimp with avocado. One of my favorites, and a great choice for those who don't care for raw seafood.

We finished with mochi ice cream, which is Japanese glutinous rice that is pounded into a cake, then wrapped around ice cream. The flavors were mango and green tea.

Driving home on historic Rt. 6A we stopped at Barnstable Harbor to enjoy the sunset:

Perfect ending to a perfect meal.

157 Rt. 6A
Yarmouthport, MA
+1 508.362.5522

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Grandma's Italian Comfort Food: Peppers and Eggs

Whenever I make peppers and eggs I think of my grandmother. Grandma Palanza's were delicious, especially in a sandwich she made for me one day. I was moving from Cape Cod to Syracuse, NY, and stopped by her house to visit and say goodbye. Being one of 65 grandchildren those of us that lived a distance from her didn't have a lot of one-on-one time. We were usually a big crowd gathered together to celebrate a special occasion. Grandma was an hour away in Mansfield, so when I got my license I made a few trips to visit her. This was one of those times when it was just the two of us. We spent the evening talking about family, food, and this new adventure in my life.

When I set off the next morning she made me a pepper and egg sandwich that she'd wrapped in the plastic bread bag. I'm pretty sure grandmothers invented re-cycling. I pulled it out in Albany and can still recall the taste of that delicious creation. Is there anything better than homemade food while you're on the road? I don't think so. When I looked at that plastic bag my heart was touched by the love, kindness, and care that she bestowed on me, her grandchild. While I was one of many, having this time alone with her made me feel very special. She always loved hearing about what you were doing, what the rest of the family was up to, and sharing stories about her own children. It was quiet and intimate, which is a treat when you come from such a large extended family. It gave you the opportunity to see a quieter side of Grandma, and get to know her a bit better. She shared deeper feelings than one usually does when in a large crowd.

After eating the sandwich, I realized that I'd left my Nikkormat camera at her house. I pulled over at the next rest stop and called her. Yes, we had to use a pay phone in those days. She had the camera, and assured me that she would pack it carefully and send it to my new address. I'll admit I was a little nervous and unsure of it arriving in one piece. What did Grandma know about packing up a fancy camera? Actually, she knew a lot. A week later I received the box. She had carefully wrapped the camera, then packed it with rags and newspaper (no foam pellets then either), and it arrived without a scratch. That box had a lot more than just my camera in it.

So to make peppers and eggs like Grandma:

Slice 2 medium green peppers into 1/2 inch slices. Saute them in olive oil. Be sure the pan is pretty hot so you can brown up the peppers nicely. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the pan and set aside. I spray the pan with a little cooking spray. Beat 6 eggs in a bowl (I use Pete and Gerry's Organic), then add to the warmed pan. Sprinkle with a small handful of grated percorino romano cheese.  As the eggs start to set up, add the peppers back into the eggs and finish cooking to your liking. Serve on your favorite bread. I used Bays Multi-grain English muffins.

Thanks, Grandma. xo

(Photo by Alexandra Iseman)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Burger on a Bays English Muffin

I stopped at Fancy's in Osterville to pick up some naturally raised, no antibiotics fed to the cows ground sirloin. It's the only kind I'll eat, and it makes for a very tasty burger. Then I spotted the Bays English muffins in the dairy case. Winning combo. I can't remember the first time I had a burger on an English muffin, but I remember that it was delicious.

George W. Bay opened his bakery in 1933 using the recipe that his grandmother brought to this country from England in 1800's. They were the first company to package their muffins in a box with a cellophane window. Bays are in the dairy case because they are free of preservatives and artificial ingredients. My kind of muffin. Flavors are original, honey wheat, sour dough, and multi-grain. It was multi-grain for my burger.

Here's a tip for making your patties. After you form the patties make an indentation in the center with your thumb. This will prevent the burger from rising up in the middle when cooking. Because when it rises up we want to push it down with our spatula and then all the wonderful juices are released. Got this tip from Bobby Flay, and it works! So fire up your grill and cook a burger. I like them medium, so that's about 8 minutes per side, adding the cheese for that last 2 minutes with the cover down on the grill. Use a good cheddar, or whatever cheese you like, and toast up a Bays. Enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chicken Parmesan on the lighter side

Growing up in an Italian family pretty much guarantees that you'll love chicken cutlets. They're a staple, and I guess it's really a kid's first introduction to chicken fingers, but ours are a whole lot better because they're homemade. They ought to hire a few Nonnis at the fast food joints as it would improve their quality immensely. My daughter loves them, so I enjoy making them.

Here's the link to an earlier post, which provides the instructions for making the cutlets. Place the freshly cooked cutlets in a baking dish, and cover with a little bit of sauce. I used some leftover marinara sauce, but you could certainly use a good bottled sauce, or perhaps your own leftover spaghetti sauce. The marinara makes a lighter version than the typical chicken parmesan that uses a thicker sauce. Sprinkle each cutlet with a little grated cheese and some shredded mozzarella. Or in my case shredded cheddar as I didn't have any mozzarella. It tasted great, and why panic when you can substitute. That's my motto.

Place under the broiler for about 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese is just golden.

I served them with a green salad. You can also serve with pasta, but I wanted to forgo the additional carbs. Ally had them for dinner and breakfast the next morning. Definitely kid food that you can feel good about serving. Note: I used Panko breadcrumbs for the cutlets, as you may have guessed, I ran out of regular breadcrumbs. They give the cutlets a bit more of a crunchy crust, which is also hit with the kids.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Highfield Hall: Cooking in Twos

The kitchen at Highfield Hall is a fun place to cook. I blogged about this wonderful restored mansion back in November when it was all decked out for the holiday season. In addition to decorating a tree, I've also done cooking demonstrations over the past few years. While you have all the modern conveniences available  in the kitchen now, the old cast iron stove that was left in place draws me back to the days when the Beebe family entertained their summer guests in the 1870's. How wonderful those events must have been.

Highfield Hall, built in 1878 (photo courtesy of Historic Highfield Hall)

Today Gail Blakely, food writer for the Falmouth and Mashpee Enterprise, runs the culinary program and does a terrific job putting together an interesting schedule of demonstrations, cooking classes, and special events. She asked me if I would participate in a program she's called Cooking for Twos. She explained that the hands-on class would be limited to five twosomes (couples, best friends, any combination of two would do) and they would do most of the cooking. We'd develop the menus, do a minimal amount of prep work, and help as needed during the class. After the meal was complete we would sit down together and enjoy the meal.  Sounded like a great idea to me.

The Cooking for Twos Series:
March 3: English Pub Favorites
March 24: Chinese Take Out
March 31: Regional Italian Specialities

Our first class, English Pub Favorites, was a blast! We had four couples who enthusiastically dove into the tasks at hand.

Menu for English Pub Classics:
Rosemary Walnuts
Welsh Rabbit with Toast Dippers
Bubble and Squeak
Fish Cakes
Beef Guinness Pie
Roasted Asparagus
Banofee Pie 
Gingerbread w/ Whipped Cream

Gail prepared the walnuts ahead of time so we could nibble on them while cooking, and I prepared the gingerbread.

We set up stations for each  item on the menu, along with the ingredients and the recipes. Each couple took over a station and got to work on their contribution to the meal.

This hands-on format was a nice change from the cooking demonstrations that I've done in the past. While I've enjoyed sharing my love of food and cooking with others, this format allowed me to interact with the participants, and get to know them a bit.

The Welsh Rabbit was served as a dip with toast points:

The Bubble and Squeak was a new dish for me, and I loved it as I'm crazy for cabbage. It's kind of an English version of a potato pancake:

The fish cakes, made with cod, were dipped in panko breadcrumbs. They cooked up beautifully with a nice golden crust, and were simply delicious:

Our pastry team did a beautiful job on the Beef Guinness Pie with their own special tribute to Gail. They also prepared the Banofee pie for dessert which we all enjoyed.

Our wonderful volunteer, Joanne, prepared the roasted asparagus and set our lovely tables:


Cooking has a way of opening people up, and as we all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our collective labor it made for a warm, friendly and thoroughly enjoyable meal. It was Gail's idea to set up the tables in the kitchen which  was the perfect place to get to know some very nice people, a little bit better.

Take a look at the culinary schedule of events at Highfield Hall. Gail is always creating new classes, workshops and programs. The mansion is beautiful, and the kitchen is a great place to spend a little time while you're there.