Smears and Dips, Slathers and Spreads; Ode to the Condiment by Kelly Sears

I confess, I have a condiment problem.  At any given time, our refrigerator looks more like an apothecary than a cooling unit, filled mostly with big jars, little jars, half-filled jars, and jars chock full. There are smears and dips, slathers and spreads all just begging for the star protein or vegetable to give it life and make it shine.

 

We all have our favorites.  Bright, spicy, smooth, silky, or chunky, condiments are the pop, the surprise, the little something extra that elevates ordinary to extraordinary.  Condiments work because they help us achieve balance.  When making any dish, we strive for balance to make that dish a success.  Balance comes from the ying and yang of tastes like bitter vs. sweet (dark chocolate brownies) or sour vs. salty (sour cream onion dip with chips).  Richness, temperature, and texture also play a part in keeping the palate scale level.  Yet balance can’t always be achieved by one component alone; enter the condiment!

 

Let’s start easy.  Ketchup and mustard are two of America’s most popular condiments so let’s examine why they work.  Vinegar give both their tang, both are bitter and acidic with sugar, salt and spices in the blend.  Usually served with burgers, brats, sausages or other grilled meats, the richness of the meat gets relief from the acidity (so you don’t feel like you are eating a stick of butter straight up!).  The meat is usually hot, the condiments cold; ketchup and mustard are smooth while the meats have some tooth.  Thus without even knowing it, balance is achieved just by eating a burger with the works.

 

Now let’s take another step up, relish, pickles, mayonnaise, and barbeque sauce. Again, these work just like ketchup and mustard to even out the flavors of the base component.  Fatty ribs love barbeque sauce, creamy mayonnaise and blt’s are great friends, and what perfect Chicago dog isn’t topped with a pickle or relish.  Starting to make sense?

 

Okay, we’re on a roll, so let’s not stop there.  A condiment doesn’t have to be just a store-bought accompaniment to food; a condiment can also couple as a solid component to a dish.  A condiment can be a dip, drizzle or dollop over a vegetable, a slice of meat, or on grilled toast to add sparkle and spice to the final dish.

 

I feel you starting to apply the brakes – work zone ahead!  I know its summer and the last thing you want to do is spend a ton of time in the kitchen. So don’t!  Make a stop at the butcher and pick up some proteins for the week, visit your favorite farmers market for fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re almost there. We can whittle the kitchen time down to about an hour for two of my favorite condiments. Each one can be made and stored in the refrigerator for at least a week and each has multiple uses depending on your main course selection and meal time constraints.

 

Pepperonata plays nice with chicken, beef, and pork; it’s delicious added to Italian sausage, both on a bun or on a plate.  It can be a stand-alone side dish (although the true definition of a condiment is that it isn’t eaten by itself. Sssh, I won’t tell) or I like to serve it on grilled toast with a smear of ricotta or burrata.

 

The green goddess, although technically a dressing, qualifies as a smear, a dollop or a slather. It wears so many hats. This creamy green goodness is the perfect match for summer’s first bacon, lettuce and tomato; add a slice of avocado and a hard-boiled egg for an extra dose of flavor. Green goddess skips happily along when drizzled over garden fresh (or someone else’s garden!) lettuce, dolloped on cold shrimp, slathered on a roast beef sandwich, or served as a dip for roasted or raw farmer’s market fresh vegetables. A great way to utilize those fresh herbs in your garden, green goddess will make your taste buds happy.

 

The simplest definition of a condiment is that “it imparts flavor onto another food.” Beyond that, it gets subjective.  Make your own rules, combine your own flavors, find your own balance and enjoy a dip, a drizzle, a smear or a dollop of your favorite condiment.

Pepperonata (Caramelized Onions & Peppers) & Green Goddess Dressing
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Ingredients
  1. Pepperonata
  2. 2 large onions, julienne
  3. 3 large red peppers, julienne
  4. 3 large yellow peppers, julienne
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  7. 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
  8. 5 basil leaves, chiffonade
  9. 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley
  10. 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  11. Green Goddess Dressing
  12. 1 ½ cup mayonnaise
  13. ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
  14. 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  15. 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  16. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  17. 1 garlic clove, rough chop
  18. 1 anchovy filet
  19. Buttermilk for thinning (or regular milk works fine too but I like the tang buttermilk brings to the dish)
Instructions
  1. Pepperonata
  2. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sauté the onion, oregano, red pepper flakes, and peppers until lightly golden; this should take about 20-25 minutes, longer if you want them super caramelized and sweet. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in basil, parsley, and thyme.
  3. Green Goddess Dressing
  4. Blend mayonnaise and all other ingredients in a food processor or immersion blender. Thin with buttermilk. The consistency should work for your intended purpose. This will vary per application, thicker for a smear or a dollop, thinner for a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Taste, adjust and enjoy!
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

No Oven, No Problem by Julie Busteed

Somehow it seems to happen that whenever we have out of town guests, something breaks, or clogs, or freezes. Think plumbers on Christmas Eve, or a dozen guests enjoying the warmth of the fireplace – because the power has gone out. This visit was no different, the day before company arrived our ovens decided to quit working. Not a total disaster since the stovetop still functioned, but I needed to alter my menus none the less.   

It has been several years since we’ve owned a grill and we’ve been planning to get one. As luck would have it, we were gifted a Kamado Joe! Yes, they were those kind of out of town guests, and yes, they probably figured it was their best shot at eating a home cooked meal. 

To be clear, the Kamado Joe is to “grill” as Ferrari is to a riding mower. This thing is on another level. The heat is enclosed entirely in a thick, ceramic shell, making common recipes that say “Bring the temperature to 700 degrees.” My ovens don’t go to 700 degrees…even when they’re working. The delivery crew shows up to assemble the unit dressed like they were going to a wedding… Which they were.  (Thanks Jill and Bob…)  And, like Ferrari, most of the Kamado Joes are red. Think of Marcel’s as the showroom, with free delivery and setup. 

I’ve had to skip over “grill” recipes for many years, and now here was my chance to dive back in. So far, we’ve seared steaks, grilled shrimp, warmed bread, grilled romaine and even baked banana bread. The surprising one was grilling salmon.  I had adapted this salmon recipe for the oven and it had proven quite tasty, but now I was actually able to grill it and wow, what a difference!

 

Asian Grilled Salmon
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Ingredients
  1. 1 side fresh salmon, boned but skin on (about 3 pounds)
  2. 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  3. 3 tablespoons good soy sauce
  4. 6 tablespoons good olive oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
Instructions
  1. While the grill is heating, lay the salmon skin side down on a cutting board and cut it crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Whisk together the mustard, soy sauce, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle half of the marinade onto the salmon and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Place the salmon skin side down on the hot grill; discard the marinade the fish was sitting in. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Turn carefully with a wide spatula and grill for another 4 to 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly raw in the center, but don't worry; it will keep cooking as it sits.
  3. Transfer the fish to a flat plate, skin side down, and spoon the reserved marinade on top. Allow the fish to rest for 10 minutes. Remove the skin and serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
  4. Grilling with high heat is a little like learning a new language. There’s a bit of a transition, but once you have the basics, a lot of exciting culinary adventures become available. And the flavors that will appear are astounding. Plus, it’s a great option to have when your appliances go on the fritz.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kebabs
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning mix*
  3. 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  4. 1 medium onion
  5. 1 zucchini
  6. 1 red pepper
Instructions
  1. Whisk together oil and seasoning mix. Add chicken cut into chunks. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Heat grill to medium high heat.
  3. Cut vegetables into chunks and toss with some more olive oil and TOSA mix to coat. Thread chicken and vegetables on skewers. Grill until chicken is cooked and vegetables are crisp tender.
  4. Serve with saffron rice.
  5. *Lemaster Family Kitchen TOSA seasoning blend available at Marcels
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/
 

Pressure Cooker Penne with Butternut Squash and Ricotta

Pressure Cooker Penne with Butternut Squash and Ricotta
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Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded
  2. 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  3. 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  4. 3 cups chicken broth
  5. 1 teaspoon salt (omit if using salty broth)
  6. 12 ounces penne or other short cut pasta that normally cooks in 9 to 13 minutes
  7. 1 cup ricotta
  8. 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground sage
  9. 2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  10. 1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more to pass at the table
  11. 1 cup toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, coarsely chopped
Instructions
  1. Cut half the squash into 3/4 inch chunks and the remaining squash into 2 inch pieces. Set aside.
  2. Heat the butter in a 6-quart or larger cooker. Stir in the onions, chicken broth, salt (if using), and smaller pieces of squash. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. (It’s ok if all of the pasta is not covered with liquid.) Set the remaining squash on top. Lock the lid in place. Over high heat bring to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and quick-release the pressure. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to escape.
  3. Add the ricotta, sage and parsley to taste, and the parmesan. Stir gently until some of the squash breaks up. If the pasta is not uniformly tender, replace the lid during this period and set the cooker over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done. Stir in the toasted nuts.
  4. Serve in large, shallow bowls. Pass additional parmesan at the table.
Adapted from Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker by Lorna Sass
Adapted from Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker by Lorna Sass
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Walnut Cake

Walnut Cake
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup walnut pieces (ground to 1/2 cup walnut powder)
  2. 1 1/4 cup cake flour (divided, plus more for dusting pans)
  3. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 stick butter (softened, plus 1 tablespoon to grease pan)
  7. 1 cup sugar
  8. 3 large eggs
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  10. 1/2 orange (zested)
  11. 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  12. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  13. powdered sugar (to dust)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease an 9-inch cake pan with butter and dust with flour and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor add the walnuts and 1/4 cup flour and pulse until finely ground to a powder. Remove from the processor to a large bowl and set aside. Wipe out the food processor.
  3. To the ground walnuts, add the remaining flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt and whisk to combine.
  4. In the bowl of the food processor add the butter and sugar and pulse until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, vanilla, orange zest and maple syrup and process until combined.
  5. Add the flour mixture and pulse until just combined. While the machine is running, drizzle in the buttermilk and continue to process until the batter just comes together.
  6. Remove to the cake pan and bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is golden brown. Remove to a baking rack to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Adapted from Carla Hall
Adapted from Carla Hall
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

The Deep Blue Sea by Cherise Slattery

I woke up at 4 am. My bed was rocking back and forth. Images of the movie The Perfect Storm came to mind. I was sure my life was over! Too scared to open the balcony doors, and too dark to see anything anyway, I imagined the 30 foot swells that were going to tip us over as I fitfully fell back to sleep. I awoke the next morning to sun peeking through the blinds, and ventured a look outside. With the boat still rocking, imagine my surprise to see tiny, 3 foot waves of the most beautiful blue you could imagine. Yes, I survived my first Caribbean cruise.

When I mentioned I was taking my first cruise, everyone said “You won’t even feel the boat moving, and the food is fantastic.” Well, they were half right!

The food on our ship was abundant. I wandered through the offerings before choosing my meal every day.   There was fresh fruit, grilled vegetables, carving meats, salads, cheeses, breads, pastries, plus prepared foods. You have a taste for Italian food, check. You want Mexican, check. Asian, Caribbean, German, American, check, check, check and check.  In addition to that, you could go to one of the restaurants on board, sit down, and order off a menu that changed every night. Besides being perfectly prepared, the food was displayed beautifully, with fruit and vegetable carvings at every turn. Even with all these choices, I found myself being drawn to Souvlaki almost every day for lunch. I currently have an obsession for Tzatziki sauce!   Please enjoy my version of Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki
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Chicken Souvlaki
  1. 1 ½ pounds chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. Juice from 1 fresh lemon
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  6. salt and pepper
Tzatziki
  1. 1 small cucumber, peeled and grated
  2. 1 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt
  3. 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  4. 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
To serve
  1. pita
  2. tomatoes, thinly sliced
  3. red onions, thinly sliced
Chicken Souvlaki
  1. Combine all ingredients, marinate in refrigerator for two hours, occasionally stirring.
  2. Thread chicken onto skewers, discard marinade. Grill chicken over medium heat until cooked through and slightly charred.
Tzatziki
  1. Grate the cucumber and drain through a fine mesh sieve. Combine all of the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve
  1. Wrap chicken and sauce in a pita with thinly sliced tomatoes and red onions.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Bacon Jam Sliders

Bacon Jam Sliders
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound ground beef, made into 8 patties
  2. 1/2 jar Terrapin Ridge Farms Hot Pepper Bacon Jam
  3. 4 slices Provolone, cut in half
  4. Frozen Onion Rings, cooked
  5. 8 slider sized buns
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook burgers in the hot skillet until they have browned on one side. Flip burgers and spread Terrapin Ridge Farms Hot Pepper Bacon Jam on the cooked side. Add a slice of provolone. Continue cooking until the burgers are cooked through. Place on slider bun and top with an onion ring.
Notes
  1. If you have leftover onion rings dip them in the remaining Hot Pepper Bacon Jam - Yum!
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Risotto with Asparagus and Pesto

Risotto with Asparagus and Pesto
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Ingredients
  1. 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. ½ cup minced onion
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1 garlic clove, minced
  6. 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
  7. ½ cup dry white wine
  8. ¾ pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1” lengths
  9. ¼ to 1/3 cup pesto, to taste
  10. 2-4 tablespoons Parmesan, to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring the stock to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and a generous pinch of salt, and cook gently just until tender (3 minutes). Stir in rice and garlic and stir until the grains separate and begin to crackle. Add wine and stir until it is no longer visible in the pan. Begin adding simmering stock about ½ cup at a time. The stock should just cover the rice and should bubble. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add some more stock and continue to cook, adding more stock and stirring when rice is almost dry.
  3. After 10 minutes, add asparagus and continue to stir and add stock for another 10-15 minutes until rice is al dente. Add another ladleful of stock to the rice, stir in the pesto and additional cheese and remove from the heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Mixture should be creamy. Serve while hot.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

3 Things in the Kitchen to Teach Your Kid Before Going to College by Lynn Dugan

My oldest daughter Becca (on right) and her friends started cooking together in high school and have made many delicious treats in our kitchen!

Do you have a high school senior? If so, are you going through a mental inventory of what he/she needs to know before going off to college? I’ve been wondering myself if my own senior son has the laundry skills, checkbook balancing know-how, and the motivation to clean a dirty bathroom before he goes off to college at the end of the summer. There is so much to learn in so little time! While all of that is swirling in my head, what I can feel good about is that he is equipped in the kitchen with basic skills. Here are three things in the kitchen to teach your own child before going off to college:

Basic knife skills and safety
Make sure the chef’s knife you are using is sharp and is being held with fingers wrapped around the knife’s handle and the index finger and thumb gripping the knife’s base. Practice first by cutting some fruits and vegetables. Discuss a few pointers while enjoying the process: cutting downward and away from your body, always using a cutting board and never cutting on metal surfaces, Formica counter tops, stoves or in your hand. Remember, too, that knives should be hand washed and never thrown into a dishwashing sink amongst other dishes.

Food safety
This lesson is a very important topic for a cook of any level. Cutting boards used for raw meat should never be shared with produce (or anything else) before they are washed and sanitized. Pay attention to ‘use by’ dates on packaged foods. Know proper cooking temperatures (cooking poultry to 165 degrees and ground meat to 160 degrees). When thawing frozen food, it should always be done in the refrigerator overnight (instead of on the kitchen counter), and perishables should be refrigerated as soon as possible when brought home from the grocery store or when used in a recipe. Practice regular hand washing and keep work surfaces clean before and after food prep.

Stove Top Skills
Basic instructions go a long way when navigating a stove top. This new know-how should include how to turn on each burner, how to match burner size with pot size, and when to use the different low, medium and high heat settings. Together, you can start with boiling water on high heat for pasta or rice and then turn down the heat for the remainder of the cook time. Basic pan frying or sautéing skills are also helpful as a quick method for cooking protein and vegetables. For example, diced chicken cooked in a skillet can be added to the pasta or rice made in the steaming/boiling lesson (add marinara sauce or pesto and some shredded cheese for an easy meal). Try sautéing vegetables in a little olive oil like the sliced zucchini and onion you may have cut in the knife skills lesson. It makes a delicious side dish. Below is a super easy recipe you can use to further develop stove top skills!

Most importantly, enjoy this time in the kitchen with your child. It will be time well spent!

Cheesy Beef and Tomato Noodle Skillet
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound lean ground beef
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. 1 clove garlic, minced
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 14 ounces water
  6. 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  7. 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  8. 1 medium sliced zucchini, cut ½ inch thick
  9. 1 cup uncooked egg noodles
  10. 1 can (14 ounces) fire roasted, diced tomatoes
  11. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a 10-inch skillet, brown ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat for 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking into crumbles. Remove beef with a slotted spoon; pour off drippings. Season with salt and set aside.
  2. In the same skillet, add water, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper, zucchini and egg noodles. Push pasta into liquid. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Return beef to skillet and heat through. Sprinkle dish with cheese and serve.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Rainbow Vegetarian Pad Thai with Peanuts and Basil

Rainbow Vegetarian Pad Thai with Peanuts and Basil
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For the Pad Thai
  1. 4 ounces brown rice noodles (you can get stir-fry type noodles or Pad Thai noodles - and usually that's half a box)
  2. 1 zucchini
  3. 1 red pepper
  4. half of a yellow onion
  5. 2 carrots
  6. 2 tablespoons oil
  7. 1 egg, beaten
  8. ½ cup peanuts, chopped
  9. ½ cup fresh herbs like cilantro, green onions, and basil, chopped
For the Sauce
  1. 3 tablespoons fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce substitute)
  2. 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or sub another sweetener)
  3. 3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth
  4. 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon chili paste (sambal oelek)
Instructions
  1. Place the uncooked noodles in a bowl of cold water to soak.
  2. Spiralize the zucchini, red pepper, and onion into noodle-like shapes. Cut the carrots into very small pieces (or spiralize them, too, if they're big enough).
  3. Shake up the sauce ingredients in a jar.
  4. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add the veggies - stir fry with tongs for 2-3 minutes or until tender-crisp (if they are not spiralized, they might need longer). Be careful not to overcook them - they'll get soggy and heavy. Transfer to a dish and set aside.
  5. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan. Drain the noodles - they should be softened by now. Add the noodles to the hot pan and stir fry for a minute, using tongs to toss. Add the sauce and stir fry for another minute or two, until the sauce is starting to thicken and stick to the noodles. Push the noodles aside to make a little room for the egg - pour the beaten egg into the pan and let it sit for 30 seconds or so. Toss everything around with the tongs. The egg mixture will stick to the noodles and everything will start getting sticky.
  6. Add in the vegetables, toss together, and remove from heat. Stir in the peanuts and herbs and serve immediately.
Marcel's Culinary Experience http://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/