Green Beans with Gorgonzola-Balsamic Vinaigrette

DSC_0001I am a big believer in the concept that really rich, delicious food does not need to be complicated.  This side dish is one example; it relies on a host of sharp flavors to punch up the flavor of briefly cooked green beans.  The range of distinct flavors contained in the dressing is rounded out by the creamy richness of the Gorgonzola cheese.

As luck would have it, this recipe is very simple to prepare; briefly cook the shallots and garlic in the oil, add the rest of the ingredients except for the cheese, and reduce the volume, remove from heat and then add the cheese.  All that is left is to pour it over some blanched and cooled green beans.  I guess you could also steam them if you prefer.  Makes no difference to me.  There is so little to screw up about this dish that it can make even those who feel clumsy and tense in the kitchen look pretty impressive.  We served it with some pork that had been marinated in harissa and then pan seared…. 

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Mint and Citrus Smoked Chicken

Mint and Citrus Smoked ChickenI love smoked chicken.  It isn’t the flavor that is added from the smoking process, it isn’t the succulent, moist flesh from slow cooking in the smoker.  It’s the quality of the fat and skin chunks.  I know that it is not popular to be a fan of succulent, tasty, greasy fat; but I really don’t care…it’s good!  As it turns out, the fat doesn’t cook away during the smoking process, but it fully cooks, and it sort of crisps up.  Gobbling it down is a sublime experience.  I don’t get much fat in my typical diet, so I love this stuff.  The only thing better than well-cooked fat is flavored fat, and that is exactly where this recipe fits in.

In order to build this beauty, the chicken is marinaded in a blend of cilantro, mint and garlic and then basted in a mop of orange juice, lime, garlic, chili, cumin, and oregano while it smokes.  After a couple hours in the smoker, your bird is both beautiful and tasty.  The mint comes through as a mild to moderate accent to the pronounced citrus and spiciness from the blend of cumin, chili, and garlic.  It’s pretty much wonderful and the best version of smoked chicken that I have cooked.  This recipe finds its roots in a similar dish presented in the very good book Smoke & Spice: Cooking With Smoke by Cheryl and Bill Jamison.  It is a great study of the techniques behind smoking and barbecue.  Highly recommended if you like this type of food.


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Burdock and Mushroom Rice

Burdock and Mushroom RiceUp until about a year and a half ago, burdock root was not something that I had used extensively in cooking.  Like at all.  These long-slender roots are about 2 to 3 feet long, up to an inch in diameter, and jam-packed with some outstandingly earthy flavors.  They pair perfectly with mushrooms to produce a rich, woodsy flavor that your really should try.  This dish, uses both, accepted by the mellow taste of leeks to great effect.  In my case, I used just cremini mushrooms, but this dish is excellent when you use a wide variety of mushrooms; shitake, oyster mushrooms, enoki.  I use a kamado-san donabe for preparation for a couple of reasons: firstly, the even heat steams the rice to perfection; secondly, it is just a super-cool pot; but most importantly, the even heat from the clay steams the rice but does not overcook the mushrooms or the leeks.  One of these days, I will get around to writing something about the relative merits of this particular pot.  Burdock root is available at most Asian grocery stores, and is identifiable as a long, brown root, usually bundled in sets of 2 or 3, wrapped in plastic wrap.  cut into convenient lengths and placed in a gallon ziploc, it keeps for a very long time in the refrigerator.… 

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Shrimp with Lemongrass and Chili

Shrimp with Lemongrass and ChiliIf you are looking for an easy main dish, the sort of thing that you would serve for a light lunch, you can’t go astray with this one.  In our case, we served this with Cream of Jalapeno Soup, Mushroom and Burdock Rice, and Smoked Citrus-Peanut Chicken Wings.  Sounds complicated, but hell, my Dad dropped by and we felt like cooking something a little nicer than usual.  In reality, this dish will stand alone with either rice or noodles; although if I was going to serve it with noodles, I would dress the noodles with Hot Chile Oil first to balance them a bit.

There is not much to say in the way of guidance regarding this dish.  The main thing you need to make sure you do is properly devein your shrimps.  Shrimp are filthy animals. They spend their day grubbing around on the sea bottom and they are not picky eaters.  … 

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Marrakech Street Bread

Marrakech Street BreadI don’t  do much of the baking around the house.  As luck would have it, my marriage came complete with a highly capable baker.  Definitely a lucky deal for me.  Anyway, Brinn typically handles this side of the kitchen labor with much more competence than I could muster, whacking out loaves of sourdough, biscuits, cookies, brownies, and flat breads such as this one. 

This flat bread (or relatively flat bread) is perfect for many of more highly seasoned dishes that we cook.  It is somewhat moist, sturdy enough to use as an eating utensil without being chewy, and quick to make.  The semolina in the dough gives it a toasty flavor and the milk used in the dough serves to lighten the loaves and smooth out the texture of the crumb.  Her version of this recipe was inspired by one presented in Paula Wolfert’s book, The Food of Morocco and follows it reasonably closely.  As noted above, she substitutes milk for the water to alter the texture and also uses some preparation techniques that vary slightly from those described in the original recipe…. 

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