Grilled Tomato Poblano Salsa

Printable version
The garden vegetable frenzy has begun. Last week my Dad canned a dozen and a half quarts of green beans – the first bounty taken from the garden in 2013. Cucumbers, peppers, corn, tomatoes and a number of homegrown treats will soon follow. It won’t be long before enough has been canned for the winter and there is plenty of fresh vegetables for every meal.

Huge bowls of tomatoes will sit on the counters attracting little black flying bugs. Spoiled vegetables will start to litter the garden floor and then the inevitable: Teenagers will find the rotten leftovers and start chucking them at passing vehicles and unsuspecting bystanders. It’s my annual duty to produce recipes to help rid the garden of these potential hazards.

For this recipe, I grill up a mess of fresh veggies from the garden. I then blitz them in a food processor, creating a fire roasted salsa. It’s perfect for an August snack and an easy way to keep the garden floor clear of any would-be projectiles.

Yummy grilled salsa!

This is the first garden-centric recipe this summer. For the next couple of months I’ll do a bunch of these from ingredients that is grown in either my Dad’s garden or some other relative or neighbor who has more bounty than they can handle.

It starts with tomatoes, beans and cucumbers and will end with the winter squash. It’s hard to believe it’s August already and the gardens are producing. Before you know it, the leaves will be changing and football will be in full swing - and so will the tailgating!

Eat well, cook often ...

Salsa nestled in tortilla chips

Makes 2 cups; 45 minutes
5 Roma tomatoes whole
2 Poblano peppers whole
1 Onion quartered
4 cloves Garlic
1/2 C Cilantro
2 Tbs White vinegar
1 Tbs Sugar
1 bag Tortilla chips
for dipping

Grill vegetables, clean
On a grill over medium heat cook tomato, poblano, onion and garlic for 10 to 12 minutes, turning to sear on all sides. Remove vegetables and let cool for handling. Remove skins from tomato, stems and seeds from poblano peppers.

In a food processor place tomatoes, poblano, onion, garlic, vinegar, sugar and cilantro. Pulse to combine and chop to desired consistency. Serve with tortilla chips.

Bacon Chipotle Chicken Salad

Printable version
I used to eat chicken salad from a number delis when I lived in New York City. It was a reasonably inexpensive lunch item in a city were everything was expensive. The chicken was always fresh, never canned, which made for a much tastier salad and there was always a gourmet twist depending on which place you got it.

Chicken salad is really basic and it only takes an element or two to turn it into a unique delicious bite.

For this recipe, I used grilled chicken with chipotle and bacon to make a southwestern chicken salad pita. The basic elements of mayonnaise, celery, lemon juice and chicken make for a refreshing sandwich on their own. I enhance the flavors with the edition of bacon, chipotle and fresh tarragon. Any number of ingredients could have taken their place. The key is finding complimentary flavors that work together and adding them to the basic recipe. It’s a great way to enhance a classic, and for me, chicken salad always reminds me of lunches in Central Park.

Years ago, my Mom was visiting me in New York and made a batch of chicken salad from leftover chicken that I had grilled the night before. It tasted so good that I have preferred to make it with grilled chicken ever since. I won’t wait for left over chicken anymore though, I grill up a batch specifically for chicken salads.

I made this as part of a spread for a gathering of 15. It was served with mini bagels for sandwiches. As snack time was winding down I noticed a couple of guys eating it on tortilla chips, I decided to give it a try and I was amazed. I thought it would be good in a soft taco, but after trying the tortilla chips I think this would be great in a crunchy taco with a little lettuce and cheese.

Which ever way it’s eaten it doesn’t matter though, this is a tasty chicken salad that will make for a delicious lunch with or without bread, tortillas or bagels.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 6; 10 minutes active,
30 minutes resting

3 C Grilled chicken, diced
1 C Mayonnaise
1/2 C Celery diced
8 strips Bacon, cooked, crumbled
1/4 C Chipotle chiles in adobo, seeded, minced
1 Tbs Tarragon, minced
Juice of 1 Lemon
6 to 8 Pitas
Lettuce for garnish

Make chicken salad
In a large bowl mix together, chicken, mayonnaise, celery, bacon, chipotle, tarragon and lemon juice. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.

Assemble sandwiches

Place a spoonful of chicken salad in a pita, garnish with lettuce, then serve.

French Onion with Bacon Dip

Printable version
To me, chip dip screams summertime. It seems like whenever I’m scooping a mouthful onto a wavy potato chip I’m either at a lake for a picnic or an outdoor party in the heat of summer. The one exception is Super Bowl Sunday, but that is the pinnacle of party food and dips are a requirement.

For this recipe, I decided to revisit a classic that I had made a couple of years ago for my print column - French Onion Dip, only this time I add bacon.

The secret to making this dip delicious is not the onions or the bacon – it’s the roasted garlic, which provides a savory balance to the sweetness of the caramelized onions and gives the dip depth of flavor.

I tried something I have never done before to cook the garlic for this dish. Instead of roasting it in the oven, I wrapped it in foil with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and tossed it into the pot with the onions. After a half an hour it was perfectly roasted and ready for me to mince and put in the dip. The foil worked perfect as a little garlic roaster.

In the end, this dip was outrageously good.
The homemade version just blows any store-bought french onion dip out of the water. It will be a highlight in any spread at a party.

As I mention in the beginning, it has been a couple of years since I have made homemade chip dip and I had forgotten how delicious it is. I destroyed about a half a bag of chips after I made this stuff and had to force myself to put it away.

It seems like over the last few weeks I had been putting together some huge posts with tons of pictures and steps. This dip was a conscious effort to make something simple that wouldn’t take hours to photograph and reproduce in an information graphic. I had done a couple of tacos (here & here) recently that contain as many photos and steps as I usually do in two or three posts. I wanted a simple recipe that would come together quick.

If you’re a fan of dips I highly recommend trying this, but make sure there is enough chips around because it’s pretty easy to polish off an entire bag with a bowl of it on the counter.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 2 Cups; 1 hour
4 strips Bacon, diced
5 cloves Garlic, whole
1 1/2 C Onion, diced
1 C Sour cream
1/2 C Mayonnaise
1 bag Wavy potato chips

Fry bacon
In a pan over medium heat cook bacon until crispy and rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from pan with slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

Caramelize onions, roast garlic

In same pan over medium heat saute onions in bacon drippings. Season garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Wrap cloves in aluminum foil. Add foil wrapped garlic to onions. Cook until onion are soft and have caramelized 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onions from pan and let cool. Remove garlic from foil and mince.

Make dip

Mix together bacon, onions, garlic, mayonnaise and sour cream until well incorporated. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Let rest at least half an hour for flavors to meld. Serve with wavy potato chips for dipping.

Five Pepper Shrimp Tacos

Printable version
This is the second recipe on the blog that features the Smoky Five Pepper spice mix. This time I used it more like a seasoning rather than a rub. Being more judicious made it much more manageable as for as the heat goes. It adds a nice kick to the taco that is balanced by the pickled cabbage and a lime jalapeno tarter sauce.

I made it a point to keep each element simple. When it all came together I was impressed by the flavor and enjoyed 4 of these tacos myself. Later that night when I was putting together the graphic layout of the recipe I realized that all of these simple elements put together make for a pretty complex taco.

In the end, there are 17 different ingredients at work here.

That kind of blew me away, especially since I was making an effort to keep everything simple. It’s the accumulation of a few simple elements that makes this a pretty complex bite. I hope the simplicity comes through in the presentation, because if you’re just looking at the list of ingredients there is no way anyone would call it simple. That said - it's one of the best tacos I've eaten in a long time – a must try for any taco aficionado.

I have wined and complained numerous times on this blog about the seafood situation in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It’s hard to get any kind of consistent quality and most of the time it has been a "fishy" situation to say the least. I still think it sucks, but I have discovered one item that has shown some promise.

Frozen raw medium shrimp, deveined with no shell and tail removed.

Yes, the smaller frozen shrimp has a glimmer of hope. The colossal shrimp has been an expensive disaster, which you can read about here, But the variety that comes in the 50 to 60 a pound size has given me a glimmer of hope. The shrimp used in this recipe thawed easy, had no odor and tasted like shrimp should taste when cooked properly. It’s the first time in a long time that I have been impressed with the quality of seafood here in the land-locked Midwest.

It could be just a lucky grab off the shelf or maybe I have discovered a quality product. It will take a couple more samples but I actually have some hope for consistently good seafood. I’m crossing my fingers.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 8 to 10 tacos; 45 minutes
3 Tbs Salt
2 Tbs Smoked paprika
2 Tbs Chipotle chili powder
1 Tbs Black pepper
1 Tbs White pepper
1 Tbs Garlic powder
1 Tbs Onion powder
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

2 C Cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 C Cider vinegar
1/4 C Sugar

1/2 C Mayonnaise
1/4 C Lime juice
1/4 C Pickled jalapeño, diced
2 Tbs Cilantro, minced

1 lb Raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail removed
16 to 20 Corn tortillas
Cilantro for garnish

Make rub

Mix together salt, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

Prep cabbage, make sauce

Mix together cabbage, vinegar and sugar, let mixture rest at least a half an hour before using. In another bowl mix together mayo, lime juice, jalapeno and cilantro refrigerate until ready to use.

Season, cook shrimp
Season both sides of shrimp’ let marinate 20 minutes. In a fry pan over medium high heat cook shrimp in batches in a little olive oil, 3 to 4 minutes or until opaque. Turn once during cooking.

Prepare tortillas, assemble tacos

Wrap tortillas in paper towel and heat on high in microwave for 1 minute. On two tortillas place 7 or 8 shrimp, drizzle with sauce, dress with cabbage and garnish with cilantro, then serve.

Sweet Pickle Ranch Sauce

Printable version
I have been using packets of ranch seasoning mix in a number of salads and sauces lately and for this recipe I was inspired by a tomatillo ranch dressing that I recreated after trying it at a local restaurant called the Salsa Grille in Fort Wayne. I use many of the same elements but I exchange the tomatillo for sweet bread and butter pickles and add some of the pickle brine for extra flavor pop.

The end result is a sauce that has the zesty ranch flavor along with the sweet but tart flavor of the pickle. It’s an amazing enhancement to any burger, and personally, I loved it on steak tacos and quasadillas. It’s really a universal sauce that is also good for dipping fries and even dressing salads.

Recently I took a jar of this to my family campground and busted it out for a late night snack of leftover burgers. My cousin put a little of it on his sandwich to start. Each time he took a bite, he put the burger down and spooned more of the sauce onto it. There was a point that I thought he should just take a bite of the burger then do a shot of the sauce to chase it down.

That's how it is with this sauce though, it has an addicting quality that leaves you almost craving it. I think it’s the pickle ranch combination because they are two flavors that really grab the taste buds.

I have made more sauces and rubs this summer than I ever have and I seem to be accumulating lots of unique jars and bottles to store them in. Last Saturday I went to a mall on the Southwest side of Fort Wayne and visited two of my favorite stores, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Williams-Sonoma. When I left I had enough jar and bottle space to make about 23 pounds of rubs and 60 gallons of sauce.

With canning season just around the corner both stores had some really cool stuff on sale, especially Williams-Sonoma, they seems to really be dialed in to foodies like myself because they always have the coolest stuff for the kitchen, BB&B is also good, but not quite at the level of Williams-Sonoma.

When I got home I literally had to do a spring cleaning to find room for my new jars and had to make a commitment not to buy any more until I have used the ones I have now at least once. That vow stands for new jars, I’ll still buy a unique jar or two at a garage sale or flee market because those you might never see again, and I can always smash a couple of the store bought jars to entertain my nephews if I need to make room for some one-of-a-kind garage sale treasure.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 1 quart;
10 minutes (2 hours resting)

1 C Buttermilk
1 C Mayonnaise
1 C Cilantro fresh
1/2 C Sweet pickles, diced
1 pkg Ranch dressing mix (1 oz)
1/4 C Juice from sweet pickles
1 clove Garlic

Blend, refrigerate
In a blender place buttermilk, mayo, cilantro, pickles, ranch seasoning, pickle juice and garlic. Blend until smooth. Pour into a jar, seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours for the flavors to meld. Use as a dressing or condiment.

Pineapple Shredded Pork Shoulder

Printable version
Lately, I've been making everything grilled and spicy, I guess it’s that time of year. I find it ironic that the warmer it is outdoors the spicier the food on the plate. It seems like the closer you are to the Earth’s equator, the hotter the food.

Anyway ...

This dish is a complete change of pace. I needed to feed a crowd and the recipe had to be easy – two requisites easily accomplished with a slow cooker. I found pork shoulder on sale at Meijer and thought it was the perfect cut to get between 16 and 20 sandwiches out of.

I seasoned it with my basic mole rub that features coca, brown sugar, chili powder and cumin, cook it on a bed of onions and pineapple, then finish it with barbecue sauce and liquid smoke. The end result was tender and juicy pork plentiful enough to satisfy a group of 14 or 15 people. One good thing about this shredded pork is that it can be served in a sandwich or taco, or alone on a plate. Either way - it's Delish!

This is the third time I have used this technique to cook a large cut of pork. It’s one of those “if it isn't broke, don’t fix it” kind of things. The rub was the same as before, but each time, I have changed up the vegetables in the crock pot for the meat to roast on.

This time I used fruit.

Pineapple works so well with pork that you’d think the two were made for each other. In this dish, the pineapple really disappears. It provided an x factor to this recipe - had I not put it in the dish, it would have tasted totally different. It's the secret weapon of this shredded pork and takes a keen palate to detect.

If I had to do it again, I would drain out about half the liquid before shredding the cooked pork, it turned out just fine but I did think there was a little to much moisture. That said, it was still good enough to eat three sandwiches of it myself.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 16 to 20 servings; 6 to 7 hours
1/4 C Brown sugar
2 Tbs Cocoa powder
2 Tbs Chili powder
1 Tbs Cumin
3 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Black pepper
4 lb Pork shoulder boneless 2 cans
Pineapple chunks with juice (8 oz each)
1 C Onion sliced
1 bottle Barbecue sauce (18 oz)
2 Tbs Liquid smoke

Make rub, season loin
In a bowl mix together brown sugar, cocoa powder, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over and rub into pork shoulder with hands until loin is completely covered, set aside for 30 minutes and let marinate.

Sear loin, prepare slow cooker

In a large pan over medium-high heat sear pork shoulder in olive oil on all sides. (Make sure pan is hot and oil is simmering before adding loin.) Mix together pineapple and onion in bottom of slow cooker.

Cook pork, shred

Place seared pork on top of onion and pineapple. Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours. Shred with a fork and stir together juices, barbecue sauce and liquid smoke. Serve in a sandwich, soft taco or alone on a plate.

Pineapple Habanero Barbecue Sauce

Printable version
McDonald’s introduced the Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder recently and as soon as I saw the advertisement I knew I had to try it. I love spicy food and can handle it as long as I limit the amount that I consume.

In the past, when fast food chains introduce new products billed as “spicy” I usually try them and think “wimpy,” so I ordered the new offering with my expectations low.

The Bacon Habanero Quarter Pounder really surprised me - it was spicy! Hot enough to make my nose run a little after trying it for the first time.

I was so impressed that I decided to make my own sauce featuring habanero peppers. To tame the extreme heat I simmer them in pineapple juice. As the juice reduces, it takes on their heat and flavor. I then use the juice to make a barbecue sauce with enough sweet to balance the heat. The end result is a spicy sauce different from McDonald’s, but perfect for adding a little fire to the next backyard barbecue.

I hadn’t worked with habanero peppers in a couple of years before creating this recipe. They’re just way to hot to deal with. I love spicy food but chopping up a raw habanero and throwing it into a dish is almost guaranteeing that it will be to hot to eat. Delicious spicy food is one thing, insane, agonizing, set your ass on fire the next morning food is another.

Food can be painful and habanero pepper will deliver if not treated with the proper respect. The technique employed here is the best way to extract flavor and heat from the pepper, it provides the dish with a hint of the habanero’s power and allows you to actually taste it’s fruity apricot-like essence.

I’m starting work on a habanero aiolo for the near future. I want to create a dipping sauce for french fries that is creamy and spicy. I’m not sure how to accomplish that but it seems like a nice habanero challenge. I just hope that I can get it right the first time and don’t have to suffer through a habanero overload.

They're painful.

Eat well, cook often... 

Makes 3 cups; 1 hour
3 Habanero peppers
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 can Pineapple juice (46 oz)
1/4 C Red onion diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
1 C Ketchup
1/4 C Cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs Honey

Make pineapple reduction

Cut slits in sides of the habanero peppers. Place peppers and cinnamon sticks in sauce pan then pour in pineapple juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until pineapple juice is reduced by two-thirds or about 1 1/2 cups, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat, discard peppers and cinnamon.

Sauté vegetables, finish sauce

In a sauce pan over medium heat sauté onion in a little olive oil until soft 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic, cook 1 minute more. Add pineapple reduction, ketchup, vinegar, dijon mustard, worcestershire and honey. Mix together with a whisk and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, let cool. Use on grilled meat or as a finishing sauce on burgers.

Five Pepper Steak Tacos

Printable version
I was reading about Creole and Caribbean cooking recently which inspired me to invent a peppery rub. I went to my pantry and was able to find a number of different pepper spices. I chose five, with two of them smoked. I use white pepper, cayenne pepper and black pepper to cover different areas of the tongue and chipotle and smoked paprika to provide the smoky flavoring. (Paprika is made from dried red pepper, hence the fifth pepper of the rub.) I add onion and garlic powder for depth and salt because, well, everything needs salt.

The end result is a spicy rub that I would label XXX on a store shelf. This rub is hot and when it’s used in a dish there should be something else on the plate to balance it. In my world, mild spice is most people’s hell fire, so when I say hot, please beware.

I use a sweet pineapple salsa to balance the heat of the rub. The salsa contains red pepper to compliment the paprika. The pepper could also be roasted to bring out more sweetness if so desired.

Overall, I really enjoyed this taco, it's not for the faint of heart and it is made for a spice lover like myself.

When I made this rub I knew it would be hot but I was surprised at how hot it actually was. I think this could be one of the dry rubs at Buffalo Wild Wings or a secret weapon for extra kick in a pot of chili.

I was planning this as two posts, but the rub was so hot that I was kind of obligated to include a tasty balance to the heat, so I decided to combine everything which culminated in a delicious taco and one of the biggest recipe graphics I have ever made. The step-by-step graphic contains 23 photographs, 6 major steps and 16 ingredients. That’s way bigger than what I usually do but I think it's necessary. If you like fiery food, this is the recipe for you, but if spice isn’t your thing - Use this rub as a substitute.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 12 to 15 tacos; 1 hour
3 Tbs Salt
2 Tbs Smoked paprika
2 Tbs Chipotle chili powder
1 Tbs Black pepper
1 Tbs White pepper
1 Tbs Garlic powder
1 Tbs Onion powder
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

1 1/2 lb Skirt steak

1 1/2 C Tomato diced
1 C Pineapple diced
1 C Red pepper diced
1/2 C Red onion diced
1/2 C Cilantro chopped
Juice from 1 Lime

12 to 15 Flour tortillas

Make rub
In a bowl mix together salt, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, black pepper, white pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.

Season, marinate steak

Season and rub spice mixture over surface of skirt steak. Let steak rest for 25 minutes to marinate in spices.

Make Salsa
In a bowl mix together tomato, pineapple, red pepper, onion, cilantro and lime juice. Refrigerate and let mixture rest at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld.

Grill steak

On a prepared grill over medium-high heat cook meat for 8 to 10 minutes for medium rare, turning once during cooking. Let rest at least ten minutes before slicing.

Prepare tortillas

Toast tortillas on grill or microwave on high, wrapped in paper towel for 1 minute.

Assemble tacos

On tortillas place steak and a spoonful of salsa, roll and serve.

Hickory Smoked Bratwurst

Printable version
In the summer of 2010 my cousin gave me a truck load of bricks. Feeling ambitious and with nothing better to do while camping for the weekend at my family’s private campground, I bought some mortar and started building a large brick oven designed to smoke meat. It took the entire summer to get the structure built with a number of family members pitching in to help me. Since then, I have sealed leaks and learned to vent it properly and have dialed it into a lean mean smokin’ machine.

One of my favorite things to cook are bratwurst, the smoke ads an extra element of yummy and they‘re an easy product to cook in the smoke.

For this recipe, I turn my charcoal grill into a smoker to cook brats, because most people don’t have giant brick smokers readily available to cook on. It’s a simple technique that can be applied to any grill. The meat slow cooks over indirect heat as it soaks in the flavorful smoke. The end result is a juicy bratwurst loaded with smoky flavor.

The brick smoker

Although I finished the structure of the brick oven more than two years ago, it wasn’t until Memorial Day this year that I got it dialed in and working efficiently. I had always had trouble maintaining a good cooking temperature and it seemed like I had to stoke it like an iron smelter to keep the cooking chamber at 250°.

My Uncle suggested I cover the vents built into the fire chamber (which I thought were necessary) to manage the heat better. I also sealed all the little cracks and put gaskets around the door openings.

All of this combined to turn the oven into a great one-of-a-kind outdoor novelty that is fun and much easier to get a good product from. This past holiday weekend most of the family stayed at the camp ground and we were able to enjoy a number of smoked delicacies - Included a big batch of smoked bratwurst.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 10 Bratz; 1 hour
3 1/2 lbs Bratwurst
1 lb Hickory chips soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Set up grill

Prepare coals in a charcoal starter, and submerge hickory chips into water. Once coals are ready pile to one side of grill. Place rack over coals and cover. Use vents to control heat of grill.

Sear brats, smoke
Place bratwurst directly over coals to sear the outside and create grill marks, 2 minutes per side. Move to cool side of grill. Place water-soaked wood chips on the coals, cover and smoke brats until cooked through, turning once during cooking. 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from grill, let rest 5 minutes, then serve.

Creamy Ranch Coleslaw

A couple weeks ago I had a trip back in time as I watched the Turtle Days parade and enjoyed the festivities around Churubusco, Indiana. I remember being in the parade as a child, riding in a pick-up truck with my little league teammates and trying my best to bounce a Tootsie Roll off a spectator's forehead. Cotton candy, the tilt-a-whirl and the site of carnies in the community park were as exciting as getting new Star Wars toys for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for Turtle Days, it was always one of the highlights of my summer vacation.

The warm days of June and July were, and still are, my favorite time of year. Time for Turtle Days and cookouts.

For this recipe, I make a basic coleslaw with a twist - the addition of a packet of ranch seasoning mix. It provides spark to this cookout classic – much like the closing fireworks at Turtle Days now. I was as exited to try this coleslaw as I was to watch them light the sky from my Sister’s place in Thresher Ridge, both were as good as riding the Rock-o-Plane in 1986.

I made this coleslaw a couple of weeks ago for a topping on a hot dog. I thought it was worth a try as a side dish, so I adjusted the amounts and gave it a test. It’s as tasty by itself as it was on a dog. I thought it was worth sharing. If you need a side dish for a cookout this summer, this recipe will not disappoint.

More on Turtle Days
The festival has changed a lot from when I was growing up. It was much larger as far as the carnival and amusements 25 years ago. I think there are more activities to participate in around town, but the midway part is really rinky-dink now.

The carnival might be smaller but, like I said in the intro, the addition of a fireworks show as the closing ceremony makes all the difference. The last three years it has been spectacular. Sure, they're not the Macy’s firework show in New York City on the 4th of July, but for a small Indiana town, it’s worth gathering some friends and family and watching the display.

Eat well, cook often ...
Serves 4 to 6; 5 minutes active, 1 hour resting
1 bag Coleslaw mix (16 oz)
3/4 C Mayonnaise
3 Tbs Vinegar
3 Tbs Sugar
3 Tbs Vegetable oil
1 pkg Ranch seasoning mix

Mix coleslaw, refrigerate, serve
In a large bowl stir together coleslaw mix, mayo, vinegar, vegetable oil, sugar and packet of ranch seasoning until well incorporated. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for at least one hour. Remove and serve.

Spicy Molasses Barbecue Wings

Printable version
I recently made sauce for ribs and one of the featured ingredients was molasses. I thought it provided a great flavor and decided to incorporate it into a sauce for chicken wings.

Here, I take a traditional wing sauce and fold it into a basic barbecue sauce. It starts by sauteing onion and garlic in a
quarter cup of butter. I use butter because that is what I use to thin out Frank’s Redhot when I make traditional wings. Next, I add all the barbecue sauce elements plus the Frank’s Redhot. The molasses is the sweet that cuts the heat and balances the vinegar. It also has a distinct flavor that is really the signature here. The Redhot is present in the flavor, but the molasses adds depth and really brings the whole thing together.

The sauce is delicious but if I were to make it again I would add either two tablespoons of honey or brown sugar. The molasses has a slightly bitter aftertaste and I think an extra sweetener would eliminate that. That is just me being really critical of my work though, this sauce works and will be a hit at the dinner table.

This is my second wing recipe in a row. I have been grilling like a madman lately and really enjoying some summer cuisine. Last year we had record heat in March and by April summer was in full swing. By this time a year ago I was already burned out on summer grilling. This year, it seemed as though summer would never get here. I got a late start, but I’m in full-swing now.

I’m going grill crazy because it won’t be long and all the home gardens in our area will be churning out fresh veggies. Then I'll have enough tomatoes and cucumbers to feed a small city and grill crazy will turn to garden crazy.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4 to 6; 45 minutes
1/4 C Butter
1/4 C Red onion diced
1 Tbs Garlic minced
1 C Ketchup
1 C Frank’s Redhot sauce
1/2 C Molasses
1/4 C Cider vinegar
2 Tbs Dijon mustard
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Make sauce
In a sauce pan over medium heat melt butter. Add onion and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in ketchup, hot sauce, molasses, vinegar, worcestershire and dijon mustard. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 6 to 8 minutes, remove from heat.

Make wings
Prepare charcoal grill. Season wings with salt and pepper to taste. When coals are ready grill wings over medium-high heat for 7 to 8 minutes per side. Baste with sauce and grill 10 to 12 minutes more or until cooked through turning 2 or 3 more times. After each turn, baste with more sauce. Remove from grill and let rest 5 minutes, then serve.

Caribbean Spiced Chicken Wings

Printable version
When I first moved to New York in the fall of 1997 my new neighbors from the apartment above me invited me over for dinner with their family and friends. They were from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, a small republic off the northern coast of South America.

They made a spicy curried chicken with a number of sides inspired by their native country for the meal. At one point, I was asked to sample a peppery paste that went with the chicken. I took a small taste which made me cough and my eyes water. The entire group let out a big chuckle, because right before I sampled it I was bragging about how I could handle spicy food.

For this recipe, I make a dry rub for chicken wings with Caribbean flavors. It features ginger, coriander, allspice and cayenne pepper for some heat. It’s nothing like the pepper paste I tried at that dinner in New York, but it has many of the tropical island flavors I tasted for the first time as my new neighbors welcomed the “white boy from Indiana” into their community.

I lived in my first apartment in New York for five years. The couple who invited me to dinner moved out after the third year and I ended up getting to take-over the backyard, which I landscaped and turned into a small paradise in the middle of Queens. As soon as I moved in they let me put a charcoal grill back there, so getting to take it over for myself was the icing on the cake. It was a real luxury to have a backyard in the city and it was there that I discovered my passion for cooking.

I would make entire meals over charcoal and way more food than I could possible eat in one sitting. It was nothing for me to buy three or four cuts of meat on a warm Saturday night and grill all of it for later in the week. I loved hanging out in my backyard with the grill blazing and the beer chilling.

That's where my culinary journey really took off - on a little patio in the middle of Long Island City, Queens.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4; 1 hour
3 Tbs Salt
2 Tbs Brown sugar
2 Tbs Ground ginger
2 Tbs Ground coriander
2 Tbs Black pepper
1 Tbs Onion powder
1 Tbs Garlic powder
1 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
4 to 5 lbs Chicken wings

Make rub
In a bowl mix together salt, brown sugar, ginger, coriander, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, allspice and cayenne pepper.

Marinate wings

Sprinkle seasoning over both sides of wings and rub in with hands. Let marinate for 30 minutes in refrigerator. While wings marinate, prepare charcoal for grill.

Cook wings
Over medium high heat cook wings on grill until cooked through and juices run clear, 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and let rest at least 5 minutes, then serve