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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pickled Green Tomatoes

We harvested a few green tomatoes from our CSA's field and made pickled tomatoes, which are very good.  Sadly, they will not make it to the winter time at the rate that we are eating them.

·      1 cup white vinegar
·      1 1/4 cup distilled water
·      2 tablespoons kosher salt
·      1 pound firm green tomatoes
·      1/2 serrano, stem removed
·      6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
·      4 tablespoons dill seeds
·      1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1) Make sure you have a really clean bottle and lid. The lids must have good rubber seals. The best thing to do is buy canning jars and lids from Ball. They are in a lot of hardware and grocery stores. Sterilize them by submersing them in a boiling water bath.
2) Add the garlic, dill seeds, and peppercorns to the jar.
3) Thoroughly wash the tomatoes and slice them in halves or quarters. Cut out all bad spots and the stem ends. Cram them in the jar leaving about 1/2" - 3/4" of space at the top.
3) Make the brine by combining the vinegar, water, and salt in a sauce pan or pot. Bring to a boil, and stir until all the salt is dissolved.
4) Pour the hot brine over the tomatoes to within 1/4" of the top. Wipe the jar top, put the lids on and tighten. Age for at least 1 week in the refrigerator.
Beware. The brine will taste very salty at first, but don't panic. The juices from the tomatoes will dilute the concentration of salt in a week or 2.

Friday, September 23, 2016

We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

I have no idea where I read about this book, because it is not recently published, but I am so glad I found it, because it is the sort of epic novel that I love.  The book is about the Danish and their seagoing past.  It unfolds over nearly 100 years, from 1848 to 1945. The interwoven stories span chapters and play out in seaports all over the world, from Samoa to Newfoundland.  The men and boys who man the ships are from the town of Marstal and the women are their wives and mothers who are left behind.  It is inevitable that when your workplace is on the sea that a number will drown, and that is the back story for the fear that pervades the book.  The men know that they will likely drown and so do the women who love them.  The stories are wonderful, if a bit on the sad side at times, and the writing is fantastic.  While it is true that I have a fondness for epic novels, this one is excellent.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Archie's Waeside Steak House, Le Mars, Iowa

 We drove 30 minutes from Sious City to get to this well known steak house in Le Mars.  I won a James Beard Award in 2015 for being an American Classic restaurant, and if you mean a classic venue featuring meat, then it is an award that was richly deserved.  The meat is outstanding, and all five of us at the table had our meat cooked perfectly.  The side dishes are all potatoes, and the only vegetable is the salad that starts the meal off.  It is really all about the meat and my husband's Porterhouse is a good example of his "go big or go home" approach.  It is reasonably priced as well.
The decor is a whole other matter.  It is stuck in the 1960's.  The press board paneling is dark, and not really much lit up by the Christmas houses that plug in and light up.  Since we were there in September we have to assume they are always there.  It might sound festive, but it is not.  It is dated.  The other tip I would offer is to get there at opening time, or come late.  We arrived a half hour after it opened and had a 45 minute wait.  Within about 15 minutes we ceased to be disgruntled by the crowd and thankful that we got a seat in the bar, where they let us order off the very limited appetizer menu and sit comfortably and people watch while we waited.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tequila Marinated Steaks

We had this with a rib eye roast that we cut into steaks the way people like them--which is not the same way in my family.  This marinade is really good if you have a chance to do it ahead of time.  The original recipe called for Patron tequila, which is nuts.  A good inexpensive tequila is what is called for here.

4 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (3 tablespoons)
2 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped (¼ cup)
1 small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (⅓ cup)
6 sprigs fresh oregano leaves, roughly chopped (2 tbsp.)
1/2 cup tequila (inexpensive works well)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lime zest
For the Steak:
1 bone-in, dry-aged rib steak, 1.5 to 1.75 pounds and about 1.5 inches thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Add the steak to the marinade, turning it a couple of times to coat. Transfer the marinade and the steak to a large, heavy-duty zip-top bag and chill for 4 to 24 hours.
2. Light a charcoal grill and arrange the coals on one side so that there are 2 temperature zones for cooking. The lower temperature zone should be about 375°.
3. Remove the meat from the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear the steak over high heat for 2 minutes per side before transferring the steak to the cooler side of the grill. Close the oven door or cover the grill.
4. Continue cooking for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping the steak once, until the internal temperature reaches 140° for medium rare. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This is a book that has some elements of a mystery, but which is elegantly told.  It has echos of some real life events, which I will not disclose more about as it will give away some things that are best left to the story teller.  A private plane going from Martha's Vineyard to New York City foes down.  The passengers include some powerful men in the financial world, and there are reasons to think that there might have been something amiss that precipitated the crash.  One man, a painter who was largely unknown, is the only adult to survive, and against all odds he saves a four year old boy as well.  The book very nicely describes each of the passengers on the plane and what they were like before they boarded, and intersperses this information with what happens in the present.  It gradually becomes clear that the crash was not a random accident.  There are a number of threads that could be true and would be plausible to be true, which is the art of writing about people who seem real, that they are complicated by nature, and we all have someone who might wish us ill.  Not too deep but enjoyable.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Shahi Palace, Sioux City, Iowa

I ate at this south Sioux City restaurant on a recent trip there and I thought it was really delicious, from start to finish.  We always open with vegetable samosas.  There are a few things that are telling for me about a restaurant.  For Italian food it is how well they cook their pasta, for Thai it is the Pad Thai, and for Indian restaurants it is the vegetable samosas.  These easily passed the test, as did their pakora and their chickpea salad.  The Tikka Masala was great, as was the Korma, but the best dish for me was the Sag Paneer.  Perfect in balance of the bitterness of the greens and the creaminess of the cheese.  The naan and the batura were both very popular and everyone enjoyed their meal.  This will be a favorite, I can tell.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Meet Me For The Weekend

I have not been really good about being spontaneous for a long time.  I have friends who make every effort to go to everything they are invited to and while I love to live vicariously through them, I have always thought it sounded a little too exhausting for my taste.  Now that I am in the situation where I am able to travel, but I really do not know how long that will last, my spouse and I are in agreement that it is time to do things that we might not have another chance to do, and the first toe in these waters was a trip to New Orleans with good friends recently.
It could not have been more fun.  We had exceptional food, perfect wine, long interesting walks, and best of all, talking and catching up.  Life is complicated these days for all of us, so while all the news is not good, it is fantastic to share those thoughts and prayers and burdens with people who care about you.  We had the added fun of all being on vacation (which is why this is so much nicer than going for a visit where it is only time off for one side and not the other), and for me, having someone drive and pick out the things to do was a big plus.  So thankful that we took this plunge.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This book sounds very depressing.  Two sisters separated at birth in the Asante nation of Ghana.  This is an incredibly thought provoking book what features two sisters who are separated at birth.  Effia is married off to a white slave trader and her descendants both live with that legacy and remain in Ghana.  Esi is accused of wrongdoing and is sold into slavery.  This is where the multi-generational story begins and it spans 200 years over the course of seven generations.  It is like a book of interlocked short stories that tell the sotry of the family that stays in Africa and the one that goes into slavery and then comes out of it in America.  The book is a mere 300 pages but it goes more or less deeply into the issues that each faces, the short fallings and the potential benefits.  It is a bittersweet book, one that touches on sensitive issues without causing rancor, and for that it should be applauded.  It is beautiful in its writing and its storytelling, and it should be widely read.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Cochon Butcher, New Orleans

Yes, yet another Donald Link place.  He and Jeff Besh are everywhere, but we had to stop here because while we had lots of great food on our brief trip to New Orleans, we did not have either a muffeletta nor a po-boy.  So we stopped here for take out and had them at home.  It was a very delicious sandwich, and I am pretty sure it would have been even better had we eaten it on site, but they also have a wonderful butcher counter, and so I brought home both country sausage and tasso, which were affordably priced and very easy to obtain.  So the New Orleans cooking experience can continue in the privacy of our own home.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

BBQ Shrimp New Orleans Style

One thing that we really get is Gulf shrimp and crab.  Not all the time, but once every few weeks when the weather is good we can buy it off the back of a truck in the Dairy Queen parking lot.  So while we had nothing like this when we were recently in New Orleans, we do love it.

3 pounds Gulf shrimp the size you like (I prefer smaller and my spouse prefers larger)
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
Cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
3 lemons, peeled and sectioned
2 cups water
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
cream (optional)

  • Peel the shrimp, leaving only their tails attached. Reserve the shells and set aside. Sprinkle the shrimp with 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning and fresh cracked black pepper. Use you hands to coat the shrimp with the seasonings. Refrigerate the shrimp while you make the sauce base.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic, sauté for 1 minute. Add the reserved shrimp shells, the remaining Creole seasoning, the bay leaves, lemons, water, Worcestershire, wine, salt, and black pepper. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then strain.  There should be about 1 1/2 cups. Place over high heat, bring to a boil, and cook until thick, syrupy, and dark brown, for about 15 minutes. Makes about 4 to 5 tablespoons of BBQ base. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the seasoned shrimp and sauté them, occasionally shaking the skillet, for 2 minutes. Add some cream (if using) and all of the barbecue base. Simmer and stir for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp to a warm platter with tongs and whisk the butter into the sauce. Remove from the heat. Mound the shrimp in the center of a platter. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and around the plate.