Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wild Rice Soup

When the cold weather hits, I always reach for this recipe. I've had it in my collection for over 25 years and did not know where it came from until Kevin Oie pointed out in CrossFit today that it is Byerly's recipe. Thanks to Kevin and Don (as in Don Byerly).

Throw in a loaf of warm artisan bread and you've got yourself one delicious meal. If you buy precooked wild rice (see photo below), this soup is ready in just 15 minutes. Serves 4.

6 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of finely minced onion
1/2 cup of flour
3 cups of chicken broth
2 cups of cooked wild rice
1/2 cup of minced ham
1/2 cup finely grated carrots
3 tablespoons of slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon minced chives (for garnish)

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onion and saute until tender.
  2. Blend in flour. Gradually add broth while stirring.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
  4. Stir in rice, ham, carrots, salt and almonds. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Blend in half and half and sherry. Heat to serving temperature.
  6. Serve and garnish with chives.
Wine pairing: Merlot

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Lemon Juice

    I use a lot of lemon juice. It makes a great, simple salad dressing when combined with olive oil. I use it to create Tuscan Steak ( And it's a must have for seafood of any kind.

    But I hate juicing lemons. And I haven't in years because Costco sells 100% organic lemon juice from Italy in 1 liter bottles. That's 22 juiced lemons right at your fingertips.

    French Cabbage Salad

    1/2 pound of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch long pieces
    1 medium head of red cabbage, shredded
    1 onion, chopped
    6 cloves of garlic, minced
    1/2 cup of tarragon vinegar

    1. Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.
    2. When skillet is hot, add bacon and cook until evenly brown.
    3. Use slotted spoon to remove bacon to a paper towel.
    4. Add onion and garlic to bacon fat until browned.
    5. Add vinegar. Bring to a simmer, then add cabbage and bacon.
    6. Saute briefly and serve warm.
    Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      All Those in Favor of Fresher Carrots...

      I love carrots. But there is big taste difference in fresh carrots versus carrots that have been stored for awhile. If you buy your carrots trimmed and in a bag, chances are that those carrots have been stored in a warehouse. Trimmed carrots, stored in the bag, can be safely kept in a climate-controlled warehouse for up to 6 months and then shipped to your supermarket. They can lose a lot of flavor in that time.

      If you buy your carrots (preferably organic) with the greens on them (as pictured above), you can rest assured that the carrots are less than three weeks old and at peak flavor. After three weeks, the greens wither and the stores toss them (or cut them up and put them in their salad bar).

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      Shrimp in Spicy Garlic Paste

      This is a family favorite from my cooking bible, Cook's Illustrated. Make sure you buy shrimp with the shells on. Peeling the shrimp spreads the spicy garlic paste all over the shrimp. Serves 8 as an entree (5 pieces per person) or a whole crowd for appetizers.

      2 pounds large unpeeled shrimp (21 to 25 per pound)
      3 large cloves garlic, minced
      1 teaspoon table salt
      1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      1 teaspoon sweet paprika
      2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
      3 tablespoons lemon juice

      lemon wedges
      1. Mash garlic with salt to form smooth paste. Combine garlic paste with cayenne, paprika, olive oil, and lemon juice in small bowl. Toss shrimp with paste until evenly coated. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 hour). Thread shrimp onto skewers.
      2. Meanwhile, light large chimney starter filled with  charcoal (about 2½ pounds) and allow to burn until charcoal is covered with layer of fine gray ash. Spread coals evenly over grill bottom for medium-hot fire. Set cooking rack in place, cover grill with lid, and let rack heat up, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, preheat gas grill with all burners set to high and lid down until grill is very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape rack clean with wire brush.
      3. Grill shrimp, uncovered for charcoal, covered for gas, turning skewers once, until shells are barely charred and bright pink, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve hot with lemon wedges.
      Wine pairing: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      Another Wine Bargain

      Sometimes you just want a glass of red wine. But if you open that bottle to get a glass of wine, re-cork it and then get another glass the next day...that second glass will taste like dog vomit something you do not want in your mouth. That's because oxygen destroys the fruity taste of the wine. Box wine solves that problem by keeping the wine in a vacuum bladder, eliminating any contact with air. But for those who have gone the box wine route, that stuff tastes like goat urine bad fruit water from the get go. But I found one that bucks that trend.

      Actually, I did not find it. Wine Spectator did. And I found it while reading the magazine's issue on "Value Wines"....or what you and I would call bargains. Wine Spectator gave Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon an 87 point rating. Now, 87 points is a really good score for a bottle of wine. For a box wine, it is extraordinary. So I bought a box and it was really good. Here's the best part.
      It only costs $22 and holds the equivalent of 4 bottles of wine. That comes out to $5.50 per bottle. Better yet, the wine stays delicious for 4 weeks after you open it. No degradation in taste whatsoever. So this gets a definite buy recommendation from me.

      But be forewarned. You will like this wine well enough to think that you should try some of the other Black Box wines. Chardonnay, perhaps? Maybe their Pinot Noir? I went down that path and everything else they make tastes like cow mucus a year old box of Juicy Juice. So buy the Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon and call it a day.

      Sunday, October 17, 2010

      Pan Seared Swordfish with Tarragon Mustard Sauce and Wilted Spinach

      I'm a carnivore through-and-through. I could eat steak seven days a week. My wife, Judy, is a fish person through-and-through. So she's been delighted at my forays into seafood dishes during the Whole 9 challenge. The swordfish recipe is one I found online, posted by mrslarkin. The wilted spinach recipe is from this week's Star Tribune, slightly enhanced for more flavor. We had it for dinner last night and it was really good! Serves 4.

      Pan Seared Swordfish Steaks with Tarragon Mustard Sauce
      4 swordfish steaks, about 1" thick and 6 oz. each
      4 tablespoons of butter at room temperature
      1 tablespoon of smooth Dijon mustard
      Kosher or sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
      1/2 cup of dry Vermouth
      1/8 cup minced shallot
      2 tablespoons of olive oil
      2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped tarragon

      1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
      2. In a small saucepan, combine vermouth and shallots. Place over high heat and bring to a boil until the vermouth is reduced by half (about 5 minutes).
      3. Turn the heat down to very low and add butter one tablespoon at a time. Whisk after each tablespoon to mix ingredients. Then add Dijon mustard. Whisk again and keep warm.
      4. Season one side of swordfish steaks with salt and pepper.
      5. Heat an oven-proof pan over medium high heat. When the pan is very hot, add the the two tablespoons of olive oil and immediately add the swordfish steaks, seasoned side down. Cook for 2 minutes. While the steaks are cooking, add salt and pepper to the side of the swordfish facing up in the pan.
      6. At the two minute mark, flip the steaks and then slide the pan into the oven. Keep them in the oven for 10 minutes and then they are ready to serve.
      7. Plate the steaks, add the coarsely chopped tarragon to the sauce, whisk, then pour the sauce over the steaks.

      Wilted Spinach

      2 tablespoons of EVOO
      8 garlic cloves, minced
      1 cup of roasted red peppers, drained and sliced*
      10 oz. baby spinach
      3 tablespoons of lemon juice
      1/2 teaspoon of salt

      1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. Add garlic and cook for one minute, then add sliced red peppers.
      2. Add spinach and stir to coat with oil. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, just until the leaves are wilted. Add lemon juice, salt, stir once and serve immediately.
      *Roasted red peppers come in jars. You will usually find them in the same aisle where they have olives in jars.

      Saturday, October 16, 2010

      Seafood Ceviche

      This is a simple dish that is just loaded with protein. It is very popular in South America, where it is made with raw fish. We'll pass on that and go the cooked route, thank you. Alaskan king crab meat is already cooked when you buy can buy the shrimp already you only need to grill or broil a couple of small lobster tails for the "cooking" portion of this recipe. (Buy two lobster tails. Leave them intact and simply slice them in half lengthwise. Grill or broil them in the shell and pull out the meat after the tails have cooled.) This recipe is from Cooking Enthusiast (, one of my favorite shops for unique cooking items. Serves 4.

      1/2 lb. cooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
      1/2 lb. cooked lobster meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
      1/2 lb. cooked crab meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
      3/4 cup fesh lime juice
      3/4 cup lemon juice
      3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
      1 Serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced
      1/2 cup chopped cilantro
      1 cucumber , peeled and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
      1 avocado, peeled, seed removed, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

      1. Cut each piece of shrimp in half. Place shrimp, crab and lobster in a glass or ceramic bowl. Mix in lime and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
      2. Mix in onion and Serrano chile. Refrigerate another 30 minutes.
      3. Right before serving, add cilantro, cucumber and avocado.

      That Sunshine Will Cost You a Chicken

      Many of my fellow Crossfitters are taking the Whole 9, 30 Day Challenge... a very healthy way of eating. It's also an extremely expensive way to eat.

      For years I've been buying certified organic chickens from Costco. No hormones. No antibiotics. No cages. Raised on small family farms with a strict vegetarian diet. Anyone who shops at Costco knows you have to buy in bulk. So they package two together. Yesterday I paid $18.23 for 2 organic chickens. I'll cook one up this week and freeze the other.

      Byerly's and Whole Foods have the same price for their organic chickens. No hormones. No antibiotics. No cages. Raised on small family farms. But they are "free range"...they get to hang out in the sun. The price for one free range, organic chicken? $17.69.

      So $18.23 at Costco or $17.69 at Whole Foods/Byerly's. You choose. But if you opt for the chicken with a tan, it will cost you a chicken.

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      Honeycrisp Pricing on October 15

      Whole Foods...$3.99 a pound
      Costco...$1.99 a pound
      Byerly's...$1.49 a pound (Pepin Heights sale price)

      Straccetti Con Rughetta

      Here's one of our favorite dishes from famous Atlanta pasta chef Elisa Gambino. We can never remember the Italian name for this dish, so in our family it goes by it's English translation: Rocket Arugula. The paper-thin slices of tenderloin melt in your mouth. The peppery arugula is a brilliant contrast to the tartness of the fresh lemon juice. The garlic, sage and rosemary excel in their supporting roles. Elisa's recipe serves 4.

      1 1/2 pounds of beef tenderloin*
      15 ounces of baby arugula
      6 garlic cloves, minced
      1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil plus 3 tablespoons
      1 lemon
      1 teaspoon dried sage
      1 teaspoon dried rosemary
      1 teaspoon of kosher salt
      1 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper

      1. Slice the tenderloin diagonally, as thin as possible.**
      2. Sprinkle meat with garlic, rosemary, sage, pepper and salt. Toss in a large bowl with the 1/4 cup of olive oil.
      3. Heat a large skillet or Dutch Oven (must have a lid) over medium heat.
      4. Once the pan is hot, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the tenderloin and cook just until the pink is gone (do not brown meat).
      5. Turn down heat and add the arugula.
      6. Put the lid on the pan and let it wilt for one minute.
      7. Take the lid off and stir until all of the arugula is lightly wilted.
      8.  Squeeze the lemon over the dish and stir. Taste and add salt as necessary. Serve.
      Wine pairing: Pinot Noir or Merlot

      * I buy whole tenderloins from Costco at $7.99 a pound. I trim it myself and can get 4 complete meals out of a whole tenderloin. If you go to Byerly's, their dry-aged tenderloin will set you back a whopping $26.99 a pound.
      ** To get really thin slices of the tenderloin,  put the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing.

      Farfalle with Hot Crab Sauce

      Sinful. Decadent. Over-the-top and absolutely delicious! This is one of the all-time great recipes for Alaskan King Crab. It is also one of the easiest to prepare. Serves 4.

      4 Alaskan King Crab Legs
      2 sticks of butter (4 oz. each)
      10 garlic cloves, minced
      1 tablespoon of Tabasco (or more to taste)
      16 oz. of Farfalle (bow tie pasta)
      2 tablespoons of salt
      1 tablespoon of olive oil

      1. Fill a large pot with water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil.
      2. Remove meat from crab legs and tear into bite-size pieces.
      3. In a large saucepan, melt the 2 sticks of butter over low heat.
      4. When the butter is melted, adjust temperature to medium and add minced garlic. Saute until garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.
      5. Adjust temperature to low. Add crab and Tabasco to garlic/butter mixture. Heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
      6. Add Farfalle to large pot and cook until al dente (about 1 minute less than what the package calls for).
      7. When cooked, drain pasta and toss with olive oil. Divide into serving bowls or plates.
      8. Place a giant helping of the hot crab sauce on top of the Farfalle on each bowl or plate and serve.
      Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

      Note: Do not use whole wheat pasta with this dish.

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010


      There are three things in my life that are perfect. Retirement is one of them. The other two are things that send my taste buds into sensory overload.
      When it comes to white wine, nothing compares to Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc. I can't even begin to try and describe all of the flavors that burst forth from one sip of this extraordinary wine. So scrounge up $13 and give your palate a trip to the moon.

      The perfect fruit...the Honeycrisp apple. It's harvested from mid-September to mid-October. That means in short order it will no longer be available. I cannot describe what it is like to bite into one of will have to do it yourself.

      If you are a lover of wretched excess, buy the wine and buy the apple and alternately consume them at the same time.  Add a little Chevre goat cheese and you have perfection to the power of three.

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Pan Seared Filet Mignon

      This recipe is so simple and will give you a restaurant quality steak right in your own kitchen. I buy whole tenderloins at Costco to make these steaks, but you can easily have your butcher trim these for you as well. This serves four.

      4 filet mignon steaks, 2" thick
      Olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper


      1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees (rack should be in the center).
      2. Place a saute pan in the oven (should be steel or preferably cast not use non-stick).
      3. Rub olive oil on the top of the steaks. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
      4. After 30 minutes, turn a burner on high. Remove pan from oven and place on burner. Let it heat for two minutes.
      5. Drop steaks, seasoned side down onto pan.
      6. Sear for exactly 5 minutes. While searing, sprinkle exposed tops of steaks with olive oil, salt and pepper.
      7. Flip the steaks in the pan and place the pan in the oven. Follow these times exactly: For rare, remove after 5 minutes; for medium rare, remove after 7 minutes; for medium, remove after 9 minutes.
      8. Remove the steaks from the pan and tent with foil. Let them rest 5 minutes before serving. Top with butter or Bernaise sauce.

      Wine pairing: Cabernet Sauvignon

      Organic Free Range Chicken

      We've been buying organic chicken from Costco for years. After the Whole 9 seminar, we moved up to organic, free range chicken. The verdict? Three out of four family members felt there was a real taste difference. So the scales are tipped in favor of free range.

      I cook my chicken in an All-Clad horizontal roaster that works just like beer-can chicken. The arm has a reservoir that holds about three ounces of wine. The air can circulate all around the chicken during convection roasting. Really crisp skin and an incredibly moist interior. But the best part?

      For the last forty minutes of cooking, I load up the base pan with vegetables for roasting (last night it was broccoli and garlic). The Whole 9 Nazis would be horrified as the veggies get basted in chicken fat. The Taste Nazis would acknowledge that never in the history of modern civilization have veggies ever tasted so good.

      Wine pairing: Pinot Noir

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      Heads Up on a Great Wine Bargain

      Both Surdyk's and Haskell's have big wine sales going on right now. There is a little, hidden gem in there. It's not a "knock your socks off" wine, but it's an incredible bargain for a really good bottle of wine.

      Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon is normally a $12 bottle of wine. During the sale you can get it at Surdyk's for $7.99 and at Haskell's for $8.99. Wine Spectator gives the wine 89 points, which is a very good score. There are a lot of $70 and $80 bottles of wine out there that get less than 89 points. If you want to add a really decent bottle of wine to your inventory at a bargain price, this is the route to go.

      The Loon Cafe's Pecos River Red Chili

      The Loon Cafe was one of my favorite 80's hangouts. Back then it was a "fern bar"...long before sports bars had been invented. JJ was the head cook back then and he gave me the recipe for their famous Pecos River Red Chili, which is still on their menu today and is a featured dish at the new Twins ballpark.

      2 pounds of sirloin, diced in half inch cubes
      1 medium onion, diced
      2 cups diced green chiles (I use mild...available in cans)
      2 cups of tomato sauce
      4 tablespoons of paprika
      2.5 teaspoons cumin
      1 teaspoon salt
      2 teaspoons oregano (Mexican oregano preferred)
      3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      2.5 teaspoons chili powder
      1 cup of chicken broth

      Brown sirloin and onions over medium high heat in a large kettle. When sirloin has browned and onions have softened, add all other ingredients. Reduce temperature to low and simmer for 30 minutes. If you like your chili really hot, add diced jalapeno while you are browning the meat. Serves 6.

      Bargain Version
      Substitute stew meat for sirloin. After browning meat and onions, pour everything into a slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

      Wine pairing: Malbec
      Better pairing: Pacifico Beer from Mexico

      Sunday, October 10, 2010

      Grass Fed Beef

      We had grass fed rib eye steaks last night. Fired up the Weber grill and cooked them to perfection over charcoal. Just added a little kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce (my favorite umami cheat).

      The steaks were absolutely to die for. Incredibly lean and sweet to the taste. My wife, Judy, who is not a big fan of red meat, ate her whole steak!

      So on the plus side: delicious, healthy and a much better way to raise cattle. The only downside is cost: $14.99 a pound at Whole Foods versus $5.99 a pound at Costco for corn-fed rib eye steaks. Steak dinner for four comes to $53.50 at Whole Foods and $21.38 at Costco.

      Judy and I are hitting Byerly's this Friday. They just started carrying a full line of grass fed beef and are also now carrying a complete line of bison. I will check pricing and report back.

      Fennel and Celery Salad

      This is a great salad recipe from New York Times food journalist Mark Bittman. The juxtaposition of flavors with the licorice flavored fennel, lemon juice and the bitter celery is incredible. This is a salad that you can make ahead of time and can easily last 5 days in your refrigerator.

      2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed
      3 celery ribs, trimmed
      3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
      1/4 cup of EVOO
      1/4 quarter teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
      1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

      1. Cut fennel bulbs in quarters lengthwise. With a knife or mandolin, slice quarters as thin as possible.
      2. Slice the celery as thin.
      3. Put the fennel and celery into a bowl and drizzle with EVOO and lemon juice.
      4. Season with salt and pepper. Toss and enjoy!

      Wine pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

      Saturday, October 9, 2010

      I Hate Making Salads

      I love salad, but I hate all of the time consuming chopping required. Salads are a regular at the dinner table (as I have ample time to make them) but a hassle at all other times. For those times when I wanted a quick salad, I used to buy the Tabouleh salad at Costco. Quick. Delicious. But after listening to Whole 9, I found out the bulgur wheat in the salad was going to lacerate my bowels and spill it's contents into my bloodstream. Oh, the horror.

      Enter Kimchi, Korea's take on Sauerkraut.. This salad is not for the weak of heart. It is a spicy, fermented Napa cabbage that will repel the uninitiated and the simpleminded. It's vegan through and through: cabbage, carrots, onions, ginger and ground/dried red peppers. And it wins high praise from the Whole 9 gods as it meets their definition of being nutrient dense.

      It stores in the fridge and, thanks to the fermentation, it has a shelf life akin to a nuclear half-life. I have it daily after my CrossFit workout. I re-heat some steak in the microwave and scoop some Kimchi onto the plate. Steak and a salad in just 45 seconds! No slicing. No dicing.

      I recommend the Kimchi sold at Byerly's, Cub and Whole Foods. Those are the real Korean deal. Cabbage with major kick. Do not buy the Kimchi at Costco. That is Kimchi made for people from Muskogee, Oklahoma.