Thursday, December 27, 2018

Boiled Shrimp for Cold Salads

Developed December, 2018. The method prevents overcooking and yields a flavorsome, tender product ideal for a shrimp cocktail or eating off a fork. A tangy cocktail sauce adds to the pleasure.
1 lb large raw shrimp, shells on
1/2 c white vinegar
1/2 c water
2 T Old Bay seasoning
1/2 t salt
In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, and seasonings to a boil. Briefly rinse the shrimp in tap water and drain. Add the shrimp to the boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand until cool. Drain, briefly rinse, and chill. Shell the shrimp just before serving. Serves 3 or 4 on a bed of head lettuce.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Brick Chicken

This recipe could be titled as "Crispy-Skin Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs" but "Brick Chicken" is more dramatic if less informative. It was adapted August, 2015 from a recipe using chicken breast that appeared on PBS's America's Test Kitchen. Bricks can be purchased cheaply at any home store.
4 large chicken thighs
2 common bricks, scrubbed clean and covered with aluminum foil
Pan Sauce
1 T oil from chicken
1/4 c finely-chopped shallot
1/4 c finely-chopped sweet pepper
2 t flour
1/8 t five-spice powder
1/8 t crushed red pepper
3/4 c chicken stock
2 t apple cider vinegar
1 t fresh or dry thyme
Trim away excess skin and fat. Bone thighs. Poke holes in fatty part of skin. Season each thigh with 1/2 t salt. Place on rack and refrigerate, skin side up, uncovered for up to 8 hours. Dry thoroughly. Place skin side down in 12-inch stainless-steel skillet cold. cover with bricks. turn heat to medium, and fry 7 to 9  minutes until mostly done and crispy on bottoms. remove bricks, Remove weight and continue to cook until skin is well browned and very crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip thighs, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until second side is lightly browned and meat registers 160 to 165 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside but cover loosely so as not to soften the skin.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Lemonade by Ratio

One way to describe a recipe is to list, not amounts by measure, but rather, amounts by ratio to each other. This makes it easy to make a small or large batch. Lemonade depends on the balance of its ingredients and so is well suited to this approach. A 'part' may be a small volume such as an ounce or a cup or even a gallon! It's also possible to prepare lemonade not by volume measure but by weight.
1 part lemon juice
2 parts simple syrup
4 parts cold water
2 parts ice
Mix well in a glass, in a pitcher or in large serving container. For example, to make a single serving in a large glass:
2 oz lemon juice
4 oz simple syrup
8 oz cold water
4 oz ice

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Scallops and Egg Noodles in Cream-Garlic Sauce

Developed December, 2018. Luxury in a quick and easy meal.

12 oz diver scallops
1 t salt
1/4 t white pepper
1 oz each of butter and olive oil
1/2 c thinly-sliced shallot or leek
2 T thinly-sliced garlic
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/3 c half and half or light cream
8 oz pappardelle or wide egg noodles
Bring two quarts of salted water to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the noodles and boil gently until tender but firm, about 9 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and keep covered. While the noodles cook, heat the oil and butter over medium in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet. When sizzling stops, add the shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté until lightly colored. Dry the scallops on paper towels and season with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the scallops. Cook gently until lightly browned on one side, turn and cook the other side. Stir in the dairy, the noodles, and the pasta water. Cook gently 5 minutes with mixing until the sauce is mostly absorbed and the noodles are tender. Add pasta water if needed. Taste for seasoning. Serves two or three generously. Variation: Substitute shelled shrimp or imitation crab meat (surimi) for the scallops. Butter-steamed cauliflower makes a good side dish.

Ben's BLT salad

Recorded December, 2018. Everybody's favorite sandwich without the bread. A Family Favorite.
2 c iceberg lettuce, cut into large cubes
4 strips of ‫crispy bacon‬, crumbled
1 large ripe tomato, cut into large pieces
2 T mayonnaise
1 T milk (or water)
1/2 t salt
freshly ground pepper
Assemble lettuce, tomato, and bacon in a bowl. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, milk, and seasonings together and dizzle on salad. Toss gently to coat. Serves two or three.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Developed November 2018, inspired by a jambalaya enjoyed at a friend's table in October. Packed with flavor and solid nourishment, this comfort food is a Louisiana staple. Lots of ingredients, mostly pantry, but the cooking is straightforward and the dish comes together easily.
2 oz salt pork, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 andouille sausage, cut into disks
4 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and visible fat
2 T vegetable oil
2 c long grain rice
2 T tomato paste
1/4 t red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 T minced garlic
1 t oregano
1 t thyme
1 t smoked paprika
1/4 t cayenne or 1 t chipotle
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 c hot shrimp stock
2 t salt
12 oz medium shrimp
1 T Old Bay seasoning
In a heavy pan or dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, fry the salt pork until crisp, add the celery, green pepper, onion, and sausage. Cook until softened. Add thighs and partially cook over moderate heat for a 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Increase heat, stir in rice and oil. Fry the rice with frequent stirring for few minutes until it turns milky. Stir in the seasonings, heat until aromatic, and add the tomatoes and hot stock. Place the chicken thighs on top, cover, and reduce the heat to a fast simmer. Tear apart the chicken when done (about 30 minutes), mix into rice. Arrange the shrimp on top, and dust with Old Bay seasoning. Cover tightly and let dish rest for 10 minutes while the shrimp steam through. Combine gently and serve. Serves 6.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Ben's Quick Egg and Tomato Asian Soup

The traditional Chinese recipe is basically water, tomato, egg, and scallions plus a pinch of sugar, salt, and white pepper. This version is enhanced a bit for the jaded American palate. Low in carbohydrates.
1 T vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t ginger root, minced
1/2 c chopped ripe tomato
Pinch sugar
Pinch salt
Dash white pepper
3 c chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 T corn starch dispersed in a little cold water
2 eggs, well beaten
3 to 4 green onions, sliced
1/2 t mushroom soy (optional)
In a two-quart saucepan, heat garlic and ginger in a little oil for 30 sec. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar. Allow to break down. 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth and mushroom soy. Bring to a boil. Thicken with cornstarch slurry. Off heat, stream egg into hot soup to form threads. Garnish with green onions. Serves two generously.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Meat Loaf II

Developed October, 2018. Beef and pork are combined with both raw and cooked onion and warm spices to produce a moist meay product.
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 large egg
1 slice white bread, cubed, plus enough milk to cover
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 T olive oil
1 t sugar
3 t salt, divided
3/4 cup bread crumbs or matzoh meal
1/2 t freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 c chopped parsley
1 t ground fennel seed
2 t minced garlic
1 t dry thyme
1/2 t ground coriander
Position rack in the middle of oven preheated to 350 degrees F. Add two-thirds of the onion to a small bowl along with the oil, sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Microwave on high for 2 minutes and set aside to cool. Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl, cover with milk, add the egg, raw onion, cooked onion, 2 teaspoons of salt, the parsley, and the seasonings. Mix well until combined. Combine the meats in a large bowl and mix gently by hand until uniform. Next work in the crumbs, and then the egg mixture until well mixed. To mold, pack the meat mixture into a 4.5x8 inch loaf pan and invert it onto a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Bake about an hour or until the internal temperature reads 175 F. Tent loosely with aluminum foil and rest about 15 minutes before slicing. A mushroom gravy or beef gravy goes well. Variation: Cut thin slices when cool and serve as sandwiches on challa bread with yellow mustard.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Steamed Then Shallow-Fried Potatoes

Pan-Fried Potatoes
Inspired by a similar dish served at Beachside Bistro in Kill Devil Hills, NC. They call them 'home fries'. Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside. Developed November, 2018.
12 oz (350 g) small red potatoes (about 1-1/4 oz or 35 g each)
vegetable oil
1/4 t (1 ml) granulated garlic
2 t (10 ml) dry rosemary
1 t coarse salt
1/4 t freshly-ground pepper
Steam the potatoes for 8 to 10 minutes until a paring knife goes in easily half-way. Spread on a kitchen towel and let cool and dry. When cool, quarter the potatoes. Heat 1/4 inch (5 mm) vegetable oil in a 10-inch heavy non-stick skillet to 375 degrees F (190 C). Cautiously, add the potatoes. Fry the potatoes, maintaining the temperature above 325 F (163 C), turning them occasionally. When browned and crispy on all sides, lift them from skillet with a spider, tongs, or a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Toss with the seasonings and serve immediately. Serves 2 or 3.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Quick Beef Gravy

Developed October, 2018. Good companion to roast beef, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, hot sandwiches.
1 T vegetable oil
1 T wheat flour
1/4 t each ground coriander, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder
8 oz hot water, divided
1 T beef stock base
1/2 t mushroom powder
1 T tapioca or corn starch dispersed in 1 T cold water
In a small saucepan, mix flour and oil. Heat over medium until a blonde roux forms, about 4 minutes. Stir in herbs. Slowly stir in a 1/4 cup hot water until a smooth slurry is formed. Stir in stock base and mushroom powder. When incorporated, stir in the remaining hot water, and simmer 5 minutes. Return to pan, stir in starch slurry, heat and stir until it thickens. Can be easily doubled. Variations: Dilute finished gravy with 1 cup beef stock to make a 'jus' for French dip sandwiches or use as a base for hearty soups or stews.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Cauliflower Quick Braise in Butter and Stock

Developed Fall, 2018. The microwave makes this a very quick preparation. Sumac is a popular middle-eastern spice that adds a citrus-like acidity and an attractive red-orange color.
10 oz (275 g) cauliflower, cut into small florets
water in a trigger spray
1/4 t salt
1 t chicken stock concentrate (Better Than Bouillon™ Organic Reduced Sodium is good)
1/2 T butter, cut into small dice
1/4 t ground sumac or 1 t lemon juice
Place cauliflower in a medium glass bowl, mist with water, season with salt, and toss. Microwave on high (1250 W) for 2-1/2 minutes, covered tightly. Stir in the stock concentrate and the butter. Mix until combined adding a little water if needed. Microwave one more minute, add sumac, and stir. Serves 2 or 3.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hint: How to Prevent Freezer Burn

So-called "freezer burn" is the term used to designate the process that turns the outside layer of a frozen food product into a dry, unpalatable residue covered with frost. The cause of the food drying and the accumulation of surface frost is sublimation. Sublimation is when water molecules evaporate from ice in much the same way they evaporate from liquid water. This dehydrates the food, spoiling it. Some of the released water vapor then re-deposits on the surface in needle-like frost.

What can be done? Two techniques largely eliminate the problem. (1) Mist the food with a light layer of water using a trigger spray before wrapping. This added layer will act as "sacrificial water" that can be lost to sublimation without harming the food but too little to dilute flavor. (2) Eliminate as much of the air space between the food and the wrap as possible. This denies a space for the water molecules to enter. Use a thin plastic bag or plastic wrap that can be pulled tight as the first wrap layer. Place that package in a larger bag and force the air from it. This outer bag protects the inner bag from puncture or leaks and adds another layer of protection.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

One-Pan Easy Mac and Cheese

Developed September, 2018 from a recipe on America's Test Kitchen TV program on PBS. The method cooks the elbows in milk and water and adds the cheeses after the pasta is cooked al dente. American processed cheese includes 'emulsifying salts' — namely sodium citrate — that yield a smooth melt and prevent the sharp cheddar, there to boost flavor intensity, from oily separation.
2 c milk
3 c water
1 t salt
1 lb elbow macaroni
1/8 t cayenne
2 t Dijon mustard
8 oz American cheese, grated (from deli, not packaged slices)
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz sliced ripe tomatoes
Bring milk. water, and salt to a boil in a three-quart saucepan. Be careful to prevent boiling over. Stir in the macaroni, reduce heat to a fast simmer, and cook until pasta is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Off heat, stir in the seasonings and the American cheese until melted. Return to heat and simmer gently 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the cheddar cheese, top with tomato slices, and cover. Let stand 10 minutes to soften the tomatoes. Stir the tomatoes into the pasta, reheating as necessary. Variation: Replace the tomatoes with 1/2 cup frozen peas. Hint: Freeze the American cheese before grating.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Frozen Pot Stickers

Developed September, 2018 as part of a Chinese-style dim sum (appetizer) supper. Fast, easy, cheap.
8 frozen pot stickers
2 t vegetable oil
1/2 t sesame oil
2 T chicken stock
Heat a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium high and film it with oil. Add the frozen pot stickers. Let them fry undisturbed for a few minutes to brown one side. Turn them and continue frying until they are colored on all sides. Add sesame oil and stock. Cover, lower heat, and steam for 5 minutes. Pass dipping sauce. Serves two as part of a dim sum meal. Easily doubled.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

MiniReview: Copa Cuban Restaurant

Wound up at lunch time feeling a bit peckish parked across Main Street from the newly opened Cuban place, "Copa". Checked the menu on my smart phone. Looked yumm and affordable. Greg Cox gave it ****, $$, a great ratio of quality to cost. Son Jon and I popped in, were immediately seated. Durham is still very quiet after Hurricane Florence, even though all roads are clear and the sky was sunny. An elegant room, cream lemon walls, photographs of Cuban scenes. Not old Havana. Today's. 

The verdict? Best Cuban sandwich possible! They bake the bread. Perfect crust and crumb. They cure the ham. They cure the pickles. They roast the meat. Their own sauce. And wonderful blackbeans in a rich, aromatic gravy. Good golly, tops! Only drank ice water, which they serve at the table in an elegant, ice-cold glass bottle. Friendly, effective service. We both ordered the same meal, total was $24 before tax and tip. Worth every scrumptious morsel. I took half of mine home. We both made happy noises.


106 W. Main St.
Durham, NC 27701

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Easy Carnitas (Double-Cooked Pork)

First prepared May, 2016. A simple method to prepare a flavorsome main dish or an ingredient in another.
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder or country-style ribs
1 t salt
1/2 t ground cumin
Cut pork into 1/2 inch pieces. Put meat and salt in a cold Dutch oven and barely cover with water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook covered over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking with occasional stirring until all the water evaporates and the meat begins to sizzle in its fat. Continue cooking until browned and crisp. Drain and set aside. Serve as part of a meal with rice, beans, salsa, and tortillas or in a taco with toppings of your choice.

Chinese Stock Base

Developed October, 2015. Often in Chinese cooking a flavorsome, complex stock is used to finish a stir fry dish in the wok, prepare sauces, or serve as a light broth with a few petals of tender napa cabbage.
1 qt water
2 t soy sauce
1 t fish sauce
1 t rice wine
1 t dark sesame oil
2 T chicken base
1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
1 inch fresh ginger root, split and crushed
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 green onions, cut in large pieces
Place ingredients in a two-quart saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, cover, lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool off heat, still covered, and strain out solids through a sieve. Store cold in a covered container or freeze in measured amounts in plastic bags

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hint: Freeze Tomato Paste in Recipe-Sized Portions

Tomato paste provides a rich base of umami flavor and healthful nutrients to many dishes. Heated with oil at the start of a sauté, it imparts color and flavor to the pan sauce or soup.The usual dish calls for a tablespoon or two, leaving the problem of how to store the remainder of the can's contents. To handle that problem, we divide the contents into 1 ounce (~30 gram) portions, using a #30 disher ('ice cream scoop'). This size scoop is called a '#30 disher' because it was designed to dish out 30 scoops from a quart of ice cream. They are available online for a few dollars. Each scoop of tomato paste is deposited into the corner of a Z-fold plastic sandwich bag, twisted closed, and individually frozen, then bagged. When needed, just the right amount of tomato paste, easily pops from its bag, ready for cooking. It thaws quickly, as the pan heats.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Hint: Save space when storing eggs

We love hens eggs and eat and use quite a few every week in our home. To save money and for convenience, we buy packs that hold 18 eggs. In our markets, the egg cartons are made of foamed plastic or pulpboard. Our practice is store the eggs in a refrigerator below 40 degrees F to preserve product quality. This puts a premium on the lowest and thus coldest shelf space. To make it easier to store and handle the eggs, we cut the package in half, using a serrated knife. After eggs have been removed, the remaining eggs can be re-arranged to balance the container to make it easier to handle.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Banana-Walnut Bread

Developed September, 2017. Modified from an online recipe to eliminate the traditional dry-ingredient step.
2 eggs
1 c sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 t vanilla
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 t cinnamon
2 c flour
1/3 c chopped toasted walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Whisk in baking soda, baking powder, salt, the bananas, vanilla, oil and cinnamon. Blend in the flour, a half-cup at a time, until just combined. Stir in nuts. Pour the batter into a greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bake on the middle rack for 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Yields a 2.2 lb (1 kg) loaf. Store refrigerated. Freezes well. Variation: Toast slices and spread with cream cheese.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Blackened Baby Bok Choy

This easy, quick side dish for many rich main courses uses immature Asian cabbages. It's quick, tasty, and complex in flavor.
4 heads baby bok choy
2 t vegetable oil 
1 t dark sesame oil
2 t dark soy sauce
1 t mushroom soy
1 t rice wine
1 T water
Cut heads lengthwise, rinse, and dry. Heat vegetable oil in a stainless-steel skillet on medium high until it shimmers. Place cabbages cut side down, and cook 3 to 4 minutes until well colored. Turn over, add seasonings and water, cover, and steam a few minutes until tender.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Peruvian Rice

Developed April, 2018 from a recipe in a English-language Peruvian cookbook by Gastón Acurio.
2 c long-grain rice
3 c water
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 T salt
3 T vegetable oil, divided
In a medium saucepan, heat two tablespoons of oil until hot. Add the garlic, and cook until lightly colored and aromatic. Add the water and salt, and bring to a boil. Cook for five minutes, add the rice, stir, reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook 15 minutes. Drizzle on the remaining oil and fluff with a fork. Cover and let steam ten minutes before serving. Serves 4 to 8. Variation: Add 1/4 cup of Thai fried onions or shallots to the cooking water.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Microwave Poached Egg

Developed March, 2018 when the stove-top range was out of service.
1 large egg
1 c (240 ml) water
1 t (5 ml) white vinegar
1 oz (30 g) sliced ham
toasted, buttered English muffin
Put water and vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl. Choose a bowl in which the egg will be covered, about 12 ounce (350 ml) capacity. Place bowl on a plate for safe handling. Cover and microwave on high until the water boils. Carefully break the egg into the hot water. Cover, let stand for 30 seconds, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Check if the whites are firm. Continue as needed in 15 second increments. Lift carefully from hot water with a slotted spoon, blot gently with a clean towel, and place on a buttered toasted English muffin topped with a slice of warm ham (optional). Season to taste with salt and pepper. [Note: Microwave oven is rated 1250 watts.]

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Oven-Braised Beef Chuck Ribs

Beef Chuck Ribs with Egg Noodles
Developed January, 2018. This hard-to-find cut sits next to the short ribs. Although it is less expensive it is just as flavorsome. In this recipe, a homemade BBQ sauce furnishes the braising liquid.
2 4-rib racks beef chuck ribs
1 c Durham-Style BBQ sauce
GP seasoning and rub
8 oz egg noodles
Preheat oven to 325 F. Rinse and dry the meat. Trim away any loose fat or tissues and cut into two-rib sections.  Season both sides generously (1 tablespoon per pound) and place into a dutch oven. Pour the sauce over the meat, turning with tongs to cover. Roast covered, turning occasionally, until meat is fork tender, about 3 hours. Boil the noodles for two minutes less than package calls for. Drain the noodles, stir them into the pot, and return to the oven for 10 minutes to absorb flavor and finish cooking. Serves four. Sauteed spinach makes a good side. Variation: Include par-boiled green cabbage wedges with the noodles. Extend cooking time as needed until they are tender.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Pork Congee

Congee (often called 'jook') is unfamiliar to most Western diners but is a staple dish in China, often eaten for breakfast. Akin to Cream of Rice in texture, it's a warm, aromatic, easy-to-digest, satisfying 'comfort' food.  This version was developed in January 2018 from a recipe at SeriousEats.Com.
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 t minced fresh ginger root
1/2 t minced garlic
1 t shaoxing wine
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t sugar
1/2 t soy sauce
1/4 t sodium bicarbonate
1-1/2 t cornstarch
2 t vegetable oil

5 c water
1/2 c medium-grain rice, rinsed and drained
1-1/2 t kosher salt

1 c corn kernels, canned, frozen and thawed, or fresh-cut
2 scallions, sliced across
In a bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients. Mix well and set aside. In a three-quart saucepan, combine water, rice, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook gently for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The congee should look creamy. Add the pork mixture to the congee, breaking apart the meat, and simmer with stirring with the lid off until the pork is cooked, about 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in the corn and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately, topped with chopped scallions.