Tomato-Basil Rice

Tomato-Basil Rice

Tomato-Basil Rice

I came up with this recipe years ago, late one summer when I was getting tired of using the tomatoes and basil from my garden in pasta-based recipes. So I came up with this rice dish instead, and it turned out great! This is a great side for barbecued chicken and seafood. It’s another crowd-pleaser- everybody loves it.

I used hearts of palm in this recipe– Kristina found big jars of it cheap at Costco, so I added it to the recipe. It goes good in this recipe…hearts of palm taste similar to artichoke hearts. If you can’t find hearts of palm, don’t worry about it– I made this for years without adding that particular ingredient.

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz. rice (Basmati works well for this)
  • 2 medium size tomatoes, diced, or 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2-1 green pepper, diced
  • Any other peppers from your garden if you want it spicy, diced
  • 28 oz. chicken stock, or 28 oz. total with liquid from tomatoes (total volume of liquid should be twice vol. of rice)
  • Hearts of palm, diced up (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded or grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper

Serves 3-4

Heat olive oil in a pot. Add onions, peppers and garlic and saute until they’re kinda softened up. Add chicken stock, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and chopped basil leaves and get it boiling. Throw rice in, turn down to low and cover.

Rice will take about 20 minutes to cook. When rice has about 5 minutes left to cook, stir in the hearts of palm (if you’re adding them) and the parmesan cheese (this is not optional). Turn heat off and let it sit covered for 10 minutes for rice to finish absorbing liquid and for all flavors to combine. Enjoy!

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Pistachio Pesto

Wow, it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted. It’s been a busy summer! But it’s the great comments to this blog that made me realize I need to get back to it. Like Mr. Cialis, who had some nice things to say, as well as offering a helpful link to great deals on cheap generic prescription drugs that I’m sure would be hard to find anywhere else on the internet. And who could forget iqquagnsufpk, who memorably said and I quote,  “TSw4mS xwpxpjepzcux”. Not quite sure what he or she was getting at, but I’m sure it was well-intentioned and profound. Makes me almost want to turn commenting back on.

Anyway, it’s late July, and if you’re growing tomatoes and basil in the midwest like me, that means big beautiful basil bushes but probably just a couple ripe tomatoes so far. Especially with the late start we got this spring, with all the cold and the rain. So it’s a perfect time to make pesto. And with the hot humid 90+ weather we’ve had for like the entire month of July, who wants to cook. The only thing you need to heat up for this is water to boil the pasta.

Pesto is really good– for us it’s a real taste of summer. It works great by itself as a vegetarian meal, or you can thaw some pre-cooked cocktail-style shrimp and throw it in. Or serve it as a side dish with some barbecued chicken.

Usually you use pine nuts in pesto, but I had a big bag of shelled pistachios hanging around, and I knew from past experience pistachios work great in pesto. But traditional pine nuts are good too.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups basil leaves
  • 1/4-1/2 Cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • 2-3 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 Cup pistachios (or pine nuts)
  • Coarse-ground pepper to taste

Special utensils:

  • Food processor

Serves 2-4

Wash basil leaves and separate the leaves that are in good condition from the stems and the damaged leaves. Chop the garlic coarsely and add all ingredients except tomato to the food processor. Set processor to chop, and chop the pesto ingredients in short pulses, stopping frequently to take a spatula to fold the unchopped stuff along the outside toward the bottom to get everything evenly chopped. Don’t overprocess it– Pesto should be coarsely chopped.

Mix the pesto into the boiled pasta of your choice. I usually use thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta. Chop up tomato and add it to the mix. Enjoy.

 

Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Shirmp Kebabs

Shrimply Delicious (sorry)

Memorial Day was blazin’ hot, 90+ degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Finally some real summer weather! We spent the afternoon at the beach, so we needed something quick and simple to grill when we got back. Shrimp kebabs are the ticket for quick and simple. The marinating takes a little prep, but it’s easy to get ready, throw the marinating ingredients in the refrigerator and spend the afternoon at the beach.

Ingredients:

  • 40 jumbo shrimp
  • Any combination of red, yellow, orange, green bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 Finely diced Garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice from one lemon or lime

Special Utensils:

  • Some type of skewer

Serves 4

Marinating kebabs

Marinating kebabs

Mix up marinating ingredients. Chop peppers and onions into kebab-sized pieces. A tip on marinating kebabs: marinate before skewering- put the pieces in a plastic bag and pour the marinade in. Marinate for a few hours. Put the kebabs together after. It’s a lot easier that way.

After the shrimp and veggies marinate, assemble them on the skewer, 8 kebabs, 5 shrimp to a kebab, and throw them on a hot grill. Turn over after 3-4 minutes on each side, and they’re ready to eat! Serve with your favorite sides- I made some rice and grilled asparagus, Enjoy!

 

Morel Mushrooms

A Nice Morel Find

Kristina and I were in the backyard the other day, and she said, “isn’t that a morel”? Sure enough, it was, and after looking around a bit I found a couple dozen more. As luck would have it, Kristina had just picked up some filet mignon cuts of steak, so we enjoyed these delicious mushrooms with a perfectly grilled filet mignon and some grilled Michigan asparagus, another delicacy in season only for a short time here in Southeast Michigan.

Morel Mushrooms

Cutaway View

If you choose to go hunting for morels, either in the woods or in your own backyard, make absolutely sure you know what you’re looking for. There are false morels that can make you sick if you eat them. True morels, in addition to having a cap with that distinctive honeycomb look, are hollow in the center, and the stem and cap are connected, as you can see in the cut mushroom pic on the left. DO NOT rely on this post alone to identify morels though, take a look at more authoritative sources online. Here’s a link to a site with good morel ID info. Remember: if in doubt, throw it out.

I haven’t had a lot of experience cooking morels, so I tried a couple different ways to cook them. But that’s perfect for this site, because it is called Recipe Options, after all. So here’s two options for cooking morels, both very simple, to let the flavor of the mushrooms to dominate.

Ingredients (pan sauteed morels)

  • Morel mushrooms
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Coarse ground pepper

Ingredients (grilled Morels)

  • Morels
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil

First I cut the morels in half, rinsed them off well, and soaked them in salt water, which I read to do online. But there was some disagreement as to doing this, since some sites said that would make them too salty.  I soaked them for only about 1/2 hour to an hour and they were just salty enough. But if you prefer, just skip the saltwater step and sprinkle a little salt directly on the mushrooms. My favorite method turned out to be grilling- coat the morels in a little olive oil and grill them using a vegetable griller, which is a metal pan with little holes in it– it lets smoke through without letting vegetables fall through the grate. The morels were outstanding grilled!

The other method I tried was simply sauteing up in a pan with some butter and fresh ground pepper. This was very good as well. Morel note: make sure you cook the morels well, because they should not be eaten raw.

Enjoy!

Smoked Barbequed Turkey

Smoked Turkey

I always get one of the legs

We had family over for Mother’s Day, so I decided to smoke a turkey. Turkeys are pretty cheap per pound, and smoked turkey is a real crowd pleaser. This recipe takes time though- it sure ain’t a candidate for the “Quick Meals” category.

There are two ways you can smoke a turkey- the long way and the really long way. The really long way is to make a brine and steep the turkey in the brine overnight. Brining makes the turkey meat moist, juicy and delicious. If you choose to brine you’ll want to choose a turkey that has not been injected with a brine-like solution of turkey broth, salt, sugar and a few other ingredients. Check the label and make sure it’s nothing but turkey. Amish turkeys are typically unprocessed. If you want to skip the brining step, just go ahead and get a turkey injected with the brining solution. Why would you want to do the brining yourself if you can just pick up a pre-brined turkey? You can add seasonings to the brine you make yourself, and add your own signature extra flavor. This is the path to true barbeque mastery.

Ingredients (brine):

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1/2 gallon water with lots of ice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Ingredients (Turkey and rub)

  • 10-14 lb. turkey
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp. thyme
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. brown sugar

Special Utensils:

  • Smoker
  • Meat Thermometer

If you’re doing the brining step, on the day before you’re going to grill, boil a 1/2 gallon of water with the rest of the ingredients in a large stock pot for 10 minutes or so. Let it cool to room temperature. This is important- don’t put the turkey into brine that is too warm. It’s important to keep the turkey at refrigerator temp. Rinse the turkey off well and if it’ll fit in the stock pot, put the turkey in there and add the other 1/2 gallon of heavily iced water. If the turkey is too big, any other clean container will do- 5 gallon bucket, large plastic bag, as long as you can fit it into the refrigerator. Let the turkey steep in the brine overnight.

Soaking wood for smoking

Soaking the apple and hickory wood

On turkey smoking day, get an early start because it will take at least a 1/2 hour per pound to cook the turkey through. Soak the wood chips or chunks you’re going to use for smoking for an hour before the turkey goes on the heat. I used a mix of apple and hickory wood. Remember, as I said in the Applewood Smoked Spice Rub Chicken post, you can use many different types of hardwood, but never pine or any evergreen wood. Fire up the charcoal, and while waiting for it to be ready, take the turkey out of the brine and dry it off with some paper towels. Mix the rub ingredients together and coat the turkey. Get in between the skin and the meat where you can- like in between the skin and the breast meat, there’s a pocket you can get the rub in there. Get the inside cavity of the turkey too.

Smoker

Me old trusty smoker

So this may come as a surprise, but in order to smoke a turkey, it really helps to have a smoker. You could use a regular charcoal grill, like a Weber kettle grill, as long as you keep the heat indirect and have a water pan under the turkey. But the hard part will be adding wood and fresh charcoal every 2 hours. A smoker like the trusty old one I use in the picture has a little door at the bottom to add coals and more smoking wood. It doesn’t have to cost a lot- I picked this one up at a yard sale for $10- it had only been used once. It’s held up for several years now. The middle of the smoker has a pan for water. This is important because it keeps the cooking temps cooler and the evaporating water adds humidity to the smoke, helping the meat to not dry out. You can also add apple juice or wine to the water pan. People also soak the smoking wood in wine to add flavor, but I’ve tried that in the past and I don’t think it really adds any noticeable flavor. I’d rather save the wine for drinking, so I just use water these days. Email and let me know if you disagree!

turkey-on-grill

Only 6 to 8 hours to go!

So put the turkey in the smoker, insert the meat thermometer into the center of the breast,  add wood chips or chunks, and settle in for a long wait. When you no longer see much smoke, add more wood. Keep an eye on the temperature reading on the smoker. you want to keep the cooking temp low and steady– if it spikes up it may be some of the smoking wood drying out and catching fire. I keep one of our kids’ squirt guns handy to put out the fire and bring the heat back down again. Add fresh charcoal every two hours and mix it in with the old charcoal.

When the turkey internal temp reaches 165 remove, slice it up for your guests, grab yourself a turkey leg and enjoy!