The View From Here

musings by John The Irishman

Archive for the ‘Eats’ Category

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Time…to plant !

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As many of you know, I LOVE to be in the kitchen.  And you may also remember my love of gardening – this year is no exception, with almost everything in the ground already.  We even had some plants survive the Winter, which for NE Ohio, was very mild.  Now, on with the show !

Surviving for a first time were two of the three Rosemary plantings.  They normally perish under cover of snow, but these hearty fellows made it through !  So did some Parsley, Oregano, Lemon Thyme and Sage.  I’m not saying they grew back this Spring – I was able to use them all Winter !  Not bad when you can cut fresh herbs in the middle of “The Off Season” as I call it.

Returning for yet another year also are Chives, Leeks, Green Onions, Mint, Strawberries and others.  We were also pleasantly surprised to see that our Mesclun Mix (salad greens) came back – right now we could probably make side salads for ten, and we’re just getting started !  Slim planted a “Butterfly Garden” last year, and the Lavender is doing well, along with Chamomile and other fragrants.

Along with the typical crops : Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Squash, Zucchini, Peppers, Eggplant & Basil, we have added Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts – yep, Brussels Sprouts.  I put my own twist on Sprouts, so don’t cringe just yet.  I don’t boil them or steam them like our ancestors – mine are excellent !  I cut them in half, saute them in Peanut Oil with Salt & Pepper until the outside begins to carmelize, then finish them with Butter – Yummo !

We are also adding Grapes this year.  Eventually I’d like to make wine, but for now they’re just for eating.  I plan on trying my hand at cheese making, sausage making and Charcuterie (dry curing meats – think Salami and Sopressata) at some point.  It would be amazing to serve our friends & family a complete non-vegetarian meal “made” entirely on site, but currently Lakewood does not allow livestock within the city limits.  Hmmm…maybe I should run for Mayor…


Written by johntheirishman

Sunday, 18 May, 2008 @ 10:12 at 10:12

Posted in 1470, Eats

Just A Little Update

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Tons going on here at 1470. It’s been a rollercoaster ride this Summer (beginning in May & still going) – here’s the latest :

GrammaPalooza 2007 – huge success, roasted my first hog (something you don’t see everyday in the city), 60+ at our modest bungalow with the postage stamp size yard.  Family in from FLA, MD, GA (you know who you are !) and OH.  First time this many of Slim’s fam have been together since the mid-80’s…

Work Situation – finally looks like they have found a replacement for me (they should make someone an offer this week).  I start training with my new bossman late this week or next.  He goes on a month-long vacation during September so we need to get a lot done in a short period of time since I’m his fill in, AND we’re in the midst of a huge expansion project.  BTW – ever since they made me this offer to stay my work attitude has done a complete 180 – obviously for the better !  Lisa likes her new job down the street as well…

Sprituality – been very introspective lately – OK, a bit more than normal.  There is a whole bunch going on in this crazy world and I’m just trying to hold my ground.  I’ve been bothered (as is the norm) by a lot of the senseless crimes, natural disasters, man’s inhumanity to man and the Godlessness that I observe in the headlines, and also in my personal observations as I journey through life.  I’m still trying to find how I fit in, and what my role is.  It’s a journey that has taken me from my Catholic upbringing to Non-Denominational Protestantism to where I am now – just praying, reading, contemplating and philosophizing.  I have been this way since I was a very young child regardless of what “label” you put on it – I’ve pretty much always been like this even before I “understood” God and faith .  Just remember – it’s where you’re at not where you’ve been…

Biking & Fitness – Not mountain or road biking as much as I’d like (who does ?), but with most of the Summer activities behind us that should change.  I also put up an 80-pound “heavy bag” to mix my workouts up between  the trainer (basically a stationary bike), my free-weights and the “home gym” machine.  Not trying to build much, just trying to stay toned – I AM 43 after all…

Kitchen & Food – Lately been seeing what I can do with inexpensive cuts of meat (Chuck steak, Pork “Western-Style” Ribs, et al) and trust me – if you know what you’re doing you can do a lot with a little.  Trying to do more with Rice, veggies and “peasant” foods also.  Rice is a staple for 1/3 of the world’s population – good enough for me – 2 billion+ can’t be wrong !  Also, 1/5 of the world gets by on less than a $1.00 a day – now there’s a challenge.  Crops aren’t what I thought they’d be (need some Miracle-Gro(tm)), but I’m working on it.  If only the squirrels & chipmunks would leave us alone !  It seems every time a tomato ripens enough to eat I find them half-eaten (but I DID land a couple 18-inch zuccini the other day…) !  Now, if only I can keep the dogs away from the cukes and squash…

NCAA College Football 2007 – Can’t wait !  The Tank is up and running (nice job guys) and The Irish aren’t in the Top 25 – no pressure, just play football.  And as we ALL know : it’s not football, it’s NOTRE DAME football !!!  Goooooooo IRISH !!!  See ya soon, and my best to you and your’s…

Written by johntheirishman

Tuesday, 7 August, 2007 @ 19:51 at 19:51

Garden v.07

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Finally it looks like the threat of frost is behind us, so it was fairly safe to get the crops in this year – something I truly look forward to doing all Winter and Spring.  Although I am on rain delay right now, I plan on finishing the task today that I started yesterday.  I got about two-thirds planted before I decided it was time for one of Slim’s favorite meals – Shrimp Fra Diavolo and Lemon Pasta – at her request.  More on that at another time.

I first began farming as a “pre-teen” when a friend’s parents pitched a couple scrawny tomato plants into their compost pile.  I really felt bad for those little guys that didn’t make the cut, so I took them home and planted them.  Those rejects took off like crazy and I was overjoyed to see the “fruit” of my work.  I remember rushing home from school to see if there were any new flowers, then later any tomatoes to harvest.  I honestly don’t recall what I actually did with the tomatoes, but the process of going from planting to harvest left it’s mark !

This year, along with my usual crops of tomatoes, basil, peppers, pickling cukes and rosemary that we plant, we decided to add eggplant, slicing cukes, zucchini, yellow squash and mixed mesclun greens – basically baby lettuces.  Returning on their own for yet another season are strawberries, mulberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, chives, leeks and a lot assorted herbs – around 10 or so.  I also expanded Garden v.07 by around 70 – 80 square feet, adding to the roughly 150+ that I normally plant.  All in all we will be swimming in produce from July through September, with many of the herbs lasting all through the Winter !  I also freeze a lot of stuff so we can enjoy it through “The Off Season”.

If you’ve never tried gardening, well, you should – it’s basically free food !  And like peoples from other countries do, my cooking creations often revolve around what is seasonal.  It is very common for our friends and family to stop by for dinner during “The Season” and have a good portion of the meal grown on site, and this year will certainly not disappoint !  Even if all you have is some patio space for a container garden it’s well worth the effort.  As the rain ceases I’ll be back at it, planting the balance of the crops for 2007, and very soon, reaping what I sow…

Written by johntheirishman

Sunday, 20 May, 2007 @ 6:42 at 6:42

Posted in 1470, Eats

Spring Has Sprung in NEO

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I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this time of year !  Everything comes to life, the top comes off the Jeep, and we have a promise of around 6 solid months of good weather – at least for Northeastern Ohio – and it’s only gonna get better !

The last couple weeks have been nice enough to persuade the ground to allow the plants to shoot forth – the little purple Crocuses by the dryer vent, the Tulips & Daffodils & Clematis are all starting to show themselves – Honeysuckle too.    Soon we’ll also have an over-abundance of Roses, Daisys and assorted wildflowers as well.  But my FAVORITE plants of all are bustin’ out also – Spring Herbs !

Spring Herbs – that harbinger of the season, that foretelling of gloriously fresh Summer dishes, that…that…ahhhh…fresh herbs !  We have quite the assortment growing here too.  Why, in the kitchen alone are Rosemary, Parsley, Basil and Mint.  Outdoors : Chives (regular & garlic), Fennel, Oregano, Thyme, MORE Parsley and two kinds of mint – not to mention Green Onions, Leeks, Strawberries, Raspberries and even Apples & Peaches.  I’ll have to plant more Rosey & Basil since they’re annuals – the others mentioned come up all on their own.

If you love food like we do, I can’t stress enough how much fresh herbs enhance a dish.  Whether it’s a simple Basil Pesto, maybe some Tabouli, or just adding fresh Cilantro or Oregano to a creation you just can’t go wrong.  I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing I can just walk outside and get whatever I require – that’s fresh !  And if you stick with the basics and give them a little “growing room”, they’ll reward you year after year – you just sit back an reap what you’ve (previously) sown…

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Sunday, 25 March, 2007 @ 19:37 at 19:37

Posted in 1470, 44107, Eats

“Chicken Soup for the…Wallet” ?

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The wife and I do OK – we don’t “want” for much, and if we need something we can usually afford it.  However, that’s NOT what this post is about.  This post is about eating on the cheap.  I plan to do more posts on the subject, but for now let’s limit this to…

…Chicken Soup !  We all probably had Grandmas or other relatives that made Chicken Soup from whole chickens, probably bought live or freshly slaughtered.  The nice thing about using a whole chicken is not only is it nutritious, it tastes great, has a lot less sodium, and no preservatives.  And one of the best parts – YOU can do it too !

The way I make my mine is very easy, and at the same time inexpensive.  It’s a great way to stretch your food dollar, and you have the satisfaction of doing it yourself !  The batch I made Saturday was roughly enough for 20 to 25 servings, at a cost of around FIFTY CENTS a serving – you can’t even get a small fry from the golden arches for less than a buck !  If you don’t want to eat it all at once it also stays just peachy in the freezer for long periods.

The whole process takes a little over 3 hours, but very little time is spent “hands on” – mostly just set it and forget it.  My soup is a bit on the spicy side, and was inspired by a Middle Eastern restaurant a few blocks away called Aladdin’s Eatery.  Aladdin’s started in that small storefront, but now has around 20 locations in many cities including Chicago, Pittsburgh and Arlington, Va.

I start with a thawed, whole chicken – maybe 5 to 7 pounds – and put it in a medium sized stockpot with just enough water to cover the bird.  Then I bring it to a boil and heavy simmer for a couple hours covered, periodically skimming off the scum from the top.  At the 2-hour mark I take out the bird, and using a fork pick clean the carcass.  I then return the meat and skin to the pot, again bringing to a heavy simmer.  I leave the fledgling stock uncovered so it has a chance to reduce for about an hour.

While the stock is reducing I cut up my veggies – carrot, zucchini, yellow squash, redskin taters, celery, onion and red or yellow pepper.  When the mix begins to taste “chickeny” at about the 3 hour mark or so I toss in all the veggies, a 14-1/2 ounce can of diced maters, some garlic powder, onion powder, Old Bay, oregano, parsley, red pepper flakes, tobasco and about 3 tbsp of buttah.  Don’t forget salt and pepper too !  The measurements are all by “feel” as this is a very forgiving soup – just sample the broth periodically and season as needed.  Oh – and pick out the skin that floats to the top !

When the soup has simmered another half hour or so it should be ready.  We like to serve our’s in a shallow bowl with a large pile of shredded extra-sharp cheaddar in the middle.  Grab a loaf of crusty bread and you are good to go !  This soup is very easy on the budget as stated, but it’s also really tasty – enjoy…

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Wednesday, 7 March, 2007 @ 19:17 at 19:17

Posted in Eats

Tapas & Platters & Vino – Oh My !

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Main Entry: 2tapa
Function: noun
Etymology: Spanish, literally, cover, lid, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Old English tæppa tap
: an hors d’oeuvre served with drinks especially in Spanish bars — usually used in plural

Literal translation : Small Plates.  I first had tapas on a trip to The Big Apple, somewhere on the upper East Side.  I instantly fell in love with the concept.  A group of people order a large selection of tapas and just “share”.  What’s not to love ?

My wife Slim and I often do the same at meal time, except we stay at home.  After all, the NYC can be expensive !  I make small dishes of shrimp, mushrooms, potatoes, roasted veggies – anything really – normally served with a good, crusty bread and a little red wine.  Tapas are normally simple dishes with little prep work that really deliver on flavor.  In a very short time you can have a meal to remember !

Another fav of our’s is “The Platter” – basically an Antipasto platter.  I’ll utilize cheeses, meats, fruits, veggies, and again a great bread.  The concept of both tapas and platters for us is basically relaxing, sharing, and taking it easy.  A large amount of our Summer meals on the patio are based around this concept – perfect for a lazy evening’s meal in front of the fire.  We’ve even entertained larger groups with only tapas & platters as the “main”.  It’s always received rave reviews.

Please take my advice, if you really want to connect (or not) with friends or your significant other at meal time – try tapas or a platter on for size.  Nothing exotic, make it your own.  We use mostly grocery store fare, though sometimes I’ll add a little something special from some of my favorite ethnic markets.  The most basic ingredient is to just “enjoy”…

Written by johntheirishman

Thursday, 1 March, 2007 @ 13:37 at 13:37

Posted in 1470, Eats

Daddy’s Little Helper

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When I was first teaching myself how to make bread, I burned up our ancient hand mixer right off the bat.  Thinking it was due to age, I went out and bought a brand new hand mixer and destroyed it on day one – not a good sign.  Disappointed, I wasn’t sure what my next move would be.

 The big problem was solved when I realized I needed to change only one word to solve my dilemma.  I needed a stand mixer, not a hand mixer.  Hand mixers are great for making whipped creams, Banana Bread and the like – but I needed a “man’s” mixer, something with “stones”.  Stand mixers are the type that have the flip top head and detachable mixing bowl.  Once I got the right equipment I was in business !

I decided to go all out – a top of the line brand and certainly more than I wanted to spend.  Enter the “KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer” – ta da !  I got this bad boy of the kitchen retail, and with the use of a  couple coupons I was out the door for under $300.  You can certainly get a stand mixer for less – considerably less – but I rarely bestow luxuries upon myself, so why not.  I went with the Black & Chrome to honor my family heritage.  My grandparents owned a bar, restaurant and bowling alley (all in one building), and Grampa made the BEST milkshakes with a similar unit he kept behind the bar.

As I began to use the mixer more and more I realized how versatile it is : breads, mashed potatoes, my wife’s cookie doughs – you name it !  The Artisan even has a total of ten speeds – I personally have never gone past six – lots of torque too.  The head also has a type of “PTO” (power take off) drive to which you can attach a meat grinder, veggie slicer and other “implements” to.  After all these years, I have have never second-guessed the purchase.

 I have some very functional pieces of equipment in my arsenal that I’ll discuss at a later date, so I don’t want to ramble any further about my ally in the kitchen – but it is truly a kitchen “aid”…

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Monday, 19 February, 2007 @ 20:55 at 20:55

Posted in Eats