Friday, June 10, 2011

The Dog's Mediterranean Orzo Salad

For the past several years, our neighborhood has a block party for about 30+ families on a Saturday in the Summer. At the block party, the menu consists of the usual hamburgers and hot dogs, appetizers, sides and desserts. The burgers and dogs are bought by the party committee from the monetary donations from the families (this pays for the beer as well.) The appetizers, sides and desserts are supplied by the families separately. One of the first years, I was contemplating on making a classic pasta salad. But, I was not satisfied on just a typical rotini with veggies and a bottle of Italian dressing, so I began my Internet recipe search for ideas. (Side note, I believe that the majority of what is on the Internet is food recipes.) I started my search with different types of pasta shapes, ziti, penne, rigatoni, bowtie, and settled on orzo. Anybody out there know how many types of pasta there are?

I then saw numerous listings for “Mediterranean Orzo Salad” and settled on a recipe off of this website, Chef Folse is a famous Cajun and Creole Chef and star of “A Taste of Louisiana” television series. The recipe ingredients are as follows and taken off of the website:

1½ cups uncooked orzo pasta
2 (6 ounce) cans marinated artichoke hearts
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber sliced in half long ways, seeded and sliced
¼ cup yellow bell pepper, small diced
1 red onion, halved and sliced very thinly
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 (2 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
1 cup Italian olive salad, not drained
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

The preparation is simple, all you have to do is just cook the pasta, cut the vegetables, open cans & jars, mix together at let refrigerate for an hour. The dressing for this salad turns out to be the brine from the olive salad & artichoke hearts.

This salad turned out to be a big hit with the neighborhood, so much so that it has been requested every year since the first time I made it. Most times there is none left, but if there is any, my blonde neighbor lays claims to the leftovers.

When asked for the recipe I just directed them to the website. However, after they made it, they said it did not taste the way that mine did. This puzzled me. Did I follow the recipe or did I do something that no one else did when they made this side dish. The one thing that is very important when using feta cheese, that it should go in last right before serving. If it melts, it just makes the salad milky an unappetizing. When I make it, I add it at the end, right before serving and if it is outside in a picnic setting, put the orzo salad on ice.

I was reviewing the ingredients with my redheaded neighbor who asked me “Where did you get the Italian Olive Salad?” I replied at the food store and she replied which one. Either she was crazy or I was an idiot. After more questioning and research, it turned out that I got a jar of “salad olives” and not “Italian olive salad.” Why not, it had the words “olive” and “salad” on it, so I bought it. I know what you are thinking, men do not follow directions. So, I am a man and my wife says that’s all I will every be. The Dog, well he is just a dog.

Italian Olive salad consists of a mixture of green and black olives, capers, giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and a blend of herbs and spices, and packaged in olive oil. Salad olives are just green olives and pimentos in a brine. I surmise that using the salad olives with the orzo creates a more meatier and simple taste. The Italian olive salad has more chopped ingredients and tends to be more complex in taste. Also, salad olives are less then $2.00 a jar and the Italian Olive Salad is about $8.00 a jar. The Dog is being thrifty.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Tomato/Basil Salsa

I know its been awhile since I last posted, but the good news is I was able to secure a job and get back in the working world. Thank God, because I realized that my talent or lack of talent to be a food blogger was not going to pay the bills. Also, I was involved with my yearly training and fund raising for the local City to Shore Bike Ride to benefit MS this past September.

During the time of my non-posting, I still followed other food bloggers in Foodbuzz's Project Food Blog Contest. Note the main advertisement under Max's picture and WOW, the passion, dedication, and talent of what these foodies express and put into their blogs as well as expert photography had me floored. I never knew this world that I entered existed to this extreme.

So, I continued to read food blogs in hopes that I would pick up a few things concerning posting, photography, blog site design and the goal of finding my own voice. As you can see, I have added some more side pictures and other propaganda to the blog site. Now, hopefully my food presentation and writing skills will improve to that of my peers, so here goes...

This past summer my trophy wife "Mrs. Cooking with the Dog" and I, established a goal of having a garden with enough plum tomato plants to have tomato sauce for the entire winter months. A third party expert in gardening stated we would need 20 plum tomato plants (my wife always listens to a third parties advice instead of mine.)

We succeeded in growing tomatoes in which we simmered down and blended weekly to yield about 10 gallons of tomato puree. As of the end of October, having fresh tomato sauce on Sundays and through the great generosity of my wife giving sauce away, we are down to about 1 gallon. I guess next year we need to have a bigger garden with more tomato plants.

Even with the abundance of tomatoes for sauce, I was still able to make this simple appetizer. (I bet you thought I was going to talk about my tomato sauce, not this post.)

Being a big fan of chunky salsa and even a bigger fan of fresh tomatoes, during the Summer, I had made this tomato salsa for my family and friends and also serve it as a compliment to seafood entrees. The basic recipe is to dice up 8 plum tomatoes in 1/4" chunks, a 8 leaves of chopped fresh basil, about 2 tablespoons of onion (red or yellow), 2 or 3 chopped garlic cloves, one hot pepper of your choice, salt and pepper to taste. I also have used hot salt and jalapeno sliced olives that I found. Then let sit in the refrigerator to let the flavors blend together. With fresh ingredients, you really can't go wrong with the portioning. Feel free to make this you own by simply adding other of your favorite ingredients.

Okay, the basic recipe I stated of just tomato, basil, garlic, and salt is what you use as part of the bruschetta, and coupled with my previous pesto post. Now the only thing that would be missing is the olive tapenade and eggplant salsa which I will discuss in a future posts so I can complete the my version bruschetta. However the "jacked up" version of Tomato/Basil can be served with with a seafood entree or with chips as an appetizer or snack. People like the freshness and lack of tomatoey liquid that store bought salsas have. Trust me on this, that it will go before any other type of salsas that you may put out.

During this preparation, Max happened to get o hold of a hot pepper and immediately spit it out, then was back out to the yard to chew on grass.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

To Food Blog or not to Food Blog

I had posed this question to myself when I realized I had a lot of time on my hands when I became a victim of the economic crisis. In speaking with my sister-in-law, the great Jeanne Benedict, author of food & entertaining books and has appeared on Regis & Kelly, Ellen, and the NBC Today Show, she suggested I should write because she confessed to me that she was envious of my cooking talents in the kitchen and especially on the outdoor grill.

Being raised in an Italian family, we had pasta on Sunday with a Tomato Sauce (I call it Tomato Sauce, shoot me) that simmered for about 5 hours. On the Holidays, we would have homemade Lasagna or Raviolis, and of course the 7 fishes on Christmas Eve. It wasn't till I was an adult that I was surprised when I discovered tomato sauce came in a jar, locatelli cheese can be bought already grated, salad dressing came in a bottle, and pastas could be bought frozen. Apparently, this happened to a lot us of Italian descent. However, my mother warned me about this products as well as going to an Italian Restaurant, stating that it would not taste like what you are used to. She was right.

I can say I was home school trained in cooking from both my mother and father as well as on the job training at the past existed Tiffany Dining Saloon in Center Square, PA. A previously privately owned Steak and Salad Bar establishment that I would not hesitate to recommend and go their as a customer. At the Tiffany Dining Saloon, in addition to cleaning the dumpster area & washing dishes, I was taught food preparation, bread baking and grilling. Grilling at the restaurant was an art, from a clean oiled grill, proper meat selection, and the level of done-ness that went into every steak order.. Besides the weekly bread fights and sneaking beer from the bar, the experience and talents that I learned are still with me today.

Food also played a major part in my social life, instead of taking ladies out to dinner, I simply cooked for them. The dinner that won over "Mrs Cooking with the Dog" was a homemade manicotti, sauteed zucchini with a personal garlic bread. This with a bottle of wine you just can't go wrong.

Now, I continue to do the daily cooking, holiday cooking, and get togethers. Even when I am at someone elses' home, they hand the cooking off to me, especially at the grill. My kids are spoiled because they desire the homemade pastas, sauce, grilled steak and detest the packaged products because my stuff is just better.

To Food Blog to me is for pure enjoyment and to share cooking talents and tastes. At this time I don't see going off unemployment compensation from the revenue this blog is generating any time soon. My objective in "Cooking with Dog" is to present simple food items that are not complicated and that everyone can do them without much effort as well as being able to serve them for dinner on a week night. Since Max is my shadow, it was easy to have him involved instead of keeping him out of the way. Pictures of Max and the food are just great and it sets this blog apart from all other blogs.

The best compliment a food blogger can get is from a person who has read a post and made the item. This has happen to me when the swim team my kids belong to had a covered dish table for the last meet of the season and my Sausage & Rice dish was on the table. Awesome!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Brussel Sprouts

In trying to keep a healthy lifestyle, part of your diet would be vegetables. But bland vegetables just don't cut it. These healthy foods need to be jacked up now and then or we will get bored with them. I have seen a couple of recipes lately on sauteed brussel sprouts and came up with my own variation. In this side dish I make vast use of my French-Asian infused culinary talents.

Start with sauteing a couple cloves of chopped garlic and 1/2 cup of chopped onion in olive oil. Take about a pound of fresh brussel sprouts, wash, cut off the stems and slice them in half. If you wish, you can quarter them or slice them, but in the end they peel apart anyway. Add and saute the brussel sprouts for about 15 to 20 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Taste test them to see if they are soft and done. Next, add 1 tablespoon of Soy Sauce and 1 tablespoon of Grey Poupon, (my extent of French-Asian culinary). Continue to saute for another couple of minutes, then salt and pepper to taste. A little bit of bacon bits won't hurt either. I don't know how healthy this is but it is a great way to eat the Sprouts

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Crab Cakes with Tomato/Basil Salsa

I don't know what your favorite Mother got for her Mother's Day Dinner, but the Dog's Mom got this tasty Crab Cake with a Tomato Basil Salsa and a side of Grilled Eggplant. Besides getting Mom a present from the Liquor store, I made this entree for her.

Recipes for crab cakes are very much similar with bread crumbs, egg and seasonings that coincide with the title of the crab cake. For example, Louisiana Crab cakes have Creole Seasoning, Maryland Crab Cakes have Old Bay Seasoning, Italian Crab Cakes have Italian bread crumbs, and I even heard of a Halloween Crab Cake with pumpkin bread crumbs. From my research, it seems crab cakes can be made with just about anything to satisfy any one's particular tastes.

Of course, the Crab Cakes I made are Italian, (go figure.)

I combine 8 oz of Phillips lump crab or fresh King crab if its on sale , 1 egg, 1/4 cup of grated cheese. 1/8 cup of Italian bread crumbs, 1 tbsp of garlic, 1 tbsp of basil, dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of salt. Mix ingredients and form two patties, pan fry them in olive oil and finish them off in a 350 degree oven to make sure they are hot in the middle.

The Tomato/Basil Salsa is just dicing up tomatoes and mixing them with chopped basil and salt to taste.

The Grilled Eggplant is prepared by slicing an eggplant in 1/4" pieces, salting them to let sweat for about 15 minutes, brush with olive oil and grill them out on the Weber or in a grill pan. Just a about a minute on each side to form good grill marks.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pasta & Sausage

"Take me out the the Ball Game," or is it more likely, "Take my kids to the Ball Field" for games and practice everyday. Now, you still have to feed them before they go and you have to think of something to cook. Also, your husband or wife comes right from work to the field and is hungry. You need something that is easy and quick to cook and can be portable. You can't go wrong with this dish, because who doesn't like pasta and sausage and it can be put in plastic-ware to be eaten at the fields.

Start with oil, crushed garlic, one sliced onion, two sliced green peppers and about 1 pound of sausage in one inch pieces and fry up in a large saute pan. You know the one that I got at Acme. While that is cooking, boil off a pound of pasta, any brand will do, I used the ziti type this time. When the sausage and the vegetables are done, just add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, the pasta and season with basil, Italian seasonings, and salt. Cook for a couple of minute to ensure everything is hot and serve or pack it up to go. Don't forget the grated cheese!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lemon Basil Chicken

This is a quick and easy dish that tastes phenomenal with the combination of lemon and basil. Prepping this ahead of time and then grilling it properly outside will have them coming back for more. They key to this is simple, marinating the chicken for over an hour in enough lemon and basil so that during the grilling the whole neighborhood smells it.

Start by taking skin on or skinless chicken breasts and trim off the excess fat and tenderize by beating the living daylights out of them with the bottom of a frying pan on a cutting board, like they do on Jamie Oliver's "Food Revolution." Next, drown the chicken breast in lemon juice in a clear oblong Pyrex pan. Generously sprinkle basil over both sides of the chicken, cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least a hour or longer.

Fire up your grill and adjust the burners so you barely see the flames under the baffles. Yes, I have a Weber Spirit Grill and in future posts I will write about the art of grilling. Place and grill the chicken to seal and grill mark both sides. If you are using chicken with the skin left on, grill that side first. Then, turn off the burners , except one and set the chicken on the unlit burners. This is what the Weber people mean when they talk about indirect heat. Close the lid and try to maintain the internal temperature of the grill to about 350 degrees by adjusting the single burner. Continue to cook till the chicken is totally done.

Max just can't control himself around the Lemon Basil Chicken. STAY MAX! EASY BOY!