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Book It!

August 2, 2016 Menu No Comments

Hello everyone – it’s been a couple of months now since I had announced that I would be taking a short break from posting any new recipes on this blog. I had decided at the beginning of the summer to take some time off to put all of my focus into another passionate project of mine that needed my full attention. And as promised, I am writing today to let you all know what I’ve been up to.

After the many requests and suggestions that I have received over the years, I am happy – and yes, also a bit apprehensive – to finally say that yes, I am putting together my own cook book! The truth is, this is something that I have been hoping and planning to do for quite a while now. I’ve actually spent the last year giving serious consideration to a few new creative options. I gave a lot of thought as to what avenues would allow me to best express my passion for cooking and blogging, while at the same time staying true to myself. Being that I have been a graphic designer in the publishing business for over 20 years now, the decision was easy…it was time to turn this blogging adventure into a book, and one that I would create on my own!

Many of you may be wondering if a book is a good option in today’s online world. After all, I myself have been writing for an online audience for over eight years now. While many may argue that print is dead, I am a firm believer that it alive and well. I still find pleasure and enjoyment in purchasing and flipping through a new book, especially one that also makes for a nice conversation piece. It’s an experience that personally can never be replaced by simply staring at a screen. Another hurdle involved is the cost and effort to have a book published and printed. Traditionally, it would take a couple of factors to successfully have your book published and sold. You would either a) need to be somewhat famous – which I am not; or b) have the money to fund the project yourself – which I don’t.

This is where the concept of self publishing comes in to play. There are a number of self publishing websites out there, which allow you to create the contents of your book and have it sold via their website. Many even offer design, layout and editing assistance if needed. Once you are happy with the layouts that YOU create, your material gets uploaded and it is printed on demand. In other words, instead of having to pay up front for thousands of copies of books that you would need to hustle to sell, your book gets printed per order. Depending on the service that is used, the reader will have the option of ordering either a hard-back, soft-back or even a downloadable electronic version of the book. So it is a win-win situation for both the author and the reader. I am still in the process of talking to and reviewing my options with a few different online publishing outfits, making sure that whoever I select will offer the absolute best product for myself and my readers.

Being a designer by trade, this project has been the ultimate combination of my creative passions, and I am very excited to soon share it with all of you. I’ve been spending the past few months working up the best design and layout possible that will help translate my online blog into an actual book that I can be proud of. The book itself will be a collection of my favorite recipes. Many of them will be updated versions of ones that have appeared on this blog. Of course there will also be a good number of brand new recipes which will be exclusive to this book. There will also be memoirs of the events and opportunities that I have experienced while writing my food blog.

Much of the material, I am happy to say, has already been gathered and put into layout. As far as a release date goes…well, that will have to wait for just a bit. There is still a bit of work to be done on the project – text and photo editing, paginating and proofing, etc. It is my mission as both author and designer of the book to make sure that I am producing for both myself and my readers nothing less than the best product possible. I’ll be sure to keep you all posted as this project progresses.

So stay tuned and stay in touch! After a much deserved upcoming vacation with my family, I will get back to posting on my blog more often and more regularly.

Cheers!
Dom

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Raspberry Rossini

July 24, 2016 Menu No Comments

If you are looking for a refreshing cocktail to keep you cool in the summer, Prosecco makes for a great choice. The Italian sparkling white wine is very good on its own, yet there are also other great drink varieties that use Prosecco as its key ingredient.

There is the Bellini, which combines Prosecco with peach purée; the Rossini, which uses strawberry purée; and of course the Mimosa, made with Prosecco and fresh squeezed orange juice.

My version of the Rossini that I am sharing with you today uses fresh raspberries and a splash of simple syrup in place of strawberries. After just a few pulses in your blender, you have a sweet, refreshing and delicious cocktail to enjoy during these hot summer evenings.

Cheers!

Raspberry Rossini
makes two drinks

1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 oz simple syrup
1/2 cup crushed ice
Prosecco

Purée the raspberries, simple syrup and crushed ice in a blender until well combined and slushy. Fill two champagne glasses 2/3 full with the raspberry purée. Fill the remainder of the glasses with Prosecco. Gently stir to combine. Enjoy!

 

prosecco

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Grill-Roasted Red Peppers

June 23, 2016 Menu No Comments

Here’s a fun recipe that I picked up from America’s Test Kitchen. I was especially happy to learn this recipe because we have an electric glass top stove in our house, which obviously is not appropriate for roasting red peppers over an open flame. Now that I was introduced to this grilled version, I am looking forward to many jars of home-made roasted red peppers this summer season.

Traditionally, you would roast a red bell pepper over an open flame, making sure that the pepper gets charred evenly on all four sides. Once charred, you place the peppers into a paper bag or a sealed container to cool, then simply peel off the blistered, charred skin and voila…roasted red peppers! The secret to this unique recipe is roasting the peppers with a bit of olive oil and fresh garlic in a covered aluminum tray on the grill prior to sitting them over the open flames. This step actually steams the peppers, causing them to flatten out and become much more pliable. When it’s time to grill the peppers over the open flame, they will actually lay flat on the grill, which means you only have to grill two sides of the pepper instead of four. You can re-use the foil covering from the roasting pan to wrap and cool the peppers prior to peeling the blistered skin. And be sure to reserve the oil and garlic from the roasting pan, as you can add it to the roasted peppers as a marinade for additional flavor.

Step 1 - remove the cap, core and seeds from 2 to 3 red bell peppers. Place in an aluminum tray, drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil. Add a few cloves of garlic, whole or minced, to the tray. Cover with foil.

Step 1 – remove the cap, core and seeds from 2 to 3 red bell peppers. Place in an aluminum tray, drizzle with 1/2 cup olive oil. Add a few cloves of garlic, whole or minced, to the tray. Cover with foil.

 

Step 2 - place the covered tray over direct high heat. Lower the lid on the grill, let roast for 20 minutes. Carefully remove tray and foil covering when done.

Step 2 – place the covered tray over direct high heat. Lower the lid on the grill, let roast for 20 minutes. Carefully remove tray and foil covering when done.

 

Step 3 - remove the peppers from the tray, reserving the foil covering and the oil and garlic marinade. Lay the peppers over direct high heat. Grill for 20 minutes, or until both sides of the peppers are charred and start to blister, flipping occasionally.

Step 3 – remove the peppers from the tray, reserving the foil covering and the oil and garlic marinade. Lay the peppers over direct high heat. Grill for 20 minutes, or until both sides of the peppers are charred and start to blister, flipping occasionally.

 

peppers_05

Step 4 – wrap the charred peppers in the aluminum foil, or in a sealed container or paper bag, let cool for 1 hour. Once cooled, peel off charred skin, slice peppers into strips and mix with oil and garlic marinade.

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Talking Turkey on the Grill

Holidays play an important part in my family’s deep-rooted traditions. A holiday wouldn’t be the same if we weren’t spending time together, most likely while enjoying a beautiful, home-cooked meal. While the ‘big’ holidays are always special, we also look forward to the casual, summertime holidays that are celebrated over grill-outs, cold beers and fireworks. Not only are these holidays fun and exciting, they are also stress-free! We’ve started the tradition a few years back of spending these summer holidays with our close friends, Chrissy, Carl and their son Lucas, who are as near and dear to us as our own family.

A few months back, as we were enjoying a Sunday dinner with our friends, we shared conversation about how much we love Thanksgiving dinner, and how it’s a shame to enjoy such a great meal only once a year. This immediately led us to deciding on having a Friendsgiving Dinner on Memorial Day weekend. The timing would be perfect – it would be exactly 6 months until the actual Thanksgiving holiday, and we would have the rest of the summer to grill up burgers and hot dogs. From there, the wheels were in motion and the menu was planned between all of us…and a new holiday tradition was born!

The Menu

We decided to stick with a traditional Thanksgiving menu: stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, cold apple cider, a pumpkin dessert and, of course…the turkey. Chrissy and Carl also kicked the mood up a notch by digging out their Thanksgiving decorations and playing A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD…complete with popcorn as a snack. Since Memorial Day is the official kick-off to summertime (Carl’s awesome mojitos were a nice reminder of this), I thought it would be fun to cook the turkey on the grill. I have always heard that grilled turkey is fantastic, so what better opportunity to give it a go?

*Note – there was one additional item added to the menu, which I will be sharing in the future. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait!

The Turkey

The first thing that I learned right out of the gate was that whole turkeys aren’t cheap this time of the year (and the local supermarkets aren’t giving away free turkeys with your bonus points). To not risk over-grilling a $45 bird, I decided to just go with a 6lb turkey breast. An additional benefit to going this route is that you can always purchase legs and wings separately, so you can prepare as many as needed. Being that this was my first try at grilling a turkey, I spent a good amount of time doing my research on the proper cooking methods. One of the key steps that I followed was to soak the turkey overnight in a brine. Not only does brining add flavor to the turkey, it also adds extra moisture to avoid the turkey from getting dried out while on the grill.

Brine Recipe
1-1/4 cups coarse salt
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 gallon cool water
Place water, salt and sugar into a large pot, bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat, let cool completely. Place turkey breast into pot, be sure to cover completely with brine. Cover the pot tightly with a lid, refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Rinse brine off of turkey breast before seasoning.

After rinsing the brine off of the soaked turkey, I brushed it with 1 cup vegetable oil, then coated the entire bird, inside and out, with 1 tbspn Italian seasoning and some salt and pepper.

There are a few methods for grilling a turkey that I found online. The most common method that I found and decided to follow was to cook the turkey sitting over a drip pan, using indirect heat. After warming the grill up to 350˚, I placed the seasoned turkey breast, skin side up, on a rack and placed it inside of a roasting pan. I added 1 cup of water to the roasting pan (adding additional liquid as needed while grilling, to prevent the drippings from burning. I sat the roasting pan over indirect heat and let it go for 1 hour and 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the turkey was 165˚. After removing it from the grill and letting it rest for 20 minutes, the turkey was ready to be sliced. While the turkey was resting, I put the drippings to good use by making a home-made gravy (click here for the recipe).

If you are looking for a new method for making a turkey, I highly recommend grilling it. There is minimum prep time and effort involved, and if you follow the brining method, you will be sure to end up with a turkey that is flavorful and juicy!

Whole turkey cooked on a gas barbecue, using a roasting pan. Image courtesy of istock.com

Whole turkey cooked on a gas barbecue, using a roasting pan. Image courtesy of istock.com

What, No Cranberries?!?

Aside from finding out that turkeys are not in large supply this time of year, it was also a challenge to find fresh cranberries for my home made cranberry sauce. Instead of resorting to frozen cranberries, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of a summertime flavor to the table by making Bon Appetit’s Cherry Compote recipe (click here for the recipe). This an excellent substitute to the traditional cranberry sauce. It offered a nice summertime sweet/tart flavor combination, and the leftovers worked very well served over vanilla ice cream!

You Can’t Forget the Pumpkin!

It’s no secret that I am a nut for all things pumpkin. Even though we are not in pumpkin season, we made sure that it would somehow be represented at our Friendsgiving meal. For dessert, my wife Daria made a pumpkin crisp that has been a signature at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner for a few years now. We made sure to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which put this dessert over the top!

Pumpkin Crisp
(Originally posted at myrecipes.com)

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
1 c. of evaporated milk
1 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 (18.5 oz) pkg butter-flavored yellow cake mix
1 c. melted butter

Optional:
1 c. chopped pecans
Ground nutmeg
Whipped cream
Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350F.  Stir together the first five ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture (if you wish to add pecans, sprinkle them evenly over cake mix).  Drizzle melted butter over cake mix. Bake at 350F for 60 – 65 minutes or until golden brown**.  Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  IF desired, serve with whipped cream, sprinkle of nutmeg or vanilla ice cream.

** If baking ahead of time, I baked for about 55 min then re-heat again for another 10 min before serving.

I am very fortunate to be thankful for a lot of things in my life, most of all for my family and friends. I am also thankful that we started a new tradition to look forward to every Memorial Day!

Here’s to friends…and Friendsgiving!

Friendsgiving mascots!

Friendsgiving mascots!

 

TDay2

The turkey breast, fresh off the grill!

 

TDay3

…and dinner is served!

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