Refrigerator Voyeur

Several years ago we were at an outdoor party, I think celebrating someone’s retirement. We were all gathered round in the backyard eating snacks and drinking adult beverages when one of the female guests went into the house to use the necessary room. We saw her turn on the light and she obviously used the toilet because for a minute or two she was out of view. Then some of us pretended not to watched as she went over to the sink and proceeded to open the medicine cabinet. She removed a couple items for closer evaluation and then put them back where she found them. She closed the medicine cabinet and bent down. We assume to look through the vanity drawers. The light went out and in a moment she was back outdoors with the rest of us. No one spoke a word to the medicine cabinet voyeur about what several of us had witnessed and chuckled quietly about.

When I go to visit my dad I am a refrigerator voyeur. Someone needs to be. Checking for expiration dates or foods that are penicillin material. Perhaps I’m not an adequate refrigerator peeping Tom because on one visit my nieces found some very very old milk in the back of the refrigerator. They asked me what they should do with it and I said pour it down the toilet. “Aunt Featherheadlady,” they said, “it won’t come out of the carton.”  Well that says it all.

I’m always curious about what people in front of or behind me have in their shopping carts. Do they make meals from scratch?  Bake a lot?  Buy organic?  Eat gluten free?  Vegetarian or vegan?  Junk food junkies?  Do they have lots of children?  Eat alone?  Maybe I’ll start taking pictures of the content of people’s shopping carts and try to  draw conclusions about their lives. I guess I’m just as nosy as the lady who combed through that medicine cabinet.

I thought I’d share a few of my refrigerator shelves with you.  Most of these things I consider necessities for cooking savory dishes. I have specific places for specific things. When my husband is rummaging through the fridge I ask him what he’s looking for. Because I know where almost everything is in there. Almost everything.

Shelf #1

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Sweet relish for making tartar sauce. Some people use it as a stand alone condiment but I do not.

Dijon mustard for making salad dressing, potato salad, deviled eggs, barbecue sauce, and for smearing on sandwiches or burgers.

Chipotle hot sauce???  Where did that come from?

Anchovy filets and paste for making pasta sauces and Caesar salad dressing.

Hoisin sauce for stir-fry or dipping sauces.

Horseradish for making cocktail sauce, bloody Mary’s, dipping sauce for beef brisket, or kicking up the deviled eggs a bit.

Shelf #2

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Fish sauce for stir-fry, marinades, Asian vinaigrette.

Sriracha chili sauce for dipping sauces, glaze.

Franks red hot for so many things…macaroni and cheese, potato salad, bloody Mary’s, tacos, barbecue sauce…

A1 sauce for foods I cook that my husband thinks are dry or  insufficiently seasoned.

Worcestershire sauce…Lea and Perrins…for so many things. (I think it’s wrong to take the paper off the bottle.)  It has vinegar, molasses, sugar, onion, garlic, cloves, chili pepper extract and anchovies.   Genius.

Shelf #3

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Chili pepper for kicking up chili, dips, salsa, guacamole. A little goes a long way.

Toasted sesame oil for marinades, stir-fried dishes, rice noodles. A little goes a long way.

Soy sauce for stir-fry, marinades, sushi. Like Worcestershire and Franks, soy sauce is a necessity.

Lemon oil which is great for fish dishes and salad dressings.

Saigon sizzle stir-fry sauce when you want a good, not much extra effort, dinner in the wok.

That’s the left side of my refrigerator door. My cooking necessities. The other side has things like buttermilk, brooks tangy catsup,  dark chocolate syrup, jalapeño peppers, lots of butter, mayonnaise, maple syrup, and a big container of Pepto Bismol.

Another time I’ll invite you into my cheese drawer.

 

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Barbecued Beef Brisket

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I had a beautiful beef brisket from my organic farm and decided that would make a perfect Monday night dinner. My dad is spending a couple of weeks with us and he is pretty much a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I make a rub for my brisket, sear all sides and then make a wet sauce that has a little bit of a kick.

A friend once told me that her daughter and son-in-law were gourmet cooks and I asked her what exactly that meant. She said gourmet cooking means smaller portions on larger plates. There is a little truth to that I think. I looked up gourmet in the dictionary and one definition was “a connoisseur of fine food and drink”.  A gourmand can also mean “one who enjoys food in great quantities or even a gluttonous eater”. It’s all subject to interpretation. I consider my brisket fine food and the IPA I enjoyed with it fine drink. And we are all pretty full if that constitutes gluttonous eating. You be the judge. But if someone asked me I would call our dinner tonight “plain home cooking”.   Barbecued brisket, smashed potatoes and butter roasted carrots…it’s what was for dinner tonight.

Start out with a nice beef brisket.

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Rub ingredients:

1/4 cup paprika

1 T chili powder

1 T cumin

1 T brown sugar

1 T kosher salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

fresh ground black pepper

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With a little whisk or a fork thoroughly mix all of the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Rub spice mix on all sides of the meat.

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Heat 2 T of olive oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven and sear all sides of the meat.

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Preheat your oven to 325. Now you’re ready to make the barbecue sauce.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups ketchup (I always use Brooks)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup chopped onion (or more if you like)

3 T cider vinegar

3 T Worcestershire

2 chipotles in adobo sauce finely chopped (or more if you like)

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp black pepper

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Chop your onion and chipotle peppers.

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Combine all of the sauce ingredients and whisk together to combine.

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Pour the sauce over your beautifully seared brisket, put the cover on your Dutch oven, and put it in the oven for approximately four hours.

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You will want to flip the brisket over from one side to the other a couple times during the cooking process. Once it’s done remove it to a platter and let it rest a few minutes before slicing it against the grain. Serve with the barbecue sauce.  We all had seconds!

If you’d rather be less “gourmet” you could make really awesome barbecued brisket sandwiches and serve them with chips and cole slaw or a little potato salad.

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

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This is a favorite salad recipe that a good friend shared with me. It has so many flavors that I love…basil, mint, lemon, garlic. How can anything with those components not be good!!  I have increased the “greens” in her recipe but other than that it remains as shared.

Salad Ingredients

10 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced

1 cup ripe cherry or grape tomatoes halved

1 cucumber seeded and diced

1 16-oz can of chickpeas rinsed and drained

1 cup fresh parsley

1 cup fresh mint

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

5-6 cloves of garlic minced

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

8 oz feta cheese in 1/2 inch dice

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Wash all the herbs well. I like to use my salad spinner.

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Remove all of the stems. I use a few pulses of my food processor to chop the herbs.

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Diced the the cucumbers and halve the tomatoes. I used small salad cucumbers so I diced three of them.

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Rinse and drain the chickpeas.

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I had no green onions on hand so I diced some red onion. Either works well in this salad.

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Combine all the minced herbs, vegetables and chickpeas in a large bowl. Mince the garlic, squeeze the lemons for 1/2 cup of juice, and measure out a half cup of olive oil. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and garlic together and pour over the salad. Gently toss to coat the vegetables.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Dice the feta cheese and toss in the salad.

This salad is perfect served with warm pita bread or on lettuce leaves. Or just sit down with a fork and a bowl and enjoy. I served it tonight as a side with sweet potatoes and smoked pork chops. It’s what was for dinner tonight.

Pesto

A good friend gave me a beautiful bouquet of fresh basil from her garden.

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I find my salad spinner to be the best tool for washing fresh herbs.

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Once the basil is clean and dry it goes into the food processor:
2 cups of packed basil leaves
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts
and pulse until leaves are finely chopped. With food processor running on low add in a slow, steady stream:
1/2 cup good olive oil

Add salt and pepper to taste.

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If you’re going to use immediately stir in:
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

I froze mine using a silicone ice cube tray. Cover tightly before putting in the freezer. I will add my Parmesan when I’m ready to use the pesto.

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Now all we need is some pasta.