Where did Jason go? Bonus: A healthy Caribbean recipe!

January 17, 2016

So, where do we start.

  I had let Off the Broiler go into indefinite hiatus about two years ago when I moved from New Jersey to South Florida. I discovered that along with my full time job and my writing for the technology industry, I didn’t really have the time for food blogging anymore.

To a large extent I now consider food blogging a pastime for the younger generation. I decided that I was not going to re-establish myself as a foodie blogger down here in South Florida because there were already a good number of people doing it, who know the area far better than I do, and who have far more connections in the food and restaurant industry down here than I could ever hope to amass.

I spent 20 years doing that in the NY/NJ area and I just didn’t have it in me to do it all over again. Food blogger relevancy is overrated and it reaps few rewards for what amounts to a lot of work.

In 2014 my co-founder at The eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, Steven A. Shaw, died suddenly at the age of 45. It was a horrible, tragic thing, and made me consider very seriously the issue of my own mortality.

At about the time Steven died I was facing the real possibility that I too would probably die within the next five years, due to my own unique health complications.

I was morbidly obese (390 lbs or so), I had Type-II diabetes, I had hypertension, high cholesterol and obstructive sleep apnea. I was taking a fist full of medications every day to try to keep things under control.

Bottom line, I was a mess.

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Keftedes Me Avgolemono: Greeking out the Turkey

October 5, 2013

Since moving to South Florida, I’ve been jonesing for some real Greek food, like the kind I used to get in Astoria and various places in New Jersey. You can get really good Greek food in Florida, but you may have to drive all the way to Tarpon Springs to get it.

One of my favorite Greek dishes is Keftedes, which are seasoned meatballs that have usually been fried. I haven’t been able to find any good ones down here yet, so I asked Rachel to see if we could whip some up.

What she came up with was nothing short of amazing. Not only are these lower fat because they are made with ground turkey as opposed to beef/veal, but they are also baked in mini muffin tins.

And they taste fantastic.

A healthier variation of the traditional avgolemono, a classic egg with fresh lemon juice sauce poured on top seals the deal. This can be served over orzo pasta or rice (we used brown rice in the picture, accompanied by a simple cucumber/tomato/feta salad.)

Healthier Keftedes (baked and made with turkey)

12 oz. ground turkey (preferably all breast meat)
1 onion
1 clove garlic
4 Tbs chopped fresh parsley (divided)
1 Tbs dried mint
1/2 cup fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 Tbs grated cheese (hard sharp for grating, such as parmigiano, graviera or kefalotyri)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg white
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil cooking spray or 2 tsp. olive oil for brushing

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (or 350 convection).

Place chopped meat in a mixing bowl. Chop onions and garlic in a food processor, add all the other ingredients except the meat and 2 Tbs of chopped parsley (save for garnish) and pulse to combine. Scrape into bowl with meat and mix by hand (you don’t want to over process the meat, it makes the meatballs too soft).

Brush 2 mini-muffin tins lightly with olive oil, then using two teaspoons or a small disher, scoop the meat mixture into the cups. There should be just a little over an ounce in each cup. Lightly spray or brush a little more olive oil on top, but do not press the meat down at all, so they will still look like meatballs instead of mini-muffins.

Put the mini-muffin tins on top of a sheet tray and bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. You can make ahead to this point or continue with making the sauce and serving immediately.

Lite Avgolemono Sauce

16 oz chicken stock (preferably homemade, but if you must buy canned, get low sodium)
1 Tbs flour
2 oz lemon juice
1 egg white
1 tsp butter or 1 Tbs cream*
Salt & pepper to taste (no salt if you are using canned broth, even if
it is low sodium)

Combine the chicken stock and flour while the stock is cold. Put in saucepan and bring to a simmer until thickened (if you have a Vitamix, you can blend it on Hi for 5 minutes or so until steamy and thickened).

Keep the thickened broth warm in the saucepan until the meatballs are done (or place cooled meatballs in the sauce after it has thickened and simmered for a few minutes.)

Place lemon juice, egg white, and butter or cream (*you have to have a little fat in there, are skipping the egg yolks after all, you can try it without the fat, but I used a little cream), salt & pepper in the blender and whir to combine for a few seconds. DO NOT ADD TO THE SAUCEPAN YET.

Assemble the rest of your meal (brown or white rice or orzo, veggies, salad, etc). Take the meatballs off heat. With the blender on low, drizzle in about 1/2 cup of the hot thickened broth (push the meatballs to the side a bit and spoon up thickened broth only) to the blender a tablespoon at a time.

Once the flavoring has been tempered you can pour the mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the thickened broth and meatballs, stirring gently but quickly. Put the lid on the pot and allow it to rest for 5 minutes, but do not put back on heat.

Serve over brown rice or orzo with lots of sauce and garnish with chopped parsley.

You should have 24 meatballs, so 6 is technically a serving, but let’s face it, there were no leftovers when it was just two of us for dinner, but still, not an unhealthy meal.


Recipe: Pasta a la Gandolfini

June 21, 2013

James Gandolfini, who passed away at a tender young age of 51 this week, was an actor who played film and TV characters that were bigger than life.

More often than not, they were the “Bad Guys”. But from all accounts I have heard, especially from those who knew him personally, Gandolfini was a kind, gentle and generous man that respected everyone who he worked with. I never met him. I wish I did.

Gandolfini will always be known for his role in playing the modern-day Italian-American New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, a thug with a heart, a family man, and a man with considerable weaknesses and great personal demons.

He was brutal, as a Mafia Don should be, but he commanded respect and he was obviously a guy that appreciated the good things in life. Like Gandolfini.

So for Gandolfini, who like his alter-ego Tony Soprano also grew up in the Garden State, in the exact Bergen County area I lived in for 22 years, I wanted dedicate a dish to him.

This is what I came up with — a  pasta twist on the classic Italian-American sausage and peppers that is seen in summer festivals and pizza restaurants as a sandwich all over the New York and New Jersey metro area.

But like Tony Soprano, this one has a bite.

The recipe is also somewhat heart-healthy as it only uses a small amount of oil. Given the circumstances of Gandolfini’s passing, he’d probably not want you to go the same way.

This dish calls for fresh ripened tomatoes (plum, if you can get them) and fresh basil. Don’t even bother to make it unless you have these.

Pasta a la Gandolfini

Servings, 2

1/2 Box of Dried Pasta (6oz) , Whole Wheat preferred

3/4lb  fresh Italian sausage, hot or sweet. If sweet add chile pepper flakes.

1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 White Onion, sliced

1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced

4 or 5 Cubanelle Peppers, sliced

1 Habanero Chile or other very hot chile pepper, fresh, julienned

4 Garlic Cloves, julienned

1 cup diced ripe tomatoes, preferably a variety from your garden

1 handful of fresh basil leaves (also from your garden)

Grated Parmigiano Cheese to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook pasta of your choice in salted boiling water to al dente consistency while you prepare the condimenti.

Remove sausage from casing if using links. Brown in large non-stick pan and drain to remove excess fat. Set aside in large bowl.

Using a silicone basting brush, brush a scant amount of olive oil in the pan, saute the onions and peppers of each type individually, adding to the bowl with the sausage as soon as you get some char marks and is just barely cooked.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan, along with the sliced hot chile pepper and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Once again, just cook until they barely wilt. Add the reserved ingredients back to the pot.

Reserve about 1/2 cup water when you drain the pasta. Add the pasta and the water to the pan and toss to combine with other ingredients.

Remove from heat, add the basil, black pepper & cheese.  Toss and serve.


NJ Dining: VB3 in Jersey City & Muscle Maker Opens in Montclair

May 30, 2012

Hot From The Kettle contributor, Elizabeth Palmer Starnes, recently had the pleasure of dining at the newly opened VB3 in Jersey City.  Elizabeth, “tried the arugula and baby artichoke salad, with shaved caciocavallo cheese and lemon juice, and the scallop crudo, zingy with tangy grapefruit and basil.”  She also enjoyed “the Raviolo di Ouvo (homemade oversized ravioli with an egg cooked inside) swathed in luxurious truffle oil and Parmigianino cheese, and laced with springy fava beans and morels.”

Read all about the tasting on Hot From The Kettle!

In Montclair, Muscle Maker Grill opened it’s new location in the former site of Mexicali Rose. According to HFTK writer, John Lee, at Muscle Maker “everything  is either grilled, or sautéed.  There is no fryer to be found! There’s also a huge compliment of salads, juices, and protein shakes. But the most important thing about the menu is that everything is filling, satisfying, and leaves guests wondering why they never realized healthy food could taste so darn good.”

Click to read more about Muscle Maker Grill and check out John Lee’s slide show.


The Chicken and Wallafel Experiment

March 8, 2011

I know, it sounds like the title of a Big Bang Theory Episode.

I like Waffles. I like Felafel. They sound similar. So in theory, it should be pretty easy to combine them, right? And why hasn’t anyone else combined these two dishes before?

Well apparently, people have.

Another blog, The Waffleizer, has already Waffled Felafel. So I’m not breaking new ground here. I debated the value of doing something that somebody else has already done well before. And apparently, there are even restaurants that serve Waffled Felafel. Surely there was something I could add new to this.

Hmm. Well I like Chicken and Waffles. What about Chicken and … Wallafels? Or should it be Chicken Fawaffles? I dunno.

Exhibit A, the Waffle Iron. This is actually a Belgian Waffle maker that Rachel and I have owned for 15 years. In fact, I’m pretty sure we got it as a wedding gift and have only used it a few times. Apparently, Belgian waffle irons are slightly different than regular American-style waffle makers because they make a thicker product, so you have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Half-Guilt Turkey Cubano

November 26, 2010

Another oldie but a goodie.

Lo-Carb Turkey Cubano by you.

Turkey Cubano made with Toufayan Low-Carb Sandwich Wrap, leftover Pavochon, Pickles, Low-Fat Swiss Cheese, and Hot Vinegar Peppers with a side of Boriqua Slaw. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Every Thanksgiving I look forward to the Turkey Leftover sandwiches — but this year, as we made Pavochon, I decided to raise the Turkey Sandwich to the next level: The Half-Guilt Cubano.

Also Read: Make Your Own Cuban Sandwiches

A legit Sandwich Cubano has to be made with roast pork — but if you’ve got leftover Pavochon, you’ve got the next best thing. Simply get yourself a low-carb sandwich wrap, set down a layer of Pavochon, sliced pickles, low-fat Swiss Cheese, a couple of vinegar hot peppers and you’re ready to go. If you just have regular leftover roast turkey, make some of Daisy’s Wet Adobo and use it as a condiment on the plain turkey. Wrap it up and smash it flat, grab your non-stick frying pan, and coat with a small amount of olive oil. Fry on medium heat for 3 minutes per side until heated through and the wrap gets nice and crispy.

I like these so much I may be making Pavochon full-time.


Blogroll: ThinkFood by Posit Science

June 16, 2010

The ThinkFood Cookbook by Posit Science feeds your brain as well as your appetite.

Today, mind-enhancement and brain-training software company Posit Science launched an interesting new project called ThinkFood, which was produced in cooperation with 50 food bloggers, including yours truly.

For the next year, ThinkFood will release 50 new “Brain-healthy” recipes, one per week, if you sign up with your e-mail address. Each Brain-Healthy recipe features a key ingredient which has been identified to promote enhanced mental acuity.

Posit Science is an interesting company. Just like me, they are clearly techno-geeks, but they are also serious foodies. I’ve been honored to be part of this project and I hope you sign up.

If you can’t wait to get all the recipes, a hardcover version of the book will be available in Mid-July.