Blue Corn Grits

A few weeks ago I got a wild hair and decided to do a small order from Anson Mills.

I like their products, but they're both expensive and can be a bit pretentious, at times. Now, of course, I am never pretentious, myself, but, it's all for a good cause - or dinner, as the case may be.

When it comes to corn, I am generally a yellow corn person. I think it has a much better flavor than white corn, and blue corn - as in tortilla chips - are just slightly lost on me. That didn't stop me from paying $7.00 for a 12 oz package of Native Coarse Blue Corn Grits. Their website states  they come from " ... the Cherokee Nation in the mountains of the Carolinas. Slow-cooked grits made from this fresh new crop blue corn have the fragrance and taste of mountain terroir and sweet corn, with intriguing background notes of chestnuts." I was intrigued...

I am a huge fan of polenta, grits, hominy, even good ol' cornmeal mush. And now I can say I'm also a fan of Blue Corn Grits. The texture was great - smooth and creamy with just enough bite - and the flavor was really good. I didn't pick up on the chestnuts, but my aging palate usually doesn't find those semi-obscure background notes. Overly-expensive wines with1001 nuances are lost on me, as well.

The only real downside to them is the cooking time. They really do need to be soaked overnight, and then it's a really low-and-slow cooking process. I think it's worth it, but one does need to plan ahead and be ready to dedicate an hour to cooking them.


I decided on a bit of a non-traditional main to go with them - a quick stir-fry of chicken, Mexican chorizo, bell pepper, spring onion, a bit of cumin, and a squirt of hot taco sauce from Trader Joe's. It was pretty good and both complimented one another.

I don't see me buying these often, but they'll be nice for the occasional special dinner. I think next time might be a lowcountry shrimp and grits!

In the meantime, I have a package of Pencil Cob Grits that will need to find a meal...

Stay tuned.





Brussels Sprouts, Pears, Cherries, and Cheese

Another fun recipe from Milk Street.

I've liked Chris Kimball since his early days at Cooks Illustrated. A bit of an oddball, but I can appreciate his approach to food. Besides, you have to be a bit of an oddball to be in the food business. I speak from personal experience.

The fun thing about recipes is knowing the ingredients are not chiseled in stone. His recipe called for dried cranberries - fitting for this time of year. Alas, I had no cranberries, but I did have dried cherries. (There are also dried apricots, raisins, golden raisins, and a half-dozen different nuts I could have used. Walnuts were open. I also added the steak, because I was making it as an entree, not a side dish. Us aging people need our protein.

Brussels Sprouts, Pears, Cherries, and Cheese

adapted from 177 Milk Street

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 ripe but firm pears unpeeled, quartered and cored
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 ounces fresh chèvre, crumbled
  • S&P, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil to serve
  • 8 oz sirloin steak, sliced thin

In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the cherries and vinegar. Microwave uncovered until heated through, about 1 minute.

Thinly slice the pears and sprouts and mix into a large bowl. Add the cranberry-vinegar mixture, 1½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper; toss well. Let stand for 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Toss in the nuts and cheese, then season with salt and pepper.

Plate, top with sliced steak, and drizzle with additional olive oil.


All-in-all, it was pretty good. The recipe is supposed to be a saladish side dish, but I think it would be better if the brussels sprouts were sauteed, first. It could still be served room temperature. They were just a bit too crunchy. The flavors were excellent, though.

With a couple of modifications, I can see this happening, again...

Marie's Pineapple Bread Dressing

Marie Martorano

Marie only makes this at Easter. I think it’s good enough for year-round eating!

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 slices bread, cubed
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple, well drained

Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.
Fold in bread and pineapple. Bake in 1 1/2 qt casserole at 350ºF for 1 hour.

Marie usually doubles the recipe and uses a bit less sugar and butter. A double recipe fits perfectly into a standard 9×13 pyrex dish.

A Strange Few Months...

Calling this a strange few months is the ultimate understatement.

The pandemic has hit us harder than most people with the death of Victor's mother, but we've been spared the fear that far too many have of how to pay their bills and feed their children - or figuring out if the jail time would be worth murdering the little blighters. I can't even imagine what that would be like. With six of us, I'm sure my mother would have gone for the jail time.

There's no question that this has taken a real emotional toll on almost everyone, but we've been able to isolate with high speed internet and a roof over our heads in relative quiet and comfort. We're lucky we like each other.

And, we're eating well. I guess that pretty much goes without saying - we have always eaten well. We're just getting more creative as ingredients run out or become unavailable.

The last time I was physically in a store was the end of March - wearing a mask before they were mandated. Since then it has been all delivery - from the local grocery store and a local restaurant. to a local brewery and a local distiller. It's been great being able to put money into the local economy - and we've been tipping really well. That's important, also.

I miss grocery shopping - it's the only shopping I actually like - and I like walking up and down the aisles at my leisure, stopping and looking at things, getting ideas, creating recipes on the fly. Although I always shop with a list, I also like being able to make an impulse buy when something catches my eye, or change my mind and not get something on the list. None of that is possible with online shopping - and with product availability being what it is, you're never quite sure what you're going to get, so it's impossible to really plan meals. One merely gets ingredients and hopes for the best.

And then... get creative.

For me, that is the fun part of all of this. Once Upon A Time, I got paid good money to be creative with different foods, create recipes, and sell the hell out of things. I find it's actually quite easy to take an idea and completely rework it to fit what you have in front of you. A large part of that, no doubt, is because I grew up with a mother who fed her family like that. To boldly go where no man - or woman - has gone, before...

Monday's dinner is a perfect example...


I saw a post from a Facebook friend about a Southern Italian dish called a Tiella - a layered casserole of sorts. I didn't have the ingredients that were used in the original recipe, but, in reading through the post, there are as many variations on the recipe as there are people making it. It's often used as a side dish, but can also be used as a main dish. Without a single Italian ingredient, I gave it a go. Later, I realized that years ago I made a totally different style of Tiella based on a recipe from Lidia Bastianich. You can check that one out, here...


Into a small casserole, I layered:

  • sliced potatoes
  • chopped onion
  • barely cooked chicken
  • sliced andouille sausage
  • a can of cannellini beans
  • colby jack cheese
  • white wine
  • sourdough bread cubes drizzled with olive oil
  • thyme
  • garlic powder
  • salt & pepper

I covered it and baked it at 375°F for 30 minutes and then uncovered and baked at 425°F for another 15.

It came out great. Taste-wise, it was nothing like the original recipe, but it followed the concept in spirit - and was a damned fine meal!

Yesterday was a use-things-up-because-we-have-more-coming day.

The thought was open-faced burgers on the last of the Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread - because I was baking more and making some rolls - and a salad Victor had found a recipe for a fennel salad with a creamy dressing of mayonnaise, olive oil, anchovies, lemon, olives...

We didn't have the fennel, but we had the ingredients for the dressing. To work he went!


Creamy Olive and Lemon Dressing

  • 3 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together, cover, and refrigerate until use.

For the actual salad, Victor sliced celery, cucumber, and green unions and mixed them with the dressing, topping it all with fresh chives, a sprinkling of parmigiano reggiano, and crushed black pepper. It was perfection.

And then it was the burgers...

Thick slices of toasted Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread topped with the same dressing as the salad, lettuce, thick slice of tomato, and a burger topped with provolone cheese.

Today, we have fresh bread and fresh rolls - ready for some BBQ Brisket, tonight...

It really doesn't get much better...

Red Peas

Grocery Shopping in an Apocalyptic World

I wasn't ready to hit the local Giant at 6 ayem for the Senior Shopping, this morning, so I thought I'd hit Wegmans when they opened at 7. I got there a few minutes before and the line had already started - nice and orderly. As it should be.

Everyone maintained distance. No pushing, no shoving...

The shelves were a little better stocked from the last time I was there - there were actual paper products - and I managed to get a gallon of bleach and laundry detergent. No Clorox wipes or any of that stuff, but we still have some from when Victor's mom lived with us.

And no flour. Of any sort. And no dried beans. Both of which are normal staples in our home - and items that have always been in abundance any time I've gone to the store. Limits on almost everything else in the store. We still have flour and dried beans at home, so I'll just be a bit more prudent in their use until I know we can get more.

The people in the store - both customer and staff - seemed reasonably upbeat. There were two different guys - both in gloves and cheap painters masks who were pretty much in panic-mode shopping and really rushing through the store - but everyone else was cordial, respecting space, and basically just being community all in this, together. It was nice to see.

The actual shopping and check-out process was pretty good. They've marked off the floors at the registers to let folks know where to stand and park their carts, cashiers were wearing gloves and sanitizing between each order and everyone was maintaining distance.

In anticipation of today's shopping, I finally used up the last of the dried Sea Island Red Peas from Anson Mills. They're a small, heirloom bean that really packs a flavor-punch. I cooked them up with a bit of ham, onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs d'Provence. Served up with a fried ham steak and rice.

Red Peas

Beans are serious comfort food, for me. Growing up in a large family, Mom cooked many a pot of beans - and I loved every one of them.

Grocery-wise, we're definitely good for a while, now. We won't have to venture out except to check the mailbox.

Take care, all...



Orzo Salad

Orzo Salad

We did a bit of tag-team in the kitchen, today... I had planned burgers with a mushroom sauce because I had mushrooms that needed using up. Victor decided to make an orzo salad because orzo salads are really good. I had also harvested another huge bowl of tomatoes.

You can see how logic plays right into our meal decisions.

Orzo Salad

The salad consisted of:

  • orzo
  • fresh tomatoes
  • tomato paste
  • leeks
  • celery
  • kalamata olives
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

Fresh and refreshing!

The burgers were pretty basic and the mushroom gravy was:

  • crimini mushrooms
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • brandy
  • red wine
  • beef stock
  • pepper, garlic powder
  • cornstarch to thicken

Neither were anything fancy, but they really hit the spot.

Tomorrow night, we're thinking of reworking the salad into a pasta dish with shrimp!

Stay tuned.



They just keep a'comin' even as the plants start dying back. I'm really rather in awe - last year, they were pretty much gone in early September.

I think the Black Krim have been the best-tasting, overall, this year - a rich tomato flavor you will never get from the supermarket. That being said, the others haven't been too shabby. Every one has been superior to anything store-bought.

We're going to do at least one more round of tomato paste, but, tonight, decided on a Tomato Cobbler with Ricotta Biscuits from the NY Times.  Something a bit different...


The recipe calls for draining ricotta, freezing flour, and, generally, making a huge production out of making the biscuits. I just made them using their basic ingredients but not following their process. They were really good. Use your own judgement.

Tomato Cobbler with Ricotta Biscuits

adapted from the NY Times

  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper


Prepare the ricotta: Strain the ricotta in a cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer for at least 30 minutes. When it’s ready to use, squeeze to get rid of any excess moisture.

Prepare the ricotta biscuits: Put 2 1/2 cups cake flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Transfer to the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes. Add the butter to the bowl and smear the pieces between your fingers, pinching them to make thin pieces and smushing these into the flour mixture until no big pieces are left.

Make a well in the middle of the bowl and gradually pour in 1 cup buttermilk while using a fork to fluff in the flour from the sides of the bowl until you form a shaggy-looking dough. Crumble in the ricotta and loosely incorporate with your fingers.

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and use your hands to shape it into a roughly 4-inch-by-6-inch rectangle. Fold into thirds and flatten back to the same size with your hands; repeat two more times, flattening the dough out until about 1-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 2-quart baking dish, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and thyme and oregano with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons cake flour. Season generously with salt and pepper, and let sit while you prepare the biscuit dough.

Lay the biscuit dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 2-inch squares or circles and arrange in a single layer over the tomatoes — you should have around 10 to 12 biscuits. Roll and cut scraps, or just bake the scraps separately to snack on. Bake for 45 minutes, until the tomato mixture has bubbled up and the biscuits are browned on top. Allow to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature, finishing with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.


I made pork patties with ground pork, aleppo pepper, garlic, and salt and pepper - and then pan-fried them.

The biscuits were really light, the tomatoes really flavorful.  The total flavor combination worked great.

And there's still more to come!



Rice and Tomatoes

Leftover Rice

I've always found it easier to cook a minimum of one cup of rice - I just don't have a lot of luck with cooking smaller amounts. It's even easier to cook two cups and have a couple of meals set up in the freezer or 'fridge.

Rice is the perfect vehicle for many things, so, tonight, I took plain cold rice and made a bit of a Mediterranean stir-fry.

Mediterranean Stir-Fry

  • 2 cups cold cooked rice
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • basil and mint, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Saute leek, carrot, and mushrooms until wilted and lightly browned. Stir in rice and heat thoroughly.

Stir in chopped tomatoes and herbs and heat through.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

We had our rice with a small bacon-wrapped filet but it would be equally good with a protein of your choice - chicken, pork, ground beef - whatever.

Rice and Tomatoes

Total simplicity - and really good!

Thug Kitchen

Thugs and Ainsley

I'm sitting here with the Summer Cold From Hell.

Since I actually don't remember the last time I had a cold - it's been a few years, at least - I suppose I shouldn't complain, too much.

On the other hand, it really sucks. We missed out on a Phillies/Giants game, today, but since the Phillies beat my Giants 10-2, I suppose that wasn't such a bad thing...

Colds tend to dull the taste buds, so I was looking for something fairly bold and spicy - and I had two new sources - so I went with one from each.

The first was my Thug Kitchen Cookbook. It is a hoot - and it has some outstanding recipes! I started off with 5-Spice Fried Rice with Sweet Potatoes. I more or less followed the recipe, but they call for adding bitter greens in and I didn't have any, so I just ignored that part. I used Carolina Gold Rice Grits from Anson Mills for the short-grain rice.

5-Spice Fried Rice with Sweet Potatoes

adapted from Thug Kitchen

  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced into small cubes
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp chili paste or sriracha
  • 4 cups cooked short grain rice
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed


Heat 1 tsp of oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the sweet potato and two tbsp of water and stir fry, stirring often, for about 5-8 minutes until the potato is tender and starting to brown. Add more water if the potato starts to stick.

Add the onion and carrot and continue to stir fry for another 3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

Add the 5-spice powder and garlic and stir fry for 1-2 more minutes. Remove all vegetables from the pan, cover and set aside.

Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and Sriracha in a small bowl.

Heat the remaining oil in the wok over medium heat. Add the cooked rice and stir fry until warm, approximately 5 minutes. Add the sauce mix and the vegetables, plus the peas to the rice and mix well.

Stir fry for another 1-3 minutes. Fold in green onions.

Next up was a Caribbean Chicken from Ainsley Harriott's Street Food. It's a show on Netflix where this guy travels around the world eating street food. A job I should have...

He used bone-in chicken breasts. I used a single boneless breast I cut into strips before marinating. I also adjusted the marinade ingredients - it's simply equal parts lime, rum, and soy sauce - and used demerara sugar in place of palm.

Rum-Drunk Barbecued Chicken

adapted from Ainsley Harriott's Street Food

  • 6 bone-in chicken breasts
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) lime juice
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dark rum
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dark soy sauce
  • 1 small bunch thyme, leaves picked and coarsely chopped
  • 1 long red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 tsp grated palm sugar


To make the marinade, place all the ingredients in a large airtight container and shake to combine well.

Using a sharp knife, make 2-3 deep incisions through the skin side of the chicken, to help the marinade permeate the flesh. Add the chicken to the marinade, stir to coat well, then cover and stand for 30 minutes, or refrigerate overnight if time permits.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium heat.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and cook, basting with the marinade and turning regularly, for 15 minutes or until just cooked through. Rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Thug Kitchen

Surprisingly good! There was definitely that rum flavor, but not overpowering. It really was balanced with the lime and the soy sauce.

And both the rice and the chicken had some heat. They balanced one another, as well.

I'm sure we'll be seeing more fun recipes from both as time goes on.


Cod Cakes

Cod Cakes and Grilled Vegetables

Summertime, and the livin' is easy... and hot and muggy and wet. The only thing loving this weather, right now, is the cucumber plant.

I don't mind hot, but when going outside is like walking into a steam room... well... I tend to stay inside a bit more. It just saps my new-found strength.

My original thought for dinner, tonight, was grilled cod with grilled vegetables. I grilled the vegetables earlier in the day, but decided to make cod cakes because I didn't feel like standing over the grill, again.

It was a good choice.

Grilled Vegetables

This batch of vegetables included

  • corn
  • mushrooms
  • fennel
  • cauliflower
  • carrots
  • leeks
  • yellow zucchini
  • asparagus
  • green onions

I liberally coated everything in olive oil, hit them with salt and pepper, and onto the grill they went. Really simple, very basic.

I then chopped everything, mixed them into a bowl, and drizzled with a bit of good balsamic and a pinch of salt and pepper.

The cod cakes were pretty basic, as well. I poached the cod and mixed it in with some good stuff.

Cod Cakes

Poaching liquid:

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • juice of 1 lemon

Cod cakes

  • 1 lb cod
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp good mustard
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Poach fish in poaching liquid until just cooked and fish flakes. Remove from liquid and set aside to cool.

Saute celery, onion, and garlic until wilted. Set aside to cool.

Mix mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, bread crumbs, herbs and spices. Stir in celery mixture. Break up cod and lightly stir into mixture. Form into 4 patties.

Fry in a lightly-oiled skillet until browned on both sides and heated all the way through.

Serve on top of grilled vegetables.

Cod Cakes

We also had a roasted beet from the garden, so that went onto the plate, as well.

Lots of flavors and lots of textures, and because it was done in short stages over the course of the day, it took no time to pull it all together.

A bowl of grilled vegetables is now a staple in the 'fridge. Perfect for lunch, snacking, or a quick side for dinner.

The livin' is easy, indeed...




Potato salad

Potato Salad

We've been watching The Mind of a Chef on Netflix and have been following a couple of fun folks. Having been in the business for so many years, it's easy to relate to a lot of the madness - and to really be happy both of us are retired and get to just watch and no have to deal. It is a really intense business - not for the weak of heart.

One theme that keeps popping up is tradition and authentic - whether It is in how something is made, when it's served, or the ingredients used. For the most part, the chefs involved respect tradition but also understand that food naturally evolves. Immigrants coming to America brought a style of cooking, but they used the ingredients available to them in the new world. A classic hollandaise sauce is made a very specific way, but the butter or the eggs used will change the result. And trying to replicate classic dishes night after night gets old.

I see the dilemma when making things my Mom used to make. I make her potato salad - or, at least, a reasonable facsimile of it. Same with her stew and a few other things. They're pretty much done the way she made them - but they've evolved a bit, just like hers did - she never made the exact same thing the exact same way, either.

So, tonight, I decided to channel Mom and play with her classic potato salad. Amounts are based on how much you're making.

Mom's Potato Salad

  • potatoes (russets, yukon gold, red bliss)
  • pickles
  • hard-cooked eggs
  • celery
  • shredded carrots
  • mayonnaise
  • catsup
  • mustard
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • pepper

Mix and chill.

She generally used russets - peeled - because that's what we always had in the house. I also think she used some Lawry’s seasoned salt in hers, but it’s not something I generally have….

We had the aioli left over from yesterday, so my first thought was using it in place of the mayonnaise. I had a bottle of chili sauce in the 'fridge, so that went in in place of the ketchup. It had all of the other basic ingredients. The end result was a great salad - not quite mom's, but close enough that someone who had eaten hers would recognize it - and then lament that she really did make the best potato salad and was no longer here to make it.

That's a fitting tribute - and it's honoring tradition.

Potato salad

Chicken with Pickled Onions

Pickled Onions

A few months ago I made something that called for pickled onions to be served with it. I have no idea what that particular recipe was, mainly, because the recipe made quite a bit and we've used them on so many different things, everything just blends together in the recipe box that is my mind.

It's interesting how the mind works... I can recall a recipe or a flavor or a taste or a concept - but not always recall the source. I think it's sensory overload. Or the drugs I took in my youth...

Whatever the reason, we've been keeping a jar of the onions in the 'fridge, since they really are good on anything - like on a grilled chicken breast, tonight.

I've made it with apple cider vinegar and white balsamic, thus far. I think just about any vinegar would work.

Play with it!

Pickled Onions

  • 1 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Mix vinegar, water, sugar, salt, and pepper together. Place thinly sliced vegetables in a mason jar and cover with the vinegar solution. Cover and refrigerate. It will keep indefinitely - although you'll use it up in no time!

Chicken with Pickled Onions