Tastes Like Steak

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Today we are grilling-up a vegetable that's flavor resembles a meaty protein. They're so meaty in flavor, eating one is almost like cutting into a piece of steak. Portobello mushrooms make great appetizers, but also have earned it's position on the main course plate.

Portobello mushrooms, a larger relative of the crimini and are the largest of all the cultivated mushrooms with tan or brown caps often reaching 6 to 7 inches across. For thousands of years, Eastern cultures have revered mushrooms’ health benefits. Mushrooms have long been celebrated as a source of powerful nutrients, and can also help us meet the dietary and vitamin D recommendation and also benefit from this leading source of the antioxidant selenium which helps maintain a healthy immune system. (mushroomcouncil.org)

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Gorgonzola Mushrooms

 Makes 4 servings

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As a variation, add one of the following to the stuffing: 1/4 cup grilled and diced ham; meat from 2 grilled spicy Italian sausages; or 1/2 cup chopped grilled shrimp.

8 large mushrooms, 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter

2 Tablespoons olive oil'1/2 cup chopped grilled onion

3 scallions, grilled and chopped

Puree from 4 cloves Caramelized Garlic

2 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs, or cooked rice, or other grain

1/4 cup milk

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Grill Temperature | high, then medium

Preheat the grill.

Remove the mushroom stems with a knife and set aside. Brush the caps with oil, grill over high for 1 minutes on each side, and remove. Chop the stems and combine with the onion, scallions and garlic in a medium bowl. Add 2 cups of the bread crumbs, milk, cilantro and hot sauce and mix well. Add the cheese and stir until the mixture is smooth. Fill the mushroom caps evenly with the mixture and roll them in the remaining bread crumbs. Brush lightly with the remaining olive oil and grill over medium heat until tender.

Old Fashioned Coffee Break

When actually was the first coffee break? Possibly in 12th or 13th century in Africa. But, the officially dedicated daily event in the US, the 1900s.

In 1952, a Pan-American Coffee Bureau ad campaign urged consumers, "Give yourself a Coffee-Break - and Get What Coffee Gives to You." (source, NPR)

The coffee break was and still is such an important part of everyday lifestyle and now our culture. For more than three and one half million people in the US, the very ritual of having a cup of coffee gives good reason to get together, talk and even gather your thoughts, even if for just 10 to 15 minutes. I look forward to a later afternoon coffee break everyday.

Whether you take your break mid-morning or mid-afternoon, pair that freshly brewed coffee with my old fashioned style sour cream coffee cake. 

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Makes a 9" Bundt Pan, about 10-12 slices

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For the Crumb Topping:

1/2 cup light brown sugar

6 Tablespoons sweet butter, softened

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Place the butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and vanilla in a bowl and crumble together with your fingers until it forms a crumb mixture. Add in the nuts. Reserve and mix cake batter.

For the Cake:

1/2 cup sweet butter, one stick softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups All-Purpose Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt

1/4 cup 2% milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon fresh grated orange rind

Grease and flour a tube, Bundt-style, or a regular-sized 9 1/2-inch baking pan.

Cream together the butter, sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Mix in eggs, vanilla and orange zest, one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl again.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream, yogurt and milk together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately in three stages with the sour cream, yogurt, and milk mixture; stirring and scraping the bowl with spatula after each addition. Mix until just blended. Do not over mix.

Place half the batter in the pan, and sprinkle with half the topping mixture. With the back of butter knife swirl the batter slightly to mix the crumb mixture slightly into the bottom of cake batter. Add remaining batter, then the crumb topping.

Bake coffee cake in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake tests done. Cool for 15-20 minutes, and then remove from pan by placing a large plate over top of cake and invert pan. Tap the sides of cake pan to free cake from pan. Plate serving platter over the bottom and invert again. The crumb topping should be on the side up to serve. Allow to cool at least 2 hours (if you can) before slicing!

Cover cake once fully cooled.

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George's Smackin' Wings

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A classic Buffalo wing, which you know heralds from the city of the same name.. is tossed into a deep fryer, then tossed into melted butter and hot sauce or finished off in an infinite number of other side sauces and condiments. 

Now friends, my Smackin' Wings are a better wing for a couple reasons... First, it's grilled with benefits from the outdoor flavor of fire-n-smoke; and the sauce is sweet, allowing you to enjoy the chicken and the side sauce. 

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George's Smackin' Wings

Makes 32 pieces | from Grilling with Chef George Hirsch cookbook

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16 chicken wings

1/2 cup olive 

1/4 balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

2 teaspoon brown sugar

2 teaspoons cane syrup or dark corn syrup

1 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Cut off and discard wings tips. Cut remaining wings in half. Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl until well blended, add wings. Cover and marinade in refrigerator 1 hour.

Preheat grill to medium temperature.  

Place wings on grill. Grill 15 to 20 minutes over medium coals, turning frequently. As wings begin to brown continue slowly cooking on indirect heat, until completely cooked.

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Perfect Summertime Condiment

When temperatures reach north of 90 degrees, I find it's time to chill down supper food selections and prepare cold plates, just like as I ate as a child. My Mom, a delicious cook and a consummate organizer and doer, would cook first thing in the morning, before temperatures became too hot in the kitchen. It makes such sense and is still the way food is prepared in many European cultures today. Besides, having to cool things off in the kitchen, it was also the custom at home with non-meat Fridays, enjoying cold fish suppers. On those Fridays, dishes my mom would cook-up included grilled or poached fish such as tuna or cod; along with boiled potatoes, garden green beans, vine ripe tomatoes, boiled eggs, and sliced onion. The highlight for me on chilled supper night was the cold sauce made with garlic and mayonnaise. Later I learned, in my early culinary days that sauce was called an aïoli; a simple yet traditional emulsified sauce with garlic, olive oil and egg yolk. 

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It is a perfect summertime condiment and also goes well with roasted chicken, if fish is not on the menu.

With so many ways to prepare aïoli, the consistent ingredient that holds true across all ethnic regions is the garlic. The Occitan valleys of Italy serves aioli with boiled potatoes. In Cataluña and most of the Spanish mediterranean coast, allioli is purely a garlic mayonnaise. France's Le Grand Aïoli, dedicates a complete dish consisting of various boiled vegetables such as carrots, beets, cauliflower, green beans, yellow flesh potatoes, and boiled fish, such as salted cod with boiled eggs and the aioli sauce. The version from Provence adds Dijon mustard to the sauce, like I prefer; which in addition to flavor also helps in the emulsification of the oil to be suspended by the liquid of the sauce.  

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Aïoli is ideal to serve as a sauce for foods like above, but it's also wonderful as a spread on toasted French bread or pommes frites. Some may find that the raw garlic can leave too strong a taste. That is true, especially with summer garlic which has more of a bitter bite and has just recently been harvested. No need to avoid this tasty sauce or feel you'll need a shot of mouthwash, there is a tastier solution. I use my long time recipe for caramelized garlic to soften and sweeten the punch on my aïoli in place of raw garlic. 

To Yolk or Not to Yolk?

There is of course the food safety issue to point out regarding making aïoli from scratch, because of using uncooked raw egg yolks. Always make sure the eggs are very fresh, and best obtained from someone you know! One of my recipes is for using prepared mayonnaise and covers any concerns of food safety. Today, there is even mayonnaise made with olive oil, that I prefer. The choice is yours, go traditional with making a classic Provence style aïoli or make it semi-authentic with a prepared mayo; the choice is yours. Either way you'll be shouting bring on the Le Grand Aïoli!

The technique of making an aïoli is to create an emulsion with the egg yolks, supporting the liquid from the olive oil. Do not over pulse or mix the yolks and oil. Do not add the oil too slow or too fast. This technique may require some trial and error. If done correctly you will have a thick mayonnaise-like sauce; or if the sauce is broken, the oil will have separated from the yolks and will look more like a vinaigrette.

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Classic Aïoli

 Makes 1 1/2 cups

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*8 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

Coarse sea salt

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

A couple drops of water

Fresh ground black pepper

Always use caution with raw eggs. And this sauce must be kept chilled after it is prepared. 

In a food processor or preferably a mortar pound the garlic cloves with pinch of sea salt and Dijon mustard until a thick paste forms. Add in the egg yolks and begin adding in the olive oil a few drops at a time with a fork or whisk. Continue to add the olive oil in a steady stream as the aïoli begins to thicken. Stop and add a few drops of lemon juice, gradually add remaining olive oil and a few drops of water if the sauce becomes too thick. When all of the oil has been incorporated, season the aïoli with additional lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled. The aïolii can be tightly covered and refrigerated overnight. 

* A classic aïoli is made with raw garlic but again I prefer using caramelized garlic in place of raw garlic which offers a much sweeter and nuttier taste.

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Garlic Aïoli with Crostini

Makes about 1 1/2 cups 

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A strong flavored garlic mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France. Traditionally the mayonnaise is made from scratch with egg yolks. I prefer this version, as it is safer and faster to make. 

Crostini, meaning “little toasts” in Italian, crostini are small, thin slices of toasted bread, which are usually brushed with olive oil-excellent spread with Aioli. 

3/4 cup mayonnaise 

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1 head caramelized garlic

1/4 cup olive oil 

Juice of 1/2 lemon 

1/4 cup basil 

To Make Crostini:

1 loaf Italian bread 

Olive oil for brushing toasts. 

Puree the garlic in the bottom of a small bowl. Add mustard, mayonnaise and stir in olive oil. Add lemon juice and basil. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Slice Italian bread into small pieces, toast and brush toast with olive oil. Spread a generous amount of aïoli on toasts. 

Serve aïoli and crostini with your favorite vegetables and seafood. 

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Chocolate Pound Cake

This recipe is one of those cakes that gets better with age; meaning, it tastes even better the day after it is baked. You may not have access to Sag Harbor Rum for the simple syrup, so if you find yourself in a strange port use a good quality rum. 

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George Hirsch Chocolate Pound Cake, Sag Harbor Rum Syrup

Chocolate Pound Cake

Makes one loaf

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 1 1/2 cups cake flour  

1 teaspoon baking powder  

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sweet butter, room temperature

1 cup pure cane granulated sugar  

3 eggs, beaten 

1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon fine grated orange zest 

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder such as Droste

1/4 cupboiling hot water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  

Grease a loaf pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

In a small bowl mix cocoa powder into boiling water until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, mix cake flour with baking powder and salt.

On medium high speed, mix butter until softened, about 1 - 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. With the mixer on low add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after adding each egg. Add vanilla, orange zest, cocoa mixture. add the flour mixture and mix only until combined.  

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake on a center rack in oven for about 50 - 55 minutes or until done. To test doneness, cake will spring back when touched lightly with index finger.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Slice pound cake, serve soaked with rum simple syrup and with fresh whipped cream.

To make simple syrup:

1 cup water, 2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup of Rum, 1 orange, cut into quarters

Place all ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. Remove and cool.