Pacific Northwest Style

You are going to need cedar planks for today's fish recipe. I am encouraging you to step outside and grill with this recipe. Soak planks for 30 minutes before you fire up the grill. Make sure the grill is good and hot, this is key! Cedar planked fish takes on a wonderful smokey flavor with more flair and a lot less hassle. The plank will be charred, but the fish will be perfectly cooked. This technique of cooking on planks is not new. Developed by Indians in the Pacific Northwest, cooking on cedar and alder has been a tradition for centuries.

This weekend when you are running errands, head to the hardware store and pick up some cedar planks. Oh- be sure they are untreated non-resined wood, and no thicker than 1 inch. Cedar and alder are popular choices, but mesquite, cherry, peach, apple, and oak also add their own unique flavors. Enjoy.

image,© Olga Lyubkina

The Fruit Whisperer

This is a serious topic at my house—knowing when to cut into a perfectly ripened piece of fruit. There is a fine line between unripened and overripe. Here are a few ideas that may help widen that window of use for your pears. Are you ever stuck, trying to make a different salad? Try slicing a ripe pear with feta or blue cheese. Has that pear on the counter over-ripened? Don't fret, chop it up and add it to a spicey soup or make a decandent dessert like my Roasted Pears with Raspberry Sauce which is ideal during the holiday season!

Roasted Pears and Raspberry Sauce
by George Hirsch | 4 Four Servings

4 ripe Bosc or Anjou pears
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup seedless raspberry preserves
2 Tablespoons orange juice
4 sprigs of fresh mint

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut pears lengthwise into half, remove the cores.  Grease a non stick pan with butter.  Place quartered pears in pan and top with cinnamon sugar.  Cover pears and bake for 8-12 minutes or until slightly soft.  The time will vary according to level of ripeness.  Remove from oven and cool.

In a sauce pan simmer three fourths of the raspberries, the preserves, and orange juice for 4-5 minutes.  Press the sauce through a strainer, discarding the seeds.  

Pour the sauce evenly onto four dessert dishes, topping each with two pear halves.  Add the remaining raspberries on top of pears.  Top with fresh mint leaves.

Coffee, Beyond The Brew

I'm guessing, the first words of the day globally are- make coffee. Yet, to have a really good cup of coffee, is another thing. I’ve shared with you my favorite place in Italy for great espresso, and am still on my global quest for the best cup of regular coffee. Right now, brewed coffee in my kitchen is in first place. I’ve told you about my favorite coffee accoutrements, and now here's a handy checklist of tips to keep that first cup of the day - your best!

Suggestions for good tasting coffee
- Use good quality coffee, freshly roasted and freshly ground.
- Grind your own beans for the best tasting coffee, and only grind as much coffee as you will immediately use.
- Use the proper grind. If the brewing process is quick, the grind should be fine; if the process takes more time, the grind should be made more coarse.
- Use fresh, clean, cold water. Filtered or bottled water works well.
- Make only enough coffee for your immediate consumption.
- Coffee tastes best when it is fresh, best within 10 minutes. The longer it sits, the more bitter it gets. 

How-to clean your coffee maker once a month
- Remove filter from coffee maker.
- Fill carafe with cold water and add two tablespoons of white vinegar.
- Pour water and vinegar into the coffee maker and turn on the coffee maker.
- Let it brew halfway through the brewing cycle, stop machine for 10 minutes.
- Resume the brewing process and let the brewing cycle complete.
- Rinse carafe and brew two pots of plain water.
- Rinse carafe. It is now ready to brew with coffee.