Friday, August 19, 2016

Damson Plum BBQ Sauce

Around here, Damson plums are the zucchini of fruit. Almost everyone has a tree in their yard and come harvest season, they're desperately trying to find someone to take bags of them off of their hands.

I am one of the unfortunate souls who does not have a tree in their yard, although (to be completely honest) I am more than happy to not deal with the tree itself and just take other people's overflow. 
The other night, I was gifted with over 30 lbs. of ripe plums and have been trying to come up with new and exciting things to do with them before they go south. So far, I have made a plum cobbler, two pints of Chinese plum dipping sauce, and three pints of this WONDERFUL bbq sauce. It's sweet, spicy, tangy goodness works especially well with poultry and pork.

3 1/2 C chopped Damson plums
2 C ketchup
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1/2 C maple syrup
1/4 C honey
1/4 C red wine vinegar
2 t. paprika
1/2 t liquid smoke
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t ground black pepper
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until plums are soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and blend with immersion blender until smooth (you can also do this in a food processor). Makes 3 pints.

Tonight, I applied it liberally to grilled Cornish game hens.

PS: In my research for plum recipes, I have discovered that Damson plums are actually quite rare now in most of the country. You all have my deepest sympathies.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Onion Bombs!

For several years now, friends of mine have been making (and raving about) these things called onion bombs. I've been meaning to make them myself for EVER, and tonight I finally did!

Onion bombs are basically halved, separated onion layers, stuffed with seasoned meat, reassembled, wrapped in bacon, smoked and indirect grill-roasted, then brushed with bbq sauce to finish.

In other words... heaven.

The meat mixture I used was -

1 lb. extra lean ground beef
3/4 C. finely chopped mushrooms
1 T. finely chopped onion
1/2 C. dry bread crumbs (or substitute of your choice)
heaping tablespoon dried parsley
about 2 t. Worcestershire sauce (just shake it to taste)
1 t. Montreal steak seasoning
1 T. ketchup

2 medium onions
1 - 12 oz. package bacon
bbq sauce of your choice

wood chips for smoking, soaked

Slice stem and root ends from onions, then slice in half lengthwise. Carefully remove papery outer layers. Separate inner layers, keeping matched pairs together. You will get 3-4 pairs of good size from each onion. Chop some of the remaining onion for the filling, and save the rest for another use.

Combine all ingredients for meat filling, mixing well.

Fill each onion half with meat, pressing the matching halves back together. Wrap each onion with 2-3 slices of bacon until covered, securing with picks.

Preheat grill for indirect cooking, to about 400°. I used a drip pan, because bacon grease all over the inside of my grill is not my idea of a good time. Place onion bombs over drip pan, throw some wood chips in there (using your preferred grill-smoking method), close the lid, and let them roast for about an hour, turning occasionally. Brush with bbq sauce during the last 10 minutes or so. Remove to plate and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Mesquite wood chips on the left.

About halfway done cooking. Should have used a little more bacon on a couple of these, but oh well...

Served with my Awesome Broccoli Slaw, they were (dare I say it), da bomb.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Everything Must Be Grilled!!

If you've read this blog for more than five minutes, you know how much I love to cook outdoors. It's an especially happy day when I can do an entire dinner on the grill! Since grilling proteins is kind of a no-brainer, I'd like to focus on a couple quick and easy side dishes that are perfect to throw along side of whatever else you have going.
This particular dinner was bone-on chicken breasts marinated in store-bought Italian dressing, so I wanted something with similar flavors to go with them... roasted green beans and lemon/thyme orzo fit the bill perfectly.

Roasted Green Beans

(all amounts are approximate and to taste)

Frozen green beans (whole or cut)
Extra virgin olive oil
granulated garlic
white balsamic

In a disposable aluminum pan, toss frozen beans with oil, salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Grill over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until edges of beans start to brown a little, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from grill and splash with balsamic to taste.

Lemon Orzo with Fresh Thyme

1/2 T. each butter and olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 C. orzo
1 3/4 C. chicken broth
1 T. fresh thyme, lightly chopped
zest and juice of half a lemon
1/4 C. grated Parmesan
pepper to taste

In a heavy, medium-sized pot, combine butter, oil, garlic, and orzo. Saute over medium-low heat just until orzo starts to brown a little. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until pasta is done, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.

I hope this inspires you to think a little outside of your normal grilling box and try utilizing your grill to it's fullest potential!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Melon and Cucumber Salsa

Here is another "what the heck is taking up so much room in my fridge?" recipe I came up with. It turned out very well, and was the perfect accompaniment to the spicy jerk chicken I made for dinner that night! I think it would also pair very well with almost any simple grilled (or roasted) chicken breast, pork, or fish recipe.

Melon and Cucumber Salsa

1 C. cantaloupe, cut into small dice
1 C. honeydew melon, cut into small dice
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
zest and juice of one lime
1/4 C. cilantro, chopped
1 T. honey
large pinch of kosher salt

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Served with jerk chicken and Jamaican rice and peas.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Taste of Tacoma 2016

June 24-26, 2016

Ah, yes... it's food festival season again. One of my favorite times of year! This summer in particular promises to be filled with many of these gatherings, both large and small. Kicking off the festivities is the Taste of Tacoma, held in Point Defiance Park. For one reason or another we hadn't gone in several years, but the stars seemed to align today and we made the pilgrimage to the local food mecca. Being a Friday with somewhat cool weather, the crowds were light and there were virtually no lines. 

The best piece of advice I can give you for going here on ANY day is to use the shuttle service from Tacoma Community College on S. 19th and Mildred. There is almost no parking near the venue, and the shuttles leave every few minutes. We didn't have to wait at all on the trips either way. It's about a 15 minute ride each way, but it saves you all the time, gas, and frustration of trying to find parking anywhere even near the park... and it's free!!

The first food stall you're likely to hit is New Orleans Cookery. All of the smells coming out of there were enticing, but I had to go with my Taste of Tacoma favorite... Alligator on a Stick. Even at $10.00 a pop, it definitely did not disappoint! I've had alligator in my travels to South Carolina and Georgia, and this was right up there with them. 

From there, we just wandered from stall to stall, stopping at whatever sounded good.

Oh yes we did... with only a little regret... maybe.

After all that, we needed a bit of a break, so we wandered down to the Bowl Stage to listen to a U2 cover band called U253. Our area code is 253. See what they did there? Just to the side of the stage is a strategically placed beer garden, serving... could it be?... somewhat reasonably priced beers! We each had a Goose IPA by Goose Island Brewing Co. while watching the band.

After that, we decided it was time to head home, but one more thing caught our attention on the way out...

Who can resist freshly-dipped chocolate covered strawberries... ON A STICK?? We couldn't.

So, if you're wandering around Tacoma this weekend with nothing better to do, head on down to The Point and get some interesting food in your face.

For more information, visit the event website-

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Duck... duck... DUCK EGGS!!

My love affair with duck eggs started five years ago with this little number, served at Marrow Kitchen + Bar, here in Tacoma, WA -

It was a fat-basted vision of loveliness, topping a cake of unctuous shredded oxtail in demi glace. 

My heart had found true love.

In the years since my first encounter, I have had duck eggs in restaurants whenever they were available. I didn't really have access to them on a regular basis, so I never tried doing them at home... until recently.  

A woman who lives near my husband's work has been duck-sitting (apparently that's a thing), and the ducks have been a-laying. When he told her I have a minor obsession them, she brought in a couple for him to bring home.

Then she brought a few more...

I have been having more fun than anyone should be allowed, coming up with ways to showcase these delicious gifts.

If you're into the phenomenal sensation of breaking open a perfectly runny yolk, forget the chicken eggs and go duck hunting... duck egg hunting, that is. You'll wonder why you never tried them before.

The gracious ladies, without whom none of this would be possible...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Homemade Gorgonzola Salad Dressing

Have you ever made a salad dressing that was so good, it makes you look forward to the salad even more than whatever main dish you're serving?

Have you ever made a salad dressing from scratch? You really should.

I love blue cheese dressing, but for some reason I always end up buying the bottled stuff. NEVER AGAIN!! I swear this is the best blue cheese dressing I have ever tasted. I'm not ashamed to admit I licked the whisk clean. And the spatula. And as much of the bowl as I could get to. It's that good.

You can, of course, use any blue cheese you prefer. I just happened to have Gorgonzola on hand.

1/2 C mayo
1/4 C sour cream
2 T milk
1 T white vinegar
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
few good dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 clove minced garlic
1/3 C crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Whisk together all ingredients (except cheese) until smooth. Stir in cheese. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour before dressing salad.