June 12, 2018

Dear friends,

Peaches and blue cheese: The idea is intriguing. That’s what I thought when I saw a recipe for peach and blue cheese salad in “Michael Symon’s Carnivore.” I imagined the crunch of the raw Marcona almonds contrasted with the soft sweetness of the peaches, reined in with the bite of vinaigrette and pungent blue cheese.

The reality was less than ideal because of a couple of hiccups in the recipe, but ultimately I turned it into a pretty interesting side dish for a grilled steak. In his cookbook, Symon writes that he spoons the salad right on top of rib steaks. I dunno about that (the peach chunks alone would obliterate the steak), but served alongside it was pretty good.

I had to seriously decrease the amount of dressing on the salad (Symon called for using the entire batch) because of the juiciness of the warmed peaches. I also gave up on warming the peaches on a grill, because the natural sugars in the fruit caused them to stick like crazy to the metal. I think the oven temp of 250 for the alternate peach-cooking method was a mistake, so I have upped it to 450 degrees for the two minutes of warming. Other than that…

Seriously, other than that, the salad is a winner. But next time, the Cleveland chef might want to try the recipes he sells under his name.

PEACH & BLUE CHEESE SALAD

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1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

6 firm peaches, pitted and quartered

½ cup raw Marcona almonds

2 cups arugula

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

Kosher salt

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high or preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, mustard, honey, and the ¼ cup olive oil. Brush the peach quarters with olive oil. Grill on a well-oiled grid for 1 minute per side, or warm them in the oven for 2 minutes.

Gently combine the warm peaches, almonds, arugula, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Add just enough dressing to moisten; toss to combine. Season with salt to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From “Michael Symon’s Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers” by Michael Symon and Douglas Trattner.

HELP U COOK

Regular whole raw almonds may be substituted for the Marcona almonds in the salad recipe above. But if you like almonds, Marconas are worth seeking out. The first time I tasted them was at a farmer’s market in Spain. I didn’t know they were special when I bought a bag of the fat, skinless almonds.

Over the next few days, I became addicted to the almonds. They have the sharp, clean crunch of a macadamia and a ripe, full almond flavor. They are one of the few nuts I’ve had that are delicious raw.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:

Meatloaf, baked sweet potatoes; poke salad with grilled mahi mahi, bell pepper, green onions, avocado, pineapple and sesame vinaigrette; chocolate pudding; hamburgers; spaghetti squash with venison spaghetti meat sauce.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:

Thai curry noodles with chicken at CoreLife in Fairlawn; spanakopita at Countryside Farmer’s Market in Highland Square; steak sandwich at Dontino’s La Vita Gardens in Akron.

THE MAILBAG 

From Sandy D.:

My hummus recipe is similar to yours and I like it, but have you not heard of or tried gas station hummus? When I first heard about it I thought, “It’s hummus — how much better than mine can it be?” Well, I’m not sure what the magic is but holy smokes, it is the most creamy, smooth, flavorful stuff ever!

You can get it at the Sunoco station in Olmsted Falls at the corner of Columbia and Sprague Roads or the Sunoco in Willoughby at Lost Nation and Lakeshore Boulevard. Call ahead, though — it is so popular it sells out quickly.

As far as your list of questions, I can only answer one. I read a couple of food blogs each week on a regular basis, but there are many out there that are very run-of-the-mill. Seems they are more focused on being cute and stylish than offering me any helpful info about cooking.

At any rate, if you haven’t had gas station hummus yet, please try it. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy:

Just the phrase “gas station hummus” sends me into paroxysms of rapture. Hummus from a gas station! I haven’t tasted it and already I’m a believer. I once had barbecued ribs at a gas station in Kansas City and the place is now on everybody’s “best ribs” list, so why not hummus?

It turns out that your gas station hummus has been an underground hit among Cleveland foodies for about a year. It is actually available at three gas stations — the two you mentioned and Ohio City Gas at Lorain Avenue and Fulton Road in the Ohio City area of Cleveland. Muntaha Dari makes the hummus at her gas station in Willoughby and her sister, Khalil, uses the same recipe at the station in Olmsted Falls that she owns with her parents. Their brother owns the Ohio City station, where the hummus is made by his wife, Nazek Allan, from a recipe taught to her by the Dari’s mother. I can’t wait to try it.

From Maryann:

How do you know if meat, chicken, seafood, etc., bought “unfrozen” in a grocery store hasn’t been previously frozen? Sometimes the package seems to have little crystals like just-thawed meat. Usually I repackage family-size items into smaller servings to freeze. Is it safe to do this even if I’m not sure if the item has been previously frozen in storage?

If a product label says “fresh” does it mean never frozen or just not frozen now? If I thaw something that I froze but change my mind about cooking it, can I refreeze it?

Dear Maryann:

If a food is labeled “fresh,” it means by law that it has never been frozen. But the government’s definition of “never frozen” is wacky. It allows processors and shippers to call a food “fresh” if it has been “hard chilled” to 27 degrees. To me, 27 degrees is frozen. A consumers’ group once protested the nonsensical rule by bowling “hard chilled” turkeys down the streets of Washington, D.C.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you see ice crystals in a food, it is safe to refreeze. Food safety experts tell us not to refreeze food that has been completely thawed, but frankly, I do it all the time. The safety folks are acting out of an abundance of caution. They fear that if your frozen food has been thawed, you may have allowed it to warm up past 40 degrees for two hours, the point and time at which bacteria can grow enough to hurt you. But if you have sense enough to keep your thawed food cold, you can safely refreeze it. Thawing and refreezing won’t do any favors for the texture or juiciness of the product, but it won’t kill you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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