Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Smoked Mackerel Dip

You might be wondering to yourself if a food blogger would dare to post a low quality picture of a vaguely pink bowl of meat and crackers on a paper plate. I dared to do that very thing. Because it's the simple things in life, baby. Paper plates mean less clean up. Few ingredients let the smoked fish shine. This dip might look lackluster; it's not. It's magically delicious.

Home-made crackers are insanely easy and heavily addicting. I usually try to steer clear of packaged foods, so crackers are a rarity in my household. No longer, since I found an amazing recipe at smitten kitchen for homemade wheat thins. While I highly recommend making the crackers for the dip, it is certainly not necessary. This fish dip would be fantastic on just about any crunchy vessel you can get your hands on.

To start, you need to get your hands on some quality smoked fish. I am fortunate enough to live by the ocean and have a fantastic fish market just minutes from my house. They smoke the fresh-caught local mackerel right outside their shop, and the fish is so succulent it could easily just be eaten on its own. If you can't find a nice mild white smoked fish, you could try smoking it yourself. I have not done this, and if anyone tries it I would love to hear about it.

Your fish is the star; simply add a few ingredients to accent the smoky fish flavor, grab your crunchy cracker, chip, etc. and enjoy this simple dip.

Smoked Mackerel Dip
4 oz smoked fish
2 t. cream cheese, softened
2 T. homemade mayonaise
2 t. Dijon mustard
2 T. finely diced onion
Few dashes of hot sauce (I use Crystal)
1-2 t. lemon juice
1/4 t. white pepper
Salt to taste

Start by chopping the fish into small pieces. It should shred apart easily. Add your cream cheese, mayonaise, and Dijon mustard and mix until combined. Then throw in diced onion, a few dashes of hot sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice, and the white pepper. Just barely stir until combined; the dip is much nicer when it still has whole pieces of fish and isn't completely smooth. At this point, taste the dip to see if salt is necessary. You could also add chives, parsley, dill, lemon zest, etc. I personally like the dip plain & simple!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday...Bloody Sunday...

Wynwood Walls in Miami, FL
So my last post contained a lie...I promised a smoked chicken pizza recipe. And I did not deliver. This happened for two reasons; one being that I decided not to do two pizza recipes in a row, and the other being that I left home and went to Miami for three days. Yes...sweet, sweet Miami. Cuban coffee, guyaba and queso pastelitos, and spinach empanadas on every corner...literally. This includes gas stations. Strangely and unexpectedly enough, in the midst of all this amazing, authentic Cuban food, we stumbled upon a gem in South Beach. The best fried chicken EVER. EVER. So, much great food was had. And, needless to say, I am in serious need of some light, healthy fare over the next few weeks. But yesterday was not the day to start. I'm still in need of recuperation from the trip, and nothing seemed more perfectly relaxing to me on a Sunday afternoon before the work week starts than an extravagant Bloody Mary.

 Much research on the Internet for the perfect recipe resulted in this video on YouTube. The mixologist from Elixir demonstrates how to make the ultimate Bloody Mary. It is the best, with some modifications. Watch the video to get his technique down, but then adjust the seasoning to your tastes.

And yes...I made tiny biscuits to garnish my Bloody. I made simple mini whole wheat biscuits and layered them with prosciutto, cheese, and a little honey.

Perfect Bloody Mary
Old Bay to rim glass
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. celery salt
2-3 generous dashes of Worcestershire
2-3 generous dashes of Tabasco
1/2 oz. to 1 oz. of pickle/olive brine
2 oz. vodka
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1 heaping tsp. prepared horseradish
4 oz. tomato juice

Build drink in a pint glass, starting with dill and adding ingredients in order. Fill glass with ice, and using a second pint glass, roll drink four times. On the fourth roll, run a piece of lemon around the rim of the empty glass, dip glass rim in Old Bay, and gently pour the cocktail into the rimmed glass. Garnish with whatever you desire! Pickles of all kinds, bacon, biscuits, pizza...the possibilities never end!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pizza night! On the grill?!

Before I begin my first post on my new blog, let me start by apologizing for the horrendous quality photos that will be uploaded here. Yes...I am taking these pictures with my antiquated cell phone in my tiny, dimly lit kitchen. And yes, I really don't know how to present the food as beautifully as some of my fellow bloggers. As an avid food blog reader, I know nothing makes a recipe seem more enticing than a beautiful photo. I promise, at some point very soon, that I will purchase a real camera.

We love pizza night in our house! It's an easy, fun way to use up random ingredients in the fridge and make them taste good together. 'Tis the season of grilling, so I decided a pizza on the grill would be perfect. We perused the good old internet, got a few tips from Alton Brown, and then decided to sort of wing it.

I started with a basic, no-rise whole wheat dough. I used this recipe from Frugal Fit Family, but I had to tweak it a little. I added a bit of extra water and olive oil to make the dough come together. I think my particular brand of whole wheat flour is extra absorbent. The end result was good, and the consistency of the dough ended up working really well on the grill.

We actually made two pizzas. We happened to have lots of leftover smoked chicken from the night before, and I had a little inspiration from ingredients in our fridge. I cooked that one in the oven, since it was so heavily topped. The grill is best for lighter, simple pizzas.

On the grill, we made an amazing margherita pizza. We had beautiful beefsteak tomatoes from the farmer's market, high quality ricotta salata and parmesan, and fresh organic garlic. Yes, we burned it a little - but it truly was fantastic (and I sometimes like a little darkness on my pizza crust).

My boyfriend liked the smoked chicken pizza the best, but I am in love with the grilled taste of the margherita. And yes, the picture below is missing a slice...we really couldn't wait...

Grilled Margherita Pizza
  • 1 ball of pizza dough of your choice, rolled out to a 10-12 inch circle
  • Two large tomatoes, quartered
  • Six cloves garlic, skin on
  • 1/4 c. ricotta salata
  • 1/4 c. shaved parmesan or pecorino romano
  • Handful of basil (I used Greek basil)
Heat grill to about 450 degrees. We use charcoal and have no way to gauge temperature, so this is just an estimate.Brush tomatoes with olive oil and place on grill over direct heat, along with garlic cloves. Grill for 10-15 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and slightly charred. Move tomatoes and garlic off direct heat. Brush one side of the pizza crust with olive oil. Using your hands, flip crust over and place oil side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Being very careful, lift crust off the sheet using the parchment paper, and slide onto the grill over direct heat. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until bottom of crust is crispy and has grill marks. Be careful not to burn - using a gas grill might help control the temperature. When it was ready to flip, we used large spatulas to get the crust back onto the cookie sheet. Brush uncooked side with olive oil, place oil side down back onto parchment paper, and slide back onto grill. Take tomatoes and crush them onto the crust. Top with basil and cheeses, place lid on grill, and cook 3-4 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly. We brought the roasted garlic into the house to slice, and added it afterwards. Wait 5 minutes before slicing. Slice into eight slices, and proceed to eat four of them...after saying you weren't going to eat half a pizza....

*My directions might be a little hard to follow. I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out, but know that having two people helps tremendously.

**While the grill is fired up, throw some chicken and applewood chips on for tomorrow's smoked chicken pizza!