What's better than great food, great friends and a great photo to capture the moment? That is what this blog is - creativity from kitchen to camera. We are having a blast looking for challenging recipes (or making up our own!) and documenting the cooking process with serious photographic effort.

Come along with us on our journey to discovering new culinary delights and the making of food-tography!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rum Punched

As many of you know, my parents were born in Barbados. They each had 6 kids in their family, so I have lots of aunts and uncles and LOTS of cousins. My oldest uncle was Francis Edwin Wood Goddard (1916-1994). Great guy. My mom's father was Francis Wood Goddard (1890-1977). Wonderful guy. His father was Edwin Alleyne Goddard (1853-1943). Beats me what kind of guy he was, but I'm optimistic. Edwin's father was William Wood Davis Goddard (1820-1891), and his father was William Farmer Goddard (1800-1878) - my grandfather's grandfather's father. Regardless of whether or not they were nice, I bet they were no-nonsense, hard working, family men.  They were British colonists in early Barbados, one of the jewels of the empire. I wish I could hear how they spoke or see what they looked like.

If you continued through the family history I've researched you'd see several names which have been passed down, and I think that's pretty cool. My sister's middle name is Frances, for example, after our grandfather. No other Greggs in the bunch, but I'm okay with that.

The point of this brief history lesson?  I have a deep and rich West Indian heritage, and as you can probably guess I've been around quite a bit of rum punch in my life. Quite a bit.

The recipe we use is centuries old. There's no nouveau twist. No South Beach influence. It's simple, classic, and I wouldn't make it any other way. The best thing about our recipe is that you don't have to write it down:

One of sour
Two of sweet
Three of strong
Four of weak


One part lime juice
Two parts sugar
Three parts rum
Four parts water

The first way rhymes a lot better, and that's how you remember it. It's the greatest rum punch ever. What's more? It's how rum punch was first made. The Food Network show 'Good Eats with Alton Brown' did an entire episode on punch, and when he got to rum punch Alton told about the original way pirates made it.  I'll be damned if he didn't say the recipe was one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.  Alton said you should then add some spice, and we'll get to that in a minute.

So, start with a cup of lime juice, even if you buy a bottle instead of squeezing limes. Add 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of rum (I last used an 8 year old Bacardi, but of course Barbados rum is preferred), and 4 cups of water. Wisk or stir until all the sugar dissolves, and you'll have yourself two and a half quarts o' punch.

Pour into an ice filled glass. The traditional way is to top it with a couple splashes of Angostura Bitters and then the spice, which is a little ground nutmeg. Again, that's not some foo-foo South Beach garnish. That's legit. Centuries old.  And while the end result is delicious, I must warn you that you should drink it in moderation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bring on Autumn

We've been killing ourselves in the yard all summer, and we're ready for things to go dormant.  Plus, it's football season (!), so we have much less time for weekend yard work.  But now it's officially fall, and like clockwork it's become a little cooler.  As I've stated in previous posts, I like to wing it in the kitchen.  I like to think about what I'm in the mood for, and then see if I can make it happen.  The end product of my inventiveness is sometimes inedible, but we have a Domino's in our neighborhood now, so there really are no losers.

About a year ago I decided to try to make a sauce for pork to go with mashed potatoes.  I thought a base of apples and dried cranberries sounded like a good start, so I got to it.  It was one of those dishes that really came out pretty good, so I posted a comment about it on Facebook, and Maureen Souza-Somethingorother, my friend of 30+ years, commented that it sounded like a good autumn kind of dinner.  That made sense to me.  Kind of Thanksgivingish with pork instead of turkey.  But that also meant that once the cool weather was behind us I felt like it would be kind of inappropriate or out of place.  Like salad at a tailgate party.

But it was really good, so I kept thinking about it.  For like 8 months I've been thinking about it.  But now it's officially autumn, and it's a little cooler outside, so I had no good reason not to make my grilled pork tenderloin and mashed potatoes with apple cranberry sauce and candied rosemary carrots.  Again the name is the shopping list.  Either I suck at naming dishes, or I'm phenomenal at it.

I think the best part of this meal is that it's pretty hard to screw up even without ever having written down a recipe.  The basics of it are simple and few, and the rest is wide open and subject to personal opinion.  I buy a flavored pork tenderloin - peppercorn this time, but I've also used teriyaki and mesquite with equal success.  I grill it over low heat turning it every 5 minutes or so until it's done, which in the case of pork is about 160 degrees, and which usually takes about 25 minutes.

While that's grilling I core two Granny Smith apples, chop them into bite size pieces, and open a 6-8 oz. bag of dried cranberries (craisins).  The apples and craisins go into a big saute' pan.  The next part has changed each time I've made this.  Most recently I added 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of vegetable stock, and 1 cup of water, but I've done different amounts of each (including not adding any stock) with very little difference in the flavor.

I want the apples to soften completely.  I never peel the apples, but feel free if you're so inclined.  I cook the fruit and liquids over medium heat, and then I head to the pantry and survey Tammy's epic assortment of herbs and seasonings.  Salt and pepper, of course.  I always grate a lot of nutmeg, and I always use many shakes of dried rosemary.  This time I also used some of my homemade chipotle powder (see the Smokin' entry from earlier this year).

 I also use pancake syrup.

Tammy took a great photograph of these potatoes, but they were only props.  I just use the stuff in a box, because they taste fine to me.

I like to mash the apples at the end to make sure they're soft to eat (I used a potato masher, but that was overkill; a fork is fine).  If the sauce is getting thicker than you like, as mine was, just add more water.  It's really that simple.

Carrots.  Tammy cooked a bag of frozen baby carrots according to the instructions on the bag.  Then I dumped them into a pan with some water to soften further.  When the water got going well, I again added some pancake syrup to kind of candy them.  Keep tossing the carrots to coat them, and then I sprinkle a lot of dried rosemary to stick to the syrupy, gooey-ness.

That's it.  Time to slice the pork...

...and then serve it up.

Maureen was right.  That's autumn on a plate.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chicken Pesto Pasta with Artichokes & Sundried Tomatoes

Bobby Bowden has always stressed priorities, and he always said his top priorities were "faith, family, then football."  This makes one wonder about the importance one places on the things one holds near and dear.  When one has a particularly guilty pleasure it makes one self conscious about how important said guilty pleasure is relative to other things in one's life.  Confused?  Somewhat irritated by the excessive use of "one"?  Okay, I'll get to it: I'm a Rush fan.  A really big Rush fan, and I've been so since my cousin Lou took me to the Moving Pictures tour in March of 1982 when I was in 7th grade.  I've only missed one tour since then.  So when Bobby Bowden says his priorities are faith, family, then football I become rather self-conscious about how important in my life three guys I've never met are.  I mean a REALLY big Rush fan.

I'm such a dork I go to a Rush news website every morning.  Neil Peart (peert, not purt) is the drummer and lyricist, and he has a website where he writes usually monthly about his life and what he's doing, where he's going, etc.  When he posts a new entry I know how I will spend my lunch break that day.  One subject he has covered is his love of cooking (finally you see where this is going), and he recently took it farther to include a cooking section to his website, which he calls Bubba's Bar & Grill.  I was overjoyed that a guy from my favorite band was going to share with me the things he likes to cook.  I realize all of you find this to be another reason to dislike me, but I don't care, and you can each help yourself to a caustic retort on your way out.

With the nerdy, annoying, uncomfortable introduction behind us we can finally get to the food.  I picked a recipe on opening day of Bubba's Bar & Grill, and my family loves it.  It's extremely easy, it has a little wow factor, and it incorporates one of my trademarks in that the name is the shopping list.  Behold: chicken pesto pasta w/ artichokes & sundried tomatoes.  That's everything.

Let's get the pasta boiling, shall we?  We prefer bowtie pasta for this.  Now, one chicken breast per person gets cut into bite size pieces and then goes into a pan of very hot oil.  Some may ask why the oil needs to be very hot before you add the chicken.  If you toss the chicken into room temperature oil the chicken will absorb it, which is disgusting.  Tossing the chicken into very hot oil instantly sears it keeping the juices in and the oil out.  So concludes the teaching portion of whatever this is.

And you're pretty much done cooking.  I'm serious.  Turn the chicken to brown all the sides.  Add a can or two of quartered artichoke hearts including the canning liquid.  The steam will keep the chicken tender. We use 2 cans to 3 breasts because Tammy calls the shots.  Canned is usually a lot less expensive than bottled, and there's no difference.

Meanwhile mince some sundried tomatoes and toss them into the party to get a little juicier and tenderer.

After the pasta boils 10 minutes, drain and add it to the other ingredients.  Or return it to the pasta pot and then add the chicken and veggies to it.  I have no idea if there's a difference, so just base it on which pot is bigger.  Then add pesto sauce.  This is what I think adds a little wow factor, simply because I rarely see or eat pesto.  I use two 6.3 oz bottles of Classico.

At this point I like to kick up the flavor of the pesto by introducing some fresh basil.  I trim a bit from my basil plant, pluck the leaves (in the Bubba's Bar & Grill t-shirt my sister gave me for Christmas), roll them up like a - uh - cigar, and dice.

If the wine isn't open by now you're stupid.  Toss, mix, combine, plate, garnish, turn up the Rush CD, and enjoy. 

Coincidentally, this posting coincides with the start of the newest Rush tour.  Yes, that's right.  Coincidentally it coincides with it. Coincidentally, the band has decided on this tour to play Moving Pictures in its entirety.  Yes, that's right.  The album from my first tour back when I was in 7th grade.  The tour began last night in Albuquerque (I swear on my own eyes I can spell that without looking it up), and it culminates October 2 (where?) in West Palm Beach.  And guess who has tickets.

Monday, May 10, 2010


The beauty of smoked food comes from cooking for a long time over low heat. Slow & Low. It’s time-consuming, as well as being a pretty elaborate process, so it doesn’t make sense to pull out my smoker, set it up, and get it lit just for one item. Microwaves are better for one item. Quick & High.

So when I decided I was in the mood for pulled pork sandwiches I didn’t just buy a pork shoulder. I also bought a nice piece of salmon for Tammy to make fish dip and a dozen jalapenos for me to make chipotle powder. Other times I may include skirt steaks or drumsticks. Or all of the above, which I call ‘throwing a zoo in the smoker’.

The pork should cook at least 5 hours and as long as 12 hours or so. There’s enough fat in the cut to keep it from drying out. The salmon and the jalapenos take considerably less time, so while the pork is slowly becoming amazing deep inside, they go on the top for easy access.

As for the jalapenos, I smoke them for about an hour before pulling them off and drying them in the oven at about 150 degrees for another 30-45 minutes.  Then I put the now smoked and dried jalapenos into my coffee grinder.  It should be noted that I have a coffee grinder, but I don't drink coffee.  Yes, I bought it just to make chipotle powder.  No scoffing if you haven't tasted the results.

When the shoulder comes out it looks amazing, but the aroma is even better. What you see here is meat which became exposed after I peeled off a strip of solid fat, and tempted though I was, I didn’t sample the pork fat. It was so perfect it should’ve been used for something, but I could hear my arteries screaming, “Discard! For the love of God, DISCARD!” My arteries used to trust me to not eat irresponsibly. Then a couple of weeks ago one of my co-workers’ poked his head in my office and said, “I’m going to KFC for a Double Down. Want one?” I thought: “Two pieces of bacon, two slices of cheese, and KFC sauce between two pieces of fried chicken. Hmmm. That sounds right.” Within an hour of eating it I was so nauseous my shoulders ached. To steal a joke from John Pinette: 11 herbs and spices, and 8 of them are salt. Now my arteries are monitoring my decisions.

Then I began the process of pulling the pork. That phrase caused some of you to snicker, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Take a moment to leave the junior high school locker room and return to present time.

Now that we have that behind us, you can see the pink layer just beneath the surface of the pieces as they’re pulled apart. This is known as the smoke ring.

Once it’s thoroughly pulled apart I just added some barbecue sauce. When Tammy found out I was using a bottle of sauce from the store instead of making it from scratch I received a rather chilling stare, but I avoided being on restrictions by showing sufficient remorse and promising to never let it happen again.

I don’t know about you, but in my opinion pulled pork sandwiches require coleslaw. The problem is that every coleslaw I’ve ever been served sucks. You know that little cup you get as a side at some places? It’s always terrible. There is one exception. My mom makes the best coleslaw in the history of cabbage. My coleslaw is second place, but it’s simple:

- one bag of shredded cabbage (a short cut my mom has never considered)

- several turns of the peppermill

That’s it.

How beautiful is this sandwich? My brother-in-law, the late, great Michael Barich, would say “it’s like an angel peeing on your tongue”.

But I’m sitting here now thinking about that expression of his, and it’s taken on a new meaning, because sadly, Michael is now one of those angels. Hey, Barich. Keep your pee to yourself.

Do angels read blogs?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steak night!

Last summer Tammy and I went to a restaurant named “Cooks!” It was owned and operated by a chef/instructor at a culinary school (yes, “was” – it closed). Anywho, the concept was interactive dining, in which pros show you how to make your own meal. We went on Italian night. We made mozzarella cheese right from the curd for a Caprese salad. For dinner, we went into the kitchen where the chef/owner guided us through the process of making chicken marsala and risotto. Both were firsts for us. I couldn’t have been happier.

But why would a story titled “Steak Night” be about making chicken marsala? That’s a fair question, but stick with me; I’m getting to it. One part of cooking Tammy really enjoys is stirring things. Keep your comments to yourself. Risotto, as it turns out, requires lots and lots of stirring, so Tammy was in her element.

Then last Sunday Tammy is looking through recipes, sees Parmesan-Carrot Risotto, and decides to make it. My job was to decide what to have with it. I suggested frozen fish sticks, because I trust the Gorton’s fisherman. Tammy was not amused, so off to Publix I went to purchase ribeyes. I found 3 beauties, and I usually season steaks with Penzey’s English Prime rib rub, but these looked so good I decided to go with just a little salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tammy was deep into her stirring, and I had some onions on the grill.  How great is this picture?  My wife is a talented chick.

I pulled the onions off the grill and finished them in a sautee pan with some garlic and a whole grain mustard and red wine reduction.

Then it was time to grill the steaks. Some people will be very surprised by this, while others will think it’s a major understatement: I’m a pretty structured guy. And when it comes to grilling steaks, I have a formula. I get my grill up to about 375, and with the flame on full blast I sear each side for one minute. Yes, I use a stop watch.  (Flattering profile shot, eh?)

Then I turn the flame all the way down to low and grill them another 3 minutes per side for medium rare. I don’t waver from this formula. Ever. I know some people can tell doneness by poking steaks with their fingers. I don’t know if I could tell doneness by poking a steak with my finger, because I don’t poke steaks with my finger. I have a formula.

Now I know I had decided to just season them with a little salt and pepper; however, while I was getting the whole grain mustard out of the fridge for the reduction, I spotted a bottle of pesto, and I recalled that when I bought it the cashier told me it was great on steak, so after I turned the steaks for the third and final time I spread a spoonful over my steak and let it get awesome for the final 3 minutes.

For a salad I just ran a cucumber through my mandolin and then dressed it with the juice of one lime and some salt, and Tammy garnished it with some fresh thyme. It was a bright, cool, tart crunch to balance the rich risotto and steaks.

I just reread the previous two sentences, and they're without question the most effeminate things I've ever said or written. Hopefully the fact that I was drinking cans of Busch Light during the entire grilling process butches it up enough to restore my manhood.

So here’s the finished product!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Bisque. Creamy, buttery, smooth, savory and of course, full of lobster. Need I say much more? So many times I have enjoyed a bowl of this delicious soup, and so many times I have said "one day I am gonna make this." Well, I finally decided to go for it... and what better day to make such a romantic bowl of love than Valentine's day.

Dina finalizing the recipe

After much deliberation I chose a recipe that did not call for a live lobster. Thanks Gregg, for convincing me to spare myself the agony of having to assassinate several crustaceans. And thank you for offering to pick up the pre-steamed lobsters and have the shiny red shelled critters waiting to be made into soup.

Off I went with my list to the grocery store. Much more than I expected to have to buy, with vegetables ranging from fennel and leeks to oranges and carrots - wait, I don't remember all these fruits and vegetables in my lobster bisque, where do they come in? Well, before making bisque it turns out, you have to make stock. So with all my veggies and cream in shopping bags I head to the liquor store. Yes, now we add sherry and cognac. Yum.

Then the fun part, playing with the food. We pour the wine, gather all the ingredients, and then set them up all pretty and posed for the pictures. To me, this was the most fun of the entire event. I love the way food looks - especially big, red lobsters - and I really enjoyed "food styling" all the ingredients for Tammy to masterfully photograph. After a few glasses of wine Deni, Tammy and I joined the food for a few pictures of our creation to be, then we really started playing.

Down to business... chop, chop, chop, ew! have you ever cut up a lobster? Gross! It's a good thing it is dead and cooked. Simmer, strain, and oh this is fun - ignite! And then finally we have - stock. So now that we have been cooking for hours we can start to make the bisque. A little cream, some more butter - hey, where did that other stick of butter go?!? Oh... the dog ate it. Yikes. That's ok, we have more on reserve (and it's not my dog!).

Deni was so happy the onion matched her shirt. :o)

Yes, orange peel in lobster bisque.

Photographer / Supervisor / Wine tester

In the end it was a great day, full of hard work, wine, friends and lots of fun. The soup was delicious and I will NEVER make it again. It is much too much work when they make it so good at the restaurants!

(Written by Dina, Photos by Tammy, Cooking by Dina, Deni, Tammy & Gregg)