Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ceviche. The Perfect Meal to Make When You Forgot to Pay Your Gas Bill.

Are you looking for a refreshingly delightful meal for a hot Saturday night? Then look no further. This popular south of the border seafood dish is a cinch to prepare. Heck, you don't even need to fire up the grill or stove.

Yes. You heard me right.

This dish requires no cooking.

But it's not sashimi.

Many introductions to ceviche recipes will tell you the scallops (or other salt-water seafood) is cooked by the lime. Well, 'cooked' is a misnomer. It isn't cooked because there's no heat applied. Instead the seafood is denatured - the protein molecules are changed by the acid in the lime juice - their nature is changed. Cooking also denatures proteins. As does smoke, salt and even air. We're all familiar with smoked, salted, and air-dried food. Think smoked hams, Germany's Rohschinken, the wide array of Italian cured meats, or that delicacy of the deep Appalachians: road-kill that's been sitting on the pavement for a couple of days.

Okay, enough of the science lesson.

Let's learn to pronounce it. For years I pronounced it as 'seh-VEE-shay, which impressed my friends (who tended to pronounce it as 'seh-vitch') but made me look like a moron whenever I ordered it in a spanish restaurant. So I'll spare you the embarrassment the next time you visit a restaurant that serves it and you'll still impress your friends with the correct pronunciation which is: 'seh-Bee-tcheh'. And no, the 'B' is not a typo.

Okay, enough of the linguistics lesson.

Let's talk about it's popularity.

This dish sort of took America by storm starting in the '80's. I'm almost positive that every major metropolitan area has a restaurant named Ceviche. In Peru, the dish is actually an official part of their natural heritage and even has a holiday declared in its honor. Which is like Maker's Mark and Kentucky, where this glorious bourbon elixir is celebrated and savored with abandon on its national holiday, which just so happens to be any day of the week that ends in the letter 'y'.

But before we dig in, remember, it's still basically raw fish, so it should be avoided by those with liver, stomach, or immune disorders. Pregnant women should probably steer clear, too.

For the rest of us? Pass that ice-filled platter of raw oysters and let's start to marinate these scallops.

PREP: 15 minutes    MARINATE: 8 hours or overnight

1/2 pound bay scallops (or tilapia for those who prefer fish)
4 limes, juiced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, minced, including some green
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup minced green bell pepper
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Bottled hot sauce to taste (I like Franks)
Sliced avocado and lime to garnish (optional)
Tostadas or salsa chips (optional)

1. Rinse scallops, pat dry and place in a medium sized bowl. Pour lime juice over the scallops so they are completely immersed (use a smaller bowl if necessary). Place in the fridge and marinate until the scallops are opaque (8 hours or overnight).

2. Pour off 1/2 of the lime juice from the bowl. Add the tomatoes, green onions, celery, green bell pepper, mango (if using), parsley, black pepper, olive oil, and cilantro to the scallop mixture. Stir gently. Serve in chilled margarita glasses with a some cilantro on top or even a slice of avocado and lime hanging over the rim. Serve with tostadas or chips if desired.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Where's the Beef? Why, Florida of Course!

When you think of the origins of that great steak or beef roast you had the other night, where does your mind wander? To the grazing lands in the shadows of the Rockies? The stockyards of the mid-west? Exotic locales like the Matsusaka region of Japan or the Margaret River region of Western Australia? If it did, no one would blame you. Because these areas are noted for their beef production.

But did you know Florida was right up there with them? Me neither. Until a couple of years ago.

Who would've guessed that Florida is home to four of our country's 10 largest cow/calf ranches? Or that we rank #12 in the nation in the number of beef cows? Heck, nearly half of all of Florida's agricultural land is devoted to beef production. Oh, and these ranchers are excellent caretakers of their land, providing thousands of acres important green space for both wildlife and native plant habitat.

So next time you're heading to Disney, Tampa Bay or Miami, and you find yourself cruising along the interstate or some back road and pass a herd of cattle grazing on a vast expanse of pastureland, remember the important part these ranchers play in both our environment and our diet.

And when you get home, fire up the grill and prepare this Florida feast.

Bon Appetit!

Chef Warren


Who would’ve thought that this inexpensive cut of meat could turn into a deliciously tender meal? I guess it was up to the early Florida cattlemen. And I’m glad they did. This is similar to barbequed beef brisket but in smaller portions and half the price. The important thing is to slice this very thin - it will make a big difference. Oh, and this will make more than enough for two, so feel free to use the thin slices for sandwiches. Simply reheat slices in a little broth or water so they wont dry out. Feel free to double this recipe for company.

PREP: 15 minutes
MARINATE: 6 - 8 hours
COOK: 2 hours

2 pounds chuck roast
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mild or spicy prepared salsa

1. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, oregano and garlic. Pierce the meat at intervals with a fork then rub the chili mixture all over. In the same bowl combine the red wine, vinegar, oil, and pepper. Put the meat in a zip lock bag and add the red wine marinade to coat. Refrigerate for 6 - 8 hours.

2. Prepare a grill for indirect heat. Place a drip pan next to the coals. Lightly oil the grate. Remove the meat from the marinade and place it on the grate above the drip pan. Brush the meat with the marinade. Cover the grill and cook the roast slowly, turning from time to time, brushing with reserved marinade, for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the roast registers 120° with an instant read thermometer for medium-rare.

3. Remove meat from grill to a platter and cover loosely with tin foil for 15 minutes. Slice very thin and serve with salsa.

Serve with Grilled Corn and Spicy Oven Fries

Monday, May 26, 2014

Making a Difference. One Cookout at a Time.

I wanted to post this earlier, but I didn't want to rain on anyone's Memorial Day cookout.

Including my own.

So I'm posting this now as to give us food for thought for next year.

Maybe it's because I have sons who are 'draft-able'. Or maybe it's because of I have young in-laws who are currently serving our country.

Or maybe it's because I'm simply older and more reflective.

Whatever it is, a friend posted this pic on Facebook and for some reason it hit home for me.

Granted, I love to grill. Especially if I'm given 3 full days to do it. I've even posted numerous grilling recipes over the years. And I will continue to do so. But next year with a difference. And maybe you will too.

In a world where athletes, movie stars, and pop singers pull down more money than the GNP of many nations, it's hard to swallow the fact that our servicemen and women - those who voluntarily put themselves in harm's way for our benefit and (in some cases) for the benefit of those who actually despise them - sometimes have to struggle when they return home.

I often approach those in uniform at the airport, in a restaurant, or downtown and thank them for their service. You might too.

Maybe it's time to do more than just talk. So here's my thought. I hope I can get some buy-in.

At your next backyard Memorial Day shindig, put out a bucket for donations. And let your guests know about it in advance so they can come prepared. The next day, send the proceeds to your non-profit of choice (ie. Wounded Warriors). It works. And it will grow. Here's how I know.

Back when we had a big house, we hosted an annual Blues Brothers party in February. I'd cook up a Chicago blues feast, everyone would come dressed as a character in the movie, my son-in-law and friends would play live blues music, and the piece de resistance would be my son and my good friend Jeff lip-syncing 'Soul Man' to the delight of everyone in attendance (oh…and they were spot on!) We put a bucket out with a sign stating that we were on a mission from God. Each year we'd raise a couple of thousand of bucks for an orphanage in Mexico, Alaska, etc.

I know it's not a lot of money. But hey, what if 10 of us were committed to doing something similar. 100? 1000? 10,000? Now, we're talking serious cash.

This backyard party cost next to nothing (unlike the huge celebrity 'fundraisers' that cost more to produce than they raise…and trust me on that…I was a non-profit fundraiser for 25 years…) and everyone knows exactly where their money is going. And there's no middle man taking a hefty cut.

Better yet? Invite some servicemen and vets from the neighborhood over. Don't fawn. Just thank 'em and offer them a cold beer and a brat.

So, with that in mind, what do you think?

Are you with me?

If so. Whip up some of these brats. They're cheap. Delicious. And together we can pay homage to those who lay down their lives for us.

Bon Appetit!

Chef Warren


Double, triple or quadruple this. It's all good.

PREP: 10 minutes            COOK: 1 hour


8 good brats. (If you can get them from your butcher, great. If not, Johnsonville is a good national brand.
2 Spanish or sweet onions (Vidalia, Walla-Walla) peeled and sliced

6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 bottles good amber beer - don't bother with lite or cheap beer crap
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

8 brat buns


1. Preheat outdoor grill.
2. Melt 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 an onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté an addition 2 minutes. Add the brats, salt and beer and bring to a slow boil.
3. Quickly lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered.
4. In the meantime, heat remaining butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining onion slices and sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
5. Remove brats from pot and grill over medium heat until nicely brown, about 10 - 15 minutes.
6. Serve on buns with sautéed onions and plenty of good beer.
7. Put out a bucket for donations.
8. Send donations to non-profit of choice.
9. Repeat every Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Life Lessons from a Frittata (or Broken Eggs and Leftovers)

Do you remember the Egg Toss Game? It's often played at summer camp and Easter picnics. Two lines of people face each other a few feet apart and toss a raw egg back and forth, taking a big step backward with every successful catch. Soon, contestants are 10 or 20 yards apart, a few eggs begin to break, and the number of contestants begin to fade until only a few are left gently tossing eggs across an expanse that would rival some Walmart parking lots until one pair of contestants is left with their unbroken egg.

Of course, there's always one or two clowns that want their eggs to break -- all over their partners. You know these knuckleheads. They either hurl the egg at you like they were pitching for the Mets or they heave back and send it sky high in the hope that you will lose track of it in the sun. Yep, I can almost see you nodding your head. We've all been there.

Sometimes Life can be one of those knuckleheads, too. Just when we need a gently tossed egg to make it through the day, week, or month, Life cocks it's arm and sends the egg screaming right at our faces where the only response it to throw up our arms to block it. Either that or Life hurls it so high we have no hope of catching it intact.

Either way, we have broken eggs.

And what do we often do with those broken eggs? We make do with what we're comfortable with and usually whip up an omelet or a batch of scrambled eggs. Why? Those dishes are easy, familiar, and require little risk.

They can also be quite boring.

It's the same way with leftovers. What do we usually do with leftover spaghetti? We nuke it and have another plate of spaghetti for lunch or dinner the next day. Leftover spinach from a salad? We toss some dressing on it and have another salad. All quite safe. And all quite boring.

When Life is not hurling eggs at us, she might be serving up plate after plate of leftovers instead of something new and challenging, and we settle for it. Why? It's safe and comfortable. I mean, spaghetti is spaghetti, right? When either of those situations happen to us, instead of responding with what's familiar and safe, we may want to re-think things and create a completely brand new dish with those broken eggs and bland leftovers.

I'm learning to.

To change my perspective and explore creative (and risky) options. Will it be messy? Probably. Invigorating? Absolutely.

So, back to the egg toss. When some clown tosses the egg in a way it can only break, instead of whipping up a plain old omelet or scrambled eggs, let's raid the fridge for some leftover pasta, that half can of dice tomatoes, the bowl of sautéed mushrooms, a handful of fresh spinach, or maybe some leftover cooked veggies to create a spectacular frittata.

Will it be messy? Probably.

Delicious? Absolutely.


What better way to clean out the fridge than with this creative and delicious frittata. Even though my specialty is cooking for two, we're making this for four because it will taste even better the next day. Especially at room temperature. Oh, and don't worry too much about the measurements. This is a messy and delightful dish that is almost impossible to mess up. Now let's open up that fridge and see what we have.

PREP: 15 minutes            COOK: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk or half and half
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. dried basil, oregano, or thyme
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 or 2 cups* cooked spaghetti or similar pasta (linguini, fettuccini, angel hair, etc) cut into 2" pieces if desired, but not necessary

From the Fridge:
1/4 to 1/2 cup leftover sautéed mushrooms
1/4 to 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh spinach, torn
1/4 to 1/2 cup leftover cooked veggies (broccoli, squash, zucchini, potatoes, etc)

To Finish:
1 cup shredded Muenster cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or 1-1/4 cup Parmesan cheese if not using Muenster).

1. Preheat broiler to high.

2. In large bowl, beat together eggs with milk, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and herb of choice. Fold in fridge ingredients.

3. Heat a cast iron or other oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and swirl to coat. Add onions and sauté until crisp tender, about 5 - 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 - 2 minutes.

4. Gently stir onions, garlic and pasta into egg mixture then pour into the skillet. Flatten mixture with a spatula and cook, undisturbed, over medium - heat until bottom is set, about 5 - 8 minutes (lift edge with a spatula at 5 minutes to make sure the bottom is just lightly brown).

5. Sprinkle top with Muenster cheese and Parmesan cheese. Place pan under broiler, about 4"- 5" from heat source, and cook for 5-10 minutes until frittata is puffed, set, and beginning to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cut into wedges. Can be served immediately or at room temperature.

*The amount of pasta will depend on how much stuff you are adding from the fridge. Use less pasta if you have a lot of fridge ingredients, more pasta if you are not using a lot. Either way, this recipe is almost foolproof!