Friday, October 30, 2020


 Here is Part II of my big smoking adventure of a couple weeks ago. I'm going to start with one of my favorites. I love it because it is so antithetical...Ok, it also seems mutually incompatible. How can you possibly smoke an ice cube?! Once again, I am learning from Steven Raichlen's wonderful book, Project Smoke. He is a believer that just about anything can be smoked. I am also starting to believe!


For smoked cubes, simply pour water in a pan and place in your smoker (once you've got it going) for about 15-20 minutes. That's it. Pour the smoked water in ice cube trays and once frozen you have smoked ice cubes. The longer you smoke the water, the smokier the cubes will get. I thought 20 minutes was perfect with a little scotch. I think the smoked cubes would also make a fantastic Manhattan or served with any rye whisky or bourbon. They would also be great with Ice Tea...Lapsang Souchong, which is inherently smoky also sounds like a perfect combo.

As with the Ice Cubes it only took about 20 minutes to smoke these hard boiled eggs. Boil your eggs. Cool. Peel. Place on smoker (once lit) and smoke for about 20 minutes.
Behind the eggs is a pan of Pink Himalayan Sea Salt. I smoked it for about 20 minutes, as well, but next time would smoke for a longer amount of time. The salt was smoky, but very subtle. On the bottom shelf is the Brisket.

After they came out of the smoker I salted and peppered and then prepared as you would any deviled egg. I think a nice pink caviar would be excellent as a topper on these smoked eggs, but my local market did not have any caviar so smoked salmon went on top of mine. Delicious!
Similar to the smoked ice cubes and deviled eggs, smoked bread is simpler than it sounds. All you have to do is smoke the water using to make the bread and also smoke the flour. When you put it all together you have a very subtle, delightfully smoked bread. Again, I smoked the flour and water for about 20 minutes. Steven Raichlen gives credit to French baker, Johann Villar who showed him how to smoke such unexpected ingredients.
I used Raicheln's recipe, which called for 1 cup whole wheat flour and 2 cups white flour. He also uses honey as a sweetener, which lends a nice floral flavor. Use your favorite bread recipe or send me an email and I will send you his recipe.

From this wonderfully smoked bread I made a few different things. First, French Toast.

I cut the bread for this French Toast thicker than usual; almost 2 inches and also cut off the crust. Soak the bread in an egg (2 large eggs, well beaten for 3 big pieces of toast) batter with cinnamon, a little salt, tiny bit of sugar for about an hour, turning every 15 minutes or so to make sure it was completely soaked through. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (I like using my old cast iron pan) until very hot and add about 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Lower heat to medium high. Carefully drop in the bread (It becomes quite soggy from all that soaking!) and saute for about 5-6 minutes on each side.
My husband, Jerry likes his French Toast traditionally sweetened with maple syrup with bacon on the side.

I chose (because I am still watching calories!) to have mine with Greek-style yogurt and fresh blueberries!

I actually liked mine better, but then I am not a fan of sweet things in the morning.

Next, I used the crusts from the French Toast to make a...
Gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup, specifically from the Andalusian region. It is an ancient dish dating back to the 7th century. The version we know today with tomatoes and green peppers was brought to Spain from the 'new world' in the 16th century. To serve completely pureed or chunky is a personal preference. I like both so puree the base and then add lots of toppings. Take liberties with the fresh veg ingredients, but this is what I used for this Gazpacho. Also, purists would never used canned tomatoes, but unless you grow tomatoes yourself, often the ones you buy in the grocery are not that tasty (picked way too early) so I prefer to use canned unless I have a source for really good fresh tomatoes picked ripe off the vine.

1 28 oz. can San Marzano style tomatoes
1 cup V-8
1 large English style cucumber (no need to peel); 1/2 in puree; 1/2 for garnish
1/2 small red onion, peeled and finely diced; same
1 medium Green Bell pepper, cored and diced; same
1 medium Red Bell pepper, cored and diced; same
2 large garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. sea salt 
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 thick slice white bread-This is where I used the crusts from the smoked bread. I used a large handful of crusts that I ran under water and gently squeezed out.

For garnish: In addition to the English cuke, red and green pepper, I also added 1/2 sliced avocado and 4 steamed shrimp per serving. I also added some chopped fresh tomato to the garnish. 
Here's my husband, Jerry helping to chop garnishes. 

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Puree until the soup is completely blended and the right consistency. If it is too thick, thin with a little more V-8 juice.

Taste for salt/pepper and more cumin if needed. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Top with whatever garnish you prefer. I cannot believe how just a handful of smoked bread crusts flavored this entire soup. You could definitely taste the smoke!
Sometimes your finger acts as the best utensil!

From the Smoked Brisket I also made Brisket Burgers and a very lovely Brisket Hash. Can't wait to get that smoker stoked up again. I have Steven Raichlen to thank for these smoky ideas, but am looking forward to creating some of my own.






Saturday, October 17, 2020


 A couple weeks ago our hot Arizona weather cooled down a bit and I decided to stoke up the smoker. And did I ever go smoking crazy! I have a new cookbook by Steven Raichlen, PROJECT SMOKE, which is filled with fabulous ideas; some his original, and others from smoking adventures around the world. Basically Raichlen believes it is possible to smoke anything. I smoked from 8:30 in the morning until 10:30 that evening. I will have to share these recipes over a couple of blog posts as it is just too much to cover in one post. So I will start with the feature attraction:


"If there's one dish that epitomizes barbecue, that every aspiring smoke master hopes to perfect, it's brisket." Steve Raichlen

I learned that there are several cuts of beef brisket, but the most commonly found in your local grocery is a small, lean, center-cut 'brisket-flat', which is what I bought. Mine weighed about 5 pounds. As Raichlen predicted most of the fat had been cut off this already lean cut of meat so at his suggestion I layered slices of thick-cut bacon over the top of the brisket as I began to smoke. 

I seasoned very simply with lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Next, with the help of my husband, got the smoker up to a perfect 225 degrees. Checking the fire and temp about every hour is necessary to keep the temp between 225 and 250 degrees. My smoker has a water pan so I kept that filled with at least 3 inches of water. 
This brisket smoked for 10 hours at which point the exterior was darkly browned and internal temp registered 175. I then removed the brisket from the smoker and wrapped it tightly in parchment paper. Raichlen recommends butcher paper, but I did not have any. This step keeps the moisture in the meat for the final smoking. Put it back in the smoker for another couple of hours. When done, internal temp of meat should now be around 200 degrees. The 'smoke masters' tell the doneness by look and touch. A properly cooked brisket should jiggle when you shake it. There was not much jiggle left in my brisket, but I proceeded with Raichlen's suggestions for making a perfect brisket. 

As you can see, evening has fallen, but not trusting my 'touch/feel' skills, I was very happy my brisket finally registered 200 degrees. 

The final step involved placing the cooked brisket, still wrapped in its paper, in a cooler for 2 more hours. This step ensures that any moisture that has released into the paper is re-absorbed into the meat.

By this point it was too late for supper, but we were anxious to try it.

I am very pleased with my first smoked beef brisket. It was a bit overdone so lost some of its juiciness, but the taste more than made up, and the fun of spending the day smoking was well worth it. The brisket was wonderful as a meal the next night with potato and veg. It also made fabulous sandwiches with BBQ sauce and I also ground some to make hash. Other items I smoked on that day included: ice cubes, which were perfect in the scotch I had at the end of my 14 hour smoking day!; flour/water to make smoked bread; eggs, and chicken thighs. The ice cubes were the best!...or maybe it was the scotch at the end of a long, but very enjoyable and satisfying day!



Friday, October 2, 2020


 I had my good friend, Dorita Pina, over for lunch on the first day of fall. This was my first "food-guest" since March when COVID19 came on strong. We were able to sit outside, but the day was still very warm so I decided to serve a cold lunch.

I had everything put together except the dressing of the salad so we had lots of time to visit.


2 Wild Coho Salmon filets
Cut 3 lemons into quarters after juicing and zesting for the vinaigrette and sauce. I also added a big squeeze of lemon juice to the poaching liquid. 
1/2 cup white wine
Lots of freshly chopped chives.
Lots of freshly chopped dill.
Water to nearly cover the salmon filets.

Place salmon on a rack in a saute pan. Drop lemon pieces around the salmon. Cover with herbs, salt/pepper, white wine and top with water to nearly cover the salmon filets. Cover the pan. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat immediately to a bare simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave in covered pan for 5 mins. Salmon will be done when it becomes opaque and is slightly firm to the touch. Remove cover and let cool on the rack before removing the salmon. Carefully lift out the salmon with a spatula. Peel off skin and any herbs that have stuck to the fish. Set aside, covered in the fridge with plastic wrap.


Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon. If you don't have Meyers, any lemon is good. I just really like the sweet flavor of the Meyer lemon.*
1/4 cup mayo
Scant tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
Salt/Pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Cover and place in fridge until ready to serve. Giving it an hour or more in the refrigerator helps to bring the flavors together.

*WHY ARE MEYER LEMONS SO SPECIAL? Meyer Lemons, originally from China, are considerably less acidic than the regular lemons you will find in the grocery, which are usually either Eurekas or Lisbons. Meyer Lemons definitely taste lemony, but both the juice and zest are more fragrant than what you normally get in the groceria. They are also smaller with thinner skin and less white pith under the skin than the regular lemons. You could practically eat the entire Meyer Lemon whole, but probably would not. They are perfect for a totally lemon-forward meal!


Juice 2 Meyer lemons to make 1/3 cup. Again, any lemons are good. Just make sure you have 1/3 cup juice so citrus to oil is proportionate. Add 1/2 cup of your best extra virgin olive oil. I used an oil I bought at my new favorite store in Tucson, Roma Imports. Salt and white pepper to taste. Do not under-salt. Put all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously until they come together and somewhat emulsify. Leave on counter until ready to dress your greens. Shake again just before dressing. 
Just before Dorita arrived, I dressed some beautiful, fresh arugula with the vinaigrette and made a Caprese Salad with heirloom tomatoes, fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and lots of basil from my garden. I drizzled balsamic vinegar over the top and added salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

I completed the meal by steaming asparagus and dressing in just a little, you guessed it, lemon juice and lemon zest. This also was served cold. The theme today was definitely lemon and perfect for a warm first day of fall. 

We had such a fun afternoon eating, sipping some lovely wine and enjoying each others company. I have truly missed sharing food with my friends and hope to do more of it soon!

This meal was so easy to put together. I think you will love it!