In The Kitchen: Rub-a-dub-dub, Let’s Smoke Some Ribs

icy covered BBQ grill

  Nothing better than a rack of pork ribs slow-smoked to perfection. Or at least, good enough to chow down on, with good beer and good company. So, let's smoke some ribs. Here at Casa USA Financial Service we don't (yet) have a true smoker with a separate fire-box for the fancy hardwood. No fancy electric convection smoker, no "outdoor kichen" built-ins. Just a regular ol' grill, made the old-fashioned way by Chinese prison and/or child labor. Even though the grill was out of commission for a couple days during December's "polar vortex" cold snap, as long as we're a few degrees above zero and the wind chill is manageable, it's smoking/BBQ/grilling time! First up, the rub: just equal parts freshly ground black pepper, kosher … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude: Growing and Cooking Winter Greens

This might be spinach, not swiss chard or kale.  But the look of bacon is undeniable.

  Conventional wisdom says that winter greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and mustard greens are best planted for a fall crop.  And conventional wisdom can bite me.  Never mind about fall, they're good year round, especially certain varieties of kale. The thing to watch out for is that during the hot summer months, the leaves of these greens become a bit bitter.  A touch of frost, on the other hand, makes them pump up the sugars and while not sweet, they're certainly more edible. Take a mixed kale and collards salad with hot bacon dressing, it's sensational (as anything would be, really, with hot bacon). Cooking winter greens couldn't be simpler.  A couple fistfuls of greens, several strips of … [Read more...]

Random Notes: Camping and Focaccia


Time has come to clean up the blogging notebook. All those snippets and cliplets of ideas and topics that will never morph into a full-fledged article or post, but might be of interest in any case. Camping Camping season is well under way, and chances are good many readers will be venturing out into the great outdoors to hunker down in a tent, make smores and sing campfire songs. But first, you gotta have a fire, and some of the best firestarter materials  are dryer lint and tortilla chips.  We keep a couple of baggies of fuzzy lint collected from the dryer mixed in with semi-crumbled potato or tortilla chips, and even with flint and steel, it’s an eezy-peezy way to get a fire going (we cheat and use Strike-Anywhere … [Read more...]

Be a Sprout Head


This article was originally posted on Mom's Plans in March.  Since I'm now having some mild writer's block coupled with (or because of) a hectic schedule, I'm reposting it with permission. A sprout head in the most benign sense of the word, that is.  Just crunchy green goodness, on sandwiches and salads, full of as many nutrients and phytochemicals as you can stand. And not just alfalfa sprouts.  Broccoli, mung bean, lentil, peas and beans are all seeds that will readily germinate in your kitchen and provide you with cheap, nutritious greens through a cold winter. Something wonderful happens to a seed when it germinates. All the nutrients and  minerals it needs to burst forth with life are magnified. The content of … [Read more...]



This recipe is adapted on our own family recipe, passed down from Nonna Clelia (Great-grandmother) to Nonna Silvana (Grandmother) to Mamma (my Mom) to me.  With the celery and carrot, it’s very close to the traditional Ragu’ alla Bolognese, that  most popular of pasta toppings, and one of those recipes that is endlessly customizable, as varied as there are cooks with pots in the world. Say the word Ragu’, and a picture of a tomatoey pasta sauce immediately springs to mind, but in fact, the classic Ragu’ alla Bolognese has very little tomato  in the ingredients.  Even Italians can’t agree on this one.  Each region has its own distinct variety:  up north in Friuli, thyme and marjoram are the prevalent … [Read more...]

Penne Girate Al Sugo –- Sauteed Penne with Meat Sauce


A pretty dish of penne, courtesy of Wikipedia I looked over the titles of the last few posts, and it struck me that there's not been a good food-related post in couple weeks, since Jan 5th, to be precise.  An almost unforgivable oversight.  Please, crack open a new bottle of red, and hit that bookmark button. Penne Girate Al Sugo – Sauteed Penne with Meat Sauce The word girate comes from the verb girare, which means to stir or turn.  The pasta is sautéed briefly (or girata) with the sauce, incorporating all its meaty tomatoey goodness into its bronze-extruded nooks and crannies.   Sugo just means sauce. Ingredients: Two or three stalks of celery, a red onion, a handful of baby carrots or three medium sized, a … [Read more...]

Our Piggie is Here

Slap on the grill, searing hot coals

Well, make that half a pig.   Last week we took delivery of a side of pork from a local farmer.  This is our second time buying a side of pork from a local farmer. (and third time buying meat in bulk. I wrote an earlier post about buying beef in bulk.) The total cost came to $278.00, 112 pounds @ $2.48 per pound.  By ordering local, we get to call the meat processor and get to specify, within a certain limit, what type of cuts we want, how thick the pork chops, how much in sausage versus chops, and so on. The other benefit of course, is that the meat is free from all the garbage that is frequently added, like antibiotics and growth hormones... or water.   As reported at the Consumerist website, injected pork water is probably … [Read more...]

Eats for the Holidays: Pasta San Giovanni

Image via Wikipedia Not exactly a Christmas recipe, but one that's made in Florence around the time of the Feast of St. John the Baptist.  At least that's how it reads in the glossy Foods of Tuscany recipe book.  I've also seen this by other names, like Pasta alla Carrettiere (take out the parsley, add hot pepper).  It's a pasta recipe that's reasonably simple to make, but also requiresa bit of  attention and practice. Basic ingredients are a 1/4 cup of olive oil, a small can of tomato paste, a package of pasta (spaghetti or rigatoni), 4 or 6 whole peeled garlic cloves, and lots of fresh chopped parsley. For the red wine, let's go with a Fish Eye Shiraz, inna box.  And of course, loads of good Parmesan cheese. … [Read more...]

And Now For Something Good to Eat: Beer Bread

beer bread 3

My baking skills won't land me on the food channel anytime soon. I can do basic corn bread and banana bread, some focaccia and pizza dough, and that's about it. But these two versions of beer bread are so simple, and the results so gratifying, that they've become part of my steady repertoire to impress friends, relatives and neighbors. Plus, it's screaming good to eat. The first version is basically a batter bread.  Do a simple search for "batter beer bread" and see all the permutations that crop up ( random link from Start with two beers, one for you and one for the recipe.  Open one, drink, and set the other aside.   Then, three cups of regular white flour. Sift into a large bowl.  If you don't have a flour sifter, get … [Read more...]

Seven Random Tips for the Kitchen

Image via Wikipedia More random tips for the kitchen: (1) Forget the salad spinner. It just takes up space in your cabinets.  Rinse the greens in a regular colander, then place them on a clean kitchen towel.  Take it outside and vigorously spin it around, or "whip it" up and down.   Centrifugal force will do its job and get all the water off.   If you have any guests outside, or your spouse standing guard in front of the BBQ, try to get them with the spray arc.  General hilarity and/or food fights will ensue. (2) A small 6" cast iron skillet is best for making a quick frittata.  In sequence:  set the oven to broil "lo", whip up 4 eggs with a little water (not milk), heat up the skillet, drop in some butter, drop in the … [Read more...]