Friday, May 15, 2009

Bossa Nova...Salad!

Bossa Nova- my ultimate chill music. No other music quite captures that combination of relaxed anticipation, the languorous sensuality and ease of mind that tropical breezes and bright colors incite. I have a passion for Portuguese although I don't speak a word of it; but that's the beauty of Bossa Nova: it doesn't require fluency, only an open ear. Ashley's cousin Jessica Sarles is one of the up-and-coming artists in the NYC Brazilian acoustic jazz scene, and she's very good- check her out at her MySpace page to hear some samples of Gringa. If you're a fan of Brazilian jazz (it's smooooth) do yourself a favor and give a listen.

In my last post I promised the recipe for Mr. C's Black Bean Salad so without further ado, here 'tis:

Mr C's Black Bean Salad

2 Large Bell Peppers (red, yellow or orange)
1 Medium Tomatillo
1 Medium Cucumber
1 Can Black Beans, drained
1 Can Sweet White Corn, drained
3 Green Onions
Italian Salad Dressing

Dice the peppers, onions, tomatillo and cucumber and toss into a salad bowl. Add the black beans and corn, toss again to mix, then add salad dressing to taste- usually about 4oz. Toss again to coat the salad and chill covered for at least 2 hours before serving. This dish gets better the longer it chills, so be sure to make enough to enjoy the next day- Relaxe e Desfruite!!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Easy as Pie: Mr. C's JerkBerryRibs

Back in the early '90s I was working as a full-time bench jeweler and salesman while going through a rough divorce. The first Bush had recently left office, and I was reeling from the mini-recession a single Bush term had cast the nation into; I was in need of comfort, and so I discovered the music of Bob Marley, the local graduate school and gourmet cooking on a budget.

My new roommate Dan was a wealthy grad student and epicure, raised in the surf culture of the Eastern Shore and had already enjoyed life as an international downhill skiing champion. To my everlasting gratitude he was also a die-hard live music fan and a world-class connoisseur of reggae music. We were both young, single and enjoyed cooking Caribbean food while partying hard, so we devised a sure-fire method of keeping the people coming (with a focus on female grad students) and the fun times going: "Bring it and we'll cook it" parties. Add booze, grad-school "party favors" and music and we had a serious event happening, but adding the booze and other stuff to the mix made for some interesting experimentation in the kitchen. And in the back yard, upstairs den, and on the stoop of our townhouse. Soon there were people I didn't know in my dining room, showing up with all sorts of meat to grill or bake and we began to see the need to move the party out to the back garden with an eye towards co-opting the communal greenspace (and industrial-sized grill) behind our building. That decision was not well-thought out, as there are always more people who want to come to a cookout than you have space to accommodate, and we soon ran afoul of the building association. We also realized that we were actually reducing our ability to stay under the radar of the local constabulary, as those worthies have always gone the extra mile to ensure that no group of grad students has a good time off-campus... but I digress...

Being health-conscious surfer/snowboarder types we tried to ensure that our offerings were indulgently organic if not specifically low-calorie, and so we began to combine fruit with tahini and other interesting textures to use as sauces or glazes. As our epicurean mob began to expand with the addition of girlfriends and friends from abroad, Dan and I found ourselves relying increasingly on the grill in the garden rather than the oven; more fruit found its way into glazes because it's so easy to combine taste and texture and save the leftover glaze as a sauce. Our garden was full of organic peppers, tomatoes and herbs plus we had a huge organic grocery store a couple of miles away which carried a variety of inexpensive jams and preserves which served as the carrier for the glazes. Then we added herbs and spices as time and availability permitted, and settled in for one gastronomic journey of discovery after another. It was cheap, allowed us to drink and party at home and acquire a reputation for being Really Cool.

Why the long ramble down memory lane when you're waiting for a recipe? Because the road to a favorite recipe often leads past landmarks in the memory: cooking for others (whether they are your family or friends) is equal parts creativity, nurturing and social justification. When we set out to cook something other than burgers or fishsticks we usually have a memory associated with what we're preparing; sometimes it's an attitude or feeling that motivates that desire to re-create or embellish a memorable dish. Personally I like to remember favorite times and what type of cuisine I associate with them, and then get creative from there. Tropical always works for me, and fruit is somewhat neglected in meat and fish recipes so I like to experiment with them mixed with jerk spices on the grill. In the present, I make sure we have plenty of all-fruit preserves because this is one of the family favorites. This time I served it with a Black Bean Salad and white rice. I'll post my Black Bean Salad recipe in the next post-

With all that said, here's my JerkBerry Ribs Recipe:

Mr. C's JerkBerry Ribs
*double or triple amounts for multiple racks

Rack of Pork Spare Ribs (at least 5lbs)
1 cup of mixed all-fruit preserves (or fresh fruit mashed into goo for less sweet and more tart)
*This version used 1/3cup each of strawberry, red raspberry and black currant preserves
4 Tbsp Jerk Seasoning (adjust the quantity to your heat preference- we like it hot)
2 Tbsp Minced Ginger or Ginger Paste
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Honey (to carmelize)

Warm the preserves or fruit mash with the honey until soupy (about 30 sec in the microwave), then add the other ingredients and mix well. Now's the time to do several things: Start the grill, and try to get it no warmer than 300F... it's harder than you'd think, at least for my grill. Now you can fix that frosty beverage of your choice and prepare for the basting. Toss the ribs on the grill bone-side down (I used foil and nonstick spray because I loathe cleaning the grill more than I absolutely must) and baste the top and sides of the meat with the glaze. Close the grill and resume partying with your friends or kids (in appropriate fashion, of course). Check on them every 20 minutes or so, basting fresh each time until they are done. I usually cook them for at least 2 hours if I can: Because they cook at such a low temperature the juices are retained and they practically fall from the bone.

Let me know how yours turns out, and share it with a Dad Who Cooks.

On Beltane, or May Day

Welcome the "official" debut of Life at GreenWood- the place where I live and work. Here I hope you'll find enough that's interesting that you'll drop by or leave a comment about Cookin' With Mister C, GreenWood Studio creations, Church of The GreenWood or the many things of a musing nature I hope to post here. Music and video will show up here too, with Emerald Rose news as well as other projects I'm working on.

Happy Beltaine to those of us who celebrate in the Old Style- may your day be lascivious and fun! Happy May Day to my friends who celebrate for Workers' Rights, and to those who just want some reason to dance around a Maypole!

Be sure to catch the previous posts for recipes and other minutiae- I'll have more recipes and studio updates soon