Thursday, June 30, 2011

Navy cooks from Bakersfield

Like Seaman Taylorburns, Bakersfield was my hometown during my eight and one-years of active duty.

ARABIAN SEA (June 28, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist Seaman Meagan Taylorburns, from Bakersfield, Calif., prepares cucumbers in the aft galley of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting close-air support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dylan McCord.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chicken rice soup with roasted tomatoes and kidney beans

Here's a quick soup that I prepared at work this morning:

I diced 3 grilled chicken breasts, then added 2 cups cooked rice, 1 (30-oz) can drained & rinced kidney beans, 6 stalks broccoli (chopped), 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce and dried thyme to 2 quarts chicken stock. After bring the soup to a simmer, I added 6 roasted tomatoes (cut into 6ths).

Makes about 3 quarts.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Special salad tonight

This afternoon I prepared an organic spring salad with roasted grape tomatoes and Gorgonzola at work. This was a special salad for the residents as I usually prepare a tossed green salad each evening. With few exceptions, they enjoyed the sharp blue cheese, crisp greens and roasted tomatoes.

For 25 residents, I quickly sauteed 2-1/2 pounds sweet grape tomatoes in a large skillet until lightly colored. I placed the tomatoes in the refrigerator to cool. At mealtime, I tossed 12 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese into 2 pounds organic spring lettuce mix in a large bowl, then dressed the salad with about 6 tablespoons sweet balsamic vinaigrette.

A bit of crunch would've complimented the salad. While traditional croutons will do in a pinch, anything with crunch will add interest to the salad. Try toasted pine nuts, candied pecans or walnuts or crisp vegetable like thinly sliced red onion rings.


Add more or less honey to suit your taste.

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk the vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl until dissolved. While whisking, stream oil in until dissolved, stirring constantly.

Lightly coat the salad leaves with vinaigrette. You'll need about 2 to 3 tablespoons dressing for each pound of lettuce greens. Use just enough dressing to coat the salad without the dressing pooling in the bowl.

4 out of 5 chefs agree ...

Steven C. Karoly (@SeabeeCook) has shared a Tweet with you:

"SeabeeCook: 4 of 5 chefs agree: Do not use your thumb to test the sharpness of your knife."

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Salads and blessings

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Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.(Philipians 4:4-7).
I can say that my current job is the best I've ever had. My only regret is that it took almost 40 years to find it. I have to say it was worth the wait.

The residents reinforce this feeling each Monday morning. As I walk into the 111-year-old former boarding house just before 9 a.m., they greet me with "How was your weekend, chef?" and "We're grateful to see you."

This discussion by two residents reminded me of my blessings this morning:

"Is this hot?" asked the first resident as she looked at the black bean and tomato salad with zucchini.

"No. I didn't have any hot peppers this morning," I responded.

"Is it tangy or sweet?"


"It sure looks good."

"That is so good. We are so blessed," added a second resident who had just returned for seconds.

After working inside prisons for 20 years, it's refreshing to work with women who appreciate the food. The residents continually thank me for the meals and tell me how much they appreciate my work.

Thank you, ladies. You make the two-hour commute worth the effort.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chili verde revisited

I've completely reworked my recipe for pork chili verde in the last six months. It's not that my previously published recipe was bad. I've received many kudos for it over a dozen years. Co-workers, campers and residents at work have enjoyed the its tangy combination of canned tomatillos, green enchilada sauce and Anaheim chile peppers.

While I've personally enjoyed the stew, I felt it was time to rework the recipe. Since January I've perfected my salsa technique. Salsa verde, a sharply flavored Mexican sauce made with tomatillos and spicy green chile peppers, serves as the basis for the pork stew.

All the necessary flavors are present in the salsa. I find you need a two to one ratio of tomatillos to poblano chile peppers (by weight) for the stew. Tomatillos provide background flavor while poblanos give the stew a rich chili flavor. The combination of two key flavors meld to form a complex flavor profile for the stew.

The new recipe is a blending of culinary techniques. It begins with roasting the tomatillos (husks removed), poblanos and whole peeled garlic cloves. Although I usually roast the vegetables in a hot oven spread out on a sheet pan, you can roast them in a skillet over medium-low heat.

It takes around 20 or 30 minutes to cook the vegetables until they're tender. See that they're cooked to the core, but not overcooked. Set the oven (or use the appropriate heat on a camp oven) for 375 degrees.

The process concentrates flavor, drives excess moisture out and gives the vegetables a slight char. Extra char adds extra flavor to the dish within reason. One or two jalapeno or serrano chile peppers add spiciness since the basic recipe is low on the heat scale.

Meanwhile, sear the diced pork on hot oil in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven. Lightly season the pork cubes with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Carefully place meat in the hot oil.

Sear the meat in batches to avoid overcrowding. Space between the meat cubes allows moisture to quickly evaporate and caramelize. Otherwise, moisture pools, the meat boils and doesn't brown.

Once the meat is ready, run the tomatillos, chiles and garlic (with dried oregano, cumin and chicken base) through the blender. Marry the meat and sauce together in a Dutch oven, bring to a boil and simmer for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender. Spoon excess fat from the surface of the stew.

This process creates a wonderful stew, one with flavors that surpasses the chili verde made from canned ingredients. Use canned when you're in a pinch, but always remember fresh ingredients will give your chili verde a bright, refreshing flavor.


1-1/2 pounds tomatillos, husk removed
12 ounces poblano chile peppers
5 cloves garlic
1 or 2 jalapeno chile peppers (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced small
2 pounds pork butt, diced into 1/2-inch cudes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chicken base
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Roast tomatillos, poblano chiles, jalapeno chiles and whole garlic gloves in 375-degree oven until tender and slightly charred. Meanwhile, lightly season cubed pork with salt and ground black pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a 5-quart cast iron Dutch (lodge #8) oven medium-high heat.

Saute onion in hot oil until slightly browned. Transfer to bowl. Add 1/2 the pork to Dutch oven. Turn pieces as necessary until well browned on all sides. Transfer meat to bowl. If pot is dry, add 1 tablespoon oil. Repeat process for remaining meat. Transfer meat and onion back into Dutch oven.

Cool vegetables slightly when ready. Place in blender bowl with oregano, cumin and chicken base. Pulse several times to create a smooth sauce. Pour sauce over meat in Dutch oven.

Place lid on Dutch oven. Bake at 350 degrees until pork is very tender when pierced and flavors are blended, about 90 minutes. Fold in cilantro. Adjust seasoning.

Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. Serve with warm flour tortillas and Mexican rice. Makes about 6 (1-cup) or 8 (3/4-cup) portions.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Salad versatility

I enjoy making black bean and corn salad because if it's versatility. Each time I prepare it I trade out one or two ingredients. Suddenly, one recipe becomes the basis for a hundred. Today, I prepared the salad with canned black beans frozen whole kernel corn since I didn't have enough tomatoes on hand. Next time I may add crumbled blue cheese and leave the beans out. As farmer's market tomatoes come in season, I'll use grape tomatoes. The possibilities are endless.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stirin' the pot

ARABIAN SEA (June 8, 2011) -- Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Brad Weldon, from Cordele, Ga., stirs a pot of gravy in the galley aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan and Carrier Air Wing 14 are deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility, conducting close-air support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Timothy Black.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

New camera on cell phone

I have resisted buying a cell phone with a camera since I first bought a cell phone in the late 1990s. I purposely avoided the feature. Why rely on a cell phone camera when I own a digital single lens reflex camera was my reasoning.

That was until last Thursday when I purchased an android smartphone. Since the camera is built in to most cell phones today, they're hard to avoid, especially when you have your eyes on a smartphone. The Samsung Galexy S (AT&T Captivate), with its 5-mega pixel camera, takes descent photographs.

While picture quality doesn't compare to the DSLR camera, it's a good substitute for Internet-ready photographs. In a week, I've posted several pictures to Facebook. The camera is best used for pictures-on-the- fly, like the shot of me grilling hamburgers at work.

In the future you'll see more cell phone pictures on these pages. Most will be improptue photographs of food and other interesting topics. I'll save the pictures of grandkids for Facebook.

Monday, June 06, 2011

USS Missouri Sailors assist tornado victims

JOPLIN, Mo. (June 2, 2011) -- Senior Chief Culinary Specialist Andrew Scott, assigned to the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Missouri (SSN 780), helps remove downed trees in Joplin, Mo. during clean-up after a devastating tornado that struck that city on May 22. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Yeoman Mike Shea.

By Lt. Jennifer Cragg, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs Officer

Groton, Conn. (NNS) -- Eight USS Missouri (SSN 780) Sailors departed their homeport in Groton, Conn., for Joplin, Mo., June 1, to assist with recovery efforts following a tornado that tour through city last month.

The eight Sailors elected to take voluntary leave for one week to assist victims and with cleanup efforts in Joplin.

"The real story here is simply Americans helping Americans," said Cmdr. Timothy Rexrode, USS Missouri commanding officer. "I am so proud of our Sailors, and I continue to find inspiration every day in the commitment of these young men to serve their nation; making a difference in the lives of others. The efforts of these Sailors are consistent with what we see in these type of events. Our Sailors are everyday people taking time away from work and spending their summer vacation budgets to help out where they can."

Sailors participating in this relief effort include Lt. j.g. Joe Innerst; Lt. j.g. Ryan Sullivan; Chief Yeoman (SS) Mike Shea; Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) C.J. Kohlhofer; Chief Culinary Specialist (SS) Andy Scott; Electronics Technician 1st Class (SS) Jason Fenley; Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (SS/DV) Travis Fitzgerald, and Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (SS) Pat Patterson.

The Missouri Sailors will be volunteering with Americorps, the American Red Cross, and the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, who are providing the Sailors with opportunities to assist with ongoing volunteer efforts.

"Our crew's affiliation with the state of Missouri and its people is quite strong, and we prize that affinity in the tradition of our ship's motto, 'United We Stand,'" said Rexrode.

In a sign of solidarity, Rexrode and his crew sent their prayers and condolences to the people of Missouri, May 22.

The Missouri crew consists of about 134 officers and enlisted personnel. Missouri is the fifth Navy ship to be named in honor of the people of the "Show Me State."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Railroad chili at the shop

I prepared chili, cornbread and chipotle cole slaw for a crew of the El Dorado Western Railroad this morning. Due to rain, I cooked the meal at home and drove it to the shop at noon.

A mechanic cleared a work bench for the serving table. I didn't check to see what was in the purple bottle, not do I want to know.

I cooked the chili con carne with beans in a Lodge #12 Dutch oven on the stove top at home. It seems each time I prepare this recipe that I tweak it a bit. Today's pot included 4 pounds ground beef and 18 ounces pork chorizo. I also cut the tomato product in half. It was a good mild pot of chili.