Odd Couples, Watermelon and Chili Oil

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For those of us old enough to remember the movie or TV series called the “Odd Couple“, you know the plot was all about the ups and downs of two recently divorced and very different guys living together in a smallish New York City apartment.  Felix was the worrying, fussy, conservative, martini drinking type, while Oscar was the care-free, sloppy, live in the moment, beer slugging type.   Audiences were entertained by how they managed to stay friends despite their many differences.

After the movie became a huge success, the popular TV series took the oddities of their daily relationship struggles to the next level, entertaining fans for years.  In the end, the stories about their lives together always made us laugh, because people can be fascinated by how odd couples, unusual matches, opposite personalities, or widely disparate cultures can find ways to work things out.  The series was not the most intellectually challenging, certainly nothing too complicated, but there was always a life lesson in each episode.

The truth is that opposites are attractive to us because it’s fun to get to know someone who isn’t like you.   The fact is that each of us are affected by the people around us.  Some of them teach us things.  Some of them bring out the worst in us.  Some of them bring out the best in us.  Some of them just accept us for who we are.  I submit there is value in every relationship because each one forces us to constantly test where we are in our personal evolution.  Sometimes we make dramatic changes because of the impact others have on us.  At other times we make imperceptible changes in our perspectives, attitudes and behaviours because people with different points of view, philosophies and mannerisms make us more aware of the impact we have on those around us as well.

I honestly believe life is more interesting when it is less predictable–when we are open to adventure and exploration with the people around us and with ourselves.  We love it when something surprises us.  For example, is there any guy out there that isn’t thrilled when our ladies show up for date-night in a new dress or with a new piece of jewelry?  And Guys, I’m pretty sure our ladies love it when we surprise them with something unexpected–like flowers on a day other than their birthday, your anniversary or on valentine’s day.  (Hot! Guys–do it now!!  Call the Florist!!  Order flowers ‘Just Because She Makes Everyday a Special Day Because She is in Your Life’.  Use your words, but do it!!  There’s some serious WOW! Points right there. I guarantee it.)

I think it’s hard for another person to be your soul mate if they always think like you, live like you, love the same things you do or play like you.  I agree that as a relationship progresses we discover many things we have in common, but we also discover more things we have in contrast.  There are some who may disagree, but I believe relationships last longer and remain vibrantly sustainable when there is always something new to discover about your commonalities and differences.  In the end, it’s good to know you aren’t like everyone else out there, and that someone loves you because of your differences.  That’s a pretty powerful validation of who you are and who you will likely become, and good reason to celebrate the differences you and your soul mate have.

watermelon

S&B La-Yu chili oil - Momotaro Rahmen

Get Chili Oil in Asian Food Stores or at Whole Foods Store

So what does Watermelon and Chili Oil have to do with all this?  Well, let me ask this:  would you have ever guessed watermelon and chili oil could ever be companions in a salad?  No, me either.  But this Odd Combination is not only compatible, they do a fantastic dance together in a salad with Arugula, Pistachios and Goat Cheese!

A couple of weekends ago, we had this salad at a neighbor’s home.  We were shocked by how good it was.  We tasted the cool sweetness of the watermelon followed by the peppery arugula and then this slight spark of heat from the chili oil in the back of the mouth.  It was not spicy it was just an amazing experience.  While our neighbor didn’t have a recipe, per se, she told us the general ingredients.  I spent yesterday experimenting with the recipe, and last night we served it to 11 dinner guests in our home.  Virtually EVERYONE raved about Kathy’s meatloaf and the Watermelon, Arugula and Chili Oil Salad.  To a person, everyone asked if I would blog it so they could make it while watermelon was still in season.

Guys, this is one of those recipes that couldn’t be simpler.  I know you can cut up watermelon?  Can you pull Arugula out of the bag and put it in a bowl?  Can you buy some toasted pistachios or pine nuts and add them in?  Can you squeeze a lemon and add some chili oil?  I’m pretty sure you can find goat cheese at the store and crumble it on top.  Guys, that’s it.  Couldn’t be simpler.  I guarantee this salad will surprise and delight her.  She will have discovered something about your cooking skills that will make you an interesting person.  Serve it with a chilled New Zealand Marlborough County Sauvignon Blanc or a crisp Pinot Grigio and you have an incredible luncheon salad or a side salad for burgers or beef off the grill.  There’s major WOW! Points for this one too.

Make it a double play!  Buy her some unexpected flowers and make her this unexpected salad combination.  That’s serious WOW! Points in the bank!  Good luck.

 

Watermelon, Arugula, and Chili Oil Salad

 

Prep Time: 15 mins | Makes: 4 | Difficulty: Easy

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 4 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes

    Looks Great! Tastes Fantastic!

  • 2 cups arugula or watercress
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tbsp chili oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts or pistachios (toasted)
  • 1/3 cup ricotta salata, goat or feta cheese, crumbled
  • fleur de sel (optional)

 

Directions:

 

1. Whisk together lemon juice, chili oil and salt in a large bowl, whisking until well mixed.

 

2. Add watermelon to bowl and mix well.

 

3. Let watermelon marinate (macerate) in the dressing in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Taste the watermelon. The sweetness of the watermelon should be followed by the subtle heat from the chili oil at the back of the tongue. Add more chili oil if desired, to taste.

 

4. Just before serving, add the arugula or watercress and nuts and toss to coat well. Then sprinkle with cheese and fleur de sel (if using).

 

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

Chef Pierre’s Turn On the Hot! Seat

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Pierre and Ryan–Friends in Food and Life

Yesterday was a special day for Pierre, his family, and for me.  From a earlier post [Chef Ryan on the Hot! Seat, June 30, 2012] you know our son Ryan has attended the Culinary School at Manchester Bidwell for the past year.  Over the past months, he has made a great friend named Pierre, also attending the school. 

In that earlier post, you also know that each student gets to have a day where they are the “Executive Chef” for the day.  In effect, they plan an entire meal, supervising its preparation and service.  When I attended Ryan’s day in the Hot! seat, I had a blast witnessing these young chef’s doing their very best to make their day a Hot! Day.  It was quite impressive. 

I’ve also enjoyed getting to know Pierre during his visits to our home with Ryan, and I was truly honored to be invited to partake of the meal he planned for his Challenge Day at the Institute.

Like the others, Pierre has been planning for this challenge for weeks. Prior to his assigned Challenge Day, he was responsible for selecting and creating the recipes for the multicourse menu he chose. He then collaborated with the professional staff chefs to order, purchase and cost out the ingredients for the menu items. He created a detailed workplan and timeline for the 14 or so student chefs that would be under his guidance for the day as they prepared, cooked, sauced and served the meal to about 20 or so people.  Yesterday, Pierre had to lead and guide the student chefs through the execution phase of the dinner and be ready to serve it at precisely 2:30 pm.

The most daunting element of the Challenge is that the students and professional staff rate the meal and his performance as the head chef for the day. There’s nothing more challenging than having to tell people what to do in a multi-tasking environment, and then have the workers who performed the tasks critique the outcomes.

Awesome Salad of Spinach, Balsamic and Strawberries

Yesterday, I arrived a little earlier than I had planned, and  had a chance to see Pierre in the last stages of executing his responsibilities.  He did not seem the least bit nervous or rattled. Pierre always seems to have this big ole’ smile that just beams ear-to-ear, and it was there in full bloom yesterday.  He appeared in-control and confident that the team of student chefs had performed admirably and expertly to create his menu exactly as he desired.

Pierre invited me to join his Dad, Mom, Grandfather and younger sister at the family table.  I was again delighted for this honor.  We had a wonderful time admiring Pierre’s performance and chatting while all the great stuff was happening around us.  His Grandfather, also named Pierre, has a smile like Pierre and he didn’t stop beaming the whole time.  He could not have been more proud of his grandson. 

My Favorite-Curried Cauliflower Soup

At one point, I caught Pierre’s Mom shedding a few tears.  That’s OK Mom–we understand the softer side of pride from our Mom’s–it’s what makes us Guys human beings.   Dads show pride in a different ways.  In this case, Pierre’s Dad totally consumed every morsel of food we were served.  There is no bigger compliment than that!  And his sister and I agreed the soup was the star of the meal, although it was all fantastic!!  A little later, Pierre’s girlfriend joined us, and I’m thinking she’s pretty happy to see she is dating a Hot! Guy.  Oh yeah!

Of course, I took pictures, knowing I’d blog this special event in Pierre’s road to graduation.  I even asked them to prepare another plate of salad because I had forgotten to take a picture in my haste to dig in when it got served.

Fish and Pork and Rice and Broccoli–Beautiful Plating

The plating was terrific, the food tasted fresh and healthy, and the menu items worked well together to create a great tasting dinner!! Dessert was even a flaming specialty to make sure we ended Pierre’s meal on a Hot! note.  Compliments were flowing freely among the student chefs and the professional staff chefs, because they were pleased with the outcome knowing they had each contributed much to the dinner.

Ryan and Pierre have come a long way since beginning Culinary School, and we couldn’t be more proud of what they have accomplished, and of the potential they both have as Chef’s in their newly found career.  Pretty cool (or should I say Hot!) to be a young person with a lifetime of mastering recipes, creating menus and learning cooking techniques before them.

Flaming Apples Foster for a Hot! Guy Finish

Get Flirting with Mussels

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Mussels and barnacles in the intertidal near N...

I know, I know…not everyone loves mussels, but personally, I think they are one of the most romantic things to share with your main squeeze.  There is just something about these jewels of black shell filled with little morsels of tasty shellfish that makes flirting with you special lady so easy to accomplish.  Somehow, the act of using your hands to pick them out of a steaming bowl of the broth placed between you, plucking the meat out of the shell, and then dunking crusty bread or ‘frites’ when all the mussels are gone makes eating them an almost sensuous experience.  And of course the shared beer or wine makes it an even more romantic experience.

Almost every culture in the world has recognized mussels as an important part of their cuisine.

 

For example, in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, mussels are often served with french fries or bread.  In Belgium, mussels are sometimes served with fresh herbs and flavorful vegetables in a stock of butter and white wine.  Belgian beer is almost universally associated with them in most places around the world.  In the Netherlands, they are sometimes served fried in batter or breadcrumbs, particularly at take-out or at street vendor locations.  In France, you will find baked mussels along some of the beaches in the South of France.

In Italy, mussels are often mixed with other seafood, or eaten with pasta.  I have an awesome recipe for this in my collection.  I’ll share it sometime soon.

In Spain, they are consumed mostly steamed by boiling white wine, onions and herbs, and serving the broth with lemon. They can also be eaten as a sort of croquette using the mussel meat, shrimp and other fish in a béchamel sauce, then breaded and fried.

In Turkey, they are either covered with flour and fried or filled with rice and served cold,  usually with beer.

They are prepared in Ireland by boiling them in seasoned vinegar, serving the “bray” (broth) as an accompanying hot drink.

In Cantonese cuisine, mussels are cooked in a broth of garlic and fermented black beans.

In New Zealand, they are served in a chili or garlic-based vinaigrette, processed into fritters and fried, or used as the base for a chowder.

In India, mussels are popular in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka-Bhatkal, and Goa. They are either prepared with drumsticks, breadfruit or other vegetables, or filled with rice and coconut paste with spices and served hot.

Mussels are just not that hard to prepare well.  Guys! You can do this!  If your lady likes them, and you serve them as an appetizer or as a main course with a fresh green salad, crusty bread, beer or wine or her favorite iced tea, you will have made her day, and I’m guessing yours too!

In Lou’s culture, we keep the recipe simple.  These little mollusks just don’t need a lot of help from heavy spicing or sauces.  And if this takes you more than 10 minutes to prepare and serve, you are over thinking the process or overcooking the mussels.  And if you’ve never had them before, try this recipe because I’m pretty certain they’ll become a mainstay of your eating-out or eating-home menus.

Mussels In White Wine

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 18 min | Makes: 2 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sweet onions, chopped

    Get Flirting With Mussels

  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-1/2 cups white wine (prefer Pinot Grigio or Prosecco)
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 pounds live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil.

2. When the oil is hot, saute the celery, onions and garlic until translucent and tender.

3. Add the wine and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

4. Add the mussels.

5. Sprinkle the thyme, parsley, butter and several grinds of fresh black pepper on top of the mussels.

6. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

7. Simmer the mussels for 5 to 8 minutes until the shells open and the mussels are done.

8. Discard any that do not open.

9. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

10. Divide the mussels and broth between two bowls (or share them right out of the pot) and serve with crusty bread and a spoon to enjoy the broth.

Notes:

A. Careful with the salt. It really doesn’t need a lot because the mussels tend to be salty.

B. If desired, add just a little cream at the end of cooking to offer another layer of taste.

C. I’ve also added a jigger of Anisette or Ouzo at the end.  Awesome!! For a change of pace.

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

 

Cooked mussels DSC09244

Properly Cooked Mussels

 

 

Helpful to Hot!

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Hey Guys,

One of the bloggers following my blog is pretty cool.  I’ve checked them out, and I came across a great idea to help get you Hot! Guy status this weekend.  They have an incredible idea for us guys to be helpful in an amazing way.

Costume jewelry of Constance of Austria.

Costume jewelry of Constance of Austria–Even she needs a Hot! Guys Help this Weekend!

Guys, under the category entitled, “if you can’t be Hot!, you should at least be handy”, I have never known a lady who has complete control over her mountains of costume jewelry and other clothing accessories.  My Kathy and I were just having this discussion the other day, and she asked me to come up with ideas on possible solutions for the problem.  Well, I’m no genius, but I know how to rely on my friends in the blogging network to give a hand, and sure enough I found some terrific ideas in Tresors De Luxe, Keeping it Organized, Minimizing the [@#$%!#*!], post of July 3, 2012.  Take a look at this hyperlink:  http://tresorsdeluxe.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/keeping-it-organized-minimizing-the/#comment-832.  Check it out!!

I promise you will be in Rock Star status if you bring her to this Tresors post, and enthusiastically (a key work here Guys) ask if she would like your help this weekend to get her favorite idea completed.  Even if she says “No Thanks”, I guarantee you just earned serious WOW! Points for the thoughtfulness and the initiative.  Take my word for it. 

Most of the stuff you’ll need for these projects can be found in Home Depot, Lowes, Michael’s, or any local hardware store.  Go for it and let me know how it goes.  Oh, and if you are the groom for this beautiful bride, you better get started now on ALL of Tresors projects.  You may need a couple each!

English: Aesan Gede is traditional wedding cos...

Aesan Gede is traditional wedding costumes of Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia.   This lady is going to need ALL the Projects in Tresors blog.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Moving Sale–Guy Stuff” or Chicken Piccata!

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English: A "man cave" housing vintag...

A really cool “Man Cave’, but is it Moving?

Well I’m back from Alaska.  I hope you enjoyed the Cycling Alaska Posts from 4000 miles away.  It was an amazing experience, and I can now check off one of the things on my bucket list.

An Interesting? Threatening? Concept

I’m sharing one last picture of a road sign we passed while in Alaska.  I’ve seen many moving sales signs in the past, but not a one specifically indicating ‘guy stuff’.  That caused our riding group to speculate on what might be prompting such a unique sale.  After 250 miles of riding together, we were desperate for new discussion material.

One of the guys suggested they were selling their stuff in phases, and since ‘guy stuff’ was usually under foot, it was the easiest to sell first.  Ok that works.  Another is that his wife was unreasonably demanding he remove his guy stuff from the living room, garage or man-cave, otherwise HE was going to be moving.  Certainly a possibility.  And there was no downside to cooperating with his wife’s demands because he secretly knows guys don’t buy other guys stuff .  That’s one of the basic guy rules we learn when we are about 10.

Another offers the guy ran out of wall room for all the moose and bear heads, and he was selling some of the ‘older’ heads to make room for ‘newer’ heads.  So he was just ‘moving things around’, not really moving.  That one got a lot of traction, because every guy has done that.  It’s basic guy behaviour.  Another suggested it might be a guy with a new girlfriend hoping to convince her to move in, and he’s making an effort to self-police his place to impress and make room for his new roommate.  No one took that one very seriously.   Real guys don’t self-police themselves.  Us guys were having some fun with this speculation, when our lone woman riding companion told us we weren’t even close!

She said the sign was too well-printed to be the handiwork of a man.  Therefore, she concluded that sign was prepared by a woman.  She had a point there.  She then went on.  Assuming the sign is the work of a woman, then there are only a few possible situations.  Most probably, the lady of the house has already ‘moved out’ the man of the house, and she is disposing of his “guy stuff” in the quickest and most profitable way possible.  Why burn it when you can get a few bucks for a wasted couple of relationship years? 

The other possibility is she has threatened to put his head on the living room wall next to the moose and bear heads if he didn’t do something about his stuff –NOW!  Did I mention in my Cycling Alaska posts that everyone has rifles in Alaska, including the women?   This one sounded plausible too, because in this case the guy is ‘moving’ from the living room chair to the living room wall.  Therefore, the sign was painted by the lady while the guy collected his stuff and put it outside for the sale.  The rifle was loaded and standing ready if he delayed one more moment.  Us riding guys bought this one too because we have occasionally experienced this attitudinal shift in our lovely ladies at home.  It’s usually not a pleasant time in our lives.  And usually the word ‘moving’ enters the discussion often and that word can have many meanings.

It also occurred to us that the guy might be moving into his girlfriend’s place, and she said, “come alone, and with one suitcase” because she had previously seen his ‘guy stuff’.  That’s a real possibility. 

After a few nervous laughs among us guys, we agreed the poor soul was in trouble.  I suggested we help him out.  We should go back and give him the blog site address for HotCookingGuys.  It would be a long shot, but he might be able to recover the gun if he cooked her a great dinner.  Nice thought, but we were too far down the road by then.  Furthermore, our lady rider suggested we might actually get ourselves shot trying to help this guy out!  Apparently, one of the rules 10-year-old girls learn is that when pissed off at one guy, you are allowed to treat all other guys the same way until you are over it.  Yep, we had seen that rule in play before.  Let’s keep riding. 

Now, had I had the chance to talk with this fellow, I’d have to assume he’s not the smartest guy in the world to get himself into this corner.  So I’d offer up one of the fastest, easiest, simply elegant and delicious dishes I have in the Hot! Guys Collection, because as we already acknowledged, there may not be a lot of time or room for error here.

Here it is–Chicken Piccata.  Guys this is always a favorite of the ladies, and trust me, it is pathetically easy.  Yet, it’s one of those dishes most people only order in restaurants.  I have personally used this recipe for ‘recovery’ situations with my Kathy, and it works almost every time.  Yeah, sometimes nothing works.  Serve it with a nice bright-colored salad and some fresh green beans, and maybe you can recover one or two of your most favorite guy things from the yard sale!  Give this one a shot guys because it’s Hot!

Chicken Piccata

 Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 25 min | Servings: 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half (have the butcher do this for you)
  • Sea or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine (dry preferred)
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley, choppedChicken Piccata. http://pdphoto.org

Directions:

1. Season chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

3. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

4. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Keep warm.

5. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides as in 4. above. Remove pan from heat and remove chicken to the plate.

6. Into the pan add the lemon juice, wine, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor.

7. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter.

8. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.

Notes:

A. The wine, lemon and stock quantities are a good balance for this recipe. If you do not have wine or prefer not to use it, replace it with a bit more lemon and more stock.

B. Excellent recipe and very easy.

C. RH

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager