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14 posts from June 2012


~ Sweet GF Treats from Get Fresh Bakehouse in NJ~

PICT0003Around 2:30PM yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from Facebook friend Bill ("Doc") Doyle.  Bill has the distinction of being my very first foodie friend on the social network that I've been sharing my Kitchen Encounters posts and pictures with for a little over two years now.  I also remember that we struck up our friendship around the 4th of July, because he posted a picture of a flag cake he baked and I posted a picture of my blueberry buckle!

206455_196193973750667_4730942_nDoc is a great source of culinary expertise for me.  He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) and a veteran of the food service industry for over thirty years. Like myself, he shares his food knowledge freely with anyone willing to learn, expresses his disdain for those who don't, and, is a stickler for perfection.

In confidence, he shared with me the plans he and two colleagues were making to fire up a gluten-free bakery (which opened in January of 2011).  Now... he and I were going to actually meet in person!

PICT0010Doc and Jeff were invited to come to Penn State to exhibit their products at a food show.  Jeff, a former consumer products research consultant is the father of a child with Celiac disease, and it was he who had the idea to make a real difference in gluten-free baking.

In brief:  Celiac disease is an allergy to gluten because it damages the small intestine. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.

PICT0026 PICT0022As it turned out, Bill's visit to PSU coincided with Kitchen Encounters and WHVL-TV's 27th shoot, so, things were a tad chaotic in Melanie's Kitchen.  BUT, when the cameras and lights were packed up, the crew (and husband Joe) couldn't wait to try the GF treats that GFB had presented us with!

PICT0030I have minimal experience with gluten-free baking and cooking but I can tell you it is not easy to achieve great flavor and texture without using gluten.  I can also tell you that if I didn't know Get Fresh Bakehouse's products were gluten-free, it would be next to impossible to detect any difference!  

It is with great confidence I can report that via Docs culinary expertise, Jeff's dream for gluten-free excellence has been realized!

For Gluten-Free Gourmet:  GET FRESH BAKEHOUSE!!!

PICT0019"We are all in the food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 


~ 'Tis True: Sour Cherries Do Make the Best Jam ~

PICT0007In my opinion, sour cherries are one of the most regal, refined fruits you will ever enounter.  My grandmother referred to these tart, ruby-red jewels simply as "pie cherries", but if you are on a quest for them, they are also marketed as tart cherries.  That being said, the sour cherry season is quite brief, with the cherries being ready to pick at the very end of June or the very beginning of July. Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time, getting them all picked at once before the birds devour an entire tree full... birds love sour cherries.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc594ba970b-800wiA bit about sour cherries:  Sour cherries should not be confused with their two cousins, the reddish-black Bing cherry or the peachy-blush Rainier cherry.  These two sweet cherries (which are larger and firmer than sour cherries) are great for eating "as is" like any other fresh fruit, but they do not make for great baked desserts.  When sour cherries are cooked, they become quite sweet, plus, they hold their shape better than their sweet relatives.  Sour cherries are a bit too tart to eat more than just a few out-of-hand, but they make superb jam (which I'm making today), preserves, pies and cobblers. Once the cherries are picked, you have no more than 48 hours to "use them or loose them", which is why you will rarely find them in the grocery store.

PICT0002Meet our now 15-year-old sour cherry tree.  For whatever reasons, it loves where it lives and gifts us each year with record amounts of gorgeous cherries.  Last year holds the record for the most cherries with 38 pounds of delectable goodness. This year, we only got 27 pounds, but that is because the birds helped themselves to a few pounds at the top of the tree.  So, what do I do with all these cherries?  Well, I make a few pies, then freeze the rest in 2 pound bags, or, make preserves... but first they need to be pitted.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fc5b782970b-320wi-1I admit to having been overwhelmed the first year our tree bore fruit.  But, by the next year I had done my homework and invested in the best dang cherry stoner money could buy:

The Westmark Cherry Stoner is made in Germany and no cherry pitter is faster or more efficient at removing the stones from a lot of cherries without bruising the fruit.  In about 2 hours, we literally have all of our cherries ready for cooking or freezing.

This nifty little gadget is a bit pricy ($55.00-$65.00), but if you have a lot of any type of cherries to process, this machine is for you.

6a0120a8551282970b015434038c57970c-320wiIf you make a lot of jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades or chutney and conserve, you might want to consider a maslin pot.  This 10 1/2-quart pot is ideal for long, slow methods of food preparation.  It has a heavy bottom and wide, sloping sides which reduce the possibility of scorching and promotes evaporation.  Its heavy loop handle and helper handle make transporting a large quantity of hot food easy and safe.  This pot is fantastic for jams, soups, stews, chili, etc. (about $190.00). 


It's Time to Prep the Cherries.

PICT0001 PICT00088  pounds pitted sour cherries (weigh after pitting), coarsely smashed or mashed

6  cups sugar

4  tablespoons wild cherry brandy

2  packets liquid pectin

2  tablespoons salted butter 

A bit about pectin:  It's a water-soluable, gelatinlike substance (usually made from apples) used for thickening fruits that don't contain enough to thicken themselves.

PICT0006~ Step 1.  Place the cherries in a large bowl.  Using your hands (feel free to wear vinyl gloves), squeeze the cherries, until they are smashed into coarse bits and pieces.

Note:  Alternative methods are to use a vegetable masher or a food processor.  I have tried both and take it from me, using your hands is the easiest, quickest and best way to get the proper, chunky uniform consistency without pulverizing or over processing them!



It's Time to Make the Jam. 

PICT0003~ Step 1.  Transfer the cherries to an 8-10-quart, wide-bottomed pot. Add the sugar and the cherry brandy.

PICT0012~ Step 2. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to rest for 20-30 minutes.  This will allow the sugar to dissolve completely.

PICT0012 PICT0002~ Step 3. Briefly restir. Mixture will be soupy and shiny.  

~ Step 4.  Add the butter and bring to a vigorous simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Adjust heat to a rapid, steady simmer and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

PICT0023~ Step 5.  Add the pectin and stir constantly until it is completely dissolved.  Continue to simmer vigorously, stirring frequently for 15 more minutes...





... or until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, is reduced slightly and leaving a tell-tale sugar ring around the sides of the pot.

~ Step 6.  Turn the heat off and allow to rest, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, prior to portioning, cooling completely and refrigerating or freezing:



'Tis True:  Sour Cherries Do Make the Best Jam:  Recipe yields 14 cups of jam.

Special Equipment List:  cherry pitter; vinyl gloves (optional); 10-quart jam pot or 8-12-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; large spoon; ladle; freezer safe food storage containers

6a0120a8551282970b015434047a79970c-800wiCook's Note:  To try my recipe for ~ Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine ~ click into Categories 8, 9 or 22!

Extra Cooks's Note:  What is the difference beween jelly, jam, preserves and marmalade?  Jelly is made from fruit juice and is gelantinous in texture.  Jam is made from pulp, pureed, smashed or mashed fruit and is softer and slightly more spreadable than jelly. Preserves are made from diced, chunked or whole fruit with the end result being looser than jam, even oozy or syrupy. Marmalade is made from citrus fruit, usually contains thin slices or small pieces of citrus rind and has a consistency between jelly and jam!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitche/Copyright 2012)


~ Mel's Annual Sour-Cherry Gin & Tonic Cocktails ~

PICT0024When faced with a daunting, mindless task, like picking and pitting cherries, especially small sour cherries, one must find a way to enjoy their time in purgatory.  Since Joe is our offical cherry picker and pitter, he chose to spend all day yesterday listening to ESPN on the radio and drinking cold beer while he worked.  We have one cherry tree in our backyard, and, for whatever reasons, it likes it here and produces A LOT of cherries.  This year we got 27 pounds, last year we got 38 pounds... I know EXACTLY why George Washington cut down the cherry tree!

PICT0012Picking them is a bit tricky, as they are at their absolute best if left on the tree until you think they will begin to spoil if left there one more day, while at the same time, getting them all picked at once before the birds devour an entire tree of them for you.  The dang birds got a few pounds from the top of our tree this year.  Once the cherries are picked, you have no more than 24 hours to "use them or lose them", which is where I come in:

PICT0002Today, I am faced with the daunting, mindless task of "using or losing" all of these pitted cherries, and, this year, I've decided to make sour cherry jam with them (which will be my next blog post).  Making jam is so easy it is indeed mindless.  That being said, it's going to take me several hours to make several batches of jam in order to use up all of these cherries.  I've decided to make the most of my "special" time in purgatory, drinking my favorite sour-cherry gin & tonic cocktails!

PICT0003For each cocktail:

really nice rocks glasses

a drink muddler

8-10  pitted sour cherries

6-8 ice cubes

1 1/2-2 ounces your favorite gin

tonic water or diet tonic water

Note:  Everyone who knows me knows that I am a "gin & tonic in a real glass" kinda girl.  It's only natural for me to add sour cherries, when I've got them, for a fruity twist:

Apologies to the real inventor!

PICT0007~ Step 1.  Place the cherries in the bottom of a rocks glass and using a cocktail muddler, smash them into juicy chunks and pieces.

A bit about a cocktail muddler:  It's a wooden tool with a blunt bottom, used to smash or crush ingredients in the bottom of a drink glass. Unless you are a professional mixologist, who own a very special, custom-made muddler, they are easily found and inexpensive too: about $5.00 - $10.00!

Note:  Cherries stain EVERYTHING. I protect my muddler by wrapping it in plastic prior to muddling the cherries.  You can thank me later! 

 Add the ice, gin, tonic water and serve!

PICT0014Mel's Annual Sour-Cherry Gin & Tonic Cocktails:  Recipe yields instructions for making one of my favorite, seasonal cocktails.

6a0120a8551282970b01538fe3093e970b-800wiSpecial Equipment List:  cherry pitter, plastic wrap, rocks glasses, cocktail muddler

Cook's Note:  Last year I froze my pitted cherries in 2-pound portions, to have on hand all year long. Instructions for freezing cherries, as well as, my recipe for:

~ I Can't Lie, this is Real Sour-Cherry Pie ~  is in Category 6!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ Sweet Corn, Grape Tomato, Black Bean & Vidalia Onion Salsa (It's Great On or In Fajitas or Wraps) ~

PICT0005One of my favorite things about the Summertime is making fresh salsa.  Unfortunately, even at the end of June in Central Pennsylvania, it is a few weeks too early in the season for me to rely upon fresh produce from our backyard garden (cilantro, green and red bell peppers, jalapenos, tomatoes, etc.) or locally grown sweet corn.  That being said, when Joe came home from the grocery store with a bag of unseasonably awesome sweet corn this past weekend, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to make salsa with the leftovers!

PICT0001A bit about salsa:  "Salsa" is the Spanish word for "sauce", which comes from the Latin words "salsa", which means "salty", and, "sal", which means "salt".  While the word can refer to any type of sauce, it's mostly associated with spicy, tomato-based, soupy condiments typical of Mexican cuisine.  Mexican salsas, which have been around for over a thousand years, were traditionally made from raw ingredients which were pulverized using a mortar and pestle and served in small bowls as a dip or drizzled over food.  Pulverized, uncooked, drizzly/soupy salsas made with raw, seasonal vegetables (crudite, kroo-dee-tay)  are called salsa cruda.  

PICT0004Salsa manufacturing, due to long-distance transport and the need for a long shelf life, involves some degree of product cooking, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Salsa manufacturing started in Texas in 1947 when David and Margaret Pace began marketing picante sauce.  In 1952, La Victoria Foods introduced the first commercial taco sauce. Picante sauce is slightly soupier in consistency than its chunkier counterpart, which is marketed as salsa.  On the other hand, taco sauce is smoothly blended, having the consistency of thin ketchup and is made from tomato paste. Nowadays, fresh salsa is availabe in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores too.  Salsa has come a long way baby... In 1991, it outsold ketchup to become the #1 condiment in the USA!

PICT0003With temperatures hovering over the 90 degree mark in PA this week, I'm going to find all sorts of uses for my refreshing corn salsa over the next day or two.  It is wonderful on top of chicken or steak fajitas (both pictured here for our dinner tonight), and, I love it in an omelette for breakfast too.  It's also a great side-dish to serve with spare ribs, or... make a big batch of cheesy nachos and enjoy every last scoop!    

PICT0003For the fresh vegetables:

4  cups previously cooked or roasted and "shaved" (removed from the cob) sweet corn

2  cups quartered grape tomatoes

1  15-16-ounce can black beans, rinsed and well-drained

1  cup diced vidalia onion (red onion may be substituted)

1  cup diced green bell pepper

2-3  tablespoons minced jalapeno pepper

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves

PICT0010For the marinade:

1/4  cup fresh lime juice

2  teaspoons chipotle hot sauce, more or less, to taste, your favorite brand

1  teaspoon ground coriander

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon Mexican oregano

1/2  teaspoon ground red pepper

1/2-1  teaspoon sugar, more or less, to taste

1/4-1/2  teaspoon sea salt, more or less, to taste

PICT0007 PICT0003~ Step 1. Prep and place all vegetables in a large bowl as you work.  Using a large rubber spatula toss to combine.  Note:  There is no need to break the large chunks of corn into smaller pieces.  When the salsa is tossed with the marinade they will break apart on their own.


PICT0016~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the marinade.  Add the marinade to the vegetable mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 3-4 hours or overnight.

Note:  If you have the time, remove the salsa from the refrigerator every hour or so.  Using the rubber spatula, give it a quick toss, to recoat the vegetables in the marinade.



Sweet Corn, Grape Tomato, Black Bean & Vidalia Onion Salsa (It's Great On or In Fajitas or Wraps):  Recipe yields 8 cups of chunky salsa.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; whisk

6a0120a8551282970b014e8960cdd8970d-800wi PICT0038Cook's Note: For two more salsas, you can find ~ My Sweet 'n Spicy, Summer Tropical Fruit Salsa ~, and, ~ Pineapple, Avocado, Tomato and Onion Salsa ~ in Categories 1, 4, 8, 10, 13 or 14!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ How to: Shave Corn Off the Cob with Zero Mess!!! ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6d67804970bIf you are a sweet corn lover or come from a long line of sweet corn lovers (like I am and do), you've no doubt shaved corn off of the cob.  Corn lovers shave corn off the cob for all sorts of reasons:  to freeze excesses of it, to add to soups, salads, casseroles or cornbread, to make salsa, or, just because they want don't want to eat it on the cob.  My mom shaved corn off the cob for me when I was around 11 years old.  I had braces on my teeth.  It was impossible for me to bite into a cob without the risk of breaking a few wires, or worse:  if you think picking sweet corn from between your teeth is a chore, you do not want to participate in this task.

PICT0001Technically you don't need anything more than a sharp chef's knife and a steady, slip-free cutting board to shave corn off the cob. You certainly don't need to invest in a gadget called a corn stripper.  Being the "queen of kitchen gadgets", I couldn't resist purchasing one, and truthfully, it does not work as well as a knife.  In fact, it tends to damage the kernels. However, one piece of bakeware does make this process even easier and totally mess free is:

PICT0006A bundt or tube type pan!  I certainly did not invent this technique, but wherever I saw it or read about it, it impressed me enough to adopt the method immediately.  Nowadays, I love the "how cool is that" look on the faces of the folks in my cooking classes when I demonstrate it. Placing the cob in the center, or in the tube, provides excellent stability, which from a safety standpoint is a very good thing. Then, as you remove the kernels, they, and all of their milky juices, fall directly into the pan (instead of scattering all over the kitchen).

How cool is that!

PICT0013~ Step 1.  Place the narrow end of the cob in the tube.  Firmly grip the top of the cob and using a sharp chef's knive slice/shave, from top to bottom, one lengthwise section at a time.  Try to keep the knife as close to the cob as you can when you do this, without cutting into the cob. The corn will come off in chunky lengths, sections, bits and pieces. This is exactly what you want.

PICT0016~ Step 2. Rotate the bowl as you slice/shave your way around each cob of corn.  Don't worry to much if you miss a spot here or there, or, if your sections don't overlap exactly, because:  

Corn shaving is not a precise sport!

Six cobs of corn will yield about 3 cups of shaved corn.


How to:  Shave Corn Off the Cob with Zero Mess!!!:  Recipe yields instructions for shaving corn quickly, easily and safely off the cob.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; bundt or tube-type pan

6a0120a8551282970b0133f3d743ae970b-500wiCook's Note:  Most recipes will call for the corn to be cooked to some degree prior to shaving it from the cob.  Even if you are just planning to freeze it, it should be blanched in boiling water for about 1 minute to preserve its flavor and sweetness. To learn more, read ~ The Corn Chronicles:  Perfect Corn on the Cob ~ in Categories 4, 10 or 15. For a delicious aternative to boiling corn, read ~ How to:  Roast or "Bake" Sweet Corn in the Oven ~ in Categories 4, 15 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 


~ How to: Roast or "Bake" Sweet Corn in the Oven ~

PICT0029Happy Father's Day!  Almost nothing beats a serving of fresh, steaming corn on the cob, lacquered with butter and a sprinkling of salt.  Sweet corn is not in season here in Pennsylvania (it'll be eight or so weeks before we see local corn at our farmers markets), but this morning, Joe came from the grocery store with a dozen really nice-looking cobs and I was impressed at the quality.  He asked me to cook it to eat with his Father's Day cheeseburgers for dinner tonight, so, here I am, showing you one of my favorite, easiest ways to prepare sweet corn!  

It was several years ago when I watched Tyler Florence roast sweet corn in his oven.  It was (I believe) on an episode of his Food 911 show on The Food Network.  It was such an obvious, logical, and simply brilliant idea, I tried it that very afternoon and never looked back.  I always knew that corn could be roasted on my grill (Bobby Flay taught me that), but who would have guessed it would be just as good if done in the oven.  It seems to me I should have thought of doing this myself, but, alas, it just never occurred to me!

6a0120a8551282970b014e5ffe0d91970c-320wiBesides the obvious simplicity of it, there are a few very good reasons for roasting corn (on the grill or in the oven).  First, roasting corn (either au natural in its husks, or, husks and silk removed and wrapped in aluminum foil) keeps the kernels really moist, juicy and plump.  You might think that boiling/simmering accomplishes this, and, in it's own way it does, however, it also leaches out a lot of natural flavor... it's akin to the difference between green beans that have been steamed vs. green beans that have been boiled... no comparison in flavor or texture.  Secondly, if you have a lot of corn to prepare all at once, without any pots, pans, fuss or bother, it doesn't take any longer to roast 24 cobs of corn than it takes to roast 2, and, your grill or stovetop are freed-up for the business of other culinary creations.  Lastly, leftover roasted corn is fantastic when shaved off the cob and added to all sorts of things:  casseroles, salads, soups, stews, salsas, cornbread and pancakes too!

6a0120a8551282970b0133f3d743ae970b-500wiI've gone so far as to "teach" (and I use this term loosely because this is so ridiculously simple there is no teaching involved) both roasting corn on the grill and in the oven in a few of my cooking classes. EVERYONE just loves it.  Students have told me they will never cook corn any other way again.  That being said, for some reason, a lot of them come back referring to it as "baked" corn, or say, "I baked the corn the way you taught us to".  I always explain that from a culinary standpoint, while roasting and baking are very similar methods of dry heat cooking, one can't use the terms interchangeably!

What is the difference between roasting and baking?

Roasting is a dry heat method of cooking that  applies to:  solid types of food like meat, poultry and vegetables that maintain their basic structure before, during and after roasting.

Baking is a dry heat method of cooking that applies to:  loose types of food like, bread, desserts (cakes, cookies, pies, etc.) and casseroles that rely upon baking for, and, emerge from the process with, structure.

So, technically, when cobs of sweet corn are cooked in the oven: they are roasted, not baked!!!

PICT0005Method 1  

Place the corn, untrimmed and in the husks, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.

PICT0029To test for doneness, lightly squeeze the outside of the husk.  If the corn is softened, it's done.

Remove corn from oven.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim off the silk-filled tip end from each cob. Pull back on the husk.  The husk and silk will come loose easier than you ever thought possible, meaning:  A LOT easier than it does when trying to remove it from uncooked corn.

PICT0035Peel back the husks.  At this point you can snap the husk end off, to remove it completely, or, you can do as Tyler Florence does and use the husk as a handle to hold the corn while you eat it, which is particularly convenient if your serving the corn in a rustic outdoor setting.

Note:  If you do not peel back the husk, corn will stay warm enough to happily eat for about 20-30 minutes. How convienient is that!


PICT0002Method 2

Remove the husks and the silk from the corn.  Place each cob on an appropriately-sized piece of aluminum foil.

Now, you have two options:



PICT0004                                       Lightly mist the top of each cob and the foil with some water, or:

Lightly butter the top of each cob with about 2 teaspoons of room temperature, salted butter.

PICT0006Place on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven and roast for 30 minutes.  To test for doneness, lightly squeeze the outside of the foil.  If the corn is softened, it's done.

Serve as is, with your favorite toppings, with or without corn picks:

PICT0010How to:  Roast or "Bake" Sweet Corn in the Oven:  Recipes yields instructions to roast as many whole cobs of sweet corn, unhusked or husked, in the oven, as you want to.

Special Equipment List: kitchen shears (optional); aluminum foil (optional); corn picks (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b013486f877cc970c-800wiCook's Note:  To learn more about sweet corn in general and the proper method for cooking sweet corn on the stovetop, you can read my post ~ The Corn Chronicles: Perfect Corn on the Cob ~ in Categories 4, 10 & 15!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ "Refrigerate after Opening?" In My Opinion... Yes! ~

PICT0005The door of my refrigerator along with a great portion of one shelf is full of opened bottles of condiments.  For several reasons (my blog, my cooking classes, my cooking demonstrations, my WHVL-TV cooking segments and my varied taste in food), I probably have a bigger condiment collection than most people, but, I dont think I'm the first person who's considered getting a second refrigerator just to store condiments.  In my lifetime, I have always stored opened condiments in the refrigerator and unopened ones in a cool, dark pantry.  In fact, it wasn't until last night that I was even aware there was another school of thought about this!


PICT0010Sunday is Father's Day, and I'm planning to make my recipe for ~ My Favorite Potato & Egg Salad ~, which can be found in Categories 4 or 10.  The glass bottle of sweet pickle relish on the door of my refrigerator was almost empty and my pantry was bare of a spare.  So, I sent Joe off to the store, and, he returned with a plastic sqeeze bottle of the same brand.  Besides the change from glass to plastic (which I do not like), the label on the new bottle did not say "refrigerate after opening", which I found odd, because the old jar did.  This is a moot point, because it's going in my refrigerator anyway, but, I posted my question (and this picture) on Facebook and was AMAZED at how divided people are on this topic!

When I got up this morning, I decided to do a little internet research, and, about two hours later, decided the information I learned and compiled was worthy of this very opininated blog post:

PICT0017According to The Association of Dressings and Sauces":  "60+ years of research has proven that commercially prepared mayonnaise does not cause foodborne illness."  Commercially manufactured mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based salad dressing manufacturers use pasteurized eggs and adhere to strict standards for balancing vinegar, lemon and salt which prevents the growth of bacteria.  "From a food safety standpoint, commercial mayonnaise and mayonnaise-type salad dressings are perfectly stable when stored at room temperature."  It is the food we add to mayonnaise that causes the growth of bacteria.  No amount of reassurance from anyone is going to keep me from storing opened mayonnaise in the refrigerator.  Refrigerate after opening!

PICT0002Vinegar based ketchup, hot sauces, barbecue and steak sauces should be refrigerated to maintain optimal quality and flavor.  I'm putting cocktail sauces and salsas in this category too.  According to Heinz:  "The vinegar in ketchup is what preserves the product.  Over time, the vinegar flavor will become more pronounced and the tomatoes will oxidize and turn dark in color.  As along as the ketchup is bright red, there should be no problem from a food safety standpoint."  While I like my ketchup at room temperature when it goes on my burger, I'm all about optimim quality and flavor too.  Basic common sense says:  Simply remove any of these products from the refrigerator 10-20 minutes before you intend to use/consume them!

PICT0001In terms of mustard, French's weighs in with some interesting information too:  "Dijon and horseradish mustard will lose their distinct flavors if not refrigerated, so we encourage refrigerating both.  For all other mustards, refrigeration will help maintain flavor."  "There are no ingredients in mustard that spoil, so, 'refrigerate after opening' is not required for food safety."  "We recommend you do it for optimal flavor of the product."  As in the case of ketchup, I like my mustard at room temperature when it goes on my hot dog, but I'm all about optimum quality and flavor too, so ditto!

PICT0003Pickles, pickle relish and pickled products?  For the most part, these are all fine to use without being refrigerated, but, for optimal flavor and quality, manufacturers encourage refrigeration after opening.  In the case of pickles, there are two types:  cooked and uncooked.  Claussen pickles are uncooked pickles, which means they must be kept refrigerated at all times.  Hear me  folks:  Pickles all taste better cold, period.  Refrigerate!

PICT0003Lastly, we've got jams, jellies, preserves and other sweet treats like applebutter and ice cream toppings.  Once opened, if not refrigerated, these are quick to grow harmful mold.  I've heard it said that if you scoop the mold of the top, the rest of the jar is safe to eat, but I find that so offensively aweful, I will not give you this ugly, ridiculous advice. Refrigerate all commercially or homemade varieties after opening and discard if mold develops!

For Optimum Flavor, Quality, Shelf Life and Food Safety:

Refrigerate ALL Condiments after Opening, period.  


PICT0016"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commmentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ Jesse's Smokin' Rib Rub a la Jesse's Mom (Mel) + (My Tips & Techniques for Gas Grill Smoked Ribs) ~

PICT0022Once a year, for many years now, our son Jesse, who lives in Pittsburgh, smokes ribs for Joe, myself and whatever family and/or friends that happen to be here in our Happy Valley backyard!

09591-beverly-hillbillies-3He loads up his Jeep in Clampett-like style with his Weber smoker, wood, bags of wood chips, special charcoal, welding gloves, an ax, pots and pans, plus, a keg of his favorite beer, his personal lawn chair, lucky hat and a small tent!  

For as long as he has been doing this, each year I have tried to elicit his help in drafting a recipe for his spice rub and cooking guidelines to pass along to my readers, teach in my classes and cook for myself!  

IMG_6745Jesse tries hard to accommodate and means well, but he consistently mumbles absurd, incomprehensible directions like, "add salt until the rub looks right", and "you'll know when you've added too much paprika". Once, he e-mailed me a recipe that called for percentages of ingredients, but, when I added them up, they totaled 125%.  Most recently, he asked Joe to cut down our apple tree so he could use it as fuel (Joe refused).  At the end of the day:  You can ask Jimi Hendrix to write down instructions for playing the guitar, but you can't be surprised when his instructions don't make any sense... and so it is with Jesse and his recipes!

What follows is my interpretation of Jesse's recipe:  a competition quality barbecue rib rub recipe, as well as realistic instructions and an effective method for smoking them on your gas grill.  If you want true barbecue, you'll have to go visit Jesse, and... take a chainsaw!!!

PICT0024Part One:  Making the Dry Rib Rub/Spice Blend

PICT0003A dry rib rub is what makes pork spare ribs come out tender and juicy, and, once the rub is applied to the ribs, the longer they rest in the refrigerator, to soak up all of the wonderful flavors and tenderize the meat, 4-6 hours or overnight, the better your ribs are going to be.  Dry rubs can be as simple as 5-6 ingredients or quite lengthy, like the one I'm making today, but they all mix together quickly and easily, in less than 5 minutes.  That being said, when I make rib rub, I like to mix up a big batch and keep it in a tightly covered food storage container to have on hand all year long!

PICT0002What herbs and spices go into a rib rub is a matter of personal taste and recipes vary from grillmaster to grillmaster (or pitmaster to pitmaster as they say in the competitive world), but:  dry rib rubs are limited to dried herbs and dry spices, not fresh ones.  

All dry rubs contain salt, most contain some type of sugar, plus garlic powder, paprika and pepper. With the addition of chili powder*, various chile powders*, dry mustard and a few fragrant spices, dry rubs turn an ordinary rack of ribs into a party in your mouth!

*Note:  Chili powder, when spelled with an "i" at the end of it, means it is a mixture of ground dried spices (for example:  cumin, garlic, onion) and chile powder.  Chile powder, when spelled with an "e" at the end of it, means it is a powder made from dried chiles exclusively.  Chili, when spelled with an "i" at the end of it, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers.  Chile, when spelled with and "e" at the end of it, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod of fruit of any member of the pepper family! 




1/4  cup kosher salt

1/4  cup sugar

1/4  cup chili powder

1/4  cup garlic powder

1/4  cup ground cumin

2  tablespoons dry English mustard

2  tablespoons hot Hungarian paprika

2  tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1  tablespoon smoked paprika

1  tablespoon guajillo chile powder

1  tablespoon chipotle chile powder

1  tablespooon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2  teaspoon ground allspice

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon ground cloves

2  tablespoons Mexican oregano

3  tablespoons fennel seed, ground to a fine powder

PICT0007In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients together, except for the fennel seed.  In an electric spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle, process the fennel seed to a fine powder and stir it into the mixture.  You will have 2 1/4 cups of rub.  Cover and set aside for 1-2 hours, to allow the flavors to marry. This step is often overlooked.  You can thank me later.  Spice rub will keep, in a tightly-covered container for 6-12 months, if it lasts that long!

Part Two:  Prepping, Rubbing and Resting the Ribs

PICT0017In Melanie's Kitchen, "ribs" means pork ribs.  I've only tasted beef ribs once... in Houston.  While I enjoyed them, I didn't rush back to Pennsylvania with an urge to develop a recipe of my own for them.  There are three different types of pork ribs:  spareribs, baby back ribs and country-style ribs.  St. Louis-style spareribs and Kansas City-style spareribs refer to the style in which a traditional slab of spareribs is trimmed (brisket bone removed or hard bone removed respectively).  Occasionally, you'll hear folks refer to Memphis-style spareribs... don't let that confuse you.  These are St. Louis-style spareribs prepared in the style of Memphis, with a dry rub and a wet basting sauce (called a "mop"), and, served with very little sauce, if any.  Baby back ribs or loin ribs, are smaller and leaner, more flavorful, easier to handle, and, more expensive too.  Country-style ribs, which are more like akin to a fatty pork chop, are technically not ribs.  They are meatiest of all three types, but, don't fare as well with the same grilling/smoking techniques used for spareribs and baby backs.  Because of their high fat content, I prefer to use country-style ribs in place of pork chops on the grill because they stay really moist and juicy rather than drying out like expensive loin chops. Pictured here are beautifully trimmed St. Louis-style spareribs (top) and baby back ribs (bottom):

PICT0004~ Step 1.  Remove the ribs from their packaging, rinse them thoroughly under cold water and pat dry in paper towels.  A rack of St. Louis-style ribs, after trimming, weighs about 3 1/2 pounds, and, butchers refer to this as "three and a half down".  A rack of baby back ribs, which is equal in length to the St. Louis-style slab, typically weighs about 2-2 1/2 pounds.

PICT0001A bit about silverskin:  Silverskin is the thin (but tough), white, silvery looking connective tissue on the underside of every rack of ribs.  The reasons for removing it are quite simple:  it makes the ribs easier to cut/eat, and, once it is removed it allows any rub you are using to flavor/penetrate the meat.  It is quite easy to remove, expecially if your ribs are at room temperature.

~ Step 2.  Allow the ribs sit out on the counter for about an hour before removing the silverskin.  

Note:  Silverskin is also found on other cuts of meat, like tenderloin of beef, lamb and pork.  I remove it from those as well, but that is a different technique and will require another post at another time.  To remove the silverskin from ribs:

PICT0005~ Step 3.  Starting at the narrow end of each rack, use the tip of a boning knife (or a very sharp paring knife) to separate a small 1/2"-3/4" piece of the silverskin from the meat...  







... Using your fingertips and a firm grip, pull/tear the silverskin off of the entire surface.  If it does not come off in one piece, use the knife to separate a second piece and continue.  This entire process only takes about 1 minute per rack of ribs!

Note:  If you have a hard time keeping the silverskin from slipping out of your fingertips, which is often the case when it is short and you start to remove it,  just grip it with a paper towel. 


This simple technique is going to make for a beautiful presentation at the end and will actually allow your spice blend to penetrate the meat, rather than just sit on top of silverskin and do absolutely nothing.

Listen to me on this one folks:  be a pro and remove the silverskin! 

Note:  In the following photographs, I am using 3 racks of baby back ribs to demonstrate my method for rubbing and resting ribs.  St. Louis-style ribs may be subsituted:

PICT0006~ Step 4.  Place 3 racks of ribs, bottom/curved side up on work surface.  Using a pastry brush, paint a light coating of yellow, ballpark mustard over the bottoms and sides (about 3-4 tablespoons per rack for baby back ribs and 5-6 tablespoons for St. Louis-style ribs).  Sprinkle with an even coating of rib rub. Allow to rest, 30-45 minutes.  Flip ribs over and repeat process, including the 30-45 minute rest.

PICT0011Note:  I set the ribs aside to allow the spice rub to absorb moisture from the mustard. At the end of the resting time, you will notice that the spice rub and the mustard have married and become one solid coating over the ribs, meaning: very little rub will shake loose when transferred to the grill/smoker, and, will result in ribs with a nice crust!

PICT0019The ribs are now technically ready to be cooked, but, they will go from great ribs to awesome ribs if you cover and refrigerate them for 4-6 hours or overnight prior to cooking. I'm transferring mine to a plastic wrap lined baking pan, covering the pan with plastic wrap and putting them in the refrigerator overnight!

Part Three:  Girly Instructions for Gas Grill Smoking Ribs

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE:  proceed with your own method for grilling and/or smoking ribs, using your own equipment.  Light your fire, tap your keg, set up your lawn chair, put on your lucky hat and carry on.  The following is a brief synapsis of how this girl does it on a gas grill:

PICT0003~ Step 1.  Remove the ribs from the refrigerator and allow to return to room temperature, about 1 hour. Meanwhile:

~ Step 2.  Using a 2-1 ratio of all-natural apple wood to hickory wood chips, place:

5-6 cups of apple chips, and,

2 1/2-3 cups of hickory chips

in a large bowl.  Cover with warm water and set aside for 1 hour.

PICT0005A bit about wood chips:  I'm smoking on a gas grill so I'm limited to using wood chips.  There are many kinds of wood chips.  You should always use what you like, and, pitmasters usually use a combination of a "strong scented" wood with a "fragrant scented" one. In terms of strong, the choices are hickory, oak and mesquite (with mesquite being too strong for my taste).  In terms of fragrant, the choices are apple, cherry, maple and pecan (with apple being my favorite).  NEVER use pine, cedar or treated wood chips or any bark.

PICT0006~ Step 3.  This will vary from grill to grill, but on my Viking gas grill, I've preheated one burner to low, because, smoking is all about low and slow heat.  I'm filling the smoker drawer with some of the soaked wood chips.  Throughout the smoking process, I'll be adding additional wood chips, as necessary, about every 30-45 minutes, whenever the drawer looks like it needs more!

PICT0019~ Step 4.  While my son Jess smokes full racks in a charcoal smoker using hardwood lump charcoal,  I'm going to be smoking my ribs over indirect heat, on the upper rack of my grill. To make them easier for me to handle, I've sliced each rack in half, to form 6, half racks.  It a girl thing!  

Note:  Both Jesse and I slow smoke our ribs over a low temperature, 210-230 degrees, for several hours.  Jesse's ribs are usually done in about 5 1/2-6 hours, while mine are usually done in about 4-4 1/2 hours.  This, however, is a matter of preference.  Doneness is determined by what degree of doneness you want your ribs to be.  I like my ribs when I have work just a bit to pull the meat off the bone with my teeth, meaning:  fall-off-the-bone tender is not my preference!

PICT0004~ Step 5.  I like to position a drip pan (a large disposable aluminum roasting pan), underneath the ribs, to which 2 bottles of beer have been added, to catch some of the flavorful fat and juices in.  As the ribs smoke, the liquid will evaporate from the pan, so it is necessary to keep adding extra beer, as often as necessary, to keep about 1/4" of liquid in the bottom of the pan and prevent the fat and juices from burning in the bottom of it.  Why?  I use this liquid to lightly baste (not brush) the ribs occasionally, about 1-2 times every hour after the ribs have been smoking for 2 hours.

PICT0001~ Step 6.  After one hour, open the grill.  Using a pair of tongs, flip the ribs over, close the grill and continue to smoke for 1 more hour.  

Remember to check the smoker drawer and add more wood chips, if you need to.

PICT0009~ Step 7.  After the second hour, open the grill, flip the ribs over again and baste/drizzle the ribs with the beer/drip pan mixture.  Slide the pan around underneath the ribs as you work, to let excess liquid return to pan.  Continue to baste the ribs every 30 minutes, and, flip the ribs over every 60 minutes, until the ribs are done to your liking:

PICT0012Part Four:  Saucing the Ribs

PICT0001After going to all of this work, I'd like to think you'd be making homemade sauce for your ribs, and, I developed this recipe especially for these smoked ribs.  You can find my recipe for ~ Mel's Spicy Honey-Mustard BBQ Sauce for Pork ~ in Categories 8, 10, 17 and 22.  That being said, even if you are using store-bought bottled sauce, the secret is to paint a light coating of sauce over the ribs just before removing them from the grill and NOT sauce them at all during the smoking process. Additional sauce should served warm, at tableside, for dipping or drizzling!

PICT0018Jesse's Smokin' Rib Rub a la Jesse's Mom (Mel) + (My Tips & Techniques for Gas Grill Smoked Ribs:  Recipe yields 2 1/4 cups of dry rib rub, or enough to coat 9 full racks of 16"-18" baby back pork spareribs, or, 6 full racks of St. Louis-style spareribs.

Special Equipment List:  measuring spoons: electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle; spoon; food storage container w/tight fitting lid; paper towels; boning knife or paring knife; pastry brush; 1-2-3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; plastic wrap; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; long-handled grilling tongs; meat baster

PICT0024Cook's Note:  For another one of my favorite BBQ sauce recipes, you can find my recipe for ~ Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce, or:  Summer Strawberries Never Tasted Sooooo Good! ~ in Categories 6, 8, 13, 20 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ It's Rib Week: My Dry Rub, Sauce & Techniques! ~

PICT0003Announcement:  As promised, Kitchen Encounters is dedicating this Father's Day week to:

All things ribs!

Or, at least, all things that I, a girl, knows about grilling/smoking ribs. As I post this, my ribs are rubbed, my wood chips are soaking and my BBQ sauce is simmering!

PICT0018These are posts which go hand-in-hand together, and, quite frankly, it's almost impossible to separate them. The amount of time it takes to grill/smoke ribs makes it even more complicated... not to mention editing the photos and writing!  

Join me on Wednesday, for my post:  ~ Jesse's Smokin' Rib Rub a la Jesse's Mom (Mel) ~ !!!



"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (6/08/12) ~

Culinary Q & A #2At our last Culinary Q&A (5/25/12), I promised that I would be dedicating the next week to "all things ribs" and rib recipes.  I whole-heartedly expected to keep that promise, until I was bombarded with fresh strawberries from our backyard strawberry patch.  As I've mentioned before, blogging fresh, on-hand ingredients takes precidence over promises.  I spent all of the past week posting strawberry recipes, and, I promise to spend next week posting rib recipes!

Based upon all of your comments this week, no one was upset by this delay, because the strawberry posts were extremely well received by everyone.  Kitchen Encounters got one question concerning two of my strawberry posts, so I'm going to answer it first:

PICT0007Q. Deb says and asks: Dear Kitchen Encounters, I found your blog while searching for fruit sauces to top ice cream.  I read your recipe for ~ Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce ~, which you pictured atop ~ Sweet Heat: Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Ice Cream ~.  My family of five loves strawberries and spice, which is why both of these recipes interest me, but, my 11-year-old daughter has an allergy to strawberries.  Can you suggest another fruit to use interchageably in both of those recipes?  Thanks in advance!

6a0120a8551282970b01543403dff7970c-320wiA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Great to hear from you Deb.  My family is no stranger to allergies, so I understand where you are coming from with this question!


Peaches will be a little more work than strawberries, in that you must peel them first, but, cup for cup, chopped/chunked fresh peaches can be substituted equally in both the sauce and the ice cream recipes without any compromise!



Next, Kitchen Encounters received one amazing comment regarding ~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna:  Veal & Rosemary Tomato Cream Sauce & Lasagna ~, which can be found in Categories 3, 11, 12, 14, 21 or 22!

PICT0004C.  Tony says:  Melanie.  I made your recipe for bolognese sauce. All I can say is wow.  I grew up in a large Italian family and my Italian born grandmother Maria made bolognese all the time, along with homemade pasta sheets.  She died unexpectedly at quite a young age and  her recipe died with her before anyone learned how to make it.  To date no one in our family has been able to come up with anything even close.  We have adopted your recipe as ours.  With gratitude, the Marco Family (Brooklyn, NY).

C.  Kitchen Encounters:  Tony.  I am speechless with glee and couldn't be prouder of this honor!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~Sweet Potato, Apple, Vidalia Onion & Pecan Salad~

PICT0013It's the first week of June and barbecue season is in full swing here in Melanie's Kitchen.  Over the Memorial Day weekend we grilled thick, juicy Kobe beef cheeseburgers , and, over the past week we've made grilled chicken quesadillas and T-bone steaks too.  I've got ribs on my mind for the upcoming weekend, so, before I start posting those rib recipes, I thought I'd take a moment to share one of my favorite side-dishes to serve with them!

6a0120a8551282970b0154322ef1bc970c-800wiIt is no secret that I am a lover of pretty much everything and anything that can be made with potatoes, and, I absolutely adore sweet potatoes.  I've posted several great sweet potato recipes on KE already, but now it is time for me to post one for the grilling season!  

~My Favorite Potato & Egg Salad~ (found in Categories 4 & 10), is wonderful with hamburgers and hot dogs, but when I think of BBQ in the truest sense of the word, I think of:

PICT0015Southern-style smoked pork shoulder, brisket, ribs and/or turkey breast, complete with their classic dry rubs and secret sauces!  

Correct me if I am wrong, but what could be more Southern than serving BBQ with a chilled: ~ Sweet Potato, Apple, Vidalia Onion & Pecan Salad ~!


PICT0005Vidalia onions are sweet onions grown exclusively in a 20-county region in Georgia, but loved by folks like me in all parts of the world. Their mild, sweet taste, makes them perfect to use raw in a salad like this one.  Vidalias are available from late April through September, and thanks to an annual fundraiser run by our local State College Kiwanis Club, I've got 2, 10-pound bags, straight from Georgia, sitting on my kitchen counter today!

PICT0003For the sweet potatoes:

8 cups, 3/4"-1" cubed sweet potatoes, about 2 3/4 pounds peeled sweet potatoes

PICT0009~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, place 5 quarts of cold, lightly salted (1 tablespoon) water.  Add the sweet potatoes.

PICT0015~ Step 2.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to simmer rapidly, 1 1/2-2 1/2 minutes, until al dente, or just fork tender.  Do not overcook!  

Note:  Sweet potatoes cook much quicker than "white" potatoes and go from perfectly cooked to mushy quickly too, so watch them carefully.





~ Step 3.  Drain into a colander and immediately rinse under very cold water, tossing them around in the colander until they are all cooled enough to handle with your hands. Set aside to drain thoroughly, about 15 minutes.

~ Step 4.  Place in a zip lock bag and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.

6a0120a8551282970b0147e274afe9970b-800wiOptional Homemade Mayonnaise

It is well worth the 2-3 minute effort to make mayonnaise in the food processor.  My recipe for ~ How to: Make Homemade Mayonnaise ("Mayo") ~ can be found in Categories 8, 15 & 20!

~ Step 5.  Prepare the mayonnasie as directed and chill.  You will have 1 1/2 cups.  Depending upon how creamy you like your potato salad, for this recipe you will need:

1-1 1/2  cups mayonnaise, chilled

PICT0012~ Step 6.  Combine mayonnaise w/:

2  tablespoons pure maple syrup

2  tablespoons Creole mustard

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/4-1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

PICT0018~ Step 7.  Prep and add to the mayonnaise mixture:

2  cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples

1  generous cup diced Vidalia onion

1  generous cup diced celery

1/2  cup chopped pecans, plus,

for garnishing salad, set aside:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

PICT0025~ Step 8.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the chilled sweet potatoes.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator for an additional 2-4 hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors to marry.  Overnight is best.  

PICT0028Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped pecans and serve:


Sweet Potato, Apple, Vidalia Onion & Pecan Salad:  Recipe yields 12 cups or 8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; colander; 1-gallon food storage bag; whisk; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b0154326c9832970c-800wiCook's Note:  For another side-dish typically found on the Southern BBQ table, click into Categories 4, 10 or 17 to get the recipe for ~ Mel's Creamy Crunchy Cole Slaw ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #26: Sweet Heat: Strawberry Chicken Quesadillas ~

PICT0022Yesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Quesadillas:  Grilled Guajillo Chile Chicken Thighs w/Vidalia Onions, Black Beans & Queso Fresco!!! ~.  You can find the detailed recipe, along with all of my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 2, 3, 10, 13, 17 or 20.  These amazing quesadillas are drizzled with my recipe for ~ Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce ~, which can be found in Categories 6, 8, 13 or 22!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

Sweet Heat: Strawberry Chicken Quesadillas

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune into WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!


"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ Quesadillas: Grilled Guajillo Chile Chicken Thighs w/Vidalia Onions, Black Beans & Queso Fresco!!! ~

PICT0022Thank-you to everyone who commented so positively about the ~ Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce ~ recipe, which can be found in Categories 6, 8, 13 or 22.  In that recipe, I posted a picture of this sauce drizzled atop one of my favorite quesadillas (pictured here), which was the inspiration for the sauce recipe.  When four of you e-mailed me this past weekend to ask where the recipe for the quesadilla chicken filling mixture could be found, then, one person contacted me with a detailed request for me to "please post the recipe for those scrumptious looking quesadillas", I figured I'd better "get on it", sit down and post the recipe.  So, here it is:

PICT0002Prepare the Strawberry and Guajillo Chile Sauce.  These quesadillas go hand-in-hand with and are enhanced by this sauce. Prepare it as directed and set aside. The sauce can be prepared 1-3 days in advance of serving and stored in the refrigerator.  Return to room temperature and gently reheat in the microwave prior to topping quesadillas.  You'll have 2 1/2 cups!

PICT0004For the dry spice blend:

2  tablespoons English mustard

2 tablespoons guajillo chile powder

2  tablespoons smoked paprika

PICT00054  tablespoons "Jane's Original Krazy Mixed-Up Salt", or sea salt

1  teaspoon cayenne pepper

4  tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper

PICT0010~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, combine all ingredients as listed. You will have 3/4 cup of spice blend.

Note:  This amount of spice blend is about twice a much as  you will need today (unless you are making a lot of quesadillas ).  I like to put the spice rub in an ordinary, glass cheese shaker.  It has large holes in the top, which makes it easy and mess-free to apply.  I keep the container covered with plastic wrap and stored in my pantry to have on hand for more quesadillas!

PICT0005For the quesadillas:

2 1/2  cups strawberry sauce (from above recipe), about 3-4 tablespoons per quesadilla

12-14  boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, about 3-3 1/2 pounds, trimmed of any large pieces of fat

1/2  of spice blend, more or less (from above recipe), for seasoning thighs and onion saute

2  tablespoons corn oil, for sauteing onions

16  ounces peeled, halved and 1/4" sliced Vidalia onions

1  15-16-ounce can black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained

2 1/2  cups crumbled quesco fresco cheese (1 1/2 cups for mixing into meat mixture and 1 cup for topping quesadillas)

16, small, 6"-round flour tortillas

8  sliced and decoratively "fanned" fresh strawberries, for garnish (optional)

PICT0005 PICT0001~ Step 1. Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim thighs of any large pieces of fat. Place them on a work surface that you don't want irreversibly stained. I place mine on the top of a clean kitchen can bag, which also makes cleanup really easy.  Generously sprinkle the tops with spice blend. Set aside about 15-20 minutes.

PICT0058~ Step 2.  Place the chicken thighs on the grill grates over indirect heat. Close the lid and cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes per side, turning only once.  Do note overcook.  

Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.  Meanwhile:

PICT0033Step 3.  In a 12" skillet or a stir-fry type pan, place the corn oil.  Prep the onions as directed, adding them to the skillet or pan as you work. Season the onions with 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of the spice blend. Over medium-high heat, saute until the onions are tender, but still slightly crunchy, about 5-6 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the black beans and queso fresco cheese. Set aside.

PICT0068~ Step 4.  Slice the chicken into 1/4"-1/2" strips.  Add the chicken strips to the pan and stir them into the onion/bean/cheese mixture. Over medium-high heat, stir, just until mixture is steaming, about 1-3 minutes.  Set aside.

~ Step 5.  Gently reheat the sauce.

~ Step 6.  Lightly grill the flour tortillas, just until grill marks appear, about 15-30 seconds per side.

PICT0073To serve, on each of eight plates, portion, evenly distribute and sandwich the chicken mixture between two lightly grilled, warm, flour tortillas.  Drizzle each quesadilla with warm strawberry sauce, top with a sprinkling of queso fresco cheese and garnish with a fresh strawberry:




Quesadillas:  Grilled Guajillo Chile Chicken Thighs w/Vidalia Onions, Black Beans & Queso Fresco!!!:  Recipe yields 8, 6" round quesadillas.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife;  12" skillet or stir-fry type pan

PICT0007Cook's Note:  A bit about queso fresco cheese:  This is a "real deal" cow's milk Mexican cheese which is common in authentic Tex/Mex dishes.  It's a fresh cheese, similar to feta, with a shelf life of about 5 days.  When placed on top of a dish, or stirred into it, it softens rather than melts, and, with enough heat becomes slightly creamy!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


~ Sweet Heat: Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Ice Cream +Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce! Cha-Cha-Cha! ~

PICT0019Over the past 14 years, my husband Joe has managed to turn a few strawberry plants, that used to yield a  pint or two every year, into a full-blown strawberry patch, that yields several quarts.  In the beginning, that pint or two rarely made it anywhere except into our mouths.  Nowadays, I actually make plans for strawberry season, knowing that they will all ripen at about the same time, and, like peaches, once picked, will be over-ripe in a very short period of time, 2-3 days maximum.  Before I yield to making strawberry jam, I always fit a batch or two or three of my strawberry-buttermilk ice cream into my strawberry cooking agenda!

PICT0007I'm no stranger to ice cream making. 13582317Thirty-some years ago, Joe and I purchased a White Mountain hand-crank machine. We lived in a house with a brook in the backyard.  I would make the ice cream base and Joe would place the machine on the picnic table and watch our three kids take turns cranking... one cranking while two played in the water.  It was a great way to give mom a much needed afternoon off!

PICT0013About 15-16 years ago I invested in an expensive, Italian-made, Simac gelato machine, bought several cookbooks dedicated to ice cream making, and, even took an ice cream making class. This is a very substantial piece of equipment that has its own freezing mechanism. Once I prepare my custard (ice cream base), in about an hour, it does everything short of scooping it out for me.  I won't lie, I love this machine and it has a permanent place of honor on my kitchen counter.  I can, however, attest to the fact that when it comes to ice-cream making, it is all about the recipe, not the machine, because both of our machines, one very basic and one very extravagant, when the manufacturer's instructions are followed, turn out delicious ice cream!

Cooked Custard Ice Cream Base vs. No-Cook Shortcut Base

PICT0006I'm not going to lie, when it comes to many of my ice cream recipes, I will never stray from making the custard from scratch because, simply stated:  it's richer tasting.  This is not a hard process, but it does require the understanding of how to whisk and cook an egg custard on the stovetop, strain it, plus a pre-chilling process.  From beginning to end this takes a few hours. One of the things that came with my Simac machine was a 54 page recipe book with detailed recipes for preparing:  ice cream, sorbet, sherbet, frozen yogurt and frozen drinks.  Included in the ice cream section are a few pages dedicated to "quick" ice cream, in which you simply sitr all of the ingredients together in a mixing bowl (or, depending upon the recipe, puree them in a food processor), then freeze it in the machine!

My shortcut method for making strawberry ice cream, and:

My inspiration for this "sweet heat" recipe!

PICT0026Two days ago I posted my recipe for ~ Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce ~, which you can find by clicking into Categories 6, 13, 20 & 22.  Back in the latter 1980's, while in Anaheim, CA, Joe and I stopped at a small cafe for lunch.  When I saw "Strawberry Chicken Quesadilla" on the menu, I had to order it.  Sandwiched inside of a perfectly grilled flour tortilla was a mixture of grilled chicken, sauted onion, black beans and queso fresco cheese.  Drizzled over the top was a chunky strawberry sauce, and, to my surprise:  it was spicy... the kind of spicy that can only come from chile peppers.  Sweet heat!  It was immediatly apparent that this delicious sauce would be great on all sorts of sweet things too, like waffles and ice cream for instance.  Then the revelation occurred to me:  Add some guajillo chile powder and a pinch of cayenne to my strawberry ice cream recipe, then serve it topped with a bit of my chilled strawberry & guajillo chile sauce!  In the event you are not adventurous enough to add "the heat" to either of these recipes, worry not.  Minus "the heat" you're left with eating creamy, delicious strawberry ice cream topped with a superb strawberry sauce!
















16  ounces coarsely chopped/chunked, fresh strawberries, about 3 cups (Note:  I like to use very ripe strawberries to make strawberry ice cream.)

3/4  cup sugar

1  teaspoon guajillo chile powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)

1  tablespoon fresh lime juice

1  teaspoon strawberry extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

2  cups well-chilled heavy or whipping cream, or, 2  cups well-chilled half and half

1/2  cup low-fat buttermilk

PICT0010 PICT0007~ Step 1. Prep the strawberries as directed, placing in a large bowl as you work.  Add the sugar, chile powder, salt, optional pepper, lime juice and extracts.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir until thoroughly combined.  Set aside, at room temperature, for 30 minutes.  The strawberries will be in a thick, drizzly, syrupy mixture.  


PICT0013~ Step 2. Using a vegetable masher, smash the strawberries into smaller chunks and pieces.

PICT0022~ Step 3. Fold in the cream (or half and half) and buttermilk.  You will have 5 cups of pretty, pastel pink ice cream base.

PICT0034~ Step 4.  From here on out, follow the directions that came with your ice cream maker.  Because my ice cream maker has a built-in freezing system, I am simply transferring all of the ice cream base  to the work bowl of my ice cream maker.

PICT0047I'll turn the machine on and let it churn/freeze for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Voila:

PICT0010Sweet Heat:  Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Ice Cream +Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce!  Cha- Cha-Cha!:  Recipe yields 1 quart of ice cream and 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; vegetable masher; ice cream maker; ice cream scoop 

6a0120a8551282970b01538f5214fb970b-800wiCook's Note:  For another strawberry recipe (which I posted last June for Father's Day), read my recipe for:   ~ It's a Dad Thing:  My Dad's Strawberry Soup ~, in Categories 6, 11 or 16!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)