Summer's Iconic Dish, Ratatouille

Ratatouille is an iconic summer dish, and the New York Times' Melissa Clark includes it as one of ten dishes that every modern cook should master.  This is the perfect time of year to make ratatouille, when gardens are full of squash and eggplant and tomatoes and dinner tables demand the flexibility of eating things hot or cold. It's a dish that I have been making for so long that I can't remember the exact origin of every detail,  but I do remember Alice Waters' suggestion for a basil bouquet.

Makes 8 servings

- Ingredients -
2  medium eggplants, chopped into 1/2 " cubes
2 onions, chopped into 1/2 " cubes
6-8 chopped garlic cloves
2 peppers (orange, red or yellow) chopped into 1/2 " cubes
2-3 summer squash, chopped into 1/2 " cubes
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 " cubes
olive oil
salt to taste
fresh basil ( tie several stalks together with kitchen string)

- Tools - 
Weston French Fry and Vegetable Cutter   (makes easy work of chopping)

How To 

Chop eggplants, sprinkle liberally with salt and let drain in colander for 15 minutes

Heat 1 1/2 T of olive oil over medium in dutch oven 

Rinse eggplant, pat dry and add to olive oil. Cook until golden brown and remove from pan

Add an additional splash of olive oil and cook onions until soft

Add peppers and squash as well as garlic and basil and cook for 10 minutes

Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes; add eggplant back to pan and cook until vegetables are soft 

Remove basil bouquet before serving

Season with salt and pepper as well as chopped fresh basil

    Roasted Salsa Verde

    When the tomatillos start to come in I always get a hankering for salsa verde, and there's nothing like picking your produce from the garden.  

    Tomatillos are in the same nightshade family as tomatoes, and their cultivation dates 
    back to pre-Columbian times in Mexico. However, they have a very different flavor profile from their tomato sibling with hints of  tangy citrus, especially when eaten raw.  Roasting them adds depth and smokiness to the salsa.

    The fruit grows inside a papery husk, and you know its time to pick them when they fill the husk and start to break through.

    After removing the husk, the fruit needs to be rinsed to remove the sticky residue

    Salsa verde is a staple in Mexican cooking and can be prepared in multiple ways, cooked and raw, and served to add a fresh flavor to meats, Mexican dishes like enchiladas, or eaten with tortilla chips.

    Makes 2 cups

    - Ingredients -

    - Tools - 

    Weston Professional Blender  (coming Summer 2017)

    How To 

    Pre-heat broiler

    Roast peppers and tomatillos under broiler until well roasted (about 5 minutes and then flip over for another 5 minutes)

    Blend peppers and tomatillos together

    Add cilantro and blend to preferred consistency ( I tend to leave mine coarse)

    Mix in chopped onion and add salt to taste

    Lime juice is an optional addition

      July 4th Brisket and Bacon Burgers

      The Fourth of July,  or Independence Day (take your pick), is the most American of holidays, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence (from England) on July 4th, 1776 and the birth of our new nation. Celebrated with speeches and fireworks, cookouts and parades, it's a time of friends and family coming together.

      Here are a few of our favorite recipes for this year's cookout.

      Brisket and Bacon Burgers

      Smoking bacon-wrapped brisket is fairly common, but combining the two in a burger elevates the fusion to another level. It's a simple preparation that yields great results.  And when you grind your own meat, you know exactly what's going into your burger.

      Makes 8-12 burgers, depending on size preference

      - Ingredients -
      • 2 lbs beef brisket, cubed (grass fed or free range)
      • 1 lb bacon (I used cherry smoked, but any flavor will do)
      • salt & pepper to taste
      - Tools - 
      Weston #8 Meat Grinder
      Weston Single Burger Press ... and  here are some great reasons why you need a burger press

      How To 
      1. Chill your equipment and meat: Place your grinder head in the freezer for a few hours before grinding as well as the meat you plan to use.  This will make the grinding process go smoother.
      2. Using the coarse grinding plate, push brisket through hopper and then repeat with bacon
      3. Mix the bacon and brisket together and process through medium grinder plate
      4.  Adjust the knob on the burger press to your preferred thickness
      5. Divide meat into even portions, and place in burger press (clean up is a snap if you use Weston patty paper)
      6.  Press down to form burger patty and repeat 
      7. Salt and pepper just before cooking

      Bacon and brisket before combining
      Bacon and brisket after 2nd grind

        Boston Baked Beans

        Baked beans have been made for centuries and became particularly popular in the early 20th century as a canned import from the U.K.  The recipe for the Boston version always include molasses and some say their popularity is behind Boston being called "Bean-town."

        Makes 24 4 oz servings

        - Ingredients -

        •          2 pounds dried navy beans
        •          8 strips bacon
        •          1 1/2 onions, chopped
        •          6 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
        •           1 cup dark molasses
        •          ½  cup ketchup
        •          1 c light brown sugar
        •          3 tablespoons mustard powder
        •          2  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
        •          1 teaspoon pepper
        •          1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
        •          1 teaspoon thyme, either fresh or crushed
        •          2  bay leaves
        •          1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

        - Tools - 

        How To 

        1. Rinse beans and check for stones
        2. Place in Weston Slow Cooker and cover with water, soaking them overnight or at least 6 hours
        3. Drain beans, reserving water, and return to slow cooker
        4. Cook bacon in skillet until crispy; remove from heat and crumble, retaining some bacon grease in pan
        5. Cook down onions and garlic in bacon grease until onions are translucent
        6. Add onions and garlic, bacon and remaining ingredients to slow cooker and mix to combine
        7. Add reserved water to cover mixture by ½ inch, adding additional fresh water if necessary
        8. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until tender, checking liquid levels and stirring every so often
        9. Season with salt and pepper to taste


          Scapes are a thing

          1. 1.
            a long, leafless flower stalk coming directly from a root.

          One of my favorite Spring rituals is the appearance of scapes at the local market.  As the definition explains, scapes are flower stalks that rise from the root of a plant, and in this case, garlic.  They need to be cut early in the growing season so they don't take nutrients away from the actual garlic bulb that isn't harvested until later in the year. They are a great addition to many recipes, and taste like a cross between a green onion and garlic.  

          Scapes are great tossed in a stir fry, in some scrambled eggs, and especially good in pesto and hummus.  Here are a few of my favorite scape recipes.

          Scape Pesto

          This is a fun riff on a classic Italian pasta sauce. Scapes are substituted for the basil in the traditional recipe and the result is a brilliant green sauce that packs a lot of flavor.

          - Ingredients -

          1/4 cup pine nuts
          3/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes

          Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
          1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
          1/4 - 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
          salt and pepper to taste
          - Tools - 
          Weston Professional Blender  (coming Summer 2017)

          How To 

          1. Add pine nuts and scapes to blender and pulse to mix
          2. Add lemon juice and zest and pulse
          3. Turn on blender to medium speed and with it running slowly drizzle olive oil to mix
          4. Add cheese and combine
          5. Season with salt and pepper

          Pro Tip:  If you are serving pesto with pasta, combine a few spoons of pesto with a cup of pasta water to mix in bowl before adding pasta 

          Scape Hummus

          This is a spicy variation on a classic Mediterranean dip. Scapes are substituted for the garlic in the traditional recipe.

          - Ingredients -

          3 15 oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
          3/4 cup tahini
          3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
          1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped garlic scapes
          1/4 cup water
          1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
          1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
          1 teaspoon sea salt

          - Tools - 
          Weston Professional Blender  (coming Summer 2017)

          How To 

          1. Pulse scapes in blender until broken up
          2. Add garbanzo beans, tahini and lemon juice and blend until smooth
          3. Add water as needed to thin
          4. Slowly drizzle olive oil into mixture
          5. Add salt and cumin and blend a final tim

          Pro Tip:  When serving hummus, drizzle olive oil over top and dust with cumin for effect

          Celebrate National Donut Day with Blueberry Donuts

          Join Weston in celebrating  National Donut Day,  a nod to a holiday that started during World War 1 with the Salvation Army providing donuts to troops.

          Makes 12 donuts

          - Ingredients -
          2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
          1/3 cup granulated sugar
          1 tablespoon baking powder
          1 teaspoon cinnamon
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
          1/2 cup lowfat milk
          1 egg, lightly beaten
          1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (or other berries)
          oil for frying (peanut or safflower work well)

          2 cups powdered sugar
          1-2 tablespoons milk
          zest of 1 lemon

          - Tools - 
          Weston Deep Fryer 
          Weston Food Strainer

          How To 

          Preheat oil in deep fryer or pot to 375 degrees

          1.Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl ( flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt)
          2. Add melted butter to dry ingredients and stir until small crumbs form
          3. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients (egg, milk and vanilla extract) 
          4. Stir wet and dry mixtures together
          5. Add in blueberries, mashing or pureeing some using Weston Food Strainer
          6. Form dough into a ball, and  then roll it out on a floured surface or press by hand  to about 1/2 inch thickness
          7. Cut donuts using a donut cutter, a glass, or even a knife
          8.  Fry donuts a few at a time, depending on the size of your fryer for about 1 1/2-2 minutes per side. (check doneness of your first donut to make sure time is accurate)
          9. Whisk glaze ingredients together until it forms the right consistency.  Add more sugar for thicker glaze or more water for a thinner glaze
          10.  Dip donuts in glaze or pour over donuts

            Venison Merguez, Sweet Potato & Spinach Bowls

            Sweet potatoes and spinach make good partners for this sausage, but you can also choose to enjoy it on its own or with your morning eggs. Merguez is a Moroccan lamb sausage stuffed into sheep casings. Our version is venison, and we used more readily available hog casings. 

            serves 4

            - Ingredients - 
            1 lb venison, cubed
            1/4 lb pork fat, cubed and frozen
            fresh hog casings, soaked and rinsed

            Sausage Seasoning
            1/4 cup harissa
            1 tablespoon smoked paprika
            1 teaspoon coriander seeds
            1 teaspoon cumin seeds
            1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
            1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder
            1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

            For serving
            4 sweet potatoes, cubed and roasted
            2 cups fresh spinach

            - Tools - 
            Weston Meat Grinder (keep the head and plates in the freezer until ready to use)
            Weston Sausage Stuffer (or use your Meat Grinder, as we did)

            How To 

            Remove the fat from the freezer. 

            Toast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds. Combine and set half of the mixture aside. 

            Run the nearly frozen fat through the coarse die of your Meat Grinder. Keep the fat chilled in the fridge. 

            Run the venison through the coarse die, then switch the plate to a finer grind. Run the venison through a second time, this time with half of the toasted seeds and the remaining sausage seasonings.

            Mix the venison grind with the reserved toasted seeds. Cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate. 

            Use a Sausage Stuffer to stuff the ground venison into the casings.

            All of our Meat Grinders can be converted into Sausage Stuffers with their included accessories

            Grill or sauté until lightly browned and cooked through.

            Serve sliced, over a bed of sweet potatoes and spinach. 

              Venison Sweet Potato Skins

              Makes four large skins

              - Ingredients - 

              1/2 lb venison, cubed
              2 sweet potatoes
              handful fresh spinach
              1/8 cup smoked gouda, shredded
              1/8 cup crumbled feta

              Seasoning blend
              1 teaspoon garlic
              1 teaspoon salt
              1/2 teaspoon pepper
              1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
              1/2 teaspoon ground roasted coriander
              1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
              1/2 teaspoon chili powder
              1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
              1 sprig fresh rosemary, stem removed

              - Tools - 

              How To 

              Bake the sweet potatoes at 400°F for 1 hour, or until soft inside.

              Slice the potatoes in half, then use a spoon to scoop the potato from the skin, leaving a 1/4” layer of sweet potato. Use the sweet potato for another dish. 

              Deep fry the sweet potato skins at 375°F for 10 minutes.

              Combine the cubed venison with the seasoning blend. Run through the coarse plate of your Meat Grinder. 

              Saute the ground venison in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat until browned. Remove from heat and toss with spinach and feta. 

              Spoon the venison mixture into the sweet potato skins. Sprinkle with shredded smoked gouda, then broil in the oven until the cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes. Serve.

                Wild Game Bourbon-Molasses Sloppy Joes in a Slow Cooker

                makes 8 heaping sloppy joes

                - Ingredients - 

                2 lbs cubed venison or other wild game meat
                15 oz fresh grape tomatoes
                1 white onion, diced
                1 bell pepper, diced
                5 cloves garlic, minced
                1/4 cup bourbon
                1/4 cup molasses
                1/4 cup brown sugar
                1/4 cup tomato paste
                1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
                2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
                1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
                1 tablespoon butter
                1 tablespoon chili powder
                1 teaspoon coriander
                1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

                1/8 cup corn starch, dissolved in 1/8 cup water 

                8 onion sandwich buns

                - Tools - 

                How To 

                Preheat your Slow Cooker on high.

                Run the cubed venison through the coarse plate of your Meat Grinder. 

                Combine all ingredients in your Slow Cooker, except for the corn starch. Cook on high for 4 hours. 

                Stir in the corn starch - this will help to thicken the sloppy joe mix. 

                Serve on onion buns. 

                Sriracha Venison Jerky

                - Ingredients - 

                2 lbs venison, or other lean meat

                3 tablespoons sriracha
                2 tablespoons honey
                1 tablespoon onion powder
                1 tablespoon soy sauce
                1 coin fresh ginger, minced
                1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

                - Tools - 

                How To

                Use the Jerky Board to slice the venison into even strips. Use either side of the board, depending on your own thickness preference.

                Mix with marinade. Optional: Vacuum Seal and refrigerate overnight. This will more fully marinate the jerky meat.

                Dehydrate at 155°F for 6-8 hours, until dry and chewy.


                  Smoked Apple Quesadillas

                  Smoked apples, bacon, smoked gouda, and grilled onions make for a perfectly savory/sweet combination. Dipped in homemade bbq sauce, these quesadillas are the perfect snack for your next fall gathering.

                  Makes two quesadillas

                  - Ingredients -
                  2 apples

                  Apple Brine
                  1 cup water
                  1/4 cup brown sugar
                  1 tablespoon salt

                  4 slices bacon
                  1/2 red onion, sliced
                  1/4 cup smoked gouda, shredded

                  (2) 12-inch flour tortillas

                  Homemade BBQ Dipping Sauce
                  1/4 cup molasses
                  3 dashes Tabasco
                  3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
                  1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

                  - Tools - 

                  How To 

                  Use your Apple Peeler to slice and core your apples (peeling them is optional). 

                  Place them into a Vacuum Sealer Bag or Canister and pour in the brine. Let brine for at least 4 hours. If not using a Vacuum Sealer, allow them to brine at least overnight. 

                  Preheat your Smoker to 200. Smoke the brined apples at 200 for 45 minutes. 

                  Fry the bacon until crispy in a large skillet. Remove bacon from pan, reserving the grease. Fry the red onions in the grease over medium heat until soft, then remove the onions. Place a tortilla into the pan, then sprinkle with half of the smoked gouda. On one half, layer on half of the smoked apples, crumbled bacon, and onions. Use a spatula to fold over the quesadilla. Allow to brown for a minute, then flip and brown the other side. Remove from the pan and repeat for the other tortilla.

                  Slice and serve.