Red Snapper Ceviche, guacamole and blue chips


A few days before we arrived in Naples, FL, our friends Cari & Rex, took a break from training horses and went fishing in Captiva. FL. They caught lots of grouper and some snapper. Fully intending to take it back to Amenia, NY they froze it, packed it into a cooler, put some duct tape around it and tried to check it with Jet Blue. But Jet Blue said, “No, no, no. You can’t check that frozen fish because it is not professionally packed.” So they wrote my name on it, left it in the care of Jet Blue and called me to tell me to go get it. So I did. When I got there, I waited in line to get to an agent and told him I was there to collect my cooler full of fish. When he returned with it I asked if he wanted to see ID. The Jet Blue agent’s response was, “No, that story is strange enough that I don’t think any one would make it up.”

And today, I had my first taste of their catch and it was terrific.

Ceviche / Guacamole Ingredients

  • 1 fillet Fresh Red Sanpper, skin removed and cut into small pieces
  • 10 key limes
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (you decide if you want the seeds in it)
  • very small piece of fresh ginger, grated through a microplane (1/8 tsp)
  • handful cilantro, washed and chopped
  • ½ medium white onion finely diced
  • 1-2 avocados
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ lime
  • salt


  • Take out two medium bowls
  • Squeeze out all the key lime juice into one medium bowl
  • Add ginger to key lime bowl
  • chop cilantro and jalapeno together so they are well integrated
  • Add half to bowl with key lime juice and half to other bowl
  • Add ¾ onion to the key lime bowl, other portion to second bowl
  • Add 1/8 tsp salt to each bowl
  • Add snapper to key lime bowl and toss, put into the fridge for 10-15 minutes
  • Slice avocados in half and holding one half in hand at a time, cut into dice while inside the skin then squeeze out into extra bowl
  • Squeeze 1/2 lemon, ½ lime and toss it all together

Serve with blue corn chips and any Dogfish Head beer you like… we had Raison D’etre.


Pheasant breast with walnut crust


Delicious and amazing this experiment worked and I’m so excited! This recipe took a failed left over walnut pasta sauce and turned it into a fabulous crust for skinless pheasant breasts. I had these wonderful walnuts so I decided to make a pasta sauce with them. Searching around on the web, I came up with a Nigella Lawson recipe (this like takes you to the real recipe) that sounded easy, and just as important, I had all the ingredients on hand. Well, I messed up the recipe by not paying attention to the amounts so the sauce had the consistency of a spreadable cheese-like substance and it was lacking the walnutty flavor I wanted. So it sat in the refrigerator for a few days and then, I thought up this combo.

Coating amounts I actually used:

  • 6 ounces shelled walnuts
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 thick slice bread whole wheat pain au levain bread
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan until they begin to make a nutty aroma. Put the bread in a bowl and cover with the milk. Put most of the toasted walnuts (reserving about 1 ounce for garnish) into a blender along with the garlic, bread soaked in milk, and Parmesan. Blend until it turns smooth and creamy, then pour in the oil and season well with salt and pepper before blending again.

Scoop into a bowl, and set aside.

For the pheasant breasts

  • 4 pheasant breasts
  • flour
  • canola oil
  • Wash and dry the pheasant breasts. Dredge them in flour.
  • Spread walnut coating onto all sides
  • let rest on wire rack until ready to cook
  • Heat oil over medium-high heat. If you have a Magic Chef range, turn it to 6.
  • Gently add pheasant breasts and cook for 2-3 minutes one side.
  • Flip and cook for 2-3 minutes following side. The crust should be lightly golden in color.
  • Serve.

Venison loin wrapped in sage leaves


We invited our fellow wild game-eater friends Bill and Leslie to dinner last night to share in this spectacular venison loin. Cooking this makes me very happy because it takes about 7 minutes of cooking time so it falls into the Fast Food category… even faster than the McDonald’s drive thru. I think I’ll create a category on my blog called Big Al’s Fast Food.

Venison loin
Sage leaves, big handful
Cracked Pepper
Olive Oil
Sunflower Oil

  • Wash and dry venison loin
  • Drizzle a little bit of olive oil over both sides
  • Sprinkle crushed pepper
  • Wrap sage leaves around both sides
  • Sprinkle with salt
  • Heat 1-2 T Sunflower oil over medium high heat. Once near smoking, add venison, cook for 3 minutes. Flip, cook for another 2 1/2 minutes then with tongs brown the sides of the meat for 1 minute turning from one side to the next over 1 minute.
  • Let rest 5 minutes, slice and serve.

See and appreciate what you are eating. This 6-point deer running across my property did not become not our dinner, but with hunting season coming up, he most likely will end up on someone’s plate and wall.


Warm walnuts, cold evening, fire pit


What is another word for hidden treasure? Booty! And Chandler walnuts in their shells shipped directly from my sister-in-law’s family’s walnut farm in Marysville, CA is exactly that. There is nothing like these, eaten raw they have a buttery texture and bright, beautiful flavors that melt in your mouth and linger…

Roasted is a whole other thing. They are addictive.

So I have learned from my horse training friend Cari, that this recipe can be really horrible if you don’t follow directions. So when you get to putting the honey-pepper mix onto the nuts, make sure the baking sheet is hot and you add the mix a little at a time, not all at once. Who knows what size baking sheet you are using, who knows what sweet-to-salt balance you prefer? So just be reasonable and add a little at a time. More is not necessarily better here, or as Dean points out, better.


  • Turn the oven to 400.
  • Spread a nice layer of unsalted butter on a large baking sheet and fill with a single layer of nuts.
  • Sprinkle kosher salt on them and put into the oven. After about 9 minutes, check on them.
  • Add some more salt, maybe a little more butter and stir them around. Cook a little longer.
  • Meanwhile, crush about a dozen peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, add them to a tablespoons honey.
  • Check the walnuts again and if they are browned, remove them.
  • Immediately spread a little bit of the honey-pepper mix with a spatulaon the baking sheet so it melts and stir the walnuts around in it. Add more salt.
  • Let sit for a few minutes and then taste. Add salt, maybe a little more honey-pepper.

Sit by the fire and drink a glass of wine while eating all the walnuts, trying not to be upset when you have to share.


Searinated duck breasts

duck_searinated1Searinated? No such word, but for my dyslexic brain it made lots of sense to me when Dean created a nice new descriptive word: searinated. Seared after marinated. I like it, like I said, I’m dyslexic, so I don’t care if the seared part of the word comes before the marinated part of the word. “Sear” being in the prefix position is the most recent thing that happened to the duck, “inated” happened earlier there for takes the suffix position. Anyway….

On a fairly regular basis we get game meat from a local Hunting Preserve. The meat has always been terrific. On Dean’s last trip, he picked up duck breasts (skinned), whole ducks, pheasant breasts (skinned),  whole chukar, whole quail and some venison tenderloins.

Yesterday I created a quick marinade of:

olive oil
cider vinegar
soy sauce

Mixed it all up and stuck duck breasts and marinade into a plastic baggie, into the fridge and a day or two or three later, eat. Eat by heating up a pan on medium high heat, a little canola or grapeseed oil and stick them on there for 2 1/2 minutes first side, 1 minute second side. Let rest and slice. See plated food below.


Toasted pumpkin seeds


I have been unhappy with my pumpkin seeds in the past so I paid attention to them this year and found that this resulted in a nice light, salty, addictive seed. Pumpkin design by Cari Swanson.

  • Scoop out seeds from the medium pumpkin (or other winter squash)
  • Rinse goop off them
  • spread onto a parchment lined jelly roll sheet
  • put into a warm (low, low) oven for 10-15 min, or until dry
  • remove when dry
  • over medium heat (4-5 on the magic chef) heat 1 T unsalted butter in sautee pan
  • When it is melted and foaming, add the seeds and generously salt them
  • stir, shake, stir, shake until browned
  • add more salt to taste or maybe a little cayenne pepper

Winter Squash Risotto


I love winter squash risotto and make it often this time of year. Pictured above is what I believe is an Ambercup squash (as Leslie pointed out when I ran into her at the farmer’s market, there are several that look similar but are not all the same). Rather than roasting the squash and adding at the end of the process, I peeled and diced it, adding it in the beginning of the cooking process so the squash cooks with the rice.


2 c diced squash
2/3 c small dice onion
3/4 c Dry Vermouth/white wine
4 c chicken stock, plus more if needed
olive oil
3/4 c aborio rice

To top
Toasted, chopped walnuts
Parmigianino, Reggiano

Add 1 T butter and 2 T olive oil to a heavy bottomed pan and sautee onions for a few minutes on medium, then add the diced squash. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, add the aborio rice, stir and cook a minute and add 3/4 cup wine or vermouth. Stir until it is absorbed.

With this preparation, the squash absorbs lots of the normal liquid quickly, so I have added 1/2 the stock immediately and kept the dish cooking at a good simmer. Stirring often. Add 1/2 c stock thereafter until the rice is al dente.

Add a little cheese, a pat of butter and some rosemary, stir well. Top with a sprinkle of walnuts.

Tatsoi salad with roasted pear and walnuts


I picked up a few heads of tatsoi at the Monkhoods Nursery stand at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market on All Saints Day – which also happens to be Daisy’s Birthday. I’ve never cooked or eaten this before and interestingly, while I was buying it a couple looked at me, exclaiming how pretty the greens were and asked how I was going to prepare them. I said I had no idea, but I’d figure something out. And after a brief stint online googling “tatsoi recipes” and then “tatsoi salad” because what I needed to accompany the cream of mushroom soup that Dean was making for dinner was a salad. There arrived several pairing of tatsoi with pears. The pears I bought from the market that day were still underripe. So I cut them up and roasted them.


2 small heads tatsoi, washed, dried
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Bartlett pear, medium cube
few whole walnuts
Pecorino Romano, or parm or blue cheese or manchego
olive oil
apple cider vinegar


Roast the pears in a medium ramekin with a few dots of butter on 400. Put the walnuts in a separate ramekin and roast those as well. The walnuts will be ready faster than the pears. The pears are ready when they are not totally collapsed and, while it seems stange to apply this terms to roasted pears, but they are al dente.

Pile the larger tatsoi leaves on top of one another and slice horizonally across the stems into 1/4″ slices. Slice the little leaves the same width. Add to salad bowl

Heat up the olive oil and add the garlic, let it simmer gently without coloring for a minute. Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly then add a pinch of salt, a dash of cider vinegar, maybe a little more salt and some pepper, whisk.

Pull the walnuts out of the oven, chop up.

Pull the pears out of the oven and sprinkle a little salt on them.

Add dressing to tatsoi, toss, add pears and walnuts and toss. Add salt, pepper, additional vinegar to taste. Grate pecorino on top and serve.

Roasted apple sauce

I mentioned Leslie Land’s intensely delicious roasted tomatoes in the ragu recipe. Well, I decided to see what would happen if I used that roasting method for creating a savory apple sauce. It worked, with the added bonus of being a beautiful pink-tinted color – providing you are using red-fleshed apples.

Heat oven to 375

  • Slice apples into quarters for small apples and then halve the quarters if they a monsterous apples.
  • Line a jelly roll sheet with parchment and spread a little butter on it
  • Add the apples packing them in there fairly snugly
  • Dot apples with butter
  • Sprinkle a little salt on them
  • I the apples are tart, drizzle some maple syrup on them

Load into the oven and cook until they are all mushy and easily collapsible. Then on the larges hole setting on your food mill, run the apple sauce through it.

For a Chunky Sauce

  • Peel and core the apples before you put them on the sheet
  • When they are fully roasted, crush them up with a fork.