Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Muscovado Sugar, different and good

Muscovado is pure whole, unrefined, non-centrifugal cane sugar. It is also called 'poor peoples sugar'.

Muscovado retains all of the natural ingredients of sugar cane, making it wholesome and healthy.

Only pure bee's honey can compare to Muscovado for natural goodness.

The nutritional qualities alone are quite exceptional and can be compared with honey.

Muscovado is a natural high energy food source that quickly replaces lost vigor.

Muscovado (from the Spanish mascabado, meaning unrefined) in South Asia is also known as gur, jaggery, and khandsari. In Latin America it is known as rapadura, pamela or piloncillo. In Colombia is it called chancaca. Whatever name you may know if by, this product is unrefined, non-centrifugal cane sugar with a high molasses (mineral) content. Although commonly used in Latin America and south east Asia, these products are relatively difficult to find in the US.

This is how Muscovado Sugar is made

Muscovado is made the old fashioned way with Kalmansi (a tiny native lime similar to Key Limes in Florida) and fresh coconut milk. First the sugar cane is cut/harvested (by hand). It is washed and then chopped, soaked and pressed to extract the juice from the sugar cane. This juice is heated with a little lime juice added. They also cut coconuts off the trees, grate the coconut meat and press out fresh coconut milk, which is sprinkled into the heating cane juice. This keeps the juice from foaming as it heats. The resulting Muscovado is actually about 0.2% coconut milk.

Once this cane juice becomes thick, it is poured into cups where it finishes by sun drying. The dried cane juice is then pounded to yield a natural, unprocessed sugar, very high in minerals. It is not uniform in color or texture. It is more "raw" or unprocessed than any other sugar I've have found.

This "unrefined" sugar is darker in color than "refined" sugar because it contains what sugar producers call "impurities." But these so-called impurities are essential minerals such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, and iron, as well as small amounts of fluorine and selenium. So "refined" sugar has zero nutritional value, while "unrefined" sugar has significant nutritional value.

Using Muscavado Sugar

There are many ways to coax out the subtleties of Muscovado. Using it in your coffee might not be the best idea though. Muscovado bridges the gap between sweet and savory very well due to it’s wholesome flavor. I add Muscovado to a tomato puree and reduce it untill I ha ve tomato jam. I also add Muscovado to my Foie Gras Mousse recipie. Muscocado takes a ho-hum sweet potato puree up a level on flavor complexity. The easiest way I’ve found to get to the heart of Muscovado is using in a butterscotch sauce recipie:

1/4 cup Muscovado Sugar
1 tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup Scotch
1 6 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Melt the sugar and butter together, deglaze with liquor, add Milk and salt. Once this mixutre heats up it is very close to the proper consistancy. I’ve added herbs to this with great success, try thyme and some lemon zest. I’ve glazed chestnuts with this mixture also. If after it cools the consistancy is off, try adding a little more liquor, or some plain milk..

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Baking Springerle

A chilled dough, lots of flour, and two rolling pins round out the prep work when baking springerle.

After using a fan to dry out the tops of the cookies they baked for a short time. When they came out of the oven we transfered them to a cooling rack, letting the bottoms get as crisp as they like. Finally we picked some to paint with all natural food coloring.

After a few day the cookies dry out proper and have a nice crunch. After a few more days, the become what we call, "dunkers" and a cup of warm tea of coffee is essential.

Glogg, the perfect holiday pick me up

Glogg is the Scandinavian version of mulled wine. Glogg is sometimes served without alcohol, using berry juices, but traditionally glogg consists of red wine, spices, and a stronger spirit such as vodka or cognac. Glogg is served warm, but never boils, and is generally served with raisins, almonds or gingerbread, and is customarily served during Christmas time.

My version of Glogg was served with Foie Gras, and was an adaptation of a recipe in Aquavit cookbook, by the enlightened Marcus Samuelsson. My recipe follows:

750 ml bottle of red wine
1 cup vodka
1 cup port

2 cinnamon sticks
8 cloves
1 tsp cardamom
zest of one orange, and juice
1 cup Muscavado brown sugar

½ cup each blanched almonds and raisins.

Following the traditional recipe takes an overnight soak and a heating that is not needed. Take all the spices and sugar and put them in a pot. Pour half the bottle of wine over this and cook on a low flame until it reduces by half, maybe 45 minutes. In the mean time put the rest of the liquid in an above room temperature area, like next to the pot of wine and spices?!?! or go ahead and microwave it for a minute, just to take the chill off. Strain the reduced wine into the rest of the liquid and it’s tasting good. Pick the almonds and rasing out of the stainer and serve them as a side to the drink. Easy Swedish fun, like Ikea.

If you are interested in any other Swedish Christmas time Festivities check out my friends blog at Evidently they are fond of goats at well as mulled mine. Cheers.

New Pictures from the Holiday week-end

This week-end's Foie Gras consisted of La Bella Farms Foie Gras Seared with Potato Brioche, Duck and Pork Terrine, and Swedish Glogg, which was served in a Cordial glass along with the dish. Chef's Garden Golden Popcorn Shoots and Petite Watercress are garnish along with hazelnuts and raisons from the glogg, and the brioche is lathered with rendered Foie fat shallots and parsley, all finished with fleur de sel.

These are Rare Beef Rolls ready for a party. They consist of Striploin, grilled rare, then sliced thin, and rolled up with greens, mushrooms, carrots and potato frites.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Brief History of Springerle


"Springerle (SPRING-uhr-lee) - These have been and still are traditional Christmas cookies in Bavaria and Austria for centuries. Springerle are white, anise-flavored cookies, made from a simple egg-flour-sugar dough. Usually rectangular or circular in shape, they have a picture or design stamped on the top. The images are imprinted with specially carved rolling pins or flat molds (Springerle presses, or boards). After the cookies are baked, the designs are sometimes enhanced with edible food colors--or with tempera or acrylic paints, if the cookies are to be used as decorations. Hartshorn is the traditional leavening (it is an ammonia compound).

The name Springerle comes from an old German dialect and means "little knight" or "jumping horse." Historians trace these cookies back to the Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes. Julfest ceremonies included the sacrificing of animals to the gods, in hope that such offerings would bring a mild winter and an early spring. Poor people who could not afford to kill any of their animals gave token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads and cookies. Vestiges of these pagan practices survive in the baking of shaped-and-stamped German Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen, Spekulatius, Frankfurter Brenten, and Springerle."

Springerle are my favorite holiday cookie. The texture is quite complex, develops over time, and is adjustable. The Flavor is more gown up than a plain sugar cookie. I like to use anise oil as well as seeds, and lemon zest which cuts the sweetness of the sugar. The whole process takes two days to complete, letting the cut and pressed cookies set overnight, seeing the baked cookie raise, and settle back on itself with this perfect image set on top. It’s a very romantic process, even a cave man could produce countless dozen drop cookies. I have my great-grandmothers springerle rolling pin, which makes these cookies even that more special.

Here is the recipie I’m using this year.

4 eggs
2 cups Sugar
2 tablespoons butter
beat this mixture for 15 minutes

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 drops anise oil
1 lemons zest
add dry ingredients and mix just to combine

Roll the chilled dough out to ½ inch thickness, press in the images, cut and lay on a sheet pan dusted with crushed anise seeds. Let these cookies sit out overnight, then bake at 325 for about 40 minutes, they shouldn’t brown, but they do puff up a bit and cook evenly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Season is Almost Gone!?!?

Well, I've been overcome lately from multiple angles, and it seems I've finally come up for a breath. I've lost 3 skilled line cooks in the past 3 months (easy come, easy go), changed the menu last week, and damned if you look at the calander, it's December! I've not let it get the best of me. The food coming out of my kitchen is still delightful, if not improved. Tough times, but we are all moving ahead together.

We've added a daily Foie Gras preperation to the menu, and I'm along to my third variation, let me catch you up:

Seared Foie Gras over house made Wild Boar and Black Cherry Sausage, Carmalized Cippollini Onions, Curry Golden Carrot Puree, and Beet-Herb Reduction

then we currently have:

Seared Foie Gras with Duck Confit and Arugula Crepes, Apple Butter, Poached Cranberries, and Balsamic marinated Pears

next up in the comming few days will be:

Seared Foie Gras served with Potato Brioche, Swedish Glogg, wine soaked Raisans and Almonds, Candied Endive

This weeks specials are starting a day early to celebrate the abundance of customers. Here are this weeks offerings:

Soup: Mushroom Bisque with wild rice and a truffle-orange cream

Salad: Chef's Garden Heirloom Potato Salad with Bacon, Onion, Goat Cheese over baby Arugula and drizzled with Herb infused Maple Syrup

Entree: MonkFish and Lobster Cassoulette, Chef's Garden Vine Dried Beans cooked with lobster stock, Root Vegetables, and finished with Lamb Sausage, Lobster Meat, and Seared Monkfish

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A few fresh recipes

Apple Vinaigrette
3 cup Apple Cider reduced from 1 gallon
1 cup Cider Vinegar
1 cup Honey
2 cup Blended Oil
4 Egg yolks
4 Granny Smith Apples
Salt and Pepper
Emulsify in Blender, in 2 batches

Rockefeller Vinaigrette
2 cups rendered Bacon
1 cup ouzo/sambuca
2 tbsp. Worcestershire
5 Anchovies
1 tbsp. Tabasco
3 lemons zest, 1 juiced
3 Egg yolks
2 # Spinach
Cook Bacon, deglaze with sambuca, Emulsify in blender.

Truffle Veal Meatballs
10# Ground Veal
2 cup grated onions
14 oz Panko
1/4 cup Worcestershire
3/4 cup Truffle Oil
½ cup Truffle Pate
6 whole Eggs
6 Egg yolks
1 bunch Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Mix everything together. Using 7 oz of mixture divide into 6 small balls.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Specials for December 1, 2006

Soup: Lobster Bisque with Fresh Main Lobster Meat

App: Seared La Bella Farms Foie Gras, Mustard-Gryere Potato Custard, Duck Confit, Golden Popcorn Shoots.

Entree: Wreck Grouper, Tomato-Brown Sugar Lacquered. Celery Root Puree, Creamy Carrot and Raisin Slaw, Curry Golden Carrot Coulis.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Have A Wonderful Thanksgiving

NOVEMBER 24 IS BUY NOTHING DAY - NO PURCHASE NECESSARY(November 25 outside of North America)

THE ULTIMATE REFUND: On November 24th and 25th – the busiest days in the American retail calendar and the unofficial start of the international Christmas-shopping season – thousands of activists and concerned citizens in 65 countries will take a 24-hour consumer detox as part of the 14th annual Buy Nothing Day, a global phenomenon that originated in Vancouver, Canada.

From joining zombie marches through malls to organizing credit card cut-ups and shopoholic clinics, Buy Nothing Day activists aim to challenge themselves, their families and their friends to switch off from shopping and tune back into life for one day. Featured in recent years by the likes of CNN, Wired, the BBC, and the CBC, the global event is celebrated as a relaxed family holiday, as a non-commercial street party, or even as a politically charged public protest. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

Reasons for participating in Buy Nothing Day are as varied as the people who choose to participate. Some see it as an escape from the marketing mind games and frantic consumer binge that has come to characterize the holiday season, and our culture in general. Others use it to expose the environmental and ethical consequences of overconsumption.

Two recent, high-profile disaster warnings outline the sudden urgency of our dilemma. First, in October, a global warming report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern predicted that climate change will lead to the most massive and widest-ranging market failure the world has ever seen. Soon after, a major study published in the journal Science forecast the near-total collapse of global fisheries within 40 years.

Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, which was responsible for turning Buy Nothing Day into an international annual event, said, “Our headlong plunge into ecological collapse requires a profound shift in the way we see things. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don’t address the core problem: we have to consume less. This is the message of Buy Nothing Day.”

As Lasn suggests, Buy Nothing Day isn't just about changing your habits for one day. It’s about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste. With six billion people on the planet, the onus if on the most affluent – the upper 20% that consumes 80% of the world’s resources – to begin setting the example.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weekly Specials

Soup: Butternut Squash Hot and Sour, Shrimp Satay

Hot App: Braised Pork Belly Cassoulette

Cold App: Fresh Bristol Bay Alaskan King Crab Legs, 3 Sauces

Entree: Soy Glazed Monkfish, warm Squid and Fingerling Potato salad, Chili oil

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Soup De Jour

Tom Yom Gai

In other words, and as we phrase it to our customers, Mushroom and Chicken Hot and Sour Soup. This is the basic, restaurant quantity recipie I used today to much sucess.

1 quart chopped each garlic, ginger, and lemongrass
5 limes zest only
3 whole jalapeno
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup garlic oil
1 cup flour

3 gallons chicken stock

Enoki, shitake and portobella mushrooms where added to order, along with chicken breast that was cooked in the broth, then removed and chopped up. A mixture of equal parts lime juice, soy sauce and fish sauce was added to taste. Cilantro and mint ganished the soup.

First we chopped the aromatics in the robo-coup, sweated them in the garlic oil, stirred in tomato past, cooked out, then stirred in the flour as a thickener, covered with stock and cooked for an hour. After the stock simmered, it was stained, and that is the base.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Specials for November 10, 2006

Soup: Local Apple and Sweet Potato Bisque

Hot App: Seared La Bella Farms Foie Gras, Raisin-Spice Cake, Apple Butter, Bourbon poached Figs

Cold App: Fresh Bristol Bay Alaskian King Crab, served chilled with Cocktail Sauce, Hoseradish Aioli, and warm Butter

Entree: Crispy Barimundi in a spicy Soy glaze, Butternut Squash & Wild Rice Cake, Heirloom Carrots baked with Cumin and Hazelnuts

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Salty Cooks

Well, this is my kitchen, welcome. Perhaps this post is a little late, hopefully some friends are returning for a second look. This is where all the magic happens. Three grown men work in this space over the course of a 6 hour service we tend to get rather close. Usually with the occasional cursing at each other, a few elbows, pan throwing, oh yeah, and we are surrounded by knives and extremely hot metal. Fortunately things have worked out rather well so far. We have the worlds second longest cutting board measuring in at about 10 feet.

The first thing that catches my eye in this phone is one of my favorite things, finishing salts, and we keep a full array on the line in plastic pint containers. I really enjoy the Australian pink flake salt. It taste like buttered popcorn to me, but at $50 per pound, well, I guess only I can eat it like popcorn. Down the line we have Fleur de Sel, from France, where it is skimmed off the ocean only at the most specific times. Next to that is Sel Gris, which is scrapped of the rocks under the water where the Fleur de Sel is harvested. I keep Pacific rock salt around as well. We use it mostly to salt water due to it’s huge crystals. I prefer Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt as my basic salt, for no other reason than I’ve become accustomed to the grain size, and it has a pure taste, nothing bitter or sharp. There is smoked salt, which I’ve found a but overpowering as a finishing salt. There are numerous other salts available. I purchase mine through Urban Herbs at the West Side Market.

Salt is a very powerful ingredient, not just an expensive finishing salt which serves equally as garnish for any culinarian. We currently, and have in the past used salt to cure our meat, for flavor now, and for survival in the past. I prefer to make my own special blend of cure which includes both salt and sugar, a lot of cinnamon, some cloves, coriander, fennel seed, juniper and peppercorn. It serves well as a cure for duck legs, pork, boar, even in a pate. I’ve become quite fond of it, and plan on using it exclusively in the future.

The crunch of the salt is rather addictive. Your basic Kosher salt prefers to melt into an ingredient, where a beautiful Australian flake salt likes to hold it’s on, and remind you it’s there when you bit into it. It’s a little explosion of instant flavor, and the best of them aren’t salty, rather convey whatever it is they are placed on.

Next time you reach for the salt, think twice about what kind you have, when you are adding it, and how it will effect the end product. If when out to a restaurant, and you happen to find a wonderfully crunchy crystal on your plate, be happy, be very happy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Weekly Specials

Soup: Roasted Pepper Bisque

App: Duck Confit Potstickers filled with handmade Quark Cheese, Duck and Dried Papaya, Cashew Puree, Pomelo Relish

Entree: Roasted Cervena Venison Rack crusted with Fennel seeds and Pollen over Butternut Squash Puree, Maple glazed Parsnips, Tart Cherry-Cabernet Demi-glace

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Private Menu for Nestle

1st course: Parsnip soup with apple foam, bacon wrapped shrimp, fried pickles

2nd course: Seared La Bella farms foie gras, truffle pound cake, bourbon-apple butter, raw pomagranite

3rd course: Petite raw bar: stone crab claw on spinach and crab kim chi, raw blue point oyster topped with horseradish and beet puree, tuna tartar in a pomelo dressing

4th course: Slow roasted Cervena Venison rack encrusted with fennel pollen and seeds, butternut squash puree, butterscotch chestnuts, cold poached cranberries

5th course: Cheese Plate: Parmasean and truffle honey ‘rillettes’, Lake Erie Creamery goat cheese fondue, seven year aged chedder baked with grilled carrots and bacon

6th course: Fall Squash dessert: Butternut squash cake, squash mousse, crispy squash, frangelico beurre blanc

I created the tasting menu above, and it was served to 20 international guests of Nestle Corperation at Fahrenheit Restaurant on Thursday Novermber 2, 2006.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cleveland's West Side Market

A realistic view from the kitchen involves a lot more than a stack of plates, polished silverware, and folded napkins, and behind that the experience can’t be summed up by the bloody cambro of strip steaks, the gnarled sunchokes caked with dirt, or a freshly fired dishwasher. To see the view from the kitchen, sometimes you have to leave the kitchen. So on my day off this week I went over to The West Side Market. I have very fond memories of the market. I’ve been going there for well over 20 years, and I think it is the absolutely most special culinary destination in the city of Cleveland, Ohio.

When I was little, ok, when I was younger, my mother took my sister and I to the market, usually on the bus with a collapsible metal pushcart. Seeing as how I wasn’t little, just young, I carried as many heavy bags as I could to make my mom proud, while my little sister got to push the cart around inevitably running into something and hopefully not somebody. Then there is the one time when we didn’t take the bus, and my little sister broke the key off in the ignition of the car. Those are some great memories, and we haven’t even discussed the market itself.

There is the ‘stinky’ fish purveyor who’s fish are so stinky it’s like they built him his own addition to the market. In the old days the fresh produce stalls where rather exposed to the elements with only a solid roof and some heavy plastic sheeting separated them and their customers from the brutality of the weather. You had the steaming hot summer days or the frigid winter gusts. Either way you look at it, it’s been revamped now, with solid walls, and swinging doors.

We always had our favorite stalls to visit. The ‘nut guy’ had a small stand in the corner, only one person could fit behind it. There he would toast your nuts to order then pass you a warm bag of goodies, that and the stories he shared with my mother about my grandmother, and great-grandmother, both of whom he had known for a long time. We really enjoyed this weird seed pod sold out of a giant glass jar called Johnny Bread. It was very inexpensive. You chewed on it, discarding the large seeds and the tough skin as you went along. It tasted unexpendedly sweet, a bit like chocolate. Johnny Bread for whatever reason disappeared from out lives for a couple of years until we recognized it as Carob, the healthy, dairy free chocolate substitute. Thinking about chocolate, my sister and I would spend what seemed like hours in front of the old school candy counter, clutching a single dollar in our hands, mulling over which candy we wanted as if we had a life and death discussion on our hands. I can fondly remember the flying saucers. Two colored wafers forming a hollow collapsed sphere that contained a few grains of rather tasty sugary bits, and when you ate it, the wafer part quickly dissolved away, the same way a flying saucer quickly slips away into the nights sky.

Currently, I go to the market less for essentials, and more for entertainment. There are more options there than I remember in the past. There are some specialty stalls for instance, the chocolate/popcorn stall, or the juice lady stall, or the cookie stand. There was always bread available, but there is competition between about 5 different bakers. Also new to the scene is prepared food, you can buy perogies, pad thai, enchiladas, or shepard’s pie, all ready to eat. There are some wonderful pastries available as well.

The truth of the matter is we live in a meat and potatoes city, and the market still strongly reflects this. There are whole pigs, and lambs heads, smoked pork, ham hocks, rabbit and duck. The market is still the only place where you can find people using a whole animal, just today there was hearts, tongues, kidneys, livers, hooves, snouts, sweetbreads, brains, and some really great and really rare cuts of meat like a veal breast or goat shoulder. Even if you are the kind of person who is absolutely turned off my the thought of eating an animals brains, I can accept that, but I think it is respectful to the animal that it not be killed only for the tenderloin, and the spare ribs inevitably ending up on an absorbent towel in a Styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic. That is exactly what is at the heart of the West Side Market.

The building itself is stunning. The ceiling is unbelievably detailed for such a massive hall. Each archway is garnished with a sculpture of still life food. There is a balcony where a lot of the photos are taken which let you overlook the whole market. The exterior is finished with a clock tower on the corner of West 25 Street and Lorain Avenue.

If you haven’t been to the West Side Market lately, you should go there as soon as you can. If you can’t get there anytime soon, I took some great photos that show the market off from a customers point of view. I would love to hear about anyones experience at the West Side Market.

New Efforts in Sustainability

What happened to Moopheus after being kidnapped in Meatrix 2? What really goes on in meat processing facilities? And what can you do?

Answers to these questions, plus plenty of Meatrix action and excitement, can be found online at

Produced by Sustainable Table and Free Range Studios for Participant Productions, The Meatrix 2.5 has been launched to educate consumers about problems at processing facilities and to help promote the social action campaign surrounding the Fast Food Nation movie being released by Participant Productions and Fox Searchlight on November 17th.

Developed by Participant Productions and found at, the first action in the campaign is to encourage consumers to eat more sustainable animal products by visiting the Eat Well Guide - – our online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Three Cheers to pumpkin pie, ok, maybe only two then you are bored with it. I suppose the most obvious usages of this wonderful fall squash revolve around toasted pumpkin seeds and a pumpkins soup. I will do my best to stay away from those two ideas while coughing up a few more unique ideas. I’ve made a baked pumpkin and rice custard, where I used pumpkin puree, a few egg yolks, and cooked rice, all mixed up and baked for 20 minutes, it turned out rather well when I spread some toasted nuts over top. I have made a special risotto over the past few years where I shred some pumpkin and cook it right with the arborio rice to make Pumpkin Risotto, I use apple cider as the cooking liquid so it’s a vegetarian option until the butter and cheese at the end, oh you devil. You can cook down your pumpkin just like you are making apple butter, over very slow heat, until the liquid is almost all gone, then add some sweetener and save that for your bagel. It will never get as tight as apple butter without pectin, or try adding a few apples in, I’ve not tied that yet. Well, I wasn’t about to tackle chocolate, so here is my ode to Halloween.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Good Times Are Killing Me

Well, in retrospect it was a very subdue friday night. Sometimes you just need to have some fun, and being around food leads to only one with food. So my new Italian Pizza Chef, Forest comes with high credatials, zeppolli here, mortadella there, he is from Rome, so we expect it, but he was not sure exactly how funny we Americans think pizza dough on the ceiling falling on someones head can be. Well, he showed us some things.

The fact of the matter is, when you work hard, you get time to joke around and have fun, and although those times are far and few between, they are cherished. So is a job well done cherished, and a job well done half way through my shift looks something like this.....

Enough esspresso to make your stomach turn, a sharp knife, and full cambro containers. It's like a dream I had one time.

Ode to a good friday!!!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Specials for October 27, 2006

Soup: Locally Grown Sunchoke Bisque with Pork and Boar Terrine

App: Lightly Smoked Octopus with Caper, Kalamata Olives, Celery, Tomato Vinager

Entree: Grilled Pumpkin Swordfish, Veggie Valley Purple Potatoes roasted with Seaweed, Hot and Sour Lobster Stew, Spicy Pickled Sunchokes

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


It was my pleasure to visit Ms. And Mr. Engel today in Westlake where they offered up a sizable bucket of Sunchokes. The Engels enjoy the flowering plant during the summer, and benefit from the underground bounty at the end of the warm seasons. Fortunately, the plants flourished, and they were able to share with me some of their homegrown Sunchokes.

Sunchokes might also be called sunroot, or Jerusalem Artichoke.

The name Jerusalem is due to folk etymology; when the Jerusalem artichoke was first discovered it was called Girasole, the Italian word for sunflower, as the plant is in fact part of the sunflower family. Over time the Girasole transformed into Jerusalem and since the root only faintly tastes of Artichokes, myself and most culinarians have recently started referring to the root as Sunchoke Sunchoke while still unique to the plates of most restaurant the plants are an important source of fructose for industry as they store carbohydrates as inulin instead of starch. The result is a very crisp and juicy root, the skin is completely edible when washed sufficiently. The easiest comparison is between sunchoke and jicama, with a shot of earthiness.

Mr. Engel urged me to put some Sunchoke in when making a pot roast. He told me as a flavoring only, they tend not to enjoy the soft, pastiness that is a result of a long cooking. Due to the fact the sunchoke breaks down thoroughly it is perfect for making a creamy soup. I like to take equal parts sunchoke and rutabaga, lay that over a few sauteed onions, cover with chicken stock, and when everything is soft, we blend it smooth. As Mr. Engle pointed out, the flavor of the sunchoke pairs well with red meat. I like to put a nice pat of butter down, and cook the cut Sunchoke on a rather high heat watching carefully not to burn the butter, while paying attention so the sunchoke doesn’t turn mushy. These caramelized Sunchoke are perfect with a grilled steak and mushrooms. The most refreshing way I’ve come to use sunchokes is part of a raw salad. You need a sharp mandolin as the sunchoke needs to be thinly sliced, then we cover it with a generous portion of lime juice, some chop bell pepper, olive oil, and a dash of hot sauce.

I really enjoy the unique flavor of sunchokes, they are sweet, earthy, and keep a pleasant texture. Unfortunately, they have a rather short shelf life, and I have not yet found any decant products that didn’t come from local farmers. I am very thankful to the Engles, as well as Ed and Betty Frank from Veggie Valley Farms in Sunnyville, Ohio. Ed and Betty brought me the absolute most wonderful sunchokes last year, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them again. I’m currently using them in my weekly specials, but they don’t last long.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Well, I’ve been considering a blog entry in the, "get to know you by way of a list" vain. Until I knocked the sizeable stack of cookbooks off my desk I just wasn’t sure what kind of list. What is your favorite cookbook is an eventual question when any cook gets interrogated by his non-cooking peers, so I’ll give up the information easily. Now consider, these are only the books within 3 feet of my here on the computer, and I’ll list them from furthest away, to closest.

Tetsuya, by Tetsuya Wakuda
Chinese Cooking, by Ken Hom
Simple to Spectacular, by Jean-George
Larousse Gastronomique
Charlie Trotters
Think Like a Chef, by Tom Colicchio
Rockenwagner, by Hans Rachenwagner
Famie’s Adventures in Cooking, by Keith Famie
Heartland, The Best of Midwestern Kitchens, by Marcia Adams
Adkins for Life, by Dr. Adkins
Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini, by Elizabeth Schneider
Culinary Artistry, by Dornenburg and Page
Charcuterie, by Ruhlman and Polcyn
Art Culinaire periodical

Wow, that is quite an impressive list I didn’t even realize, in fact I forgot I even owned some of those titles.

I don’t think that how many, or which cookbooks you own is very important, rather how you use the cookbooks that you do have. For me, cookbooks work in two ways, as basic reference for things that we should know, but haven’t committed to memory, but most importantly we know where to find such information. For instance, how many eggs in a custard, how much gelatine in a liquid, how much butter per egg for hollandaise. The second way to use a cookbook is for inspiration. Imitation is not inspiration. I often find a picture, or a description of how an ingredient tastes, or it’s origin to be very inspirational when thinking creatively about food. Even the most mundane food get’s re-invented by an old cookbook, an old recipe or an explanation about a certain foods role in history

Monday, October 23, 2006

Spring Wine Dinner Revisited

Fahrenheit Restaurant
Patz&Hall Winery
May 2006

Kona Kompachi TarTar wrapped in Grilled Carrot, roasted garlic ponzu, Chef's Garden Micro Lemongrass

First Course
Copper River King Salmon, Fiddlehead ferns, Toasted Pecans, Chef's Garden Spring Lettuce, Applewood Smoked Bacon Vinaigrette

Second Course
Chef’s Garden Asparagus, Poached Farmers Egg, Truffle Hollandaise, Blood Orange Syrup

Third Course
Quail Breast, Morel mushrooms stuffed with Quail leg confit and Veal Sweetbreads, Green Tomato Marmalade, Morel mushroom stew, Chef's Garden Popcorn shoots

Fourth Course
Roasted Leg of Spring Lamb, Puree of Flagolet beans, English Pea Flan, Rosemary Veal Reduction

Fifth Course
Cheese Course

Sixth Course
Petit Fours

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Where did grandma's food come from?

It was quite a pleasure this past week meeting the cheese maker at the newly establish Lake Erie Creamery. After exchanging pleasantries, and assessing the honest goodness that their artisan goat cheese poses, we struck up a conversation about local farmers markets. We concluded that there is in fact the North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square all year long, but right about this time of the year, the fresh local produce almost disappears. Gone are the tomatoes, melons, peaches, salad greens, onions, broccoli, garlic, even potatoes and hard squashes are a wisp away. A short discussion concerning the recent E. Coli events, lead us to the dismal reality that we will be going back to the supermarket and purchasing fresh produce from god knows where. I had to ask myself at this point, "Where did great-grandma get here food from?" When winter settles in, and there is no supermarket, no air-chilled asparagus on an overnight flight from Chili. What did she eat, what did she cook, and what would she think about our current desire to buy locally, or at least when it’s convenient. I think she would laugh at us, and rightfully so.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tomato Season is Over

It just might come as a suprise to some, since we have all seen snow flakes in the air, but local tomatoes are no longer available. Good-bye local gems, grown by good people, on honest land, with their own hard work. Good-bye dime sized tomatos and good-bye football sized ones, good-bye fresh tasting, dirty, not always round jewels. We will see you again, only 8 months away, and we will be even more excited about our localy grown beauties then, more proud and more trusting in the truthfull goodness of our very own Ohio tomatoes.

Specials for October 20, 2006

Amuse: Raw Sunchoke Salad, Mouse Melons, Chili Oil

Soup: Celery Root and Foie Gras Bisque

App: Butternut Squash Rissotto, Chantrelle Mushrooms, Rosemary-Goat Cheese Cream

Entree: Duo of Wild Boar. Boar Shoulder Confit on a Pumpin Tart with poached Cranberries, Grilled Boar T-bone on carmalized Sunchokes with toasted Chufa Nuts.

Pronounced [CHOO-fuh], the tiny, tuberous roots of a Middle-Eastern plant of the sedge family, chufa "nuts" have their origin in ancient Egypt. Chufa was one of the first domesticated crops and in fact, was found in vases in the tombs of the ancient Egyptian pharos. The chufa nut was widely used in Egypt and Sudan. The Arabs introduced the plant to Spain during the time of the Moorish kings (700 B.C. a 1200 A.D.). The eastern Spanish province of Valencia was the best for growing chufa.The nut is good for your health, with high levels of iron and potassium. It does not contain sodium and is valued for its minerals and vitamins.

Mouse Melon is also known as Mexican Sour Cucumber, and Cucamelon. It is a member of the melon family, and grows on mostly decrative vines. While native to South America, the decrative plant as spread into North America and as a second thought the fruit. The fruit tastes something like the white part of the watermelon mixed with the seeds of a cucumber.