Saturday, December 31, 2011

Organics Evolving?

On Friday, November 18, 2011, 90 pounds of tomatoes were harvested from the Victoria's Vegetables greenhouses. This may be the longest tomato growing season ever recorded in Central Oregon.

I found this piece in the New York Times by Elisabeth Rosenthal to be quite interesting.  I am not sure I agree that lumping the two terms Organic and Sustainability together is very fair.  To me they are seperate ideals but are so easily connected in a wholesome food system.  It is refreshing to see information about this topic so consumers aren't blindly flocking thru the snow to their closest mega-grocery and assuming everything is peachy between them and mother nature because their little plastic clamshell of tomatoes is labeled organic.  Good luck on your search for organics!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How to Make the Perfect Jell-O Shots

"Hello, this is Konrad.  Yes I've started the Jell-o shots.  Telegram all your friends this shin-dig should be outstanding."

You can catch this quick little video on Chow, or you can follow my even easier 12 step method to making the perfect Jell-O shots:

1.       Procure your favorite booze.  Usually vodka is used for making Jell-O shots, but anything works.

2.       Have a long pull off that freshly opened bottle then find your favorite flavor of instant Jell-O.  It will most likely be in the very back of the cupboard and dusty.

3.       Take a sip of booze and set measured amount of water to heat.

4.       Take a sip of booze, and then dissolve Jell-O mix into water.

5.       Take a sip of booze and reconsider adding any to the Jell-O at this point.

6.       Take a sip of booze while finding a proper container to portion the Jell-O.  One large bowl will be fine.

7.       Take a sip of booze, and make room in the refrigerator to chill the Jell-O.

8.       Take a sip of booze before retiring to the recliner for a nap.

9.       When you wake up you will have only a little bit of booze left and none in the Jell-O.  Not a problem!

10.   Take a final sip of booze as you will only need about 4 ounces to finish things off.

11.   Using a whisk stir the Jell-O into chunks and mix in the booze left that didn’t get drunk.  It only has to be enough to add bite.

12.   Spoon this spiked mixture into shot glasses and get a good laugh off the person who gets WASTED from your Jell-O shots.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday TV Special

If you are somehow offended by the bullying of Rudolf, nudity or snowmen, or the occasional donning of gay apparel you most definitely do not want to do everything you can to watch No Reservations holiday special episode.  You can find some info here, and even more info here, but it will all make more sense after you've seen the full hour show.  I highly suggest you spend your time wisely and watch this very special holiday treat. 

If nothing else check out one of the gems I took from the show; Vegan Black Metal Chef.  There is equally something right and wrong with this, just like what Christmas has become. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coconut Curry Chicken and Carrots

This is a quick and easy recipe that brings some international flavor to a nice week-night diner.

Four pieces boneless chicken thighs
Twelve ounces carrots cut into inch chunks
One tablespoon chopped garlic
One medium sweet onion, sliced thin 
One tablespoon curry powder
Four ounces each chicken stock, coconut milk
One heaping tablespoon spicy mango chutney

 Trim chicken of skin to your liking.  I like some crispy skin, but usually trim chicken thighs by placing them skin side down on the cutting board and trimming any skin or fat that is not under the meat.  If you are completely removing the skin  then quarter chicken thighs because they will brown more and cook slightly quicker.  Using a non-stick skillet start chicken thighs skin down and cook until some fat is rendered then increase heat to medium-high.  I do this because the skin browns and crisps nicely opposed to putting them in a hot pan in which the skin tends to burn before it turnings crisp.  Season the chicken meat with salt and curry powder.  Once the skin has nicely browned flip then add the carrots, garlic and onion and cook this for about 5 minutes, but be sure not to burn the garlic.  Add the liquid to the chicken, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Finally add the chutney and increase heat and reduce till liquid in quite thick and coats the chicken.

Serve with plain brown rice and hot sauce.  If you have fresh ginger or coriander go ahead and use them, but I don’t keep them on hand at my home.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

I like Killing Flies

I recently watched a documentary called “I Like Killing Flies”.  Due to the unique perspective of Kenny and the fact his station in life is behind a hot stove in a small kitchen I found the whole film quite interesting.  He offers more than 900 items on the menu, all from scratch in a kitchen the size of a walk-in closet, from which Mr. Shopsin runs his tiny family-owned Greenwich Village restaurant.  After spending his day feeding neighbors, during a lull in the cooking Kenny holds court for the camera offering up wisdom and wit on life, death, sex, politics and sometimes food.  After 32 years at the same storefront his family must find a new kitchen and this is also a major topic of the movie.  I highly suggest viewing this film, but if this sounds only somewhat interesting let me offer a few of Kenny’s more interesting observations.

On ones duty in life:
The first duty of everybody in life is to realize that they're a piece of shit. Selfish and self-centered and not very good. You're willing to sacrifice 20 thousand people in another country just so you can go to a Wings concert. You sacrifice the lives of a hundred thousand Chinese female babies just so you can rent this fucking camera and do your stupid art project. No problem! You're a piece of shit. Once you realize you're a piece of shit it's not so hard to take. Because then you don't have this feeling that you're a good person all the time. And let me tell you something, feeling that you're a good person all the time is like having a brand new car with no scratches on it. It's a real responsibility which is almost impossible to live up to. Being a piece of shit and then occasionally doing something that's good and true is a much easier place to be. I think that's really important and I always try to raise my kids to understand that they're not that terrific. And that not being that terrific, that's okay 'cause most people who say that they're terrific, Bill Clinton, Cardinal Egan, anybody you want to talk about, they're not so terrific. Martha Stewart, they're not so fucking terrific either. And there's nothing wrong with being not-so-terrific. In fact, it's what the whole ballgame is about, being not-so-terrific... and accepting it.
On a sour relationship with an exterminator:

A few years ago someone found a roach in their soup.  It certainly doesn’t mean anything in the history of the universe, but your relations with that person, is just you, them and the soup.  It’s a huge event of incompetence on your part…..They come to your place for something other than good food, satisfaction, and this women got nothing but abuse.  A horrendous event for both parties.
On his culinary standards:

It’s ok to do stupid things, not that we have high standard, but they are going to put it in their damn mouth.
On cooking:
Most of cooking is a matter of mechanics, not aesthetics, not cuisine.

On how to treat people:

They are all decent, people who treat other people with respect. It’s a mark of high civilization to treat people with respect who don’t deserve it so you try to treat everyone with a morality that makes you a good person regardless of if they deserve it or not.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tangerine or Clementine?

A Tangerine is a small orange colored citrus fruit that is a subspecies of the Mandarin orange.  It is characterized by being much easier to peel, split into segments and less tart than an orange.  Tangerines have been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years.  Chinese tangerines were introduced to Florida and the U.S. market by a missionary, Rev. Barrington, in 1883.  Unlike oranges tangerines can be successfully grown from seed opposed to grafting which produces a more hearty cold resistant plant.  The word ‘tangerine’ was originally used to describe a native person of Tangier, Morocco in the early 1700’s but stuck as the name for the citrus fruit we now know during the 1800’s.

A clementine is also a subspecies of the Mandarin orange which is easily peeled and less tart than an orange.  Unlike a tangerine it is almost always seedless, and in fact has been marketed as a ‘seedless tangerine’ in the past.  Father Clement Rodier is said to have discovered an accidental hybrid citrus fruit in the garden of his orphanage in Algeria and this was the origin of what we call a clementine, but now know there is a genetically identical variety of citrus known as the Canton mandarin that has been growing in China for nearly 3,000 years.

Clementines were introduced into California as a commercial crop in 1914, but their market exploded in the U.S. after the historically harsh winter of 1997 devastated the domestic Florida orange crop.  Due to their short growing season, only from late November thru January and their increased price and decreased availability they have very recently been marketed as ‘Christmas Oranges’.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Creamy Brown Rice, Braised Greens, Pork Sausage

Creamy Brown Rice with Greens and Pork

Two slices bacon, cut in one inch lengths
Half pound spicy Italian sausage
One sweet onion, diced
Six garlic cloves, sliced
One bunch mustard or turnip greens, cut in one inch strips
One tablespoon honey 

Three cups water
Two cups chicken stock
Half cup brown rice 

In a heavy bottom pot begin to render the bacon.  After 5 minutes add the sausage and break up into small chunks and brown.  Sautee the onion and garlic over the meat until soft then stir in greens.  Add honey, liquid and rice then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for an hour and half or until the rice has begun to break down.  Lastly, season with salt, black pepper and tobacco sauce to taste.  Serves as a meal for two or a side dish for four. 

Brown rice (or "hulled rice") is unmilled or partly milled rice, a kind of whole, natural grain. It has a mild nutty flavor, is chewier and more nutritious than white rice.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Eggs Ghetto-dict

The origin of classic Eggs Benedict is somewhat fuzzy.  There are two conflicting stories that seem to be about 30 years apart in age.  Ironically almost everything else in either story is the same:  A banker type named Benedict wants something ‘different’ making  the kitchen produce a dish to their whim of which the maitre d’ ends up manipulating and respectively names Benedict and puts it on his menu.  Seems almost sarcastic as if to say, and I imagine it in a very snotty French accent, “You want to make up your own dish, fine, I will change it and forever connect your name with this horribly annoying preparation.  Ha.”  I’ve never had Eggs Benedict at a restaurant that I’ve actually enjoyed, but I do enjoy the idea of a poached egg on an English muffin.

Unlike what I’ve received on the local restaurant brunch buffet I like my muffin toasted, egg warm, and sauce to be more like a sauce and less like a cloying stabilized pad of cheap butter.   Since making Hollandaise sauce at home for a single portion is totally unrealistic toss that out the window.  Other than that I enjoy my ghetto Eggs Benedict.

 That’s right….Freshly toasted English muffin, runny poached egg, microwaved sandwich style ham, good ole’ American cheese topped with Sirachi hot sauce presented on a fine paper plate.  Hmmmm Hm!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do it Yourself Oyster Mushrooms

Oh they joy of growing mushrooms!

Sometime doing things yourself can make financial sense and be a soul satisfying experience, very much unlike the home mushroom cultivating kit described by Florence Fabricant in today NYTimes. If you are not familiar with oyster mushrooms they are somewhat under satisfying. They lack a very distinctive flavor and/or texture and produce a mostly flaccid slimy cooked fungus product.

Instructions include placing box in a dark place and misting with water. Sounds like a nice place to do some serious reflection. Alone, in the dark, watching a box of mushrooms grow!?! If you escape the self-destructive depression this might induce you can take a picture of your bounty, post it to Facebook and receive a complimentary refill of mushrooms in mulch. Worth a try.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown Part 3

Remember as a kid when you read the mystery/choose your way book in which short episodes where capped with notations like, “turn to page 43 if you think Stephan chooses Culinary Arts or turn to page 52 if you think Stephan sticks with Microbiology.”  In this case, if you are going to work Thanksgiving good for you, but piss off if you think we are going to listen to your bitching about it for very long, and proceed to the next post.  For those of us who will be home bodies I suppose you could invest in some of the coming advice, but that is a questionable proposition at best.

Let’s assume the whole working on Thursday thing didn’t work out.  Oh well, time to move on….to the Liquor Store that is!  Going thru this whole thing completely sober is just ridiculous.  Not going to happen no matter how hard you try.  The same thing will happen completely sane of mind sober as if you are totally insane shit your pants puke on the turkey drunk.  That is you are going to get pushed to the limit of mental tolerance before lashing out at some asinine comment followed with a giggle of innocence meant to lower its infuriating potential.  Screw it, grab a bottle, share it, finish it, but for fucks sake don’t poop your grown up diaper.

My personal list of Thanksgiving libation suggestions goes like this:

Dark liquor: Wild Turkey 101.  Also known as where it all started.

Clear/tasteless:  Smirnoff Blue Label 100 proof vodka.  Just cause it has no flavor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel it going down.  Beside from here on out it’s all cost comparative.

Clear/flavored: Bombay Blue Sapphire Gin.  Don’t waste any extra money on tonic, get a lottery ticket instead.  This Gin will thank you.

Beer:  Steel Reserve.  Best 22 on the market, don’t taste too bad either.

Wine:  Whatever the wife likes, obviously you’re not going to pick out the right wine!

Well, a trip to the liquor store alone might not fly with the high and mighty but a trip to pick up gravy is the exact double whammy that works for everyone.  Start with, “Honey let me run to the store and pick up some turkey gravy,” and trail off into a low mumbling yet 100% honest “and stop off at the liquor store.  Do you want anything?”  See perfectly honest.  Be sure to bring plenty of cash. No not for the liquid happiness, for the gravy since it will most likely be the single thing you can pour over that whole plate of Thanksgiving meal that might make it slide down your throat with the slightest disagreement.

Almost there, the pumpkin pie is almost in the oven.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown Part 2

It’s been a restful wait since the great purge that began on the seventh day out.  Well rested, and most likely still overworked it is time to get cracking again.  Being just another fucking Saturday called in to work let us ride this wave of self tragedy like Kerry Mullis on his favorite long board.  Never mind we are happy to not be mending the lawn, whitewashing the picket fence, shampooing Fido, attending yet another mindless youth soccer match or assigned Glee club taxis duty.  Shifting into mindless drone on the clock is that much easier and damn right it will be come next Thursday when if all goes right we will be sucking up the ironic glory of straddling the high and mighty fence where the waves of guilt and pleasure collide.  The guilt is from others, “oh no poor me had to work today, and everyone misses me, that is the best gift any swell guy like me could give a co-worker on Thanksgiving.”  The pleasure, “Thank the unseen overlord of the universe for saving me from that diabolic spectacle of giving thanks and joy centered around overindulgence and family feud!”

Don’t just come out and ask, one most position himself.  This is like playing tic-tac toe with the devil: mostly ties, but eventually there will be a winner.  Try a one two punch like this for example, “Jee boss, will the company be up and running on Thanksgiving.  We are having the family at my house this year, but I know everyone else has obligations too.  If you need someone in the office I’ll take one for the team this year.”  Funnel the supposed rage on the way home from work.  If this is not easy try stopping off at some dump watering hole near the house set a flutter with college football fans, slug down two shots of tequila, and for everyone’s benefit don’t overdo it.  It is so good when it hit your lips though so go ahead and take two more like a man.  By the time you get home all slant eyed and stumbling don’t dare lie!  Stick this one out.  You DID stop off after work for a drink.  Because, “I’m so upset honey.  I just wanted a nice Thanksgiving with the family, but that fucking soul sucking whore of a boss is making Jhonny and I come in and run the whole place those penny pinching bastards can’t give a hard working man like me a single day off.”  If everything has gone right it is most likely within a short time you will be sitting in the recliner munching a handmade Dagwood, sipping craft beer, enjoying those afore mentioned college football games all the time no one will ever know the better and you can slip away into a deep and well deserved nap.  Mustering up such emotion on que is very taxing.  Wasting it all under fake context next Thursday under the vail of joy and happiness would just be criminal.

Don’t neglect the shrine.  Keep it in a shoebox under the bed, or let it take up the whole nightstand, who cares.  It is yours so be proud of it.  It is my opinion that every good shrine has three tiers:  Level one is made up of the usual and acceptable culprits.  You will likely know them by a single name, Mario, Emerill, Rachel, Martha, Julia, Bobby, Guy, Tony or Gordan.  This is the easiest tier to build as these icons image has been seared into our weak and feable minds over many years and some of us would not know so much as how to order take out without their guidance.  While this top tier is heavily populated.  It can also feel somewhat hollow and emotionally detached as that is why we create the second tier of our shrine.  The second tier subjects are more personal.  Characters we feel more comfortable liking in light of the fact that bitch from work might not feel so inclined to enshrine them.  Level two of the shrine is one that you are willing to share, but only with someone who has also captured the essence of all your mutual first tier suspects.  Most level two subjects are culled from similar places; The Cooking Network, PBS, late night re-runs, or one off appearances that left a lasting impression.  The final tier is very special to most shrine constructers as this is where they keep what would be considered the, ‘ace in the hole’ or the secret culinarian that you hope with all your heart never ascends to the top because they are yours, and yours alone like when you were the first kid to score some porn and actually thought any of the girls in Big Busty Black Butts Volume 63 might be anywhere in your future.  Oh those silly dreams.  After that analogy the now common phrase ‘food porn’ just seems a bit sick, but yes it is, and tier three is your own personal food porn collection.  It’s yours, go ahead and cherish it.  Build it but keep it hidden just like that copy of Volume 63.

Interesting Meat Art

Check out Mark Rydens work.  He is also the cover story for Juxtapose Magazine this month, a great publication for all your modern art needs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Countdown

The countdown has begun for most normal people; one solid week. We are currently being oversaturated with an absolutely horrid bombardment of overzealous Thanksgiving propaganda. Every media outlet is pumping lies into our skulls at a rate unimaginable to most level headed human beings. I hope you have not fallen ill with this sickness and applied the balm provided in my last post recommending my personal suggestions on how to make Thanksgiving 2011 the best of the past year. I’m sure to speak for many of us when I say we have staved off numerable instances of motivation to get a jump on this holiday, but it is the unfortunate reality that we must face now with 6 days and counting so it’s time to get to work.

First gather up those morbid culinary magazines that subconsciously make most of us feel filthy and inadequate. Indulge your guilty pleasure; go ahead and clip out photos of your favorite celebrity chef for their respective shrine then quickly dispose of the remaining few pages. This will make the coming task much easier. Think back to last year, now demand of yourself to purchase far less food overall. Don’t worry about recipes; they will come….preferable stick to the ones on the back of the Stover’s Stuffing, French’s fried onions, and the plastic skin of the frozen turkey. They are most reliable.

If you are feeling guilty that your ‘The Chew’ or ‘Next Iron Chef’ shrine is not up to par as you imagine that the bitch from work has crafted one of greater depth then go ahead and clip those photos from the newly arrived culinary page turners bemoaning the absolute hysterical euphoria your family (dog) will display upon you trying to jerry-rig a meal out of Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s a lie….no her shrine might very well trump yours, but not for long. Rid your life, my life and the life of your loved ones from this scourge once and for all.

That is enough for the first day of preparation.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Three weeks of Top Chef WTF moments.

Let me start by saying I don’t even bother absorbing any cheftestant’s names until there are less than 10, or I find them uncontrollably annoying so I apologize for not even taking the time to look up their names, but I’m guessing if you have read so far into this post you will know who I’m referring to.

WTF #1 I’m sure there are a lot of people who try out for Top Chef and I can only image the daunting task of wading through all the bull shit, but it seems reasonable to think there are most likely around 100 or so quality applicants. For this season they brought in 32 of them. They all took time off their job maybe even quit, said heartfelt good-byes to their family, and spent a fair amount of cash outfitting themselves, traveling, photo shoots, Bravo spent a decant amount of money on them as well I’m sure. The first guy sent off can’t find the tenderloin on a whole loin of pork?!?! WTF This was one of the top 32 applicants? For that chef somewhere out there who assumes he was #33, man he must be one pissed off motherfucker right now.

WTF #2 We only got three episodes in to find out that even the top 16 have neglected to prepare themselves to bake a god damned cake. WTF Did these wonder chefs not watch any of the past 8 seasons

WFT #3 James Beard Foundation WTF. It seems like every one of these goofballs is blurting out, “I’m a James Beard blah blah blah.” Dear James Beard Foundation, start being a little more selective before the mention of you becomes as meaningless as the words, “organic” “local” or “artisanal”. Please, we have trusted you so far.

WTF #4 Did any of the 18 cheftestants sent away do any kind of prep to be on the show? WTF Guy who ran out of time obviously should have went in his kitchen, set a timer for 20 minutes and figured out how much he could get done in that time. Seafood restaurant guy that bought pre-cooked shrimp WTF I hope no one ever comes to your restaurant again, ever! Unless they want a refund on their gift certificate. Lastly, everyone except the Mexican chef, did you know where season 9 was set? WTF Open a book for fucks sake. Did the idea of authentic Mexican, tex-mex, cowboy, snake or other regional ingredients elude you? Did you pack your winter boots for this trip as well? Click your clogs three times and maybe you will be transported back to Chicago three months ago where you can turn around, walk out of the tattoo parlor, get back in the car and find the big building filled with books called a Library. Someone there will show you where to find a book about Texas and more than a few shelves of cookbooks. Try one with the name Rick Bayless on it for starters.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Success

Top Ten Keys to a Successful Thanksgiving 2011

10. Throw out any current cooking magazines that might erroneously cause you to try something new. You only have one shot at this meal till next year so don’t screw it up.

9. Cook the Turkey same as the past 10 years.

8. Cook the green bean casserole same as the past 10 years.

7. Cook the stuffing same as the past 10 years.

6. Try not to cook twice as much food as needed. Lying to yourself that anyone really will enjoy leftovers is not part of anyone’s reality.

5. Throw out any forthcoming cooking magazines that extol the fantastic creations that can be made with Thursday’s leftovers. The dog will enjoy this much more than your human friends.

4. Secretly volunteer to work that day.

3. Invest in one top shelf bottle of liquor. Don’t overdo it as the climax of positive results has the potential to spiral downward rather quickly.

2. Find the best gravy you can and consider applying it in heavy doses to everything you plan to and/or in an act of compassion toward the cook place on your gloriously overflowing Thanksgiving plate.

1. Take great pains to capitalize on the openness of other to let you watch football, nap, and overindulge. Consider it resting up for the rest of the year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Savory Fall Quick Bread

Apple-Fig & Blue Cheese Quick Bread
with Port Wine Curd

For the bread:

Two cups AP flour
One tblsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
One tsp black pepper
One half tsp thyme

Three ounces crumbled blue cheese
One and a half cups tart local apple, grated
One half cup dried figs, rough chopped

Three eggs
Two thirds cup milk
Four tblsp melted butter

Mix dry ingredients before tossing in cheese and figs till the pieces are separated and coated in flour. Wisk eggs and mix with other wet ingredients before gently combining with four mixture. Be careful not to overmix and be aware the batter will be very thick. Cook in a nine by five inch loaf pan that has been coated with butter at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 20 minutes before turning it out to rest until cooled to room temperature.

For the curd:
Two cups port wine
One each star anise, cinnamon stick
Three whole cloves

One and one third cups sugar
Four whole eggs
One and three quarters sticks of butter (seven ounces)

In a heavy bottom saucepan combine wine and aromatics, reduce wine over medium heat by half. Remove aromatics from wine. Off heat add sugar and butter. Return pan to low heat and add the eggs once the sugar has dissolved. Whisk constantly until curd is thick enough to hold marks from the whisk. Push this mixture through a fine sieve and chill with a cover of plastic wrap pushed onto the top of the curd in an effort to prevent a toothsome skin from forming.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Wish List

Things I would really like….like right now!

Octopus, foie gras, brioche, Wild Turkey, raw oyster, real/good sushi, sturgeon with truffled leeks and black lentils, Allegrini Amarone, aged Manchego with truffle honey, Dogfish Head Raison D Etre, fennel, Italian sparkling water, oil cured olives with Bulgarian feta and grilled lamb chops with rosemary, ice cold tap water.

I would like to be making sweet potato brioche, lobster consume, pork pate, gougeres with real gruyere cheese, Makers Mark gelee over foie terrine with pickled cherries, broccoli-beer-cheese soup, vanilla panna cotta, Brown chicken stock….in large amounts.

I would like to go to Crop, Noodlecat, Phnom Penh, Chinato, anywhere authentically ethnic.

Things I’d like to do less of: drinking diet soda products, eating white bread and Idaho potatoes, not being able to bend my knee, eating without a conscious, thinking about reacting without acting at all.

Sometimes it's the simple things you desire the most....other times it's not that simple.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Focaccia at home

Bacon-Onion Focaccia Bread

One package instant yeast

One and a half cups warm water
One tsp honey
Five cups AP flour
One tblsp salt
One tblsp black pepper
Six tblsp EVOO
One tblsp Italian seasoning blend

Seven slices of bacon, medium dice

One sweet onion, medium dice
Four garlic cloves, rough chop
One and a half cups mashed potatoes

Bloom yeast in water with honey. In a sauté pan brown bacon and onion, add garlic and cook another 3 minutes, lastly add the herbs. I used yesterday’s mashed potatoes so I put them in this pan to warm up. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl then the water. Kneed this mixture for 6 minutes. Blend in the bacon mixture and work the dough another 2 minutes. Return to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let raise 2-3 hours.

After the dough has risen turn it out into an oiled baking dish about 18x11x3 inches and bake in a pre-heated oven for 35 minutes until golden. After removing dish from oven let the bread rest in the pan for ten minutes before removing it to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Top Chef Revelation

I recently watched the final episode of Top Chef: Just Desserts and found it quite pleasing. I achieved to get my food competition fix sure, but I was in awe. I don’t think I could really get into a whole season of just desserts, but what it did was give me a whole different perspective on why Top Chef has such a broad appeal. Quite simply put; I couldn’t do what those pastry chefs do! I’ve tried my hand at simple cakes, cookies, sugars, truffles, and bread, but not even on the same planet as what the pastry chefs of Top Chef produced. It is absolutely mind bending to me that in a little over ten hours three chefs can put together 5 different pastry disciplines. I will critique and say that I am somewhat underwhelmed by the sugar sculpture/show piece aspect of Just Desserts. I think what the chefs create is just amazing to look at, but in my opinion it is more art than culinary. I am totally and whole heartedly impressed with the Entremet the final three chefs made; pleasing to the eye and the tongue.

Well, my revelation does not stop with the impressive work of the pastry chefs on Just Desserts. My lasting revelation is that the Top Chef Institution projects something that most people feel they are not capable of reproducing. I have not looked at Top Chef that way in the past. With the first episode of Top Chef: Texas set to premier next Wednesday on Bravo I want to give it a try with this new perspective. I’m sure to get frustrated by silly quick-fire challenges or overproduced personal conflicts between contestants, but I’m willing to forgo those road bumps in order to enjoy the cooking through a more open mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Enough with the polls and the lists

It recently occurred to me that sometime in the recent past mainstream media outlets have turned over the decision on what is newsworthy/presentable to any knucklehead capable of social networking. Surely providing content centered on things people are interested in is an important part of providing news and entertainment to the masses, but turning what seems like over 50% of the process over results in many shortcomings. There are a lot of cases where viewer provided content makes up an increasingly larger portion of what we consider modern news and entertainment. For example, shows including local Fox morning news, the Jimmy Fallon show, and Sportsnation include large segements devoted completely to viewer provided content via social media including Twitter and Facebook. Polls, lists, and questions that generate viewer’s comments are not of much interest to me in most traditional media outlets like television and newspaper. They have a place, and we know where to find them, that would be where they are generated. News is not the results of a poll, jokes told by Mr. Fallon should not be the brainstorm of his Tweeter following, and proposing a question and reporting it’s responses off a Facebook page is not journalism.

Where this seems to hit home for me right now is The Plain Dealer's recent reporting on the local restaurant happening. Spending three weeks polling people as to their favorite pizza shop seems like a waste. Printing a list of the areas 100 best bars is not news. I understand that any establishment that can get their name in print might get excited, but this does not provide any meaningful information to us as readers. I cannot remember the last time I looked to the PD for any meaningful local restaurant information or news. Cleveland Foodie is leaps and bounds ahead of the PD in quality, consistent, trustworthy local restaurant news.

What would make for quality content? It would be great to read short bites about local restaurant menu changes, wine/beer dinners, and or promotions. Connecting home cooks to restaurant quality product would also be a nice read specifically when it concerns two local establishments. Honest reviews of smaller community bases restaurants with a lower price point would be great. In a lot of cases it’s difficult to weed through these types of establishments, but there is a huge difference in quality between a scratch kitchen and a thaw and heat kitchen. Lastly take a look into the little guys. There seems to be less than 10 local chefs/restaurateurs/culinary establishments that are constantly in the paper, and they deserve it in most cases, on the other hand I think someone is just lazy and not willing to look any further. There are hard working dedicated food service workers on every corner, everywhere you look, behind everywhere you look and most likely beyond that as well. Many people are working very hard long honest days to connect with a customer base and it seems like a golden opportunity for everyone if the PD was to drop the pizza poll and put a little effort into their local restaurant coverage.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Crispy Italian sausage with spaghetti squash, sweet potatoe and carrots

With a pleasant chill in the air these fall flavors just begged to make it onto my dinner table.

One pound bulk Italian sausage
One two pound spaghetti squash
Three carrots cut into inch lengths
Three sweet potatoes, medium diced
One small onion sliced
Two garlic cloves sliced

For the apple-mustard sauce…

Half sweet onion small diced
One tablespoon honey mustard
One small local apple peeled and diced
Three quarters cup chicken stock or apple cider
Two tablespoons chilled whole butter

While I’ve been cooking at home much more these days I’ve become even more interested in being extremely efficient and clean. I think this procedure emphasizes this.

Wash the squash of any dirt. Slice into one inch think disks. Do not cut length wise because the strands that resemble ‘spaghetti’ run in a circular pattern and would all be cut in half if you cut the squash length wise. Scrape the seeds from the squash donuts and discard. In a large skillet place the squash donuts and a cup of water, cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling add the carrots, salt and cook for ten minutes adding water if necessary so it never totally evaporates. Remove the vegetables to a plate and cover allowing to cool. Wipe out the same pan and crisp the Italian sausage in a small amount of oil. I like to pinch small free form meatballs into the pan. Cook on med-high heat. While that cooks use a spoon to scrape the squash pulp away from the skin. On a paper plate microwave the sweet potatoes for 90 seconds covered with a paper towel. Remove the sausage from the skillet; add a small pad of butter, the onion and garlic and let cook on med-high for about 3 minutes. Add the squash, carrots and sweet potatoes and let caramelize on one side. Flip, add sausage and reduce heat as low as possible just to keep warm, season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

For the sauce caramelize the onion in a generous amount of butter, add the apple and cook another few minutes. Combine the mustard and stock allowing the mixture to reduce by half. Off heat add two tablespoons of butter and season.

There has been nothing on this blog!

It has been some time since I’ve posted anything on this blog, and even longer since I posted something of interest. Some might even say there has been nothing on this site. Maybe? In nontechnical usage ‘nothing’ denotes the state of nonexistence of anything or, the property of having nothing. Surely there has been a lack of posts, but nothing? One prominent existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre equates a second king of being, etre-pour-soi or consciousness as being nothing since consciousness itself cannot be an object of consciousness and can possess no essence. Seems to make sense right! The modern concept of consciousness, attributed to John Locke, describes consciousness as the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind. I can assure you that a lot has passed through my mind since my last post, and since these ideas have stayed in my mind only and make up my consciousness then in light of Sartre there in fact has been nothing posted on this blog in some time. That is my long, but not too long way of letting it be known, I’m back on track to making more frequent posts!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pressure Cooker Experience

It was my foodie sister’s birthday recently and I pulled the trigger and gifted her a pressure cooker. I had never used one, and they almost sounded too good to be true. She has mastered the art of the slow-cooker/crock-pot but I thought taking the cooking times in a different direction might widen the array of dishes she prepares. We both have a mutual and deserving respect for hand crafted stocks of which I thought a pressure cooker would be quite effective. I am happy to see how well this gift has worked out.

The earliest pressure cooker was designed by Frenchman Denis Papin in 1679. The devise is most often used during the process of canning in the United States. Outside the food industry worldwide hospitals and laboratories use modified pressure cookers to sterilize their equipment. On top of those two very trivial and not so inspiring facts most all our mothers assure us that we are going to blow up the kitchen dare we even fathom the use of a modern food quality pressure cooker. Fortunately this has not happened just yet to us.

I purchased a 6 quart T-Fal pressure cooker through an E-bay store. It has three built in pressure safety devices which erased any lingering idea I had that Mom was right about catastrophic failure. The 6 quart is a very handy size for making meals for 3-5 people. Eight quarts might be ideal for making slightly richer/larger batches of stock, but then finding a place to store it becomes an implication. Meat sears nicely in the pot before braising which is great not to have multiple pans involved. To my surprise it takes only one minute to reduce the pressure of the unit enough to remove the lid. On the other hand the unit works great on our flat glass topped stovetop. It comes to heat nicely and it didn’t take long to find the lowest possible temperature to hold the pressure steady. This has as much to do with the quality off the stovetop, but the directions included with the pressure cooker warn of complications using a flat glass topped unit. We experienced none.

For our first experience we cooked boneless western style pork ribs with apples, potatoes, cinnamon, coriander, thyme and smoked pork neck bones. We seared the seasoned meat in the pot then nearly covered it with chicken stock and cooked it following the procedure described in the unit’s instruction book. This involved cooking the meat for 20 minutes, reducing the pressure till we could safely remove the lid then we added the apples and potatoes and returned to the heat and cooked another 10 minutes under pressure. Under running tap water for about 30 seconds the unit can be disassembled. This was no big deal in my opinion. After cooking under pressure for 30 minutes (about 40 total) the meat was very tender, juicy, and flavorful. The apples completely disintegrated, but the potatoes come out perfectly cooked. We strained out the solids and returned the quite flavorful liquid to the same pot and thickened with cornstarch. I was very surprised by how well the final meal came out, but even more impressed with the ease and speed of using the pressure cooker.

A lot of home cooks seem to have a misguided romantic relationship with their slow-cooker and instinctively think that the amount of time spent cooking increases the quality of the final product. Personally I find that sometimes using a slow-cooker with disregard for cooking times leads to meat that is in fact overcooked meaning they are either dry, lacking in texture or both. I’m sure you can end up with the same problems in a pressure cooker, but at least you only invested an hour or so! Secondly, using a single pot to sear, braise under pressure, and reduce/thicken broths is infinitely more efficient than starting 4 hours out, searing in a sauté pan, transferring to a slow-cooker, waiting, and finally using another pot to create a sauce. On the other hand you have plenty of time to clean dishes while the cock-pot chugs along like the little engine that could….I think I can…I think I can.

We also used the pressure cooker to make a quick corn stock with corn cobs and vegetable scraps to complete corn chowder. In nearly 20 minutes we had a stiff corny broth to use. This leads me to believe a rich roasted chicken stock is in the near future.

If you have ever thought about using a pressure cooker I suggest you give it a try. They are priced reasonably, come in an array of sizes, and deliver as promised. I’m sure you’ll find more than a handful of gadgets around your kitchen that see much less use.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Useful software

I stumbled upon this tool and found it very usefull: JCopia 4.7.27255. I

Have you ever thought how to download video and audio from flash players on internet sites like Youtube, Google Video, MySpace, DailyMotion, Metacafe, Break, Blog sites of your friends with embedded audio and video content and so on?

So, JCopia does it all. It captures flash video / audio / stream from any website to your computer as files. Just play your media online and watch as JCopia 4.7.27255 saves any clip / music / movie to your computer. JCopia detects and begins to download any clip, video, music, radio stream, video stream, Flash game or presentation that is played in your browser. Increase your video and audio collection with JCopia now!

It is a very convenient tool for collections video and audio files on disk.

Here is the link: Capture flash video and audio from any
website to your computer

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Roll the Dice on Bacteria

I’m not sure if this piece in The New York Times makes me more confused about food temperature safety than I was before or even more skeptical about accepted government guidelines regarding such acts of culinary hazards. Is Rhulman sipping from his own death stew? Will the most heralded of all food scientists be found sucking on his own vomit in a heap on the kitchen floor after pressing his lips to a batch of overnight meat stock? I hope not.

It’s somewhat a relief to know that if a parcel of leftover cooked food is left out overnight it is most likely safe to go ahead, heat it up good and hot then munch it down. On the other hand, why in the hell would you roll the dice and leave it out day after day? It’s like snubbing your nose at the grim reaper. We all understand he is after us as it is, why leave a snack trail of deadly bacteria, spores, and mold so he can hunt you down like a pack of hounds snapping at a foxes tail?

I would claim that this article is irresponsible, but as of now at least it can only be found in the NYT, and I don’t see many NYT readers being so intellectually challenged that they might extrapolate a scenario where it would seem acceptable to say, oh, think it’s ok to eat that package of raw chicken that fell out of the grocery bag and has been in the trunk of the family jalopy the past few days. On the minds of home cooks good food handling is important. On the other hand it is of upmost importance that restaurant patrons can trust that the food they receive has been handled with great caution and respect. If I choose to take a chance on some food left in the ‘danger zone’ that is my choice, but when I dine out I don’t want to take chances, and as a chef I have no right to compromise the health of others.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Summer Vegetable Pickle

I have been waiting for just the right set of ingredients to become available in order to put a large batch of local baby vegetables under a pickle. The stars have finally aligned and in a few short weeks we will have a batch of beautiful pickled veggies.

As you can see I went for a varied assortment of vegetables. I was lucky to come upon some absolutely heavenly small yellow cucumbers that had not developed much of a skin or toothsome seeds. They are just perfect. I also found wonderfully sweet Mars Onions. They are rather small, red, mild and sweet. There are also some finger length green zucchini, carrots, whole local garlic cloves, and lastly sugar snap peas. I've never pickled peas so we will have to cross our fingers on how they come out.

I acquired a standard pickling spice blend from Spicehound and added that to my standard pickle ratios along with a handful of thyme, sage and rosemary. I put a layer of lemons over the whole mess for a little added twang and put a "do not disturb" label on the bowl and set it away to magically transform.

My standard pickle ratios are very simple; equal parts sugar, water, and vinegar. I usually prefer rice wine vinegar as it has a smoother tartness in my opinion compared to wine or cider vinegars. In this specific batch I used three parts rice wine to one part cider vinegar because I planned on adding a full assortment of other strong flavored herbs and wanted to assure a strong tang in the end product.

Pickled Summer Vegetables

Four cups finger sized baby summer vegetables
Six garlic cloves
One lemon sliced

Two cups each sugar and vinegar
Two cups cold water
Two heaping tablespoons pickling spice
One teaspoon salt
One quarter ounce thyme
One large sprig each rosemary and sage

The amount of liquid is roughly the amount needed to cover the amount of vegetables. This may change with regard to the size of the vegetables and/or the container but what is really important is the ratio of sugar, vinegar and water. I start by heating the sugar, vinegar, garlic, and pickling spices over medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves remove from heat and add cold water to chill the liquid and set aside while preparing the vegetables. As long as the liquid is room temperature when added to the vegetables it will work fine, but steer away from adding hot pickling liquid over the vegetables as this will make for a very limp and soft end product. That's all, pack it up and let it sit for about two weeks. Feel free to stir it up every so often.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Squash

The past few weeks our local farmers markets have been overflowing with summer squash. Be it zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan and even a few sizable 8-ball varieties have been available in great supply. It seems every week the price goes down and their size increases which I consider a good thing. It is quite easy to simply sauté a sliced up squash or toss planks on the grill. But there a lot other ways to use this summer fruit, yes like tomatoes summer squash are botanically considered a fruit. The key to working with summer squash in most of recipes comes down to controlling the moisture level. This can be accomplished in a few different ways; quick high heat cooking is the simplest way to accomplish a plate of squash that hasn’t turned into a pile of mush. There is the physical method of removing excess moisture from squash which would be to simply squeeze the hell out of it. Lastly there is the chemical method off leaching out moisture which would be allowing squash and salt to come together which after some straining results in a very useful squash product.

Summer squash has it’s ancestry in the Americas. Lewis and Clark in 1804 observed great quantities of crookneck summer squash being raised by southern Indian tribes. After a trip to the Italian country side where the culinary use of summer squash became very popular it returned to the U.S. in the early 1920’s when Italian immigrants brought it to our tables and planted a large variety of squash which we are all thankful for today. While overwhelmingly abundant in the U.S. today summer squash are enjoyed worldwide in classic dished like French ratatouille, Mexican squash flower dishes, Turkish zucchini pancakes and Greek stuffed squash.

I recently acquired a rather large yellow squash. It made it into two preparations that hopefully give you a little nudge to grab some on your next trip to the market

Summer Squash Pancakes

Two pounds squash grated
Two tablespoons salt

One egg
One quarter cup flour
Pinch sugar
One tablespoon mix fresh herbs
Fresh cracked black pepper

Combine the grated squash and salt in a colander and let sit for half hour. Squeeze the squash in a clean dishtowel before combining the remaining ingredients. Working in a pan on medium heat sauté tablespoon dollops of batter in butter. Serve warm with sour cream, yogurt, topped with cheese or your favorite tomato based condiment.

Baked Yellow Squash

Large diameter squash cut into inch thick rounds

Two cloves fresh garlic chopped
One teaspoon fresh thyme
One third cup each bread crumbs and parmesan cheese
Good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees. Coat disks of squash with oil, salt and pepper. Top with cheese mixture and bake in hot oven for about 8 minutes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I've Got a Taste

Triple threat lemon-lime-orange!

Ever since I left the hospital I've had a taste, a taste for something that only has one cure.... J-ell-O !

Friday, July 15, 2011


I find the flavor of licorice quite pleasant. The somewhat moist yet firm dark black herbal, sweet candies that come to mind when you think of licorice make up one of my favorite treats. It seems like nobody is ‘on the fence’ when it comes to licorice; either you love it or despise it like the plaque. I picked up a bag of these little gems and after chomping down a few of them and being mesmerized by their herbal, bitter-sweet chewiness it occurred to me that I really have no clue what licorice actually is. So I put in a little work and decided to share.

Licorice is a legume plant from which a sweet flavored extract can be obtained from its root. The plant is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. The plant is in no way related to anise, star anise or fennel which are plants that share a similar flavor profile. It is a chemical called anethole that the previously stated plants all share giving the impression they might be related. Speaking of chemicals licorice contains a compound glycyrrhizin which provided the sweetness. In fact glycyrrhizin is about 40 times sweeter than cane sugar.

The Dutch, French and Greeks seem to have taken a historically early liking to the flavor of licorice and produced mostly sweet candies from the extracts obtained from the licorice plant root. Ironically the use of aniseed oil has become popular to enhance the herbal flavor in modern licorice candies.

In Spain and Italy licorice is usually used in its most pure form. That being the plant is upended and the root is simply washed, cut up, and chewed on. In this case the herbal flavor is quite strong and considered a mouth freshener. It must cut through that garlic fog (Italian breath) like nobody’s business.

In Asia the use of licorice has been more medicinal. The Japanese found licorice to be a strong anti-viral agent. The Chinese have a long history of using licorice to aid in a large number of digestive issues; everything from its effectiveness in relieving the common cough to aiding in the healing of stomach ulcers, irritable bowels, and even as a mild laxative. More recently licorice has been implicated as a source of help in treating auto-immune conditions like lupus and respiratory problems.

Sounds all rosy around the edges, BUT…. Excessive consumption of licorice can be toxic. As little as 2 oz of licorice daily over a 2 week period has shown to cause fluid retention due to liver problems as well as a sharp spike in blood pressure. Fortunately for us who love licorice that is just about the amount of time it takes to eat the whole pound of licorice we bought and it has been shown that those detrimental effects are completely reversible after only a few short days.

I’m quite a bit happy with my finding. I can feel hella-eurotrash cool while nibbling on my licorice candies all the while my inner chi (digestive system) will stay in good shape. I’ll try not to OD on licorice anytime soon, but damn…it’s so good when it hits your lips.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin & Sweet Corn Potato Cake

Saturday night was my turn to cook dinner for the family. We had a lemon-garlic pork tenderloin earlier in the week that my sister cooked on the grill to absolute perfection. I wanted to do something different not only with the pork, but I've tired of corn on the cobb and baked potatoes. This meal was all about doing something a little different from what we've done the past few weeks.

I made one extra large sweet corn potato cake. The important thing when cooking one of these collosal potato cakes is controlling the temperature so the potato cake is cooked fully through. Using a non-stick skillet I started on medium heat until I got a nice color then turned the heat down even lower allowing for a total cooking time of nearly half an hour.

Sweet Corn - Potato Cake

One sweet onion
Three ears of corn kernals
Four medium sized starchy potato
One Tablespoon corn starch
One Teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Grate the onion and the potato in to a bowl. Cut the corn kernals off the cobb and use the back off a knife to scrape the cobb giving up some of it's sweet juices. Season well with salt and pepper, mix in thyme and corn starch.

Using a pre-heated non-stick 12 inch skillet press the potato mixture into the pan to form a solid large pattie. The best way to flip the cake after about 10 minutes is to place a plate over the cake and flip the whole pan over so the potato sit on the plate and can be slid off back into the pan. I used a bit of butter after the first flip to help add some depth of flavor and color.

After the first flip.

Spice Rubbed Pork

Two Tablespooons smoked paprika
One Tablespoon chili powder
One Tablespoon ground corriander
Half Tablespoon each garlic powder and cumin
One Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Coat the pork with oil and roll in spice mixture. Cook on a medium-hot grill for about 15 minutes or untill an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Remove from the heat and let rest a solid 10 minutes.

Potato cake ready to eat!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Black and Blue Mussels

Blue Moon is a great light summer beer and mussels are a great light summer meal. It is something of a classic to cook mussels in beer, but by adding ingredients that highlight the flavores of Blue Moon this dish brings the beer’s character to the for front.

1 pound mussels rinsed and cleaned
6 ounces Blue Moon Beer
2 shallots sliced
Zest and juice of one orange
1 teaspoon ground corriander
3 tablespoons butter, split
pinch of sea salt and black pepper
Parsley, rough chopped

Heat a large sautee pan or pot over med-high heat. Sautee shallot in 1 tablespoon butter untill soft then stir in coriander for about 20 seconds. Top this with orange zest and juice. Add the mussels and Blue Moon Beer top with salt and pepper and cook on high for about 5 minutes or untill the liquid has reduced by 1/2. Gently stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and parsley over high heat for another 2-3 minutes or until the butter has melted. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread to soak of the perfect Blue Moon broth

This recipe is part of the The Great Beer Recipe Challenge. Click here to vote for my recipe and view others featuring Blue Moon Beer.