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.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Farmers Market...Where are the Veggies?

I went to both the Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market on Sunday and the Lakewood Farmers Market on Wendsday. There aren’t a ton of veggies available yet, but I’ve warmed up to some other vendors who in the past I have walked past without such as a feeble stare. I can now understand that in certain situations and at certain times these vendors are the backbone of the market that allow other vendors that might not show up or withonly a low yield of vegetables or berries this time of a year a reason to come into the city where customers are attracted to the market in lean times.

There was a new baker at Lakewood; French Creek Bakery had some good looking bread. The flowers at Lakewood are always nice. There was a vendor at both that was selling what I can only explain as ‘rock gardens,’ but they are really nice looking rock containers for hearty cactus looking plants. You can also get you knife sharpened now. Kamm’s market also featured an organic meat and egg vendor out of Oberlin. I am planning on getting some eggs at the very least from them this Sunday. I took the leap yesterday and bought some non veggie items from the market and I’m very pleased. Let me explain:

I spoke with Grace Mehall-Vitale from Grace’s Green Garden. She has created a line of skincare products for both you and your favorite pet. It is just wonderful to speak with some who is passionate and educated about what they do and how the things they believe in can help you. I have this silly knee immobilizer on 24/7 and my skin is all weird and feels funny so I got the talc-free Jasmine Breeze body powder. Not only does it smell great, but it has brought feeling back to my weak skin in less than 2 applications. If you have any skin problems or are interested in aroma therapy I suggest you take a second and chat with Grace at the farmers market.

Paula at Storehouse Tea was nice enough to offer me a taste of her tea at the market yesterday. For the most part, and for most people we think of tea as Brisk overly sweet brownish drink out of a can. As you can learn on the Storehouse Tea website the history of tea is rich and long. I’ve taken tea for granted in the recent past, but it takes coming across a great product that make you take consideration and move tea up on you priority list. I jumped on the Zesty Ginger Lime which is all organic like all of Paula’s tea as well as certified Free Trade. The Rooibos based tea I bought taste like the best tea with lemon ever! In line with leaving a low carbon footprint I’ll let the sun do its work on a jar of Storehouse Tea and in a few hours I’ll have liquid gold!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Best BBQ Chicken I've Ever Made

I normally don’t like boneless skinless chicken breasts. They always seem to turn out tasteless, dry, and demanding some heavy sauce to cover up those shortfalls. I did a little research and came up with this treatment for some B/S breasts we caught on sale last week.

BBQ Chicken Breast

Three to four pounds boneless skinless chicken breast


One cup water
One quarter cup sugar
Two tablespoons salt if fine ground, one quarter cup if course
One large garlic clove smashed
Twenty cranks of fresh ground black pepper
Assorted herbs, a few twigs of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil

Three cups ice water

Half cup BBQ sauce

Pound out the chicken breast. They don’t need to be paper thin, just so they are an even thickness throughout.

For the brine combine all the aromatics, salt and sugar with one cup of water and bring up to heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and stir in the ice water. This should cool the brine enough that you can add the chicken now. I brined the pounded out breasts or one hour and they turned out very nice.

Heat your outdoor grill to high. Cook the chicken on one side with the cover down on the grill for about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and immediately apply a thin layer of your favorite BBQ sauce. Return the cover to the grill and cook another five minutes. Flip the chicken again and apply a thin layer of BBQ sauce return the cover to the grill wait one minute then turn the grill off. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes while you get the rest of the meal to the table.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bananna Pancakes

I had some browning soft banannas on hand and was in need of a breakfast that didn't consist of eggs on bread. I went ahead and pulled the trigger on some pancakes. The recipe makes enough for 4 people. We didn't have any maple syrup but blueberry jam and maple-pumkin butter worked even better.

Bananna Pancakes

Two eggs
Two cups milk
Two tablespoons sugar
Three quarters of a stick of butter, melted

One and a half cups flour
One teaspoon baking soda

Two banannas large dice

Mix the wet items then add the dry. Don't overmix. Stir in the banannas and let sit for five minutes. I used a electric flat top griddle set at 350 degrees and they came out perfect. To keep them warm I put a wet paper towel in the microwave for 30 seconds to creat a moist warm box and held the done cakes on a plate in the microwave until they all got griddled. No need to actually microwave them.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Recant Photo Observations

Market Garden Brewery second/patio bar under construction

Second/patio bar almost complete

Market Garden Brewery downstairs kitchen line

Market Garden Brewery main kitchen line under construction

Market Garden Brewery beer holding tanks downstairs

I discovered this little gem in a restaurant. Note to all restaurant managers...make sure the person you ask to post a sign can spell!

Some things in life you can control, others you can't.