Monday, March 29, 2010

My Honey

No this is not mushy demonstrative etude of affection to my wife - though it could be about her, since this post is about a food-related project we will undertake together in the near future.  After receiving a copy of Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey, The Sweet Liquid Gold That Seduced the World by Holley Bishop from one great friend and talking with other great friends who have tried it themselves, we are planning to start our own little apiary this summer.  We actually ordered a bee package and are looking forward to receiving our herd of miniature winged livestock in April.  We expect that, as with all other produce, the local, farm fresh, just harvested stuff is far superior to store-bought offerings.  Look for updates on our bees as the summer goes on and maybe even some great honey recipes.  If you see me with a face full of red, swollen lesions, you will probably be able to guess how things are going.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cheese Glorious Cheese!

"Give me a good sharp knife and a good sharp cheese and I’m a happy man."

— George R.R. Martin
Cheese is, I think, one item that nearly all people agree upon.  That is, we agree with the basic premise that cheese is good.  Now, start a discussion about what type of cheese is best or what type goes best with which dish, drink, etc. and things get divisive.  Even so, it is interesting to note that from the pretentious Parisian to the common blue collar, blue plate diner (a person who dines) at your local diner (the eating place), cheese is the common thread - or string, as in string cheese, if you will.  From our earliest days as consumers of solid foods, we become acquainted with cheese in our youth through mac & cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches.  No wonder cheese is a big player in so many comfort food dishes. 
Some like Brie with their fruit for dessert and that's okay.  I've had it and it just didn't do it for me as far as desserts go.  Furthermore, for me it was a little too - how shall I say - "froofy" - yeah froofy.  I've also had the absurdly hot molten nacho cheese on my nachos at the game.  And I've had all types in between so, while I am sure to write more about our friend cheese in the future, let it suffice for the present that I give you a list of my favorite cheeses.  These are not ranked because the best cheese really is a function of what you are having it on/with; you would not probably like bleu cheese in your grilled cheese sandwich anymore than you would like Parmesan on your fish taco.  So here it is, a list of my caseous flavorful faves:

- Smoked Gouda
- Pepper Jack
- Parmesan
- Parmesano-Reggiano
- Pecorino-Romano
- Provolone
- Aged Swiss
- Fontina 
- American
- Cheddar
- Mozzerella  
- Camembert
- Chipotle Cheddar
- Gorgonzola
- Cream Cheese 
Now, with regard to brands of cheeses, I don't think the brand matters if you are purchasing a regionally produced import; Pamesano-Reggiano is what it is.  For domestics products, we like Tillamook varieties but really like Real California Cheese - their Pepper Jack and Chipotle Cheddar are awesome and can be purchased at WinCo. 
Look for cheese heavy recipes in future posts.  I have loads and the recipes will be presented randomly unless you have specific inquiries.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ready for a Change in the Weather/Menu

"I feel really manly. It's about 25 degrees F outside and snowing, and I just came in from the cold with a platter of grilled meat in my hand. Anybody can grill when it's sunny and 80 degrees F in the shade, but it takes a real man to brave the elements to heed the yearning for my favorite steak. When the muse beckons, I must heed her call. I must grill."

(Al Roker, Foreword, Weber's Big Book of Grilling, Jamie Purviance and Sandra MacRae, p. 7)

I agree 100% Al! That is, I used to. Or rather, I still do in principle at least. In our previous home, our house was situated in such a way that I really could (and did) grill all year long, no matter how cold the weather. In our present location, my grill is subject to the chronic winds always blowing in from the same direction and which, in the winter, rob my grill of every precious BTU often making it nearly impossible to apply adequate heat to my grillable edibles of choice.

But no more! Well, at least not until next winter. Our grilling season officially began today. With the warmest temperatures we've seen to date this year, daylight savings time, two large tanks of liquid propane and an appetite for something with grill marks, we said goodbye to winter and hello to the sunshine and the savor of grilled food.
Now don't get me wrong, I love the variety that comes with the ebb and flow of the seasons. I love good soup but can't bring myself to eat it in the middle of July. Soup belongs on a cold weather menu (the exception being gazpacho!). And so do certain bread and dessert items and so forth. Similarly, I don't crave ice cream in the chill of December (unless it is sitting on top of a piece of HOT apple pie).

It's been a long winter, and so I say, Sayonara snow! E haere rā cold weather! Hasta la vista invierno! And hello to warmer weather, which brings with it a gustatory change of scenery.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Designer cupcakes have become one of the most hip and delicious specialty products among foodies since salsa overtook ketchup as the most widely consumed condiment in America.  In our own area, one new vendor baking and catering these sweet treats is Pattycakes.  Check out the link to their blog and check out their "cookie pops" the next time you want something sweet, delicious and original.  They are wicked good!

Mexican Street Corn

If you're like me, you find that corn on the cob - fresh, in season goodness, is the best way to eat corn.  That said, I don't want to wait all year until harvest time to enjoy delicious corn for just a few short weeks.  That means I have to find some way to prepare the stuff within the seasonal limitations Mother Nature imposes.  As a huge fan of Southwestern, Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine, I love dishes like this.  It is a savory flavorpalooza you can prepare anytime.

4 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1/3 c. mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. butter
1 lime, juiced, divided
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground mixed peppercorns
1 tsp. cayenne
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Fresh cilantro, optional
The Method
Heat canola oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add corn and half of lime juice and sauté corn for 3-5 minutes.  Transfer corn to a large mixing bowl and add mayo, butter, remainder of lime juice, garlic and spices and mix to combine.  Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.  Serve and devour.

Food for Thought
If you like your Mexican street corn with queso, you might find it at your local farmer's market, your local fair or in Oaxaca after you take in the Lucha Libre Mexicana wrestling.  I personally like this preparation perfectly sans cheese.  Check back in late summer for instructions on grilling the corn on the cob.  In the meanwhile, enjoy this practical, table friendly variation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Toasted Tuna Hoagies with Parmesan and Artichoke Hearts

Not your everyday tuna and mayo on Wonder bread. 

3 pouches of water packed white albacore tuna
3-4ounces of grated Parmesan cheese (real Parm - nothing from a can!)
3-4 ounces of California style marinated artichoke hearts coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. good quality mayonnaise
2 12-inch hoagie rolls
1 ½ tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

The Method
Turn oven onto broil. Cut hoagie rolls in half lengthwise and tear out a portion of the middle of each half. Drizzle each half with 1-2 tsp. of extra virgin olive oil or oil from the marinated artichoke hearts. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Mix tuna, mayo, Parmesan, lemon juice, kosher salt and black pepper. Spread mixture over two of the split hoagie roll halves and top mixture with artichoke hearts.  Place loaded and plain hoagie roll halves into oven on medium or upper rack and broil for 1-2 minutes until bread turns golden brown and remove. Assemble sandwiches and cut into 3-inch sections. Serve while warm.  Serves 4-8. 

Food for Thought
Tearing out the middle of your hoagie roll is always a good idea because is makes any sandwich easier to assemble and handle.  Furthermore, for those who are carb-conscious, it eliminates a lot of unecessary, cheap calories.  Finally, if your are like many people who have grown up in a land-locked region, fish is not part of your daily diet.  Still, the Omega 3s and other fatty acids found in fish are great for everything from cholesterol management to dry eye therapy.

Latin Chicken Sandwiches with Chipotle Mayo

Fun. Easy.  Hot. 

For the sandwiches
1 small to medium roaster chicken, pre-cooked rotisserie
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. canola oil
1 large naval orange, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
½ tsp. freshly ground mixed peppercorns
3 chipotle peppers, chopped
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional, for extra heat)
4 hamburger buns or Kaiser rolls

1 small chipotle, finely chopped
2-4 Tbsp. adobo sauce

1/3 c. good quality mayonnaise
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

The Method
After separating chicken from bones, shred into medium to small pieces, cover and set aside. Add canola oil to small pan over medium heat, add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes.  Meanwhile, toast buns over direct medium heat on grill or broil in oven until golden brown. Reduce heat on sauté pan to medium-low and add juice, chipotles, chicken and salt and pepper. Fold ingredients together and allow flavors to come together for five to six minutes.  Place slice of pepper jack cheese each bottom bun and top with chicken mixture, chipotle mayo and top bun.  Place sandwich back on grill or in medium skillet over medium heat. Place heated foil wrapped brick or cast iron skillet on top of sandwich and leave for 2-3 minutes to allow sandwich to warm through and compress. Serve immediately with large amounts of cold beverage and your side dish(es) of choice.

Recommended sides: Homemade French Fries – with mixture of equal parts sea salt, kosher salt and table salt and garnished with fresh cilantro.  That's right - cilantro on your fries!  Great with the chipotle mayo!  

Food for Thought  
I couldn't call this a Cuban chicken sandwich given the inclusion and strong presence of the chipotles.  Similarly, it is not strictly Southwestern or Tex-Mex, given the addition of all of the citrus and the compression toasting technique.  In lieu of chicken, this sandwich is also great with leftover pork. 

If the heat of the chipotles gets too intense for you, remember that water only cools your mouth while it is in your mouth.  For real threapeusis of capsaicin overdose, you need something with fat, since the capsaicin is fat-soluble.  I recommend ice cream! 

Carrot Noodles

Never mind the thick slice of bread and all of the noodles in this photo, this is about something healthier than onion rings, depending on what you serve it with, of course. 

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. minced garlic

The Method
After peeling the desired number of carrots, rinse carrots and peeler and then resume peeling of small strips of the carrots to make the "noodles".  Heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté carrot strips in pan.  Add pinch of salt after adding noodles to pan.  Add garlic during last minute of cooking.  Remove from pan after 3-4 minutes and serve as a side dish or mix into your dish of choice.  

Food for Thought 
The addition of salt at the beginning of the cooking process initiates osmotic activity that will help the carrots, which have relatively high sugar content undergo carmelization faster so that they begin to brown a bit without getting overcooked.  Garlic can burn quickly and will impart a very unpleasant bitter taste when it does, thus it is best not to add it until later in the cooking process.  As seen above, carrot noodles go well with beef stroganoff but they can be integrated into any pasta dish, regardless of the color of your sauce (Mario Batali uses shredded carrots in his standard marinara sauce).  And like normal noodles, the texture of your carrot noodles is a function of the cook time.  If you are making noodles and do not want to use an extra pan, you may add the carrots to the salted boiling water you are using for your pasta noodles.  Finally, you may apply this technique to any vegetables you can break down in this manner.