Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Parade & Special Ingredients

The sun is out and I've got a 'Spring' in my step! Fresh seasonal grown vegetables have hit the markets.

Whats fresh in the market lately? Well, now that you ask...

Big Asparagus (Greg @ Sippitysup posted them) I served with Duck Eggs, chive and truffle oil. Because I had been taught you wanted smaller vegetables, they are sweeter, but reading his post made me decide to give the big daddy's a chance, and you know what- out the window with caution and myth! Peel them about mid-way down, steam them, and then saute them in truffle oil- just say Yummy!

Fresh Fava beans and string beans on mixed greens with a clementine citrus dressing. Hubby brought them home and told me they were 'Spring Peas' (Fava), because it was what the register rang up or the employee told him, but when I looked at them, I informed him they were Fava Beans and we barely had enough- 1 pound = 1 cup, there or about. Oh fresh ones are SO much nicer than dried!

Day Boat 'Fluke' (Summer Flounder) dredged in an organic grain pancake mixture I made (I also blame Greg's 'IHop' series for that craving as well!)- they made these yummy tacos with my handmade tortilla's. Face it, what is better than fresh fish? The fresher the better!

Information: The summer flounder, or "fluke," a flatfish is found in coastal waters from the southern Gulf of Maine to Florida. With warmer weather here off and on lately, we were told this fish normally is caught after May. Fluke prefer eel grass beds and wharf pilings because of the protection they offer. In the summer, small and medium sized adults are found on the sandy and muddy bottoms of bays, harbors and along the open coastline.

May brings Apricots, and so many other things- I will present an Apricot Sticky Rice soon...I received a box of cheese from Black Star Gourmet, have used it for some dishes, and man all I can say is when I opened up each cheese and tasted them, I felt the earth move, well, at least the scent of the earthy goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheeses from around the world on my tastebuds! 

Thanks Black Star, will post recipes next week!

Well, we are heading down to Florida, going fishing at a blog friends (a FSO blog/amateur photography blog) cabin on a private lake in Georgia, deep sea fishing in St. Augustine, then we are off to meet and visit with Velva @Tomatoes on a Vine! for what I am sure, will be a wonderful meal, great drinks (go see what she posts), and great chattering, well on my part any hoo! Her and I decided we are kindred Appalachian Cousins.

I will post trip details next week, and I am sure there will be some big fish tales on this trip...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Taste of The Nation- Princeton

Join us for an unforgettable evening. Remember 100% of the ticket sales benefit:
  • Mercer Street Friends
  • Isles
  • HomeFront
  • Food Bank of South Jersey
Who would pass up a great night of Food ~ Wine ~ Fun! one that supports great local charities (one of whom I work for)? Most food enthusiasts do not mind the $75 (early bird)/$85 price tag, because it does go to charity. New York City's Taste of The Nation is a far bigger and more expensive event, but think of all that food and wine you might have to pass on. Sometimes a small event like TOTN hosted by The Westin, Princeton at Forrestal Village is just the right amount of good food, wine, and friends.

100% of the ticket sales of this fine dining and tasting event helps ensure no child in Mercer County will go hungry- Chef Stephen Pyles, of Dallas, Texas were I am from helped instrument this organization's beginnings, TOTN & Share Our Strength, and we have enjoyed attending most all of them for the past 20 years (most of them in Dallas).

My open mic/musician friend Rich, Chef of The Blue Rooster put on a big smile as he helped plate up and pass out his tasty Mushroom Julian with local artisan cheese. We have not gotten over to the restaurant yet, but the menu looks great. Another colleague Chef Even Bromglen of  Rocky Hill Inn Eatery & Tavern had three lovely bites for the crowd- One being a few of our friends favorites- a crab and corn tuile. Tre Piani, Jim Weaver, my landlord and rental source, Alchemist & Barrister, On The Bone (great steak for a hotel restaurant), The Westin (also has been good) and so many more I cannot name, at least forty in total.

McCaffrey's display of Masa boats and Edible Spoons (1st photo) was a fun distraction from a few of last years bites. They are a fun things to make for parties, and you can fill them with ingredients like black bean salsa, mango mixers like you see in the photo, and also a favorite of my clients- Cheese Polenta with tomato confit. A great tropical beach theme menu. Elements, Chef Scott Anderson made a grand entrance with an egg shell/crate presentation- Carbonara "in shell", local asparagus, and "our bacon" Parmesan (A custard like mixture with bits of crispiness).

There was much much more, and even with the mingle plates we have on hand and bring, juggling the camera, wine and food in tow, can be a task. Seems like much of the fun was taking place in a corner, on the left as you entered- Wine Toss. Yes, you could take your best 'carnival' toss and land a white ring onto any bottle and walk away with a pretty decent wine.They say its all in the wrist. The line was not as long before the crowd began to arrive, but it was hard to get a good 'shot' at the actual toss, so you will see a little animation added to the photo.

All in all, it is a worthy experience, and a few food blogs were roaming around as well, so I am sure you will hear more about this event from their view points.

WINE: There was a Bonterra Merlot and CA Ferrari-Carono, CA Chardonnay at one table in addition to other things I didn't try. At another table a great Geyser Peak Cabernet, and a Spanish wine we would buy, but cannot remember the details. New Jersey wines were served as well, but I am partial to Amalthea Winery in south Jersey, but Louis was not there.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lobster Ravioli & Za'atar Cream Sauce

Za’atar- known by many spellings and uses, is mostly used for a condiment made from the dried herbs, often Thyme, mixed together with sesame seeds, salt, as well as other spices. Used in Arab cuisine since medieval times, both the herb and spice mixture are popular throughout the Middle East and Levant still today.

I had received a box of goodies from as a complimentary gift, and was given a choice of what I would like-  Za’atar called out to me. Intrigued by the history, mixture of herbs, and the fact that most families have kept their own recipes secret for centuries, I knew I had to try it. I imagine the possibility of making my own version.

Not wanting to make it just as a condiment, although I did try a tiny batch that sat in warm olive oil with bread to try out its flavor components (a bit salty, so do not add additional), I decided to try it in a sauce and rub.

A local farm, Cherry Groves raises lamb and beef, so dinner was planned. Grilled Bacon Wrapped Fillets, Rack of Lamb with Za'atar and mustard rub, and Lobster Ravioli with a Za'atar Cream Sauce. I did add some dried parsley to the mix for this meal, and the element of mustard to the lamb rub. I patted down the steaks with EVO, and a little salt and pepper (the fillets are huge!).

A local pasta company here in Princeton, Lucy Ravioli Kitchen has the most amazing fresh pasta. I picked up some Lobster Ravioli for my Surf and Turf Turf meal. This meal might seem a bit over the top, but we do not eat meat except maybe once a week, if that. When hubby is traveling, I live on my new hot and sour noodle soup concoction, so we appreciate a meal like this when he is home. Did I just hear someone ask,"Where are the greens". A simple dark leafy green salad with oil and vinegar was our starter.

The meal was fantastic, and we had lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Hubby brings me back little gifts, and this made me think of how we must have eaten like sharks, an eating frenzy with a good Charles Creek Vineyard- Stagecoach 04, Cabernet took place!

Friday, April 23, 2010

New York Experience in Princeton?

Does the idea of eating traditional New York style delicatessen food rock your boat, but finding one in the Princeton area, or even in New Jersey period disappointing? You either have to head towards Philly, down south, or up to north Jersey, and face it, not many 'real' style deli's are left in New York either. Having eaten at a few in the city, I can see the appeal.

Gary and Lenny’s New York Delicatessen off Route 1 south is not quite over the top like its New York counterparts, but it does offers up breakfast to dinner with the appeal of large portions and reasonable prices. Diners will be glad to know this eatery is offering an extensive menu that reads like ‘Scrapple to Apples’ with Jewish specialties, including smoked fish combos along a column of Reuben’s and more.

Feels like being in New York without having to park, wait, and taking the train in. If you chose to drive, then the long traffic wait, and then high parking fees. No pickle bar though, but quick forgiveness with their pickle (half-sour and two full-sour pickles), kraut, and tomato plate quickly served up so you can nibble while waiting for your meal, and they bring plenty upon request. There are at least five soup choices, which is a draw for many light eaters, as well as the great vegetarian choices.

The wait staff was more than friendly/willing to give you samples of soup, or meats if you were unsure or might have forgotten how great the corned beef might be. The vegetarian mushroom barley soup was a plus, as well as a few other soup tasted. The pickle sampler was not disappointing, as the sample of chopped liver that was graciously brought upon request. When the pastrami/brisket sandwiches arrived, they screamed ‘large’, but no one at the table had any problems finishing the overstuffed bread.

Now if you are adventuresome the menu does offer a few ‘unusual’ deli choices that seem to remind one of a diner, which Jersey is well known for, such as the pastrami/corn beef/provolone stuffed twice baked potatoes. A great choice for gluten free eaters, and a delight from the regular ones found on chain menus, this dish was quite tasty, and quite a large order, so more than half were taken to go.

One highlight is their selection of Junior's cheesecakes, which got quite a few diners excited. Large slices of cakes are available and let’s just say if you were a carrot cake fan, well you will not be disappointed, and all large enough for the table to share, or take home for later.

Service was a bit off once the dining room began to fill up, but this is common in working out the kinks of a new location. There are plans for more visits to get more of this real deal delicatessen experience without having to travel to NYC.

This was also a chance to catch up with a neighbor blog who I adore, Figtree Appetizers (left) and my friend Gen (who knows her NYC Jewish deli's) for a new eatery experience. Often we have spoke of meeting for lunch one day, but found the weather over the past six months to be non-cooperative. We chose Gary and Lenny's and enjoyed a leisurely lunch together discussing our cooking class likes and dislikes (she teaches as well). The conversation flowed like the amounts of food we shared!

I am sure we will be meeting here, and at the Trenton Farmers Market for some more food experiences, but all three of us seem busy these days, so I only can hope to have that much fun again...

Features Mitchell's Sunday Brunch $44- feeds three, and includes such classics as Lox's and cream cheese bagels...

Gary and Lenny’s New York Delicatessen, 3331 Brunswick Pike (Rt 1 South), Lawrenceville 
Open 7 days: 7AM-9PM Su-Th; 7AM-10PM F-Sat

Monday, April 19, 2010

Duck Egg l'orange Crêpe

I debated on whether to share my video, because I realize it is not high quality- while making this dish in my tiny kitchen, having camera 'turning off issues', three lights (over me, behind me, next to me) were barely enough to see what I was doing on your end, as well as I was zoomed in close. I can say making a video while talking and cooking is difficult.

Making crepes is similar to making the dosai in the Indian home I have worked as a personal chef. Next time I will show you those, if I can get someone to help with the camera. If you want to watch it, go to CookAppeal on youtube, and type in Duck Egg Crepe to watch it. I find using my light box over and over boring, but it will help you see why I cannot just take regular photos with such poor lighting.

Mise en place-

1/2 pound of white asparagus, sauteed in oil/butter, softened, s/p
3 tablespoons of truffle oil
2 tablespoons of butter
- saute chopped white asparagus in truffle oil and butter until soft
(my feelings were this might have been better if chopped with cheese for a softer crepe center).

1 duck egg (Whole Foods)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup room temp water (possibly a few more tablespoons)
2/3 cup unbleached organic flour
1 teaspoon clementine, or tangelo zest (l'orange)
1 large mixing bowl
-Make a well in the flour, mix in duck egg (only one is needed as they are big to using two regular eggs); then begin to blend the mixture well; until you get a thin batter.

-Heat either a non stick or large saute pan to medium heat; pour about 2 tablespoons of oil into pan, and then take a paper towel and wipe most of it away, then place paper towel on small plate and save. Each time you make a crepe you will reuse this to wipe oil back onto pan.

-Pour about 1/2 cup  of batter onto pan and begin swirling until thin. Cook and repeat until batter is used.

-Fill each crepe with sauteed asparagus and cheese, and garnish with cheese on top.

1/2 cup sliced/grated cheese (morel & leek jack cheese= whole foods)
1/2 cup grated/soft cheese of your choice (garnish and filler)
  • You want the batter to be thinner than pancakes, so add a few more tablespoons water if it seems too thick (it will not spread around in pan if you have too much oil floating in pan)
  • Pour at least 3 tablespoons oil in medium hot pan, wipe with paper towel (above heat), but save towel in bowl, because each time you remove crepe you will wipe pan with more oil, and re-pour batter into pan and begin swirling, and cook.
  • When crepe is ready to flip it will slide in pan, flip and cook the other side- slide onto wire rack or on dish towel to cool until you are finished making crepes.
  • Fill each crepe with what ever filling you desire and keep warm in oven until ready to eat

I paired a red wine I purchased in Quebec (vineyards on the border of US & Quebec side) last October, but we felt it did not go well with the entree tonight, so saving the rest of the bottle, I will try it again with the duck eggs in another dish. A Vouvray would be nice with this dish, as asparagus is hard to pair, but with the citrus in the crepe, a Chenin Blanc also would work here..

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Butter Me Up!

When CookAppeal hit it's first year of blog writing this past October, well I was on a travel food high. Having the chance to return to my family roots into this country, and the opportunity to learn more about 'Putting Up' was literally placed on the table for me to relive the heritage. Canning apple butter had gone on in my family for generations. In the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia where my fathers family live, 'Putting Up' is still a way of life.

I miss those days of canning with my mom, my dad's mom, and her mother each year when the fruit and vegetables were over growing and spoiled if they were not preserved. A way of surviving the winter months. Ahhh, the memory of Mamaw Estil's peach tree just bit me...oh, sorry you almost lost me there for a moment. Now that story will have to wait!

Spring is here, hopefully many of you have begun your summer planting of flowers and all other sorts of fruit and vegetables. New Jersey wineries are even planting grapevines, strawberries have already come and gone (small window), apricots, blueberries, tomatoes to follow. Cooks should start looking in their can cupboards, or basements. Make a list, and begin thinking about what you will want to add; it takes time to 'Put Up'. Sometimes a few days without help (teach the kids, or a neighbor). Getting the fruit ready, the jars sanitized, finding all the lid pieces, and getting rid of the family, so you can open up that last can of apple butter.

Have I lost my mind planning so early in the year? No! I just discovered I only have one can of tomatoes and apple butter left! We opened them last week. Sure you want to make a sandwich again with the breakfast toast? How about making an Apple Butter Walnut Pound Cake. Ummm! Follow a basic pound cake recipe (x2), fill a bundt pan half way, drop heaping tablespoonfuls of apple butter around the center, then cover the mixture with the remaining cake batter. Delicious! An afterthought- to add more even apple butter center, you could barely see the middle gooey part of the cake, but it still was moist and had a wonderful apple spice flavor!

Apple butter is a highly concentrated form of apple sauce, produced by long, slow cooking of apples with cider (Cider is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. Although cider can be made from any variety of apple, certain cultivates are preferred in some regions, and these may be known as cider apples) or water to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown.

The concentration of sugar gives apple butter a much longer shelf life as a preserve than applesauce. Apple butter was a popular way of using apples in colonial America, and well into the 19th century. There is no dairy
Dairy butter involved in the product; the term butter refers only to the thick, soft consistency, and apple butter's use as a spread for breads. Typically seasoned with cinnamon, cloves and other spices, apple butter may be spread on buttered toast, used as a side dish, an ingredient in baked goods, or as a condiment.

Apple Butter has also been known to be mixed with vinegar while cooking to provide a small amount of tartness to the usually sweet apple butter. The Pennsylvania Dutch often include apple butter as part of their traditional seven sweets and seven sours, as part of the Cuisine of the Pennsylvania Dutch dinner table array.

In areas of the American South, the production of apple butter is a family event, due to the large amount of labor necessary to produce apple butter in large quantities. Apple butter is also used on a sandwich to add an interesting flavor, but is not as commonly used as in historical times. Traditionally apple butter was and is prepared in large copper kettles outside. Large paddles are used to stir the apples and family members would take turns stirring.

In Appalachia (Appalachia is a term used to describe a cultural region in the eastern United States that stretches from western New York state to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. While the Appalachian Mountains stretch from Belle Isle in Canada to Cheaha Mountain in the U.S.), apple butter was the only type of fruit preserve normally rendered into fruit leather.

Apple Butter History and Information from Apple Orchards of Virginia
Apple Butter in photo above was grown and canned in Nicklesville, VA- Combs Nursery & Farm (at my childhood friends in laws while I was visiting)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are You A Happy Cook? Food Inc.

Are we grateful that in such a busy world many of us out there still spend 70 percent of our time cooking our own meals? I know I am. I could cook 100 percent if hubby is not traveling on business so much lately.

Still a happy cook there has been food and wine writing in the past week, attending classes, teaching, hubby travels more often than none lately, and I was invited to a pot luck with other food blogs near the south shore this past weekend, and with a deadline today. Seems as though there may be much more 'class room' style observance posts going up here, so I was glad to cook some for this gather.

Not much fussy cooking goes on in my own house when hubby is gone, however this past weekend it would mean he would land, and I get to cook my little heart out. Hubby gave me the biggest compliment recently saying to someone who asked if he felt lucky to have a chef for a wife. He said "Yes, I look forward to coming home and having her make so many great dishes". I feel lucky about many things, and one of them is him and the fact we live in such a great locavore's area.

John @ John and Lisa Eating In South Jersey (both on right above) mentioned at a pot luck how lucky we are to live in a state that has so many opportunities with the organic, grass feed meat farms, and other fresh available food. Making that transition from Texas to St. Louis, and then to New Jersey for me was an easy jump, because of this very reason.

An invitation to a Jersey Food Blog Pot Luck orchestrated by POV- We are the lucky ones!

A group of foodies in a house together with their own homemade goodies made from local and sustainable farming communities is a great way to spend the day. If you get a chance to have a pot luck through the Food Inc promoters, and then watch the documentary (on PBS April 21st, and online after that), please do.

If this film does not make you think about where your food comes from, then I cannot imagine any other thing would grab and shake you. A combination of educating ourselves via books, articles, word of mouth, and the great market classes out there can keep us all in check, and we need to be held accountable!

You know me and my Partner In Wine Club side kick Adrienne Turner right, well of course, I turned her on to one of the best New Jersey wineries in the state, Amalthea Vineyards. Two Chardonnays- One bottle was oaked, the other not; among two reds she brought, to add the element of sustainable 'food and drink' to the 'Pot Luck' table.

Everyone discussed the food and wine aspects of eating- John's Clam Pie, my Balela Cakes, Buffalo Chorizo, Balela Tabbouleh (all seen above), asparagus with a hot wasabi dip, deviled eggs, and more!

A double YUM on the great food, sharing great conversation, and a thank you goes out to Food Inc for suggesting the gathering.This was a long overdue reunion for this intense group of who's who in the world of New Jersey foodies (as follows)-

A Food Coma- Alex
Jersey Bites- Deborah Smith
Caviar and Codfish- Robin
New Brunswick Wine Examiner- Adrienne Turner

I also want to thank Deborah Smith of New Jersey Bites for her hard work, and opening up her house for various events. Her work on the website has led to so many great things, oh and John, that clam pie you perfected was the bomb! Lisa you get kudos for marrying him, having those beautiful kids, and swapping out little wiggly 'E'!

Here is what food blogs do when they get around food!

Disclaimer- Nothing was given/taken in exchange except the opportunity to view the Food Inc. video. However I must also explain that the first thirty minutes of this video may be hard for young children to watch, and make sure you have fully eaten your meal before beginning. The film is very explicit in showing what conditions take place in unhealthy farming conditions. Otherwise, well recommended and a good educational video!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Elements of a Food Enthusiasts In The House!

There are so many Elements of being a foodie in Princeton, that one might agree it could take four panelist to show how the range of likes and dislikes are so vast... 

THIS Examiner (Sue Gordon), plus journalist Pat Tanner along with food blog Linda Prospero and Phyllis Knight will be talking all things food at the Princeton Foodies and the Food and Places They Love event at 7 pm on Thursday, April 8th at the Princeton Public Library.

Topics will include the Princeton food scene, favorite local restaurants, food blogging and writing plus great food books, movies and so much more.

We’ll be taking questions and comments from the audience too. Come and join in the conversation.

Princeton Foodies and the Food and Places They Love
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon St.
Princeton, NJ
Thursday, April 8th, 7 pm
In the Community Room
Admission is free.

The word 'Free' is not what got my attention, nor 'food', but the 'Princeton Foodies' section. Why? Because three people (two food blogs I follow) were attending I had not met before who live, eat, and breath in my neighborhood were going to be sitting in the same room with my friend Pat Tanner, and other foodies! This had been scheduled in February, but due to a 'snowageddon' it was canceled.

This panel of Princeton area “foodies” (Sue Gordon pictured here) talked about all things edible – from ethnic restaurants and family-friendly places to farmers’ markets and their favorite food blogs, and how the area has taken off as a local, organic, and sustainable community in a discussion followed by questions and refreshments.

The panelists were:

Princeton Food Examiner- Sue Gordon
She has taught cooking for more than 20 years, including a stint at Princeton’s Whole Foods Market. She is a graduate of the Cordon Bleu School in London.

Food Blog- Phyllis Knight (MeHungry)-
Knight’s blog is popular among the food-obsessed. She and her husband plan vacations around food and love nothing more than wandering the aisles of food specialty stores.

Phyllis made two desserts and brought what unfamiliar eaters might consider 'strange' ethnic food for the audience to try, such as a 'Thousand year old egg', century egg, or even called a preserved egg. People were on her table after the symposium like ants at a picnic, or excuse my use of cliches, but like 'White on Rice'!

Linda Prospero (CiaoChowLinda)-
Prospero’s blog (pictured below) focuses on home-cooked Italian food, a topic she knows well from spending a year living in Italy.

Food critic/columnist, New Jersey Life Blog, Pat Tanner-
Tanner is well-known locally for her articles and reviews in New Jersey Life, The Star-Ledger of Newark, The Princeton Packet, The Times of Trenton, and several other publications. Anonymity is part of her job as a food critic, so when she visits restaurants a few times to write solid reviews no one will recognize her.

What did you walk away from after listening to them bounce back and forth on topics such as favorite- restaurants (ethnic or other), blogs (many I follow), markets, ingredients to cook with, strangest ingredient to cook with, food network show (Top Chef seemed to be in the lead), cookbooks, chef's, and so many wonderful things about the time-line of Princeton's food scene one might not ever know.

I admit you did walk away with a lot of things to remember if you did not take notes as I did, but one of my favorite things to hear, since I have only been on the Princeton food scene for five years now- The time-line of so many restaurants I have only heard of, eaten at that are gone, and the current ones surrounding my neighborhood (chefs may or may not mentioned).

Of course 'Elements' is the hot spot for me, and 'new' favorite restaurant on the scene for much of the panel. Some Chef Scott Anderson love was going on, and it has put Princeton on the 'food' map I believe. Many people have told me over the past years that Princeton was behind and still not up to par on the quality of eateries, compared to other local townships for being such a 'literary' cultured demographic. Not to mention the money circulating in the area. In spite of the Momo group- Mediterra, Eno Terra, and Theresa's in Princeton. It was said that Momo came with offerings of Tapa's and the town's people were not quite ready for the unique dining experience, or shushi, so they closed only to reopen later.

Yet the campus alone has so many eating clubs as seen in the top photo! Food is either prepared on site, or many times one of the restaurants I worked at, Masala Grill is catered in. I loved learning that Indian restaurants had not hit the scene until the late eighties. The panel discussed how Princeton was not ready for food such as sushi and curry, but Italian and basic food chains offered the only eats in the area for years. Even a few of the eating club chefs such as Bobby Triggs became savvy by opening The Ferry House shortly before the boom of shopping boutiques came on the scene. Nassau Inn & Pub, along with Alchemist & Barrister around the corner alley, was probably the only place open in town.

HEY! Some of you out there- they mentioned quite a of you as their favorite blog reads. Some of you I have already shared that news! So be on the look out for new followers...

PS- Someone out there may (I hope you are)or may not be thinking- "Where is the Wine-Down Wednesday post"? Good point and one thing I was disappointed about the panel. I would like to see more of a marriage of food and wine. Wine is a food group right? Well Pat mentioned Elements had wine, and about how when you add wine to the high price tag of eating out it adds to the economy of things, and also mentioned a few places were BYO, but I would have liked to have been the 'Food ~ Wine ~ Fun!' element to that panel. Oh well maybe next time! I did however go home afterward and have a nice glass of Iron Horse Pinot Noir I paired with two dishes in a video Partners In Wine Club filmed earlier that day!

Iron Horse Estate Pinot Noir paired with a mild dressing, creamy feta cheese, and a black bean and grilled chicken salad. The creaminess of the cheese along with the earthiness of the beans and wine was a perfect match! Join us April 18th as PIWC Tweet for Earth Day, and share this wine! Hashtag #GreenValley

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Korean BBQ Lettuce Wraps

In keeping with my quest lately for learning more about Asian foods, but deciding to tackle lighter fare until I can learn more complicated recipes from a few of my books- I chose a Korean marinade, Bulgogi.

Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef. The meat is marinated with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and other ingredients such as scallions, or mushrooms, especially white button mushrooms or shiitake. Sometimes, cellophane noodles are added to the dish, which varies by region and specific recipe. Before cooking, the meat is marinated to enhance its flavor and tenderness.

Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan-cooking is common as well. A practice common at Korean barbecue, whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions, and chopped green peppers are often grilled or cooked at the same time. This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce or other leafy vegetable, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang, or other side dishes, and then eaten as a whole.

Bulgogi literally means "fire meat" in Korean (this refers to the cooking technique—over an open flame—rather than the dish's spiciness). The term is also applied to variations such as dak bulgogi (made with chicken) or dweji bulgogi (made with pork), although the seasonings are different.

Korean Marinade for my Bulgogi

3 tablespoons, or 2 chopped garlic cloves
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of pear juice (found in Asian Markets)
1 tablespoon Mirin, Japanese rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 green onions
1 teaspoon white Chinese pepper

Blend well in chopper. This is enough for 1 pound of meat, but then changed it up for using on chicken, or galbi marinade for the Korean BBQ meal I made.

To me this is similar in preparations for marinating flank steak for fajitas, as we all know so many of our dishes cross over in many ways in our different cultures.

Galbi- which we ate for another meal; it is quite different from beef bulgogi because the marinade is not soy sauce-based, but instead consists of gochujang and/or chili powder, garlic, sesame oil, onions, and ground Asian pear. This is also unsuitable for cooking over a grill, and is thus cooked in a pan.

I made spicy mirin soaked onions and broth, and added bean thread noodles for my banchan (side dishes), which is typical to serve side dishes (many) in the Korean meal.When my children were around six and seven we were invited to eat with my Korean friend Sue, and they took us to (my first experience ever) an area around Walnut Hill Lane off I-95 in Dallas, where rows and rows of Koren restaurants sit. They ordered the food, and I had no idea what it all was. Apparently it was the banchan, bowls and bowls of tasty things. My son, the adventuresome eater like me, well he had never ate anything outside of 'normal' American food, he tore into that food, and my friends sat their staring at him laughing, but they were impressed. I knew I had a good eater on my hands!

Information and photo below from Wikipedia under Korean  BBQ, Bulgogi-

Friday, April 9, 2010

Fiddlehead Ferns

Who are interested in these cute little nibbles?
  • The home cooks who are willing to try unique ingredients in their daily cooking
  • Chef's who like to showcase gourmet items on menus during the peak season of April - May
  • Food enthusiasts who do not mind paying for the experience- they cost around $6 and up per pound
There maybe a few downsides to Fiddlehead Ferns-
  • They do not present an attractive presentation when prepared
  • Kids may play with them at the table
  • Are they even considered a vegetable? Yes, many chefs and scientist consider them so
  • Supposedly they taste like asparagus or okra, some say they have their own unique flavor, so it is a risk you just might have to take!
  • They do not soften up quite like regular vegetables, but are worth the effort!
    What exactly are these deep green coiled vegetables? 
      Fiddleheads are actually young fern fronds that have not yet opened up. They must be picked during a two-week window before the fern unfurls. These cute little delicacies are named for their appearance, which resembles the scroll at the head or top of a fiddle. The Ostrich fern is the species that produces these edible shoots; which have a unique texture. They are covered in a papery brown scale while growing about two inches from the ground.
        • Fiddleheads can be consumed raw or cooked, but you have to keep them refrigerated until you are ready to use them; it is recommended to use within two days after purchase. Try steaming them for ten minutes until they become soft, as others say giving them a twenty minute hot soak, and then cooking them once again to remove any toxins. 
         (My husband and I have personally eaten them raw, and only rinsed them under running water and then sauteed them in butter and oil as in my 'Kimchi Butter Post')

        I am often asked this question- Where can I find Fiddlehead ferns? 

        They are readily available for about two weeks the beginning of April to May, depending on the cool temperatures. One source for purchasing them on the north east coast is Whole Foods. They are a world wide spring delicacy. Appearing on menus and in markets, and disappear quickly off shelves.Oregon is also a source, as well as a website- Norcliff Farms
          Introduce this fun and interesting gourmet green to children at an early age to kick up their food enthusiast taste buds by cooking them in a pasta or green salad!  

          Warning- not all ferns are edible, only the Ostrich Fern, and only professionals know what to look for when foraging for Fiddle Head Ferns. So unless you are experienced, only purchase them from a reputable market.

          I also found out a fellow blog many of us follow goes out to forage these beauties and will be sharing her experience with us soon!

          Tuesday, April 6, 2010

          Saute Kimchi Butter Fiddle Head Ferns & Shrimp

          I wanted to understand how Chef David Chang created some of his wonderful specialties like Kimchi Butter, so I decided to look deeper into the tasty treat purchased. As well as the wonderful kimchi consommé (refers to usually a clear broth, but I am assuming it refers to a lighter version of kimchi) topping on our Oyster appetizer recently at Momofuku in New York City last weekend to see if I could duplicate it at home.

          The kimchi butter was purchased at Milkbar behind Momofuku: Noodle House (standing room only).

          To understand a fusion like his recipes you have to understand the core of both ingredients- Kimchi and Butter.

          Deconstruction of 'Kimchi Butter' from Momofuku-

          Kimchi is a Korean pickled vegetable dish which is usually made by fermenting cabbage. Any kind of cabbage like bok choi or Chinese cabbage can be used although traditionally kimchi is made with napa cabbage.

          The recipe for kimchi is a very versatile dish and it can be incorporated in soups, salads and stews. Although it can be purchase at any local Asian market, it can easily be prepared at home. I plan to make kimchi in my quest in learning more about Asian cuisines that I have not tried before.

          2 Napa cabbages
          2 tablespoon fish sauce
          3 cups salt
          2 tablespoon shrimp paste
          6 cloves garlic, minced
          1 ripe apple,pureed
          1 tablespoon ginger, minced
          1/4 cup red chili powder
          1/4 cup spring onions sliced

          The ingredients tell me that the chili powder and fish sauce give the kimchi its rich dark red coloring, which transfers to the butter in a lighter orange coloring.

          If we look at how simple making Butter is, we might even begin making our own, as it taste better than any store bought brand. My grandmother made her own, and I remember how she kept it in a mason jar in the refrigerator.

          First you start with 1 quart pasteurized good tasting organic heavy cream (check the label—you want just cream, no stabilizers, certainly not ultra-pasteurized, nor fillers)

          1. Put the cream in a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer or use a hand held mixer. Put the mixer whisk in the bowl and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap to keep the buttermilk from splashing.

          2. Beat the cream at medium to high speed until splashes of liquid start hitting the plastic and you can see solid pieces of butter.

          3. Set a sieve over a bowl and pour the contents of the bowl into it. Gently knead the butter to release all of its liquid (about 3 minutes). Save the buttermilk for drinking, baking, smoothies, soups, stews, etc. Work salt into the butter if you like. Wrap the butter well in plastic because it loves to absorb orders. You can freeze the butter, or refrigerate it up to a week.

          The blending of the two created a wonderful spread for toast, and was great when I stirred some into a bowl of risotto we had for dinner. I how ever decided to try using it for sauteing fresh fiddle heads which are in season in my area the beginning of April. I also sauteed some shrimp to see if it influenced the flavor.

          After heating my pan to medium and placing a tablespoon full of oil, I added the Fiddlehead ferns, and the shrimp in another pan with tomato and garlic. My first attempt at adding the kimchi butter in the hot pan showed that it quickly, almost too fast, dissolved and spattered as if water were present. This made me realize I could only add it in the final process of removing ferns and shrimp to a bowl and stirring in a tablespoon of kimchi butter.

          The flavor was good. However I do believe if it is house made butter then it is infused with water from the kimchi as a result from a use of their consommé, or the fact most vegetables contain more than half of their make up through water. Ever wonder why your lettuce and cabbage slowly dries out even in the crisper? Forced air still draws out water from vegetables exterior. Fresh butter will also contain small amounts of butter, as processed butter water is removed by machine mixing and removal.

          Mixing in the kimchi before the butter solidifies would result in the kimchi butter blend you find in Momofuku's product. I would only recommend using it as a spread or final butter topping for vegetables. I am still excited about trying to make my own kimchi and kimchi butter, because it was worth waiting in what seems like an always busy line at Momofuku- Milkbar.


          Vegetables Contain Water
          Kimchi Recipe- The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich
          Lynn's Homemade Butter
          Momofuku- Milkbar
          Great step by step for making homemade butter (photo above)

          Sunday, April 4, 2010

          Iron Horse Cuvee & Easter Munchies

          Normally in regards to food and wine pairing- I say throw convention out the window. My philosophy has not changed, but in regards to being given the challenge of pairing a very tasty Wedding and Russian Cuvee produced by a well regarded wine maker, Iron Horse Vineyards in California, well, I decided to keep a few things in check.  

          -Meats: Veal, Pork or Lamb, especially if served with creamy sauces
          -Seafood: goes well with shrimp, lobster, raw oysters, sushi and just about any other seafood.    Raw fish work especially well as appetizers with this beverage
          -Salty: Try pairing a glass of Brut with prosciutto-wrapped appetizers, cocktail sausages, egg-based hors d'oeuvres, fried mushrooms or crab rangoon
                       Cheese: Salty cheeses like Parmesan work well with Champagne or Sparkling
          -Fruit: consider doing dessert appetizers at the end of the meal, as they can be served with most desserts

          Kim Jacobs, I enjoyed this taste test, and pushed it to the max!

          Champagnes and Sparkling wines are often used, and great for breakfast and brunch (Mimosa's), afternoon lunch with the girls (say, a nice Pinot Noir Rose), or any old excuse to open one up works for many who adore them. I do adore them. Easter is another good reason to open a nice bubbly up! With the weather warming up, because the sun has decided to peek out on a regular basis, I found firing up the grill and cooking outside worked with the menu I had in mind. The Iron Horse Cuvee pairings would make it even better.

          Easter Menu:

          Prosciutto and Pastry wrapped Asparagus /w Figtree's Asparagus Pesto
          Fresh Fruit Platter

          Buffalo-Buffalo Sliders /w Asparagus Pesto and mushrooms
          Grilled Asparagus

          The missing element in this night's tasting was a cheese course. Hard salty cheeses such as Spanish Manchego or the Italian classic Parmesan Reggiano compliment the sharpness of the sparkling wine like few others. Soft cheeses such as Camembert or baked Brie pair well due to their creaminess. If you are going to serve a sparkling wine for any occasion, don't pass up the of the best and easiest food available - cheese.

          I went with the creaminess of the Pesto to match the flavor of the buffalo meat. There was an added element of buffalo sauce as part of the slider seasoning, but the subtle heat did not clash with the bubbles as it would have with high tannic wines. Mushrooms were sauteed in the resting juices of the burgers, and then were added as a topping for the sliders.

          The grill asparagus was simply dressed with EVO and a sea salt. Both cuvee's went well with the saltiness and finale fried exterior of the prosciutto and pastry wrapped asparagus cooked outside in a pan on the open flame to save me clean up on the stove inside.

          Figtree's brilliant 'Asparagus Pesto' was one of the killer ingredients in this menu! I try and cook many recipes I see on blogs when I can, but much of the time I tweek them if I have used them. Her recipe screamed to remain as it was, brilliant! I had the opportunity to meet her this past week and will post our get together at a later date.

          Iron Horse Vineyards is located in the Green Valley region of California. The bottles average from $33 to  $38, and are well worth the money. Sipping on the Cuvee's alone, and with the food was a winner in my glass!

          The name Iron Horse came from a train that stopped at Ross Station at the turn of the 20th Century. The logo, the rampant horse on a weather vane, came from an actual weather vane that was unearthed when they were leveling the ground to build the winery.

          In the arena of Sparkling Wines, Iron Horse stands at the top.About Us The wines have been served at the White House for the past five consecutive presidential administrations, beginning with the historic Reagan-Gorbachev Summit Meetings, which lead to the end of the Cold War.

          I purchased these wines on my own, and no money was exchanged for this post! This was written simply for my friends Adrienne and Kim.

          Also  the winner of the My Spice Sage Sea Salt gift box is (hubby pulled name from hat)-

          Friday, April 2, 2010

          Taste Of Kentucky Derby Party- Blog/Tweet & Sweet!

          Another use of my Mineolla Oranges- Fig, Cranberry, Orange, Pistachio, Pecan, and Grand Marnier soaked Fruit Cakes. I sent out out some for care packages, and have heard back from a few how good they were...

          Other 'Sweet' things to come...

          Spread the word- Its official 'Taste of Kentucky Derby Party' is on!

          You may take this post and share it, we will be tweeting with (I also will be sharing a 'How to' post soon for those who want to learn more about using Twitter, and the benefits of Social Media:

          Tampa Florida
          Boston, Mass- Fearless In Beantown
          Indianapolis, IN
          Princeton, NJ- Tre Piani, Tre Bar, Forrestal Village, Route 1 South, 7 PM
          New York, New York
          Little Rock, Arkansas
          (some locations still undetermined) 

          Many thanks go to a really cool friend of mine-

          Official Poster Design Donated by, Brooke S. Rochon, Web Designer/Graphic Artist