Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wild Garlic Potato Egg Bake

If you are a business traveler then you know all too well what eating out night after night can do to your health, or even waistline. Well my well seasoned traveler hubby likes to get back to a normal eating routine once he hits the house. One of his assignments in a hot hot dessert state involves only a few dining choices, and I am sure he does not eat as healthy as he does in my kitchen.

Keeping it simple the first few days he is back, and remembering a wonderful breakfast at Tomato-On-The-Vines house in Florida- Herbed Baked Eggs by Ina Garten, I decided to play with the idea and make it an early dinner dish.

The night before bake up at least six red bliss or white potatoes, smaller in size, with olive oil and some course Fleur De Sel (sea salt) for flavor and coating, all wrapped up in some foil or a well covered dish. Bake for 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until fork tender. Sure it seems like a long time, but when food is pushed together it takes longer. The skins should still be intact and a bit crisp.

Follow the recipe for the herb'ed baked eggs (I used some of my wild garlic in the freezer in place of herbs), but place the potato (cut open) into a larger ramekin, and add the other ingredients the recipes calls for- bake for the same amount of time. Oh, and make sure you add the water to the pan with the ramekins, or it might burn the cream and eggs. Remember you want the egg mixture to jiggle, do not over cook; it keeps cooking after you remove it and it sits warm in the water bath.

I then spoon on some Shallot Confit (yep, one use of this recipe), and serve; it was a wonderful and a light meal for us both!

A shout out to 'Food Whore' and 'Figtree Appetizer', who has gone walking with me...what a great time we have talking which helps make the time fly! Hope your wearing your WAMPP Tee around this hot summer!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Shallot Confit

Coming up with new ideas for salads and meals when eating vegetarian during the week can be daunting for me. Sometimes I get stuck on eating salsa or pico de gallo on everything. I also over dose on pickling so many veggies the minute the hot weather hits town! Oh and do not forget my love of hot sauce- however, eating some caramelized onions with fajitas recently gave me an idea.

I have had them before on dishes in the restaurant- Shallot Confit. We had some Lustau Dry Sherry left sitting around, well when hubby is not getting into it- reminds me of the Fawlty Towers episode when the cook drinks all the sherry then passes out on the kitchen floor. Basil, the owner runs back and forth to another restaurant for food to feed the guest...

Well I decided to make some Shallot Confit to liven up salads, roasted potato tapas, and a few other dishes coming up. There are a few basic recipes on the internet and in my Spain recipe book, but you will just caramelize them like you would onions, but at the end add the sherry and oil. Keep them covered in the oil for up to a month in the fridge. Use the oil to season other dishes like a soup!

Shallot Confit with Sherry

3 pounds peeled and finely chopped shallots
sea salt
3 tablespoons sherry, use real sherry and not store bought cooking sherry, not the same flavor
Olive oil- since I do not measure and just eye things, maybe about 1 or more cups to cover shallots, and once placed in jar you will want it covered- (no need to can if you consume and use in cooking over next three or four weeks, just refrigerate)

In a medium saucepan sweat the shallots to bring out sugars, then cook the shallots in the sherry for a few minutes (alcohol will evaporate, but sherry flavor remains); add olive oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 15 to 20 minutes (until golden brown color)

Let mixture cool, and if more olive oil is needed add to top it off in jars.

Next post will show a few uses of the shallot confit-

Here is something I found on the internet addressing 'Kitchen/Poetic License' regarding usage of food terms that may or may not be correct, that seems a bit 'bitter', since the culinary world view has grown over the years, as chefs and cooks do as they please regarding recipes- My view is that if you see this on the internet or on a menu, then you have an idea of what they have done to an ingredient, as we all know...Shallots do not have their own 'fat', and if anyone really thinks tomatoes have their own fat, then something is wrong world...confit sounds nicer than Oiled Shallots, or Shallots in Fat, maybe Fatted Shallots might be nice...who does not love some fat...

What does ‘Confit’ Mean?

"We set the record straight!

First of all, ‘confit’ is pronounced ‘confee’. It is quite possibly the single most abused word in the culinary dictionary. Chefs ‘confit’ everything; tomatoes, aubergines, onions, fruits, coffee percolator, cuddly toy, kitchen sink, you name it and it’s on a menu at a restaurant near you.

Confit is the name given to a meat which has been cooked in its own fat and then covered and preserved in the same fat to prevent it from spoiling. That’s it.

A tomato cannot be cooked and stored in its own fat, it can be cooked and covered with olive oil (which is what they really mean) but to call it ‘confit’ is taking poetic license a little too far"- Miles Collins

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Take A BIG Bite! Cup Cake Challenge

Grrrrrr! My Iron Cup Cake tried to bite me back! (No, it is what I looked like after the judging)

Having been asked to be a judge for the South Jersey Iron Cup Cake Challenge, a charity event that raised $1,000 for the Kelly Award, and a $75,000 annual grant for juvenile arthritis research. I was all too eager to say "YES"! I was up to the challenge, of course being on my new exercise routine and eating schedule, well it was not on the plan...however who would mind if I took 25 bites...just small nibbles right? (well the one above was my favorite, so I took a bigger bite, others were sacrificed to file 13, sorry sweet lovers)

Well after some traffic due to road work on 295 south, I finally arrived, and still had plenty of cup cakes left to catch up on, and lots more. Not 25, but 31 cupcakes sat waiting for me! Oh my, was I up to the challenge? Had I remembered to take my antacids? Hmmm, I gave it a good try. Dinner- Sugar, and hopefully all homemade, and a good percentage of 'unbleached' flour. Naturally- Good.

The crowd was all hyped up on sugar with their knives, forks and spoons pounding the table with cries of "Let them eat cake"!... leading to a dangerous entry into the 'Party Room' of Pop Shop in Collingswood, New Jersey. Judges were waiting for me, and cup cakes were could smell the sugar and gobs of peppermint in the air, or was that french fries calling my it was not as dramatic as that, but hey, I did not test them.

Using a fork I carefully took small bites- maybe two to get a good sense of the flavor, moistness, icing, and use of the theme- Candy.

The crowd was packed into the Pop Shop of Collingswood, New Jersey. An old fashioned 1950's ice cream soda and burger style eatery. Well known for grilled cheese specialties. Matter of fact- Bobby Flay paid The Pop Shop a visit to do a 'Throw Down' for his Food Network show. The menu offers up his own grilled cheese recipe of Applewood Bacon, Brie, on Texas style toast and tomato.

I ordered one to take home and share with hubby; it was pretty good.

I have to say there were some wonderful cup cakes, and very creatively decorated. So well done, we are hosting them at WAMPP in August. The theme- 'Wine & Hearts'.

The winners, like this young lady who won the 'Youth' competition where so excited as their names rang out in the crowd- she ran straight to her mom and began to weep. Get them while their young I say! Unfortunately the cup cakes were coming at me so fast throughout the judging, I barely got photos (below), so I cannot show you what she did, but it was tasty! Hands down all the judges had picked the same six as the best.

Adult Division:

1st Place-Deanna Gordon (Campfire Pb Smores- to the left of the photo above)
2nd Place-Molly Rowland (Molly's Monsters- was my first pick)
3rd Place-Rich Potosky (Reese's Cupcakes- the young man below explains the size!)

Junior Division:

1st Place-Annabelle Jiaconetti (Mini Me Mint Cupcakes)
2nd Place -Gwen Godisil (Gummi Worm Cupcakes)
3rd Place-Kayla West (Cotton Candy Cupcakes)

For more photos, or to enter follow the links- ICCC & Photos

More cakes...stay tuned for more information about the next ICCC taking place at WAMPP!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Food For The Soul- WAMPP

Back in 1999 my daughter, Anelisa began stitching a quilt for her barbie dolls in her last year of school. She then brought it home and was told to finish it with her mother, but I set it aside, as mother's tend to do and did not find it again until it was too late. Anelisa died ten years ago this July 14th, 2000 of congenital heart disease- she sustained five defects, Pulmonary Artresia the main crippler, however- the one that took her life was Cardiomyopathy. The same disease that took the life of my clients four year old daughter, Anjali two years ago.

The quilt for her barbie doll needed to be finished, so I began the final stitches, resulting in what you see above. I owed it to her to live on, and continue on even though my steps would be hard ones. As my life continued my own pattern of stitches, through friendships took shape. A purpose, or as life would have it a torch was passed on to me- to raise money for CHD research, especially Cardiomyopathy. It will never be clear why Anelisa picked a heart for her pattern, but mine is clear.

Two months ago a performer emailed me asking if I could help with Open Mics in the area, saying he was a singer/songwriter coming to visit his family in New Jersey. So, I pointed out a few, as well as my own Cultural Art Expression, we passed along phone numbers, and that was that. Alan Bradford eventually contacted me week before last, and told me he was in town, so we made plans to meet. Turns out he is a very in-demand song writer and spends most his days in the studio with artists. Alan co-wrote songs with such artists as Harry Chapin, and continues to find success in his work.

After talking with him in person on several occasions someone from his entourage let it slip he had a heart condition, as his own father did, who passed away years ago. My own heart sank, then Alan shared he had Cardiomyopathy. Last year he began taking experimental drugs that were developed through research funded by such charities WAMPP will support. If not for these drugs, Alan would not have had a life changing experience over the past year (he shared with me), and also be giving back to our community via his music.We both believe in fate. The two of us stitched a hug friendship by meeting, as I have with you.

As life goes along and we begin to stitch through our own hearts, pulling the thread and needle in and out the fabric of life, healing and meeting others who have experienced death and illness along the way, (as Alan mentioned in his last performance in NJ- he will be in Nashville next) we will and should  'Pass It On' (his newest song for next years album).

I realize the economy is rough right now, but a little added to a little, becomes a lot!

I am asking you to help make WAMPP- Wine Art Music Poetry Project a success. Most all of our equipment and other things have been donated. The T-Shirst Alan and I are wearing with the WAMPP logo were donated by Doc @ What's Cookin With Doc, and his cardiology team. We need signs, a banner, to rent tents and a few other things, but it will have to be covered through donations. Next year the overhead will be zero- all money will go to the charity.

Help me stitch a few more lives together- remember, no one lives forever, but our quality of life is important and research helps people like Alan Bradford spend more quality time with his daughter and other family.

Alan and I hugged before he left the coffee house, and I was all too reminded of what heart patients go through. His skin felt like Anelisa and Anjali's just from the heart pumping so hard. I pray my new friend will return next year to be the feature artist for WAMPP.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Its A Wrap!

Keeping the vegetables on a rotation helps keep us from being bored over here in my house. My exercise routine is going great, and with summers bounty slowly coming in at the farmers markets, eating fresh, local, and organic is at its easiest!

Weekends are our meat, pork, poultry, and fish rotation. I have been going through the cookbooks looking for good variations on vegetable recipes. I admit its a challenge at times. I did however make my Madeira Barbecue sauce again, this time using lamb as the main grill; it marinated for three hours, and with extra portioned out in the fridge- I used a few ounces in a spinach goat cheese wrap, with a side of Mushroom Ragout and corn, we have enjoyed this rotation. The ragout would work perfect in the wrap too...

Baby Zucchini- Mushroom Ragout/ w Madeira

1/2 pound baby zucchini squash, small cut
1/4 pound shitake, medium chop
1/4 pound portabello, medium chop
1/4 pound crimini, medium chop
1/2 red onion, medium chop
3 plum tomatoes, medium chop
4 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs
4 tablespoons EVO
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons Madeira, Medium Dry Blandy's Verdelho (a bargain for $21)

Saute the onion and herbs in oil and butter on medium heat- add squash, and saute for two or three minutes; add mushrooms and saute, then add tomatoes and stew on low heat until you feel it is ready (20 minutes or more).

I have decided to only post once a week during the remainder of the summer, reasons are as follows:

  • I am working out two hours each day, so out of the house early- then on to other appointments
  • WAMPP planning and execution growing near- donations now excepted on site!
  • My personal chef family travels to India, and is doing a motorcycle trip in Europe
  • NJ Woman's Business Association has given me a few new consulting jobs (contract work)
  • I am working part-time for a south NJ winery- pouring, education, WAMPP on property, and other food adventure partnerships with the owner
  • Writing freelance for local publications, and my PIWC wine site has taken some priority with my new connections

When do I have time to do all this- I  manage, and honestly I HATE to sit on my rear end! My road in life has changed in different directions, the economy affected my teaching job, the closing of my cafe a year and a half ago, and its been a challenge to keep my head above water at times. Luckily I have the wonderful love of my husband, son, and friends to help me realize, I love what I do. My father always said "An Akin (my maiden name) might give out at times, but we NEVER give up". I have kept this philosophy my whole life. Blogging has been fun, and I will not stop, I just have to get my priorities back in order. Doors have opened, and I am walking through them. If it is a window, well then I will haul my fat rear end over and through, until the weight comes off!

Lately we have eaten and I have forgotten to take photos.

Saturday, I made Swordfish steaks with a white wine pineapple-mango sauce and escarole salad- we started eating, and I realized the camera was in the car, so we just ate while it was hot off the grill. No pressure, because hubby is the one I love to make happy, and we are eating earlier so we can walk together.

Plus, I was distracted, I have a huge surprise 50th birthday party planned for hubby in a few weeks...

Have a great week everyone!