Headcheese and Beer

September 27, 2010

After a quick taste, the verdict is good! The vodka has begun to mellow out, and the delicate sweetness of the tomato and the bite of the peppercorns has started to infuse. It should be perfect in 8 days…

Why so precise a day count? Well I will be in Germany until next Monday…and what better way to welcome myself home then to my tomato and black peppercorn vodka! So no posting this week but there is a poll. Because unless you’ve been avoiding the food markets, you’ve seen the abundance of pumpkins and squashes starting to make it on the scene. Pumpkin is one of my favorite things to cook with and with that in mind, what the hell do you want me to do with it…

And don’t worry, there will be plenty of pictures of all the interesting food I promised to find here in Berlin…any travelers have any suggestions?


What did you put in that Vodka?

September 24, 2010

Tomato and Peppercorn Vodka

Two summers ago, Em’s sister Sarah and I thought we struck “idea gold”. In the middle of a late night bloody mary frenzy, with a morning road trip to Em’s horse show looming, we took action. With stores closed for the night, and a limited number of the necessary ingredients (i.e. no tomato juice), we were determined to make our very own. Well let’s just say, our “bloody mary mix” was more like tomato soup, and a bad one at that. A classic case of recipe fail, but at least we can chalk it up to the red wine…

So word of warning: I made my “infused vodka” poll winning decision last night in a similar mental state. This time the culprit; a few fantastic cocktails at Back Forty.

But I’ve got reserved optimism about this one. Infusing vodka with ingredients is pretty simple. The quantity and time are the two crucial factors. So the only way to know when this tomato and black peppercorn infused vodka is ready? Keep tasting…so stay tuned!

College Cuisine

September 23, 2010

Steak and Eggs

Choosing your college has become an interesting task these days. Rather than boasting professor to student ratios, or even the shear educational quality, Universities must compete over dorm size and food quality. Not like I’m some expert but having taken my little bro on a few campus tours myself, and having gone to college not to long ago (I think I can still say this), it’s all about the amenities. But even with the best campus cafeterias, offering high quality, flavorful food, there will always be the problem of boredom. Weekly menus become repetitive and sometimes you just need a break.

Well luckily for my brother, his break comes in the form of a 15 minute walk up to my apt for some home cooked food! So when he and his roommate came by I had thrown out the “any cravings?” question in advance and I guess I wasn’t surprised by the answer. Red meat! Because even the nicest colleges aren’t offering filet…

But as you know I’m not big into serving a big hunk of meat and calling it a day. So steak and eggs sounded like the perfect upgrade. With a half-dozen farm fresh eggs (I know they are more expensive but so worth it!) I whipped up this shitake mushroom and zucchini frittata studded with fresh ricotta. And I literally mean “whipped” because as I was preparing the frittata something hit me. By separating two of the egg whites and whipping them before adding them to the mix, the finished product became light and airy unlike any of the baked egg dishes I’ve made in the past. (Think souffle) And with this medium rare hangar steak, this meal was really delicious!

Zucchini Bread Pudding

But no college meal is complete without dessert. I know this because…well, let’s just say the soft serve machine got plenty of use at Skidmore. And since I’ve been making so much zucchini bread, I was getting really sick of the stuff. But a zucchini bread pudding is something I could never get bored of! With a custard mix and dried currants these individually baked desserts really hit the spot. Plus, with the brilliant addition of a piece of dark chocolate (Thanks Em) we pretty much demolished them. 

I can only assume that the two Joe’s will be back for more…

Southern Comfort

September 21, 2010

Cornmeal Crusted Flounder with Creamed Greens

Last night I had a serious hankering for some southern comfort. And no, I don’t mean the jet fuel that is made palatable by a squeeze of lime. I’m talking down home, rich and delicious food that exemplifies a simple respect for ingredients.

So with another bunch of dark greens from the CSA in the fridge, it wasn’t too long before my craving led me in a fairly obvious direction. Creamed spinach is one of my favorite side dishes but to be honest, sometimes the easily wilted spinach just doesn’t stand up to the heavy sauce it sits in. Which is why using swiss chard, kale, or any other darky leafy green makes for a much better outcome. And these creamed greens were no exception. With a few sliced chilis and some local dairy heavy cream, this side dish was good enough to eat on its own.

But comfort food needs some crunch. So with the creamed greens acting as a perfect resting place, this cornmeal crusted flounder was both light and flaky while adding that perfect texture balance. With a quick mushroom and tomato sauce and a few more sliced chilis, this meal sufficiently met and surpassed my need for the warm and comforting flavors of southern comfort!

Poll Winner: The Sunday Trinity

September 20, 2010

Zucchini, Corn, and Red Chile Pizza

I wasn’t surprised when pizza won last week’s “football grub” poll. Because if watching football on Sundays is made better by a few good beers, and nothing goes better with beer than pizza, than this trinity is a match made in sports heaven. But as much as I love making pizza at home, I like to leave the classics to the pros. So I decided to make a trip to the greenmarket and let the produce decide the toppings…

I was thrilled to see what was probably one of the last few bundles of NY sweet corn. Like most summer crops, the quality of corn seems to fall off the proverbial cliff around this time of year but these ears were still packed with sweet and juicy kernels. With a bunch of basil, a red chile, and a few red onions in hand I had exactly what I needed for this amazing pizza.

A simple basil pesto acted as the perfect sauce which supported the sautéed corn and CSA zucchini. With some fresh local Mozzarella and a few slices of red onion and chile, the flavors absolutely exemplified the summer season. And the crust, which I had made earlier in the day with both whole wheat and all-purpose flour, crisped up extremely well, even in the standard oven.

I also made a sausage pie using my tomato and sunchoke soup from last week. And although this sounds a bit odd, a sauce is really just a reduced soup. So with a bit more simmering, and a healthy dose of sausage, the second pie was just as good as the first!

Tan and Knobby

September 17, 2010

Tomato and Sunchoke Soup

Tan and knobby. Was this the largest ginger root in the world? Okay, check the sign….what the hell is a Jerusalem artichoke? Oh well, take the 1lb of this stuff and let google deal with the rest.

Yes, this was my inner monologue dealing with the CSA pickup yesterday. Because Jerusalem artichokes weren’t something I had heard of, and they certainly didn’t look like artichokes. So with a quick search on my iphone (crap, I don’t have one of those)…with a quick search on my computer, my confusion quickly transformed into excitement. Because although I hadn’t heard of Jerusalem artichokes, I had heard of sunchokes!

An increasingly popular ingredient, as seen on many restaurant menus, sunchokes, like many root vegetables, make some pretty amazing purees. But for my first attempt with this ingredient, the abundance of tomatoes (they just keep coming) were calling out for one perfect pairing. This roasted tomato and sunchoke soup was so good! The powerful flavor of the sunchoke, which does indeed taste a lot like the artichokes I’m used to, was really well-balanced with the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. With just a bit of mozzarella cheese and a few fried chickpeas this soup is an absolute keeper. And since this time of year screams “soup”, I couldn’t be more thrilled. Because soup, is one of the easiest and most interesting meals to work with! Many more to come…

As for our weekly poll, it looks like it’s coming down to pizza or chicken wings, so make sure to get your vote in before Sunday! But for next week, it’s time to get back to drinking! You pick the alcohol, and I’ll make the cocktail. It will be seasonal and delicious so choose wisely, you are going to want this recipe!

LSFE: More Powerful than “Jewish Penicillin”

September 16, 2010

Homemade Miso Soup: "Winter Penicillin"

Growing up, no matter what your religion, you surely ate some “Jewish Penicillin”. And throughout the years, with all the different batches, the effects always seemed sure-fire in their impact….at least for me. Of course, “Jewish Penicillin”, or chicken soup, provides real nourishment when made from scratch. From the protein to the vegetables, this liquid meal was sure to help provide the energy needed to ward off illnesses. But there is something more to it. There’s got to be!

So with the pain in the ass “weather changing cold and flu” season kicking into full gear, it’s time to be pro-active. Because there is nothing worse than missing out on some of the amazing fall nights, when the sun still exists after work, because your head is murky, heavy, and full of crap…

So since Em and I have both been feeling the beginning stages of cold’s coming on, I was going to do my best to reinforce our immune systems using one of the most powerful meds out there: Soup! My homemade miso was packed with immune system boosters and comforting ingredients including aduki beans, dandelion greens, shitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and of course miso. And this mix goes well beyond the warming effects of soup. Look out “jewish penicillin”, you may have just been replaced!

Miso –  This fermented soy bean product is an extremely potent source of vitamin B12 along with one of the most crucial minerals, zinc, for immune function. Along the same lines, our soy intake has gone through the rough as the health claims surrounding the beans have received a ton of press. But the real health benefits come form the fermentation process, so miso is a perfect addition!

Dandelion Greens – You would have had to be living under a rock to not have heard that dark greens are one of the best foods for you. Packed with antioxidants, greens like spinach, kale, and swiss chard have been touted as diet must-haves. And dandelion greens may pack even more. Despite their bitter taste, I love their addition as a flavor balancer and for the  natural benefits in digestion!

Shitake Mushrooms – Shitakes are one of those less talked about health foods, but they are absolutely packed with the good stuff. A great source of one of the most powerful antioxidants and a healthy dosing of iron make these shrooms great for you. But the presence of lentinan, a polysaccharide, is where the health legend really gets its power. Shown to seriously boost the immune system, lentinan is reason enough to keep shitakes in your weekly routine. The added bonus: they taste amazing, and there is a ton of locally cultivated mushrooms available!

Ginger – The spicy and fruity flavors of ginger make it one of my favorite ingredients. But ginger has forever been used to ease stomach pain and more and more recently as an anti-inflammatory agent. Simply put…eat some more ginger!

Garlic – Great for warding off vampires, and illnesses: Enough said!

Aduki beans – The presence of these beans goes well beyond their abundance of protein and vitamins. Fiber is a crucial piece to our diet, not because cereal companies say so, but because fiber is key to absorption. Fiber slows down our systems giving ample time for all those great vitamins and nutrients to be absorbed.

So as more and more people show up to work with the sniffles, and you start to feel some scratchiness in your throat, don’t forget to take advantage of these powerful ingredients and get to soup making!

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