Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not Your Average Coffee Cake Recipe

I've received so many food wishes for coffee cake, which unfortunately I've not been able to grant yet. And yes, I do feel crumby about it. So, I was thrilled to see that my buddy and muse with different views, Average Betty, had posted a great looking video of a recipe she lifted from her mother-in-law.

I don't know Sara's mother-in-law, so I'll just go by stereotypes and assume she's a bitter psychopath who would break both her legs if she ever finds out her cherished heirloom recipe has been desecrated on a food blog. Thanks Sara!

Please read Average Betty's original post here (complete with a lovely photo step-by-step), and get the full recipe procedure and ingredients. Enjoy!

Photo (c) Average Betty

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fast, Hot Tuna: Tonnino "Tuna Ventresca" Stuffed Shells

Today's post was supposed to be the Seared Scallops with Orange Supremes and Jalapeno Vinaigrette recipe I teased a few days ago, but then I realized the deadline for a tuna recipe contest I had entered was just days away!

This "Tuna Ventresca" stuffed shells recipe is my entry in the Tonnino Tuna Chef Challenge. As you'll hear in the video, "Tuna Ventresca" is the crème de la crème of the canned tuna world. You can check the Tonnino website for more details on why this wild-caught, hand-picked, Yellowfin tuna belly is so yummy, but I'll just say it made for one incredible casserole!

What I was trying to do here was gourmet-up the good old tuna noodle casserole. While it may seem counterintuitive to "cook" such an expensive, premium quality tuna, I'm so glad I did.

The flavor of this particular type of tuna is outstanding, and while I do usually enjoy it cold, as-is, I have no problem using it like as well. A regular chuck burger is great, but sometimes we just have to grind up a dry-aged rib eye steak.

A few technical notes about the video… They gave us a 2-minute time limit, which is why the presentation is way too fast. I will be posting a longer, "director's cut" soon.

Also, the odd little intro and outro screens were for my peeps on YouTube, so they would know what was up. I hope you enjoy the video, and yes, this would work with any tuna, but if you can try it with the "Tuna Ventresca," I think you'll really enjoy it.

To vote, follow this link to the official recipe page, and just click on the "Like" button. Thanks!!

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups cold milk
pinch cayenne
pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese

20 cooked jumbo pasta shells

For the filling:
1 tablespoon reserved olive oil from tuna jar
1/2 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup green peas
*1 jar Tonnino Ventresca Tuna in Olive Oil, drained
2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup ricotta cheese
pinch of cayenne
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

*By the way, in the spirit of full disclosure, a while back I did receive a couple complimentary samples of Tonnino tuna to try out – just in case that kind of thing matters to anyone.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Meaty Recap of Primal Napa

Michele and I had a great time at Primal Napa on Saturday, and here is a little recap with are some of our favorite photos from the day. For a little background info about this event, you can check out the post I did last week.

There was literally meat everywhere. If someone wasn't cutting up meat, they were cooking it. If they weren't cooking it, they were eating it. And so went this hot, smoky, magnificently meaty day.

addition to live butchering demos, a dozen or more charcoal fires burned behind the service tables. Blessed with a press pass, and very little common sense, I made my way carefully through the gauntlet of fire pits to snap a few shots.

One of the highlights was the VIP area, which sported long tables glistening with sliced meats and crispy bacon. I sampled four honorees in the Bacon Hall of Fame, all absolutely delicious in their own way.

Besides the impressive piles of cured beef, lamb, and pork, the end of the buffet featured grilled oysters, as close as we would get to a vegetable that day – unless you count bread, and people in meat comas do not count bread.

The event's creator, Brady Lowe, circulated through the crowd, discussing the day's noble themes and making sure everyone was being fed more than talking points.

While what he had to say was certainly compelling enough to garner most people's attention, Brady hedged his bets by carrying around a pan of beautifully grilled Pranther Ranch organic strip loin. Some of the tastiest, juiciest beef I've had all year.

Of course, no one can survive on sustainably raised, humanely slaughtered, and artisanally butchered meat alone – I had a couple beers from San Francisco's Magnolia Brewery. My favorite was called "Pork Lord," which is actually brewed with Hog Island Oysters and bacon from Fatted Calf.

I wanted to hate it, since I've really been campaigning for people to stop just randomly adding bacon to stuff, but this was
excellent. Balanced, delicious, and refreshing. I just added one more reason to my list of why I love living in San Francisco.

All in all, I thought it was a very enjoyable event, which seemed to be the general consensus among the other guests I spoke to. I think most everyone was cognizant of the event's mission, but this was first and foremost a foodie gathering.

People seemed fairly content to simply enjoy all the food and drink, but hey, if this was also going to help improve our meat-based food systems, then even better. Primal events will be held in other locations, so if you are interested in getting more info, you can check out the official website here.

If you want to see more meaty images from the event, my wife and talented food reporter in her own right, has posted a Flickr album for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Penne Pasta with Spicy Sausage Ragu – If You're Not Cheating, You're Not Trying

When it comes to this penne pasta with spicy sausage ragu recipe, we aren't just cheating a little, were cheating all over the place. Thanks to two simple shortcuts, this recipe is nothing more than a basic "brown and simmer." Really, that's it – brown and simmer. Oh, you do have to boil some penne pasta, but I think you can find a way to work that into your busy schedule.

First of all, we're using ready-made marina sauce. Ideally, this is from a batch of homemade you whipped up after watching this video, but if not, I used a jar of Barill
a, and you are free to do the same, guilt-free. Using a prepared sauce excuses you from the kind of mincing and dicing that can often turn a meal like this into a call to the local pizzeria.
The second, and most ingenious cheat is using spicy Italian sausage instead of plain old ground meat. Any decent brand should be packed with an array of spices, herbs, and garlic that traditionally accompanies the pork into the casing. Think about it; if you like the flavor of the Italian sausage you usually buy, then I'm thinking you'd like the flavor of this ragu.
I usually start this in a dry, cold saucepan, and cook over medium heat until it's ready for the wet ingredients. If your sausage seems particularly lean, you can toss in a glug of olive oil to get things going. Conversely, if there seems to be lots of grease in the pan, simply drain some off before continuing the sauce.

Of course, with all the options for different kinds of sauces and types of sausage, it goes without saying that you can embellish this a hundred different ways, and I hope you do. Who says cheaters never win? Enjoy!

Penne Pasta with Spicy Sausage Ragu Ingredients:
1 pound spicy Italian sausage
1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley, optional
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups (1 jar) marinara sauce
1 cup water (rinse the jar)
1/4 cup cream
14.5 oz dry penne pasta
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

View the complete recipe

Friday, September 24, 2010

Feeding My Primal Instincts

We're heading up to the wine country tomorrow to attend an event called Primal Napa, which is an outdoor celebration of wood-fired cooking, butchery arts, heritage breeds, and whole animal utilization.

I'm interested in all those things, but to be honest, it was seeing something on the itinerary called, "The Bacon Hall of Fame Tasting Bar," that really had me rushing to RSVP. Here is a little video montage of last year's event.

I'll be tweeting pics from the event all day in case you're into vicarious meat-related thrills. Rumor has it, there are actual office pools regarding how many vegans unfollow me during the event (I imagine it will be quite a few). Stay tuned!

UPDATE: If you're in the area, there are still some tickets available. You can get more info here.

Photos (c) ProteinU

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sausage-Stuffed Cherry Pepper Poppers – Because the Party with the Best Food Wins

Whether you want to admit it or not, it's getting close to holiday entertaining season, and as far as I'm concerned there's really only one measuring stick by which all holiday parties are judged – the food.

You can have the best DJ, the coolest place settings, even those novelty ice cubes in the shape of shapes, but none of that matters if your food is lame. That's where these sausage-stuffed cherry pepper poppers come in.

The foundation of all great holiday party menus
are the hors d'oeuvres and appetizers. Most people will be drunk by the time the main courses are served, but when the party begins, and senses are yet to be dulled, a bad or boring array of small bites will not go unnoticed.

These super-simple, but memorable cherry pepper poppers will get the party started right. The next day, instead of talking about you trying to moonwalk with a lampshade on your head, or how you spilled a Bloody Mary on the boss's wife, people will be raving about "those little, red, spicy sausage pepper things."

By the way, the hardest thing about this recipe is finding these Peppadew peppers. Except for a few annoying exceptions, you know I like to use easy-to-find ingredients, but these gorgeous peppers, from the Limpopo province of South Africa, have such a wonderfully unique, sweet/spicy/tangy flavor that I wanted to use the real deal.

I was having a hard time finding them myself, but it was my mother-in-law Peggy who came to the rescue (again), and mailed these down to us as part of our anniversary gift. You can get them online for sure, and they are often found at the better gourmet grocery stores, but if you can't find them, most supermarkets do carry some type of jarred cherry peppers. Enjoy!

UPDATE: While I was making this recipe, I couldn't for the life of me remember where I saw this done for the first time. Well, I just talked to my mom Pauline, who informed me these were my Uncle Bill's invention. I should have known! Thanks Uncle Billy!

8 oz Italian sausage
2 jars Peppadew peppers (about 32)
1 tsp olive oil
chopped parsley

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Scenes from the 12th Annual Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner: Made with Love, Served with Pride

While I had a great time touring the Willis farm, and seeing what "real" hog farming looks like up close and personal, the place I most like to observe pork is on a plate sitting somewhere near my face. For this reason, I thoroughly enjoyed the 12th Annual Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner at the Marriott hotel in downtown Des Moines.

It doesn't matter ho
w humanely you raise your product, or how much better for the environment your methods are, if the country's top chefs do not embrace its use, none of that matters. Happily for Niman Ranch, not only do the chefs love, and use their meat, they enthusiastically promote that fact.

Before I get into the menu, and the chefs that created it, I have to say what a pleasure it was enjoying the meal seated with the hog farmers themselves. In addition to the meal, there was a great keynote address from Simran Sethi, as well as farming awards and scholarship announcements.

You didn't have to be a body language expert to read the immense pride these farmers have for what they do, as illustrated in this picture of farmer Brown (I can't remember his first name, but to me he will always be farmer Brown). The other photo shows a bemused Mrs. farmer Brown, watching my buddy Tina, from Carrots 'N' Cake, document the meal.

What follows is a photo rec
ap of this memorable meal:

The seven-course meal started with porchetta rolls, made by Sara Jenkins of Porchetta in New York City. When I get rich and build the Sandwich Hall of Fame, there will be a whole wing dedicated to porchetta. I sure hope chef Jenkins is available to curate. A sincere thanks to my friend, Danielle from Bon Vivant who let me use this photo. I was a little to busy drinking beer at the cocktail reception where this stellar bun was served to get a shot.

By the way, the lighting was very challenging, and the rest of the photos seen herein are of significantly better quality thanks to tips Danielle gave me during dinner. In addition to being an accomplished food blogger, Danielle also has a freelance photography business, and I was fortunate to be seated next to her.

Our first course was called "Reuben with a Twist," from Randy Waidner of Gibsons Steakhouse in Chicago. This featured "corned" (brined) pork tenderloin, gruyere cracker, shaved pickled kohlrabi, and a spicy mustard sauce. I did love this, but like my tablemates, I was befuddled by the moist, dark rye muffin-like object that anchored the plate. What exactly was it? How was it made? Despite this minor mystery, everyone enjoyed the plate.

Next up was "Sweet Corn Soup," from Chef George Formaro from Centro in Des Monies. This was clearly the favorite course at our table, and from what I heard, others as well. It was a masterful blend of sweet, local corn, caramelized onions, pico de gallo, and diced chicharones (fried-out pork skin). It was perfect in every way. Before I die, I must have a more of this amazing soup. It's literally on the "bucket list," since that's the amount and vessel I would like to eat it out of.

Then things got crazy. Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook from Animal in Los Angeles, served "Buffalo-style Pig Tails." Braised pigs tails were fried crisp, then served with celery, radishes, blue cheese dressing, and hot sauce. It was a spicy, sticky, chewy, crunchy, surreal plate of fun. I relished every bite. I love when "snout to tail" is taken literally.

Next up was a vibrant and refreshing "Hand-Shredded Pork Wrap" from Alexander Ong of Betelnut in San Francisco. This butter lettuce wrap featured pulled pork shoulder, Asian pear kimchee, and scallion puree. I really enjoyed this, and it was an absolutely perfect course to place between the unctuous tails and the rich pork shank that would follow.

The main course was "Pork Osso Bucco," from Martin Muprhy of the Canoe Club in Hanover, New Hampshire. What's not to love about slowly braised pork shank garnished with a stew of locally sourced carrots, potatoes, beets, and squash? This was fork-tender-fabulous, and a great way to end the savory portion of the program.

The dessert course was a fantastic "Classic Heirloom Apple Pie." from John Himan of Marczyk Fine Foods in Denver. Looking like something that fell off the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, it featured a crust made with Niman's "leaf lard," filled with sweet/tart Cortland and Mollies Delicious apples. By the way, if it doesn't have lard in it, it's not an American piecrust. I loved that the pie was served with bowls of cheddar cheese shards alongside. If you've never tried that combo, you really should.

Chef John won the weekend's Murphy's Law award. He didn't have enough pie pans, and had to scramble to find more; he was up until 2AM peeling apples (after "enjoying" the Willis farm pig roast); his rolling machine broke, which meant hand-rolling 70 pies; and just for fun, the ovens at the Marriott went down, and he had to have the pies moved and finished at a neighboring restaurant. Other than that, it really went pretty smooth.

Dinner ended with a well-deserved introduction of, and tribute to, these humanely-raised-pork-loving chefs. It was clear to all in attendance, how deeply they love what they do, and how much they appreciate all the hard work and care that goes into producing the pork they so deliciously celebrated.

Thanks to all the chef and cooks who took part, and of course to Niman Ranch for hosting this event!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whole Wheat Tortilla Chorizo Scramble – An Experiment in Hiding High-Fiber

Contrary to popular belief, I really do eat a fairly healthy diet. I know, it doesn't look like it from some of the video recipes I post, but as the old line goes, who are you going to believe, your eyes or me?

I only film a fraction of what I cook, and when I'm not eating candied bacon or inside-out grilled cheese sandwiches, I try to enjoy a diverse array of healthful foods.

One item I include in this selection is high-fiber (really high), whole wheat tortillas. I usually use them for quesadillas, or to wrap up sliced meats for a quick and easy lunch. Sure they taste horrible, but at least the texture is nasty. But, I've seen and read all the evidence for the advantages of getting enough fiber, so I'm always looking for a slightly less disgusting way to choke them down.

This chilaquiles-inspired tortilla chorizo scramble is a great example. I thought that by crisping them up with the pungent chorizo, and enveloping them in scrambled eggs and cheese, they would go from unappetizing to tolerable.

Did I get there? Sort of. This was one of those dishes that I would never describe as delicious, but it wasn't unpleasant either. It was, what it was – a filling, high-fiber, fast and easy breakfast. So, instead of the usual, "enjoy!" I'll simply end with, "enjoy?"

Ingredients for 2 Portions of Whole Wheat Tortilla Chorizo Scramble:
2 high-fiber, whole wheat tortillas, cut in 1/2-inch strips
2 oz of diced, dried chorizo
4 eggs
2 slices pepper jack cheese
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
fresh chives to garnish

View the complete recipe

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hog Heaven and the Taste of Karma-lized Pork

To say the Willis family farm stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that surround it doesn't do it justice. To me this is literally hog heaven vs. hog hell.

I was invited by Niman Ranch to attend
their 12th Annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, which was lovely, but the real highlight of the trip was meeting Paul Willis, and touring his family's hog farm.

Joining a large, diverse group of chefs, purveyors, restaurateurs, and reporters, we headed north by bus about 100 miles to Thornton, Iowa.

Along the way, Ashley, one of Niman Ranch's field inspectors, pointed out the many CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) we were passing. The destruction that these "farms" do to our land, water, and arguably souls, is well documented.

Having read books by people like Michael Pollan, and seen movies like Food Inc., I knew about such places, but there was something eerie and ominous about driving by so many (there are over 8,000 CAFOs in Iowa alone) on the way to the Willis farm. By the way, if you are into horizons, you should really take a bus trip across Iowa's flat plains.

When we got to the farm, we were greeted by Paul Willis, the man most responsible for Niman Ranch's thriving network of over 500 hog farmers. Niman's motto is "Raised with Care," and after hearing Paul talk about his animals, his farm, and his mission, you could tell this is much more than just an advertising slogan to him.

Before we hit the field, someon
e from Niman Ranch showed us some pork raised in a factory farm (on the left) vs. pork raised under their strict guidelines. As the photo here illustrates, pork is not suppose to be "the other white meat." Real pork is marbled with fat, has a beautiful pink/red hue, and firm texture. Conventionally raised pork is pale, squishy, and almost devoid of the naturally flavorful fat. Hey, at least it's really cheap.

Then we got to meet the pigs, but not before being made to put on these clear plastic boots. I'm not sure why we were all made to slip these on, but I assume it's some sort of odd Iowan fashion thing.

I kind of liked the look, but I
was amazed at how much my calves and ankles sweated. The good news is my lower legs have never looked more toned.

After a short walk through native grasses and alfalfa, we were right smack in the middle of Paul's 300 hogs, which could only be described as "happy." I know that may sound Pollyannaish, but that's exactly the vibe I got. Pigs are very intelligent animals, and quite emotive, and to watch them frolicking around, and interacting with this large group of strangers, you got the clear sense they were enjoying every minute of it.

I swear some were actually smiling at me, although in fairness it could have been gas, but still. Some of the larger sows seem to gravitate towards the photographers like attention starved, albeit overweight, Hollywood starlets.

In general, I'd have to say most of these pigs were jus
t big hams. Wow, it took eleven paragraphs before I resorted to a bad pig pun. Not bad.

The stars of the show were clearly the newly born piglets, some small enough to juggle (which I was asked to stop doing for fear of injury). They darted here and th
ere, disappearing in and out of the tall alfalfa. There's cute, and then there's baby pig cute. Here's a very short video I hope captures some of their adorableness.

So why are these hogs so seemingly happy? Niman Ranch points to their strict protocols, which Paul Willis helped develop. The animals must be given plenty of room to graze, be fed only high-quality, vegetarian feed, and never be subjected to antibiotics or growth hormones. As Paul joked, his hogs really only have one bad day.

So your thinking, sure they're probably happier and healthier, but do they taste good? Oh yes, they do. After our tour, we stripped off our plastic booties (which by that time I'd grown strangely fond of) and headed down the road to the Willis' family home for an amazing whole hog roast, complete with a table full of delicious food prepared with obvious love and pride by Paul's wife Phyllis.

The scene was right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The sweet smell of manure, weathered barns, tall grasses bending in the breeze, cats bouncing, dogs begging, cocks crowing, and a hayride.

Here you see me along with Paul, and two fellow bloggers, Danielle from Bon Vivant, and Tina from Carrots 'N' Cake. The setting was so perfect, and the characters so authentic, we three joked that these must be actors brought in by Niman Ranch for the weekend.

After a gorgeous sunset, we headed back to Des Moines, bellies full of pork, hearts full of joy in the knowledge that people like this really do still exist, and that their numbers are growing. My sincerest thanks to the Willis family and Niman Ranch for an unforgettable experience.

The following evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the 12th Annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner, and I will post a photo recap of that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

All photos (c) John Mitzewich, except hayride photo (c) Tina from Carrots 'N' Cake.

Disclosure: All travel, lodging, and food on this trip were provided for by Niman Ranch.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Little Piggy

I'll be heading back to San Francisco on Sunday after a short, but enlightening visit to Iowa. I got to tour the Willis family hog farm on Friday, and attended the Niman Ranch Farmers Appreciation Dinner on Saturday. I have lots of photos and thoughts to share, but just couldn't wait to post this precious shot of San Francisco chef Alexander Ong passing a newly born piglet back to Paul Willis. Stay tuned for a full recap!

Friday, September 17, 2010

No-Knead Pizza Dough (The Remix)

When I posted the no-knead ciabatta bread video last January, I had no idea it would become one of the most watched, most commented-on, and most loved recipes on the blog. So it came as a little bit of a shock when the no-knead pizza dough, which used the same basic technique, did not garner the same outpouring of love.

Many thought it was just too wet, sticky, and hard to work with. Personally, I didn’t have an issue with it, but that's because I have lots of experience, and I know how to use extra flour and a light touch to form the pizzas without any major problems. Unfortunately, for most viewers that was not the case.

So I went back to the drawing board. This new and improved version is less sticky and much easier to work with, yet still produces a very nice pizza crust – flavorful, tender, with just the right amount of chewiness.

Of course the most important feature has not changed – you still don't knead it. There are plenty of websites out there that will explain, in excruciating detail, why exactly this works, but long story short, the tiny amount of yeast grows and ferments very slowly, and it's this long rising time that allows for the gluten strands to form.

Anyway, whether you tried the original no-knead pizza dough recipe and struggled with it, or you are attempting this for the first time, I'm confident you will be very happy with the results. Enjoy!

No-Knead Pizza Dough Ingredients:
2 oz whole wheat flour
16 oz all-purpose flour
*about 4 cups total
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsps olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water, if possible, use bottled water as chlorinated water can retard the yeast growth
cornmeal as needed
Note: Rising times will vary based on the temperature. It should probably go at least 14 hours to develop enough gluten, but could take as long as 24 hours to double in size.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hello from Des Moines!

I'm in Des Moines for Niman Ranch’s 12th Annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner. I will regale you with tales of hog farming and pork eating after my return on Sunday. Here you can see the view from my hotel room of historic and scenic…well, I'm not sure what street that is yet, but for the sake of this post, let's just assume it's historic and scenic.

Stay tuned for more from Iowa, as well as a brand new (sort of) video recipe post tomorrow. Also, if you are wondering if I'm going to try and cook pork in my hotel room, what do you think? ;-)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Savory Gorgonzola Bread Pudding – A Cure for the Steak Side Dish Blues

I'm calling this savory Gorgonzola bread pudding because that's what they called it at the restaurant I stole the idea from. Hey, that's the least I can do.

By the way, that restaurant would be 2223 Market, San Francisco, and when I saw it sitting there next to my grilled rib eye, I knew it was only a matter of time before it made its way on to the blog.

If you’re afraid to call it a savory "bread pudding" because it sounds a little too desserty, then at least do me a favor and call it a dressing, and not a stuffing. You know I'm no fundamentalist, but I've decided that for something to be called a stuffing, it actually needs to be stuffed into something.

No matter the name, this should make for a welcome respite from the usual side dish rotation. Maybe it's because the meat is so expensive, but I find cooks get very conservative when it comes to choosing accompaniments for a steak dinner. No one ever got in trouble serving a baked potato, but sometimes you have to take a chance, and this would be a bold, and I predict, well-received choice.

As far as the recipe goes, it's quite straightforward, and I pretty much cover all the variables in the video. You may wonder where the garlic is, which is a damn good question. Since I was going to serve the steaks with a garlicky sauce, I decided to show a little restraint.

Speaking of restraint, be careful with the Gorgonzola. The only real way to mess this recipe up would be to overdo it on the cheese. Gorgonzola is about as subtle as a frying pan to the forehead. Also, don't pack your ramekins too firmly. The only thing I like better than nooks, are crannies, and you want lots of both here to provide the surface area for a nice crunchy top. Enjoy!

Savory Gorgonzola Bread Pudding Ingredients:
(for four 5-6 oz ramekins)
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 onion, diced
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups cubed bread
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup cream
1 oz (about 2 tablespoons) Gorgonzola, or other blue cheese

View the complete recipe

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Don't Hate the Sun, I Just Hate What it Does to Drying Tomatoes!

The list of things I don't enjoy eating is a very short one, and near the top of that list is sun-dried tomatoes. I love the concept – sweet, vine-ripened plum tomatoes, slowly drying in the hot Italian sun – while we're waiting, we play bocce ball, drink jug wine, and eat lardo. What a scene.

Too bad I hate the taste. To me, and I've had dozens of varieties, sun-dried tomatoes have a really strong, bitter, almost medicine-y flavor that I just can't handle.

When I first started my culinary career in San Francisco, in the early eighties, sun-dried tomatoes were all the rage, and more than once I had to choke them down, smiling, as not to seem unfashionable.

While they look similar, the oven-dried San Marzano tomatoes in this video recipe were truly delicious, and nothing like the ones that have disgusted me for decades. The flavor is much milder, the texture much softer, and you can't ask for an easier technique.

I was going to list everything these would be good on, with, and in, but I think it will be much faster to just list what they would not be great with. That includes chocolate butterscotch pudding and Tofurky (although in fairness, nothing is good with Tofurky). That's it! They are awesome with everything else. Enjoy!

San Marzano tomatoes, or other plum-style tomato variety
olive oil
sea salt
fresh thyme

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three End-of Summer Suggestions

Summer's coming to an end soon, and you're a little melancholy, but what better way to cheer up than by trying a few recipes that really shine this time of year?

You have precious few days of fresh peaches left, and this quick and easy tartlet recipe will give them the send off they deserve. A little Chinese Five Spice is the not-so-secret ingredient, and helps make these so delicious no one will even notice you used pre-made pie dough.

Okay, so you can get onions anytime of the year, but when I think cooler weather ahead, I think of root vegetables. By the way, if you were just thinking, hey, I should post a comment about onions being bulbs, not technically roots, don't. I hate when the facts get in the way of a post's theme. Anyway, this onion soup recipe always gets rave reviews, and is just perfect for a rainy fall day.

There are few tomato varieties as sweet as Sun Gold. These little orange cherry tomatoes are not only super-sweet, they are very plentiful this time of year. I'll admit, they are best eaten raw, but they also make a very nice fresh pasta sauce.