Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Summer Vegetable Cavatelli with Fresh Corn “Cream” – Corn Not Cows!

There’s a restaurant near us that features a burrata-filled tortellini, served in a cream sauce fortified with fresh, sweet corn. It’s a wonderful dish, and was the inspiration for this simple, summer vegetable cavatelli.

I was going to use reduced cream, with fresh, pureed corn stirred in at the end, but then I had a thought. What if skipped the dairy altogether, and made the sauce 100% cob-based? I was also out of cream.

So, I blended the fresh corn with some chicken broth, and ended up with what looked like corn milk. At first, I thought I’d made it too thin, but after a few tests reducing some in a pan, I realized it was thickening up beautifully.

While I was very happy with this, in hindsight, I’d do a few things differently next time. I went with pancetta, but I think the smokiness of bacon would have made this even more delicious. I also think you should probably add the corn cream to the vegetables, and bring it to a simmer before the pasta is added.

Of course, this recipe will work with whatever fresh seasonal vegetables you happen to find at the market, as long as its something that tastes good with sweet corn. In related news, everything tastes good with sweet corn. I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:

For the corn “cream” (will make more than needed for the recipe)
2 ears fresh white corn, or other sweet corn
2 cups chicken broth or water

For the pasta:
2 cups cavatelli
1 tbsp olive oil
4 ounces diced bacon or pancetta (sausage would also work nicely)
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
1 1/2 cup diced zucchini
pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 to 2 cups corn “cream,” or as needed
1 cup halved sweet cheery tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tbsp finely sliced basil leaves
grated Parmigiano Reggiano
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Fresh Fig and Goat Cheese…Tart?

There are worse problems in the kitchen than making something that tastes amazing, but is very difficult to name. Like, for example, something that’s easy to name, but tastes terrible. Luckily, this fresh fig and goat cheese “tart” was the former.

I wanted to make some sort of crostata, or galette-type, free-form tart, which I’ve done successfully in the past (and have the video to prove it), but instead of using standard pie crust dough, I decided to try something a little more rustic, and savory, using spelt flour and olive oil.

I knew this would pair beautifully with the sweet fruit, and tangy cheese, but what I didn’t know, was that it would end up being way too crumbly, and pretty much useless as a tart crust. So, I crumbled it into the bottom of a shallow ramekin, and the rest is history.

As predicted, the combination of flavors really worked extraordinarily well, and the somewhat gritty texture of the “crust,” added to the interest. But, what the heck is this? I don’t think it’s a tart. An upside-down crumble? Sandy tart? I give up, but if you have some time to kill, I’d love to know what you would call this delicious accident. Semantics aside, I hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


For  the crust (makes enough for about 4 small tarts):
1 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 or 4 tbsp water, or enough to form a crumbly dough

For one “tart:”
about 1/3 cup “crust” mixture
2 ounces creamy fresh goat cheese
1 black mission fig, sliced
tiny pinch of salt
very tiny pinch of cayenne
1 tbsp white sugar
spring of fresh lemon thyme
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Grilled Beef Flank Steak “Pastrami” – Backyard Deli

I’ll do a proper pastrami one of these days. Maybe right after I get a smoker. But in the meantime, this pastrami-spiced beef flank steak should do nicely. As with all "cheater" recipes, managing your expectations is key.

You can’t get the texture and color of a real “pastrami” without the curing step, where the meat is soaked in a brine, before being spiced/smoked, but you can get pretty close to the flavor, using the spice rub seen herein.

We’ve used a similar technique to turn plain corned beef into “pastrami,” as well as create a duck Reuben; one of my favorite videos of all time. By the way, the ingredient amounts below have been adjusted slightly, as my spice rub was a tad bit overpowering.

I’ve backed down the black pepper and mustard, but as with all spice amounts, that’s really up to you. If you simply put salt and pepper on a flank steak, and grill it properly, you’ll have something delicious to eat, so keep that in mind as you rub your meat. 

I ate mine fresh, but if you let it cool, slice it thin, and warm it up in a pan with a little splash of water, and a tiny pinch of sugar, you’ll have something even more pastrami-like. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!

SPECIAL NOTE: I let my meat warm to room temp before grilling, so the inside reaches my desired temp a little quicker, and before the outside spice rub gets too black. Conversely, when grilling a steak, and there's nothing to burn on the surface, I generally like the meat cold, so the outside has plenty of time to sear, before the meat inside is done. 


Ingredients for 4 large portions:
1 trimmed beef flank steak (usually 1.5 to 1.75 pounds)
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dry mustard
- For best results, cook to a medium. I pulled at about 135 F. internal temp, which will rise to about 140 F. as it rests.
-Serve with slightly sweetened mustard and rye bread
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Homemade Dill Pickles – Naturally Fermented, Whatever That Means

This is going to be an easy post, in that I know virtually nothing about fermenting pickles. The only thing I know for sure is how to make them, and for me, that’s enough. If you make a simple salt brine, add some spices, and submerge Kirby cucumbers in it for about a week, you get some fairly delicious pickles.

Maybe it’s dumb luck, or just overwhelmingly good karma, but fortunately I’ve not experienced any of the problems I’ve seen others lament; such as mushy texture, scary molds, or exploding jars. Apparently, cucumbers are one of the more finicky things to pickle, but that hasn’t been my experience.

Like I said in the video, I’ve only made these a handful of times, so maybe my time is coming, but I’m pretty sure if you measure your salt right, and store the fermenting pickles at an appropriate temperature, you should get something close to what you see here.

Having said that, I will refer any and all of your questions having to do with variations, troubleshooting, probiotics, and/or best practices, to the Internet. The purpose of this video is to simply show the process, and how ridiculously easy it is. If this seems like something you want to try, and it should, I recommend doing lots of research before starting, so at least you’ll have someone else to blame if things go horribly wrong.

One thing I can tell you for sure is that you have to use pure salt for this. Table salt can contain additives like iodine, which inhibits the bacterial growth necessary for this to work. I’m also giving you weight measurements for the salt, since the size of the salt crystal can really effect measuring by volume.

Other than getting your brine right, just be sure to get very fresh, very firm pickling cucumbers to make this with. If your cucumbers start off soft and mushy, your pickles will be terrible, and not have that loud crunch associated with the finest examples. I really do hope you give this a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
2 pounds very fresh Kirby cucumbers, washed thoroughly
Handful of fresh, flowering dillweed
For the brine:
8 cups cold fresh water
8 tablespoons Kosher salt (By weight, you wants exactly 80 grams. The brand of kosher salt I use weighs about 10 gram per tablespoon, but yours may not, so it’s best to use a scale if possible.)
4 cloves peeled garlic
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed
2 teaspoon black peppercorn
3 or 4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves

- Ferment at room temperature (I hear that between 70-75 F. is ideal) for about a week. Check every day as these can ferment fast. They are done when you like the taste. If you go too far, they start to get soft, and the inside gets hollow. Keep the brine level topped off.
- This makes extra brine for topping off.

Pickling Spice Note: I tend not to like a lot of spices in my pickles, so I believe the amounts listed here are fairly puny compared to most recipes. Feel free to find one of the many pickling spices recipes online, and use that instead.
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Spicy Caramel Chicken and a History Lesson

I’ve wanted to film an updated version of this caramel chicken for many years. It was one of the first videos I ever posted, and its unexpected popularity made me realize that there were actually people (non-relatives) watching these videos.

The original vision for Food Wishes was an online cooking school, where I’d charge tuition for a series of courses that would mimic the culinary school I’d just left. I started filming a few recipes each week, knowing full well that only a handful of people would see them, but I had to learn my new craft.

Caramel Chicken, Circa 2007
As the library grew, so did the audience, and I realized that instead of charging for the content, I could give it away for free, and maybe survive on the ad revenue that YouTube was just starting to offer. Above and beyond that, I was getting emails and comments, telling me that what I was doing was making them happy.

This wasn’t something I’d anticipated, and while at the time I would have preferred money, it was great to hear, and inspired me to push on. The rest, as they say, is history, and every time I got an email asking for an updated version of this recipe, I would fondly remember how all this came to be.

So, whether you were here from the very beginning, or you’re brand new, and will be trying caramel chicken for the very first time, I really hope you give this fast, easy, delicious, and historically significant recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Makes 4 large portions:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in about 1 inch chunks
1/2 cup sliced, seeded jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup sliced, seeded mild red chilies, or bell peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 cups cooked white rice

For the sauce mixture:
2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves finely minced garlic
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
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Grilled Pattypan Squash with Hot Chorizo Vinaigrette – Almost Stuffed

Michele does a fantastic, sausage-stuffed pattypan squash, which was actually how these were supposed to be prepared, but someone, and we won’t name names, didn’t pay attention to buying ones of a uniform size, which is kind of a big deal if you want them to bake evenly. Okay, it was me.

In an attempt to redeem myself, I decided to grill them instead – a cooking method where any size will work – and top them with a hot chorizo vinaigrette. It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while, and it really turned out to be a wonderful combination.

The ingredients below are just a rough guide, and you’ll have to figure out your own amounts, depending on how much squash you grill, but I do recommend a 1-to-1 ratio of sherry vinegar to olive oil/rendered chorizo fat.

I used a veal chorizo, which was very lean, so I had to add a good amount of olive oil. If you use pork chorizo, you’ll have a lot of rendered fat, so you may want to drain off most of it, keeping a few tablespoons, before adding your oil and vinegar.

Speaking of oil, don’t put any on your squash before you toss it on the grill. I used to do this myself, because it seemed logical, but it’s a bad idea. The dripping oil causes flare-ups that can make your veggies taste like gasoline, which is not good eats. Other than that, not much can go wrong with this simple summer dish. I hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions
8 pattypan squash
kosher salt to taste

6-8 ounces fresh, raw chorizo sausage 
(crumbled fine, and browned well in olive oil)
*you want to leave about 2 tablespoons rendered chorizo fat in the pan
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar (or, use any vinegar you like)
splash of water to maintain moisture level if needed
1 tablespoon freshly sliced mint leaves
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Peach Financiers – Because French Bankers Hate Dirty Money

There are many different techniques used for making financiers, but as usual, I’ve chosen the easiest one. I would have been happy to try those other more complicated versions, but fortunately, I enjoyed this one so much, there’s no need.

I mention in the video that these are called “financiers” because they’re rich, and look like gold bars (if you use the traditional rectangular molds). Well, apparently that’s not quite right.

Word on the “rue” is that there was a bakery next to the Paris stock exchange that made these small almond cakes so bankers could enjoy them on the way to work, without getting their fingers dirty. I assume this is accurate, since I read it in the YouTube comments.

Anyway, not only is this an easy recipe, but it works beautifully with pretty much any summer fruit. Berries are popular, as are other stone fruits. Just don’t use too much. It’s merely a garnish, and adding too much could effect the texture and cooking time. I hope you give these delicious peach financiers a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 12 small cakes:
3 egg whites
1/2 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
3 tablespoons flour
3 oz unsalted butter (6 tablespoons), toasted to a golden-brown
12 small sliced of peach
- I used mini-muffin pans, so you'll have to adjust your time if you used regular muffin tins, or other molds.
- Bake for 5 minutes at 400 F., then top with fruit, and continue baking until browned, about 10-12 minutes.
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