I’m Back

So I have ignored this for a while and I think I want to come back.  I want to review a few new kitchen gadgets I have squired this fall thanks to Dianne.   The first is the Brevelle Smoker Gun.  This small devise takes a small amount of wood chips and turns it into flavor infused smoke.  We got it to make smoked drinks like ones we had in New York City’s Tanner Smith’s  .  But we have added smoke to many things included hamburgers, salmon and butter.  It is a simple thing but in the end it is also just a lot of fun and makes the house smell like a campfire sometimes.

The next thing I have always wanted to cook using the sous vide technique.  Sous vide means under vacuum and it is a cooking food that are in vacuumed sealed bags in a controlled environment like a circulating water bath at a steady temperature.  The restaurant quality equipment for this style of cooking costs $1000s but Anova makes a wand to put in a container that creates a quality circulatory out of a pot or other container for under $100.  We also got a new vacuum sealer that has been quite fun to use.

So far having had several days off in December we have enjoyed playing with our food.  From a sous vide steak that was later smoked during the final sear.  Salmon fillets that were perfectly cooked (sous vide is somewhat idiot proof) and Shabbat dinner was seared duck breast served medium after 2 hours in the water back.

I like cooking simple food.  But I love to try new ways of exploring both style and flavor in the kitchen.  These new toys will help.  I think I am going to practice with these and then start creating my own recipes and post here.  As 2017 comes to an end I am excited that I will be spending more time playing with my food.  It could keep me from being frustrated dealing with social media and the news.

 

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A Challenge Accepted

So Dianne said to me that she thought I should start playing with food again so took an idea from the food network and told me to make something including 5 ingredients that I don’t normally use or buy.  So we were in Trader Joe’s the other day and she had us pick up items.  A large papaya, goat milk, farro, Morning Star Farms Tofu crumbles, and she said a vegetable from the pantry.   My first thought was to Google goat milk and papaya, that led to dozens of recipes for soap.  I read the first one as soup and well I quickly moved on.  Soup would have been a good idea but the idea of fake ground beef in soup made me uncomfortable.  Shades of the an old Campbell’s soup of my youth.  A papaya sauce with savory and hot spices might have worked but I decided to stuff the hallow papaya and have it be the center of the meal.  So I tried to pull it all together.

I cooked the farro (a dried wheat included as one of the new trendy ancient grains) in the goat milk.  Goat milk has a wonderful tangy flavor and it surprisingly matched the farro so well I would have eaten the cooked farro as is.  I think simply cooked onions, garlic, the tofu with some hawaj (a Yemenite spice blend) in oil and mixed it with the cooked farro.  I then peeled the papaya and hollowed out the seeds and stuffed the mixture in the hallowed out section.  I decided to sprinkle some grated Parmigiano Reggiano  on top and baked.

Well, I was really surprised how well all the flavors came together and more importantly Dianne liked it a lot.  But I was thinking that it was all about the process.  Some days I really want to be creative and most of what I do that is creative is either helping to develop lessons or something else without a real end product.  (I am suffering some serious writers block for stories right now).  But creating a meal from scratch is something that has an end product and can always be modified in the future to make it better.

Even more so I tried things that I wouldn’t normally try.  I want to see how I can use farro more in dishes of all kinds, and I really really liked the goat milk.  I think I want to do this more often and I know that Dianne is up for it.  Suggestions?

 

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Food Finds

So we recently took a trip to Georgia for a friend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.  We are not fast food people but it was dinner time and we weren’t looking to do more than just get some good calories.  We went to Panera Bread, a place I actually like a lot and is about as fast food as I want to get.  We had noticed a new menu item, Broth Bowls, and of the 4 on the menu one seemed intriguing.  A miso-soy bowl with quinoa and boiled egg.  We got it and the rich savory broth with kale, onion, spinach and lentils all played well together.  We loved it but wanted to try it at home.  Panera is a company that gives away a lot of its food’s information, including some recipes.  But alas not for this.  But I did get the list of ingredients and that gave me a good starting place as I tried to make it at home.  So we used dark miso, roasted chili paste, and I played with some other ways to bring flavor and viola, I was able to create our version

One thing we didn’t like much in Panera’s is that they used a hard boiled egg so I poached the egg instead so we got the ooze factor and it was really good.  The lemon was there to add some citrus and cut through some of the heat.  It was really different from the original, which I did like, but we all loved it, including Noah.  I truly enjoyed the challenge of trying to mimic what we had.  I will get it again at Panera when back for lunch, but I may have to try to make this gain at home.  That was from a spot off a real highway, the other new treat was a spot on the information superhighway.

For some reason I ran across this online:  http://fullbellysisters.blogspot.com/2013/02/buffalo-cauliflower-bites-w-yogurt.html

I love buffalo wings and make them kosher, but the flavor is lacking as I can’t dif them in blue cheese dressing.  So when I saw this I had to try it.  Of course this was an attempt to make those flavors healthy.  I just wanted to see if I could do this vegetarian.  It kinds worked.

They didn’t crisp up as much as I would like, the cauliflower got soft, but it was great to eat that flavor with some nice blue cheese dressing.  Again Noah loved them even though they were quite hot.  I will have to try this again, maybe even trying to make the breading a little thicker and maybe even for the Superbowl.  Nah, I want the real thing for that.

It is fun to be able to try new things and make them my own.  You should try too.

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There is Tradition and then Tradition

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So I am not a huge fan of latkes.  I ate them as a child, then called “potato pancakes” or “Kartoffelpuffer” and too often that was a night when we were stretching the food budget for the week.  Not that that was a bad thing, it meant that we had something elaborate the night before.  I grew up with some pretty standard meals with about 10-12 in my mother’s rotation, but every so often something happened outside the box she created.  This was mostly true on holidays because they had their own standards.  Sauerbraten or turkey were normal and then all the fixins including my Dad’s mincemeat pies and my mom’s spetzle (a german pasta-like boiled flour and water concoction).  So when Dianne wanted latkes for Hanukkah we had to have latkes.  But here is the thing, latkes are best with creme fraiche and caviar. Yeah I know that isn’t tradition but it is sorta our tradition.  You see many years ago I did a Hanukkah party and made this as an amuse bouche for the evening and people loved it.  So every year I try to have this at least once during the holiday.  I usually don’t make my own latkes, but Dianne really wanted me to and stood over me as supervisor.  So we made our own and frankly I am glad we did. Though shredding potatoes is not a fun task, there was something about it that made me feel like I was actually cooking.

Food is an incredible touchstone around important events and holidays tend to call out for certain things.  So tonight we had the latkes that Dianne wanted and the twist that I love.  It was special and somewhat traditional.  But what is tradition.  It is the gift that we give to the next generation but it has our own imprint.  In the morning there is no religious school so we can have another tradition we developed.  Soft-boiled eggs, caviar and bisquits with Turkish coffee.  So what is your invented tradition?

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Happy Birthday To Noah

So last night Dianne and I took Noah out for his 18th birthday.  We don’t eat meat out so we wanted to go to a nice place that Noah could order some good fish or sushi and some place that wasn’t an everyday place so we went to Kona Grill.  Well, true to form Noah didn’t stray too far from his normal order and he didn’t want to spend too much money.  But I pushed his comfort zone.  I asked him to try Salmon Roe. 

I love salmon roe and Kona had some wonderful roe to offer.  Salty, fishy, sweet and beautiful in texture.  This big egg caviar is a great entry into eating roe and so I asked Noah to try something new.  He did, and that was a moment I wish I had captured on film but I will remember.  Noah rolled a single egg in his mouth and I told him to break it and taste the actual egg.  He did and the look in his eyes was amazing.  A series of adjectives flowed from of his mouth trying to describe the sensation.  He was amazed at the powerful flavor and happily ate more of the roe (I was thankful that Kona gave a great portion).  This was the first time he had tried it and well from his reaction he was clear he will have a memory of that meal for a long time.  I can imagine him describing it years from now when someone asks him why he likes salmon roe or an caviar.  

Now that was a great food experience but as I said, while Noah has been trying new things lately he has been a safe eater.  So being that it was his birthday he received a complimentary Creme Brulée.   Now this was also new to Noah and my explanation of it didn’t make him excited.  As I am trying to lose weight (down from 231 to 217 in a month) I didn’t want the dessert to go to waste.  So when it came Noah plucked the raspberries off the top and gingerly broke the sugar coat.  Tasting the passion fruit custard with what he called rock candy layer was a delight to watch.  He excitedly told the waitress who asked what he thought “This is freaking awesome”.  She smiled.  He was sated and Dianne and I achieved what we wanted, to give him a memory of his 18th birthday that didn’t involve alcohol like mine did.  But what is more important is that I saw my son more mature than I have seen him in a while.  His interaction with the waitress was very polite and appropriate.  Our conversation was much more adult than usual and while he was uncertain of his new expectations of him moving forward he is maturing into a fine young man.  And I think I might be turning him into a foodie. 

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Smokin’

brisket

So this week Dianne brought home a nice brisket from Trader Joe’s and was hoping I would slow cook it to a sweet tender meal.  So I decided to try something I hadn’t done before.  It is called the snake.  The snake is a way of placing  your charcoal in your kettle grill and in our case our Weber. You make thin wall of unlit coals around half the edge of the kettle.  You add on top the smoking material (I used tea and herbs) and then light a few coals in the chimney and add them to one end.  The theory is that the fire will slowly move through the coals in a circle.  Throughout the process only a few coals burn white hot at a time so the heat is much less intense and steady.  It can burn all day and the indirect heat and smoke moving over the meat brings the flavor and cooks the meat evenly and activates the fat and melts the connective tissue.  Well I was skeptical and it worked.  For 10 hours the coals slowly burned down and burned the herbs and tea into a rich smoke that flavored the beef.  

I served it on a bed of lettuce with a homemade BBQ sauce.  Even Noah liked it who normally doesn’t try stuff that looks so roasted.  He even commented on the smoke ring in the beef.  He grew up not eating meat so I love when he goes all carnivore.  Oh and the bonus was that there was also enough heat left  to roast some marshmallows.  Until recently I have under utilized the grill.  I never really was big on grilling food but I know that Dianne likes grilled food.  But I am loving the whole fire and meat thing and the smokey aroma that clings to me.  So more time will be spent with the grill which I have already used more this year than the last two.  Thinking of turkey soon.  

 

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The week continued

So I grew up in a house with two parents who could cook.  My dad would bake and cook regularly and worked in a kitchen at a local seminary, a career he developed after the Korean war in the last decade of his military career when his injury forced him out of battle and into the mess hall.  My mom learned to cook as many women in her generation from her mom, but adapted her German roots to American flavors.  So it was in this mode that I realized I chose some of the ingredients this week with both in mind.

I grew up on two rivers and fished with my dad a great deal.  I was five when I caught my first fish, a large mullet that weighed as much as I did at the time.  But what my dad loved was bass and pike.  We would catch and bring home to eat.  Dad would set up in the backyard his filleting station.  He had two knives, both he carried in wars when he fought.  One was a hunting type knife with a scalloped blade on one side he used for scaling.  The other was his army issued knife he had modify with a deer foot.  I loved that knife and with it he would guy and fillet the fish.  Be it perch, black bass, bullheads, or the northern pike we could pull out of the St. Lawrence.  He would then normally fry them up for the family.  I always loved it.  I miss it.  But I don’t catch my pike, nor clean it, nor fry it up.  But I did like having it and I while we ate it with a mango salsa and rice (something I can’t ever imagine my dad doing) I thought of him. 

My mom loved some classic German dishes.  On special occasions she would make sauerbraten, that lovely marinated beef dish.  She even had a special bowl for this.  This was truly a special meal event.  But beside it on the table was always a red cabbage dish and this one was a more weekly part of our diet.  She would shred the cabbage, cut up the apples, it would cook it all day until it became a lovely almost creamy mix that made the pot turn bluish and tasted both sweet and sour in the right combination.  Here is the thing, back then I didn’t like it much, but today I truly love it so I made it as a side dish and while I didn’t have the time for the sauerbraten, I made a lamb and barley stew that I was surprised that even Noah loved.  (I don’t know why I got him into eating meat, now I have less of it at dinner).  

The pike and the red cabbage were fun to make.  They did help me remember who gave me the foundation of my cooking.  So as the week comes to an end and we will probably have several burgers and hot dogs this weekend I am already thinking of next week.  Any suggestions?  

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Shakshuka

So we have several friends in Israel and I the pictures are awesome.  So one friend posted breakfast which included Shakshuka, a spicy dish of eggs poached in a tomato sauce.  Dianne thought it would be great to try it so I made sure we had the things we need to make if for her this morning.  I remember eating it once but I wasn’t sure of the flavor being what I want in the morning.  Jalapenos and I are not exactly best friends in general.  But what the hell, I found some good ones yesterday so I tried.  It was actually quite nice and I was able to manage the heat and not lose the flavor.  It is so simple though takes some time.  What I realized is that it was no more complicated than a good western veggie omelet.  Saute onion and peppers that are finely diced until brown.  Add some crushed garlic, cumin and paprika.  Cook a few minutes then add crushed tomatoes and cook it all down a bit.  Then just crack a few eggs on top, cover and cook for a few minutes (leave the yolk runny it is much better).  Top with Feta and parsley and you have a meal.  Eat with bread or pita (if you want to feel more Middle Eastern).  I didn’t have Feta because frankly I didn’t think of it.  I did have one of my favorite cheeses Halloumi  Same kind of flavor but completely different texture and feel.  (If you don’t know this cheese it is a greek springy cheese you can grill, yes grill).  It was divine and frankly I am loving being in the kitchen so much and the fact that this morning I got to help bring a little Israel to the table.  Next time maybe more heat…and bisquets.   

 

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Iron Chef Week

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So Dianne had an idea.  She knows I enjoy making meals out of ingredients we have in the house even though we tend to plan out our meals in advance.  I can usually tell you on Monday what we plan to eat on Thursday.  This makes creativity difficult as the week goes on so today we decided to try something new.  We went to the Farmers’ Market in Broad Ripple and pick up things we usually don’t buy.  Some Kolrobi, golden beets, microgreens, cultivated mushrooms and I don’t even remember.  Later trips to Costco for the essentials and Traders Joe’s and Marsh for some Kosher protein we have stocked pantry fridge and a fun week ahead.  So tonight was the first step in the week’s adventure.  Part of the theme was food my mother would make.  I had been thinking about her because it is usually this time of year when I would go see her.

I cheated a little however.  Last night I made Potato-Carrot Puffs and had plenty of Potato and Carrot mixture that was a dense baked casserole with a layer of egg on top so we had that, with a mushroom saute’ on top and a Kolrobi soup.   I made it with onion, potato (just one for body) and this killer duck stock.  Then added a bunch of spinach (because the Kolrobi was free of its greens) and when it was all cooked, a wand blender to make it smooth and top with some pea greens (which are so full of flavor I could eat them as a snack).  So that is what you see here the soup and carrot-potato puff.  The mushrooms were shitakes that I looked at and wasn’t sure they would be as good as their price but oh my they were full of body and flavor and became a perfect meat substitute tonight. It really does make a difference how you source your produce especially.

So the week has me thinking about ways to play with my food.  I am going to try new things and perhaps some old recipes from my youth.  I may do some pickling and preserving.  I hope to post more of my ventures this week, even if I screw something up.  If you have suggestions for my week let me know.

 

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Duck Salad

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So I broke down a duck again on Sunday night.  I have been craving it and in frankly it looked lonely in the freezer.  So we will get a few meals out of it.  Currently nestled in the fridge are the legs and wings which will serve as the center of Friday’s Shabbat dinner, they are curing for a confit treatment.  Of course the wonderful carcass made a lovely stock that will be a soup soon.  

But tonight the seared duck breast was great and simple ingredients really can bring out a lot of flavor. I rubbed the duck breast with a spice mixture with paprika, garlic and onion powder, a couple of spices and salt.  Seared it off and finished it in the oven.   The salad was some Oakleaf lettuce picked up at the farmer’s market and some spinach for body and flavor.  I reduced a bottle of wine with figs and rosemary dust and mixed it with spiced melted duck fat for the dressing.  So a handful of items in the dish brought out tons of different flavors.  I wish the picture could show just how rich it looked on the plate.  I didn’t realize the phone camera muted the colors.

This is my fun and I hope that as summer gives me more time to cook I will post more.  I have been practicing some new techniques and well am looking to creating some very nice meals this summer.  So should you.  

 

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