Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Recent NPR Event at the Store

Our local NPR affiliate - KRWG recently held a community coffee at our Cafè. Here are a few pics with my random comments...

This is me making sushi - actually making my wasabi balls. Its the one time that I allow myself to weep openly even in front of strangers. A few others notables (this is kind of like the old Highlights magazines in the doctor's office:
-The skillets hung on the walls: Why can't my staff figure out that they only fit in one direction? When they are about to fall off the wall, that's probably not where they go!
-The poster on the wall near the door is the bread manifesto from the Art of Eating
-The red dust buster on the wall never gets used - why do I take up space with it?
-All of our door covers are actually curtains from Wal-Mart.
-In the right side of the pic, cut off on the table is my $300 scale...she's my baby.
-See the two certificates - one is my facility license, the other is my caterers license. I'm probably the only business in town that follows the law and has both...makes me the fool.
-Three clocks in the kitchen (above the door, on the stove, on the microwave) and none say the same time.

My big moment! Well sort of. They asked me to do a testimonial, but I blew it because I only talked about the radio station - we don't watch TV so I never see PBS. The spot obviously was meant to run on TV.

Obligatory mug shot. Could we be any more boring..."Showing that Kumquat spirit!"

That's my resident tamale expert front and center, and for regular blog readers - the up the street- down the street neighbor. She's spending 2 months in Spain later this year...very jealous.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Nocino: Day 1

From Wiki:
Nocino is a sticky dark brown liqueur from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy. It is made from unripe green walnuts steeped in spirit. It has an aromatic but bittersweet flavor. It may be homemade, and is also available commercially in bottled form. Commercially available Nocino is typically 40% alcohol by volume, or 80 proof.

Nocino is believed to have originally been produced by the Celts, and, during the Middle Ages, Italian monasteries used nocino for its medicinal properties and also as an alcoholic treat.

I've been hearing about this liqueur for so long and inevitably I think about it right after the short window for green walnuts closes. But not this year! I pre-ordered my walnuts and when they arrived at my doorstep on Friday the jar was washed, booze bought, and off I went. I'll do monthly updates on this process, but don't expect to really enjoy it for a year. Here is the recipe that I am following:

30 Walnuts, green & unripe
1 liter of 100 proof vodka (or Everclear)
1 Lemon zest - about a quarter of the lemon
2 Cinnamon sticks
5 Cloves
2 1/2 C. Sugar

Wipe down the walnuts with a wet rag and cut them in quarters. Toast the cinnamon and clove until aromatic. Place in a jar with the remaining ingredients and cover. Shake the jar daily for a month, taste, adjust and keep going. When you're satisfied, filter out the nuts and spices and continue aging until you're happy as an Italian clam.

You can also play with the spices, the sugar (think muscovado or brown), and even the liqueurs. I'm also playing with the fruit. I followed this base recipe with some green apples and chiogga beets.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Random Recent Desserts

From Dessert Fourplay - beet mousse

The latest variation on my peanut butter pie - I think the best variation:

An interesting dessert that didn't execute or photograph well, but worth mentioning - pistachio Pâté with morello cherry gelee, pistachio daquoise and pistachio shortbread.

And a rhubarb, strawberry custard tartlet

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Pot Luck Contest: Embutido

There comes a time every person's life when you have to suck it up and just do the job. And that brings me to Mark's recipe in which all I saw was VIENNA SAUSAGES! Eegad man, what kind of blog do you think I'm running here!?

But I didn't start this contest by saying, "Give me your best recipes that don't include processed pig parts stuffed into tiny little cans." Maybe I should have. But I didn't. And that brings us to Mark's odd and oddly good recipe:

500g Ground pork
50g Dry unseasoned bread crumbs
60g Whole milk. 100g vienna sausages
1 egg. 50g Grated cheddar cheese
2 T Sweet pickle relish
2 T Raisins
1 Carrot, grated
1 Onion, minced
Salt and pepper
Hard-boiled eggs (quail eggs are probably prettiest)

Start by hard boiling your eggs. We do the now famous method of putting your eggs in cold water, then as soon as it boils count 15 minutes. Turn off, cover for 10 minutes (15 minutes at our elevation), cool completely under water. In a large bowl, smoosh everything together.

If that doesn't look like a winning recipe, I don't know what does.

Form into 2-3 inch diameter logs (or use 8x3 loaf pans), with the eggs in the middle so the cross section shows when you cut the log later. Wrap each in foil (or cover the loaf pans with foil) and steam for an hour.

While this boils I'll mention that we are so unaccustomed to Vienna Sausages that Tyler actually bought Lil' Smokey's (which we're equally unaccustomed to) so we had a slight variation to Mark's recipe.

Having watched Mark's cooking for a few years I know that in the Philippines ovens aren't used so much, and steaming is common, so this technique makes a lot of sense. In our case, we just don't really have the setups to do steamed foods easily. For this loaf, I used a silicon measuring cup which was closer to 4" across. Covered in foil as directed, and then because I didn't want to cook the bottom too fast, I placed some stainless steel chopsticks on the bottom of the pan to lift the measuring cup off the bottom and allow for water circulation. With the additional diameter, we steamed for nearly two hours, but at sea level and a smaller container this should go much faster.

We let it rest about 10 minutes and dumped (I use that word purposefully).

We were having quite a laugh at Mark's expense at this point (for those of you who aren't regular readers, know that we wouldn't make fun if we didn't know Mark well enough).

Back to his instructions. Can be served cold/ at room temperature/ or pan-fry the log until the exterior is brown and crusty and it's heated through (my preferred method). Slice and serve.

We served this with some yellow rice and a nice salad. The verdict...you'll have to wait. In the meantime, hunt down the Vienna sausages and give this a try.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Pot Luck Contest: Steamed Chicken Breast in a Pocket

The next entry is from Pimp That Food. Pimp's entry is an easy, quick and very tasty chicken breast made in a foil pouch. I couldn't find foil pouches at the store so I made my own in seconds.

1 Chicken Breast, split
1 Lemon, juice & zest
1 Small onion, sliced into rings (we used shallots)
3 Basil leaves
Pinch of ground ginger
1 T. Sweet chilli
1 T. Soy sauce
1 T. ExV Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in bowl and let marinate for a couple of hours.

Then make a foil pouch, add chicken and fillings and seal super well. Oven to 400F (200C) and bake for 25-30 minutes. The pouches will puff a bit.

Let rest for 5-10 minutes, open and serve.

We enjoyed ours on jasmine rice with a nice salad. Oh yeah...and the best beer I've had in 2009!

This beer reminds me of the flavor you get in Europe - not the typical "made for export" flavor, but the real deal - it was very, very good.

Hang on if you submitted a recipe to the contest - we're gonna get through these last ones soon so we can pick a winner.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Recipe: Ceviche

Here is another recipe from the recent cater - Parrotfish Ceviche with Sweet Potato Puree and Banana Blossom

1 C. Coconut WATER (not milk)
1 Kaffir lime leaf
1 T. Galanga, ground
1 Lemongrass stalk, bruised, chopped

Combine these ingredients and let them sit overnight. The next day strain them to remove the solids.

1/2 C. Lime juice, freshly squeezed
Coconut water mixture
2 T. Garlic oil
1 Thai pepper, chopped
1/4 C. Cilantro, chopped
1/2 C. Yuzu sake (optional)

Combine these ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, then add 1 lb of cubed fish of your choice - something not too fatty, and a 1/2 C. of thinly sliced red onion. Toss to coat very well and let sit about 30 minutes - not too much longer so you don't "overcook" the fish.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Recipe: Chimichurri

One of the hits from the recent cater was the beef chimichurri, so here's the easy recipe for you all to enjoy.

1 C. Fresh parsley
3/4 C. Olive oil (I used a peppery Spanish oil)
3 T. Vinegar (I used apple cider, but red wine is more common)
2 T. Dried oregano
2 t. Ground cumin, toasted
1 t. Salt
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t. Crushed pepper of your choice (depends on how much heat you want)

Put all in a blender or processor and make into a rough paste. Slather on your meat and marinate at least one hour at room temp. Grill and enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cater: Scottsdale Wedding Reception

This past Saturday I was honored to cater a wedding reception in Scottsdale, AZ. There are all sorts of angles to take on this story - having to move my kitchen three times, conservative kosher foods, moving frozen food components in the hot desert environment, but I'm still on vacation so I'll skip all of that and get to the food.

I made ten different hors d'oeuvres for the event which evolved as I found more fun ingredients in Phoenix that we don't have in Silver City. I went to Lee Lee's Market which is a really great Asian market and found banana blossoms. In the 'new to me' category, I was fascinated by what I could use these in for the reception. Some quick research found that most people will take the inner leaves and add them to salads. I was more interested in the stamen (?) in between the leaves. Here's a cross section for those of you who've never seen one before.

I had just finished candying some grapefruit peel from fruit off the client's backyard tree, and so I used the grapefruit syrup to candy the stamen - actually the male flowers. These were inedible except the very end, so those were snipped and later added as garnish to the ceviche.

They had a nice flavor combination when mixed with the grapefruit syrup. And, I loved the sexuality of it for the wedding.

Next was that ceviche. I took the most beautiful fish in the ocean lopped its head off:

Yes, this was Parrotfish Ceviche! A really wonderful, almost nutty flesh when raw, I marinated in a coconut milk, yuzu sake and lime broth with Thai seasonings. We kept the heads for the staff meal when we pan fried and enjoyed the cheeks.

A quickie was a kalamata tapenade with candied grapefruit and the olive oil crisps that I regularly do - these were very light on the anise.

At this point things became too busy to take pics so here is the staff plate at the end of the night - not nearly as pretty, but it'll let me describe what I served.

Clockwise starting at the top is a mango sphere with lemongrass foam; sousvide cooked duck breast coated with a thin shell of chipotle and smoked paprika with a hazelnut foam; the ceviche with sweet potato puree and candied banana blossom; chimichurri beef with aioli; hummus, apple orb in celery juice. Here's a better pic of the mango sphere.

And a pic of the frozen apple spheres coming out of my new full sphere mold - Larry - are you coveting?

I made more stuff but can't remember right now, but it was another successful event. Finally, I had the opportunity to work with a fantastic sous on this event hired through a temp agency - Caleb, a grad of the Scottsdale Culinary School. My prep was...my mom :) who also did a great job.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A note to my Vanuatu readers

We had our first reader from Vanuatu! Woo hoo!

Okay, I'm sorry, but I had to look up Vanuatu to see where it was - I had never heard of it - damn American geographic ignorance.

Turns out its a very cool looking Pacific island. It may have moved to the top of my 'must visit' list (duking it out with Armenia), but if I go, you have to promise me no welcoming parties like this

...that would scare me. But now I want to know all about Vanuatuan foods...I'm on the hunt! Next week at the Cafè - Vanuatu Stew $5.95

Dear readers...

If you've been wondering what the heck is up - why so few posts, why no wrap-up of the potluck contest, is poor Rob still around (I know its only been a week but do you feel the drama?)? The answer is that I just arrived in Scottsdale for a catering event that I'm doing tomorrow.

Yes its odd that I'm catering 5 hours away from my base kitchen - that's fun packing everything you might need. Its also fun trying to figure out how someone with my propensities and styles is going to manage transporting all sorts off heat fragile items to the final site in 100°F temperatures. But that's nothing compared to how I had to defend my pastry supplies (especially my gelatin leaves) from cats determined to lick them - I'm staying at the customers house to prep. Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike cats?!

But that was last night. Today I am cranking out ten dishes for Saturday's event including candied duck breast, papas rellenos, apple shooters and more. The father of the bride is big city all the way and he's the one who hired me. The mother of the bride is Iowa mama and they're saying things like, "I won't even ask what's in that." The funny thing is that when the sister said that - it was just apple juice...scary stuff. They are very afraid of what I might try to put down their mouths - but hey! they just passed gay marriage so they've got to be somewhat daring.

I'll be sure to post a full round-up after the event since its in a high-profile dowtown Scottsdale art gallery where the kitchen is part of the display. It should be a fun event - wish me fast and cold travel to the gallery, however.

But that's not why I'm writing. So...I'm driving for about two hours on this incredibly long trip when I start feeling very, very tired. I'm driving our truck which we call the Death Star because it is huge and black, and its loaded with my entire kitchen. I'm in the middle of the dessert doing anything to not fall asleep. First I see:

Anyone who has driven on I-10 through Southern Arizona has seen the multitude of these signs. I've never stopped and have always secretly wanted to know what "the thing" is. But that wasn't my goal tonight. I needed sugar and caffeine - but I don't really like coffee and I'm kinda fearful of energy drinks. I wanted something like Starbucks Caramel Mocchiato - glorious gut rot in a cup...with whipped cream! And it turns out that while there's no Starbucks for another 90 minutes, packaged in with "the thing" is a Dairy Queen.

Now, I haven't been to a DQ in years because I heard how notoriosly dirty their soft serve dispensers are, but that wasn't on my mind right now. I needed a boost. And look what I found

That's right, a "Moolattè." Wow, what marketing savant came up with that name? But it gets better. I ordered the caramel variety of this frozen concoction and the server asks, "Would you like a MegaMoo?" Silence. "Uh...no." After I collected myself, and since she wasnt' busy, I had to ask, "You said a MegaMoo?" She said, "Yeah, I have to say it but I get embarassed every time." Me - "I would too." A MegaMoo! What an utter insult to my intelligence and waistline! What a bunch of bull! (double snicker - not to be confused with a double Snickers which would be like a MegaMoo) They're basically saying, "Okay fat ass, how big do you want to go?!" Now, I don't post pics of myself very often, but if I do have a weight issue, its on the thin side

So I left, slurping my caramel fat ass drink feeling renewed energy for the rest of the drive...but I still wondered - what is "the thing?" But, there's no way I'm shelling out even one penny to support this roadside tourist trap. Big ball of yarn - yes. Building made of corn cobs - yes. But no "the thing." See you have to peak my interest by actually naming your trap something - not "the thing." And while writing this I found some google images but I didn't want to ruin the fun by showing them here until I saw how utterly stupid "the thing" looks - please, at least try to make it look like it could be real. So without further ado, I present to you.....THE THING!


Edited to add that I apparently had the pre-the thing picture. Here's the main event

I'll be on vacation for a week following Saturday's event. I'll do my best to wrap up the pot luck contest by gulping down some Filipino Vienna sausages. Until then...be afraid...be very afraid!