Food, Beer & Buffoonery - Hops
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On Tonight’s Menu: Collard-wrapped Salmon

I had the chance to stop by Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing last night and I bought some salmon. If you are ever driving Hwy 1 between Monterey and Santa Cruz, be sure to stop by Phil’s. You won’t regret it.

I wanted to do something new with the salmon, yet something Californian.  So I grabbed my 3 books on Californian Cuisine and found a recipe for Kale-Wrapped Wild Salmon, with red bell pepper, almond and garlic sauce.  It’s a recipe from San Francisco restaurant Jack Falstaff that has been printed in the book Savoring San Francisco, recipes from the city’s neighborhood restaurants.

Collard-wrapped SalmonI didn’t have any kale, but I had collard greens.  Close enough.  The recipe calls for blanching the greens in water and wrapping them around salmon fillets that have been coated with salt pepper and oive oil.  The fish is baked and a sauce is prepared from red bell peppers, sliced almonds, garlic, olive oil, sherry vinegar and paprika.  The sauce itself is just fantastic.

To round out the meal, I made some Basmati rice to which I added a few dashes of Chiang Mai, a Thai Red Curry powder consisting of red chili powder, garlic, galangal root, lemon grass and coriander.  To save water, and add a hint of flavor and color, I cooked the rice in some of the left over water used to blanch the collard greens.  I then steamed some zucchini on top of the cooking rice.  Almost a one pot meal!

So, pictured here is my prepared dish.  It took about an hour to put it all together.  Not bad for a week-night meal, if I do say so myself.

Collard-wrapped salmon, cut openI don’t want to print the recipe here, as I don’t want to violate any copyrights.  So I encourage you to buy the cookbook.  I bought Savoring San Francisco several months ago and have made 4 or 5 dishes from it already. So far, every one has been fantistic, especially tonight’s Salmon and the Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Figs and Marsala.  The book has a good variety of recipes from many restaurants covering just about every cuisine of the world, but all done in a very Californian/San Franciscan style.

Cookin’ with a Beer — and its Can?

So, I subscribe to a cooking magazine, and was just sent an email with a link to this video recipe posted on AmericasTestKitchen.com:  Beer Can Chicken!

Just the sound of that piqued my curiosity, but not necessarily in a positive way.  For starters, the “beer in the can” part brought about visions of bad tasting, cheap American mega-brew.  And well, if you watch the video (or take a look at the screen shot below), you’ll see that it doesn’t disappoint.  But the second thing that got me wondering was the mention of the can.  You can make all sorts of brines, gravies, sauces, and what have you, with the actual beer, but why mention the can?  Well, I was in for a big treat!

The video starts with the chef’s co-host reading aloud a letter that a viewer had sent in — something to the effect of: “My son is a truck driver and can’t have any alcohol in his system if he gets pulled over.  Can I make ‘Beer Can Chicken’ with a can of soda instead?”  Ummm…  Alcohol has a boiling point that’s even lower that that of water’s.  Hint:  there won’t be any alcohol in your chicken!  However, the host passes over this most obvious of responses, and simply answers the question…

Yes, we are assured, you can make beer can chicken with a can of soda.  Mmmm, soda can chicken.  And you can even do it with Lemonade, she adds.  (That comes in a can?)  Her cinematically naive co-host then ever so purposely chimes in with the question, “What about the wine and cheese folks?”  ….”There’s no wine in this one”, she replies.   No kidding?

Then, shortly after, the chef picks up a can of beer and announces that you can’t use a full can or it’ll boil over.  (I wasn’t let down, she was using a can of Budweiser!)  So, she proceeds to pour some out into a glass for her co-host, takes a sip out of the can herself and with a split-second look of forced ecstasy exclaims, “Mmmm, that’s good”, and conveniently sets the beer can down with the Bud label in perfect alignment with the camera.  Now that’s product placement!

Beer Can ChickenThe climax of all this culinary buffoonery is when the chef and co-host are outdoors, and after prepping the BBQ, walk over to the table showcasing the chicken and the beer.  The chef grabs the chicken, and prepares to lower it, end first, onto the beer can — and I don’t think it would be completely out of line to say she was preparing to “molest the chicken”. At this point, her co-host boyishly exclaims, “I’ve been waiting for this part.  This is the fun part of this recipe.”  And then, as if he hadn’t made himself clear, the host asks, “Are you excited?”.  “Yes I am”, he replies.

As the chicken comes to rest on top of the can (depicted in all it’s glory in the accompanying screenshot), a proud host exclaims, “Voila”, to which the co-host replies, “That was easy!”   And he was expecting?

Cooking just doesn’t get any better than this…

Watch the video for yourself

(I just love a post that covers Food, Beer and Buffoonery!)

New Food, Straight From the Farm

So, we just started getting weekly vegetables (and some fruits) from Two Small Farms. Two Small Farms is a collaboration between High Ground Organics and Mariquita Farm located in Watsonville and Hollister respectively. They are one of the several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs in the area. They had a pickup point near us, so we thought we’d give them a try.

CSA VegetablesToday we picked up our first batch of veggies (we also opted to get weekly flowers too, for a few extra dollars. Why not?). In the bag we brought home were bundles of Erbette Chard, Spigariello Greens, Chantenay Carrots, Agretti, French Breakfast Radishes, Fennel, a few Leeks and some Sweet Dumpling Squash. All organically grown at a nearby farm. There’s just something nice about knowing where your food comes from — and supporting the “little guys”.

The batch of vegetables came with a few recipes than can be made with this week’s selection. The roasted fennel recipe sounds good. You just slice the fennel bulbs lengthwise, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 425°F for 25-30 minutes. Though, I think I’ll spice this up a bit, tossing with some crushed garlic and parsley as well. Wondering what I could do with the fennel leaves, I consulted an Italian cookbook I have and found a recipe for a fennel cream sauce. Cook up some pasta and we’ll be set. Although I’d like to round out that meal by maybe roasting some carrots with the fennel bulbs.

Another item is the box was Spigarielo, also known as “leaf broccoli”. I think I’ve only had this once or twice, but it does have that broccoli flavor, so I’m thinking maybe a Thai Red Curry might make good use of this.

Getting a new bunch of “surprise” vegetables and fruits in each week should be an excellent challenge. I’m always trying out new recipes, but I always start with the recipe first and only then look for the food I need. Flowers CSANow I’m getting the food first… Which perhaps, is how it should be. Everything I’ll be making is fresh, local, and in season. And I’ll be getting some new and exotic vegetables, creating a culinary challenge. I can’t complain.

There are similar CSA programs all over the United States, and elsewhere. The USDA has a few links to help you find a CSA program in your area. But I imagine a quick internet search of “CSA ‘Your City Name'” would come up with some options as well. And if you need additional convincing in order to give your local CSA a try, Two Small Farms has posted a list of 10 reasons to buy local food.

The start of our Community Supported Agriculture pickups is quite fitting, as I am (coincidentally) currently reading a book that’s all about where your food comes from, Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals”. It’s quite a good book, so I highly recommend it!

Cheeseburger Tart?

The other day, I had a very nice slice of Olallieberry tart from Kelly’s French Bakery. As I like to cook and bake, this inspired me to go buy a tart pan last night so that I could prepare my own something-or-other-berry-tart today.

This morning, preparing to wash the pan, I removed the outer cardboard that was affixed to the pan with that ultra sticky rubber cement type stuff so often used on bakeware today. Though I had a recipe in mind from a French cookbook that I inherited from my grandfather, I do know that oft times bakeware comes with a recipe or two printed on the packaging. So I flipped the cardboard over, and there staring at me in the face, printed on this French Tart Pan, was the unlikeliest of all recipes — the Cheeseburger Tart.

What?!?

Of course, tarts are not always sweet things. One might use a tart pan to make a quiche or a Clafoutian aux Légumes. But a Cheeseburger Tart? Could you possible print a more un-French recipe on the packaging? Who would actually bake such a thing?

I mean, really, what person in this company’s marketing department (because in the past several years, at my place of employment, I’ve become convinced that it’s always someone in marketing responsible for such follies) would be scanning the vast World Encyclopedia of Food for that perfect recipe to accompany their product, and then suddenly, in a moment of pure brilliance, puts away all the cookbooks they’ve been researching through and scribbles down the recipe for a Cheeseburger tart.

And there’s another side to all of this. As with so many products these days, my tart pan was made in China. Do we really want the Chinese thinking that out of all the fine foods that can be made in a tart pan, what the Americans really want is a Cheeseburger Tart?

Or perhaps I’ve got it all backwards. Perhaps it was someone in China who created this recipe based on internet searches and the preconceived notion (or stereotype) that, when it comes down to it, all that American’s really want is a nice Cheeseburger, so let’s give it to them in tart form. If this is the case, someone please send some new Ambassadors to China!

I might expect a recipe like this on the packaging of a casserole dish sold at Wal-Mart, but a French Tart pan from Bed Bath and Beyond? Not that BB&B is some high class joint, but still. I don’t think the marketers of this pan knew who they were selling to. Did they really expect some person to arrive home with their new tart pan and burst with excitement on discovering that they had purchased, not just the tart pan, but a recipe for a Cheeseburger Tart? These two words should not even be used in the same sentence, let alone used to describe one single dish.

There’s no copyright listed anywhere near the recipe, nor can I imagine anyone wanting to claim a “right” to such a recipe. So, in keeping with two themes of my blog, Food and Buffoonery, I’ll now present you with, the Cheeseburger Tart:

Cheeseburger Tart

One 9-inch round refrigerated pie crust (notice it calls for a pie crust and not a tart shell ?!?!?)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder and seasoned salt
1/2 tsp salt (as if the seasoned salt weren’t enough)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (15.5oz) Sloppy Joe mix (it just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?)
1 can (8.67oz) corn, drained (8.67???)
1/4 cup sliced black olives (I love olives, but now my stomach is really starting to turn)
8 slices medium sharp cheddar cheese
Red and yellow bell peppers (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray bottom of tart pan (finally, it’s now a tart and not a pie) with vegetable pan spray. Roll out pie crust to 12-inches (oops, it’s been demoted to a pie again). Press crust into bottom and sides of tart pan; trim edges. Bake 12-15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

In medium skillet, brown ground beef with onion over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until beef is no longer pink; drain fat. Add seasonings, sauce, corn and olives to ground beef mixture. Place four slices of cheese on bottom of baked crust. Add filling and top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

Garnish with slices of red and yellow pepper or whole petite peppers, if desired. (Note, the only remotely elegant thing about this dish is “optional”).

Serves 6-8


By the way, while I was typing this up, the Cheeseburger Tart recipe was sitting next to my French cookbook and in a moment of eerie coincidence, the ultra-sticky-rubber-cement-type-stuff that was still all over the packaging on which the Cheeseburger Tart recipe was printed affixed itself to the French cookbook, right to the page listing the recipe for Tarte aux Myrtilles, a Blueberry tart. Was the Cheeseburger Tart recipe trying to tell me something? Was the Cheeseburger tart striving for acceptance? Or was it crying for help, wishing it were a “real” tart filled with elegance and glamour — jealous in the realization that it would never make it to the refrigerated display case at Kelly’s French Bakery. Fortunately I was able to detach the conjoined recipes without ripping the cookbook.


UPDATE: I discovered that if you type “Cheeseburger Tart” into Google, the top hit is my blog posting here. I’m debating on whether that’s a good thing or not.

Barley Soup

Well, just to start off my blog, I thought I’d post a recipe from an old 60’s cookbook that I inherited from my grandpa who passed away at just shy of 101 years old earlier this year. Since I love brewing my own beer, this one caught my attention. Barley soup. I haven’t made it yet, so I can’t vouch for it, but I recently got a cast iron Dutch oven, and this recipe will work wonderfully in there. I intend to try it when the weather cools down, as it looks to be on the heavy side.

BARLEY SOUP

1 thick slick of salt pork, diced
3 tbs. minced onion
1/2 cup barley
1 qt. ham stock
3 egg yolks
1 cup cream
2 tbs. chopped parsley

Lightly sauté pork in Dutch oven. Add onions and sauté until tender, but not browned. Add ham stock and barley and simmer for 1/2 hour. In a small bowl combine egg yolks and cream and beat well. Add mixture to soup. Heat buy do not boil. Sprinkle with parsley and seve. Makes about 10 cups.

Let me know if you try it! Should be a good one for all ye barley lovers!

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