Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Totally Rad-icchio!

People tend to be most familiar with radicchio when it is peeking out from beneath the iceberg lettuce in a salad. People like me... who mistook this glorious vegetable for something that simply "added color" or "offered bite to a common salad."

I really never thought much of radicchio.
"Ah," you say knowingly, "Apparently, you've never had GRILLED radicchio."
And it is true. I hadn't. Until the other day.
Having now experienced the full glory of radicchio, I now feel compelled to tell you all about what you've been missing. In fact, my advice would be to run out immediately and buy yourself a nice head of radicchio to grill up for dinner. Splashed with balsamic vinegar, it would make an incredible side for that steak you've been craving.

Or, if you're feeling a bit more ambitious, you can do what we did and make a baked pasta dish.

Pasta before being baked:
Pasta AFTER being baked:
I can't say enough good things about this pasta dish. It, quite possibly, has the most flavor of any recipe I've tried in the past year. The radicchio grills up sweet, smooth, and slightly smoky. The tomatoes (albeit being canned) provide a pleasant acidity to the dish, while the cream smooths everything out and offers up a bit of mouth feel. And you can't forget about the mozzarella here. Pick a good one -- because its melted, browned goodness will be part of what you'll remember for hours after eating this.

We ate our pasta with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio on the side. And we (really) enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day. Even after being reheated, this dish held its own. Best of all, it made fellow coworkers swoon (and what's better than that?).

BTW, you don't need to use Radicchio Treviso for this recipe to be a stand-out. Once the radicchio is grilled, it's perfectly sweet and mild no matter which variety you choose. So, I stick with the standard (and more affordable) variety here. This time around, we found some Chioggia at the farmer's market -- and it was totally awesome!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

First Vegetables of the Season

One of the great joys of summer at our house is the garden. After all, what is better than being able to step out the back door and bring in something fresh and wonderful?

We're on a typical quarter-acre city lot, so we don't have a very big plot. But, we have just enough space for a few tomatoes, some peppers, greens, and herbs. We also live in the northern climes -- so our growing season is fairly short. Which means we make fast and furious work of the gardening.

Aside from a bunch of spinach and some kale, we've not seen much from the garden yet this year. So, you can imagine my excitement when I went outside today and found the first tomatoes of the season. Three, or maybe four, little Mexican Midgets. Aren't they gaaawgeous??!!

There are also some jalapenos and poblanos waiting to be picked. I hope that they're nice and hot.
Oooh... there are a few red scallions large enough to pluck.
And "Holy Mole!" take a look at those peppers (they're actually called "holy mole" if you believe it, and rumor has it they ripen to a deep, chocolate brown -- so they're not quite ready to pick, despite their size). I've not decided, yet, what these peppers are good for. But, as soon as I find out I'll be sure to let you know.
Ah, yes.
Summer is good.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Sunday, July 27, 2008


What are these delicious looking tidbits, you ask?

Why -- they're rattail radishes, of course!
And they're quite a bit tastier than their name implies!

We had them for the first time this summer when they arrived as part of our CSA share. These edible seed pods have the crunch of a green bean, but the spicy bite of a radish. Edible-pod radishes are members of the brassica family, along with broccoli, kale, cabbage, mustard, and radishes. They are often called aerial radishes, or Java radishes after their place of origin. Grown primarily in India and Southeast Asia, these delicacies are less common in the states. But, they seem to be making appearances here and there (and the smart people at LotFotL are one of the farms growing them and selling them at farmer's markets around Milwaukee).

In addition to eating them right out of hand, they're great in salads or sauteed just until crisp. When cooked, they do lose a bit of their bite -- so when cooked, they appeal to even non-radish fans.

Got any great recipes for rat tails? We'd love to hear about them!!

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Friday, July 25, 2008

In Which Two City Girls Discover Fire...

So, what do two city gals eat while on a rustic, northwoods vacation?
Confession: too many hotdogs.
Redemption: lots of really good campfire cooking.

The cabin was well equipped with all sorts of amenities -- indoor plumbing, a stove, a refrigerator. But, we were determined to "rough it" a little bit.

The first night we got up to the cabin, the first thing we did was build a nice campfire.
And we hunted for sticks. It was getting dark, but (always the hero) I braved the forest and found a couple of nice, young saplings to cut down to make skewers for our hotdogs. We whittled away the tips to make them nice and sharp -- and then used them to cook our delicious "wennies." Hurrah!
Of course, a bit later on, we found the nice, metal, campfire skewers inside the cottage. So, the remainder of our cooking ended up being slightly more civilized.
But not TOO civilized. After all, we didn't have a nice cooking grate, or anything fancy. So, we put our heads together and came up with alternatives -- such as balancing an aluminum pan filled with steaming veggie packets atop the logs of the fire (risky, but ultimately effective). These packets happen to hold some fantastic potatoes -- which we steamed in packets with red onion, garlic, and butter. Really delicious -- especially the browned, crispy bits at the bottom of the packet!We also seasoned up some zucchini with oregano, garlic, and a bit of salt...
Which we grilled up on the more civilized skewers.
And we marinated tender strips of lamb in lemon, garlic, and oregano... and then roasted them over the fire.
Served everything up in a pita with some cucumber sauce. Mmmm.
In retrospect, it looks like we put together quite the feasts while living in the woods... probably part of the reason why it was so difficult to come back home again.

More about my northwoods vacation.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens
Oh, yes -- and we were tagged by Rachel over at The Essential Rhubarb Pie.

I don't normally bite at these, but heck -- I just came back from vacation, and they can be kinda fun. So here goes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spicy Shrimps

*Whew* I had a great time on vacation (will write a bit about that soon), but it's always good to be back in my own kitchen. And what do you know? I missed blogging.

Since it's mid-summer, and there's nothing better than a bit of spiciness on a hot, summer day, I thought I'd share another of our standards. It contains one of my absolute favorite things -- shrimp, which you've probably already guessed is relatively difficult to find at the peak of freshness here in Wisconsin (all shrimp in WI is frozen -- and the quality has everything to do with how the shrimp was handled in transport). However, when we can get them, we often find ourselves making this dish.

This chipotle shrimp comes from Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen, our favorite decisive guide to all sorts of exciting Mexican fare. This recipe blew us away the first time we tried it -- smokey sauced shrimp, with just the right touch of heat to make things exciting.

How do you get there?
Well, you'll want to start by roasting some onions and garlic on a hot griddle.
You puree the onions & garlic with roasted tomatoes, seasonings and water, and then sear it in a very hot pan.
Drop in some peeled, raw shrimp. Let them cook for a bit, and top the whole mess with a bit of cilantro.
I really can't tell you how fantastic these are. They're perfect by themselves -- as main dish with rice, or even as a starter. They shine when accompanied by a bit of fresh mango salsa. And they work as a great filling for fajitas or enchiladas.

At our house, we've taken to serving this as party/special occasion food -- the perfect dish to bring out for snacking around the picnic table, beers in hand. I think that Mr. Bayless would approve.

Chipotle Shrimp

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cleaning out the fridge...(i.e. Lo hates leftovers)

So, while Lo is out gallivanting around the upper regions of our great state, I get left behind to do a task that no one should have to go through alone. I did, however, get into this on my own, so I shan't complain.

Lo is not a fan of leftovers. Not across the board. Just on a day to day basis, not much of a fan. I get it. They usually don't taste as good as the first time. Or it's been in the freezer just a little too long. Whatever the reason, it's just not her thing. As she was getting ready for her trip, she was asking me what we should get at the grocery store so I would have things to keep me from starving. In the same breath, she says how much stuff is in the freezer and we really need to go through it and see what is good and what needs to go or needs to get used up pronto. I then turned to her with a twinkle in my eye and said, "That's what I can do while you are away. I'll sustain myself with things from the fridge."

This is what I have eaten so far:
  • Day one was a little odd meal of Bratwurst and blue cheese potato gratin. The brats were grilled up the night before, and the gratin had been in the freezer. Also had some fresh Dragon Beans from our CSA. If Lo didn't take the camera, I would have taken some pictures. Trust me, it was delicious and satisfying.
  • Day two was pasta night. There was some leftover meat sauce in the freezer, so I thawed that out and made some garlic bread and had that all with a side of sauteed chard from our CSA box.
  • Tonight is day three of cleaning out the fridge, and I have to say I'm not thrilled. There is still lettuce from the CSA, so I am thinking of doing a salad. Maybe I'll toss it with some lemon balsamic vinegar and olive oil and throw some canned tuna in there for a protein. Otherwise, we do have some meatless chicken patties that I could cook up and have with a salad.
Plus, I need to keep it quick and simple since I do have an exam to study for. #4 out of 6 tests. Only 2 more to go and then I get a little summer!

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Monday, July 21, 2008

Girl Meets Vacation

I'm closing my end of BURP! down for a few days this week so that I can travel to rural Wisconsin for a much anticipated vacation. Since there are no guarantees of internet service (or phone reception, for that matter) where I'm headed, you probably won't be hearing much from me until at least Friday.

That said, if Peef can get his head out of his macro-economic book for a moment or two, you might be in for a treat. He's playing bachelor for the week, and he'll be cooking for himself. So, he might have a thing or two to share.

Until later -- bon appetit!

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Kir for What Ails You

Our last CSA share included a lovely basket of red currants. We were pretty excited... but we didn't quite know what to do with them.
Most of my memories of currants have everything to do with red currant jelly, and we didn't have enough of the berries to quite do that sort of plan much justice. So, we began the search for new and exciting recipes for our little red tarts.
Fortunately for us, a friend of mine came to the rescue with a recipe for Creme de Cassis/Kir.

Now, what is Kir? Well, here's what I know.
Canon Kir was the Rabelaisian mayor of Dijon from 1945 to 1968. Apparently, he loved to drink his (often acidic) local white wine mixed with a blackcurrant liqueur to sweeten it. The concept caught on around Dijon -- and people still drink the mixture today.

Those of you familiar with Kir know that, technically, it's a recipe for black currants, but we decided to try it out with the red ones and see how we fared. The concept is uber simple -- just wash your currants and place them in a jar with cloves, a piece of cinnamon stick, and some vodka. After about two months, we'll mix the brew with sugar and it will be ready to use. Seems like the hard part will be waiting while the mixture steeps for two months!
We'll be sure to tell you how it turns out.

Red Currant Kir

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blasted Broccoli

Paul travels to Seattle fairly regularly on business. And, once in a blue moon, I tag along for the ride. On one of our last trips, I made a list of restaurants that I wanted to try. It was a mile long. But, somehow, we managed to visit 18 of my 21 picks... in less than a week's time. It was quite a trick, but we visited some great spots.

One of the highlights of our trip was very unexpected. One of the restaurants on my list was a newer little "small plates" gastrotavern called Black Bottle. The menu was simple, the atmosphere casual, and the prices exceedingly affordable. Turns out it became one of our favorites. We were blown away by all of the great food that we ordered, including an absolutely luscious grilled portabella and butterbean salad and Marseille style mussels. But, the thing that really took our meal over the edge was something they called "broccoli blasted."

Broccoli, seasoned with salt and garlic, and roasted crisp-tender in a wood burning oven. It seemed too simple to be so extraordinary.Inspired by the dish, we decided to try it for ourselves. Lacking a wood-fired oven, we had to rely on high heat, with a bit of convection thrown in for good measure. After a few tries, we got it down.

And wouldn't you know it? It's become one of our absolute favorite side dishes, and for good reason. It comes together with ease and has infinite possibilities. Can't beat it.

Blasted Broccoli

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Things We Love: Cuban Sidecars

Since it's Friday, let's get in the mood with a nice summery drink, eh?

I am quite the fan of the traditional margarita. Nothing says summer to me more than a bit of lime & tequila alongside something salty and spicy. When it comes to the making of margaritas, we're especially fond of Rick Bayless' recipe. Too many of them will put you under the table, for sure. But, if you're careful in your consumption, they're really quite tasty.

But not every dish plays well with tequila (and sometimes we're just in the mood for something a little bit different). And that's when the Cuban sidecar comes into play.
Part margarita, part mojito, these rum-based cocktails are the perfect accompaniment to Mexican, Cuban, or Caribbean food. And they're quite nice as stand-alones (maybe with a few nibblies) to be swilled outside on a hot summer afternoon.

Cuban Sidecars - Burp! Style

As an added bonus, thanks to Kelly over at EatMakeRead, I found recipes for Basil Cocktails over at The Kitchn. We are definitely going to have to try these with some of the fresh basil from our jungle of a garden!

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Boy Meets Mad Fuschia Salad... and falls in love.

I know that some people aren't terribly fond of beets. But, it's difficult for me to imagine.

For two weeks in a row now, we've gotten the most fabulous beets with our CSA share. The first week, they were golden beets. The second week,they were crimson. Each batch came with a nice tuft of greens, which we ate right away. But, despite my love for the veggies, the beets eluded me.

Finally, last night, after weeding the vegetable garden (and noticing that the dill had started to flower) I had a breakthrough. Why not a Swedish-style roasted beet and potato salad?

We had all the right ingredients -- beets, dill weed, and new red potatoes.
I roasted the beets and potatoes, chopped the dill, and put it together on a plate with a dollop of Mediterranean yogurt. This isn't how the dish would stay, but I knew that if I mixed it together before taking a photo, you'd barely be able to decipher each componant beneath the mad fuschia haze. See what I mean? Not even Peef was dissuaded by the bright pink color. He finished off every last bite of the salad, and even asked for seconds.

Roasted Beet and Potato Salad

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Défi de papier de fromage

OK, folks, I think I'm ready to report back about the Fromaticum cheese paper (apologies for the quick shadowy photo, but you get the idea).

First, some background information. We wrapped two pieces of cheese with the cheese paper last week. The first was the aforementioned piece of Monterey Jack cheese (which we ended up using up far too soon... so it wasn't really a good example for testing). The second was a very nice chunk of fragrant aged provolone cheese which we wrapped up around the same time -- and which has now remained in storage for over a week.

Let's take a look at that provolone and see how it has fared.

First observation: There is no notable smell of the aged provolone in the cheese drawer. This, it would seem, is a very good thing.

Second observation: As I unwrap the cheese, it sticks notably to the inside layer of the cheese paper -- which I'm going to presume keeps air from getting to the cheese and drying it out. Since the paper claims that it allows the cheese to breathe, I'm also going to assume that the layer is somewhat porous and allows oxygen through.

Third observation: The cheese smells lovely. So, although the stank didn't escape into the drawer with the other cheese, it is sufficiently preserved in its own package.

Fourth observation: The cheese LOOKS lovely. I've noted, in storing this cheese before, that it would dry out a bit. (My previous storage method included wrapping the cheese in waxed paper (or parchment) and then in a layer of plastic wrap.) But, there was no sign of drying on this piece of cheese. The texture seems good, and the cheese is visibly "happy," if that's possible.

Fifth observation: The cheese tasted just as it should. Which is the ultimate test, really. We quite enjoyed it atop our meatball sandwiches.

So, it seems the verdict is in.
As far as we can tell, the cheese paper does its job. And I'm very happy about that. Am looking forward to trying it out on some REALLY sensitive cheeses (for instance, raw milk varieties that have more interaction between the milk and enzymes). Maybe a nice chunk of epoisses... or some cave aged bleu. *drool*

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Monday, July 7, 2008

Simple Early Summer Grilled Cheese

Some nights, we're just too busy to cook. On these nights, it's best to rely on simple fare to get us through. This works especially well in the early summer when we have lots of fresh ingredients on hand. But, even on nights when we don't have a whole lot of food in the house, we sometimes surprise ourselves.

The other evening was one of those nights. We both worked late, and came home exhausted. Paul had studying to get done, and the night was getting short. Dinner felt like a complete chore.

Fortunately, I had my wits about me and a few staples in the fridge.

We started out with some good, local, wholegrain sourdough bread and a bit of locally produced aged provolone cheese. A trip out to the garden produced a few healthy sprigs of sweet basil. After putting everything together and giving it a quick press with the panini grill, we had a pretty stunning sandwich. OK -- two sandwiches.Add a bit of the leftover basil to a bowl of simple tomato soup from the pantry, and dinner was served.

Lesson learned. Something as ordinary as fresh basil transforms something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich into something extraordinary. Add a bit more basil to a can of plain Jane tomato soup, and you have nothing short of a masterpiece.

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July Dessert

We spent our 4th of July grilling out and eating cupcakes... mmm! These were a lovely angelfood cake with buttercream frosting.

There wasn't much real cooking going on, but we did have a great time.

The remainder of the weekend was spent working (sanding and priming our garage/not so fun) and playing (going to the baseball game/really fun).

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Farmer's Market Bounty Has Sweet Rewards

Our trip to the farmer's market this past weekend yielded us a great deal of bounty. Among our great finds were succulent local strawberries... And the most amazingly sweet fresh shelling peas.We used some of the leftover biscuits from our Sunday brunch to make shortcakes with the strawberries. And we took the shelling peas, along with some hauntingly fresh asparagus from our CSA share, some mint from the garden, and a great local parmesan cheese, and concocted a really lovely risotto.We garnished it with pea shoots from Growing Power, a local urban garden that does some really amazing work in promoting sustainability and social justice. We support their efforts whenever we can.

Fresh Pea and Asparagus Risotto with Mint

Other risotto recipes you might enjoy:
Asparagus & Shiitake Mushroom Risotto
Brilliant Beet Risotto

Creative Commons License
©BURP! Where Food Happens