Sunday, August 31, 2008

Yummy Tomato Salad

Many of you already know that I am NOT a fan of the hot weather. I love the idea of summer – sunshine, warm breeze, and lots of greenery. But, I hate the sort of weather that comes with it. The sort of weather that makes me sweat.

A positive about winter is that you can ALWAYS add more layers. Grab a sweatshirt. Haul out a second pair of socks. Wrap yourself up in a blanket.

You CANNOT take the same approach to summer. Sure, you can remove a layer. But, eventually, you strip down to a level that risks violation of some public nudity laws. And that’s not something I’d recommend.

In addition to finding yourself a nice, air-conditioned location, another thing that I would heartily recommend for a day like today is a nice tomato salad. It makes the most of August bounty, it's GORGEOUS, and it won't require you to heat up the kitchen.

If you can find a few nice heirloom tomatoes, they do the job nicely. For this salad, we used a couple of peach tomatoes, red zebras, a purple Cherokee, and some Mexican midget cherry tomatoes.

We sliced them, spread them out on a platter, drizzled them with a nice garlic olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and a bit of basil.
And enjoyed the scenery.
Add a side of crusty bread, some nice aged cheese, and you have yourself a perfect summer lunch that really beats the heat.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

A New Way with Corn on the Cob

Ah, corn on the cob... and all the mixed feelings it stirs within my loins by the end of August!

Don't get me wrong. I think sweet summer corn is one of the best things around. And I'm a firm believer in getting as much of something as I possibly can while it's in season. But, I have to admit that I grow tired of eating corn the same old way, week after week, in the heat of summer.
So, we try to find ways to change it up a bit.
When the first corn on the cob is available, we grab three or four ears at a time and make it into a meal. We grill it. And when we tire of grilling it, we steam it. When steaming it grows old, we cut it off the cob and throw it into our pasta. And our rice. And our eggs. And when we tire of doing that... we bake it.

Yup. Baked corn.
Can't beat it.

First, you need some primo corn on the cob. Shuck it and make it all pretty.
Then, you need some nice fresh bread crumbs.
And a bit of mayonnaise spiked with some lime juice, a bit of salt, a couple of cloves of garlic, and a few finely chopped jalapenos (the only requisite here is the mayo... so experiment away!).
You want to slather some of that mayonnaise right on each of the cobs. Get it all over -- into the grooves and right up to the edges of the cob.
Then, roll the mayo-covered cobs into the breadcrumbs.
Bake these lovely specimens at 375º for about 35-40 minutes, and you have yourself a tasty treat that will take the doldrums right out of corn season.

Trust me.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Impromptu Post: How many of these things have you tried?

Normally, we're not big on memes over here at BURP! But, those people over at Eat Wisconsin lured me into this. (truth: it seemed like fun)

So, here's the drill.
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Crossout any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The BURP! Omnivore's One-Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

If you're wondering about the "whole insects"... I was eight, and it was on a dare.
And Peef has had Spam, but I have not, nor would I want it to be known that I had. But Peef insists that we should have it in bold because he has had it enough times to count for me as well.

Really, I'd try anything -- so that's why you'll note that nothing is crossed out.

I am a bit scared of dying from ill-prepared fugu, though... does that count?

And I'm not SURE if I've unintentionally eaten kaolin, but I'm going to say that if I'm not aware of it, it doesn't count.

If you need any more reasons to participate, read all about the Omnivore's 100 here.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Wisconsin Roots are Showing: Blueberry Venison?

Sometimes I'm extremely cogniscent of where I came from. This is one of those times.

One of the very vivid memories I have of my childhood takes place during the weekends of deer season. For the kids, these weekends marked a time to get together and play. But, the adults had more serious tasks in mind -- namely putting up venison meat for the winter! The men handled the dirty work, taking care of the hides and the bones. The women handled the finer details of chopping up the venison into steaks and chops.

In addition to the sights and smells (some of which taught me candid lessons about the circle of life), I remember my father carrying on about the extraordinary merits of the venison tenderloin -- the tenderness of it. The way that you could tell what sort of life the deer had by the flavor of this delicate piece of meat. I was always astounded by his ability to take so much from something that I saw as just another piece of meat.

So, when he brought me a package of frozen venison tenderloin a couple of months ago, I tucked it away in a safe corner of the freezer. After all, I'd have to find something special to do with it. I never figured that special something would have anything to do with blueberries.

But... I couldn't think of a better use for all that leftover blueberry barbeque sauce than pairing it with some game.

So, we put the venison tenderloin on the grill.

And alongside, we threw a handful of some luscious green beans that we'd purchased at the farmer's market.
The beans came off the grill looking just fabulous -- meltingly tender, super sweet, and slightly smoky.
And that venison?
Oh. My. It was good.
Straight off the grill with a dollop of that blueberry barbeque sauce... it was reinvented.

I don't have memories of food like this from my childhood.
In fact, this was an experience beyond most that happen in our simple little kitchen.

I think this is something I'll need to share with my dad.
Recipe: Burp's Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Chicken Caccia-touille

Eggplant and zucchini both come around during the heat of summer when long, slow cooking is pretty much out of the question. In most cases, I'm doing all I can to avoid heating up the kitchen unnecessarily. But, sometimes I've got to make an exception.

The trip to the farmer's market this week produced a bumper crop of great stuff, including a few delicious "eight ball" zucchini, and one of my very favorite summer delicacies -- fairytale eggplants.

These purple beauties are not only cute as a button (measuring an inch or two long, and about 1/2 inch at their widest point), but they cook up like butter. One of my favorite things to do is to pop their stems off and roast (or grill) them.

In this particular case, we were experiencing a bit of a break from the summer heat. And I was brainstorming how to use some of the farmer's market vegetables in conjunction with some chicken pieces I had thawing in the refrigerator. I was craving comfort food, and I happened to have a couple of sweet peppers available out of my own garden, so my first impulse was to make a cacciatore. But, a better plan seemed to be to take the zucchini and eggplant and throw them together into a summer ratatouille.

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered what it would be like if I simply combined the two recipes into something completely different.

So, I took the vegetables and roasted them up nice and tender. And I threw together a chunky tomato sauce, fortified with sweet peppers, onions, and a liberal dose of red wine. Add to that a bit of herbs de provence (central to a good ratatouille)... and put the chicken on to simmer. When the chicken was tender, I tossed the reduced sauce with the roasted vegetables and called it dinner.

The resulting dish was far better than the sum of its parts. Succulent stewed chicken, tender-crisp summer vegetables, and a sauce riddled with wine and herbs.

This caccia-touille was one of the best things we've tasted in a very long time.

And we'll share. Cuz we're nice people that way!
Chicken Caccia-touille

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Burp's Blueberry BBQ Experiment

So, we got it in our craw to make barbequed ribs this weekend.

The desire to make ribs isn't particularly unusual around our house. I'd venture a guess that we do it at least a couple of times over the course of the summer, and sometimes even during the winter months if we get the hankering. We even make our own barbeque sauce most of the time. But, this time it was different.

"Let's do something different," I suggested to Peef.
"OK," responded Peef.
(titillating dialogue we have, I know... it comes from being married for almost ten years)
"How about a blueberry barbeque sauce?" I suggested.
"Ooooh," he crooned, "Let's do that!"

And the adventure began.
Now, blueberries are just about one of my favorite things, so the thought of using them in a barbeque sauce really piqued my interest. I was even more excited when we found these beauties at the market.

Oooh. Aaaah. I could have stared at those blueberries all day long. But, we had barbeque sauce to make. So, I dragged out all of the usual suspects. Apple cider vinegar, ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, onion, garlic... oh, yeah, and a bit of jalapeno pepper and chipotle for some smoky kick.
I whirred the blueberries around for a while in the food processor. And then mixed them up with the other ingredients.
After setting to simmer on the stove for a while, we had something that looked (and tasted) pretty good. So, we rushed out to the grill and slathered it on our ribs.
I'm pleased to say, the ribs turned out beautifully. In fact, they came into the house looking just like this (yes -- surrounded by all sorts of funny little blueberry groupies donning parsley fans!).
I'm pleased to say that the experimenting was a success (and on the first try... we were impressed). The sauce was a slurping good time.

And we licked our plates clean. Well, almost.

Want the recipe? Oh, alright!
Burp's Blueberry Barbeque Sauce

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Zucchini Fries!

I'm not obsessed with making things healthier, especially if I have to sacrifice flavor in order to do it. But, when I find a way to create something that is both healthy and tasty, I'm a HUGE fan.

These veggie fries are an exceedingly good example of healthy cooking gone absolutely right. The relative ease of the recipe makes it even better. Just a bit of flour, some cornmeal, a few seasonings (this is a great place to get creative), and a couple of eggs... and you have yourself the makings for a snack that rivals french fries.

And what could be bad about that?
You'll catch us making these babies every chance we get. Especially right now when zucchini has gone wild at the farmer's market.

Don't make us be the only ones! Try them yourself.
Zucchini Oven Fries

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Left-Mex: Grilled Vegetable Enchiladas

I never mind when there are leftover grilled vegetables in the refrigerator. To me, they always portend something wonderful in the making.

This week, the grilled veggies included zucchini, eggplant, onions, peppers, and corn.
The something wonderful, as you will soon see, is enchiladas.

Now, don't go getting on my case here. I know that these are a fairly big departure from anything truly authentic. But, I also don't care. Because they're downright delicious.

First, we chopped up the vegetables. Not too finely -- but enough that they'd behave properly when wrapped. Then, we tossed them with a bit of chipotle powder and a hint of salt. Now, I understand that this looks like a veritable mess right now. But, trust me. Eventually it turns into something wonderful.
On this particular day, we had some hand-thrown flour tortillas in the fridge. So, those served as the base for our enchiladas. We took approximately 1/2 cup of the seasoned, chopped vegetables and threw them on top of each tortilla... rolling them up into snug little packets.
Which we threw into a pan that had been generously lined with enchilada sauce.
When we're not making our own sauce, we like this particular variety from Trader Joe's. It's afforable, tasty, and (most importantly) chile-based. We are NOT big fans of tomato-based enchilada sauces at our house. So, we take great pains to avoid them.
Once we filled all the enchiladas (in this case, we had enough filling for about 10 tortillas), we poured the remaining sauce over the top. Just look at how those babies glisten in the sun (that's very important)!
You'll note that, in a rare effort to be health conscious, we didn't put any cheese inside the enchiladas. Well, dont' be deceived. We just saved it all for the top.
After popping them in a 350ºF oven for about 20-25 minutes, they were transformed into a very lovely thing (or 10 very lovely things, if you want to get technical).
After the margarita I drank while putting together the enchiladas, my photography skills (what few I have) went down the drain, so you'll excuse this humble composition. It does showcase the melted cheese nicely, though...

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Update: On our way to the Kir

We've been dedicated to our Kir for the past four weeks, shaking it almost daily and watching it change over from a clear liquor to a stunning fuschia-colored creation.

At this point, the currants themselves have gone from a bright red hue to something a bit more Casper-like... and when we uncork the bottle, we're beginning to sense the perfume of cloves and cinnamon.

Only four more weeks to go before we can uncork this baby and have a taste!

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Heaven... on a Sandwich

When we get back from the farmer's market at this time of the year, I can't resist making one of my favorite summer treats -- grilled vegetable sandwiches.

First, I take a pile of vegetables and chop them into sandwich-sized pieces. This week, we happened to have some locally grown hydroponic orange peppers, a few baby eggplants from the farmer's market, some yellow summer squash, and a few little sweet onions from our CSA.
After some quality time on the grill, those vibrantly lovely veggies were reduced to a fantastically delicious shadow of their former selves. I'll admit to slurping up a few of the slices of caramelized eggplant before they ever made it CLOSE to the sandwiches.
Before I get too far ahead of myself I'd better tell you that, just before we grilled up those veggies, I mixed up the real key to a good summer veggie sandwich. Garlic basil mayonnaise.
No, I didn't go through the trouble of making my own (though that's NEVER a bad idea). But, in this particular case, even the cheater's approach is nothing short of glorious. A bit of garlic and some chopped basil transforms ordinary jarred mayonnaise into something truly extraordinary. And trust me, you ain't lived until you've taken a whiff of this delicious mess!!
Slather some of that extraordinary mayo on one side of a loaf of asiago pesto foccaccia from the local bakery... and pile the veggies high! Grab a side of grilled corn on the cob, and I'm pretty sure you'll be good and satisfied.

Oh, yum!
This is local eating at its finest! And no recipes necessary.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cathedral Square Farmer's Market

We've been touring farmer's markets this year... bopping over to this one one week, and another the next. It's been scads of fun. And we like the variety of vendors we get to visit. This past week, we visited the East Town Market at Cathedral Square Park. This market is open on Saturdays from 8am-12pm.

This is a lovely, urban market, just east of the center of downtown Milwaukee. It attracts a pretty diverse crowd -- eager east-siders looking for farm-fresh delights, downtown apartment-dwellers craving their morning coffee, and folks like us who tooled over from the northwest side of town to take a gander at all that's fresh and frivolous.

Before we started our escapade, we couldn't resist grabbing an iced coffee from Stone Creek, a local coffee roaster who has a tent at the market.
Next stop, the artisan bread baked by Wild Flour Bakery. These guys make the best sourdough breads around. My favorite is a whole wheat sourdough with sunflower seeds, rye chops, poppy, sesame, millet, oats, flax, and wheat.People aren't the only critters getting their feast on down here at the market! Check out these very chic urban doggie treats that are up for sale!
Willoway Farm is my new favorite organic vendor. These fine people run a 7 acre farm in Fredonia, WI that uses organic and biodynamic farming methods. They set up their cozy little tent at the market underneath the shade of one of the park's big trees.
This is where we've been buying all that fantastic heirloom radicchio that we've been grilling! She informed us that this would be the last week for the radicchio crop, so we bought up one of the last heads that she had!
We also checked out the fresh crop of green beans for sale at a nearby vendor...
And grabbed a couple of these tasty little eggplants on the way out!
OH! How I love an early Saturday morning filled with shopping at the market... it wreaks of hope and anticipation of a week filled with great cooking!

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