Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My New Project: FOODCrush

Writing!I know I've been a little quiet lately on the blogging front. In addition to not writing quite as often, another of the things I've had to ease up on has been reading & visiting other blogs.  But, rest assured my dear friends, I'm still here!  And I can't wait until life frees me up just a little so that I can get back online.

So, what have I been up to?
Well, I've already told you about my recent foray into event planning and fund-raising. And you can imagine what it's like trying to balance two events, along with a full time job.  But, there's another reason why I've been AWOL. I've also been spending a little time on another side project, FOODCrush a community blog for Inside Milwaukee, the new Web site for Milwaukee Magazine.

The blog is (surprise) all about food.  I'm hoping to focus on at least one new local "food crush" each week -- thereby showcasing lots of great stuff around town.  I'll definitely be looking for ideas.  So, if you're a local foodie, I'd totally welcome your suggestions.  Know of a little known foodie destination?  A great product made in Milwaukee?  A cool festival that focuses on food?  Shoot me an email at lo @ eatatburp.com.  I would LOVE to hear from you.  And hey -- now I can give you all sorts of mad props in my new forum! 

The soft launch for the Web site began over Labor Day weekend, and they're still working out a few kinks.  But, you can check out my first blog post online starting today.  Right now it all just feels a bit surreal, but I think this is going to be a whole lot of fun...

And rest assured, I promise not to let it eat into my blogging over here at Burp!  I've still got plenty to say about our adventures in the kitchen!  I just need to find some time to get it all down on paper.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

And the Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Goes to...

It's 12:26pm, and we've chosen the winner of our Tropical Traditions Coconut Giveaway through the random.org number generator.

The winner is: Elisse Jo Goldstein-Clark
Elisse wins a free quart of coconut oil from Tropical Traditions, with which she says she's going to make Chicken with Citrus-Garlic-Ginger Sauce.

Looking forward to hearing all about it, Elisse!  Enjoy.

And we'll be back with a blog post soon (I promise).  Just gotta get some of our fund-raising action under control.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bowties with Beet Sauce

I'm not superwoman.
I can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. I can't wear spandex. And I'm fairly sure I can't repel bullets with my pretty little bracelets... though I can't say I've ever tried.  But, I can roast a mean beet.  And I can put together a pretty good impromptu pasta dish.  And here's proof.

For the past 3-4 weeks, Peef and I haven't really been able to see straight. Our lives have been filled with phone calls, meetings, emails, donation pick-ups, marketing and promotions. I don't know how we did it, but we managed to wrangle ourselves into planning not one.. but two fundraisers. All at the same time. And we've been paying for it.  Sleep and time deficits abound. And cooking is the last thing on our minds when we get home from a busy day at the office.

Fortunately, we have friends in high places.  Or at least friends at Pastificio Lucio Garofalo.  Those friends were nice enough to send us a big box of pasta to sample.  And that pasta... well, it has just about saved our lives.

Now, I'm going to get flack from some people for claiming that this recipe is quick and easy, since it calls for roasted beets.  Yes, I know it takes about an hour to roast beets.  But, they're beautiful to have on hand for weeknight meals if you take the time to prepare them in advance. I roasted my beets and my garlic over the weekend, when I actually had the hour to spare.  Then I packed them away into glass containers.

When the time came to make dinner, I just reached right into the fridge, grabbed them, and peeled them.  It took about five minutes.   Also (literally) took about five minutes to whizz the beets and the garlic together in the food processor, adding salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste.  I didn't puree it completely, since I wanted a bit of texture to remain.  But, I got the mixture fairly smooth.

Then I mixed in a bit of goat cheese, and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice.

Meanwhile, my pasta was cooking away.  By the time it was ready, so was my sauce.  And voila!  Everything was tossed together in a snap.

The sauce was such a brilliant color, I couldn't resist topping it with a few kernels of fresh roasted sweet corn and a handful of fresh basil.

Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.
Perfection for beet lovers everywhere.  And quick... even if you're not superwoman.

Beet Sauce for Pasta

If you're curious about those fund-raisers we've been dedicating our lives to, here's a little more info:
  1. BANNED: Taboo Books, Bites, and Libations
  2. Gumbo Git Down for the Gulf
Full Disclosure: We were not paid to advertise for Pastificio Lucio Garofalo. All opinions expressed in this blog entry are our own and are reflective of our experience.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Candied Jalapeno Peppers: Daring Cooks Challenge September

Considering the state of affairs in my brain lately, it was utterly serendipitous that the Daring Cooks challenge this month had to do with food preservation -- because that's exactly what I've been spending my time doing lately.  And that means I haven't had much time for extra-curricular cooking projects!

One of our goals during the Eat Local Challenge this year has been to preserve as much local produce as possible so that we're able to sustain our regular local eating for a longer period of time.  And, so far, we've put up quite the stash of edibles:
  • 25 lbs of roasted Amish paste tomatoes
  • 14 cups of roasted tomatillo sauce (with more to come)
  • 10 lbs Italian Romano beans
  • 15 lbs of roasted red peppers
  • 50 lbs of Door County peaches
  • 20 cups applewood smoked sweet corn
  • 1/2 lb dehydrated Principe Borghese tomatoes
  • 6 lbs raspberries
Our freezer is filling quickly, so I had plans to start canning foods, rather than freezing them.  The first recipe on my list -- candied jalapenos!

I should preface all that excitement by confessing that, for a good many years, I've harbored a very irrational (yet real) fear of canning.  I have no idea where it came from, since my mother canned all sorts of delicious things when I was a girl -- tomatoes, peaches, pears, salsa, jelly, jam...  You name it, my mom seemed to be able to can it.   But me -- not so much.

About five years ago, I bought all of the supplies -- the jar grabber thingie, the magnetic lid picker-upper, the oversized funnel...  but the items sat there down in the basement. Unused.  And I'm not really sure why.  The fact of the matter was, I wasn't really afraid I'd give anyone botulism. But, canning seemed... like such a pain.

I knew I needed a great recipe to push me to tackle canning on my own. Fortunately, I didn't have to look very far to find one. Ever since I saw the recipe over at CakeWalk last summer, I've wanted to try my hand at canning these peppers. We were lucky enough to be able to sample them when Rebecca brought corn bread made with the peppers to our Soup Night last February -- and we fell in love.  I vowed to conquer my irrational fears of canning and make the best possible use of the jalapeno harvest in 2010 -- expressly to make these wonderful little sweet-hot wonders.

And so we did!  I didn't, unfortunately, have enough peppers in my own little garden to equal the three pounds needed for the recipe. But, I was fortunate that Kay from Jen Ehr Family Farms did.  Her peppers were fat and succulent looking -- with the tell-tale striations that always seem to belie a nice amount of peppery kick.

About 20 minutes with the mandoline yielded a large bowl filled with near-perfectly sliced jalapenos.  And a few more minutes  of cooking gave me the vinegary-sweet pepper-infused syrup that I'd need to get the canning process underway.

I'll admit I felt more than a little bit twitterpated by the thought of putting my (never used) canning supplies to work.  And I was even more excited by the fact that the recipe seemed quite nearly fool-proof.  Thanks to a few wise tips and lots of encouragement from Rebecca, I was on my way.

Of course, as I heard the water come to a boil in my canning pot, I also felt the butterflies mounting in my stomach.  How exciting was this?? I was canning!  And it was easy!

By the time our 7 half-pint jars were filled with jalapenos and the pot was bubbling gaily in the midst of processing, Peef and I had already decided that we also wanted to can the leftover brine from the recipes.  What would we do with it?  *wink*  Well, only time would tell!

In the meantime, we'll be happily eating our lovely jars of candied jalapenos -- in corn bread, on pulled pork sandwiches, burgers... and strewn deliciously atop jerk chicken nachos.  OH, YUM.

Candied Jalapenos

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Jerk Wraps with Fresh Peaches, Fried Plantains, and Ginger Mayo

Every summer it seems we find a new addiction when it comes to fresh peaches. Oddly enough, it's not usually a dessert recipe.  It's usually a sammich.

Two years ago, we fell in love with Thai style fish tacos with red curry coleslaw and peach salsa

Last year we discovered the BLP -- which made us so very happy we had a hard time saying goodbye to peach season.

And this summer, I'm afraid it's the Jerk Wrap.

I've been waiting all summer for the blushiest, ripest peaches so that I could pair them with something spicy. Usually, they'd end up in some sort of salsa.  But, not this year.  This year I decided to veer along Caribbean lines. The first thing I did was to fry up a couple of plantains.

I tend to like my plantains on the sweet side. But, for this recipe I opted for fruits in the mid-range of ripeness -- mostly yellow with a few black flecks.  I figured that the semi-ripe fruit would hold up a bit better during the frying process, and the starchier flavor would compete less with the sweetness of the peaches.

In keeping with the Caribbean theme, I decided to fry the plantains in coconut oil.  I use coconut oil frequently for making Thai curries, for frying fish and seafood, and for baking.  I also love the flavor it adds to roasted cauliflower, turnips, and potatoes.

In this particular case, I was trying out a new product. Tropical Traditions had just sent me a sample of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil -- a coconut oil made using the traditional methods (grating the coconut, extracting the milk and allowing the milk stand until the oil separates naturally from the water).

One of the first things I noticed about the TT oil was its clarity -- perfectly clear at above 76º. The oil also smelled rich and nutty.  Since the oil was warm enough to be in its liquid state when I pulled it out of the cupboard, I used a ladle to put about 1/4 cup into my cast iron skillet.

I heated the oil over medium-high heat before adding the plantains, which I had sliced in half and then lengthwise (making them a reasonable shape to put into a wrap.   The plantains fried up beautifully golden brown.  The outside of the fruit was golden and crisp, while the inside was warm and creamy.  And the plantains carried with them just a hint of the nutty coconut flavor.

Once the plantains were fried, I sliced up the peaches while Peef shredded up the jerk chicken.  I also mixed two tablespoons of ginger with about 1/3 cup or so of mayonnaise. I spread the mayo onto a sprouted grain wrap, added a couple of slices of peaches, a length of plantain, about 1/4 cup of shredded chicken, and a few fresh arugula leaves.

One bite and we were both hooked. The peppery arugula provided crunch. And the complex flavors of the jerk chicken -- allspice, habanero, thyme, and garlic -- paired perfectly with the sweetness of the peaches and the liveliness of the ginger mayo.  Meanwhile, the warm crisp plantains provided body and "tooth" to the wrap.  

This recipe would be equally as good made with tofu or pork.  In fact, we're already working on a winter variation of the recipe -- jerk pork with sliced pineapple, watercress, and ginger aioli.

Burp! Jerk Marinade


Interested in trying out Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil for yourself?
Tropical Traditions has generously offered to send a quart sized jar of their coconut oil to one lucky reader.  To win, please read the instructions below. Be sure to leave a comment for each entry (and leave your email address if you don't have it listed on your blog/contact info).   Contest ends 9/25/10 at NOON (CST).

Mandatory entry (must be completed or no other entries will count):   
Extra entries – please leave a comment for each additional entry, letting us know you completed it
  • Subscribe to Tropical Tradition’s email sales newsletter 
  • Give us a "like" on Facebook!
  • Follow @Burp_blog on twitter
  • Use the following text to tweet about this giveaway (please leave a link to your tweet in the comments for credit):  
    • Tropical Traditions Gold Label Coconut Oil - #win a quart @Burp_blog:  Ends 9/25 #giveaway

Full disclosure: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Making the Most of the Local Harvest: Bourbon Caramel Peach Cobbler

I'm not usually a person who plans too far ahead.  After all, I like a bit of uncertainty in my life. And, although I can appreciate good planning as much as the next guy, I'm well aware that not every aspect of life can be perfectly orchestrated.

However, there are some areas in life which require me to exercise foresight.

When the dog days of summer have come to an end, and crisp autumnal breezes have blown their last... when the snow sits idly on the ground and the February wind whips through our hair, there's one thing for which I long: FRUIT.

We get spoiled during the summer months when sweet, ripe, locally grown fruit is at the ready just about any time we have a craving.  But, by the time January rolls around in this Wisconsin climate, I'm hard-pressed to find much beyond a few storage apples in the back of my refrigerator and insanely priced packages of frozen berries at my local coop.

So this year, we're preparing for the winter by putting up as much fruit as possible.  So far, we've managed to sock away 5 lbs of strawberries, 6 lbs of raspberries, 10 lbs of sour cherries, and (just this weekend) almost 50 lbs of Door County peaches.  I'm freezing the fruit -- in great part so that I can reduce the amount of added sugar as much as possible. But, I may also try my hand at canning a few jars of apple or pear butter by the time the season ends.

Of course, when there's this much delicious fruit lying around, it's also difficult not to enjoy a bit of it while it's at its peak.  In addition to eating dozens of these lovely peaches out of hand, we also managed to enjoy a few of them in one of our favorite sweet treats.

Rather than make our usual batch of peach ice cream, we decided to go with something warm and comforting -- a peach cobbler.  But, this particular cobbler has a twist. Its peaches are cooked in a caramel sauce that's accented by a bit of Kentucky Bourbon. And the best part is - it can be made in September with the best, fresh peaches of the season.  But, it also turns out great when made in mid-February with fresh frozen peaches -- you know, the ones you stockpiled during the height of the season.

If you're using fresh peaches, you'll want to sprinkle them with a bit of sugar and allow them to sit for about 1/2 hour so that the sugar can draw out their juices.  However, if you're making it with frozen peaches, you may find that the thawed peaches produce enough juice on their own.
 Meanwhile, you mix together a sugar syrup, place it into a cast iron (or other heavy-bottomed) pan, and allow it to caramelize.
To the caramel, you'll add the juices from the peaches, a bit of butter, and a splash of bourbon.  Toss the caramel with the peaches, and top the fruit with a classic crumble mixture (made from butter, flour, brown sugar, another splash of bourbon, some oatmeal, and a pinch of salt) and a few chopped pecans.
 Bake until caramel is bubbly and topping is crisp and browned.  And serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I could begin to tell you all about how delicious this cobbler is -- how the bourbon flavor cuts the sweetness of the caramel and enhances the fruitiness of the peaches.  I could describe the buttery topping -- which is crusty and light and nutty all at the same time.   Or I could just stand by and let you make your own -- which is probably the smart thing to do.

Bourbon Caramel Peach Cobbler

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Using and Preserving Summer Herbs: Rosemary Comes to Dinner

I've been friends with Rosemary for a long time now. When we first met, she was dry, and her disposition sharp.  When we talked, I always seemed to get her caught in my teeth.  And I couldn't seem to appreciate her harshness.

However, as the years wore on, I found that there were many sides to Rosemary.  If I caught her in the morning, fresh from the garden, her smell was intoxicating -- a bit like fresh pine boughs, and filled with the earth.  But, if left alone for too long, she grew parched and brittle, and her perfume would start to smell astringent.

Her marriage to garlic is almost too good to be true. But, it's taken many years of practice.  When they first met, they both tried to hog the spotlight. Inevitably, one of them ended up wounded or broken. But, over the years the two lovers have learned to move together in perfect harmony. And everyone is happier -- including the neighbors.

Although she turns some people off with her assertiveness, I'm Rosemary's biggest fan. You always know where you stand when you're with her. And there's no hiding behind false pretenses. She puts herself right out there in front, and you can't help but notice her.  And I'll be honest, that's a big part of her appeal.

I had her over for dinner the other night. At first, we were uncertain about what to make. So, we took a trip to the supermarket. Rosemary pointed to the tender young Strauss free-raised veal shanks and smiled. I knew then that we were in for something special.
 She took me by the arm and led me back into the kitchen. And that's where the lessons began.  I learned to rely on the basics -- celery, onions, carrots, a splash of white wine, and very good chicken stock.  But, she also taught me to think outside the box -- adding petitely diced guanciale, briny anchovy filets, last summer's dried Principe Borghese tomatoes, and (of course) a generous helping of garlic.
As the ingredients simmered, I was mesmerized by how the ingredients danced together -- playing off of one another's strengths, waxing and waning and gradually mellowing.  And, as the components came together, they formed a symphony of flavors... of colors...
With Rosemary at the helm, I began to realize that it couldn't help but become a thing of beauty.  So, I reliquished control. While Rosemary worked her magic, I pulled together a pot of risotto. Simple. Elegant. Embellished only by a grating of Carr Valley Gran Canaria -- an intensely nutty cheese that I figured would be the perfect match for Rosemary's intensity.

The dance took almost two hours to complete, but when we finished, I wasn't even tired. In fact, I felt invigorated. Delighted. Inspired. And as we finished, I couldn't help but savor those final bits of sauce -- deliciously unctuous and smooth, subtly herbal, and ... well, perfect.

Sometimes there's nothing like a new dinner with an old friend.

Osso Buco with Rosemary & Sundried Tomatoes

This guest post wraps up our Summer 2010 Herb Series: Using and Preserving Herbs. Thanks to everyone for making this series such a great success!  And we wish you much luck making use of your bountiful harvest.

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