Monday, June 28, 2010

Food & Sustainability at the Kickapoo Country Fair (and a giveaway)

***GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. Thanks for playing ***

We're getting pretty excited about an event coming up here in Wisconsin during the month of July.

Now in its seventh year, the Kickapoo Country Fair is the Midwest's largest organic food and sustainability festival.

The event is held in La Farge, Wisconsin, which is nestled among the ancient hills of the Kickapoo Valley. For those of you who aren't familiar with La Farge, it's located about an hour from LaCrosse, 90 minutes from Madison, about 3 hours from Milwaukee, and around 5 hours from Chicago. The scenic Highway 14 (which leads to La Farge) meanders west through the rolling hills and valleys of the Driftless Area -- one of the prettiest passages in Wisconsin. And the fair itself is a signature event of the Midwest alternative food movement.

It's the place to be if you're interested in organic food, sustainable agriculture, regional food sheds and just plain good eating. Sponsored by the fast-growing farmers co-op known as Organic Valley, the fair is both celebratory and educational.

Held July 24-25, 2010 on the grounds of Organic Valley headquarters, Kickapoo Country Fair will bring together thousands of attendees for two fun-packed days of food, music, bike and farm tours, cooking demonstrations, theater, kids' activities, dancing, author readings, and speakers—all offered at an affordable price for families.

The heart of the fair is the Kickapoo Kitchen Tent, where fairgoers can participate in hands-on workshops, learn cooking techniques from chefs, meet Organic Valley farmers and sample free food all weekend long. If they're still hungry, organic food from local farmers and restaurants will be available to satisfy even the most adventurous and discerning of foodies, from organic Jamaican jerk chicken to organic fruit smoothies and organic maple cotton candy. Of course, there will also be tastings of local Wisconsin beers and cheeses.

Sound good?
Well, thanks to the generosity of the people over at Organic Valley, we've been given the opportunity to host a giveaway.

We'll be giving away TWO Prizes -- one for those interested in attending the Kickapoo Country Fair, and one for those of you who may NOT be able to attend.
  1. For readers in the Midwest, we'll be offering up FOUR (4) tickets to attend the Kickapoo Country fair on July 24-25, 2010 (a $40 value).
  2. For readers who do not live in the Midwest, or who cannot attend, Organic Valley has graciously provided us with five coupons for free Organic Valley products (a $50 value), and an Organic Valley reusable shopping bag.
You can gain up to THREE entries for the giveaway by doing the following:
  1. Leave a comment below telling us either 1) why you'd like to attend the Kickapoo Country Fair (if you'd like to be entered to win tickets to the fair) OR 2) what your favorite Organic Valley product is, and why you love it (if you cannot attend or would prefer the coupons).
  2. Visit and "LIKE" the the Kickapoo Country Fair on Facebook -- and then come back and leave us a comment telling us you're a fan!
  3. Start following Organic Valley on Twitter -- be sure to come back and leave us a comment letting us know that you're officially a follower!
BONUS ENTRY: Win an additional entry by tweeting:
Win 4 FREE tickets to @OrganicValley's Kickapoo Country Fair: #burpgiveaway

The contest ends on July 6th at NOON (CST) when we will pick two random winners, one for the Kickapoo Country Fair tickets and one for the free Organic Valley product coupons and shopping bag.

We will be contacting the winners by email, so be sure you leave us your email addy if you don't have it listed on your blog or blogger profile.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Herbal Infusions: Simple Syrup

As you develop a collection of fresh herbs growing on your patio, balcony, or in your garden, you'll eventually find yourself wondering what to do with all that bounty.  So, part of the goal of this summer herb series is to give you a few more ideas to add to your repertoire.

This week, we're going to focus on something easy and sweet. Something perfect for all the hot summer weather that's approaching in July. And something you may never have tried before: herbal simple syrup.

One of my favorite ways to get the most from summer herbs is to make simple syrups.  You can use simple syrup to flavor selzer water, sweeten iced tea or lemonade, or even coffee. You can use the syrup to create an interesting herbal dressing for fruit salad (imagine melon balls soaked in mint or basil syrup), homemade ice pops, a fruit soup (strawberry soup with lemon verbena, maybe?), or a fruit and herb sorbet (blackberry basil? vanilla tarragon?). And the syrup adds an amazing layer of flavor when drizzled over a simple bundt cake or sprinkled between the layers of a sponge cake before frosting.

The Good News
There's nothing particularly complicated about making simple syrup, and infusing your syrup with herbal flavors is easy as pie.  All you need is sugar, water, and a few sprigs of your favorite herb. The usual ratio of sugar to water  is 1:1.  This mixture must be kept in the refrigerator and is best used up within a month. However, if you increase the sugar content (2:1), the mixture becomes stable for storage at room temperature and will last for up to 6 months (more info here).  This would be my preferred method for syrups I'd like to keep for an extended period of time.

The (maybe not so) Bad News
On the one hand, you'll have all sorts of great new ideas up your sleeve for entertaining. On the other hand, you'll be tempted to make all sorts of sugary treats once you happen upon your favorite herbal combination. And THAT might pose some not-so-great news for your waistline.  For example, the last time we made our infusions, we went a little crazy over our discovery of Iced Coffee with Lemon Verbena Syrup. (Lemon and coffee may seem like a far-fetched combo, but it's really quite delicious!)
And it was pretty hard to say no to yet another Vodka Rosemary Fizz after a long day at work.
But, overall, I'm going to guess that experimenting with simple syrups will introduce you to a completely new way of looking at herbs. It's not only a great way to preserve your bountiful herbal harvest for a few extra months, but it will help you to exercise your sense of adventure and discovery of new and interesting flavor combinations.

The Master Recipe: Herb Infused Simple Syrup

And here are even more resources for you to explore, if you want to do some experimenting:
This post is part of our Summer 2010 Herb Series: Using and Preserving Herbs. Stay tuned every Friday for more hints, tips and tricks on how to use summer's bounty!

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Make Ahead Meal: King Ranch Chicken Kickasserole

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This is not the blog post where I tell you all the secrets to successful meal planning.  I won't tout the benefits of "once a month" cooking or give you a slew of time-saving tips to use on your everyday weeknight meals.  Because, generally, that's not the way I operate.

I am NOT a domestic goddess. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kindofa girl when it comes to weeknight cooking.

It's not that I haven't tried.  I've given meal planning a whirl. Made the list. Clipped the recipes. And meticulously shopped for all the grocery items that I need to create exactly seven home cooked meals in a week. I've witnessed the money it saves, and the headaches it prevents. But, honestly -- when the rubber hits the road -- planning ahead to that extent simply doesn't work for me.  In fact, some of you will be surprised to hear that that level of planning actually starts to stress me out.  I like a little bit of flexibility in my evening plans... maybe even a bit of uncertainty when it comes to what I'll whip up for dinner.

So, I was a little bit surprised when I discovered the brilliance that is the King Ranch Casserole.

YES -- this is a bit like the Tex-Mex casserole dish that shows up in all the ghastly women's magazines.  And YES -- it's a throw-back from post-World War II cooking, when casseroles made with canned soups were the space-age cuisine (because they could be made quickly and kept for later use, casseroles liberated the modern woman from the slavery of cooking).

But, NO -- this is NOT the version that uses cream of *whatever* soup.  And I promise you, this isn't a trap.  But, it will give you at least a night off from cooking... if you do a bit of prep work ahead of time.

This dish does require you to think ahead -- because the flavor of the dish improves pretty dramatically over the course of a day... or three.  The flavors meld. The textures improve. And, although it will still take you an hour or so to bake it up for dinner on the night you serve it, it gives you what might be exactly the right amount of respite from actual cooking duties to renew your strength and energy.

The best part of it is, it doesn't even require a REAL recipe -- though I'm going to give you a bit of a cheat sheet you can use if you'd like to recreate this dish at  home.

Here's what you'll need (more or less)

  • a package of corn tortillas (A pack of 12 works great. We like sprouted corn... )
  • 2-3 cups tomatillo sauce (it helps to have a bit of this in the freezer, but you can make your own)
  • 3 cups cooked chicken (again, nice to have this in the freezer)
  • An onion 
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • a teaspoon or so of cumin and smoked paprika
  • salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup or so of chopped cilantro
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2-3 cups of grated cheese (Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, or whatever you have on hand)
Dice your onion and saute it with the garlic until everything is tender. Mix in the cumin, paprika, cilantro, pepper, salt, and chicken.   Provided you have your sauce and chicken together, this is all the cooking you'll need to do.

Put a bit of tomatillo sauce on the bottom of a glass or ceramic baking dish, and start layering your ingredients:
  1. 4 tortillas
  2. a bit of sour cream (spread this over the top of the tortillas)
  3. 1/3 of the chicken mixture
  4. 1/3 of the tomatillo sauce
  5. cheese
Keep layering until you've used up all of your ingredients -- ending with a nice layer of cheese on the very top. Cover the pan, and place it into the fridge.  Leave it there for 1-3 days. I promise you, it's worth the wait.
While you're waiting for your casserole to "age"  you can do all sorts of fun things -- go out, make a new friend, write a blog post or two, read other peoples' blogs and get new ideas for what to make for dinner NEXT week.

When it's time to bake the casserole, put the dish into a cold oven.  Set the oven to 375ºF and allow the casserole to bake for 50 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, whip off your apron and mix yourself up a nice stiff brandy old fashioned. You deserve it.  Make it a double.  After all, you'll have to wait almost an hour for the casserole to come out of the oven. Might as well make it worth your while.
When the casserole is all brown and bubbling, it's going to smell seriously good and you'll be tempted to slice right into it.  But, you should refrain for about 10 minutes just to let everything set up a bit.

One bite of this and the children will rejoice. Your significant other will sing your praises. And the dog will beg to lick your plate when you're done eating.

You'll feel liberated.
And modern.
And oh-so-very-savvy.

But you can thank me later.  In the meantime, take a bite of your casserole.

Quick Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Using and Preserving Summer Herbs: Our Upcoming Herb Series

If there's something we're passionate about over here at Burp! it's flavor.  You won't find much that's bland or boring here. And we're always looking for ways to kick things up a notch -- whether it's through the discovery of a new flavor combination, technique, or ingredient.

Along those lines, one thing I can't imagine doing without in the kitchen is fresh herbs. Whether it's using them to pull together a quick and flavorful pistou to use for roasting chicken, adding them to a marinade, making yogurt sauce for summer grilling, or whipping up a fresh cool batch of mint ice cream, fresh herbs can make all the difference between drab... and fab.

Needless to say, although our urban garden isn't very large, we're always certain to make room for herbs. We have a number of perennial herbs (thyme, tarragon, oregano, lavendar, and winter savory) growing in herb beds alongside the house. But, we also plant plenty of annuals and tender perennials like basil, rosemary, marjoram, parsley, and lemon verbena.  We plant some between the peppers in our vegetable bed, and we sprinkle a few others among the flowers in the pots on our porch.  And when wintertime comes, we make a grand effort to bring some of our favorite herbs inside and keep them alive during the long Wisconsin winter.

But, I can buy herbs in the store. Why would I want to grow my own? you might say.  Well, here's a few reasons every cook should have a kitchen herb garden.
  1. It's convenient.   How many times have you had to run out to the store to grab one of those little plastic boxes of fresh basil?  How much time did it take you?  Just imagine the time you'd save if you could pluck a few sprigs of basil from a pot right outside your kitchen door.
  2. It will save you money.  You spend at least $2 on that little plastic box of basil from the store. You can probably buy a whole basil plant for that price, or slightly more.  Buy two or three plants and you'll have enough basil for an entire summer of pesto and marinara sauce.
  3. They're good for you.  Both fresh and dried herbs contain incredible amounts of antioxidants. And research has shown that antioxidants may slow or prevent the development of some cancers, among other diseases.
  4. Your herbs are ultra fresh -- and you know where they've been. Herbs begin to lose their vitality within a short time after they are picked. So, herbs you pick yourself are at the peak of freshness. In addition, you know that the herbs you pick out of your yard haven't been treated with pesticides or chemicals. They haven't spent hours in the back of a truck, been dropped, mishandled, or otherwise abused.
  5. It's good for the environment. Gardening automatically reduces your carbon footprint. You're no longer relying on the resources (manpower, fuel, manufacturing, transportation) it took to move those herbs from the farm to your grocery store. And you're not paying a premium to cover the cost of loss on the herbs which, if they are not purchased, are thrown away.
  6. You can grow really cool varieties of common herbs.  Opal basil, Thai basil, lemon or lime thyme, chocolate mint, lemon verbena -- the possibilities are endless when you're the gardener.  And the more herbs you have at your disposal, the more creative you can be with your cooking.

Alright, so you've decided to grow a few herbs. Or maybe you have an herb garden that you'd like to expand. Where should you start? Start by thinking about the kinds of foods you love to cook.
  • French and Mediterranean fare make use of herbs like basil, tarragon, marjoram, lavender, rosemary, and thyme. 
  • Italian cooking uses lots of basil, bay, Italian flat-leaf parsley, oregano, rosemary, sage, and garlic.   
  • Asian cuisine makes good use of cilantro, chilies, chives, curry, lemongrass, and Thai basil.  
  • Mexican flavors include cilantro, savory, basil, rosemary, thyme, chiles and garlic. 
  • Authentic Indian cooking makes use of a wide variety of herbs, but some of the basics include basil, coriander, cumin, dill, parsley, mint, thyme, sage and savory. 

Join us this weekend and learn more about herbs!
We're very excited to be sharing some of our knowledge about the topics of both food blogging and herbs at this year's Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. The festival is a free community-wide event organized by the UW-Waukesha Foundation in cooperation with community groups that include the Waukesha County Federated Library System, the Waukesha Public Library, the Literacy Council of Greater Waukesha and Martha Merrell’s Bookstore.

We'll be participating in two different sessions:
  • A panel on "The Art of Blogging" at 4:00pm on Friday, June 18th.
  • A presentation on "Using and Preserving Summer Herbs" at 1:00pm on Saturday, June 19th
More than 100 authors of adult and children’s books will make presentations at the free public event that will have all the trappings of a festival – an exhibition of authors, publishers and books sellers, music and drama performances, a cook book stage featuring chef demonstrations, a children’s festival with children’s authors and activities, an art exhibit, food and entertainment.  Download the full schedule.

We're thrilled to be a part of this celebration of literacy and creativity -- and we'd love it if you could join us.  But, if you can't make it out for our presentation this weekend, we'd invite you to join us right here on the blog for an herb series that we'll be running every Friday throughout the summer.  Our hope is that we'll share recipes, techniques, and interesting tales that will get you thinking about how to make the most of fresh herbs in your kitchen.

What's your favorite way to use fresh herbs?

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Learning to Lurve Liver: Three Spice Liver Pate

And it's time again for the Daring Cooks Challenge. Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

My first inclination when I read about this challenge was to suggest we create something completely decadent -- a country duck pate with port wine, maybe? or something with beef and wild mushrooms?

But, the more I thought about it, the more I decided that we really needed to be a little bit more daring.  We knew some DC cooks, like Audax Artifex would shock us with delicacies like head cheese and chicken feet pate -- and both of those things would be awesome to tackle.  But, we knew we didn't have time for that.   What we did have time to do, however, was to confront one of Peef's most long-standing aversions:  liver.

I won't lie.  Liver has never been a particular favorite of mine either. But, I never had quite the aversion to it that Peef does. His lack of affection for beef liver goes way back -- to one evening when his mother decided to make up a batch of something that she called "little meats" (i.e. pieces of fried beef liver sliced up into tiny little steaks). According to the story Peef has told, everyone was tentatively eating their little meats ... when all of a sudden his sister stopped dead, dropped her fork, and said: "Ew. This is liver, isn't it?"  The meal was ruined from that point forward.  Needless to say, Paul has been hesitant about eating liver ever since.

So, after discussing the matter for a bit, we decided that liver pate might be an interesting way to reintroduce the concept.  We also decided to make the King Arthur French bread recipe that was included as part of the challenge, since I've been looking for a tried and true batard recipe.

The process for the bread went swimmingly -- from the poolish (starter), through two full risings, to the baking.
The bread didn't brown up quite as well as we'd hoped, but the loaves were pleasantly hollow sounding when tapped, and the crust was exquisite.
It wasn't until we bit into our first bite of freshly baked bread that we realized I forgot to add the salt!  The bread had a pleasantly wheaty and yeasty flavor... but bread without salt is a bit of a disappointment. 

Considering the bread didn't turn out quite as expected, we had high hopes for the liver pate. We decided to try the three spiced liver pate, a tried and true recipe Evelyn and Valerie had suggested. For the recipe, we were required us to purchase beef liver, pork belly, and ground pork.  The meats were chopped and pureed with cinnamon, cumin, coriander, garlic, and shallots. 
The puree was then mixed with egg and cognac and layered in a baking dish with bay leaves and bacon. Then, the pate was baked in a water bath for an hour and a half.
The pate smelled amazing when it came out of the oven -- spicy and smoky and somewhat complex. But, we managed to wait until it was cooled to enjoy it spread atop of some of our freshly baked (albeit salt-less) French bread.
Sadly, for as great as it smelled, the pate was a bit disappointing.  I thought the recipe was a bit heavy on the side of the cinnamon, and I felt I'd probably like the pate a bit better if it was made with a different combination of spices. Peef thought the flavors were interesting together, but not something that he'd necessarily seek out again.

On the bright side of things, the pate did make Peef think twice about his initial impressions of liver.  In fact,  he declared after eating his fill of the pate that I could make him liver and onions any time I wanted to!

So, the verdict?

We'll definitely be making French bread again (and adding salt next time).  And we'd love to try a different variation on the liver pate concept.  So, if you have any suggestions, feel free to send them our way!

RECIPES - June Daring Cooks Challenge
And don't forget to check out the submissions from other Daring Cooks!

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Never the Same Dish Twice: Caramelized Onion & Poblano Enchiladas

There's just something about a cheese enchilada.

It's not complicated. Or fancy. If you're honest, you'll probably even admit that it's really not even all that interesting.  But, there's something about a deliciously soft tortilla that's filled with cheese and covered in sauce that seems to capture the imagination. 

Of course, if you're like me, you're always trying to play with perfection... tweaking a little bit here, adjusting there. Making things better (hopefully)... or at least different.  Keeping the spirit of the experimentation alive.

This dish has been a perennial favorite in the Burp! kitchen. In fact, the recipe goes way back -- to the beginnings of the blog.

It was one of our very first blog posts -- published toward the end of June in 2007.  At the point it was written, we weren't cognizant that we had an audience.  In fact, we were pretty sure that we didn't. You'll notice there's no pretty photo of our meal. No story about where we got the idea for the recipe. In fact, there's not much of anything interesting about the post at all, except maybe the recipe itself (and that's probably somewhat debatable).

The fact of the matter is, the idea stemmed from a recipe for cheese and caramelized onion enchiladas that we found in Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.   We loved the concept of using sweet caramelized onions in an enchilada, but I wasn't completely satisfied with the recipe on its own.  So, we started tweaking.

Rather than using pickled jalapeno peppers, I decided to sub in slices of roasted poblano chiles. To add a bit of delightful creaminess, we added a few ounces of cream cheese to the filling. We neglected to use Bishop's sauce.  And suddenly, we had a brand new dish.

Years later, I'd venture a guess that we've made this dish at least 10-15 times. And it's likely to have been different every go-round. We've used various sauces (a mole, a red chile sauce, and a roasted tomatillo sauce). We've substituted roasted red peppers and fresh jalapenos for the poblanos. We've added goat cheese to the mix, rather than cream cheese.  And every time, it's been a completely new kind of fabulous.

But, that's exactly what I love about cooking. And blogging.  It's never the same twice. Ingredients change. Trends come and go. We approach the same dishes with different perspectives. And recipes have this miraculous way of morphing into new experiences right before our very eyes.

Every single time we step into the kitchen, we learn something new. And we find something unexpected.

So, go ahead -- tweak that recipe. See what it becomes for you.
Caramelized Onion & Poblano Enchiladas

And don't forget -- in celebration of our Burp-Day, we'll be giving away at least THREE (3) Burp! t-shirts during the month of June. Visit Burp! Blog on Facebook to find out how to win!

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Coriander Lime Ice Cream with Rhubarb Swirl: Celebrating Our Third Burp-day!

Blogging is a little bit like being in a long-term relationship.
For the most part, I can't remember what life was like BEFORE the Burp! blog came into our our lives.  It has become a fixture, a way of life, a part of how we live and cook.  On the other hand, as I look back over all the posts we've written and all the great people we've gotten to know, I realize that three years is a pretty long time to be dedicated to a food blog.

Like every healthy relationship, blogging takes work and dedication.  I'm not sure that we're really in a position to be giving blogging advice (after all, I feel like we're still learning the ropes).  But, here are a few tips we've picked up along the way:
  1. Always talk. Keep communication channels open. Be authentic. If there's one thing I've learned from blogging, it's that there's no point to putting on a show. Or pretending to be someone you're not. You've got to find your own voice, write about what you're passionate about, and share little bits and pieces of yourself with your readers. Blogging isn't a popularity contest, and it's not high school.  It's about building real relationships and community.
  2. Set expectations and goals. Keep GROWING. It took us a while to figure out what we wanted from blogging. In fact, when we first began, it was just a mechanism for tracking our recipes and exercising our writing muscles... we didn't expect anyone (beyond friends and family) to be reading it! Of course, as we moved along, we realized that we needed to have a vision for where we wanted the blog to be going. We needed to make a commitment to it (and our readers), and we needed to decide how we would keep things new and fresh. 
  3. Seek out good advice and coaching. You may think that only relationships that are on the brink of failing need to seek out good advice and coaching. But, that's simply not true. Even good relationships (and blogs) can benefit greatly from the good advice of others -- and that's absolutely been true for the Burp! blog.  We've learned so much from ALL of you -- from the tips and tricks passed along by our readers to the inspiration and sage words of advice from senior bloggers.
Burp! wouldn't be here if it weren't for you -- our loyal readers and trusted blogging friends.  The past three years have really blown past. In fact, if it hadn't been for a serendipitous glance at the calendar this past weekend, the fact that it's our third blogiversary (or "Burp-day," if you please) might have passed us by without any mention.

However, once we realized we were celebrating three years, we decided we had to do SOMETHING to celebrate.  And what better than churning up a bit of celebration ice cream?

Of course, this couldn't be just any old ice cream. It needed to be something extra special.  As we were looking over all the recipes we've developed over the years, Peef suggested we create something with rhubarb.  He pointed to the recipe for rhubarb sauce with coriander and lime, a recipe we created back in 2008.

The recipe actually marked a sort of turning point for the blog -- one in which we decided that we'd really like to journey outside our previous "comfort zones" and start experimenting with different flavor combinations.  We'd never used coriander in a sweet application, so the idea of trying it out in a rhubarb sauce seemed a little bit wild.  Interestingly enough, it turned out to be a fabulous complement for the sour notes of the rhubarb and lime, and became an instant favorite.
This time around, we wanted to boost the coriander flavor a bit -- so we made it a primary flavor for our ice cream base by infusing it with ground coriander seed, half of a vanilla bean, and the zest of one lime. This Philadelphia style ice cream has notes of coriander, vanilla, and lime with a delicious swirl of rhubarb sauce running throughout.
Honestly -- the ice cream was so delicious that Peef couldn't keep his spoon out of the ice cream maker as it was churning.  It's the perfect combination of cool creamy sweetness and zippy tartness -- a bit like all the best parts of spring-turned-summertime captured in a dish.

And so, in the spirit of deliciousness, we lift our glasses of ice cream high and toast all of you! Thanks for three amazing years!

Even more exciting -- in celebration of our Burp-Day, we'll be giving away at least THREE (3) t-shirts during the month of June. Visit Burp! Blog on Facebook to find out how to win!
2008: Rhubarb Sauce with Coriander and Lime
2010: Coriander Lime Ice Cream with Rhubarb Swirl

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chile Roasted Salmon

I'll admit it, I've become a spoiled brat when it comes to salmon.  And it's all Peef's fault.

For years, he made regular trips out to Seattle in the late spring to meet with one of his major sales accounts. And every time he visited, he'd bring me something delicious from the market.  Sometimes he'd bring me a bag of freshly roasted coffee. More often he'd bring me fragrant spice blends from World Spice Merchants. And in the late spring, he'd bring me my absolute favorite thing:  fresh Copper River Salmon.

The first time he brought salmon home, he surprised me.  He'd purchased a whole Alaskan Sockeye from the market, had it packed in dry ice, and smuggled it onto the plane in lieu of his usual carry-on.  At the time, I wasn't yet the salmon devotee that I am today.  But, I knew from my first glance at that fish, that there was no turning back.

In the days following his return flight, we ate as much salmon as we could -- relishing the filets grilled, roasted, and pan-fried (encased with thin slices of potato and served alongside wasabi mashed potatoes).  When we'd had our fill of the freshest fish I'd ever eaten in my life, I researched the best ways to package the remainders for freezing.   Once the portioned filets were neatly packed away in our chest freezer,  I constructed the best salmon "burgers" EVER from the leftover bits and pieces.

I thought there couldn't be anything better than fresh sockeye salmon.  Until he brought me an Alaskan Copper River the next year...  and, well, you get how the obsession started.

Unfortunately, Peef has moved on from the job that required his quarterly trips to Seattle. It's been at least two years since I've tasted salmon half as fresh, though the memory of that clean flavor still haunts me.

These days, you'd be hard-pressed to find me buying salmon from the local supermarket (or even the more upscale meat/fish counters), though I do make exception for wild salmon in the off-season that has been painstakingly frozen and stored -- fish that retains at least some apparition of its former glory.

Which brings me to the dish I'm about to present to you.  It's fabulously easy. And deliciously picante. And it's the perfect solution for a rainy spring evening when you can't get outside to enjoy the deliciously smoky flavor that only the grill can impart.

The topping for the fish is simple -- chipotle peppers, salt, garlic, sugar, lime, Mexican oregano, and a bit of olive oil.  Spread it on top of the filets of salmon and bake for 10-15 minutes.

What you end up with is a filet of tender, flaky salmon topped with a hot, sweet, smoky glaze.  The perfect accompaniment for that Cuban sidecar you've been craving.

Chile Roasted Salmon

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