Friday, July 30, 2010

Using and Preserving Summer Herbs: Tarragon

And now, please give your full attention to Anna from Tallgrass Kitchen!

Tarragon is the sexy herb – it isn’t a workhorse like parsley, or an icon like basil. It doesn’t cross cultures as easily as cilantro, but there’s something about it. It’s oh-so-French, and therefore, elegant. It’s the little black dress of herbs – you don’t wear it everyday, but when you do – watch out boys!

Tarragon is a member of the famous French herb mix ‘fines herbes’ (accompanied by chervil, parsley, and chives), which dresses up chicken, fish, eggs, and salad dressings. It is also the principal herb flavoring in béarnaise sauce. It has a very distinctive, strong taste – primarily anise, a little bit sweet, a bit astringent. A little goes a long way.

It’s easy to grow, although if you are north of hardiness zone 5, you need to either mulch it over the winter, or grow it in a pot. Mine is in a small pot that I bring into the garage each winter – it goes dormant, and then sprouts anew in the spring. There are two varieties of tarragon – French, and Russian. The French has a purer, stronger taste, and the Russian is a bit bitter. French is preferred, so be careful when purchasing at a nursery. French tarragon must be grown from cuttings, not seed. You can dry tarragon, but it loses much of its pungency. Freezing is favored – you can either freeze the leaves in a plastic bag, or put in an ice cube tray with a bit of water to melt into soups, marinades, etc.

Tarragon lends itself easily to savory or sweet dishes, as in the recipes below.

Blueberry Tarragon Ice Pops
makes ten 3 oz popsicles

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 sprigs of fresh tarragon
3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
Additional ¾ cup water

1)      Create a simple syrup by bringing 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add tarragon sprigs, and let steep for 30-60 minutes. Strain syrup and discard solids.
2)      In blender, purée blueberries and ¾ cup water until very smooth. If you don’t have a blender that can achieve a silky texture, it is worth the extra step of pushing the liquid through a fine sieve to get rid of the blueberry skins.
3)      Combine simple syrup and blueberry mixture, and freeze in ice pop molds according to manufacturer directions. If you don’t have molds, you can use small paper cups or ice cube trays – put in wooden popsicle sticks or toothpicks after about an hour of freezing, or put plastic wrap over your homemade molds to hold the sticks in place.

Tarragon Deviled Eggs
makes 1 dozen servings

6 eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
3 T mayonnaise
2 T Dijon mustard
1 tsp tarragon or sherry vinegar
1 tsp fresh tarragon, finely chopped, plus more for sprinkling
Salt and pepper to taste

1)      Hard-boil eggs with your preferred method (I put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, turn off and cover for 12 minutes, then I move the eggs to a bowl of ice water) and peel. Carefully cut eggs in half, and remove yolks. In medium bowl, add yolks, and all remaining ingredients – mayo through salt and pepper. Mix with a fork or electric mixer until very smooth.
2)      Pipe or spoon yolk mixture into hollows of egg halves. Sprinkle with remaining finely chopped tarragon.
Note: I saw a great tip in a Cook’s Country cookbook – the day before making deviled eggs, lay eggs on their side to center the yolk for an extra pretty presentation.  But if you gotta have your deviled eggs now, it’s fine by me to skip this step!

Other delightful ways to use tarragon:
-          Combine a few tablespoons of honey and Dijon mustard with 1-2 teaspoons of fresh tarragon for a chicken marinade.
-          Soften a stick of butter, add a pinch of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of fresh tarragon. Roll into a log and chill. Slice and let melt over just cooked salmon.
-          Tarragon is a classic flavoring for vinegar – let several sprigs steep in a bottle of white or red wine vinegar for a few weeks. Strain out herb and enjoy in salad dressings.
-          With a spoon or bench scraper, rub a teaspoon of fresh tarragon into ¼ cup of sugar. Sprinkle over strawberries, and serve with a bit of unsweetened whipped cream.

Anna, another Wisconsin food blogger, started Tallgrass Kitchen in January 2010.  From granola bars to homemade fish sticks and amazing chococolate chip cookies, Anna's "prairie-style" blog focuses on simple homemade foods that will appeal to the entire family.  Take a trip over and introduce yourself!

This guest 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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Friday, July 23, 2010

When it Rains, We Eat Ice Cream

This isn't actually the next blog entry.

Well, it is... but it's just by way of a stopgap until I actually get an hour's downtime to write the next entry -- the one that actually talks about herbs.

Milwaukee got SMACKED with almost 7 inches of rain yesterday, and the damage was pretty impressive. There was flooding. And sinkholes large enough to swallow up Cadillac Escalades. And sewer back-ups. And now our basement looks a little bit like a filthy swimming pool.
It's gross, and nasty. And it means I haven't had time to cook -- let alone write about cooking. Heck, we don't even have hot water to take a shower right now.

And so, my dear friends, in lieu of a new post I'm going to leave you with something cool. And minty. And refreshing.
It's a nice bowl of chocolate mint ice cream.  We made it last summer -- but I can assure you it's still pretty delicious.

I Scream for More: Fresh Mint Ice Cream

We hope it tides you over until we can get back into the kitchen.
Stay safe... and stay dry!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local Foodies Spread the News About Cooking Raw

For Milwaukee-area raw foodists Caroline Carter and Shenita Ray, the raw food diet has become not only a way of life, but also a source of income.

In 2007, this mother-daughter team founded eden's market, a food product line including crackers, granola, dips and smoothies that are wheat-, gluten- and dairy-free (most of the products are also raw).

We came across Caroline and Shenita's delicious crackers for the first time at an area farmer's market in 2008 -- and since then, we've been avid supporters ever since. Caroline's energy is intoxicating, and her crackers are delicious. So, we were genuinely excited to hear that the duo would be hosting a new eight-part cooking series on Milwaukee Public Television.

Cooking Raw, which debuted on July 10, 2010, teaches viewers to prepare popular dishes using uncooked ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains.

Through eden's market and Cooking Raw Shenita and Caroline aspire to spread the message of raw food and its benefits throughout Milwaukee and --eventually-- beyond.  Future plans include a self-published cookbook that will be made available at farmer's markets and on the eden's market Web site beginning later this month.

Since we love to support local area businesses, and we think the message of eden's market is an important and health-giving one, we asked Shenita if she would be willing to share some information with us about their food philosophies. 

What made you decide to switch over to a raw diet? Are you 100% raw?
Seeing how raw foods changed my mother physically and emotionally encouraged me to integrate raw foods into my diet. She lost close to 80 pounds, her skin glowed, and I sensed that she achieved an emotional balance that I had never witnessed before. It seemed as though everything about her changed once she began integrated raw foods into her diet. I will admit that I was hesitant about trying the food but once I did, I couldn’t get enough of it. Neither me or my mother are 100% raw, but on average our diet is probably 70% raw at any given time.

Did you grow up enjoying cooking?
That’s a difficult question to answer.I would say that I never really had any interest in cooking growing up.  I didn’t like spending hours upon hours in the kitchen “cooking” in the traditional sense.So before I began integrating raw foods into my diet, I ate out often. However, after I began raw foods, it sparked a new found interest and joy in cooking raw.  Integrating raw foods changed my outlook toward food.  I had always seen food as something that simply satisfied my hunger but recently I discovered the profound impact food has on how I feel and how I think.   Nowadays, cooking and eating isn’t just about curbing my hunger, it is also about making me feel good, giving me energy, feeding my body the nutrients it needs to perform at its optimal level.  So since I started integrated raw foods into my diet, I have developed a passion for preparing my own meals from scratch using the best ingredients that I can find.

What made you decide you would start your own raw foods business?  
My mother traveled across the country to obtain training and certification on raw food preparation and instruction. After she completed a series of training, she wanted to teach people how to prepare raw foods. So we worked with various schools, grocery stores, churches, and other organizations to provide raw food preparation demonstrations.  Well the positive response we received from the participants was overwhelming and they always asked “where can I buy your food.”  So really the idea to start a raw foods business came from the people who attended our raw food preparation sessions.

Tell us a little bit about the mission of eden’s market? 
Our mission is to create healthy food products that taste delicious by using uncooked and whole vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and natural sweeteners, to teach children and adults how to prepare nutritious meals, and to educate others about the importance of integrating natural and whole foods into their diet for improved health.

How did the opportunity to be featured on Milwaukee Public Television arise?
One day my mother said to me, “Nita, we should have our own TV show to teach people how to prepare raw foods.  There really isn’t anything like this on TV now” and I said, “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea but how in the world are WE going to get on TV?”  Well, through my mother’s amazing networking and persuasive skills, she was able to convince the folks at MPTV to give us a shot…and they did.

Do you have any tips for a novice raw foodie?  
I would say to keep it simple.  When I first decided to integrate raw foods into my diet, I wanted to make the most extravagant raw food meals using the most extravagant raw food ingredients.  Well, given my busy lifestyle and budget, this was impossible to maintain.  So I encourage people who are trying to improve their diet by adding raw foods, start small.  Begin by adding green smoothies to your diet or simply by drinking more water.  These small things will make a huge difference in your well-being and encourage you to integrate more raw foods into your diet.

Favorite kitchen gadget?
Blender – I use it nearly every day to make my green smoothies.

Funniest kitchen incident? 
I really can’t think of a funny kitchen moment that happened to me but my mother captured one of her friends trying a raw taco for the first time and her friend’s response was simply amazing.  This video is on my FB page.

What are some raw food staples in your current diet? 
Green smoothies, almond milk, Caroline’s Handmade Onion Dip, chocolate brownies,  grapes, bananas

Do you have a favorite cookbook?
My mother and I just completed our first draft of our own cook book entitled, “A Mother and Daughter Diary of Raw Food Recipes for Beginners” and I would have to say that this is my favorite cookbook.  I don’t like complex cooking or spending hours in the kitchen so this book helps me keep cooking delicious, healthy, simple, and fun.

Where do you see the raw food movement heading? 
My mother and I really focus on encouraging people to INTEGRATE raw foods into their diet. Like I stated before, I’m not 100% raw nor do I aim to be 100% raw. I don’t think raw foods are really mainstream yet but I think the path to getting there is showing people how easy and simple it is to eat deliciously and healthfully.

If you could leave our readers with one message about raw cooking/eating, what would it be? 
I believe that food is powerful and it has the ability to influence the way we look, feel, and behave. Food can heal us and change lives in ways that we never imagined.

RECIPE: Ginger and Fennel H2O

2 lemons, unpeeled if organic
1 fennel
1 inch piece ginger
1 small or medium bunch parsley
1 gallon water

1. Chop the lemon, fennel, and ginger in large chunks.
2. Place fruits and vegetables in a gallon size jar.
3. Pour the water in the jar.
4. Stir all the contents in the jar.
5. Place in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.  Serve and enjoy

Cooking Raw airs on MPTV 10.1 HD on Saturdays at 11 a.m., and will repeat on Fridays at 6 p.m. The series also airs on MPTV 36.1 on Sundays at noon.  And, for those of you interested in watching, here's the first episode of Shenita and Caroline's show, Cooking Raw

For more information about eden's market check out the recent article on JSOnline.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Using and Preserving Summer Herbs: Potato Salad with Lemon Balm

And now, a word from Heather Arndt Anderson, master mind & culinary mistress over at Voodoo & Sauce:
It's finally that time of year around here. Time for backyard brats and starchy salads consumed al fresco, yes, but also time to start yanking some of the metric shittonne of lemon balm that colonizes Portland gardens every year. And hey, whaddaya know? My buddy Lo from Burp! asked me to hook her up with a blog post using herbs.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a weedy perennial herb in the mint family. It looks very minty, indeed, with its opposite-decussate leaf arrangement, its square stems and labiate flowers. It doesn't have a minty smell, though; instead, it is infused with the aroma of lemons. I use it for lots of things: mojitos, pistou (a looser version of pesto, great on fish), and recently, vinaigrette.

German potato salad is, around these parts, a mayo-free affair that contains cucumbers (sometimes radishes) for crunch, bacon and a vinegary dressing. Lemon plays well with these flavors, and a salad needs an nice herbal note, methinks, so I added a chiffonade of lemon balm to the vinaigrette, which was warm bacon fat whisked with apple cider vinegar and a dob of mustard. Adding a bit of salt and pepper is wise, perhaps some mustard seeds or caraway if you're feeling bold.
Serve with crispy-skinned brats and an ice cold doppelbock of your fancy. We like Buronator by Aktien-Brauerei Kaufbeuren, or as we like to call it: "Burninator."

Heather has been one of our very favorite bloggers ever since ... oh, maybe late 2007. It could have been her way with Asian fare, or her edgy, witty writing. It could have been her great photos, her love for scarlet runner beans, or the way she brought a new shine to even the humblest of comfort food dishes. It may even have been her affinity for pig roasts. Whatever it was, we've been returning regularly to read her schtick ever since. Gotta check her out over at Voodoo & Sauce . Be sure to say hello and let her know Burp! sent you.

This guest 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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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Daring Cooks June: Teriyaki Chicken Burgers with Pineapple & Macadamia Nut Butter

 I have been a fan of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for as long as I can remember... I particularly love them when made with salted roasted macadamias, since the combination of salty toasty nuts and sweet white chocolate is pretty difficult to beat.

I'm also a big fan of the macadamia nut pie -- which I fell in love with in 1998 when a business associate mailed one to me as a Christmas gift. Since I'm a nice person, I immediately cracked open the package and shared the bounty with my colleagues -- but soon regretted the decision. Let's put it this way, the word "luscious" doesn't even begin to describe that deliciously salty sweet pie.  In fact, I've been conspiring to make a pilgrimage to Hawaii to pay homage to the macadamia nut ever since.

It probably goes without saying that if someone challenged me to make something delicious with macadamia nuts, I'd be most likely to think of a sweet application for them.  But, those Daring Cooks... they're sly. Margie of More Please  (who also happens to be a local food blogger -- yay!!) and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies chose to challenge all of the Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and then use the nut butter in a SAVORY recipe.

Hmm. I'll admit I had to think about this one for a moment.
It's not that I've never eaten a savory recipe made with nut butter.  After all, there's nothing quite like a mole made with almond butter or an Asian noodle dish made with peanut sauce.  But, I wanted to do something a little different. And less... well... expected.

So, I enlisted my usual compadre in crime, Peef, to help me think of a great savory application for nut butter. Our two brains ground around on the topic for quite some time (pun intended), and we finally decided on a plan.

The credit for the burger concept belongs to Peef, who is always coming up with new and wonderful ways to combine meat and bread. He may have been slightly inspired by the Barrie burger, which is served at a little local burger joint called AJ Bombers (if you're on twitter, you've probably heard of them).  The Barrie burger consists of a cheeseburger topped with bacon and... peanut butter. Actually a fairly brilliant combination, master-minded by @KateBarrie, and enjoyed by many in the humble city of Milwaukee.

But, we're not complete copy-catters (though you might remain unconvinced if you look back in our archives at the Stendler breakfast burrito or the Buttafuoco tomato sandwich  -- both Comet Cafe knock-offs).  And I was pretty determined to do something wonderful with macadamia nut butter.  So, we settled on that classic combination -- teriyaki chicken and pineapple.  To take the challenge truly over the top, we also added a Daring Baker's challenge -- homemade brioche buns.
While the dough for the burger buns was rising, we put our heads together and came up with a nearly perfect marinade for the chicken.  A bit of pineapple juice, some soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and a whisper of brown rice vinegar.  Taste and... perfect.

We mixed the chicken with the pineapple mixture and put everything aside to marinate in the fridge.  In the meantime, we took about a cup of roasted salted macadamia nuts (this seems to be the only way we can find them here in Wisconsin), and made our nut butter. We used about one cup of macadamia nuts, which produced approximately 1/2 cup of butter.
Thirty seconds in the food processor was all it took to create a creamy delicious butter. And, of course, the first thing we did was to stick our fingers into the bowl to get a sample.  Smooth, creamy, nutty, slightly salty... dare I say buttery?

The thing about macadamia nut butter is that it's scarily addicting. In fact, the both of us stopped just short of simply taking out a couple of spoons and finishing up the batch right then and there. But, we refrained. And, as painful as it was, our burgers were far better for it.

We distracted ourselves by finishing up the brioche rolls. Gorgeous, aren't they?  (seriously, you must try this recipe at least once... it was particularly perfect with these burgers)

After the chicken had marinated for a couple of hours, we hauled out the KitchenAid meat grinder attachment that we got from my parents for Christmas and slopped the chicken bits right into it, along with about one-fourth of a large red bell pepper (which added both color and flavor).

We probably should have drained off more of the marinade, since the resulting ground meat was a little bit damp.  But, we solved that problem by adding a few crushed saltine crackers to the mix.  We formed the chicken into patties and put them on a plate in the refrigerator to give them a bit more time to firm up before we grilled them, along with a few slices of pineapple.
And then it was time to feast...
A homemade hamburger bun, a slathering of fresh macadamia nut butter, a perfectly grilled teriyaki burger, and a slice of grilled pineapple -- there's something for everyone on this burger. The freshly ground meat was tender, the burger was juicy, and the flavors were outstanding. A little bit of sweet, a little bit of salty... and all kinds of great synergy between the pineapple, red peppers, macadamia nuts, and soy sauce.
Seriously one of the best burgers we've had in a very long time.  And totally worth every last bit of effort. Especially that 30 seconds we spent on the nut butter. *wink*

Light Brioche Buns
Teriyaki Chicken Burgers with Pineapple & Macadamia Nut Butter

The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

And don't forget to check out other Daring Cooks' Challenges!  Lots of creative folks out there whipping up nut butter.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Using and Preserving Summer Herbs: Dill

And here to tell you about one of her favorite herbs is our dear friend, Amy, of Very Culinary...  

*wild applause*

Ah, Dill…
Isn’t it pretty?

Unlike my hair, which is curly and unruly (and will never know the feeling of a comb running through it), Dill is…wispy. Slender. Delicate. Of course, I’m sure that Dill is jealous of Parsley’s fullness, and Rosemary’s strength, but the grass is always greener.

Back to my Dill love…

When we lived in Minnesota, I had a pretty respectable garden. Tomatoes and peppers took up a lot of space, but I made certain that two planter boxes were dedicated to fresh herbs. Some would lose out from year to year – I never seemed to use enough of the Sage or Marjoram – but Dill was never on the chopping block. Oh no. Dill is a staple in my house.

It has a simple, crisp, and refreshing flavor. I prefer fresh leaves, rather than dried, to get the most flavor. Apparently Dill has medicinal properties, too. I learned that the seeds contain an oil, which helps relax the muscles in our digestive tract. Teas are made with dill seed to relieve indigestion and nausea. And rumor has it, that it’s even good at curing hiccups. Hm. I don’t know. All I know is that it tastes good.

I like it best paired with salmon, yogurt, and potatoes. Like in these recipes…which are also staples in my house:

Since relocating, and currently “borrowing” (as my 4YO says) the house we’re in now, I temporarily don’t have a garden anymore. No more tomatoes or peppers, no more onions, no more strawberries. Whimper, whimper. BUT, there’s no excuse not to grow fresh herbs. All those fellas need is a decent pot with good soil. Done.

So, who is this Amy person, anyhow?  And how did her recipes get over here on the Burp! blog?
Well... Amy is awesome. She's a mom (with cute kids). And a food blogger (what did you expect?). And she's amazing and funny.  She makes a seriously hilarious video. And her BBQ Deviled Eggs are to die-for.  So, we asked her to write something about her favorite herb -- which just happens to be dill.

Honestly, you'll love her. Just check out her blog at Very Culinary. I promise you won't be sorry!

This guest 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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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Greens, They're What's for Dinner: Saag Tofu

Gosh, where do I begin in telling you of my love for Indian cuisine?

It seems almost an injustice to put it into words.  I love the the aromas, the textures, the spices, and widely varied ingredients.  There's an incredible diversity in the food culture of India -- and so much fascinating history behind the cuisine, which has benefited from the influences of numerous peoples and traditions.

On top of everything, Indian food is easily adaptable for strict vegetarians, for the gluten-free crowd, and it is extremely budget-friendly (for all you frugal gourmets out there).  It's also one of the best ways I know to use those couple of pounds of stray greens you have lying around. You know, the ones you bought (even though you didn't know what you were going to do with them) because they looked SO AMAZING at the farmer's market.

Saag paneer (or similarly, palak paneer), is a smooth, spiced Indian dish, the best versions of which are sprinkled liberally with sizable chunks of a cheese called paneer. The dish hails from the northern portion of India, where flat bread (puris, chapatis, or na'an) is generally served in lieu of rice.  The food is typically eaten by hand using the bread to scoop up the accompanying dishes.

The purists are going to hunt me down one of these days for making this dish with tofu, rather than paneer. But, I'm going to stand behind my ways. The fact is, I've been making this substitution for years -- to the extent that it has become the rule, rather than the exception.
I'm also going to stand behind Tina from Choosy Beggars, who does exactly the same thing.  We use different recipes -- but our philosophies are very much the same.  In fact, I'm even going to use a quote from her to explain the difference between tofu and paneer:
Tofu and paneer have a couple of similarities.  They’re both white.  They’re both moderately firm.  They both enjoy getting simmered on a flavorful bed of spiced creamed spinach, and they both willingly take on whatever flavors they are offered.  Where the similarity ends is in terms of texture and flavor.  Paneer is thick, slightly chewy but rich and dense.  The flavor is creamy and just barely sweet, like fresh milk.  Tofu, on the other hand, is a spongy and occasionally slightly bitter vehicle for whatever it happens to run into.  Oddly, I’m okay with that.  -- Tina
Yeah, we're OK with that too.  If you're not, we can respect that. But, please don't be a troll and leave nasty comments about our ignorance.  We KNOW they're not the same.

But, I digress.  The fact of the matter is, paneer isn't all that hard to find, and it's not even terribly difficult to make (or so we hear). In fact, we might even decide to tackle a paneer-making project one of these days.  But, in the meantime, tofu is a lovely substitute.

Saag tofu takes a bit of prep work to get things going, but the dish actually comes together quite quickly -- so this is more than appropriate for a weeknight meal.  You'll even have enough time to whip up a side of red lentil daal to accompany it, if you feel like going the extra mile.  But, it makes a perfectly respectable meal in and of itself.
This dish is wonderful made with all spinach. But, you can also do as we do and make it with a mixture of greens (please note that you may want to pre-cook tougher greens like kale and collards).  I particularly like the subtle bite that mustard greens offer up, and so we almost always use a combination of spinach and mustard greens.

Flavorful, fresh, and beautifully green, this saag is redolent with spices and garlic. The texture is velvety and slightly tangy from the yogurt, and the mustard greens add a little bit of bite. Freshly ground garam masala elevates the spice quotient to new heights.

Just perfect scooped onto a warmed piece of garlicky na'an.

Saag Tofu (or Paneer)

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Winners - Organic Valley Products & Kickapoo Country Fair Tickets!

Just a quick note to announce the winners of our Kickapoo Country Fair Giveaway!
Congratulations go to...

Denise -- who wins a four pack of tickets to the fair!  (a $40 value)
Denise commented: Oh - we love the Kickapoo Country Fair. We want to go for the workshops/chats, the beautiful views, and the good music and food. My boys want to go back for the great kids tent, fun shows, and of course the maple cotton candy. :) 

Brent Tobin -- who wins five coupons for free Organic Valley products (a $50 value), and an Organic Valley reusable shopping bag.
Brent commented: I am a Facebook fan, Kickapoogian, I would like to say that when your post was looking to make 800 fans by the weekend, I suggested your page to all my friends! Always attend Fair and encourage others to do so!

The winners were selected by the Random Integer Generator... and notification will be sent to both winners this afternoon.

Thanks to all of you who participated! And even to those of you who didn't. We know you wanted to. We hope to see you back at BURP! again real soon.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Braciola di Pollo: Stuffed Boneless Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes & Summer Herbs

It's going back quite a ways, but I can still remember the first "fancy" dinner party dish I ever made pretty vividly. It was a recipe for chicken breasts that were pounded flat, stuffed with cheese, fastened with toothpicks, and baked in the oven.

The first lesson I learned was that you should always COVER your chicken breast with something before whacking away at it with a meat mallet. That was followed shortly by the realization that over-stuffing the chicken breasts probably wasn't the best idea.  And then I rounded the experience out by nearly impaling myself with the dullest toothpick I've ever encountered.

My oh my, how things change.

I haven't stuffed a chicken breast with anything in a very long time, though I've actually developed some pretty mad skillz for using toothpicks. And I've gotten pretty good with a meat mallet.

But, stuffed chicken (albeit not breasts) really IS the point of this post. So, I'd better get on with that.

The inspiration for this dish hearkens back to a chicken roll recipe from Mario Batali that we came across online a few months back. It was a boned chicken, stuffed with veal, pork, and ham and roasted in the oven until it was crisped and browned.  I liked the idea of a "boneless chicken roll," so I decided to play with the flavors.

We actually learned to debone poultry when we tackled Julia Child's Pate de Canard en croute for a cooking challenge last summer. It was a skill I was pretty proud to have developed (especially since a number of chickens were sacrificed along the way in order for me to gain confidence with the process).  But, I hadn't put it to good use in quite a while.  So, I figured a little bit of experimenting would get me back into practice.

Inspired by the summer weather, I decided to go with a stuffing that was lighter and far less meat heavy.  I happened to have a few dehydrated Principe Borghese tomatoes leftover from last summer's harvest on hand.
I also realized that it was the perfect opportunity to capitalize on all the summer herbs we had in the back yard.  Peef clipped some basil, parsley, and rosemary. And we got started.  I mixed the herbs with re-hydrated tomatoes, fresh bread crumbs, blue cheese, and a couple of eggs.
We de-boned and stuffed the chicken, and then threw everything into a hot oven for about 40 minutes.
The fact is, this is a relatively simple dish once you've got the pesky de-boning out of the way.  These days I almost always de-bone more than one chicken at a time and I always roll up one or two to sock away in the freezer for later. Makes for pretty slick entertaining when the time comes -- and honestly, it shaves off enough time that we can even throw together a delicious meal like this one on a regular old weeknight.
And, honestly, who can argue with that?

Braciola di Pollo: Stuffed Boneless Chicken with Sundried Tomatoes & Herbs

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!  

We're also excited to announce that, starting next Friday, we'll be featuring guest posts from some of our favorite food blogger friends as part of the herb series.  First up on July 9th -- Amy from Very Culinary!

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