Thursday, March 29, 2012

Delicious Dessert: Pear Burritos

Pin It  Fresh pears make a delightful addition to oatmeal on a cold winter morning. They can perfectly augment a simple lunch of cheese and crusty bread, or add depth and sweetness to a deliciously simple roasted turkey and brie Panini.  And the luscious joy of eating a perfectly ripe pear right out of hand should not be underestimated.

The fact is, on any given day, serving whole or sliced pears is absolutely effortless; but roasting pears is nearly as easy.   

Throughout fall and winter, one of my favorite treats is, in fact, pears tossed with a bit of melted butter and allowed to bask in the heat of a fairly high oven until their sugars caramelize and their flesh becomes perfectly and delectably tender.  You can roast just about any kind of pear as long as they are slightly firm and fragrant.  But, I have my favorites.

Tiny Seckel pears, available primarily in the autumn, are perfectly divine roasted whole or halved and served with roasted meats or atop salads with sweet glazed nuts and pungent blue cheese.  And I love the locally grown heirloom varieties that I can find at the farmer’s market in September and October, as they seem to possess an incomparable perfume and depth of sweetness.  But, during the mid-winter months, I love the brilliant deep maroon shade of the Red Anjou, which enjoys an extra-long season from mid-October through early-May.

One of my favorite things to do with Anjou pears is to slice them thinly, toss them with butter, and roast them in the oven until they’re just tender and beginning to brown.  While the pears roast, I’ll make an orange-scented sauce with apple juice, sugar, and warming spices.  And then, as the pears come out of the oven, I’ll wrap them in a flour tortilla with a dollop of mascarpone and a few dried sour cherries and then bake the luscious little packets with cinnamon and sugar until they’re crisp and warm.
Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or an additional dollop of mascarpone for a company-worthy dessert. 

Pear Burritos with Mascarpone, Dried Cherries and Cinnamon Orange Sauce

You can find this recipe, along with plenty of other mouthwatering dishes, on  Seriously -- you should check it out.  So. Much. Good. Food. 

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Uses for Sumac: Za'atar Potatoes

Pin It Last spring, we posted a quick curiosity poll on FacebookAre there spices in your cupboard that you wished you used more often, but you don't know quite what to do with them? What are they?

Top answers included  turmeric, tarragon, marjoram, and cardamom.  But, one of the most interesting came from Jen Peters, author of The Eco Table, who said in the comments: "sumac. it's local to wisconsin, but i've only used it a few times."

That really got us thinking. And we decided that it's about time we talked a little about sumac. 

After all, we have something of a love affair going on with it. We use it on a fairy regular basis, especially as summer approaches -- as a seasoning for lamb kebabs, fish filets and grilled chicken, a topping for crackers and flatbreads, and as an ingredient in salad dressing. And so it seems a shame not to share.

Sumac's tart flavor means we use it almost anywhere you could use a splash of lemon juice -- on a sliced tomato, or sprinkled on salmon or grilled vegetables.

We're also pretty nutty about the spice blend za'atar, which we use pretty regularly as a seasoning for hummus.  The blend we buy from the Spice House here in Milwaukee contains sumac, thyme, sesame seeds, hyssop and oregano.

One of our favorite ways to use za'atar is on roasted potatoes.  And it's not just because they're such a pretty purple-ish red color before they go into the oven.
Just toss small halved or quartered potatoes, along with a small chopped onion, with a liberal amount of olive oil, sprinkle with za'atar and roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. The potatoes will crisp up, the onions will brown slightly and sweeten, and that za'atar will impart a pleasantly sour, citrusy flavor with a hint of woodsy herbal flavor. These gorgeous potatoes are delicious served alongside a nice roast or next to a burger. But, they're equally wonderful when diced a bit more finely and served up as breakfast potatoes.

Got any favorite ways to use sumac?  Or za'atar?

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crockpot Turkey Meatloaf and Lessons Learned

Pin It This isn't the first time that we've admitted to you that, sometimes, recipes don't turn out exactly the way we'd hoped.  And, undoubtedly, it won't be the last.  After all, we feel pretty strongly that blogging isn't only about sharing the wins and making yourself look like an all-star culinary genius. Sometimes, it's more about sharing the journey. And about all the things we've learned along the way.

So, today, let's talk meatloaf.

This was our first attempt at crockpot meatloaf. And it's not likely to be our last.  But, if we attempt this recipe again, there will definitely be some tweaking.

First, some great things about this recipe.  We managed to create a deliciously tender loaf using only ground turkey -- not a small feat, if you've ever made turkey meatloaf before. The trick, add a grated apple to the filling.

We also learned a great new aluminum foil trick to make it easier to remove a crockpot meatloaf from your slow cooker.  A few strips of strategically placed foil make all the difference -- and you won't have to fiddle around trying to get a spatula down into and underneath your meatloaf ever again.
Another great thing about this meatloaf was the flavor.  Herbs de Provence adds a great counterpoint to the subtle sweetness that the apple adds, and the flavors held up really well to the long slow cooking in the crockpot.

But, there are a few things we'd change.

First, we'd fiddle around with the amount of vegetables we put into the loaf.  While it felt virtuous to get a boatload of extra nutrients into a meatloaf, the additional vegetable "filler" made the meatloaf a bit TOO moist.  Although we're fans of a deliciously tender loaf, we'd prefer one that held up a bit better to slicing.  Before we pull out all the vegetables, though, I think we'll try adding an egg or two to the mix.

We also found that, although quite a number of meatloaf recipes call for you to "flatten" your meatloaf and shape it to the shape of your slow cooker (which, as you can see, we did), in our opinion it resulted in too squatty of a loaf.  So, we won't be doing that next time.
All things considered, this wasn't the worst weeknight meal we've ever had. Especially when served up with a hearty scoop of creamy mashed potatoes and our favorite stovetop braised brussels sprouts with blue cheese.  But, as usual, our cooking is in a constant state of evolution. And so is our meatloaf.

Got any great crockpot meatloaf secrets to share?

Crockpot Turkey Meatloaf

 ©BURP! W here Food Happens

Friday, March 16, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Recipes

Pin ItAnd here we are. On the day before St. Patrick's Day -- one of my favorite days of the year!

At our house, that means one thing:  wrangling up all the Leprechaun charms we can finagle and whipping up a wee bit o' magic in the kitchen.

Every year we look forward to a bit of grand St. Patrick's day feasting, and we're always coming up with something new to add to the platter.  

Some years it's a new take on corned beef brisket, other years it's a new way with cabbage or potatoes.  This year we'll be celebratin' the green with good friends.  Our menu is likely to include a few of the following dishes, and probably something brand new.

Our special corned beef brisket: You'll love the delicious smell of the beer, garlic, and dill simmering away as the meat cooks. Even better, you'll love the deliciously flavorful & tender brisket that greets you right out of the oven.
 Reuben RisottoA new take on an old comfort food favorite.  All the flavors of a reuben sandwich come together in this creamy, delicious, risotto.  Just perfect for the leftovers from your St. Patrick's Day feast!
 Irish Whiskey CakeThis dense, buttery pound cake is flavored with a hint of lemon and plenty of Irish Whiskey.
 Stout Ice Cream with Irish Whiskey Caramel:  In this deliciously adult ice cream, the bitter notes of Irish stout are balanced nicely with a touch of sugar and the richness of cream.  We recommend serving it with a whorl of Irish cream caramel sauce -- a sweet treat that brilliantly marries caramel notes with the deliciously complex notes of Irish Whiskey, subtle chocolate tones, and a wonderfully creamy texture that assists in balancing the bite of the ice cream.

What are some of your favorite St. Patrick's Day traditions and recipes?

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kicking Off Grilled Cheese Month: Melthouse Bistro Grilled Cheese Reception

Pin It  Some of you may remember, way back in 2010, when we ventured off to Madison, Wisconsin for the launch party for the Grilled Cheese Academy web site.  It was a glorious celebration of all things cheese -- and a celebration that would be pretty difficult to beat, by any standards.

But, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is doing it again.  This year, they're sponsoring another grilled cheese reception on Wednesday, March 21st from 5:30pm - 8pm at Milwaukee's first gourmet grilled cheese shop, Melthouse Bistro at 1850 E. Kenilworth Place.

Declared "the perfect lunchtime treat" by A.V. Club - Milwaukee,  Melthouse Bistro has been serving up  hand-crafted grilled cheese sandwiches made with the finest Wisconsin cheeses (like Widmar’s 4-Year Aged Sharp Cheddar), mouth watering ingredients (like Thick-Cut Pecanwood Smoked Bacon), and fresh-baked artisan breads, since November of last year.  The event, which kicks of April -- AKA "Grilled Cheese Month" -- will feature grilled cheese sandwich bites, samples of delicious Wisconsin cheeses, and local beer pairings.

It's an invitation-only affair, but we just so happened to have scored a couple of pairs of ticket to give away to our lucky local readers.
If you live in the Milwaukee area and would like to attend this remarkable event, all you need to do is hop over to the Grilled Cheese Academy web site, take a look around, and report back to us regarding which delectable grilled cheese sandwich is YOUR personal favorite. You'll get a bonus entry if you head over to the Burp! Facebook page and give us a "like" (please leave an additional comment letting us know you did). We'll choose TWO winners at random on Thursday, March 15th after NOON; each winner will receive a pair of tickets for the event on March 21st (please make sure you include an email address/contact information if it's not readily available on your profile/blog). Tickets are non-transferable. Please be respectful of other readers and DO NOT ENTER if you know you will be unable to make it to the event on the 21st.

As for those of you who are too far away to make it to Milwaukee, we don't want you to feel left out!  So, we've conjured up a bit of grilled cheese deliciousness just for you:

The Brasserie - featuring Wisconsin Brie, braised short ribs, and pickled red onions on country French bread. [download recipe]
In the mood for dessert?  Why not try The Bianca - with Wisconsin Mascarpone, dulce de leche, and raspberry preserves on cinnamon raisin bread.  [download recipe]

©BURP! Where Food Happens