Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Creamed Leeks with Gorgonzola

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The humble leek – often relegated to the back of the produce drawer, upstaged by the potato, or simply forgotten – deserves a bit of time in the spotlight.

But,when this mild-mannered allium is at its best, it’s deliciously sweet and well-behaved.

So, why not take advantage of its seductive charms and make a little bit of side dish magic?

This happens to be one of our favorite ways to use leeks, and it’s as simple as it gets.  First we sauté those tender spring leeks in butter until they’re soft and sweet.  Then we embellish them with a whorl of cream and a crumbling of the best and mildest gorgonzola we can find.

If you follow our lead, you’ll find that the cream complements the leeks’ sweet flavor, while the gorgonzola kicks the dish up a notch with its deliciously funky salty flavor.  And, what’s even better, this simply decadent side goes perfectly with just about everything – seared scallops, baked potatoes, grilled fish, poached chicken breast, or even steak.

According to Paul, the only thing that could have made this dish better would have been the addition of bacon. And he just might be right.

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Roasted Red Potato Salad with Deep Woods Dressing

Pin It It’s that time of the year again. Time for backyard brats and beach parties and starchy salads consumed al fresco.

 It’s also time to enjoy the delicious bounty of summer herbs that are readily available – hopefully as close as in your back yard.

Despite this year's hot dry weather, we've been religiously watering and gently pruning our basil plants to keep them in the best possible shape.

The sweat equity is well worth it when we get the hankering for a delicious BLT with garlic basil mayo, a bit of pesto for our pasta, or great picnic food like this deliciously easy potato salad.

This vinegar based salad starts with tender, new red potatoes roasted in butter until crisp and brown and then tossed with a fresh balsamic vinegar and basil vinaigrette while they’re warm.

After absorbing all of that deliciously sweet balsamic flavor, they’re dressed with plenty of freshly chopped basil. Serve this classic summer salad with crispy-skinned brats and an ice cold glass of beer.

Roasted Red Potato Salad with Deep Woods Dressing

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Butter Roasted Chickpeas

Pin It Ah, the summer road trip!

What's better than hopping in the car with a friend or two and heading off into the wild abyss? Going somewhere, anywhere, nowhere... with the radio blaring and the wind whipping through your hair.

Weekend road trips have become our savior in the past couple of years. We haven't had a lot of money for a "real" vacation. So, packing up for a day or three and heading out to find our own adventures has been the new normal. Interestingly enough, no matter how often we do it, I always find my brain hearkening back to the days of our youth -- back in college -- when road-tripping was the ultimate act of freedom.

When we're on the road, we often find ourselves falling back on crunchy treats like pretzels and crackers to stave off hunger and ensure that we won’t break down and head straight for the greasy goodness of the fast food drive-through window (which, honestly, doesn't have all that much allure -- but sometimes it's the only thing you can find for miles when you're out in the middle of nowhere).

But, even those seemingly healthy snacks aren’t always the best. They’re full of carbs and provide very little protein – which means they don’t have much staying power.

So, what is a hungry traveler to do?  Roast up some chickpeas, of course. 
If you haven’t yet tried roasted chickpeas, you’re in for a treat. These ultra-crunchy nibbles are healthy, easy, and addictive... maybe a little bit TOO addictive.

This particular combination of five-spice powder and honey gives them a flavor that comes out a bit like a cross between honey-roasted beer nuts and honey nut Cheerios. Best of all, they make awesome road trip food. They taste great, travel well, and provide a serious hit of protein precisely when you need it most.

Sweet and Spicy Butter Roasted Chickpeas

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cool Off: Browned Butter Ice Cream with Cinnamon

Pin ItIs there anything more irresistible than ice cream on a muggy summer day?

Fortunately, making your own is easier than you think. In fact, with a bit of forethought, you can keep a batch of homemade ice cream at the ready all summer long.

We've gotten pretty used to keeping both of our Cuisinart Ice Cream bowls in the freezer at all times so that we can whip them out and make ice cream whenever we like.  But, even if you don't have an ice cream maker, you can still enjoy the satisfaction of homemade ice cream with just a bit more effort (see the recipe below for some tips).

It's true. Making ice cream at home takes a bit of time. But, its advantages far outweigh the effort needed.  After all, when you're at the helm of your very own ice cream making adventures, the sky is the limit. Flavor combinations are endless. And you can let your creativity run wild.

Some of our favorite homemade flavors have included chocolate chile, butter-scotch pumpkin, salted caramel with cashews, and cinnamon plum tea ice cream.  But, we also love to make big vats of fresh vanilla bean ice cream.  Sure, it's ordinary. But, it's better than anything you can find in your grocery's freezer case. We promise.

This particular recipe gets a deliciously rich, nutty flavor from browned butter. The silky custard base, along with a bit of Scotch whipped in at the end of churning results in an end product that’s lusciously creamy and scoopably soft, even straight from the freezer.
It’s perfect topped with pecans and chocolate for an impromptu sundae, but the subtle punch of cinnamon means it’s equally at home served alongside your favorite summer berry pie. If you’re a purist, feel free to scoop it straight up into a sugar cone.

Any way you serve it, it will have you screaming for more!

Browned Butter Ice Cream with Cinnamon

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Everyone's a Little Italian: Interview with Rossella Rago and #Giveaway

Pin It Milwaukee is known as the City of Festivals for good reason.  In addition to the world's largest music festival, Summerfest, Milwaukee is also privileged to be the host of some of the world's best ethnic festivals.

One of the tastiest just happens to be Festa Italiana, coming up on July 19-22 (stay tuned below for a chance to win tickets).

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Festa Italiana is the largest Italian event of its kind in America today. The festival, which started in 1976  for the purpose of reuniting an Italian community torn apart by urban renewal projects, was the first ethnic festival in Milwaukee.

In addition to great cultural exhibits, peppy Italian music, and plenty of delicious Italian food, this year's Festa will feature a great line-up of demonstrations by some of Milwaukee's best chefs, and a few celebrities, including TV chef and cookbook author, Nick Stellino.

Making her first ever appearance at Festa Italiana in Milwaukee, celebrity chef Rossella Rago, host of “Cooking with Nonna” will showcase her culinary skills Saturday, July 21 at 6:45 p.m. and Sunday, July 22 at 4:15 p.m.

Inspired by her love of food, her passion for entertaining, as well as her appreciation for her family and the Italian community, Rossella launched the “Cooking with Nonna” show in 2009. The online cooking show features recipes passed down throughout the generations that are simple to make, delicious and rich in their history.

In anticipation of her appearance, I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions about her career and love for cooking.

This is your first time at Festa Italiana. What are you most looking forward to?
Yes this is my very first time at the Festa Italiana in Milwaukee. I heard so much about it, especially from Chef Nick Stellino, who has been there several times. When I met him at the Festa Italiana in Seattle last year he  also strongly suggested that I must attend. So now I’m really looking forward to coming to Milwaukee and meeting all the Italian-Americans and the lovers of Italy.
Have you been to Milwaukee before?
This is my very first trip to Milwaukee and Wisconsin. I can’t wait to visit and meet all my fans from this lovely city.
What are you most excited to do or see while you are here?
I’m sure there is great Italian food in Milwaukee but I hear there are some great breweries and steak houses! Would love to visit some of those world famous breweries.  Then of course I know you have a beautiful lake which is very scenic and relaxing!  I will be in town for two days… I think I will be very busy!
Tell me a bit about your relationship to food as you were growing up.  What part did food play in your family life?
As I was growing up I was constantly exposed to food as my maternal Nonna lived in our home and she was always cooking. As a child my role was that of the taster but as I got older I was given more mundane assignments: washing and cleaning! Food has always been a very focal point in my family and my life. The many family gatherings at holidays provided plenty of opportunities to be exposed to all the traditional foods that we prepared for each holiday. But not only at holidays, every day the most important decision that my Nonna and my mother would face was: What to cook at dinner at night!
From whom did you learn to cook?
Absolutely my primary teacher I have to say it was my Nonna. When I started college I moved in with her in Brooklyn, NY and every day we would cook together a meal just for the two of us.
Did you ever attend culinary school?
I attended an intensive program at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York and I plan to attend several more programs these and at other institutions as well.
Who taught you most along the way?
Certainly my Nonna has been my main culinary mentor along the way but also my mother Angela and my aunts in Italy have been very influential on my culinary training. My mother is an artist and applies her artistic skills at cooking as well. She is very creative in her cooking.  My aunts in Italy are also excellent cooks and since I spent many summers there on vacation, I was exposed to many traditional dishes from Puglia using the freshest ingredients you could imagine.
How did you come up with the idea for Cooking with Nonna?
The idea came on the fly one Sunday afternoon after a long meal in Nonna’s basement. At the time I was in college and my dad asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said: I want to do a cooking show. After a few back and forth, the idea of Cooking with Nonna was born. The rest is history.
Where do you get the inspiration for your recipes?
At the very beginning most of the recipes that we worked with were recipes from my Nonna’s collection which she learned from her own mother.  As we continued to grow, the recipes were inspired by the other Nonne that came on my show. They all love to share their recipes and memories with everyone.
When you are at home, what do you like to eat?
When I'm home I try and eat healthy and clean so I keep lots of Organic chicken breast around and colorful vegetables.  Of course, I'd be lying if I said that having Nonna live downstairs from me didn't greatly impact what I eat every day.  I can't tell you how many times a day she'll call me and say "Come downstairs and eat, I made Parmigiana!"
What is your favorite place in Italy? Why?
I have spent many summers in a small fishing village in Puglia called Mola di Bari. It is now like a second home to me. I love going these and meet my family and friends and take the opportunity to visit many of the picturesque villages in the area: Alberobello, Polignano, Ostuni and many more.
What’s the funniest thing that has ever happened to you in the kitchen?
The funniest thing that ever happened to me in the kitchen was probably when I first attempted cooking. I was 4, and I decided I was going to make a cake.  I thought you made cake by putting whatever you found into a baking pan and putting it in the oven (not necessarily a hot one) and it would magically turn into one of my Nonna's deserts.  Needless to say the "soup" that came out of the oven wasn't anything anyone wanted to try. No matter what a cute little girl I was. Needless to say I've gotten better since then.
What would you say to someone who's totally intimidated by cooking?
Cooking is not difficult but for sure requires passion. If you can find the passion, then following a recipe, step by step, is a technicality. So, look for the passion first.
Name anyone (alive or deceased) that you would like to cook for and what you would serve them.
I would have loved to have been able to cook for Marilyn Monroe.  One of my mother's good friends, Lina Pepitone, who has recently  passed away, was her cook for the last six years of her life. Apparently Marilyn really loved Italian food, especially Stuffed Peppers.  She looked like a person who genuinely enjoyed food.  I imagine us cooking up some Stuffed Peppers together and gossiping about all her husbands.  I think we'd have a decadent Nutella dessert too. Probably my Mousse. It never fails!
What is the best compliment someone could give to you?
That they love the food so much and they just can't stop eating!  
For a light summer recipe, try this recipe, which showcases the true colors and flavors of summer.
Rigatoni alla Caprese
by Rosella Rago

1 lb Rigatoni pasta
1 lb Fresh Tomatoes, diced
1 lb Fresh mozzarella, diced
4 Cloves garlic
3 Leaves Fresh basil
4 Tbs olive oil
Salt, black pepper and Peperoncino

In a large pan, sauté the garlic until it turns golden. Add some hot pepper as desired and add the tomatoes. After a few minutes, cut the basil leaves in half and add to the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Boil the pasta to an Al Dente consistency and pour into the pan. Toss the pasta for 2 minutes. Add ¾ of the mozzarella and plate. Garnish with the remainder of the mozzarella and add a sprinkle of fresh black pepper as desired.

In celebration of Festa Italiana, we'll be giving away pairs of tickets to two (2) lucky readers!

For your chance to win, head on over to the Festa Italiana web site, check out the amazing list of foods that will be served, and come back and let us know which ones you most look forward to trying!

Giveaway ends on Saturday, July 14th.  Tickets will be mailed to the winners during the week of July 16th.

Winners will be chosen at random and notified by email, so please leave your email addy with your comment if it's not included with your Blogger profile. Entries from the U.S. only, please (and please only enter if you know that you can make it to Festa Italiana in Milwaukee on July 19 - 22).

Full Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by Festa Italiana, who provided us with the product for our giveaway. However, all opinions expressed in this post are our own.

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dad Food: Coffee Rubbed Ribeye with Chipotle Butter

Pin It Lo’s dad is a purist when it comes to steak.  He prefers his ribeyes seasoned plainly – just a bit of salt, pepper, and a dash of garlic—and grilled to a perfectly medium rare.  

The method relies upon impeccably fresh, quality ingredients and a careful hand when grilling.  And it yields a perfectly delicious result.

So, while it’s true that good steaks do not need much in the way of embellishment, we’ve found that quality steaks are also every bit as delicious when they've been gussied up a bit.  

And so, yes -- we are fans of the simple mushroom pan sauce, the classic Bearnaise, and even the occasional dousing of steak sauce.

But, when we really want to do it up right, we actually look to a really simple trick - compound butter.   Traditionally referred to as Maître d'Hôtel butter, compound butter was first seen in restaurants, and probably mistaken for a far more complex flavoring than it really is... and, believe it or not, it's a trick that's also likely to work on your own dinner guests. 

In this case, a simple butter made from chipotle peppers and their adobo sauce complements a sweet, yet slightly bitter, coffee rub that blooms in the presence of the smoky jalapeno flavor.  

You've got a ton of flavor all in one place, and as an added bonus, the seasoned butter guarantees you a piece of beef that just melts in your mouth... even if you happen to overcook your steak a little bit.  

We’re fairly sure this recipe will win over even the fussiest of dads. And it's perfect for your 4th of July celebration... or any grill-fest you happen to be hosting this summer.

Coffee Rubbed Ribeye with Chipotle Butter

And, since the butter freezes well, why not make a double batch? Pop one in the refrigerator and one in the freezer for later.

Get more delicious compound butter recipes over at Basic Compound Butter Recipe | Leite's Culinaria 

©BURP! Where Food Happens

Sunday, July 1, 2012

5th Burp-Day Giveaway Winners and One Final #Giveaway

Pin It It's tough to believe that our Burp-Day month has passed by already!  We've had a great time writing about some of our favorite local businesses and some of the lessons we've learned in our last five years of blogging.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the giveaways all month long!  We're pleased to announce the official winners.

  The two wine and cheese gift sets from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board go to: 
    • Sarah - who was really curious about the rhubarb cheese pie at  DairyDaysofSummer.com and
    • SarahJ | Curious Cuisiniere who has fallen in love with Wisconsin Apple Cheddar
  • Winners of the Scrumptious Pantry gift baskets containing TWO bottles of Cranberry Catsup (one smoky, one earthy) and TWO jars of heirloom pickles (Beaver Dam Peppers and Pickled Beets):
    • Abigail/Mamatouille who is "such a pickle girl and would love a taste of those pickled red beets"
    • Domestic Diva who thinks "the beaver dam pepper sounds great." 
    • And Mindless.Ali who said that "The eggplant spread looks amazing sauce!"
Best of all, Jamie Leigh Martin won the Grand Prize assortment of Wisconsin Cheeses from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

We had so much fun with the giveaways that we're going to do one last round for those of you who may have missed out on the first seven.

In celebration of our 5th Burp-Day, the first FIVE (5) people to comment on this post will each receive a great little cheese cooler bag -- also from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing board.
Winners will be chosen at random and notified by email, so please leave your email addy with your comment if it's not included with your Blogger profile. Entries from the U.S. only, please.

Full Disclosure: This giveaway is sponsored by The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, who provided us with the product for our giveaway. However, all opinions expressed in this post are our own.

©BURP! Where Food Happens