Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gorgeous AND Delicious: Pomegranate Cheese Ball

When it all comes down to it, I'd rather a recipe taste fabulous than look attractive.  But, I love it when you can have both.

This year, I found myself concentrating on working up some new appetizer recipes for entertaining over the holiday season. And one of my favorite recipes just happens to be both attractive AND delicious.

In fact, when it comes to looking festive, this cheese ball always steals the show. 

The cheese ball itself is based on the flavors in one of my own personal "guilty" pleasures -- the Merkt's Swiss Almond cheese spread. Turns out its easy to make, and (no surprise here) the end result is even more delicious than the pre-made version. 

And then I went a step further and completely one-upped them on the presentation by coating the cheese in a swath of bright red fresh pomegranate seeds.

Both beautiful and delicious, it’s the perfect addition to pre-dinner snacks or a full-belly appetizer spread.

Get the recipe: Pomegranate Cheese Ball


Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Very Retro Christmas: Butter Rum Glazed Ham with Pineapple Chutney

This ham is, I must confess, one of my favorite recipes. And I'm not a huge lover of ham (is that sacrilege to admit that around Christmas?).  In fact, prime rib is generally my Christmas protein of choice, especially now that I have my timing down so that I can achieve a perfect medium rare.

But, I have a bit of a soft spot for retro dishes lately. And very few things scream “iconic holiday centerpiece” like a glazed ham. 

But, I've never really been a fan of the pineapple and clove-studded variety. So, I decided to go there. Create my own recipe.

I'm very glad I did.

This easy updated recipe yields a beautiful brown crust and juicy interior, thanks to just three ingredients – rum, molasses and real sweet cream butter.

The sweet and sour pineapple chutney adds a warming fruity element to the rich, savory meat. But, I'll be honest, the ham itself is glorious on its own.

The one catch? Take care to invest in a high quality smoked, bone-in ham for this recipe. Since there are so few ingredients, the quality of the meat matters.

Get the Recipe: Butter Rum Glazed Ham


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hassle-Free Pull-Apart Garlic Loaf

It's the little things that get lost in the shuffle.
In the midst of holiday crazy, short-cuts are often where it's at.

We know. We've been there. 
And we confess, we've fallen prey to less-than-domestic-goddess options on numerous occasions. 

We order carryout for dinner instead of cooking. We opt for goods we picked up at the bakery instead of the dessert we planned to make for company. We buy those frozen dinner rolls at the supermarket...

YES!  We've done it too.
But, thanks to quick, easy recipes like this, I'm not sure we'll have to -- at least not around the holidays.

First - the ingredients are basic. Flour, yeast, butter, milk, cheese. You keep all of those on hand, don't you?

Second - it take about 15 minutes to prep the ingredients (which make two loaves/enough for a crowd). Totally do-able.

Third - it can be baked right alongside your main course, or even during the time it takes for your prime rib roast, turkey, or ham rests.

Fourth -- it's seriously delicious.

So, before you pull out that bag of rolls from the supermarket, try your hand at this easy and delicious pull-apart bread recipe.

Pull-Apart Garlic Loaf
This cheesy, buttery pull-apart loaf is the perfect complement to weekend dinners or holiday meals. The garlicky butter mixture gives the bread a distinctly savory bite, and the Romano cheese adds a slightly salty umami flavor. We like it best served warm from the oven.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ties That Bind: Holiday Food Traditions of the Italian Diaspora

I recently had the distinct honor of writing an article for the winter issue of Edible Milwaukee magazine about traditions brought to America by Italian immigrants.

The article, Food Traditions of the Italian Diaspora, has been percolating for over a year now, and began when I met a woman named Silvana Bastianutti Kukuljan at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books. I was hosting the cookbook stage, and she was making a presentation about the cookbook that the students of her Italian Language and Culture class had created.

The cookbook contains a wide variety of recipes from members of the class -- many of whom are first and second generation immigrants and all of whom have connections to Italy through travel or interest -- as well as anecdotes and information about traditional Italian ingredients.  Guides in the book also provide valuable information for food lovers, including guidelines about the appropriate times of the day to drink espresso, cappucino and the like.

After hearing her presentation -- which included a wide variety of stories about how Silvana and members of her class preserved elements of tradition from their Italian backgrounds and experiences -- the thought of writing their story stayed with me.

So, I was delighted when the concept seemed to fit with the theme of Edible's winter issue, which focuses on traditions, celebrations and overall conviviality.

I'd love for you to read the article, but I also wanted to share an "out-take" that didn't make it to print -- a story shared by Riccardo Sarbello, about his role in helping to make the wine his father sold to friends and neighbors.  Sarbello is a retired professor of physics at UW-Milwaukee whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Toarmina, Sicily in 1920. They settled first in the lower east side of New York, eventually moving and settling more permanently in Brooklyn.
“My father was a cabinet maker by trade. But, he also made wine and was the source of wine for many people where we lived in Brooklyn.
When he would visit people – where you might bring candy or flowers or something – he’d bring a gallon of his wine, and that was very well accepted. In fact, my father courted my mother by bringing gallons of homemade wine to her family.
He used California grapes. He always kept ties to the lower east side where he knew producers and importers of fruits and vegetables. So, in the fall when there were grapes available, he’d have them delivered to the house by truck. He’d take out the basement window and put a slide in. And then they’d push in all these crates – I can still see the “42” on the side of the crates that indicated 42 pounds – and they’d slide in one after another, after another. And then the grapes would go into the press.

We had a big basement; it was one room. And there was a press in the middle with a long, long pole. So two or three people would actually help to push it all around; and I could play a role even when I was eight or ten years old. It was like those old pictures of Samson going around the grindstone.

Then the wine was put into three large barrels and a fourth, smaller one. And for the first two or three weeks you’d have to stir them every night. And that was my job. I could do very little damage that way. I took a pole with a little square piece of wood attached to the bottom that I would push up and down and the bubbles would come up – bloop bloop bloop – that was fun.

My father would always keep a special barrel from each batch. He’d keep gallons of wine from each year so he could say “this is from when my sister got married,” or “this was from 1963” or when this or that happened. Ultimately, those were the worst, because they’d gone past their flavor peak. But the yearly one was always delicious. Good strong red wine that everyone loved.

At the holidays wine was always served with dinner, and of course the eating went on for hours. So there was always ample opportunity for me to go down and get a gallon of some other vintage year of wine.”
And because I can't resist, I'd also like to share the recipe for Fregolotti that Sandragina Ebben shared with me.  It's delicious (which I know firsthand from testing the recipe before I sent it it off for publication) and it makes me wish I had an Italian Nonna to teach me how to bake.

Fregolotti: Italian Almond Cookie

Thank you so much to Sandragina Ebben, Silvana Bastianutti Kukuljan, Gustavo Ricca and Riccardo Sorbello for taking the time to share their stories. I'd also like to thank the Italian language and culture group at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UW-Milwaukee for welcoming me into their world.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Polenta and Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

I'm not sure what it says about me, but lately I'm all about stuffing things into vegetables.

A few simple questions guide my actions:
Are you a vegetable?
Can you be hollowed out and stuffed?

If the answers to both questions are a resounding YES, then we're off and running. 

From there, it's just a matter of exercising a bit of creativity in deciding what kinds of things might be delicious when stuffed inside.

For a while, I was stuck on making Quinoa & Chorizo Stuffed Peppers (so good).  

But, for the fall and winter, I wanted something a little bit different.  So, I started playing around with squash -- which, let's be honest, are the perfect subjects for stuffing, what with their little bowl shaped halves and all.

There are a lot of recipes for stuffed squash. But, I don't think there are many like this one.

This Italian take on stuffed squash combines the rich, corn-forward flavor of polenta with Italian sausage and red peppers to create a rich delicious dish that’s perfect as a hearty side or served as a main dish with a side salad. 

Using prepared polenta saves time, but you can also make your own. Just spread cooked polenta into a baking pan and allow it cool before cutting it into squares.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cheesy Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Show of hands -- how many of you have eaten hasselback potatoes?

Another show of hands -- how many of you have actually made them? Am I alone in saying that I almost never do?

I feel like hasselbacks are one of those dishes (at least for me) that I love, but that I never bother to make myself. But all of that changed when I discovered hasselback sweet potatoes.

Now, in their original and simplest form, hasselback potatoes are usually drizzled with melted butter, seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with bread crumbs. The rich butter absorbs into the potato during roasting, resulting in a soft, creamy interior and a crispy outside.

So, I guess it's the idea of baked potato meets oven fries that really attracts me. I love how the potato gets a bit crisp on the outside, but it's meltingly tender on the inside. And I love how easy they are to eat.

And, of course, when you add cheese I'm ALL OVER IT.

You could choose any number of cheeses for this dish. Cheddar would be great, especially if you decided to add a sprinkling of bacon. And I could even make the case for Mozzarella or Provolone, maybe with a slight change in the seasonings.

However, smooth nutty Gouda cheese has an affinity for the sugary qualities of the sweet potato, and it melts like a dream, making it the perfect stuffing for these buttery paprika and garlic-infused potatoes. If you like smoked cheeses, try using smoked Gouda for an extra burst of flavor.

I love sitting down with one of these and making it a meal. But, they're also perfect for serving alongside your next roast.
Recipe: Cheesy Hasselback Sweet Potatoes


Monday, October 20, 2014

An Homage to Milwaukee's Honey Pie Cafe: Salted Honey Pie

Ever since we made that Cherries & Cream Slab Pie this summer for the Go Bold with Butter blog, I've been a little obsessed with pie making.

One of the things I've been obsessed about is the crust. I've never been good at crust... in fact, one failed attempt where the dough got so tough it was useless made me think I'd never tackle it again.

But, then I heard Julia Child's words ringing in my ear. 

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

And I thought about the Julie/Julia Challenge we did back in 2009 where we learned to debone a duck.

And I decided to try again. Boy am I glad I did.

These days, when I can find the time, I'm a regular pie-making fiend.  Which brings me to the next recipe.

There’s a little restaurant here in Milwaukee called Honeypie CafĂ© that serves up some of the best pie in the city. I actually wrote an article about them a while back, tracing some of the adventures that co-owner Val Lucks has had while seeking out some of the best pies in the nation for inspiration.

Thanks to all of Val's travels and research, Honeypie has at least 50 flavors of pie in their repertoire, with probably six to eight showing up daily on the menu.

One of our favorites, among their offerings, is their namesake Honeypie which blows us away every time we eat it. It’s sweet and salty and rich, with a smooth custard base and a delicious flaky crust.

Of course, as good as it is, it doesn't show up on the Honeypie menu nearly often enough for my taste. So, I decided to take a whirl at making my own.

This version, an homage to their pie, is really a variation on chess pie, a southern style custard pie which makes use of cornmeal as a thickening and textural agent, as well as vinegar to round out the flavor and prevent the sweetness from becoming cloying. 

The flaky crust owes its flavor and texture to the magic of real butter (Val prefers shortening, but I'm not sure if I agree). And a bit of sea salt added to the finished pie offers up a pleasant crunch, as well as giving the pie an irresistible sweet-salty flavor.

Get the recipe: Salted Honey Pie


Sunday, October 12, 2014

An Interview with Susan Fish and a Book Giveaway

Susan Fish, hanging out in Ithaca, NY.
So -- how many of you bought the Kindle edition of Ithaca after reading our last post?

If you did, and you've started reading, you'll probably enjoy this interview we did with the author, Susan Fish.

But, even if you didn't, you'll want to keep reading. Not only is Ms. Fish pretty interesting, but she was also generous enough to share one of her favorite fall recipes!

And hey - if you're still looking for a copy of her book, we're doing a giveaway for one at the end of this post.

What inspired the storyline in the book?
I visited the town of Ithaca, New York in the summer of 2011 and saw a number of small signs that said ‘No Fracking.’ Months later, curious, I looked up the term and discovered that the lush farmlands, orchards and vineyards of Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region sat on the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, and that there were proposals to ‘frack’ the land to address our petroleum addiction. There was—and is—significant grassroots opposition to this action. At the same time, New York State had been hit hard by the 2008 recession, with many family farms at risk of foreclosure: selling drilling rights was a tempting proposition that led to deep soul searching for many.

Another factor that inspired this book was my fascination with the simple power of simple food in bringing people together.

Is there a specific individual who inspired the character of Daisy?
Years ago, I knew a woman whose professor-husband dropped dead in a faculty meeting, as Daisy's did, and like Daisy, she faced the challenge of figuring out who she was at midlife in a radical new way. But I wasn't privy to how she did it so I really only borrowed the barest of bones. I started writing this book while walking my dog around our neighborhood, along streets where there were a lot of 1960s bungalows.

As we walked in the early evenings, I could see into the kitchen and living room windows of many houses. One house had a collection of china figurines lined up in the window, while another had all sorts of unironic, kitschy knick-knacks, and I began to think about the stuff we accumulate over the course of our lives, the stuff that tells our stories but that also sometimes holds us back. Originally, I imagined a story about two women who had been living together platonically for years, coming to terms with past relationships and the things they had held onto. I've known several such "couples" but these two were invented. As I wrote the story, I began to realize that it really was one woman's story to tell.

What made you decide to integrate food into the theme of the book? Why soup?
I've known some people who host a weekly community supper, and I've actually wanted to do this myself for a long time, but I have kids who need to be chauffeured places most nights, so it's never actually become something I've practised.

In my earliest draft of the book, on the very first page, Daisy says to the reader, "The Wednesday suppers were a sort of lifeline for me." I knew early on that Daisy had been someone who opened her home up on a regular basis, to an unknown number of people. Given that this wasn't a dinner party where numbers were assured, I figured it had to be soup she served--because soup can always be stretched to serve a few more people.

You developed a number of soup recipes to go with the book. What was that journey like?
I love to cook. Until a few years ago, I was someone who pulled out cookbooks, made a weekly menu and shopped accordingly. Then one of my kids developed food intolerances and I learned to substitute and improvise. This skill stood me in good stead when it came to developing recipes for this book. Each of the chapter has a soup as a title. I made each one up myself and then later figured out the recipe for it. (The recipes aren't included in the book, but I am releasing them one a week this fall--on Wednesdays, of course--on my blog

Even after a few years of cooking by instinct, this was challenging. For one thing, I needed to measure, in order to be able to replicate the recipe again later. For another, how original could a recipe for soup really be? My notes were quickly splattered as I needed to keep pencil and paper handy as I cooked.

There were a few duds. There was one glorious soup—Apple-Cheddar-Onion—that I was never able to replicate again after I ate pretty much the entire batch singlehandedly. Sometimes I looked up a variety of recipes to get a kind of baseline for the idea of the soup. I was interested for that every single soup I had invented in the course of writing the book, there was a recipe somewhere online. Sometimes others’ recipes were no help at all.

My character Daisy had planned a Pepper Pot Soup the week before Christmas: in her (my) mind, this was a soup with chopped red and green peppers and a spicy broth. As it turned out, a true Pepper Pot soup is a Jamaican recipe with chunks of beef, sweet potato and okra, with hot spicy peppers added as seasoning. Daisy and I were on our own with our idea for that soup.

You mentioned that you love to cook. What's your favorite recipe? And why?
That's almost like asking which one is my favorite child...and in both cases the answer is "depends on the day." :) One of my favorites is a recipe I memorized from a magazine in a bookstore. It's a great fall pasta dish.

You roast cherry tomatoes and a head of cauliflower (cut into florets) with lots of garlic, finely chopped bacon (or pancetta), slivered fresh sage leaves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir occasionally and roast until everything is somewhat carmelized. Serve with pasta, baby spinach or arugula, and fresh parmesan.   Why is it my favorite? Just because it's delicious.


For your chance to win your very own copy of "Ithaca," please read the instructions below. Be sure to leave a comment for each entry (and leave your email address if you don't have it listed on your blog/contact info). Please note that this contest is limited to readers in the United States & Canada. Contest ends 10/18/14 at NOON (CST).

Mandatory entry (must be completed or no other entries will count):
  • Tell us what YOUR favorite soup is -- and why.
Extra entries – please leave a comment for each additional entry, letting us know you completed it
  • Give us a "like" on Facebook! (or let us know that you already like us)
  • Follow @Burp_blog on Twitter (or let us know that you already follow us)
  • Use the following text to tweet about this giveaway (please leave a link to your tweet in the comments for credit): Win a copy of "Ithaca" @Burp_blog: Ends 10/18/14 #giveaway
The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Facebook on or before October 19, 2014. The winner will be emailed separately to arrange for mailing of the book.

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ithaca: A Book About Soup and Fracking

You know we've got a thing about soup, right?

After all, we host our annual Soup Nights. And we've even been featured in a BOOK about Soup Nights.

Well, I've also got a thing about novels. And writers.

I respect them so much. After all, it takes a great deal of imagination and talent to create characters that seem real to the reader and a storyline that makes someone want to keep reading.

So, it's kind of interesting that -- few weeks ago -- we happened to connect with an author who wrote a novel that revolves around soup.

Well, kind of.

The name of the book is Ithaca -- and each of the chapters in the book has a "soup" themed title, which corresponds to the various dishes that the main character, Daisy, serves during her weekly Wednesday night dinners.

We love the plot description that Janet Sketchly gives over at GoodReads:
Ithaca is a coming-of-age story—for a 59-year-old woman. Daisy Turner's husband, Arthur, was a professor at Cornell University. She typed his notes and kept his home. And made soup for a crowd every Wednesday.
They married young, and Daisy found fulfillment as a wife and mother. Now her son works overseas, and she's a widow. And most of her friends are really Arthur's friends.
She finds herself developing a friendship with a man who is slowly losing his wife to illness, and with a young woman who's an environmental activist. Daisy surprises herself—and her son—by signing up for a university course to learn about fracking. She doesn't know what it is, but the protest signs are everywhere, and she'd like to learn.
The book is about finding identity after experiencing loss. And it's something each one of us can probably relate to on one level or another.

If you're interested, we noticed you can get a copy of Ithaca for Kindle right now on Amazon for $3.19 (and no, we don't get paid anything if you buy it). But, if you're more of a hard-copy sortofa person, you should stay tuned.

We're actually going to be doing a giveaway of the book over the weekend. But, for now, we'll leave you with this excerpt where Daisy talks about her Wednesday night soup suppers:

I should explain about Wednesday nights. It started when Arthur was new at the university, new and assigned grad students. It had been my idea for him to get to know his students outside of school, off campus. I had suggested they come over for supper. And so they did and so they devoured the food I made them. And no one suspected how young I was. We invited them back and soon it became a standing date in our calendar. They brought their girlfriends and then their wives. Sometimes Arthur’s colleagues would come too. When Nick was a toddler, he loved having the students over, loved the energy of the house.

Eventually it drifted away from any affiliation with the school and it just became Wednesday night. I made pots and pots of soup, a different kind each week. I stocked up on bowls and spoons at garage sales and estate sales, mix-matched bowls. You might get a bone china bowl or a wobbly earthenware bowl made in someone’s pottery craze.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pizza Casserole with Zucchini Crust

Are you inundated with zucchini from the garden? Tired of making zucchini bread?

Yeah, we thought so (we are too).

Then we've got another question for you: Do you like pizza? Do your kids?

If the answer is "yes," we’ve got a recipe you're going to want to try.

It's simple, really. Mix shredded drained zucchini with eggs and cheese. Spread it into a casserole dish and bake it for a while.

Then top it with all of your favorite pizza toppings. Voila! 

This casserole combines everything that’s great about pizza with a vegetable-laden crust that tastes fantastic.

We got the idea from an old trick Lo's mom used to do with leftover macaroni and cheese. She'd mix it with a couple of eggs, spread it into a baking pan and prebake it. Then she'd add tomato sauce and pizza toppings.  

As kids, we loved it.  

As an adult, I've occasionally remade the recipe just to relive the nostalgia. But, I've also started looking for other ways to achieve similar results.

This concept is similar -- but it sneaks in some extra vegetables. So, if you're a mom with picky kids, this recipe might just be something you want to tuck into your repertoire.

We'd be delighted to hear what your kids think.

Get the recipe: Zucchini Pizza Casserole


Thursday, September 18, 2014

End of Summer Tomato Pie

 Gosh, I love September.

Wanna know why?
Because my garden is literally bursting with produce, and whatever I don't have already at home, I can easily procure from the farmer's market.  It's a cook's dream!

Of course, if you know me, you'll also know that I'm a big fan of the cooler weather that comes in September and October. So, that's just an added bonus.

The fact is, when the dog days of summer give way to a bountiful harvest that includes succulent, garden-fresh tomatoes, it’s time for BLT’s, caprese salads and panzanella. And we've eaten our fill of all of those things this year.

But, it’s also the perfect time to make delicious savory pie!

This delicious summer pie contains layers of colorful tomatoes along with flavorful herbs, smoky bacon and plenty of cheese.

While you can make this pie with any type of tomato, using a variety (from cherry tomatoes, to yellow, orange and green) increases the complexity of the flavor in the dish.  It also makes the pie even more beautiful to behold.

Just check out all those awesome colors in this pie, which we made with a combination of heirloom tomatoes including Black Krim, Brandywine and German Stripes.
But, that's not the only thing that sets this pie apart.  Another thing is the crust.

Rather than using regular old pie crust, we use a buttery cornmeal biscuit crust that gives the dish an almost deep-dish pizza-like quality.

This pie is delicious for dinner, but it almost makes a perfect light summer lunch or brunch.

Get the recipe: Savory Summer Pie


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Homemade Mocha Fudge Pie Pops

Today I found out that the popsicle was invented by an eleven-year-old boy.

It was 1905. And, as the story goes, young Frank Epperson accidentally left a container of powdered soda mix out on the porch with its stir stick. It just so happened that -- on that fateful night in San Francisco -- temperatures reached record lows. So, when he awoke the next morning, he discovered that the mixture had frozen to the stir stick, creating an icy fruit-flavored treat. 

He called it the Epsicle.

Epsicle. Popsicle. It's brilliant -- whatever you want to call it.

Personally, I've always had an affection for the fudgsicle. They are my singular favorite summer frozen treat memory. And, even as an adult, I get an annual craving for their smooth fudgy frozen deliciousness.

Unfortunately, a few years back I made the mistake of looking at the ingredients on the back of the box of commercial fudgesicles? Ugh. Not cool. 

So, ever since then, I've been playing around with recipes that mimic the deliciousness of my favorite frozen treat. And this time, I think I've outdone myself a bit.

This particular rendition contains layers of frozen chocolate mocha cream along with a buttery chocolate cookie crumb “crust.” 

It's a little fancier -- and a bit more delicious -- than your traditional fudge pop, which means it's the perfect dessert for summer gatherings. But, we won’t tell if you sneak one in as a late afternoon snack.

Get the recipe: Mocha Fudge Pie Pops

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Lifesaver: Grilled Tamale Pie

I guess we've been kind of spoiled this year. The weather in Wisconsin has been pretty temperate this summer. So, we've had very few hot muggy days.

That makes me pretty happy, as I'm simply not a fan of hot, humid weather -- which tends to render me limp, listless and headachey.

Yes -- I'm afraid I'm a wimp when it comes to the dog days of summer.

However, I'll confess that I don't believe summer has TRULY happened unless we have a few of those scorching hot days when the idea of cooking makes my stomach turn.

This week -- and into the weekend -- looks like it's going to bring some of that weather.

Fortunately, I've got a plan.

When the kitchen is too hot for cooking, adapting recipes for the grill is a life-saver. Such is the case with this delicious tamale pie, which can be prepared completely on your backyard grill.

It all starts with fresh summer vegetables like zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and fresh sweet corn which are cooked with fresh chorizo and black beans in a cast iron skillet and topped with a cornmeal crust.

But, look twice. Because this isn't the tamale pie you might be used to.

While some recipes for tamale pie call for cornbread as a topping, we opted to keep things more traditional by using a mixture of masa harina (the flour used for tortillas and tamales), butter and chicken broth.

It's easy to throw together and it creates a delicious tamale-like topping that cooks quickly and lends an authentic flavor to this great hot weather dish.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Tamale Pie


Friday, August 15, 2014

Feeding a Crowd: Cherries and Cream Slab Pie

Got a crowd to feed?
Or maybe you just LOVE pie?

Either way, slab pie is where it's at.

I read somewhere that Martha Stewart invented the concept of slab pie. I'm not sure that's true -- but she definitely made the concept popular. And for that, I'm grateful.

Baked on a half-sheet/jelly-roll pan, slab pies can serve 20 or more people and require a little more effort than making one single pie. In fact, for the effort, I'd say slab pie is the way to go every single time... though having that much pie around would definitely be bad for my waistline.

Better yet, if you're a fan of pie crust -- really good flaky pie crust -- slab pies will make you extremely happy, since the filling to crust ratio is perfectly balanced.

This particular version incorporates a traditional sour cherry filling with thin layer of creamy cheesecake. 

The buttery crust is flaky and well behaved. The filling isn't too terribly sweet -- and it's creamy enough that it doesn’t even need the addition of whipped cream or ice cream (a bonus if you're transporting it to an outdoor picnic) – though either would be a welcome addition.  

Got plans for Labor Day weekend?  Get a head start by making this pie!

Get the recipe: Cherries and Cream Slab Pie


Monday, August 4, 2014

Grilled Cauliflower with Capers and Preserved Lemon

If you read my last post, you've already heard me waxing poetic about the virtues of preserved lemons. I'm a huge fan, and I love the way their salty sour flavor perks up all kinds of dishes.

But, one of my favorite ways to use preserved lemons during the summer months is in a simple dressing made with olive oil and capers. It's salty and tangy and bright. And it's perfect for any time of the year.

It's he perfect addition to a number of dishes -- but it's really perfect stirred into a big bowl of buttery grilled cauliflower.

If you've never grilled cauliflower, you're in for a treat. Like roasting, grilling brings out all the delicious sweetness of the vegetables. But, if you grill over charcoal or hardwood, the process also also adds a smoky element that really makes an impressive flavor statement.

Add the zing from preserved lemons and capers, and you've got something really special.

This dish makes the perfect accompaniment for hearty grilled meats like lamb, pork or steak. The dressing is also delicious served atop a filet of grilled fish or chicken, or stirred into a batch of potato salad.

Grilled Cauliflower with Capers and Preserved Lemon

There are more great recipes where this one came from! We created this dish as part of our work with the Go Bold with Butter blog, where you'll find an amazing collection of delicious recipes using real butter.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Preserved Lemons and Six Great Ways to Use Them

Do you love preserved lemons like we do?

I can't quite pinpoint when our love affair with these deliciously sour and briney lemons came to be. But, I can tell you that it probably began with my love for the Meyer Lemon -- that sweet, tart, floral fruit that seems to come along right around the perfect time in winter when I need a pick-me-up.

Every year, I look forward to seeing the first batch of lemons in the store. And I always buy a bunch of them, knowing that they'll perk me up.

This past February, I ordered 10 pounds of fresh Meyer lemons from the awesome women over at The Lemon Ladies Orchard in Emerald Hills, California.  And it was the best decision I've ever made.

I made Meyer lemon jam, limoncello, lemon sugar, these amazing lemon glazed doughnuts... and a big fat batch of preserved lemons.

Preserved lemons aren't the sort of thing you can just pick up anywhere. Fortunately, they are easy to make. And, although they require a bit of patience (ideally, they take at least a month to cure), they last almost forever in the refrigerator, so they're well worth the effort.

I'm just getting down to the last of my batch from February -- which I've been using on any number of things -- and I think I'm going to have to double the amount I make next year because I keep thinking of new dishes that could use a bit of their charm.

The most traditional way to use preserved lemons is in a tagine. And if you need great recipes, Paula Wolfert is the person to look to.

But, they're also great on a slew of other things. Here are some of my favorite ways to use them.
  1. Simple weeknight pasta -- all you need is some good olive oil, garlic, and slices of preserved lemons to make a gorgeous pasta dish. 
  2. Add them to salsa -- Whether it's summer peach salsa, mango salsa or regular old tomato salsa, it's sure to benefit from a bit of finely diced preserved lemon.
  3. Use them in salad dressing -- seriously. They are an awesome addition to a simple vinaigrette (even a bit of the juice will give any dressing a lift). But, they also make an amazing addition to Caesar dressing. Add a few capers to really brine things up.
  4. Preserved lemon aioli -- Whir them into a bit of mayo for an amazing dipping sauce or sandwich spread.
  5. Roasted chicken -- Mix some of the juice left from preserved lemons with garlic and your choice of herbs. Rub the mixture on the inside and outside of your chicken before roasting.  For an added boost of flavor, add a few lemons to the chicken cavity.
  6. Compound butter -- Add lemon to softened butter, roll into a log, and refrigerate or freeze. Use for corn on the cob, green beans, or just about any summer vegetable.
And I'll share another of my favorite recipes with you in the next few days.  In the meantime, maybe you want to get a batch of your own preserved lemons going.

Preserved Lemons


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Message for Amazing Women Everywhere

I don't ordinarily veer off the topic of food.  But, this is something I felt compelled to share. 

I hope you find it inspiring. I hope it makes you want to fist pump the air and give a little shout. And I'm hoping it's also something you'll take to heart and share with other like-minded humans.

It's a keynote speech that was delivered at the Milwaukee Business Journal's Women of Influence awards event this past week. But, it's probably not like any speech you've read lately.  

Please read -- and then pass it on to amazing women everywhere!

So who is Juli Kaufmann?

Some know her as the President of Fix Development, a Milwaukee consulting company at the fore of projects that create more sustainable communities. In fact, many people (including myself) got to know Kaufmann after she finished one of her most well known projects --  The Clock Shadow Building- home to Wisconsin's first urban cheese factory.

But, Juli Kaufmann is much more. She's also the founder of Fund Milwaukee, a group that provides opportunities for investment in small, locally owned businesses. And the manager for Afterglow Farm, a 400-acre farm just north of Milwaukee that is building a brand new template for best practice in sustainable agriculture. In 2013, she herself was nominated as a Woman of Influence by the Milwaukee Business Journal. And that's not all... every time I turn around, Juli is starting up something new (and amazing) here in my city. 

Suffice it to say, she's the embodiment of so much of what's good and right in our Milwaukee community.

Thank you, Juli!
You're an inspiration to all of us.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Perfect Summer Cupcakes: Strawberry with Basil Buttercream

I'll be honest, I'm a tough sell when it comes to cupcakes. They're cute as can be, but they almost never compare -- in my mind -- to a nice, moist slice of cake.

But, cupcakes do offer the advantage of being a nice way to provide single servings of dessert for backyard barbeques and gatherings, without the hassle of cutting and serving. So, I'm aways on the lookout for ways to work them into my repertoire.

Lately, I've been obsessed with the idea of pairing up summer herbs with fruit. They have such an affinity for one another, and I'm often amazed that more recipes don't utilize the wonderful grassy, earthy qualities of herbs to enhance their baked goods.

So, I started off by playing around with cupcakes.

These beauties were the result of an experiment combining strawberries and basil. And -- dare I say -- I may have found a cupcake that I'll make time and time again.

The buttery vanilla and fresh strawberry batter is moist and fruity. It doesn't rise sky-high due to the moisture content of the fruit, but I also didn't have the typical issue of the cupcakes sinking in the middle as some fruit-filled cakes tend to do.

Even better, the rich, fluffy basil buttercream frosting provides a perfect light, sweet summery flavor. It's easy to work with for piping and spreading. And I really love the look of the gorgeous green flecks of basil.

Despite my cupcake nay-saying, I might be in love.

Get the recipe: Strawberry Cupcakes with Basil Buttercream


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Liven Up Your Brunch: Bloody Mary Burgers

You love brunch, right?
So do we. 

I'll confess that we don't make it at home very often, but that's because there are so many amazing places here in Milwaukee to grab awesome eats during the brunch hour.

And while the food varies wildly from restaurant to restaurant, there is always one thing you'll find at a good Milwaukee brunch: A Bloody Mary.

In fact, it's gotten a little bit crazy around here -- with all sorts of restaurants competing for attention with their crazy Bloody Mary concoctions.

One of the biggest -- and reportedly the best -- is the Sobelman's Bloody Mary.

This behemoth of a brunch cocktail comes complete with 13 total garnishes, including celery, onion, Brussel sprout, lemon, pickle, shrimp, mushroom, cherry tomato, olive, cheese, sausage, asparagus and green onion. Oh, and a bacon cheeseburger slider. Once you toss in the Sprecher Brewing Company beer chaser (a Wisconsin tradition), the drink really becomes an entire meal in itself.

So, if Sobelman's can put a burger into their Bloody, we figured we'd put a Bloody Mary into our burger.

Tender ground chuck is flavored with Worcestershire, celery seed and horseradish, grilled, and then topped with a rich vodka tomato sauce that pulls in all the sweet and salty qualities of a great Bloody.

Because it's brunch -- and because they're the perfect size for a burger, we planted these puppies atop toasted English muffins with the prerequisite lettuce and tomato. And bacon, of course!

The garnish is completely optional -- but in Wisconsin it’s tradition to serve a Bloody Mary with a beer chaser. So, we recommend serving up these burgers with a nice cold beer on the side. 

Top with a sunny side up fried egg for the ultimate brunch burger experience.

Bloody Mary Burgers

There are more great recipes where this one came from! We created this dish as part of our work with the Go Bold with Butter blog, where you'll find an amazing collection of delicious recipes using real butter.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Better Stuffed Peppers: Filled with Quinoa & Chorizo

 Have I ever told you my feelings about stuffed peppers?

For many, stuffed peppers are the ultimate comfort food. For me... well, they're not comforting at all. They're bitter. And often soggy. And honestly, if I wanted meatloaf, I'd just make meatloaf.

I recall an episode of one of Michael Chiarello's cooking shows where he talks about green peppers, and how no one should have to abide them. "They're not ripe," he said. And that resonated with me.

I have no love for the green pepper, and ever since I saw that show I have used their "unripeness" as my excuse for not eating them (I make one exception -- and that is chicken cacciatore, which I believe is never quite right without at least one green pepper added).

But, anyhow -- getting back to stuffed peppers -- Obviously, I've overcome my aversion, right?

Well, not exactly. However, since I'm not a big fan, I almost always buck tradition when I stuff a pepper. First, I almost always use red peppers. Or orange or yellow ones.

I also sometimes put eggs in them (they make fun little souffles). And always cheese. I might even fill them up to the brim with vegetables. But, you'll almost never see me making the classic stuffed green peppers with the meatloaf-y insides. Bleh. 

It's an effort to overcome what I feel might be a simple psychological aversion to a perfectly delicious food. And sometimes it works.

For instance, these Mexican inspired stuffed peppers may have taken me over to the other side. Seriously.
They're fresh and delicious,  filled with protein-packed whole grain quinoa, easy to make and perfect for company, since they can be made ahead.

Pre-roasting the red pepper halves with a bit of butter gives them lots of flavor and prevents the filling from being overcooked during a long oven time. So, they're not soggy or slimey!  Hurrah!

Quinoa & Chorizo Stuffed Peppers

There are more great recipes where this one came from! We created this dish as part of our work with the Go Bold with Butter blog, where you'll find an amazing collection of delicious recipes using real butter.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thai Style Coconut Shrimp Tacos

Tacos make great weeknight meals because they’re quick to pull together. And, if we've learned anything over the years it's that -- as weird as it may sound -- almost anything tastes good wrapped up in a tortilla. 

We've pulled off some pretty interesting tacos and wraps in our time, a number of which were edible, but definitely not fit for blogging.

But here's one we made more recently that is entirely worth the minimal effort.

We took inspiration from the fish tacos we make at least once every couple of weeks. But, this time we added shrimp. And we dredged the shrimp in coconut. 

And then --  instead of topping them with chipotle slaw -- we subbed out the chipotle for Thai red curry and made it Thai style. 

Along the way, we came up with a great way to batter and bake shrimp. 

Turns out dipping the shrimp in a spicy butter mixture and dredging them in coconut before baking ensures rich flavor and a crispy coating that’s almost as good as fried.  Huh, who would've known?

Well, now we do. And this one is a keeper.

Thai Style Coconut Shrimp Tacos

There are more great recipes where this one came from! We created this dish as part of our work with the Go Bold with Butter blog, where you'll find an amazing collection of delicious recipes using real butter.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Weekend Love: Lemon Glazed Doughnuts

We all have memories of doughnuts – whether fresh from the bakery on a Sunday morning, or served right out of a box from the local Dunkin’ Donuts. 

But, the luckiest among us have tasted homemade doughnuts – those bundles of love with a crispier exterior, a fluffier interior and a warmth that assures you that everything is right with the world.

We know you've been making excuses for not making doughnuts yourself (we were right there with you until a few weeks ago, when we decided to take the plunge).

But, we're here to tell you that you shouldn't wait another moment.

Classic yeasted raised doughnuts aren't difficult at all to make. In fact, the most difficult aspect is probably waiting for them to rise.

And whether you have a deep fat fryer -- or just a deep pan with a good candy thermometer -- even the frying process easy as pie (or maybe easier).

These simple yeast doughnuts are enriched with the goodness of real butter – both in the dough and in the delightfully tart lemon glaze.

We were lucky enough to have a few Meyer lemons on hand for this recipe, so the glaze was sweet, tart and pleasantly floral.

Lemon Glazed Doughnuts

But, don't stop with doughnuts!  There are more great recipes where this one came from! We created this dish as part of our work with the Go Bold with Butter blog, where you'll find an amazing collection of delicious recipes using real butter.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Puckery Raspberry Coconut Bars

Alright, so we've kept you in waiting for a bit too long. What has it been? Two? Three weeks since our last recipe was published?

Yikes. No wonder you're getting so antsy!

Fortunately, we've got a good one for you. It's a recipe we've loved for years, but that we've never shared -- one of those recipes that straddles spring and summer with ease, and is appropriate for finishing off just about any meal we can think of.

This foolproof recipe not only comes together quickly, but it seems to appeal to just about everyone with its buttery shortbread crust, gooey inside, and crisp sugar-glazed top.

A little bit puckery, and a whole lot sweet, these sticky delights taste a bit like a stack of coconut macaroons collided with a pint of raspberries.

Puckery Raspberry Coconut Bars

There are more great recipes where this one came from! We created this dish as part of our work with the Go Bold with Butter blog, where you'll find an amazing collection of delicious recipes using real butter.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

From Milwaukee with Love: AKA Where We've Been for the Past Few Months

My guess is that you've noticed it... the way our blog posts have gradually grown fewer and farther between. And if you're a regular reader, you may even know why.

We started putting out the word back in October that we were starting a new business venture. But, we never really went into much detail about what we had up our sleeves.

Some of our awesome
Milwaukee producers
In some ways it feels a bit obnoxious and self-serving to talk about the business here at Burp! -- because we know that you're here for the recipes and the banter about what's going on in our kitchen.  But, on the other hand, when we have a project that's taking up some much of our time, it feels pretty awful to be keeping that out of the conversation.

So, without further adieu, we'd like to let you in on what's up with our new company, From Milwaukee with Love -- a food-based gift box company that focuses on artisan products made by small businesses right here in Milwaukee. 

I've always been a firm believer that the best way to get to know a place -- any place -- is to taste the food that it produces. It's such a powerful way to capture the cultures and spirit of the people who live in a given area -- and the foods produced in any given region are also highly reflective of the terrain, the traditions, and the deeply held beliefs of an area.

I've also been saying -- for more years than I care to admit -- that Milwaukee's food scene has really become worthy of more widespread attention. Many of you also know that, through my food and dining writing for, I've met a lot of great chefs and food entrepreneurs -- many of whom I've gotten to know quite well over the years (you'll see a number of them pictured on the right). And I found myself frustrated that there wasn't a locally owned company that really took advantage of show-casing how awesome they really are.

So, From Milwaukee with Love has become our labor of love, in a sense.

It's a project that's both dear to our hearts and which supports some of our most sincerely held beliefs about supporting entrepreneurism and keeping money in the local economy.

We're just starting out, but our goal is to change our selections seasonally, and really offer people a taste of Milwaukee and the surrounding areas.

Around mid-April, we'll be rolling out a number of new boxes that feature a number of great new products that are just perfect for food lovers like yourselves. And, at that point, we'll be pulling together a great giveaway of Milwaukee-made products for all of you -- our loyal readers.

In the meantime, we'd love to hear what you think of the concept and our current selection of products. So, please feel free to leave your comments, questions, and suggestions.

You can also show your support by giving us a follow:  

Thanks for hanging in there. And stay tuned for a real recipe in the next day or two!  We promise :)