Friday, September 28, 2012

Going Raw: Orange-Chocolate Mousse Parfait


Judita Wignall’s Orange-Chocolate Mousse Parfait from Going Raw
Orange-Chocolate Mousse Parfait

Don’t tell anyone that the secret ingredient is avocado until they try this dreamy, decadent dessert.

Soak time: 2 hours
Prep time: 30 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours

Mousse

2 large avocados
2/3 cup (53 g) cacao powder
3/4 cup (255 g) agave nectar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth, with the consistency of a thick pudding. Add more avocado if too thin. Scrape down the sides of the container with a spatula as needed. 

Vanilla Cream

1 1/2 cups (180 g) cashews, soaked 2 hours
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
1/3 cup (115 g) agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place the cashews, coconut oil, water, agave nectar, and vanilla into a high-power blender and process until very smooth.
2. Chill the mousse and cream for 2 hours or until firm, then layer into parfait bowls using a pastry bag or a spoon.
Stored separately, the mousse will keep for 3 days in refrigerator and the cream will last for 1 week. Makes 8 servings.
Going Raw by Judita Wignall

Judita Wignall discovered the healing power of raw foods after health challenges made her reassess her diet and lifestyle. Her passion for great-tasting food, holistic health, and wellness brought her to Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, where she became a certified raw food chef and instructor. Judita is also a commercial actress, print model, and musician from Los Angeles, California. In between her many projects, she continues to teach classes, coach, and personal chef for clients around the country. Learn more at http://www.rawjudita.com.

Recipe excerpted from Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet & Lifestyle Revolution at Home by Judita Wignall (© Quarry Books, 2011)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spice Checklist

If you’re a food-lover (a cook, a baker, or both), you know that having a complete spice rack is an important element to your craft. Spices add and enhance flavor, create stunning color, and take culinary creations from bland to brilliant.

Spices
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
So how do you get started with spices? Experiment with commonly used spices in your everyday cooking and baking and work from there. You’ll find that the more familiar you become with the aromas and flavors of spices, the better you’ll be at pairing them with the rest of your ingredients.

Here is my list of go-to spices that I believe every aspiring chef should have available in his or her spice rack.

1. Bay leaves

2. Peppercorns

3. Paprika

4. Chili powder

5. Curry

6. Cinammon

7. Cloves

8. Ginger

9. Kosher and/or sea salt

10. Nutmeg

11. Oregano

12. Crushed red pepper

13. Sesame seeds

14. Thyme

15. Vanilla

Did you know you can make your own vanilla? 

It’s easier than you think. Simply add vodka to a small jar and drop in a vanilla bean. Leave it for a few weeks and you’ll have homemade vanilla. The best part? When you’re running low, you can add more vodka and leave it for a few more weeks to make more.

What are your go-to spices? Share your list in our comments section below. For tips on how to organize your spices, check out our How Do Your Spices Rack Up article.

Happy cooking!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Unique (and awesome) ingredients you need to try

It's time to get experimental with your cooking.

Create some bold, intriguing dishes with truly unique ingredients. You're sure to have fun tasting something new and you'll impress friends and family with your culinary knowledge.

Here are my top three unique ingredients.

1. Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco Broccoli

Half broccoli, half cauliflower, and all awesome. The Romanesco broccoli, often called fractal broccoli, is an example of an approximate fractal in nature. Its eye-catching appearance helps you create dynamic dishes with a creamy, nutty flavor.

Cooking tip: Try Romanesco broccoli with brown butter and shallots.

2. Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

A vegetable like no other, Kohlrabi has a strange appearance, yet is from the same family as the wild cabbage plant. You can eat every part of the Kohlrabi plant, including the leaves, which have a similar taste to collards or kale.

Cooking tip: Roast Kohlrabi with garlic and Parmesan cheese.

3. Star Anise

Star Anise

Star anise is an anise-like spice that infuses dishes with a licorice flavor. The unique star shape gives this spice a look all its own. It can be used in cooking, baking, and even drinks. That bottle of Galliano you have in your liquor cabinet contains star anise.

Cooking tip: Use star anise when you make your own cocktail cherries!

Have you tried out a new, unique ingredient lately? Leave me a comment and let me know how it turned out for you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

All Things Candy with Elizabeth LaBau

I recently had the opportunity to speak with author and candy-maker extraordinaire Elizabeth LaBau about her passion for candy and chocolate, along with some fun tips, tricks, and stories. Here is what she had to say.


1) What is your process for creating candy/chocolate recipes?

Fudge boiling on the stove top
Fudge boiling on the stove top
I'm always on the lookout for candy inspiration, and I keep a huge file of potential candy ideas on my computer. I get my ideas from everywhere: favorite foods from my childhood, desserts that I've tried, colors or patterns in fashion, fruit that's in-season, trendy ingredients or new products I spy in the store, food blogs and websites like Pinterest, everywhere!

Sometimes I have just a vague notion of what I want to explore (for instance, animal prints or polka-dotted candies) and sometimes it's much more specific, like an ingredient combination that I can't get out of my mind. 

Once I've decided on the general idea of the candy, I turn it around in my mind to figure out what form it should take. Here's an example: If I want to make a candy that combines fresh strawberries and fresh mint, what would be the best way to get those true, vibrant flavors across? Obviously something like a toffee wouldn't work well, but truffles take well to flavor infusions and fruit purees, so that's one possibility. 
A better idea, though, might be to make a candy composed almost entirely of fresh fruit, without other strong flavors like chocolate masking the fruit. So in that case, I might decide to make pate de fruits, a chewy fruit candy made mostly from puree. After deciding on the form, it's a matter of creating a base recipe and tweaking it until it has just the right flavor, texture, and appearance.

By this point in my life I've made many, many different types of candy, so I usually have a good idea of where to start with the base recipe, and I'm rarely starting from complete scratch these days. 

I should add that even though I've been doing this for years, I still have my share of candy failures on a regular basis! I try to learn from each failed recipe, and sometimes good things come as a result—I might not always make the exact candy I dreamed of, but sometimes I stumble upon a different, but equally good, end product. 

2) What is your favorite recipe? Why?

This is an unfair question—it's like asking a parent who their favorite child is! That being said, I do have a few recipes that I find myself making over and over again, just because I love the way they taste. 
The Mint Chocolate Chip Truffles are one example—mint is one of my favorite flavors, and the cool mint ganache is so refreshing, I find myself eating way too many whenever I make them. I also love the Passion Fruit Marshmallows, because passion fruit is one of my favorite flavors and it's pretty uncommon in candies, at least where I live. Finally, I love the Red Velvet Fudge—it's is a little time-consuming to make, but it looks amazing and is always a show-stopper when I share it with people.

3) What do you find most challenging about candy/chocolate making? What do you find the easiest?

I mentioned this before, but I do still have the occasional spectacular failure, and that's never fun! Candy making is so precise, even a small mis-measurement or temperature mistake can ruin a batch of candy, and that can be challenging and discouraging. 

In writing the book, I think I had the most challenges with the fudge chapter—old-fashioned fudge can be so finicky! If I got distracted by other candies and let a batch cook too long, or cool too long, it was sure to be disastrous. In contrast, I've never met a truffle I didn't get along with, and they're pretty forgiving, so I generally find truffles to be simple and enjoyable to make. 

4) Which recipe would you recommend to first time candy/chocolate makers? 

Peanut Butter Cup Fudge is an easy fudge that's almost impossible to mess up! It does require a candy thermometer, but that's really the only tricky part—there's no extended cooling or beating required, unlike some more complicated fudge recipes. I think of it as a "gateway recipe"—after tasting the smooth, creamy fudge, hopefully folks will be more confident, want to try more, and be willing to experiment a bit with more complex recipes!

5) Have you ever had a balloon explode while making your chocolate bowls?

YES! I have spent some quality time scrubbing chocolate from my kitchen walls as a result of chocolate bowl explosions. I was actually nervous that one would explode when we were shooting the cookbook, and I warned the photographer that she might want to keep a close eye on her camera and lenses, so she wouldn't get chocolate on them. Fortunately I've become pretty good at judging when the temperature is ready to make chocolate bowls, and we avoided any explosions during the cookbook shoot!

The Sweet Book of Candy Making by Elizabeth LaBau

Elizabeth LaBau is the author of The Sweet Book of Candy Making. Elizabeth is a food writer and confectioner based in Los Angeles, California. She applies her years of experience as a professional pastry chef to bringing a modern touch to the world of old-fashioned candy making. Since 2006, she has been the Guide to Candy at About.com, an online division of the New York Times Company. At http://candy.about.com, she provides fun, creative candy recipes and step-by-step tutorials for the home cook. When she's not playing with sugar in the kitchen, she can be found running the trails around Los Angeles with a piece of candy tucked into her pocket. Visit her online at http://www.elizabethlabau.com, http://www.sugarhero.com, and http://www.runningwithsugars.com.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Play With Your Food: Try Fermentation This Fall

Fall is upon us and with it comes harvest and the perfect time to pick up some mason jars and get fermenting.

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is the process of preserving food. There are many methods to preserve food, including: drying & salting, high pressure, vinegar, canning, refrigeration, and freezing. Many of these methods can be easily done in your home.

Unfortunately, we have drifted away from our ancestry of canning, preserving, and fermenting, and have instead become far too dependent on refrigeration and freezing. We're terrified of leaving food out for fear of it "going bad," and think that fermenting is just too time-consuming and difficult. We need to get back to the joy of playing with our food.

Fall is the time of year when we put away and preserve foods for the winter. So why not give fermenting a chance this season?

Why Ferment?

1) Fermenting supports local agriculture. Stop by that farm stand and pick up some fresh veggies to pickle, or join a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and use your weekly farm share to create something special. Using local, homegrown fruits and vegetables in your fermenting projects helps support farmers and gives you a great end result.

2) Fermented foods are a powerful aid to digestion and protect against disease. Did you know that your body is host to a bacterial population of over 100 trillion organisms? We cannot live without bacteria. It helps break down our food and aids digestion. Fermenting promotes the good bacteria we need to survive.

3) It's quick and easy... and most of all, fun! It took mere minutes for me to chop up some vegetables, salt them, and put them in jars. Best of all, the result was delicious. My favorite part of the entire process was getting to leave out the jars on my counter and watch them each day. It became a conversation piece when friends came over and a countdown for my family.

Making homemade pickles

Canning your own pickles
Tada! Homemade pickles.
From coleslaw to pickles to yogurt, creme fraiche, and kefir, fermentation is a fun, easy, healthy process that gives you a stronger connection to your food. I highly recommend you buy yourself some jars and get fermenting! I bet you'll find it's addictive.

Homemade creme fraiche
My very own Creme Fraiche!
If you want to know more about the joys of fermenting, take a look at Alex Lewin's book Real Food Fermentation. Control your own ingredients, techniques, and additives. Learn a practical food-preparation skill you’ll use again and again. And express yourself by making something unique and whole.

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Real Food Fermentation by Alex Lewin


Preserve your favorite foods through every season with Real Food Fermentation. Control your own ingredients, techniques, and additives. Learn a practical food-preparation skill you’ll use again and again. And express yourself by making something unique and whole.

Inside, you’ll find:

—All the basics: the process, the tools, and how to get started
—A guide to choosing the right ingredients
—Sauerkraut and beyond—how to ferment vegetables, including slaw-style, pickles, and kimchi
—How to ferment dairy into yogurt, kefir, crème fraîche, and butter
—How to ferment fruits, from lemons to tomatoes, and how to serve them
—How to ferment your own beverages, including mead, kombucha, vinegar, and ginger ale
—A primer on fermented meat, fish, soy, bread, and more
—Everything you need to know about why the recipes work, why they are safe, what to do if they go wrong, and how to modify them to suit your taste

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's as American as Apple Pie

The weather has cooled, the pumpkins are out, and it's the season for apple picking. If you're like me, you've talked your family into heading into the apple orchard with you with the promise that you'd make them the perfect apple pie.

Did you know there are 2,500 apple varieties in the United States? And over 7,500 varieties worldwide? That's a ton of apples. So how do you choose which apples make the best pie?

There are two things to look for when choosing the right apple for apple pie: taste and texture. Most apple pie recipes call for sugar, so it's best to choose an apple that's at least a little tart or you're going to be overwhelmed with a too-sweet pie. When choosing for texture, find an apple variety that's crisp and firm. You don't want applesauce pie filling.

Most importantly, have a little fun with experimenting. There are many crisp and tart apples out there and adding more than one variety into your pie is completely okay (and encouraged!) The following are some of my favorite picks for apple pie contenders: Granny Smiths, Jonathan, Jonagold, Pippin, Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady Apples.


"Apple pie without the cheese is like a kiss without the squeeze..."

Once you've chosen your apples, there's nothing like a cheddar cheese crust to give your pie a savory and sweet combination that your friends and family will rave about.

Cheddar Cheese Double Crust

2 1/4 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (18 g) kosher salt
2 teaspoons (8 g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks (1/4 cup) (168 g) cold unsalted butter (12 tablespoons fat)
1/2 cup (60 g) grated or thinly cut cold sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (120 ml) strained ice water plus 2 or 3 tablespoons (28 or 45 ml)
regular fork
plastic wrap

Steps

1. Choose a good size bowl, one where both of your hands can fit in and work. Measure your dry ingredients and mix them together in the bowl. Cut your cold butter into 1/4-inch (6 mm) pieces. It is very important that your butter is cold; its ability to maintain the integrity of its shape is what lends flakiness to the crust. You can freeze it, but I find refrigerated butter to be quite sufficient.

Making cheese crust for pies

2. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients. Incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients by pinching each piece. When you incorporate the butter, it is meant to keep its shape–you're just introducing the two. You don't want your butter to get warm with the flour or create tiny little butter pebbles. The goal is for your fat to have presence in the crust.

Kneading the pie dough

3. Scatter the shredded cheese over the ingredients.

Adding cheese to pie dough

4. Quickly toss the cheese through the butter and flour. Make sure to get everything at the bottom of the bowl into the game.

Cheesy pie dough

5. Add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the strained ice water along the outside of the crust. Mix quickly with the fork. Add the remaining ice water and mix with the fork or your hands.

Making cheese pie dough

6. When mixing the ingredients, make sure all the little bits on the bottom of the bowl are incorporated. Separate the crust into two equal-sized balls, and flatten them into disks. If they won't hold in the center, sprinkle a bit of water on the crust. If they feel a bit wet, sprinkle a bit of flour on the crust.

Easy cheese pie dough for apple pie

This savory crust will be the perfect foundation for your new favorite apple pie. Let me know what apples you picked for your pieleave me a comment below.

For more on pie-making, check out Millicent Souris' How to Build a Better Pie. How to Build a Better Pie will provide everything you need to know. Learn the skills, practice the techniques, master the recipes, and build yourself a better pie.

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Whether you want to try your hand at Apple Pie or Chicken Fat and Pea Pie, How to Build a Better Pie will provide everything you need to know. Learn the skills, practice the techniques, master the recipes, and build yourself a better pie.

Inside, author Millicent Souris shows you:

—Solid foundations: how to make and roll out the crust, including a basic crust and alternative crusts such as crumble, shortbread, and cheddar cheese
—The practical equipment basics and essential pie-making tips that you really need
—The methods behind a lattice and a full top crust, and how to tell which one to use
—Fruit pies, from Rhubarb Pie to Cherry Pie to Apricot Tomatillo Pie, and beyond
—Staple pies, including Walnut Maple Pie, Corn Buttermilk Pie, and Chocolate Olive Oil Pie
—Savory pies, such as Oyster Pie, Lamb Pie, and Chicken Pot Pie
—How to go small: hand pies, turnovers, and galettes


Photos courtesy Souris, Millicent. How To Build a Better Pie. Beverly: Quarry Books, 2012.

The Art of Home Cheesemaking

Attention all cheese-lovers!

We are excited to announce that our very own David Bleckmann, co-author of The Cheesemaker's Apprentice, is giving a class at the Hillsboro Public Library in Oregon on Tuesday October 9th, 2012  entitled "The Art of Home Cheesemaking".




The Art of Home Cheesemaking at the Hillsboro Public Library

If cheese is one of your favorite things, then this is an event you do not want to miss. Join David from 6:30–8:00 pm for an evening discussing all things cheese.

And the best part? You'll get to taste samples of homemade cheeses, and take home recipes to help you get started in your own home cheesemaking.

Learn more about the wonderful world of cheesemaking by checking out David's website: http://www.joyofcheesemaking.com

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The Cheesemaker's Apprentice by David Bleckmann
 
Learn from a wide range of cheese making professionals and discover delicious artisan recipes with The Cheesemaker’s Apprentice! This step-by-step book contains interviews with worldwide experts on everything from culture strains to pairings, while the easy-to-follow, original tutorials outline this fun, productive, and classic skill. You’ll also find an array of mouthwatering homemade recipes that will help you apply these newly-gained tips and techniques, including:

- Cream cheese
- Ricotta
- Havarti
- Gouda
- Cheddar
- Gruyere
- Stilton
- Camembert

Together, these pages make up an expertly-crafted, comprehensive cheesemaking curriculum.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Extreme Home Brewing

"Extreme brewing is like driving 90 mph on a winding road that you've driven a million times beforeexcept that it's nighttime and raining, your headlights have burned out, and the Department of Transportation has removed all of the guardrails to upgrade them." - Bryan Selders, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.

Homegrown Hops
Home brewing has been around as long as culture itself. From ancient Egypt to modern America, people have been brewing beers of all different kinds for centuries. It is a skill that has become so popular that many evolve from home brewing equipment into microbreweries, regional breweries, and beyond. Home brewing actually only became legal in 1978 and was the genesis of the entire microbrew movement.

If you're a beer lover, then you've probably considered jumping aboard the home brew bandwagon, but perhaps you've wondered how to get started. If you're an "extreme brewer" like Dogfish Head owner, Sam Calgione, then you jump in with both feet. Sam's enthusiasm for the industry even led him to fight to have laws changed to enable his business to get off the ground. It's been soaring ever since.

What you need to get started brewing your own beer right at home:

1) Large pot
2) Bucket with a lid
3) Air lock
4) Bottles
5) Hydrometer and thermometer

It really is that easy.

It all starts with brewing, which is basically boiling the ingredients on your stove in a large pot to create what's called "wort". After about an hour, your boiled wort needs to be chilled and poured into your bucket. Pop the lid on and let it ferment for about two weeks. Transfer the liquid to your bottles and seal them. Let them condition (or rest) for a week. Invite friends over for a tasting and enjoy!

If you're feeling really adventurous, the White House just released two of the President's favorite brew recipes, White House Honey Ale and White House Honey Porter. Read more about the White House beer recipes by visiting their blog.

Sam Calagione is the founder and owner of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (http://www.dogfish.com) in Milton, DE, one of the nation’s fastest-growing independent breweries, and Dogfish Head Brewing and Eats in Rehoboth Beach, DE. His innovative style has earned him a reputation as one of America’s most adventurous brewers; he has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, People, Forbes, Bon Appetit, and many other magazines and newspapers. He lives in Lewes, DE.  His book, Extreme Brewing: An Introduction to Brewing Craft Beer at Home has long been required reading for any serious homebrewer and is now revised and expanded.

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Extreme Brewing by Sam Calgione
 
Extreme Brewing is a recipe-driven resource for aspiring home brewers who are interested in recreating these specialty beers at home, but don't have the time to learn the in-depth science and lore behind home-brewing. As such, all recipes are malt-syrup based (the simplest brewing method) with variations for partial-grain brewing. While recipes are included for classic beer styles -- ales and lagers -- Extreme Brewing has a unique emphasis on hybrid styles that use fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices to create unique flavor combinations. Once their brew is complete, readers can turn to section three, The Rewards of Your Labor, to receive guidance on presentation, including corking, bottle selection and labeling as well as detailed information on food pairings, including recipes for beer infused dishes and fun ideas for themed dinners that tallow the reader to share their creations with family and friends. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cocktail Gardening with Katie Loeb

Calling all cocktail enthusiasts!

Cocktail author Katie Loeb knows that there's nothing quite as delicious as fresh ingredients in your cocktails. It's what helps give drinks their astounding flavor. Growing your own cocktail herbs is easier than you think and is a great way to keep your cocktails homegrown and flavor-filled.

Cocktail Gardening was written by and stars Shirley Bovshow, Ariana Seigel, and Emma Tattenbaum-Fine
DP, and editor Nathan Blair.




As always, you can pick up your copy of Shake, Stir, Pour: Fresh Homegrown Cocktails today. Award-winning author Katie Loeb is a bartender, sommelier, creator of craft cocktails, and author of numerous articles and cocktail recipes, which have been published in Bon Apetít, The Los Angeles Times, Imbibe, Philadelphia Magazine, Inside, and Food & Wine Magazine cocktail books. She has consulted for numerous restaurant groups and spirit brands, providing cocktail recipes, beverage lists, and operations assistance. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Create Your Own Fresh, Homegrown Cocktails!

Pure, intense, and flavorful—homemade cocktails are best straight from the source. Start in your garden or local market and create an in-season, made-from-scratch cocktail to lift your spirits and impress your guests. But be warned: Once you’ve tasted the fresh version of your favorite drink, you’ll never want to go back.
Start by making your own syrups:

—Simple syrup: an absolute staple and the base for unlimited concoctions
—Herbal syrups including Thai Basil Syrup, Mint Syrup, and Lavender Syrup
—Spice syrups, featuring Cinnamon Syrup, Ginger Syrup, and Orange Cardamom Syrup
—Fruit/vegetable syrups such as Rhubarb Syrup, Pear Syrup, and Celery Syrup

Make your own bar basics:

—Fresh Citrus Cordials like the Ruby Red Grapefruit-Lemongrass Cordial
—Classic garnishes, including real Cocktail Cherries and Cocktail Onions
—Classic mixers like Grenadine, Ginger Beer Concentrate, and Bloody Mary Mix

Make your own infusions:

—Base spirits including Cucumber, Lemon & Dill Gin and Jalapeño-Cilantro Vodka
—Limoncello: a homemade version of the Italian classic
—Bitters: a cocktail classic with new, unique flavor combinations

And explore the more than 50 drink recipes that feature your fresh, homemade creations!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why you should sign up for a CSA

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA for short. It's a term that's been popping up a lot lately as more Americans begin to focus on the importance of fresh, homegrown produce. For the last twenty years, many farms across the country have been offering "shares" to the public. Anyone in the community can opt to pay a yearly fee for a weekly crop share that lasts throughout the farming season.

I'm thrilled to say that I signed up for my local CSA two years ago and cannot speak highly enough of the benefits.

Here are the top six reasons why I think you should sign up for Community Supported Agriculture.

1) You support your local farmers
2) You get ultra-fresh food each week
3) You know where your food comes from
4) You save money over the year on produce
5) You have the opportunity to get to know others in your community
6) You try out new vegetables and fruits you may not have picked up on your own

I'll give you an example of the last reason. Last year, we received a vegetable in our farm share called Kohlrabi. It's an incredibly strange vegetable that I, realistically, never would have picked up on my own. Our farm team was good enough to let us know the name of the vegetable and give us some tips on storing and cooking. I immediately Googled it as soon as I got home. Turns out it was an easy (and tasty) vegetable to cook up and I learned something new.

Fresh food makes a difference in your cooking and your farmers need your support. Find out more about your local CSA. Call your local farm today!

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Season Your Cast Iron Skillet

People have been cooking with cast iron since early seventh-century Europe and it continues to be a popular and effective tool for producing delicious and consistent meals. From baking cornbread to creating sizzling sensations, cast iron is the top choice among many professional and home chefs.

Whether you received your cast iron as a gift, an heirloom, or brand new from your local store, you'll need to know the art of seasoning cast iron.

Why do I need to season my cast iron? 

Seasoning makes your cast iron non-stick and also enhances the flavor of your dishes. Unlike other cooking and baking dishes, you never want to put your cast iron in the dishwasher. Instead, gently wash it with mild soap and water between use, and dry with a cotton dishtowel.

How to season your cast iron

What do I need?

Your cast iron

Vegetable oil (or lard, bacon fat, or shortening)


Paper towel (to massage the oil/lard/fat into the cast iron)
An oven

What do I do?

1) Preheat your oven to 350ºF


2) Wash your cast iron with mild soap and warm water







3) Pour a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil into the middle of the cast iron


4) Use the paper towel to massage the oil into the cast iron on the inside and out


5) Place the cast iron on a piece of aluminum foil and place it in the oven for an hour


Heating up the cast iron allows the pores to open and the oils to soak in. The more you use your cast iron, the more seasoned it becomes. Each time you clean your cast iron, be sure to let it dry completely and then rub in more oil on the surface. Store your cast iron in a cool dry place.

Caring for your cast iron will ensure it stands the test of time. It's quick an easy way to keep it looking its best.

Looking for some great cast iron recipes? Check out Dwayne Ridgaway's recipe for Skillet Scallion Biscuits and his many other great cast iron recipes in his bestselling book, Cast Iron Cooking.

Happy cooking!

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Cast Iron Cooking by Dwayne Ridgaway

The adage "everything old is new again" is proven to be true once more as evidence of the resurgence in popularity of cooking with cast iron. Celebrity chefs like Emeril, Paula Deen, Rachel Ray, and Alton Brown are touting the virtues and versatility of cast-iron cookware. Now cooking enthusiasts can learn the age-old techniques that have made cast iron cooking a perennial favorite.

Cast Iron Cooking describes attributes of cast-iron pans and how best to use them; provides a review of all shapes, kinds, and brands of iron utensils; and explains what each is best suited for. It includes recipes for easy, healthy, gourmet-quality dishes from entrees to desserts made in cast-iron pans. A special chapter covers live-fire and charcoal cooking and grilling with cast iron. (Psst! Cast-iron cookware is perfect for outdoor cooking and entertaining.)

Sidebars cover interesting facts about cast iron, such as its history as a chuck-wagon favorite, how to use a Dutch oven with live coals, how to prepare and maintain a natural no-stick surface (a process called "seasoning") on these pans, and more.
 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Embrace the Joy of Foraging

Do you love mushrooms? Do flavorful fungi get you frenzied? If so, you're going to be thrilled to learn that our very own Gary Lincoff of The Joy of Foraging is hosting the Homegrown: Do-It-Yourself Series at The Horticultural Society of New York on Wednesday September 12th.

The Hort writes:

"Discover the edible riches your backyard, local parks, woods, and even roadside! In The Joy of Foraging, Gary Lincoff shows you how to find fiddlehead ferns, rose hips, beach plums, bee balm, and more, whether you are foraging in the urban jungle or the wild, wild woods. You will also learn about fellow foragers—experts, folk healers, hobbyists, or novices like you—who collect wild things and are learning new things to do with them every day. Wherever you live-any season, any climate-you'll find essential tips on where to look for native plants, and how to know without a doubt the difference between edibles and toxic look-alikes. There are even ideas and recipes for preparing and preserving the wild harvest year round. Let Gary take you on the ultimate tour of our edible wild kingdom!"

Doors open at 6pm; workshop starts at 6:30pm
Hort members: Free; Non-members: $10
Register at thehort.org or email info@thehort.org

It's an event you won't want to miss!

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Discover the edible riches in your backyard, local parks, woods, and even roadside! In The Joy of Foraging, Gary Lincoff shows you how to find fiddlehead ferns, rose hips, beach plums, bee balm, and more, whether you are foraging in the urban jungle or the wild, wild woods. You will also learn about fellow foragers—experts, folk healers, hobbyists, or novices like you—who collect wild things and are learning new things to do with them every day. Along with a world of edible wild plants—wherever you live, any season, any climate—you’ll find essential tips on where to look for native plants, and how to know without a doubt the difference between edibles and toxic look-alikes. There are even ideas and recipes for preparing and preserving the wild harvest year-round—all with full-color photography. Let Gary take you on the ultimate tour of our edible wild kingdom! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Katie Loeb Wins Big at Cocktail Competition!

We are thrilled to announce that Katie Loeb has won first place in the 3rd Annual Bärenjäger Cocktail Competition. Congratulations, Katie!

Katie's win is extra exciting as she is the first woman to ever win this competition. Her grand prize is an all-expense paid trip for two to Oktoberfest 2012 in Munich, Germany, and $1,000.

The competition was judged by Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, Dushan Zaric, Bridget Albert, Tad Carducci, and Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Katie's recipe was selected from over 400 submissions from talented cocktail creators from across the nation.




Katie's delicious "Barenberry Mule" cocktail skyrocketed her to success over her competitors and is sure to become a favorite drink among cocktail lovers everywhere. We're sure you're itching to try it out, so here's the award-winning recipe.

 
Barenberry Mule
by Katie Loeb, Philadelphia, PA

In a shaker combine:
2 parts Rittenhouse 100 proof Rye Whiskey
1 part Barenjager honey liqueur
1 part fresh lemon juice
¾ parts Berry Thyme Essence *
2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters


Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake well and strain into a highball glass full of fresh ice. Top with Reed's Extra Ginger Brew ginger beer and garnish with a lemon twist and a blackberry.


* Berry-Thyme Essence Recipe
 

1 cup fresh blackberries (most of a 6 oz. container. Save extras for garnish)
1 cup Pom Wonderful Pomegranate-Blueberry juice
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup loosely packed thyme leaves removed from stems
1/8 teaspoon tartaric acid powder

Bring juice and water to a boil. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add berries and simmer for 8 minutes. Add thyme leaves and simmer 5 more minutes. Stir in tartaric acid powder. Cool slightly and liquefy in blender. Cool completely and strain to remove seeds and leaves. Makes approximately 12 oz. Keeps refrigerated for two weeks.

(Recipe courtesy of  PR Newswire.)

Create your own fresh, homegrown cocktails by picking up Katie Loeb's book, Shake, Stir, Pour.

Shake, Stir, Pour by Katie Loeb

Pure, intense, and flavorful—homemade cocktails are best straight from the source. Start in your garden or local market and create an in-season, made-from-scratch cocktail to lift your spirits and impress your guests. But be warned: Once you’ve tasted the fresh version of your favorite drink, you’ll never want to go back.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Make Ahead Meals

I love great food, but I don't always have time to prepare and cook a three-course meal, especially on weeknights. As a busy working mom, sometimes I need a quick and easy dinner that my family will love.

That doesn't mean I want to sacrifice on flavor.

The best thing about this recipe is that it has all the gusto a foodie loves, but is incredibly easy to make. It also uses a lot of ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. As an added bonus, you can make this recipe on Sunday night and freeze it for the week. Then you won't have to worry on that one day you just don't have extra time.

Potluck-Perfect Tamale Pie

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons (28 ml) olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic
3/4 pound (340 g) extra-lean ground beef
2 tablespoons (12 g) grated lime zest
2 scallions, chopped
1 can (15 ounces, or 425 g) diced tomatoes
1 can (4 ounces, or 115 g) diced green chiles
1 cup (140 g) sliced black olives
3 cups (700 ml) water
1 cup (140 g) coarse cornmeal
1 teaspoon paprika
1 cup (154 g) corn kernels
3/4 cup (86 g) shredded Mexican blend cheese

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF (180ºC, or gas mark 4). Spray a 11 x 7-inch (28 x 18 cm) baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened. Stir in cumin, coriander, oregano, and garlic, cooking for 1 minute.

3. Add beef and cook, stirring often, until browned. Stir in lime zest and scallions, cooking for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chiles, and olives, stirring to combine. Cook until heated through. Reduce heat to low.






4. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add cornmeal and season with salt and pepper. Whisk continuously until mixture starts to thicken. Add paprika and corn and continue to whisk until cornmeal has a thick oatmeal consistency. Stir in cheese. Remove from heat.





5. Spoon beef mixture into prepared baking dish, spreading evenly. Pour cornmeal mixture over top and spread evenly to cover.



6. Bake for 30 minutes or until corn bread topping is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy by Michele Borboa

If this recipe gets your tastebuds excited, you'll love Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy by Michele Borboa. Each exceptionally delicious freezer-friendly meal can be prepared in advance and enjoyed at a moment's notice.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hosting a Vintage Cocktail Party

Two years ago, I hosted a cocktail party at my house. I had always been fascinated with the idea of dressing up, acting "fancy", and sharing some great food and drinks with my friends. It turned out to be a huge success.

The hardest part of the entire planning process was choosing which cocktails we'd serve. We were having both men and women, so we didn't want something too girly or too strong. We ended up with some classic choices: margaritas, martinis, and strawberry daiquiris.

If I had read Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails before my cocktail party, I would have had Dr. Cocktail's help in choosing some fabulous selections. Lucky for me, I'm all about hosting parties, so I decided it was time for another party and this time I went vintage.

The food was simple. Cheese, crackers, and garlic bread. The drinks? They were delicious. Here's the roll call.

Vintage Cocktail #1

The Corpse Reviver Cocktail
 
Name: The Corpse Reviver #2
Ingredients: Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, Lemon Juice, Absinthe
Verdict: The favorite of the evening. Strong, but truly delightful.

Vintage Cocktail #2

The Jack Rose Cocktail

Name: The Jack Rose Cocktail
Ingredients: Applejack, Lime, Pomegranate Grenadine
Verdict: Sweet and intriguing.

Vintage Cocktail #3

La Floridita Daiquiri Cocktail

 Name: La Floridita Daiquiri
Ingredients: Rum, Limes, Sugar, Maraschino Liquor
Verdict: A cherry on top (homemade thanks to my cocktail cherry recipe!) makes this one absolutely delightful.


Ted Haigh, a.k.a. Dr. Cocktail, makes his living as a graphic designer in the Hollywood movie industry and has worked on such spectacles as O Brother Where Art Thou?, American Beauty, and The Insider. He has been researching cocktails since the ’80s and has been referenced by the New York Times, Esquire, the Malt Advocate, Men’s Journal and writes regularly for Imbibe Magazine. He is a partner in CocktailDB.com, an encyclopedic database of cocktail knowledge and curator and designer of The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Skillet Scallion Biscuits

I'm going to begin this post by admitting that I am not normally a biscuit person. I normally find biscuits to be dry and never thought of making them myself.

This recipe changed my mind.

Skillet Scallion Biscuits

2 cups (220 g) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (4.6 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (4 g) sugar
1 teaspoon (16 g) kosher salt
1/4 cup (50 g) vegetable shortening
 cup (235 ml) buttermilk
1/2 cup (50 g) chopped fresh scallions, white and green parts
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon (14 ml) water for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC or gas mark 5).

Combine the flour with the baking powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the shortening and mix on medium speed until a mealy consistency is reached.

Mixing on low gradually add the buttermilk, until just combined. Add the scallions and mix just enough to incorporate.
 
Empty the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead into a rectangular shape. Roll the dough, with a floured rolling pin to about 1/2" (12.5 mm) thick rectangle. Cut out rounds using a 2 1/2" (6.25 cm) round biscuit cutter.

Making biscuits

Drop the biscuits in the bottom of a well-seasoned, lightly oiled 10" (25 cm) cast-iron skillet.

Homemade biscuits in the skillet
 
Brush the tops with the egg wash and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are firm. Serve warm.

Skillet scallion biscuits

Trust me, this recipe is worth buying a skillet for! Enjoy.

Cast Iron Cooking by Dwayne Ridgaway

If this recipe gets you excited about skillets and other cast iron pieces, you'll want to check out Cast Iron Cooking by Dwayne Ridgaway. Pick up your copy today by visiting http://www.quarrybooks.com

Dwayne Ridgaway, the indoor grill master, is the well-known author of Quarry's cookery books including Lasagna; Sandwiches, Panini, and Wraps; and Pizza. He has been a chef at numerous resorts and restaurants, including the San Destin Beach Resort and the Elephant Walk in Florida. He is a food and beverage consultant and caterer, and lives in Bristol, Rhode Island.