Saturday, February 28, 2009

King Corn

An excerpt from this month's Slow Food of Huron Valley newsletter directed me to two clips on you tube.

Several months ago I saw a documentary on PBS called King Corn. Two college graduates buy an acre of land and follow it for one year- raising one acre of corn. They are hit with the ins and outs about commerical farming of corn and what it has done to our agricultural system in America - and how disgustingly close that it is all tied into our fast food culture. I would highly recommend it if you can get your hands on a copy of the DVD. So they've apparently created a spoof of the recent corn syrup add that's been all over TV lately. And it's classic.

HFCS commercial paid for by the corn refiner's association:

and the spoof -

I've been reading An Omnivore's Dilemna by Pollan. Really a great read so far. I'll update more when I'm done with it, but there's a large section about the "corning" of America. It's really quite interesting. Eye opening to say the least.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake :: Feb DB

Daring Baker time again. Yippee! say the kids. Flourless chocolate cake with ice cream. The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

For a flourless cake you need four things: that's it. A double-boiler melted combination of chocolate and butter, stiff-peaked egg whites, and egg yolks. Sure you could throw in a little vanilla or a little espresso or salt. These would be great dimensions. But the greatness of this thing lies in it's simplicity. Oh yeah, I guess you'd need a buttered pan too, if you're being picky.

My interpretation of this month's challenge was creating a triple shot ice cream - coffee flavored ice cream with ground espresso and chocolate covered espresso beans. For you coffee lovers, yes, it was as good as it sounds. It *made* the dessert. So did the chocolate ganache sauce that it was all swimming in. Yum. If only I hadn't tried to restart my diet again this week. Sigh.

Below is a new function I'm trying out where you can more easily see my whole Flickr album for this challenge. What do you think?


Today I tried a wonderful cookie. Well, to be honest, cookie is not a fair word for this confection. It's so much more than a cookie. I bought the Maitelates Alfajores at Everyday Wines over in Kerrytown. Now I have to admit I was by myself browsing a wonderful little wine shop which I would have been fairly nervous about bringing my four kids into. So I'm sure that bumped the impression of these treats up a little - but just a little. Before eating a non-chocolate dipped one that Zingerman's has been making, I'd never tasted an alfajore. It is a very tasty a spread of dulche de leche sandwiched in between two tender and crumbly shortbread cookies. Maite's version is so good not only because of the decadent chocolate coating, but the confection as a whole is such a treat. The caramel and the cookie and the chocolate compliment each other so well.

About a month ago I had read this article about Maite's business and cookies in the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and I thought to myself that I would have to make sure to pick one up next time I was at the farmer's market. So imagine my delightful surprise when I saw them for sale at EW. Lovely. When it was done, I wished that I had eaten it a little bit slower.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

free as a bird

Have you tried the chicken nuggets by Freebird? Really I despise the idea of chicken nuggets, I do. But when you have little ones in the house sometimes, once in a while, you have to compromise your food ideals. Generally we eat pretty real food around here, not magic food, as a dear friend once called it (C soup casseroles, etc.). When we eat it, it looks like and tastes like the real thing - only enhanced with spice and the Maillard reaction.

The Freebird chicken nuggets do have an honest chicken breast flavor which if you've tried any other nuggets recently you'll know is not a given. And the best part is that there is no magic in the flavor. No chicken flavor, like Mickey D's adds to their disgusting McFrankenNuggets. Seriously, what in the world is all that stuff? And they don't even write the ingredients of the stuff that they spray on the nuggets to make them stay edible in their freezers. Yikes. This is not intended to be an indictment of McDonald's. Just don't let them fool you with their commericals where they pretend to care about the produce. Again, I digress.

If you have a clientele for nuggets in your house, look out for these. They seem to be a guilt-free compromise between what the kids want and what you desire for them to eat.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mardi Gras at Z's

Generally we're not big Mardi Gras celebrators around our house. Growing up in New Jersey doesn't exactly leave you with a deep feeling of tradition for the MG parade. I admire it in a very distant and longing sort of way, but not in a way that I can say that I've experienced the intense fun and debauchery of New Orleans. But this past Wednesday my husband I took the opportunity for a night out and joined Ari and the gang at Zingerman's roadhouse for their Mardi Gras dinner. Do I even need to say how great it was? I can't seem to get enough of the food genius that inhabits that building.

Chef Julio, who apparently used to cook at NOLA in New Orleans, told us that this was his third annual Mardi Gras dinner working at Zingerman's. He had such a passion for the Cajun cooking and history; it was really intriguing to hear him speak about his first hand knowledge of the cuisine.

The menu was a wonderful journey of the flavors of Cajun (NOT CREOLE) cooking. We started off with two apps: a roasted pepper stuffed with rice, andouille, and I believe there were even some currents in there, and an "Erster" stuffed and baked with a garlicky bread crumb topping (I'm pretty sure this had some kind of sausage in there too). These were wonderful, especially the oyster, of which I'm not usually the biggest fan. However, the flavors were top notch, really complimenting the smooth texture of the shellfish.

Next we had a cup of the best gumbo that I have ever had in my entire life. I've surely not tried as many as a real southerner, however, the rue that was the base of this gumbo must have been slow cooked for a very very long time because there was such amazing depth of flavor - the base of the soup was nearly black. It was so well seasoned, with shredded chicken, andouille, oysters, topped with a scoop of rice, and a steamed shrimp. There was just enough kick in here to make you sputter a little bit, but not too much that it overwhelmed the balance of the other flavors.

Our entree choices were suckling pig, crawfish pie, and blackened catfish in a tomato broth. All to be served with tastings of three sides; field peas (a delicious broad bean), mac choux, and chow chow. Once again these were classic Lousiana tastes done up Zingerman's style, with great ingredients and attention to detail. My husband chose the pig, and I had the crawfish pie. Both were excellent, but what surprised me was the exceptional quality of the crust for the crawfish pie. I had been expecting the crawfish to be baked in the shell, but instead it came as sort of an ettouffe dished into the flakiest perfectly seasoned savory pate brisee I have ever tasted. The texture was heavenly.

By now we were beginning to be uncomfortably full, but dessert was still to come so we had to make room. There were two sweets to try, a banana beignet served with a chocolate praline mousse, and a rum raisin rice pudding. These were also superb, but the only thing I wish about these desserts was that they had come first when I could totally appreciate them.

As always the best part of this experience was the ambiance, the service, the evening as a whole. I suppose others could recreate the perfect cajun tasting dinner (in the middle of a frozen Michigan winter) but Zingerman's staff manages to do it with an attention to detail and service that in my opinion is unequaled around here.

I have done many other Zingerman's tastings and would definitely suggest if you live in the area that you take the opportunity to go to one yourself. You will not be sorry.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Buttered what?

My daughter's fourth grade class was holding a medieval feast this week. They'd prepared for months, making goblets, reliefs of castles, swords, writing biographies of their own characters, and they were all pumped. As excited as 20 9-year olds could be - picture a lot of jumping and smiles. At any rate, some of the parents were to volunteer to cook medieval recipes that the (wonderful) teacher had chosen over the last few years of doing this integrated project.

By the time I got to the folder outside of the room there were only two recipes left. I took them both. Mulled cider and buttered wortes. Wortes? What on earth was that? I was comforted slightly by the butter, because we all know that it can only improve upon other slightly less tasty ingredients. However, after reading the recipe I realized that this was going to be a wonderful dish. One that I would surely make in my own kitchen, 600 years later.

Wortes are apparently greens, anything from the cabbage family. I used two very large (earthbound farms?) containers of organic baby spinach, three leeks, 1/2 cup of chopped dill and about 6 or 8 green onions. Lightly boiled them all in very salted water for approximately 5-8 minutes, drained them and then added one stick of butter to the top of the hot greens. A whole stick?!? you say, well it was a lot of spinach. And it was BUTTERED wortes. Plus I thought if there's anyway to get 9 year olds, who are normally afraid of all things green, to eat spinach this is the way. But here's the kicker, the best part of the recipe. These wortes were to be mixed iwth diced bread or croutons. Now, when I hear the work crouton, my mouth waters, so I knew this was how I was going to kick this medieval recipe up a notch (my apologies to E). I diced a whole loaf of Zingerman's farm bread, tossed it with olive oil, fresh thyme and kosher salt, and roasted them for 10 minutes at 425 degrees conv. I'll admit it was hard to stop popping these suckers into my mouth while they cooled. Luckily I had the bowl of greens waiting patiently for their sponges so I enforced self-control.

This was to be served the next day at lunch for said medieval feast. So I bagged up the cooled croutons and the greens separately. Right before serving they were tossed together, and the warm buttery sauce soaked into those delicious croutons. It was really a great dish, enough so that I have since done some research on other recipes from the 1500's and have vowed to try them out in the near future. Only I'll have to come up with more enticing names for sure.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

citrus linguine

Tonight I was creating and planning to blog about a quick and easy yet very tasty side dish. It's a simple linguine with ribbons of carrots in a sauce of butter, pasta water, zest and juice of one lemon and one orange, plus two tbl each of chopped cilantro and parsley. However, as you can see in the picture, my real day job got in the way of the photography. The poor child was so hungry and whiny, but (moms, you will understand) I thought I could get one more thing done before his stomach timed out. Nope. Adorable little chubby fingers reached up to the tabletop and inched into the photo.

Oh well. We'll try again tomorrow for a more professional photo shoot.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Posh Nosh

If you have a few minutes, take the time to watch one episode of a british parody of a cooking show called Posh Nosh. I've been so disheartened with the disgusting-ness of the FoodNetwork lately, that this hits the spot. Here's a link to the episode entitled Bread and Butter Pudding. Hysterical stuff. And if you have more than a few minutes, find the rest of them and enjoy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

best breakfast ever

Well that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I'm always looking for ways to change up breakfast for the kids. My oldest is doing standardized testing this week, so I've been trying to get a hot breakfast into her everyday. Anyway, this is not an especially involved recipe, but here goes. Make your favorite oatmeal. I'd suggest McCann's Irish oatmeal - even the quick cooking is a world better than Mr. Quaker. All you have to do to make this spectacular is add a bath of warm whole milk - maybe an eighth of a cup or so, and one glorious dollop of Nutella on top of the oatmeal.

Who isn't looking for a way to add chocolate to breakfast?