Monday, February 28, 2011

Duck 5 Ways

The Perennial Plate Episode 50: Duck Five Ways from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eating British

Famed chef Hester Blumenthal of the three Michelin Star The Fat Duck recently opened his first London restaurant called Dinner in the very posh Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  The Guardian's Tony Naylor drops by for a look see and bite to eat at this much anticipated powerhouse new comer to the London restaurant scene (see video below) and It made me think about my recent meal at the very hot, very well reviewed restaurant in the Ace Hotel:  The John Dory Oyster Bar.  April Bloomfield, also a British chef, first came to fame in New York with her amazing gastropub in the West Village the Spotted Pig.  With The John Dory Oyster Bar she manages to just prove yet again what a brilliant chef she is and how she is able to coax the maximum amount of flavor from any dish and without any fancy pyrotechnics.  Both the above mentioned restaurants are deceptive, because although they look casual and no one item on the menu is very expensive, none of the items in and of themselves are anywhere near an entree, its all about order many dishes allowing you a variety of delicious flavors, but as Sam Sifton from the Times points out in his otherwise glowing review

"In the meantime, though, that tariff rankles. It leads here to exclusivity disguised as populism."

Here we have two famous British chefs plying their trade on two sides of the Atlantic in very different venues and very different ways, both at the top of their games.  It's just funny to me, I love Nigel Slater and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall; Rose Grey and Ruth Rodger's cookbooks are well worn favorites in my kitchen.  Yet when I first visited London in the late eighties I was so depressed by the food.  It was horrid.  I'll always remember someone at a take away shop getting a styrofoam cup of canned peas as a to-go item!  Now people are spending their paychecks and waiting in line for British cooking, one of my other recent favorites The Fat Radish calls their cook "British" and Double Crown does British Colonial cooking.  Who'd have thought in a short twenty years that British food could go from roundly dispised to so roundly praised and so delicious. 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Orange Alert: Whole Foods Animal Welfare Rating

Whole Foods has started to label all the meat they sell with a number from 1-5 a project they have started with the Global Animal Partnership to give consumers more information about how the animals that they are about to eat as meat were raised.  This is a great step towards informing the consumer about how the animals that we eat are raised.  On there website Whole Foods is doing a series of three article discussing in detail the difference in the 5 steps, this week it is Pigs last week it was Chickens and next week it will be Cows.

Here's an excerpt from the piece on chickens:

One of the big differences at Step 3 is that birds have access to the outdoors during the day. There must be shade and provisions so the birds can hide from hawks and other aerial predators, and isolate themselves, so they feel comfortable being outdoors and get to enjoy roaming around outside the barn. 

So type 3 is the first level where the chickens are able to freely roam in an outside environment.  This is important, at least to me, because chickens that are allowed to forage in the grass for food and have a more diverse and one could argue, more traditional diet, not one totally dependent on feed.  Given my choice I would prefer to buy a chicken that was level 3 or higher.  Ideally I would want to buy a chicken raised on a traditional old fashioned farm where the birds wandered about and spent there entire life on the farm.Obviously a chicken who lived such a quality life would be expensive, but given how rarely I eat it I feel it would be worth the splurge.   The rub, as they say, is that at the Whole Foods on the Bowery, where I mostly shop (sometimes I go to Union Square) the highest level they sold was 2.   I understand that in this instance a 2 is from a factory farm that has been well vetted, where the birds have a hay stack to interact with, have more room to roam then a traditional factory farm and aren't given any of their relatives to eat.   All good things, my only frustration is that I know what the possibilities are I want a larger selection.  Don't tell me about the paradise of a 5 + and then not offer it to me to buy....I guess this is just a tease, something to keep going back for in hopes to be surprised one day at the meat counter?

The best tasting chicken I ever bought at Whole Foods was from Wise Organics Pastures, a kosher organic farm in the Appalachian foothills of rural Pennsylvania.  Whole Foods has since stopped carrying them, but on occasion we order from Wise directly. I wonder what there number would be?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Street Art on Delancey

I love the print and paste paper art that so many street artists are doing now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Coconut Walnut Pound Cake

My friend Michael had a party at his house on Sunday and made 2 really great desserts, one was a creamy rich multilayer carrot cake and the other was an intense, moist coconut walnut cake that his mother used to make, he gave me her recipe to share, pictures to follow I'm still eating the blood orange meringue tart!

Coconut Walnut Pound Cake

Preheat the oven to 325 F

Butter and flour a 10" tube pan

In a sauce pan make the Coconut Syrup:

Add 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup water, 2 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter and bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of coconut extract.  Set aside.

For the cake:

In a large bowl add 3 cups of All Purpose Flour, 1/2 Teaspoon Salt and 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder.

Pour 1 Cup Buttermilk into a small bowl and add 2 Teaspoons of Coconut Extract.

Roughly chop 1 Cup of Walnuts, place in a bowl with 1 Cup of Desiccated Coconut (unsweetened).

In the bowl of an standing mixer add: 2 cups sugar, 1 cup Canola Oil (any non flavorful oil you have  can be used) and 4 Large Eggs.  Beat on high speed until doubled in volume.

Starting and ending with the flour mixture add alternatively with the buttermilk mixture into the egg mixture with the beaters on low.  Mixing until well incorporated after each addition.

Finally gently stir in the walnuts and coconut.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until a tester inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and leaving the cake in its tin,  pour the coconut syrup over the hot cake.

Let the cake absorb the syrup for at least 4 hours before turning out onto a serving plate.

To serve add a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream garnish with some lightly toasted coconut flakes or just serve plain, great for afternoon coffee breaks!

Blood Orange Meringue Tart

I'm really going blood orange wile this season, last year I was being more strict locavore, but every time I go into Whole Foods I see this vast table of blood oranges in front of me and I can't resist. They are indeed at least in season at the moment in those places they are grown.
This is my take on the classic lemon meringue pie. I've put it in a tart shell so it's richer and more cookie like than the traditional pie dough.
Blood Orange Meringue Tart

Make this tart dough, form into a disc between 2 pieces of parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes or longer.  Roll out between the 2 sheets of parchment, remove the top piece of paper and turn into a 9" tart pan.  Not to worry if it cracks or fall apart just pinch and press the dough together.  Use all of the dough there should be no left over, with a fork prick the dough all over bottoms and sides then bake in the middle of a preheated 425 F oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

To make the filling, juice and strain 1 1/2 cups of Blood Orange Juice (about 11 or 12 oranges) and the juice of  1 1/2 Lemons.

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan add: 4 1/2  Tablespoons of All Purpose flour3/4 cups of sugar and a pinch of salt, whisk together briefly, add the Orange/Lemon juice then finally add 6 large egg yolks that have been whisked until thick. 
Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens.  About 8 minutes.  Once the filling has thickened immediately take off heat and pour into the pre-baked shell.
To make the meringue add 4 large room temperature egg whites to a mixing bowl with a pinch of cream of tartar and a pinch of salt and beat until the whites form firm peaks, 1 tablespoon at a time add 6 Tablespoons of sugar  beating well after each addition, when all the sugar has been added stir in a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.
Spread the meringue over the blood orange custard filled tart and with a fork make peaks.  Place the tart under the broiler to brown the meringue, watch VERY CLOSELY as this can happen very quickly and you don't want to burn the meringue.  Notice how the pre-cooked picture the meringue is so nice and in the brown version it doesn't look as nice, it's because I walked away for 30 seconds and it burnt so I had to skim off the top and, well be creative

Monday, February 21, 2011

Winter Tea

This is the most recent installment from the folks over at the Perennial Palate. 

I watched this video which in an odd way made me sad, the music, the bleakness of the landscape and the awareness I have of being an urbanite and how far away I feel from this kind of idyllic rural life.  Of course I don't see myself ever moving to the country I love New York, I love the city and especially how even here in the middle of 8 million people I can go places and forage mushrooms or mulberries the country is here mixed in with the city - we just have search it out between all the buildings!

The Perennial Plate Episode 49: Wild Winter Tea from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Biological Diversity: Why Monsanto Has it Wrong

Fascinating Ted talk by Cary Fowler about protecting the future of food.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

First Baby Gorilla in 20 years

At the London Zoo - totally not about food,  but damn cute!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kiss Me Kate: A Royal Beer

A special beer is being brewed for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton called: Kiss Me Kate.  How sweet is that? Here is what the brewery says about it from the press release.
Special beer brewed for wedding

As excitement over the royal wedding reaches fever pitch, those who miss out on an invitation will be able to toast the happy couple with a specially-brewed beer.

Kiss Me Kate is being brewed just for the occasion and will be a "British beer through and through", said its creators from Castle Rock Brewery in Nottingham.

The brewery, formed in 1998, produces seven permanent beers including its award-winning Harvest Pale, but brewers are adding the new tipple to their repertoire to mark the occasion.

Head brewer Adrian Redgrove said Kiss Me Kate would be "elegant, tasteful and British to the core".
He said: "The recipe is still in the planning stage, I have to give this one very careful thought because it's obviously a very special beer.

"The plan is it will be a pale beer. The malted barley and hops will be English sourced so it will be a British beer through and through, pale in colour and delicately hopped with a bit of sweetness in there.
"A nicely balanced beer, that's what I am aiming for, not for the faint-hearted to a certain extent, it's planned to be 5% abv so a fairly strong beer but I think hopefully it fits the special occasion, a special beer. We're sure it'll be the ideal way to toast the couple's future happiness. We'll certainly be enjoying it in our celebrations here at the brewery.

"We weren't here for the last jubilee or Charles and Diana's wedding but I'm sure we will be dragging some bunting out and hanging it around the brewery on the day of the brew.

"Hopefully that will see us through with some good luck to produce a very decent beer."

Kiss Me Kate will be available on draught at Castle Rock's 21 pubs throughout April, running up to the big day. Only one brew is being made - around 40 barrels - and just 100 bottles will be produced for memento collectors and toasting future royal events.

Friday, February 18, 2011

GMOs, Monsanto and Clarence Thomas

I love how Stephen Colbert can be so funny while eviscerating someone.

Over the last couple of weeks we have witnessed President Obama's complete capitulation to Monsanto by allowing the Department of Agriculture to deregulate genetically modified Alfalfa and to defy court orders to partially deregulated genetically modified sugar beets.  The reason I am mentioning all of this in the context of the 5 years silent Justice Thomas is because he was put on the court with the help of Monsanto, where he worked before he was appointed.  He also wrote the majority ruling in 2001 allowing Monsanto to own seeds as intellectual property:

Newly developed plant breeds are patentable under the general utility patent laws of the United States.

This case benefited all companies which profit from genetically modified crops, of which Monsanto is one of the largest.

This decision allowed Monsanto to sue innocent farmers whose crops have been  infected
­by downwind blow-by or bird droppings of the patented "product" which because of this law is now a patent infringeme­nt. 

Justice Thomas, former Monsanto employee, should have recused himself from this 2001 decision just as he should in any decision where Monsanto is involved.  He doesn't see it this way, that would require him to be concerned with justice, objectivity and fairness, words he apparently he never learned at Yale.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Clarence Thomas's Financial Disclosure Controversy
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive


Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Winter's Market Stroll

Cheese, meat, eggs, fish, root vegetables, apples, pears, frozen seasonal vegetables, sheep skin rugs, Ostrich meat dog treats, hyrdoponic organic greens and so much more.  It may be the dead of Winter, but that is no excuse not to be shopping at the farmers market which is filled with everything you need to make a delicious, local repast. 

Come take a stroll with me...
Cayuga Organics not only sells a wonderful selection of stone ground local organic flours they also make awesome bread and sell things like Oat groats so you can make your own digestive biscuits at home!

Hot Bread Kitchen not only makes a dizzying array of delicious baked goods they do so as a non-profit dedicated to creating better lives for low-income women and their families.  They do this by paying women while they learn the skills necessary to launch food businesses and achieve management track positions in food manufacturing.  And we benefit by being able to eat all their delicious goods while feeling good about supporting such a fine company.
Rick's Picks pickles are a perennial favorite which are also sold at Whole Foods and other fine grocery stores around town.
 Good to know for when you are setting up your roof top bee hive!
 Two Guys from Woodbridge hydroponics:
Hawthorne Valley Farm, the best yogurt, quark and lacto-fermented pickles, they also have a great selection of cheeses (the aged Alpine is my favorite!) some green house greens, baked goods and bread!
 Wine to have with your meat, cheese and bread from the Finger Lakes
Not only does 3 Corner Field Farm sell some of the best cheese at the market (you have to try their Shushan Snow OMG it is so good) they also sell Lamb and Sheep meat and rugs - nothing is wasted, as it is suppose to be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winter Roasted Root Vegetable and Lentil Curry

This isn't so much a recipe (you can find one here) as it is an addition to my ongoing love affair with Indian Food and something I have been doing for a while that worked so well last night when I served the above lentil and root vegetable curry.

On Monday I went to the Union Square green market and bought a hug amount of root vegetables, Celeriac, Heirloom Carrots, Parsnips and Potatoes - the whole lot cost me $7.

When I got them home I peeled and chopped them, putting most of them in a bag in the fridge ready for roasting the next day.  I took a couple of handfuls and put them aside to add to the lentil curry I was making.  As you probably know soups, stews, curries all taste better when made the day before.

I made the curry in a traditional Indian style, using a base of fresh ginger and hot peppers cooked in oil, then added spices and some crushed tomatoes which I cooked for about 10 minutes before I added the lentils, root vegetable and some water and let simmer for several hours. In Indian they don't use onions and garlic in curries, traditionally, as the Ayurvedic  belief is that they cause wind ...

So last night as I was reheating my lentil curry I put the rest of the prepared root vegetables into a bowl and tossed them with a little bit of oil and spread them out onto a cookie and roasted them at 400 F until the got nice and browned, turning them over at least once half way through (about 35 minutes).

While they were roasting in the oven I added about 1 Tablespoon of cumin seeds into a skillet and over medium heat and roasted them until they turned golden brown, then took them off the heat and ground them in my mortar and pestle, but only partially you want to have some complete seeds and some ground ones.  This gives off a heavenly smell.

Just before serving I toss the roasted root vegetables with salt (to taste), the roughly ground cumin seeds and the juice of a lemon.  I served them in a bowl on the side so my guest could pile them on top of his lentil root veg curry then dollop on some thick Greek yogurt and sprinkle with fresh cilantro to his taste.  The roasted root vegetables add a wonderful texture to the stewed curry and takes a simple dish and makes it dinner party worthy.  This is a simple trick that can be used with any soup or stew you want to make more hearty or add an extra crunch too.

The other thing that is often done in bean/lentil based Indian curries is that just before serving lemon juice or Amchoor is stirred into the stew to give it a wonderful citric punch.  Amchoor is dried, ground green mango powder, in this instance you get the one two punch of both the Amchoor and the lemon juice in the roasted root vegetable.

Goat Cheese, Cheese Cake Part 2

This has been my latest food obsession, making cheese cake with something other than Ricotta or Cream Cheese - Goat Cheese, in this instance, has been my focus.  In the last posting about it I made individual ones with praline, in this case I used the same filling on a basic digestive biscuit crust (Graham Cracker crust would work fine as well) and baked it in the oven at 350 F until it became golden brown (about 55 minutes).  The big difference is that baked like this it is a dense more traditional tasting cheesecake.
When it was cooled I sliced and served it with Blood Orange Sauce.

I made mine in a 9" spring form pan that was generously buttered then sides and bottom covered in parchment paper.  This makes removing it much easier.  Although I used home made digestive biscuit  dough as my base I thinking using a good quality graham cracker or digestive biscuit would be much easier and in part that is one of the joys of this recipe is its ease.
I pre-baked it for 10 minutes before adding the filling and baking for another 55 minutes.  Recipes for graham cracker crusts abound, if you decide to use digestive biscuits 9 ounces of biscuits ground up then mix in some room temperature unsalted butter about 1 cup or so until the mixture in nicely moist and easy to spread in the pan.  Also be aware that your crust, like mine, will not go up the side of the pan enough to contain all the filling, not to worry, that is why the parchment is there, and I personally like the look of the separation of crust and filling.  Again, it's up to you.
Finally, even though I have been developing this recipe in the middle of winter Goats are not milked now so the best seasonally goat cheese is going to be available when goats are lactating, here in the Northeast that would be Spring/Summer traditionally.

One of the reasons I like using goat cheese is unlike cream cheese there are no fillers (locust bean or xantham gum) and unlike Ricotta you never have to worry about your cheesecake being dry or needing added flavorings like lemon rind to make it zing.  Not that I don't like cheesecake in all it's forms, I do.  It's just that the unique citric freshness of goat cheese is so perfect, I think, for this classic dessert. 

Give it a try when good goat cheese becomes available where you live and let me know how it works out for you.

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