Friday, March 31, 2006

The Cult of the Cannele, Part 2

Have you ever made something from a recipe following the directions to the letter and it comes out great and then you make it again using only the gist of the recipe and you fail miserably?
Yeah, me too. That's what happened when I made canneles for the second time this week. Circumstances were against me. I made the batter late at night after some wine and liqueur (Hey! It was my birthday!) I thought I'd avoid having to strain the batter by making it in the blender. It seemed to work just fine.
I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to get the canneles in the oven because I had friends coming over at 9AM and with the 2 hour baking and recommended resting time of 1 hr., I didn't have any time to lose. In my hurry, I forgot to add the vanilla and rum to my batter. Once they were in the oven, I realized I had also forgotten the salt. Doh! I sensed disaster but as that special honey scent started wafting through the house I crossed my fingers that they would be edible. At the one hour mark, I went to take the first few out of the oven. (After my first cannele baking experience I decided to try pulling a few out of the oven at a time.) Hmmm, their tops were rounded and they looked much different than my first attempt. Could it be the difference in mixing methods? I tried to pop one out but it stuck (last time they all popped right out with ease and you can see that these are not as perfectly shaped). Once I pried one free, I noticed that they were as dark as the canneles I had baked for 2 hrs. the other day. Crap! I pulled them all out of the oven.
I'd be horrible at conducting experiments. I screwed with so many variables that I have no idea what happened. I used larger pans as well as the bitty-bundts and I put the large pans on the top shelf, which also holds the pizza stone. Last time the pan with the bitty-bundts went on this shelf. Had the pizza stone shielded them and allowed for the 2 hr. baking without incinerating? Who knows, I'll guess I'll just have to make them again. Life is hard.
The surprising thing is that even with all my screw ups, these canneles were delicious! Even Emma, who is three, kept begging for more. I think I'm finding that canneles are like pizza, even when it's bad it's good.
Here's the recipe I have used so you can attempt your own cannele experiments. My changes are in parentheses.

Canneles de Bordeaux- adapted from Paula Wolfert
1/2 vanilla bean (I just used extract)
1 c. superfine sugar (I used regular organic)
2 c. whole milk
3/4 c. cake flour
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced
4 egg yolks
1 Tbsp. dark rum (I used brandy and can't wait to try Grand Marnier)

Combine sugar, flour, salt and butter in mixer and mix well. Add the egg yolks one by one (I thought this seemed like a bad idea so I tempered the eggs first by adding a little of the warm milk and then I added them slowly to the flour). Heat the milk to 183 degrees and add to the flour mixture. Mix until batter forms. It will be very thin like crepe batter. Pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Add rum (and vanilla extract if that's what you are using) and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease the pans with butter mixture*. Place pans upside-down on a pan and put in the oven so that the extra coating can drip out. Remove pans from the oven and flip over. Fill each cup almost to the rim. Bake for 1 to 2 hours, checking often. Be sure to take one out of the pan when you check them as it is hard to tell how done they are just by looking at the tops (bottoms?).
For the record, the rose shaped bundt pan worked too. The larger canneles were very custardy in the middle. Of course now I need to buy the real molds so I can achieve the perfect crust to custard ratio!

*Butter mixture- I think beeswax is more important to cannele making than having the right molds. The taste and sheen just wouldn't be the sam without it. I tracked some down at the farmer's market. I asked the honey guy if his wax was food grade and he said, "Well you don't eat it". Ha! I beg to differ! Here's my recipe for a waxy blend.

Melt 1 oz. beeswax with 2 Tbsp. butter in the microwave. Watch carefully as beeswax is apparently flammable. Stir in 2 Tbsp. of safflower oil. Be sure you do this in a container you don't care too much about as wax is not the easiest substance to get rid of. I think I'll be baking canneles often as I have a lot of this mixture left and I've already ruined my only pastry brush.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Rhubarb Smoothie

With farmer's market just around the corner, it's time to start using stuff up. Corn relish and frozen tomato sauced can hang around until the new crops come in but the rhubarb had to go. I pulled a bag from the freezer and defrosted it in a covered pan on low heat. When it was soft and juicy, I threw it in the blender and added sugar to taste. I had some buttermilk that was on the brink so I mixed that in. It was pretty thick but I like'em that way. You could thin it with oj or even just milk or water. It was tangy and delicious. And it'll be even better when the local strawberries are ready...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

DIY Birthday Dinner

My birthday was the 27th. Sam surprised me and we went out to dinner here. Since I had already planned out my own dinner, we had it last night. To start, we had steamed artichokes with Meyer lemon-thyme butter sauce for dipping. I made lobster bisque loosely based on this recipe and guilded the lily by serving it with seared sea scallops. With it we had a bottle of de Lorimier 2001 Spectrum which is predominantly sauvignon blanc with a little semillon and viognier. We had rolls to sop up the soup and I had planned a salad course but we were pretty full. Not too full for dessert, of course. I made Sableuse with my apricot preserves (from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber). To drink with dessert, we had Moscato d'Asti. The pairing was sublime.
Sableuse from Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef by Jean Georges Vongerichten- This is what butter would taste like if it came in the form of cake. It melts in your mouth.

9 egg yolks (room temperature)
1 egg
14 Tbsp. sugar
2 sticks butter
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cornstarch

Combine eggs in a mixer with sugar. Beat on medium for 20 mins. Melt butter and let it cool a bit. Butter a 9x5 inch loaf pan and cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom. Brush with butter or coat with spray oil. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When eggs are done, add flour and cornstarch on low until just combined. Add butter and beat for 10 seconds on high. With a spatula, make sure the batter is completely mixed. Pour mixture into pan and wrap competely with tinfoil. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Immediately invert cake onto a plate and unwrap. Cover and cool.

Not a bad birthday, if I do say so myself!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Cult of the Cannele, Part 1

One of my favorite things to do in NYC when I lived there and now when I visit is to eat breakfast at Balthazar. (If you have Quicktime be sure to take the virtual tour on their website.) The first time I think I went by myself. I got a cafe au lait in a bowl and the bread basket all to myself. It comes with an assortment of sweet breads, croissants and spreads. It's very simple but when the bread is this good, it's enough. Balthazar is beautiful and it reminded me of being in Europe even though I don't think I ever had breakfast in a cafe like this when I was in Europe.
One thing not included in the bread basket sampler was the canneles. I'm not sure if I had read about these before or if I was just seduced by their burnished exterior but on one of my visits I bought one to go. Nothing prepares you for your first bite because it's not like anything you've had before. And now I know why, because I have made my own (more about this in Part 2).
I had never really thought about trying to bake them myself because I new they required fancy copper molds that I wasn't willing to purchase. Then I read of other food blogger adventures in cannele baking here, here and here. I gave in to the desire for homemade canneles when I learned that they can be made in mini bundt cake pans- an underused piece of kitchen equipment that I already own. Yeeehaaaw!
The thing is, I have two sizes of mini bundt pans. I used the extra-mini bundt pan but I think it may have been the wrong choice. Don't get me wrong, they were very tasty but the crust to custardy filling ratio was a little off. Also, I baked them for almost two hours which I think is a bit much for these babies. However, I was interested to read in this essay by Louisa at Moveable Feast (the paragraph about canneles is near the end) that in some French bakeries canneles come in three varieties- light, medium and nearly burnt. Mine were definitely the latter but my friend Molly declared she wouldn't change a thing. Next time I am going to try taking four at a time out of the oven- 1 hr. for the light, 1 and a half for the medium and 2 hrs. for the almost burnt. Stay tuned for Part 2...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Meme me!

Like Tea, I have read of other bloggers loathing of the ubiquitous memes while thinking "Pick me! Pick me!" So thanks, Tea, for inviting me into the cool kids club.
How many cookbooks do you own?
I'm scared to actually count. The bookshelf in the picture is the main stash with one more shelf in my room and usually a modest stack next to my bed. If I wasn't as frugal as I am I'd have at least twice as many. Instead I tend to get new ones out of the library, read them, drool and return them.
Which cookbook did you buy most recently?
That would be Homebaking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. Its kind of a given that when I have a gift card to a bookstore that I will buy a cookbook. This last time though, I decided to buy a knitting book since I only have two of those. I spent probably an hour combing through the knitting books trying to find the one with the most patterns that I would actually use. I had narrowed it down and stopped by the cookbook section on my way to the register. Homebaking was on one of those tables where they pile the new releases to taunt you. I flipped through it for approximately 2.3 seconds before putting back the knitting books and going home with my new favorite cookbook.
Which is the cookbook that you read most recently?
The cookbok I consulted most recently was The Joy of Cooking this AM for the buttermilk waffle recipe. I ate them with banana coconut preserves that I made from Christine Ferber's amazing book Mes Confitures, As far as actually reading a cookbook, I have cut back considerably since I got sucked into food blogs!
Name 5 cookbooks that mean a lot to you.
1) Eat More, Weigh Less by Dean Ornish
This was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself. I was probably 19 at the time, vegetarian and always looking to drop a few pounds. Who wouldn't want to eat more and weigh less? The funny thing is that I remember choosing this particular book because it had a lot of eggplant recipes in it. This was the height of the low-fat craze and Dr. Ornish had discovered that you could reverse heart disease if you ate a diet of 10% fat instead of closer to 40% which is SAD (Standard American Diet). I was sabotaged in my efforts because I was also an ice cream truck driver at the time. This wasn't the kind of ice cream truck that sold popsicles. We had soft serve and made sundaes, shakes and cones. I used to stop and pick wild blackberries and make myself milkshakes. Could you diet under such circumstances?!
2) World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey
This is probably my favorite and most used cookbook. If I could only have one cookbook, this would be it. I could cook out of this book for years and never get bored. I love the chick pea Doubles (a Trinidadian sandwich of chickpea curry between golden fried breads served with peach chutney) and panisses (chick pea flour "french fries").
3) All the Chez Panisse books by Alice Waters and others
For anyone interested in seasonal eating, these books cannot be beat. When I worked as a cook on a farm one summer, these were a constant resource. With Alice by my side, I even had the confidence to try cold beef tongue salad from the Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook. The dish was surprisingly delicious.
4) Home Cooking and More Home cooking by Laurie Colwin
Laurie Colwin is my favorite food writer. If she is new to you, run to the nearest bookstore and buy these books. They are essays that she originally published in Gourmet ( I think) and are full of love for food and life. She is charming and funny and makes you want to cook everything she writes about RIGHT NOW. You also wish she could be your friend but it is a sad wish because she died of heart failure in 1992. She was only 48. I am not one to read books more than once (so many books! so little time!) but I have read these two over and over and over...
5) All the books by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
I loved Homebaking so much that I looked into what else they had written and was soon consumed by Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet, Seductions of Rice, Flatbreads and Flavors and Mangoes and Curry Leaves. These two met on the roof of a teahouse in Tibet and have been traveling together and writing fabulous cookbooks ever since. Their books are a pleasure to read from and to cook from. Part travelogue, part recipe book and the pictures are beautiful too. I want to be them.

I'll tag Allison who's a knitting blogger who also posts recipes and The Foppish Baker who is one of the few Madison food bloggers that I've been able to track down. (If you know of others, please let me know in the comments.)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Homemade elixirs

I go a little crazy in the summer. I'm friends with a lot of farmers and I just can't say no when they tempt me with produce. They know I love to make pickles and preserves so it's not rare for me to go home with extra tomatoes that would otherwise be composted or a strange new variety of something that they want people to try. Last year it was Mexican sour gherkins. These baby cukes are just so cute that I had to take them home with me. They taste pretty much like a cucumber with maybe a bit more bite. The plan was to pickle them but I eneded up eating them in salads with baby fresh mozzeralla balls, cherry tomatoes and basil. It's almost too much to think about when it looks like this outside. Sigh.
When summer finally gets here, it feels like a race to me. How much can I put away for later? It's not enough to go to market and just buy for the week. No, I have to buy that bushel of peaches because the farmer said this is the last week he'll have them!. So I end up eating tons of fresh produce, canning and freezing more than I can eat or even give away, and still there always seems to be more.
One way I've learned to deal with this glut is by making homemade liqueurs. If those peaches are about to go bad but I don't have the time to make another batch of five-spice peach butter, I just buy a bottle of vodka, stuff a jar with fruit and submerge it in liquor and sugar and in 6 weeks I have my own elixir. In my cupboard I currently have peach, apricot, blueberry, black currant, Dolgo crab apple and cranberry.
This spring is feeling awfully wintery so I decided to grab some Meyer lemons while they last and make some homemade Limoncello. Maybe someday I'll live where they grow on trees and friends give me bagfuls like some people.
17 lemons (preferably Meyer and organic)
One 1.75 liter vodka
5 1/2 c water
6 c. sugar
4 qt. jar

Thinly slice the lemons and put in the jar. Add the vodka. Store in a cupboard for 2 weeks. On the fourteenth day, strain the vodka and discard lemon slices. Heat the water and sugar in a pan until the sugar disolves. Add to vodka.
I got this recipe from my Aunt and didn't think to research on the internet until I had already begun. From a more authentic recipe I've found, it's recommended that you use only the zest of the lemons and use Everclear instead of vodka. It seems like the recipe above has an awful lot of sugar. I know lemons are tart but so are cranberries and I know I didn't add anywhere near this much sugar to those. When my lemons are done steeping, I'm going to make the syrup and then add it to taste so that it doesn't end up too sweet.
Store your finished limoncello in the freezer and sip in small glasses after standing over a hot stove and canning all day.

Monday, March 20, 2006

For the Vegie Less Travelled- Go CSA!

It's that time of year again. Time to pick a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and what it means is that in the spring you give a farmer some money and in turn, throughout the growing season, you get a box of vegetables every week. This is a win/win situation because the farmer has some capital to buy seeds and can plan what to grow and you get the freshest produce available and maybe some fun farm events to attend.
Each CSA is different, though, and sometimes it's hard to choose. Here is a list of factors that can help you make a choice.
We have an embarrassment of riches in Wisconsin when it comes to CSA farms with only California, New York and Pennsylvania having more choices. The Robyn Van En Center will help you find a CSA farm near you. If you live in the Madison area, the best resource is Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC). Every year they host an open house where CSA farmers get together and the public is welcome to ask questions about their farms. (The pictures are from this event). On their website, MACSAC provides all the information you'll need to pick a farm and they also sell a locally produced cookbook to help you prepare delicious meals with the vegetables you will receive.
I probably sound like a hawker but it wouldn't be exaggerating to say that CSA's have changed my life. When I first moved to Madison in 1996, my best friend Sue and I decided to join a CSA and picked one that we could bike to because we didn't have a car. We bought what are called worker shares - every week we spent about 4 hours working on the farm in exchange for our vegetables. Fighting off the mosquitos and sharing a meal of just picked veggies with the other workers instilled a love for organic local produce in a way that buying it in the store never could. In fact, I have left Madison three times but every time I have returned, in part because of the amazing farmer's markets and abundance of CSA farms. If you want to support small farmers, eat great food and maybe get your hands dirty, CSA is the way to go.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Where Wisconsin is king

I had been looking forward to the opening of The Old Fashioned for months because it's a partnership between the owner's of some of the best restaurants in Madison. While there are a number of good or even great places to eat in our city, there's a definite shortage of really good mid-priced restaurants; especially those that focus on quality, locally sourced ingredients. In fact, everything on the menu that can be acquired from a Wisconsin producer is acquired in state. From the trout to the sausage, from produce to beer and soda, it's all local all the time.
The Old Fashioned was packed from the moment the doors opened. (See? Madison needed the Old Fashioned). I personally have been 5 or 6 times. It is a tavern so the emphasis is on fried appetizers, sandwiches and nightly specials. Taco Tuesdays, Prime Rib on Saturday and this wouldn't be Wisconsin without a fish fry on Friday.
Seeing as I'm not from around these parts, I've never understood the Wisconsin native's love of cheese curds. (If you've never heard of a cheese curd click here). I just don't understand why you'd want your cheese to squeek.
However, the first time I popped a fried cheese curd in my mouth, my first thought was "I'd really be better off it I didn't know these existed." They are irresistable and my thighs have paid the price. Imagine the smaller, tastier cousin to the fried mozzerella stick. Of course fried cheese curds were my first indulgence at The Old Fashioned. I was not disappointed by THE BEST FRIED CHEESE CURDS EVER! Be sure to eat them fast, though, since they do have a tendency to disintegrate into a molten puddle if left to sit. Also, get the tiger sauce. I know there are other options but I don't remember what they are since I was smitten after my first taste of this creamy, horseradish concoction.
I've also tried and loved the Macaroni and cheese with ring bologna, spinach salad with salmon (possibly the best salad I've ever had in a restaurant) and the fish fry. It wasn't until I tried the OF burger, though, that I was ready to declare my undying love for this place to anyone who would listen (i.e.-you).

First, as you can see from the (bad) picture, it comes with a fried egg on top. This is right up my alley but I've talked to some people who were turned off by the whole egg-on-a-burger thing so before you get grossed out, they also have the build your own burger option so you can have it your way.
This burger is a perfect illustration of what is possible when you use quality ingredients. You know how it is when you get a burger and it tastes pretty good but the cheese is the kind that comes wrapped in plastic or there's so much stuff on it that the bun had no chance of surviving? Every element of this burger would stand out on it's own and thus comes together to yield the perfect burger. The bun is a rich brown on the outside and toasted on the inside. It tasted buttery. The beef is so good that our resident 9 yr. old picky eater LOVED her kid's burger even though it was (horrors!) pink inside. There's perfectly caramelized onions, that luscious tiger sauce and the bacon was a shining example of the form. I was actually sad after my last bite that my burger eating experience was over. I do recommend getting the salad instead of the fries. The fries are not stellar and this leaves you more room to focus on the burger. Besides, the salad is the best side salad with a burger that you're ever going to get.
My only complaint about The Old Fashioned is the lack of real entrees. If you are not in the mood for a sandwich and the special of the night isn't calling to you, the pickings are actually a little slim. There's the mac and cheese, entree salads and trout, but at 18.95 (I think) it's a bit spendy for what I want to shell out at a place like this. (I'm not saying it's not worth it but if I want to spend close to $20 on just my entree I'd more than likely go somewhere else.)
I'd like to point out that this is just a blog and not an official review (I know that's obvious but I still think it needs to be said). I haven't gotten into the lazy susan's, the various cheese plates, or the selection of Old Fashioned's (the drink for which the place is named) so be sure to check it out for yourself.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Taco night * Edited *

The first time I had Mexican Chorizo, I was staying at a hostel in Baja. It was out in the middle of nowhere but we were very happy to arrive there after a car ride where everyone had someone in their lap so that we could all fit. It was a lovely place, close to the beach with a special honeymoon suite. The "suite" was a seperate room perched on top of the building, barely larger than the king-sized bed it contained, with huge windows on all four sides. We opted for the much cheaper bunk beds.
There wasn't an option to go back into town to shop so we were pleased that the hostel had a food sharing policy. Anything left behind by other wayward travelers was fair game for anyone who wanted it. After perusing the fridge and pantry, we decided on chorizo tacos. I didn't have much experience cooking Mexican but I thought I could handle this with ease.
I squeezed the chorizo out of it's plastic package into the hot pan. I figured it would cook like ground beef. I broke it into smaller pieces and stirred it as it fried. It was hard to tell when it was done because it was so red. Grease filled the pan. I cooked it some more. Eventually I decided if I cooked it anymore there'd be nothing left. It was definitely cooked but there wasn't much to eat. I think we burned the rice too. That's probably the only night I went to bed hungry in Mexico.
I never tried store bought chorizo again but I have tried making my own. The first time was from venison that I helped butcher- quite an adventure for a recovered vegetarian! I used a Rick Bayless recipe from this book.
Last night we had friends over for tacos and I tried this simplified recipe. It's not authentic but when it's this easy to make and tastes good too, who cares?

Chorizo from 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore
1lb. ground pork
2 1/2 Tbsp. ground ancho or pasilla chili powder
1 tsp. dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 Tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mash up with your hands. Cook as you would ground beef.

We had a make your taco bar with the chorizo, shredded chicken, spicy shrimp, avocado, tomatillo salsa, hot 'n smoky red salsa, corn relish and pickled red onions. There was green rice, black beans and red cabbage slaw on the side. For dessert we had pineapple cake with mango caramel sauce, coconut crema and toasted coconut.
To wash it all down, I made White Sangria. I think it's much tastier than any red sangria I've ever had.

The recipe was also from 1,000 Mexican Recipes. My changes are in parentheses.

Sangria Blanca
1 bottle dry white wine
1/2 c. orange flavored liqueur (1/3 c. tequila)
1/2 c. orange juice (mango puree)
1/2 c. sugar
1 orange, thinly sliced (I added a blood orange too)
1 lime, thinly sliced (I used 4 key limes)
1 lemon, thinly sliced (mine was a meyer lemon)
1 1/2 c. club soda
6 clusters seedless grapes (I didn't have grapes or mint)
fresh mint sprigs

In a pitcher, mix wine, juice, sugar and citrus. Refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, add ice and club soda. Pour into 6 glasses and garnish with grapes and mint sprigs.

*Edited* Ah, the wonders of technology! I went through my photos and found this picture of us piling out of the car at the hostel and scanned it. You can see the honeymoon suite at the top. It's hard to see but there is a beautiful mural of a whale on the side facing the sun.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

2006 Independent Food Festival and Awards

Over at Taste Everything, food bloggers are nominating their favorite foods and producers who deserve recognition. I couldn't let this go by without giving props to one of my favorite things. (Besides, it seems that the Midwest is underrepresented in the awards!)
Without further ado I give you:
The Best Fruit Beer for People Who Don't Like Fruit Beers

Belgian Red by New Glarus Brewing Co.
Okay, maybe they don't need more recognition. You'll find a list of all the awards they have won here. I can't remember the first time I had New Glarus cherry beer but I know I was blown away by it's luscious cherry flavor. Each bottle is made with 1 lb. of Door County cherries which is no surprise when you take a sip. It bursts and bubbles on your tongue with sweet tart cherry juiciness. I was in love.

Now I use any excuse to buy a bottle. Need a housewarming gift? Buy cherry beer! Homesick friend now living in NYC? Send cherry beer! Need something special to drink with dessert? Get some cherry beer! Need pictures for the blog? Yup, cherry beer. If you are in Wisconsin, don't forget to track down some New Glarus cherry beer- currently, it's only available here. New Glarus Brewing Co. is a family business run by Deb Carey (founder and pesident) and Dan Carey (brewmaster). At one point, they were distributing in Illinois but stopped when they realized they couldn't even keep up with demand in Wisconsin. They don't want to contract out out the brewing of their beer so that they can produce more.
I went for a tour a few years ago when Deb was still leading them herself. I remember asking what the row of Nesco cookers was for. Turns out they use them to melt the red wax that coats the neck of the bottle.
Each one is dipped by hand. It's that kind of personal touch that makes New Glarus products special.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I can't stop thinking about sushi!

Last night we had trashy fun while watching the Oscar' s on a 42 inch plasma screen tv and rolling sushi.

The menu :
Tempura with onions, snow peas, mushrooms, carrots and zucchini.
Fried calamari with tomato horseradish sauce
Seaweed Salad (recipe here)
Edamame salad (from 101 Cookbooks)
Sushi rolls with tuna, avocado, cucumber, scallions, unagi, crab, spicy tuna, shiso, enoki mushrooms, etc.
Mango and lychee sorbet with mango caramel and kiwi

I loved the salads with the sushi. I used a mix of arame, wakame and hijiki for the seaweed salad. I left out the apple and cilantro. I've been looking for ways to eat more seaweed and this is a winner. The dessert was declared lick-the-plate worthy. Here's the caramel recipe.

Mango Caramel
1 c. sugar
1/4 water (enough to moisten all of the sugar)
1 c. mango puree (you could make your own but I like Swad canned mango puree)

Cook the sugar water on high heat. Once it starts boiling, do not stir. When it starts to brown, turn the heat down as it is very easy to overcook at this point. Cook until evenly brown. I recommend a lighter caramel for this sauce. Turn off the heat and add a little bit of mango. It will bubble madly at this point. When this subsides, add the rest of the mango. Stir until you have a smooth sauce. If some of the caramel has hardened, put the pot over low heat and stir until it melts. This sauce can be altered endlessly depending on what liquid you add- cream, white wine, other fruit purees. Have fun, go wild!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Price We Pay

"One of the reasons Lori and I are so dedicated to gardening is that it allows us to afford to buy responsibly raised meat and poultry and wild-caught fish."

When I read this quote from Michel Nischan in Homegrown Pure and Simple, I could relate. I've never made very much money but my priority has always been to buy the best food that I can afford. I was a vegetarian for five years but what brought me back to the other side was working a restaurant whose meat was locally and sustainably raised. It may sound harsh but I have no problem with something dying for my dinner as long as I can be certain that it didn't have a horrible life. Now, most of the meat I cook and eat at home is raised by farmers that I have come to know. When I cooked on the farm, I even fed the cows myself.
Besides gardening, the thing that allows me to afford locally raised, usually organic meat is my giant reach-in freezer. In the last year Sam and I have bought a whole pig and 1/4 of a cow as well as numerous chickens. Putting money down on a whole animal allows farmers to plan better and in return you get a nice price break. And sometimes home delivery. Our freezer stash has dwindled, though, and for diet and cash flow reasons we have decided against replenishing at this time. Besides, we still have some of the "less desirable" cuts waiting for some love.
Sam decided it was time to eat some liver. As a kid I was never forced to try liver because my parents hated it. I came at it with an umprejudiced palette but in the end I was not won over. The recipe was good but I guess I just don't like liver. I had my two bites and that's all I could take.
I didn't take a picture of the finished product because, as my friend Sue pointed out, fried liver dredged in flour bears a striking resemblance to cat turds straight from the litter box. Mmmm...
Here's the recipe for all you liver lover's and sustainable eaters out there.

Liver with Onions, Raisins and Jalapenos
from 1,000 Mexican Recipes by Marge Poore

1/4 c. raisins
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
12 oz. calves liver, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 to 3 pickled jalapenos, thinly sliced

Soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes. While heating the oil in a large skillet, combine the flour, salt and pepper. When the oil is hot, dredge the liver slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet. Brown on both sides, approximately 1 minute per side. Remove from pan and add the onion. Cook until soft and brown, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add the drained raisins and jalapenos. Return the liver to the pan and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve with polenta or wrapped in corn tortillas.

EDITED* We also had pig liver. See what Sam did with it here.