Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Day Spent Canning: Grapefruit Marmalade, Orange Marmalade, Pumpkin Cranberry Chutney

Yesterday I spent the day canning. One of the things we want to be able to offer for the business is choices of homemade spreads for scones. My plan is to buy fruit whenever it is in season, fresh and relatively cheap. I will then make various jams, jellies, marmalades, curds, etc. to store for later.

If you haven't canned before, you will probably find it easier than you think. It's more logistics than anything. You just need a large pot with some sort of insert to keep your glass from directly contacting the hot bottom. The jars are kept submerged in simmering water to stay sterile until you need them, and the same with the lid rings and seals in a separate pot. When it is time to actually fill the jars, having done your mise en place is really important. That includes having a tool to lift out the jars. I have a magnet on the end of a long plastic rod which is really useful for retrieving seals and lids.

To can something, you pull out a hot jar, dumping the water back into the pot. Fill the jar, leaving adequate airspace at the top (this will vary by the size of the jar, and what you are canning. Clean the rim, and place a seal on top. Screw a ring on, just tight enough to keep the seal in place. The seal needs to be able to allow air bubbles to escape. The sealed jars are returned to the water, and completely submerged. They need to sit in the boiling water for a length of time, which will again vary by the size of the jar and what is in it.

A classmate had given me three large, ripe white grapefruit, so I decided to make marmalade out of them. The recipe I adapted is this one from I peeled the grapefruit with a sharp vegetable peeler, then went back over the peel with a sharp knife, to eliminate any remaining white pith. I then cut the peels into a fine julienne. I then peeled the remaining pith off the grapefruit, and carefully cut out supremes from the inner membranes. I did squeeze out as much juice as possible from the remaining core.

The cores were wrapped in cheesecloth, and cooked with everything else to help add pectin for jelling. I didn't trust it to jell naturally, however, so added a pouch of liquid pectin. The juice, segments, and zest are cooked with a little water and a whole lot of sugar until it reaches 220 F. It takes a while to get there, a lot of water has to evaporate to allow it to get to that temperature.

Once it got to the required temperature, I added the liquid pectin, and cooked it further. Finally, the cheesecloth bag was removed, and squeezed to get out as much marmalade as possible. The result was canned.

It turned out having a very strong grapefruit taste. Despite the huge amount of sugar, it retains a lot of the grapefruit bitterness. You may need to be a grapefruit fan to like this.

I had a lot of oranges left over from the SCA lunch we did last weekend. I thought was a good idea to use alt east some of them for orange marmalade.  All the orange marmalade recipes I found included lemons. I adapted this one from Sure Jell. It had me cook the fruit with the pectin first, then add the sugar. I realize now that the recipe expects powdered pectin, not liquid. It worked, so no complaints. I think next time I'll do it the same as the above recipe.

I did the same with the peels as above. I removed them from the fruit, cleaned them up with a sharp knife, and julienned them. I sectioned the fruit the same way.

The peels were simmered with a little baking soda in water for a bit, then the fruit and juice added. This was simmered some more, Then measured out. The recipe wants exactly 4 cups of fruit and peel mixture. Luckily for me, that is exactly what I had.

The mixture is brought to a boil, have the pectin added, then brought back to a boil. The sugar is added, and it is once again brought back to a boil. It is cooked for one minute, then removed from the heat, and canned.

It has a nice orange flavor, and the lemons help give it a bit of sharpness.

One trick I figured out with the marmalades. If you do not want all the peel to end up at the top of the jar, while the jars are cooling and the jell is setting, every five or ten minutes give the jars a good shake. As it gets thicker, it gets harder for all the peel to float to the top.

After Thanksgiving, we had a very nice pumpkin that we cut up and froze the meat. We wanted to do something with it. However, the National Center for Home Food Preservation (of course there is a National Center for Home Food Preservation) does not recommend canning pumpkin butter. Pumpkin butter is too low acid to be safely canned using the water bath method.

Chutneys, however, are a pickled product. All the added vinegar makes it more than acidic enough to can. I started with this recipe, but replaced the dried cranberries with fresh, added currants, and used date molasses rather than maple syrup.

I caramelized sliced onion in olive oil, then added the pumpkin, cranberries, currants, minced Serrano chili, molasses, date molasses, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, minced ginger, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt, and a little water. This was allowed to simmer for forty five minutes, until thick, and the pumpkin and cranberries tender.

This was then canned.

It is a really nice sweet, spicy, vinegary mix. I could just eat a bowl with a spoon. Will make a great butter for scones.


Grapefruit Marmalade

3 large, ripe white grapefruit
7 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin
4 cups water

Use a vegetable peeler to remove skin. Use a sharp knife to remove any remaining white pith on the zest. Cut the strips of peel into a fine julienne. 

Remove remaining pith from the fruit, and cut out the sections of fruit without taking any inner membrane. squeeze out any juice from the remaining cores. Wrap cores in cheesecloth, and tie securely.

Place peel, fruit, juice, water, and sugar in a large pot over medium heat. Once it comes to a simmer and the sugar is dissolved, add the cheesecloth with the cores.

Allow to simmer until mixture reaches 220 F. Add in pectin. bring back to a simmer, cook for seven minutes. Remove cheesecloth bag, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Remove pot from heat, allow to stand for five minutes. Ladle into jars, seal and process in a water bath for ten minutes.

Makes 7 half pint jars.

Orange Marmalade

4 large navel oranges
4 small lemons
2 1/2 cups water
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 pouch liquid pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar

Use a vegetable peeler to remove skin. Use a sharp knife to remove any remaining white pith on the zest. Cut the strips of peel into a fine julienne. 

Remove remaining pith from the fruit, and cut out the sections of fruit without taking any inner membrane. squeeze out any juice from the remaining cores.

Place peels, water, and baking soda in a pan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, cook 20 minutes. Add fruit and juice, bring back to a simmer, cook another ten minutes.

Transfer mixture to a large pot. Bring to a full boil, add pectin. Bring back to a boil. Add sugar. Bring back to a boil, cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Ladle into jars, process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Pumpkin Cranberry Chutney

1 onion, cut into thin slices
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. fresh or fresh frozen pumpkin, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 oz. fresh or fresh frozen cranberries, rough chopped
4 oz. currants
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup date molasses
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Serrano chili, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds

In a large pot over medium high heat, add olive oil. Add onion, cook until caramelized. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

When mixture is thickened, and pumpkin and cranberries are tender, ladle into jars. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Equipment Review: Beater Blade Pro

This is the first time I've discussed a product on the blog. I don't know if this will become a regular thing. Probably not. I am doing this because I have been seriously impressed by both the product and the company that made it.

The product is the Beater Blade  Pro by NewMetro Design. It is a self scraping beater blade. Mine is for my Kitchen Aide. They make versions for Cuisinart, Kenwood, and Viking mixers as well. It scrapes the bowl while working, so you don't have to stop and scrape the bowl.

It is made of some light weight resin or polymer. I was surprised by that when I bought one as a Christmas gift for the spouse last year.  We used to often, and it held up well. Recently I noticed a small crack in one of the support struts.

I contacted the company, and asked if there was any sort of warranty. I honestly didn't expect any. I was very pleasantly surprised when they said that all I had to do was e-mail them a picture of the broken one, and they would send me a replacement.

I got the replacement today. I am very impressed with the customer service. They were unfailingly polite and pleasant. I can't remember the last time a company just went and did the right thing, rather than the cheap thing.

So there you have it, for what it's worth. My first unasked for endorsement. Take it as you will.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Intermediate Culinary and Bread Classes: Final Grades

For my bread class, our practical final was to make a loaf of sourdough bread from then starter we created in class. I was pretty happy with mine. We had to submit a slice, with a short description of our experience. We also had a short written final, with questions about types of flours, and types of pre-ferments for making bread. I don't know exactly what my score was on either, but I can infer that both were good, as the posted grade for the course was an A+.

For my intermediate culinary class, we had a practical final where we had to make a composed salad and a stable vinaigrette. This is my salad. It is baby greens with yellow bell pepper, candied pine nuts, feta cheese, Persian cucumbers, kalamata olives, baby red onions, and pomegranate seeds. I made a cracker of puff pastry with a pomegranate molasses glaze. My vinaigrette was olive oil, pomegranate red wine vinegar, red currant mustard, and fresh basil. I got a 43 out of 50.

On the written final, I scored 42 out of 50. That gave me a final of 184 out of 200 points for the class, or a 92% and therefore an A.

I can live with that.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Trio of Medieval Stews

Yesterday I was responsible for a lunch for my local SCA  group. The person running the event wanted hearty stews. Turns out to have been a good choice, as it was a cold and rainy day. I apologize for no pictures, I'd intended to take pictures, but was so focused on getting service out that I forgot. I really need to remember to find someone to be responsible for photos.

I'd spent a little time looking for interesting winter stews. I like to try to do foods at least inspired by Medieval or Renaissance recipes. I'm most concerned with providing a delicious, filling, satisfying meal, but it is nice to support the atmosphere with food that is at least consistent with period.

I ended up going with three options. For the first, I went with a middle eastern lamb stew. I was inspired by this recipe.  It is based on a recipe from the Al-Bagdadi cookbook. My version had boneless leg of lamb cut into bite sized pieces, and simmered with cinnamon stick and fresh coriander. I made a spice mix of black pepper, long pepper, grains of paradise, and coriander seed. I used that mix to season the lamb. I added onion, leek, and carrot by way of vegetables. I added raisins and dried Turkish figs. The stew was also flavored with red wine vinegar and honey.

I wanted a poultry option for the second choice. I was inspired by this recipe. I thought it could easily be modified to a stew. I used a mix of boneless chicken thighs and breasts cut into bite sized pieces. I simmered the chicken in chicken stock and moscato. I added celery and onions, as well as dates and currants. I added a little sugar to balance the stew, and seasoned it with ground mace and fresh ground black pepper. About five minutes before service, I added orange supremes.

For the third choice, I wanted a vegan option. I found this recipe based on an ancient Greek recipe. I used red lentils, and added carrots, leeks, onions, and celery. It was flavored with a little red wine vinegar and honey. I provided a little olive oil and crushed coriander seed to garnish the stew, as desired.

I made sourdough rolls, multi-grain rolls, and gluten free scones by way of bread. Yeah, I know, modern scones are not in anyway period. They are, however, a way of providing a gluten free bread option that I feel confident will be tasty. Good gluten free bread is just difficult to do,

All three of these recipes came out the way I intended. The broth for the lamb was particularly tasty.


Spice Mix for Lamb

4 long pepper pods
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. grains of paradise
2 tsp. coriander seeds

Place all ingredients in a spice grinder. Grind to a fine powder.

Sikbaj (Lamb with Raisins and Figs)

2 lbs. lamb, cut into 3/4" cubes
1/2 onion, diced
1 leek, tough tops removed, diced
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1 small bunch cilantro
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 oz. raisins
2 oz. Turkish figs, diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. Spice Mix for Lamb
salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add lamb, cooked until browned on all sides. Season with Spice Mix and salt. Add water to cover, add cinnamon stick and bunch of cilantro. Bring to a simmer, cook for one hour. 

Remove cinnamon and cilantro. Add vegetables and more Spice Mix and salt to taste. Simmer one hour. 

Add figs, raisins, vinegar, and honey. simmer one hour.

Adjust seasoning, serve.

Chicken with Oranges and Currants

2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into bite size pieces
1 pint chicken stock
1 pint moscato wine
1/2 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 3/4 oz. dates, diced
2 oz. currants
2 1/2 oranges peeled, cut into supremes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. ground mace
sugar to taste
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add chicken, brown on all sides. Add stock and wine. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer one hour,

Add vegetables and dried fruit. Add mace. Simmer one hour.

Add sugar as necessary. Add orange segments. Simmer five minutes. Adjust seasoning as necessary, then serve.

Zeno's Lentil Stew

1 lb. red lentils, rinsed
1 quart vegetable stock
water as needed
1 leek, tough tops removed, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 lb. carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil and crushed coriander for garnish

In a stock pot over medium heat, combine lentils and stock. Simmer until lentils are tender, about an hour. Add water as necessary to keep lentils covered. 

Add vegetables and simmer until tender. Add vinegar and honey. Season with salt and pepper.

Optionally, garnish a bowl of stew with a dollop of olive oil and a pinch of crushed coriander seeds.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bread Class: Tef Paper

For my bread class, we were required to write a paper on a type of flour. I decided to do it on tef, an ancient grain grown in east Africa, and only recently becoming popular in the US.

We finally got our papers back today, and I am happy to say I got an A+. Yay!

So, here is my paper, just in case anyone is interested.


Tef is an ancient grain which until recently was almost entirely limited to Ethiopia and Eritrea Tef is a grass, and has the smallest seed of any domesticated grain. It can be grown in areas that other grains find inhospitable. Tef has recently caught the attention of those needing a gluten free diet, as it has a negligible amount of the protein.

Tef is the only domesticated member of the large Eragrostis family of grasses(Ingram, 2003). It's exact ancestor species is unknown, but there are a number of similar wild species of eragrostis that are gathered during times of food scarcity(National Research Council, 1996). The primary difference between tef and closely related wild species is that in tef the seed head remains intact at maturity, facilitating harvesting(Ingram, 2003). Tef has the smallest seed size of any domesticated grain. This allows a large area of ground to be sown with a small volume of grain. The straw makes nutritious fodder for livestock. Tef is adapted to a variety of terrains , but does especially well in dry uplands, where other crops have trouble.

The exact time of tef's domestication is uncertain. It appears likely that some time between 4000 and 1000 BCE was when the grain was domesticated (Ketema, 1997). It has been speculated that tef may have been first raised by pastoralists as foster for animals, and only later became a primary food source for human (D'Andrea, 2011).

Tef is the overwhelmingly most popular grain in Ethiopia, occupying more than half the acreage used for growing grains (National Research Council, 1996). Several varieties are grown, with white tef being considered the best, and red tef the least desirable However, white tef is trickier to grow, and produces less grain per acre than the red variety. In Ethiopia, the primary use of tef is to grind it into flour to make injera(Ketema, 1997). Injera is produced by fermenting the flour for three days, then fried on one side to make a large spongy griddlecake. Injera is used to serve food on, and pieces are used as a utensil to scoop up food.

In 1986, Wayne Carlson began growing tef in Idaho (Kelly, 03 Oct 2012). While farmers were skeptical of the value of the crop, he has found a ready market for tef flour in markets and restaurants that cater to East African immigrants. Very recently, tef has begun to catch the attention of those interested in a gluten free diet. This has resulted in increased demand for tef flour. Tef has a distinctive flavor, somewhat reminiscent of buckwheat (Hilson, Jan 2010). It is very high in protein .

Tef is an ancient grain, but one that has been unknown outside of East Africa until recently. It is a hardy plant that grows well in semi-arid highlands, and requires minimal tilling to plant. It is just now beginning to move beyond it's traditional usage in Ethiopian cuisine. Because of it has no gluten, it has caught the attention of cooks looking to expand the available flours for a gluten free lifestyle.

Works Cited

D'Andrea, A. Catherine, and Wadge, Pamela, “T'ef (Eragrostis tef): A Legacy of Pastoralism?”, Windows on the African Past: Current Approaches to African Archaeobotany, Africa Magna Verlag Press, 2011.

Hilson, Beth, ”Gluten-Free Flour Power”, Living Without, Jan 2010, 29 Oct 2013. <>

Ingram, Amanda L., and Doyle Jeff J., “The Origin and Evolution of Eragrostis Tef “, American Journal of Botany, vol 90(1), 2003.

Kelly, James Patrick , “What the Teff?”, Boise Weekly, 03 Oct 2012, 29 Oct 2013.

Ketema, Seyfu, Tef, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, 1997.

National Research Council's Board on Science and Technology for International Development, Lost Crops of Africa volume I: Grains, National Academy Press, 1996.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Spring Registration

I registered today for my spring semester classes. I will be taking cake decorating, cooking for healthy lifestyles, and sanitation.

Should be a fun and interesting semester.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bread Class: Quick Breads

Monday was our first lab for the bread class. We started out simple, doing some tea bread, and a couple of kinds of muffins.

The first thing we made was an almond lemon tea bread. It has plenty of almond paste and butter, and is flavored with lemon zest and poppy seeds.

While the bread is still warm, a glaze of lemon juice, orange juice, and sugar is allowed to soak into the bread.

This is a great bread, with a texture like a pound cake. The zest and the glaze give it a very strong citrus flavor. I might go a little heavier on the poppy seeds myself. but I really like poppy seeds.

We made two kinds of muffins. The first kind we made were cranberry orange muffins with streusel topping. These are a classic fall muffin.

The orange juice and fresh cranberries give a nice tartness to these muffins. The streusel topping adds a nice bit of crunch, and some sweetness to counter balance the tartness.

These are a simple, straight forward muffin. They have a pleasant soft texture. These are great for breakfast.

The second type of muffin we made was a pumpkin muffin with a cream cheese filling. I love pumpkin muffins, and the cream cheese filling adds a nice twist to another fall classic.

The muffin has a fair bit of spices; in addition to some pumpkin pie spice, it has cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and a hint of cardamom.

The filling is cream cheese sweetened with a little powdered sugar. It is piped into the center of the muffin. The muffin is then topped with a little bit of pecans tossed with cinnamon sugar.

It was really fun to get back into the pastry lab again. I really do thoroughly enjoy my pastry classes.


Almond Lemon Tea Bread

for the bread:

4 oz. by wt. pastry flour
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1/8 tsp. salt
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
7 oz. by wt. almond paste
7 oz. by wt. sugar
8 oz. by wt. butter
zest of 1 lemon

for the glaze:

3 Tbsp. orange juice
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
5 oz. by wt. sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. stir in poppy seeds. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine almond paste, sugar, butter, and zest. Cream together until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, letting each one become incorporated until adding the next.
Add extract, allow to become incorporated.
Add dry ingredients in two stages, allowing to incorporate after each addition.
Transfer to loaf pan, and smooth out top.
Bake for 60 minutes, or until bread is set.
Remove from oven. Let cool ten minutes in pan.
While bread is cooking, prepare glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve sugar into juices.
When bread has pulled away from sides of pan, loosen edges with a small spatula, and invert bread onto a cooling rack over parchment paper.
While bread and glaze are still warm, brush bread lightly with glaze. Let bread absorb the glaze, then repeat until bread has a shiny appearance.

Cranberry Orange Struesel Muffins

for the muffins:

10 oz. all purpose flour
5 ¼ oz. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 ½ oz. fresh cranberries, rough chopped
6 oz. orange juice
2 oz. oil
1 egg
1 ½ tsp. grated orange zest

Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

for the streusel:

2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 ½ oz. sugar
pinch salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 oz. butter, cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

To make streusel, sift together dry ingredients. Cut butter into dry until mixture is crumbly. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

To make muffins, in one bowl sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Stir in cranberries.

In another bowl, whisk together juice, oil, egg, and zest.

Fold liquid into dry ingredients.  Do not over mix.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full. Sprinkle streusel on top of muffins.

Bake 15 - 20 minutes, until tops are golden and muffins set.

Makes 10 - 12 muffins.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

for muffins:
7 ¼ oz. all purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spices
pinch cardamom
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
7 oz. sugar
8 oz. pumpkin puree
5 oz. oil
1 tsp. vanilla paste

for the cream cheese filling:
5 oz. cream cheese
1 ½ oz. powdered sugar

for the topping:
2/3 cup rough chopped pecans
2 tsp. cinnamon sugar

Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Cream together cream cheese and powdered sugar. Place in a piping bag with a small round tip.

Toss pecans with cinnamon sugar. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

In one bowl, sift together flour, spices, salt, and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil, and vanilla paste.

Fold wet ingredients into dry. Do not over mix.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Pipe about 2 tablespoons of cream cheese mixture into the center of each muffin. Top each muffin with pecans.

Bake 12 - 15 minutes.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Intermediate Culinary Class: Mid-term

Last week we took our mid-term for my intermediate culinary class. I'm pretty happy; I scored 49 out of 50. The only one I missed was a question about what intensifies the flavor of a vinaigrette. I picked mustard, the answer Chef wanted was vinegar. I think both answers are correct, but I'll remember the preferred answer for the final.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Black Hat Tea 2013: The Savory Course

It's fall again, time once more for the spouse to hold her Black Hat Society Tea. Last year, the signature fall flavor was apple. This year, we decided that pear should be the featured flavor would be pear. I think we had about twice as many people attending. I want to thank the two friends that helped me in the kitchen, one acting as my sous chef, and the other washing dishes and keeping tea pots flowing. Also, a huge thank you to Rebecca Freeburn of Freeburn inc. who came out and took great photos of the food.

For the savory course, we served three items. We had a number of people attending that were gluten free, so only served one tea sandwich, and added a soup and a salad.

We opened with a soup. This was a shooter of a cold spicy pecan soup, with a garnish of a little chipotle pepper. This soup is pecans simmered in vegetable stock, and flavored with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, garlic, onion, and cilantro. It is then thickened with heavy cream. I rinsed the adobo sauce off some of the peppers, and then cut them into fine ribbons as a garnish.

I was very happy with this soup. I got just enough spice to notice, without it being overwhelming. It was very rich, and the cream gave it a luscious mouth feel.

I also made a vegan version, where I used almond milk instead of the cream. It was also very good. It was a bit sweeter, and did not have quite as silky a texture.

The next item was a tea sandwich of walnut onion bread with slices of pear and Gorgonzola cheese.

The bread is a yeast bread with onions and pieces of walnuts.  I alternated slices of red and Bartlett pears, leaving the skin on for the color. I added the Gorgonzola crumbles.

The flavor combinations were good. I think next time I will cut the bread a trifle thicker, and toast it. I might also work the Gorgonzola into some cream cheese and make a spread.

The last item was a three  bean salad with a vinaigrette of date vinegar and olive oil, flavored with basil mustard and herbs.

I used black, kidney, and garbanzo beans. There is some minced red onion mixed in.

The  dressing is a  vinaigrette using date vinegar and olive oil. I added some Trader Joe's Basil Mustard. I also added dried basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

The salad was served in half of a miniature sweet pepper. I added a chiffonade of fresh basil as a garnish.


Spicy Cold Pecan Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
6 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups pecan pieces
3 Tbsp. canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, minced
1 Tbsp. dried cilantro
2 cups heavy cream
salt to taste

In a stock pot over medium heat, add olive oil. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Add stock, juice, pecans, chilies, and cilantro. Simmer for two hours. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Place pan in an ice bath to cool. Refrigerate soup until time for service. Stir in cream. Adjust salt as needed.

This soup can be made vegan by replacing the cream with the same amount of almond milk.

Onion Walnut Bread

1/2 cup  walnut oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups warm water (105°F. to 115°F.)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 envelopes dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups (about) bread flour
3 oz. by wt. walnut pieces

In a skillet over medium to medium high heat, add walnut oil. Add onion, and saute until tender. Set aside to cool.

Combine water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until foamy.

Sift flour. Place yeast mixture in the bowl of a food processor with onions, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Pulse to combine. Add flour 1 cup at a time, processing after each addition. Do this until dough forms a smooth ball. (My food processor was straining before I got that far. I kneaded the last cup or so in by hand.)

Transfer the dough to a well floured surface. Need until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking.

Oil a bowl with walnut oil. Place dough in bowl, rotate to coat surface with oil. Cover, let rise until doubled in size.

Punch down dough, let rest for five minutes.

Transfer to a well floured surface. Roll out to about 1 inch thick. Spread walnuts evenly over surface. Knead dough to incorporate walnuts.

Coat the insides of two loaf pans with oil. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into an  oblong, place each oblong in a loaf pan. Cover, let rise until doubled in size.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Bake about twenty five minutes, until golden brown and it sound hollow when thumped. (I think next time, I will try it at 375 F, and bake it longer. I'd like to see if I can get the bottom a bit crisper.)

Remove from oven, place on wire racks to cool.

Three Bean Salad

1 large can each kidney, black, and garbanzo beans
1/2 large red onion, diced
4 oz. by vol. date vinegar
12 oz. by vol. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. Basil Mustard
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Drain beans, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl, stir in onion. In another bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, and herbs.  While whisking vigorously, slowly add oil, until dressing thickens. If necessary, a little water can be added to thin it out.

Pour dressing over beans. Mix. Refrigerate until service.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Intermediate Culinary Class: Fish appetizers

Continuing the investigation into flavors, this week we worked with fish. This was a long and busy night, with a number of recipes.

We started off making ceviche. Ceviche is raw fish that is marinaded in acid and flavorings. The acid denatures the proteins making it appear lightly cooked.

This ceviche has fresh red snapper cut in thin angled cuts across the grain. This slice is called a tranche. The slices of fish are arranged on the plate, and then soaked in lime juice. They were lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. On top are layered red onion, green onion, capers, cilantro, jalapeno, and a dash of Tabasco. We made that right away, then let it sit while we cooked the components of the more complex appetizer. We ate the slices of fish on  slices of baguette that had been lightly toasted.

I enjoyed this quite a lot. It was a nice mix of citrus, sharpness, and heat.

The more complex dish had a number of components. For the first time, we were required to make an attempt at presentation. The dish is pan seared red snapper with mushroom risotto, beet beurre blanc, olive and tomato tapenade, and white wine infused beets.

The first step is the beets. It is a bruniose (very fine dice) of beet sautéed in butter, then simmered in white wine until tender. When complete, the beets are strained, and the juice is reserved for the beurre blanc.

The tapenade is thin sliced pimento stuffed olives, diced tomato, garlic, red onion, and lemon zest, very lightly sautéed in olive oil.

The risotto is Arborio rice that is slowly cooked in liquid while being continuously stirred. The starchy short grained rice will release produces a creamy texture. For this risotto, we sautéed a little mirepoix (finely diced onion, carrot, and celery), garlic, mushroom, and jalapeno in butter. The rice is added, and cooked a few minutes in the hot fat, stirring to coat each grain. Water was added, a little at a time, cooking and stirring. It took about twenty minutes for the rice to reach an al dente texture, and have a creamy texture. Right at the end, some heavy cream and Parmesan cheese was added.

This is the first time I've tried making risotto. It turns out to be easier than I expected. It takes a little patience, and you need to be focused, but it isn't that tricky.

Beurre blanc means 'white butter' in French. It is an emulsion of butter in a white wine reduction. For this one, we used the beet infused wine, some more white wine, and a little white wine vinegar. We added some red onion and garlic, and reduced the volume by about half. We then added some fish stock. Once it was back up to temperature, we whisked in butter to form the emulsion. Finally, whisked in some heavy cream. It was a nice, slightly acidic sauce that went well with the fish and the risotto.

Finally, we pan seared some pieces of red snapper. With so much else going on, we just kept the fish simple.

All recipes courtesy chef Joe Orate.


Chef Joe's Peruvian Style Ceviche

4 oz. fresh red snapper fillets
juice of 2 limes
1/4 red onion, minced
1 bunch green onions, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1/4 cup capers
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste

Slice fish very thin. Place in the bottom of a plate or shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with 1/3 of the lime juice. Layer on rest of ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper, and sprinkling with juice. When all ingredients are layered on, sprinkle as desired with Tabasco. Let marinade for 2 hours.

Chef Joe's Wine Infused Beets

1 beet, peeled and finely diced
3 oz. by wt. butter
1 cup white wine
salt to taste

In a small saucepan, sauté beet in butter. Add wine, simmer until tender. Drain, reserving juice for beurre blanc.

Chef Joe's Green Olive Tapenade

4 oz. by wt. pimento stuffed green olives
1 small tomato, peeled and diced
zest of 1 lemon
1 oz. fine diced red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Briefly sauté all ingredients in olive oil.

Chef Joe's Mushroom Risotto

1 cup Arborio rice
3 oz. butter
1/4 cup finely diced mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 - 2 cups water
1 tsp. shredded Parmesan
2 oz. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan over medium high heat, sauté mirepoix, garlic, mushrooms, and jalapeno in butter. Add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until rice grains are coated with butter and lightly toasted. Add water a little at a time. Cook, stirring constantly, adding water as needed to keep rice a thick slurry. Cook until rice is creamy, and grains are al dente. Season with salt and pepper, stir in cream and cheese.

Chef Joe's Beet Beurre Blanc

Beat infused wine from previous recipe
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. minced red onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup fish stock
4 oz. butter, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Place beet infused wine, wine, vinegar, onion, and garlic is a saucepan over medium high to high heat. Reduce volume by one half. Add stock, bring back to a simmer.  Whisk in butter, about one tsp. at a time. Whisk vigorously to form an emulsion. Whisk in heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Happy Eating!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tofu Stir Fry with Soy Lime Sauce

I was travelling out of town last weekend, and a friend let me crash at his place. To thank him, I offered to cook dinner. He had a very nice garden, with fresh vegetables available. I grabbed a butternut squash, a zucchini, and an egg plant. He also had a Kaffir lime tree growing in the back yard.

For protein, there was some firm tofu. I made a marinade for the tofu from Kaffir lime juice, soy sauce, honey, lime zest, white pepper, garlic, allspice, and mixed hot pepper flakes. I cubed the tofu, then poured the marinade over it.

While the tofu marinaded, I prepared the vegetables. I made batonettes ( long square sticks) from the butternut squash and the eggplant. I cut one half of a red onion in thin slices. I cut the zucchini in half, then into thin slices.

My friend didn't have rice, but he did have rice noodles. These worked fine to suck up the sauce from the stir fry. They boil pretty quickly.

Tofu Stir Fry with Soy Lime

for the marinade:

juice of four Kaffir limes
zest of one Kaffir lime
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp.  pepper flakes

for the stir fry:

1 lb. firm tofu, drained and cut into 3/4" cubes
1 1/2 cups butternut squash battonettes
1 1/2 cups thin zucchini slices
1 cup eggplant batonettes
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. cornstarch

Mix together lime juice, soy sauce, honey, garlic, lime zest, white pepper, allspice, and pepper flakes. Pour over tofu cubes, let stand for at least 15 minutes.

Remove tofu from marinade. In a wok over very high heat, add 2 Tbsp. canola oil. Add tofu, stir fry until lightly brown. Remove from pan, set aside.

Add more oil. Add onion, cook until lightly caramelized.  Add butternut squash. Cook until lightly browned, and about half cooked. Add zucchini. Cook another two minutes, add eggplant. Cook briefly. Return tofu to pan.

Whisk cornstarch into marinade. Add to pan. Cook until sauce is thickened.

Serve over rice noodles.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Business Progress: Facebook Page

Yesterday, I set up the Facebook page for the business. Put up some pictures of food we have done at various events.

Check it out, like us if you are moved to do so.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Business Progress: Chafers and Coats

Picked up four chafers that were new, never used, at a thrift store for considerably less than new from a retailer would have cost. Two are standard, one is a roll top, and the fourth is set up to hold two pots of soup or other liquid.

Also ordered a couple of chefs' coats from Happy Chef. I ordered short sleeve royal blue coats with 'Epicuriosities' over the breast pocket. We also picked up a couple of royal blue aprons with the name, in case we need to hire a couple of people now and again.

Intermediate Culinary Class: Cheese

This class is focused on taste and presentation, and this week we were exploring cheese. We a couple of cheese dishes, and while they were baking, tasted a number of cheeses.

The first thing we put together was a baked brie. Instead of the usual jam, we had made it with toasted walnuts and cinnamon sugar. The whole thing is wrapped in puff pastry, and baked until golden brown.

I liked this version. We used a better quality brie that had no rind. The brown sugar melted and coated the walnuts. It was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The bottom crust of the puff pastry, infused with cheese, sugar, and walnuts was particularly tasty.

The other thing we made was a bacon, onion, and cheddar soufflé. We sautéed bacon in butter, then added onion and garlic. We added flour to make a roux, then cream to make a béchamel sauce. Egg yolks and cheddar cheese are folded into the béchamel. That sauce is then folded into stiffly beaten egg whites. That is poured into ramekins that have been coated on the inside with butter and Parmesan cheese. The soufflés are baked for 35 minutes without peeking.

They came out appropriately fluffy. They tasted strongly of bacon, onion, and cheese. They were a bit heavy. Personally, I'd probably not use the butter, and cut the amount of bacon in half.

While the brie and soufflés were baking, we tasted a number of cheeses. Being a long time cheese fan, I was familiar with all but one of the cheeses we tried. That was Boursin, a fresh cheese, mild and smooth textured.

We also were to bring in plates for appetizers. We didn't actually use them, but Chef looked them over. He really likes the more modern plain white plates in funky shapes. He is not a fan of color. Other than our every day Ikea plates,  I pretty much own no white service, at all. I have a lot of hand made pottery, and a lot of bold colors, especially blue and green.


All recipes courtesy of Chef Joe Orate.

Cheddar and Bacon Souffle

1/2 cup diced bacon
2 oz. by wt. + enough to line ramekins butter
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup diced onion
1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
4 oz. by wt. shredded cheddar cheese
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Grease inside of eight ramekins with butter. Liberally coat butter with Parmesan cheese. Tap to remove excess.

In a saucepan over medium to medium high heat, melt 2 oz. butter. Add bacon, cook until fat is rendered. Add onion and garlic, cook until onion is soft. Add flour. Cook, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Add cream. Cook until thickened. Remove from heat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg whites and cream of tartar. Whip to stiff peaks.

Fold egg yolks into cream sauce, then mix in cheese.

Gently fold in egg whites 1/3 at a time into cream mixture. Ladle into ramekins.

Place ramekins on a baking sheet, and bake in oven for 35 minutes. Do not open oven door during that time.

Remove from oven, and serve immediately.

Brie en Croute with Walnuts

1 8 oz. wheel of brie
1/2 sheet frozen puff pastry
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Mix cinnamon into brown sugar, set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add walnuts, toss until lightly toasted.

Lay out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Place a circle of 1/2 the brown sugar mix in the center of the puff pastry. layer 1/2 the walnuts on top of the sugar. Place the cheese on top of the nuts. Place the rest of the sugar and nuts on top of the cheese.

Fold pastry around cheese, using egg wash to seal all overlaps. Place seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush entire surface with remaining egg wash.

Bake 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm, with crackers or thin slices of baguette..

Happy Eating!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A 16th Century Italian Dinner

I had the opportunity to cook for some friends. I looked through some of the recipes from a renaissance Italian cookbook by Bartolomeo Scappi for inspiration. His Opera dell'arte del cucinare was the Joy of Cooking of the time, with over a thousand recipes, plus general cooking advice. Looking through it, one can see the start of the transition from medieval to modern cuisine.

I was surprised to find some very modern style cookery. Barbecued rack of beef ribs, with dry rub and a vinegar based sauce (no tomatoes, though) appears in Scappi. Like medieval cookbooks, he doesn't trust vegetables, and boils them to mush. He has very modern pastas, but they are served dusted with sugar and cinnamon, rather than with a cream or tomato sauce.

For the entrée, I was inspired to find a pork fat wrapped beef tenderloin in his cookbook. I found asparagus with sour orange sauce that looked interesting, and I wanted to try my hand at making pasta, and found a recipe with chard, spinach, and cheese that sounded good.

The fillet Mignon was first brushed with a mix of white wine, white wine vinegar, and rosewater. It was then seasoned with a rub of kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and coriander. I wrapped them in thick cut bacon. They were pan seared, then finished to medium rare in a hot oven. I removed the fillets from the pan to rest, and reduced the pan juices with a little white wine and white wine vinegar. That made a very nice dipping sauce for the fillet.

For the asparagus, I lightly steamed them in a pan with some homemade vegetable stock. Sour oranges have only a limited growing season in the winter, so I used regular oranges with lime juice, salt, and a little cane sugar. Scappi recommends cooking wild asparagus with raisins. Instead, I added some currants (small, intensely flavored, raisins) to the sauce. I reduced the juice to about one quarter the original volume. This produced an intensely acidic sauce, which the currants helped mellow. I think it was the best thing on the plate.

The pasta were tortetelli; tortellini on steroids. The pasta dough was based on this recipe by Tyler Flores. I've had a pasta roller for years, this was the first time I've actually played with it. For the filling, I sautéed spinach and Swiss chard in olive oil with fresh parsley, oregano, and thyme. I allowed that to cool, then drained the liquid off. The greens were then mixed with ricotta and a healthy amount of Parmesan. To make tortetelli, roll the dough very thin, and cut about a five inch diameter circle. Place about a tablespoon of filling in the center. Brush the edge with beaten egg, and fold in half, pressing to seal. Bring the two corners of the half circle together and overlap, using the egg wash to stick them together. Fold the excess rim of the half circle down, forming a ring. Dust with flour, and allow to dry a little. To serve, I simmered them in vegetable stock, then fished them out, dusted with a little cinnamon sugar, and topped them with grated Parmesan.

For dessert, I made a strawberry custard tart. I sautéed strawberries in butter until they were tender. I forced the strawberries through a strainer, to remove the seeds and fibrous material. The resulting puree was placed in a food processor with ricotta, biscotti crumbs, sugar, eggs, and Parmesan, and processed until smooth. The pastry is a dough of flour, butter, sugar, and rosewater, which Scappi calls 'royal dough'. I needed a garnish for the plate, so made a basil syrup. It worked really well with the strawberry, and brought out the rose in the pastry.

Overall, I think this was one of my best meals yet. The fillet was really good quality, and I think I enhanced it well with the spices, bacon, and sauce. I thought the sauce for the asparagus came out great. I think I under cooked the pasta a trifle, but I really liked the flavor of the filling. The tart filling had a wonderfully smooth and rich mouth feel, and the pastry was light and flaky. Then basil syrup added a nice note, though I had hoped to get a more intense green color. Will have to work on that.


Bacon Wrapped Fillet Mignon

for the brushing liquid:

2 Tbsp. white wine
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. rosewater

for the rub:

2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

for the sauce:

1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup white wine vinegar

6 fillet Mignon's
6 strips thick cut bacon

Mix together brushing liquid ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix together rub spices.

Brush lightly all surfaces of the fillets with the brushing liquid. Lightly coat all surfaces of the fillet with the rub. Wrap a bacon strip around of each fillet, overlapping, and securing to fillet with a toothpick of skewer. Refrigerate, covered, for three to six hours.

Pre-heat oven to 425 F. In a large heavy skillet over medium high heat, sear top and bottom of fillets. Transfer to oven, cook to medium rare, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, transfer fillets to a cutting board to rest.

Place pan with juices over medium high heat. Add wine and vinegar. Boil vigorously until volume is reduced by half. Transfer sauce to small cups for dipping.

Steamed Asparagus with Sour Orange Currant Sauce

1 bunch asparagus
2 oranges
2 limes
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup currants
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable stock

Wash asparagus, remove woody ends of the stems (keep and freeze to use for future stock). Juice oranges and limes. Place juice in a small saucepan with sugar, salt, and currants. Cook over medium to medium high heat until volume is reduce by 3/4.

Heat a non-stick heavy skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add stock and asparagus, cooking until asparagus is al dente.

Plate sauce, place asparagus on top.

Chard, Spinach, and Cheese Tortetelli

for the filling:

1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and rough chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
1/4 cup minced fresh
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

for the pasta:

2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
3 eggs, plus one for wash
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 quarts vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Place flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. While mixer is running, add three eggs, one at a time, allowing a little time between each addition. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, until dough forms a ball.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured board. Knead for ten minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

In a large pot, heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach, chard, and herbs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Remove from heat, allow to cool. Strain off excess liquid.

Place greens in a bowl. Add ricotta and Parmesan, mix thoroughly.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Beat an egg to use as a wash for the pasta. Using a pasta machine, roll out a thin dough, keeping it well dusted with flour to prevent sticking. Cut out five inch diameter circles. Place about one tablespoon of filling on each circle. Wet edges with egg, fold circles in half and press to seal. Bring corners of the half circles together, overlapping and using the egg to stick together. Fold down top of half circle to form a ring with a bulge on one side.

Dust tortetelli with flour, place on a baking sheet to dry.

Mix together cinnamon and sugar, set aside.

Bring vegetable stock to a simmer. Add tortetelli, cook until tender, about 4 to 8 minutes.

Remove pasta from stock. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Plate, top with Parmesan cheese.

Strawberry Custard Tart

for the crust:

9 oz. by wt. all purpose flour
6 oz. by wt. cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 oz. by wt. sugar
3 oz. by volume ice cold rosewater
1 tsp. kosher salt.

for the filling:

1 lb. fresh strawberries
2 oz. by wt. butter
2 oz. by wt. biscotti crumbs
5 oz. by wt. ricotta
1 1/2 oz. by wt. Parmesan
3 oz. by wt. cane sugar, plus 1/4 cup for dusting
5 egg yolks
1 egg white

Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter until it resembles course crumbs. Slowly add rosewater one tablespoon at a time, mixing by hand, until dough just sticks together.

Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator to chill.

Wash, hull, and rough chop strawberries.

In a skillet over medium heat, melt two ounces of butter. Add strawberries, sautee until tender.

Remove from heat, cool. Force strawberries through a strainer to remove seeds and fibrous pulp.

Place strawberry puree in the bowl of a food processor with crumbs, ricotta, sugar, egg yolks, and Parmesan. Process until smooth.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

Lightly grease six small ceramic ramekins. Roll out dough thin, line ramekins. Cut out circles just big enough to cover. Cut out vent holes in top crusts.

Fill ramekins with custard mix. lightly wet lip of crust with water. Place top crusts on, pinch crusts together to seal. Dust top of tarts with egg white, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place in oven. bake 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature up to 425 F.  Cook another 5 - 8 minutes, until top is brown and custard is set.

Remove to a rack to cool.

Basil Syrup

3/4 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup whole fresh basil leaves

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until sugar is dissolve and basil leaves are soft, about 15 minutes.

Transfer to a blender. Blend until basil is finely chopped. Strain, place in a squeeze bottle, and chill until time to plate.

Happy Eating!



Monday, September 16, 2013

Intermediate Culinary Class: Spice Rub and Condiment Exploration

The homework for today's class was to create our own signature spice rub, and to go to a store and look over some mustards, oils, vinegars, and rubs.

For the spice rub, I made up a batch of a rub I love to do for grilled steak. It's base is cocoa powder. Yes, chocolate isn't just for dessert. In fact, it was a savory spice long before the Dutch got the idea to add sugar and cream to it. I like to accent the cocoa with cumin, onion powder, coriander, and a little cayenne for a touch of heat. It also has some kosher salt. I think it gives a great crust on a grilled rib eye.

Cocoa Perfection Grilled Beef Rub

      1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
      1 ½ Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
      1 ½ tsp. Cumin
      1 tsp. Onion powder
      1 tsp. Coriander
      ½ tsp. Cayenne powder

The other thing I did was go to Harvest Ranch Market in El Cajon, and poke through their shelves. It is an upscale grocery store. It has a good selection of off beat stuff. Prices range from a little high to WTF.

We were supposed to look over mustards, oils, rubs, and vinegars. I picked two of each to make notes about.

The two mustards that caught my eye were Jack Daniel's Hickory Smoke Mustard, and Cuisine Perel Zinfandel Orange Mustard. I've used, and loved, Jack Daniel's mustards before. This is the first time I have seen the hickory smoked, though. The Cuisine Perel looked really interesting, with wine and lots of citrus juice.

The vinegars that I found most interesting were Alessi Orange Blossom Honey Balsamic Vinegar, and Lucini Dark Cherry Balsamico. The Alessi sounded sweet and luscious. It was actually reasonably priced. The Lucini uses real aged balsamic, and is aged in a chestnut cask. I would love to get it, but it is outrageously out of my price range.

For oils, there wasn't a lot of choice, comparatively. I found a Monini Porchini Mushroom Olive Oil that looked intriguing. Because, mushrooms, duh. The other oil I noted was Argana Argan Oil.  I had no idea what that was so looked it up when I got home. The argan tree is native to Morocco, and the Berbers have apparently pressing the oil from the seeds for a very long time. It is supposed to taste similar to hazelnut oil, and studies seem to indicate it is one of the healthiest of oils. It's also expensive, be argan trees only grow in Morocco, on the edge of the desert.

The spice blends/rubs I thought looked fun were The Spice Hunter Fiery Chile Fusion and Weber Kick'n Chicken.

It's fun to poke through a store and see what weird things you can find.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Applemuse - A Renaissance Apple Curd

Yesterday there was a tournament for the medieval/renaissance group I belong to. There was a cooking contest for apple based recipes. There were two divisions, one for documentably pre-17th century dishes, and one for modern or undocumented recipes. I wanted to enter, so started poking around in early cookbooks, looking for something interesting but not too complex. As it turned out, something that could sit around awhile was also a criterion, as we had to turn in our dishes by 11:30, but judging wasn't until 2.

I found an interesting one in A Propre new booke of Cokery,  a renaissance English cookbook first published in 1545. If you have been reading the blog, you know I've been playing with curds for a while now. As soon as I started reading the recipe for applemuse, I recognized it as a curd.

The ingredients were mostly straight forward, with a couple of curves for those unfamiliar with pre-17th century cooking. It involved cooking apple pulp with butter, egg yolks, and flavorings in a pan until thickened. Butter was not something I have previously used in a curd, but I have seen it in some recipes.

The flavorings were ginger and cinnamon, common spices with apples, and rosewater. Rosewater may seem a curve ball to modern cooks, as it is rarely used currently in American or European cooking. It is still used in some Middle Eastern dishes, and it was a very common seasoning in medieval and renaissance cookery. It adds a nice floral note, if used carefully. Overdone, it can make food taste like soap.


6 granny smith apples
4 ounces butter
2 egg yolks
¾ cup cane sugar
3 teaspoons rosewater
1 teaspoon finely minced candied ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

Place apples on a baking sheet in a 35o F oven for 2o minutes, or until skins split and flesh is soft.

Remove from oven, allow to cool. Force flesh through a strainer.

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add apple puree, sugar, rosewater, egg yolks, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Place in a vessel to cool. Cover top of curd with plastic wrap so that a skin doesn't form. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cold Soups

Last weekend, I did food for an outdoor equestrian event. I knew it would be outrageously hot (it topped 100 F) so thought that ice cold soups would be very refreshing. Unfortunately, I do not have pictures of the soups.

I made what are probably the two most famous cold soups: gazpacho and vichyssoise. Gazpacho is a cold soup of fresh vegetables, generally with a tomato base. It originated in the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal). Vichyssoise is a cold soup of leeks, onions, potatoes and cream. It's origin is disputed, but most likely was the creation of a French chef working in the US around the turn of the 20th century. The gazpacho was vegan, the vichyssoise was decidedly not.

The gazpacho I made was inspired by this recipe by Ina Garten of the Food Network. I used mixed vegetable juice (V8 and a store brand of the same type) as the base, and added fresh cluster tomatoes, cucumber, red and green bell pepper, onion, garlic, olive oil, and white wine vinegar. I find it greatly refreshing on1 a hot day. I love the crispness of the uncooked vegetables.

My vichyssoise recipe is based on this one. It is leaks, onions, and potatoes cooked in chicken stock, then pureed. There is actually less potato than one would think. It's just enough to provide some body to the pureed soup. Cold cream is added right before service. It has, thanks to the cream, a rich and luscious mouth feel. The flavor of the onions and leaks shines through, making this a very flavorful soup.



1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and fine diced
1 large yellow onion, fine diced
1 red bell pepper, fine diced
1 green bell pepper, fine diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups mixed vegetable juice (V8 or equivalent)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large container, mix together cucumber, onion, peppers, and garlic. Stir in vinegar and oil. Add juice; vegetables should just barely be covered. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in refrigerator for at least three hours, and preferably over night.


2 leeks, tough greens removed, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 oz. by wt. peeled diced potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 oz. by vol.  chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot over medium heat, sweat onion and leaks in olive oil until tender. Add chicken stock and potatoes, simmer until potatoes are just tender. Use an immersion blender to puree vegetables. When smooth, add salt and pepper to taste. Chill until cold.

Right before service, stir in cream.

Happy eating!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sour Apple Schnapps Cheesecake

Saturday we were invited to a gathering at the beach, and I wanted to take something to contribute. I had a five pound container of ricotta left over from the Renaissance Italian lunch, so thought cheesecake would be a good use. I decided to adapt the Greek style cheesecake I made for Gaslight Gathering.

I looked at what I had by way of flavorings, and decided I liked the idea of using sour apple schnapps. It's honestly not very good for drinking, but adds a nice flavor when cooked. I decided to make an almond crust, as I had plenty of them left over as well.

Because this style uses no egg yolks, and whips the whites into a meringue, it is a very light style, especially compared to the density of a New York style cheesecake. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

The sour apple flavor came through clearly. It is not overly sweet, rich enough to be satisfying without being heavy.

Sour Apple Schnapps Cheesecake

For the crust:
 4 oz. by wt. almonds
1/6 cup sugar
 8 oz. by wt. all purpose flour
 4 oz. by wt. butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch salt

In a heavy skillet, toast almonds over medium heat. Transfer to a food processor. Pulse several times. Add flour, sugar, and salt, process until nuts are finely ground.

Transfer nut mixture to a mixing bowl. Add butter, egg, and vanilla. Work by hand until ingredients are well mixed. Form into a ball, wrap balls in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least ten minutes.

For the cheesecake:
4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
16 oz. by wt. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sour apple schnapps
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, mix together ricotta and schnapps, refrigerate.

In an ungreased ten inch spring form pan, press almond dough to form a 1/8 inch thick crust on the bottom, and about 3/4 inch up the sides of the pan.

 In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites to soft peaks. Slowly beat in flour, sugar, and salt until eggs are medium stiff peaks. Beat in honey, until fully incorporated. Fold ricotta into egg whites until well blended, with no lumps of egg white or ricotta remaining.

 Pour batter into spring form pan, using a spatula to smooth to an even layer. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes, until cheesecake is resilient to the touch, and lightly browned. It should be a little jiggly in the center.

Remove from oven. Lightly dust with cinnamon powder. Place on cooling rack to cool. Refrigerate until serving time. Remove spring form ring when ready to serve.
Happy eating!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Intermediate Culinary Class: First Two Weeks

So, I've already started my next culinary class. According to the instructor, this class is less about technique, and more about taste profiles and presentation.

The first week was the usual organization stuff. We did have to choose our teams, and we did a little team building challenge, which my team won.

The second week, we talked about menus a little. We talked about writing menu item titles and descriptions. We also covered a list of criteria to use when evaluating food.

We also learned how to sharpen our knives. We got to practice on a variety of oil stones.

Part of the class assignment is putting together a 'creativity journal'. Chef's been kind of vague on what all is supposed to go in there. In an example he had available to look at, most of the entries seemed to be images from magazines, cut out and criticized on presentation. I don't think that will be my bent, but I suspect a lot of my entries on the blog will be printed out and placed in my journal.

Ladies of the Rose Tea

Within the medieval group I play with, there is a group of women that have served previously as Queen. They are know as the Ladies of the Rose, and their symbol is a yellow rose. I suggested to the current queen that I'd like to do a tea for these ladies. She thought this sounded like a great idea.

Now, there is nothing remotely medieval or renaissance about a formal tea. It is a Victorian invention. However, our group has strong roots in Victorian Gothic Romanticism. I don't think it is a great sin to acknowledge that. Besides, how cool is it to sit in the shade, nibble delicacies, and chat the afternoon away?

The Queen expressed a preference for leaning toward savory. I tried to pick a menu that reflected that.

For the savory course, we made two items. For the first, I did a riff on the classic BLT. When shopping at the El Cajon Farmer's Market, I found a little local company, Jackie's Jams. She had a tomato jam, and I just had to try it. It was really good, and I bought a jar. I thought it
would be a great idea to build a BLT around the jam. We got some good, crusty sourdough bread, and I toasted it on the grill. I then cut it into squares. We spread a thin layer of tomato jam on the bread, place a piece of bacon the size of the bread on top. We put a little dab of jam on the bacon, to act as glue for the chiffonaded bronze leaf lettuce that went on last.

The second savory item was a lettuce cup with curried tuna salad. The intent was to use all endive, but the head we bought didn't have quite enough leaves, so I used some heart of romaine as well. The tuna is a simple mix of canned tuna, mayonnaise, curry powder, and hot curry paste.

For the scone course, I decided to keep it simple, and I made just one kind of scone, the cream scones I made for the Princess Tea, the only difference being that I did not sprinkle the top with sugar after brushing them with cream.

I also made some gluten free scones, as we had an attendee that was gluten intolerant. The gluten free scones were made with Bisquick Gluten Free Mix. I followed the biscuit recipe on the box, but substituted heavy cream for the milk, to get a richer scone.

We then made a choice of four toppings, two savory and two sweet. For the savory, I made a chili lime butter, and a pesto butter. For the sweet, I made kiwi curd and the spouse made mock Devonshire cream. The kiwi curd was sweeter than I'd expected, and set up a little soft, but it seemed to be popular.

For the sweet course, the spouse made rose tea shortbread cookies, and I made safflower infused white  modeling chocolate roses.

I wanted to make yellow roses, and I'd hoped to use natural color to do it. I originally planned to use saffron, but realized I was out, and couldn't find any on short notice, but safflower was easily available. I couldn't get a deep enough color, so added some commercial coloring paste. The safflower added a bit of a savory note to the rather sweet modeling chocolate. Modeling chocolate is just white chocolate and corn syrup.

I included instructions for making a modeling chocolate rose in this post.


Curried Tuna Salad

3 cans tuna, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. hot curry paste
salt to taste

In a bowl, mix all ingredients until tuna is well moistened.

Chili Lime Butter

8 oz. by wt. butter, softened
1 ripe jalapeno chili
zest of 6 key limes
juice of two key limes
kosher salt to taste

Char outside of chili over open flame. Remove skin, seeds, and inner membranes. Mince.

Mash together butter, chili, zest, juice, and salt until well blended.

Pesto Butter

8 oz. by wt. butter
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. minced garlic
kosher salt to taste

Place all ingredients in  a food processor. Run until butter is smooth.

Kiwi Curd

1 cup sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup kiwi fruit puree
pinch kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until curd thickens, about ten minutes.

Strain curd. cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in freezer for 20 minutes, then transfer to refrigerator to finish cooling.

Mock Devonshire Cream

8 oz. by wt. cream cheese
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip cream cheese until fluffy. Add rest of ingredients, whisk until stiff peaks form.

Rose Tea Cookies

1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. Scottish Breakfast tea
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. rose water
1/2 cup butter

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together rose water and water. Set aside.

 In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, sugars, salt, and tea leaves until tea is well incorporated.  Add vanilla, 1 tsp. of the diluted rose water, and butter. Pulse until a dough forms.

On a floured surface, roll dough very thin. Cut out cookies, place on an ungreased sheet pan. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.


Safflower Infused Modeling Chocolate

1 cup corn syrup
1 cup safflowers
10 oz. by wt. white chocolate

In a microwave safe bowl, combine corn syrup and safflowers. Heat in microwave until syrup just begins to boil.

Remove from microwave. Let cool to room temperature. Strain.

In a double boiler, melt chocolate to 100 F. Add 1/3 cup of the safflower infused corn syrup. Mix with a spatula until smooth and shiny. Let stand at least 4 hours before using. If kept refrigerated, good for up to one month.

 Combine with rubber spatula until smooth and shiny. Let sit 4 hours to over night.
Happy Eating!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gltuen Free Vegan Alternatives to the Renaissance Italian Lunch

Whenever I'm cooking for a large number of people, I try to provide alternatives for the most common dietary restrictions. If someone contacts me about other issues, I'll do my best to accommodate them. About the only thing I cannot do is hardcore kosher, as I can pretty much guarantee that every cooking implement in my kitchen has contacted both dairy and meat products at some point.

For the lunch, I knew that I would have both vegans and gluten intolerant people eating. To keep it simple, I just combined those issues, and made pastries that satisfied both issues.

To make my life simpler, I made one 12 cup muffin tray with crusts, blind baked them, then added cheese substitute and herbs to half, and modified fruit and nut filling to the other half.

My first attempt at gluten free pie crust was an unmitigated disaster. I tried a straight substitute of multipurpose gluten free flour for regular flour in my pie crust recipe. This resulted in way too much fat, making the hand pies completely melt in a smear of goo all over the sheet pan. That prompted me to use the muffin tin, to give some structure to hold the shape of the dough in my second attempt.
My more successful attempt was based on this website, which I modified and adapted a little. I think next time I will use disposable mini tart tins, as getting the crumbly tarts out of the muffin tin was challenging.

The flour I used was Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour. It had a slightly grainy texture, like a find grind corn meal. The resulting crust was a bit crumbly, and grainier than I would like.

For the cheese tarts, I used Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese as a substitute for the ricotta. I was very surprised at how good it was. It really had a good texture and taste. It's major downside is cost. I paid about the same for a half pound of Tofutti as I did for five pounds of ricotta.

For the Neapolitan Pizza, I substituted 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup cornstarch for the egg. Seems to have jelled up nicely.

Gluten Free Pie Crust

1¼ cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend
½ cup vegetable shortening
2 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. kosher salt

Measure shortening, and place in freezer for 30 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add shortening to processor. Pulse in short bursts, until mixture resembles course crumbs, about 6 - 8 times.

With food processor running, dribble in water one tablespoon at a time, until mixture just clumps together. Form into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Dough tends to be crumbly. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Lay out a sheet of wax paper, lightly dust with gluten free flour. Place disk of dough on top. Dust top with more flour. Cover with wax paper. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick.

Lightly grease cups of muffin tin. Cut 3inch diameter circles of dough. Gently press dough into cups. Dough will be delicate and crumbly, may take some careful pressing to fully fill cup.

Line cups with wax paper, and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake in a 350 F oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. Remove wax paper and weights.

Add filling. Return to oven. Bake 20 minutes, or until filing is set and crust is golden brown.

Happy eating!