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Cookout Co-Pilot: Broccoli-Apple Salad

3 Sep

With summer cookout season winding down, I joined fellow Forkfuller Lindsay and an assemblage of Madison’s W.A.S.T.E.D. crew for a wine tasting themed on pairings with grilled meats and veggies (Verdict: anything from Torrontes to Brut Rose Cava to Shiraz hits the spot with heat and meat).   The grillables – including t-bone steaks, chicken breasts, pork chops (YUM!) and a host of veggie-friendly items – were graciously provided by the host, so we guests were tasked with summery sides.  Lindsay brought an amazing heirloom tomato salad with a creamy dressing spiked with blue cheese while others notable sides included a spinach salad, carrot-ginger salad, and creamy white-bean hummus.

Earlier this summer, I took my first crack at a broccoli slaw/salad similar to what I detail below (minus the apples) and was smitten by its sweet-savory, creamy-crunchy dichotomy.  Granny Smith apples bring extra crunch and a hint of sweet/tartness to the party while the addition of dried cranberries and walnuts act as a hat-tip to the comforting dishes the impending cool weather brings to my table.

Broccoli-Apple Salad

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3 heads of broccoli, broken down into small florets, stems peeled and diced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 2 strips of bacon, minced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • dollop of dijon mustard
  • splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • dashes of tarragon, thyme, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I did it:

  • Heat minced bacon in large skillet over medium heat until fat begins to render out.  Add broccoli florets, stems, and minced onion, season with salt, and heat for 4-5 minutes until broccoli just starts to soften around the edges.  Remove to large mixing or serving/storage bowl to cool.
  • Mix in diced apple, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts.
  • To prepare dressing, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and spices and whisk until smooth.
  • Add dressing with broccoli-apple mixture and stir until well-incorporated.  Refrigerate until cool and serve with your favorite flame-charred meats or un-meats.

Check out this post and lots of other fantastic foodie content at Forkful of News.

No Heat Required: Summer Ceviche

26 Jul

Does any dish embody refreshing, tropical, and summer-friendly much more than ceviche? If you’re a follower of Bravo’s Top Chef (and what self-respecting foodie/TV-addict isn’t?), you know how trendy ceviche has become of late.  Just try and make it through a Quickfire challenge without some variation on the simple citrus-marinated raw seafood dish.

Despite its simplicity (no stove required – a knife and a pair of hands will do), I had never attempted a ceviche at home until this week.  Color me a convert after my rookie effort.  While I chose shrimp and tuna as my frutti de mare, just about anything that calls the sea home will do (calamari, octopus, clams, scallops to name a few).  Toss with any vegetation you might also put in a salsa (tomato, onion, hot peppers, cilantro, corn, jicama, tomatillo, avocado) and douse with plenty of fresh citrus juice (lemon and lime are traditional, orange and grapefruit will obviously add some nice sweetness).

That’s it.  No cooking necessary.  Thanks to the extreme acidity of the citrus, the seafood takes on a “cooked” texture and appearance as its proteins are denatured similarly to when they are cooked with heat.  Make no mistake, however – the seafood will, in fact, remain “raw”, so you want to obtain your protein fresh from a trusted source.

A recent late-night trip to the grocery netted me a wealth of summertime fruit, namely watermelon and pineapple (other tropical fruits like mango or papaya would be easy substitutions).  Both seemed like fun and utterly appropriate additions that would bring a touch of seasonal character and a welcomed sweetness to the dish.

Summer Ceviche

Ingredient Rollcall:

  • Raw shrimp, peeled
  • Raw tuna steak, cut to 1/2 inch cube
  • Roma tomato, small dice
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Poblano pepper, thinly sliced
  • Watermelon, small dice
  • Pineapple, small dice
  • Fresh squeezed lime, lemon, orange juice
  • Fresh cilantro and mint, minced
  • Shot of tequila (optional)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt to taste

How I did it:

  1. Place shrimp and tuna in a bowl and and enough of the citrus juice to cover.  Add a pinch of salt, stir, and place in fridge, covered, for 15 minutes or so.
  2. Seafood should be taking on a whitish, cooked appearance.
  3. Uncover and add tomato, onion, poblano, cilantro, mint, tequila and olive oil.  Re-cover and place back in fridge for another 15-30 minutes.
  4. To serve, place some of the diced watermelon and pineapple in the bottom of small bowls.  Top with the marinated seafood and vegetables and a few teaspoons of the marinade.
  5. Save a shot of the remaining marinade for the morning after.  Referred to as leche de tigre (‘tiger’s milk’) by Peruvians and Ecuadorians, this intensely flavorful liquid is rumored to be the best hangover cure around.  You were enjoying this ceviche with a delicious beverage or three, weren’t you?

Korea in a Hot Stone Bowl: Bibimbap

21 Jun

DSC05627

Working next to a Korean restaurant for most of the workweek, I have – for the past 8 months or so – been under the constant assault of fantastically pungent aromas courtesy of K-PeppersMy familiarity with Korean cuisine sorely lacking, one dish that always caught my eye – and tongue – is bibimbap.  Translated as “mixed rice”, bibimbap is an extremely simple and insanely popular dish throughout Korea.  Ingredients vary widely from region to region, as does preparation and serving.  By far the most interesting variation of the dish is dolsot (“stone pot”) bibimbap, which is served in a crackling hot stone bowl the acts to crisp the bottom of the rice and cook the egg right at your table.  It’s the Korean take on fajitas, really.  And who doesn’t love fajitas?  That sizzle!  How fun!

After diving in and making bibimbap for the first time at home, I felt compelled to finally head next door and see the authentic dish, prepared by some serious Korean chefs, Eric and Rachel Kim. How it took me 8 months to finally make there last weekend is a crime. 

KPeppers Bibimbap

Quite a spread, eh?  One of the coolest parts of the Korean meal are all of the banchan or small side dishes that come with the meal ranging from pungent kimchi to fried carrot pancakes and coleslaw.  The sizzling bowl was more than just a gimmick, creating a delicious crisp rice crust on the bottom and cooking the runny egg yolk just enough to make for a creamier mixed rice.  My first tango with fern brake and bellflower root was certainly a memorable one.  Don’t call me LeVar Burton and don’t take my word for it.  Go to K-Peppers and see for yourself.  Then go home and make it for yourself.  This is simple comfort food at its best and it is endlessly customizable to whatever you feel like or happen to have on hand.  It has a fried egg on it, people.  Enough said.

Bibimbap

Ingredient Rundown:

  • A variety of vegetables (my version, pictured above and absolutely by no means traditional contained spinach, bean sprouts, carrots, cabbage, mushrooms, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers.  More traditional ingredients include daikon, bellflower root, eggplant, zucchini and braken fern stems.  Shockingly I didn’t have most of those on-hand.)
  • 1 egg per serving
  • 1 cup of prepared rice per serving
  • Venison, beef, chicken, tuna or any other protein of your choice
  • hot sauce to taste (I made a paste of Sriracha, sesame oil and Szechwan chili sauce
  • sesame oil and minced garlic for sautéing vegetables and protein
  • salt to taste

DSC05621

How I do it:

  1. Sauté vegetables, seperately, in minced garlic, salt and sesame oil until cooked through. (I left the cabbage raw).  Set aside.
  2. Cook enough rice (I used white jasmine) for 1 cup per serving.
  3. Sauté protein in sesame oil (in my case, venison steak, marinated in rice wine, rice vinegar, ginger, and some leftover La Folie). Slice thin or into small pieces.
  4. Lightly fry an egg, sunny side up.
  5. To assemble, place rice in the bottom of a large, heated bowl and arrange the vegetables and protein in an interesting way.  Top with the fried egg and hot sauce to taste. 
  6. To eat, break the runny yolk and mix everything together.  It’s called mixed rice, so that’s what you do.  Pretty simple.  And delicious. 

Check out this post and plenty of other savory food-related nuggets over at Forkful of News!

Gyros Welcome: Everyone’s Favorite Open-Faced Sandwich Made Easy

16 Jun

Who doesn’t love gyros?  Delicious lamb, tangy tzatziki, fresh tomatoes and onions on a chewy pita.  Few things take hold of me harder than a gyro craving.  Unfortunately, Madison’s pickings are slim (one feather in the caps of Milwaukee and Chicago is an abundance of great gyros shops).  Especially in the greater Southwest/Fitchburg area.  In lieu of a trip downtown for an overpriced, overcooked disappointment from Parthenon (though my last trip rebuilt some hope that their turning things back around) or a journey all the way across town to Poppa Coronofoulos ‘, I decided I was going to take the lamb by the ears and make gyros at home.  How hard could it be?

Obviously, I don’t have a large spit and broiler, nor the appetite to take down a hundred pound log of gyroloaf before it turns, so I would have to improvise.  Nothing new for 43N/89W.  The main tasks here are preparing the lamb (marinating) and whipping up the tzatziki (some of you might call it cucumber sauce.  I call it the highlight of the sandwich).  The rest is piling ingredients into a pita.  I’ll trust you with that bit.

Lamb Marinade

  • 1 tbsp Penzey’s Greek Seasoning (coarse salt, garlic, lemon, black pepper, Turkish oregano, marjoram)
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1tbsp water

Mix above ingredients and combine with cubed lamb meat in a zip-top bag for a couple of hours, or better, overnight.

Tzatziki

(from The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition)

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 1 cup greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced or grated
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill (I used a few shakes of dried)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt

How it’s done:

  • Stir those things together.  Refrigerate.  That’s it.  Eat it with a spoon if you like.  I do…

Gyros

Ingredient Rundown:

  • lamb meat, cubed (I used lamb stew meat cuz it was cheap at ~$5/lb and I was going to skewer it anyway.  Knock yourself out and use nicer lamb steaks if you’d like, but you know we here at 43N/89W are scraping through the recession.)
  • tzatziki
  • sliced tomato and onion
  • pita bread, lightly oiled and grilled until soft and lightly browned on flat side
  • large romaine lettuce leaves (VERY optional and not very traditional, bu it helped hold the ingredients together in the pita and lent a nice crunch to the sandwich)

How it’s done:

  1. Marinate lamb meat for several hours or overnight.
  2. Prepare tzatziki, as above.
  3. Cook lamb meat, either sauteed in olive oil until medium or skewered, on the grill.  I tried both over the course of my two-day gryos binge and honestly preferred the pan-cooked version better as it just tasted more like the meat I’m used to in gyros and wasn’t overpowered by that grilled character).
  4. Let meat rest for a few minutes and slice thin.
  5. Lightly grill pita until pliable.  Assemble sliced lamb, tzatziki (LOTS), sliced tomato and onion and lettuce (optional) on pita.  Dig in.  It will be messy.  It’s worth it.  You will have onion breath.  It’s worth it.

Obsession: Chicken with Tomatillo-Poblano-Cilantro Sauce

1 Jun

Chicken with tomatillo-poblano-cilantro sauce

Some foods have a way of slipping under your radar, despite rocking your world every time you revisit them.  Tomatillos are firmly in that category for me.  Tart, tangy and refreshing as they are, tomatillos can be tough to wrangle up in Madison outside of their main growing season (May-October) and are often tucked away in ethnic or specialty sections of the produce department.  As such, they’re regretfully out-of-sight, out-of-mind on many of my grocery runs.  Thankfully, warm weather means my fridge has a steady supply of fresh salsa for snacking and salsa verde is one of my favorites so this illusive green-husked fruit is back in my life again.

Mexican food is so great because of the fresh, bold flavors and often simple preparations.  If you know my style in the kitchen, you know that’s precisely how I operate.  While this isn’t the quickest dish to whip up with the roasting and simmering involved, the crisp waves of flavor from the tangy tomatillos, spicy peppers and fresh cilantro make the effort well worth it.

Tomatillo-Poblano-Cilantro Sauce

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 8-12 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper
  • 1 small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock (or water)
  • generous pinches of dried Mexican oregano and epazote
  • juice of 1 large or several key limes
  • salt to taste.

How I do it:

  1. Place prepared tomatillos and poblano pepper on a baking sheet and roast under your broiler for 6-8 minutes or until the skin begins to blacken in spots.  Flip and repeat.
  2. Place roasted tomatillos and poblano pepper in a blender or food processor along with chipotle pepper, cilantro, garlic, stock or water, lime juice and seasoning.  Blend until well-incorporated into a smooth sauce.

Veg rainbow

Chicken and Peppers

Ingredient Rundown:

  • 3-4 chicken thighs, de-boned and rubbed with salt and Penzeys Northwoods Fire or other spicy blend
  • 1/2  each of poblano, green, yellow, orange and red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Chicken simmering

How I do it:

  1. Add vegetable oil to cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Sear chicken thighs for 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Set aside.
  2. Sauté peppers and onion in reserved oil and chicken drippings for 6-8 minutes, or until softened yet still firm.
  3. Add prepared tomatillo-poblano-cilantro sauce to pan along with seared chicken thighs.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-25 minutes until sauce has thickened and chicken in tender.

Serve on a warm tortilla, preferably with some delicious accoutrement like sour cream, guacamole, and fresh salsa.  I happened to have some pineapple-roasted corn salsa and fresh guac on hand, which added cool, refreshing counterpoints to the warm, tangy sauce.  If you’re not on the tomatillo bandwagon yet, you should be.  This platypus of the tomato family has a lot going for it if you can track it down.

Operation Too Much Ham: Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Ham

10 Mar

OK, so there really is no such thing as too much ham, but 11 pounds of ham don’t eat themselves.  And they take up half of my fridge.  In my quest to find new ways of putting lipstick on this pig, I found a pretty delicious-looking recipe in my boy Mario Batali’s book Molto Italiano.  I am often convinced that I was Italian in another life because I always come back to Italian food for its flavorful simplicity.  While I’m jumping the gun on “Easter” food again, this pasticcio di maccheroni or “pasta pie” is the kind of comforting goodness that needs no special occasion.

Dish: Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Ham

recipe courtesy of Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano

Ingredient rundown:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian cooked ham, preferably parmacotto, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • (I also tossed in a few diced mushrooms)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds ziti
  • 1 pound fresh ricotta
  • 8 ounces caciotta or hard provolone, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • (I also sprinkled some breadcrumbs on top for a little crunch.  Entirely optional of course)

*I ended up making roughly 2/3 of a batch and adjusted my measurements accordingly

How it’s done:

  1. In a Dutch oven (I used my trusty cast iron skillet), heat the oil over high heat until smoking. Add the ham cubes and brown for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the carrot, onion and celery and cook until the vegetables are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the meat is just about falling apart, about 50 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large bowl. Keep the sauce warm.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 2 tablespoons salt.
  4. Cook the ziti in the boiling water for 1 minutes less than the package directions, until still very al dente. While the pasta is cooking, place the ricotta in a small bowl and stir in a ladle of the pasta cooking water to “melt” it.
  5. Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the meat. Add the ricotta and caciotta and stir to combine.
  6. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with extra-virgin olive oil. Place a ladleful of sauce in the bottom of the casserole, followed by a layer of the pasta and meat mixture. Sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons of the parmigiano-reggiano over, then repeat with another layer of sauce, then pasta and meat, and parmigiano. Continue until all ingredients are used up.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, until bubbling and heated through. Serve in warmed pasta bowls.

Is turning 1 pound of ham into 3 or 4 pounds of pasta productive from a fridge-clearing standpoint?  Perhaps not, but hot damn if it wasn’t tasty.  Hard to go wrong with ham, Italian cheeses and wine.  Mario knows things, despite his affinity for tech vests and orange foam footwear.

You are what you eat: German(-style) Potato Salad

12 Nov

German Potato Salad

My last name begins with Rein-.  I’m pretty damn German.  Like many American families, however, mine never really embraced its heritage.  Growing up in Wisconsin, things like bratwurst and beer are second nature, but German food in general remains a specialty found at the occasional beer garden or ethnic festival.  It’s something that I want to explore in more detail in the future

I was lucky enough to happen upon a wealth of red and Yukon gold potatoes among other various root vegetables and greens in the form of a CSA box that was left at work (we serve as a pick-up location for an area farm and we get to take home anything that isn’t claimed that day).  After a long day, a hearty serving of potato salad sounded comforting and imminently filling.  I’ve never been a fan of the “old-fashioned” potato salad often found around the upper Midwest that’s doused in mayonnaise and hard-boiled egg so I knew I wanted to do something vinegary and herbaceous.  Some rooting around recipes steered me toward a German-style potato salad with a velvety sauce that is most often served warm.  I was inspired by a recipe in my Dean and Deluca Cookbook that uses a sauce of white vinegar thickened with corn starch for texture.  My MacGyver instincts took over from there.

Dish: German-style Potato Salad

Ingredient Rollcall:

  • red potatoes (small to medium, I used about 8 or 9)
  • vinegar (I used about half a cup, a mix of white and apple cider vinegars)
  • ~1 tbsp sugar
  • ~2 tsp cornstarch, mixed in ~1/4 cup of warm water to make a slurry
  • capers (a couple tablespoons)
  • minced garlic (couple of cloves)
  • bacon drippings (couple tbsp)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • herbes de Provence
  • fresh parsley
  • splash of olive oil

How I do it:

  1. In a large stockpot, boil potatoes in salted water for 12-15 minutes, depending on size, until no longer crispy, but before completely soft.
  2. Drain and let potatoes cool until you can handle them enough to cut into 1/4 inch slices.  I peeled the potatoes, but feel free to leave the skin on.
  3. Toss potatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. In saucepan or skillet, saute garlic in bacon drippings (I would have added diced onion and actual bacon if I had either on hand.  Didn’t feel up to a trip to the store at 12:30am though).
  5. Add vinegar, cornstarch slurry, sugar, herbs and capers and saute until thickened, 5-1o minutes.
  6. Add thickened sauce, along with beaten egg and fresh parsley to potatoes and stir until thick and well-coated.  Reheat if potatoes are no longer warm so egg will thicken.

The sauce should zingy from the vinegar and capers and velvety-smooth as pictured.  This paired well with New Glarus’ Unplugged Old English Porter, itself a soured beer with an acidic kick.  Those with acid refux issues need not apply.  Being German may not be for you.  We love the acid.

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