Sunday, June 27, 2010

Eat your dirt.

Just two weeks ago my life was changed by the addition of our first child - a beautiful girl. This, plus recently beginning the book Animal Vegetable Miracle, has got me on a course to try to eat as close to the source as possible. Now there are many important reasons to eat locally produced food & your choices effect not only the local economy, but the environment and the flavor and quality of your food. By choosing local produce you help keep your money in your community and avoid all of the fossil fuel consumption it takes food to travel across the country. Most importantly though, food consumed as close to the time and place the food was uprooted or raised means that your food is fresher and tastier.

Now I don't know that I can commit to only eat local, but I can do my best to know where my food came from and understand how it was produced (hopefully by dirt, water and sun instead of some patented process). Anyway, its really just a point of trying to change my thinking about the choices I make regarding what my family & I eat.

I decided a good start would be a trip to the Dill Pickle - a recently opened co-op grocery store in my 'hood, to figure out dinner. While at the store I picked up some nice fresh goat cheese from Wisconsin (didn't note the producer), as well as locally grown basil and a baguette from Cook Au Vin - this joined some tomatoes (californian - still good though) for a tasty lunch of bruschetta. I also procured from the Pickle some locally grown carrots & thyme destined for a stew of sustainably grown beef, from Cedar Vally Farms. Lastly, for dinner I found a nice fillet of Trout, brought to the Pickle by Jake's Country Meats out of Cassopolis, MI.

So the actual dinner was pretty simple: The trout, pan seared over high heat with some butter, salt and pepper for about five minutes per side was paired with some basmati rice (also californian) and a salad of tomatoes and arugula (grown organically on my back porch) with a lemon-mustard vinaigrette.
(vinaigrette = 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, 1 part Dijon mustard, salt and pepper)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lenten Sacrifice?

Being Catholic, I have always made the sacrifice of not eating meat on Fridays. This past Friday in order to stay with our Catholic obligation we had a nice fish dinner at home. I procured some Pink Grouper from the Fish Guy as well as some large Sea Scallops - both were pan seared in a little olive oil and butter seasoned with just salt and pepper. Joining the sea dwellers on the plate was a little French Green Lentils and a Tomato Salad - comprised on olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a little Romain and a few slices of Tomme Crayeuse (a semi-soft raw cow milk cheese). Looking back, it doesn't really seem like much of a sacrifice at all.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Low Dive: Separated at Birth beer Dinner with Won Kim

Last night we got together with a talented young chef named Won Kim for a four course dinner paired with a couple of beers that had been brewed on my back porch.
The first steps were taken in early December of 2009; we got together and brewed a hop-forward dark ale. These beers were brewed as one 6 gallon batch, but once the wort had cooled, it was separated into two different fermenters. One batch (the 'America' version) was fermented with an American Ale yeast strain which displays slightly fruity characteristics while mostly staying in the background - allowing the other ingredients in the beer to step forward. In this case, those other flavors include a roastiness from the specialty malts that were used as well as a hop bitterness and citrus like herbal aroma and flavor (also contributed by the hops). This American Brown Bitter was also dryhopped for two weeks to allow even more hop flavor and aroma to take center stage.
The other fermenter was pitched with a Trappist yeast strain - from one of the seven breweries still ran by Trappist Monks. This yeast is a classic Belgian strain which, unlike the American strain, does not step to the back, instead presenting a very dramatic earthy flavor that is more dominant in the flavor profile than the American strain. This yeast also takes longer to ferment and sometime slows in the middle of its fermentation cycle. Because of this characteristic and to help put even more distance between these estranged siblings, I added a pound and a half of home made syrup to the 'Belgian' fermenter a few days into the fermentation. In the end we ended up with two very different ales - the American Brown Bitter came in at around 7% abv and displays a bitter roasty, yet hoppy profile, while the Strong Dark Belgian version weighs in at 9.5% and has a much more earthy complexity that overpowers the roastiness and hop flavors. This version also has a drier mouth feel due to the use of syrup during the fermentation - simple sugars like the syrup I used will increase the amount of alcohol but will ferment out completely leaving no residual sugars in the finished product.
Won's challenge was to create a meal to accompany these two beers. He presented a four course menu that paired the first two courses with the American Brown Bitter and the last two with the Strong Dark Belgian. The first coarse was a deconstructed Frisee salad, composed of Frisee in a light Lime Vinaigrette alongside a Pear poached in white wine with Cinnamon and Allspice as well as a nice crumble of a smoked Danablu (Danish Blue) cheese. The bitterness of the greens and the citrus quality of the vinaigrette emulated the hop flavors, while the pears flavors provided a counter point to the roasty bitterness. The cheese reinforced the roasted quality of the ale through its smoky flavor while providing a counter balancing creaminess.
Course two was a skin-on Chicken Thigh fried crispy in its own fat accompanied by home-made Peruvian Blue Potato Chips and a sauce made with the American Brown Bitter as well as orange juice and thyme. As Won said himself, you can't really put together a beer dinner with out something fried.
For coarse number three, we switched to the Strong Dark Belgian. Won provided Beef Short Ribs; smoked with wood from Bourbon County Stout Barrels and then braised in a red wine and orange juice mixture with herbs and mirepoix. This was served with a sauce made from the braising liquid and the Strong Dark Belgian as well as a few of the Carrots that were used in the braise. The earthy complexity of the beer paired well with the richness of the meat, while the almost creamy quality of the fat was cleansed from the pallet by the crisp dryness of this Belgian-style Ale.
To finish things off, Won presented a Chocolate Brownie with a Blackberry Sauce made with Orange Juice and Belgian Ale and Cashews Candied with Brown Sugar and Cayenne Pepper.
All in all it was quite a successful dinner and I look forward to having another beer-paired meal as well as another run at the Separated at Birth concept.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Escolar and Warm Green Bean Salad

Here we have some Escolar from the Fish Guy. I pan-seared the fish on all five sides in a combination of Olive Oil and butter, with Garlic and Thyme resting in the fat to lend it's flavors. I paired this with a recipe I stole from the amazing Spanish chef, Jose Andres. Judias Verdes con Tomate y Cebolla or Green Beans with Tomatoes and Pearl Onions takes some great ingredients and simply brings them together for a wonderful side. Start by blanching the Green Beans for about three minutes (until tender) and then shock them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Meanwhile saute about four pearl onions until soft and slightly browned. Remove the onions and add a slice of Jamon Serrano (tore into small pieces) as well as a couple of peeled cloves of garlic. Once the Garlic is soft and the Jamon has crisped, add a handful of halved Cherry Tomatoes and cook for another five minutes. After the Tomatoes have softened and given up some of their liquid, return the Onions and Beans to the pan, along with some Thyme and a little more Olive Oil. Bring the Green Beans back to heat, season with Salt & Pepper and serve.

We enjoyed our meal with a Sofie from Goose Island, but any Saisson or light Belgian-style beer would be awesome with this light dish.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kobe Cheese-steak

So, I had a little Kobe beef left from the steaks from last week and thought I would toss together a quick meal for this Monday night. I caramelized some onions in a little butter and added some sliced green pepper towards the end - just softening and browning the peppers a little. Once the veggies reached the desired consistency, I removed them from the pan and added the kobe -which I had cut into half inch strips. I cooked the steak over high heat until just medium. Next I returned the pepper and onions back to the pan and made two even piles of meat and veggies. I shredded a little Gruyere over each pile and allowed the cheese to melt. The buns were warmed in a 200 degree oven for about 10 minutes, split and then topped with the meat, peppers, onion and cheese. We rounded out this dinner with a couple of ears of corn from the Dailey farm in Kokomo - care of my mother.kobe before the dice and heat

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Well, I have been quite the slacker here recently. While I have not really been updating here in the last few months, I have been busy consuming delicious treats. I have been enjoying beers from across the US with a fury, due to a new hobby (addiction) - trading. The US has many craft brewers through out nation and most only distribute to their immediate areas. I have linked up with like-minded beer geeks around the planet to trade for beers unavailable in our areas.
Also in the past few months I have continued to home brew - some recent batches have been a Back Alley Black IPA, Double Conjugal Imperial IPA and a Chocolate Molasses Imperial Stout that currently resides in a 2ndary fermenter with some meediuam toast American Oak cubes that were soaked in Templeton Rye for four months.
Culinarily, I have just recently had my mind blown by Schwa. Jen and I enjoyed a nine course dinner at this amazing BYO - which actually turned out to be eleven courses. Standout of the evening for me included a Ravioli filled with a Quail Egg as well as a Iberco Pork Collar dish that I will crave every day of my life.
On the home kitchen front, Jen and I recently made a nice dinner for one of our closest friends drooo's birthday. The evening included a nice progression of (mostly traded) amazing beers, such as Russian River's wild ale Consecration, a couple of selections from Duck-Rabbit, as well as a Rye Squared from Terrapin brewery out of Athens, GA. The Rye Squared was paired with our dinner: a rare grilled Kobe Sirloin along side Truffle Mashed Potatoes and Swiss Chard. The assertive bitterness and floral Hop flavors helped to cut throught the fatty richness of the Kobe. The steaks were grilled over high heat for about seven minutes and were seasoned with only salt, pepper and olive oil - purchase from the Fish Guy.

all photos by drooo check out more here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grilled and Braised Boar Rib Ragou with Wide Egg Noodles

The title really says it all. I came across some Wild Boar ribs at the Fish Guy and grilled them with a light rub. Had some left over, so later that same week I pulled all of the meat from the bones and braised them in some white wine, onion, garlic, grainy mustard and chicken stock. I then wilted in some red shredded cabbage and tossed it with some egg noodles and fresh basil.