Monday, June 23, 2008

First timers - Venison & Gazpacho

Since the wife had herself booked most of the weekend, I figured I would try a few new things in the kitchen.

Venison Burgers, Gazpacho & Plantains

#1 Venison Burgers - Over the last couple of years, as I've taken my what I eat more seriously, I have become very interested in knowing where my food comes from. This has lead me (whenever possible) to buy my food from as close to its source as possible; many times this means from farmer's markets and from co-ops, but there are also a few retail outfits that work very closely with their farmers, ranchers & fishermen. Staying close to the source means that your food is going to taste better & will last longer in your pantry - you also won't have to worry whether your tomatoes were 'processed' next to raw chicken.

So what does all of that ranting have to do with Venison? Glad you asked. I was recently fortunate enough to come along some free meat - my wife's cousin Johnny hunts & he offered me some of his bounty of Wild Boar and Venison. The best thing about all of this protein (other than being free & delicious) is that Johnny butchered all of the meat himself - meaning that no one except God, Johnny & me has touched this meat. When I was handed the ground Venison, I was informed that it contained no fat, so it wouldn't work for burgers - not without a little work anyway. So I began to look for some fat to augment the Venison into grillin' quality Burgers. I ran into some resistance trying to obtain beef fat from anyone, so I looked towards the fat of fats - bacon. I ended up trimming the bacon of all its meat & finely chopped all of the remaining fat. I then mixed 85% meat to 15% fat, formed the patties and allowed them to rest for an hour. Grilled about 5-6 minutes per side & yummies.

#2 Gazpacho - Ever since summer began I have had the taste for a nice Gazpacho. This cold tomato soup is quite refreshing on a hot summer day, plus it is very healthy and extremely easy to make. All you do is take the list of ingredients below, puree and chill in the fridge for at least two hours. You can omit or replace any of the spices as you see fit or feel free to replace the sherry vinegar with any other vinegar you fancy (except for white vinegar, it is only good for cleaning windows). As for a garnish, you could go a couple of different ways. I had it twice Sunday, once with some garlic fried plantains (method below) and another time with an Avocado-Corn Salsa. You could also serve it as a sauce under some grilled shrimp, or simply sprinkle a little herbs on top (like parsley, cilantro or chives to name a few).

#3 Plantains, I love these things whenever I get Puerto Rican food, so when I saw some at the local mega-mart, I grabbed one. I had trouble smashing the bastards, so I ended up dicing them. I then browned them in some garlic oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper & garnished them with a little chopped roasted garlic.

[To make the garlic & garlic oil, simply roast 2 cloves of garlic (still in their husks) in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a pan until browned. Remove the Garlic and use the oil for sauteeing. Let the garlic cool before handling.]


1-1/2 lbs. Tomatoes (peeled, cored, seeded & diced - liquid reserved)

1 large Cucumber (seeded, peeled & diced)

1 medium Red Pepper (seeded, ribbed & diced)

1 small onion (diced)

1 Jalapeno (seeded and diced)

2 cloves Garlic (minced)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Juice of 1/2 Lime

2 tsp. Sherry Vinegar

2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 tsp. Sweet Paprika

1/2 tsp. Coriander

1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

salt & pepper

Venison Burger photo by DROOO

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Three Floyds Blackheart English Style India Pale Ale,

Although Three Floyds calls Blackheart an English Style India Pale Ale, this little brew definitely tastes like an American IPA. Just in case you need to be brought up to speed here; the India Pale Ale was first conceived when the English colonized India. They created a beer with an abundance of additional hops to preserve the brew during the long ship voyages to India. The English version of the IPA isn't quite what the American craft brew movement tends to produce. Although the IPA as we know it was inspired by the Brits, our version tends to have a much more hop-forward flavor with a biting bitter finish and usually a high alcohol by volume (abv). IPA's from the UK tend stay on the malty side and are more medium bodied. The Blackheart does use English hops, malt, & yeast and has been aged slightly in oak for a "19th century taste", but the flavor comes across hoppy & earthy with slight grapefruit notes. Not sure about the abv., but this is definitely a bottle to keep your eye out for - further cementing Three Floyds as a world-class brewery.
The extremely eye-catching art was provided by Tim Lehi & Jeff Rassier.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Market / Brunch

Ah, this almost makes it OK to be back from Paris - The Logan Square Farmer's Market. It is so nice to be able to walk to a Farmer's Market & with all of the awful spinach & tomatoes with E-Coli & what not from the industrial farm machine it is even more important to know where your food comes from. Buying food from local farmers also helps eliminate a lot of carbon emissions that come along with shipping food from California or Chile. But most important is the taste, the less time the food is out of the ground before it hits your tongue the better its flavor. The season is still young, but there were a plethora of deliciousness to choose from. I found the springtime treat, Kohlrabi (almost like a mix in flavor between a turnip & cabbage), some extremely flavorful Arugula, bright and juicy Strawberries as well as plenty of herbs, heirloom lettuce & even some Garlic Scapes. I also picked up some farm-fresh organic eggs, a loaf of locally baked multigrain bread (from golden rise bakery) & a bouquet of flowers for my wife - who was a little below the weather this morning.
When I returned, I made myself a little Farmer's Market Brunch of Fried Farm-fresh Eggs with Gravlax (salt-cured salmon), Toast & a Strawberry - Arugula Salad. I am so glad summer & its fresh vegetables has returned to my hood.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Seared Sea Bass with Pimenton, Asparagus & Tarragon

Inspired again by the fabulous markets here in Paris, we create this simple dish. Preheat the oven to 450°F (235°C), place the Asparagus on a baking sheet & the Sea Bass on a plate - season with salt & pepper & drizzle with olive oil. Place a little butter & olive oil in a large saute pan & heat over medium-high flame until the butter starts to turn brown. Place Asparagus in the oven (roast for 5 to 8 minutes until desired doneness) & the fish in the pan (sear for about 7 minutes on the flesh side & about 3 minutes in the skin side). To plate, whisk together about a tablespoon of Pimenton (Sweet Paprika), 2 tablespoons of olive oil & a dash of salt - divide between two shallow bowls. Place one fillet in each bowl (on top of Pimenton sauce), garnish with finely chopped Tarragon, a little fresh Lemon Juice & lay Asparagus over top.

We enjoyed a Les Clavieres Muscadet Sevre Et Maine, but any light bodied to sweet white would work. You could also serve this with any light-bodied American Ale such as Pride and Joy, from Three Floyds.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Au Pied de Cochon

Last night for dinner Jen & I ate at Au Pied de Cochon - literally translated, this means foot of the pig. And these guys are not kidding, menu items included some of the uh, less desirable parts of the pig; for example: Trotter, Brow, Tail & Ear. Neither Jen nor I ventured too far into the more exciting menu options - the only pork that made its way to our table was in the form of Rillettes. For those of you that might not know Rillettes is a slow cooked dish that results in a spreadable deliciousness. We found our way to a two-course menu option for the low price of 22 Euros each. I had the aforementioned Pork Rillettes & Steak Frites, Jen had the traditional Onion Soup & a grilled Salmon with a Beurre Blanc. Quite a delicious meal, we enjoyed a nice Bordeaux (the exact wine escapes me) as our beverage.

pictured above (clockwise fom the top left): Pork Rillettes, French Onion Soup, Steak Frites & Grilled Salmon.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Market Fresh - Pork Chops, Carrots & Green Beans

Ah, today we found our market. It was an amazing array of some of the freshest fruits, vegetables, seafood & meat that I have ever seen. We were somewhat overwhelmed with the selection , but did our best to overcome that feeling & grab only what we could eat today - tomorrow we shop again. We decided on some delicious pork chops, carrots & green beans - augmented with some thyme & shallots. To prepare this simple dish we roasted the carrots & beans at 450° for about 10 minutes. The chops were sauteed over medium high heat with olive oil, butter, thyme & shallots for about 5 minutes per side.

This meal was served along side a wonderful 2006 Chinon from Domaine des Petites Roches.

check out the shots of the market here

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Paris - Hors D’oeuvres

Well, we finally made it. After quite a long flight, a metro ride & a nap, we made our way around our neighborhood [in the 3rd dist.] & grabbed a few snacks. Here you see both a young and a slightly aged Chevre (Goat's Milk Cheese), a country pâté (made of pork) and a fresh tomato - we served this spread with a baguette, olive oil, Fleur de Sel, fresh ground black pepper & some fine herbs. This was our first "meal" in Paris & I must say it was delicious. There is nothing quite like hitting a couple of shops & bringing home a tasty starter. The accompanying beverage was a 1997 Bordeaux Superior from Chateau Les Bouygues.