The Heart of the Matter

Originally stemming from the Mediterranean and Southern Europe the artichoke is one of the worlds oldest harvested plants. An intriguing green globe from the thistle family, artichokes can be eaten whole, pickled, deep-fried, stuffed, steamed, baked, as a tea and even a liquor.
Continue reading “The Heart of the Matter”

A few of my favorite…FOOD FILMS.

It’s that time of year when darkness falls early, cold weather chill sets in and some nights just couldn’t get any better than an evening indoors with a big mug of hot chocolate and a good movie.  Below is a listing of my favorite films in regards to food.  Bon Appetit!

Tampopo

Bella Martha

Like Water for Chocolate

Eat Drink Man Woman

Chocolat

Volver

Julie and Julia

Big Night

Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory

Christmas in Connecticut


Barbecued Oysters, Bodega Bay

A few years back my best friend and I took a road trip through Northern California’s Wine Country.  After our fill of vineyards and vino we ventured along the Russian River until it emptied into the Pacific and headed back south along scenic Highway 1 to San Francisco.
Continue reading “Barbecued Oysters, Bodega Bay”

Brilliant Bayless

Rick Bayless is an amazing chef specializing in Mexican cuisine.  He lived in Mexico and studied their culture and food for 6 years.  Bayless is known for his PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time.  He also started 3 amazing restaurants in Chicago dedicated to tantalizing our taste buds to authentic Mexican cuisine.

Frontera Grill was Bayless’s first restaurant which I would describe as a comforting, colorful space abuzz with conversation, strong margaritas “on the rocks” and perfect regional Mexican meals.  A few years later Bayless opened Topolobampo right next door to Frontera Grill.  Topo (which is how the ‘in’ people refer to it) was a first in Mexican fine dining in the USA.  Topo is mucho popular and customers typically start lining up around the building before it opens to get a spot!

As if two fantastic Mexican restaurants right next to one another weren’t enough…Bayless recently opened a third to complete the lineup on State Street in Chicago.  Xoco is a nod to Mexico’s street food.  A cafe style space offering fresh fried churros, steamy bowls of caldos, spicy homemade hot chocolate, melt in your mouth empanadas, filling tortas and other street food delights.  An exciting side note on this place:  After seeing the Broadway show Wicked I dined here and actually saw Rick Bayless in the kitchen tasting the caldos!!!  My eyes lit up, my heart was warmed and perhaps sensing my excitement he nodded to me and I was fulfilled without even eating!

Here is a link to EVERYTHING Rick Bayless.  His website is filled with great recipes and his restaurants–I recommend ALL OF THEM!

The other day I was shopping at my local Meijer and saw that they had fresh-baked pretzel buns.  Knowing just how great a pretzel bun is I bought a pack. When I got home I decided to make hamburgers but I didn’t want ‘just a burger’ I wanted a burger that had something special!  I was perusing some cookbooks and came across Rick Bayless’s Queso Fundido Burger.

Queso Fundido Burger

Serves 4

 INGREDIENTS

2 fresh medium poblano chiles
1 medium onion, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oil
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
8 ounces chorizo, cooked
1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles den adobo, finely minced, seeded if you wish
8 thick slices Monterey Jack cheese
4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted

 DIRECTIONS

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for the broiler.  Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let cool.  Rub off the blackened skin and pull out the stems and seed pods.  Cut into 1/4-inch strips.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium.  Once the oil is hot, add the onions, stirring frequently until it begins to brown, 7 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and poblano and cook for 2 minutes.  Season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon.  Scrape the rajas into a bowl and cover to keep warm.

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, cooked chorizo, chipotles and 1 1/2  teaspoon salt.  Mix until well combined.  Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and form the patties.

Heat a gas grill to medium-high, or light a charcoal fire and let it burn until the charcoal is covered with white ash (and about medium hot); bank the coals to one side.

Place the hamburger patties on the grill and cook for a total of 4 to 5 minutes for medium rare.  Lay one piece of cheese on top of each burger, top with the warm rajas and then another piece of cheese.  Close the lid and continue cooking until the cheese has melted about 1 minute.  Remove from the grill and place on a toasted bun.  Serve immediately.

The burgers were hands-down DELICIOUS!  The chorizo mixed with the chuck really amped up the flavor factor and the chiles in adobo gave it that extra kick.  Here are how mine turned out:

Queso Fundido Burger and Garlic Frites, photo by michelle.

I served them with a side of Garlic Frites which are pretty simple and oh so good.

Garlic Frites

Ingredients:

Potatoes

Parsley

Garlic

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 450degrees

Wash and scrub potatoes clean.  I don’t bother peeling them…peels are good for you!  Cut into long sticks and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Place on greased baking sheet and bake about 40 minutes turning every so often until golden brown.  In the meantime, in a separate bowl mix olive oil chopped parsley and fresh chopped garlic.  When the fries come out of the oven toss them in the bowl of olive oil, parsley and garlic until coated.  Serve!

Hasta Luego Tomato

My grandpa ( a man I love MUCHO) recounts a time in his life  in the late 30’s and early 40’s when he worked in the produce section of a local market. Vegetables and fruits were seasonal and bananas were a BIG deal!  He told me that when bananas would come in they were reserved in the back of the store for the ‘good’ customers before offering to the general public!  Here is Grandpa….

Grandpa, photo by michelle.

Choices were very limited in comparison to what grocery stores offer today.  This topic on choice makes me question–Just because we can should we?

Do any of you recall that every summer we say just how good a juicy, sun-ripened tomato tastes or that a steamy bowl of fresh, butternut squash bisque hits the spot during the fall?  We say this because it’s true!!!  A tomato that is grown locally and in season IS going to taste far better than a tomato that was picked under-ripe and shipped halfway across the world to your local grocery store.  In the past seasonal eating was all we used to know.  Now with the onset of technology, globalization and supply and demand we are offered a myriad of choices ranging from Fiji to Switzerland.

I believe that seasonal eating is important to maintain balance and nutrients in our bodies.  It is not a coincidence that we crave certain types of food throughout the year.  Each season bears foods and cooking methods which support our bodies.  Winter time is dry and cold and sustains cold weather crops such as root vegetables.  Soups and stews warm and moisturize our bodies from the cold, dry air.  Warmer weather brings fresh and abundant crops ranging from berries, to greens and tomatoes.  We crave fresh and raw foods to cool our bodies from the heat.

In hopes of becoming a better seasonal eater my friends and I purchased a CSA share with a local farm (Trillium Haven Farm).  Each week we receive organic vegetables that are in season!   It is a challenge to keep up with the bounty of veggies and meal planning but it sure does feel good to eat this way.  I applaud those who do grow their own food, put it up and reap the benefits of their labor.  You’ve got a good thing going on!

The height of summer has come to an end and as this post mentions, sadly so have the tomatoes.  My farm share was pumping out gorgeous, succulent heirloom tomatoes.  Purple ones, green ones, red ones, yellow ones variegated ones….so so so GOOD!!!  I stored up enough of these beauties to make a great end of summer Heirloom Tomato Pie.

Heirloom Tomato Pie, photo by michelle.

Ingredients:

Heirloom tomatoes

Roasted Red Peppers

Onions

Fresh Basil

Yogurt (I like Greek)

Feta Cheese

Salt and Pepper

Pie Crust

I do not pride myself on my baking skills so for this recipe I bought a pre-made pie crust.

Preheat oven 350 degrees

Slice up your tomatoes, sprinkle them with salt and let them sit for about 10 minutes in a strainer.  Chop up the roasted red peppers, slice the onion and chiffonade the basil and set aside.  In a bowl mix together about 1 cup yogurt  and 2 cups feta cheese.
Layer the tomatoes, roasted red pepper, onion and basil in the pie shell.  With a rubber spatula spread the yogurt and feta cheese mixture atop.  Pop it in the oven for about 30-35 minutes.  Let cool then slice it up and serve!

Tomato Pie with Feta Topping, photo by michelle.

End result, nicely browned and SO GOOD!

Phở….sounds like “fuh”

Some say that chicken noodle soup feeds the soul but for me it’s straight up Phở! Seriously, how can one say no to a slow simmered broth made from charred onions, beef bones, oxtails, anise, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and ginger?  This delish broth is served in a large bowl with a heaping parcel of white rice noodles to slurp up.   You also have your choice of thinly sliced flank steak (cooked or raw), tripe, tendon, brisket, meatballs or less traditionally chicken or pork.  Accoutrements include, mung bean sprouts, culantro, Thai basil, white onions, lime, fish sauce, Sriracha and hoisen sauce.
Phở is best eaten with chopsticks and little sighs of joy between each slurp of rice noodle and soul satisfying broth.

Eventually, when I am less daunted by bone broth I will attempt my own home-cooked version of Phở .  But for now where I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan we have a few Phở places to check out… (like 4).  I recommend two dives–either Pho Sac Trang on Div-Ave. or Pho99 on 28th St. SW.  For those of us who are not too adventurous when it comes to restaurant ‘ambiance’ consider this your warning when I say dive.  Personally I’m okay with a little hole in the wall interior so long as the food is fantastic and fresh!

Phở broth can also be purchased in Asian markets much like chicken stock…

Pho stock, photo from google images

So, now that Phở has made a it’s move into mainstream America please extend nhiều nhờ (many thanks) to Vietnam the country in which pho hails from!

Chanterelles

Pretty name, fluttery edges and melt in your mouth goodness. Let me introduce to you the lovely Chanterelle Mushroom.  The Chanterelle is only found in the wild. Cultivation has proven unsuccessful which makes these mushrooms extra special.  They have a nice meaty texture and are best served in a wine reduction.

My personal rendition of chanterelles in a shallot, garlic, butter and red wine reduction with fennel and frisee over egg noodles.

Chanterelles, photo by michelle.

Ingredients:

Chanterelle Mushrooms

Shallots

Fennel

Garlic

Red Wine

Butter

Fresh Egg Noodles

Frisee

In a saucepan melt butter and saute garlic and shallots until soft.  Add red wine and reduce heat to a simmer.  Add chanterelles to garlic/wine reduction and simmer until cooked.  Add sliced fennel to the chanterelles and bring to warm, retaining their crunch.  In a separate pot, boil water to cook egg noodles until tender.

Serve on a platter beginning with a bed of egg noodles.  Drizzle the chanterelle and wine reduction over the noodles and top with chopped frisee.  Fresh ground pepper and salt to finish.

Cozido

Fall is creeping in with crisp and cooler evenings.  Kitchens warmed with simmering stews and soups are quintessential classics.  This is a Brazilian take on “boiled dinner” or stew.
Assorted vegetables and meats are slowly cooked tender and served together with  Pirão (farofa/cassava flour mixed with hot broth).

Ingredients:

Beef Chuck

Assorted salted pork cuts

Smoked Sausage (such as Polish)

Potatoes

Pumpkins

Chayote Squash

Okra

Beets

Cabbage

Plantain

Carrot

Farofa

Boil Meats until tender at least 3 hours.  Boil Vegetables beginning with longest cooking time (ie Potatoes) until tender.  Add Farofa to a skillet and simmer with broth from the cooked meats until creamy.  Serve meats and vegetables on a large platter with Pirão on the side.

Muito Bom!