Food Buzz


Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I've moved!

I have been lured to the greener pastures of Squarespace. You can now read about What I Made for Dinner Here!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lychee


The Food Coop had lychee! They're easy to peel and so, so sweet. Lane doesn't like the texture, which you could describe as eyeball-like. But I'm willing to overlook the texture.

Stone fruit braised lamb


Another unappetizing photo, alas.

Nectarines and apricots haven't fallen from trees in the Northeast yet as far as I know. These babies definitely come from south of the Mason-Dixon line. But after months of apples I couldn't resist. Here is the non-recipe recipe.

1. Brown chunks of lamb kebab meat, cut into 1-inch square pieces, on high heat.
2. Add about 5 halved apricots and three quartered nectarines.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Drizzle about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar.
5. Throw in a couple of cinnamon sticks.
6. Lower heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

I tried this with millet--my first attempt at cooking it. I hear it's less acidic than other grains. I toasted it first before cooking it in water but wasn't thrilled with the results. I'll have to keep tinkering with the millet, but the lamb with fruit was tartly tasty.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What fresh mustard greens hell is this?


I meant that in a good way. I bought some "salad mix" plants at Jasper's plant sale this spring and the packs were not labeled. So I'm wondering what variety these spicy mustard greens are. Osaka purple, maybe? Whatever the variety, the just-picked leaves were so sharp and spicy they nearly knocked me off my feet. I really liked how they brought my Black Forest ham and fresh mozzarella sandwich to life.

I also like this short piece from Devil and Egg on the delights of red mustard greens. Wish I hadn't just eaten the last of ours!

Family-sized strawberry cake


One of the reasons why I don't bake very much is because most recipes produce quantities too large for us to consume in a timely manner. I'll bake for an event, but if it's just for us the cookies, cupcakes, and pies linger longer than their deliciousness lasts. I know it sounds perverse, but you really can have too much of a good thing, even homemade desserts.

When I was growing up in a five-kid family, the food marketing term "family-sized" meant gigantic. It still does, I believe. But my idea of family-sized food means something a wee bit more diminutive given our one-kid family, especially since that one kid practically lives on air. Cutting recipes in half makes me nervous. I still remember a mathematician trying to tell me that it won't actually work--his explanation had something to do with pi. Anyway, with cookies you can freeze half the dough. But what about cake?

I've found my family-sized dessert recipes lately in Nigella Lawson's cookbook Feast. Ordinarily I don't like celebrity chefs and authors, but I love using this cookbook because Nigella has such excellent taste. So far her desserts are all on the small size and do not overstay their welcome in our kitchen.

I used her Love Buns recipe to make strawberry cake the other day. The recipe is actually for cupcakes (12 instead of the usual 24) but it worked well for a one-pan cake.

1/2 cup plus 1 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 1 T sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teastpoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh, chopped strawberries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter and flour one 9-inch round cake pan. Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs. Mix in vanilla and buttermilk. Sift together flour and baking soda. Combine flour mixture with butter mixture. Gently stir in strawberries. Pour batter into pan and bake for 10 minutes. Turn pan and bake another 10-15 minutes until cake is done.

How to ruin a perfectly good strawberry cake


Let a five-year-old decorate it with sprinkles and too much frosting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Slow Food Flourishes in Monsanto's Back Yard

Everyone, please welcome Kim Shreck, who was kind enough to write a guest post on the fabulous Slow Food-sponsored Lambstravaganza in Missouri. Kim often chimes in here with advice for vegetarian dishes, but the below post is her first forray back into the the carnivore world in years. Enjoy!


Dear What I Made For Dinner readers:

Adriana has invited me to share with you some particulars of an amazing Slow Food event I recently attended, perhaps to inspire you to look for similar events in your area. On June 7 of this year I attended the fourth annual LAMBSTRAVAGANZA, a fundraiser for the St. Louis Convivium of Slow Food USA. Check out this menu!


I had known of this event in past years but did not attend due to having given up eating meat when I married a long-time vegetarian. Giving up meat had been easy once I began to learn about the health and environmental damage caused by mass-produced, genetically-engineered, hormone-injected meat (and the food our meat eats). This year I was persuaded by a friend and repeat LAMBSTRAVAGANZA attendee to see and experience aspects of eating I valued from a grassroots standpoint (please forgive the corny pun), plus, she bought me a ticket for my 40th birthday. So I jumped off the vegetarian wagon for a day and oh, what a way to relapse!

Prairie Grass Farm owner Dave Hillebrand is a third-generation farmer on 520 acres of land in Montgomery County, MO. His farm, located an hour west of St. Louis, produces about 700 lambs for market each year, as well as 120 dozen eggs per week which, like his lamb, are sold to local farmers markets and restaurants. All the livestock on the Hillebrand farm are free-range, fed on pesticide-free grasses.

Mr. Hillebrand demonstrated his commitment to all phases of food production by standing amid his sheep in their grazing field, hoisting a clump of grass above his head at the beginning of the tour of his farm, declaring, "It is here where it all starts." He explained that chemical-free grass means pure meat, milk, and eggs for us to consume, a cycle of life the chemical company Monsanto (headquartered in St. Louis) has been messing with--to the great disadvantage of consumers and small farmers alike--throughout most of the past century. Since attending the event I have climbed back aboard the tofu wagon; however, I have no regrets about supporting a local grower and his family's commitment to healthy and sustainable food production, and to sampling the amazing lamb-centric dishes created by the best St. Louis restaurant chefs, all of whom privilege local and sustainable foods on their menus. Quoting directly from the Slow Food St. Louis mission statement, here are the reasons why I willingly lapsed for a day to get up close and personal with meat in a way that felt surprisingly virtuous:

Slow Food is good, clean, and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good, that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or our health, and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers, because by being informed about how our food is produced and actively supporting those who produce it, we become a part of and a partner in the production process.


(Note: one need not be a member of Slow Food USA to participate in events like LAMBSTRAVAGANZA, though there is usually a discounted price for members.)

The fourth of seven lamb dishes served was, unfortunately, the first one I remembered to photograph. This dish creatively utilized fancy condiments such as saffron aioli and charmoula sauce to highlight and moisten smoked meat that might otherwise have been a bit dry and dull. My apologies to you fans of good bar-b-que, and I do know it is a religion for some, but I just don't understand why the artistry of smoked meat would ever be applied to tender lamb, which does not require slow cooking for tenderness. It was indeed fork-tender, and the saffron aioli rocked. But most of this dish I happily donated to other diners in order that I might conserve room for dishes more to my personal liking (i.e. the rare stuff).

The preceding course, which I did not photograph, was one of my two favorites of the day. Imagine a plate of rare slices of the juiciest leg of lamb topped with a crispy gremolata (lemon zest, mint, and fried garlic chips), shaved radish salad, and a delicate goats' milk feta produced by milk from the happy, grass-fed goats of Prairie Grass Farms.


Josh Galliano of Monarch, one my favorite St. Louis chefs, forever cemented his place in my affections when he attempted to give all the credit for this wonderful dish to the teen aged Hillebrand daughter (below, holding the brown kidd), who milked the goats for the feta garnish to his leg of lamb, leaving her beaming with pride as she was applauded by ~85 happy diners.


The fifth and sixth lamb dishes were both superb. Another favorite St. Louis chef, Gerard Craft of Niche, demonstrated why he continues to win most of the "best of" awards, as well as why he was a finalist for the James Beard nomination for Best Midwestern Chef earlier this year. His "Faggotini" (or little purses) of lambs' tongue floating in a delicate lamb and mint broth and topped with crushed cocoa nibs put a whole new spin on the pairing of lamb and mint, as well as mint and chocolate.


Chef Lou Rook of Annie Gunn's made some heavenly, soft-as-butter and equally rich, lamb chops cut from whole racks. Words cannot describe how perfectly simple and simply delightful this dish was, so hopefully the picture speaks for itself.


Chef Kevin Nasham of Sidney Street Cafe produced the most beautiful (if not also the tastiest) dish of the day. His lamb loin and sweetbreads was served with local baby golden beets and red beet risotto, local micro greens, and a touch of visual magic.


A tough act to follow, to be sure, but Christy Augustin, also of Sidney Street Cafe, did not disappoint with her lovely pistachio cream-filled pate choux served with local strawberries, jam, and honey. One must admire not only the beauty of each dish but the grand execution of assembly-line style cooking in the open air on a farm, far from a professional kitchen. All of the participating chefs are to be commended for enduring this unique challenge.

To conclude, this post is meant not only to encourage everyone to check out events of this sort in your area, but also to applaud everyone who is doing his or her part to counter the mercenary trends that have sponsored a renewed, highly necessary interest in sustainable, fair, locally-produced food that is eaten as well as produced by conscientious humans. To learn more about Monsanto's egregious policies and products you may wish to avoid, see: Millions Against Monsanto Campaign - Organic Consumers Association To find your nearest Slow Food Convivium, as well as restaurants and markets that support local growers in your area, see Slow Food USA

If you are ever in St. Louis and want to try one of these fine restaurants with me, I am always looking for an excuse. You can contact me at kim.schreck (at) gmail dot com

Kim Schreck is a foodie/locavore residing in St. Louis who loves to cook and feed people. She also teaches US race and gender history and is a member of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis.

Blogging from Brooklyn Creative League


Today I'll be heading over to the Bloggers' Workday at Brooklyn Creative League, a cool new workspace for freelancers. I also have guest post by Kim Schreck on the Lamb Extravaganza she attended in Missouri--I'm so excited about it! More soon after I slog through the rain this morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Buttermilk chicken with scallions and cherry tomatoes


I have to tell you, raw milk buttermilk from a farm is quite a different substance from the usual buttermilk we all know. For one thing, no thickeners are added, so it's actually quite thin. Also, it doesn't curdle as easily when exposed to high temperatures. It does curdle a little, but not like conventional buttermilk.

I braised some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in this buttermilk with chopped scallions and cherry tomatoes for about half an hour. Then I removed the thighs and vegetables, added a splash of vermouth, and reduced the cooking liquid until I got a wonderful, golden sauce. This made for the tenderest chicken I've ever had and a sauce that evoked home-made caramels and a grassy field. Yum, yum, yum.

Monday, June 15, 2009

5 1/2


I mentioned that Jasper had agreed to postpone his birthday party until the summer, when we could hold the party in Prospect Park (his birthday is in January). Well, we finally did it this weekend and had a great time. We're so lucky that Jasper has brought all these lovely people into our lives!

But since this is a food blog, I'll tell you what I made.

Spanish tortilla hors'd'oeuvres with garlic mayonnaise, carrot and cucumber sticks with ginger yogurt dip, strawberries, and kid feed (Veggie Booty, Annie's snack mix). Please note my son's plate: he served himself tortilla, carrots, and strawberries, along with the kid feed. Makes his mama proud! Of course, he soon ran away to play and forgot about his food.


Watermelon and lime agua fresca in a jug I found at Target.


My first cheesecake! I used this Junior's inspired recipe, which has a couple errors but nothing fatal. I think mine could have done with another 5-10 minutes in the oven. Jasper specifically requested cheesecake--he loves it.


Technically edible but not delicious was the Sonic pinata we made Jasper. We filled it with candy Jasper and I picked out at Dylan's Candy Bar. The ring pops were a big hit. When the candy fell out I panicked momentarily, wondering if I hadn't packed enough. Then I remembered that it's candy, and that none of the parents probably wanted their kids to eat that much of it anyway. It's the idea more than the quantity, right?

We also made glarch, or tried to. I forgot to bring measuring cups, so I had to eyeball the measurements. Also, the proportions (1:1) didn't seem to work--I think you need far less starch than glue. Still, the kids enjoyed the activity. Instead of giving away gift bags full of little toys I handed out reusable cloth bags for gathering the candy and bringing home the glarch.

The rain held out until after the cake but the party went on. While most of us parents huddled under a tree, the kids and a few brave parents played in the rain late into the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Food Inc.

I am all a buzz over Food Inc. I just saw the Brooklyn premiere, sponsored by Brooklyn Based, at The Bell House. The film tells the story of where our food comes from, and the crazy, unsustainable, unhealthy way we have been growing and processing our food for the last 40 years.

Even though I am the converted I was overwhelmed with the emotional impact of the film. As a writer married to a visual artist I'm always aware of the limitations of the printed word. Oh I know, mightier than the sword and all that. But try getting people who read a whole book vs. look at a painting. I'm so glad that so many food-related stories have been distilled into film, this incredibly accessible medium.

The filmmakers do an excellent job of exploiting the medium, too, joining compelling narrative with visual impact. I'm pleased to report that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has seen Food Inc., it is being screened for several state legislatures, and it's been translated into Spanish. If you haven't read Omnivore's Dilemma, Fast Food Nation, etc., this movie will be a real eye opener for you. If enough people see this movie it could completely upend our whole food system. I am so excited! Please, please, go see this movie!

When bad things happen to good food

Last night's dinner held such promise. I was going to roast some garlic scrapes and purple spring onions and braise some tarragon chicken. The roasted alliums were almost there--I roasted them at 400 degrees with olive oil and fig balsamic vinegar. But I think I should have roasted at a lower temperature for much longer. Still, they were okay, if a little chewy.

But the chicken. I crammed too many pieces into the pan. I didn't have chicken stock to braise and used only vermouth. I forgot to drain the fat after browning, and when I added the vermouth there was splattering, I jerked my hand back and splashed vermouth on the stove, and the whole thing went up in flames.

I thought of two things at that moment. I wondered if I could even figure out how to use the fire extinguisher located under the sink right behind me. And I thought about When You Are Engulfed In Flames, how it's out in paperback now, and how I wouldn't be able to read it if I burned down the kitchen.


Fortunately, alcohol fires are short lived. By the time Lane found me the flames were gone and I could pretend nothing had happened--just screaming for fun. For joy! Alas, the chicken was not so good, though this was not the fault of the vermouth. I had mixed some soft, lazy Murray's chicken with some truly free-range, athletic, Lance Armstrong legs. The latter should have been stewed for about two hours in stock and lard, so lean and tough were they. The tarragon was in cinders.


Having learned my lesson, I did absolutely nothing to the gorgeous Hepworth Farms strawberries I bought for dessert. We ate them just as they are.