Archive for July, 2010
This week I announced a giveaway offering a $50 bison meat sampler to one lucky MKES reader. To enter, I asked readers to share one of the most unusual things they’ve ever eaten–or would like to eat. From frog legs to chicken feet, readers have had their fill of interesting bites.
Adults are trying out new foods, but what about kids? Sure, kids are notorious for being picky eaters, but they’re also born explorers. If you can find ways to make food an adventure, well, they’ll have to give a nibble here and there–and all of a sudden you’ve got ‘em hooked on something new.
Today Mr. Squid and I ventured to Cleveland’s West Side Market with our crew. If you ever get within driving distance of the city, I can’t recommend a trip to the market enough. On Saturdays the market is packed with diehard shoppers (you’ll pick ‘em out immediately, they carry wicker baskets for their finds), tourists (hefty cameras in hand) and a diverse cross section of people all looking for something tasty.
East Side Market is one the largest indoor/outdoor markets in the U.S. and has its beginnings in the 1840s. The building feels–and looks–like New York City’s Grand Central station, housing 100 vendor booths often run by families who’ve been making their own sausages, cheeses, cookies, crepes and more for centuries. The first time I went to the market I expected the booths to be shabby, the people to be unfriendly–or worse, overly aggressive, and the food to be so-so at best. I mean, it’s a big indoor market, how cool could it be? Very.
The market reminds me of similar set-ups I’ve visited cities outside the U.S., like Mexico City and Budapest. But this time all the sellers at least were speaking a language I could understand. And unlike those markets no one was yelling and trying to get my business, but instead the booths are staffed by friendly, unobtrusive folks who pride themselves on selling quality food (I’m entirely biased because as I’m writing I’m also digesting a meal of sun-dried tomato gnocchi bathed in a lobster creme sauce–thank you, Ohio City Pasta!). Sure, you’ll be bumping elbows with people as you try to move and at some point someone with a stroller may run over your foot, but that’s all part of the experience.
We started our food fest at Frank’s. It’s a bratwurst stand that sells, well, brats–that’s it. And yet the line for Frank’s is constantly around 5 to 10 people deep. I’m no fan of brats, but Frank’s taste like a good pork chop on a bun, crisped skin holding in big chunks of steak-like meat. Mr. Squid, who usually tops his brats with sauerkraut, deli mustard, mustard, ketchup and anything else that’s offered gives Frank’s brats a particular reverence–he eats them plain to savor every bite. We grabbed a bag of brats and headed to the outdoor square across the street. On Saturdays, there’s often a band playing either inside or outside to entertain shoppers. Today a Rastafarian group played in the square as shoppers lingered to listen, some even dancing right there next to the band. My kids devoured the experience–sampling homemade brats while swaying to reggae.
With happy tummies and tingling tastebuds, my kids were begging to head back into the market to try out more. We let our kids lead the way and point out what they’d like to try–pecan rolls, Amish bacon and handmade pasta made it into our cooler but we also showed them to some of our favorites. Mr. Squid has staked out a booth that sells jerky that’s been featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. My 9 year-old pointed out to her dad that she didn’t like jerky. “But you’ve never had this kind of jerky,” he answered. With the music going, the crowds mingling and the sales lady anxiously waiting for my daughter to give it a go, my middle child took a shy nibble. Then a full bite.
“This is good,” she smiled. We kept loading up on all sorts of foods for our kids to try out.
While not everything we sampled today became an instant hit with my crew, I consider the day a complete success (and not just because my freezer is full of meals in the making for the next week). The experience reminded my kids that food is an adventure–one worth trying out.
Squid, sure. Tripe, why not. Bison? You betcha. My kids love to try new flavors and foods (me too!) so I’m happy to announce that High Plains Bison will be offering a $50 meat sampler to one lucky MKES reader. If you’ve ever snacked on bison jerky or maybe even a bison burger, you know this would be fun to cook up bison dogs, indulge in a bison filet mignon. Okay, now I’m getting hungry and it’s only 9am!
But before you skip ahead to figure out how to enter, I’ve got to point out a few things I learned about bison when I was getting ready for this giveaway–I promise, you’ll be impressed it involves a certain Oscar-winning actor and a large, hairy beast. I’ve got your attention now, right? First, the good stuff–bison meat is packed with protein (okay, you probably figured that one out) but with less fat than beef, chicken, even salmon.
Now for a little trivia you can share with your kids–bison meat is completely different from buffalo. A whole species apart (not to mention an ocean). So you know that scene in Dances with Wolves where Kevin Costner has his fingers pointed to make little horns and he’s trying to learn Lakota? Yup, he should have been saying, “Tatanka? Bison?” I guess buffalo sounded a lot better and most folks still think of bison as buffalo (myself included until about a week ago!).
So here’s the deal, share with MKES a favorite food you’ve either been meaning to try or something you’ve tried out recently for the first time. My take–I sampled pork belly at a tasting event a couple weeks ago. I didn’t expect to like it with a name like pork belly–but I should have known that something with hints of bacony crispiness and a smoky vibe would be delicious.
What have you tried lately? The winner will be chosen at random August 12th.
*Note: the giveaway can only be sent to a U.S. locale. Sorry kiwis!
Okay, not the best picture, but I had to snap this on my iPhone quickly before my tweener turned away (hence the blank stare look). Today, she made herself a banana hotdog for lunch. I couldn’t be prouder!
So if you’re kids are getting tired of PB&J or you just want something different for lunch or a snack–give this a try. Warning: it’s deceptively filling!
For each “hotdog” you’ll need
- a banana
- a piece of flatbread
- peanut butter
- jam (optional)
It couldn’t be easier to put it together–slather the flatbread (or pita bread or even a regular hot dog bun) with peanut butter and jam, put the whole, peeled banana in the center and roll-up. One banana hot dog that even picky eaters will like. Told you it was simple!
And if you have a kid who doesn’t like peanut butter–or is allergic–go ahead and use almond butter or yogurt instead.
Slightly sweet with a kick of spice and savory flavors—that’s what comes to mind when I think of putting together a Thai dish. We came up with this satay recipe after visiting a local favorite restaurant, The Thai Bistro. While I enjoyed the coconut soup—and the entree, Drunken noodles—my favorite part of the meal was the appetizer, satay. These strips of turmeric-laced chicken skewers are more often given to start out the meal, but around our house, they make the meal.
Skewers take some work to put together—you have to cut the chicken into thin strips, marinate it, thread it onto sticks (and soak the sticks so they don’t burn), and then grill. Lacing 20 or so strips of chicken onto sticks can be tedious and a bit time-consuming, but the efforts are worth it. My kids love the tangy flavor of satay—and, of course, having a chance to eat off a stick. And the leftovers are tasty (that’s if you have any!). Yes, I have eaten them cold for breakfast.
Still aren’t convinced that chicken skewers are worth a few pokes when you’re putting them on the stick–and yellow fingers from the turmeric? What I like about satay is that the flavors are unique and fresh. Our friends put on an Iron Chef competition at their house (yes, it was modeled after the popular Food Network show). Each couple brought a dish using the “secret ingredient.” They told us the ingredient about a week before the get-together, limes. We brought these skewers, decorating a large serving dish with most of the skewers lying down and some poked into a half-cut orange (the oranges cut side are down on the platter and then the sticks are pushed into the round part; make sure to balance these carefully). Sure enough, the flavor-drenched chicken skewers won overall—and there was some steep competition—lime cheesecake, lime rice, pork roast in a lime marinade and more. Our prize? Bragging rights and a $10 gift certificate to Carvel’s.
Is your mouth watering yet? Time to make some satay.
Inspired by a dish in Steven Raichlen’s The Barbecue Bible.
Prep time: 40 minutes + 1 hour marinating + 10-15 minutes grilling
3 lbs. chicken breasts
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (regular or light)
6-8” Wooden skewers
4 Tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 Tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
3 Tablespoons fish sauce (or 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce + 1 ½ tablespoons chicken broth)
4 Tablespoons honey
1 bunch Cilantro, wash and cut the stalks into ¼” pieces (save the leaves for garnish)
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional, but adds a kick)
Optional: Cucumber relish (see recipe below)
Whisk together all of the marinate ingredients. Test the flavors with your fingertip—you may want to add a little more honey for sweetness or a little more fish sauce for tartness.
Cut the chicken into thin, ¼” strips. (You can place fresh chicken in the freezer for 30 minutes or so to make for easier cutting.) Place the chicken strips into a large, heavy Ziploc bag. Place the chicken in the bag in a large bowl.
Add the marinade ingredients to the bag of chicken and marinate for at least one hour, up to 24 hours. Note: turmeric stains cooking dishes with a yellow color, so the bag helps protect your baking ware. Also, we use cilantro stalks as a substitute for the more traditional lemongrass. Cilantro is easier to find and we like the buzzy flavor.
While the chicken is marinating, fill a large dish with water and submerge the wooden skewers into the water. They should be covered completely. Soak for at least 30 minutes to prevent burning once they’re on the grill.
Thread the chicken strips onto the wooden skewers and place on a cookie sheet until all of the skewers are done and you’re ready to start grilling. Do not thread the chicken completely over the skewer—you should leave about 1½ inches at the end so that you have something to grab with tongs to turn and rotate the chicken on the grill.
Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Put 1/3 cup of coconut milk into a dish and get ready a long-handled basting brush. Place the skewers in the grill and cook on each side for 4 to 5 minutes. (Watch the skewers carefully, because they will cook fast!) Baste the skewers as the cook with coconut milk. The added fat will not only improve the grilling, but it will add great flavor.
Serve over steamed rice, butter lettuce, or eat plain.
*Prepare at least an hour before grilling the chicken so that the relish has time to chill.
Prep time: 25 minutes
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup white vinegar
½ scant cup white sugar
½ red onion
1 English (seedless) cucumber
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a small saucepan heat the sugar and water over medium-high heat until it just thickens. Add in the vinegar. Allow to cool. Toss in red pepper flakes. Cut the cucumber into thin, quartered pieces. Thinly slice the red onion either into rounds, or quarters, depending on your preference. Add into the thickened sauce. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve alongside the satay.
Hand-crafted goat cheeses. Lavender lemonade. Braised beef potstickers. Pork tongue (it was delicious!). Tonight I sampled foods from a variety of noted restaurants and chefs at the 2010 Food & Wine Celebration at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio. The event raises money to support Veggie U, a farm-centered, hands-on experience for children designed to teach them healthy living–and eating.
While I’ve been to tasting events before, what impressed me about this event was how fresh the ingredients were and how committed each chef was to using sustainable, local products. Take Chris and Veronica Laramie a husband-wife team who were showcasing their food–and philosophy–from their restaurant, eVe, in Berkley, California. “We make everything from scratch, in small batches, and we take classic flavor combinations and turn them on their head,” said Veronica in a recent interview with fellow foodie blogger, Sarah Henry of LettuceEatKale. Veronica pointed out eVe’s cantalope gazpacho as an example of classic meets fresh ingredients plus culinary creativity.
Reinvented classic combinations. I like that. Here’s just some of the lessons I took away from the event:
Veggies meet fruit. My favorite dish of the night (and this surprised me!)–a simple combination of watermelon, cucumber and feta. Fruit salad is getting a little boring around our house. Why not toss some veggies and strong cheese in the mix?
Flowers meet dessert. As a kid, my mom often used edible flowers with savory dishes and desert. There’s something decadent about eating flowers–and I’m not talking mint or herbs. Try adding a pansy on top of your next cupcake, a chive blossom served alongside rice, or bread and fry squash blossoms (note: you should make sure your flowers are edible and thoroughly washed before eating).
Meat meet vegetables. Sometimes I get in the habit of thinking of veggies as a side dish–not the entree. Juicy heirloom tomatoes, meaty squash and savory corn relish have left me reconsidering my dinner menu.
My husband has a thing about picnics.
He’s not one to pick up fast food fried chicken or settle for hastily made sandwiches. Picnics are something to look forward to, not an excuse to throw leftovers into a basket and call it a meal. I let him know that as long as he’s willing to fix something special—and clean up the mess—I’m more than happy to eat what he creates.
Shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, Rueben sandwich egg rolls, and a list of other eclectic, tasty picnic meals have followed. But my favorite is the crispy chicken sandwich that he spikes with flavored mayos.
Making these sandwiches takes some effort. The chicken is coated in breadcrumbs and then fried. We use panko crumbs, it’s a Japanese variety that fries well and keeps its crispness better than a regular brand (you can find it in the Asian cooking section at the grocery store). And instead of picking out store-bought rolls, I make sandwich buns at home—of course, you can always buy some to cut down the time it takes to make the meal, but the rolls are easy to make. And the sandwiches make for a tasty, memorable picnic meal.
Recipe for Crispy Chicken Breasts
Prep time: 40 minutes chicken, 3 hours, buns (largely unattended)
3 large, skinless, boneless chicken breasts
About 1 cup flour
About 2 cups panko crumbs
Garlic powder, onion powder
Oil for frying
Halve the chicken breasts lengthwise (I choose to halve the chicken breasts instead of pounding them out to make them thinner). The chicken breasts will be easier to cut if they’re slightly frozen.
Sprinkle the chicken breasts with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Prepare three shallow dishes: In the first place the flour. In the second whisk the eggs and pour them in; you can also add either a little soy sauce, Tabasco, or Worchestershire sauce into the eggs for an extra hint of flavor (about a ½ teaspoon). In the third bowl, place the panko (or bread) crumbs.
Dip the chicken breasts into the flour, then eggs, then panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs onto the chicken to ensure a thorough coating. Place the coated chicken breasts on a wire drying rack while you finish the other chicken breasts. You may need to add more of the dipping ingredients.
Place about ½ inch oil in heavy, skillet with high sides. Heat the oil to medium high (we use a tapletop, electric skillet for frying). Add the chicken breasts two a time and fry until the crumbs take on a golden color. Check the chicken with an instant read thermometer after frying—the temperature should read 165 degrees.
Allow the chicken breasts to cool on a wire rack.
Homemade Sandwich Buns
This recipe is a variation of the homemade bread recipe. Here are the tweaks to create buns from this bread recipe:
- Use 1 cup milk to replace some of the water—so you’ll be adding 1 ½ cups water and 1 cup milk. The milk will make the buns softer.
- Add 1 more tablespoon sugar, so a total of 3 Tablespoons sugar.
- After the dough has risen, form the dough into 8 rolls (or 10 if you prefer smaller sandwiches). To form the dough balls, separate the dough in two, and then separate each half into 4 equal parts. Knead each part for a few minutes and then press down the sides to form a ball (instead of rolling the dough into a ball). Place the dough balls onto a lightly greased baking pan. Make sure the dough balls are far enough apart so that when they double in size they won’t touch.
- Optional: Before cooking, brush the buns with an egg white wash and add sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
- Allow the buns to cool for at least 30 minutes or an hour before slicing.
¾ cup mayo (I prefer lime mayo found in Mexican grocers)
Making flavored mayo is easy—there are endless possibilities for creating a unique addition to your sandwich.
- Spicy mayo—add 2 teaspoons chili powder, ¼ teaspoon cumin and 5 to 10 drops of Tabasco sauce to the mayo. Stir, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Herbed mayo—add 2 teaspoons dried or 1 tablespoon fresh basil, ¼ teaspoon oregano, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar to the mayo. Stir, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Honey-mustard mayo—add 2 teaspoons regular, Dijon or a mix of the two types of mustard to the mayo. Whisk in ½ Tablespoon honey. Stir, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Come up with your own combs using herbs, spices and more!
Assembling the sandwich
- Cut the bun in half lengthwise.
- Add a generous slathering of spiked mayo to the top half of the bun. Place shredded lettuce, then tomato on this half. (Thin slices of red onion are also good!)
- On the bottom half add a thin coating of spiked mayo, then the chicken breast.
- Put the two halves together. Enjoy!
I used to think blueberries were relatively small and tasteless–that was until I moved to the Midwest. Here, the blueberries are packed with a juicy, sweet tangy punch. And there’s not one or two large berries in a container, it’s the tiny ones that are in the minority. So when I saw flyers up announcing a local ‘Bluesberry Fest’ dedicated to–yup, blueberries with a little live Jazz mixed in–at a local grocers I knew I had to drop by.
Mustard Seed Market and Cafe has two stores located in the greater Cleveland area. The stores try to provide customers with the freshest local ingredients along with a number of organic products–think Trader Joe’s meets Whole Foods with a farmer’s market thrown in. For the Bluesberry Fest each department had to offer samples of recipes using the berry.
My kids are always up for trying new-to-them recipes and with a familiar ingredient like blueberries, I figured we’d be roaming the store for hours. The first few samples were fairly expected (not that they weren’t tasty!)–spinach salad with feta, blueberries and a light vinaigrette; and a fruit salad tossed with fresh mint. Then, there was blueberry salsa. I figured the blueberries would taste out of place alongside tomatoes, red onions, cilantro, lime and jalapenos. Instead the berries offered a kick of sourness to the salsa that gave the standard pico de gallo new life. Served with blue corn tortilla chips, I could also see this salsa used as a garnish with grilled pork chops or chicken (or eaten straight, with a spoon).
There were plenty of other blueberry samples, from coleslaw to lemonade and of course, muffins, but the afternoon of tastings left me wanting to refashion recipes using blueberries either as the star or the secret ingredient. Last night Mr. Squid and I cooked up a batch of blueberry barbecue sauce. As with the salsa, the sweet and sour blueberries gave the barbecue sauce a depth of flavor that perked up our pork sandwiches. I’d love to pass along the recipe–and it’s no secret–but it was a ‘little-or-this-and-that’ kind of experiment.
Here’s what went into our sauce:
In a medium-sized sauce pan we melted two tablespoons of butter and then added a cup and a half of blueberries along with half of a yellow pepper, diced. We let that cook on medium-high heat until the sauce became nearly syrupy. Then came the doctoring: we added barbecue sauce from a bottle (maybe a cup) along with a little deli mustard, yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar, Tabasco, hickory spice, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt. We probably would have added a little bit of soy sauce too if we hadn’t run out earlier in the week.
The blueberry barbecue sauce brought a tangy flavor and deep purple color to our pork sandwiches (we topped them with some crumbled queso fresco cheese). I knew our sauce had to be good when my youngest daughter got up and roamed the kitchen looking for seconds (there weren’t any). While I wouldn’t top a burger with the sauce, it would make for some memorable wing sauce or topping for pork loin. Have you been experimenting with summer berries lately?
You have to understand, some of the most heated discussions I’ve had with my husband revolved around how to prepare food. And when it comes to potato salad we completely disagree on what’s good—that was until a month or so ago.
I like a light potato salad—red potatoes with the skins still on tossed with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, garlic, and fresh herbs like chives, dill, and parsley. My husband, on the other hand, reaches for the more traditional potato salad, with generous amounts of mayo, hardboiled eggs (which I can’t stomach), and a little pickle relish tossed in. For years, at family picnics, we’ve had dueling potato salads—mine drenched with herbs, his with mayo. We would prepare a big batch of potatoes and then separate them after cooking so that we could create our own versions. Of course, we weren’t content at just making our recipes—we wanted our kids to judge which one was better (I think Bobby Flay’s Throwdown on the Food Network had just become popular.)
My oldest daughter—ever the diplomat—would diligently try each one and then say that she liked both. Ah, the safe answer.
But making two potato salads became tedious—twice the amount of bowls, cleanup half the amount of food. My husband decided to try and make a hybrid version of our salads—merging our favorite elements to create something both of us would like.
I was readying my “that’s-nice-dear” face, especially when he pulled out the hardboiled eggs. But he really did try to merge what I liked best, with his favorite ingredients. In were the skin on red potatoes and a smattering of fresh herbs; out was gobs of mayo. The hardboiled eggs stayed, but instead of putting them in sliced, he creamed the yolks into the mayo-based sauce as a thickener, then he diced the whites. Instead of just putting in regular, yellow mustard he added in Dijon too along with diced pickles (not the spoonful of sweet relish). The results were a more flavorful, tangy potato salad. I ate two helpings the first time he made it (and had some for breakfast on day too).
No doubt, you have your own opinions about what makes for the perfect potato salad, but if you’re planning on a picnic for the 4th of July, or any time this summer, you should try making a few tweaks to your traditional recipe and see if you get requests for second and third helpings—and if you have one of your kids request it for breakfast, well then you know it’s good.
Better Potato Salad Recipe
Prep time: 40 minutes
2 ½ pounds red potatoes
½ small red onion, diced fine
1 ¼ cup mayo
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½-1 teaspoon yellow mustard
½-1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 drops liquid smoke
3 drops Tabasco sauce
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 pickle spears, diced fine
2 Tablespoons minced, fresh chives
1 4-ounce can green chiles (optional, but good!)
Crumbled bacon (optional)
Fill a large cooking pan with water leaving about 1½ inches of space from the rim. Peel any hard surface spots off of the red potatoes and then cut into half-inch cubes. Place the cubes into the water along with two eggs. Place the pan over high heat on your stovetop and bring to a gentle boil. Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the cooking water.
Cook the potatoes until they are firm to the touch but soft in the center. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water. Place the eggs into ice cold water. Allow the potatoes to cool while you mix up your sauce.
For the sauce—combine the mayonnaise and the rest of the ingredients (except diced onions and pickles) in a mixing bowl. Remove the shells from the hardboiled eggs. Scoop the cooked yolk out of the center of the eggs and whisk it into the sauce. The yolks will thicken the sauce and should break up during stirring. Dice the white egg parts using a sharp knife.
In a large bowl combine the cooked potatoes, onions, egg whites, and pickles, herbs. Add the sauce and stir. Adjust the seasonings—you may need to add more salt, pepper or vinegar to get the flavor perfect for your palate. If you’re looking for a real kick to your potatoes, we also add one fresh, diced Serrano chili with the seeds removed.
3 red bell peppers
1 tbl spn salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 cup water
juice of three limes
fresh cilantro for garnish
hickory chips or small logs (substitute other woods to experiment with flavor)
Start by lighting your coals. It’s best to use a chimney starter so you don’t impart the flavor of lighter fluid. When your coals are nearing white hotness, apply the dry chips of logs. You’re trying to create more fire than smoke. When the flames are licking the grill, apply the clean dry tomatoes and peppers. Turn them for several minutes until their skin is black to the point of crisping. Remove the tomatoes and peppers and place them in a bowl. Close the grill to put out the fire. While you’re finishing the soup, your grill will be ready for your next course. Continue by removing most of the skins, leaving a little for flavor. Remove the seeds and stem of the peppers, being careful to save the juice. Stem the tomatoes. Transfer all ingredients to a blender and puree until the desired consistency. Serve warm or chilled with a garnish of fresh cilantro.