Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - South of the Border

I can honestly say this was my hardest Dim Sum Sunday yet. My knowledge of Mexican food is extremely limited. I do know that what is available here in Kansas City is really Tex-Mex and wasn't really the authentic Mexican cuisine I was looking for. Which meant that a restaurant visit wasn't going to cut it. I would have to try and recreate a Mexican dish. My online research turned up the usual suspects, Rick Bayless seemingly dominating the market. I kept searching. It wasn't until I read the article Five Senses of Frida that I started to get excited. There was a cookbook of Frida's food. Written in part by Diego Rivera's daughter, Guadalupe, this was more of what I was looking for, Mexican recipes written by Mexicans.Book in hand and just a little poorer after venturing into the bookstore I set out to discover the food world of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Frida not only loved to eat but she was also an excellent cook. Baptisms, national holidays, and galas were all opportunities to gather the freshest produce and flowers to entertain her friends and family. I now had to choose which dish to reproduce. Since the book is organized by creating a fiesta for each month, it wasn't hard. June's month featured Pork Ribs and Potato Tortitas.
A slab of pork ribs baked in a poblano tomato sauce served with grilled vidalia onions and potato tortitas or potato cake. If you like your meal just a little more spicy than the rather mild poblano can deliver then there's the Sweet Sour sauce that is served with the ribs. Comprised mostly of pickled jalapeno chiles it will certainly wake your tongue up.
While I might have been reluctant at first to try and make authentic Mexican food in the end I'm very glad that I pushed outside my comfort zone and tried something new. Thanks goes to Dani at Gardening Under the Florida Sun for suggesting this week's theme.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - South of the Border



Do you make your own tortillas? Think your local Mexican greasy spoon is your go-to guilty pleasure? Have a secret green salsa recipe you want to share? Take a little trip south of the Border for this week's Dim Sum Sunday and don't forget to come back here and share.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Will You Be Watching?



Will you be devoting your Wednesday nights to Top Chef Masters?
Of course, I'm counting down the days until the premier.
Is another Top Chef coming already? Isn't 5 seasons enough?
I'll only watch if my cuddly little Bear Tom is a judge.
I don't know...my Wednesdays are pretty full with giving pet pedicures.
No way, any show that had Hosea as Top Chef has jumped the shark.
Top What?
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - The Thrill of the Grill

When it comes to casual backyard grilling there seems to be two camps. The Burger Devotees and the Hot Dog Purists. Count me in the Hot Dog camp. I love a good grilled hot dog, a little charred on the outside but still juicy on the inside. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that over seven billion hot dogs will be eaten by Americans between Memorial Day and Labor Day so I'm not alone in my love of mystery tubes of meat. I wanted something other than the basic grocery store hot dog to start off my official grilling season. I wanted some good German sausages.
Luckily I live close to a place where my wurst hunger can be fed. Werner's sits on a little corner in Mission, Kansas. Inside you'll find a wide assortment of German and Scandinavian products not to mention some excellent butchers. I had many sausages to choose from but finally narrowed it down to 5. From left to right, above, we have the basic long hot dog, the Cheddar Bier Brat, the Polish, a Knockwurst and the intriguing German style Brat. Just the smell of them alone, waiting in the fridge for Sunday, was intoxicating.I thought about what else I wanted with my sausages. At first I considered German styled potato salad but when I saw Vidalia onions at the store I decided to make onion straws. I've never been a fan of the thick, heavily breaded onion rings you find in so many restaurants. I decided to fry up a batch of the thinly sliced, barely dusted onion rings my mom used to make for us as kids. The results? All were excellent, the Cheddar and Polish were packed with flavor and spice. But it was the German style Brat that made me wish I had bought more than one. A mild sausage lacking the kick of the others but also allowing the actual flavors of the pork and veal take center stage. It was incredibly different from the flavor injected, salt laden vacuum packed hot dogs that we consume so many of every summer. It was delicious. And why not, I had taken the suggestion of Susan of 29 Black Street and made up a batch of Fruit Chili Sauce to put on that mild sausage. Sadly Werner's is not open on Sunday's or else I would have stocked up on more of those lovely sausages before my grill had a chance to cool off.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday AND Bonus Monday

A quick round up of this past Sunday's Dim Sum participants.

Dim Sum Sunday rookie Dani at Gardening under the Florida Sun turned these beautiful veggies into...

...into this yummy quiche.

Billjac at Tinkering with Dinner  goes with 5 ingredients or less with Gravlax

Buzzkill not only gives us a Cucumber Garden Salad...

...but throws in his new garden as well.

Nice to see folks getting down and dirty with their food.

This week's theme is the Thrill of the Grill and I'll kick in an extra day for the Memorial Day holiday.  Now get out there and roast your wienie.

Food as Art


I know it's art but is it more creepy, as creepy or less creepy than the Burger King King?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - How Does Your Garden Grow

Glean -
verb (used with object)
1. to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit.
2. to gather (grain or the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers.
3. to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly.
verb (used without object)
4. to collect or gather anything little by little or slowly.
5. to gather what is left by reapers.

Free for the taking. The email popped up in my mailbox the morning after a night of heavy persistent rain. A farm market 30 miles west not only got the rain but had also been hit by hail. Their asparagus fields had survived but the hail had made the remaining stalks unsuitable for sale. However. If you didn't mind a little pocked marked asparagus, you could have as much as you could pick up. I quickly did the math. $2.99 a pound for grocery store asparagus or as much as I could pick for the price of a short road trip? I slapped on my mudders and pointed my little car west.The fields were at their end of their season. John, the cheerful man shuttling folks back and forth to the fields explained that we could take whatever we found, stalks lying on the ground, small tips just starting to emerge, take it all because it was just going to be plowed under the next day. Armed with my little green grocery basket I went to work. I thought more people would be out gathering the bounty but I toiled alone in my field while this man worked the field next to me. No matter, it was a beautiful day and the birds were chattering to one another in their secret bird language songs. It was better than any Ipod music I could jammed into my ears.Picking the stalks was not as easy as one would imagine. You're searching for green stalks in a green field. Nor is it a physically easy. The stalks are low to the ground and you've got to bend to get to them. I got into a rhythm once I did spot the stalks, stoop, snap, rise, crouch, snap and rise again. Slowly my basket started to fill.Happily not everything was crushed by hail. This was one of the many lady bugs I saw as I picked. A good sign of a nice healthy field. Stoop, snap, rise, stoop, snap, rise.My knees and back starting speaking to me as I continued my gleaning. "Don't you think it's time to stop?" they urged, "You have plenty of asparagus." The cheapskate side of my brain shouted them down. "FREE, it's FREE, just keep picking." I tried to distract myself with all the things I would do with my bounty. A majority of it would be blanched and vacuumed sealed to go into the freezer. The tender little tips I had made sure to also pick were destined to become pickles. The best and most tender stalks would go into my Dim Sum Sunday dish.With my basket finally full, I walked back up to the market store to say thanks for the gift and perhaps see what else might make the trip back home.While there was no sign saying how much they were, I'm betting they were as free as the asparagus.Did I mention we got a lot of rain? I drove home happy. My body ached, my nails had a fine line of soil beneath them and my jeans were tatooed with that wonderful black soil.
I hadn't planned to use asparagus for my Dim Sum dinner. I had a totally different dished planned. Even now there's a beautiful pork loin in the fridge still waiting for me. But this was just too good to pass up. I decided to blanch and stir fry my green treasure in Sambal Sauce. I only made half the amount and instead of shrimp paste I used anchovies crushed into a paste. I added a couple of Panko fried Soft Shell crabs to complete my Spring to the Extreme dish.The asparagus couldn't have been more tender and fresh. The spicy sweet peanut sauce danced through both the salty brine of the crab and the distinctive flavor of the asparagus. It was a beautiful marriage of flavors that made all the hard work and pain very much worth the effort. And while I was very sorry for the farmer's loss I was very thankful for his generosity that allowed me such a wealth of goodness.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday Reminder - How Does Your Garden Grow


This week's Dim Sum Sunday theme is How Does Your Garden Grow.

Do you have a garden?  Perhaps one of those legendary Florida gardens, flush with vegetables and herbs year round?  Or are you more like me, a container garden of herbs and tomatoes?  Or do you just have garden envy, dreaming of all the lovely squash dishes you could make if only you had an acre or two?  If it's any or all of those things, or even something completely different, please participate in our weekly food meme -  "Dim Sum Sunday". Each week, a theme will be given. The participants will use the theme (from the literal to the avant-garde) when creating their Sunday suppers the following week. Then, just take a picture or two of the meal, and tell us all about it. Does it have to be home cooking? Not necessarily - you can go out, eat in, or even go to a friends house...as long as your post reflects the theme in original (you don't have to be a professional photographer) pictures of your dinner, and personal stories (and recipes and how-tos if you choose...)!
Be sure to come here and leave a comment that links back to your blog to let us know your post is up!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spring Harvest

I have always been fascinated and drawn to the colors of the natural world. The plumage of a cardinal. The neon burst of a yellow tang. Deep green moss. And, of course, flowers. One of the first flowers of spring that always catches my eye is the wild violet. Broad green ground cover during the rest of the year, in spring the flowers explode into thick blankets of purple brilliance. A child's favorite flower to bring to home, placed in a juice cup to rest in a sunny spot on the kitchen window sill. I wanted to capture a bit of this spring and save it for those cold, gray winter months. Since this flower is safely edible I decided Violet Jelly would be the best way to accomplish this feat.I suspected none of the cookbooks in my collection would help me much in this endeavor. I could adapt a mint jelly recipe but I decided to try a couple of recipes I found on the Internet. The first one I discovered at Prairieland Herbs and the second was in a forum for the Garden Web and between the two I was getting a pretty good idea how to proceed. Step number one? Check your knees because harvesting violets is a low and slow process. Finding wild violets that haven't been sprayed by yard treatments or growing in the yard with outdoor pets was the biggest challenge for me. Luckily I found just such a place next to a large storm canal. One side of the right of way bordered many back yard fences, safe from both dogs and sprays. On the plus side I had plenty of violets to chose from but on the minus side I needed at least 4 cups of just flowers to use as "fruit" for my jelly. A couple of hours, a big bag of blossoms and many pain relief gel caps later, I was ready for the kitchen. After separating the stems from the blossoms and sorting through the pile to weed out any moldy or stale flowers hopefully you've gathered enough for at least two cups of well packed flowers. I apparently went flower picking crazy and came home with 4 cups of blossoms. The next step was pretty easy but my favorite part, steeping the flowers in boiling water. You can steep for as short as 30 minutes or as long as 24 hours. I chose the long route. What you end up with is this incredibly deep blue liquid.Now you would think that something this deep and complex in appearances would have a flavor to match? But violet water has a very delicate floral flavor which sits very lightly on the tongue. I worried that the acid and sugar I needed to jell my violet water would overpower all my hard work. Even sadder still were the results of the lemon juice mixing with the beautiful Indigo blue liquid, turning it to a decidedly un-violet-like pinkish red color. I shouldn't have worried. The jars emerged from the canner like little pink tourmaline gems set in silver rings. After letting them cool I unsealed one jar to taste my handiwork. I was ecstatic. The delicate floral flavor was still there, riding the bold sweetness of the sugar. A vista of summer biscuit baking appeared on the horizon. My only problem now? Making sure I save enough for winter.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dim Sum Sunday - Mama Mia

Cruising through the aisles of the local grocery store I see more and more evidence that adults find preparing food time consuming and strenuous. Vegetables in steam ready bags complete with garlic, carrots shaved down to nuggets, more and more meals in a box or bag, microwave ready and flavor deficient. I grew up in a home where the best meals took time and effort. You could taste those efforts in every bite. My mother was the oldest of 8 children growing up on a family farm. Cooking for my brother and me must have seemed like a piece of cake. She not only taught me how to cook but to also love food. My Mother loves the adventure of trying new cuisines. Thai food on a rice barge in Bangkok, sushi where ever she can find it, Spanish food in Adams Morgan in DC, are all memories held down on our internal life map by push pin flags of food. Today, in honor of Mother's Day, I give her one of her favorites, Dim Sum.Dim Sum is a Chinese cuisine which involve several light dishes either steamed or fried and accompanied by hot tea. The portions are small and are easily shared among several diners. Dim Sum in Kansas City means one place, Bo Ling's.The dishes are brought to the table by carts piled high with steam baskets. Your difficult task is to pick from over 80 different plates of dumplings, vegetables, steamed buns or seafood dishes. If you have a hard time making quick decisions, take a long time to study a menu, or order like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, Dim Sum is probably not for you. My mother and I have no such problem. Some of our favorites?Ham soi gok for one. A crispy glutinous puff dumpling with little bits of shrimp and ham hidden inside. The puff is just a little sweet to contrast with the savory contents. But be warned, it loses it's appeal when it gets cold.The baked Roasted Pork Bun is a local favorite of this BBQ mad town. Chinese roast pork nestled in a soft bun.
Of course there are also specials and new dishes to try. This is a roll of shrimp paste wrapped with sheet of seaweed, the ends capped with sesame seeds and deep fried. I hope this one makes the permanent menu because it's very good.Did you save room for dessert? Egg Custard Tart or Steamed Sweet Creams buns perhaps? Get your favorite early from the dessert cart because there's no guarantee your favorite will be still be there once the cart finally comes back around to your table.

Whatever your mom likes, make sure she enjoys her favorite for Mother's Day.


Happy Mother's Day Mom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

James Beard Foundation Awards

The 2009 James Beard Foundation Awards were celebrated this past Monday night in New York City. Some familiar names popped up as winners and losers.

In the category of Television Food Show, National and local, the wonderful Lidia Matticchio Bastianich won with her show, Lidia's Italy: Sweet Napoli, seen on PBS channels nationally.

My hometown newspaper, The Washington Post took home the Newspaper Food Section award for their excellent writing and beautiful graphics. In the category of Website Focusing on Food, Beverage, Restaurants, or Nutrition, Epicurious beat out some wickedcompetition in Chow.com and Gourmet.com to take the prize.
Cookbook of the year was awarded to Jennifer McLagan for her book Fat: An Appreciation of the Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes.
Taking the Food Porn award for Cookbook Photography is Dominic Davies for his work in Heston Blumenthal's The Big Fat Duck Cookbook. (Can you say book envy?)

Jean-Georges Vongerichten takes the Outstanding Restaurant Award for Jean Georges in New York City.
Dan Barber emerges from a loaded field of top notch chefs that included one of my personal favorites, Suzanne Goin of Lucques to take the Outstanding Chef award.

Sadly there is no category for Top Pimp because someone I know would have been a shoo in.