Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weekend Cookbok Challenge #8

I like to participate in these food blog challenges, but I seldom have the time. When you have been cooking as long as I have you sometimes get in a rut of using the same techniques, the same ingredients, the same mind set. The food blog challenges and the food blogs themselves have turned out to be such a source of inspiration. It helps keep me fresh and it helps me keep the menus at the restaurant fresh.

This theme was something foriegn to you from a cookbook you already owned. It is being hosted by Ruth-visit her blog at I chose Sushi Secrets by Kazuko Masui and Chihiro Masui. I love sushi, but it is not one of the stronger suits in my repertory of cooking. My first encounter with sushi was in the early 80's and I had moved to Arkansas from Chicago(which is another long story), but I took a job at the Dillard's department store and one of the seamstresses in the alterations department was a Japanese lady who brought a platter of sushi to share. I remeber it being gorgeous to look at-most co-workers were afraid to indulge-I just pulled up a chair in front of the platter and ate half of it. A strange initiation to shushi to say the least.

Another informative brush with sushi came when I moved next door to a Japanese family and the mama san taught me to make the vinegared rice-I can still she her fanning the rice as she gently folded cool air into it. She really stressed the fanning component-it makes the rice shiny and glisten.

From then on my sushi learning experience has been mostly autodidactic, until last year when I hired Jason. Jason had done a stint as the sushi chef at St Louis Fishmarket which is a seafood restaurant that I like alot even if I can't afford to eat there often. Jason taught me about sushi knives-which I haven't purchased yet. I think my sushi looks a bit clunky and not as polished as I would like. My inexperience with sushi has alot do do with it, but I don't have the proper knives I have German knives Henkels and Wustoffs mostly. I am seeing another extravagant knife purchse in my near future.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tomato Frenzy

The tomato crop keeps coming in a frenzy. Farmer Alan Nolte, who just started delivering to me brought a beautiful heirloom variety which he called German Stripe. It is a golden and red stripe. The flesh is mostly golden with a few streaks of red.

We've also been enjoying Brandywines, Purples, Pinks,and a couple of others.

We've made Caprezi and Greek tomato salads daily.

I prefer to skin and chill the tomatoes before making salads, but the true purists like to pick them off the vine and eat them still warm.

Food and Wine magazine did a spread on a Napa Valley tomato party and I got inspired to make the yellow tomato juice from the story. Of course I didn't follow the recipe, but made my own as I went. I added some carrots, parsley, and celery to the mix. I believe they called them "Blondie" Marys.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wine Combinations

The exercise was to pair a wine with Lamb chops/mint julep sauce and slow cooked green beans. Since I make my home in St Louis, which is just a skip-hop-and-a- jump North of Memphis, home of Benito's Wines, the task master, the food was familiar and comfortable. Memphis has much better BBQ than we do, but what we do share is incredible blues music. Lots of hole in the wall places with incredible musicians.

I usually like to pair lamb with a Merlot or Syrah, but this time I went a little classier and chose a Pinot Noir from Domaine Drouhin. The whole story of Domaine Drouhin is so romantic. A legendary Burgundian family buys land in Oregon, the daughter moves to Oregon and makes new world wine with all that old world pedigree . The Oregon wine is a more vibrantly hued wine than most French Burgundies. The wine seems fresh and lively without too much complexity, but it still exhibits elegant structure with a balance of fruit, alcohol, and acid. The mint of the chops and the sweetness of the beans is enhanced by the fruit of the wine. The alcohol and acid of the wine matches well with the richness of the meat and sauce. I did add some garlic and chervil mashed potatoes, and I also added a bit of lamb demi-glace to the mint julep sauce to further round the flavors.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Grilled Pork Medallions with Strawberry Salsa

I had planned on running lamb chop specials all weekend, but they sold out on Friday night due to a larger than usual dinner rush. I had an extra pork loin left from a private party we did on the third floor-we call it the "Top of The Town"-it is a beautiful party venue with an art deco bar and a speakeasy feel. Al Hirschfield cariacatures from the 1920's and 1930's decorate the walls.

So I marinated the loin in some orange juice, rice wine vinegar, cumin, oregano, and cayenne. I cut the loin into medallions and grilled them to order, brushing them with the marinade (you must first boil the marinade after you take the pork out, if you want brush it on the meat as it grills).

On the plate I spooned an unusual strawberry salsa across the medallions. The salsa contained oranges, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, rice wine vinegar. It was lovely on the plate and sold out quickly.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Banana Dacquiri

We had alot of bananas about to turn brown. We bought them last week when my nephew was visiting-mostly for cereal and pancakes for breakfast. We didn't eat them all and it is too hot to make banana bread or banana bread pudding-which is what I usually do. The perfect answer seemed to be banana dacquiris. I got out my Grandma's vintage Osterizer (chrome with wood paneling on the front) and set it on liquefy, added ice, banana, sugar, fresh lime juice, and a bit of rum. And viola` a retro frozen concoction from a retro kitchen appliance. It makes me wonder why we ever needed Margaritaville when we loved Dacquiriville so much.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hobo potatoes

It is still in the middle of the heat wave, so no cooking inside. All done on the grill outside. We bought some really unique charcoal at a little shop in the Bosnian neighborhood. I've used it before on big barbeque catering jobs, I get it from the food wholesaler but I don't usually see it at the stores.

We dry rubbed ribs (cinnamon, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, cumin, and coriander) over indirect heat and made a hobo foil pack filled with potatoes, onion, and whole garlic cloves(they truned very sweet and caramelized) with rosemary, sage, and olive oil. They were so good, I think I'll plan on doing them at the restaurant, but add some other vegetables. The corn on the cob sales have dropped off a little-maybe I'll do some kind of corn and potato hobo pack.

We also bought tea at another Bosnian store-this one Muslim. They have some beautiful teas-not quite the selection as the Asian groceries-but very nice just the same. I chose three different kinds. We've been drinking pitchers of iced tea in this heat wave, and these teas taste delicious when freshly brewed and iced