Monday, June 30, 2008

Blackberry Rhubarb Pie

Cook Sister! is hosting a blogging event "Waiter there's something in my berries" which has prompted me to make this pie. You often see strawberry rhubarb pie, but not so much the blackberry rhubarb combination. To my eyes the colors are more complimentary to each other. The pie juices run a gorgeous shade of magenta with streaks of aubergine. I usually make pie dough with half butter and half lard, but since lard isn't one of the staples I keep on hand reugulaly, I tried a new recipe with butter and shortening-I did not like the results, so I won't be giving the recipe. Also, since I didn't like the way the pastry looked on the pastry board I decided to top the pie with a crumble topping instead of lattice pastry.

You will need 1 prepared pie shell.

For the filing:

5 cups sliced rhubarb


3 tablespoons of cornstarch

zest of one orange

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups blackberries

Combine the rhubarb, cornstarch, and sugar;let sit 1/2 hour to draw the juices.

In a heavy bottomed pan, over very low heat "melt" the rhubarb, stirring often until the rhubarb is softened-about five minutes-cool before proceeding.

Stir in the orange zest and cinnamon, and carefully fold in the blackberries, being careful not to smash the berries.

Pour into prepared pie shell, and top with crumble topping (recipe follows). Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 and bake another 45 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and thick and the crumbs are browned.

For the topping:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/3 cup of butter

Combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This makes enough for two pies or one large crumble, you can freeze any extra.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cajun Sugar Mignons

Lisa, the marvelous writer who created Champaign Taste is hosting a blogging event titled "Novel Cuisine". It requires writing a blog post about a piece of literature and some culinary fantasy inspired by said piece of literature. I'm usually too busy to participate in these events, but this one just seemed to write itself.

I came upon this steak idea one day while surfing the net and rereading "Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie" by Henry Wadsworth. I think I first read the poem in high school and it created a curiosity about the Acadians that remains fascinating to me to this day. This epic poem tells the tale of Evangeline Bellefontaine and her betrothed Gabriel Le Jeunesse set against the backdrop of the British expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia.

I think the poem remains relevant today with its themes of religious and ethnic intolerance (The British against the French Catholic) and the fact that religious cults have been around for along time-the Acadians were an isolated and unpopular sect of the Catholice church.

The poem is a bit melodramatic for current tastes in literature, but the prose is so compelling, the language so gorgeous, and the topic so current (thinking of the State of Texas raiding the LDS enclave in Texas) that it really does make it relevant.

"All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the sorrow,
All the aching of heart,the restless, unsatisfied longing,

All the dull, deep pain, and the constant anguish of patience!

And, as she pressed once more the lifeless head to her bosom,

Meekly she bowed her own and murmured, Father, I thank Thee!"

Wadsworth kept Evangeline in the Northeast, but the largest group of Acadians migrated to Lousiana, where they became the Cajuns. The Lousiana Cajuns claim the Evangeline tale as part of their own culture and struggle for freedom.

All this is a rather long introduction to Cajun Sugar Mignons, a recipe I came upon while visiting A Cajun Homepage which is written by Andrew Guidroz II in Opelouses, Lousiana. Everyone knows the Cajuns are famous for their cooking, but you'll have to visit Andrew's site to get his whole story. I basically used Andrew's recipe combined with my own steak seasoning.

Cajun Sugar Mignons

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of steak seasonings (I make my own)

4 eight ounce fillet mignon steaks

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Brush the tops and bottoms of the steaks with the olive oil and sprinkle with the steak seasoning and sugar.

Heat a black iron skillet with the vegetable oil until it almost smokes, place the steaks in the hot skillet and turn the heat down slightly.

After 4 minutes flip the steaks and continue to cook another 4 minutes for a beautiful rare steak.

It makes a beautiful, black crunchy crust with a juicy interior. I served it with another cajun favorite "Maque Chou", which is an early example of fusion cooking with Native American and Cajun combinations.

So I recommend you pick up a couple of steaks, grab a copy of Evangeline, open a bottle of wine and contemplate the tragedies of yesteryear, the tragedies of today as articulated through the art of Henry Wadsworth.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wasabi Pea and Potato Crusted Salmon with Sushi Garnishes

The folks at Marx Foods are sponsoring a salmon recipe contest to win some fresh salmon over the summer. Visist them to see some amazing salmon recipes or enter your own and join the fun.

Over the years I've collected several tasty salmon recipes, but I chose this one because it is so simple, and has alot of eye appeal. The flavors are vibrant and intense, I just love it. I hope the judges at Marx agree and send me some of their outstanding salmon.

1/2 cup of wasabi peas

1/2 cup instant potato flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 eight ounce salmon fillets

4 tablespoons of olive oil

For Garnish:soy sauce, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, and Viet Namese fish sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Coarsely grind the peas in a processor-leave chunky.

Mix the ground peas, potato flakes, and salt.

Brush the tops of the fish with two tablespoon of the oil, and press the pea mixture into the surface.

Place the fillets on a non-stick baking sheet, and drizzle them with the two remaining tablespoons of oil, and bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes for medium rare.

Serve with sushi garnishes:pickled ginger, soy sauce, wasabi paste, and Viet Namese fish sauce.

First Tomatoes of the Season

I got these tomatoes from one of my local farmer suppliers. They came from Southern Illinois. They were pretty tasty, but not as good as the local ones will be in a few days. I simply sliced them and squeezed lemon juice on them with a couple tablespoons of fruity olive oil. I scattered sea salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh parsley and oregano with some crumbled feta across the tomato salad.

I also made a Spanish potato tortilla, which is a simple openfaced omlet. I caramelised some onions with leftover fingerling potatoes from last night. When the vegetables were crusty and brown I poured 4 lightly beaten eggs over them. As the eggs set, lift the edges gently and let the raw eggs run to the sides until the entire tortilla is set. I sprinkled some fresh chives on top and slipped it onto a serving platter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I read about this cocktail in a recent New York Times article, and I enjoyed the story, so I gave the recipe to our bartender Crystal, and she made one for me, then we used it as a drink special last weekend. It is served in the Star Lounge in the Hotel Chelsea in NYC. The Chelsea is famous for the celebs who resided there-Edie Sedgewick and Jimi Hendrix to name two. When I was a student living in NYC and studying at the New School's restaurant program I couldn't really afford places like the Chelsea, so I would just have to fantasize about what it would be like to rub shoulders with the jet set. But we don't have to fantasize about the Startini, because we have the recipe and can make our own. And it is delicious.

1 1/2 part Vodka

1 part Cointreau

1/2 part Creme de Peche (we used peach schnapps)

1 part sour mix

splash of cranberry juice

Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker.

Shake and strain into a martini glass

Garnish with a slice of Starfruit

Jicama Orange Salad with Cilantro

This salad is so refreshing. Jicama is crunchy and slightly sweet. It also sort of absorbs flavors easily. And the orange/cilantro flavor combination is one of those perfect tastes like tomato/basil, just not as well known. I dressed the salad with some lemon juice, sea salt, and olive oil.

It was perfect along side some shrimp tacos, unfortunately those photos didn't turn out.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Grilled Eggplant Salad

I really enjoy cooking with eggplant. It is a vegetable that can facilitate and absorb many flavors. Everyone knows the American Italian dish "Eggplant Parmesan" when it pairs beautifully with tomato and cheese. It is also beautiful in stir fry with sesame and ginger. The French pair it with squash, peppers, and tomato for Ratatouille. The Middle East has Baba Ganoush where eggplant is blended with tahini and lemon. So you can see its versatility. So you can begin to see why I find eggplant so irresistable.
I'm not sure the provenance of this salad, alot Greek I suppose. The greeks widespread combination of lemon and oregano is always refreshing, plus sour pungent feta cheese.
1 medium eggplant, sliced, salted, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 cloved of garlic, minced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Brush the eggplant slices with some of the oil and grill over hot coals until the flesh begins to soften, but not mushy
Combine the oregano, mint, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the remaining oil to create a "lemonette".
Toss the eggplant slices, while still warm from the grill, with the lemonette.
To serve, top the eggplant salad with crumbled Feta cheese and more chopped fresh herbs.