Sunday, August 29, 2010

Buttery Salmon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Shallots

Every once in a while, it is okay to splurge.  This meal is definitely a splurge.  It is a sockeye salmon sauteed in butter and then topped with a little "salad" of shiitake mushrooms and shallots and topped again with a chiffonade of sage.  The butter makes this dish decadent,  making each mouthful of salmon something to treasure.  I would not make this often, but it is definitely a good creation.

BUTTERY SALMON WITH SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND SHALLOTS
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 pound of sockeye salmon fillets
8 shiitake mushrooms, medium to large
1 shallot, julienned
1 garlic clove diced
5 tablespoons of butter
4-6 large leaves of sage, chiffonade

Directions:
1.  Cut the salmon into 2 or 4 slices.  Salt and pepper liberally.  Clean the shiitake mushrooms and slice them into little strips.  Heat a pan on high and throw the mushrooms into the pan.  This will draw the moisture out of the mushrooms.  Stir the mushrooms.  After a couple of minutes, add 2 tablespoons of butter, the shallots and garlic.  Saute for about five minutes.

2.  In a separate plan, while the mushroom mixture is sauteing, heat 3 tablespoons of butter on medium high heat.  When the butter is melted and bubbling, add the salmon, flesh side down.  Saute for about 5 to 6 minutes and flip.  Saute for about five more minutes.  Take a knife and poke gently into the salmon to determine if it is done. If the salmon begins to flake, it is basically done.  If it is not flaking, turn it one more time for a couple of minutes.

3.  Remove the salmon and plate.  Take a spoonful (or three, as I like it) of the mushroom mixture and gently pour the mixture over the salmon.  Garnish with the sage chiffonade.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Savage Boleks' Drunk Monk Belgian Tripel

After the success of my first homebrew, I decided to try something different.  I purchased another Brewer's Best kit.  This time, I decided I would brew a Belgian Tripel.  But I also decided to give it my own twist.   I purchased some dried bitter orange peel, some cardamom seeds and some coriander seeds.  I thought the bitter orange peel would be a good compliment to the Belgian candy sugar.  I also thought that the cardamom and coriander would provide a pepper taste to the beer.  So, during the brewing process, I added the bitter orange peel and a couple tablespoons of cracked cardamom seed and cracked coriander seed.

The fermentation process for this beer was much more subdued.  That may have been due to the fact that I let the beer ferment in the basement, which was cooler than the dining room (where the Rascal King fermented).  I was a little concerned about whether the fermentation, but I continued anyway.


The beer was a success, more or less.  The beer pours a golden brown, without much of a head, because there was not as much carbonation as I would have liked.  The Drunk Monk definitely has a different taste, which I thought would occur.  The beer has a peppery taste.  The beer is like a debate, between the sweetness of the candy sugar and the pepper of the cardamom and coriander.  The pepper wins, which is just fine with me.

I served the beer at our BBQ and had several bottles available for anyone who wanted to try it.  All but one of the bottles were consumed well before the end of the night. So, I guess people liked the beer. 

The beer is supposed to have an ABV of about 9%.  As with the Rascal King, I think the ABV fell a little short.  That just gives me a goal for the next time I brew the beer.

Obviously, as a homebrew, the beer is not for sale and is not available in stores.  You will just have to wait for the next party, assuming there is any left.

ENJOY!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Iron Chef Night: MUSSELS!

After reading an article about mussels in the food section of the Washington Post, I decided that I would have another Iron Chef night, with the secret ingredient of MUSSELS!  I made three dishes, with no recipes as a guide.  These plates were solely from my imagination and, to a certain extent, they suffered from my lack of a formal education and/or experience as a chef.  I hesitate to post these recipes, but, anyways, here they are...


ASIAN-STYLE MUSSEL CROSTINI
Serves several

Ingredients:

A small baguette cut into 12-16 thin slices
Butter for each slice of the baguette plus 2 tablespoons of butter
12-16 fresh mussels, cleaned by rinsing mussels under cold water
3 stalks lemongrass, sliced lengthwise
6 bunches Thai basil (3 bunches chopped)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cups white wine
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Place the baguette slices on a tray and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter each of the baguette slices, somewhat liberally.  Bake the slices for about 5 to 8 minutes, until they become crisp but before they brown.

2.  In a deep pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat, then add the garlic, red onion and 3 basil sprigs.  Saute the ingredients for about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, increase to high and cover.  One the wine begins to boil, add the mussels and cover.  Wait about 5 minutes and check the mussels.  When they are open, they are done.


3.  Arrange the crostini and place one mussel on each crostini.  Sprinkle onions over the crostini and the chopped Thai basil.

4.  You can take the broth in which you cooked the mussels and dip the remaining baguette slices in it.  It is very good.


GRILLED OCTOPUS AND MUSSEL SALAD WITHIN AN HERB SALAD
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Grilled Octopus and Mussel Salad):

2/3 pounds of baby octopus (about 4 octopi)
1 bag of mussels
2 tablespoons of smoked paprika
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 bunches Genovese basil, chopped

Ingredients (for the Herb Salad):
1/2 red onion, sliced
3 small tomatoes, sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Package herb salad or other salad

Directions:
1.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the octopi.  Boil for 10 minutes and remove. The octopi will have shrunk to about 1/3 of their size.  Place in a plastic bag, add the olive oil and smoked paprika.  Mix the ingredients and let it marinate for 1 to 2 hours at least (preferably longer).

2.  Heat the grill to medium-high heat, add the octopi and grill for about 3-4 minutes. Flip and grill for about 3 minutes more. Remove and slice the octopi.  While the octopi is grilling, grill the mussels using a stone or griddle (so the smaller mussels don't fall through the grates).  The mussels will open after a couple of minutes.  
3.  Mix the octopus and mussels together, sprinkle the chopped basil over the mixture and place in the middle of the herb salad.


EASY MUSSELS WITH FINGERLING POTATO "FRITES"
Serves 2-4

Ingredients (for the Mussels):
1 bag of mussels
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 bottle of white wine 

Ingredients (for the Potatoes):

1 bag of fingerling potatoes
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  Start with the potatoes.  Skin the potatoes (I leave some skin on them at the ends to mimic fries).  Wash the potatoes.  Place a sheet of aluminum on a metal tray, place the potatoes and garlic on the tray, and salt and pepper liberally.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 1 hour.

2.  When the potatoes are almost done, heat the wine and in a deep pan to a boil.  When it begins to boil, add the mussels and cover.  After about five minutes and after the mussels have opened, remove them.  Divid ethe mussels into bowls, divide the fries and serve.

ENJOY!

Almond '22 Torbata

When one thinks of beer in Italy, the usual suspects are two ... Peroni and Moretti.  No one would usually associate Italy with the craft beer movement, but there is are quite a few craft brewers there and they produce some really unique beers.  A couple of years ago, Clare and I went to a beer tasting at the National Geographic Museum.  The beer tasting focused on Italian craft beers.  We were introduced to beers from breweries such as Birra Baladin and Birrificio del Ducato.  The one thing that tied all these beers together is the realization that the Italians will brew beer with almost anything.

After that beer tasting, I kept an eye out for any Italian craft that  beers I could find.  One such brewer is Birra Almond '22, a brewery in Abruzzo, Italy.  The brewery takes its name from the fact that it is housed in a building that was used to shell almonds back in the early twentieth century.

The beer is brewed in the style of an English barleywine as opposed to an American barleywine (yes, there are two styles of barleywines).  An English barleywine is a very strong beer, with a malty flavor that may also carry tones of caramel, coffee, molasses, etc.  This style also has a hoppy flavor, from the use of only English hops (such as East Kent Goldings or Fuggles).  English barleywines generally use less hops than American barleywines.

Almond '22 brews this beer with chestnut honey and orange zest.  The brewer uses barley malt, about 5% of which is peat smoked, as well as raw cane sugar that is fair trade, and East Kent Goldings hops.  The beer pours a dark brown, with a frothy carbonation.  The beer has a very smokey taste, one that is different from the flavors of other smoked ales, such as rauchbiers.  The smokey taste overwhelms everything else, like the hops, honey and orange peel.  It takes some getting use to and was good at first, but the beer became a little more difficult to drink after a while. 

Although definitely worth a try, I would suggest this beer to people who are very big fans of smoked ales.  This beer is fairly expensive, at about $20.00 per bottle.  It is also difficult to find.  I found a bottle at State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland.

ENJOY!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Risotto dello Zafferano con il Calamaro ed i Pettini

For her birthday, my beautiful Angel, Clare, wanted me to make her a special dinner.  I had thought about a  lot of dishes that I wanted to make for her, but, I ultimately decided to make a special version of the Seafood Risotto recipe.  For this risotto, I chose to use saffron, along with squid and scallops.  

The recipe is basically the same as the Seafood Risotto recipe.  The only difference is that I only used the squid and scallops.  The key is to make sure that all the scallops are the same size and that the pieces of squid are about the same size.  This make sure that the seafood cooks evenly. 

RISOTTO DELLO ZAFFERANO CON IL CALAMARO ED I PETTINI
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 cups of seafood stock
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of white wine
1 pinch of saffron
1/2 pound of cleaned squid (both bodies and tentacles)
1/2 pound of scallops
1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 sweet or Vidalia onion, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Oregano, to taste
Salt, to taste
Parsley, chopped
Several leaves of basil
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Directions:
1.  In a pot, heat the seafood stock and water to a simmer.  Keep stock warm over low heat.

2.  In another pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic.  Saute the onion and garlic for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the rice and stir the rice so that the rice is covered by the olive oil.  Add the white wine and cook until the wine is almost absorbed, stirring often for a couple of minutes.

3.  Stir in 1 cup of warm stock and the pinch of saffron.  Simmer slowly and stir often until the liquid is almost absorbed.  Adjust the heat of necessary so that the stock does not evaporate too quickly.

4.  Continue adding stock either by 1/2 cup or 1 cup amounts, stirring continuously until the stock is absorbed.  When there is about 1 cup of stock left, add the scallops and stir with another 1/2 cup of stock.

5.  By this time, the rice should be creamy in consistency and cooked al dente (firm to the bite) and seafood should be partially cooked.  Slice the bodies of the squid into pieces that are roughly the same size.  Add the squid  and cook for a couple of minutes until it is opaque.  Remove from heat, add butter and stir well.  Also add pepper to taste.

6.  Serve in bowls. Place a couple of basil leaves on the risotto and sprinkle some of the parsley over the risotto.  Also, sprinkle grated Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.

ENJOY!

Savage Boleks' Rascal King Imperial India Pale Ale

I am a big fan of craft beer and craft breweries, throughout the United States and around the world. You can see some of them on the right side of the blog under "Some Great Craft Brewers."  While I have no dreams of becoming a craft brewer, I did decide to start homebrewing as a hobby.

I chose to make an Imperial India Pale Ale as my first home brew, which is one of my favorite beer styles.  My beautiful wife, Clare, helped me make the beer.  Hence the "Savage Boleks."  This beer was made from a Brewer's Best kit and I followed the instructions to the letter.

The beer has a rascally history.  During the fermentation, the carboy blew its top because of the active fermentation.  Still, the beer turned out well.  It has a a deep brown color and a nice foam develops when poured.  Take a sniff of the beer and you are greeted by hops.  More hops follow when you drink the beer.  In fact, the beer has a very hoppy taste, which stays with you after each sip.  This is to be expected from an Imperial IPA, which is a beer style that uses more hops that other styles.

 

The beer is supposed to have an ABV of 9%, but I don't think I got the ABV that high.  Still, it is a very drinkable beer and a good first attempt at home brewing.  I offered the opportunity to try the beer to family and friends at our Open House/BBQ.  I guess people liked it, we went through a lot of them.

Obviously, as a homebrew, the beer is not for sale and is not available in stores.  You will just have to wait for the next party, assuming there is any left.  

ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Raviolini de Pescatrice

Last year, I undertook an effort to make ravioli for the first time.  I came across a recipe for Ravolini de Pescatrice (Fish Ravioli) in a magazine and I thought it would be an interesting dish to make.  

This recipe was not your typical ravioli, with meat and cheese ground so finely that you have a hard time telling which is the meat and which is the cheese.  Instead, it involved the stacking of fresh ingredients -- eggplant, cheese, fish, and tomato -- onto freshly made pasta and then covering the pasta with another sheet to make the ravioli.  This is not an easy dish to make.  

While my first attempt was a success, my second attempt failed miserably.  Still, when properly done, it is a very tasty and different dish.

RAVIOLINI DE PESCATRICE
Adapted from a recipe provided by Saveur Magazine
Serves at least 4

Ingredients (for the pasta):
2 eggs
5 cups of all purpose flour
Hand crank pasta maker

Ingredients (for the Raviolini):
1/2 pound of halibut
1 small to medium sized eggplant, sliced thinly
1 small to medium sized tomato, sliced thinly
Mozzarella Cheese
Fresh Basil
1 garlic clove, diced
4 to 6 tablespoons of Olive Oil (at least)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  The first task is to make the ingredients for the raviolini.  Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan at medium heat.  Slice the larger bottom end of eggplant into thin slices, trying to get as many same-size slices as possible. Salt and pepper the slices.  Add garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the eggplant slices and saute the slices until they become tender, which will take several minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Use a paper towel to remove any excess oil or moisture from the eggplant slices (this is important to minimize the amount of moisture of the contents of the ravioli to preserve the pasta).

2.  Slice the tomato into as many same size slices as possible.  Use a paper towel to remove any excess moisture from the tomato slices.  Also slice the mozzarella into as many same sized slices as possible. 

3.  Slice the halibut into evenly sized pieces.  Salt and pepper the halibut.  Add about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a new pan and heat at medium heat.  Add the halibut and saute until halibut is mostly cooked . Remove and let cool down.  Then use a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Put all of the raviolini ingredients in the fridge.

4.  It is time to make the pasta.  Take four cups of flour and make a mountain.  Then make a crater in the middle of the mountain with your fingers.  Crack two eggs into the crater.  Using a fork, begin to beat the eggs gently, occasionally mixing in flour from the rim of the "volcano" or its outside edges. Continue to add flour until the pasta starts to come together.  Once you can form it into a ball in your hands, place the pasta on a flat surface that is covered with flour.  Shape the pasta into a rectangle.  Begin to knead the pasta with the palm of your hand, adding flour to wherever it feels sticky.  After about ten minutes of kneading, check the pasta to make sure that there are no sticky spots.  Wrap the pasta in plastic wrap and let sit for about ten minutes.

5.  Set the pasta maker on the widest setting.  Split the pasta in half.  Run the pasta through a couple of times.  Then move the setting to the next setting and run the pasta through.  Move the setting to the next setting and run the pasta through.  Keep moving through the settings but stop before the last one.

6.  Now you should have two sheets of pasta.  And it is now time to start assembling the raviolini.  Place the ingredients in the following order: eggplant, mozzarella, halibut and tomato.   Make sure to leave a lot of space between each stack of ingredients to ensure that you will have enough pasta to complete the raviolini.  Then place the other sheet of pasta over top.  Gently press down around the edges.  Take a knife and make a cut to create individual raviolini.  Take a fork and press down along all of the edges of each raviolini.

7.  Put a pot of water on high heat.  When the water begins to boil, add the raviolini, one at a time.  Let the raviolini cook in the boiling water for about 5 minutes.  Remove the raviolini from the heat.

8.  To serve the raviolini, I would drizzle olive oil over them, and then grind black pepper over the raviolini.  If you have left over halibut, I would saute the halibut, break it up and sprinkle it over the raviolini. You can also add a basil leaf for garnish.


ENJOY.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva (2006)

In 2006, I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the vineyards of Marchesi de Frescobaldi.  My tour was of Frescobaldi's estate at Nipozzano.  The vineyard is located in the Chianti Rufina region.  The Chianti Rufina does have a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita ("DOCG") designation.  Generally, the DOCG requires that a wine be produced from grapes cultivated in a strictly defined area.  The DOCG also  imposes a series of additional restrictions or requirements, designed to protect the integrity and traditions associated with the wine.

The Nipozzano estate is centered around the Castello di Nipozzano, which was built in the year 1000.  Frescobaldi plants Sangiovese grapes at this vineyard, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes.

The namesake of this vineyard is the Nipozzano Riserva.  A "Riserva" wine is one that is aged for 2 years longer than a wine of the same style would typically be aged.  The Nipozzano Riserva is a Rufina Chianti, consisting of 100% Sangiovese grapes. It is an excellent example of a Chianti.  The wine pours a a nice darkish red.  The bouquet gives aromas of cherries, raspberries and plums.  Even after four years, the aromas are still there.  When drinking the wine, it is a little dry, but many of the same flavors -- cherries and plums -- are present in the taste of the wine. 

The Nipozanno is available around here.  I've found it at liquor and wine stores in Maryland.  The wine, which has an ABV of 13.5%, is about $26.00 a bottle.

ENJOY!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Iron Chef Night: CORN!

Every once in a while, I like to do an "Iron Chef" night, when I pick an ingredient and try to make two or three dishes featuring that ingredient.  For the latest Iron Chef Night, the secret ingredient was ... CORN.  I skimmed the Internet for recipes, which I use for ideas as to what dishes I could make.  After a quick review, I decided on three dishes: Chilled Corn Soup with Tarragon and Sun-Dried Tomatoes; Blue Crab and Corn Salad; and Grilled Black Sea Bass with a Roasted Corn Salsa.  Each of these dishes was made on the spot, from ideas in my head.  I tried to keep it as simple as possible.  I used recipes only as guides, not really following them.  The measurements are sketchy and even if I made these again, they would probably come out different.  Still, it is an exercise in creativity.


CHILLED CORN SOUP WITH TARRAGON AND SUN DRIED TOMATOES
Serves 4

This is a great chilled soup for the summer.  The key is the colder the soup, the better.  So let it rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving it.

Ingredients: 
3 cups of corn (about four ears of corn)
4 green onions (white part only), diced
1 small red chile, seeded and diced
Juice from half a lemon
2-3 teaspoons of tarragon, chopped finely
3 cups of milk
1 cup of yogurt
Sun-dried tomatoes for garnish
A few tarragon leaves for garnish

Directions:
1.  Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the kernels off of the cobs and put into a bowl.  In the food processor, add about 1/2 of the corn, the chopped tarragon and the onions.  Blend until smooth.  Add lemon juice and continue blending.

2.  In a separate bowl, add the milk and yogurt, and whisk until smooth.  Add one cup of the blended milk and yogurt to the corn mixture in the food processor, while the processor is running.  Pour the mixture into a clean bowl.  Whisk in the remaining milk and yogurt mixture.  Add the red peppers.  Chill the soup for a couple of hours.  Garnish with sun-dried tomatoes and a few tarragon leaves.


BLUE CRAB AND CORN SALAD
Serves 4

Ingredients:
16 ounces of jumbo lump crab (pasteurized only)
4 ears of corn
Juice from 1 lemon
4 leaves of basil, chopped finely
A handful of sun-dried tomatoes
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Rub the corn with butter, salt and pepper.  You may also add some red pepper flake.  Wrap the corn in foil with two pads of butter.  Heat grill on high.  Placed the wrapped corn on the grill for 5 minutes and turn.  Cook for another two to three minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Using a serrated knife, remove the kernels from the cobs.

2.  Mix the corn, crab, chile, basil, sun dried tomatoes, and lemon juice.  Salt and pepper to taste.


GRILLED CORN-TOMATO SALSA
Serves 4


Ingredients:
4 ears of corn
1 red chile, seeded and diced finely
Juice from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lime
1 small red onion, diced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1 small bunch of cilantro, diced
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Directions: 
1.  Rub the corn with butter, salt and pepper.  You may also add some red pepper flake.  Wrap the corn in foil with two pads of butter.  Heat grill on high.  Placed the wrapped corn on the grill for 5 minutes and turn.  Cook for another two to three minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Using a serrated knife, remove the kernels from the cobs.


2.  Mix the corn, chile, tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado, lemon juice and lime juice.  Salt and pepper to taste.

I served this with grilled black sea bass.

ENJOY!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Heavy Seas Hang Ten

I remember stopping by a brewpub called Sisson's in the historic Federal Hill section of Baltimore back around 1994.  Sisson's was opened by Al Sisson in 1989 and it was Maryland's first brewpub since Prohibition.  The brewpub served Creole fare, which was very good, but it was the beer that really stood out.  The head brewer at the time was Al Sisson's son, Hugh Sisson.  Hugh had an ownership share in the restaurant, which he sold when we started his own brewery, Clipper City Brewing Company.  Hugh later developed a series of beers, called Heavy Seas, which he brews with Ernesto Igot, the former brewer at the San Miguel Brewery in the Phillippines.  The Heavy Seas features a series of high-powered beers, such as the Hang Ten.

The Hang Ten is a German-styled weizen doppelbock or weizen bock.  This style of beer features a high percentage of malted wheat (at least 50%), along with barley malts.  One of the oldest weizen bocks has been produced by Aventinus since 1907.

While Hugh Sisson has not been making this bock beer as long as Aventinus, he certainly has brewed a great example of the style.  The beer pours a darker brown, and you can definitely smell the alcohol in the beer.  After all, it is 10% ABV.  The alcohol can also be tasted in the beer, but that is also be expected given the ABV.  But the beer is very smooth, coating the tongue with a warming sensation, along with a taste of vanilla, banana, and clove.

According to the Heavy Seas website, this beer can be aged for two years.  Something I might try to do, especially given the price of the beer is $5.99 for a 22 ounce bottle and is available at most stores. I would definitely recommend this beer.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Seafood Risotto

Those who know me know that I cooked at a seafood restaurant during college.  I hated the job and, after I quit for law school, I basically stopped cooking.  My culinary renaissance came when I took a vacation in Italy that was coordinated by the Smithsonian Institution.  Led by a local chef, who was born in Tuscany, the trip took a group of us through Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, where we learned not only about how food was made, but we also got to see demonstrations of how it should be prepared.  Upon returning from this vacation, I renewed my interest in cooking.  I decided to focus on one cuisine, so that I learn the ingredients, cooking techniques and the presentation. I chose Italian cuisine, for obvious reasons.

There are few dishes more quintessentially Italian than risotto.  Arabs brought the short-grained rice to Sicily and Spain during the 14th century.  However, as for the origins of the dish known as "risotto," that is the stuff of legend.  More specifically, during the construction of the Duomo di Milano, an apprentice glassmaker named Valeris had the task of making the glass for the dome.  The townsfolk in Milan teased Valerius about his work, placing the credit for the vibrant glass on his use of saffron rather than his talents.  Tired of the teasing, Valerius decided to play a prank on the townspeople who were gathered for his master's wedding.  Valerius added large amounts of saffron to the rice prepared for the meal at the wedding.  Far from a prank, the townspeople loved the rice dish, which became what we know to be risotto.  (For those who want to learn more, you can check out this website and this other website.)

Setting the legends aside, the reality is that risotto is a blank canvas, which a cook can use to make a work of culinary art.  The canvas is arborio rice.  The cook can add a variety of broths or stocks (beef, chicken, vegetable or seafood), wines and a variety of meats, seafood and/or vegetables, along with a variety of herbs and spices.  I've made a few different risottos and, over time, I intend to post the recipes for those risottos on my blog.  For now, I'll start at the beginning, because all of my risottos flow from a basic recipe that I found in a cookbook that is far from Italian -- the Pike's Place Seafood Cookbook.  The cookbook contains a recipe for Shellfish Risotto.  True to form, I've never followed the recipe to the letter; instead, I use it as a guide.  And, with that guide, I produced what I consider to be my first true work of culinary art.

SEAFOOD RISOTTO
Adapted from the Pike's Place Seafood Cookbook at 113-114
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 cups of seafood stock
2 cups of water
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 pound of shelled and deveined shrimp (get the largest count available)
1/4 pound of cleaned squid
1/2 pound of halibut
1 1/2 cups of arborio rice
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 sweet or Vidalia onion, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Oregano, to taste
Salt, to taste
Several leaves of basil
Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Directions:
1.  In a sauce pan, heat the seafood stock and water to a simmer.  Keep stock warm over low heat.

2.  In another pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic.  Saute the onion and garlic for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the rice and stir the rice so that the rice is covered by the olive oil.  Add the white wine and cook until the wine is almost absorbed, stirring often for a couple of minutes.

3.  Stir in 1 cup of warm stock.  Simmer slowly and stir often until the liquid is almost absorbed.  Adjust the heat of necessary so that the stock does not evaporate too quickly.

4.  Continue adding stock either by 1/2 cup or 1 cup amounts, stirring continuously until the stock is absorbed.  When there is about 1 cup of stock left, add the halibut and the shrimp and continue and stir with another 1/2 cup of stock.

5.  By this time, the rice should be creamy in consistency and cooked al dente (firm to the bite) and seafood should be partially cooked.  Add the squid  and cook for a couple of minutes until it is opaque.  Remove from heat, add butter and stir well.  Also add oregano, basil and pepper to taste.

6.  Serve in bowls.  Chiffonade the basil and sprinkle over the risotto.  Also, sprinkle grated Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.

ENJOY!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dobbes - Fortmiller Vineyard Syrah (2005)

A little more than a year ago, Clare and I spent our honeymoon in Oregon, which catered to the inner foodies in each of us.  During one stretch of our honeymoon, we spent a few days in Oregon's Willamette Valley, which is home to some amazing restaurants (like the Joel Palmer House, whose menu features wild mushroom dishes prepared by Chef Christopher Czarnecki)  and some equally amazing vineyards.  We had a great tour guide in Mike Thomas, of Wine Tours Northwest, who took us to over a dozen vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms throughout the much of the valley, including the tasting room of Dobbes Family Estates.

According to its website, Dobbes Family Estate was started in 2002 and has grown into the fourth largest vineyard in Oregon with 214 acres and 17 full time employees.  Some of this acreage lies in the Rogue Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area), which itself lies within the larger Southern Oregon AVA.  The Rogue Valley AVA is the warmest and driest area in Oregon.  Thus, the temperatures are less hospitable to Pinot Noir vines and much more friendly to other grapes, such as Syrah and Cabernet.  Dobbes produces two single vineyard offerings from the Rogue Valley AVA -- its Fortmiller Syrah and its Sundown Vineyard Syrah.  (Dobbes also has an offering known as its Grande Assemblage Syrah.)

Clare and I tried the 2005 Fortmiller Syrah, which we purchased when we were on our honeymoon.  According to the Dobbes' website, this wine is a limited production wine consisting of 100% Syrah grapes, produced from three barrels out of the entire lot produced for the 2005 vintage from the Fortmiller vineyard.  The grapes were given a "pre-fermentation" cold soak for six days before the temperatures were raised to initiate fermentation.  After a couple weeks of fermenting, the wine was introduced into barrels of 50% French Oak and 50% American Oak to age for approximately fifteen months. 

The Fortmiller Syrah is a dark wine, with colors reminiscent of dark cherries or ripe plums.  Those cherries and plums are also very present in the bouquet.  And, as with Syrahs generally, this wine has a very earthy taste, with not only the dark cherries and plums present, but also a nice spice taste. This wine is definitely a good example of an Oregonian Syrah.

Now in its 2006 vintage, the Fortmiller Syrah, is $45.00 a bottle.  It is available online at the website for Dobbes Family Estates, assuming that you live in a state that allows you to ship wine to your home.

ENJOY.

P.S.: We paired this wine with the New Mexican Green Salmon Steaks and Devil Corn.  The recipes for those dishes are in the previous post.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

New Mexican Green Salmon with Dirty Devil Corn

I've been to Santa Fe, New Mexico several times for work, and each time I go, I try to visit The Chile Shop on my free time.  The Chile Shop, as its name suggest, sells all things chile.  Apart from my desire to buy a bunch of ristras to hang around the house, which would be difficult to carry onto a plane, I always purchase a pound or two of different chile powders.  The spiciness of the chile powder can range from a very mild chile to a very hot chile.  Personally, I usually stock three powders: a medium red Hatch chile, a medium-to-hot green Hatch chile, and a very hot Native Nambe chile. 

These chile powders often serve as inspiration for dishes, such as my New Mexican Green Salmon and Dirty Devil Corn. The inspiration for each is based upon a chile powder.  The Green Salmon is based upon the use of the green Hatch chile in the rub.  The Dirty Devil chile is based on the use of either red hatch chile or Native Nambe chile.  (I used red Hatch chiles in this recipe).  No recipes were used in making these dishes; I came up with these dishes on my own.  For that reason, the measurements are approximate.  But that is a good thing, because you can add or subtract to accommodate your tastes and preferences.

NEW MEXICAN GREEN SALMON STEAKS 
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of green Hatch chile powder
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of adobo
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon of rosemary
salt
pepper
olive oil
4 salmon steaks (see tip below)

Directions:
1.  Combine the green Hatch chili powder, cumin, adobo, garlic powder, thyme and rosemary.  Rub the salmon steaks with olive oil.  Salt and pepper the steaks.  Sprinkle the rub over the all of the steaks, including the sides.  Place the steaks in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

2.  Heat the grill to high.  Remove the steaks a couple minutes before placing them on the grill.  Place the steaks on the grill for three minutes.  Turn the steaks 90 degrees and let them cook for a couple minutes more.  Flip the steaks and let them cook for a couple of minutes and then turn 90 degrees.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then remove.

TIP:  Always know what type of salmon you are buying in the store.  Most salmon sold in stores is farm-raised.   This salmon is not the healthiest to consume, because of use of pesticides and antibiotics by farmers.  It is okay to consume in limited amounts, but you should always look for wild-caught salmon.  Sockeye, Coho and King Salmon from Alaska, Washington and Oregon is the best choice.

DIRTY DEVIL CORN
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 ears of corn,cleaned
2 tablespoons of medium Hatch chile powder (or Native Nambe if you like it really hot)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 teaspoon of adobo
1/2 teaspoon of thyme
1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
salt and pepper
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro

Directions: 
1.  Combine the chili powder, cumin, adobo, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Take the stick of butter and rub all sides of the corn liberally.  Sprinkle the diced garlic over the corn.  Then sprinkle the combined rub all over the corn.  Wrap each ear of corn in foil.

2.  Heat the grill to high.  Cook for five minutes over the grill and turn.  Cook for about five minutes more.

3,  Remove the corn from the foil.  Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the corn and serve.

ENJOY.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Green Peppercorn ... Tripel?


One of the most amazing things about the craft beer movement is the creativity of the brewmasters.  They don't limit themselves to the ingredients called for in the Reinheitsgebot (water, barley, hops and yeast).  And, more importantly, few ingredients are off limits.  Coffee, chestnuts, cardamom, saffron, and blueberries (just to name a few) have all found their way into different brews. The only limitation is the particular style of beer that the brewmaster intends to make.  After all, one would not expect coffee in a blond ale or blueberries in a stout. 

One such craft brewer, The Brewer's Art, has used green peppercorns to brew a smooth blond ale called, as one would expect, "Green Peppercorn Tripel."  Located in Baltimore, Maryland, The Brewer's Art is known for brewing Belgian-style beers.  One can go to its brewpub/restaurant and try one of the brewery's standards, such as the Ozzy, Resurrection and Proletary Ale.  The Brewer's Art also bottles its beer, relying upon a production facility in Pennsylvania. Yet, as with  many craft brewers, it is the special releases and seasonals that are truly noteworthy.

The Green Peppercorn Tripel pours with a very foamy head, which covers a golden ale.  Everything about this beer speaks of its namesake.  A sniff of the beer gives one a firm smell of cracked peppercorn.  Take a sip and the presence of the peppercorn is clearly up front.  All of the other tastes one would normally expect in a Belgian Tripel are far in the background.  It is definitely a beer worth trying for those who are as adventurous as the brewers.  

This beer is available at stores, like Whole Foods, for about $10.99 a bottle.

ENJOY.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Basil Garlic Lobster

Recently, I decided to create my own lobster dish.  I wanted a simple dish, which required only a handful of ingredients and which could be quickly prepared.  This dish requires only lobster tails, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and a few spices.  The longest part of the dish is getting the lobster out of the tail without damaging the tail.  The tail can then be used as part of the presentation.  

As always, I don't always measure spices, as I generally add a little at a time until I am satisfied.  So all of the spice measurements are approximations.  Also, my apologies for the lack of pictures as to how to get the lobster out of the tails.

BASIL GARLIC LOBSTER
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 four ounce lobster tails (or larger)
1 bunch of fresh basil (at least 4 large leaves)
1 good size clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (optional, I like the kick)
Olive oil
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Before tackling the lobster tail, take a couple of basil leaves and chop them finely.  Also, dice the clove of garlic.  Set aside.

2.  Now, the lobster tail.  First, rinse the tail under cold water.  Second, take a pair of seafood scissors and cut down the middle of the underside of the tail.  At the end of the tail, make snippets on each side of the underside, approximately a quarter of an inch or a half-inch apart.  Cut along the edges of the underside, removing the segments as you go along.  After removing most of the underside, clean the edges.  Third, dry off the tails, then rub a tablespoon of olive oil on the inside of the tail.  Salt and pepper the inside of the tail liberally.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees F, and bake the tails for five to eight minutes until the tails are red.  Remove and let cool.  Now you have your serving dish.

3.  Take the lobster meat and clean it.  Lobster is like shrimp, it should be deveined if possible.  The vein is along the top of the tail meat.  Remove the vein and rinse the lobster meat with cold water.  Then slice the lobster meat into pieces that are roughly the same size.  Put the lobster pieces into a bowl and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the chopped basil leaves and crushed red pepper.  Mix the ingredients.

4.  Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet on medium to medium high heat.  When the oil begins to glisten, add the diced garlic.  Saute the garlic for a couple of minutes, but do not let it brown.  Add the lobster mixture and saute for at least five to eight minutes, if not longer, until the lobster is opaque.  Salt and pepper to taste.   Stir occasionally to ensure that all sides of the lobster is cooked.

ENJOY.

(The Basil Garlic Lobster pictured above is served with Angel Hair Pasta with a Saffron Red Sauce and Steamed Broccoli.)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Big Bob Gibson's Memphis-Style Championship Red Sauce

For our first barbecue, I decided to smoke a lot of pork shoulder based on the recipes of Big Bob Gibson's, a well-known BBQ joint in Decatur, Alabama.  Big Bob Gibson started cooking barbecue in 1925 and four generations have continued his passion.  Knowing that I also love BBQ, my in-laws, Frank and Geri Savage, took Clare and I to Big Bob Gibson's.  After a great meal of three different types of barbecue, I purchased some of the rub used by the restaurant.  And, later, Frank and Geri bought me the Big Bob Gibson's cookbook as a gift, which fueled my desire to cook my own barbecue.

The cookbook includes a recipe for Memphis-Style Championship Red Sauce, which I knew would be the perfect accompaniment to the pork shoulder, which had been rubbed with Big Bob Gibson's rub.  Many people asked me about the sauce, and some even asked for the recipe.  I have to admit that I mostly followed the recipe, adding a little more garlic powder.  So, here is the recipe straight from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book at page 220:

MEMPHIS-STYLE CHAMPIONSHIP RED SAUCE
Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1 cup water
3/4 cup vinegar
3/4 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup corn sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
4 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons molasses
4 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (I used a little more)
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions: 
Combine all of the ingredients in a sauce pan and blend well.  Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer over a medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.  Allow the sauce to cool.  It stores in a tightly sealed container for 2 weeks in a refrigerator.

ENJOY.
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