Friday, April 29, 2011

Avery Brewing Company's Salvation

Based in Boulder, Colorado, Avery Brewing Company brews a wide range of beers, but the ones that I really like are the brewer's "series."  One of these series is the "Holy Trinity of Ales," which includes the Hog Heaven Barleywine, the Reverend Quadruple and the Salvation Belgian-Style Golden Ale.  Recently, I saw the Salvation, so I decided to pick one up and give it a try.

The Belgian Golden Ale is one of several styles of strong ales that, unlike some beers, is relatively new.  This style was developed by the Moorgat Brewery after World War II to capitalize on the popularity of pilsner beers. A Golden Ale is very similar to a Belgian Tripel, but tends to be lighter, dryer and fruitier. 

Avery's Salvation pours a nice golden color, which is appropriate given it is a golden ale.  Avery brewed this beer with Stryian Golding hops, along with two row barley, cara 8 and cara 20 malts.  The aromatic elements of this beer feature fruit and spice.  The brewer suggests apricots and peach, with nutmeg and cinnamon.  I can definitely see the nutmeg and cinnamon, which carry through into the taste, both at the front and at the end.  The fruit are present in the aromatics, and carry over to the taste as well, but a little less than the spice.

This beer has an ABV of 9.0% and sells for $6.99 a bottle.  The brewer suggests that the beer can be cellared for up to three years. Perhaps the next time I buy this beer, I'll consider cellaring it to see what change, if any, there is to the beer over time.

ENJOY!

For more about the Golden Ale style, check out the Beer Certification Judge Program.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rockfish with a Trio of Sauces

Recently, I was inspired to create a dish for Clare that brought together three different sauces, each with its own flavor.  I should say at the outset, that, as an amateur cook, I still have a lot to learn, particularly about presentation.  However, the only way to learn is to try and keep trying.

In this case, each of the three sauces is built around a pepper -- a red pepper, a yellow pepper, and a green pepper.  Beginning with the pepper, I added a couple of ingredients to give each sauce a unique flavor.  The red sauce is the hot one, with garlic and hatch chilies added to the red pepper.  The yellow sauce is flavored with curry powder, providing a different kind of spice.  Finally, the green sauce is a pepper basil sauce, with flecks of basil permeating through the entire sauce. Thus, a trio of sauces that are kind of like a traffic light -- red, yellow and green.

The sauces are served cold, and the idea is to take a forkful of the rockfish with a little of the sauce with each bite.  The idea is to alternate between the sauces so that each taste of rockfish is different.  This dish is a work in progress and, if I can make some refinements, I will post an updated recipe.

ROCKFISH WITH A TRIO OF SAUCES
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 pound of rockfish
1 red bell pepper
1/2 tablespoon of ground red hatch chiles
1 clove of garlic
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 tablespoon of curry powder
1 green bell pepper
8 large basil leaves
16 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Make the red sauce.  Puree the red pepper, garlic and ground red hatch chile powder.  Strain the mixture to remove the excess water.  Return it to the food processor and then add about four tablespoons of olive oil slowly while working the processor.

2.  Make the yellow sauce.  Puree the yellow pepper and the curry powder.  Strain the mixture to remove the excess water.  Return it to the food processor and then add about four tablespoons of olive oil slowly while working the processor.

3.  Make the green sauce.  Puree the green pepper, ground black pepper, and basil .  Strain the mixture to remove the excess water.  Return it to the food processor and then add about four tablespoons of olive oil slowly while working the processor.

4.  Cook the fish.  Heat four tablespoons of oil in a saute pan on medium heat.  Add the rockfish with the flesh side down and saute the fish for about six minutes.  Flip the fish and continue to saute for about six minutes more.  Flip the fish once again and check to see if it is finished.  If the fish is not cooked through, continue to cook it for a few more minutes.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chateau Lescalle Bordeaux Superieur (2003)

When one thinks of French wine, the first thought is usually Bordeaux.  The wine comes from the largest wine appellation in France.  The Appellation Origin Controllee in Bordeaux accounts for nearly one-quarter of all AOC wines produced in France.  Wine growing in this region dates all the way back to the Roman Empire.  As early as 48 A.D., the Romans planted grapes in this region to produce wine for the soldiers.  The first recorded evidence of winemaking in the Bordeaux region dates back to Pliny the Elder in 71 A.D.

Chateau Lescalle is a small chateau built by Emanuel Tessandier in 1875, near the town of Macau, which is located in Haut-Medoc and on the edge of the Margaux appellation.  The winemaker Claude Gaudin oversees the vineyards that have dense vine plantings, which limits yields and increases the intensity of the fruit.  The winemaker also extends the extraction time to pull all of the flavor out of the grapes.  The result should be an intense wine.

When I poured this Bordeaux Superieur, I immediately saw the need to decant the wine.  (I only had a glass, so I let it sit for a while, the rest was going into making a Bordeaux Au Jus for the Herb Crusted Standing Rib Roast.)  The need to decant this wine is to be expected, especially in light of the fact that the wine has sat in the bottle for about eight years. 

The wine pours a nice dark crimson color, with only the faintest deep purple hue.  The aromatics of this wine speak of dark cherries, plum, earth and some spice.  The taste of this wine is very fruit forward, with a lot of dark cherries and blackberries, along with earthy notes.  

Planet Bordeaux.com suggests that this wine is more like a Medoc Cru Beaujolais rather than a Bordeaux Superieur, but, I am glad it is just a Bordeaux Superieur.  At $18.49 a bottle, it is much more affordable and allows for many more people -- like me -- to try a great wine without having to fork out a lot of money for the wine.

I purchased this wine at Capital Beer and Wine, a new beer and wine store in Bethesda, Maryland. 

ENJOY!

For more about this wine, check out Planet Bordeaux.com.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wensleydale Mashed Potatoes

Wensleydale is a place and a cheese.  The place is a valley (dale) of the Ure River, which is located in North Yorkshire in northeast England.  Wensleydale has its place in English history.  Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Bolton Castle, which is located in the dale.

As for the cheese, its history predates Mary, Queen of Scots.  Wensleydale cheese was first produced by French Cistercian monks from Roquefort who settled in Wensleydale.  Historically, the Wensleydale cheese was a blue cheese, originally made from sheep's milk.  Over time, the monks and other producers made Wensleydale cheese from cow's milk.  In addition, the cheese went from being a blue cheese to a white cheese.  When  the monastery was dissolved in 1540, (two years before Mary was born) English farmers picked up the slack and continued to produce this cheese until the Second World War.  During the war, most of the milk in Great Britain was used to make "Government Cheddar."  After the end of the war, farmers resumed producing Wensleydale, albeit on a much smaller scale.

Wensleydale cheese is somewhat moist and can be crumbled, which makes this cheese a good candidate for being incorporated into mashed potatoes.  Typically, when I make mashed potatoes, I use either a hard cheese, such as grated Parmigianio Reggiano or Pecornio Romano.  I also use blue cheese, such as Maytag or Rogue.  When Clare and I were recently perusing the cheese aisle at a local grocery store, we came across the Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries.  We both love this cheese and have had it on prior occasions.  So, we decided that it would be worth trying to make mashed potatoes with the cheese.  Our hope was that the cranberries would add an interesting flavor component to the dish.  So, the recipe for Wensleydale Mashed Potatoes was born, just in time for it to be a side dish with the Herb Crusted Rib Roast with Bordeaux Thyme Au Jus

WENSLEYDALE MASHED POTATOES
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 10

Ingredients:
8 Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of milk
4/10s or 1/2 of a pound of Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries

Directions:
1.  Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for about ten of fifteen minutes. 

2. When the potatoes are soft and break up with a fork, strain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  

3.  Add the butter and milk and begin to mash the potatoes.  Add the Wensleydale cheese, a little at a time as you are mashing the potatoes.  Continue to mash the potatoes until they achieve the desired smoothness.  Personally, I like my mashed potatoes to have some chunks in them.  But you can keep mashing them until they are smooth.  

ENJOY!

For more about Wensleydale Cheese, check out Wikipedia

Monday, April 25, 2011

Herb Crusted Rib Roast with Bordeaux Thyme Au Jus

Those who know me know that my favorite cut of beef is the standing rib roast.  I eat rib-eyes, strip steaks, sirloin steaks, flank steaks, and porterhouses.  I even eat tongue and tripe.  But, the one cut of beef that always gets my attention is the rib roast, which is what is commonly known as prime rib.

The rib roast is typically the meal for holidays in my family, such as at Christmas time.  I've previously posted the Bolek Family Standing Rib Roast, which I made last Christmas.  As Easter approached, I wanted to make a rib roast again, but I wanted see if I could tweak the recipe a little.  

I made two significant changes to this recipe.  First, I decided to do an herb crust.  I still used the french onion soup mix, but I added a lot of fresh herbs (rosemary, sage and thyme), and used Dijon mustard to hold the mixture in place.  The second major change is that I decided to have a Bordeaux Thyme Au Jus.  Overall, the rib roast tasted a lot like the Bolek Family Standing Rib Roast, primarily due to the use of the French onion soup mix, but the au jus provided just enough of change to this dish.  

HERB-CRUSTED RIB ROAST WITH BORDEAUX THYME AU JUS
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 10-15

Ingredients (for the Rib Roast):
10 pounds of standing rib roast, with bones
4 packs of dried onion soup mix (such as Knorr's French Onion Soup mix)
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary, minced finely
2 tablespoons of fresh sage, minced finely
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, minced finely
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
Ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup of Dijon mustard

Ingredients (for the au jus):
2 cups of Bordeaux wine
2 tablespoons of finely chopped thyme
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper to taste.

Directions:
1.   Sear the rib roast.  Heat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  At this point, you want to sear the meat to lock in the juices for the long, dry heat of the cooking process.  Place the rib roast in a roasting pan and place it in the oven for about fifteen minutes. When you pull out the roast, you want to see the roast stating to brown.

2.  Prepare the rub.  While the rib roast is searing in the oven, it is time to prepare the rub.  Combine the packs of dried onion soup mix, rosemary, thyme and garlic, along with ground pepper and salt.  Make sure that everything is mixed thoroughly. 

3.  Apply the rub.  Remove the roast from the oven and place on top of the oven.  Begin by applying a thin layer of mustard to the top and sides of the roast.  Take small handfuls of the rub and begin to rub the all of the meat.  Be careful when doing this because both the rib and the roasting pan will be very hot.  Use all of the rub and try to get the rub on all sides.  

4.  Continue to cook the roast.  Lower the temperature of the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Return the rib roast to the oven, covered, to cook for about three hours.  I usually try to cook it for about two and one-half hours initially, and then check the temperature.    About once per hour, you should baste the roast with the juices; however, do not keep the roast open for long, as that will prolong the cooking.

5.  Remove the roast and let it rest.  When the roast has reached about 125 to 130 degrees, which between rare and medium rare, I pull the roast out and let it rest for about fifteen minutes.  The roast will continue to cook and increase about ten degrees.  (I like the rib roast to have a good pink center to it.)  When it is done, pull out the meat and wrap it in foil to rest for about twenty minutes.

6.  Prepare the au jus.  As the meat is resting, make the au jus.  Spoon about two or three tablespoons of the fat and drippings into a sauce pan.  Add the wine, stir and bring to a boil.  Boil until the wine is reduced somewhat.  Add the beef stock and continue to boil, whisking or stirring as it continues to cook down.  Whisk in the thyme as the au jus continues to boil.  After about twenty minutes or so, the au jus is ready.  

Overall, I think that this recipe worked out well.  The meat was very flavorful, although the crust had not "hardened" as much as I would have liked.  The au jus also worked well with the meat, adding a little moisture to parts that may have been cooked medium and adding some additional flavors to the meat.  If I had to choose between this recipe and the Bolek Family Standing Rib Roast, I think I would choose the latter.  What can I say, I value traditions, including culinary ones. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Schlafly Reserve Barleywine Style Ale (2008)

Both Clare and I have some very good friends who live in St. Louis.  I first met them the day before my wedding.  I was at the hotel and I got onto the elevator with his couple.  They looked at me and asked, are you Keith?  I said yes, and they said, this is for you and Clare, handing me a six pack of Schlafly Pale Ale.  For me, it was the start of a wonderful friendship with two amazing people.  It was also my first opportunity to try Schlafly beers. 

Ever since then, I look for Schlafly beers whenever I go shopping for beers. For some reason, which I still cannot figure out, I cannot find their regular offerings, such as the Pale Ale.  However, every once in a while, I can find their special offerings in local beer stores.  Most recently, I came across Schlafly's Barleywine-Style Ale.

This ale is very much like a wine in that it has its own vintage, which is released each November.  The beer I got to try was brewed in 2008.  To brew thise beer, the brewer used Marynka, Northdown, and Tettnang hops, along with 2 row malted barley, Munich and caramel malts, as well as roasted barley.  Once brewed, the beer is aged three months in a fermenter before being transported to American-made, oak barrels that have been toasted to the brewer's specifications.  The beer ages in these barrels for another three months.

The Barleywine-Style Ale pours a nice copper color, with a good off-white foam.  The aroma prominently features the malts, along with some subtle hop notes, wrapped around alcohol.  (This ale does have an ABV of 10.2%.)  The taste of the beer includes highlights of caramel, toffee and, to a limited extent, some raisins.  The aging of this beer in oak barrels has definitely contributed some liquor notes. 

It is fairly difficult to pair barleywines with food.  The smoothness of the beer pairs well with a sharp cheese, such as a gorgonzola cheese or a blue cheese.  Beers such as this one are probably best by themselves, as a digestif after a great meal. 

Overall, this is one of the best Barleywine Style Ales that I have ever tasted.  Schlafly did an excellent job of producing a nice beer that can be enjoyed sip by sip.  The Schlafly Reserve Barleywine-Style Ale is available at stores that have a wide range of craft beers, like Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits and Rodman's.  It sells for about $15.99 a bottle.

ENJOY!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Erath Winery Nierderberger Pinot Noir (2006)

Erath is a well established vineyard and winemaker in Willamette Valley, Oregon.  Dick Erath was one of the original winemakers in the Valley, and his winery has flourished for more than forty years.  I've previously reviewed their Pinot Noir (2006), which is a very good and reasonably priced Pinot Noir.  More recently, Clare and I were able to enjoy one of the winemaker's single vineyard offerings ... the Niederberger Pinot Noir (2006). 

The Niederberger Vineyard is located in the Dundee Hills AVA.  This AVA prides itself on its soil ... which is more than eighty percent Jory volcanic soil, full of minerals that help to grow some very good vines and produce some excellent grapes.  These soils were formed by volcanic activity more than fifteen million years ago.  The vineyard is on the southern slope, surrounded by tall fir trees.  Erath first planted Pinot Noir grapes in this vineyard in 1988.  Now, more than twenty years later, the vineyard is producing single-vineyard Pinot Noir wines that are especially good.

The Niederberger Vineyard Pinot Noir pours a nice crimson red.  The nose of this wine is full of blackberries and dark cherries, along with hints of earth and spice.  These aromas carry over to the taste of the wine, which is full of the blackberries and dark cherry fruit.  This wine is also fairly earthy for a Pinot Noir, bringing with it some spice and a little vanilla.

This wine, like most Pinot Noir wines, can be paired with a wide variety of foods.  Personally, I paired this wine with the Cedar Plank Salmon and Stuffed Tomatoes Provencal, both of which are based upon The Paley's Place Cookbook.  The pairing created a classic Pacific Northwest meal that both Clare and I really enjoyed.  

We purchased this wine during our honeymoon at Erath's tasting room.  The bottle sold for about $35.00.  More recent vintages should be available.

For more about the Dundee Hills AVA, check out this website.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stuffed Tomatoes Provencal

There are many recipes for stuffed tomatoes, and, I've made a few. However, when I was preparing a nice meal for my beautiful wife, Clare, I used a recipe from The Paley's Place Cookbook.  This recipe was to be a side dish to the Cedar Plank Salmon, which I also prepared using a recipe from this cookbook.

To the writers of the cookbook, this recipe "captures the true flavors of southern France."  The Paley's Place usually serves this side with its spit-roasted lamb or Shoulder of Lamb Roasted with Hay and Lavender. 

This recipe is by far the best recipe that I have come across for stuffed tomatoes.  The stuffing is made from onions, garlic, tomatoes, anchovies, crushed red pepper, a hard boiled egg, Persillade (an Italian parsley garlic mixture, see below for the recipe) and bread crumbs.  Although Paley's Place make their own bread crumbs for this recipe, I used panko bread crumbs.  Perhaps the best part of this recipe is the use of the tomato tops, with stems, for presentation.


STUFFED TOMATOES PROVENCAL
Adapted from The Paley Cookbook at pages 138-39
Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 large, firm, ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup plus too tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed and finely minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons of Persillade (see below)
1 hard boiled egg, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon of grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions:
1.  Prepare the tomatoes.  Slice off the caps of the tomatoes carefully, setting aside their stems and caps for use later.  Shave off a thin slice from the bottom of the tomatoes to ensure they sit flat.  Chop the trimmings and also save them for use.  Hollow the inside of the tomatoes, being careful not to piece the bottom.  Reserve the flesh and seeds with the chopped trimmings.

2.  Cook the mixture.  Heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often until it is all softened.  This should take about five minutes.  Add the anchovies and chopped tomatoes and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates, about fifteen minutes.

3.  Finish the mixture.  Cool the mixture a slight bit and transfer to a small bowl.  Add the bread crumbs, basil, Persillade and grated egg.

4.  Stuff the tomatoes.  Mound the stuffing in each tomato, patting the tops by hand.  Place the stuffed tomatoes in an oven proof gratin dish.  Sprinkle each tomato with Parmigiano Reggiano.  Place the reserved tops in the dish with the tomatoes.  Drizzle all with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

5.  Bake the tomatoes.  Bake until the tomatoes are soft to the touch and the cheese browns a little bit.  This should take about twenty minutes.

The one hint the writers provide is to not stuff the tomatoes too much or else they will split. That is something that I learned first hand, as a couple of my tomatoes did split.  I've duly noted this hint for the next time I make the recipe.  Finally, the recipe for Persillade, which is actually a good little mixture to use in cooking.

PERSILLADE
Makes 1/2 cup
Source: The Paley Place Cookbook at page 198.

Ingredients:
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
3 large cloves of garlic.

Directions:
1.  Finely chop the garlic.  Add the garlic to the parsley and continue to chop until well incorporated.

2.  Transfer the mixture to a small container, cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cedar Plank Salmon

Recently, I wanted to make Cedar Plank Salmon.  For me, this dish takes me back to my very first trip to the Pacific Northwest, when I went to Seattle for a job interview.  I arrived late in the afternoon and was scheduled to leave the following afternoon.  With little time to see the city, I went straight for the Pike Place Market.  By the the time I got to the market, it was about to close.  My disappointment over missing an opportunity to walk the aisles of this famous market soon faded after I sat down for dinner at a restaurant in downtown Seattle.  I do not remember the name of the restaurant, but I do remember the dish ... it was my first experience eating Cedar Plank Salmon.  

I wanted to make this dish using a recipe from the Pacific Northwest.  Fortunately, during my honeymoon, I picked up a cookbook called The Paley's Place Cookbook.  The Paley's Place is a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, which focuses its cuisine on local, organic and sustainable foods.  Clare and I never made it to the restaurant for a meal, but the cookbook is really, really good. 

I made two changes to the recipe.  In the original recipe, it calls for using a dry cedar plank and allowing the plank to burn around the fish.  However, I think the smell of the cedar wood contributes to the flavor of the overall dish.  So, I soaked the cedar plank for about an hour before assembling the fish and grilling it.  Once put on the grill, the soaked plank will begin to smoke and that smoke will infuse much more cedar flavor into the fish and the onions.  I left the instructions for the original recipe below, but, I would recommend soaking the wood so that you can amplify that cedar flavor in the final dish.

The second change involved the type of salmon that I used for the dish.  The original recipe calls for king salmon, which is by far one the best kind of salmon to use on a Cedar Plank.  However, I did not have access to king salmon.  I used sockeye salmon, which worked just as well.  I would also recommend using coho salmon as a substitute.  All three types of salmon -- king, sockeye and coho -- are wild salmon, which is the type of salmon that has the best health benefits, such as Omega 3.  


CEDAR PLANK SALMON
The Paley's Place Cookbook at 92-94
Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
2 pounds of salmon, preferably king salmon, but you can use coho or sockeye salmon
2 tablespoons of Kosher salt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bulb of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped basil leaves

Directions:
1.  Prepare the marinade.  In a bowl, mix the salt, brown sugar and orange zest.  Generously rub the mixture on both sides of the salmon.  Cover the fish and refrigerate for two hours.

2.  Prepare the salmon for the grill.  Preheat a grill on medium.  Brush the cedar plank on both sides with three tablespoons of olive oil.  Spread the chopped garlic on the plank the length and width of the salmon fillet.  Place the salmon on top of the garlic and cover evenly with the chopped basil and onion slices.  The onions do not just add flavor, they protect the fish from burning while it cooks. So make sure that the onions cover both the tops and the sides of the fish.  Drizzle three tablespoons of olive oil over the onions.

3.  Grill the salmon. The grill should be hot enough to ignite the plank when you place the plank in the grill.  Let the plank burn around the fish.  Once the plank has burned, cover the grill.  Continue to grill the salmon until medium rare, or 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which should take about fifteen minutes. 

ENJOY!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ethiopian Berbere

Berbere is a spice mix used in Ethiopian cooking.  I first encountered Berbere when I started my personal culinary challenge, Around the World in 80 Dishes.  My first challenge was to cook Doro Wat, an Ethiopian chicken stew.  When I made the dish, I used a pre-made Berbere spice mix.  However, ever since that time, I have always wanted to make my own mix.  I have a lot of ideas for using the mix, from buffalo wings to barbecue.  However, I first needed to learn more about the spice mix and make some.  

As with most recipes, the ingredients and amounts used to make Berbere vary with the cook.  In other words, if you were to search Berbere recipes on the Internet, as I did, you are likely to find several recipes with different ingredients in different amounts.  The key to Berbere is the combination of fenugreek and chile powder.  When it comes to the chile powder, I used a combination of ground medium Hatch chiles (3 tablespoons) and native Nambe peppers (1 tablespoon).  If you do not have Hatch chile powder, you can use cayenne powder.  Generally, other ingredients commonly used in Berbere include allspice, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, turmeric and salt.  If you love spices as much as I do, you can also add cinnamon, coriander, cumin and/or nutmeg.    


ETHIOPIAN BERBERE
Adapted from the Congo Cookbook
Makes about 1/2 cup


Ingredients:
4 to 6 teaspoons of ground chile peppers
1 teaspoon of ground fenugreek
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of  ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (optional)

5 tbsp paprika 5 tbsp garlic powder 2 tbsp onion powder 2 tbsp sea salt 2 tbsp ground ginger 2 tsp ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp ground turmeric 2 tbsp whole cloves 1 tbsp cumin seeds 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds 2 tsp ground Ethiopian cardamom (or substitute ground black cardamom) 1 tsp black peppercorns 1 tsp dried thyme leaves

Read more at Celtnet: http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-eritrean-berbere-spice
Copyright © celtnetDire
Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients together and mix thoroughly. 

If you would like to make a wet spice mix, you substitute fresh ginger, along with 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onions, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and 1/4 cup oil of oil, water or red wine.

ENJOY!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Ovila Dubbel

There are many "collaboration" beers out there and I have reviewed a couple of them in the past, such as the Saison du Buff and the El Camino (Un)Real Ale.  However, I recently came across a "collaboration" beer that seemed to be rather unique.  It is a collaboration between Sierra Nevada and the monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux. 

The Abbey is a community of Cistercian monks located in Vina, California.  The monks at New Clairveaux have their own vineyards and produce their own wines.  (You can check out their vineyard website at this link.)  However, with Sierra Nevada, the monks were able to reach back into the past of the Cistercian order and produce a beer whose style has been brewed by monasteries for more than one hundred and fifty five years.

Back in 1856, the Trappist monks at the Abbey of Westmalle (once known as the Onze-Lieve-Vrouw van het Heilig Hart) began brewing a beer that became known as the Abbey Dubbel.  These beers are generally mid-strength beers, dark in color, with aromatic and taste elements that evoke fruit, yeast, and malts.  This traditional Trappist beer serves as a great starting point for a community of monks in California who have been making wine rather than beer.  

And, for their first collaboration, both the monks and Sierra Nevada have hit the mark with this Abbey Dubbel.  The Ovila Dubbel has a caramel color when poured, with a nice, off-white foam.  The aromatic elements of this beer are heavily suggestive of apples, along with some hints of raisins.  There is also hints of the malts in the aroma of the beer, with little to no presence of hops.  The aromatic elements are also present in the taste of the beer.  The Ovila Dubbel has a lot of apple in the flavor, along with the flavor of caramel and raisins.

A portion of proceeds from the sale of the Ovila Dubbel goes toward the restoration of the historic Santa Maria de Ovila chapter house on the grounds of the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  This medieval style building stood for eight centuries in Spain.  William Randolph Hearst purchased the building in 1931 and planned to use the stones for a castle at San Simeon.  Although Hearst never built his castle, the stones will be used to build a house at the New Clairvaux Abbey.

The beer is available at Whole Foods for about $11.99 per bottle.  A good beer for a good cause.

ENJOY!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Loyalist Bread

I am not the only one who cooks in our family.  My beautiful wife, Clare, is also a great cook and a great baker.  Every once in a while, I ask my Angel to provide a guest blog post so that I can share some of the amazing and delicious things that she makes for family, friends and, of course, me.  She has already provided guest blog posts about Tuscan Vegetable Soup and Cuban Bread.  So, without further ado,

A Guest Blog Post by Clare ...

For years, my mom has baked a blueberry bread called Loyalist Bread.  She usually made this bread for special occasions, like breakfast for guests during the Thanksgiving holiday or for Keith and myself when we visit.  And, whenever my mom makes this bread, it tends to be eaten very quickly, because it is delicious.  The recipe for making this bread is very fun and easy.  Recently, I made Loyalist bread with my godson, J.T.,  his sister, Ella, and one of my best friends, Michele.  This time, the special occasion was my birthday.

According to Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, the recipe for Loyalist Bread dates back to the American Revolution.  During that time, the recipe for Loyalist Bread was commonly made by families who were loyal to King George III.  As the Revolutionary War progressed, these families fled the colonies to various parts of Canada, like Nova Scotia.  These families took their recipes with them.  When they arrived at their new homes, these families continued to use those recipes, like the Loyalist Bread recipe, using local ingredients.  This recipe and others were collected in a book called The Blueberry Connection, written by Beatrice Ross Buzek from Nova Scotia, where the provincial berry happens to be the wild blueberry..

All you need to make Loyalist Bread are two medium (8 inch by 4 inch) loan pans, greased or Teflon, lined with buttered wax paper.  It is best to use fresh blueberries for this bread and you need to use some care to ensure the blueberries are not broken up or smashed.  You will be rewarded in the end because, beneath the great crust of this bread, there will be little blueberry pockets that are perhaps the key to what makes this bread so delicious to eat.
 



LOYALIST BREAD
Adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads at 452-53.
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of shortening, melted
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups of cleaned blueberries
1 cup chopped walnuts 

Directions:
1.  Mix the melted shortening together with the sugar, buttermilk and beaten eggs in a bowl.

2.  In a larger bowl, mix the dry ingredients.  Form a well at the bottom and pour in the buttermilk mixture.  Stir together with 15 to 20 strokes.  Drop in the blueberries and walnuts and push into the corners.

3.  Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared pans (see discussion above) while preheating the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Allow the pans to stand for 20 minutes.

4. Place in the oven and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  The crust will become light brown.  Test with a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf.  If it comes out clean and dry, then the bread is done.

5.  Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes before turning the pans on their side.  Tug the bread loose with the ends of the wax pepper.  Allow to cool further on a wire rack.

And, as Keith always says,

ENJOY!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Troegs Brewing Company's Flying Mouflan

When one speaks of "cellaring" (that is, sticking it in a dark, cool place for months or a year), one usually thinks of wine.  People purchase a vintage of a wine that they enjoy, stick it in the wine rack (or, for those more fortunate, a wine cellar), where the wine will continue to "age" for years, which, in most cases, helps to develop the taste of the wine.

Until recently, the concept of cellaring a beer seemed odd.  After all, most beer is mass-produced in order to be consumed quickly and in large amounts.  (You know the types of mass-produced beers that I'm talking about.)  And who would want to cellar any of those beers to "age" anyways?

Craft brewers, like Troegs Brewing Company, have been exploring the possibility of cellaring beers in order to develop the flavors of those beers.  Troegs' Flying Mouflan, an American Barleywine, entices buyers on its label to exercise patience and cellar the beer for four months.  The reward ... a beer with "mellowed hops and luscious malt."

As originally brewed, the Flying Mouflan is one strong beer.  The stats of the beer include an ABV of 9.3% and an IBU (International Bitterness Units) of over 100.  That is a beer with strong alcohol and hop notes.  The brewer uses four different kinds of malts (Euro Pils, Vienna, Munich and Dark Crystal) and three kinds of hops (Simcoe, Warrior and Chinook), along with cane sugar. Given all of these ingredients, one would expect an assertive barleywine if he or she drank the beer when purchased.

When I bought a bottle of the Flying Mouflan, I accepted the brewer's challenge and raised it by one.  Not only did I cellar the beer, I cellared it for a year.  The beer I bought was bottled on April 6, 2010.  I opened the bottle on April 6, 2011.  The result was very surprising.

The Flying Mouflan pours a dark caramel in color, with a nice foam that quickly subsides to the edges of the beer.  The aromatics of the beer focus on the alcohol, which surrounds the more subtle scents of the hops and the malts.  And, as for the taste, the Flying Mouflan tasted as if, for the year it sat in my basement, it was aged in a whiskey barrel.  There were definitely flavors of whiskey or other spirits in the taste of the beer, even though it had never seen the inside of a barrel.

Troegs Brewing Company produces the Flying Mouflan every April. It is best enjoyed between August and the following April.

ENJOY!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ularthiyathu-Inspired, Dry-Rubbed Pork Loin Chop

Recently, I had the desire to cook a pork loin chop.  Basically, a pork loin chop is a portion of the pork loin still attached to the bone.  These pork chops are usually great for grilling but, on that particular day, it was cold and wet outside.  The plans turned to putting the chop under the broiler.  Before I could do that, however, I needed to think about what I would do to add some flavor to the meat. 

Having dabbled a little with barbecue, my first thought was to develop a rub for the meat.  I surfed the Internet for some traditional rub recipes, but nothing really caught my attention.  I then turned to some Indian spice mixes.  I perused some masala and vindaloo recipes, but, I did not have enough ingredients to complete the recipes.

Time was ticking away and it was getting late, so I decided to pick a recipe and try to do the best I could.  The recipe I picked was Panni Ularthiyathu, which is a sauteed pork dish from Kerala, a state in the southwest of India.  I was missing a few of the ingredients needed to make the recipe; however, I substituted dry ingredients in place of fresh ones (for example, garlic powder instead of diced garlic and chile powder instead of fresh chiles).

The key ingredients of my Ularthiyathu-inspired dry rub are coriander, turmeric, garlic, cardamom, ginger, mustard, and chiles.  I used ground versions of all of the spices, including the chiles.  I had some dried Sanaam chiles, which are a pepper from India (and available at spice stores like Penzeys), and I ground those chiles into a powder.  I mixed all of the powders and rubbed down the pork.


ULARTHIYATHU-INSPIRED DRY-RUBBED PORK LOIN CHOP
Adapted from Live to Eat
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 pork loin chops
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon of cardamom
3 Sanaam chile pods, ground into powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard

Directions:
1.  Prepare the rub.  Add all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Rub the spice mix on all sides of the pork.

2.  Cook the pork loin chop.  Place the chops under the broiler.  You want to cook the pork until the internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit for medium or 170 degrees for well done.

For something done last minute and on the fly, the pork loin chop turned out well.  I think it would have been better on a grill over medium-high heat, and I will try that the next time I make this recipe.  I also have added Panni Ularthiyathu to my list of dishes to make in the future (although that list is fairly long at the moment). Until next time ... 

ENJOY!

For more information about Panni Ularthiyathu and the recipe from which I based this rub, check out Live to Eat.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Port City Brewing Company's Porter

Recently, a friend told me about a new brewery that he visited in Alexandria, Virginia.  The brewery, Port City Brewing Company, is one of a few new breweries that have or will be opening their doors this year.  My friend also mentioned the tours provided by the brewery on Saturdays.  So, on a recent Saturday, Clare and I paid a visit to Port City Brewing to get a tour of the facilities and to try some of its beers.

Port City Brewing Company has four beers that comprise its year-round selection, including its Porter.  The "porter" style of beer supposedly gets its name from the fact that, during the 18th century, this dark beer popular among the street porters and river porters of London.  The beer gets its color from  the use of darker malts, such as roasted or brown malts.   These malts are usually predominate over the hops.  And, for the most part, the ABV of these beers is usually on the lower side of the beer spectrum, hovering between 4% and 5.4%.

Port City Brewing Company brews its porter in the style of an American Porter.  The porter style was introduced to America during the colonial times, and in the eighteenth century, breweries produced American porters in New England and Pennsylvania.  During the middle of the nineteenth centuries, American brewers switched from using ale yeast (which ferments on top) to lager yeast (which ferments on the bottom).  This style of porter, referred to as the "Pennsylvania Porter," continued until the 1970s and 1980s, when some of the first craft brewers reintroduced the "American Porter," returning to the use of ale yeast in the production. 

The Port City Brewing Company's Porter pours a black in color with a smooth foam on top, which is a very good start.  As I poured the beer, I took in some of the aromatic elements, which were very suggestive of ground coffee beans and some chocolate malt.  The beer is slightly sweet  on the front end, which is a nice surprise.  Usually, when I try porters, there is no sweetness, but a lot of roasted flavors.  Those roasted flavors assert themselves in this Porter, particularly in the finish.  The initial sweetness gives way to flavors of roasted coffee beans and to just a little chocolate.  This beer exceeds the style of an American porter in both flavor and, by the way, alcohol content.  At 7.5% ABV, this beer has an alcohol content that rivals imperial porters, rather than other American porters. 

American porters, like Port City Brewing Company's Porter, are best paired with roasted or grilled meats, like a porterhouse steak.  This Porter can also be paired with spicy foods, such as Mexican or Cajun foods, because the roasted flavors of the beer will provide a good counter to the peppers in those foods.  And, when considering dessert, you can guess that a roasted, coffee flavor will go well with anything that has cream or chocolate.

The Port City Brewing Company's Porter is available on draft at many restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, or at the brewery in Alexandria, Virginia.  It is also available in bottle, selling for $9.99 a six pack.

ENJOY!

For more information about Port City Brewing Company, check out its website and go for a visit.  They provide very informative tours on Saturdays at 12:30 and 2:00.  For more about the porter style, check out the Beer Judge Certification Program and Wikipedia.  

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Orval Trappist Ale

There are only seven Trappist breweries in the world.  A Trappist brewery is one that is either operated or under the control of a monastery.  The term "Trappist" originated with the monks of a Cistercian monastery in Soligny La Trappe, France, who had been brewing beer since before 1685 A.D.  The Trappist Order also had monasteries in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and even Bosnia. The number of Trappist breweries declined over time, with only seven left today.  Six of the Trappist Breweries -- Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle and Westvleteren -- are located in Belgium.  The remaining two are Koenigshoeven in the Netherlands and Mariawald in Germany. And they are all members of the International Trappist Association.

Orval is the oldest of the Trappist breweries, having been founded in the 11th Century. It also brews one of the more distinctive beers, primarily due to the brewery's use of Brettanomyces or wild yeast.  I have previously reviewed the Le Fleur Misseur? Ale, a beer produced by New Belgium Brewing.  The Brettanomyces provide a different flavor to the beer that most people will not enjoy.  However, I love the different flavor that the wild yeast contributes to these beers. 

Orval brews its Trappist Ale in the style of a Belgian Pale Ale, although the Brettanomyces result in a beer that does not taste like most traditional Belgian Pale Ales.  Moreover, unlike most beers, the Orval is brewed to last a very long time.  I bought this beer, which had been bottled on May 10, 2009 and, according to the label, the beer was best before May 10, 2014.

Although the beer was nearly two years old by the time I tried it, the yeast in Orval's Trappist Ale did their work.   As I poured the beer carefully, I nevertheless ended up with a very large and frothy foam resembling a large cloud deck.  The off-white, very light caramel foam topped an orange colored ale. 

As for the smell and taste of the beer, it is a little hard to describe given the use of wild yeast.  The aromatic elements included some flowers, spice and a hint of orange.The taste of this beer is the reason why I love wild ales.  Orval uses wild yeast during the fermentation of this beer.  The yeasts contribute to a tart, somewhat musty flavor to this beer.  For me, as I mentioned above, that taste is what I expected and really like about this beer. 

The ABV of this beer is 6.9%.  This beer is widely distributed and can be found at most beer stores.  It sells for about $4.99 to $5.99 a bottle.

ENJOY!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oysters with a Balsamic Mignonette

I am always amazed by the stories of decades and centuries past, when people would talk of a Chesapeake Bay full of blue crabs and oysters.  Those days are gone, and it is our fault.  Through a combination of overfishing and pollution, we have decimated the populations of these beloved foods.  Still, there are some enterprising people who have been engaged in "farming" along the bay ... oyster farming.  Through their work, they have been able to help restore the cultivating of oysters in this region, but it pales in comparison to what it used to be.

When I saw Chesapeake oysters, I bought a dozen of them and took them home to make a special mignonette.  I have a bottle of eight year aged balsamic vinegar from Acetaia del Tuono, a family owned producer of balsamic business that has been in business in Emilia-Romagna since 1892.  And, as a mignonette is basically vinegar and shallots, I decided that I would substitute ordinary vinegar with this very special ingredient ... aged balsamic vinegar. 

Balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite ingredients. When I was in Emilia-Romagna, I had the opportunity to visit the Acetaia Terra del Tuono, a family owned producer, to get a first hand view of how they produce authentic balsamic vinegar. 

The production begins with the grapes.  Typically, in Emilia Romagna, producers use Trebbiano grapes, as well as  Spergola, Berzemino, and Ochio de Gatto grapes.  The grapes are crushed and then boiled down to a concentrate, which is known as mosto cotto.  The producer then puts the concentrate into a large barrel with holes on the top.  The holes permit evaporation, which allows the flavors to become even more concentrated.  After six months, the concentrate is moved to a smaller barrel to age further.  This process continues, with smaller and smaller barrels.

With the smallest barrel, the producer removes only part of the concentrate, filling the barrel with some of the liquid from the next largest barrel.  The producer repeats this with all of the barrels, except the largest one, in which the producer will add the newest cooked concentrate.  The result is that each barrel contains a blend of vinegars, with an average age that increases over the years.  The use of the series of barrels -- from large to small -- is known as the Solera method.

There are three types of balsamic vinegar: Authentic balsamic vinegar (called Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale); Condimento; and commercial grade vinegars.  The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is only produced in Reggio Emilia and Modena.  This vinegar must be aged for a minimum of twelve years using the Solera method and a series of seven barrels.  The Condimento can be made in the same way as the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (but it is not required) and can be aged for less than twelve years.  And, for the commercial grade vinegars, they are produced using wine vinegar (which is prohibited for the Aceto Balsamic Tradizionale) and other additives.

As you can expect, the price for balsamic vinegars vary, with consumer grade vinegars at one end of the spectrum and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale at the other end of the spectrum.  A bottle of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale could cost more than $50 dollars if it is aged for the minimum of 12 years and for more than $100 dollars if aged for a greater period of time (such as 20 to 25 years).  By contrast, Condimento balsamic vinegars, are relatively cheaper.  I purchased a bottle of the Acetaia Terra del Tuono at A. Litteri, Inc. for about $25.00, which is not bad for a balsamic vinegar that has been aged for 8 years and which I know is produced closer to the standards for Tradizionale than the commercial grade stuff.  That knowledge is one of the benefits from having had the opportunity to view how Terra del Tuono produces its vinegar. 

One final note, do not subject Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale or Condimento to heat during the cooking process.  The heat will destroy the amazing flavor of these balsamic vinegars.  If you feel compelled to add balsamic vinegar to something that is going into a sauce pan or the oven, that is perhaps the best, and only, reason to buy the commercial grade stuff.

OYSTERS WITH A BALSAMIC MIGNONETTE
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
12 oysters, shucked
1/2 scallion, finely sliced and diced
4 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
10-12 peppercorns, ground
1 pinch of sea salt

Directions:
1.  Mix the scallion, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

2.  Sprinkle a few grains of salt over each oyster.  Top with the a spoonful of the mignonette.

After having just gone through this relatively easy recipe, please allow me to share a secret with you ... just simply pour a few drops of either an Aceto Balsamic Tradizionale or a Condimento on the oyster.  These balsamic vinegars are often all you need in terms of flavor to complement the oysters. 

ENJOY!

For more about Balsamic Vinegar, check out this website and Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

One Lovely Blog Award

A fellow blogger, Katie, has a great and informative blog, A Cook Walks into a Bar.  I follow her blog and enjoy reading her posts.  Today, Katie announced that she had received an award from a fellow blogger.  The award -- "One Lovely Blog" -- is given by bloggers in recognition of other bloggers who, as the name suggests, have "one lovely blog."

The rules for this award are three fold.  First, post the award on your blog with the name of the person who bestowed it, along with a link to the person's blog.  Second, share the love by nominating fifteen other bloggers for the award because you admire their blogs.  Third, contact the blog owners to let them know that you have nominated them for the award.

I am very thankful that Katie would think of my blog when it came to identifying a blog that she really likes or admires. This blog is my hobby, and I spend a lot of time on it as a way to reduce my stress from my job.  I often wonder what people think of this blog when they visit and read my posts.  I am glad that what I write and cook is interesting and enjoyable to read. 

However, while I am very grateful for the award, I have a quandary.  I cannot identify fifteen bloggers who should receive this award.  It is not that there are not 15 bloggers who deserve it.  It is because I spend so much of my free time cooking and writing blog posts for my blog, that I do not really follow a lot of blogs.  I follow only a handful of blogs, such as Katie's blog.  So, I cannot nominate fifteen bloggers.  

Still, I think there is someone who deserves this award just as much as me, if not more.  Her name is Lauren, and she is the blogger behind What Lauren Eats.  Lauren has a great blog with many good recipes. She definitely has "One Lovely Blog" and I would highly recommend her blog, along with Katie's blog, for those who are foodies like me.

I think I can hear the music, so I should probably wrap up my "acceptance" post.  Once again, I am thankful for the award and I hope you will visit A Cook Walks into the Bar and What Lauren Eats.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Holland Brewing Company's El Mole Ocho

Just as there are the seven wonders of the ancient world, there are also the seven moles of Oaxacan cuisine.  (Well, actually, there is a dispute over the origin of the moles, with not only Oaxaca, but also Puebla and Tlaxcala, laying claim to these sauces ... but that is a story for another post.)  The seven moles are the Mole Negro, Mole Rojo, Mole Coloradito, Mole Amarillo, Mole Verde, Mole Chichilo and Mancha Manteles.  Each mole is unique, made from different ingredients that provides the sauce with its own color and flavor.

Just as people talk about the eighth wonder of the world, to draw comparisons to the amazing architectural achievements of antiquity, the brewers at New Holland Brewing Company have staked a claim to "El Mole Ocho" or the Eighth Mole, attempting to link the American craft beer movement to the cuisines of central and southern Mexico. 

So, how does a craft brewer located in Holland, Michigan tie craft beer to Mexican cuisine?  By taking the ingredients used in making a mole, such as the Mole Negro, and adding them to the brewing process. 

The "Mole Ocho" pours a nice brown, that has a reddish tinge, suggesting a spicy, peppery flavor.  Further hints of that flavor are found in the nose of the beer, as the pepper clearly fills your nostrils as you take in the aromas.  Additional scents of chocolate, cocoa and, perhaps, cinnamon are also present in the nose of the beer.

When you drink the beer, the first thing you taste is the pepper.  With every sip, I tried to figure out what peppers were used in the brewing of the beer.  Guajillos?  Arbols? Anchos? Casabels?  I could not pin down the exact chiles used to brew the beer, probably because the identity of the chile was cloaked well with flavors of sweet chocolate.  And there was the nice burn on the back of the throat as you drink it.  Piquin?  This beer is very drinkable for those willing to be adventurous when it comes to beer.  And, with an ABV of 8%, the beer will definitely catch up with you as you enjoy it.  So, it is best enjoyed sip by sip. 

In the end, I could not name the chile, which is unusual for someone who has about a dozen types of chiles in his spice drawer and pantry.  The brewer suggests food pairings that include poultry, red meat and dark chocolate.

I found El Mole Ocho at a Binny's Beverage Depot outside of Chicago, Illinois. I really, really like this beer and hope that New Holland will brew it again.  If you happen to find a bottle of the "Ocho," you should consider buying it.  You will not be disappointed.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Better Luck Next Time ...

Unfortunately, my entry was not selected to be a finalist in the Whole Foods "Foodie Fantasty" Vacation.  In the end, that is okay with me.  For one thing, while I really wanted to win the vacation, the contest is not being run in accordance with its official rules.  Although the official rules say there are to be ten finalists, Whole Foods only picked eight finalists. Quite frankly, I am not sure that I would have wanted to participate in a contest when the rules are not being strictly enforced.

But, on a more positive note, the contest allowed me to try my hands at some new things, like editing video and sound together to create a package.  I hope to be able to use these new skills to improve my blog more so that it can be more enjoyable for people like you who visit in order to read about what I cook and what I have to say. 

So, it will be back to the regular programming.  Once again, I want to thank everyone for supporting me in this endeavor. Until next time ...

Monday, April 4, 2011

An Update About My Entry in Whole Foods' "Foodie Fantasy Vacation" Contest ....

As followers of this blog may know, Whole Foods has a "Foodie Fantasy Vacation" contest, giving food bloggers (such as myself) until 11:59 p.m. Central Daylight Time on April 3, 2011 to submit a 30 to 60 second video entry explaining why he or she should win a Berlin to Paris vacation.  I submitted my entry last Wednesday and you can see it here:

video

You can view my entry on the contest page by (1) going to the Whole Foods' Facebook fan page; (2) click on "The First Yum & Foodie Fantasy" (which is on the left hand side of the Fan Page below "Notes"), (3) click "View Entries," and (4) go to page 2.  My entry is the first one in the third row.  You can access Whole Foods' fan page with this link.

I focused my entry on the fact that Whole Foods is providing two producer visits where the winner will have the opportunity to learn firsthand how farmers, producers, brewers or vintners make the ingredients or foods that are part of the country's cuisine.  None of the other bloggers' entries made mention of these visits, which I think are just as important as eating one's way through Western Europe.  After all, the producers are the people who contribute to the food traditions of their respective countries. 

Now, that the entry period is closed, we move to the judging phases of the contest.  The judging phases are two-fold: (1) selection of ten finalists by a committee of Whole Foods employees; and (2) voting by the general public.   The Whole Foods committee will select the finalists between April 4 and April 6, announcing the finalists on April 6.  At that time, the public will have an opportunity to vote for the finalist that they would like to win the contest.  (This is somewhat different than what is said in the official rules, which states that voting by the general public will begin on April 5, rather than April 6.)

So, for now at least, I need to have everybody keep their fingers crossed and hope that my entry gets selected as a finalist.  If it is selected, then I will need everyone to vote for my entry beginning on Wednesday, April 6. 

Of course, if and when I get selected as a finalist, I will send out additional details on how to vote.  Until then, I want to express my gratitude for all of the support and kind words that you have given to me about my blog and my entry.   It is great to know that so many of you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy cooking and writing for it.

THANK YOU!

Around the World in 80 Dishes: Paraguay

After having tried lamb hearts and livers during my challenge to cook a Libyan meal, I now turn to Paraguay, also known as "Corazon de America" or the "Heart of America." The country gets this name primarily because of its location, nestled in the Gran Chaco between Argentina and Brazil.  This geography presented some challenges for me, because, as a landlocked country, the cuisine of Paraguay focuses more on meat than seafood.

Over the course of a couple weeks, I struggled to find recipes for a main course in Paraguay.  I found a dish called Pira Caldo, which is a soup made from river fish.  There were two problems.  First, I've made many a fish soup or fish stew, so I wanted to make something different.  Second, I could not find a recipe for Pira Caldo on the Internet.

With fish coming off the menu, I had to turn my attention to dishes that involve meat or other proteins.  With some help, I was able to come up with a main course that I think is reflective of Paraguayan cuisine and the roots of Paraguay itself.  For the main course, I made a meat soup called So'o-Yosopy or "Soyo," which can be a meal itself.

THE MAIN COURSE

So'o-Yosopy is a dish of the Guarani, a name that is both used to describe the indigenous people who inhabited a substantial part of South America that included Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, as well as their language. Soyo is considered a dish of people who had scarce or limited resources, like many of the Guarani themselves, which explains the simplicity of the ingredients ... ground meat, onion, pepper, tomato and water.  Over time, however, the dish has become more popular among all Paraguayans.

The key to this dish is to stir it constantly when the soup is boiling (see step four below).  The goal is to blend the meat with the water.  When cooking Soyo, the superstition says that, if anyone who does not enjoy cooking is present in the kitchen, he or she may cause the Soyo to separate and ruin the dish.


SO'O-YOSOPY (BEEF SOUP)
Adapted from World Recipes
Serves 2-3 

Ingredients:
1 pound of ground beef
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups of cold water
1/4 cup of dried rice
Salt, to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1.  Prepare the meat.  Smash meat in a large mortar or process the meat in a food processor until it is almost a paste.

2.  Saute the vegetables.  Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the onions and green pepper.  Saute the ingredients until the onions are softened and translucent.  Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture thickens and is well blended, which should take about five minutes.  Set aside to cool.. 

3.  Add the meat and water.  Add the beef to a saucepan or small pot. Mix in the sauteed onions, green pepper and tomatoes, along with the four cups of water.  Mix all of the ingredients well.

4.  Cook the soup.  Bring the ingredients to a boil over moderate heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.  Add the rice and continue to cook for about fifteen minutes until the rice is tender.  Continue to stir while the rice is cooking.  At this point, the meat and the liquid should be completely blended.  Season with salt to taste.

*     *     *

I would say that this dish was a success, although not as great of a success as other challenges, such as Ethiopia, Czech Republic, Mongolia or Libya. I was able to make the Soyo and it it to blend well.  However, I wanted to make a side of Sopa Paraguaya, which is basically a cornbread.  The Sopa did not turn out well.  It was not because of the recipe, which was fine.  It was because of me.  I did not add enough cornmeal and the Sopa was more like a soup than a bread.  So, I was left with only the main course, which still satisfies my personal challenge.   When I make So'o-Yosopy again, I will definitely try to make Sopa Paraguaya to accompany the main course.   

As they say in the Guarani language, "Paraguay Rojhaiju" or "Paraguay, I love you." Now, I must prepare myself for a new challenge.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

For more about Soyo, check out Wikipedia.
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