LAST EDITED ON 12-02-11 AT 07:15 AM (EST)
Holey Cheese Crisp! Whence signing up for this I had NO IDEA how many talented, creative and amazing (and funny) (and resourceful) "chefs" we have here at RTVW.
And more and more of them, MOST importantly, doing it with Passion.
Which is why I call you chefs.
Anyone can cook, those that do it with passion are chefs.
I must state that I have spent over 20+, passion-filled, years in the "hospitality industry" (sorry, not revealing age at this time); seen, created, managed and engaged in countless "special moments" and "one-of-a-kind events"; Cooked or Served for Family (and friend) holiday dinners for 30, weddings for 400, Revowals for 2, Business luncheons for 1000, 100th birthdays for hundreds of foodies and just me and my tribemate (including tribepups) campfire goodies.
Strangely, I am more nervous now then I have ever been in my life.
I have had roughly 8 months to plan a menu for this occasion and I have had the roughest time.
In between my desire to stray away from what has already been presented by other OTCCchefs and deciding if I should flex some kitchen-muscle or go with what I know (Which includes tons of experimenting)...
I decided to go with...
Truthfully, I've decided to focus on what it is I do for my nearest and dearest, with splashes and dashes of the degree that I go to to impress those who have opinions.
Admittedly, my percentage of raves is remarkably higher than are my detractors, however any alterations (outside of those noted) are encouraged. And of course, your opinions count too.
You have to make it worth your while, your time and your palates.
Special Thanks, Favorite Things and Recipes
My mother: has never been a good cook but her baking? OMG!
My father: was a hunter, a farmer and a man not afraid of trying new things. (Or making his son try new things either.)
Armandino Batali: funny, endearing, amazing salumier, familyman, personality and unknowing inspiration. May you reach 192 years old. (6 years longer than he predicts himself)... Please check out his Salumi Shop. Located in Seattle, WA; His cured meats are AMAZING. A lunch line 3 blocks long EVERY day.
Tom Douglas, Traci Des Jardins, Gary Danko, Marc Cohen, Craig Hetherington, Robert Price: 6 influential chefs whom have made their impression whether through mission, personality, worksmanship, creativity and/or passion. For me, it's all tied up in these folks.
If you ever find yourself in their hood (admittedly all west coast locations) please check out their homes (aka restaurants).
tribemate: admittedly not always on target but always willing (and passionate) about trying to flex his culinary muscles. However, this guy has the palate of a wizard. When I am stumped, he somehow comes up with the answer.
tribe: Garlic, shallot, basil, thyme, carrot, onion and... possibly lemon?
tribemate: Nope. Sorrel.
Okay, I must preface the first Favorite Thing with an unsubstantiated rumor. It has been stated (even by multiple witnesses) that I have said that "If I could, I would replace my blood with this..."
1. Cheese~ Delice de Pommard: It is a cheese ball. A fresh, triple cream, cow's milk cheese; buttery and creamy in both flavor and texture. "Rinded" with mustard seed husks, adding just the right "pang" into each and every bite.
2. Salami ~ Finocchiona From Aramandino Batali's 'Salumi' shop it is a pork salami cured with peppercorns, fennel seeds and a hint of curry. (Just the addictive qualities of curry not really a lot of the flavor. Go figure.)
amazing with the delice from above and between some toasted bread.
3. Salami ~ Mole: Another salami from Salumi, incorporating pork, chocolate, cinnamon and chili into the mix. Making the most mouth watering experience in recent memory.
To preface the next few Favorite Things; I am a practicer of "everything in moderation" except when it come to these things...
4. Vinegar ~ Perel Late Harvest Reisling Vinegar: Every vinegar is made with grape juice. This is just from a much "sweeter" grape to start with. I use dashes and splashes of this on nearly everything... Salads, Grilled Veggies, Drunken Mushrooms, IceCream... I've even made a chocolate vinegar cake with this vinegar and ...oh my googlies... it. was. amazing.
5. Olive Oil ~ Coming from the California Olive Ranch in Oroville, CA., I have fallen hard for the single varietal, Arbequina Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Much like the vinegar above, I use it often. I marinade in it, I fry in it and I confit with it. I even sip it and drizzle it on desserts. The flavor is amazing with a definite touch of sweet.
Recipes: A total of 4. Nibble, Nosh, Bite and Bit.
Nibble: Kale Chips
Traditionally I am a salt versus sweet guy. I love my sweets mind you, but I usually head back for and crave the salty snacks.
I present the following recipe because they're a LOT better than they sound. As in; You'll have to call them something else for the kids and anti-greens husbands. But they'll like 'em.
Kale, for those unfamiliar, is a large 'bitter' green, like chard, mustard and collard.
High in all sorts of mins and vits, usually the bane of any family to integrate into the family diet.
However, with the prep and additions added below, they ended up being the surprise hit at a 4th of July party with family, friends and neighbors.
Granted, it is California that I reside, so it's not uncommon for the locals to enjoy such "snacks". But it must be mentioned that even the out of towners asked for the recipe.
Turn oven to 350degreesF.
Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
1 bunch Kale, Remove the thick ribs by cutting down each side of the leaf.
Pile the leaves and chop into 2inch-ish square-ish shapes.
Toss in large bowl with 1+ tablespoons olive oil. (Perfect time to grab the "Arbequina". )
Adding more oil as needed. Keeping in mind we don't want saturation we want lighty oiled leaves. If it's too oily it will wilt, we want crispy.
In a seperate small bowl mix roughly;
1/2 teaspoon paprika, (I used a smoked paprika)
1/4 teaspoon salt, (SeaSalt)
1/4 teaspoon pepper, (You can play with the "spicness" by adding red pepper, chilli, cayenne or chipotle. I actually used 'grains of paradise' but I was being froofy. White pepper could be good too.)
1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence (A mix of Basil, Thyme, Savory, Rosemary, Sage and Lavender.)
1/4 cup (scant) grated parmesan cheese, (I grated my own, I encourage you to do the same. Flavor is everything and the flour usually hidden in prepackaged grates prevents the 'real' browning effect we'll be seeking.)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, (If you only have garlic salt then don't use the salt from above.)
Sprinkle this mixture in batches over the 'lightly' oiled kale and toss, sprinkle and toss, sprinkle and toss.
Once all the kale has bits of the spice/cheese mixture clinging to them, arranged on the large cookie sheet.
Spacing them out so there is a bit of airflow between the kale pieces.
Place in the oven and bake until the the edges have browned. Mind you it will be a dark brown, which is very close to black.
Small bits of black here and there are great, too black and they start to resemble eating ashes.
Somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes.
Great when hot, but after a couple of minutes they get crispier.
I've even premade some and stored them in a ziploc for a day. (They were supposed to last two days, but they were gone before the full experiment on freshness longevity could be done.)
Nosh: Hot Pink Beets
Always a conversation starter upon reveal and frankly, I'm told to make it every time any of my friends have get togethers.
So one-night I taught them all how. Now they don't bug me to make it for them any more.
2 cloves garlic (or 1 shallot) fine diced.
4 large beets, chopped into 1/2in squares.
Over medium-high stove heat, drizzle olive oil (yes, the arbequina) into a pan, roughly two tablespoons.
Toss in garlic and sweat.
Once translucent add the diced beets.
try to get a good "sear" on each of the pieces.
7 or so minutes later, once the sear is done, turn the heat to Medium and add...
2 tablespoons of a light vinegar or wine. (White, Rice, Champagne or the preferred Late Harvest Reisling.)
Let "steam" for 7 or so minutes. Fork tender is the goal. Not falling apart.
If the vinegar has boiled off just add wine or water, more vinegar will "pickle" them more than is desired.
Once tender, add...
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 cup of sour cream.
Upon stirring you'll see the white mix with the dark purple and create a bright pink. And they'll be spicy. Hence the Hot Pink Beets name.
Bite: Homemade Ricotta Gnudi
Gnudi always brings a smile to my face. The word is funny and is blush-inducing, the "pasta" is exactly what gnocci wants to be; light, fluffy, packed with flavor.
This recipe is also great for vegetarians. NOT VEGANS. 6 to 8 Gnudi is a good-sized meal. But even better as a side dish for us Carnivores.
To begin with, you'll notice I did say homemade. That includes the ricotta and the gnudi
The basics for this recipe are below but I encourage exploring alternate flavor mixes.
Needs; 1 large sieve, a fine-meshed cloth (read low thread count cotton napkin or multiple layers of storebought "cheesecloth"), a large bowl.
Place cloth in sieve and place sieve in bowl. Or create your own curd-catching | whey-removal system. (I believe I used an antique potato ricer and a series of papertowels my first time.)
1 large pot. On the stove at medium heat.
Add into the pot...
2 quarts whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (Fresh is always better, not to mention those little squeezy plastic lemons contain approximately 5% juice in what's actually in there. It's amazing what chemistry can create.)
Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
Add the lemon juice, reduce heat to low and while stirring constantly, simmer until the mixture 'curdles', roughly 3 or so minutes.
Pour the curds into the cloth lined sieve and let it drain into the large bowl. Let sit for an hour and then start the Gnudi.
As a side note. I have added some orange juice to the ricotta and it's an amazing salad accompaniment. I've added nutmeg, cinnamon and clove and spooned it into some baked apples. I've mixed it into pancakes.
I eat it with fruit. It's delicious homemade. And pretty darned easy.
Needs, 1 large pot, 2 quarts water, on the stove heating to a boil.
Slotted spoon for gnudi retrieval. *giggle*
1 cup homemade ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks (I often freeze the whites for use in cakes, waffles and omelets)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour, (plus more for later coating)
Grab a large bowl and mix together the ricotta, basil, parmesan, salt, pepper, eggs, yolks and flour.
Form the mixture into egg-shaped ovoids, drop into flour and roll to coat.
Dust off excess flour and set aside, continue until all dough is gone.
Now, before we get to actually cooking I would like mention that I learned how to make gnudi differently than I just taught you.
So additions/substitutions can be made. remove basil and add 1lb chopped spinach or chopped arugula. I've added blue cheese and served them with filets.
Cardamom, Cinnamon and Anise Gnudi in a scallion/onion brodo with purple basil pesto. The point being, add your flavors and match your sauce.
To finish gnudi... In batches, toss floured gnudi into boiling water.
And as with all fresh pastas once they float they are done.
For Sauce: Ultimately it's up to you. But for this recipe I chose a simple caprese styled dish and all thats missing is the tomatoes.
Diced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Saute til tomatoes start to fall apart.
Place Gnudi on dish, spoon on tomato sauce. Shake on some parm.
And drizzle with a bit of late-harvest reisling vinegar reduction (with a pinch of sugar) cooked until syrupy. Or Balsamic syrup is good too. Ooo and some toasted pinenuts. Yeah, that's it.
Bit: Passionfruit Tart
And don't I feel foolish choosing this sweet to end with. Though I'm pretty sure mine and nutzs taste nothing alike.
I chose Passionfruit because I actually have three prolific passionfruit vines bordering my garden and they have started dropping their fruit.
Passionfruit, for those unfamiliar, is a red to purple colored, hard but giving rind with thick pith surrounding a mass of seeds in juice pockets.
Sliced open the fruits seeds are dark green surrounded by the bright orange juice pocket.
The seeds need to be strained to scar the pockets and release the juice.
All in all 1 passionfruit does not carry a lot of juice. (The juice however has tons of flavor.)
I recently harvested nearly 100 passionfruit and ended up with nearly 3 cups of juice.
1 cup of which will be used for the following recipe.
The tart itself is a variation on a lemon 'curd' tart. But with the overall tartness of passionfruit I figured it would be a great substitute. (My only worry was what effect the citric acid had on the whole thing. Come to find out, the filling can be made with any juice.)
I'm starting with the filling because the timing of the whole tart.
Oh and preheat your oven to 350 degreesF.
For the Passionfruit filling:
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup passionfruit juice
Blend ingredients together and set aside.
Now, with my starting flavor being passionfruit I wanted a shortbread crust that complemented the flavor.
This is where I write the basic recipe for shortbread...
3 parts flour, 2 parts butter, 1 part sugar.
Here is where I list the ingredients I ended up using...
For Shortbread Crust:
1/4 cup macadamia nut butter
1 1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup gluten-free all purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
Mix flours, sugars, cardamom and orange zest together.
Microwave butter until melted, stir in macadamia nut butter, coconut oil until well blended. (and has cooled down quite a bit.)
Add together with flour mixture and chopped cashews until all wet ingredients are absorbed and dough starts falling off the sides of the bowl.
Press dough into 2 8/9in baking pans, making sure to leave a lip around the edge to help contain the filling.
Put shortbread pans into oven and "par-bake", approximately 10 minutes, till dry but not browned at all.
Give a quick mix to the filling and then pour into warm shortbreads. Place back in the oven and bake for 20ish minutes.
Til the center loses it jellyness.
Let cool for at least 1/2 an hour. Tribemate usually cant wait that long. So I usually have to dust it with powdered sugar with a large slice missing.
Well, that's it.
So, now it's time for the Apologies, Product Bashing and Thanks.
Sorry, for making it so long. (Although those that know know I am wordy)
Sorry, for not including pictures. (My talents lie elsewhere?)
Sorry, no meat dishes. (Coming from a carnivore it surprises me too.)
Sorry, for pounding the Last-Harvest Reisling Vinegar and Arbequina Olive Oil down your throats. (Although I can think of many worse poundings.)
I hate to say it but the following products are no longer on my Favorite Things list.
IZZE fruit sodas. Used to be Sparkling water with the actual juice from the label inside each and every bottle. Now on the ingredients the actual flavor on the front of the bottle is listed 4th.
Scharffenberger chocolate. Hershey's has definitely put their company spin on what USED to be a fine chocolatiers small clatch of artesian candies. No longer worthy. Thanks for ruining it Hershey.
sliders. Mini-burgers are for children, and it doesn't help to further the case that they are also for adults when you take a single burger patty and cut it in four pieces. Don't get me wrong, I've had good one's but I've had better bigger burgers.
To all of those whom see fit to try one of these recipes and get a great result from it.
To all of those whom take the basics and run their own flavor takes on it. I did it, you should too.
For listening and including me in the OTCC with open arms (and hopefully open mouths.)
For reading this far. (Really, I'm done now.)
From Gnudi to Nudie! WooHoo!