Monday, January 31, 2011

a year of meat...the challenge

The blogoshpere is buzzing with a new contest/challenge for all those brave enough to jump on board and learn how to preserve meat,  formally called Charcuterie pronounced shahr-koo-tuh-ree  which is the art and science of making cooked meat preparations (preserving in salt),  usually with a special emphasis on pork.  

The challenge is aptly called "Charcutepalooza" quite a mouth full, but fun to say none the less.  It is a  group of maniacally dedicated food-bloggers across the world currently engaged in a 12-month charcuterie making, salting, curing, cooking and writing contest.

The co-creators of this challenge are Cathy Barrow (Mrs.Wheelbarrows Kitchen) and Kim Foster (The Yummy Mummy). The grand prize for the challenge is a trip to Paris from the folks at Trufflepig Travel.  The winner will enjoy a week in Paris where you’ll be wined and dined, taken on guided tours of the markets, introduced to fromagieres, and truffle sellers.

The winner will also enjoy 5-days at the Kitchen at Camont in Gascony to sit under the tutelage of Kate Hill for one of her week long butchering classes.  Learning about charcuterie where many say the craft was first perfected.

The numbers of bloggers (180 and counting) are signed on to tackle a recipe each month, from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s 2005 "Charcuterie:The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing"  This is the book that Barrow chose as a reference guide for methodology and technique.  But because of all of the crazy press this contest is getting Michael Ruhlman along with chef Bob del Grosso, a former instructor at the Culinary Institute of America have offered to come along side the challenge to help facilitate any questions or comments as they arise.  As well as be two of the judges for the winner of the contest.

D'Artagnan, a specialty food purveyor has signed on to offer a special discount for the project participants through use of a secret promotional code sent out on the 15th of each month. D’Artagnan is dedicated to procuring the best from small farms that support humane and sustainable farming practices and never use antibiotic or hormones.

The challenge for the month of February is pancetta or quanciale. If you would like to join in and try your hand at curing up some pork belly just pick up the book Charcuterie or go to Michael Ruhlmans' blog site and follow his recipe there.  So with the Charcuterie book ordered and in transit from Amazon, the secret code acquired for D’Artagnan (Thanks Cathy!) on getting the discounts for the meat products I’m ready to get started.  Pork belly here I come!

Better late than never.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the green monster

The market is bursting with citrus right now, saturated color in yellow, orange, and green.  I can’t seem to help myself when I see these orbs piled high, I inevitably grab way too many thinking that I will incorporated them into something amazing.  Most of the time, they end up just getting eaten out of hand, which isn’t all bad I suppose.

There is one citrus in particular that I had yet to try and that is the Pomelo.  But what to do with this green monster is the question I always seem to ask.

So I did a little Pomelo research…

The Pomelo is native to Southeast Asia and is usually pale green to yellow when ripe.  The flesh is very soft, thick and pudgy.  And sometimes they look all bumpy…I guess that’s normal.  It tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit and has little, or none of the common grapefruits bitterness.

Ok then, sounds good.

I decided to make a simple salad of segmented Pomelos with butter lettuce, large chunks of avocado, cooked shrimp, drizzled with a simple dressing of shallots, cilantro, some of the juice from the Pomelo and olive oil.  It was delicious!

So if you see this green monster in your local market and haven’t tried it yet…give it whirl.  You won’t be disappointed!


Pomelo Salad with Shrimp and Avocado
Serves 2

1 head butter lettuce
1 Pomelo, segmented (reserve juice for the dressing)
1 lb. cooked shrimp
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped shallots
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Lime for garnish
Extra cilantro leaves left whole for garnish

For dressing combine in a small bowl the chopped shallots with the reserved Pomelo juice, champagne vinegar and a dash of salt to help soften the shallots a bit.  Begin to assemble the salad, first layering the butter lettuce (I like to keep the leaves whole) then adding the avocado, the cooked shrimp and the segmented Pomelo.  Finish off the dressing by whisking in the olive oil and then tossing in the chopped cilantro.  Taste for seasoning.  Pour over the composed salad and garnish with lime and the reserved cilantro leaves.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the good juice

 I’m not sure what I like more…the look on my husbands face when I drink the “green juice” or the fact that I get a healthy bolt of energy after drinking a glass of freshly juiced fruits and vegetables.  It’s probably both.

With an increased effort to take my nutritional intake up a notch I’ve invested in a top of the line juicer to help me achieve this goal.  I use a Breville juicer  to make a blend of spinach or kale, celery, cucumber, carrot, and some fruit- either pear, apple, pomegranate, plum, peach, or pineapple and a small piece of gingerroot for a spicy kick.  
An efficient and well-designed juicer extracts all the liquid and nutrients from fruits and vegetables, peel and all.  It couldn’t be easier.  I also love the fact I can go through my refrigerator and use up all those leftover veggies before they cross over the “line” if you know what I mean.

But more than health, more than nutritional balance, more than even the time-saving benefits of a cleansing breakfast in a glass (or the look on my husbands face), the reason I love to juice everyday is because of my “inner budding scientist” and that “artist at heart”.  

Juicing allows me to bring my own creative interpretation to nature’s bounty, to bring some order to the chaos of the fruit bowl and a little sense to the vegetables.  Juicing lets me take A + B and make C.  What’s more, there’s lots of noise, and things splash about, and different sizes and shapes go in and liquid comes out, it may be slushy or smooth or frothy and thick, and sometimes it’s sunset pink but other times deep crimson or vivid green.

There are few times in life when you can give such free rein to your inner artist and feel safe in the knowledge that the results will rarely be less than excellent or beneficial. What could be better?


Green Machine

This has become my favorite morning starter, but it changes depending on what I have on hand.

For 2 servings:  Juice 1 unpeeled cucumber, 1 good handful of greens-spinach, kale, or Swiss chard, 1 apple, a celery stalk and a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger in an electric juicer.  Divide between 2 glasses.

Suggested reading: Squeezed  250 juices, smoothies and spritzers  by Jane Lawson

Saturday, January 1, 2011


“It is said that without the culinary arts the crudeness of reality would be unbearable.”

This is such a classic line from the movie Kate & Leopold, where Hugh Jackman portrays a gentleman from the 19th century, who unexpectedly finds himself in 21st century New York.  He begins the discourse by sharing that where he comes from, “the meal is the result of reflection and study.  Menus are prepared in advance.  Timed to perfection.”
It all sounds lovely.  But is it possible to truly live this way with our hectic schedules, where  our alarms are set each day so that we can hit the ground running, trying to complete the “list” that never seems to end. I believe we can, it just takes planning.  Food is a powerful vehicle that can transport us in some small way to a time and place to an atmosphere of life that seems fleeting at times.

Now that 2010 has been shown the door and 2011 is ushered in we all have a fresh start.  Looking ahead, forgetting what is behind…setting that invisible bar to the next level. 

This year I hope to take steps toward this idea in different areas of my life, to make the most of every opportunity in relationships, at work, at home, even in the kitchen. 

This dish of Oysters with Champagne Granita is (in my opinion) the epitome of good food and the good life.  The delicious simplicity of a freshly shucked oyster cannot be rivaled.

I love the briny, cold, creamy texture of oysters, but when topped with a frozen granita made from champagne it is taken to a whole different level.

So with the Don Perignon chilled and the oysters at the ready, I raise my glass to you and to the new year.

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language.  And next year’s words await another voice.  And to make an end is to make a beginning.~ T.S. Eliot


Oysters with Champagne Granita
Inspired by Anne Burrell

2 cups Champagne or Prosecco
1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups rock salt for plating (optional)
12 oysters, freshest and your favorite variety or a mix- whatever you like

Combine all of the ingredients, except the oysters, in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until all of the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Pour the mixture into a wide flat dish and put it in the freezer. As the mixture begins freeze, drag a fork through it to break up the ice crystals. Repeat this process every 15 minutes or so until the mixture is completely frozen. When done it will look like ice shards, kind of slushy but a bit more frozen.
Scrub the outside of the oysters to remove any sand and grit. If using, spread the rock salt out on a serving dish. Shuck the oysters and lay them on the rock salt. Top each oyster with the granita and serve immediately.

Suggested reading:  Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher