Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dim Sum Sunday - Sunny Citrus

Short of a trip to Florida, California or Hawaii, the best way I know to deal with the winter grays here in the Midwest is to throw a little sunshine into my food. Or a lot. The old zester got quite a workout today from a good variety of citrus. Both Blood oranges and Meyer lemons are available right now in addition to naval oranges and bright plump limes. But what to make? Desserts were the most obvious choice but I wanted something easy and quick for a main dish.I settled on stuffed Red Snapper with Mango Blood Orange Salsa. Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. Stuff a whole snapper (scaled and gutted) with sliced onion, cilantro, orange & lime zest, and salt and pepper. Drizzle the stuffed cavity with a little white wine, then drizzle the outside of the fish with olive oil.Then wrap your fish. You can choose between aluminum foil, parchment or even banana leaves. Depending on how big your fish is, cook 25 to 30 minutes or until the meatiest part of the flesh pulls away from the bones.

While your fish cooks in it's banana leaf snuggie, dice one mango, half an onion, and the flesh of one blood orange. Mix in the juice of a lime and a blood orange and add a handful of cilantro. Drizzle the mixture with a bit of olive oil and season with sea salt. Chill until the fish has finished cooking.Flake the moist fish from the bones and top with salsa. To accompany my fish I quickly steamed some kale until it was just tender then shocked it in cold water to stop the cooking process and keep that beautiful green color. I set it aside while I melted some butter in a saucepan. I added some finely minced shallots to the butter and cooked until they were softened. To that I added a scope full of the water the kale was steamed in and a healthy pour of white wine. You want to reduce that down to at least half. Once that was done I then added the juice of one Meyer lemon and a bit more butter and let that reduce again until it slighty thickens. I drained the kale, squeezing as much water from the greens as I could. Next I roughly chopped the greens and added them to the pan, mixing the sauce and the kale together thoroughly. Serve those luscious greens immediately.
Hello Sunshine. Where have you been? The mango/Blood orange salsa sinks it's juicy roots deep into the mild moist red snapper flesh. The salsa seesaws between the sweetness of the mango, the grapefruit like sourness of the orange, and the bite of the onion. And the kale? The kale's strong bitterness is calmed by the almost sweet-like Meyer lemon sauce. That sauce goes into the data bank to try on other vegetables. A healthy and flavorful meal popping with citrus goodness. Thank you Florida and California for making my gray world just a little brighter.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lunch Bag Art

Once upon a time, there was this dad.  The dad was a fantastic artist.  Even in his free time, the dad doodled and sketched and drew.  What did he draw?  He drew on lunch bags for his kids.  Everyday.  During his lunch.
With some sharpies and his awesome talent his kids have to be the envy of whatever school they attend.  They get to see their favorite movie, cartoon or book character come to life everyday at lunch.

Ralphie would have loved this one.  

But dad didn't just do plain brown lunch bags.  We've got Tribal Bananas.

We've got Devious Sneakers.

We've even got some snarky commentary on the Star Wars Trilogy movies (with a little Pulp Fiction thrown in for good measure).

You too can follow the daily lunch bag parade at Lunch Bag Art.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do I really want them to test the DNA of Scrapple?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Amuse or Refuse?

Found myself browsing through Rick Tramanto's 2002 book, Amuse-Bouche, Little Bites of Delight Before the Meal Begins, at the library last week. I got sucked into the food porn photography by Tim Tucker enough to check it out. But after getting it home and really digging into it, I found myself wondering if I was really the audience they were trying to reach with this cookbook? I'm a home cook, not a chef. Sometimes when chefs undertake a cookbook endeavor they rely on what works best for their restaurant and try to translate that directly onto the printed page. However the general public at large can't always find French Green Lentils, Baby Purple Kohlrabi, or Bresaola in their humble grocery stores or farmer's markets. Still I couldn't be too picky, the amuse bouche course is a restaurant creation. You don't order an amuse, it's a mouth teaser given by the chef as a indicator of how a chef cooks and presents his food. No, I was hoping to find something that would be a fun appetizer to add to the culinary arsenal. I tried picking out something fairly easy and low key. Something that could be whipped up fairly quickly with ingredients I might have on hand. Yukon Gold Potato Chips with White Anchovy seemed to fit the bill.It's an easy recipe but you need one of these unless your knife skills are that good that you can consistantly cut paper thin slices of potatoes you'll need to make the chips. You don't need to spend a ton of money on a mandolin, this once was priced under twenty bucks.

You start by peeling a largish Yukon gold potato. Then you make your thin slices on your mandolin. Choose 5 or 6 similarly shaped slices and cut two slits in the middle. This is so you can thread your white anchovy through like a belt through a belt loop. As it just so happened, I had marinated white anchovies in my fridge. I found them at Whole Food's deli counter. (Unfortunately I'm not sure if this is the same as they used in the cookbook version. It just calls for white anchovies.) Once you've placed all the anchovies in their potato slots, brush all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and white pepper. It's here that the recipe gets a little funky. It calls for putting the slices on parchment or silpat (on a cookie sheet) and then sandwiching with another layer of silpat or parchment and on top of that another cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. At first I liked the idea of baking them but once the first 15 minutes had passed and I checked on their progress the chips looked like they had barely cooked. Gave them another 10 minutes. A little better but still very limp. I decided to jettison the top layer and let the chips cook unimpeded. Finally after another 10 minutes in the oven, the edges had browned up and they had finally achieved some firmness. They tasted OK, a little chewy but the anchovy totally overpowered the potato chip. Plus if you don't eat these immediately you really shouldn't eat them at all. Some things are fantastic hot and only hot. Now I'm not saying these aren't fantastic in Tramonto's restaurant, I bet they are although I also bet they deep fat fry them. There is that option in the cookbook I just wasn't in the mood to try it. I just wasn't really impressed with the results of this particular recipe. However you know I couldn't let this particular recipe pass without trying a little Baconization.Oh yeah, that helped.

While Tramonto's book is very pretty and a detailed look into how they developed these amuse bouches at their restaurant, I'd definitely check it out from your library first. If it connects more with you than it did with me I'm sure you could find space in your kitchen library to add it to your collection. It would also make a great gift for the restaurant chefs in your life.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dim Sum Sunday - Sunny Citrus

Gentle readers, here at Karma Kitchen Central, we're going on a week of solid fog and gray skies. Oh where has my sunshine gone? With that in mind, our theme for the next Dim Sum Sunday (Jan. 31st) is Sunny Citrus.
Make time for your lemons, your limes, your oranges, heck even your pomelos, just blind our fog weary eyes with sun shiny citrus creations. Come back here on January 31st and share. And remember...
All Good Things Flo To Those Who Bake

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haggis Anyone?

Anyone....Haggis....I've got plenty.....perhaps with a side of scrapple?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What the Heck is Snow Cream

In the recent Dim Sum Sunday Snowdays announcement post, I casually mentioned making Snow Cream. Stirred up a bit of curiosity, it did. Now it's time to explain. But first, I had to do a little research and then make a call back to the Mothership because you see Snow Cream lives as the one memory branded on my brain of the Great Blizzard of 1966. In late January of 1966 the DC Metro was quickly blanketed with up to 22" of snow. Not content to let the snow lie where it fell, Mother Nature decided to add 55 mile per hour winds to whip that snow into child swallowing drifts. With conditions like that you've got a storm for the ages in the Mid Atlantic region.

TV Chopper helping to evacuate pregnant woman to the hospital during Blizzard of '66.

Yours truly was but a wee child who was trapped with the rest of my family at our grandparents house. Seems the weekly family poker game was just too good to resist. Unfortunately the various aunts, uncles, spouses and children were trapped for 6 days in a very tiny house. VERY. TINY. And, might I add, this was in the time before disposable diapers. Are you digging me? Some people had bad acid experiences in the sixties...this little Almost Donner Party was a very bad trip. Acid might have helped but I can't be sure. Uglier details can not be revealed...some wounds are too deep. Still, I remember making snow cream.
Recipe for Snow Cream

Snow - fresh clean snow (no, yellow snow is not lemon flavored)
Milk or cream
some flavoring ingredient (depends on your spice shelf and whether your mom made pancakes every Sunday morning to have maple syrup in the house)

Fold gently together.
Serve to ravenous children.
Repeat until:
A. Snow runs out.
B. Milk runs out.
C. Sugar runs out.
D. Patience runs out.

That, my friends, is Snow Cream.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dim Sum Sunday - Snow Day

Snow days. Is there anything better as a kid? The anticipation the night before as the snow starts falling. The sudden interest in the nightly news and the weather report? Trying to predict if the snow total you get will be enough for to hear your school announced on the radio the next morning. Of course it meant something totally different to our mothers. To our mothers it meant harnessing and directing the fevered energy of snow maddened children into activities that would leave our humble abode intact. Getting us out of the house to burn off that energy was Priority One.Snowball fights, snowmen building, igloo construction and our ultimate passion, sledding. We had enough hills to keep us occupied for most of the day. Long, steep hills where the Flexible Flyer could build up some decent speed. Of course we whined mightily as we climbed back up the hill. Why couldn't someone rig up a rope to help aid our ascent? Better yet, how cool would it be if there was a sledding lift to lift us out of our thigh burning misery? Feasibility wasn't our strong suit at the tender age of 10. Neither was common sense as we tried to figure out the logistics of running garden hoses to our sledding hill to create an icy speedway. Luckily we usually ran out of energy before starting hose haulage. Besides we had now worked up an appetite and it had been long enough that we were considered calm enough to be allowed back into the house. Snow blind with frozen toes, just how much damage could we do? Our reward was hot tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.My food memory of cream of tomato soup was of rich tomato flavor, perfect for dipping a hot grilled cheese into. On the first snow day of this winter, I cracked open a can of Campbell's tomato soup, only to discover a pale ghost of it's former glorious self. Even catchup was better than what came out of that can. The overwhelming flavor? Sweetness. I dumped the whole thing in the trash. I would have to find my own cream of tomato touchstone.
Surprisingly a can would still be involved. I turned, as I often do, to the good folks at Cook's Illustrated. In their massive cookbook, The New Best Recipe, they too described the memories of the Campbell's Soup version of their youth. With that in mind, they came up with the following recipe.

Cream of Tomato Soup
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice, drained, 3 cups juice reserved
1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Pinch ground allspice
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups chicken stock, homemade or canned low-sodium
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons brandy or dry sherry
Salt and cayenne pepper

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450°F. Lined rimmed baking sheet with foil. With fingers, carefully open whole tomatoes over strainer set in bowl and push out seeds, allowing juices to fall through strainer into bowl. Spread seeded tomatoes in single layer on foil. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Bake until all liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes. Let tomatoes cool slightly, then peel them off foil; transfer to small bowl and set aside.

2. Heat butter over medium heat in large saucepan until foaming. Add shallots, tomato paste and allspice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Gradually add chicken stock, whisking constantly to combine; stir in reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Cover, increase heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

3. Pour mixture through strainer and into medium bowl; rinse out saucepan. Transfer tomatoes and solids in strainer to blender; add 1 cup strained liquid and puree until smooth. Place pureed mixture and remaining strained liquid in saucepan. Add cream and warm over low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Off heat, stir in brandy and season with salt and cayenne. Serve immediately.

You're going to have to find whole tomatoes, hopefully in their own juice and not in a puree. Also be careful about the salt content. Some tomatoes have much more salt than others. You want to be the one to control the flavor of your soup, not let a can of tomatoes overwhelm the balance you're trying to achieve.

Roasting your tomatoes is a crucial step. It definitely adds a depth of flavor that you're not going to get even when using winter fresh grocery store tomatoes. Don't skip this step. Once you get past the tomato prep, this soup goes together quickly and simply. As I finished off the soup I wondered if I really needed the brandy. The soup to that point tasted wonderful, rich with tomato flavor. How would the brandy help? I added the brandy just a little at a time and tasted after each addition. It was with this simple dish that I finally got to taste what Unami means. Unami is often talked about as the fifth taste. My soup was fine before the brandy but after the addition there was a savory depth, a complexity that lingered on the tongue and expanded into my sinuses. I never imagined a can of tomatoes could taste so good. It made a simple grilled cheese into a work of art. It even made my sweet gherkin pickles taste a little sharper and tangier.

As long as you have a decent can of whole tomatoes in your pantry, you will be ready for anything a snow day can throw at you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Iron Chef - Gardengate

The Food Network, having seen Bravo kick it's sorry ass in the TV Food Wars, finally reached deep into it's bag of tricks to yank out something, ANYTHING to bring a little respectability to a network chock full of cleavage clutter. (Taking that Boob Tube moniker just a little too seriously there, aren't cha Food Network?)So they looked out into their stable of Culinary Nags and decided that Iron Chef America would be the perfect vehicle to hatch their plans of world food tv domination.What was the light bulb over their collective producing heads to counter one of best seasons ever of Top Chef? Stunt casting.
That's right, a White House Episode complete with the First Lady. I'm not sure which is worse, Batalli's Orange Crocks or Shelly O's Orange Frock but frankly that's a discussion better suited for the Boyz over at TLo. No, we're here to eviscerate Gardengate. You see the whole premise of this particular episode (...ratings...) of Iron Chef America was to promote the worthy cause of fighting obesity (...fighting a ratings war...) and eating fresh and healthy vegetables (...smacking Bravo upside it's foodie noggin...). Part of the two hour show was following chefs Batali, Flay, Emeril Lagasse and Cristeta Comerford as they posed purposefully in the White House garden, digging up radishes and choosing what they wanted to cook with. Now I didn't see this part of the show, I happened to catch them in Kitchen Stadium just before they started cooking during which they said they would be using vegetables from the White House garden. Because I'm one of those annoying behind the scenes, wondering how they did that sort of gal, my mind immediately wondered if they had moved Kitchen Stadium to DC from their normal shooting grounds of NY? Or did they rush the precious veggies to NY on the Food Network Private Jet (talk about possible carbon footprint implications)? No, according to Marian Burros's New York Times piece they used Stunt Double veggies. Thus making all the silliness of Chefs in the White House Garden a big fat stinking lie.

What's next? That Giada's breasts aren't real?(I demand a thorough, hands on investigation immediately)

And like all good feel good stories gone just never know when the veggies are going to turn on you and bite you in the ass.

Salad courtesy of Till Nowak

Sunday, January 10, 2010

L'heure du souper, Canadian Style

I love getting mail. I know it's a dying art, hard copy mail. Luckily I've found someone who enjoys getting packages in the mail as much as I do and her name is Susan Black. Earlier in the year I had sent her some of my favorite hometown seasoning, Old Bay. Apparently her local grocery doesn't carry it. By way of thanks, Susan decided to send me some of the best of Canada has to offer. Love that little Maple Leaf. Susan and I have a little cross border rivalry going on but it's all in good fun. However when it comes to food, we could be sisters. We both love our seafood so it was only natural that I found this in my package. Not only a can of lovely fish but a beautiful card of Susan's own design......along with a recipe for Fish Cakes.But first I had to investigate what the heck this was?
Palmaria palmata or red algae. A great source of protein that you can use in soups, salads or on top of fish cakes. But a word of caution, dulse will burn quicker than pine nuts if you don't watch it carefully when you toast it.
The fish-potato cakes were wonderful especially when served with the Macaroni and Blue Cheese I made with the Dragon's Breath Blue Cheese that Susan also sent. Spiced with Canadian Summer Savory and healthy sprinkle Old Bay the tin of chicken haddie produced a hearty, crispy patty that was more than welcome on a cold winter's afternoon.

Even had time to whip up a little dessert.
A pineapple, banana, cream cheese and nut filled dessert spring roll. Still a work in progress but tasty none the less.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snowmageddon 2009 or Would You Like Fries with that Order of Rage

Not sure if you've seen this little gem of Burger Rage that happened here in Kansas City. Two days after Christmas a patron of the Midtown McDonald's decided that the food was not to her liking and found some interesting ways to show her displeasure. Now the video has gone national and she's on the run with the police following her greasy trail...which in the unplowed city streets should be fairly easy. People, if you're going to lose your mind over the quality of your food can you at least make it worth your while to get arrested? Perhaps something a little further up the food chain, like a Red Lobster or an Outback?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

When the Going Gets Tough...

...the tough hide in the kitchen. An old school Winter has announced it's presence with authority here in the Midwest. I fear for my sage plant, Old Faithful. She's survived 3 previous winters only to come back each spring with bright green leaves. Spring, however, is still months away and Old Faithful and I have a whole lot of snow to deal with.I decided the best way to deal with the snow was to channel my friend Susan (29 Black Street). You see Susan lives in Nova Scotia. Dealing with long cold winters is more her thing and since she was kind enough to send me some of Nova Scotia's finest artisanal blue cheese (Dragon's Breath), I decided it was time to put it to good use. Now I could have just nibbled it with a good crusty bread. Despite it's name it's not an overly sharp blue. I toyed with making blue cheese deviled eggs but what I really wanted was something warm and comforting. Something simple and quick. Macaroni and Blue Cheese was what I was craving.If you'd like a recipe, you could use this one from Epicurious. I used a nice mild cheddar to pair up with my creamy tangy blue cheese. You don't want to go too sharp on the cheddar and you don't want to use an even milder American cheese or the blue will overpower the whole dish. No, you're looking for the Ying/Yang balance. I punted on the chives instead decided on using Panko breadcrumbs mixed with chopped bacon as my crispy topping.
This is exactly what I needed. Warm and comforting yet fun with the wonderful depth that the Dragon's Breath brings to the pasta. Serving it up with a big pile of Kale and Cranberries made my hibernation process just a little more pleasant.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Both my appetite and Dim Sum Sundays. What's Dim Sum Sunday? A foodie free for all, open to everyone. We announce a Theme or Ingredient here on this blog. Then on your blog, you make a dish using the theme or the ingredient, take pictures (or a video), post it on your blog, come back here and share so we can all kick ourselves for not making what you made.

For our first Dim Sum Sunday (Jan. 17th) we'll be visiting the Theme of Snowdays.Do you have a special, warm the kids up after an afternoon of sledding hot chocolate? Do you heed the call of a huge bubbling soup pot? Have you ever made snow cream? Show us. And then...

...please send this guy to my house to help me dig out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


What happens when a foodie loses her appetite?What happens is all the plans for a long holiday weekend of eating vanishes as quickly as a dozen donuts Monday morning at the office.Had a little visitor for the holiday, a little intestinal bug who perhaps rode into my kitchen on the back of a bad oyster I used in some oyster stew.Oh we partied all right...if you call curled up in the fetal position not 20 feet away from the bathroom a party. So all my plans for cooking all weekend lost all it's appeal. Big pots of hot soup? Pass. Chowing down on that lovely Canadian blue cheese? Will have to wait. A big, hot plate of Stroud's Pan Fried Chicken?Not even that makes me hungry. And while I hadn't planned on starting a new year and a new decade with a fast......maybe that's not such a bad thing. Nothing makes you appreciate the things you love as much as not experiencing those things. However. If this goes on too much longer, I may need one of these.