Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Confession Wednesday- On Over-Salting

I never thought I'd say this but I managed to over-salt the crazy salty Jose Andres potatoes. I, the salt-loving goat, think that these potatoes got too salty.

Let's back up a second. Salt addiction? Check. Super salty recipe? Check. Made the recipe before (and loved it)? Check. What went wrong this time? TOO MUCH SALT!

I feel like I still need to explain. I am the person who has a kosher salt jar on her desk at work, who keeps a hefty supply of salt in the house, who is likely to ask for salt when eating out if God forbid there is no salt on the table. I can write love letters to salt, sing songs about it, and dream about it at night. My heart fills with joy when I hear chefs praise salt. A miserable existence for me would necessarily include missing salt. A harsh punishment would be salt deprivation. My favorite desserts include salt chocolate tarts (Fuel Cafe makes a mean one!) and sea salt caramels. I have been known to put salt on my French toast (minus the syrup) and in my plain Greek yogurt (yep, that's right!). Need I say more?

This was not a bad recipe. It just needed a tweak I did not provide this one time I made it. In fact, it is a beautiful recipe that celebrates simplicity and the best natural seasoning- ha, you guessed- salt!

So I will go with the version of this recipe that works and try to explain to you how to make and love the Jose Andres amazingly delicious salt baby potatoes, a recipe from the Aspen Food and Wine Classic.

Wrinkled Potates, Canary Island Style with Mojo Verde, a Jose Andres-adapted/inspired recipe

Potatoes: 1 pound new baby potatoes (the quality of these is actually really important), 3/4 cup kosher salt.
Mojo Verde: 1 cup packed cilantro, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1 garlic clove peeled, just a tad of salt and a splash of Sherry vinegar.

Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with water maybe a half an inch over the potatoes. Add the salt.

Stir to help the salt melt. Your goal is for the salt to make the potatoes float. Remember how salt water in the ocean makes you float- well, you want a small ocean in your pot for your potatoes, but not more than that. See these below? floating! If you're don't float yet, add salt!

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for about 3o minutes to get the potatoes tender. The water will reduce and that is a good thing. The potatoes will start wrinkling- another good sign since we're making wrinkled potatoes.

Pour out most of the water and return to the stove. Shake the pot around until all of the water evaporates while the salt crystalizes over the potatoes. Transfer potatoes into a clean bowl and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel for about 10 minutes to allow the steam to further wrinkle the potatoes. Ready to serve now whenever your mojo verde is done!

Mojo Verde
First, what a great name- moh-Hoh vEr-dE- beautiful! This is basically a pesto- don't tell any Italian that- but it is a freaking pesto made with cilantro instead of basil, minus pine nuts and parmesan. Fine, maybe it isn't a pesto, but you get my drift.

The trick to matching this with the potatoes is keeping it lighter in the salt department. To do that, a food processor is really what you want to reach for. In a mortar and pestle you will always need salt. The salt is what gets the traction in there. The food processor just goes to town on it! The other thing you shouldn't use is your blender. I tried. No matter how hard you shake while blending, scoop off the walls, it will be a total pain to do it this way.

I did mine in a mortar and pestle because I thought it would be fun. I know, my idea of fun is a little twisted. I recommend skipping the 'fun' and going with the miraculous food processor. [ I am a recent but extremely happy owner of a CuisineArt!]

You can gently wipe some of the salt off before you plate the potatoes. Either way, the skin will likely be too salty.

Plate the potatoes and plate some of the mojo verde next to them. Enjoy and celebrate your salt shaker!

Photography by Jennifer Olson

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Aftermath - 5 weeks later

The Aspen Food and Wine Classic changed me and I kept see that every day of the last 5 weeks! I found myself doing, buying, watching, cooking, saying things that I didn’t before. I am loving it! Here are the ways! Tell me what changed your cooking and eating ways!

1. I showed my love for the KitchenAid Cook for the Cure promo. Last Saturday, I technically hosted a dinner fundraiser, by dining along with five others at the Fuel Cafe in Denver. The owner and my friend, Bob, agreed to donate 10% of Saturday night’s food earnings to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

2. I got myself to David Chang’s Ma Peche, above. At the Classic, he seemed most excited about this new venture. Delicious and look at that soft peach-y light!

3. I now wash my to-be-cooked veggies in luke warm water because HE said so! [ did you see the 10 Tips from Aspen Food and Wine?]

4. A new cookbook, Morimoto's New Art of Japanese Cooking, autographed and all, might guide our extravagant and exclusive new years cooking and feasting party. Last year the book inspiring us was the French Laundry (some of the dishes pictured below) and yes, I know it is July- just thinking ahead a bit.

5. After a light-bulb moment induced by my friend Amanda, I realized it is ridiculous to use a towel as your KitchenAid splash guard when making butter. So I ordered a real one. Making this is now easier!

6. I broke down and subscribed to Food and Wine and 5280. I buy them anyway and am working on some of mycommitment issues.

7. I now watch Top Chef. As crazy as that may sound to some die-hard fans of the show, before the Classic, I may (...just may) have seen three random episodes of this.

8. I tweet. I started following Sissy Biggers on Twitter because she asked folks to do that when presenting the Quick Fire challenge between the steamy Michael Voltaggio and the well-seasoned Rick Bayless. Sissy follows me! So I say you should too- my tweets at

9. When ordering a margarita, I now ask for the salt to be not on the rim, but in foam-shape over the top of my drink. No, I don’t actually do that, but it would be nice to have the option.

10. Thinking ahead, I am already wrecking my mind trying to figure out what crazy trick I can pull out of my hat to be able to attend this event again next year- some serious plotting going on! I accept suggestions :-)

No recipe today (weird, I know!) but Wednesday, in the true Aspen Food and Wine spirit, a recipe from Jose Andres along with a brand new confession!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Confession Wednesday- Kid-Feeding Frenzy

My name is Andra and I am a little nutty about feeding my put it mildly. If it wasn’t my child and my insanity, it could be pretty comical. There are two distinct aspects of my fixation with food and my child: what I offer/make her to eat (not really the cuckoo part) and getting her to actually eat (yeah, you guessed- the cuckoo part). The kid is not a picky eater- she will taste and eat anything (currently we have a deep love for bacon. Have you seen this post?); she just doesn’t have a big appetite. Well, that drives me crazy.

The ‘getting her to eat’ part is a sensitive topic these days and will be the subject of a future blog with detailed explanations for equally feed-obsessed moms on how to do the ‘airplane bite’ (a classic with a personal twist!), how to execute the ‘one bite for you and one for each of the Sesame Street characters in the book’ (having a lot of time is essential for this one), and the ‘feed mommy a bite and you eat a bite’ (here what you feed them makes a big difference!). Stay tuned.

Now, in the chapter of what crazy thing I cook for my kid, let me introduce crackers. By way of background, you should know that. I have made all of her food since she was 6 months old and took the first disgusted bite of rice cereal. By made her food, I mean down to grinding toasted rice, oats, barley, or millet into a powder that turned into a creamy cereal I mixed with all sorts of other things.

While I realize that my baby-food-making may not be suitable for all, I cannot help but wonder why it has become so difficult to feed kids well. Why has it become so easy to feed them quick and feel like we are doing the right thing? Hint- Earth’s Best may have helped with that one!

On my feeding-the-kid shit list today- the plates, the utensils, the food.

Oh- skip Tweety, the lovely small rabbit (that is the actual name of the plate set), and the French words; focus on isolated compartments. I have no recollection of ever seeing such a plate when I grew up. Isolated compartments for the different kinds of foods. Keep them separate- no touching allowed! In a chicken and egg sort of semi-conspiratorial dilemma, I cannot help but wonder whether the physical separation on the plate is how the don’t let the meat touch my potatoes kid is born. After all, why would the potatoes touch the meat when you are 6 years old if you learned they each have their separate compartment on your Tweety plate when you were hardly one.

The utensils.

Now, here you are- you buy your child feeding utensils hoping that the tyke will learn how to shove the home-made or store-bought food into his own head. You are praying for some cooperation and for him or her acquiring some human-like manners at the table. You get more than one set- everyone likes variety and are ready for table manners 101. But wait, there is no knife. Anywhere!

I am not saying let your kid brandish a new shinny Global, but seriously, no knife? We ‘protect’ them so much that we ban the touching this evil object- the knife! The same bluntness of a plastic kid fork can easily pretend to be a plastic kid knife. Just saying… And speaking of the fork…ah… the joys of trying to poke a piece of meat or even a soft vegetable with a very very blunt plastic fork!

And now onto the big daddy. This.

I wish I took a picture without the jar and asked you what you thought it was. I wish you smelled it and tried to guess. I wish you tasted it and attempted to identify it. Mission freaking impossible!

Earth’s Best organic bananas. Silky pink pureed bananas that smell sour, taste slightly tart and have a hint of an unindentifiable citric flavoring in them. They last on your local King Soopers’ unrefrigerated shelf for at least 24 months. But they are organic and fully natural- the label says so! They just don’t look, smell, taste, or last anything like the yellow fruit they sell in produce for 69 cents a pound, may I add cheaper than the 90 cents for a 2.5 ounce jar that Earth’s Best is tempting you to.

Any parent worth his title can mash a freaking banana. It just doesn’t get any easier. You may need an adult fork to do that. Maybe mix in some milk to make it creamier. Maybe put it in a blender or a food processor. Maybe mash just a half a banana and you eat the other half. But buying this? All I will say is this- once the toddler starts to feed you his food, you will have to ditch the jarred bananas – cause they suck!

The Crackers! A Thomas Keller- AdHoc-inspired recipe

Not that Thomas Keller suddenly cooks for kids but I used the AdHoc breadstick recipe. Except, instead of rolling and shaping into breadsticks, I rolled thinner and shaped into little crackers with these little cutters. You can shape in whatever way you feel like, but keep them small and thin because the bready dough may crack otherwise. I halved the recipe- if you decide on breadsticks- I'd double it.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees); 1 and a 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (not quick-rising); 3/4 cup all purpose flour (loose, not packed); 4 tablespoons fine semolina flour; 5 teaspoons freshly grated Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese; 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt; 2 very full tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for brushing.

I swear you won't be able to tell the temperature of the water without a thermometer. Mine is cheap and easy to use and I never thought I'd see the way when I said I love something I considered so...extraneous...but I love my thermometer.

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and yeast without stirring. Let it stand for 10 minutes then stirIn a separate bowl, a larger one, combine the flours, cheese, and salt. Stir the olive oil into the yeast and water mixture and pour it all over the dry ingredients. Mix together with a fork without overworking until it comes together.

Transfer onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a smooth dough forms. Shape it into a ball, coated lightly with flour on your surface, and put it in a bowl covered by a damp towel. Allow it to rest and rise for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Roll the dough into your desires shape, lightly brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt (and freshly cracked pepper too if it's not for the tyke) and transfer onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden and crisp- about 16- 18 minutes - rotating the pan half way through the process.

A warning: because these are basically a breadstick, they are dry. They are best in a soup or stew or with some sort of a spread to make them chewier and more moist, but I have along with my toddler nibbled on them plain as well. These should last in an airtight container for up to a week. Enjoy!

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Confession Wednesday- Second Hand...

I opened my balcony this morning and fresh morning summer air inundated the room. The warmth of the Colorado sun poking through the still-cool air and the breeze that combined the heat and cool shaped into a breath of air that took me somewhere else in a Proustian Madeleine-eating-sort-of-way. Slightly damp, cool, but warm at the same time, that breath smelled of Paris.

My involuntary memory transported me across the world partly because of the break-of-day crispness and humidity, but more conspicuously because of the slender waft of cigarette smoke that came from my next door neighbor who was starting his morning right on his balcony. Oh Paris… smoking…hot and cool air in the summer mornings!

Paris used to and still does, despite the (still recent) restaurant smoking ban, carry with it that second hand smoke aroma that I journeyed with this morning. So I thought I’d tell you the truth. While smoking has never been my thing, I have lived with or among smokers for the first 21 years of my life. And that makes me a nearly recreational second hand smoker.

It never bothered me the way it does some and I’ve never fretted much about the well publicized risks of second hand smoking. Don’t get me wrong- I am not into the ashtray smell, the attempted Glade-covered cigarette smoke in a stuffy living room, or the stink of my non-smoker hair after 20 minutes in a smoking bar. If you thought of that, you missed the point.

For me, the smell of smoke coming from next door or on the street behind a passerby or on a patio where smoking is not banned is simply a familiar trigger to happy days behind me, some of them in Paris.

It is only fitting to speak of Paris today – July 14- Bastille Day!!! I so wish I was there or at least at the Chez Panisse Garlic Fest! honor this holiday, I thought we’d go with a French summer classic dessert- Cherry Clafouti!

Cherry Clafoutis with White Wine Poached Cherries, a recipe adapted from the Kitchen

Cherries poached in white wine

Ingredients: 1 lb cherries pitted, halved, 1 lemon 1/2 inch slices, 1 orange 1/2 inch slices, 2 cups white table wine, 3/4 cup sugar.

Toss cherries in sugar let set to macerate for 10 – 15 minutes in a pot. Add wine, sliced lemons and oranges. Cook cherries until slightly soft [ about 4 minutes] then strain mixture, return the liquid to stove top, pick the oranges and lemons out of the cherries and place back in the liquid. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. When reduced by half strain the liquid back over the cherries and leave to cool. They can then be stored in the fridge, for a week or 2.

Jen says these taste like sangria and I say they are delicious on the clafouti or your ice cream and many other treats!

Cherry Clafouti

Ingredients: 3 1/2 oz whole milk, 5 oz heavy cream, 2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla, 4 eggs, 4 1/2 oz sugar, 1 oz flour; butter for greasing baking dish, 1 tablespoon sugar for lining dish, 1 cup of pitted cherries

Place milk, cream, vanilla, eggs, sugar, and flourin a mixer and bring together. Cover the mixture in a bowl and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days. Stir the batter well before using.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

You need an ovenproof dish that is large enough to hold the cherries and the batter leaving some room to the rim.

Rub the inside with butter then put in the sugar and shake the bowl around you are trying to coat the dish with a sugar, butter layer.

Place the cherries over the bottom of the dish, then pour over you batter it should come about 3/4 of the way up the sides. Place in oven and bake for about 25 minutes.

You should not be able to see any raw batter when it is ready, you could always just look in the middle with a knife- the middle will still be soft and the rims will be browned.

When it is ready remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes, dust with sugar (not necessary) and serve with whipped cream (like the French would) or ice cream (like the Americans would). Add poached cherries.

Vive la France!

Photography by Jennifer Olson.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Promises, Promises

Two at the price of one this weekend- promises kept, that is! The fabulous Thomas Keller AdHoc lamb meatball recipe as I promised in this post last Wednesday and ten cooking tips from the Aspen Food and Wine Classic that I promised in this post. Happy cooking!

Thomas Keller's AdHoc Lamb Meatballs

Ingredients: 4 teaspoons olive oil; 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion; 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic; 3/4 cup finely diced zucchini; 2 tablespoons of preserved lemon or cured lemon, lightly rinsed, finely chopped.; 1 pound ground lamb; large egg yolks; 2 teaspoons bread crumbs.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the lamb, egg yolks, and bread crumbs in a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well together and set aside.

Heat a medium size frying pan over medium heat. Pour the oil in and allow to heat till warm. Add the onion and garlic. Sprinkle salt and pepper and cook about translucent- about one minute.

Add the zucchini (your food processor won't get this done unless the food processor is you) and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemons. Allow this mixture to cool.

Combine the veggie mix to the lamb mix.

Make 1 inch meatballs - you will probably get around 20-24 meatballs. Place them on the parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and put the baking sheet in the oven for 12-14 minutes.

Don’t be surprised when you take them out and they look much much smaller. For some reason, they shrink. But they are the tastiest morsels you can get your hands on. Serve them with rice, with polenta, or with a side of chickpeas. Or serve them by themselves with just a dash of mint and a bit of orange or lemon zest.

Ten Cooking/Food Tips Learned at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic

1. For preserved or cured lemons (like in this recipe or this one), use thin skin lemons and wash them well in hot water before using to remove the wax and bacteria. - Thomas Keller

2. Always break the shell of an egg on a flat surface, not on the side of a bowl, glass, etc like most do because that way the shell doesn’t break and go into whatever you are making with the egg white. –Jacques Pepin [disclaimer- while this made sense at the time, I am still working on not getting most of the egg on the flat surface when I do that]

3. Anything you cook [think heat], you want to wash in warm water and not cold. It gets cleaner that way. – Thomas Keller

4. Don’t put lemon on grave lox or salmon tartar before you serve it because it discolors the fish. Put lemon in tartar right before you serve it and serve grave lox with a slice of lemon for the guest to drizzle right before eating. - Jacques Pepin

5. You can buy harissa! [what rock was I living under? I suppose that's what happens when you think about making everything from scratch] The Harissa sauce that Tom Collicchio and Gail Simmons used in their presentation was thisone. - Tom Colicchio

6. When you cook a dish from a specific region, try to get as many of that region’s specific products as possible- it will bring your dish together. – Mario Batali

7. Ceramic knives are good for as long as they stay sharp, but, like any knife they get dull. The problem is you can’t re-sharpen them. – Masaharu Morimoto

8. When you clean a fish of bones, insides etc and you set it aside, always place the two halves of the fish either skin to skin or flesh to flesh but never combining them because the fishiness of the skin will contaminate the flesh. –Masaharu Morimoto

9. To make flavorful, amazing food, throw your old spices out and get new ones. Toast, cook, prepare things to order! –Mario Batali [not that this came as a surprise or anything!]

10. Melba toast and Peach Melba were dishes created by Escoffier for Nellie Melba a renowned Australian opera soprano. [who knew!]-
Jacques Pepin

Bonus tip- on cutting onions- The sharper the knife, the less you cry (also the title of a book favorite of mine- this one!) unless you cut your finger of course. Apparently a sharp cuts cleanly without breaking the onion's cells and keeping the sulfur compounds in the onion (a good thing you want to consume). - Jacques Pepin

Photography by Jennifer Olson