Saturday, August 28, 2010
The Birthdaze: Pot Pie, Cheeseburger in Paradise and Cookbook Challenge #1-The Best of Postal Recipes
We had a fine dinner at Pot Pie in Westport, a tiny little space with big-tasting food. The early highlight was our appetizer: a delicious spinach and brie tart. I regretted that my pic of it is sub-par...it was a beautiful dish. For our entrees, Keith had "The" Pan-Roasted Chicken" as it's listed on the chalkboard and I had the Grilled Pork Chop. His was delicious and was served with homemade mashed potatoes. Mine was hearty and good and came with amazing smoked Gouda polenta and interesting pickled vegetables. We hit Foo's Fabulous Custard in Brookside for sundaes and a s'mores concrete for dessert.
Today, we headed out to Legends, the Kansas land of Over-The-Top Chain Eateries. I try to devote the majority of my hungry attention to local, independent eats but sometimes the Great Chain beckons be it from convenience or your guest's or partner's preferences. We've had dinner with the Fentons at the Yard House here and brought Tanner and Sierra to T-Rex, the bigger-than-life restaurant featuring animatronic dinosaurs including the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex that bears down on you upon entering and had Tanner crawling over my shoulder and down my back to get away. The newest offerings include the Orange County Choppers restaurant called Backfire BBQ. Considering Dad and son of the Choppers TV show no longer get along, you wonder how this got off the ground. We decided on the Jimmy Buffett-owned Cheeseburger in Paradise. The decor reminds me of my beloved Key West and my muy caliente Baja Burger topped with pepper jack cheese, salsa, onions and jalapenos with a side of gumbo was quite tasty.
Tonight, I kicked off the new year's Cookbook Challenge and decided the first cookbook would be one of my most dreaded ones...the old Postal Service cookbook. During a quick perusal, I noticed that the seventies recipes featured an abundance of Jello and canned soups. I decided to use the remainder of our KC Fresh Connect zucchini for zucchini bread. I'd made a relatively successful pumpkin bread last year and this cookbook had several zucchini bread recipes. I went with the one titled A To Zucchini Bread from Diane Miller of the North Dakota Post Office #550. We were intrigued by the sunflower seeds that were used in this one. They turned out delicious, with the sunflower seeds offering an interesting dynamic.
We capped off the weekend working our way through the sheer joy of the Glee first season DVD. Long live the Birthdaze.....
Here's the recipe for the Zucchini Bread:
A To Z Zucchini Bread
1 c. veg oil
2 c. sugar
1 c. applesauce
1 c. grated zucchini
3 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
3/4 c. sunflower kernels
Beat eggs; add oil and sugar. Beat until smooth. Sift flour with soda and salt; stir in mixture. Add applesauce, zucchini and vanilla; blend well. Stir in sunflower seed kernels. Pour into well-greased and floured pans. Use 2 medium pans; bake on hour at 350.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
After a delicious lunch of Chinese black pepper and orange chicken from Panda Express, we headed home to bust out out KC Fresh Connect goods to plan our breakfast for dinner. We went with recipes from the Food Network Kitchens to best utilize all of our produce. We started off making salsa for freezing with our Fresh Connect tomatoes. I then made Salsa Verde for the recipe that sounded most intriguing: Baked Eggs with Salsa Verde. We accompanied this with Provencal Summer Squash and Potato Gratin and country ham leftover from Burgers Smokehouse. The zucchini, squash and potatoes all came from KC Fresh Connect.
I admit, I was wary of the egg dish. As of yet, I haven't written much about my food issues, but, oh yes, I have them. I'm funny about eggs...love them scrambled or as an omelet, but struggle with them in other forms, particularly runny. I was surprised to learn that I truly enjoyed this dish....the texture worked and the taste was great, especially accompanied with the Salsa Verde. We also have plenty of the salsa leftover for future use. The squash and potato dish was wonderful and the fresh rosemary was the savory kicker. The other surprise for me was that the Food Network website rated the Baked Eggs as easy and the summer squash dish intermediate. The squash dish was easy....slice. layer. bake. The egg dish, on the other hand, had us making "wells" with the salsa Verde to break the eggs into. The "wells" didn't hold the eggs for long and thus, the eggs ran amuck. The taste was still very good, but one of the eggs looked a tad mutated when done. It might be best to make the salsa much earlier so it has time to sit and firm up a bit.....needless to say, we found this dish a bit higher on the difficulty scale.
Breakfast for dinner was a success and I think we paid sufficient tribute to the good Dr. Seuss. Keith indulged this meal to allow this tribute and was briefly relieved I finally stopped calling him Atticus.....so that I could now refer to him as Sam I Am.
Happy Anniversary, Green Eggs and Ham.
Baked Eggs with Salsa Verde
- Vegetable oil, as needed
- 1/3 cup Salsa Verde, recipe follows
- 4 large eggs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese (about 1/2 ounce)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Lightly oil a medium nonstick skillet with an ovenproof handle. Spoon a heaping 1/3 cup of salsa into the pan. Lightly press down the salsa to make 4 evenly spaced shallow nests and break an egg into each. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese over the eggs and continue baking until just melted, about 1 minute more. Top with the cilantro. Serve immediately.
1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 clove garlic
1/4 medium onion
1/4 jalapeno chile, with seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 sprigs fresh cilantro
Put the tomatillos in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Drain.
Puree the garlic, onion, jalapeno, and salt in a blender until smooth. Add the tomatillos and cilantro sprigs and puree until smooth.
Yield: About 3 cups
Provencal Summer Squash and Potato Gratin
This dish is based on a traditional Provencal dish called a tian, the perfect baked dish for showcasing summer vegetables. Try swapping rosemary for thyme or oregano, or adding thinly sliced summer eggplant to the mix.
- Cooking spray
- 1 medium yellow summer squash (about 8 ounces)
- 1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)
- 1 small Yukon gold potato, about 4 ounces, scrubbed and thinly sliced
- 1/4 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Manchego cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly mist a shallow 2-quart baking or gratin dish with cooking spray.
Thinly slice the squash, zucchini, potato, and onion 1/4-inch thick with a mandolin or by hand. Shingle the vegetables in the prepared baking dish in one layer. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the rosemary leaves and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with foil and bake until the potatoes are tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
Remove the foil; sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the cheese is browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 45 minutes more. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Could it possibly be a year since I started this blog already? Indeed, today is the anniversary of the day the Cook declared himself Confounded. The blog began as a way for me to rekindle my writing bug and it certainly achieved that. Soon thereafter, the blog allowed me to also embrace my love of photography as well(the pic at left is of some yellow tomatoes from our garden). These goals have been attained and in the end, I learned so much more....
The above link(you can click on the link at the top of the page or the title of this post) is to my aha moment that I filmed with Mutual of Omaha (www.ahamoment.com). I didn't have a lot of time to think about what I would say but right before the filming, the answer became clear. I set out to record my attempts to become a better cook and during the past year, the blog soon morphed in ways I couldn't have predicted...just like my life did.
I first found myself not just learning more about cooking, but about food itself and it's integral place in each person's culture. I delved into my family history through food and in turn, learned so much more about them and the important part food played in that lineage; sometimes even when it meant there was little food to be found. I also learned more about my friends and their histories through food. As the blog became a near-lifeline for me during some bleak moments, I realized how vital is was for me to return to writing and the power of words as catharsis. Most importantly, after years of watching mental illness ravage the minds of my family, I came to realize the validity of recording my life. Writing about the joyous juiciness of a particular plum may seem frivolous, but attains far more gravity when you're struggling to remember even the most basic details of your life. If you doubt that, read the post about the last letter my sister wrote my parents as she describes her favorite family meal.
On a lighter note, the blog has been a helluva ride as well. I've had a great deal of fun and have truly loved the interaction I've had with folks throughout. In case you haven't noticed(and Kristy and Keith can attest), I LOOOOVVE comments. Please comment on anything you may have enjoyed(or didn't enjoy) reading and share your own stories and recipes....that's a true goal for me.
Finally, yes, I have slightly improved my cooking skills but my confidence has not yet increased...I'm working on it. Keith challenged me to do something that will be a new feature for the second year. He essentially dared me to cook one recipe from every cookbook we own...and we own over seventy cookbooks. They range from the usual suspects of the Food Network, classics from Gourmet and Alice Waters, vintage cookbooks and even a 1992 Catholic Church cookbook. Lots of opportunities for great dishes, humorous situations and outright disasters. This feature will be called Cookbook Challenge and will number off as I complete each one.
Thanks to everyone and their encouragement and kind words. I get inspiration from all of you and I'm totally digging this experience. The confounded cooking continues.....
Sunday, August 22, 2010
This weekend, Excelsior Springs and the Wabash restaurant hosted The BBQ on The River and Fly In, an annual event celebrating all things 'cue. The centerpiece of the event is the Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned barbecue contest. Plenty of other happenings surrounded the main event, including an air show at Municipal Airport and some sizzling music at Wabash's Blues Garden. We kicked off the weekend at the VIP reception for the Fest at the Hall Of Waters. We enjoyed some typically marvelous pulled pork from Wabash, yummy potato salad and chocolate-covered Oreos and red velvet cake from Oooey Gooey Chocolates. We shared a table with our Elms compatriots Lacee and her husband Jonathan and Jenai and her friend Skyla.
In the meantime, the weather had contributed a rather electrifying element to the events. Already, in the afternoon, tornado warnings went out, the sirens went off and strong storms conspired to upend the whole damn thing. Tents were knocked over and some folks evacuated, but by and large, the BBQ masters were unfazed... the smokers were still going, the beer was still flowing, and the good times were undeterred. Keith and I went on to participate in another Wine and Design, this one at the Excelsior Springs Museum. Daphne poured the vino and Kathleen led us in the creation of our portrait of a pear. Mine ended up being a tad less ripe than the others. Kathleen is pictured with Keith and Marilyn Gerdes is also pictured and she baked the terrific Chili Chocolate cookies that were the hit of the museum's bake sale. Storms continued to rage throughout the evening, but the 'cue masters continued to party on. The weather disrupted the fireworks but KC's own all-drumming, all-dancing Marching Cobras still managed to tear it up in the torrential rains, including some of their young men doing multiple flips in black dress shoes on slick streets. They always amaze....
The next day, it was considerably drier, when we descended on the Day 2 of the festivities. I strolled several blocks of smokiness, as the folks were preparing their ribs and chicken for the judging. Unfazed by the previous night's elemental meddling, the barbecue experts rolled on. After a hazelnut latte and a cake truffle from Carolyn's Cakes at Broadway and Penn(check out Lisa's vintage kitchen room), we headed out to Municipal Airport where they were hosting breakfast and live music to accompany the swooping biplanes and air show wonders. The K-Man stuck with pancakes and I had a very good and cheesy breakfast burrito. We headed back to the hotel to pick up our special guest for the day, Andrea Sporcic, who is Assistant Director of the Missouri Film Commission. Keith was taking Andrea on a tour of Excelsior Springs so that she could photograph multiple sights for possible future film locations and I tagged along. I in fact, learned a bit more about our eccentric little burg on the tour, including how tasty the jambalaya is at the golf course. Andrea is pictured with Keith in the shower room of the old spa in the Hall Of Waters. We had a savory lunch at Daphne's bistro at Willow Spring I ate a delicious turkey and brie panini with blackberry mayo and roasted red pepper soup. I tasted Keith's amazing carrot-ginger soup....not something I would typically prefer and thought was wonderful. I was mesmerized by Andrea's stories about her trips to the Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals and fascinated by her tales concerning her job. I'm thinking we need to organize a get-together with Andrea and Danene Beedle for some wine and film fun. Alas, I had to head out to work...
In the end, Blazin' Blues took the big BBQ trophy and despite the weather's attempted coup, the event was a success. Nothin' gets in the way of the almighty 'cue.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Towards the end of the evening, Jane was surprised with a special gift....a DVD look back at her life which Rhea and Julia created for her. It was an honored delight for all of us to view...photographs chronicling her life with her family, her days in New York, her beloved husband Tony and all of her treasured pooches. There was one photograph of her younger days that took our breath away. It turned out to be the first photo Tony had taken of her and she was stunning; we thought she resembled Jean Seberg in Breathless. In the end, Jane was touched by all of the attention and generosity but no less grateful than we all are to have her in our lives.
I won't speak for everyone, but I can't easily sum up that gratitude for Jane's presence in my life. She's an irreplaceable friend...the kind who helps out compatriots and strangers alike. She hosts wonderful parties at her gorgeous home.....be it farewells, baby or wedding showers or intimate dinner parties; all are memorable. Jane loves her furry friends equally as much. She speaks eloquently of all of her beloved pups including how a certain Irish setter's body part caught the sunlight when he ran. Jane tells amazing stories about her very storied life. She's the perfect guest; the kind that always brings the fun.
The happiest of birthdays to you, lovely Jane....as you look back at those treasured moments of your life, know that you are treasured in ours.
Monday, August 16, 2010
We put together a haphazard and inadvertent vegetarian feast on Sunday. The goal was more to get our food prepared that we had neglected most of the week and ended up stumbling into fruit and veggie nirvana. First, let me say, I'd only used the last batch of nectarines for our Tequila Mockingbirds and after biting into one of those yellow beauties from this past week (pictured at right), I realized I'd deprived myself of their true joy. After the first taste produced a dopey(ok, dopier) grin and some leftover juice trickling down my chin, I couldn't get enough. We also received pluots in this delivery and these are plum/apricot hybrids that are deliciously sweet. The sunset-hued lovelies are pictured above left in the bowl with the eggplant,etc. It was oddly arduous to find a recipe for these so we ate them straight up or as an added treat in my breakfast smoothie.
I decided to try out a new recipe for the eggplant we received in our delivery this week that wouldn't overwhelm the taste but enhance it. I have to say it turned out beautifully, so much so that we intend to reuse it for future dinner parties. I found the recipe on www.epicurious.com and it originally came from the cookbook Salt to Taste: The Keys to Confident, Delicious Cooking by Marco Canora. The parsley mix alone was incredibly flavorful and would also be fantastic as a bruschetta topping with tomato and provolone. Make sure you read the Chef's Notes at the end, they made all the difference. Also, I made it with fresh parsley that Keith had grown himself and used the spices we had on hand: red pepper flakes and regular oregano. The final dish is pictured at the top of the page. Read on..
Grilled and Marinated Eggplant
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Sicilian
- 1/4 teaspoon minced peperoncini or red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium eggplant (3/4 pound), peeled and sliced about 1/3" thick
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Finely chop the parsley with the capers and garlic. Add the oregano and peperoncini and chop everything together. Put the mixture in a bowl, stir in the oil, season with salt and pepper, and reserve.
Preheat an outdoor charcoal or gas grill or a grill pan until smoking hot.
Put enough eggplant slices on the grill to cover it without crowding. Cook the eggplant until well marked, 3 to 6 minutes, then turn the slices over. Cook until tender, about 3 minutes more. Remove the eggplant from the grill.
Pour the vinegar into a shallow bowl. While still hot, dip each eggplant slice into the vinegar and set it aside on a plate. Continue grilling and dipping the eggplant until all the slices are cooked and seasoned.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the parsley mixture onto a platter and spread it evenly with the back of a spoon. Arrange half of the grilled eggplant on the parsley in a single layer. Smear each slice of eggplant with more parsley. Place a second layer of eggplant on top and spread the remaining parsley on it. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and set aside to marinate at room temperature for about 2 hours (or refrigerate for longer). Serve at room temperature.
You could make the parsley mixture in a food processor, but I don't. I find hand chopping gives me the somewhat drier texture I prefer.
For this recipe, I don't salt or oil the eggplant; I grill it dry. This way, it has a nice chewy texture. I marinate the eggplant as soon as it comes off the grill so the flavor of the marinade penetrates.
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 habanero pepper, seeded
- 1/4 bunch fresh chives
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine butter, garlic, habanero, and chives in a food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.Wonderfully fresh KC Fresh Connect vegetables all cooked and prepared in ways that bring out their own individual flavors....that's the beauty of farm-to-table goodness.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
I can finally present a new Foodie Five-it has been the spring and summer months after all and that is a very busy time for everybody. I'm always grateful for anyone who takes the time to indulge me in their busy lives. I love to do this feature as I think everyone has a story to tell through food. My latest Foodie Five proves it...
Kama and I became fast friends when we were co-working Chiliheads together in Charleston, West Virginia. We've been through some of the worst and best together and truly had some terrific times way back when. She is one of those precious souls you're happy to have had passed through your life, however briefly, Today, she is married to her husband Chris (who also worked with us at Chili's), is the proud mama to two children, Piper and Rhys, and they live in the Indianapolis area. Kama loves to grow some of her own food and is quite the artist as well. I'm totally enamored with the amazing work she does with vintage typewriter keys....so please check it out in the pics above and at her website www.thevintagekey.com. Now, read on for Kama's thoughts on food and while you're at it, enjoy some of her gardening pictures as well....there's even a delicious recipe to boot!
1) We were Chiliheads together back in Charleston. Any particular foods or dishes you miss from back in WV?
I miss the Chili’s Chicken Fajita’s with a side of the “old recipe” honey mustard. It just DOESN”T taste the same at other Chili’s. I also miss Tidewater’s Greek Salad, and the Mountaineer Biscuit from Tudor’s Biscuit World.
2) Tudor's! I totally forgot about them. I'm so glad you mentioned Tidewater's Greek Salad...if I could have that with those poppyseed rolls and the Chicken St. Tropez, I was a happy guy. One of your interests is cooking....I notice you said "adult meals". What are some of your favorite dishes to cook?
I love to cook using fresh produce from my garden. The rewards and taste are unbeatable. (Check out the pics of her seeds at right and her fresh strawberry plants at left). Pesto pasta is delicious and basil grows so beautifully. Just add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper, and pine nuts (minced) to fresh basil that has been cut very finely. Toss with angel hair pasta fresh out of the water and you have a delicious dinner in a few minutes.
If you don’t have a garden, I would suggest going to your local farmer’s market for fresh produce and in support of your community’s farmers. I also enjoy canning and freezing anything that I can’t use immediately. There’s just something about fresh corn or berries in January.
Another tasty recipe is from artist and gardener, Tasha Tudor. I would suggest always using organic ingredients when possible.
Lemon Blackberry Tarts
• piecrust...homemade or premade
• 8 oz. cream cheese
• 1/2 cup lemon curd
• 2 cups fresh blackberries
• 4 tbsp. seedless blackberry spreadable fruit
• 4 tsp. lemon juice
• mint sprigs
• confectioners’ sugar
Makes 8 individual tarts. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out piecrust or unfold if you are pressed for time and used the grocery store brand. Cut 8 4 1/2 -5 inch rounds. Press rounds into individual tart pans. (They should measure about 3 1/2 - 4 inchs.) Press the bottoms and sides firmly and trim excess even with the top of the pans. Prick bottoms of crust several times with a fork. Place pans on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool completely. In a bowl, beat cream cheese and lemon curd on medium speed until smooth. Divide filling between pastry shells, spreading evenly. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours until well chilled. Before serving, remove the tarts from the pans. Arrange on individual plates or platter. Arrange berries on the tarts. Combine fruit spread and lemon juice and spoon over tarts. Add a mint sprig and sift confectioners’ sugar over the top.
3) The tarts sound divine. Amen on the farmer's markets, sister. Along those same lines, are there any family traditions you carry on food wise? Anything that's been passed down or possibly traditions you've started?
I use all of my nanny’s pie pans and they make the most wonderful treats. There’s something about age that makes things taste better. Traditions are important to both my husband Chris and I. I think our children look forward to holidays and special occasions because of those traditions. The best way to describe out tradition is that we do everything together. We decorate, cook and enjoy the festivities all together! (Kama's lavender is pictured at right.)
4)We tried to plan an overnight stay in Indy on our trip home but were thwarted by the Final Four (insert WVU sigh here). If one were to visit you in the Indianapolis area, where would you take them for some local flavor?
Welcome to the Midwest…right? Nothing stands in the way of basketball. I have heard wonderful things about Dunaway’s 351 S East Street 317.638.7663. Goat cheese salad and pasta Americana would be my choices. My other choice would be the Fondue Restaurant (who can pass on Fondue and lettuce wraps) or The Cheesecake Factory located by the most awesome mall, Keystone at the Crossing.
5) What is your ultimate comfort food?
Home cooked food using the most fresh ingredients is the only food in my opinion that can really bring you comfort. Chicken noodle soup, meatloaf, mashed potatoes w/gravy, (the mashed potatoes have to have dairy cream and cream cheese in them to be at their ultimate. Ha!), rolls with butter & jam.