June 28, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: A Moveable Feast

Foodbuzz sponsors a monthly event that features 24 bloggers from 24 cities around the world who prepare unique meals during the same 24 hours. Earlier this month, I submitted a proposal for a meal inspired by Ernest Hemingway's memoir of 1920's Paris, A Moveable Feast...and my proposal was chosen!

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."
-Ernest Hemingway, to a friend, 1950

A Moveable Feast is Hemingway's story of living as an expatriate writer--part of what fellow writer Gertrude Stein termed "Une Generation Perdue," The Lost Generation.

"That's what you are. That's what you all are," Miss Stein said. "All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation."


"Really," I said.

"You are," she insisted. "You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death. . . ."

Though not a cookbook or food memoir, Hemingway's narrative includes many descriptions of the things he drank and ate in friends' homes and in various French cafes.


Though I originally planned to have dinner outside to emulate a Paris cafe, the heat index in St. Louis was over 100 that day, so I moved the meal inside. I tried to create a cafe feel with red plates, mismatched wine glasses, & an Eiffel Tower lamp on the buffet!

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I invited fellow food & literature enthusiasts (from left): Jerad, Andy, Ellie, Bill, me, Stephanie, & Maggie (who took this pic).

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M E N U

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(recipes follow)

Aperitif:
Eau-de-vie

(strawberry-infused vodka)

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My wife and I had called on Miss Stein, and she and the friend who lived with her had been very cordial and friendly and we had loved the big studio with the great paintings. It was like one of the best rooms in the finest museum except there was a big fireplace and it was warm and comfortable and they gave you good things to eat and tea and natural distilled liqueurs made from purple plums, yellow plums or wild raspberries. These were fragrant, colorless alcohols served from cut-glass carafes in small glasses and whether they were quetsche, mirabelle or framboise they all tasted like the fruts they came from, converted into a controlled fire on your tongue that warmed and loosened it.
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Hor d'oeuvre:
Les Huîtres Crues avec Mignonette

(raw oysters with Mignonette sauce)


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-->I closed up the story in the notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

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Maggie reading the oysters passage.

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Maggie eating her first raw oyster!
(Bill is in the background, twittering about how we made him drink Barefoot Bubbly.)

Premier Cours:
Cervelas Remoulade, Pommes a l'huile

(sausages with mustard sauce, marinated potato salad)

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It was a quick talk to Lipp’s and every place I passed that my stomach noticed as quickly as my eyes or my nose made the walk an added pleasure. There were few people in the brasserie and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted a beer I asked for a distingué, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad. The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l’huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes a l’huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce. I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with bread and drank the beer slowly until it began to lose its coldness and then I finished it and ordered a demi and watched it drawn. It seemed colder than the distingué and I drank half of it.


Stephanie & Ellie reading the sausages & potatoes passage (my typos & all).

Deuxième Cours:
Truffé de Poulet Rôti, Radis et de Salade d'endives

(truffled roast chicken, radish & endive salad)


[Disclaimer: The chicken, our third course, was served at nearly 10:00 pm. By that time I had consumed much vodka, champagne & wine and therefore forgot to photographically document the dishes. My apologies.]

-->We were halted by rain about an hour north of Lyon. In that day we were halted by rain possibly ten times. They were passing showers and some of them were longer than others. If we had waterproof coats it would have been pleasant enough to drive in that spring rain. As it was we sought the shelter of trees or halted at cafés alongside the road. We had a marvelous lunch from the hotel at Lyon, an excellent truffled roast chicken, delicious bread and white Macon wine and Scott was very happy when we drank the white Maconnais at each of our stops.
* * *

“We’ll come home and eat here and we’ll have a lovely meal and drink Beaune from the co-operative you can see right out of the window there with the price of the Beaune on the window. And afterwards we’ll read and then go to bed and make love.”

“And we’ll never love anyone else but each other.”


“No. Never.”


“What a lovely afternoon and evening. Now we’d better have lunch.”


“I’m very hungry,” I said. “I worked at the café on a café crème.”


“How did it go, Tatie?”


“I think all right. I hope so. What do we have for lunch?”


“Little radishes, and a good
foie de veau with mashed potatoes and an endive salad. Apple tart.”

Dessert:
Tarte aux Pommes, Café au Lait

(apple tart, coffee with milk)


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-->It was a pleasant café, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old waterproof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a café au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.

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My favorite pic of the night!

R E C I P E S


Strawberry-Infused Vodka:

An eau-de-vie, which Gertrude Stein served to Hemingway on numerous occasions, is actually a clear, colorless fruit brandy. However, I decided to make my own fruited liquor by infusing vodka with fresh strawberries.

This is so delicious yet so easy! Simply cut up a large container of strawberries (de-stemmed) into quarters. Pile into a pitcher and top with an entire bottle of vodka. Let sit at room temperature for a few hours (or in the fridge overnight), then strain back into the vodka bottle (or another decorative vessel). The result is sweet enough to sip straight from danty stemmed glasses.

NOTE: Do NOT store the finished vodka in the freezer. It will freeze solid (I learned that lesson this morning)!


Mignonette Sauce:


This is my favorite accompaniment to serve with raw or lightly steamed oysters.

Mix 1/2 cup champagne vinegar with 2 tablespoons finely shopped shallots, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, & the zest of one lemon. Spoon over raw oysters before eating.

Sausages with Mustard Sauce & Marinated Potato Salad:

I sauteed Italian sausages in a bit of olive oil until they were brown and cooked through. I turned off the heat and let them sit in the pan while I made the mustard sauce & potatoes. When I was ready to serve, I quartered the sausages.

For the mustard sauce: mix 1 cup of mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon (or more to taste) Dijon mustard, 1 minced garlic clove, juice of half a lemon, a pinch of salt & freshly ground black pepper. Serve on the side.

For the potato salad: boil whole red new potatoes until just tender on the inside. You wante them to be retain a little firmness. Drain. While still warm, but cool enough to handle, thinly slice the potatoes and transfer to a bowl. Add a finely chopped shallot (or green onions) & a handful of chopped parsley. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil & red wine vinegar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Truffled Roast Chicken with Radish & Endive Salad:

For the chicken: Wash & dry a roasting chicken. Rub olive oil all over the skin & sprinkle liberally with truffle salt. Roast at 425 degrees for about an hour (for a 4.5 pound bird), or until the skin is browned & crispy and the juices run clear (meat should register 160 at the thickest part of the leg). Remove from oven and let rest while you prepare the salad. Serve with a small carafe of black truffle oil that your guests can drizzle over their chicken.

For the salad: Slice endive heads & radishes thinly. Season with salt & pepper and dress with a simple vinaigrette. I used the leftover Mignonette sauce whisked with some olive oil.

Apple Tart:
(recipe from The Pioneer Woman)

This was my favorite dish of the night, partly because it was so easy to make & partly because if was pretty tasty!

Thaw a puff pastry sheet, unfold it, cut it in half, then roll each half to form two larger rectangles.

Cut 2-3 apples in quarters & cut the core out. Thinly slice the apples & transfer to a bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt & 1 cup of brown sugar. Mix well to coat. Layer the apples, in one over-lapping line down the center of each pastry. Bake at 415 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed & browned. Remove from oven & transfer the tarts to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkle with powdered sugar just before cutting.






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June 25, 2009

Sour Cherry Limonade Cocktail

Last week, Annie (aka The Cheesemonger's Wife) twittered about having great cocktail recipes, including one made with sour cherries. Since I'm always looking for new things to do with cherries (Jerad's parents have a tree in their front yard), I asked Annie to please pass along her recipes, which she posted this week.


I played around with the sour cherry cocktail a bit. Here's my version:

Sour Cherry Limonade Cocktail
  • Using a shot glass to measure, combine 3 parts sour cherries with 1 teaspoon of sugar & the juice of one lime in a cocktail shaker. Muddle until the cherries are mushy & juicy.
  • Add three parts vodka, a splash of Cointreau, and a few ice cubes. Shake.
  • Strain the mixture into two martini glasses, filling about 3/4 of the way full. (I placed a small strainer over each glass to ensure that no bits of cherries were left floating around.)
  • Top off each glass with some sparkling French limonade. (If you don't have this, get some! Or just use a sweeter sparkling wine.)

June 22, 2009

Summer Corn Salad

Last night, we deep fried a turkey.

Yes, I know it's stiffling hot outside...but it was much nicer to have NOT heated up the kitchen for dinner.

Since I wanted to avoid the traditional--and heavy--turkey fixin's like mashed potatoes & stuffing with this meal, I made this instead:


Summer Corn Salad

Ingredients:

4 ears of corn
1 cup haricots verts (tiny whole green beans) *
1 orange (or red or yellow) bell pepper, seeded & chopped
1 small package of grape (or cherry) tomatoes, quartered
3 green onions, sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
olive oil
salt & pepper

* You can find these in the frozen veggie section of your grocery store.

Directions:
  • Blanch the corn in boiling water. You want it to be cooked, but still retain its crunch. Remove from water & plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
  • Steam the green beans in a colander over the corn as it cooks. You also want them to stay crunchy and green. Plunge them into the ice water with the corn.
  • Cut the kernels off of the corn cob by standing it upright into a bowl and using a sharp knife to cut down the sides of the cob...or use a corn cutter.
  • Combine the corn with the green beans, bell pepper, tomatoes, and green onions.
  • Gather the basil leaves into neat pile, roll up like a cigar, and slice into ribbons. Add to the salad.
  • Dress the salad with the lemon juice, a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt & pepper to taste.
This salad keeps well, so you can make it ahead of time. And the next day, you can use it to make one hell of a frittata (add bacon, of course).

June 20, 2009

Sparkling French Limonade Cocktails

Each summer, Kitchen Conservatory stocks large swing-top bottles of Lorina Sparkling French Limonade ($5.50 for 750 ml).

This summer, I added booze to it.

First, I mixed the limonade with Absolut Pear vodka.

Then, I muddled some mint with a wedge of lime in the bottom of a glass. I added a shot of white rum, filled the glass with ice, then topped it off with some of the limonade.

I am going to stock up on this stuff. It's all I plan to drink this summer.

Just don't shake any of it in a cocktail shaker. The fizziness of the limonade makes the top of the shaker kinda explode off. Trust me. Learn from my mistakes.

Now, get yourself to KC for some of this and make your own tasty drinks!

June 16, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Honey Peach Ice Cream

This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe was chosen by Tommi of Brown Interior. Here's a crappy, dark cell phone picture of the churning ice cream:


I wanted to take a better picture, but I can't find my camera. I looked for it last night when I dished up the ice cream. I looked for it again today but had no luck. It's difficult to be a food blogger with no freakin' camera! *sigh*

I've been losing lots of thing lately. A few weeks ago I lost a brand new cooler bag. I can't remember exactly when I last used it or where I might have left it. I THINK I left it at a friend's house after a party, but they don't have it. I hate to think that someone at the party picked it up.

This week, I lost the book I was reading. I had it at work on Thursday, then I couldn't find it at home the next day. I looked all over the house, then all over the shop at work on Friday. I asked my co-workers if they'd seen it. Then last night, I remembered that I left it at Jerad's parents' house Thursday evening.

This morning, I couldn't find my keys. Eventually, I found them in the middle of a stack of papers & mail in the dining room.

Sheesh. I must be getting old.

Anyway...

This ice cream is made by cooking peaches (I used nectarines because you don't have to peel them) and honey until soft. The fruit is pureed, strained, and mixed with a custard base. It's pretty yummy...and perfect for summer. Check out Tommi's blog for the complete recipe.

June 9, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Parisian Apple (also Nectarine & Blueberry) Tartlets


What a simple, delicious recipe for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie! Jessica from My Baking Heart chose Parisian Apple Tartlets, a simple recipe that calls for only four ingredients: puff pastry, apples, brown sugar, and butter.

I made three different tarts: apple, nectarine, and blueberry. The recipe suggests peeling & quartering the apple, which is baked on a round piece of puff pastry like Jessica did...

(Image from My Baking Heart)

However, I sliced the apple & nectarine and layered them on rectangular pieces of pastry (I just cut a sheet of pastry into 6 pieces). I tossed the blueberries with agave nectar and the apples with brown sugar & cinnamon (and dotted with a bit of butter). I topped the nectarine with sugar & ground ginger.

Tartlets before baking.

Overall, I thought the tartlets were good...but they needed something more. Next time, I'll brush the pastry with some ginger jam before adding the nectarines, and I'll slice the apple into smaller pieces so that the pastry will puff around it. Oh, and, I'll make caramel to drizzle over the top or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Tartlets after baking.

Mocha Breakfast Smoothie

My mother died of a heart attack at age 47. My father was diagnosed with diabetes in his mid-50's after losing several toes. My maternal grandparents both have diabetes; my grandfather died in his 50's as a result of kidney failure.

Sometimes, I feel doomed.

Several years ago, after my dad's health problems, I decided to get healthier. This was the beginning of my foodie phase, so to speak. You see, growing up, I was surrounding by junk food (chips, snack cakes, frozen dinners). Even though I liked to cook as an adult, I was still eating frozen and boxed meals. However, after dad's diagnosis, I changed my eating lifestyle. I learned how our bodies process food, how certain ingredients (like sugar) are digested. I cut out processed foods as much as I could, replacing them with "whole" foods. I no longer felt the need to eat meals with a meat, vegetable, and a starch. For a year or so, I stuck to a strict diet plan of three meals a day with 2 snacks in between. I ate a lot of fruit, vegetables, and protein.

Even though I no longer stick to such a strict schedule of eating, my lifestyle has changed. I still eat as many "whole" foods as I can. Even though I indulge in carbs and fat, I always do so in moderation.

One of my favorite recipes from what I like to call my "skinny" phase is an unusual recipe for a breakfast smoothie. I used to drink these nearly every morning, sometimes even for a snack or a dessert.

I know the ingredients sound gross, but just trust me on this one. It tastes just like a mocha shake.

Mocha Breakfast Smoothie

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Puree in a blender until ice is crushed:

1/2 cup small curd cottage cheese *
1/2 cup half & half
3 tablespoons mocha-flavored instant coffee mix (like International Foods)
1 cup ice cubes

* I have lately been using full-fat dairy products, since I've read that when they take the fat out they add other things like sugar. I figured the amount of fat here is really not all the significant. You could, of course, use fat-free or low-fat dairy in this recipe.

June 8, 2009

Lambstravaganza


Yesterday, I spent 8 hours at Prairie Grass Farm in New Florence, Missouri, for Slow Food St. Louis's annual Lambstravaganza event, an 8-course meal prepared by the city's top chefs and featuring the farm's own lamb.

According to FairShares.org: Prairie Grass Farm is a third generation, small family owned farm that produces grass fed lamb and free-range eggs in New Florence, Missouri. The Hillebrands, husband and wife, raise nearly 700 lambs a year on their 520-acre farm. They sell an array of lamb products, including summer sausage, lamb kabobs, racks, and stew meat. During the summer season they also offer blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and tomatoes. David Hillebrand grew up on this farm, which has been in the family for three generations. As a kid, his parents focused mostly on row crops, though they kept some livestock, and often while the others left home each morning to tend the field crops, David stayed behind to take care of the chickens. His interest in raising sheep came from his grandfather, who was the first in his family to raise lamb. Prairie Grass Farm's grass fed lambs and free-range eggs are served up in some of the area's finest restaurants.

Dave Hillebrand gives us a tour of his farm.

Some of their lambs with one of the ferocious guard dogs.

They keep over 600 free-range chickens.

I've bought eggs and lamb from PGF at the farmers market before, and it was so awesome to see where that food came from and to meet the people who tend the animals...including the Hillebrand girls who are in charge of the goats.

Baby goats like this one were born on Saturday.
(photo from BabyGoatFarm.com)

Dinner was wonderful. I thought I would be sick of lamb after 7 lamb dishes, but each was unique and I didn't feel too lambed out at the end...though I was full!

My favorites were the potted lamb (similar to a rillette), the vindaloo braised shanks & mango lassi (I can't wait to make a lassi at home now!), and the tongue faggotini (a stuffed pasta served in a delicious broth).

Tables were set up in an old barn, and I was relieved we weren't sitting out in the sun all afternoon! (Yes, those are flowers potted in a blender on our table!)


First course: Potted lamb with a salad of pickled spring veggies (radish, carrot, squash) & egg. Prepared by Margaret Kelly & Dave Owens of Bissinger's Chocolatier.



Second course: Vindaloo braised lamb shanks & toasted naan with pepita coriander pesto & a shot of mango lassi.
Prepared by Andy White of Schlafly's Tap Room.


Third course: Grilled leg of lamb with homemade feta (using the farm's goat milk), crispy mint gremolata, & shaved radish salad.
Prepared by Josh Galliano of Monarch.


Fourth course: Chermoula spiced smoked lamb with harissa & saffron aioli.
Prepared by Timothy Grandinetti & Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe.


Fifth course: Lamb's tongue faggotini.
Prepared by Gerard Craft of Niche.


Sixth course: Rack of Lamb with orzo & asparagus.
Prepared by Lou Rook of Annie Gunn's.


Seventh course: Lamb loin & sweetbreads with beet risotto.
Prepared by Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe.


Eighth course: Pistachio cream puff with local strawberries, homemade jam & local honey.
Prepared by Christy Augustin of Sydney Street Cafe.


After dinner, I stuck around talking & drinking wine (and homemade limoncello) with a few friends and the Hillebrand family. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. I can't wait to go again next year!

In the meantime, I am going to (finally) become a Slow Food member and I'm going to continue supporting local farmers by buying meat & produce at the farmers markets. It really is amazing to see where our food comes from and to know that a family is behind that food...that they live and work the farm as they had been for generations.

June 3, 2009

A Play in the Park & the "Ultimate" Chicken Liver Pate


Let me begin by urging all you St. Louis folks to make a point to attend the Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park. Each year, the group performs one of the Bard's plays outdoors. This year, the show is The Merry Wives of Windsor. This FREE show runs every night except Tuesday at 8:00 from Memorial Day through Father's Day.

We always take a blanket, a stocked picnic basket, and a couple bottles of pricey wine to enjoy the weather and entertainment.

Before the show, Jerad was reading the playbill and commented about the summary, "Hey, a character's name is Falstaff. Like the beer."

"Yeah, that's where the beer people got the name," I replied (always the English teacher, I am). "Didn't you notice the inn's sign on the set? It's a nod to the beer."


NOTE: After a few impromptu surveys at the play and Tuesday night at The Stable, it has been determined that most people do NOT know where Falstaff beer got its name.  Apparently, only us nerdy teacher types know such trivia.

Anyway, the play was funny, the weather was perfect on Monday night, the company was extraordinary, and the food was...well...awesome.

I had another "I made!" moment when I tasted the chicken liver pate I made especially for the outing. It was so easy to do and really very tasty...rich but without the gamey liver taste you sometimes get with liver. It definitely is a special kind of dish; I only wish we'd had more people to share it with.


Chicken Liver Pate
from Tyler's Ultimate

1 pound chicken livers, trimed of any membranes or fat *
6 tablespoons Port wine
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon chooped fresh thyme leaves, plus 1 nice-looking sprig for garnish
1/4 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

* I used fresh chicken livers that I bought at the farmers market. I would suggest only using fresh, local meat for this recipe since it's really all about the quality of the liver.
  • Rinse the livers and pat them dry. Put them in a small bowl, pour the Port wine over them, cover & refridgerate for 2 hours.
  • Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium skillet. Add the shallots, garlic, & chopped thyme and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until softened but not brown (3-4 minutes).
  • Add the livers, reserving the Port, and cook without browning until the livers just change color (3-4 minutes). (Browning would toughen the exterior of the livers & the pate would not be smooth.)
  • Add the reserved Port to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Put all of that in a blender and puree until smooth. Add 3 more tablespoons of butter and process again until smooth. Now pour in the cream and pulse just until incorporated. Season with salt & pepper. (Note: It looks & smells horrid, but don't be alarmed! It's much better once it's cooled!)
  • Spoon the mixture into a 3-cup terrine or dish and smooth the surface. Refridgerate for 1 hour, or until the pate just firms up.
  • Then, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter (1 stick) and pour it over the top of the pate to cover completely (this will seal the top & keep from discoloring). Press the thyme sprig into the butter and chill overnight (or up to a week).
  • Serve with toasted baguette slices & red grapes.

June 2, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cinnamon Squares


I'm renaming this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe and calling it "Cinnamon Espresso Cake," because "Cinnamon Squares" sounds too generic and plain to me. And, this cake is anything but plain. It's a moist (contains over a stick of butter in the batter!) cinnamony cake baked with a layer of grated dark chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, & espresso powder in the middle and topped with a smooth icing made by melting dark chocolate & butter together.

"Cinnamon Squares" just doesn't do this recipe justice. In fact, "Cinnamon Espresso Cake" doesn't even do it justice. So, I'll call it "Cinnamon Espresso Multiple Orgasm Cake."

Now, that's more like it.

And, the best part? It's an easy cake to make...hand-mixed, baked in a square pan, then iced on top.


To see the full recipe, check out this week's host blog Tracey's Culinary Adventures.