September 28, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Donut Holes (vegan)

You didn't think I forgot about the donuts for the cider mill trip on Thursday, did you? Since the local winter squash and pie pumpkins are in Alex has rediscovered them as favorite vegetables. He's been licking bowls of baked squash clean so I've been keeping a stock ready in the fridge. This lead me to use some baked pumpkin in donuts. Searching online found me a pumpkin donut recipe on Epicurious that has been tested by a couple of foodbloggers already. I initially planned on just substituting the dairy ingredients but upon realizing we were out of eggs I veganized instead. I don't claim that the pumpkin and tablespoon of flaxseed meal make these healthy but they are spicy and delicious. Have some friends around to drink cider and share these with. Alex was a huge fan of them.

Vegan Pumpkin Donut Holes
Inspired by a Bon Appétit Pumpkin Doughnut Recipe
Makes ~70 (1-inch) holes
(This is smaller than the average donut hole. You may need to adjust the frying time if you choose to make larger holes. Cook 1-2 as a test batch and cut them open to make sure the inside is fully cooked.)

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
tiny pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cooked pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)

-In separate small bowls mix together flaxseed meal with the water and the soy milk with the vinegar. Set aside for a few minutes.
-Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
-Beat together the sugar and margarine. It won't cream together but you want to evenly distribute the margarine.
-Add the flaxseed meal and beat until creamy. Add the vanilla, pumpkin and soy milk mixture and stir together.
-Add the dry ingredients in 3-4 stages mixing almost until combined each time. With the final addition of dry ingredients mix just until combined.
-Cover and chill the dough for at least an hour.
-Lightly flour a baking sheet and set aside. Press the dough out to 1/2 inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut the holes with a 1 inch circle cutter. Set the cut holes on the floured baking sheet. Press the scrapes together and repeat until all the dough is cut into circles.
-Heat several inches of oil in a heavy bottomed pot slowly over medium low heat. Have a frying thermometer ready and watch the oil's temperature.
-Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet near the frying area. Begin frying donuts when the oil reaches 365-370 degrees F. Gently drop 3-5 holes at a time into the hot oil. Rotate the donut holes with a wire spider strainer or slotted spoon for 2 minutes. Remove and allow to cool slightly before tossing in spiced sugar.

Spiced Sugar: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

*Update: I used Earth Balance for the margarine and canola oil to fry.

September 27, 2008

DB Lavash Crackers w/ Moroccan Carrot Dip

Hoorah! This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is a savory recipe and one intentionally vegan. Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and Shel, of Musings from the Fishbowl chose Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I was thrilled that Shelly was co-host this month. I discovered Shelly's site through the Daring Bakers. As a vegan she is a fellow alternative baker. How could I not fall in love! She's a former Michigander and a vegan living in France. In 1995, I travelled to France with a friend and at the time I was a vegetarian. Zut alors, was that a challenge! I lived on beet salads, brie on baguettes and fries (which were so good they were probably cooked in animal fat.) Anyway, I have the utmost admiration for Shelly's commitment to being vegan. She's been doing raw food Thursdays lately and I love the recipes she tries.

To go with the crackers we were told to provide a recipe for a vegan and gluten-free dip. I heard about the challenge shortly after having dinner at our builder's house. The meal was wonderful and included a fantastic curried carrot dip. Our builder Jen gave me a copy of the original recipe and her tip for substituting roasted garlic. Of course, I couldn't resist messing with it further and using Ras el Hanout in place of the curry powder. I acquired this Moroccan spice blend recently in an attempt to further complete my Omnivore's 100 list. Both the Ras el Hanout and the curry are great in this spicy, flavorful dip. I added the pomegranate seeds as garnish but they provide an extra tangy burst and are worth getting for more than just looks. For my version of the lavash crackers I kept it simple with a small amount of whole wheat flour and sprinkle of fleur de sel on top. I think they would also be good with a tiny bit of cumin mixed with the salt. Here are my recipes:

Lavash Crackers with a touch of whole wheat
Based on the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, rewritten with my changes
Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

1 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup (4 oz) water, at room temperature (+/- 2 tablespoons)
fleur de sel
other spices, optional

-Stir together the ingredients in a bowl. Add the water slowly and only as much as you need to get a workable dough.
-Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
-Allow to rest at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
-Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
-Spread a small amount of oil on a clean counter top and place the dough on the oiled portion.
-Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and roll out as thinly as possible, aim for a 12 inch by 15 inch rectangle.
-Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, covered with a towel or plastic wrap.
-Carefully lift the dough and lay it on the parchment lined baking sheet.
-Brush the top with a very small amount of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with the fleur de sel (and optional spices.) You can precut the crackers but you do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough whole.
-Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top.
-Allow the crackers to cool in the pan and then snap on your scoring or break into shards.
-Serve with dip.

Moroccan Carrot Dip

Moroccan Carrot Dip
based on a recipe found in Domino magazine
Makes ~2 cups

1 1/4 lb peeled carrots (~4 cups of 1 inch pieces)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon roasted garlic paste*
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (or substitute curry powder)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/8 cup fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste (I use cayenne to taste, not black pepper)
pomegranate seeds
*How I roast garlic: Slice a head of garlic in half, sprinkle the interior with salt and olive oil and tightly enclose in aluminum foil. Roast at 400 degrees for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until light golden in color.

-Boil the carrots in salted water until soft. Taste the water, it should taste like tears.
-Process the carrots, vinegar, oil, garlic, ginger and spice until smooth. Then add the herbs and process until finely chopped and evenly distributed. Taste for seasoning.
-Garnish before serving with pomegranate seeds and serve with lavash crackers from the Daring Bakers Challenge. The dip was good made ahead of time as the flavors meld further.

For a gluten-free version of the Lavash Cracker recipe visit Gluten A Go Go.
Check out all of the other completed challenges by looking through the
Daring Bakers Blogroll.

*Thanks to Shelly and Natalie for a great challenge and to Jen for the carrot dip recipe!

September 25, 2008

Vegan Caramel Apples

Today was our day for apple picking at Blake's Orchard. With Alex's dairy allergies it requires planning ahead to have the complete experience of caramel apples and donuts, so I made up some caramel apples yesterday to bring along. We had a great time picking apples, pie pumpkins and raspberries. Though no luck on getting any unpasteurized cider.

I'm still working out some of the details with using this caramel to coat apples. When the apple skins are smooth the caramel has trouble staying on overnight. You can do what I do and smoosh it back up or you can try refrigerating the covered apples. You can also make the block of caramel and remelt it and cover the apples shortly before serving. I was crazy for caramel pre-Alex and I really think these hold up in a taste test to real dairy caramels. Give them a try!

Vegan Caramel
Ingredient proportions from The Glad Cow Cookbook
Makes ~100 pieces of caramel candy, will coat ~8-10 apples

1 cup margarine*
2 cups sugar
2 cups soy milk
1 cup light corn syrup
1 t vanilla
*Optional: Add 1 tsp salt if using unsalted margarine

-Line an 8 inch x 8 inch pan with parchment or cover a baking sheet with parchment and ready your apples and sticks. You can cover a few apples and then place the remaining caramel in any parchment lined container to set up and make candies. I use a loaf pan for the extra caramel when covering apples.
-Place the margarine, sugar, soy milk and corn syrup in a large saucepan (4qt capacity minimum)
-Bring ingredients to a boil stirring continually.
-Cook over medium-high heat while continuing to stir until candy reaches 248 degrees F. (243-5 for softer caramels)
-Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into lined baking pan. If coating apples then let allow the caramel to cool for a minute while still stirring and then start coating. After you coat the apples place them in the fridge or eat them as soon as they cool.
-Allow the caramel in the pan to cool completely. Snip into pieces using clean kitchen shears that you wipe or spray with oil (or slice with a knife). Wrap individually with waxed or parchment paper. Makes ~100 pieces
Variation: Cook to 230 degrees F for caramel sauce for ice cream/cake. Store in a covered container.

I'm adding this to the Living with Food Allergies Blog Carnival. Look for it and the other entries at The Allergic Kid on October 2nd.

This dairy-free recipe is kitten approved.

September 24, 2008

Stock tip

Fall has officially arrived and that means there is cider in my fridge. The first thought I had when I saw the cider is that I need to make some chicken stock. Whenever I have cider in the house I add some to my stocks, either chicken or vegetable. The touch of sweetness and acid help make the tastiest soup broth. I gathered up all of the old and wilting aromatics in the fridge, picked some herbs and with a whole chicken I had made a big pot of stock. I added a splash of cider at the beginning and then at the end I tasted it for seasoning and added another small splash. It'll make your soup stocks fantastic!

Now, on to my second thought upon seeing the cider...I need caramel apples and donuts!

*Update: I haven't made the trip to either place yet but I called and you can get unpastruized cider at Verellen Orchards in Romeo, as well as Dexter Cider Mill for those closer to Ann Arbor.

September 22, 2008

The nitty gritty of making grape jelly

Though it may look like one, this is not your standard PB&J. This is a sandwich with hours of work behind it. The bread is 100% whole wheat from a King Arthur recipe. The butter is organic cashew butter. And the jelly is from Concord grapes growing on chain-link in a suburban garden outside of Detroit, Michigan.

My father in law (Papou, Greek for grandpa) has a prolific garden that he kindly shares. The first fruit of the fall that comes in abundance is his Concord grapes. The grape vines cover the entire back side of their fenced yard. I've skipped making jelly for a few years and instead just made a few small batches of juice but after reading about Pomona's Pectin on Modern Beet I decided it was time to get back on the jelly wagon. Pomona's Pectin is a citrus-derived pectin that uses calcium to jell eliminating the need for excessive sugar. I had to give it a try.

Alex and I got busy picking one sunny afternoon and picked 24lbs of Papou's grapes. Yes, you read that correctly: 24 pounds! I cleaned up my kitchen, scrubbing down the sink and started a juice making assembly line. Grapes get washed in copious amounts of water, drain, stems are removed, they're weighed out (3.5 lbs of grapes + 1/2 cup water for each batch), smashed, brought to a boil, simmered 10 minutes, and then strained. For years I have done the straining with layers of cheesecloth but smartly decided that this was the year to buy the jelly bag and holder. Thank goodness I did! It made an onerous task a lot easier. After straining, I filled the sink with ice water to speed chill the juice. This is the same method you would use if you were cooling off a large batch of hot stock. You set the pot of juice into the ice water and stir until it is cool. The chilled juice went into the fridge to settle. Grape juice has a large amount of tartaric acid. It's where they get cream of tartar. Overnight crystals of tartaric acid form and they will make for crunchy jelly and juice if you don't strain them off. Ideally it should set for 24-48 hours but I had the Epicurean Classic to go to.

The next day I followed Pomona's recipe for honey-sweetened jelly using local star thistle honey. I also made a low sugar batch. Pomona's low sugar recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar per 4 cups of juice maximum, Sur-jel and Certo recipes are both 7 cups!! I also canned (IE bottled in a jar) plain juice. The most interesting experiment for me was an attempt at making Concord grape kombucha. I started drinking GT's Kombucha over a year ago and got John hooked on it too. I've been reading Wild Fermentation, a book about cultured foods, and I wanted to try growing my own kombucha mushroom. I threw a bottle of GT's Kombucha into a large jug of juice. It did ferment nicely but doesn't seem to be forming a mushroom/mother. I guess I'm going to have to buy one online. I've been drinking it watered down over ice and it's wonderful!

To see more of the process scroll through the pictures I took. For the record my 24lbs of grapes equaled 9 quarts of juice with 7.5 pounds of must (skins and seeds) and 1.5 pounds of stems. Recipes for the jelly can be found at Pomona's Pectin. I used the directions from Pick your own for the canned juice. My go-to recipe for whole wheat bread is from King Arthur Flour. My advice if you want to play with Concord grapes: wear gloves and clothes you'd paint in. Your mom was right not to let you drink the stuff on the carpet.
My son Alex picking Concord grapes Mashed grapes ready to cook
The leftovers, they make your compost smell great
Straining the seeds and skins from the juice
The tartaric acid crystals clinging to the pot,
they are beautiful with a refractive quality like mica
Polishing the juice to remove as many crystals as possible
Sleeping Bear Farms star thistle honey, calcium water
and the honey mixed with the Pomona's Pectin
The finished jars, more juice was in the fridge
and on the counter becoming kombucha Abbie thought this was a very dull bit of cooking.
She napped on my chair the entire time.
More to come from Papou's garden, the quince will be ripe in a couple more weeks!!
Please share any quince recipes you have.

September 21, 2008

Citrus-Basil Cupcakes for Iron Cupcake Earth

I struggled a bit with this month's Iron Cupcake Earth challenge ingredient, basil. Nothing struck me as a the perfect sweet combination for a basil cupcake. I wanted to bring some cupcakes to a park outing with my parents so I decided to just go super simple and combine citrus and basil.

I started with the agave cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. This is a moderately sweet, golden cake that I knew would be moist and tender and not conflict with the basil flavor. I pureed the soymilk for the recipe with a what seemed like a lot of basil leaves. The color of the resulting strained liquid was less than appealing so I added green food coloring to get a bright green color. This unfortunately did not bake true. The cakes were golden on the exterior with a mucky green interior. The basil flavor in the cake didn't carry through and was lost in the slight touch of lemon.

Thankfully, there was better luck to be had with the frosting. I read recently about the advantages of using stick Earth Balance instead of tub for vegan buttercreams and made that switch. This helped stablize the frosting a great deal. I balanced the powdered sugar's sweetness with both lemon and orange juice. The small amount of chopped basil in the frosting gave a surprising amount of basil flavor which combined well with the lemon and orange zests. Alex loved the frosting and I can see myself using it again on a different cake. I fried a few basil leaves for decoration and their transparent, stained glass look was a pretty touch.

I wasn't thrilled with the final cake color,
I like to call it moldy guacamole

Citrus-Basil Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes

2/3 cup soymilk
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
green food coloring, optional
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers
-Blend together the soymilk and basil leaves until fully pureed. Strain out the leaves and add food coloring until it reaches a bright green. Add the vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes.
-Add the agave nectar, oil and extracts to the soymilk mixture. In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients. Add the dry to the wet and mix until combined.
-Fill the cupcake papers two thirds of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes until set in the center, check with a toothpick or bamboo skewer.
-Cool on a wire rack and frost.

Basil-Citrus Frosting
For 12 cupcakes

1 cup Earth Balance margarine, stick form
2 1/2 - 3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

-Beat the margarine til light and fluffy.
-Add the powdered sugar, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the orange juice. Beat until smooth and fluffy.
-Add the basil and citrus zests and beat until smooth again. Add the remaining tablespoon of orange juice as needed to make a smooth, fluffy frosting.
-Pipe on cupcakes and decorate with a deep fried basil leaf.

This is my Iron Cupcake Earth:Basil entry. You can vote for the best cupcake on Sunday, September 28th at No one puts cupcake in a corner. Voting ends Thursday, October 1st at 12 noon. This month's prizes are from Metal Sugar, Feista Products, Hello Cupcake, Jessie Steele, Cupcake Courier, and Taste of Home.

In other cupcake related news, I consoled myself over losing the previous Iron Cupcake challenge by commissioning a custom dog hill watercolor from Jessie Olson of Cakespy. I loved the watercolor she made of our two dogs, Karmal and Roxy, on a hill with a family of cupcakes. Thanks again Jessie! You can get your own Cakespy art at her Etsy shop.

September 20, 2008

My Epicurean Adventure Part 3, Fat and Raw (and a cookbook giveaway)

This is my final post on the Epicurean Classic. When I was reading over the class descriptions two classes caught my eye as ones I couldn't miss. It just so happens due to my schizophrenic tastes that they initially seem like diametric opposites. Both of the classes are focused on new cookbooks but on the surface that is where the similarities end, is it true?

The first is the new cookbook by raw foods chef Matthew Kenney, Everyday Raw. Browsing though the book I noticed that the recipes have incredibly simple ingredient lists. What interests me are the methods of preparation. The finished dishes become much more than just the sum of their parts and yet don't lose the vitality or individuality of the prime ingredients.

A book dedicated to reviving the use of animal fat may seem like a strange second choice but I couldn't help but be curious about Jennifer McLagan's Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient. My son Alex is allergic to dairy and I'm very interested in trying to vary his diet, especially his dietary fats. I like this book's approach: returning to traditional ways where the fat from an animal wasn't wasted but hailed as a valuable ingredient.

Thursday night, I attended Oryana's raw reception where dishes from Kenney's Everyday Raw book were served. We had raw chili, mango guacamole, watermelon juice, a frozen goji berry souffle and summer squash macaroni and cheese. The chili, which was served warm not hot, was shockingly good. It had the right amount of savoriness and spice. The guacamole, juice and souffle were enjoyable. The creaminess of the cashews in the souffle was excellent and it was nicely balanced with the tart goji berries. The "mac n' cheese" probably shouldn't have been attempted so far ahead of time. The squash "pasta" was too limp and the sauce was watery. I generally like nutritional yeast "cheese" but watered down this one fell flat. It was both unappealing both visually and in taste.

Watermelon juice, raw chili with mango guacamole and frozen goji berry souffle
The next morning was Kenney's instructional class. There was a brief description of raw foods and his background as a traditional chef. Then he proceeded to make two raw dishes. First he made the the components for a lasagna (or torta). There was a pistachio pesto, cashew "ricotta" and sun dried tomato sauce. Then he demonstrated how to open a young coconut, something I've been wanting to try. The task required a huge cleaver and didn't look easy but it was fascinating to see the process. It made it at least a bit less intimidating. The young coconut meat went into a blender with maple syrup, coconut butter, and raw cacao powder (raw cocoa). This came together as a chocolate pudding. After the pudding was finished he layered the pesto, "ricotta" and tomato sauce with slices of fresh tomato and very thinly sliced summer squash. Basil garnished the top. The torta was gorgeous! I liked that he was willing to bend the raw food rules for himself and use maple syrup and roasted pistachios. I think the major strength of this style of raw food cooking is that nothing becomes too unidentifiable and there are plenty of flavorful fats from the nuts and coconut ingredients.
Matthew KenneyGetting the meat out of a young coconut (note the terrifyingly giant cleaver)
The raw tomato and summer squash torta, with cashew
"ricotta", sun dried tomato sauce, and pistachio pesto
McLagan's fat class was next. She began with a discussion of how animal fats have been unfairly vilified and how the perceived health benefits of vegetable oils aren't holding up to scientific scrutiny. For her first demonstration, she used duck fat to confit garlic cloves. While interesting, I didn't see a huge advantage to this over oven roasting. She followed with talking about the types of pork fat and how to render lard. She used leftover pig skin to make cracklings that were marinaded in salt and star anise. She moved on to beef suet and made biscuits and freshly made butter. This was the best part of her presentation for me. She showed how to take frozen chunks of suet and grate them in a food processor to get a replacement for other fats (IE butter) in baked goods. She made a batch of biscuits with the grated suet that were wonderful! They were delicious, light and fluffy without any beefy taste. I just loved them!!
Jennifer McLaganStar anise marinaded pork crackling
Biscuits made with beef suet
I've already talked to my butcher about getting some beef suet and he says he can get some for me. I've had a hard time finding lard in Southeast Michigan but have heard that it's much easier to find in the Traverse area. Conversely, I've been trying to decide what recipes I should try first in Everyday Raw. What attracts me to both of these cookbooks is that they are making real food. This is not the over-processed, over-salted, over-sweetened, or artificially-sweetened, artificially-colored, nutritionally devoid garbage that comes in a can or box that is shelf stable for years. Instead brilliantly new or old but underused ideas for dealing with food are employed that don't destroy the intrinsic value of the ingredients. I hope I haven't scared off forever all of the vegans with the animal fat or bored the meat eaters with the raw foods. I just feel you have to pick and choose what feels right for you. And never stop trying new things!

*I want to say thanks again to Foodbuzz for allowing me to represent them at this event and Dianna at Promote Michigan for her help getting me in to the event.

The giveaway!
For those interested, I have an extra signed copy of Matthew Kenney's Everyday Raw to share. Leave a comment on this post or email me at doghillkitchen {at} gmail (dot) com and I'll wait until midnight on Tuesday, September 30th and then pick a random winner.

Other classes and cookbooks from the Epicurean Classic:
Small Plates, Perfect Wines: Creating Little Dishes with Big Flavors
Narlock made a grilled celery dish from the book that was excellent. It was simply grilled celery topped with truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts but the flavor combination was outstanding. It's a recipe I'm going to try making soon.
The Paris Neighborhood Cookbook: Danyel Couet's Guide to the City's Ethnic Cuisines
This book has an interesting mix of different ethnic recipes. There is a lot of intriguing spicing and variety. For the demonstration he made a Ras al Hanout blend with roses in it. The author's good looks and accent didn't hurt the presentation either.
660 Curries
This book has an extensive amount of background information in it as well as a huge number of recipes. There is history of ingredients and comparisons of the different regions of India. I loved the short personal stories that come before most of the recipes.
Matthew Kenney's site
Jennifer McLagan's site

September 19, 2008

My Epicurean Adventure Part 2, Beer and Cheese

When the cat is away the mouse will play and I got a chance to be a very naughty mouse. Without my beer-hating husband and dairy-allergic son, I spent my Friday afternoon as a Foodbuzz correspondent at Traverse City's Epicurean Classic nibbling and sipping beer and cheese. It was an indulgence almost too good to be true!

After spending the morning enthralled but shivering and freezing my way through several demonstrations in the outdoor tents, I decided to pop in one of the indoor tasting rooms to see if the presentation was worth staying for. The tasting class I ended up in was Beer and Cheese, held by Rex Halfpenny. Halfpenny publishes the bi-monthly Michigan Beer Guide. In this tasting 8 beers would be paired with 8 cheeses in the manner of a traditional wine and cheese tasting. The beginning seemed interesting enough and my toes were starting to thaw so I stuck around.

Halfpenny began with some of his thoughts on modern beer drinking:
-It's a shame that we've lost the ability to buy beer by style.
-Beer needs to get out of bottles and into glasses so that we can appreciate the aromas, aroma determines 80% of the perception of flavor.
-Beer in single serving bottles is by nature better suited to pairing with individual meals in restaurants.

The beers from the tasting

We then moved on to tasting first the beer alone and then with the chosen cheese.
Here is the rundown of the beers and cheeses:

1. New Holland Lucid (a German Kolsch) w/ Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella
2. Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale w/ French Comte Gruyere
3. Bass Ale (an English-style brown ale) w/ French Chevre
4. Lindeman's Framboise (a Belgian Lambic) w/ Brie
5. Hoegaarden (a Witbier) w/ French Mimolette
6. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere (a Farmhouse ale) w/ Epoisse
7. Delirium Tremens (a Strong Pale Ale) w/ Barrel Aged Feta
8. Anchor Old Foghorn Barley Wine w/ Maytag Blue

The cheeses (clockwise from 12 o'clock:
mozzarella, feta, chevre, gruyere, Mimolette, brie, blue, and Epoisse)
The beers (1-8 from the left)
It was interesting to take more time than I usually do smelling and tasting the beers and comparing them with and without the cheese. I wasn't very fond of the New Holland Lucid and Bass Ale, both seemed overly bitter. I liked the Delirium Tremens and the Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere a lot. The cheeses that accompanied them (the Epoisse and the aged feta) were good matches in my opinion. Flavors in both the beer and cheese were enhanced. My favorite of the tasting was the Hoegaarden white beer. I loved the spiciness of it. The Mimolette that it was pared with reminded me of aged Gouda, with a similar nuttiness and crunch. The cheese brought out the fruity qualities in the beer. In the tasting pavilion I found the Michigan beer brewers. My favorites there were the Whaleback White from Leelanau Brewing Company and Nicie Spicie from Shorts. I liked both of these even more than the beers from the tasting. I guess I had a hidden desire for spicy beers. I went shopping last night at Vince and Joe's Market in Shelby and found Whaleback White and Delirium Tremens. I also picked up Jolly Pumpkin's Calabaza Blanca and Biere sur Lie's Blanche de Namur (with licorice!). I can't wait to try the new two.

Michigan Brewers at the Epicurean Classic:

September 18, 2008

My Epicurean Adventure Part 1, Farmer's Market Inspired Cooking

In the next couple of days I'm going to try and pour out some of the information in my over-saturated brain. (Where do you find a pensieve when you need one?) I'm full of new ideas because last Friday and Saturday I went to Traverse City's Epicurean Classic. This was an event that I was covering as a Foodbuzz correspondent. The amount and variety of food related content on Foodbuzz is outstanding. I'm happy to be a part of their community (and thrilled that they got me into this!) The Epicurean Classic did not disappoint. The classes were informative and diverse. The most difficult part was deciding which classes to attend. I've decided to write in three parts to share what I found most interesting.

My very first presentation also was one of my favorites. The theme was Farmer's Market Inspired Cooking. The chefs were Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee who are co-owners of The Cook's House restaurant in Traverse City. Opened the past April, The Cook's House is a 20 seat restaurant with the mission "to use, promote and celebrate local sustainable foods." They couldn't have picked a better place to do this! I love the availability and quality of food that Traverse City provides. It was a small but not insignificant factor in our move. Together the chefs prepared three dishes and went through some of the thought process that lead them from market to table.

Their first plate was tempura vegetables on a mixed green salad. Fairytale eggplant, nasturtiums, celery leaves and zucchini flowers were tossed in flour, then coated with a light batter and fried. Patterson suggests rice flour or Wondra for the tempura batter. The greens were dressed with Black Star Farms vert jus and olive oil. Zingerman's Detroit Street Brick (I've previously mentioned my adoration of this cheese) and sliced honey crisp apples completed the salad.

The second plate was pan fried lake trout with creamed corn and braised greens. The corn was fresh sweet corn from a place called Halls, blended together with onions (previously softened) and whole milk. The greens were kale and tatsoi braised with chicken stock and more onion and finished with butter. The trout was placed on top of the corn and greens and garnished with fleur de sel.

The final dish was a dessert soup made from Charantais melon (French breakfast melon). Fresh melon and melted Moomer's vanilla ice cream were blended together. The seasoning was adjusted with salt and balanced with ver jus. A scoop of matching melon sorbet was added for contrast in temperature and richness. Nasturtium flowers added as garnish after a suggestion by an audience member. The chef wished he had some lemoncello as well.

Throughout the presentation tips were given on how to develop a dish and a meal from a market shopping trip. The ones I felt were most valuable were:

-Don't be set in a menu when you shop. Look for what looks the best. Be choosy about your ingredients.

-Build onto the first ingredient to create your dish. Think about what else is available that would combine well.

-Keep things simple, do less to your ingredients.

The food was delicious and very much the style of food I aim to cook and eat at home, with the exception of all the dairy. The flavors were simple and vibrant. My favorite was the melon soup. The fragrant melon was highlighted beautifully. It probably wouldn't be even half as good with Tofutti though :( I'd love to have a meal at the restaurant, especially during the winter. They're confident about surviving the Michigan winter and hope to stay 90% local throughout. They've made plans with local greenhouses, including the one at Black Star Farms.

The Cook's House Restaurant
Zingerman's Detroit Street Brick (Buy some, you won't be sorry! I'm pouting over coming home without some myself. The Ann Arbor ladies have it good and can pop into Zingerman's anytime.)

September 15, 2008

Bookmarked Recipes: Cookie Wrapped Figs

I really loved Clumbsy Cookie's Fig Week. My favorite recipe was the cookie wrapped figs. She wrapped Chinese five spice flavored dough around a fresh fig and baked, glazed and topped them with pistachio nuts. So, I picked up some figs and gave the recipe a try last week. I wanted to keep the purple color (and I'm lazy) so I didn't bother to peel my figs but I did trim the tough stems off. I substituted Earth Balance for the butter in the dough. The five spice powder made it very fragrant. My dough was a little hard to handle in the rolled out circles but pinched together and covered the figs easily. I liked how the figs inside cooked and dried out slightly but still remained much moister than a cookie made with dried figs. They reminded me of spicy, two-bite fig pies.

I'm adding this to Bookmarked Recipes, an event started by Ruth's Kitchen's Experiments. This week's host is Ning from Heart and Hearth. Visit her site on Monday, September 22nd to see the round up of tested recipes. You can see this week's round up at Passionate About Baking.

Clumbsy Cookie's Spiced Cookie Wrapped Figs
Clumbsy Cookie's at it again, this week it's inside out smores!
(I'm going to have to stop going here before I gain 50 lbs!)
My Honey Mustard Tofu recipe
Ning's version of Honey Mustard Tofu on Heart and Hearth.

September 7, 2008

Heartnut and Wild Rice Salad and a Blogger Potluck

Ever unable to resist a new food, especially something local, I picked up two bags of heartnuts recently. Toted as "A delicious heart shaped walnut for every special occasion" they looked a lot like shag bark hickory nuts. That and the sketch of a hammer hitting a nut on the bag should have tipped me off to their impenetrability. I collected hickory nuts with my parents as a kid and we'd have to smash them between two bricks to get the darn things open. Unfortunately, I was too enthusiastic about bringing a new local ingredient to a Michigan foodblogger potluck I was attending this past Saturday. I had settled on making a wild rice salad.

My wild rice salad is inspired by the one they sell at Oryana, a co-op in Traverse City. I change the recipe to suit what's seasonal but always have nuts for richness and crunch. I had Romeo, Michigan peaches, sweet corn and onions from just down the street, mint from my garden and wild rice from Minnesota. I figured the heartnuts would be ideal to create a salad that was almost all Michigan-based, all Midwest at least. I got to cracking on Saturday morning while my rice simmered.

Now, no standard nut cracker is going to free these nuts. A hammer along with one of the granite counter top samples I just received was required. A concrete surface, flat stone or brick would have worked as well. It took a couple of well placed hits from the hammer right on the nut's seam to split them open. Inside the nut and cavity are a beautiful heart shape and the flavor is that of a mild walnut. Alas, very few of the nut meats come out as a intact heart but I can see how they wouldn't want to market them as "broken heart" nuts. More than half of the shells split perfectly and I'm saving them to see if I can't come up with a craft project for them. Perhaps everyone will get heartnut ornaments for Christmas?

Somehow, I managed to get through my two bags of nuts by the time my rice was finished cooking, only smashing my thumb twice. I can be a tad clumsy so that's not a bad record for me. The pound of nuts yielded a little over a cup of nut meats. I toasted them and tossed them into the salad. The blogger get together was a lot of fun. All of the food was excellent! Our host was Shayne from fruitcake or nuts. She and her husband had a grill set up with pizza fixings and her sauce was outstanding! The conversation was entertaining and I decided not to worry about taking pictures. You can visit the other blogger sites to see if any decent pictures came out. I'll have the attendee list at the end of the post. Here is my contribution:

Wild Rice Salad
I change the ingredients in this to suit what's seasonal. The basics are cooked wild rice with a nut, something sweet, something crunchy and a basic vinaigrette. I left out mustard for this peach version but see the end of the recipe for some of my other variations.
Makes ~6 cups

6oz (1 cup) uncooked wild rice (or 4 cups cooked)
2/3 cup nuts, toasted
1 cup sweet corn kernels (~1 cob)
1 peach, diced
1/3 cup diced red onion
4-5 tablespoons lemon juice (~1 1/2 lemons)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

-Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add in the dry rice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered loosely, for 45-55 minutes. Drain, then cover for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Allow to cool slightly.
-Add the red onion, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, olive oil, mint and parsley to a large bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, a couple of grinds of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Stir together.
-Add the rice to the bowl and toss to coat.
-Fold in the nuts, corn and peaches and taste for seasoning. Add more lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper as desired.
-Serve cold or room temperature.

-My version of Oryana's salad: dried cherries, pecans, smoked baked tofu, no mint and 1/2 teaspoon of mustard.
-Halved red grapes, apples, and walnuts with all parsley, red wine vinegar and a 1 teaspoon of mustard added to the dressing.
-Caramelized onions, cubes of roasted winter squash, fennel, basil and mustard.

A bag of heartnutsHeartnuts in the shell
A nut seam side up, ready to crack
A perfect heartnut nutmeat, in the shell, cracked in the shell and empty shell
The best part, heartnut shells make great cat toys! A bonus shot of Abbie

The foodbloggers I met, by their blognames:

fruitcake or nuts
Una Bouna Forchetta
Could you hum a few bars?
The Hungry Masses
Diana Dyer, MS, RD
Four Obessions
Mother's Kitchen
Teacher in the Hood
All the Michigan foodblogs I've found. I'd love to know about more!

More about Heartnuts:
An image of a heartnut tree
Fennville, Michigan Heartnut Grower site (under construction)
Oikos Tree Crops* a Kalamazoo nursery that sells heartnut trees
*This post took so long to complete because I browsed at Oikos for over an hour. I'd like a Noah's ark special from them, two of everything please!