Friday, May 28, 2010

2 Super Simple Strawberry Desserts

I have to let you know up front these recipes couldn't be easier. Unfortunately they do NOT work with mediocre strawberries like a pie or crisp might. If you cut your berry open and it's white in the middle and/or a nibble yields no flavor do something else with it.
These applications are just too simple to make with a less the perfect ingredient.

Strawberries in Honey Rum Yogurt
You could use any berry or combination of berries for this recipe. It's a great way to end a meal in the summer.

1 pt. Strawberries, cleaned and halved
1/2 Cup good yogurt (not low/non fat)
1/2 Cup Whole Milk
2 tbsp Spiced Rum (goslings, meyers, mount gay)
2 tbsp Honey
Juice of a half of lemon

1. Whisk the lemon juice, honey, rum, yogurt and milk together very well.
2. Pour a little of the yogurt mixture in a bowl add some strawberries and indulge.

Strawberries in Thyme Sugar

1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 bunch of thyme, rinsed, dried well and removed from stem
1 pt strawberries, rinsed and halved

1. Give the thyme leaves a rough chop and incorporate it with the sugar. It is good to use right away, but I like to give it a little time. It will be good for a couple of weeks, just be sure not to cover it for the first 24-28 hours so that it dries out.
2. Toss the strawberries in 1/4 cup of the thyme sugar and serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Something interesting in Paris.

So something interesting is taking place in Paris today. Farmers have come together to turn the famous French thoroughfare Champs-Elysees into a farm field for a couple of days.
The affair was organized by the an organization of young farmers
(Jeunes Agriculteurs), all under the age of 35! The object of the spectacle is to show us city folk how much work goes into food production, and to remind us of the importance quality ingredients from a good source.
This event is cool, though pushing it's own value at $5.2 million. What's amazing to me is that there are enough farmers in France under the age of 35 to pull this off. It kinda give us hope that the dirty job of food production is still kickin' and will continue to. We have many years of delicious food to look forward to . . . . in France anyways.

It's rumored that this same event will happen here in New York. I'll keep you posted if I hear anything more about that.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Your Polyface!

Ok, those of you out there know the goal of Grill-a-Chef is to advise people on what avenue I think is required to achieve the best flavor possible given the circumstances.
While I subscribe to all of the socioeconomical benefits of supporting local farms, they are sometimes superseded by my quest for yummy.
Fact is, sometimes the processes behind the good grub makes too much sense to overlook. At Polyface Farm in Virginia, Joel Salatin has been working on a system of raising animals that's challenging the norm for both organic and industrial farmers. You've probably heard of him, he's kind of the prime minister of "farming pioneering". His secret, of course, is not a secret. He's farming how people once farmed, without hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or any other unnatural aids; but he's doing it in an uber-efficient way.

There are a million videos of Joel Salatin on youtube. Most of them are worth watching.

Any endeavor to grow food, be it in your back yard or on a 50,000 acre farm, essentially hinges on the capacity to convert sunlight into consumable calories. The issue here is that for the past 50 years scientists have been striving to maximize this efficiency with profit as the goal. Resulting in specialized breeds of animals, given hormones for growth and antibiotics aimed to help them survive their conditions. All this to maximize pounds of meat produced per acre of land.

To do it, this sun energy is captured in the leaves of corn plants in say . . . Ohio. Which convert it to delicious corn calories, which are then trucked to say . . . Wyoming. Where the corn is fed to chickens who dutifully convert the corn into delicious chicken calories. The chickens are then shipped to say Colorado, where they are processed by the tens of thousands and then transported in refrigerated trucks across the nation. They're then purchased by us who then use those calories to get through our day. That brings the distance traveled from the sun to your plate to somewhere around 92,955,820.5 miles.

Part of what's wrong with this picture is that to maximize the the sun's energy, industrial farming subsidizes it with fuel. An issue I'm not even gonna go into.

So what Joel focuses on is maximizing his farms ability to capitalize on the suns energy. His solar panel of choice? Blades of grass, which are utilized by rotation of animals each preforming a different task. The cows, who in addition to fertilizing, mow it down for the chickens. The chickens then clean the fly larvae out of the cow patties and do a little fertilizing themselves. In preparation for winter, some manure is reserved, mixed with grass and hay, and left to compost under coops and barns for the winter. The decomposition generates heat to warm these structures.

The average farm budget allots 50% for fuel (yes 50%). Joel Salatin's fuel budget hovers somewhere around 5%. (yes 5%) He does have production shortcomings relative to what butterball produces per acre, but he more than makes up for them by raising beef, chicken, eggs and pork on that same acre. Dwarfing any industrial farms potential, and doing so without chemical aid of any kind. An amazing feet to say the least.

All that said, are his efforts delicious?
I can't speak from experience, but chefs and customers clamor for his products when they're up for sale.
I hope to get down there for a taste myself sometime soon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

“Hungry Filmmakers™” Digs Deeper Into Food Issues at Third Screening Event

There's a cool film event coming up. I'm just posting all of the info below and you can see for yourself:

After two sold-out sessions, the food documentary film screening and discussion event Hungry Filmmakers™ will return to Anthology Film Archives on May 24, 2010. Unlike any other festival or single film screening, Hungry Filmmakers continues its tradition of showcasing excerpts or trailers from six upcoming or newly produced films that are hungry for wider audiences. Each filmmaker or a representative of the film will be in attendance for a lively Q&A. The evening’s moderator will be Paula Crossfield, Managing Editor of Civil Eats, a blog that promotes critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food.

Hungry Filmmakers’ line up exposes further reasons to contemplate what we eat. From Ernie Park & Michael Graziano's urgent call for school lunch reform in Lunch Line, to George Langworthy and Maryam Henein's enlightening connection between bees and food in Vanishing of the Bees, to Ginalola Lowry's whimsical You Are What You Eat, each film clip will surely give audiences something to chew on.

The films:

· The Bering Sea: An Ecosystem in Crisis by Michael Graziano and Melissa Thompson

· Vanishing of the Bees by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein

· The Farmer and The Horse by Jared Flesher

· Lunch Line by Uji Films (Ernie Park and Michael Graziano)

· Pressure Cooker by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker

· You Are What You Eat by Ginalola Lowry

May 24, 2010
Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Screenings begin promptly at 7:00 p.m.
A reception will follow in the theater lobby with snacks and beer from Lagunitas Brewery.
Tickets available for advance purchase at

Hungry Filmmakers is a not-for-profit event hosted by Shelley Rogers, Tim Lynch, Cathy Erway and Jimmy’s No. 43. Proceeds from the evening will be donated to Just Food, the nonprofit organization working to promote access of fresh, seasonal, sustainably grown food for all NYC residents. Find out more about us at:

Jimmy’s No. 43 is a bar and restaurant that is committed to supporting the local sustainable food communities. Awarded “Best Bar with Good Food” by New York Magazine, “Favorite NY Pubs” by Forbes and a “Snail of Approval” for its use of local farm-sourced ingredients from Slow Food NYC, Jimmy’s No. 43 hosts many events and fundraisers, and founded the Good Beer Seal bar community.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rethinking Black Pepper: Does it Really Go on Everything?

Working in top kitchens around the world, it has always baffled me when a renowned chef would taste something, say . . . a sauce, and confidently suggest a few twists from a pepper mill. What!?! Pepper?!?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the nuanced flavor and heat delivered by black pepper, but for me there’s a time and a place. We don’t crack fresh cumin seeds or cardamom pods into every dish; their flavor is too specific. Is the flavor of black pepper so different?
How did those little black pellets make their way on to almost every table? And into almost every recipe in the western world, which seasons with “salt and pepper to taste?” Black pepper, a tiny black dot on the map of spices hailing from India and its surrounding areas, has taken over to the extent that we don’t even think about it anymore; we just dust everything with it.
Salt is makes sense. It lets the world’s cooks enhance their efforts with the only mineral we consume directly. Our bodies need it. It can be found on all continents and even in countries that don’t apply salt itself to food (which is a relatively recent development in the world of salt) they add it indirectly in the form of a product derived from the use of salt; such as soy sauce, shrimp and anchovy paste, and garum. ***
Black pepper, however, is a particular spice, the dried immature berry of the piper nigrum plant. It originates in one area of world, but has spread like wildfire in a conflagration that is still raging today. How did it become so pervasive and does it even matter?
Well, the best I can figure is this: black pepper was one of the most prized and prominent spices around the emergence from the dark ages. The Portuguese, who thought they had a monopoly, were peddling it by the boatload while the venetians were smuggling it en masse. As a result, it was readily available and semi-affordable due to the unexpected surplus; this at a time when recipes we’re first being recorded. Also chefs to kings we’re being shuffled around as gifts, spreading its use and reinforcing the association of pepper with wealth. An important connection that brought about the popularity of a few other key imports, such as tea. In so doing, Europe managed to lay the foundation for the pepper empire . . . Also it doesn’t matter.
Pepper’s history doesn’t excuse us from assessing its use a little better than we do. First, to utilize it properly, it HAS to be ground fresh directly into its destination. In my research, many sources say that ground pepper keeps for up to three months, but my estimation is somewhere more in the ballpark of 3-5 minutes. When you crack or crush something and it smells amazing, (think coffee) it’s because whatever ever is in there that tastes so good is bursting out . . .ideally into your food and not the air. Packaged pre-ground pepper should be illegal, as it's the culinary equivalent of saw dust.
Also the application of black pepper could be a little less habitual. It doesn’t need to go on everything. You have to ask yourself why it is that you’re adding pepper to this dish: Is it for heat? Because that burn could obviously come from other options like cayenne pepper, paprika, fresh chiles etc. Is it for the aroma? If so, why not test the spunk of a different spice; say . . . caraway or mustard seeds. If you run through your options and pepper turns out to be perfect for the need, then by all means, grind away. It’s just that very few people take the time to assess, from home cooks to the greatest chefs; they just reach for the pepper mill.
Pepper has special place in my kitchen, and it sees a lot of action; just not all the action. It’s one of my favorite spices, but over time and with consideration, I have pared back its use because it just isn’t right for every application. I just look for the right time and place.

***- Please take your salt out of that grinder. You’ve been duped by marketing. There is no volatile compound in salt that necessitates it- it’s a rock. In other words, freshly ground salt is no different than the stuff in the box.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I've been wanting to do womething with duck legs, any ideas?

I get asked about duck a lot. This application is very tasty and couldn't be easier.

Spiced Slow Roasted Duck Legs with Vegetable Confit

1 Medium onion, diced (1/2 inch pieces)
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
3 Celery stalks, diced
5-8 Garlic cloves, slightly crushed
4 Duck legs
3 tbsps Curry powder (or preferably homemade spice mix) + 1 tbsp garlic powder

Optional: Some dried chilies for extra heat.

1. As much as 24 hours ahead of time, season your duck legs with salt and 2 1/2 tbsps of the curry with all of the garlic powder.
2. When ready to cook. Toss the veggies with the remaining curry, salt and the chilies if your using them. Place in a small baking dish and lay the duck legs on top.

3. Roast in a 325 degree oven for 3 hours or until the meat is very tender and the skin is beautifully crispy.

The final product will blow your mind. Spoon some of the veggies over a little turmeric mashed potatoes and lay the duck leg on top.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Do you have any ideas for a simple fiddlehead fern side dish?

Fiddlehead ferns are one of those items most people marvel at in the farmers market, but few people take the leap and purchase for consumption. Especially when you take it upon yourself to sample one raw for a rough idea of what you're getting yourself into.
If there's one thing you take from this entry it is this: fiddlehead ferns are gross raw. They're not bad for you or anything, they just don't taste good.
So I always give them a very thorough rinse and then a 3 minute blanch in salted water (1 tbsp salt: 1 qt. water) and then a shock in an ice bath. Once cooled, drain and dry them well.
Now they're ready for whatever you have in store; a simple saute, toss in a salad, a pickle maybe.

I like a simple Greek style approach.

8 oz. Fiddlehead ferns (cleaned and blanched)
4 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
1 Medium shallot, sliced (or half a small red onion)
2 tbsps Red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

Optional: 1/4 of a preserved lemon chopped

1. Place the sliced shallot a bowl with the vinegar, allow to macerate for ten minutes. This muffles that onion punch
2. Once macerated, toss in the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to marinate for at least five minutes.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

In Japan I had some hard boiled eggs that had been seasoned through the shell. How'd they do that?

This one really stumped me.
I spent so much time speaking to chef friends and food buffs, perusing food blogs and even startling a few Japanese tourists (who then took my picture). No one had ever seen or heard of such a thing.
A thousand Google searches only turned up high school science experiments and neo-eggstremists. I'm not going to lie, for the first time I just couldn't find the inquirer any kind of answer. So when I sat down to write a sheepish email, halfway through I stopped, one more more Google search and then I could admit defeat.
By some miracle I entered just the right words and there it was in the first entry, a very brief explanation of how to accomplish what it was that I had been searching for: How to season an egg through the shell. Of course I was so excited I closed the window . . . never to be found again. Still the info was ingrained.
The solution? A solution . . . of salt and water that is. Simply boil your eggs however you like them, cool them and drop them into a salt saturated brine. To make this brine dissolve 3 oz. (7tbsps) of salt per cup of water. (it helps dissolve if it's hot). Leave the eggs in there for 36 to 48 hours and there you have it.
A perfectly seasoned egg inside of a shell.

I can't really think of a reason to make a habit out of this, since you essentially have to use a half a cup of salt to season what would otherwise take a pinch. But the process is interesting, and you could theoretically rotate eggs through a brine over time. Which, if hard boiled eggs are your on-the-go snack, could be pretty useful.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Creative Commons License
Grill-a-Chef by Joshua Stokes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.