dinsdag 8 maart 2011

Heading to South Beach to be a Tonnino Tuna Ambassador!

Well, that's one blog title I couldn't have anticipated writing, but that's exactly what's happening tonight as I board a red-eye for Miami. 

As many of you know, I won the Tonnino Tuna Chef Challenge recipe video contest, and one of the prizes was getting to serve as their Chef Ambassador for the year. As part of my duties, I'll be representing them at the 10th Annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

Pictured here is an "Upside-Down" Tonnino Jalape�o Tuna Taco Bite that I created to celebrate the event. Recipe cards will be available at the Tonnino booth at the Grand Tasting, but I've posted the written recipe below, just in case you're looking for a cool app for your upcoming Oscars party. Enjoy!

Note: I've finished the sweet and sour pork video, and will be posting that tomorrow, so stay tuned! Also, be sure to follow along with me on Twitter for my bite-by-bite coverage of the #sobewff, as we refer to it in the tweets.

"Upside-Down" Tonnino Jalape�o Tuna Taco Bites
Makes about 24

1 small jicama (about 1 1/2 lbs), peeled
1 jar (6.7-oz) Tonnino Tuna Fillets with Jalapeno in Olive Oil
2 tablespoon diced roasted red pepper, or pimento
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon ground dried chipotle
1/4 cup crushed corn nuts, or as needed

Using a sharp knife, trim the peeled jicama into a cylindrical shape, about 2-inches in diameter. Using a vegetable slicer, or knife, slice the jicama into about 24 "chips" (about 1/8-inch thick).

Drain the tuna (saving the oil for a salad dressing), and add to a small mixing bowl. Pick out the pieces of jalape�o that came with the tuna, and dice fine. Add back to the bowl. Add the red pepper, cilantro, and chipotle. Mix with a fork until combined. Divide the tuna mixture onto the jicama chips, and top with the crushed corn nuts.

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Spicy Tamarind Black Beans

The dried pulp of the tamarind fruit has a refreshing sour and slightly sweet tang that tempers and lends wonderful depth to spicy foods.  Easy to prepare and use, the widespread use of tamarind in south Indian cooking gives many of the region's dishes a characteristic hot and sour taste as well as a lovely fragrance that invites the palate and prepares the appetite for an authentic, warming and delicious eating experience. My guests and I were tantalized by the aromas of this spicy tamarind black bean dish as it simmered on the stove, eager to see it finished, and delighted to find that the flavours matched the expectations.
The instruction for a 1-inch piece of tamarind is based on the cake form of the dried pulp sold in every Indian and Asian grocery here in North America. Likewise the asafoetida and garam masala called for in this recipe are always easily found at Indian stores, or make a fresh batch of the garam masala spice blend using the instructions found here.

This is my submission to My Legume Love Affair, a most popular monthly event started by dear Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Sandhya's Kitchen.
Spicy Tamarind Black Beans

1 cup dried black beans
1-inch piece dried tamarind pulp
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tomato, chopped
2 green chilies, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon garam masala
large handful fresh coriander or parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

Rinse the dried beans under running water and soak overnight covered in several inches of water with a little yogurt whey or lemon juice added. After soaking, drain the beans and add to a medium saucepan. Cover with several inches of fresh water and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender but firm. Drain and set aside the beans and 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, soak the tamarind in 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into a bowl, squeezing as much liquid as possible out of the tamarind pulp. Discard the pulp and set aside the liquid.

Also during preparation, toast the ground cumin in a dry pan over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until the spice becomes fragrant and darkens a couple of shades.  Set aside.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the olive oil, wait a few moments, then swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion and stir until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and continue to stir for 5 minutes, scraping the pan to prevent the ginger from sticking.

Now toss in the chili flakes, turmeric and asafoetida. Stir for a few moments, then add the tomatoes and chilies, and cook until a sauce forms and the oil separates from the tomatoes, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the beans and the reserved cooking liquid, raise the heat, and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Now add the tamarind liquid, toasted ground cumin, garam masala, and most of the fresh chopped coriander or parsley, and simmer for another 10 minutes to let the flavours gently blend.

Remove from heat and season with salt. Serve in bowls garnished with the remaining coriander or parsley.

Serves 4 to 6.

Other tamarind based recipes you may enjoy:
Mung Tamarind Dal
Tamarind Rice
Tamarind Chutney

On the top of the reading stack: The National Post

Audio Accompaniment: sweet silence

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Saturday Throwback: On Splurging

Every week, we post a piece from the CHG archives (located in our nation's capitol, right next to the Ark of the Covenant). This comes from February 2009.

My Pa is my idol. He?s a funny guy, with the patience of Gandhi and the work ethic of an Iditarod sled dog. Even on bad days, he makes Atticus Finch look like an angry slacker. And last week, he turned 60. This is significant for many reasons:
  1. Senior discounts galore. (Hello, IHOP!)
  2. He?s halfway through his quest to become the world?s oldest man.
  3. Sandals! Over black socks! No one gives a damn anymore!
  4. He?s the same age as Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October, Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who?s Coming to Dinner, and, er, Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker. Barring that last one, that?s pretty cool.
  5. I wasn?t around to celebrate. Instead (with his blessing, but still), I was oogling mountains in the Pacific Northwest.
To make up for my absence, I needed an extraordinarily special gift: something better than anything he?d ever received, or could even dream up. For obvious reasons, gold-plated golf clubs were out of the question, as was a warm, fuzzy hug from Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, who once sparked this conversation between the two of us:

PA: Did you see Jeter's catch last night? It was just like Willie Mays. He ran 50 feet into the outfield and caught it with his back turned. And THEN he nails the guy at second. It was great. Great catch.

ME: If you ever left Mom for a man, I'm pretty sure it would be Jeter.

PA: (thoughtful pause) ? You think he'd have me?

That left one other option: Le Bernardin.

You need to know: Pa is a seafood fanatic. He inhales shrimp, and once, I witnessed him down two-dozen Maryland blue crabs in a single sitting. (To compare, I had four. Ma had eight.) Le Bernardin seemed like a good choice.

LB is Eric Ripert?s phenomenal seafood restaurant on the north end of Midtown Manhattan. It?s has four stars from the New York Times since 1986, and is one of only a trio of Big Apple eateries to boast three Michelin stars. Calling it a good place for fish is like saying the Pope only kind of digs Jesus. It?s a TEMPLE to fish, and Pa and I were eager to pay our respects. So, we chose a random Wednesday (coincidentally, the same night Ripert appeared on Top Chef), donned our best snow boots, and got subway-ing.

(SIDE NOTE #1: I worked in Midtown for nine years, on the SAME EXACT STREET as the restaurant, and never knew it was there. This is partially because the whole gorgeous, warm, wooden room is tucked modestly away in the first floor of a ginormous skyscraper. There?s a sign outside, but it?s easy to miss among Times Square?s shiny bustle. Also, I?m not very observant.)

Once we arrived and our coats were checked, the host ushered us to a neat, crisp table with more silverware than I've ever seen for two people. We settled in, and the meal began with an amuse-bouche, a tiny pre-appetizer that psyches your palette up for the rest of dinner. In this case, it was lobster cappuccino. Lobster. Cappuccino. Oh, it sounds bizarre and gross, but understand this: if God had come down from heaven and offered to rub my mouth with diamonds, I still would have opted for the shellfish coffee.

Next up was a choice between 14,000 different types of bread, served to us by one of our 17,000 suited waiters. On the side: butter, presumably churned from a cow they kept behind the bar. I?d never had fresher dairy, and Pa practically spread it on his tongue. So far, so good.

(SIDE NOTE #2: It was around this time we spilled a drop of ? something [I forget what] ? on the tablecloth. Like quicksilver, a waiter was over to brush it away, smooth the offending wrinkles, and hide the faint remaining stain with a snow-white linen napkin. Pa and I looked wide-eyed at each other: ?Well, this beats the crap out of Olive Garden.?)

Soon enough, our sommelier (a lady!) visited the table, bearing our half-bottle of German white wine. She taste-tested the vino before pouring it, and finding it unpoisoned, gave us generous sloshes for the meals to come.

Which? Holla!

What followed were three courses of fish prepared in a variety of heart-stopping, face-melting ways. Organic raw salmon with green apple? Check. White tuna lightly poached in olive oil with dime-sized potato chips adorning each piece? Check. Crispy bass that dismantled our taste buds, rearranged them, and then built them back up into newer, better taste buds? Oh god, check.

And to top everything off, dessert. I had an architecturally stunning dark chocolate ganache with sweet potato sorbet. Pa had a hazelnut and banana combination that ? I just openly drooled on my chest. Who discovered the hazelnut, and how can I give him my life?s savings? If anyone can answer this, please call me. Collect.

(SIDE NOTE #3: In the bathroom? Free tampons. Pa was not as impressed at this as me.)

In the end, we walked out full, dazzled, and with the understanding that this was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. Calories didn?t matter. Time didn?t matter. Money didn?t matter.

Oh, and about that bill.

Woof. It was big. A good portion of my monthly rent.

But it was also for Pa, and that made every cent worth it. Yeah, I save and scrimp and regularly frugalize my pants off, but I?d do Le Bernardin again tomorrow if I could. We value good food. We love trying new restaurants. We both knew we probably wouldn?t have that kind of opportunity again. And hell, you only turn 60 once.

And that?s when splurging is okay.

(Photos courtesy of Confessions of a She-Fan.)

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maandag 7 maart 2011

Parmesan Bacon Potatoes

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*"This Must Be A Luxury Salad"

Saveur Inspired Lamb Salad

picture photograph image lamb salad 2009 copyright of sam breach http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/

Long hours at work over the last month have kept me out of the kitchen and away from my rewarding exercise schedule. Whilst the contents of my Mariquita mystery farm box have been idly languishing in the fridge my mealtimes have, sadly, descended to a sorry catalog of unhealthy options I am almost afraid to admit to. Nature's Valley Oat & Honey bars from the vending machine and sandwiches with butter, salt and vinegar crisps and Marmite have been the highlights of my dietary calendar for the past few weeks.

A few days ago, I managed to find a few minutes to flick through the pages of the Saveur magazine I get delivered to my home. The October 2009 issue is all about lamb and when it comes to lamb, I am a huge fan. 'Lamb Rules', Saveur declares, and I agree. As a child who grew up in a household where every week 'Sunday Roast' lunch was a given, I was always happiest when the rotation through the traditional center pieces for this signature meal - pig, cow, chicken - settled on a cut from a baby sheep. Oh yes, I do love lamb.

The minute my greedy eyeballs scanned the ingredients for the Lamb Salad on page 66, I knew it was something I needed to make as soon as possible, albeit with a substitute for the anchovies my dining partner is loathe to enjoy. For that I decided upon a few black olives and set about a late trip to the Farmers' Market with the sole purpose of gathering the ingredients for this dish.

To my mind, a recipe such as this does not need to be followed to the letter. What does it matter if my potatoes have brown skins instead of red? Will the recipe start screaming heresy at me if I favour maitake over oyster or shiitake? No, I don't think so. And so, with my tweakages justified, at least in my own mind, I set to work.

And work it was: A collection of mini-recipes strung together, one-by-one, before finally being introduced to each other just before serving. Roast a whole head of garlic for an hour then use it to make a strong, pungent vinaigrette with salty capers and sherry vinegar. Roast some potatoes. Fry up some mushrooms. Cook a piece of lamb. Chop some toasted nuts. Toss some salad greens. Compose on a plate. [See picture above.]

As I finally sat down to eat a proper home-cooked meal with Fred, for the first time in far too long, my level of expectation could hardly have been higher. Which is probably why it felt like a balloon had just been popped with a pin and the resulting shreds of rubber were whistling around the room laughing and taunting me with their heckles. I am sure, less would have been more. Too many flavours were fighting against each other for recognition and the poor little lamb was getting lost in the fray.

Should I beat myself up for substituting 10 anchovy fillets with 6 black olives? Did I break the recipe - or was it already broken before I even started?

PS - Please note - the ingredient list for this recipe states that "1?2 cup loosely packed mixed flat-leaf parsley and mint leaves" are required. However, the instructions for preparation do not make use of them at any stage, neither could I conjure up any reason to add them or a place to put them. Thanks to Hande for pointing out my oversight. They are indeed mentioned as herbs. I read the recipe several times and even visited the website where I did a search for 'mint' which of course was of no use to me. I certainly get today's prize for FAIL!

PPS - *"This Must Be a Luxury Salad" was Fred's comment on sitting down to eat. Fred perhaps preferred this dish more than I did. He is not as keen on lamb as I am and the fact the strong vinaigrette masked its flavour probably meant it worked more in his favour.

Local Resources
Rocambole Stiff Neck Garlic from Hunter Orchards
Sherry Vinegar from O Olive Oil
Shallots from Dirty Girl
Olive Oil from Bariani
Boneless Grass-fed lamb loin chop from Marin Sun Farms
Potatoes from Mariquita
Maitake from Far West Fungi
Butter from Straus
Thyme from White Crane Spring Ranch
Frisee from Star Route Farms
Pistachios from Alfieri Farms

2008 | Eat Local Challenge Day 4
2007 | Fifteen Watergate Bay
2006 | Amanda Berne

� 2009 Sam Breach

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An Open Letter to My Neighbor With the Car Alarm. Plus, Tomato and Bread Soup with Rosemary.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I do not know your identity. You may be a candystriping Girl Scout, or a grandmother who volunteers 20 hours a week at the Red Cross. You may work to save endangered species, and your dedication to social equity and human rights might make Mother Theresa look like Jeffrey Dahmer on a bad hair day. You may be kind to children, fair to animals, and a patron saint to environmental causes the world over.

I do know that you have a car alarm, and that it's gone off twice in the last week, at 3am, for 30 minutes each time. And that makes me hate you.

What is it with car alarms? They seem like leftovers from the '80s, the pride of hyper-vigilant teens and twentysomethings with shiny new Iroc-Zs to protect, presumably from menacing threats like wind and rain. (I do not know what else sets off car alarms.) Yet, especially in the Tri-State area, they are as prominent as Applebees and lower back tattoos. Why they haven't been relegated to the dustbin of history, along with stonewashed jackets and Ratt posters, is beyond me.

In fact, I have it good on authority (meaning: my own delusion) that, throughout the course of automotive history, car alarms have deterred exactly two burglars. The first was Borden P. Titmouse, a hapless petty thief doomed by his particularly sensitive hearing and lack of arms below the elbow. The second was a cat who mistook a Chrysler for a hunk of steak. Cats are dumb, see.

The number of people awoken, annoyed, and otherwise driven apoplectic by car alarms, however, numbers in the millions. The billions, even. McDonald's would kill for that kind of demo.

Someday, I may be a mother. And if your car alarm wakes my child - who I presume will have spent the whole day alternately being adorable and vomiting into my open mouth, if Facebook is any indication ? I will key it into oblivion, then pound the remaining atoms into a pretty purple paperweight. I don't care if you are the Chairperson of Greenpeace, the head of Habitat for Humanity, and the potential broker of peace in the Middle East combined. You will be upset. Neighboring cars will weep. Charlie Sheen will question my destructive tendencies.

In closing, no one wants to steal your Honda. For the love of god, turn off the alarm.

The rest of Brooklyn

Oh yeah ? the food. About two years ago, we ran a Jamie Oliver recipe for Pappa al Pomodoro, or Tomato and Bread Soup. It was pretty simple, involving some roasted cherry tomatoes, a few handfuls of basil, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Well, brace yourself, Waldo, because this one is even easier, tastes just as lovely, and can be made (almost) entirely from ingredients sitting around your pantry. Except rosemary. You have to buy that. The fresh stuff is worth it.

But, mmmm. So good. Make it now! And don't buy a car alarm.


If this looks real purty, you?ll be like, ?Yeah, y?all!? to these:

Tomato and Bread Soup with Rosemary
Serves 3
Inspired by Jamie Oliver.

Without cheese
 2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
28 ounces whole canned tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (veggie broth for vegetarians)
About 1/3 large loaf Italian bread, chopped or torn into chunks:
Grated Parmesan, for serving

1) In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add rosemary and garlic. Saut� 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and broth. Turn heat to high. While mixture is coming to a boil, break tomatoes up with a wooden spoon or good set of kitchen shears. Once it starts boiling, drop heat to a healthy, rolling simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2) Kill heat. Add bread. Gently stir so bread soaks, but doesn?t fall apart. Serve with Parmesan, if desired.

With cheese (avec frommage).
Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
183 calories, 5.9 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, 6.9 g protein, $1.05

2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin: 9 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0.4 g protein $0.10
1 tablespoon fresh minced rosemary: 2 calories, 0.1 g fat, 0.2 g fiber, 0.1 g protein, $0.50
1 tablespoons olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein, $0.10
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
28 ounces canned tomatoes: 151 calories, 0.8 g fat, 7.9 g fiber, 7.3 g protein, $1.25
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth: 25 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 4.9 g protein, $0.57
About 1/3 large loaf Italian bread, chopped or torn into chunks: 244 calories, 3.2 g fat, 2.4 g fiber, 7.9 g protein, $0.60
TOTAL: 550 calories, 17.6 g fat, 10.7 g fiber, 20.6 protein, $3.14
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 183 calories, 5.9 g fat, 3.6 g fiber, 6.9 g protein, $1.05

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Gingerbread Folks (wheat-free; not gluten-free)

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