Friday, May 27, 2011

A Recipe for Memorial Day: Strawberry Shortcake

Living south of the Mason-Dixon, it is absolute necessity to turn out fluffy, flaky biscuits with regularity. This goes exceptionally well with strawberry season. And fresh cream. So well in fact, the three components long ago inspired the fictional childhood character Strawberry Shortcake, whom I have always had an affection for. I think I was a budding food lover even back when I was playing with dolls. This chick was obviously onto something: sporting a cap reminiscent of billowing whipped cream, studded with bright red strawberries. How could I not admire such a figure? I could almost smell ripe strawberry juice on her apron.

This dish has other childhood roots. It was my mother's go-to dessert of choice (I think mainly for its simple convenience). Her version was different, using store-bought angel food cake and sometimes a tub of Coolwhip to accompany the fresh berries, but we all loved it just the same. It screamed summertime.

Here is a lovely homemade version perfect for Memorial Day weekend. If you are feeling extra patriotic, add a few ripe, local blueberries for that classic red, white and blue tribute.

Perfect Buttermilk Biscuits:
*2 cups organic white whole wheat flour
*1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
*1 teaspoon sea salt
*5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
*generous 3/4 cup buttermilk or whole plain yogurt (I prefer Seven Stars Original Plain)

Preheat oven to 425.
Blend together dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the butter. Incorporate with your fingertips until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Pour in the buttermilk or yogurt. Gently mix with a fork until dough forms.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Being very careful not to overwork the dough, gently knead once or twice. Roll dough into a thick 1 inch disk.
Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Reform the dough and repeat cutting out biscuits until all dough is used.
Place on center rack of oven and bake for 10-12 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown.
Remove from oven and allow to completely cool before assembling shortcake.

Meanwhile. . .

Whipped cream:
*1 to 1 1/2 cups high quality cream (raw if possible)
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Place cold cream in a medium mixing bowl. Mix at high speed with an electric mixer until liquid begins to thicken. Add vanilla. Continue to whip until cream is thick, being careful not to over whip into butter.
Can be made a few hours in advance, covered and refrigerated until time to serve.

Strawberries in Syrup:
*2 pints local, spray-free strawberries, sliced
*1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
*1 tablespoon raw cane sugar or honey
*splash of water

Gently toss all ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Strawberry Shortcake:
Slice cooled biscuits in half. Place cut side up on a serving tray.
Spoon whipped cream onto each biscuit half, dividing evenly between each biscuit half. Top with berry mixture. Sprinkle with blueberries if you desire. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs

I'm not enough of a rib critic to warrant argument over which method of preparation renders the best results (there are some serious die-hards out there), but after trying them a few ways, this one has won my favor.

Planning to smoke the slow braised ribs toward the end of the process, I had to switch gears and simply slather them with sauce due to their extreme fall-off-the-bone tenderness. I literally could not keep the bones from slipping away from the meat and worried they would fall through the grate onto smoky coals if I risked putting them on the grill.
Another wise move in pre-feasting prep: an overnight spicy brown sugar rub prior to braising. And of course, starting with ribs from the happiest beasts locally available: bison from Carolina Bison, and grass-fed beef from Gaining Ground Farm proved a wise way to begin.
Best to start the sauce simmering in a large cast iron pan shortly after placing the ribs in the oven. Good things take time, this recipe being no exception.
My only other recommendation is to invite a crowd of food lovers over to enjoy the final product. Slow cooking ribs is a process best shared with your friends. If you are lucky, they will bring slaw and banana pudding to round things out. Oh, and don't wear white.

Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs:
*1-2 large racks bison ribs
*1-2 large racks grass fed beef ribs

Brown Sugar Rub: (amounts are approximate)
*1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
*2 Tbsp ground ginger
*2 Tbsp paprika
*2 tsp chipotle chili pepper
*plenty of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt

Blend all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Braising Liquid:
*3 cups apple cider or unfiltered organic apple juice
*2 Tbsp grainy mustard
*1/8 cup tamari or soy sauce
*generous splash of white vinegar
*3 cloves garlic, sliced in half

OR substitute all above ingredients for broth or water.

Sweet and Smoky Barbecue Sauce:
*4 cups apple cider or unfiltered organic apple juice
*3-4 Tbsp white vinegar
*2-3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
*5 Tbsp molasses
*2-3 Tbsp grainy mustard
*1/2 tsp ground cumin
*3 garlic cloves, minced
*1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
*pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Whisk to blend. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to lowest setting. Allow liquid to reduce by more than half or until sauce becomes thick, stirring often (about 2-2 1/2 hours). Adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer sauce to a bowl and set aside.

Begin by rinsing ribs. Pat dry. Using a dinner knife (not sharp) lift the translucent membrane away from the meat on the belly side of each rack. It should come up in one piece. If not, use whatever method necessary to remove all of it. Trim any excess fat, but leave the majority to keep meat moist while cooking.
Next, rub each side of each rack with the brown sugar rub. Transfer to a baking sheet (it's okay to stack them on top of one another) and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 225.
Place a rack or grate in the bottom of a large roasting pan fitted with a lid (whatever you cook your thanksgiving turkey in works well). Pour in braising liquid.
Place ribs on top of rack, stacking if necessary. Cover with lid and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, start the barbecue sauce (see instructions above).
Remove ribs from oven. Turn each rack of ribs and return to oven, covered. Bake for an additional 2 1/2 hours.

Gently lift ribs from pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Cut them into manageable pieces, one bone per piece. Meat should be very tender.
Begin liberally basting with barbecue sauce, turning each piece to coat. Serve immediately with sides of slaw, creamy grits or cornbread, and cooked greens.

Share your weekend culinary journey like this one at Hartke Is Online Weekend Blog Carnival.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

North Carolina Scallops

A very soft place exists in my heart for scallops, and somehow after this particular batch, it just got a bit softer. Frank from Saturday market is back in action with his seafood catch from Kitty Hawk, much to my scallop loving delight. Usually, I like to sear them with white wine, butter, lemon, garlic, etc, but this time I decided on butter and butter only as the main accompaniment. Best I've ever had. As the heat from the buttery pan mingled with the scallop's briny juices, a golden, caramelized crust was born. These were some of the sweetest, freshest scallops to ever pass my lips.
All I can think about during a meal like this is what a fantastic mystery the sea is, abundant with gifts more delightful than I am capable of imagining. It's hard not to get poetic after such a meal. Thank you Frank!

North Carolina Scallops:
*1 pound fresh scallops
*3-4 Tablespoons sweet cream butter
*sea salt and pepper
*lemon wedges

Rinse scallops thoroughly under cold running water. Dry completely with paper towels. This is important. Place a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter. Place about 6 scallops (enough to avoid over crowding the pan) in the heated pan, turning once halfway through. Lightly season with sea salt and pepper while searing. Sear until just done, when scallop still springs back when touched. Do not over cook.
Repeat with remaining scallops calling on more butter if needed.
Serve hot with lemon wedges.

A Bit of Scallop Symbolism:
The scallop shell is the well known symbol of St. James. Often, Christians would wear the symbol of a scallop shell on their clothing during pilgrimages to the apostle's shrine in Spain. In addition, the pilgrim would travel with a scallop shell, presenting it at churches, households and abbyes along the way, expecting to receive enough provisions to fill one scoop.

Venus, the Roman goddess of love and fertility, was often depicted alongside a scallop shell due to its history as a symbol of female fertility. You can clearly see an example of this in Botticelli's The Birth of Venus (a beautiful painting) also known as Venus on the half-shell.

And for the Nutritional Facts:
It is interesting that the scallop shell historically symbolizes fertility given that eating shellfish (such as scallops) is considered one of the top foods for fertility health. Scallops are very low in saturated fat while remaining high in vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, copper, protein, selenium, phosphorus, important natural cholesterol, and trace minerals. And as a personal note: anything that tastes this good can be considered an aphrodisiac in my book, a precursor to achieving optimum fertility in the first place.

This post was submitted to Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival. Visit her site to view heaps of real food recipes from across cyberspace, fresh each wednesday.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Precious

Returning from farmers market this morning, I finally understand how Froto felt about the ring.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beets and Oranges

We served a version of this salad at the catering company I used to work for, where I discovered how well the brightness of citrus pairs with earthy beets. Theirs included creamy avocado slices, though I used the last one last evening for a batch of guacamole.
Craving something cool on this unseasonably warm day, I added fresh cilantro and arugula to the mix, had there been goat cheese on hand, this would have made it into the recipe as well. But in its simplicity, this is a clean, satisfying dish on its own or scooped over a heap of fresh garden greens. Enjoy!

Orange and Beet Salad: (serves 4)
*1 large red beet, peeled and cut into generous bit-sized sections
*1 large golden beet, " "
*2 oranges, rinds removed, cut into sections
*extra virgin olive oil for dressing
*1 1/2 teaspoons white or balsamic vinegar
*sea salt and pepper
*large handful fresh arugula, chiffonade
*large handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
*1/4 cup local goat cheese

Place beet sections in a medium saucepan filled with cool water. Place over high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until beets are tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Strain and allow to slightly cool. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
Add all remaining ingredients (drizzling with enough olive oil to lightly coat) except the goat cheese. Adjust seasonings to taste. Chill for 30 minutes before adding goat cheese. Serve over tender garden greens or on its own.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Last month's issue of SAVEUR featured sandwich variations from across the globe. I adore this magazine. Everything from the Parisian cafe-style ham and cheese topped with a poached egg to the grilled wraps smeared with sesame seeds, sweet sumac and dried herbs found on the streets of Beirut, every place seems to have a version of the sandwich.
Most interesting to me was an article written by Mike Colameco on the topic of sardines, the author's favored sandwich filling from teen-hood. My co-worker (and skilled chef) Michael, is a devout reader of SAVEUR too, and began bringing an assortment of tinned sardines to work after reading the article. We all shared the tiny oil-packed fish over the course of a few lunch breaks, and agreed, they are indeed a satisfying addition to the weekly menu. Not as fishy as herring, not as salty as anchovies, simple and easily topped upon a mustard smothered slice of baguette or between two slices of rye.
What I like most however, is how eating sardines makes so much sense. As the article briefly explains, the fish industry (much like the dairy, beef or pork industry) has long since relied on savvy campaigning to drive sales. In the 1950's, as the tuna market grew and aggressively advertised, small fish like sardines quickly became foods of the past. "This ushered in the era of factory tuna trawlers, depleted tuna stocks, massive bycatch loss, and mercury as a dietary supplement," writes Colameco. "By contrast, sardines remain abundant, bycatch is very low, and their meat is loaded with vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 oils, without the heavy metals and toxins often found in larger fish."
He couldn't be more right. Seafood is a critical element to the human diet, delivering the much needed DHAs, EPAs, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B12, and minerals, relied upon to maintain a healthy system but also keystones for fertility and early development. Yet sadly, so much of today's fish supply has become toxic. In fact, pregnant woman are now advised to refrain from eating tuna even occasionally throughout gestation and breast-feeding.
Eating low on the seafood food chain is the best way to gain all the benefits of foods from the sea without consuming large quantities of heavy metals. Thus, the sardine. It is high time these humble fish take a modern moment in the spotlight. It's the little things, such as these, that can make huge impacts on our long-term health. Packed in high-quality olive oil, naturally briny, you may not miss tuna melts as much as you thought.

Open-Faced Brisling Sardine Melt:
*slices sourdough
*thin slices favorite mild cheese, such as Munster
*grainy mustard or horseradish creme, or both
*thinly sliced red onion
*fresh baby greens
*1 tin of olive oil packed boneless Brisling sardines

Place cheese slices on sourdough. Toast in a toaster oven until golden and bubbly. Remove toast from oven. Slather with grainy mustard and/or horseradish cream. Add onion. Pile on tender garden greens. Top with sardines. Repeat. Enjoy!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Professional Potato Planting

With help from some serious neighborhood professionals, all the spuds are finally tucked in. Four varieties accompanied by a few complimentary rows of Stuttgarter onions, I believe the imaginative commentary will get things off to the right start. It's the first time I've planted rows while listening to animated stories of superhero adventures and dreams involving monsters in beauty parlors requesting updos in blue. Children help me remember the world is a very big place. Granted, conversation did appropriately touch on french fries and potato chips for a brief moment.
I am grateful for the help and look forward to hearing more come harvest time!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sea Salt and Black Pepper Crusted Whole Local Trout

Dear East Fork Farm,
You have officially ruined us. Since we have known you, we can no longer fully enjoy duck, or lamb, or rabbit unless it dwelled with you first. It's just not the same. No more pizza night verses eating in. Your fresh hens trump the ease of eating on the fly. You have made your mark on all of my aprons. You have caused me to fill my sink with dirty dishes, leaving them for the morning after eating a meal too satisfying to rise early from the table. You have made me absent minded as I blissfully recall meals since passed. I talk less at dinner. My fork lingers. My cloth napkins are a wreck. You've driven me to photographing dead trout. My freezer is overflowing with homemade stock. I haven't seen my doctor in years. I am spoiled rotten.
Thank you!

Sincerely yours,

Sea Salt and Black Pepper Crusted Whole Local Trout:
*1 fresh whole locally caught/raised rainbow trout, cleaned and rinsed
*sea salt
*black pepper
*3 thin slices of lemon

Preheat oven to 375.
Clean trout. Rinse under cold water.
Place on a lined baking sheet. Arrange lemon slices in belly cavity. Completely coat the top layer of skin with generous amounts of sea salt and black pepper. Add pats of butter inside fish if you desire (I'm guessing you will).
Bake until skin slightly blisters and flesh is just done, about 15 minutes. Time will vary according to size of fish. Do not over over bake.
Enjoy with oven roasted sweet and gold potato wedges and a fresh garden salad.
*Save the bones, head and tail for stock.