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Thursday, May 27, 2010

All Beer, All the Time

(Like I said, All the Time)
Well, at least for the next day or so. Moreover, it's all work, all the time, while kicking off the official start of summer in my neck of the woods. I'm going to be a little light on the posting (unless, of course, I'm totally pumped post beer fest and gush with all the fabulous details on Saturday morning) but I wanted to leave you with something.

For you beer lovers, this one's for you. If we're FB/Twitter friends, you've seen this in various incarnations. But this is (as far as I know, since no one knows what's going to show up tomorrow) the official, final, list for the beer fest.

Enjoy my friends, enjoy! And think of me while I'm building (and taking down) a beer empire in 24 hours.

Extreme Beer Fest May 2010

Affligem Blond Belgian Ale:
Arbor Espresso Love: 
Arbor Flamboyant Wild Red Ale: 
Arbor Strawberry Blonde: 
Arbor Red Snapper: 
Arbor Sacred Cow IPA: 
Atwater Cherry Stout
Atwater Dirty Blond: 
Atwater Double Down:
Atwater Vanilla Porter: 
Atwater Voodoovator: 
Bell's Consecrator Dopplebock: 
Bell's Batch 9000: 
Big Sky Moose Drool:
Big Sky Scape Goat Pale Ale
Big Sky Trout Slayer
Big Sky Summer Honey
Breckenridge Agave Wheat: 
Breckenridge 471 IPA: 
Breckenridge Lucky U IPA: 
Dark Horse Belgium style Amber Ale
Dark Horse Crooked Tree I.P.A.
Dark Horse Raspberry
Dark Horse Reserve Spec. Black Bier
Dark Horse Fore Smoked Stout: 
Dragonmead Crown Jewels: 
Dragonmead Final Absolution:
Dragonmead Under The Kilt (Wee Heavy): 
Dragonmead Erik the Red: 
Founders Cerise
Founders Backwoods Bastard: 
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout: 
Founders Old Curmudgeon: 
Great Divide Collette: 
Great Divide Hoss Rye: 
Great Divide Raspberry: 
Great Divide Samurai Rice: 
Great Divide Titan IPA: 
Great Divide Yeti Espresso Stout: 
Great Lakes Commodore Perry: 
Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold: 
Great Lakes Holy Moses: 
Hacker-Pschorr Weisse
Harpoon Celtic Ale: 
Harpoon I.P.A.: 
Harpoon UFO:
Harpoon Leviathan Imperial Red: 
Harpoon Leviathan Saison:
Harpoon Leviathan Baltic Porter: 
Heavy Seas Big DIPA: 
Heavy Seas Letter Marquee: 
Heavy Seas Red Sky Saison: 
Heavy Seas Siren Noire Chocolate Stout: 
He’Brew Jewbelation 13
Hitachino White: 
Jolly Pumpkin Bam Noire
Lagunitas Dog Town: 
Lagunitas Hop Stoopid
Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot: 
Lagunitas Undercover Shutdown: 
Left Hand Sawtooth ESB: 
Left Hand 400lb Monkey: 
Left Hand Good Juju: 
Left Hand Black Jack Porter: 
Left Hand Imperial Stout: 
Livery Brewery Kentucky Kaffinator: 
Livery Brewery Rye Barrel Jak: 
Mt. Pleasant Train Wreck Ale
Moylan’s Dragoons: 
Moylan’s IPA: 
Moylan’s Kilt Lifter: 
Moylan’s Moylander: 
Moylan’s Tipperary:
New Holland Envious: 
New Holland El Mole Ocho: 
New Holland Dragon’s Milk: 
New Holland Black Tulip
New Holland Mad Hatter Imperial IPA: 
New Holland Pilgrim’s Dole: 
Rogue Brutal Bitter
Rogue Chipotle Ale: 
Rogue Captain Sigs
Rogue Mogul Madness: 
Schmohz-Sammie Rae Root Beer
Schmohz- Miracle off 28th St. Old Ale: 
Schmohz-Mad Tom's Porter: 
Short’s Huma Lupalicious: 
Short’s Magician: 
Short’s Soft Parade: 
Short’s Sustenance:
Stone Pale Ale: 
Stone Ruination: 
Stone Smoked Porter: 
Unibroue Apple Ephemere: 
Unibroue Blanche de Chambly: 
Unibroue Don de Dieu: 
Unibroue la Fin du Monde:
Unibroue Maudite: 
Victory Golden Monkey: 
Victory Hop Devil:
Victory Hop Wallop: 
Victory Prima Pils: 
Weihenstephan Kristal White: 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rhubarb Sorbet: An Experiment

I've alluded to my "old" garden before. The one that I referred to as my brother's, or as it used to be known, the total and utter thorn in my side. This garden was already here when we bought our house, and it came with a gorgeous asparagus patch (a total treasure) some Kale (eventually got ripped out by a lawn mower) and an enormous rhubarb plant. For the past four summers, I've ignored the rhubarb. I was slightly intimidated by it, and also less than enthused by it's flavor. It grows, it dies, and Elton John starts singing "The Circle of Life." 

Until now. Monday, I went down and grabbed as much as I could carry and brought it into the house, determined to figure out SOMETHING to do with it. I did some research, thought about going the strawberry rhubarb pie/chutney/syrupy route, and then remembered something. I now was the proud owner of an ice cream maker. (Just another reason I am thankful for marrying my husband...)

It's been sitting in the box, in our guest room (also known as the place where one stores wedding gifts one hasn't found room for.) I decided I'd make rhubarb sorbet. I read some sorbet recipes, got the basics, and went at it. Grabbing basil and mint from my herb pots (assuming they would balance out the tart rhubarb nicely) and deciding I would forgo sugar and use only agave, I went at it. 

For my first foray into both ice cream makers AND cooking with rhubarb? I'll call it a success. It's still getting firmer in the freezer right now, but upon tasting it, I actually like it! It's a bit sweeter than I originally intended, and the mint is a bit strong, but it tastes good. I could have sworn I didn't like rhubarb...

Now, if I can just get J to put down the butter pecan and try THIS during the Idol finale tonight, I'll be in ice cream making summer business. Dreams...

Rhubarb Basil Mint Sorbet
8 medium stalks of rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
zest of 2 limes, juice of 1
1/2 C agave (plus extra if needed)
1 small bunch mint, minced
1 small bunch basil, minced
Pinch sea salt

Boil rhubarb in 1 C water with zest and juice of 1 lime and 1/2 cup agave. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes, until rhubarb is tender. Remove from heat.
Transfer to food processor, puree.
Add mint, basil, and zest of other lime, pulse until herbs are almost pureed in (but still visible.)
Taste; add agave if more is needed.
Add salt.
Transfer to bowl, chill in refrigerator until cold (at least 1 hour--mine chilled overnight.)
Follow directions for ice cream maker (which includes pre-freezing the bowl, which I forgot...) 
When ice cream machine is done, place in air tight container and freeze until it has reached desired consistency.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Social Media Burger Dinner

Last night began a weekly summer ritual in our house. Burgers. But not the great and amazing burgers that J makes, though those make appearances all summer, as well. Once a week (generally speaking) I make a light and flavorful chicken or turkey burger. These are usually super healthy, super tasty, and paired with a great salad or side...and usually our cure from too much fun over a summer weekend.

Last night, I took the menu to a social networking level. I paired my delicious Mexican Chicken burger with a play on KitchenLab's great tomato, cucumber and roasted corn salad, and used Rippin Skier's suggested greek yogurt with cumin (and other things) as the "spread" on the burger.

Might I say, the meal was insanely fantastic?

Rather than waxing poetic on the benefits of healthy burger dinners, or the exciting combination of this great meal with the series finales of 24 (epic) and Law & Order (lame), I'm just going to hook you up with some recipes.

And then I'm going to attempt to find something clever to do with the pounds of rhubarb I just harvested from my old garden. Suggestions are VERY welcome!

Mexican Chicken Burgers
1 lb ground chicken (I use vegetarian, no hormone, etc.)
1 poblano pepper, very finely diced
2 scallions, very finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
zest of 1 lime
2 tsp cumin
1/4 C cilantro, finely minced
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp black pepper, plus extr
1 tbsp Mexican hot sauce (adjust to your level of hotness) 
olive oil

Preheat grill/grill pan to medium-high heat.
Mix all ingredients til just combined. Do not over mix the meat.
Form 3 large or 4 medium sized patties.
Sprinkle extra black pepper on each side of patty, and drizzle with olive oil.
Cook patties about 6-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness of burger. 
Serve on whole grain hamburger bun with yogurt sauce and arugula.

Yogurt Sauce
1 C greek yogurt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
dash of hot sauce

Mix ingredients, spread on hamburger buns.

Tomato, Avocado, Grilled Corn Salad
2 small ripe avocados, largely diced
2 ears corn, husked
1 pint sweet grape/cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
Juice of 1 lime
1 TBSP Mexican hot sauce (adjust for level of heat)

Preheat grill/grill pan to medium-high heat. Spray with cooking spray.
Grill corn on all sides, turning as necessary until whole cob is lightly charred and cooked.
Let corn cool, then slice/scrape kernels into large bowl.
Add avocado and tomatoes.
Add lime juice, salt, pepper, and hot sauce.
Lightly toss salad together.
*Make ahead and let sit--I let it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours before dinner.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Lovin'...

Isn't it lovely?

Here we are, almost a full month out from the official start of summer, and it's so hot that everyone I know has their air conditioning on already! I had my first beach day yesterday (you can just hear the sound of the relaxation) and the local garden center was (slightly irritatingly) packed today. It's summer.

Not to mention, my gorgeously, incredibly, wonderfully talented husband and equally fabulous brother built my raised bed garden on Saturday, while I was toiling away at the shop. Fabulous brother even planted the majority of my plants, and helped me plant the remaining trillion tomato plants yesterday. I am beyond excited.

I'm a different person with this garden than I have been in years past. Usually it was brother Eric's garden, and I had to tend to it while he was away, and it always got overwhelming and frustrating. It was large, and we overplanted most of the time. And I had less than no interest in slaving away on 90 degree days, pulling ginormous tree-like weeds out of the ground. While I loved the ability to run to the garden to grab a watermelon/cucumber/bowl of wasn't "mine."

Until this year. I'm excited for my garden, especially because the raised bed method of planting helps keep the weeds at bay. I can't wait for cucumbers and purple bell peppers, for Mr. Stripey tomatoes and super old seed heirlooms.

A lot of it will flourish, some of it will not. But this year I'm determined and excited, and most importantly, feel like it's mine. Which, in my head, matters more than anything in the entire world.

Some early snapshots for your enjoyment!
5 of 9 potted tomato many will survive?

Potted herbs: Oregano, Lavender, Mint, Parsley, Dill

More herbs: Sage, Chives, and Basil

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Michigan, not Tuscany

Last night we had one of those dreamy summer evenings. Friends of R and N were in town, friends that we wanted to meet and that wanted to meet us. The plan was for J, brother Eric and I to swing by right after work, around 5:30, for drinks. For an hour or so, so the original 6-some of the friends and children could eat dinner.

The best laid plans...

We only stayed for 2 hours, which in the scheme of things doesn't sound like much. But those two hours, surrounded by friends, children, great wine and beer, were the stuff summer nights are made of in our neck of the woods. It's the reason most of us live here, aside from the desire to get snowed in during the winter months, the proximity to Chicago, the lake, and the produce.

I showed up with a bottle of my sure to be favorite summer wine, the Paul Zinck Alsatian Pinot Blanc. (Incidentally, I'm also in love with the Pinot Noir. But that's for another time.) They had the Simi Chardonnay (a personal favorite) and some delicious Riesling open. (N: if you remember the name, post it in the comments, please!) The cooler of beer from the non-baby shower was still mostly full of New Holland Golden Cap, Harpoon Saison Royale and others.

Sitting outside, surrounded by vineyards, with kids playing in the background, bringing toads for me to pet, it was a gorgeous, exciting entry into summer. Eventually R brought out a phenomenal cheese plate with a triple creme French cheese that I basically lopped up with every cracker on the plate! There was laughter, there was business talk, there was a really lengthy discussion about Twitter that I'm fairly certain I owe someone a dollar for.

It was one of those early evening experiences that make you realize life is not only good, but life is great. That all you really need is a great bottle of wine, some incredibly fattening cheese, and the company of wonderful and fascinating friends to make an evening.

One I'm very much looking forward to repeating again and again all summer long, in one backyard or another.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Breakfast: A Tip!

It's no shock that I adore greek yogurt. I talk about it all the's my go to for breakfast, savory dishes, sometimes even desserts. But I what I've really started loving is the ability of greek yogurt to sub in for an otherwise less than healthy ingredient. I use it instead of sour cream in chili and soup, and I make a killer spinach artichoke dip with it!

This morning (and a few other mornings lately) I went this route. I subbed it for cream cheese on my sprouted wheat toast. No fat, 20+ grams of protein...and tangy and delicious! I sliced up some grape tomatoes I bought at the Farmer's Market last week, sprinkled on some dill from my herb garden, and voila! A gorgeous, incredibly healthy, and super tasty breakfast!
I know I'm not the only one subbing the stuff...what's your favorite way to use Greek Yogurt?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beer Fest Equals Wedding

(Taken with Hisptamatic iPhone app because it looks cooler. What you can't see is that the cases are at least 2 deep.)

Setting up for the Extreme Beer Fest, for me, is similar to setting up for my wedding. Ok, not really, but I do have the same intensely disturbing dreams, fears, and obsessive attitude that I did regarding my wedding. Just ask the people who work with me. (You love me...)

A lot goes into creating this event, and basically, it's all done by two of us. Becky (calling her the "manager" of the theater is like calling Bill Gates well-off--a complete and total understatement) and myself. B is incredibly supportive and helpful with this event, from sourcing extra tables, to helping me staff, to working the actual event, to designing our awesome poster. I do all the ordering, the glasses, the stocking and pricing get the idea.

We've been getting delivery after delivery of cases and cases of beer for the event. Today, I went through, priced and stocked it all in the storage room. Yes, me. I guess I haven't lost all my upper body strength from last summer. It's awesome. And not awesome as in wicked cool. Awesome as in massive. We have about 90 beers in total for this event, at least 50 more than my October event. We've doubled the number of tickets, which are selling like mad. I've done actual press for this event (which, as a recovering and still functioning publicist is insanely uncomfortable, personally speaking) and the local beer blogs, Kalambrew, Michigan Microbrews and Beer Nuts,  have been super cool!
(We still have three more deliveries next week, and a back room that's also stocked!)

I'm more than excited for next Friday. It will be, to date, the largest event I have thrown that I'm personally responsible for. Which is a great feeling, and at the same time, insanely scary.

And really does make marrying J seem like a total piece of cake.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

If an iPhone doesn't have good apps, does anyone care if it rings?

(My iPhone, my shag...)
Clearly, you all know I'm an iPhone user. Addict might be a better word at times, I admit it. (Admitting it is the first step, right?) But the truth is, aside from the necessary tasks of email and text messages, I use it for good, not evil. Sure, some might say my non-stop posting of food/drink pictures on Facebook and Twitter is a bit much, but come on's what I do!

The truth is, I've only been an iPhoner for about a year. I was a serious blackberry user before that. And I mean, serious. I often stated I would NEVER switch to the iPhone, as the blackberry was what people who really worked used. I would swoon over my friend's iPhone pics and apps, but refuse to actually figure out how to use a keyboard without keys.

That was until last summer, about a month before our wedding, when my crackberry crapped out. In the last stage of a wedding budget crunch, and clearly unable to NOT have a smartphone, I went with the iPhone because it was actually the cheaper option.

And an iPhone addict was born. A few months later, J made the switch, as well. Between the camera and the apps, it more than makes up for the (sometimes still annoying) keyboard issue. And so, bogarting a recent blog post from the incomparably genius Gini Dietrich, I give you my favorite, food/wine/beer/fun related iPhone must haves, if you will.

Yelp: This is huge for us. We use it all the time, to find restaurants in cities we're visiting (ahem Cleveland, Pittsburgh.) We use it to find late night pizza joints wherever we are. It's also great for the occasional "oh crap where the hell am I again, I need to pick up toilet paper/paper towels/etc before I drive home."

Locavore: I started using this a few months ago and it's amazing. Using your location, it tells you not only what vegetables and fruits are in season and growing right now, but also gives you a map of all your local farms, farmers markets, and places to find the freshest produce. Where we live, there are so many farms and markets, that it's great to be able to know just what farm has what I need! It also gives a list of what foods are about to be in season.

Find Craft Beer: Using your location, this app tells you what craft beer bars are closest to you (or your destination.) I love finding a new craft beer bar, but it will also tell you where local breweries are, as well. Which, for me, is pretty much as epic as it gets.

Smart Chef: This app is so great if you're a cook like me--who often just imagines that you have ingredients in the house. This will give you lists and lists of substitution items for whatever you thought you have but don't! I've used this more than once in recipes.

BigOven: BigOven is, as far as I can tell, the best (free) recipe app. It gives you a huge catalog to look through, and has this phenomenal Leftover Wizard. You enter three items in your fridge, pantry, etc...and it will spit out a bunch of things you'll be able to make.

Shazam: Ok, so this isn't food related in anyway, but it is a lifesaver for me. Actually, it was one of the first apps I downloaded. Hold the phone up when you hear a song you can't place, and within moments you'll (usually) have the artist, title, and more. You have NO idea how many times a day I use this. It's embarrassing.

IMDb: Again, not food related. But J and I get into, um, competitive mode ALL the time about who's right, specifically with actors and movies/shows. This saves us a googling step. When you have an iPhone but live somewhere without 3G capability, saving a step is key.

Fiddme: I only recently downloaded this, but am digging learning more about it. It's like foursquare, but for food! You can post food pics, restaurant recommendations, and vice versa! So now it's not only appropriate to be a foodarazzi, it's encouraged!

Priceline: Anyone who reads this blog or knows me, knows I'm obsessed with I use it all the time, and it's my go to for trips. The iPhone app is awesome to use when you're traveling, especially by car! J and I have used it on long car trips to NY, seeing how far we can get before we need to stop. And then poof! A lovely (not gross) hotel room for half the price.

Hipstamatic: I've been using this camera app since Jazz Fest, when a friend showed us his. I love it. Lots of people love it. It's fun and great for badly lit photo opps. It makes your pics look vintage-like and adds great mood and color. Plus, it makes my food look really great most of the time. The app comes with three lenses and three types of film, but you can shop for more options.


Face Fighter: Ok, this one is terrible. In a good way. Maybe. But in the art of full disclosure, you should know about my dirty, DIRTY little secret. This is an app that a friend showed J and I a few months ago, and we're obsessed. Basically, you can input a photo of someone and, beat them up. Martial Arts style, complete with sound effects and overly exaggerated bruising. It is one of the world's best stress relievers. Literally.

Disclaimer: I HATE paying for apps. The only app on this list that is not free is Hipstamatic (at least, that was the case when I downloaded them.) I will not pay more than $1.99 for an app, and I'd rather not pay anything. You may find other versions of these apps for money, but I wouldn't know. And...this list does NOT include the obvious facebook and twitter apps. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Success on Plates!

Last night's non-baby shower baby shower was, in my opinion, a rousing success. Between the gorgeous weather, the fire that made us all come home smelling like high school, the great wine, and the great company? All you could want in a non-traditional event.

Oh, and the food was bonkers! I'm not one to often quote Rachel Zoe, but it was BANANAS! I've linked to the blogs of R and N before, where they blog about kitchen design, their phenomenal DIAB product (check it out, you'll LOVE IT) and best of all, food. R and N are self-proclaimed food folk. And they are friends I'm lucky to have in more ways than one. They have elevated my game, I think. And nights like last night, I thank them for it. (And for their endless praise of my dishes!) But they always, and I mean always blow me away with the things that come from their gorgeous and a dream to cook in kitchen.

As discussed yesterday, the menu consisted of my sauteed radish crostini, and friend Liz's ridonkulous dip! We then moved onto my blackened asparagus, R's gorgeous, simple, and freaking delicious orzo salad (that I am kicking myself for not getting a picture of)  and N's vegetable tarts that were one of the best things I've ever tasted as prepared by him, and trust me--he doesn't make anything that doesn't taste fantastic!  Dessert was my Passover brownies (which apparently taste better when it's NOT Passover) and my first ever cheesecake.

Ok, so in a nutshell? Everything was amazing. And I'm being serious. The radishes, which were a new adventure for me and almost everyone eating them, were this deliciously sweet and spicy, yet insanely fresh concoction. This is a recipe I will make again and again, probably trying the actual NYT recipe at some point (lots of garlic and anchovy!) The dish is simple, seasonal, and lovely...I'm seriously encouraging you to try it.

The orzo salad was so good I'm absolutely bogarting it and using it at every summer party. The blackened asparagus MIGHT be better than the string beans that originated the recipe. But N's tarts...I mean really, stick a fork in me. The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery, giving way to the beautifully seasoned and grilled veggies waiting for you inside. Matched with the melty goodness of the cheeses (Raclette and a great cheddar I forgot to get the name of) there was nothing left. I had two pieces. Sorry!

Moving to dessert, my cheesecake rocked! Seriously! The fact that I'd somehow never made a cheesecake before made the silky goodness that much more delicious. Rich, fattening, and luxurious--it was all a cheesecake should be. I've got to thank Apron Anxiety for the recipe. Super, super easy--and the payoff was gooood.  Add in some delicious wines, a few beers, and the embers of a lovely fire pit...the night was a raving success and had me driving home all a glow from the food.

This morning I'll switch back to yogurt and berries, and probably need a massive workout. But watching a very pregnant friend and her husband enjoy a vegetarian feast in their honor makes it all worth it, trust me.

Sauteed Radish Crostini
2 bunches radishes
1 TBSP olive oil, plus more for drizzling and brushing baguette
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP cracked black pepper
2 tsp crushed red pepper
zest of half a lemon
1/4 C parsley, chopped
whole wheat baguette, sliced
sea salt

Wash and drain radishes, removing tail and any bruised bits.
Slice lengthwise, first in half, and then in slices--about 4 or so per half.
Heat up a sautee pan large enough for all the radishes to lay in one layer (as best as possible) 
Season with crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Let cook on one side, without moving, for approximately three minutes.
Shake the pan around, allowing the radishes to continue cooking for another 3 minutes or so.

Remove radishes from skillet, add lemon zest and parsley, set aside.

Make crostini by placing baguette slices onto a sheet pan, drizzling with olive oil, and toasting in a 350 oven for about 5-7 minutes.
Remove from oven, and brush with a bit more olive oil to moisten.
Pile radish mixture onto crostini, and top with a sprinkling of fine flaked sea salt before serving.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Prepping for a Non-Baby Shower Baby Shower

Tonight we're celebrating the soon-to-be-born son of our really good friends with a non-traditional, non-baby shower baby shower. Meaning, no baby blue, no cupcakes. No games. No forcing the mother to be to open gifts. Not that there is anything wrong with ANY of that. Just that this party is for the parents and the parent's friends. Meaning good food, good wine and beer, and good times.

We're co-hosting this gig at R and N's house (because they rock and have the most gorgeous backyard.) I'm cooking, they're cooking, and then we're cooking together. I'll post as many pics of the food as I can remember to take but figured I'd give you some sneak peaks of what's coming from my kitchen. All the food is vegetarian, as the parents (and a good deal of the guests) are vegetarians. So for all my non-meat eating friends, get ready!

I'm making sauteed radishes on a baguette, adapted from a recipe in the NYT. Those are prepped now, awaiting a super hot saute pan before the party starts. I'm also making my Passover Brownies, because L, the mother, adores them. I suppose I should mention that this is the first time I've EVER made them outside of Passover. And when I tasted them to make sure they were good, I realized just how ridiculous that is.

I'm also making Blackened Asparagus, adapted from my recipe for New World's spicy string beans. And...I made a cheesecake. Assuming the cheesecake is as good as it looks, we have my mother-in-law to thank. She surprised me yesterday with a springform pan. Don't ask me how I didn't own one already. I just didn't. :)

My fridge looks like Day 1 of a Top Chef Elimination Challenge with all the tupperware of prepped and cooked items ready to go. My car has a case of (craft, of course) beer and some delicious wine.

I've been up and cooking since 7am, which for most people sounds like a heinous day. But for me? Just makes me zen and chill.

Though I suppose I should shower and change out of my sweats, first.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

You Start a Food Blog...

I've mentioned this before, but I wasn't always the culinary whiz kid that you read here every day or so. (Said with the appropriate dose of humility and humor.) Sure, I knew the difference between a Sancerre and a Sauvignon Blanc, and knew how to make my own salad dressing, but that was about it. Now look at me. Waxing poetic on tunafish, spewing about meatballs and sharing sauce recipes like my grandmother came over from the old country or something.

With this turn of events, people have started coming out of the woodwork asking for recipes and tips, and not just on the blog. When I posted recipes on facebook (lo those many months ago, before jumping head first into this blog thing) people would occasionally comment and ask a question or two if they were planning to prepare the recipe. But now? It's hilarious! Brother Eric (the man whose musical "Venice" just got called the Best Musical of the Year by Time Magazine!) calls for tips on how to thicken up his world-famous turkey chili. My mom calls for help on what to make for company. My old PR partner emailed this week to ask what she should do with a can of hominy. (Fry it, of course!) And even my fabulously delicious partner in food blogging crime, Apron Anxiety emails for an idea here and there.

This week, AA called for help with a cocktail recipe, something involving blueberry to pair with dessert. The recipe, pulled out of my brain whilst typing away on my couch, is below. I've never made it, but can picture it in my head well enough to know that people who like these sorts of cocktails will dig it. And living in MI (aka blueberry country come summer) I will absolutely be making and serving this at some summer soiree.

Honestly? It's awesome! I love the faith people are bestowing in me. So keep the questions coming peeps. You're doing nothing but challenging me, forcing me to look beyond the price of Cotes du Rhone and Alsatian Pinot Blanc to figure out the best way to spice up the fried hominy.

And of course, a cocktail/wine/beer recommendation always makes my day!

Apron Anxiety's Blueberry Cocktail
(For one drink)
3 TBSP blueberries (or a  few more, depending on their size), plus 2 for garnish
5 small mint leaves (or 3 large ones)
1 tsp agave or simple syrup
1 shot good quality citrus vodka 
club soda

In a large glass, muddle blueberries, mint, and agave/simple syrup.
Add ice.
Add vodka and club soda.
Garnish with two blueberries.
Serve, say cheers, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tunafish is Sacred

(Andy Warhol, Detail Magazine)

Am I wrong? Be it brand, preparation, mayo or mustard...people are adamant that their tuna is the best tuna. At least in the Rosen family. We were raised on one brand, and one brand only. Bumblebee Solid White in water. There is no other tuna that has ever been prepared by a member of our family (I'm fairly certain of this.) Prepared with light mayo (meaning a little bit, but preferably light in fat as well) and nothing else. If served on a toasted lender's bagel, with the option to put potato chips on the sandwich, one got major bonus points. We were the family that asked, at all restaurants/diners/etc, if the tuna salad had any celery in it. God help the people at the Athena or Barclay Heights Diner who answered yes.

As I got older, and began to understand that mayo was not one of my favorite things in the world (I've slightly warmed up to it, but only sometimes) I started using balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. I can remember standing in my parent's kitchen, making the tuna, talking like Julia Child. *Cue Voiceover: "First, you open the can, then you drain the water from the can. Make sure you..." you get the picture. But still, always Bumblebee Solid White in water.

Fast forward several years. J and I are in our home, and he drops a massive bomb on me. Actually, several. He doesn't really like Bumblebee. He actually prefers tuna in...oil? ICK! Not only that, but the way he prepared said oily non-bumblebee tuna was almost too much for me at the time. A "healthy" dose of mayo (which has become Olive Oil mayo, thank god!) old bay, salt, pepper, dried dill, celery seed and dill relish. This was long before my culinary revolution had really taken hold, and I was...basically grossed out. (You should have seen brother Eric's face the first time HE saw it. He's still upholding the Rosen purity of tuna.)

But then, over time, I started taking bigger and bigger bites of J's less than plain tuna. And honestly? It's good. I've already told you my man is the Sandwich King, so why should this surprise anyone. And if it weren't for the caloric worrying, I might actually use the tuna in oil--it's great to cook with!

While I don't tend to make my own tuna his way I have taken some serious cues from J. I stick with my vinegar and mustard, but add in a smidge of the mayo, some celery if time permits, maybe a shallot. I definitely season it, sometimes add garlic, often add the tiniest bit of Old Bay.

And trust me. The dill pickle relish? Works every freaking time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rocked My Palette

The other night we had a late dinner at home. Becoming more and more typical (and wreaking more and more havoc on my circadian rhythm.) We were busy putting some things together, working late, etc. Which meant a thrown together meal at the last minute. J had leftovers, and I had...wait for it...salad.

There wasn't much to go on in our fridge, and I had to experiment a little. But I threw together a combination of flavors that really wowed me. I know, or at least I think I know, that I've had this particular combination somewhere...maybe Italy? Regardless, it was good. The salad was basic, but I threw in some orange and finely sliced in some celery. That particular combination, with the shallot and the tons of black pepper, made for this beautiful, fresh, refreshing taste.

My next attempt at this particular combination of flavors (because you KNOW once wasn't enough for me) is to try something deliberate. A salad of JUST orange, shallot, and celery, somehow arranged and lovely and pretty to look at. Maybe with some belgian The wheels are spinning.

Playing on all of that, I made a dressing I hadn't made before--in this particular combination of flavors anyway. The principle behind this dressing is awesome. Take jam/jelly/preserves, mix with acid, season, stream in oil. Works every single time.

I've got chicken to cook for tonight (one hopes!) It may be on the plate. I'll post pictures for you tomorrow! But what I want to know is have you ever had that experience? You threw together something you basically hoped wouldn't offend together in a dish, only to find you happened upon a combination that rocked your palette?

Dressing for One
1 TBSP apricot preserves
remaining juice of orange (after segmented in salad)
1 TBSP champagne vinegar
salt and pepper
2 TBSP grapeseed oil, streamed in while whisking

(Does it really get any easier than that?)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Orleans Dreamin...

We started watching HBO's Treme before we left for New Orleans. And now we're addicted. Something about having been there, seeing places (mainly music clubs) we danced in til 4am...makes us both really miss our kick ass time in NOLA. Which I was thinking about while catching up on last week's episode last night. Which, in turn, reminded me I never shared the details of our awesome, first night dinner at Emeril's NOLA.

When we briefly met Emeril at Publican in March, we connected with his culinary assistant, Alain. Alain was incredibly helpful in giving us a list of places to try and hit while in New Orleans, as well as being amazing and getting us a reservation at NOLA for our first night (and only night alone) in the Crescent City. Located in the French Quarter, NOLA is completely inconspicuous from the outside. You'd never know you were about to walk into a large, two-story, industrially constructed restaurant. The decor is a lot of steel, with tasteful touches of bright, New Orleans, flavor thrown in. It's very, very large...but the way the staff took care of us, from check-in through exiting, makes you feel like you're dining in a 4-top tiny restaurant.

Drinks? J went with Abita Turbodog (remember, this was the beginning of the trip, when Turbodog was still exciting) and I had two glasses of a delicious Albariño that I can't remember the name of. We ordered the lobster cake with tropical salsa and plantain chip (incredible) and the bbq shrimp (unreal) for appetizers. Both were prepared with an elegance of fine dining, while maintaining the down home GREATNESS of New Orleans' food.

Entrees were the shrimp and grits (which everyone and their mother, including Alain told us we HAD to order) and the prosciutto wrapped grouper, topped with fried basil. Again, everything was beautifully presented, but at the bottom of that bowl of grits, there was nothing but good, southern love. It was delicious.

Dessert rounded out the meal with the banana pudding cake, which honestly, rocked my world six ways from Sunday. Our servers were incredibly instrumental in helping us decide between the insanity of the dessert menu, and we eventually went with the banana cake because of the awesome description of one of them. (Plus, it had banana in it. Which is healthy.) :)

We left NOLA feeling full, happy, slightly spoiled, and blissed out. Though we had to make a stop at the room so I could change into slightly less constricting jeans before venturing out to happen upon a fantastic home-grown second line jamming in the quarter, that meal was such a highlight of our trip to NOLA. It was our first night, my first night in New Orleans, and absolutely a meal I would recommend to anyone venturing into the quarter for a night of debauchery.

After all, you will want to be well fed before you pound those Hurricanes, right?

*No, we did NOT ever have a Hurricane!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"If You Come Back to the Barre..."

"If you come back to the barre, you'll always be home." Or something like that. It's from a really, really bad ballet movie, "Center Stage," one of Zoe Saldana's first roles. (Yep, before that other really, really bad movie with Britney Spears.) It's the story of the American Ballet Theater School in NYC, and the struggles and triumphs of the first year of students. Blah blah blah...the acting is awful, the writing horrendous, but the dancing is enough to make you watch every single time it's on WE. And one of the lines, when Zoe's character is struggling to "get good enough," her teacher takes her aside and tells her that as long as she remembers to always come back to the barre, to class, yada yada, she will always feel like she's home. (Cheesy, yes, I know.)

That's how I just felt, moments ago. I hadn't planned on writing this today, though I've been incredibly spotty about posting this week. I was going to post something I wrote something over the weekend about the joys of tuna fish (which I'll share some other day.) But I just had a "come back to the barre" moment, in my kitchen, wooden spoon in hand, standing over my large All-Clad sauce pot. 

I've had a really long, really exhausting week, both physically and mentally. No need to share the details, just a lot of work and a little play.  My back is wrecked, my head is pounding, and I'm quite certain I no longer fit into my jeans.  My house is a total mess, and I literally have not cooked for my husband in days. And it's not just me. J has had a very similarly trying week. And so I (probably stupidly) promised to cook him his favorite meal tonight, while he continues working..."Nanny's meatballs and sauce." 

It's not the recipe I'm sharing, mainly because I can't. It's someone else's secret family recipe that was shared with me in the throws of some serious pinky swearing. But this has nothing to do with the actual recipe. It has to do with me, dragging my ass downstairs after trying hard to unpack (and failing miserably by passing out into a quick nap) and starting to cook. I emptied the dish drain, made sure the ingredients were out, and started chopping. I heated the olive oil, chopped the onions and garlic, ripped off some get the picture. And all of a sudden, the stress and exhaustion and all other not so fun emotions starting seeming kind of far away and less important. I literally started stirring it away, so to speak. Or at least stirring it into somewhere far enough away to allow me to get through it enough to continue on with the day.

I found my "barre" at the bottom of a pot of Nanny's sauce. What's your "ballet barre" place? The place where all of a sudden, when you least expect it, has you calm, serene, and feeling like a (slightly messy, no-makeup, maybe better off in sweatpants) new person.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Israeli Salad Farmer's Market Garden Deliciousness

When this "recipe" first came into my life, it was 1,000 years ago, at a Passover seder at my parent's house. And it was called Israeli salad. Which, in our house, is how it will always be referred to. But for some reason, it wasn't until I hosted Passover this year that I realized I should be making this salad all the time. (And kind of do, in one form or another.)

Basically, it's just a bevy of chopped raw vegetables and herbs, dressed lightly with salt, black pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. I add a splash of champagne vinegar here and then, but it just depends on the time of year, and the season you're pushing. The "official recipe" is below, and trust me when I say it's exactly that easy and that delicious!

But for real, if most of you aren't already making something that looks and tastes like this, you don't need to follow this recipe to have an amazing farm fresh dish. Go to the garden/farmer's market/store and get whatever looks great! Cucumber, tomato, peppers...if you like it spicy, throw in a seeded serrano. Add in some scallions...I've done this with raw onion, and it can be a bit pungent, but shallot would be great.

Don't like cilantro? Use basil and parsley, or dill and mint. You're not limited by anything here--there are no rules. Chop the veggies as small or big as you like. This salad is rustic and gorgeous. Bright, colorful, refreshing and full of flavor.

Which is all we really want most of the time, right? Something easy, that makes us look like rockstars? Just go for it!

Israeli Salad

8 med tomatoes cut into small dice (you can also use roma tomatoes but when able, use anything you want. I loved heirloom tomatoes in this.)
1 seedless cucumber, diced
2-3 peppers red, green, yellow, orange (whatever you like)
1 C Chopped flat parsley
1/2 C Chopped cilantro
3-4 scallions chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2-3 T olive oil
Salt and pepper

Mix everything together and put in fridge.  Serve at cool room temp.

Makes 8 servings

**If salad produces too much liquid in fridge, just scoop out of mixing bowl with slotted spoon when serving.**

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Post-Birthday Cinco de Mayo Bite

Apparently, I can plan a good surprise. Incredibly difficult in our household. The only surprise I've ever seen done was his proposal, which somehow he arranged, plotted, and managed to achieve without a single ounce of knowledge from me. While his birthday surprise was not as high profile, it was well-received.

Our destination? Holland, MI, about 1 hour north of us. We have both been here before. But we've never come up to just hang, and it's a very cute little beach town, as far as our Western Michigan cute beach towns go. There is also this amazingly cool, LEED Certified hotel here, that is the first of its kind in the midwest, and I've really wanted to check it out since it opened 2 years ago. CityFlats, and one of the most well-known (and great) MI breweries, New Holland. A massage (for J), a beer (for me) and a bit of walking around, and then we went to dinner at this charming, old school, super cute Italian restaurant. The wine was perfect, the food comforting and delicious. It was a great, chill, easy birthday, "the best yet," or so he told me over a cannoli.

Anyway, on our way back to reality today, it was apparent that we were going to need some Cinco de Mayo activity before my husband went POOF and turned into a rockstar for his gig tonight.  We stopped at this newish, seemingly authentic Mexican joint that opened close to home. It was pretty least, authentic enough to make decent Al Pastor, and the bite of salsa and guac made it seem like some kind of celebration. I am now back in sweats, totally stuffed, and crazy nauseated. Seems like Cinco de Mayo to me!

I am not partaking in any other festivities today, which is the first time in almost five years that has happened. But I'm loving hearing about everyone else's! I can tell you, if you have the chance, try a Cucapa (Mexican craft beer) tonight with your shot of tequila and burrito grande.

What about you, do you go tequila or beer for this particular festiveness?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Birthday Surprise

Today is J's birthday. As I think I've told you, his birthday is making me insane. See, every year since we've been together, I've thrown J a pretty rocking party at our house. Cinco de Mayo is his FAVORITE holiday, and luckily he shares his birthday so closely with this day. So we've always done a big, Mexican-themed bash for his birthday, and played off his "I hate parties that are all about me"angst with a taco bar and tequila shots.

This year, because of our trip to Jazz Fest and more, we (meaning he) decided he really didn't want a party. You can imagine this threw me for a major loop--not to mention some friends who were actually disappointed in our lack of a Mexican-themed fete this year. I promised him a low-key birthday, and have spent the last 10 days trying to figure out how to get over my undying issues about not doing anything for this monumental occasion.

I decided to throw in the spatula and do something. Against my knowledge that a home-cooked dinner of Chicken Cordon Bleu and chocolate cake would be just fine with J, I've planned a romantic, low-key, surprise day/evening away. He gets home-cooked meals all the time. Mostly delicious, and almost always in front of the tv. Knowing us, we'd fall into that habit post-dining room table meal, and I don't feel like sharing J with Simon, Kara, Ellen and Randy on this particular birhday!

I promise to give you all the details when we return, but I can tell you the following (since I know he reads this.) It involves old-school cooking, eco-friendly beauty, and me turning off my iPhone at 4pm.

Let the guessing begin!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring Dreaming...

Apparently, while J and I were in NOLA, spring literally sprung here. Meaning our lawn is now as high as my knee, and my garden is nowhere NEAR being ready. The sounds of birds humming outside my sliding glass door are rivaled with the hum of the neighbors weed wacking.

It also means allergies and spring colds, apparently.
(My iPhone camera just isn't cutting it today...time to get an actual camera!)

J came home from his gig Saturday night with a "bug." Which has turned into something more than a bug. Given that his big birthday is tomorrow, I am doing everything I can to whip that boy back into shape before tomorrow. Translation: his favorite cure. Matzoh ball soup.

Yes, I know you've already heard me wax poetic about my rocking matzoh ball soup. So I won't bore you. But I will tell you that just because someone has a warm-weather cold doesn't mean you have to stay true to what you'd do in the winter. Visit the farm stand/farmers market and stock up on everything gorgeous that's in season right now. Or, hopefully, you're better than me and have actually planted your garden by now and can pull herbs and greens from your ground! Me, my herbs came from a potted plant outside, which counts in this house. That's garden-light for me.

Tonight's soup of choice has more than just onion, carrot and celery in it. We've got zucchini, squash, asparagus, three different peppers, and tons of herbs. There's a vat of garlic and a sprinkle of turmeric, to make J feel better STAT. And since it's apparently National Herb Week, I threw in the usual suspects (sage, thyme and rosemary) and spiced up the balls themselves with some finely chopped dill. The smells in my house are phenomenal right now, I tell you.

And if anyone wants to swing by and get my garden poppin' for me, I'll save you a bowl.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cures and Remedies...Everyone Has Them

Friday I regaled you with stories of just how much I LOVE dry rosé. And I kept that love going through a post-work drink and dinner with friends who believe that your wine glass should never be empty--I love them for this, I swear. Without sharing the hazy details of my evening, let's just say that I woke up Saturday morning with a nauseated belly, pounding head, and spinning eyes. It was a rough one.

Given that I had a huge day at the shop yesterday, with an art opening, chocolate tasting and more, I kept desperately trying to find a way to play through. I ate bread for breakfast, drank a huge bottle of Pellegrino and then ginger ale. Went through several other ritualistic cures in my kitchen, and nothing was really working. I was at the shop, lightheaded, and beat down. Yes, finally I got through it, with the help of finally opening a beer around 2pm. Not too much, just enough to mellow out the shaking.

The older I get, the worse the hangover seems. Mostly because it a) lasts for MUCH longer than it did when I was 22 and didn't care and b) because apparently, turning 30 and then 31 meant a hangover was inevitable from 2 glasses of wine, not 2 bottles!

I don't always get hungover. Most often I remember to drink lots of water and eat lots of food and be aware that a glass of wine actually does have a bottom. But sometimes, like Friday night, it just creeps up on you, like a bad case of seasonal allergies!

It got me thinking about cures and remedies, hoping to learn something from the dehydration. I turned to facebook and twitter to find out other people's tried and true cures. The answers ranged from "pooping" to a fascinating cocktail concoction with Campbell's tomato soup and malt liquor. (No thank you!) One of my favorites was from a friend who is barely old enough to be able to experience hangovers, let alone the ones that sneak up on you in your 30s. She reminded me that I taught her about a nice, cold glass of chocolate milk--almost always a sure fire cure. There's Menudo (the soup, not the band that launched Ricky Martin.) People swear by the old gatorade and advil cure, or a great greasy breakfast. Don't even get me started on the old "Prairie Oyster."

So, fantastically fabulous readers and friends, what do YOU do on days when staying in bed isn't an option, the hair of the dog isn't on your morning agenda and you're feeling less than your "post-evening out" best.