Monthly Archives: September 2009

Project Grow Potluck Plus Michigan Hen of the Woods/Maitake Mushrooms

Ann Arbor Food Here is the meal from my Project Grow Potluck. It was at the Leslie Science Center, and held once a month. The meal is always good because we are all gardeners and that means that we use fresh veggies from our garden.

Long time gardeners usually figure out something good to do with their veggies out of necessity. I had a ton-o-yellow summer squash and use this opportunity to unload it on others.

I made a simple squash curry, which worked well with the mushroom rice someone brought.

There is a wild mushroom class in town that I wanted to take, but I forgot about it and missed out. It is only offered once a year, but someone at the potluck, scored a freezer full of The Hen of the Woods – Grifola frondosa – Maitake. He gave me a huge mushroom. I have pictures below, but Please Note: Never eat mushrooms in the wild unless you are a 100% sure what they are. Kind of, or mostly sure does not cut it in the world of wild mushroom eating.

 

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Brian’s “Unload your extra summer squash on your friends at a potluck” recipe:

Ingredients

All of the zucchini and yellow squash in your house/garden (or 5-15 medium size squash or more)

1 onion, medium dice

1 red pepper, medium dice

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 Tbsp of olive or veggie oil

1 pint of heavy cream or a can of coconut milk

Juice of 2 limes

1 Tbsp curry powder (or more to taste)

1 tsp of smoked paprika (optional)

Fresh Basil, cilantro, or parsley to garnish

salt and pepper to taste.

Half and seed the summer squash. If using huge zucchini, use only about a half inch from the skin, leaving the seeds for the compost. Cut the squash into half inch cubes, or about. You should have a big bowl of squash. In a saute pan, heat the oil. Add the onion and cooks for a few minutes. Add the pepper and cook for a few minutes more. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Depending if your pan is big enough to fit the squash, add the squash and the rest of the ingredients, cover and saute till the squash is tender, but not soggy.

If you have too much squash, transfer the onion, peppers, and garlic in a large baking pan. Add the squash, the cream or coconut milk, the curry powder,paprika and lime juice. Put foil over the pan and roast on high, 350-400, till the squash is tender.

Add salt and pepper and garnish with fresh chopped basil.


Bona Sera Secret Supper Club: Night of a 1000 Drag Queens

Ann Arbor Food For those not in the know, secret supper clubs are underground restaurant/catered events that operate in secret. The reason for the secrecy is because they usually are run out of a home kitchen that is not certified. This makes it technically illegal to charge for the meal. The way around this is to have a charity sponsor the meal and ask for a “donation.”

This makes it a fund raising event/meeting, which at least in the state of Michigan, makes it possible to serve a home cooked meal/bake goods for a donation. I am not completely sure how this all works, so to be safe and to make sure these dinners are not shut down, they are held in secret.

With this said, since Bona Sera is a secret supper club, and the people involved are sworn to keep their secret, I can not confirm or deny any of the people present, the location, or anything else about the latest Bona Sera Dinner event.

The Secret Menu?

Assorted Apps:
Herb Tomato Focaccia

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Mushroom Focaccia

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Corn “Ho” cakes with goat cheese and zebra tomato

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Grilled plantain with chevre and chive

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Assorted Sushi

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Grilled cooked clams with lime brown butter

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First Course

Popsicle Melone con Frutta Fresca (Melon Popsicle with Fresh Fruit)

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Second Course

Anima Sacra Ravioli with Lobster Prosecco Beurre Blanc

(Sacred Heart Ravioli with Lobster Prosecco Butter Sauce)

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Third Course

Molte Pieghe Naked Fichi con Formaggio di Capra

(Naked Figs with Goat Cheese)

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Fourth Course

Rapporti di Maiale con Melone Gazpacho

(Intercourse of Pork with Melon Gazpacho)

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Main Course

Your Choice of:

1. Parmigiano Cotta della Melanzana

(Grilled Eggplant Parmesan)

2. Roquefort del Manzo con le Noci

(Beef Roquefort with Walnuts)

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3.  Pesci Bianchi l’avocado ed il Gambero l’avocado ed il Gambero

(White Fish with Cream, Avocado and Shrimp)

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Dessert

Chocolate Orgasm Torte with a Zabaglione Stonefruit

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Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger

Ann Arbor Food It seems like a right of passage for any Ann Arbor, Michigan food writer to weigh in on Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger. The Road Food folks wrote a review and  Guy Fieri of the food network film part of his show there. In fact there is a big poster signed by Guy near the grill. It was only a matter of time until I ventured in.

The first thing you notice is the overgrown vegetation blocking out the sign. I had to move some plants out of the way to get this picture. Basically, if you can’t read the sign, and do not already know where the place is, Krazy Jim does not seem to be worried.

The place is pretty small, with seating for about 20-25 people and some outdoor seating. Ordering is from the grill counter where you tell the cook what you want. The first question is if you want anything from the frier. I passed this time, but like Kosmo’s Deli in Kerrytown, Krazy Jim’s is a fried food lovers paradise. Krazy offers a range of fried veggies from onion rings, zucchini, broccoli to potato fries. I saw some of the the onion rings orders and they were impressive.

The big appeal of the place is the range of toppings for your burger. Ann Arbor Food The blimpy burger web site claims 2,147,483,648 possible burger combination. The first thing you need to do is tell the cook the number of burgers. I ordered two, double burgers. The patties are not huge, and two patties make less then a 1/4 pound of meat. The cook throws four meat ball looking burgers on the grill, and ask what type of bread. They have several bun varieties to choose. There is plain, onion, kaiser and more that I forget. Then there are toppings from the grill, like grilled onions, mushrooms, bacon, and even hard salami. I choose the hard the salami to be different. Like the picture says, cheese comes later.

You wait on line pushing your tray forward and watch your burger being cooked. It has a gritty, kind of Top Chef aspect with watching your burger being cooked. The cook eventually, smashes the meat ball into a flat paddy. The burgers are all freshly ground on premisses, which makes all of the difference.

Eventually, you move up to your place in line and the cook ask for your cheese preference. I order swiss for my burger with salami and cheddar for my second for a traditional, but they also offer blue cheese, feta, american, and provolone. I am a plan burger guy, so a lot of the toppings are lost on me.

Ann Arbor Food I get my burgers with mustard and pickles to finish and some onions for the salami burger. They have hot sauce, steak sauce, and malt vinegar on the tables. I grab for the vinegar for my salami burger to create a sort of Italian sub sandwich burger theme. The burgers are great. In fact they are some of the best burgers I ever had. The fresh grinding gives them a crumply texture which is juicy and flavorful. If you are a burger fan, and coming to Ann Arbor, make sure you get to Krazy Jim’s.

551 S. Division St.
Ann ArborMI 48104
(734) 663-4590

www.blimpyburger.com

Pizza Class: 50 Lbs of Flour

Ann Arbor Food Here is a quick shout out to Dawn Foods who hooked me up with a 50Lb bag of King Arthur Flour, Sir Lancelot Brand high gluten (high protein) flour for my upcoming pizza class at Hollander’s on Sept 30.

It is really, really hard to get high gluten flour for home bakers. I usually have to order it directly from King Arthur, and it can be pricy when shipping is factored in. The closest thing that is available in grocery stores is bread flour, which is good but the pizza may be lacking the quality of your favorite pizza shop.

To be honest, I have no idea what I am going to do with 50 Lbs of flour. It is great for pizza and bagels, but is not a multi purpose flour.

Even so, 50 Lbs was the small amount I could buy. I figure that I can make 80 portions of pizza dough with this one bag. That enough for Pizza Night at my house for 40 weeks in a row.

I was thinking that I could start a pizza dough company.

Related Post:

Pizza Making at Home

Tomato Blight Hits the Midwest

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picture from my garden

From Sept 21 2009:

Even during this recession, companies that sell seeds for home gardens are thriving with record sales. The surge of new home gardeners have been spurred on by the recession and people growing their own food to counter rising food prices. Michelle Obama’s high profile new vegetable garden at the White House may have also peaked interest. Whatever the reason, I was happy that more people were gardening this year.

Gardening is a great way to get outside and exercise, to learn about plants and to get some fresh, local, lower carbon footprint eats. This new surge in garden activity unfortunate created a perfect storm that lead to the Northeast Tomato Blight, which I am afraid has also made it to Ann Arbor Michigan.

Tomatoes are the single most popular garden plant for home gardeners. They are easy to grow in part because they are planted from plant starts, and not from seed. Besides for having to provide some structural support like a tomato cage, they are a set them and forget them plant.

Almost every gardener grows them. Gardeners at my community garden plot set out their extra tomato plants, which can be hard to pass up.  It is not just community gardeners that offer free tomatoes. I have seen various groups from churches, to my local food co-op, and even auto parts store give away free tomato plants as a kind gesture to growers. Tomato starts come in various size packs from a single plant to six packs. It is common for a gardener to find it hard to throw out a plant, so when they buy a six pack they plant them all.

It is because tomatoes are so popular, and that they are openly exchanged with fellow gardeners that this blight was able to spread. According to Dan Barber, the chef and co-owner of Blue Hill in an op-ed piece for the NY Times:

According to plant pathologists, this killer round of blight began with a widespread infiltration of the disease in tomato starter plants. Large retailers like Home Depot, Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart bought starter plants from industrial breeding operations in the South and distributed them throughout the Northeast. (Fungal spores, which can travel up to 40 miles, may also have been dispersed in transit.) Once those infected starter plants arrived at the stores, they were purchased and planted, transferring their pathogens like tiny Trojan horses into backyard and community gardens. Perhaps this is why the Northeast was hit so viciously: instead of being spread through large farms, the blight sneaked through lots of little gardens, enabling it to escape the attention of the people who track plant diseases.

The blight was discover in late June and the plants were recalled by the company that supplied them, but many plants were sold with signs of blight through garden centers, some of which are not trained to spot plant disease. The result was a wide and fast spread blight. The cool, and rainy weather of early summer did not help. The picture shown on this post are from plants that were grown from seed from my community garden and not from the plants suspected of starting the blight outbreak. Unfortunately they still got the blight.

What do we do if we had blighted tomatoes plants? Bag them in plastic and throw them out. Do notAnn Arbor Food compost them. I plan to throw out all of my tomato plants this year regardless of signs of blight. The blight can also spread to potatoes, so if you grew potatoes this year, it is recommended that you do not reuse this years potatoes for next years seed potatoes. The good news is that climates with a hard frost like Michigan can help to prevent a blight next year. Hopefully action will be taken to prevent the spread of blighted plant for the 2010 growing season.

It is unfortunate that a wide spread tomato blight happened this year when so many people were taking up gardening for the first time. Don’t be discourage. As a seasoned gardener, I know these things happen. I hope this does not turn people off from the joys of gardening. I see this as an opportunity to branch out and grow different vegetables. Growing a variety of different plants will insure we get something.

Charity Dinners at Home: The rising star in the Local Food Movement

Charity Dinners at Home: The rising star in the Local Food Movement

A couple in my town of Ann Arbor, Michigan started offering breakfast to the public for donations to help recuperate their costs(See Selma Post). The breakfasts were only offered one day a week on friday mornings in their home. Their goal was to promote local food producers and farmers and to create community. Local chefs joined in to cook on given Friday’s and volunteers chipped in to help serve and clean up. The food was sourced locally from nearby farms as much as possible and the meals were great. Suddenly there was a place to go in town to get a fresh local tasty meal.

I was inspired by this do-it-yourself idea. I figured if we waited for the food industry to offer fresh, seasonal, locally sourced food, we’d be waiting a long time. Most food service establishments are too big, too standardize with their menu, their customers are not flexible enough, and/or the industry is not interested enough to change from their big suppliers to a network of local growers. Offering local, seasonal meals with an ever changing menu based on seasonal availably is not something a big, low end eatery like fast food or chain restaurants are set up for.

That is why I feel that there is a huge opportunity for small start ups. The local heroes in this story are an example of people doing it from their home kitchen, and with low start up cost. I had high hopes that this idea would grow into a network of local food movement inspired independent micro eateries. Anyone could transform their kitchen into say a single table local food restaurant. At least that is the idea.

Shortly after they started, however, they ran into legal trouble concerning running a “restaurant” in their home. So much for a good thing I thought, but then they got some legal help. It ends up that a person can legally serve a meal in their house in Michigan.

According to the law:

The relevant exemption is this, excerpted from the Michigan Food Law of 2000, Section 289.1107:

(j) “Food establishment” means an operation where food is processed, packed, canned, preserved, frozen, fabricated, stored, prepared, served, sold, or offered for sale. Food establishment includes a food processing plant, a food service establishment, and a retail grocery. Food establishment does not include any of the following:

(i) A charitable, religious, fraternal, or other nonprofit organization operating a home-prepared baked goods sale or serving only home-prepared food in connection with its meetings or as part of a fund-raising event.

In other words, if this couple hosted a meeting or fund raising event for a charitable, religious, fraternal or non-profit organization they could serve food cooked in their home and receive money in the form of a donation. So they needed to fit into one of those four categories.

What this couple did was aline themselves with Slow Food of Huron Valley, a non-profit organization. This relationship basically made their friday morning breakfasts into a non-profit fund raising event/meeting.

The charity dinner angle was a way for local food minded cooks (or any foodie for that matter) to host meals in their home and to get reimbursed. I have attended a few private dinners in peoples homes for charity. This included “secret super clubs” or “underground restaurants” as they are called. Most people who run secret supper clubs will tell you that they do not make much money doing it. They do it to express their inner cook and foodie.

How these people work with in the law in Michigan to allow them to cook a meal in their home and receive payment is by contacting a local charity or non-profit group who then sponsors the meal. Some or all of the proceeds after food cost goes to the charity. The charity gets a little money and buzz. The home cook gets their chef on, and does not go broke. And the guests get a great meal that is usually on par in cost and quality with a great restaurant. Everyone wins. These meals can be a one time fundraising event or an ongoing supper club in the case of the couple with the friday morning meals.

This may only be the case in Michigan, but there may be other states that allow the charity meals exception. I am excited about how charity or non-profit sponsored meals can create of a network of local food eateries. The possibilities are endless from a one day a week breakfast joint to a Tuesday night chicken dinner to any number of ethnic inspired theme meals. These grassroots local inspired meals can gain momentum and a following which can lead to official restaurant start ups. Which can mean that we will have a choice other than fast food and commercial food industry sourced eateries.

I do suggest that anyone interested in doing this would benefit from taking a class on food safety, and/or reviewing the booklet and taking the test to receive a food handler’s card.

So if you have an urge to express your inner chef, but don’t have your own restaurant,

I say start one in your home as a charity fundraiser meal. Shop at the farmer’s market for some fresh local produces, meats, cheeses, grains and baked good and cook up a meal. Invite your friend and get the word out, and see where it goes from there. Before we know it, we can have a network of local food eateries/meal events that provide creative, regional specialties using seasonal ingredients. It starts one table at a time.

CB


Breakfast at Selma: Good Eats and Nice Company

Ann Arbor Food I had been meaning to get to a breakfast at Selma for a few week, but I always get up late. Breakfast at Selma are from 6:30-10:00am, and  located at 722 Soule Blvd in the home of Jeff McCage and Lisa Gottlieb. The meals are sponsored through an association with the non-profit organization, Slow Food  Huron Valley, which make it possible to offer home cooked food in their home for a donation.

According to their website:

SELMA is the Soule-Eberwhite-Liberty-Madison-Affiliation. Friday Mornings @ SELMA is a local-foods breakfast salon, offering a gathering place of friends and community that imagine a new, growing, vital, regional food economy – every Friday morning on the Westside of Ann Arbor.

When you get there, you will see an abundant garden in the front yard with gnomes,flowers, herbs, tomatoes and a worm compost bin. When you get in the door you are welcomed and ask to sign in and grab a name tag from the ones hanging on the board. There was not one for Brian, so I made a new one.

There are a few rooms to sit. There is a large island in the kitchen like a dine counter, a dinning room with a long table and a few rooms and corners of the house with assorted lounge chairs and couches. The place was full when I arrive at 9:30am with 30-40 people.

Seating was limited and communal. You can expect to sit with other people, no table by yourself stuff. I was seated at a table with two nice students from U of M. They were fun and I enjoy our conversation. I really enjoyed the community aspect of Selma. It sure beat going to a diner alone and staring into my coffee cup all meal.

On the menu was an eggs benedict, eggs with tomato with a salmon hollandaise sauce, pancakes with a fresh peach sauce, and a french toast with homemade sausage, and a yogurt parfait. I had the eggs which was a tough choice because they all looked great. Next time, I will have to come with a few people so we can all share. The sauce for the eggs was rich, tangy with a great balance of smoke salmon flavor. There was a coffee and tea self serve table, which I assume was part of the meal, but I did not have any. The cost was a suggested donation of $10-15. There were cups on the table to put your money.

It felt more like a breakfast party more than a diner, which was nice. I walk around the backyard a little to visit the chickens. In the front yard, I noticed some beefsteak leaves also known as shiso in japanese cooking. The plant hand gone to seed and I was excited to ask Jeff if I could have some to use for a batch of fragrant sauerkraut. He said sure, take as much as you want.

Beef Steak (Shiso) Plant

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Pancakes with peach sauce and home made sausage

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The Selma Chickens

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Stocking up on Chili Sauce

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The Counter

 

Front yard tool shed

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