Monthly Archives: December 2010

Have Foodies Gone too Far?

A recent article in the NYT, Grass-Fed-up, takes a snarky jab at how some foodies have taken cooking to a game of oneupmanship.

The article starts with a tongue and cheek lament about how farmers markets used to be the domain of mostly chefs and a handful of others, but now are overcrowded with foodies who are selective and educated about food.

It goes on to talk about how a few mere civilians are starting to talk a foodie game and cook for themselves. The thrust of the piece is a under current of foodie oneupmanship, which makes some party goers uncomfortable.

The article talked about people bringing homemade ice cream to a party, elaborate 20 course meals to impress a date and an undercooked pork roast, which made guest sick.

The gist is that some party guests felt uncomfortable going to parties because of the fear of criticism they might receive from evil foodies about the dish they brought.

Well, all of this is really nothing new. People have brought expansive wine to parties to impress and those who could cook, cooked to fed their egos and receive praise.

So is the problem that there are too many food snobs out there?

I would say no.

Bring on the snobs I say!!!!

Most of the food in America is fast food and process food tasteless crap.

Maybe by insisting on high standards and striving to create good food, even if their is a oneupmanship aspect to it, the Foodies can make things better for the rest.

So maybe a few Foodies buy a Thomas Keller cookbook and actually cook from it. I say bring it on. I would love to taste it.

And as far as farmers markets being too crowded, as a farmer who sells at a market, all I can say is I wish.

I wish the farmers markets are as crowded as the author jokes about.

I am waiting for the day when every table at the farmers market is sold out by closing time.

Then we will know that the foodies have truly taken over.

Foodies Unite. The Revolution will be Tasty.

CB

Smoked Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

OK. I have been playing around with a smoked salted chocolate chip ever since I made these cookies from David Lebovitz web site. The idea is to sub out a little of the salt in this recipe with just enough smoked salt.

I use smoked salt that I get at Spice Merchant in the Kerry Town shops in Ann Arbor. It is great to use in vegetarian items to give it a smoky, BBQ meaty flavor.

Here is the recipes. Check out http://www.davidlebovitz.com/ for other recipes.

Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes two dozen cookies

For those of you who wish to use unsalted butter, 4 ounces (8 tablespoons, or 115g) of butter has about 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt in it.

For the rest of us, you could simply swap out unsalted butter and add another 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Note: sub out a 1/4 of smoked salt for smoked chocolate chip cookies.

4 ounces (115g) salted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed (110g) dark or light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup (180g) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/3 cups (200g) coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar just until smooth and creamy.

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Stir the flour mixture into the beaten butter until combined, then mix in the chopped chocolate (including any chocolate dust) and the chopped nuts.

5. Cover and chill the batter until firm. (It’s preferable to let it rest overnight.)

6. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

7. Form the cookie dough into rounds about the size of a large unshelled walnut. Place the mounds evenly spaced apart on the baking sheets, and press down the tops to flatten them so they are no longer domed and the dough is even.

8. Bake the cookies for ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies look about set, but are not browned.

9. Remove from the oven and quickly tap the top of each with a spatula, then return to the oven for two to five more minutes, until the tops of the cookies are light golden brown.

Remove from oven and let cookies cool.

Storage: The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to five days in an airtight container. The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for one or two months.

 

French farmer jailed in shooting over truffles

Here is a link to a story I read today.

Truffles AP

I am not sure I mentioned it before, but I have been obsessed with the idea of starting a truffle farm in the US. One of the set backs besides not having a farm, or the money or the experience, is that I live in Michigan, which is zoned too cold to grow them.

Most think that truffles are a luck of the draw crop. Growers have to hunt for the semi precious food and they consider themselves fortunate if they have this king of mushrooms growing on their farm. Truffles can run $500-1000 a pound.

So, when I received my territorial seed catalog and saw that they were offering hazelnut tree that were inoculated with a french truffle, I saw my truffle farm in the US as a distinct possibility.

Oh, sure it will take 3-7 years before I get a single mushroom, and the investment would be huge, but I would be growing truffles.

I can see it now, Me and Emily on our mostly hobby farm with a few animals for show, a great veggie garden, and few yurts out back for a farmy tourism B and B, or rather Yurt and B. We would also feature a farmy gift shop. But the real business would be the truffles. I would invite great chefs from across the country for harvest season to come to the farm and cook meals for me and my friends in exchange for a basket of fresh picked truffles.

Then of course a wake up from  my dream.

But this article, which talks about a french truffle farmer shooting and killing a would be truffle thief puts a damper on my plan (more like a fancy for now).

My pristine valley of dwarf hazelnut trees with truffles would require penitentiary style fencing and security if I were to not suffer a run on my truffles from would be thieves.

Of course none of this has happened and I am still in the fancy stage, but this story of a French truffle farmer needed to defend his farm to tragic results puts a little damper on the plan.

Michigan Lady Food Bloggers

Patti Smith, of Ann Arbor writes a beer and food blog. Sarah Smalheer of Chelsea, provides recipes like limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, on her blog. Diana Dyer, a nutritionist, cancer survivor and garlic farmer, created a website dedicated to healthy recipes. And Kate Remen-Wait’s blog posted 135 recipes, including restaurant reviews and reports on her weekly farm shares from Tantré Farm.

They are all a part of an online group called the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers. The group boasts 106 members, with representation from every county in Michigan.

No two blogs are the same, but what these bloggers all have in common is a love and passion for food. Some write about cooking for young children. Others have a local foods focus, while others share travel logs about eating on the road.

“What is cool is the diversity,” said Smith. “There is a blogger with a North African focus.”

There is also a competitive and food-challenge element to some of the blogs. Others enter national recipe contests, while some take on local food challenges. Some even dare to tackle difficult recipes from famous cookbook authors like Julia Childs and Thomas Keller.

Most communicate through each others’ blogs or via e-mail, but some get together for in-person events. The most popular event is their annual Christmas Cookie Swap.

“It’s like a nuclear bomb with crumbs everywhere,” said Smalheer, describing their annual cookie exchanges. “We crammed 18 women in my small living room one year.”

These cookie swaps work by having people bring a certain number of homemade cookies for trade.

“Husbands (and boyfriends) are pleased with all of the great food we bring home from our events, like the huge trays of Christmas cookies,” Smalheer said.

The group is also a great source for hard-to-find resources.

“I found the caterer for my son’s wedding reception,” said Dyer. “The chef was enthusiastic to do vegan items.”

Some bloggers are more active than others and post weekly, while others fall off the radar.

“No one has been kicked out for low activity,” said Remen-Wait.

The club — as its name suggests — is only for ladies. But how would they know if a guy tried to join the club using a woman’s name?

“We don’t know if someone is female,” admitted Remen-Wait, speaking about the identity of some Michigan Lady Food Bloggers. “We are trusting. If someone wanted to post under a false identity, we would not know.”

Guys need not feel left out, however. All of these blogs are posted publicly, which means everyone has access to all the content, and anyone can send a comment about the posts.

To learn more:

MichLadyFoodBloggers

Patti Smiths Blog:
palateofpatti.wordpress.com

Sarah Smalheer’s blog:
unabuonaforchetta.blogspot.com

Kate Remen-Wait’s blog:
4obsessions.blogspot.com

Diana Dyer’s website:
365daysofkale.com

Snicker Doodle
By Patti Smith

1 cup shortening
1.5 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 ¾ cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Mix shortening, eggs and sugar. Then mix the dry ingredients except the two tablespoons of sugar and two teaspoons of cinnamon; combine. My batter tends to be a little dry, so I often put in a dash of Half & Half to moisten it up. Roll into balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and put on a cookie sheet that has been greased or, in my case, has parchment paper on it. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Don’t panic when you see them puff up and then flatten out; it’s all part of the charm.


Apricot Ginger-Almond Sandwich Cookies
By Brian Steinberg

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups slivered almonds
1 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup apricot jam
¼ inch piece peeled fresh ginger, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor, add one cup of flour and the almonds and process for about a minute. Add ½ cup of sugar and the rest of the flour and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to form dough. Do not over mix. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch and cut into two-inch rounds. Roll the remaining dough and cut out rounds. Bake for about 15 minutes. To make the sandwiches, combine the jam with the ginger. Spoon out a teaspoon of jam between two cookies and coat with the rest of the sugar while the cookies are still warm.


Pecan Snowdrops
By Sarah Smalheer

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups chopped pecans

Cream the butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the flour and salt and combine. Add water, nuts and vanilla and combine. Chill dough for an hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pinch off wads of dough and roll into balls approximately one inch across. Arrange on baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Prepare a small bowl of powdered sugar. Roll the cookies in the sugar once while still warm, allow to cool completely and roll again.


Chocolate Matzo: Not just for Chanukah
By Brian Steinberg

4-6 sheets of matzo (Yehuda brand preferred)
2-3 bars 4 oz Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate, 60 percent
½ cup toasted almonds, walnuts and/or hazelnuts
A few pinches of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two sheet pans with tin foil. Chop the chocolate. Toast almonds in oven or toaster oven for about 10-15 minutes. Make sure not to burn the nuts.
Chop the nuts and set aside. Sprinkle the chocolate over the matzo and bake in the oven for two to three minutes, just until the chocolate melts. Spread the chocolate with a rubber spatula over the matzo to create a smooth layer. Sprinkle on almonds and a small pinch of salt while the chocolate is still melted, so it sticks. Let it sit in a cool place. Break into smaller pieces and serve, or for fun pass around a full sheet and have guest break off their own piece. Present in a decorative wrap or a cookie tin.


Road Kill: The Other Hunting Season

OK.

A few years ago, I attend a food conference in the backwoods of Tenn. The topics ranged from biodynamic and permaculture, to wild fermentation with author Sandor Katz (Author of Wild Fermentation), to making herbal tinctures to home beer making.

The most interesting group and radical, were the people who ate road kill. Yes, road kill. The group brought a few um…offerings to the conference including a few squirrels and a badger. They demo how to skin the squirrels, which they said they usually just throw them on a fire fur and all.

I was intrigued with the concept and figure if I was seriously considering eating road kill then idea of hunting seemed down right civilized.

Since then, I have thought about those folks and their ideas of eating, but I never ventured out to find and cook up “found food.”

But then I was driving on 14 and noticed a deer on the side of the highway. It was a few days ago and we had a bout of very cold days under 30 degrees. I figure, “the thing is completely frozen and safe.”

I figured that road kill would not have the same risk in winter as summer right?

So I called a place that processes deer and was all set to grab my fallen friend when I told Emily my plan.

Are you nuts! was the basic reply with an all out wrestle for our car keys. It is her car and she would not have a road kill deer anywhere near it. Then there is the freezer space for the meat. Our freezer is packed, so where will I fit the 40-60 Pounds of meat?

With all of this said, I am still into the idea of getting a road kill deer in winter if the weather is under freezing and it has not been out too long.

So, if there is anyone in the Ann Arbor area with a truck, and extra freezer space and who has culinary/hillbilly sense of adventure, I am offering to go in halves on a road kill deer.

See New Yorker article with Sandor Katz

CB

Apricot Ginger Almond Cookies

Apricot Ginger-Almond Sandwich Cookies

2 cups of all-pupose flour
1 1/4 cups f slivered almonds
1 cup of sugar
2 sticks of butter unsalted butter (chilled)
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/4 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger (finely minced with ginger juice squeezed)

Pre heat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor, add one cup of flour and the almonds and process for about a minute. Add1/2 cup of sugar and the rest of the flour and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse to form a dough. Do not over mix.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch and cut into two inch rounds. Roll the remaining dough and cut out rounds.

Bake for about 15 minutes. To make the sandwiches, combine the jam with the ginger. Spoon out a teaspoon of jam between two cookies and coat with the rest of the sugar while the cookies are still warm.

 

Man vs Pizza: Ann Arbor Competitive Eating

Ann Arbor Food

Photo by ROBERT CONRADI

The rules are simple. Up to three people have 30 minutes to eat the pizza. If they finish, the pizza is free, and they get their names and a picture on “The Winner’s Wall of Fame.” If they lose, however, they have to pay the $40 price for the pizza and get a chalk mark under the loser’s column on the board of shame.

Jim Millan, 29, owner of Bella Italia and a Flint native, delivers the monster pizza with a thud, then announces the ground rules: “Time starts when they are ready. You can wait till the pizza cools a little.

Once it starts, there is no bathroom break, so everyone keeps it down.”

Our fearless contestants are Alan “Cool Hand” Scafuri, 47, of Chelsea, Matt “Two-Fisted Fury” Durr, 26, of Adrian, and James “Flash” Highsmith, 18, of Ypsilanti. They are wearing head and arm bands in sports fashion, as if to psyche themselves up.

To put a little perspective on the size of a 30-inch pizza, Millan places four regular large sized pizza boxes into the 30-inch box, which fit easily. He has to special order these 30-inch pizza boxes. And he also had to construct a heavy-duty pizza peel, the large wood spatulas that pizza chefs use to take the enormous pies out of the oven.

For those who think of a nine-pound pizza as something of an appetizer, Millan also has a 30-inch meat lover’s pizza challenge, which tops out at 15 pounds.

All confidence and male bravado drain from our heroes’ expressions when Millan takes out the pizza from the oven and places it into the large-size box.

“What was I thinking?” said Durr, while shaking his head and sitting over the bubbling pizza.

The pizza all but takes up an entire table that seats four. The trio stands above the pizza, anxiously rocking back and forth like football players in a pre-game huddle.

“Let’s do this,” said Durr. “Put your game face on.”

Highsmith looks skeptical.

Matt Durr of The Washtenaw Voice looks in wonder at the 30-inch pizza, as in, ‘I wonder how we are going to eat all this.’

“I am not sure,” said Highsmith. “I am a little bit doubtless right now. I am not going to lie.”

Durr, the self-appointed team leader, is taken aback by the lack of faith from his team member.

“What!” he exclaims. “I am the confident one. I am the leader, and when it comes down to it, I’m going to have to eat extra and sack up.”

These words are a welcome relief to Scafuri, who actually looks frightened.

“This is a hell of a big pizza,” Scafuri said ominously. Then he predicts his team will beat the record. “We’re going to eat it in 13 minutes and 12 seconds.”

“Maybe not,” said Highsmith, still a little awestruck.

Millan asks the three how they would like the pizza cut. They opt for eight even slices. The pizza is cut, and the time is set.

He even offers some tips.

“We had a few professional eaters in and they said that you should try to get as much in the first 15 minutes,” said Millan. “They (professional eaters) said after 15 minutes your brain tells your body that you are full. After that, you are fighting your body.”

Scafuri and Durr choose to sit, while Highsmith stands up. He had done a little research on competitive eating and read that standing is better. He also unbuckled his belt and unbuttoned his pants.

The time starts, and they are off.

“Cool Hand” Scafuri stays seated and digs in.

“Flash” Highsmith’s standing strategy does not seem like a good idea.

As he opts to roll the big slices of pizza into a large cigar shape and attempts to scarf it down, he’s also jumping up and down as he eats. This is another one of his researched strategies. But this backfires when his unbuttoned pants starts to fall down and both of his hands are a saucy mess.

The team cracks up with laughter joined by a few customers who stick around to watch the spectacle.

Halfway into his first slice, pizza sauce has already found its way to Durr’s pants. Highsmith is all over the map. He frantically shakes red pepper flakes on his now crazy roll of pizza mass and, for some reason, he is dipping it into his pitcher of water between bites.

“I am just afraid of the last slice,” said Highsmith.

Durr again has to counter his teammates’ doubts and fears. “You play to win the game,” he scolds.

At five minutes in, our team is looking good. All three are mostly done with their first slices — a third of the giant pizza gone. Highsmith and Durr decide to reserve their crusts to the end. Scafuri is opting to finish the entire slice one at a time.

“The bread (crust) is what is killing me,” said Highsmith, who turns to Durr and asks: “Do you want to eat my bread?”

They’re losing steam quickly. The second slices don’t go down nearly as easily, or quickly, as the first. One of the nine slices is noticeably smaller than the others, and all three stake a claim to it.

“I am slowing down guys,” admits Durr. “I talked a big game, but I am slowing down.”

Ten minutes in, and the prospect of leaving without paying for this pizza is not promising. Highsmith decides to remove all of the cheese from his second slice and leaves a pile of sloppy crusts in front of him.

“This is my get-to-it-later pile,” he said, like he actually meant it.

Our heroes are starting to groan and grumble from eating fatigue.

“Why?” moaned Highsmith, questioning his decision to attempt the 30-inch pizza. “We have so must crust. I just dread it.”

Durr starts to use a knife and fork, which seems to be working for him. By the third slice, the pizza loses its taste. Highsmith is hunched over with a huge slice of pizza in one hand and his other arm resting on the table preventing him from falling over.

“My wife was afraid I was going to have a heart attack,” Scafuri joked.

Doubt transforms the team. There have been 28 winners and 80 losers since Millen initiated this challenge three years ago, and our boys do not want to end up on the wrong side of the ledger.

Suddenly, Highsmith lies down on a cozy booth and symbolically declares defeat. There are about seven minutes left — and too much pizza. He grabs his last barely eaten slice and attempts to eat it from a lying down position. This is not a good idea.

“It’s a lost cause,” said Highsmith, throwing down a large folded mass of gnarled crust in contempt.
Durr also spikes his crust on the table.

The box looks mostly empty, but it is an illusion. Millan brings out a scale and weighs the remains. It comes to two-pounds.

Millan then walks over to the large chalkboard behind the counter, and his chalk breaks as he marks up another one in the loser’s column.

Suddenly, Scafuri lets loose with an apocalyptic belch.

“Ohhh,” Highsmith said, backing away. “That did not sound good.”

They paid their tab and left, defeated.