Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Advice for the Newly Lactose Intolerant

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Dear Jesse,

I’m a cheese lover - in fact my entire food budget is arguably structured around how much money I can legitimately spend on new and interesting cheeses. Unfortunately I seem to be suddenly developing symptoms of lactose intolerence- and this at age twenty! While a medical diagnosis is still in the pipeline I was wondering if you’d ever heard of this happening before? Also, if the worst should happen, do you have any tips? I’m happy to switch to soy for my three-cups-of-tea-a-day lifestyle but I’m not exactly how to restructure my cooking if I have to knock out butter, cream, milk and my beloved cheese.

That’s pretty lousy. I know I would be devastated if I lost cheese from my diet.

As an initial disclaimer, it is worth noting that I hold degrees in neither nutrition nor medicine.

That having been said, I am pleased to tell you that if your problems do indeed stem from a lactose intolerance, there is, to my knowledge, a very good chance that you will still be able to enjoy sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, and hard aged cheeses without issue.

The form of lactose in cow’s milk is apparently not the same as is found in other species’ milk; and the aging process winds up transforming lactose chemically.

Unfortunately, that will not help you, for instance, to comfortably enjoy the sharp tang of a 5-year-old vermont white cheddar, but you can be consoled by the likelihood that a French sheep’s milk roquefort still may fit into your digestive capabilities.

With regards to cooking:

♦ I noticed that my fairly run of the mill grocery store stocks canned condensed goat’s milk and also powdered dry goat’s milk. The East End Food Coop (if you live in Pittsburgh) stocks fresh goat’s milk. You may be able to switch to this as an alternative for baking and creamy soups, etc.
♦ Sheep’s milk or goat’s milk yogurt can help substitute for sour cream or, potentially, even cream for baked goods (this may require some experimentation).
♦ I would suggest a switch to lard and coconut oil for a replacement to butter when you need a harder fat (like in a pie crust or for high temp cooking). Coconut oil, for instance, would likely work well for making a streusel topping or making a muffin or biscuit with luxurious mouthfeel. Lard (and other animal fats) are fantastic for sauteeing or roasting vegetables (mushrooms cooked in pig fat are delicious!)
♦ For other purposes, try stocking a wide range of oils and experimenting with their use. A nice olive oil (especially when seasoned by sauteeing some garlic in it) makes a nice dip for a hunk of good bread; grapeseed and walnut oil are both good for many cooking purposes.
♦ These substitutions will definitely impact your bottom line when it comes to grocery shopping. They all tend to be more expensive than butter. Check TJMaxx for cheap, high quality specialty oils; or your local Italian specialty shop for bulk olive oil (Penn Mac is a great choice in Pittsburgh, you can refill your jug each time you go back from their bulk section).

Best of luck!


Turkey Stew Polenta

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

Believe it or not, I’m still reheating Thanksgiving…

Leftover leftovers:
Turkey Polenta Cakes, served with salsa and guacamole

Turkey Polenta Cakes

A decidedly American take on the classic Italian dish

  • 1 cup onion, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms, mixed varieties
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • a couple cups of leftover turkey, picked from the bones and/or cut into small pieces
  • 4 cups turkey stock, made from the carcass of your Thanksgiving bird
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, divided
  • salt, pepper, ginger, and crushed red pepperto taste
  1. Heat a large (#10) cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot, add about 2 Tbl butter along with some black pepper and ginger. Let the butter melt, then add your diced onion and about 1/4 tsp kosher salt.
  2. Cook the onion for about 7-8 minutes or until the onion has started to brown at the edges, stirring about once per minute.
  3. Add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes, stirring 2-3 times.
  4. Add 2 Tbl butter, let melt.
  5. Add the sliced mushrooms, along with some ginger and a touch of crushed red pepper. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring 1-2 times per minute. Pay more attention to the mushrooms the longer they cook. We’re looking for them to caramelize nicely but not to scorch or burn.
  6. When the mushrooms look gorgeous, add the turkey stock and bring it to a boil.
  7. Once he stock is at a rolling boil, whisk the cornmeal in at a steady drizzle. Add it slowly and keep that whisk moving in order to avoid lumps!
  8. Once the cornmeal has been incorporated evenly into the stock, turn the heat down to a simmer and add the shredded carrots into the pan. Cook at low heat, stirrign occasionally, for 30-40 minutes.
  9. At this point, you’ve got a really tasty cornmeal mush. I highly recommend taking a couple bowlfuls out for a meal or a side dish for today’s meal, because the polenta has to cool overnight before it’s ready to be made into the cakes (now you get what I meant above by leftover leftovers.). Plus this mush is delicious—it’s like turkey stew and biscuits all in one steaming bowl of goodness!
  10. Let the rest of the polenta cool or 20-30 minutes, then use a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the entire pan to press it down to uniform depth.
  11. Let it cool a while longer to room temperature, then run a rubber spatula around the edge of the pan and invert the pan onto a clean countertop (with the parchment still in place). The polenta should drop out of the pan onto the parchment. Wrap it up and refrigerate it overnight.
  12. Day two, cut the polenta into cakes. Heat your skillet (which you should have cleaned in the meantime) over medium heat. Add 2 Tbl butter to the pan, let it melt. Cook half of the cakes in this butter, flipping after 5-6 minutes or when golden brown and cooking the other side for another 5-6 minutes. Remove to a sheet tray in a warm (200°) oven while you cook the other half of the cakes in the other 2 Tbl of butter.
  13. Serve with salsa and guacamole or your favorite condiments.

Revolutionary Roasted Mushroom Pumpkin Pie

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

You may have noticed that another year has come and gone without me being invited to share my Thanksgiving tips on NPR.  I can’t say that I blame them.  I don’t have a book or a TV show, and it’s not like I’ve got a publicist or a manager booking high profile appearances for me.  So what makes me think I might deserve an invitation to appear on All Things Considered?  Because this pie is just the start of the meal.

Revolutionary Roasted Mushroom Pumpkin Pie capitalizes on the savory aspects of pumpkin and elevates your Thanksgiving appetizer course to a new level.

Revolutionary Roasted Mushroom Pumpkin Pie
A New Classic is Born in this Savory Appetizer Pie

  • 2 cups prepared pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed roasted mushrooms seasoned with spices and rosemary (see note at end of recipe)
  • 3 eggs
  • 12 oz evaporated goat milk
  • 4 oz cow milk
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • black pepper to taste
  • homemade crust for a one crust pie (see note at end of recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Beat the eggs with the salt and spices.
  3. Add the evaporated goat milk and the cow milk, stir to combine.
  4. Stir in the prepared pumpkin and the roasted mushrooms.
  5. Roll out the pie crust, drape into a 9-inch pie pan. Pour pumpkin mixture into crust. Bake at 450 for the first 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 40-45 minutes or until the filling has mostly set (it should have puffed up slightly, have a thicker, jelled consistency, and be dull in color except for the very center of the pie).
  6. Let cool to room temperature on a rack before covering and refrigerating. Optional garnish: serve with lightly salted whipped cream
Notes on Recipe
Roasted Mushrooms

For the purpose of this recipe, I used a mix of crimini, oyster, royal trumet, and maitake mushrooms.  I sliced them to roughly 1/2-inch pieces and seasoned them before the roast with salt, pepper, ginger, and a generous pour of olive oil, tossing them until they were coated with spices and oil.  Their pre-roast volume was approximately 4-4 1/2 cups, enough to mostly fill a standard half sheet tray.  I roasted them at 375 F for approximately 45 minutes, stirring them after 15, 25, 35, and 40 minutes; moving the pieces from the edge of the tray into the center to maximize caramelization and avoid scorching.  Immediately upon removing the finished mushrooms from the oven, I tossed them with 1/4 cup minced rosemary.

Pie Crust

A homemade pie crust is always superior to a store bought crust, as it shows a level of care and pride that can not be matched with a manufactured product.  Furthermore, you can determine the ingredients in a homemade crust.  I like to season my crusts with the same spices that I use in the pies.  I also use butter as the fat in my crusts.  Should you choose to use butter, be certain to keep the crust entirely contained in the pan as butter is a soft fat and anything hanging over the edges will droop, drip, and drop to the bottom of the oven, setting off your smoke detectors and creating a mess that will need to be cleaned.

Whipped Cream

Beat 4 oz heavy whipping cream with 1/4 tsp salt and a sprinkling each of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Please share this page with everyone you know (especially if you know Steve Inskeep and Robert Siegel). Just be certain to give me credit—I don’t want to hear Nigella Lawson giving this recipe over the air!

Amazing French Toast

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

My friend Brett has been making lots of bread.  His chocolate sourdough was the inspiration for one of the most delightful french toasts I’ve ever made.

Cream Cheese and Almond Butter Stuffed
Chocolate Sourdough French Toast
with Bananas Foster Sauce

  • 1 loaf chocolate sourdough bread, sliced thinly (pieces kept in order)
  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 3 eggs
  • About 1/2 cup of milk
  • spices as you like for the batter
  • 3 Tbl butter (plus more for the griddle)
  • 4 1/2 Tbl brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 6 bananas, sliced into thick chunks
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  1. Mix the almond butter and cream cheese together. You’ll wind up with a spread the consistency of processed peanut butter.
  2. Make a bunch of cream cheese and almond butter sandwiches with the bread.
  3. Mix together the eggs, milk, and spices for the batter (I typically use cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom) in a shallow baking dish.
  4. Put the sandwiches in the eggwash, let them soak briefly; flip to soak the second side, then cook in butter on a hot griddle as you would for any other french toast.
  5. For the fosters, heat the butter and brown sugar in a saute pan. Stir together with a wooden spoon. Let the mixture get hot and bubbly.
  6. Add the bananas. Toss to coat with the sugar. They’ll release some juice, thinning out the sugar sauce. Add the rum. Let it get hot, then use a bamboo skewer like a long match to flame the rum without singeing your arm hair. Let the flame burn out. This will burn off all the alcohol in the rum whilst caramelizing the sugars.
  7. Serve the french toast topped with a generous measure of bananas foster sauce.

Big, Bad Corn

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Thanks to Hannah Edwards for this informative infographic, originally posted at

Read The Whole Article

Friday, September 7th, 2012

I’ve racked my brain trying to come up with some sort of food-related connection to make this fit in with the theme of Corduroy Orange.  But I’ve given up and am posting this anyway, because this article by Matt Taibbi from the September 13 issue of Rolling Stone ought to be required reading for all voters in advance of the general election.

The reality is that toward the middle of his career at Bain, Romney made a fateful strategic decision: He moved away from creating companies like Staples through venture capital schemes, and toward a business model that involved borrowing huge sums of money to take over existing firms, then extracting value from them by force. He decided, as he later put it, that “there’s a lot greater risk in a startup than there is in acquiring an existing company.” In the Eighties, when Romney made this move, this form of financial piracy became known as a leveraged buyout, and it achieved iconic status thanks to Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Gekko’s business strategy was essentially identical to the Romney–Bain model, only Gekko called himself a “liberator” of companies instead of a “helper.”

[...]Romney and Bain avoided the hostile approach, preferring to secure the cooperation of their takeover targets by buying off a company’s management with lucrative bonuses. Once management is on board, the rest is just math. So if the target company is worth $500 million, Bain might put down $20 million of its own cash, then borrow $350 million from an investment bank to take over a controlling stake.

But here’s the catch. When Bain borrows all of that money from the bank, it’s the target company that ends up on the hook for all of the debt.

[...]This business model wasn’t really “helping,” of course – and it wasn’t new. Fans of mob movies will recognize what’s known as the “bust-out,” in which a gangster takes over a restaurant or sporting goods store and then monetizes his investment by running up giant debts on the company’s credit line. (Think Paulie buying all those cases of Cutty Sark in Goodfellas.) When the note comes due, the mobster simply torches the restaurant and collects the insurance money. Reduced to their most basic level, the leveraged buyouts engineered by Romney followed exactly the same business model. “It’s the bust-out,” one Wall Street trader says with a laugh. “That’s all it is.”

Read the whole article, and then vote your conscience.

More Twits from a Twit

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Buy dirty potatoes whenever possible… ‘washed’ potatoes rot more quickly or have been sprayed with fungicide.

Learned from Burgh Bees: only honey and bumble are true bees; honey won’t sting except in defense of their hive.

Dunkin Donuts coffee is really quite terrible.  Faced with the choice, I’d rather get it from a gas station.  I’m just sayin’.

September is Hunger Action Month.  Wear orange 9/6 to show support. for more to do.

If you have a chance to try a pink lemon, do—they’re fantastic!  Taste like a cross between lemon and lime.

General rule: ugly tomatoes have a great personality.

Save your ballpark $ for beer… PNC Park will let you bring in food.

Farmers @ Firehouse 10th Anniversary Party 9/8/2012:

Newspapers had ‘twit’ columns well before twitter: see Garry Brown (Hitting to all Fields, Springfield, MA) or Norman Chad (The Couch Slouch, syndicated).

Say hello to your mom for me.


Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Pierogies are a prime example of classical Pittsburghian cuisine.  Pierogies are little pasta pockets, generally containing mashed potatoes plus something else.

Flavors that have a place in the local canon are: potato and cheese; potato and onion; and potato and sauerkraut.  A ‘modern classic’ is potato and jalapeno.  These 4 flavors are represented in the “Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race N’At” during every Pirates home game by the mascot characters Cheese Chester, Oliver Onion, Sauerkraut Saul, and Jalapeno Hannah.  Basically, pierogies are a part of being a Pittsburgher.

Everybody’s grandmother makes them around here, whether at home or as a fundraiser for their church (going price at one local congregation: ~$8/dozen).  I think it’s the long tradition behind these fried potato raviolis that made me hesitant to try my hand at making them before now.  But, with a college reunion approaching for which attendees are supposed to bring a food that represents their current region of residence, I decided that the time had come to make my version of this local delicacy, and I’ve got to say, I was quite pleased with the results.

I made 2 versions–potato and cheddar, and my own twist on the theme: sweet potato with sauteed mushrooms, kale, and prosciutto.  The pictures are from the potato and cheddar pierogies, but the technique is the same no matter what type of filling you use.


Naturally Colored Icing

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

One of the things that consistently annoys me about foods marketed toward children are the ridiculous amounts of artificial coloring in them.  This is especially offensive in light of research pointing to ways in which artificial colors exacerbate hyperactivity in children and can even be a contributing factor in the severity of symptoms in autistic children.  Artificial colors are coal tar byproducts (as is saccharine, by the way), and really have no resemblance to actual foods.  So what then to do about providing children with fun and interesting colors to eat?  Why not take advantage of the wide range of fruits and vegetables that have natural colorants to produce colorful foods that are also more flavorful as a result of drawing their colors from real foods?

The cake pictured above has no artificial colors in its icing.  It is iced with blueberry-flavored purple icing; black-currant flavored pink icing; and cocoa-flavored brown icing.

The easiest way to make naturally colored icing is to build the color into your butter.  Follow my instructions for the black currant beurre blanc and let the resulting butter cool to room temperature, then use it to start the icing.  The general formula for icing will be 4 cups of confectioners sugar per 1/2 lb of butter.  1/2 lb of butter is enough to ice a 10 x 15 layer cake.  Make smaller quantities of icing for accent colors.

Here is a partial list of fruit-based colors that could be made this way:

Purple—blueberries and red wine

Pink—black currants and white wine; or strawberries and white wine, mixed with some plain butter

Red—strawberries and white wine

Green—kiwis and white wine

Yellow—saffron-infused white wine or turmeric whipped into the butter

Orange—combine red and yellow butters; or for a paler shade, use peaches.

Blue— This is not a natural color in food.  It can, however, be achieved through chemistry: cook beets down with a base (such as baking soda).  They (and the water they are cooked in) will turn blue.  Reduce this water to almost nothing, refresh it with a half cup of white wine, then reduce again.  Whip the butter into it per the beurre blanc instructions.  It will not be a royal blue, but the hue can be adjusted by combining the resulting colored butter with other butter when making the icing.

The best part about using naturally-colored icing is the flavor that goes along with it.  The purple icing was not just a visual component of this cake, but added a vibrant blueberry flavor that really was a fantastic addition to the final result.

Black Currant Infused Beurre Blanc

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call this stunningly bright sauce a “Beurre Pourpre” as it most certainly is not white, but it’s made with white wine, so call it what you will.

  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 pint black currants
  • white wine to cover the currants
  • 1/2 cup white wine (in addition to the white wine already listed)
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter cut into chunks and kept cold
  1. Heat a small saucepan.  Add the brandy and flame it.
  2. When the flames die off, add the currants and the first dose of wine (enough to cover them).
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until almost dry (will be fairly syrupy).  Refresh with the 1/2 cup of wine, being certain to use it to get all syrup stuck to the sides of the pan.
  4. Strain through cheesecloth.
  5. Return to a boil, then let simmer until syrupy.
  6. Whisk in the butter over low heat.  Add only a few small cubes at a time, whisk until they are melted and incorporated, then add a few more.  Repeat until the entire half pound of butter has been incorporated and the sauce has a luxurious texture and flavor.
  7. Remove from heat and keep in a warm (not hot) place until service.  Whisk occasionally as it sits.  If transferring to a different container for service, make sure that the receiving vessel is warm lest the sauce break.
  8. Leftovers of this sauce are best used as a spread—it is very difficult to successfully reheat this sauce without it breaking.

Here is the sauce, in context, as served with steamed Maine lobster.  It would also match well with many other types of fish; french toast, pancakes, or waffles; muffins or popovers; poultry cooked with a cinnamon spice rub; etc.