Archive for April, 2010

Stock Tips

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Buy low, sell high.

No, not that kind of stock—the culinary kind, created by simmering bones and vegetables in water to create a flavorful liquid that can serve as the basis for your soups and sauces.  Homemade stock correctly made is almost guaranteed to be a higher quality than the canned/boxed alternative you can buy at the store.  Though it takes a bit of effort to start/ finish the process, the middle is effortless.  The act of making stock is its own bit of pre-planning that makes your future culinary endeavors (soups, sauces, braised meats, pilafs, couscous, etc.) easier to execute and higher quality in their results.

These tips can help you to make a better stock more easily:


Ways to Use Asparagus

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

hey, corduroy–
Did you really say that you bought six pounds of asparagus? What on earth can you do with that much asparagus? Don’t you get sick of hollandaise sauce after a while?

Yes, I did buy 6 pound of spare grass, but I only kept 4 of them; I shared 2 with a friend. But, with the remaining 4 pounds, some of which still remains, I have not had hollandaise once. Here is a quick list off the top of my head of other ways to use this tasty spear:


Monday, April 19th, 2010

It’s Asparagus Season! (So Buy Local)

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

One of my favorite times of the year is asparagus season.  That’s why I planted a few asparagus plants in my garden last year.  I still don’t know much about the cultivation and harvest of the plants, but I have a full year to research and figure it out, as the one thing I do know about it is that there’s a three-year lag between when asparagus is planted and when one ought to harvest their first crop.

Just because I can’t pull it out of my own yard doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy fresh, local asparagus.  I bought six bunches from Janowski Farm Market on Rt. 30 in Clinton (near the airport).  It is their own crop, and they are selling it for $2.50/pound; three pounds for $6.

When I stopped by Soergel Orchard in Wexford last week, the sign outside proclaimed that asparagus would be coming soon!  A quick phone call to Soergel today confirms that asparagus has arrived.  They are selling their crop for $2.78/ pound.  Other options for purchasing asparagus in Wexford include Kaelin Farm Market and Eichner’s Farm Market, but neither has any asparagus in stock yet (both say soon!).

In Pittsburgh, the East End Food Co-op reports local purple asparagus freshly arrived to the store.  Their price is $5.99/ pound.

Should you come across another source of local asparagus, please leave a comment below to help others bask in the glory of one of the first crops of spring!

Live at the Waffle Shop

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

They’ve got limited hours, and an unusual business model, but the Waffle Shop really does have what they advertise: waffles.

Located at 124 S. Highland Ave., the Waffle Shop is a “community arts venue and restaurant” that is a joint venture of the Carnegie Mellon School of Art and several community action groups.  The venue is open late nights Friday and Saturday plus brunch Saturday and Sunday, and features a live, web-streamed talk show in which a rotating cadre of hosts interview restaurant guests on camera.

I (as many already know) love waffles, but because the Waffle Shop’s hours are so irregular, I had never actually  been to the restaurant until last night.  But, after Haris Krijestorac, the Waffle Shop’s assistant marketing coordinator, emailed me to ask if I would visit their shop and write about it for this page, I decided to make a special effort to visit.

I was careful not to tell anyone at the venue who I was or what prompted me to visit.  Nevertheless, I was recruited by the evening’s first talk show host, Matt, to serve as an on-camera guest.  And despite Matt knowing nothing about me besides my first name, the conversation quickly turned to food as Matt asked me to recount my earliest memory of eating waffles.  Soon, we were discussing kumquats (their taste and the merits of grilling them); eating kumquats that the kitchen staff was kind enough to ‘grill’ on their waffle irons for us, and by the time I was preparing to return to my seat, we were talking about the merits of pure maple syrup (offered in a 2-ounce portion with your waffle for an upcharge of $1, which, if you’ve looked at maple syrup prices lately is a bargain—generally one can anticipate that pure maple syrup retails in the neighborhood of $1 per ounce).

I know, I know–what about the waffles?  I’m pleased to report that they’re good.  The most interesting waffles on the menu were their daily specials (which I almost didn’t see despite the fact that the specials are emblazoned in 4-inch letters across the wall of the restaurant).  I opted for the blueberry-mint waffle as I was in the mood for something sweet, but the coconut chicken curry special was mighty tempting.  Additionally, they offer a savory waffle on their normal menu: encased with a layer of egg on one side and melted cheese on the other, this tasty waffle (which I sampled) features an inclusion of crumbled bacon.  Other menu options include the bananas foster waffle, the classic waffle, an omelet in the shape of a waffle, and a chocolate chip waffle.

I wish that they had a couple more inclusions available for what might go inside the waffle (like pecans–I really love a pecan waffle.)  But, I suppose that’s what the rotating daily special board is for.  In the end, I was really quite pleased.  I got a tasty waffle for a good price, and I got to participate in the evening’s entertainment as well (though I wish to stress that there is no requirement one dining in the restaurant appear on camera–that’s a strictly voluntary activity).  having already volunteered to sit in the guest chair and talk, I must say, I think I’d be even more entertaining performing a Corduroy Orange cooking show live from the Waffle Shop–now, that would be some high quality entertainment!

Mmm… Short Ribs

Friday, April 9th, 2010

So, yesterday, I did in fact use the accidental tomato soup as braising liquid to finish my ‘boiling beef’ short ribs.

One of the big pains of serving short ribs on the bone is that the diner is then forced to navigate massive amounts of fat and bone to discover the tender and flavorful meat encased therein.  That’s part of why I went for a 2-day cooking process on these particular ribs.  Day 1, I seasoned, seared, and then put the ribs, covered,  into a cool (250F) oven for about 4 hours so that they could slowly steam and their connective tissues could start to loosen up and melt.  I refrigerated the ribs overnight.

Day 2,  I began by picking the meat off of the bones so that I could serve the good parts unencumbered by the scraps.  This is a long process, about an hour to get the meat from four ribs.  But it’s worth it, because while the ribs are cold, they can be handled easily and as a result, I could get a higher yield from each as opposed to searching for morsels with a fork and knife at the dinner table.

It’s also a messy process: a combination of tearing meat from fat with both hands and using a sharp knife to cut through thick chunks of fat to get at the meat encased therein.  Therefore, it’s absolutely essential to the overall success of the mission that the chef in charge of the operation maintains a healthy fear of the knife blade as s/he is using it: greasy hands on the knife handle have a tendency to slip.  The other option would be to wear a path in the floor between the sink and the work surface washing your hands before each time you pick up the knife blade.  Come to think of it, that may be the safer way to go about this operation.

Anyhoo, meat stripped from the bones, I put it into an oven-safe stockpot and added the quart of accidental soup that remained from the night before.  As it came to a boil, I added potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, and a bit more of my coffee steak rub.  Then, seeing that the vegetables weren’t quite immersed in the cooking liquid, I added red wine to make up the difference.

I put the lid on the container and slotted it into a 250F oven for a couple of hours.  No need to look after it while it’s in the oven simmering.  the low heat surrounding the pan makes certain that there aren’t any hot spots and the food won’t scorch.  It just does its thing—and assuming you’ve put proper care into the initial steps leading up to that simmer time, you can take care of whatever else you might need to get done and know that you’ve got a gourmet dinner awaiting you.

Accidental Tomato Soup

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Sometimes the best results in the kitchen come when, like a jazz musician, you are willing to improvise along familiar themes and discover new interpretations while the notes are being played.

Yesterday, I started a 2-day cooking process on some beef short ribs.  I seasoned the meat with some of my coffee steak rub, and seared it in a large cast iron pan.  Meanwhile, I put a quart of chicken/ham stock, a pint of applesauce (both pulled from my freezer), and a cup or so of red wine into a saucepan to heat up, intending to use them as braising liquid for the beef.

Once the meat had browned, I transferred it to a roasting pan with a rack in it (like I already mentioned, there’s a lot of fat in these ribs, and I didn’t want them frying in it) and slotted them into a 200F oven for a long, slow, low cook.  Then, I deglazed the cast iron pan with the stock/sauce/wine mix.  I decided I wanted a little more kick to the braising liquid so I sliced a jalapeno pepper and a habanero pepper into thin strips while the liquid reduced out and sauteed them in the fat that remained in the pan once the liquid was gone.

In the meantime, i decided that a brown stock (stock that contains caramelized tomato product) would be preferable as a braising liquid, so i opened up a small can of tomato paste and caramelized it in with the hot peppers, adding a little bit of water into the mix to keep the paste from scorching (this is a fairly standard procedure known as making a pincage–it helps to remove the tinny taste of canned tomato paste and develops a fuller flavor).

Pincage having been developed around the hot peppers, I combined the stock/wine/ applesauce mixture with the pincage and realized that I had a tomato soup staring me in the face.  Thick, rich, and hearty–this soup was good!  Aurora and I finished off about half of it for dinner last night, accompanied by grilled cheese sandwiches.  I’m planning on using the other half as braising liquid when I finish off the boiling beef for dinner tonight.

Roasted Red Pepper Lime-Aigrette

Monday, April 5th, 2010

This salad dressing uses lime juice instead of vinegar to provide its acid.  Roasting the limes alongside the red peppers helps them to yield all of their juice.

  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 limes
  • The leaves from a 3.5-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, minced
  • Extra virgin olive oil equal to the limes’ juice (~1/3 cup)
  • ~1/4 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)

To roast the red peppers and the limes, get a cast iron skillet large enough to accommodate all 4 pieces hot on a medium-high flame.  Put the peppers and limes down on the hot skillet.  Keep a loose eye on them and turn them whenever their skin gets scorched–the limes will likely need to be turned sooner than the peppers.  Turn, turn, turn (to everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn) until their skin is dark and puckered on all sides of the pepper, and the limes have four scorch marks and have softened considerably.

Cut the limes in half and juice them.  Measure the juice that they yield, as this will influence how much olive oil you need.  Run the peppers under a slow trickle of cool water and pull the skin from the meat.  Discard the skin; cut the meat of the peppers from the seeds, stems, and ribs of pith.  Cut the peppers into approximately 2-inch chunks.

Combine the peppers, the lime juice, the salt, and the rosemary in a blender and puree.  With the blender running, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the pepper-lime juice mixture.  The blender will help to create a strong emulsion between the oil and the pepper puree.  this dressing should keep well without having to be shaken before each use… but it contains no preservatives except for the acid in the lime juice, so don’t let it languish forgotten in the rear of your refrigerator!  [Although, as good as it tastes, I doubt that using it up quickly will be an issue!]

Support Grow Pittsburgh–Dine Tonight

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Grow Pittsburgh will be hosting a dinner at the Quiet Storm Cafe (5430 Penn Avenue) tonight.

The menu will consist of an apple gazpacho, a red leaf lettuce and apple cider vinaigrette salad (featuring watermelon radishes—a really cool radish that has a green rind and a red center), homemade potato gnocchi, and a choice of lavender-vanilla pound cake or whoopie pie for dessert.

The cost is $25 per person.  Reservations are recommended, and required for parties of 6 or more.  Reservations can be made by calling the Quiet Storm at (412) 661-9355.  Hope to see you there!