Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Pizza on the Grill

July 15, 2009

In my last post, I mentioned my friend John had visited over the 4th of July. John is the master of pizza on the grill. Many a grilled pizza at parties in Minneapolis. I hadn’t done any pizza on the grill this summer yet and his visit got me thinking about them so I cooked some up the other night. Now John does individual pizzas. I’ve gotten pretty good at these (but still not like the master!), but what I’ve always wanted to work on was a full-sized pizza. To do this on your backyard grill presents a range of challenges. The consistency of the dough to transfer well onto the grill is key and the temperature of the coals is crucial. I’ve had some bad disasters over the years working (and some minor successes as well) toward my goal. I’d say this last round means I’ve finally figured out the nuances of the larger pizza on the grill as it came out just as I’ve envisioned them all these years. Here’s to more pizza soon!


And, oh yeah, a late Happy Bastille Day to all–now go out and drink some french wine!

Recipe Oops

May 22, 2009

A big oops in my last posting. For the sofrito to make the Paella, that’s 2-3 cloves, not 2-3 heads of garlic.  Now, it might be really good if you like some serious garlic, but that would be a lot of garlic. If anyone actually tried the recipe unknowingly, I hope you’re OK.

Vegetarian Paella

May 20, 2009

We had some good friends over for dinner on Sunday and I made up a big batch of veggie paella.  I’ve been working on this recipe and it came out really well so I thought I’d share it.  I make a big batch and really throw a lot of this together by sight, so add stuff, take stuff out, whatever you want as you start to put it all together.

First, we make some sofrito:
1 Vidalia onion thinly sliced.
1 bulb of fresh fennel, also thinly sliced.
1 can of small diced tomatoes–of course fresh if you’re able/have the time, but canned works pretty well.
2-3 cloves of garlic.
Saute the onions and fennel and garlic until translucent. Add a cup of white wine and let cook down. Then add some veggie stock, the tomatoes and a pinch of saffron. Let it simmer while you fix the rest.

For the rice:
Saute a can of quartered artichoke hearts in olive oil.
Add about 3 cups of arborio rice and cook until the rice starts to turn translucent.
Add a pinch of saffron and some white wine.
Now, slowly add sofrito to the rice and stir, adding other ingredients as you go.
I add about a cup of sofrito at a time and let the rice absorb it before adding more.
While you’re slowly cooking the rice, put 4 cubed Boca Italian sausages in another pan with some olive oil. Let them cook until they’re nice and brown–you can add them to the rice at any time once they’re done.
You’ll also add chopped black olives and some capers–as much as you want.
After the sausage, I put a bag of Qorn tenders in the same pan I did the sausage and let them get nice and brown then add them to the rice as well.
Add a bag of peas to the rice as well, asparagus too if you like (as much as you want).
After the Qorn, I use the same pan to saute a big batch of shiitake mushrooms (again, as much as you want) until they’re brown and toss them in the mix.
Keep adding sofrito until the rice is cooked–and if the rice doesn’t fully cook you can continue adding water until it’s al dente.
I know the directions sound kind of loose–but really it’s a process of slowly adding sofrito/water to the rice mix until it’s done and then keep adding whatever ingredients you want. It makes a big pot of rich goodness.  As it finishes up, the rice will get a crust to the bottom that’s really good, dont’ worry about it sticking a bit.
I like to add chopped roasted red peppers and tons of parsley as I dish it up in a big family-style bowl.

Of course, good music helps.  I know this is Spanish food, but I find some good New Orleans jazz works really well.

Finally, a crusty baguette is a must and some Spanish Rioja and/or a Belgian double or triple really work well to top it off.

I really should have taken a picture of the big bowl of paella ’cause the colors in the end are amazing, the green asparagus, the saffron yellow, and the rich red peppers really snap–as one of the chefs I used to cook with would say, “Ah, just like in the magazine.”  But alas I didn’t think about pictures until we’d eaten it up. Next time I guess.

Veggie Gumbo

February 25, 2009

In honor of Mardi Gras, I thought I’d give any veggie lovers out there my recipe for gumbo. Yes, I know all you meat lovers out there will scoff and say this goes against the very grain of gumbo, but I’ll stand strong on this one and say it’s worth a try.

First, we need a stock:
1 onion rough chopped
2-3 carrots r.c.
several slices of celery r.c
a head of garlic r.c.
1 green pepper r.c.
1-2 jalapeno r.c.
put all the veggies in a hot pan with peanut and/or sesame oil and brown them well. Add water and salt and let simmer for as long as you want.

Then, we need a roux:
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. flour
stir the flour and salt into the vegetable oil and keep on low heat for at least 15 minutes. This step is crucial. Watch your roux and stir pretty consistently. You want to let it get to the copper color of a penny (or darker, but don’t burn it). The deep roasted flavors of a slow cooked roux are essential.

Now, we need our veggies. Dice the following:
1 large yellow onion
2 green peppers
6-8 stalks of celery, with leaves
1-2 jalapenos (dice these small, and go ahead and keep the seeds)
When your roux is ready, add these to the mix along with a bit of thyme, some cayenne pepper, and a few bay leaves.  The mix will be really thick, so stir constantly for a few minutes.
Add two cans of diced tomatoes. (I’ve also added a dark beer at this point to good effect).
Then add the stock (you should end up with 7-8 cups of stock).
Bring to a boil, then lower the temperature and let simmer for 1-2 hours.

Next, we need some okra:
Of course, fresh is best, but frozen will work as well (I say now that I live in Iowa rather than when I learned to make this in Florida).
Fresh or frozen, slice your okra into medium thick slices.
Saute the okra in some peanut oil until it turns slightly brown and crisp (if it’s frozen, in particular, it will be kind of slimy but the sauteing will get rid of that).
Add the okra to the pot.

Now, we need some meat for the mix:
One box of Boca Italian Sausage (4 sausages). Cube the sausage into good-sized cubes, then brown in veggie or peanut oil.
One bag of Quorn “chicken tenders” (these are surprisingly good). Saute these as well until they are browned.
Add the sausage and quorn to the pot.  When you get to this stage, you can turn the pot off and let it steep.

It’s also important to listen to the right music while you cook.  I recommend the following:
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, “Bon Reve”
Clifton Chenier, “Bogalusa Boogie”
Neville Brothers, “Yellow Moon”
Earl King, “Street Parade” (but, of course)
Rebirth Brass Band, “Kickin’ it Live”
Preservation Hall, “Shake that Thing”
Beausoleil, “La Amour ou la Folie”
Boozoo Chavis, “Johnny Billy Goat”
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, “Funeral for a Friend”
James Booker, “Junco Partner”
of course Dr. John’s “Gumbo”
and one of my all-time favorites, Kid Simmons and the International All Stars, “Live at the Louisiana Music Factory”
I could go on on this front, but that’s plenty of good listening to get through a pot of gumbo.

For eating, cook some basmati rice with garlic and salt.  Right before serving, add some Gumbo File to your gumbo and serve. Add generous doses of Louisiana hot sauce (certainly any hot sauce works, but for this dish I find the pretty vinegary ones like Louisiana style are best).  Enjoy steaming hot!

And finally, you need a good dark beer. I do like to drink a bit of Abita while I cook (frankly, I think it’s an underrated beer.  Sure, it’s not the greatest beer, but it does the job and fits the ambience just right). But when I get to eating this, I want something thick. Tonight, I had an Alameda Black Bear stout that really hit the spot. But anything thick and dark with plenty of roasted flavors (like your roux) will work really well.

And most of all, remember: laissez les bon temps roules!

Notes from CA, Part III: Beers

April 24, 2008

So I am sad to say that our first drinking experiences in San Francisco were not all that we were dreaming of. Our first adventures in town (yes, of course, after a day of hiking through the Golden Gate Park and down along the Coast Trail–in rare low 90s temps for San Francisco even) were at Thirsty Bear Brewing. The place was nice enough although a bit more upscale than we were really in the mood for. The “tapas” menu was a bit ridiculous–I really wish I had taken pictures. The two-cheese appetizer for instance, was four incredibly small, thin sliced of unremarkable cheese with about a quarter teaspoon of marmalade and even less of a non-descript fruit sauce (what fruit was that anyway?). We did have a beet salad appetizer that was pretty nice but then we had a veggie “paella” that could barely be described as such. Some risotto in a puddle of chicken stock (so much for the vegetarian part, and so much for the delicious crunchy rice bottom that makes a paella) with no saffron, a few small pieces of asparagus and a few olives. Hmmmm. The beers did better, but not a whole lot. I did have the Golden Hallucination that was a pretty nice belgian ale, but otherwise everything was fairly bland (and the Golden Vanilla was fairly undrinkable in my opinion). This did not bode well for our California drinking adventures.

I had no real intention of going to Gordon Biersch, but it was close to our hotel so we thought we’d at least try a few more beers (and we were too exhausted by that point to hunt down better bars). It was pretty much as I expected: solid beers that were quite drinkable but nothing to go to California for. I had a Maerzen that was decent but that was about it.

Fortunately, I knew that we were just beginning and the good stuff was coming soon enough. And except for another disappointing experience at North Coast a few nights later, everything else proved to be all that we’d gone to CA for. But that’s a story for the next posting.

Notes from CA, part I: MPLS

April 21, 2008

Just back from a fabulous trip to California. Amazing scenery, great hiking, and some outrageous–and I mean outrageous–beers. Too much I’m still thinking about for a good update, so I’ll be posting my thoughts and experiences in little snippets as I go, working somewhat chronologically, but who knows. So oddly, my first note won’t actually deal with California at all, but Minneapolis.

As a twenty-some-year vegetarian, I’ll say that airports are pretty much the bane of my food life. Sure, it’s at least getting easier to find the veggie and/or black bean burger in airports, but at airport prices it’s pretty pathetic. Our flight out took us through our old stomping grounds in Minnesota, and I was happy to see that the airport has really gotten a facelift and one of our old bakeries, the New French Cafe, has put several restaurants into the airport. Friday evening, thirsty and hungry, we stumbled onto it like a beacon of hope. Tempeh Reubens among other veggie friendly dishes. Tempeh and airports are an oxymoron. A great salad on the side, Summit on tap, all at pretty reasonable fare (reasonable as airports go, of course). Is this a sign of things to come? We loved Minneapolis, but we never really thought of it as cutting edge, but for veggie airport food it sure felt like it. It seemed a good sign of food and drink experiences to come on our adventures and that proved true indeed. California beer and food reviews to come soon enough.