Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pick a peck of......

If you were wondering about the devil thingy. Boy Racer collects vintage Radiator caps and the devil is from
England circa 1920s was on his Morgan for years. I love it so he pops up here and there. He is snubbing our suck ass
Ahhhh the crock is out and its pickle time on the Ghetto. Spring being so freaking elusive this year I had to do something rather than pine for berries that kinda suck so far. Alas my friends there is always something else Mother Nature will put you to task and this week it was me getting Pickled. Not a far stretch in my world.....
This is from an event last night that I catered  for a Kitchen N Bath showroom in Santa Cruz. There's the Smoked Tomato jam from last week. Visual feast is the first step to a beautiful eating adventure.
The mighty crock with all its history of pickles past ,this vessel brings me right into the sweet spot of pickling. The process of making the pickle, watching the crock on the shelf while it does its magic and then the love love love moment of opening her up stabbing a long pickle fork in the middle and popping open some beers. The cars start arriving for the spring pick nick and the pickle is the center piece for certain. Well I guess that Boston Butt in the smoker is no second fiddle .....

So what to do what to do? Crock or not to crock. Space is an issue this is a small crock compared to the ten ,twenty and thirty gallon crocks that I have and a standard refrigerator won't accommodate, yet can be stored in a cool dry space. Plastic...ehhh. off gassing always brings on a funk that tastes and smells gross if the pickle is left to its own devices too long. Glass ohh glass a great way to store das pickle. I just do my pickle thang in a big way. Glass that big this girl will break. I don't sell my pickle through my Jam Co. it's (don't)laugh too personal and I'm greedy don't wanna share with the faceless masses. Just me,Boy racer and the people we love.

Let's do this simple recipe to get you all good n Pickled.

This is a recipe for all things green, just like spring.

Handful of and bush or pole bean I like the little Hari Coverts ,great for Bloody Mary Sundays or in a good pilsner beer ya know?
Handful of peeled garlic right now spring garlic is all over the Farmers Markets check it.
Handful of young asparagus with the butts hacked off (too woody)
Handful of baby Zucchini halved lengthwise
A few very young leeks sliced lengthwise or RAMPS if you can find them toss em in one; of my all time favorites this time of year.
Handful of Persian Cukes(little guys very tender skin and small seeds)Slice any way turns you on .I did chips to balance out all the shapes going on.
Handful of Spring onion halved lengthwise and keep the green tops very yumm on a smoked Brisked sammy.

Wash all yer veg and toss together to get a nice mix o rama.
Toss in crock,glass or what ever you have to store this pups.

2C. White Vinegar 6%acidity please
2C Aged Sherry Vinegar
1T Honey (local is best)
1T Mustard Seed
1T Fengreek seed
1 handful of fresh thyme
1T peppercorn
2bay leaves
1T toasted fennel seed
1T Chili flake or more....
1t.Cardomon seed
four cloves
1t. Corriandar seed

whip out the mortar and pestle
rough grind all the herbs minus the thyme.

Bring vinegar honey and herbs to a boil.
Pour  over the veg(if it isn't covering the veg add some more aged sherry vin) and let her sit for a day. taste ,stir, assess the situation. If it feels right and the perfect crunch to sour ratio is hit, drain the veggies. then drizzle some Extra Cold Press Olive oil just to coat and there you have it. Pickle heaven in a crock.

From a Bloody Mary ,to a Charcuterie plate you are gonna be one happy pickle lover.

Ok I gotta run I have an order for my Spring Onion Jam that I got to get on......


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It is the JOURNEY not the destination that counts...

Getting my ducks in a row before an event tomorrow. I love the process beyond the food. Its the visual feast of the supporting actors when a spread is presented that gets my heart beat going. The secrets behind the philosophy of form n function in still life. Oh Rocking out to Genesis Lamb Lies Down on Broadway..Its that kind of day. Pass the Single Malt....go on do something with your day. Scoot.
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Mmmmm Asian Red meat!

May just never warmed up here in Santa Cruz and Winter veggies are still reigning supreme.I jumped to the opportunity to serve up some of my favorite roots. Radishes. Now in general most Americans think of radishes as these red things to avoid on a bland sad veggie tray from the Mega Super. Alas America you are once again missing the boat to simplicity. This vibrant little love is a cousin to the Daikon and at first glance looks like any other Turnip. Then you break open this beauty and a rainbow winks back from deep ruby to a faded Irish moss the colors says so much to the eyes when anticipating the mouths adventure.
       In Mexico the classic red radish is a perfect mate to some spicy fare to cool the palate yet leave a bite. Where as in France ,Spain and throughout the Mediterranean little Breakfast Radishes (small long half white half pink)eaten as a late afternoon snack with sweet cream butter and sea salt is simple perfection.
       The Watermelon Radish or Rose Heart or Shinrimei,Xin li Mei and my favorite the Asian Red Meat Radish. Is very common in Asian cuisine world wide and the almost sweet quality of this radish goes so well with salty fatty foods. Not only is the Meat Radishes Colors an amazing addition to any plate it is a stand alone beauty that signifies a lazy afternoon enjoying the simplicities of life.
      The plate above is a combo of classic red radish to give a spicy bite with some local Watermelon radish, Pork Salumi, my very own sweet cream cultured butter and a small dish of dried Porcini sea salt. If memory serves we drank a wonderful tank fermented SCM Chardonnay and a Mendocino Malbec Rose.........Thank you my little Red Meat..........

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Even if its out of season there still is a reason to pull out the jam pot.

My beyond nice neighbour came over yesterday with a big bag of vine tomatoes. She was gifted these babies and now I am the proud parent of re gifted out of season food. What's a girl to do? Well waste not no matter the season. Sooo. I whip out the smoke box and got the jam pot warmed up.
Soaking some apple wood in apple juice while the oven heats up. Halved the tomatoes, quartered a shallot,cut up an apple, splash o Balsamic a plop of brown sugar sea salt pepper and a rangy handful of creeping thyme from the garden. All in a pyrex.
Drain the apple juice soaked chips and got my lil smokie on the bottom of oven with pyrex on lowest rack. And...the oven door shuts. 25 min. Til its all brown bubbly hot mess.
ok here we are at hot bubbly mess in the pyrex. The house is filled with apple wood smoke. cough cough choke ...blechhhhh ahhhhh I love it. The dog smells like a camp fire so as you see in my insane close up of molten hot tomatoes n apples, the caramelization on the edges and broken down nature of it all is telling you its gonna be a good night in Jam town.

 She surrendered to fifteen minutes in the pan with some apple cider vinegar, some more sugar and dose of sea salt. 220 takes forever to get to but oh so needed to get that perfect jam consistency.
Patience Grasshopper it will pay off in grand ways. so I only yielded one vintage pint canning jar plus enough to bribe Boy Racer to wrangle the chickens tonight.
I need to tweek this recipe for certain so I'm not telling you yet all the details. Its a tad lack luster in the smoke department. I need to let it play Fire House a bit longer. I think more shallot would be nice balance and get the sugars right. Now don't get me wrong it rocks and I'm gonna be macking on Chevre dipped in this elixir of Love Apple goodness for awhile. It just can be better and this was a very cool Canary in the coal mine experiment.
So awesome that a gift from a neighbor(thank you DJ xoxo)has gotten me on a Dexters Lab afternoon on this much too temperate Sunday in May up here on the Ghetto Vineyard.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The rough side of Silk

Yesterday was one hell of a storm and the lady birds got the ass end of the wet cold windy LATE MAY storm. Oprah my little black Silkie gives me the best eggs rain or shine this funny chicken never lets me down....So sitting here at home pulling a Yoko Ono and sat in bed all day pouring over my old cookbooks looking for my next kitchen adventure I realized people (in general) dont know how to cook a perfect egg. During my kitchen tenure when a young hopeful wanted a stint working with us, I'd give a test, a seemingly simple test. Make me eggs three ways. I would let the poor victim choose his methods but they had to be perfect. Easy? Hell no. To correctly, scramble, baste, fry,caudle or omlette is not the simple task it seems. The simple things can be the hardest.
    I consulted James Beard, Simca(Julias' Co author)The California Egg advisory, South Dakota Rotary cook book, Girl Scouts cook book, Joy, Mrs. Beeton's Book of cookery circa.1884 on and on a list of a thousand ways to get that egg done right. Do you add water to a egg to be scrambled or milk or cream do you add the salt after it is cooked or before ,it is said to bring toughness to eggs before cooking? arrghghghgh.
    ok. Kid gloves is the first rule. Gentle with this delicate orb of protein. High heat is going to be your enemy every time. Low flame, double burner and patience is the theme. Eggs solidify very fast and if the heat is not just right a curdled hot mess is sure to follow. OHHH and Mrs. Beeton (1884) recomends when choosing your egg , "apply your tounge to the large end of the egg,and,if it feels warm,it may be relied on as fresh."Well there you have it. AND in the winter months when the girls are not laying Mrs. B says I shoud slather my (not MINE but the chickens)eggs in lard and store in sawdust not touching each other in a dry dark place like the larder.Good god I've been doing it all wrong.
Melt in iron skillet over LOW heat 1T sweet cream butter browned
Beat and pour into the warm slillet  3 eggs and 3T top cream
When eggs begin to thicken ,break up eggs with a fork into sheds.When they are thick and custardy searve over buttered toast and sprinkle a pinch of salt.

There you have it. Now go practice its not so easy to get the feel for perfect custardy scrambled egg to a dry crusty rubber mess.

Simple, Seasonal and Local will always trump silly,over thought and out of season every time.
Get out of bed and practice the seemingly simple art of the egg. go on ...... 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sometimes Mother Nature needs a kiss

Hello mister big boy.
For the past week I have been watching this mighty phallic asparagus growing atleast a foot a day right in front of my gate to the Ghetto Vineyard. I had to do some research on this crazy succulent.
: Agave americana
One of the most familiar species is Agave americana, a native of tropical America. Common names include century plant, maguey (in Mexico), or American aloe (it is not, however, closely related to the genus Aloe). The name "century plant" refers to the long time the plant takes to flower. The number of years before flowering occurs depends on the vigor of the individual plant, the richness of the soil and the climate; during these years the plant is storing in its fleshy leaves the nourishment required for the effort of flowering.
Agave americana, ce
Each agave plant will produce several pounds of edible flowers during its final season. The stalks, which are ready during the summer, before the blossom, weigh several pounds each. Roasted, they are sweet and can be chewed to extract the aguamiel, like sugarcane. When dried out, the stalks can be used to make didgeridoos. The leaves may be collected in winter and spring, when the plants are rich in sap, for eating. The leaves of several species also yield fiber: for instance, Agave rigida var. sisalana, sisal hemp, Agave decipiens, false sisal hemp. Agave americana is the source of pita fiber, and is used as a fiber plant in Mexico, the West Indies and southern Europe.
During the development of the inflorescence, there is a rush of sap to the base of the young flower stalk. Agave syrup (also called agave nectar) is used as an alternative to sugar in cooking and it can be added to breakfast cereals as a binding agent.[7] In the case of A. americana and other species, this is used in Mexico and Mesoamerica in the production of the beverage pulque. The flower shoot is cut out and the sap collected and subsequently fermented. By distillation, a spirit called mezcal is prepared; one of the best-known forms of mezcal is tequila. In 2001, the Mexican Government and European Union agreed upon the classification of tequila and its categories. All 100% blue agave tequila must be made from the Weber blue agave plant, to rigorous specifications and only in certain Mexican states.
People have found a few other uses of the plant aside from its several uses as food. When dried and cut in slices, the flowering stem forms natural razor strops, and the expressed juice of the leaves will lather in water like soap. The natives of Mexico used the agave to make pens, nails and needles, as well as string to sew and make weavings. Leaf tea or tincture taken orally is used to treat constipation and excess gas. It is also used as a diuretic. Root tea or tincture is taken orally to treat arthritic joints.[citation needed] Several agave species are also considered to have potential as effective bioenergy crops.[8]ntury plant, was introduced into Europe about the middle of the 16th century, and is now widely cultivated for its handsome appearance; in the variegated forms, the leaf has a white or yellow marginal or central stripe from base to apex. As the leaves unfold from the center of the rosette, the impression of the marginal spines is very conspicuous on the still erect younger leaves. The tequ plants are usually grown in tubs and put out in the summer months, but in the winter require protection from frost. They mature very slowly and die after flowering, but are easily propagated by the offsets from the base of the stemazy succulent and get an idea of what is to come....
so ya eat these pups..

ahhh What a long strange trip its been.....

I finally have set my mind to this logo for my jam n chutney Co. Life in food must be a journey or its TV dinners in hell.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pigs get fat Hogs go to slaughter

Not until recently has the mighty pig become such a prized piece of culinary love. Or has it? Our early settlers relied on this beast for more than just bacon, chops, roast, spare ribs, and sausage. Head cheeses, kidneys, salt pork, smoked jowl, tail, livers and the celebrated feet smoked boiled or braised. Nose to ass hole they say....then the added supreme conponent to baking....rendering the fat into lard, a pure fat only second to butter in delicacy and flake was used in pasteries, breads and cakes. Today on the farm and kitchens in the know are using this perfect white lump of piggy perfection, even the Gastro Turds are slow to recognize there is far more to this animal than bacon. ( I say cooking with bacon is like fishing with dynomite) Either way pork continues to be the most consumed meat in the US.
Smoking meats was to preserve them has meant more to the humans through the ages than any other method of preserving. This discovery is just as important as the discovery of how to make wine, cheeses and bread. It is said the GAULS discovered the HAM process, but way way before the Gauls the Chinese were preparing hams just like you would find in Virginia today? Hmmm. Once agian claims of doing it first with out doing the research. Then again smoking took on a fever pitch in Smithfield Virgina like the pork of York  England,the Parma procuitto, the Bayonne ham from the Basque and the Ardennes ham from Belgium. Pig gone wild.
I lost my train of thought I will return. Scapple anyone?

 "Get in maaa BELLY"
4lb pork belly from your local butcher such as EL SALICHERO(Santa Cruz Ca)
sea salt, keep salt pig handy
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
4 bulbs of fennel, cut into sixths, herby tops removed and reserved
1/2 C brown sugar.
a small bunch of thyme, leaves removed
5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
olive oil
1 750 ml bottle of wine a good white Burgundy would be lovely for pig and cook. Wink
Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature.
Using an extremely sharp knife, score the skin of the pork belly in deep vertical lines. Try to get them as close together as possible and as parallel as possible.
Crush the fennel seeds and 1 tablespoon of sea salt and b sugar with your mortar n pestal until you have a fine powder. Massage this powder into the skin.
In a roasting pan toss the fresh fennel, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Place the pork belly (skin side up) on top.

Put the pan in the preheated oven. After 10 minutes turn the heat down to 325 degrees and roast the pork for a further hour.
After 1 hour at 325 degrees, remove the pan from the oven and drain off the fat and save for fryin up some taters.... Add the white wine and stir.
Put the pan back in the oven for another hour.
Remove the pan from the oven. Remove the fennel from the pan using a slotted spoon. Keep it warm.
Put the pork back into the oven for a further hour until the skin is golden and crisp. If the wine starts to evaporate during this time, add a splash more wine, or a splash of stock.(I like mushroom for this dish)
Allow the pork to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes.Go have a Bourbon while you wait, makes time go by quicker.
You know you've done good if the skin is crispy,carmalized and practically winking at you, the belly itself should be spreadable not meat jello. Save those pan drippings reduce by a third add a pat of (my raw milk sweet cream cultured) butter for a heavenly sauce to drizzle over this piggy delight. Fry up some fingerlings in the pork fat reserve . Pop open a bottle of Kabinett(needs the acid to balance) and break into some crusty bread and a dollup of Stone fruit Chutney....ohhh Sweet Cheesus we have a party in our mouth.
That my friends and countrymen is how you do Pork Belly ........mama loves you