Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gondwana Gold

I know I said I would post results of the Reunite Gondwanaland challenge on Earth Day - which is today.

I fully expected Bobby and Bill to come out with a tie - much as Bobby and Matt did.

But I have to be honest - Bill's "narrative" had me rolling on the floor, and since I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow (not following Bill's Gondwana route - staying on just one continent this time) and don't have the mental energy left to assign points and categories - I will just call this one.

Bill vs. Bobby C - round 1 goes to ....Bill
although Bobby's recipe is one I would more likely be able to make - and I really liked the volcanic plating!

Nice work, guys!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Around Gondwana in Seventy Two Hours




My pilot Joe was just topping off the fuel tanks as the orders came in over the wire.

“Where to, Boss?”
“Gondwana” I said.
“Where’s that?” he asked.
“Head south. We’ll pick up OJ in Florida, then head to Mexico.”
“OJ? Is this a jail-break?”
“No, just a grocery run.”

This wasn’t the first time my baby sister had sent me circling the planet for food. One time she had me deliver corn chips to her in Japan, by way of Bahrain. But this was for a greater cause: To reunite Gondwanaland.

For the next two days, Joe flew Miwa and I non-stop around Gondwanaland. We crisscrossed the scattered fragments of the ancient land mass scouring the docks and markets in search of Gondwanan foods and recipes. We brought back a plane-load of goodies and prepared a Gondwanan feast.

CEVICHE

Ceviche prepared with fresh local ingredients is popular throughout modern Latin America. For this version, we imagined what it would be like with access to ingredients from all of Gondwana:
  • 8 Shrimp –boiled until pink and peeled (Australia)
  • ¼ lb. Tilapia – cut into 1”x1” pieces (Africa)
  • ¼ lb. Chilean Sea Bass – cut in ½” x 1” x 1” pieces (Chile)
  • 3 Lemons (Peru)
  • 3 Limes (Mexico)
  • ¼ c. Orange Juice (Florida)
  • 1 small Red Onion – finely diced (Mexico)
  • 1 Tbs. Fish Sauce (Thailand)
  • 1 Tbs. Sambal Oelek (Indonesia)
  • ¼ tsp. Murray River Salt (Australia)
  • 2 Tbs. Cilantro - chopped (Mexico)
  • 1 Kiwi (Thailand)

Toss and macerate the fish in a small bowl with the juice of two lemons. Marinate for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Drain and rinse.

Add the juice from the remaining lemon and two limes and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and allow to marinate overnight. Arrange with Kiwi slices and serve with Moroccan Rolls (see below)

MOROCCAN ROLLS

"Still like that old time Moroccan Roll
The kind of bread that just soothes the soul"

Yes, this is the legendary bread immortalized in Kyliomenolithic era song. A simple semolina sourdough, flavored with toasted sesame and anise.

"I know, it’s only a Moroccan Roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do."
  • ½ cup Sourdough Starter
  • 2 ½ cups Semolina (Morocco)
  • 1 Tbs. Sesame (Yemen)
  • 1/2 tsp. Anise seed (Thailand)
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt (Mexico)

Mix the starter with 1 ½ cups of the dough and about ¾ cup of lukewarm water. Cover and put in a warm place to rise for several hours.

When bubbly, mix in the remainder of the flour, the sesame, anise and salt. Turn out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes – adding more flour or water as necessary to make a smooth elastic dough.

Cover and allow it to rise until double in bulk. Form into rolls and allow these to rise again until double in bulk. Bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes.

SATAY

This is what Satay would have looked like back in the good-old-days – before the continent got split up and you could still find all the ingredients at the local Gondwana-Mart. As the Aztecs knew, chocolate and hot peppers are natural companions.
  • 6 oz. Australian Sirloin – cut into ¾” cubes (Australia)


Marinade:

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil (Sicily)
  • 5 cloves Garlic – finely chopped (Mexico)
  • 3 Thai Chili peppers – chopped (Thailand)
  • 2 Tbs Ginger – chopped (Sumatra)
  • 5 Macadamia nuts – finely chopped (Australia)
  • 4 Brazil Nuts – finely chopped (Brazil)
  • 1 Tbs. Garam Masala (see below)
  • 1 Tbs. roasted Moka Coffee Beans – very finely ground (Ethiopia)
  • 4 oz. Coconut Milk (Sumatra)
  • Pan-Fried Peruvian Purple Potatoes – see below
  • Mustard Greens (Uganda)
  • ¼ tsp. Fenugreek seed (Turkey)
  • Sesame Oil (Yemen)
  • 1 Oz. 85% coca solids Chocolate (Ecuador)

Gently fry the garlic, peppers, ginger nuts and Garam Masala in the oil until the garlic is golden. Stir in the coconut milk and ground coffee. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is blended.

Add the cubed meat to the marinade and let marinate for at least three hours. Overnight if possible.Thread the meat onto bamboo skewers and grill.

Sauté the mustard greens in a little sesame oil and fenugreek until wilted.
Serve with Pan-Friend Purple Peruvian Potatoes (see below) and wilted mustard greens.

GARAM MASALA

Garam Masala is the classic Indian spice mixture. There are as many variations as there are cooks in India. Similar spice mixtures are used as a flavoring base for curries across East Africa and much of southeast Asia.
  • 1 Tbs. toasted cumin (Iran)
  • 5 Green Cardamom pods (India)
  • 1 Tbs. black peppercorns (India)
  • 3-4 toasted Bay Leaves (Greece)
  • 1” piece of cinnamon stick – crushed (Indonesia)
  • ½ tsp. whole cloves (Madagascar)

Grind all ingredients to a powder. Store in a tightly capped jar.

PAN-FRIED PURPLE PERUVIAN POTATOES
  • 2 medium Purple Potatoes (Peru)
  • 1 Tbs. Peanut Oil (Brazil)
  • ½ tsp. Cumin (Iran)
  • Mediterranean Sea Salt (Spain)
Cut the potatoes into matchsticks. Heat the oil and fry the cumin for a few seconds, then add the potatoes. Stir fry until just tender. Do not brown.

ICED CARDAMOM COFFEE

To wash it down, we brewed some refreshing iced coffee (This time, from Guatamala), flavored with cardamom (India) and vanilla (Madagascar). We chilled the coffee with 100% organic Ice we harvested from a free-range Antarctic glacier. Gondwana was united at last.

I asked Joe to join us in the feast.
“No thanks” he said.
“What I really need right now is a Pan-Gondwanan Gargle Blaster”.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reunite Gondwanaland: Bobby

Interesting challenge. I got a bit of a late start on this one, but it came together...

Curried Lamb and Potato over Couscous & a Tropical Fruit Smoothie


I started with lamb, representative of Australia/New Zealand (where sheep outnumber people), potatoes (because Peru is home to the International Potato Center), cooking techniques and spice blends from South Asia/India and couscous from North Africa/Middle East.

To pair with this hearty, spicy dish, I created a tropical fruit smoothie, using fruits grown along the equator: mango, pineapple, banana and orange. All blended with ice -- you know, the same stuff that makes up much of Antarctica.

On with the recipes and plating!

Curried Lamb and Potato over Couscous
1/2 lb. cubed lamb meat
4 red potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
2 T. diced garlic
4 T. mild curry paste
1/2 c. diced tomato
1 T oil
1 c. couscous
1/2 c. chopped yellow squash

1. Start by sauteing the onions and garlic in oil over medium heat.
2. Add the cubed lamb and cook until just browned.
3. Stir in the curry paste and cook for a couple more minutes, then add the tomatoes and potatoes.

4. Simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Give it a taste and add some extra cayenne if you like your food a bit spicier.
5. Meanwhile, saute the squash in a bit of oil.

6. Cook couscous as directed, mix in squash once done.

Tropical Fruit Smoothie
1 banana
1 mango
1 small can pineapple juice
1 orange, sliced
2 cups of ice

1. Skin the mango and cut around the core.

2. Add mango flesh and 1 whole (peeled) banana to the blender along with the pineapple juice and ice.

3. Blend, then pour into a glass with an orange slice to garnish.
...and to play along with the theme, I've plated the dish to look similar to a volcano -- I hear they're created with some of this plate-shifting action. Garnish with some fresh herbs, such as cilantro. The cool tropical flavors of the smoothie balance the spiciness of the curry dish nicely.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Reunite Gondwanaland

The Challenge: Reunite Gondwanaland

One of the most enduring features of our planet, Gondwana (or Gondwanaland) was a composite continent, made up of South America, Africa, Madagascar, Antarctica, India, other parts of South Asia, and Australia. At one time it even included Florida and most of Southern Europe.

Your mission is to “go around the world” in 72 hours, collect ingredients from the different continents and seas, and reunite Gondwanaland in your dishes. Plan, prepare, plate and present no later than midnight on Monday, April 20. Results of the judging to be posted on Earth Day.

Entries will be judged on plating (both porcelain and tectonic) and originality.

So grab your passports and weigh anchor, chefs, it’s time to set sail!

The challengers: Bobby C and Bill

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pasta Unplugged

Here's another post from Bill. This time out, he's demonstrating his take on a classic kitchen tool, La Chitarra.

Delicious noodles made by hand (and foot)

Last weekend was the debut performance of my new kitchen tool: La Chitarra. ‘Chitarra’ is Italian for ‘guitar’, but this is not a musical instrument. It is an instrument for cutting noodles.
I have always been fascinated by my mother’s antique Italian chitarra which has been in the family for many years. Chitarras or ‘Pasta Guitars’ are available commercially from various sources, but I decided to build my own future family heirloom. I built a sturdy wooden frame and strung it with 96 strands of piano wire.
This chitarra is double-sided. One side is for cutting thin noodles, the other side is for wider noodles. I decided to test out both sides by making a batch of Fettuccini and a batch of Udon.

Fettuccini Dough
  • 2 c. semolina flour
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Water (as needed)
  1. Dump the four on the counter, add the salt and make a well in the center for the eggs.
  2. Add the eggs and start mixing. Mix with your fingers at first, then start forming it into a ball with your hands. Add a little water if needed to hold it together.
  3. Knead by hand for at least 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Let it rest in a plastic bag for at least 2 hours.

Udon Dough
Udon dough is traditionally kneaded by foot. In an authentic Japanese noodle shop, this is done between sheets of plastic. For a batch this size, a one gallon freezer bag is just about right.
  • 3 c. bread flour (or Udon-ko if you can find it)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. water (plus more as needed)
  1. Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl. It will be very loose and crumbly at first.
  2. Gather the mixture together, mixing in a little extra water if necessary to hold it together.
  3. Turn the mixture out on a flat surface and knead by hand until it holds together in a ball.
  4. Put the ball into a 1 gallon freezer bag and throw it on the floor.
  5. Flatten the dough with your feet. Flip it over a few times and knead until the flattened dough fills the bag.
  6. Form the dough back into a ball and flatten it again
  7. Repeat for 10-15 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic.
  8. Flatten one last time and let the dough rest for at least 2 hours.
Rolling
Roll out the well-rested dough on a liberally floured surface. Udon dough should be rolled to about 1/8” to make nice fat noodles. For fettuccini, roll the dough as thin as you can make it.
Cut the dough into sheets small enough to fit on your chitarra (in this case, 8” x 16”). They will stretch a bit when you cut them, so allow extra room at the ends. Sprinkle the sheets with flour, stack and cover them and set aside to rest for another 30 minutes or more.

Cutting
Wipe the strings of the chitarra with a little oil to prevent sticking. Place a sheet of wax paper under the strings to catch the noodles.
Place a sheet of rolled dough on the strings. Gently roll with a wooden rolling pin to press the dough between the wires. Increase the pressure until the dough is almost cut through. Then slide the rolling pin back and forth a few times until you can see the shiny wires through the dough.
At this point, the cut noodles should start to fall through the wires to the wax-paper below. If they stick, you can help them along by rubbing your hand over the wires.

Tip the chitarra to dump out the cut noodles. Clean off any dough stuck to the wires. Wipe with some more oil and repeat until all the noodles are cut.
If you are not going to cook them immediately, toss the noodles with some extra flour to keep them from sticking.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

ooo, someone got fancy

So I did this mostly to play around with creating a fancy looking dish you might get at a restaurant. Turns out, it was really tasty, too. I didn't take many... err... any pictures of the assembly process, so here's the end result, followed by a description of what went down.

The base is a parmesan cream sauce. I sautéed a shallot in olive oil, then added approximately 1 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream. After simmering for about 10 minutes, I added roughly 1/2 c. grated parmesan, along with 2 T. or so of chopped chives and a bit of salt and ground pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare some baked chicken strips in the oven. I seasoned mine with cajun seasoning and a bit of paprika and ground pepper.

I picked up some really fantastic dry Italian sausage a couple weeks ago -- it's basically a mini-salami. I diced up a bit of this and threw it on a hot grill pan. Once the fat had rendered off a bit, I took it off and set it aside, then grilled slices of polenta in the sausage fat.

I also created a red sauce using reconstituted ancho chiles, a tomato, some oil & vinegar, and some spices such as cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and salt.

Time for assembly!

Puddle of cream sauce, grilled polenta in the center. Pile of baby arugula on top of that, then half of a chicken finger sitting on the arugula. Drizzle with a bit of the red sauce, sprinkle with sausage pieces, garnish with chives and toasted french bread.
Obviously, this is not nearly enough food for a normal person... get seconds!