Kickstarter ForageSF Dinner

Late last week, I attended one of the thank you dinners for folks who contributed money to ForageSF's Kickstarter campaign. All the funds raised will help build a cooking co-working space called Forage Kitchen. Food makers of all kinds will use the incubator space to launch businesses or can or jam whatever is in season, but cooking classes, events, and parties will also take place in the building. The brainchild behind this project is Iso Rabins, a guy who hopes the space will be a model for other cities to create.

Below is the menu of the evening's dinner - thanks to Meghan for making this happen!

Radishes with Nasturtium Butter and Hand Harvested Jacobsen's Sea Salt (not pictured)
Porcini Bisque with House-made Creme Fraiche

Crispy Fried Lake Smelt with Tempura Fried North Bay Seabeans

(served family style)
Wild House-Smoked Local Salmon with Dry Farm Potatoes and a Fresh Horseradish, Creme Fraiche and Dill Dressing
Little Gem Salad with Pickled Sea Beans and Champagne Vinaigrette
(served family style)
Caja China Roasted Turkey: Chanterelle and Lobster Mushroom Stuffing with Wild Boar Gravy and Quick Braised Greens

Eucalyptus and Wild Huckleberry Popsicle

Spatchcocked Chicken

Funny name, serious roasted chicken. This name refers to a flattened chicken that cooks more evenly, and, thus a more brown and crispy skin.  The backbone is cut out; don't toss it away as its a great addition to the leftover bones for stock.  The benefits of roasting a whole chicken are the endless meal possibilities; leftover chicken ideas: soup, salad, sandwich, enchiladas, bones for stock.  A whole chicken also costs less per pound than purchasing individual pieces.  How easy is chicken, many meals.

Spatchcocked Chicken
adapted from food52
several meals worth

2 1/2 - 3 1/2 pound whole chicken, patted dry
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 lemon, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Find a dish that will hold the flattened chicken.

Cut out the backbone of the chicken; kitchen scissors are recommended.  See photos for a good tutorial.

Flatten the bird and season both sides with Kosher salt and black pepper.

Place the onion and lemon slices and garlic at the bottom of the baking dish.  Place the chicken (skin side up) on top of the slices and pour the wine and stock over the bird.

Roast in the oven for 35-50 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let rest 5-10 minutes before carving.  The pan sauce could be reduced (check the seasoning) or saved for a future use (soup or risotto come to mind).

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Local Uncorked Wine Dinner-Local 149

Thanks to a gracious invitation from Boston Food Bloggers and Local 149, I joined three other Boston food bloggers at Local 149's first "local uncorked" wine dinner.  Wines were paired by Ruby Wines, Inc, a local distributor.

As the web site says, the restaurant is a neighborhood joint located in the Citypoint section of South Boston.  Known for pickling, smoking and curing their ingredients and sourcing from local farms, the event proved to be a delicious winter dinner.  The pairings were smart matches that highlighted the dominate elements of the food and wine.  The pairings that seemed to work the best were the Chenin Blanc and winter salad (smoky aromas worked well with the bleu cheese and roasted beets) and the Sancerre and codfishwich sandwich (acidity that cut through the fried fish and cheddar cheese).  All of the tables feature chalkboard tabletops and a small dish of colorful pieces of chalk.  It was easy to keep track of what wine belonged to which glass!

Nice tableside chats throughout the evening were made by the bar manager, Chris, and Chef Leah Dubois.  It is always a treat to speak with the team managing the restaurant and hearing their influences behind the menu. 

The evening's menu:

Graham Beck Demi-Sec Punch (lime grapefruit, Gin, elderflower, and rooibos chai)

Local and regional selection of unreleased cheeses and meats

2009 Graham Beck Chenin Blanc (South Africa)

Winter salad with roasted and pickled beets, smooth blue and caramel corn

2008 Lucien Crochet Sancerre (Loire Valley)

Smoked codfishwich with porter cheddar

2008 or 2009 Owen Roe "Sinister Hand" (grenache/syrah/mourvedre/counoise) (Washington State)

Burgundy braised beef short ribs manchego pomme puree, apricot jam and crystallized pistachios

Ferreira Porto, Vintage 2000

Westfield Farms Chocolate Goat Cheese Cake


I don't have an Italian grandmother, a nonna if you will, which probably explains why I never learned how to make gnocchi.  Actually, it has intimidated me for quite a while.  Eyeing (or eye-ing) this recipe and it's short list of ingredients gave me the determination to try it.  Knowing I could freeze the batch provided an extra dose of "make this now for another day when you don't have ricotta".  This makes enough pasta for 2-3 meals especially if the gnocchi are frozen. 

adapted from Food52
yield: 2

1/2 pound (8 ounces) fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 cup (2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 cup AP flour, sifted, plus extra for rolling dough
1-2 tablespoons butter
Lemon, for sauce

Mix ricotta cheese, egg, and olive oil.  Add grated Parmesan cheese to mixture and add with nutmeg to taste.

Add sifted flour a little at a time and continue to mix thoroughly until dough comes together.

Dump onto generously floured surface and work with hands to bring together into a smooth ball. Add more flour as necessary until dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands.

Cut off slices of dough and roll into ropes 1-1 1/2" inches thick by spreading hands and fingers and rolling from center out to each edge of the rope.

Line one rope parallel to another and cut 2 at a time into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece off the back of a fork to make imprints that will help hold the sauce.

Transfer gnocchi pieces to a lightly floured or non-stick baking sheet so they don’t stick together and put in the freezer while making the rest of batch. If you plan to save any gnocchi for future use, allow them to freeze entirely on the baking sheet before storing in a plastic bag to prevent sticking.

When ready to eat, bring a large stockpot of generously salted water to a boil.

Add gnocchi to boiling water and gently stir once with a wooden spoon to create movement and prevent gnocchi from sticking. As gnocchi rise to the top {a sign they are done cooking} scoop them out with a mesh strainer and immediately place in serving bowl shaking off excess water.

Heat a small saute pan and add a tablespoon or two of butter.  Let the butter brown and then add the gnocchi.  Let the pasta cook in the butter to develop golden edges; this should take a few minutes.  When all the pasta is lightly browned, turn off the heat and squeeze lemon juice over the pasta and butter.

Plate the gnocchi, grate Parmesan cheese over the top, and serve.

Baked Eggs + Cream + Herbs

In continuing the egg theme, I recently made an all-time favorite: baked eggs in cream with herbs.  It is simple and quick for one eater and easily ratcheted up for a larger crowd.  Each person receives his or her own dish of a baked egg. No sharing, no dividing between plates. 

Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or oregano work well in this dish as they can withstand the baking; a sprinkle of chives or parsley would be a nice touch once the eggs come out of the oven.

PS: my ratio per person is 1 egg : 1 tablespoon heavy cream : 1 dish

Baked Eggs + Cream + Herbs
yield: one egg per person

1 egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream or half & half
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Turn on the oven to 375 degrees.

Crack the egg into a small ramekin or flat dish that is oven-proof.

Pour the heavy cream over the egg and add the thyme, salt, and pepper.

Place the ramekin or dish on a baking sheet for easy retrieval from the oven.  The baking sheet should be placed in the middle of the oven.

Watch the egg carefully as it should cook between 6-9 minutes, depending on the oven.  The egg white should be set, but not too firm.  Once removed from the oven, the egg will continue to cook a bit.

Serve with wine, bread, and a salad.

Chorizo + Yukon Gold Hash

This hash was supposed to have a sweet potato.  Alas, that sweet potato "expired", and luckily a Yukon Gold potato was the understudy.  Can't complain though.  The Yukon caramelized nicely and played sidekick to the pork chorizo; we all know that chorizo, potatoes, and eggs go well together.  And just add a flour or corn tortilla to wrap everything together.

What is not captured in the photo is the addition of the fried egg and spoonful of Greek yogurt (full fat, please.  No non-fat stuff). 

Hot eggs right out of the pan don't smile for the camera very well, so it has a separate beauty shot.

Chorizo + Yukon Gold Hash
adapted from Food52
yield: one

Olive oil
1/4 pound chorizo, casings removed
1 medium sized shallot or small yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a teaspoon of oil in a heavy pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oils starts to shimmer, add the chorizo and break it up with a wooden spoon. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo is evenly browned, about 5 minutes.

Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set it aside in a bowl. Add enough oil to the pan so that you have about 1 tablespoon of fat.

Add the onion/shallot and potato to the pan, along with a pinch of salt. Fry the onions and potatoes, turning gently every once in a while.

After the onion and potato are softened and brown, add the thyme and a few grinds of pepper, stir gently and cook for another minute or two.

Stir in the chorizo, and cook for another minute until hot.

Serve immediately, topped with a fried egg and/or a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt or creme fraiche.

Short Rib Ragu

Short rib season seems to be coming to a close with asparagus, ramps, and morels making their presence known.

And its about time. 

This ragu is has an unctuous texture due to the immersion blender; it also has the right proportions of herbs to wine to vegetables.  No additional seasoning of salt & pepper required. 

When the gremolata hits the hot pasta and ragu, the aroma is out-of-this-world.  Hard to deny anything with lemon zest/parsley/garlic.

Short Rib Ragu
adapted from Food52
serves 1-2 (plus leftover ragu)

1-2 pounds bone-in short ribs
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 anchovy filet, finely chopped (or use 1 tablespoon anchovy paste)
1 1/2 cups red wine (think Merlot or Cabernet)
14 ounces whole tomatoes and juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or substitute dried, but dial it down a bit)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large sprig rosemary, leaves chopped
1 bay leaf
beef or chicken stock or water

gremolata, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using, soak dried mushrooms in 2 cups boiling water.

Season ribs well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large, heavy pot (I used a 5-qt. enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium heat until shimmering. Brown ribs in batches for 2-3 minutes per side, then set aside. Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of accumulated fat from pot, then sauté onion, carrots and celery until soft. Add garlic and stir until fragrant.

Push the vegetables to one side of the pot and leave a "hot spot". Add tomato paste and anchovy paste to the hot spot and stir until caramelized, then stir into the vegetables. Add red wine to deglaze and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add tomatoes, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and (if using) mushrooms and soaking liquid.

Add ribs to pot and cover with stock or water until ribs are barely covered. Bring liquid to a boil, then cover tightly and braise in oven for at least 2 1/2 - 3 hours or until ribs are fall-apart tender. Check the ribs about 1 1/2 hours into the braise.

Remove ribs from liquid and set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove bay leaf and discard. While ribs cool, purée the braising liquid with an immersion blender until thick. If needed, set pot over medium-low heat to reduce if the sauce seems thin. When ribs have cooled down, discard bones and large pieces of fat, shred the beef and return to the pot. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, skimming any large pools of fat from the surface.

Refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove additional fat from the surface before reheating. Serve over pasta, polenta, or risotto sprinkled with gremolata.

1 large clove garlic, minced
1 large lemon, zest only
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Easy!

Salmon + Spaetzle + Charmoula

Ever have a craving for two entirely different things yet putting them together on the same plate just makes sense?

That is what happened when I found two separate recipes from two web sites that I wanted to make.  My spaetzle craving was long over due mainly a result of a memorable meal almost a year ago at a Portland, OR restaurant called Gruner.  This would be my second time to make spaetzle (first being in culinary school three point five years ago) and without a suitable colander I used a food mill.  The trick is getting enough batter into the mill for the spaetzle to drop into the water.

Part two of this meal includes salmon and a pesto-like sauce called charmoula (other spelling chermoula).  It's origins are a bit of a mystery, but the flavor profile is similar to harissa, a sauce from Tunisia.

Salmon & Charmoula
yield: 1 -2 servings
adapted from Serious Eats

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 salmon steaks or fillets, skin removed

In a small food processor combine cilantro, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Process to thoroughly mince garlic and herbs. Add spices and olive oil and process until thoroughly combined into a paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Season salmon with salt and pepper, and spread half of the charmoula paste onto the fish. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400°F.

On a baking sheet, lay salmon on aluminum foil. Cover with remaining charmoula and add a small amount of wine or water before folding fish up into a pouch. Roast in the oven for 8 minutes, then uncover and continue roasting until fish is cooked through, another 5-7 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve with spaetzle.

yield: 1-2 servings
adapted from Gourmet Cookbook (2004) & Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 cup (2 ounces) milk (whole or 2%)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer. 

Stir together the flour and salt in a medium size bowl.  Whisk together the egg and milk in a small bowl, then whisk into flour until batter is smooth.

With a rubber spatula, press batter through a colander or pour batter through a food mill into simmering water.  Cook spaetzle until firm, about 2-3 minutes.  Use a strainer to remove spaetzle and shock in a bowl of cold water.  Once cooled, drain and toss with a little bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Once butter is fully melted and beginning to turn golden, add the drained, cooled spaetzle and let it heat for a minute in the pan before starting to saute. 

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and continue to cook it until each piece has toasty brown edges. Off the heat, toss with 1 tablespoon minced herbs (parsley, chives, and dill work well.) Eat immediately with the salmon.

Spicy Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup

The first time I made this soup was early January 2010 for a New Year's party.  I decided to make the full batch which serves four to six people and when ladled into small bowls, it can stretch for a gathering.  In this recipe, I scaled the ingredients down for a smaller batch.  San Marzano tomatoes are typically sold in 28 ounce cans - feel free to use a 14 ounce can of whole tomatoes (regardless of brand) or open the larger size and use the remaining tomatoes for another use.  I'm sure that won't be a tough challenge!

Spicy Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup
adapted from the Amateur Gourmet
originally from Michael Symon's Live To Cook by Michael Symon

Serves 2 to 3

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small-ish red onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 14-oz can San Marzano tomatoes with the juice
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce, or a little less depending on taste (don't buy it, make your own)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup Blue cheese (Roth Kase is recommended; Maytag or Buttermilk are also good)

Heat the olive oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a large pinch of salt and sweat for two minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juice and the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the cream, sriracha sauce, and thyme and simmer for 45 minutes.  Take care to not let the soup boil - heavy cream doesn't like it!

Add the blue cheese to the soup, and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  A regular blender could also be used and work in batches if necessary.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot, taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and reheat to serve.

The soup will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for a few days.

Tortilla & Lime Soup

Cooler temperatures have returned to Chicago.  It is mid-May and those summer breezes haven't arrived.  This tortilla soup is perfect for lunch or dinner and packs a spicy punch.  Add roasted chicken or grilled steak for a heartier meal or top with avocado, cilantro, cheese, or red onion.  

Tortilla & Lime Soup

Adapted from: Soup Chick 
Serves 1-2

2 corn or whole wheat tortillas
1 tbsp canola oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced, plus 1/2 tsp adobo sauce

1 14-oz can chopped tomatoes 
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup water
Juice of 2 limes, plus the rinds (4 halves of squeezed lime)
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano 
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Garnish options: diced red onion, chopped avocado, cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 425°F. Slice tortillas into thin matchsticks, 2-3 inches long and 1/4-inch wide and spread on a cookie sheet. Leave out on the countertop to get a bit stale while the soup is prepared.

In a stockpot, heat the oil. Sauté onion until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the chipotle, adobo sauce, and tomatoes and stir 2-3 minutes. Add the stock, water, lime juice, lime halves, oregano and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove lime rinds. Set soup aside, covered. 

Bake the tortilla strips for 10 minutes, or until crisp and browned. Stir half of the tortilla strips into the soup, and let sit for 5 minutes. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and garnish with more crispy tortilla strips and garnishes.