Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pack up a little love - Granola Bars

My oldest daughter still lives 2,505 miles away in California. I see things that remind me of her all the time. I pick little things up for her when I am out and put them in a pile on the hall table. When I have enough gathered I scribble a note and send them to her in a package. My 80 plus mother still does the same thing for me. I will get an envelope from her with clippings and prayer cards and a “thinking of you” note. I imagine her setting a little pile aside for each of my sisters and me.

In today’s world of instant messaging and instant gratification I think something coming via “snail” mail is all the more exciting. So I started baking these granola bars to include in the occasional package to loved ones. You can wrap them individually. They are sturdy and travel well and they have a good shelf life. I have doubled the recipe because I can’t bake them without making sure after I shoot some off in the mail I have some around the house for the “walking out the door” breakfast or “throw in your purse” snack.

Granola Bars

4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup toasted flax or wheat germ
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 cup chopped dried cherries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a half sheet pan with Pam, line with parchment paper and spray again, making sure you get the sides covered as well. 

On another sheet pan lined with foil, toss the oatmeal, almonds, sunflowers seeds and flax together and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.

While the oats are toasting, place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then remove from heat.

When the oat mixture is done, use the foil to help you transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl by lifting up the edges to form a funnel  to guide it into the bowl. Add the honey from the saucepan and mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Lay another sheet of parchment on top and using a small roller or your hands press the mixture evenly into the pan. I have a little 4-inch wooden roller that I love for jobs like these.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool and cut into bars. I cut them 3 across and 7 or 8 down. You can wrap them individually in plastic wrap or buy cellophane bags at the craft store.

Any combination of nuts or fruit will work with this recipe adapted from Ina Garten's Granola Bar recipe. Sometimes I just chop up whatever is in the cabinet. I have used Splenda Brown sugar and it worked well too. I have added peanut butter. If you like a crunchier bar, cook the honey mixture longer on the stove and cook in the oven a few minutes longer. My family likes the softer chewier kind so I make sure I don't overcook the honey mixture and remove the bars from the oven when they get a nice golden color.

Send some to a friend! They will be so pleased you were thinking of them!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sweey & Spicy Pork Belly with Cheddar Waffles

Pork Belly on a cheddar waffle? Doesn’t that make you want to get out the waffle maker and grab a fork? I was watching an episode on Martha Stewart. I am usually doing the dishes or starting dinner and I will play one of the reserved episodes on my DVR. It immediately resonated with me and I thought “I have to make that”? Living in a new town, the opportunities to entertain are a little slim and serving pork belly for a weeknight dinner to the husband and daughter seemed a little indulgent. So I used the excuse of a chocolate tasting to lure my Ohio foodie friend, Tami, over for some pork belly. It is true I did need to do a formal chocolate tasting with as many participants as possible for an online Chocolate School I am attending. And in retrospective perhaps I should have served dry toast and water before sampling 12 chocolates but like I said I had to find a reason to make this dish.

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Pork Belly recipe on Martha Stewart Living

I had the butcher cut a 4 lb. piece of pork belly into 4 squares. I rubbed the pork belly with the spice rub on Sunday and let it sit overnight in the fridge. On the day I was serving, I made the glaze first and let it sit and cool. I rinsed the rub off the belly and patted it dry with paper towels and nestled it in a small roasting pan fat side up. I added orange juice and stock following Martha’s directions. If you watch the video link on the recipe page be careful. She screws up the recipe a couple of times.

I cooked it for two hours. It was very tender when poked with a fork. I let it cool and threw it in the fridge covered until closer to dinner. There is no reason not to make it up to this point ahead of time, even the day before, so it is perfect for entertaining.

Forty minutes before serving, I baked the pork belly fat side up again. Martha’s direction did not say what to do with the liquid that was remaining in the pan from the braising. I thought about it and drained it off. I wanted the belly to get crispy. I basted it with round one of the reserved glaze and cooked it the requisite amount of time, basting with additional glaze every ten minutes. Meanwhile I made the waffle batter. This recipe annoyed me. The pork belly recipe serves 4. The waffle recipe serves a thousand. I used a small Belgian waffle maker that makes three at a time. After dinner I was still making waffles just to use up at least half of the batter. (If anyone wants a frozen cheddar waffle - come on over.)

Both these recipes stand alone great. But combined they are sweet, spicy, crispy, smooth and everything in between. I followed the directions and against my better judgment served them with maple syrup, sour cream and cilantro. It was not overkill. It was a perfect pairing and what exciting food is all about. The pork meat /fat and the spicy glaze were a great counterpoint. The small waffle was perfect for a small square of belly. The waffles could have had a little more heat in them. I didn’t taste the Serrano chile. 3 small chilies in a vat of batter the size of a wash tub don’t have much impact but the cheddar waffles were crispy and smelled like a grilled cheese.

I have 2 llbs. of cooked pork belly in my freezer that will make another day a little brighter and a thousand cheddar waffles. This dish is a keeper!


Friday, April 16, 2010

NYC trip: Let's talk about the food Part 1

Now that I have the "Oh isn't NYC pretty in Spring time" blog out of the way let's get to the real reason to go to New York City - the food. Our first stop was Chinatown. We had a hankering for some Dim Sum. I learned to love it in San Francisco. The very concept of Dim Sum is a foodie dream. You sit at a table and get this - the servers roll up to you with little carts of hot, steaming, tiny food. What a concept. No reading a menu and scratching your head about what to order. They roll right up to the table and remove the covers and rattle off in unintelligible English what they have to offer. It doesn't really matter that you can't understand the waitress you can look at it and make your decision! You say "yes please" a few times and before you know it the table is covered with bamboo steamers and sauces and small plates full of little two bite surprises. Is Ping's the best Dim Sum ever? No but it wasn't half bad and it fit the bill for our first stop in New York after driving 8 hours.
No blow by blow for each meal. Some were caught on the fly as we headed to a broadway show (Promises Promises and A Behanding in Spokane) or began our next trek to the next chcocolate shop (that's an upcoming blog). So some "fast" food from the weekend is not worth mentioning. Except for the hot dog in Central Park. Kind of like a restaurant with an ocean view. Not really about the dog - more about the experience and the view- by the Carousel, near the ball field and Sheep Meadow. Spring in full bloom. Oh and did I mention we bought dessert at Bouchon in Columbus circle and carried it with us? Nobody makes a giant Oreo like Thomas Keller. Let's just leave it at that.
The highlight of the trip was at Bar Boulod Saturday night. I left the camera behind. Kind of felt like taking pictures at church! And I wanted to savor every minute. Bar Boulod is right across the street from Lincoln Center. It is a small shotgun of a place. The ceiling is curved like a wine cellar and the walls are lined with famous red wines stained on linen with the names etched on the glass so that the shadow is more readable than the etching. I like a good wine stain. I have created a few myself. We settled ourselves into a comfy booth.

We started with the charcuterie plate. This is what Bar Boulod is all about. Besides its extensive wine list, it is famous for its signature terrines and pates. The terrines and pates are served in tiny triangles on a small square platter. One particularly beautiful one was a rabbit and vegetable terrine. The elements were suspended in the aspic in a jewel like configuration - cubes of vivid carrot and zucchini, and chunks of rabbit all stood out clearly in the suspension. Along with the pates there was house made ham, sausages, a few cornichons, frissee and mustard. My favorite kind of starter, lots of little things to taste and combine and "ohhh" over.

The highlight of the entrees was my fish cooked with an extra crispy skin and an onion and artichoke topping with notes of lemon and olive oil. Finesse is what a resturaunt like this is all about. Everything cooked perfectly, arriving at the table piping hot and each mouthful a moment to stop and savor. No salt and pepper on the table and none needed. Perfectly seasoned and executed.

The real highlight for me was my dessert - the thing I am still trying to taste in my head a week later. I ordered the "grapefruit mousse, cinnamon lady finger chartreuse, macerated golden raisin, cinnamon-ruby red ice cream" for dessert. Wish I had brought my camera to help me keep the memory - a great combination of tart, sweet, cold, pillowy, cakey, and citrus. John's Rhubarb Tart for two was not really enough for two. He finished it quite handily. The lychee rose sorbet was wonderful. Grace had a chocolate caramel tart with espresso foam.

Dinner was topped off with a walk around Lincoln Center on an unusually warm spring night. The Met was performing "La Traviata." The fountain was on. A perfect end to a perfect day in New York.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New York State of Mind

It’s not fair. Why can’t I be a New Yorker? Why do they get to shop at the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle? Eat at Bar Boulud before hanging at the Met? Perch on a stoop waiting for a table at Clinton Street Baking Company? Nosh a hotdog by the Carousel in Central Park? Oh wait – that was me. For three days I made my way like a ping-pong ball bouncing around New York City. And the city was all dressed up in a flowery spring time shift. That was me with my mouth hung open at the Bradford pears and cherry blossoms, bumping into people while I gaped at the crowds of tulips in the tiny pocket parks in SoHo, ducking at the crack of the bat in Central Park, and bouncing along with a spring in my step like all the other New Yorkers.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Grumpy's Meatloaf Patty Melt

Grumpy's Meatloaf Patty Melt
Meatloaf sandwiches are the whole reason for making meatloaf. I have nothing against a warm slice of fresh baked meatloaf, sitting next to a creamy pile of mashed potatoes but every time I make meatloaf I am thinking about the next day. Even staring at the ground beef at the market I think “do I want 2 pounds of ground beef or 3?” Now I have a real problem. I went to Grumpy’s in Tremont. They serve a meatloaf patty melt. A traditional meatloaf is sliced really thick, at least an inch and a half and served patty melt style on grilled rye with swiss cheese. Really, really good. I had to recreate it at home. I made the sauce extra tasty by using some homemade horseradish bread and butter pickles I purchased at the West Side Market from Rita’s along with Rita's fresh rustic Easter Mustard. You could add a little horseradish to your sauce if you can't make it to Rita's.

Lisa's Meatloaf Patty Melt

Meatloaf Patty Melt

4 slices leftover meatloaf
8 slices rye bread
Secret sauce
8 slices swiss cheese
Secret Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise
1 T. ketchup
2 T. chopped sweet pickles
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
Salt and pepper
Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Stack the rye bread with swiss cheese, sliced meatloaf, more swiss cheese. Spread the sauce on the inside and butter the outside. Grill till toasty brown and the cheese is ooey gooey. I like the sauce so I double that along with the swiss cheese. Thanks for the idea Grumpy’s!


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter at Fire 2010

Easter Breakfast at Fire on Shaker Square. Interesting food, served hot in a timely manner.

Cream Cheese and butter ready for the brunch crowd.

Halibut Crab cakes served over grits with asparagus. The crab cakes were crispy on the outside with large tender chunks of halibut, served on a bed of creamy grits that contrasted nicely with perfectly cooked asparagus in a light vinaigrette

Lemon souffle pancakes with blueberry compote. The pancakes reminded me of a lemon cupcake, very light, no syrup supplied or neccesary

Crispy chicken livers frisee and watercress salad, poached
egg, house made bacon and dried fruit compote. a great combination of flavors especially when you get a little of everything in one bite.