Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fresh Mozzarella

My tomato plants have gone apeshit.

One of my top ten favorite words and what pray tell is its origin?   Crazy yes, but how it was derived from its compound pieces is beyond me. All I know is it’s so fitting for my 13 plants.  A couple weeks ago they seemed to be suffering from the onslaught of rain this past couple months, and then a week of sultry hot summer days and then BOOM! Insanity reigns.

The yellow cherries are climbing to a hanging branch from the Sugar Maple (Sistine Chapel like), the Roma is bum rushing the purple basil, the green zebras refuses to obey the rules of the tomato cage as it runs along the ground invading the onions, and the big boy has the lone sunflower in what seems to be a garden version of a full nelson. It’s out of control.

 Then there are two rogue fellas, one in the strawberry beds compliments of a shovel or two of compost , while the other sits anonymously on the edge of the perennial flower garden, 40 paces from the others acting like a  C model at an LA cocktail party ( can I get my cage now?)  God only knows where this bitch came from.

All this madness means we’re eating a lot of Caprese salads these days and that’s a good thing.  With the surviving basil, we need only fresh mozzarella, which is our little lesson for the day. Store bought “fresh” mozzarella is anything but its name.   Let’s face it. It is made somewhere, trucked to somewhere and then sitting somewhere until you buy its somewhere.

Folks, let’s cut out the middle people. We just need to score some curd.  Word has it Whole Foods sells it. It looks like this
One of the things I like about making my own mozzarella is that I control the salinity.  I like mine a bit salty, you might not.  So, in a sauce pan, heat enough water to cover the curd.  Add salt to your taste.  Again, mine is going to be close to brackish. 
Then cut your curd into large dice
Now place the curd into a bowl.
Just as your salted water comes to a simmer, pour it over the curd.
Now with a spoon stir the curd around in the hot water. Keep stirring and it will begin to look like this 
Once it really begins to take shape, pour it all in to a strainer to lose the water.  It should look like taffy
Get your self an ice bath.  To shape the curd, pull of quarter of what you see in the picture.  Roll it in your hand while poking at the bottom with one of your fingers
This takes a little practice but you can quickly get the hang of it.  See my middle finger on my left hand. It's doing the poking.  The rest of the gang is smoothing the curd into a ball.  When you are done, drop this in your ice bath to cool.

Repeat this for the rest of the curd.  When you are finished, slice the fresh mozzarella

Grab your bounty from the garden and do the same.
Arrange on a platter, and reap the benefits of summer.
And if this seems like too much hassle, check yourself at Bizou, they make it fresh every afternoon.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I’m sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch the other evening as my dog paces back and forth like he has won the lottery and doesn’t know where he buried his ticket.  Can’t I just relax? I’m also admiring the horses just across our quiet country road. 

I’ve thrown back a couple and seeing how my karma meter is tipping to E, I figure I'd give the ponies a treat. So I proceed to the fridge and grab a couple carrots.  Why carrots? They are longer than apples meaning less chance to have those horse teeth gnawing on my seasoning fingers.  

I walked across the road with my offering and tried to entice the horses towards me. As I leaned over the rope with my carrots I learn this “rope” is hot as it zapped my right hip. Thank god I didn’t come in parallel if you know what I mean.  After devouring both carrots, he tried to take a hunk out of my bicep.

So much for not biting hand that feeds you. .

Walking back to my house I got to thinking about the lowly carrot.  It’s not really in right now.  Nobody writes about them, nobody talks about them, nobody is making carrot chips. They are Kale of the eighties. Everyone is too enamored with Heirloom tomatoes, which brings me to the point of this post.

A couple weeks ago I had this pizza where carrots were tomatoes.  That’s right, instead of the usual marinara base, there was carrot puree, topped with walnuts, blue cheese, beet’s and red onion. I figure what’s good for pizza is good for bruschetta, so if you’re looking for that unique appetizer to jump start your next summer dinner party, its right here.

So humble. Don’t fret my little carrots, soon the fickle foodies will have you back on top of the world.

Peel and slice the carrots. Then arrange them in some foil with salt, black pepper, a little garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and a couple sprigs of rosemary.  Wrap it up and put in a 400 degree oven.

 This will take about 45 minutes to cook.  They are ready when you can insert a knife without any resistance. 
Discard the rosemary and transfer carrots to a blender or food processor
Flip the switch to puree, it should look like this

Now for the bruschetta, slice a baguette on the bias
Brush with olive oil and bake for 5 minutes or so

They should be lightly toasted, firm to the touch.  Now let's assemble the other ingredients. Julienne some beets
Chop some walnuts, crumble some blue
Then assemble these little beauties. Spoon on the puree, then add the beets, blue cheese and finally sprinkle with the nuts

Break out these puppies for your next dinner party and watch your guest salivate. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wasabi Slaw

Came across this the other day on the web.

Don’t ask me why I was Googling images of my name.  Okay, ask.  So I was actually doing the same thing for my wife, the artist Sharon Shapiro, who judging from the vast array of images attached to her name makes her really popular.  Certainly my next train of thought (because they are simple thoughts) was to google mine.  I think I found one photo of me, amongst the hundreds of the English rock star who is using my name.

But I did come across the sign, and so I am taking it as a sign, from the universe of course, to get in the race for Mayor.  The only sticking point is I don’t live in the city, I’m in Louisa County.  Rests assure, I won't be dicking around with any county supervisor nonsense, no no.  If I am to be mayor, I am doing so with an iron fist my or the highway attitude. It seems the most proximate local to take over, excuse me, run for mayor, would be Ferncliff.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with Ferncliff, it’s a small village just down the road from my place. Well, okay it’s actually an intersection.  It boasts a full service station (good luck finding those anymore), a market, a big church, and self-storage place slash tanning salon.  Yes, that last business is a combination. A brilliant idea.  The last time I had to put stuff in storage I was thinking, “you know, this is a pretty cool but what I’d really like right now is to lay in a tanning bed”.  

I’m feeling pretty confident and I’ll tell you why.  All politicians throw picnics, but how many of them actually do the cooking? See where I’m coming from?  I’ll be serving my Fried Chicken, Pulled Pork BBQYeast Biscuits (those are all links by the way folks.  I know, I have to get on my tech team make them stand out more ) as well as all the fixings.  No ballot stuffing or hanging chad stuff needed here, it’s all about the food, baby, and by the looks of things, this election will soon be in the bag.

So while I’m mulling over paint swatches for my new Mayoral office (located in the back corner unit  of the storage/tanning place), I will share with you one of the side dishes for the upcoming picnic, Wasabi Slaw. 

2 cups shredded red cabbage
2 cups shredded green cabbage
3 medium carrots
1 english cucumber

1/3 cup Wasabi Powder
2/3 cup Hot Water
1 cup buttermilk
3 T sugar
3 T rice wine vinegar
2 T black/white sesame seeds

 That's Wasabi Powder. Please don't snort this.
Do add hot water.  The water must be hot, otherwise it will have an unbearable after taste.  
Mix to form a paste
Add the buttermilk, rice wine vinegar and sugar.  
Finally the sesame seeds.  Done.  At this point, this dressing is really hot.  If you want it to mellow, refrigerate for a couple hours and let the buttermilk work on the wasabi some. It will soften considerably.  

When you are ready give it all a good toss.  It's ready for the picnic, for some rare seared Tuna, or in my case last night, this Pork Loin. 
Yes, I do eat like that at home.  And you can too if you follow along and most importantly, cast your vote for me, Tim Burgess for Mayor of Ferncliff, come this fall.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Advertisement 3

I love porn, I mean food porn.

What?  All guys love porn, I mean food porn.  It's just something we can't help.  We eat, sleep, watch football and look at porn, I mean food porn. 

So now that I've stated the obvious, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite porn, I mean food porn. These are all shots taken at the Space Downtown.  And speaking of which, I have some news for you guys.  Up until now we have been and private party venue only, but alas, that is about to change as will be popping up the Space for special events that we throw. 

Details to come,  I'm looking at September 10th as the first one, so keep that in mind while you enjoy the porn, I mean food porn.

Oh, and that up above is curried lobster salad, lobster bisque, and mango shooter ( with alcohol ).  This was a food and drink pairing we did last winter for a holiday party. Lots of fun.

Same event.  Short Rib lollipop, horseradish, and Knob Creek infused "After Glow" ( featured at Bang!)

Diver Scallop, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Butternut squash confetti, pumpkin seed dust
Grouper, purple fingerlings, Kale puree, fennel salad, fennel flower

Walnut house smoked salmon, green olive cracker, vodka cream
Spring Pea Soup, Pea Risotto

Mini Creme Brulees'

Wild Boar Stew paired with Wild Boar Sausage, Farro
Local Dry Aged Ribeye, Purple Carrots, Spinach Puree, Tater Tots
Lemon Souffle, Olive Oil Ice Cream.

And finally the two trouble makers responsible for all this porn, I mean food porn.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fruit Salad with Mint

I did everything right.

I’m talking about this past spring’s garden prepreation. 

Till 30 by 20 swath to compliment my 10 raised beds.  Check
Add plenty of compost.  Check
Irrigate with the use of soaker hoses.  Check
Cover for weed control.  Check
Add beautiful mulch to enhance garden’s appearance. Check

It seems I forgot one thing. That was to install a large scale solar powered outdoor de-humidifier to compensate for the 40 day and 40 night deluge of rain we have had.  Nope, forgot about that one.  In a related story, I did come across this while in a Lowes parking lot the other day.

Thank god, huh? And to think Ford built such a thing.  I immediately tried to get in but found the doors to be locked.  How am I to begin to repopulate the world if I can’t even get in this ark?  And room for only five?  It looks like only two species are going to survive this calamity and that fifth being is probably going to become dinner and if I have any say in this it’s going to be a hog.   This ark did have a sunroof, so giraffes and llamas are still in play here. 

Speaking of my garden, the only thing flourishing right now is the string grass and mint.  Since I have no culinary need for the former, I have been picking the hell out my spearmint, chocolate, and grapefruit mint plants.  What for you might ask?  Well morning fruit salad.  Whereas my strawberry plants are a year away and my blackberries and raspberries are as pissed at all the rain as I am, I am resigned to buying the fruit like most every other schmuck. The mint is a nice touch.

This is a simple dish, folks.  I'll show you how to section a grapefruit just to complicate it some. 
1 large grapefruit
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup blueberries
6 strawberries
1 half fresh pineapple
1 cup fresh mint  

That's my cast of characters. Needless to say, you can play around with any combination you like. It's nice to have the grapefruit simply because  he will drop some nice juice to this beauty.  Let's get busy sectioning him for this cooking lesson.

Use a serrated knife ( aka good bread knife ) and cut the ends from the grapefruit. 

Now let's remove the outer skin. Using the same knife, cut in a concave motion trying ( hoping and praying ) not to remove too much flesh. 

Don't sweat it, tho its hot outside you will get better with practice. You should have something looking like this.

See the vertical membranes?  All we are going to do is cut on each side of them and release each grapefruit section. 
Doesn't that just beat the hell out of those grapefruit spoons?  Remember to hold the whole over the bowl to capture the juices while you cut.  Time to attack the pineapple.  Cut it in half and use the same serrated knife and cut more or less the same way you did for the grapefruit. 

 You want to cut those thorn looking guys out of the party here.  I tend to leave the last bit of remnants of them just because I hate losing the fruit and I can deal with a little bit. You choose. 
When you finished, it should look something like this.
Pretty handsome guy I would say. Head to your garden or back deck planter and pick some of this

That's my grapefruit mint coupled with the chocolate mint.  Looks likes they are getting it on.  Not really, it's just mint doing it's mint thing and growing!  So plant some, it's still not too late. This plant will be singing green while the others are gone so do this now if you haven't done so already. Pick some and chop finely like so
Add this to your bowl of fruit
Toss gently as we don't want to mash the berries. As good as this might look, there is no way to describe the taste of this freshness in the morning.  

This is a a good morning.