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Monday, August 27, 2012

Whoa, Big Fella!

Well, whether you knew it or not, back in November, the US government lifted the ban on funding inspections for horse butchering.  What's that mean?  Basically it means that horse meat can be sold or served for human consumption in this country.

Now, before you go throwing up or chaining yourself to the gate of the nearest horse barn, don't worry.  Chances are you won't be seeing pony steak on your favorite restaurant's menu--at least not until there's a demand for it.

Chicago-area chefs were interviewed for an article in the Chicago Tribune about serving horse.  Most were open to the idea, but would refrain from putting it on a menu if they thought it would turn their patrons off. 

Still--as is the case with many kinds of food--the US is one of the few places in the world where eating horse meat is taboo.  In fact, according to the article, restaurants and supermarkets as close as Canada are selling it.

So what does horse taste like?  Some say it's a cross between beef and venison, with a slightly sweeter taste than either.  One chef in the Tribune article tried it when he was in Spain.
"I thought it was beef, with this wet hay flavor," he said. "If you walked into a meadow after it rained, that’s the only way I could describe the taste." 
Well, that doesn't whet my appetite.  But horse meat has more protein and less fat than lean beef.  So there are some health benefits. 

Would I try it?  Sure, why not?  I've tried alligator and ostrich and caribou.  Why not horse?  As long as the bridle's removed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Green Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

This recipe is from a Rick Bayless book that I have.  It's about as traditionally Mexican as you can get--and typically simple.  Just a few ingredients, but loaded with flavor.

Of course, the best way to eat it is to simply dip your tortilla chips in it and munch away.  But I put a bit on a grilled cheese sandwich and it was out of this world.  You could spread a little on some grilled fish or chicken as a condiment.  The choice is yours!

Grilled Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde) from Mexico: One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless
Makes about 1 cup

You can make this salsa either raw or roasted (I love the roasted).  At Blooming Glen Farm, I "roasted" the veggies on the grill.  You can remove the seeds from the chiles if you want a less-spicy salsa (but why would you?).

5-6 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
2 serranos or 1 jalapeno chile, stemmed
5-6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stems removed), roughly chopped
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup water
  • RAW VERSION: Roughly chop the tomatillos and chiles.  In a blender or food processor, combine tomatillos, chiles, cilantro and water.  Process to a coarse puree, then scrape into a serving dish.  Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture.  Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 tsp.
  • ROASTED VERSION: Roast the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 min.  Flip them over and roast the other side--4-5 min more until splotchy-black and blistered.  The chiles should be soft and cooked through.  Cool, then transfer everything to a blender, including the juices on the baking sheet.  Add the cilantro and water, blend to a coarse puree and scrape into a serving dish.  Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove the excess moisture.  Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 tsp.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tomato, Peach and Mozzarella Salad

Like I wrote the other day when I posted the Watermelon Pico de Gallo, I consider watermelon, peaches and tomatoes the true tastes of summer.  (OK, you can throw in sweet corn if you want.)

Anyway, this great summer salad has two of those ingredients--along with some other tasty items.  Once again, it's simple and tasty!

Tomato, Peach and Mozzarella Salad (adapted from Hot and Sticky BBQ by Ted Reader)
Serves 6-8

You can cut the tomatoes and peaches however you want--slices, wedges, etc.  I find that dicing them makes it a little easier to eat.  Also, using different colored tomatoes makes for a very pretty dish.

6 tomatoes, diced
3 ripe peaches, diced
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

  1. Combine tomatoes, peaches, onion, green onion, cheese and basil.
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Toss gently to combine and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Moroccan Melon, Orange & Olive Salad

Melon, orange, black olves and mint? 

Yes, it sounds a little strange, but the results are a salad that's tasty, good for you and unique.  The saltiness of the olives match very well with the sweetness of the melon and acidity of the oranges. 

This recipe is really easy and tastes great on a warm summer day.  Enjoy!

Moroccan Melon, Orange & Olive Salad

You can use whichever melon you like, but using honeydew makes for a nicer color contrast.

1/2 a honeydew or cantaloupe, peeled and diced
4 oranges, supremed (see this video to show you how)
18 large black olives (I like kalamata), pitted and chopped
1 Tbsp fresh mint, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Combine the melon, oranges and olives in a bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients until combined.
  3. Add liquid mixture to the fruit and olives and gently mix.
  4. Chill for an hour before serving.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Watermelon Pico de Gallo

This is the best time of the year for watermelon.  Sweet and juicy--it's one of those things (along with tomatoes and peaches) that just says "SUMMER". 

For most folks (Jake, for example), just chomping down on a slice of watermelon is the best way to eat it.  But watermelon is actually a great ingredient to use in ways that you might not expect--like in this recipe, for example.

This is one of the recipes I made at Blooming Glen Farm last week.  It was a big hit with all who tasted it.  So here's the simple receipe. 

Watermelon Pico de Gallo
Serves 6

Serve as a salsa with tortilla chips.  It's also great as a condiment with grilled fish or meat.

2 medium tomatoes, diced
16 oz watermelon, diced slightly larger than the tomatoes
1 Tbsp red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, diced (remove seeds and veins, if a less-spicy dish is desired)
1 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
Juice of half a lime (or more, to taste)
Salt, to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, toss gently and chill for about an hour. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia's 100th

Today is Julia Child's 100th birthday.  To commemorate that, here's a piece I wrote in a newsletter from earlier in the year. 

This year marks the 100thanniversary of the birth of one of the most influential food personalities who ever lived—the one who really started what would eventually give rise to celebrity chefs, The Food Network and foodies everywhere.

Julia Child was born on August 15, 1912 and went on to live a life that in many ways, only she could have.

During World War II, she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (which would later become the CIA) and worked her way up to a position that put her in control of top secret and highly sensitive documents. She also was part of a team who invented a shark repellent that is still used today by the US Navy. It was while working with the OSS that she met Paul Child. They were married on September 1, 1946 in Lumberville, PA—here in Bucks County.

She attended the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris where her love of French cooking took flight. Working with 2 friends, she wrote Mastering the Art of French Cooking specifically to introduce that cuisine to Americans. Published in 1961, it was critically acclaimed and became a best-seller. It also catapulted the energetic Child to national fame by leading her to television.

In 1963, Julia began an 11 year run as host of The French Chef, the first cooking show to gain popularity in this country. Her expertise, exuberance, humor, passion and that distinctive voice earned her a huge following as well as a Peabody Award and 3 Emmys. It also solidified her as an icon in pop culture.

She was the inspiration for the Muppets’ Swedish Chef and a character called “Julia Grownup” on the PBS kids' show, The Electric Company. Who can forget Dan Ackroyd’s hilarious send-up of Julia on Saturday Night Live? It’s said that Julia thought his bit was so funny, that she showed it at parties. In 2002, her kitchen was displayed as an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. That same year, she inspired a bored blogger to start the “Julie/Julia Project”, which led to the popular movie, Julie & Julia in 2009.

Her success, influence, 13 television programs and 18 books gained her many awards including the French Legion of Honor in 2000 for her services to French culinary arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

So Happy 100thBirthday to Julia Child! Her spirit and love of food live on in foodies around the world. I’ll end with a quote from Julia that I just found that epitomizes her tell-it-like-it-is attitude:

“People who are not interested in food always seem rather dry and unloving and don’t have a real gusto for life.”

That certainly doesn’t describe her!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Too Many Lobsters?

Most of you know of my love of Maine.  And my love of fresh lobster when we travel there.  They're delicious, incredibly fresh and really reasonable.  In September, we often got them for $4.50-$4.75 per pound.  Even in June this year, usually when the prices are higher, we bought them for $6.50 per pound.

The great news for consumers in Maine is that the prices of lobsters continue to drop.  They're about 70% below the norm and at an almost 30-year low for this time of year.  Again, great for consumers.  But not so great for the lobstermen.  Unfortunately for us here in PA, the big lobster bargains are confined to the Maine area.  Shipping the soft-shelled lobsters plentiful this time of year keep the prices higher here.

The main reason for this drop in price is the great increase in the number of lobsters crawling on the ocean floor--more than lobstermen have seen in ages.  This is the result of a number of things, not the least of which is the change in climate--the unusually warm winters that we've had, which increase the water temperature, making it a better environment for lobsters to grow. 

Then there's the overfishing of cod and haddock in waters off the Maine coast.  These fish used to patrol these waters in the millions--often time eating young lobsters.  Now their numbers are depleted--lowering the number of the lobsters' natural predators.

It's gotten so bad that some groups of lobstermen have agreed to not going out to fish so the demand (and prices) will rise.  There are some reports that some have even issued threats to others who continue to fish.  Most lobstermen say that selling their catch for anything less than $4/pound means they're losing money. 

The problem even carries over international lines.  Many Maine fishermen send a large amount of their catch to processors in Canada.  With the drop in price, these processors are buying even more from Maine.  Of course, this is a problem for the Canadian lobstermen, who have blockaded the gates of some processors in an attempt to keep trucks carrying Maine lobsters to enter.  A Canadian court has granted a 10-day injunction keeping protesters from blocking the gates--at least temporarily. 

It sounds like quite a mess.

But some lobstermen are turning to other sea creatures to earn them income.  With the drop in lobster prices, some are hoping to start a trend toward scallops.  Scallops used to be plentiful in the Maine waters--and are making a comeback in deeper waters--but have been a bit fished out closer to shore.  So some fishermen are taking a shot at farming scallops. 

Scallops aren't like mussels, which can be "grown" on strings.  Scallops have to be raised in large cages so they don't swim away.  Before scallops can be farmed commercially, though, state and federal regulations have to be set and you know how that can go.  But hopefully, this will provide a viable alternative to lobstermen as they wait for the lobster catch to get back to normal.

Read more about the drop in lobster prices in this Wall Street Journal article.  Read about the Canada vs. Maine lobster wars in this article from NPR and about farming scallops in another NPR article.