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All posts for the month June, 2010

Join Jasper Mirabile for another “Experience” at Jasper’s Ristorante July 12, 2010 at 7 PM. 45.00 per person. Tax and gratuity extra. Multiple course innovative dinner and cooking demo with prosciutto in every course. Seating limited.

Reservations:816.941.6600

Seriously, call quick.  It’s hard to get a seat!

016So tonight, I entered a recipe in Hormel’s Recipe exchange; I call it the

Spam Madame

I did a take on a croque madame, but I used spam.  I am sick and wrong, but I’m okay with it!

(Thanks to Chef Michael at the Farmhouse for the inspiration.)

I’ll post a link to the recipe when it is approved.

Happy #MeatlessMonday everyone!   Today,

Let’s Talk Risotto

I don’t know if I have ever gone into the risotto making process, but it was a dish I set out to conqueror when I decided I was going to be a serious home chef.  So, it always has that feeling of being really important, even if it’s not that difficult to make.  Even better, it makes a satisfying, hearty vegetarian dish.

You know, I say that it’s not difficult to make, but it’s not entirely difficult to mess it up, either.  The good news is that I’ve made most of the mistakes one can make when cooking risotto and I’ve boiled them down in the following essay I call “Making Risotto.”

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Cajun ChickpeasLooking for something spicy, how about

Cajun Chickpea Mash

What is Cajun Chickpea Mash?  Well, quite frankly it’s one of those dishes that got created one night because I had leftovers and a hungry family.  (A hungry family that, as it just so happens, loves chickpeas.)

To make the cajun mash, I basically started off doing exactly what I would have done if this were a jambalya.  That meant starting with a trinity (carrots, onions, celery).  However, I didn’t want just another rice dish, so I added potatoes, a few dried peppers , a little tomato sauce, and finally, some chickpeas.

All in all, it turned our pretty darn good.

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Farmhouse Scottish EggsThere’s going to be a

New Menu At the Farmhouse

(If you ain’t from around these parts, that’s not just some farm house, but the Farmhouse Restaurant next to the River Market) And you heard about the new menu here first!  (Unless you heard it somewhere else first, I guess.  It’s not exactly hush-hush since it’s on the front page of their web site.)  But I did hear it on good authority…Chef Michael himself!  (That’s gotta count for something.)

Not only did I hear about the new menu, but I got to sample one of the new menu items.  That’s it right over there.  What is it you ask?  It’s the Farmhouse’s take on a Scotch egg. 

What Chef Michael did, by his own explanation, was to soft boil a duck egg (yes, that’s right, a duck egg) and poach it in red wine.  (You can see the egg now has a very pleasant purple color in the image above.)  He then halved it, liberally packed it with homemade ham salad, coated it in panko, and fried it.

It’s then served on a bed of hollandaise sauce.

I don’t know if you have ever had a Scotch egg before.  The Scotch eggs at the Ren Fest are chicken eggs (rather than the much more exotic duck), buried in sausage and sauted or baked.  They’re kind of insipid.

Not so Chef Michael’s.  His take on Scotch eggs were light (for fried food anyway) and delicious, combining the earthy flavors of egg and red wine with the saltiness and sweet from the ham salad.   Then, of course, it was fried in panko.  So it was, by definition, good.

I am really excited about the new menu.  I will certainly miss all those croque madames that I had, but I am sure that somehow Chef Michael will find a few ways to ensure I don’t miss them too much.  Maybe it will be the Scotch eggs, maybe the daily quiche (enter real man joke here), perhaps the crepes.  I don’t know, but I sure am looking forward to finding out.

(Oh, per FTC disclosure rules, I have no idea if I paid for those Scotch eggs or not.  Whether I did or not didn’t affect my opinion that they were marvelous.)

Pickled Vegetables
Pickled Vegetables

Have you been to

Andy’s Wok

and had their pickled vegetables?

If you live anywhere in the Kansas City area, you have to try Andy’s Wok.  It is, hand’s down, the best Chinese restaurant in town (sorry Panda Express.)  They have amazing appetizers like onion cakes and vegetable spring rolls, which are very flavorful without the meat because of all their wonderful spices, including a hint of mustard.

My wife usally orders the sauted asparagus, while I gravitate between the Sichuan eggplant and moo shu shrimp (extra spicy.)  BWD, Jr., of course orders noodles and rice (what else) and we all come away with an outstanding meal.

But one of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about the restaurant is that before dinner, they give out little bowls of pickled vegetables.  The good news for me is that no one else at the table likes pickled vegetable (BWD, Jr. doesn’t like them because they are vegetables, and Mrs. WellDone doesn’t seem to like the pickled part.)  So I happily munch away on the somehow-still-crunchy, sweet, yet sour pickled cabbage and carrots all by myself.

And fear the day my family wises up.

Anyway, never one to let a good recipe go unrecorded, I finally broke down and asked the owner how she made the pickled vegetables.  This is what she told me.

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Crepini Cafe

Crepini in a Skillet

Crepini in a Skillet

Lucky for me the folks at Crepini Cafe were nice enough to send me a second round of crepini!  (You can check out my review of the first ones by reading my Crepini From Crepini Cafe post.)

Let me make no mistake about it.  I really like these things, but you may be wondering what, exactly, a crepini is.  As near as I can tell, they’re not quite a crepe and they’re not quite an ini, so they’re sort of a combination of the two.  Okay, that was dumb.  Ini’s not even a word.  I should be ashamed for writing that.
In actuality, my Twitter friend @CrepiniCafe describes them as a cross between a crepe and a blini, which I think works, but we can unpack that a bit more.  From first glance (see over there), they probably look like your average run-of-the-mill filled crepe, but the folks at Crepini Cafe have made something that was anything but ordinary.
CrepiniFor starters, they crepes they use are outstanding.  Despite being frozen (all Crepini Cafe products can be found in the freezer section), then thawed, and reheated in a skillet by a lout like myself, the wrapper (okay, I’ll just call it a crepe for short) is still pliable and light.  That’s a major plus in my book since normally I would assume my crepe would be nice and rubbery after being treated so.  This made be due in some ways to the fact that the Crepini Cafe crepe is a bit thicker and more robust than your average crepe (which is, if I am not mistaken where the blini part comes in.)
The one drawback of having a more robust crepe wrapper is that there is always the danger it can overpower the ingredients it oh-so-gently envelopes.  That is something I had to keep in mind when I cooked with the naked crepes (more on that in another post) and it was obviously something that Crepini Cafe kept in mind when they picked their fillings.
This is how you end up with sweet La Dolce Vita (chocolate…hello!) crepini, earthy portobella parmesan crepini, cheesy four cheese and basil crepini, and gently sour Vishnya a la Russe sour cherry.  These powerful choices deliver big flavor and work with the tastes of the wrapper itself to make a wonderful snack or even a light meal  (Well, light for me anyway.) 
How do they taste?  Good!  It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mrs. WellDone’s favorite was the La Dolce Vita crepini because it had chocolate in it (I thought they were a bit sweet.) 
My personal favorite was the Portobella Parmesan because a) they had mushrooms in them and b) I could taste them.  The filling had a deep earthy mushroom flavor, but was also nice and creamy from the Parm.  It was a classic mushroom/cheese pairing that worked out very well with the savory tastes of the crepe.  As I was eating them, I kept thinking that somehow this flavor combination was just right.  It wasn’t too mushroomy (at least for me), it wasn’t too cheesey, and it just worked.  So, yeah, I want some more.
If you have the slightest inclination to try your own crepini, what are you waiting for?  Here is the Crepini Cafe ordering page where you can your own crepini shipped right to your door and hopefully into a warm skillet you have waiting for just that purpose.
Then all you need is a few minutes per side and it’s go time.  Enjoy!
Thanks to Crepini Cafe for the picture.

StrawTrophyGroupOregon Growers and Shippers Preserves and BBQ Sauce

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,
gather round and hear a tale
of one a plain cardboard box
shipped to me via the mail.

Can you see why I got a B in poetry?  

Anyway, have you heard of Oregon Growers and Shippers?  They are a direct specialty food store based in Oregon (you probably guessed that) that buys seasonal ingredients from local farmers and turns them into sauces, preserves, butters, etc.

If you hadn’t heard of them until now, it’s okay.  I hadn’t either until they offered to send me some goodies, which I felt compelled to accept.  Now, I am so glad that I know about them.  They make some truly outrageous products.

When it arrived, in my not-so-little cardboard box, I was sent six items to try (which isn’t really scratching the surface of their catalog).  They sent: pumpkin butter, marionberry preserves, pear and hazelnut preserves, strawberry pinot noir preserves, and two types of BBQ sauce: regular and mesquite.  I grabbed six spoons and got set to try them all.

I started with the BBQ sauce and found it was good.  There’s always a danger in sending someone from Kansas City BBQ sauce and to be honest, I found the regular sauce to be a little too sweet for my taste.  Maybe it was the whiskey, maybe the cane sugar, not sure, but there was a definite sweetness.  That doesn’t mean it was bad, merely not to my liking.  On the other hand, the mesquite BBQ was far less sweet with a bolder, spicier flavor that I could see smearing over some ribs or brisket.  In other words, nicely done!

Really, though, the treasure of the package I received was the preserves and I’m not  much of a spreadable fruit kind of guy.  I find most of the time, jams and jellies come into two forms.  The first is when the fruit is cooked down so much the final product has almost no taste.  The other form is fruit that has been cooked down so much the final product has almost no taste AND they dump a metric crapton of sugar into it so that all you taste is sweetness as your teeth rot off.

Guess what, Oregon Growers & Shippers Preserves have started a third category.  Their preserves were so good.  The pear preserves were nicely sweet, actually tasted like pears, and had great crunch from the hazelnuts.  The marionberries started off tart, but finished amazingly sweet like raspberries, only better.  The pumpkin butter was good with nice seasoning and probably would have been the star of many gift boxes, but it was a familiar flavor against the exciting newness of the preserves.

The strawberry pinot noir was also great, though pinot noir fans should be forewarned, the preserves didn’t deliver a big wine taste like I thought they would.  Instead, they offered a strong strawberry flavor (no complaints there) with a hint of earthiness from the red wine, but just a bit.  Quite frankly, I’ve not tasted anything else like it and I can’t stop eating it.

Normally, when I get ingredients, I try to offer recipes or suggestions on how to serve it.  My suggestion for the Oregon Growers & Shippers preserves is get some shortbreak cookies and just smear.  Even toast might overwhelm the flavor and you don’t want to do that.  If you don’t have shortbread cookies, go with a spoon and eat it straight.  They’re that good.

Anyway, obviously I liked the preserves.  The sauces were good, but the preserves were EXTRAORDINARY.  I highly recommend hopping on the Oregon Growers & Shippers site and getting your own basket of goodies.  You can try the preserves I had or experiment with Cherry Zinfadel preserves, Northwest Peach preserves, or lemon pear marmelade.  Your call.

And, as you might have guessed, I ganked the image from the Oregon Growers & Shippers site.  Thanks for letting me try your products.  I can’t wait until we get a fresh package of shortbread cookies.  I’ve got more preserves to eat.

EspinacaAfter my last Abuelo’s incident, I figured it was time for

Espinaca At Home

(Quick side note: welcome back to #MeatlessMonday.  It’s been awhile, but the drought is finally over.)

So, you may be wondering what is this espinaca that I speak of.  Alternately, you may have ordered espinaca before.  Either way, let me assure that cardboard or no, if you have not ordered the espinaca from Abuelo’s, you haven’t had espinaca as good as it can be.

See, most of the time espinaca is a white cheese dip that has been swirled with spinach, spices, and sometimes other vegetables like corn or red peppers.  As is, it’s delicious.  However, Abuelo’s took the concept and blasted it to new heights of flavor when they devised the devilishly delicious espinaca casserole which looks a little like what’s pictured above (and looks exactly like the picture in the other link, which I need not display again.)

Either way, what the good folks at Abuelo’s did was take the original cheese dip concept, add some different flavors, spices, etc.,  top it with cheese and finally bake it.  Yes, there are a few steps to make the dish, but it’s not terribly difficult to execute.

And it’s worth it.

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