Monthly Archives: September 2009

#meatlessmonday It’s Cannelloni Time Y’All!

Unbaked Canneloni

Unbaked Canneloni

Yes, you heard right…

It’s Cannelloni Time Y’all

(BTW, I can say y’all.  I’m from Kansas.)

Anyway, my friend Karen was bragging that she was making fresh cannelloni from scratch tonight (bragger) and I admit, it made me really hungry.  And it got me thinking, this is #meatlessmonday, I could do a meatless version that would be just as delicious, just as filling, and not use the meat found in most recipes.

Yay me!

So without further ado…

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Fantasy Top Chef & Ceviche

Fantasy Top Chef

Fantasy Top Chef

Fantasy Top Chef and Cevice

Fantasy Top Chef

Okay, the scores for this week:

Me: 12
Michele: 11
Josh: 10
Debbie: 9
Karen: 7
Elise: 7
Colleen: 6

Notice I’m still ahead?  Yeah me, too.  Actually being this far ahead is getting boring.  Can’t anyone stop me?  No?!

Actually, I might be able to stop myself.  I will admit it.  I had to make a a score correction.  Last week, I got confused about which Voltaggio brother I have and gave myself a point for a win rather than Josh.  I have corrected that issue this week.  Oops.



So for my installment of “What did they cook on Top Chef this week?”, I probably should talk about cactus.  But I already have cooked with cactus in Quesadillas and Chili Rellanos (I know you’re stunned at the variety, but hey, not a lot of cactus in classical French or Asian fusion.)

So, this week we’re going to talk about the dish that got Mattin canned: ceviche.

First of all, I want to end the debate that Top Chef has stirred once and for all.  That debate being how to pronounce ceviche.

Jennifer Carroll, the Top Chef contestant (and my pick to win it all) pronounces it suh-VEECH.

Literally the entire rest of the world and pronounces it suh-VEE-chay. 

Still, if Jennifer pronounces it suh-VEECH, that’s good enough for me.  Deal with it!

Now that that’s cleared up, what in tarnation is a ceviche?

Good question.  At it’s most basic, a ceviche is a dish consisting of fish, either shellfish or regular fish, that has been marinated in citrus juice.  

However, the reality of a ceviche is usually much more complex.  Normally, ceviche is considered a raw fish, but if the ceviche uses shellfish, the shellfish is often cooked first before being marinated.  My guess is that this is both a texture and a health thing since most raw shellfish is floppy and well, kind of yuck.  The fish, though, is usually put into the marinade raw where the acid in the citrus “cooks” the fish.

Also, the sauce is often more than just citrus.  Sometimes it can be sweet, like Ron’s coconut milk ceviche, or spicy like Mattin’s spicy tuna ceviche.  (Which, looked really, really good.)  Mexicans have a seafood cocktail that is basically a ceviche in a spicy tomato sauce or cocktail sauce which is really, really good.

Recipes for ceviche?

Okay, I’m not even going to attempt to try my own recipe for ceviche until after I have made several and not killed anyone.  However, I did find some recipes I thought you might like to try.  The key for all these recipes is to buy the fish the day you are going to serve it, keep it cold, and get it into the marinade as soon as the recipe says you should. 

That may sound paranoid, but the fish should be fresh for flavor and to reduce the possibility of foodbourne illness.

Anyway, here are the recipes:

Peruvian Ceviche with Potatoes, Halibut, and Mango 
Emeril’s Ceviche with Orange and Pineapple
Spicy Snapper Ceviche


One last thing: be sure to follow TNSmackdown.  There will be live blogging about every Top Chef every week!

The image of Tom and Padma is from is in no way affiliate with with BravoTV.

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The Best Meal I Ever Ate

JasperEating with Chef Jasper Mirabile

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen me mentioning a meal I recently had at Jasper’s in Kansas City, MO.  Some of you may have even gotten the chance to see the picture I took of some of the amazing food Chef Jasper made for us.  Others probably saw the repeated comments that at any moment, I was sure I was going to burst.  Despite the worries about my own mortality, that meal was sooooo worth it.

Jasper – The Tradition

To set the stage for this meal, I should let you know that the Mirabile family has been serving up outstanding Italian food to hungry Kansas Citians for over fifty years.  It all began in 1954 when Leonard Mirabile opened Jasper’s with his son Jasper.  According to their website, back then you could get a three course meal for seventy-nine cents.  (I can only imagine how fat I’d be if I could still get Chef Jasper to cook for me for seventy-nine cents…  Yikes.)

Since 1954, Jasper’s has seen a lot of change.  For instance, they moved from their original location on Wornall to Watt’s Mill on 103rd and State Line.  They have also gone from a neighborhood restaurant to one of the most decorated restaurants in the country, earning a Mobil Four Stars for dining excellence, the AAA Four Diamonds and DIRONA award (among others).  The restaurant has also seen a third generation of Mirabile, Jasper’s sons Leonard and Jasper, Jr., enter the restaurant business.

Chef Jasper – The Culinary Icon

However, Jasper’s is more than a restaurant.  If there is a food event in Kansas City, Chef Jasper is probably there.  He teaches numerous classes all over the Kansas City area, on such varied topics as making mozzarella to teaching kids the joy of cooking.  He has cookbooks.  He has a radio show on AM 710.  His smiling face can be found in any Hen House market.  He works with cheese producers to evangelize good, artisan cheeses.  He helps local food producers.  He knows everyone.

In other words, there may be no single name more synonymous with food in Kansas City (which is saying a lot, since Kansas City is starting to establish itself on the culinary map.)

Jasper’s – The Menu

And there I was with Mrs. WellDone at Chef Jasper’s invitation eating the best (and by several pounds of food the largest) meal I have ever eaten.

For reference, here’s the menu:

  1. Lobster cappuccino with pancetta and foam
  2. Shrimp Scampi alla Livornese Over Polenta
  3. An “Appetizer” of Eggplant Othello and Lobster Ravioli
  4. Half a loaf of good Italian bread
  5. Caprese Salad with Mozzarella Made Tableside, Heirloom Tomatos Chef’s Wife Grew, Basil, and a Homemade Balsamic Reduction
  6. A Pasta “Tasting” Consisting Of
    • Pasta Nanni with Prosciutto, peas, romano, mushrooms, and tomato sauce
    • Gagootsa sauce (Italian gourd) sauce over ditali pasta
    • Rigatoni with a Melon cream sauce
  7. For our entrees:
    • Five hour slow roasted pork shank
    • Chicken Saltimbucco
  8. For dessert:
    • Peach Napolean with Chef’s mama’s pastry cream
    • Death by Chocolate
  9. After Dinner Drink:
    • Homemade Amaretto
    • Homemade Limoncello
    • Homemade Anisette
  10. House Wine

With a menu like that, I don’t even know where to start describing everything.  It was all amazing.  However, in the interest of space, I will limit this article to the two times in the meal when the food was so good I lost the ability to speak English.  (Later, I’ll talk about more of the food and maybe sniff out a recipe or two.)

Pasta Nanni – The First Moment of Silence

The first time I lost the ability to speak was when I took the first bite of the pasta nanni.  It came served on a long plate with three individual sections, one for each of the pastas on the tasting menu.  I didn’t know what it was, and frankly, I was far more excited about the gagootsa sauce.  However, I think the nanni was closest to me, so I started with it.

Mere words defy the flavor of the pasta.  I can tell you there was salty Prosciutto, earthy tomato, sweet peas, savory mushrooms, and rich cream.  But those are just words.  They cannot convey how perfectly those ingredients worked together.  The saltiness of the Prosciutto was perhaps the lead flavor, but the tomato sauce and the peas wouldn’t let that flavor dominate.  Then there was the touch of cream, giving the dish just enough richness to take it from great pasta to something magical.

As a side note, I have two regrets from the evening at Jasper’s.  The first was that I shared any of that pasta with my wife and the second was that I saved some it for later.  See, our entrees arrived with the pasta course, so there was other pasta, pork osso buco and my wife’s chicken to eat.  All the while, the pasta nanni got cold and while it was good when I got back to it, it was nothing compared to when they first brought it out.  Plus, I think my wife ate all the Prosciutto.  Which is a crime in some places I think.

To this day, I still want more.  I will not consider my life complete unless I can go back to Jasper’s and eat that pasta again. 

Chef Jasper’s Chicken – Pure Bliss

The second moment of bliss so intense words failed me was when I ate my wife’s chicken dish.  When she ordered chicken Saltimbocco, I laughed. 

When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t think it was anything special.  It’s a Roman dish of chicken breast, ham, a little cheese, and some tomato sauce.  Traditionally, it’s rolled, but Chef Jasper says that it dries out the chicken too much so he left it unrolled.  There’s also a sauce made from lemon, stock, white wine, butter, and sage.  But still, when I saw it on the menu, I wasn’t excited.  I came for the big, the fancy, and the impressive dishes with hard names to say (ie osso bucco.) 

Don’t get me wrong, the pork was fantastic, but the chicken Saltimbocco was unreal.  It just worked.  The chicken was moist and the ham was perfect for adding a bit of salt, a bit of pork fat, and a bit of flavor.  The tomato sauce was gently nestled on to the chicken and added a nice bit of earthy tomato taste.  Then there was just enough cheese to top the dish to add a bit of extra saltiness and keep the dish together. 

Then there was the sauce.  That slightly citrusy, slightly tangy, slightly sagey butter-lemon-sage sauce.  To be honest, I shouldn’t like the sauce.  Citrus and wine together are about my least favorite sauce pairings, but there was I soaking it up with a piece of bread.

More than the ingredients, that dish worked because of the artistry.  You can probably find a frozen dinner with the same ingredients as that chicken Saltimbocco, but you probably can’t find a hundred chefs in the world who could make them absolutely sing like Chef Jasper.  I just can’t get over how there should be nothing special about an unrolled rolled chicken dish, but in a master’s hands, it was simply sublime.

Like the pasta, I would say that I wouldn’t consider my life complete unless I went back and had that dish it again, but I took care of it already.  So that part of my life is complete.  Though I am kinda jonsing for it again.

Chef Jasper Mentioned Melon Pasta Special

Also, I should mention the Rigatoni melon, which was the completely odd, but absolutely fantastic pasta dish with a sauce of melon, parmesan cream, and a little bacon.  If that sounds familiar, you might have seen Rachel Ray make it in her magazine, though Chef Jasper assures me his was the better version because of the bacon.  I refuse to argue against either Chef Jasper or bacon.

What amazed me was that dish its utter potential for chaos.  When you mix sour/salty parmesan cream with sweet melon and salty/fatty bacon, you should have a mess on your hands.  However, in the hands of a master, that combination was something both my wife and I loved.

And so that just part my meal with Chef Jasper.  I plan to talk about so many other parts of that dish and everything I learned from talking with him.  But for now, I need to go.  I hear some pasta nanni calling my name.

The logo was taken from Jasper’s website.


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2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative Recipe 12: Baked Rice in a Pumpkin

Shawna Coronado's Fall Harvest

Shawna Coronado's Fall Harvest

When Shawna Coronado sent me that image you see to your right and told me to make something with it for the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative, I got really excited.  See, I love pumpkin and I love to make savory meals out of it.  And I knew, knew I could make a delicious dish with it for only $11.50.

So today we’re making

Baked Rice In a Pumpkin

For only $7.00!

I hope you’re ready for this.  It’s easy to make and easy to clean up.  It’s delicious and it’s got the coolest serving presentation: bake the rice in the pumpkin, then serve it tableside in a pumpkin.  It’s like the snake meal from Indiana Jones, but it’s pumpkin.  And there’s no baby snakes.  But other than that, just like it.

Also cool is the fact that this is one of those recipes that you can experiment with to your heart’s content.  All you need to do is keep the proper ratio of water to rice and make sure the pumpkin bakes through and you are good to go.

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2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative Recipe 11 #meatlessmonday Homemade Creamy Tomato Red Pepper Sauce

Roasted Red Peppersa

Roasted Red Peppersa

Homemade Creamy Tomato Red Pepper Sauce

Happy 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative and happy #meatlessmonday!  Hopefully you are enjoying many a meatless dish tonight, but if you’re out of delicious meatless ideas have I got one for you?!

This one is super simple and delicious.  I was actually inspired to make it when eating at Em Chamas (please no nasty comments about getting meatless recipes from a Brazilian barbecue…)  They have this fantastic cheese ravioli dish on their buffet made from a sauce of tomatoes and roasted red peppers that was just terrific.  Right next to it, they have a tomato-based chicken stroganoff that is light, creamy, and more than a little tangy.  So I got the idea to blend them together and make a delicious creamy tomato red pepper sauce.

Better yet, you can make it for less than $11.50 as part of the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative.  If you’re not familiar with the challenge, Shawna Coronado grows chemical and pesticide-free (ie nude) vegetables and I turn them into a dinner for a family for four for less than $11.50.  Ready for the recipe?

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Fish, Chips, and Le Grand Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce

Le Grand Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce

Le Grand Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce

Sadly enough, this brings us to the end of our culinary explorations with Le Grand’s gourmet raw sauces.   (If you are not familiar with Le Grand, you can see all my thoughts here.  If you are familiar, then let’s get to cooking:

Fish, Chips, and Le Grand Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce

There was a lot I could have done with the Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce.  It would be great tossed with pasta for a pasta salad.  I thought about slathering it on some grilled portabellos or mixing it with mayo to make a citrus mayonnaise.  On the Le Grand blog, they use it as a marinade for fish and I think it this chicken recipe would work well with it, too.

However, the more I thought about what I’d do with, the more I started thinking about using it as a dip…for fried fish.  I don’t know why.  It just sounded good.

However, I figured just using it as a dip would be boring.  So we’re going to add a drop of it in the batter, too.

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Cucumber Fettuccini With Le Grand Garden Pesto Sauce

Le Grand Garden Pesto

So, for the past few days, we’ve been talking about Le Grand’s delicious sauces.  (Read here for an introduction to Le Grand’s gourmet raw sauces.)  Yesterday, we made braised meatballs in sun-dried tomato pesto, today we’re going to try something different:

Cucumber “Fettuccini” with Le Grand Garden Pesto Sauce

So I think in my intro, I said I was going to be making cooked food with Le Grand’s array of gourmet cold pressed, raw sauces.  However, the more I got to thinking about it, the more I wanted to make a raw meal with from the raw sauce.  So, I did!

This is a take on raw stroganoff that we made at the SolFud raw tasting dinner.  However, I took this dish from Russia and sent it to Italy with the help of Le Grand Garden Pesto sauce.

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Braised Meatballs with Le Grand Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

So, yesterday we talked about Le Grand’s line of gourmet raw sauces (you can see all my thoughts here).  Now, it’s time to cook with some of these delicious sauces.

So today, we’re going to make:

Meatballs Braised in Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

I actually got this idea from the Le Grand website.  On the site, Le Grand had a recipe for burgers made with sun-dried tomato pesto, which looked really good.  I think the combination of hamburger and sun-dried tomato pesto sounds absolutely fantastic in any form, so I came up with this meatball recipe.  Instead of putting the pesto in the meatballs, though, I put it in the sauce and then infuse the meatballs with the sun-dried tomato pesto flavor by braising them.

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Le Grand’s Amazing Raw Sauces


4 Nut and Cheese Pesto from Le Grand

One of my tweeps, Jen Woo, approached me a while back about a company called Le Grand’s line of gourmet raw sauces, asking if I had ever tried them.  When I indicated that I had not, a five-pack of sauces showed up at my door, just begging me to cook with them.

I have to be honest…I was excited about trying the sauces because they were raw, but at the same time, I had some reservations about the mass appeal of any “raw sauce.”  In BlogWellDone’s Hierarchy of Culinary Severity, raw is actually more extreme than vegan and only slightly less extreme than raw vegan.  When paired with BlogWellDone’s Theory of Carnivorous Propensities to Utter “Um, No”  which states that the more severe a food is, the more likely a carnivore is to say “Um, no” to that food, let’s just say in the pit of my stomach, I had this feeling a lot of people would be saying “Um, no” to Le Grand.

I’m not going to say Le Grand proved me wrong, as such a thing is not possible, however, I am going to say “GOOD GRIEF THOSE SAUCES ARE GOOD.”  I thoroughly enjoyed tasting the four different sauces they sent me: Garden Pesto (I got 2 packs of this one), 4 Nuts and Cheese Pesto, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, and Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed sauce.  I cannot say this enough: I was amazed at how each absolutely burst with flavor.

The Garden Pesto had this amazing basil flavor that was strong, without being overpowering.  With a little olive oil to thin it, I could eating it over some pasta without adding any other flavorings.

The Sun-dried Tomato Pesto had an equally bold flavor, though it was more complex than the Garden Pesto because it mixed in the sweet/savory flavor of sun-dried tomatoes.  The Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed sauce should have been something I absolutely despised because of its strong taste of citrus (I am not a huge citrus fan), but the sauce was very complex.  It was sweet from natural sweetners and the pumpkin seeds gave the sauce balance so it wasn’t all acid.  The 4 Nut and Cheese Pesto was my wife’s favorite and was a little less in your face with its flavors.  Not that it was bad, just milder.

I was simply astounded that so much flavor could come from these sauces.  When I ate each one, I knew there was basil or sun-dried tomatoes or lemons in those sauces and it got me to thinking.  Maybe I need to look at how I make sauces.

Le Grand cold presses each sauce and since they are raw, there was no chance for heat to leech flavors from them.  So maybe when making some sauces, heat is the enemy…

Basically, that one tasting changed the direaction of my own culinary voyages.  From now on, I really need to try to use as little heat as possible in my (non-French) sauces so that the natural flavors can shine through.  I literally cannot imagine a sauce tasting as good and as bold as one from Le Grand’s if it has been cooked.   They were that good.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that I’d never put one of Le Grand’s sauces in a cooked dish.  I definitely would do that.  I was actually impressed that on Le Grand’s site that they show how to use their sauces in a number of cooked dishes (I would have assumed raw sauce = raw cuisine.)  So, I’ll be taking a page from their book.  I am sure that the sauces would be welcome in a number of raw dishes, but over the next three posts I’ll be showing some cooked dishes that are made absolutely amazing with the help of one of Le Grand’s raw sauces.

Until then, check out their website and think about ordering a sauce or 10.  You won’t be sorry.



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Fantasy Top Chef & Avocado Soup

aboutOkay, sorry I didn’t actually post this on the day of the episode, but here are the scores for this week are:

Me: 11
Michele: 9
Josh: 8
Debbie: 7
Karen: 6
Elise: 6
Colleen: 5

Again, I should be feel something (other than pure glee) about the fact I am in first place by two points, but I don’t :).  Because I am a WINNER!!! And so is my Voltaggio brother.  He’s a culinary tour de force and knows bacon.   (Though in the league upon which I have free lunch riding, I have Jennifer and so I am secretly hoping she wins.  What I can?  I like free food more than I like bragging rights.)

With that being said, as part of this whole Top Chef thing, I wanted to highlight a dish I found interesting on last night’s episode.  This week I thought I would try my hand at making Robin’s attempt at continued culinary life:

Avocado Soup with Crab

I don’t know what it is, but I have really been digging on the avocados recently and when I saw this, I knew I pretty much had to make it.

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