Saturday, September 6, 2014

Grilled or Roasted Corn with Violet Balsamic Vinegar

This is an incredible taste explosion not to be missed.  It even gives the corn a more distinctive flavor the next day warmed or in a cold salad.  Violet Balsamic is the way to go for unforgettable corn on the cobb, or straight off it.  The Olive Scene's Violet Balsamic is highly suggested.  If that is not to be found, the best balsamic you can find will compensate.  I've done it on the grill and in the oven.  Can't say it's the right way, but can say this was my way on how it was done.

The phrase "violet balsamic vinegar" was never in my vocabulary until I visited The Olive Scene, a local shop with only the best oils and vinegars available in this area.  Upon tasting it I knew I had to buy at least a $6 mini bottle to see what I could create.  Tasting the mellow sweetness gave me the hint it would go with just about anything from veggie salads, fruit salads to brush-on flavors for meat.  However, I wanted to find something truly distinguishable.

Hearkening to art history courses in high school and college, I remembered colors have opposites; therefore, the opposite is complementary.  So, I thought the best balsamic to brush on the golden yellow corn was the violet infused.

I have to say, it was some of the best corn I've ever had using this technique and vinegar.

I'm unsure and do not care if my color/flavor theory will hold in any scientific or gastronomic circles.  I'm elated it's given my husband and I a distinct flavor for a seasonal treat.

preheat oven or closed grill to 300 - 400 degrees F

Shuck corn and put in bowl or bag to soak the ears for at least 30 minutes.

Combine 1 part olive oil and two parts violet balsamic or regular balsamic in small bowl.  Mix well each time you brush the corn.

Set each corn ear in it's own square of tin foil.  Brush well mixed vinaigrette onto and between kernels.

 Wrap in foil and set on rack as one would do with baked potatoes.

For grill:  wrap in foil and set on top grate, closed lid on low (about 300-400), for 40 minutes

For oven: preheated oven (between 300 - 400) for 30 - 40 minutes

The Olive Scene: a Foodie's Shopping Spree and Dream Come True

It's so much easier for a home chef to make incredible meals when the best ingredients are available.  The Olive Scene is the place I go for the best olive oil and vinegars I've been able to find.

Northern Ohio Foodies definitely need to visit one of their three locations or their booth at local farmer's markets.  Anyone from out of town reading this will be happy to know they can keep reading and visit their website because they can ship just about anywhere.  

If you are a local and plan a visit, consider you are taking your taste buds on a roller coaster of flavor.  You can taste everything from basil infused olive oil to violet balsamic vinegar.  Professional associates will be happy to help with suggestions and have recipes on their website.

Their olive oils are global award winners and certified UP - Ultra Premium.

And, the vinegars - the balsamic vinegars - are divine.  Their traditional 18 year aged balsamic is the best I've had, in my kitchen and my life - it's just that good.  I have used it on it's own instead of a balsamic reduction because it's just about syrupy and bold enough to stand on it's own.  I bought my first bottle last year and I can no longer imagine buying any other balsamic.  I have in the past year but, even where I can find oil almost as good, I have never found anything that compares to Olive Scene's vinegars.  Imagine tasting the best wine or beer you ever had.  Then, imagine your next glass of wine from a box or a cheap tasting light beer, even though it wasn't cheap.  This is what home cooks will feel once they try Olive Scene's balsamic.

The wonder doesn't stop there.  They have infused their distinctively delicious balsamics (both dark and white) with a huge variety of flavors.  This home chef calls their shops
My new Olive Scene haul, except for the truffle oil I still had from the last trip
a playground of possibilities.

They have every type of vinegar you can think of, and haven't.  $6 mini bottles opens the door for lots of creativity for each course.  Coconut white balsamic?  I thought of a zippy mango salsa right away.  However, there were too many others I had to take home with me.  The coconut will unfortunately have to wait until my next visit, along with at least six others I wanted to bring home for experiments.  After tastings and suggestions by a trio of several nice associates, I tasted balsamic vinegars infused with blackberry and ginger, (sold),  black cherry (sold), strawberry (sold) and violet (sold).

My head was already racing with possibilities on how to use this new palette.  An associate who turned me onto the violet balsamic vinegar suggested the strawberry balsamic goes extremely well with tomatoes.  What a great idea!  I also told her I intended to use the strawberry vinegar in my next batch of strawberry jam; I told her I have used their regular balsamic in the past and it's really made the jam POP.  

Can't wait to get started posting about my vinegar adventures.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Barbecue Ribs in a Crock Pot

After this hard, cold winter I couldn't wait any longer for the summer flavor of barbecue.  I've never made ribs at home, even during the grilling season.  I've heard that ribs need to be boiled, smoked, tenderized ..... in short, too many steps to intimidate a home cook into driving to the nearest rib joint and placing an order.

I was inspired by online posts of doing them in a crock pot.  Once again my slow cooker made magic.

I saw several rub recipes with a teaspoon of this, two teaspoons of that, but I didn't even get that complicated.  It was so simple, I don't need to write it up as a recipe - just a method.

Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, smoked paprika and brown sugar on both sides.  I used a fork to rub the seasonings in rather than my hands.

Set the slow cooker on 4 hours.

Then place the ribs on foil-lined trays and put them in a 350 degree oven.  I had to be careful as the meat was already falling off the bone.  Baste with your favorite sauce and cook for 15 minutes for the sauce to bake in.

Add another layer of sauce and bake for another 10 minutes.  You can do this with another layer of sauce if you think it's necessary, or even turn on the broiler to low for about 5 minutes to char it a bit for more of a grilled flavor.

I plan on doing the crock method and using the grill to finish in summer.  Ribs will now be on the menu all four seasons in this household.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Au Gratin Potatoes - Easier than You Think

You'll never want to make a boxed version again.

I served these last night for our next door neighbor and his 5th grade daughter.  She was the first to finish.

This will be an easy crowd pleaser for holiday get-togethers.  Mom serves homemade au gratin potatoes every Christmas, so I know this will go very well with an Easter ham.

They also were a great accompaniment to our crock pot BBQ ribs last night.

This recipe can be done economically or you can be really decadent and use artisan cheeses.  The cheese sauce is the same as when I make homemade macaroni and cheese.

My special ingredient is cream cheese, or goat cheese when I can afford to splurge.  I have found that they bring the same creaminess as using whole milk or cream but adds more flavor and dimension ; therefore, more delicious and addictive.

Prep Time:  approx. 20-30 minutes.  Cook time: 1 1/2 hours  Makes approx. 6-8 servings  (you or your guests will WANT leftovers)


2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dry rosemary, or 3 teaspoons fresh (I used 2 teaspoons of powdered rosemary from Penzey's Spices - online ordering possible if no retail stores are around)
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese

2 cups of shredded or finely diced cheese.  (I used a cup of extra sharp cheddar and a cup of sliced swiss chopped into tiny squares)
4 ounces of cream cheese (half of a standard package) or 4 ounces of goat cheese

6 cups of yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and thinly slices (about 6-7 medium potatoes)

3/4 cup of white or yellow onion, finely diced (about one medium)

1 large or two small cloves garlic, minced

Non stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350

Peel and slice onions as thin as possible.  Use a mandolin if available and use most narrowest blade.  Keep the slices submerged in a bowl of cold water so they don't turn gray by the time you need them.

Dice onion and garlic and set aside

In a large saucepan, melt butter and add oil on low heat 

Sprinkle in flour and mix until all is smooth

Add milk slowly while mixing to retain smoothness

Add salt, pepper, rosemary and parmesan

Turn stove to medium heat and add the rest of the cheese.  Stir until melted and smooth.  

Turn stove onto high and stir until sauce starts to bubble up.  Remove from heat.

Add onion and garlic, drain potatoes from the water and add.  Stir well.

Pour into a casserole dish or individual gratin bakers that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Cover with foil.

Bake one hour.  Uncover.  Bake 30 minutes until fork tender and until desired browning.


Friday, February 28, 2014

Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps - by Steve Goldberg

My friend Steve is a poet, home chef and one heck of a nice guy.  I enjoy reading his work on his website and looking at photos he posts on his Facebook page when he makes something delicious.

When he posted these photos last Sunday I knew I had to share.

As you can see, these look impressive for company and cool for the kids.  

I've seen several yummy looking photos on Pinterest, Instagram and food blogs making something similar to this with bacon; but always with some kind of layering or weaving involved to make some kind of basket to hold the egg.  Steve's method seems much more simple without sacrificing presentation or taste.  Plus, it's less greasy which means less mess and less calories.  I love how some of the ham edges wrinkle almost like petals.

As for taste, his recipe calls for more than just an egg.  There is more decadent stuff hidden between the egg and ham which makes a delicious and classy surprise.   I'll be making these soon, and I will definitely be making these when we host out-of-town guests this summer.  Thanks, Steve.

3/4 lb mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons crème fraiche or sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
12 slices Black Forest or Virginia Ham (without holes; 10oz)
12 large eggs

Garnish: fresh tarragon leaves
Accompaniment: buttered brioche or challah toast
Special equipment: a muffin tin with 12 (1/2 cup) muffin cups

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare mushrooms:
Cook mushrooms and shallot in butter with salt and pepper in a large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and liquid they give off is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraiche and tarragon.

Assemble and Bake:
Fit 1 slice of ham into 12 lightly oiled muffin cups (ends will stick up and hang over edges of cups). Divide mushrooms among cups and crack 1 egg into each. Bake in middle of oven until whites are cooked but yokes are still runny, about 15 minutes. Season eggs with salt and pepper and remove (with ham) from muffin cups carefully, using 2 spoons or small spatulas.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Easiest Way to Make Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Making tasty, fresh mozzarella cheese is easier than you think, especially with this 30 minute method.
 I tried two other 'traditional' methods I found online.  I can see where these methods were necessary in the process and most likely had spectacular results for the seasoned at-home cheese maker with a double boiler, curd cutting knife, etc.  This newbie came upon humorous, lumpy and tasteless results.

This method was the easiest and tastiest.   All you need is milk, distilled water, citric acid and rennet.  Citric acid can most likely be found in the section of canning materials at most local groceries and even big box stores.  Or, you can buy it online along with your tablet or liquid rennet, which may be the only place you will find rennet to buy.

You will also need a cooking thermometer and thick dishwashing gloves.  

Don't skimp on the salt.  Without salt, any cheese will only taste like hard milk.  

Hey, that sounds like a cool band name: Hard Milk.  That now ranks up there with the other name for my fantasy rock band, The Meaty Bits, inspired by our cats' favorite canned food.

Whole milk of course works best.  2% will be a bit more like string cheese; just a bit.

DO NOT use ultra pasteurized milk for ANY cheese you try to make.

Distilled water IS the best, for this and any cheese you try to make, especially at the beginner stage like me.

Here is the link to my favorite, easiest mozz recipe.  I divided it by half and came up with the photo you see.


Monday, January 6, 2014

My First Time Making Cheese

India calls this Paneer.  The US calls it Farmer's Cheese.  I call it easy and delicious.  I was astonished at how wonderful this was.  It does taste like chevre goat cheese and has a similar texture - spreadable with a light creamy fluffiness.  

I had NO plans on blogging about my first evening (second try) of making cheese.  I had plans on blogging about my 6th or 7th creations, after authentic and more complex ingredients will be delivered.

Yet,   this recipe link is too good and too easy not to share.  I made this the first time with 1 pint of whole milk with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  After a lot of squeezing after taking the warm curd out of the cloth,  I rolled it into a ball and put it into a bowl of ice water.  I stored it in some of its drained whey.  It tasted fine, but had more of a firm texture.  It was actually more chewy, slicable and meltable.  

I prefer the goat-like--chevre.  Goat's milk is not easy to find around these parts.  Regular milk, lemon, vinegar or pure citric acid is.  No wonder this is a simple "Farmer's Cheese" across the globe or part of your own family's heritage.

I don't know how to mold this yet, nor do I yet have any cool molds. Time will come.

Until then, this cheese does just fine in a small bowl or ramekin.

If this is your first time, consider making half or a quarter of the batch that I am posting.  I did, and wasn't sorry I got two different outcomes.  Everyone deserves a practice swing.

I'll have more photos of my own when I'm actually ready to post.  Until then, and always, refer to THIS LINK:  as my inspiration.