Thursday, July 30, 2009

Prepare a Pair of Pears - Grilled Pear Salad

I knew it was bound to happen at some point. I love participating in the BakeSpace Challenges every month, but the last half of last month and the first two-thirds of this Month have been EXTREMELY busy. So I missed out on last months challenge, and I am down to the wire on this one…. I suppose it should not bother me too much, I DO enjoy living life on the edge. After all, the earth is round, it’s not like you can fall off or something… (OK, yeah, that was kind of lame)

Be that as it may, this month’s challenge was particularly interesting for me. It was Fruits of the Grill, while avoiding such items as Peaches and Pineapple (cause they have been all over the Food Network for years). Yes, and while Grapes and Blueberries might pose complications, there are many other fruits out there that will more than likely benefit from a quick fly by the BBQ to receive some ultra sexy grill marks. Yeah, that’s right. I said it… Grill marks just make food sexy. I am pretty darn sure that this penchant for ‘Fire Branding’ is related somehow to the ‘Open Flame’ gene on the Y chromosome, but hey, whaddya gonna do?

So back to Fruit Flamage... I finally decided that I was going to do a spin on a fruit salad that my mom would make when I was a kid. We always made a trip to Hood River, in the early fall, to pick up crates of both Elberta peaches and Red Bartlett pears.

I am going to digress for a second about the peaches before returning to the pears… Elberta peaches have GOT to be the best peach on the planet… I swear… It was the original “Georgia Peach” until the 60s when industrial hybrids started taking over. The sad part is that in the early 80’s, in Hood River, a really late frost decimated the trees, now the orchards have all been replanted with something called ‘Western Pride They just aren’t as good. Seriously, they aren’t… There was a subtle spiciness to the Elberta that is completely lost in the Western Pride.

My parents would ‘pressure can’ all the peaches and pears for the winter months, well, after a few nights of fresh fruit. I was not able to get my hands on a fresh red Bartlett; it’s still a little early… But since I am grilling it, I really think a d’Anjou will hold up better as it's a little firmer than the Bartlett. Red d’Anjous originated as naturally occurring bud sports found on Green d’Anjou trees. "Bud sports" are spontaneous, naturally occurring genetic mutations occurring on trees and plants; they are fairly rare and often go unnoticed. Red Anjous, however, did not go unnoticed; in fact this rarity occurred twice. The first red sport of Anjou was discovered in the 50's near Medford, OR, and a second red sport was discovered in the late 70's in Parkdale, OR (Parkdale is just south of Hood River).

OK, I promise -- that is the end of my fruit filled musings. The original fruit salad hails from those chill evening in the middle of January; mom would break out a jar of pears and make this fruit salad. Very simple and very delicious… OH HO!!!! I think I just experienced an epiphany while I am typing this up… I think this particular dish is responsible for my Sweet & Salty fascination. My mothers original version was simply a Pear half sprinkled with shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese with a small dollop of homemade Mayonnaise and a colorful sprinkle of Paprika. Deliciously sweet yet salty from the cheddar and a slight tang from the Mayonnaise. It was one of my favorite things growing up, and even when I didn't really know how to cook, I could still assemble a pretty good facsimile... Yeah, the store bought mayo is a little lacking...

Tonight, however, I am going to put a spin on this, since my "potential ingredient" knowledge has been expanded over the years. With that being said, the Pears are to be grilled, the Sharp Cheddar has become Pecorino Romano, the Mayonnaise has transformed into Crème Fraîche and the Paprika has morphed into Cinnamon. And T-H-E-N, I'm going to drizzle the whole thing with a Balsamic Reduction AND an Orange Muscat-Cinnamon Reduction.

OK, I'll admit I am kind of going over the top a little. But hey, that is the purpose of the BakeSpace Challenge... Exercising your Creative Muscle. This would not be my first flop... and I am sure that it will still be somewhat edible when I am done... LOL

Grilled Pear Salad

2 d’Anjou or Bosc pears (If you are simply going to serve this un-grilled, I would suggest a Comice pear)
1/2 of a Lemon
Shredded Pecorino Romano
Crème Fraîche
Orange Muscat Reduction
Balsamic Reduction
Walnut, Macadamia Nut Oil or even a cooking spray (for brushing the fruit)

The reductions are fairly simple....
For the Orange Muscat Reduction, place 1 1/4 cups Orange Muscat wine in a sauce pan over low heat, add a cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer... (Try not to actually boil it)

Reduce to about 1/3 cup and set aside to cool before pouring into a little squeeze bottle.

For the Balsamic Reduction, place 3/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar in a sauce pan, bring to a gentle simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup (it will be pretty thick at this point)

Remove from heat and cool before pouring into another little squeeze bottle.

OK, Grilled Pear Time....

Begin heating the BBQ Grill or your Grill pan.
Peel and slice the pears and half, lengthwise; remove the core.

Rub each half of the pear with the Lemon to prevent browning.

Lightly coat the grill with oil or cooking spray.
Place the pears, cut side down, on the hot grill for 2 minutes.

Turn and grill the backside for another minute or 2. (Common, tell me those grill marks aren't just sexy)

Place in a dish and sprinkle with Shredded Pecorino Romano; place a small dollop of Crème Fraîche in the spot where the core was removed then sprinkle with a pinch of Cinnamon (this is more fore décor purposes than anything else, Mace will work too)

Drizzle with Balsamic Reduction
Drizzle with Orange Muscat Reduction

Serve with more Chilled Orange Muscat…

I guess the premise was OK, but it needs work... Especially with the plating... What a Mess!!!
It didn't turn out the way I had it pictured in my head. The flavor was still really good, but I think it needed more cheese, and I think I will drop the Orange Muscat Reduction... Just a little too much sweet that didn't need to be there. I would have been better off just brushing the pear face with Grand Marnier.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Public Service Announcement From "Processed Cheese Free America"

This is Cheddar......

This is Cheddar on Sourdough.....

Any Questions?

I mentioned this, back on my "Lets Talk A Little Turkey" post. So it is time to visit that tried and true sandwich loved by so many.... Yeah Baby! I'm talkin' 'bout Grilled Cheese. My particularly favorite grilled cheese sandwich involves Sharp Cheddar cheese, which, while not quite as smooth when melted as say oh, "American Cheese" or even Mild Cheddar, gives you that punch of flavor as only good sharp cheddar can.

There are 4 things, in my opinion, that can take a Grilled Cheese to a whole new level:

  • Sourdough Bread
  • Prepared Horseradish
  • REALLY Soft, slightly melted Butter
  • Raw Cast Iron

There is just something special about grilling a sandwich in raw cast iron pan that cannot compare to any other form of cookware. Even enameled cast iron doesn't do the job as well. I think it has to do with the seasoning on the pan itself. Even a well seasoned cast iron pan is pitted. I think it facilitates better browning.

Awesome Grilled Cheese

Begin heating a Cast Iron Pan over medium flame, with a little pat of butter to season it before hand and to let you know when it's ready for your sandwich (when it foams, you know the skillet is ready)

OK, Brush both pieces of Sourdough with melted butter.

Spread with Horseradish on both pieces, I am pretty sure I use about 2 tsp (it might be a Tablespoon)

Lay down the cheese...

Press the two halves together, and brush the top facing slice with more melted butter.

Lay into the hot pan, buttered side down and brush the facing sourdough with the butter.

After about 1 1/2 -2 minutes, flip the sandwich over.

Grill for another 1 1/2 minutes.

Slice in half on a slight diagonal and serve warm... With Tomato soup... mmm Comfort Food!!!

Horseradish is an excellent accompaniment to the sharp cheddar, it goes even better with extra sharp. For a little extra zing - I sometimes mix the horseradish with a little Brown Mustard. So how do you like YOUR grilled Cheese??


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Yuzu, Ponzu and Binchyou too - Sesame Seared Albacore with Ponzu Miso-Damari

Ponzu is a simple yet flavorful sauce. The Sauce usually served at your favorite sushi restaurant upon ordering the Seared Albacore. It is perfectly salty and tangy without being overpowering yet rich in Umami to add savoriness to any dish.

There is one problem though, Ponzu is made with Yuzu, an Asian citrus reminiscent of grapefruit with hints of orange sweetness but the acidity of a key lime or lemon. Extremely fragrant with floral notes, this fruit is seldom seen in the United States. Thus is my obstacle with making it at home. I am attempting to at least get close to Yuzu by mixing Grapefruit, Orange, and Key Lime juices for flavor with Meyer Lemon Zest and Makrut Lime Leaves for fragrance.

Yes, is would be a WHOLE lot easier if I could just find the fruit. LOL

Ponzu Miso-Damari and Ponzu Shoyu are the quick versions of this Japanese Sauce. True Ponzo is made with Mirin (Sweet Rice Wine) and steeped for 24-48 hours with the Bonito and Konbu. But in the essence of time constraints I have decided to make what is technically Ponzu "Soy sauce". Although, I have chosen to use Tamari instead of Shoyu (soy sauce) mainly because of current "brewing" practices. I am allergic to soy products, unless they have been fermented as with true Miso or Black Bean Paste (although I have recently discovered that manufacturers are cheating on the black bean paste as well).

Tamari is simply the liquid run-off collected during the pressing and fermentation of the soybeans while making Miso. Most soy sauce (shoyu) is made from Hydrolyzed Soy Protein instead of brewed from natural bacterial and fungal cultures. If the bottle says "Carmel Color", it's fake. This is the sort of thing I am allergic to -- Soy Protein Isolates & TVP being on the list as well.

There is a secondary issue, not so much for me, but I know for others. True Tamari is a wheat free product, thus a good choice for those who are eliminating gluten from their diets. Soy sauce contains wheat, even the fake stuff has wheat in it. If you see Tamari brewed with wheat listed on the label, then it is not real Tamari, but 'poser' Soy Sauce. This may or may not be intentional, there was a name brand of soy sauce called Tamari, thus where the confusion begins as the names have become somewhat synonymous with each other, but let me assure you they are VERY different products. Tamari is thicker and has a richer much more refined and subtle flavor, withough being overly salty like Soy sauce.

Ponzu Miso-Damari

1/4 cup Tamari (as opposed to Shoyu or Soy Sauce)
4 tsp Orange Juice
4 tsp Key Lime Juice
4 tsp Grapefruit Juice
1/2 tsp Meyer Lemon Zest
1 Makrut Lime Leaf (both lobes); Chiffonade
2 TB Rice Vinegar; Unseasoned
optional - 1 3 inch piece of Konbu (Kombu - Sea kelp)
optional - 1 1/2 tsp Bonito flakes (dried, flaked Yellow Fin Tuna; AKA Katsuobushi)

Before we get started, lets talk Makrut Lime leaves. The Makrut (Kaffir or Thai) Lime has a double lobed leaf.

First, these should be separated.

Fold the leaf over

and run your knife down the length of the stem to remove it. (cause you REALLY don't want that part)

Then lay the leaves in a stack and

slice as thinly as possible.

OK, Back to the recipe....

In a glass jar or measuring cup, combine all ingredients

and stir or shake gently.

Store covered in a cool dark place for 1 hour if using the bonito flakes.
If you skipped the Bonito, go ahead and refrigerate for 1 hour to let the flavors meld, then proceed.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth, discarding any citrus pulp solids and bonito flakes.

Store for 2 months in refrigerator.

Bring to room temperature before using it on.........

Sesame Black Pepper Seared Albacore (Binchyou)

This is not really a recipe... just a method. And yes, in case you were wondering about the title of this post, Binchyou is Japanese for Albacore Tuna. ;)

Albacore Steaks
Black Sesame Seeds
White Sesame Seeds
Cracked Black Pepper
Kosher Salt
Sesame Oil (for Rubbing and Searing)

First, dry the tuna with paper towels.

Fill a shallow dish with sesame seeds.

Rub with a little bit of Sesame oil.

Hit it with salt and cracked pepper.

Place, salt and pepper side down, into the sesame seeds; then rub the facing side with more sesame oil.

Hit it with salt and cracked pepper again.

Lift the Tuna steak and add more sesame seeds, then place the uncoated side down.

Add a little sesame oil to a skillet set over Medium heat.

Add the tuna and sear for about 2 minutes.

Flip and sear the other side for 2 more minutes (This really depends on teh thickness of your steak, mine was about 1 inch thick.)

Remove from pan and slice.
Arrange slices on a plate with Ponzu Miso-Damari and sprinkle with thinly sliced scallions if desired.


Monday, July 27, 2009

A Whole Lotta Crostata

I love Jam. I swear preserves are one of the greatest achievements of mankind. There is just something awesome about fruit smeared over toast, croissant or crumpet. There is only one problem with this delicious innovation. Due to my slightly obsessive behavior, OK, forget the slightly... My refrigerator tends to accumulate an excessive amount of 'Jars du Jam'. When I can no longer open the door without a plethora of crashing glass, it is time to clean house. The fastest way I know to eliminate a mound of marmalade, is to bake Crostata.

Crostata is a delicious free form jam tart from Italy. Wonderfully simple, charmingly rustic and absolutely delicious. I'm crazy about them. (Much to the relief of my refrigerator) Thus is was, this evening, that I cleaned out the reminants of 5 Jams... On the list this evening was the last of what had been my frozen Meyer Lemon Curd as well as the disturbingly green Key Lime Curd from a couple months ago. These were closely followed by some Swedish Cranberry, Black Currant Jelly and Strawberry. I am now Jam free, which leaves plenty more room for any new and interesting preserves I... er, um... OK, maybe I will hold off ---- for just a little while.


1 recipe Pâte Brisée
Jam, Marmalade, Jelly or Curd of your choosing
1 large egg or egg white ; well beaten (whole egg produced more golden color, white alone produces shine)
Sanding Sugar or Demerara sugar

First prepare the Pâte Brisée.
Once the dough can be gathered together, cut into eight pieces.

Roll each piece into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap; chill for 30 mintues.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove 1 pasty ball and turn out onto a floured surface

Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. (it doesn't have to be a perfect circle, this is rustic)

Spread about 2-3 TB of Jam/Jelly/Marmalade/Curd in the center using an offset spatula; leaving a 1/2 to 3/4 inch boarder for folding.

Begin folding the edges over, allowing them to wrinkle as you are going.

Move to a parchment lined baking sheet (I use 2 spatulas)

Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and brush with egg or egg white.

Sprinkle the edge with Sanding or Demerara sugar.

Return to the oven for 12-15 minutes.
Move to a rack to cool completely, cause hot jam REALLY burns.

And there you have it...
Key Lime and Meyer Lemon Curd

Top left - Strawberry; Top right and Bottom left - Swedish Cranberry; Bottom right - Black Currant.