Saturday, April 25, 2009

Story Of A Farmer, and My Salad

There once was a farmer in California named Walter Knott. Along with his wife Cordelia, who raised a family and berries during the depression.

The whole berry thing took off, the Knott family built a roadside stand, turning berries into a profitable business. Cordelia had a knack with jams, jellies and preserves, they sold those too. She could make a mean pie and killer fried chicken so they opened a restaurant.

Cordelia's fried chicken, pies and preserves were popular, crowds gathered at Mrs. Knott's Famous restaurant. Walter plowed up the berries and put in amusement park.

The blackberry seedless jam. It adds just the right touch to one of my favorite salads.

Mesculin Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Dressing

Mesculin or Red leaf
Red Seedless Grapes-sliced in half
Thin Red Onion Rings
Candied Pecans
Dried Cranberries
Blue Cheese-crumbled

Black Berry Balsamic Dressing

3/4 cup light olive or salad oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Knott's Blackberry Seedless Jam
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
Kosher salt and Fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk vinegar with Dijon, garlic and jam. Stream in half the oil slowly while whisking briskly. Add a little salt and fresh pepper and taste. Continue whisking in oil as needed until just combined, but do not over beat. It's not always necessary to use all the oil, adjust along with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8.

Mr's Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant is celebrating it's 75 anniversary, Congratulations! now pass the jam.

What's for Dinner?

Tri tip marinated in Worcestershire, fresh garlic, Dijon mustard salt and ground black pepper. No recipe needed, just trim, put it in a Z-lock with ingredients from above, pat dry and grill. Serve with it with this great salad!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chili Report

More Chili.
This time in the city of Whittier on a bright hot Saturday noon. Family in tow, tasting spoons ready, sunscreen inadequate. Note to self... hats when we go next time!

Chili Taster Notes-
Chili Verde catches my eye, pretty, sassy sister to the red, offers a spirited bite.
My favorite taste of the day; the Tri-tip Chili, not to mild with a spicy slap in the mouth.
My worst taste of the day; Nearly died when I tasted a cold sweet chili, watery with ugly tomatoes in it.
Observed unspoken chili competitor rules;

You must have a great chili name and slogan that goes with it. "Puff Puff Chili" wont cut it , you need a name like "House on Fire" or "Angry Pepper Chili".

Name, slogan and location of home base should appear on a banner in front of ones area. It should be witty, colorful and memorable.

Chili pepper novelties need to adorn all corners of ones canopy, as well as ears, necks, pinned or, worn on a shirt or embellishing hats and aprons.

Showmanship! Good competitors sell their chili, brag, boast and swear theirs is the best. Popular vote can be swayed.

Relax, rules seem to differ from contest to contest only friendly camaraderie remains consistent.
Chill on that.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chili Fever

Is there tomatoes in your chili? I asked coyly, pretending not to care. "Well," he drawled, "If I tell you, I'll have to kill you."

Most cooks are all to excited to share their recipes, but not at a chili cook off. Wise and wonderful, retired and reborn they sport aprons with profound slogans and cook up tales along with chili. Contestants will brag, exaggerate and embellish their chili's fame and their personal accomplishments, but they won't divulge how they make it. I copy that.

What am I doing in Bakersfield California, the middle of nowhere, fishing for information on chili? Why did I drive 150 miles to see crazy people drag out stoves, coolers and watch pop-up canopies yawn? To witness would be chili champions swear over pots of homemade Texas stew? Or maybe, for a shot of chili extended on a custom handle? Honestly, it's because I dream about being a crazy chili person too.

It was only about a year ago when my family and I went to our first magical Chili Cook off. Pots stewing, sweat pouring and the heady aroma of bliss in a bowl. I am a big fan of a "bowl of red", Chili speak for traditional red chili made with meat, any number of peppers and spices. I also love any occasion when people gather for food. Since, I have harbored a secret desire to show off my own special recipe. But not yet.

If I am serious about this, I need to prepare. To start with, I have been reading. So far I have read over 200 recipes, absorbing the history, the ingredients and tips from the masters. All of that studying of course is worthless if I don't get out the pot and cook!

I have, I did, and I will continue on my quest for my perfect chili. No, there will not be tomatoes in it, I am a chili purist. I believe in tradition with a few tricks, but that's all I will say. Did you really think I would share my recipe? You know if I did, I'd have to kill you. So here is a cookie recipe instead.

11 ¼ cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
3 cup butter
6 cup sugar
6 large egg
¾ cup milk
3 teaspoon vanilla

Stir together flour, soda, cream of tartar and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Beat butter for 30 seconds; add the 6 cups sugar and beat till fluffy.
Add eggs, milk and vanilla; beat well.
Add dry ingredients to beaten mixture, beating till well combined.
Make Cinnamon and Sugar mixture (9 tablespoons sugar, 3 teaspoons cinnamon) to sprinkle on cookies.
#40 scoop for mini cookies, 5x6 on sheet pan bake 5 minutes.
#24 scoop for regular cookies, 4x5 on sheet pan bake 8 minutes.
Flatten slightly and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture, or until lightly golden brown.
I think this makes 198 cookies, I told you I still cook like I am a caterer.