Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blackmarket Magic

At Blackmarket Bakery last Monday night, I'm ready to experience a magical purple powder. All ready the talk of the town, the rich aubergine color comes from the formally useless skins of Cabernet grapes. This by-product of wine production is dried and ground into a fine silken flour and packaged under the Marche Noir label. Marche' Noir is the slick sis of Blackmarket Bakery, and successful chef/owner Rachel Klemek has turned this ingredient into beautiful things.

What happened next was unexpected, I had come to cook with a dozen local food blogger's, which is exciting enough, but it was Rachel's kitchen that moved me.
Just past the well presented retail space is the immaculate bakery production area, (I swear it's the poster child for Health Department's everywhere). The well organized space, both cozy and spacious is stocked with suitable baking supplies. Pristine red pots steam convincingly on the stove, while sacks of flour and sugar slump neatly under stainless steel tables, patiently waiting to be baked into something wonderful.
The kitchen is the envy of any one who dreams of a commercial enterprise and while I stood waiting to start, a feeling of homesickness washed over me.

It's been several years since I closed my own commercial kitchen and the whirl of double stacked ovens set on terracotta floor tiles, tugged at my heart, it was a odd nostalgic moment. I keep in mind the excruciating long days a food business takes, and know the hours are ten times what is posted on the door. I remind myself I'm here for the Cabernet Flour not a walk down memory lane!
Rachel Klemek has an amazing business and a high functioning product. The Cabernet flour mixes with traditional flour adding a unique flavor, amazing color and numerous health benefits. What I liked best, is the pasta will stay "aldente" when cooked, keeps it's color and absorbs sauce beautifully. The flour, when used in baking, offers ripe grape notes and is soft lavender or the concentrated color twisted through creates a stunning marbled effect.

 I couldn't possibly share the whole evening in one post, and do it justice. I met new people, reunited with some I met before, and loved cooking with them all. Rachel is generous with her ingredients and her kitchen, pulling everything out while we tear into her space. Masterpieces were created with her pasta and Cabernet Flour as well as a sink full of dishes. That is when I remembered, when it comes to the business of food, there are a few things I don't miss.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

13 Candles, (11 and IOU 2)

Sean is 13 today, I had to decorate the house yesterday for the occasion.
He chose Italian for dinner...
Bruschetta, Orzo Salad...Meatless Meatballs + Chicken for the non vegetarians...
And we had to make our own pizza that I burnt.
(I burnt the chicken too, but I won't show that picture, too embarrassing).
There were gifts... 
I made Sean his special request cake, mango with mangosteen custard and more fresh mango. I only had 11 candles, I owe Sean 2 more. I'm good for it.
We had donuts for breakfast.
Yes, we also had eggs and juice (for you food police)

Now it's time for the official family ballad, the tune is, la la la la la la la la la la .. LA.. LA! and it goes like this;
This is your birthday song....
It wont be very long....Happy Birthday!

Happy 13th Birthday Sean, wishing you many, many more!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I packed a pickle...

I had a terrific time at today's Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Local Exchange and Melissa's Foods, Pickling and Preserving Class. Led by Chef Maureen Lisi-MacReady and her team, it was held in a well equipped cooking lab at the beautiful Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Pasadena, and there was parking!!!!

Facts, ideas and questions swirled by the Chefs (who clearly know what their doing, good thing 'cause I don't ) now my note taking kinda looks like gibberish;
"Chefs book mes giggachef "Joy of Pickeling" Linda Ziedrich, Ball Blue Book sm book new cove
....been preserving foods since..mesopotamia...
Brine has acid...
amounts are inportant
2parts salts 1 sugar 3parts Acid +1water
Pickeling use whole spice only, not in jam gd ok
Low acid foods require more time...
whole tomato lemon slice...
olive oil on top
Make quart to 2 quarts 25 min.
Availibility vs. Seasonability
when pectin is added bring back to boil for one whole minute
pectin keeps it from jiggleing like a 50 year old
2 Tablespoon per cup"

When we started the hands on portion using a bounty of Melissa's Foods to work with we stuffed are jars with colorfull vegetables. I worked with a partner together to "build a brine".  
(WAIT STOP! That is a great idea, "Build A Brine" could be the next hot  thing! We can let foodies put goodies in a sterile jar and pour hot brine over it...the water bath, then even decorate the jar....)
 OH! sorry, carried away ...  and then we canned.

The obvious food bloggers in the class, were snapping photos like it was a moon landing. Stepping over students, staging the perfect shots in total food/foodie photo nirvana. The best part was a chance to get with friends and new friends to talk about food and food and food books and food blogs oh! My! and websites about food.

Chef Maureen (Mo) Was such a hoot!! She not only knows her canning inside and out, she is warm witty and wise. Chef Maureen really knows what she likes and her "mole" technique is dear to my own heart.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Panko Crab Cakes!

Let's be honest, cocktail wieners won't cut it anymore. We all know this, yet we still bring out the onion dip every time we entertain. The internet is packed with great food blogs, just google and you will find a gillion really great appetizers ready to land in your lap, (or on your lap top!). You can start by trying my  little Panko crusted crab cakes beauties here.

Panko is Japanese bread crumbs, (if I didn't know better I would have guessed an Asian conglomerate). Panko crumbs are light and airy, like fresh snow, with lot's of surface area and superior to the regular bread crumb. I can count on them to stay crispy and golden but not oily when fried. Panko thankfully, minds it's own business and doesn't interfere with other flavors. Once I used them in a dish, I found myself wanting to replace all the crumbs in my life.

"Wow" you say, so if panko is so great, what else could it be used for? Well...I top casseroles, coat fish, chicken,vegetables and use it in meatloaf...and I'm thinking of other possibilities like... thrown at a wedding instead of rice! Maybe as a filling for a comfortable chair or you can use it to turn your yard into a winter scene! Really if it wasn't so pricey I would use it in the litter box (good kitty, nicely coated!)

Last Saturday the my cooking class enjoyed Panko Crisp Crab Cakes with a Spicy Remoulade. Go figure,  I'm allergic to crab, so when I worked on the recipe I had to test it using other fish! So if you know someone who can't do shellfish, try salmon instead.

Anniversary & Endive

"I can't believe I missed my anniversary!" I wined. My husband gave me his disinterested look. This, by the way, is the look he gives every time he thinks I'm making a "whoop to do" out of nothing.  Two years blogging may not seem like a really big deal but when you tap the key's with one finger, there's carpal issues if nothing else.

Blog anniversary aside, I taught class on Saturday September 11 at Yorba Linda Library.  The subject was appetizers and a really nice group of 75. The endive recipe below is one of my favorites. I posted this once before in 2008 but like this pic better and wanted it easier to find for my new library friends.

Endive with Chevre, Pear and Candied Pecan- (reprinted from 2008)
Creamy goat cheese, sweet, crisp pear and candied pecan cradled in a crisp endive leaf, so easy to make I love it's fresh taste and know you will too!

3 heads endive
6 ounces chevre cheese
cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
1 pear
¼ cup pecans candied

Remove leaves from endive heads. Wash and pat dry.
Cut pear lengthwise( seed but do not peal) and dice 1/2. Save other half for tray garnish.
Mix chevre with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and pinch of salt. Fold in chopped pear and 1/2 of candied pecans. Be very gentle when mixing, best to use gloved hands.
Top each leaf with chevre mixture and arrange on platter, sprinkle with remaining pecans and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and more cracked pepper.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nut's for Knott's

I 'm thinking of pie. I can't make it, (trust me I've tried) but I love to eat it! It's goes without saying the fair is synonymous with pie and when it comes to making a perfect one, everyone in So Cal knows Knott's Berry Farm reigns supreme.  Knott's in Buena Park CA, is the birthplace of the best boysenberry's made into filling ever placed in a tin and baked to perfection.

Every night this Summer at the 2010 OC Fair "Artful Fare" culinary exhibit, fans of pie eagerly waited to hear their name called for a chance to participate in the evenings pie eating contest. If they were lucky to get one of eight coveted positions, they would don the trash bag shield and face a half a pie. No forks, no  hands, and please- no expelling, thank you.

This is the second year I got to work with Knott's team to bring face friendly pie to fair goers for a "berry fine" facial. The contest packed in a crowd, for some reason people love watching pie slide off purple plastered noses. Pie people are crazy.

Next year if Knott's is willing, I am thinking a big vat of pie where one could dive up to their earlobes in berry-ness. Humm...not a bad idea...Until next year, feel free to make me a pie! Here's a recipe straight from my 1976 Knott's Berry Farm Cookbook, by Florine Sikking and Judith Zeidler; Crust was on another page, so I'll just type it in;

Pie Crust for a two crust pie: 2 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of butter, 1/3 cup of shortening, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup of orange juice. Combine flour, shortening, butter, salt with a pastry blender until pebbly. Add juice and work together but do not over mix. Divide into two rounds and roll on floured board.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

All's Fair That Ends Fair

 The OC Fair 2010 was a success! Just to quick brag, the exhibit department, where I work, was named "Department of the Year" ( insert clapping here!)

Monday I packed the last box, officially closing the history and culinary exhibit. It was an amazing year and a ton of work but I will miss the fair. I will now begin my customary "blue time" when I feel some what numb at the conclusion of a big project. I'll have to write fair highlights for the next few posts as part of my post fair therapy.

Just before the fair, I lost my beloved camera. I say "lost", but it wasn't a matter of misplacing. I am sure someone is enjoying my camera, as well as trying to figure out what house the garage door control opens (that went missing at the same time)... Note to thief: it won't work on my house, nor does any appliance.

Although the camera can be replaced, (ouch $!) I lost pictures the pictures on it, many taken during this years OC Fair set up. Zayne helped by taking pictures to document the exhibits for me, but I have to say, I miss snapping randomly and on impulse, hundreds of photos then combing through them for my favorites. Sigh!

More bad news... and a bit off subject but someone is stealing my tomatoes. Serious. Let's be honest, I don't have a green thumb, but I managed to grow 2 tomato plants that have produced a dozen or so tomatoes and someone else has eaten them. Who would do that? Who would walk into someones yard and pluck their produce?

Last and on a positive note, our family has grown this Summer to a nice even number of four. Zayne's friend Sean came to live with us . This was Sean's first OC Fair, he now enjoys the "Fair Brat" title like Zayne and kid's of other employees.

Although it's only been a few weeks, Zayne and Sean are already bickering like brothers, creating secret handshakes, and testing my buttons. Wish me luck as it appears my new projects are tomato watch and carpooling to the 8th grade.