Saturday, July 31, 2010

Beet and Ginger Relish

On Wednesday July 28 in the Chicago Tribune Good eating section there was an article by Bill Daley. In it he published a recipe for Beet and Ginger relish. It was taken from “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” by Darina Allen. I had some beets that I harvested on Wednesday but did not get to until today. I’m having a fish fry tonight so something bright and cold should make a nice contrast.

The ingredients are:

8 ounces onion, chopped – about 1 large
3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb raw beets, peeled & grated
1 piece (1/2' inch long) ginger root, peeled and grated
½ cup red wine
2 Tbs sherry vinegar

By the way tha's red wine vinegar as I didn't have any sherry vinegar.

Peel the beets, aren't they pretty? They look like some exotic grained wood.

Grate the beets and the ginger. I used the machine but you could use a box grater. Just be sure to account for the juice splattering!

Combine onions and butter into a nonreactive saucepan; cook over medium low heat until very soft – about 10 minutes.

Stir in the sugar, salt and pepper.

Add the beets, ginger, red wine and vinegar.

Cook for 30 minutes over low heat.
In my case I cooled and put in the fridge. You could can it it.
I'll be enjoying this tonight with a walleye fry, but it should be good with cold meats, or goat cheese salads.

8/1/2010 UPDATE: - this was absolutely delicious and a big hit with our guests. The cool crunchy relish was a great counterpoint to the hot fried walleye. Thanks for coming Tod and Kelly!

Eat well!

The Gastronomic Gardener

My garden blog
My cooking blog
Twitter -

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kitchen Basics - My Knives

Perhaps more than anything else, usable knives are the essential cooking tool; gleaming blades used in breaking down ingredients, animal, vegetable, or mineral. Every recipe requires you to slice, chop, or dice the ingredients. A good knife is essential.

Don’t be swayed by sexy ads for expensive German or Japanese or ceramic knives. Will they work? Of course they will and very well at that. Are they required? Absolutely not. Visit the prep line in a busy restaurant. They are far more likely to be using good quality yet inexpensive knives rather than German steel. If you visit a restaurant supply house, in addition to the fancy blades, you’ll easily find more affordable knives that will work just as well. Don’t let your ego get in front of your wallet!

My own kitchen, however, is stocked with a few German steel treasures: my favorite knife is a 6” chef knife from Henkel.

Oh, I can hear the howling now …. You hypocrite! Name brand German steel! Let me assure you:

1) I use this knife every day. It is almost as useful to me as my eyeglasses.
2) I obtained it in Germany before the advent of the Euro. I paid less than 50% of what it would have cost me here in the Chicago area.
3) The heft and the way it fits my hand is so far the best I have ever experienced.
4) I didn’t have this blade until I was in my forties.

I have three 6” chef knives, the Henkel, one from Chicago Cutlery, and one inexpensive Japanese blade. Could I live without the Henkel? You bet, but it makes the job of breaking things down easier, faster and more comfortable. Hard to argue with that!

The Henkel is my work horse. It’s great for breaking down vegetables. The Chicago Cutlery blade is much thinner and lighter and I use it when the Henkel is dirty or the material being prepared doesn’t require much muscle. I wouldn’t use it to break down a winter squash for example. The jury is still out on the Japanese blade. In terms of weight it is between the Henkel and the Chicago Cutlery. I need to use it more before I can make an objective recommendation. I purchased it because it was on sale and I thought I could try it out without breaking the bank.

I have two slicers, again Henkel and Chicago Cutlery.

The scalloped blade is great for slicing bread or cooked meats. This Henkel was a gift so please, no squawking. There is a myriad of other knives for specific purposes -- boning knives, filet knives, cleavers -- but unless you do a lot of prep work requiring their unique characteristics, there is no good reason to invest in them.

I also have a small 3” paring knife that I use for small vegetable or peeling work.

I use the knives I’ve just discussed for all my preparation and finishing needs.

Keep your knives sharp. It’s an old axiom, “A sharp knife is a safe knife.” It’s true. A sharp knife will cut and bite into the material you are working on. A dull blade is more likely to roll or slip and thereby cause an accident.

I use an inexpensive knife sharpener and a straightening steel. I’m no expert at whipping the blade across the steel rod, but I make sure to keep my blades sharp. So should you. I’ll show you how to sharpen in a subsequent chapter, and introduce you to basic knife technique.

Eat Well!

David P. Offutt
The Gastronomic Gardener

My garden blog
My cooking blog
Twitter -

Kitchen Part 1 - Introduction

Many cooks, new and old obsess about their kitchen gear. There is a dizzying array of knives, mixers, stoves, etc., each claiming to help you be a better cook. Television and magazines would have you think you need a huge gleaming stainless steel behemoth in order to turn out great food.

That just isn’t so!

Fancy kitchen appliances won’t make you a gourmet cook anymore than having a great table saw will make me an accomplished cabinet maker. It may help me do what I want, but it can’t depart technique or passion. If you want a top of the line kitchen for reasons of ego or bragging rights or if you know how to take advantage of the bells and whistles, by all means go for it! But it won’t make you a good cook.

As an adult, none of the kitchens I’ve worked in (non professionally – let me reiterate) have been fancy or elaborate. No matter, with the right practice and adequate gear you can turn out satisfying meals you will enjoy, and you may even impress your friends.

That said, I believe in acquiring and using the best equipment you can realistically afford without blowing your budget or getting caught up in the kitchen arms race. Remember, mismatched pieces may all perform just as well as that shiny new matched set.

If you are just starting out, I strongly recommend shopping the thrift stores and resale shops. There you may find pots, pans for the stove top as well as baking pans for the oven – all at a fraction of the cost of new ones. A 9"x13" Pyrex pan works the same used or new and won’t reduce the quality of your lasagne or your enjoyment of it. Maybe you will enjoy it more, knowing you did not break the bank to acquire it!

As time permits I will discuss what I feel is essential equipment. I’ll be the first to admit it is not all inclusive but with these tools you will have the basics.
As I said before, it is not the tools, it’s the chef that makes food great!

Eat Well!

David P. Offutt
The Gastronomic Gardener

My garden blog
My cooking blog
Twitter -

Monday, July 26, 2010

Walleye ceviche

Been gone a few days walleye fishing on Lake Erie with a great bunch of guys. Three days from 6am till 2pm. There were five guys on our boat - eleven in total. We split our boats' catch three ways - something like seventy four fish! -Not the limit but still plenty. I have a lot of walleye to prepare.

One great way is walleye ceviche - it is easy and very clean and bright tasting.  We made some on the trip and I made some more tonight. Here is the recipe.

Walleye Ceviche

1 lb. walleye fillet
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 large red onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
8 oz. lemon juice
2 Tbs salt

Slice fillets into very small pieces. Marinate in the lemon juice and salt for at least 4 hours in medium bowl (over night in fridge is good) Finely chop all vegetables, and mix in large bowl to make salsa. Drain fish. Mix fish with salsa. Eat with corn chips or crackers.

Here are the fillets from one of the days  - probably the first or second since the bag is kind of small.
The top fillet is the one I will use - it weighs in at about a pound.

Dice it up... and get ready with the lemon juice and salt.
Combine the fish, lemon juice and salt. Put it in the refridgerator.

Now we make the pico de gallo. Here are the ingredients.

Cilantro, sweet red and yellow peppers, red onion, jalepeno, garlic(yes it's not in the recipe but I decided to add it) and tomatoes.

Chop it all up; add a splash of lemon juice (or lime or orange) and  little salt.

Put that in the fridge. Four (or more) hours later, drain the fish, mix with the pico de gallo, and enjoy with chips, crackers or on a bed of shredded lettuce.

You could do this with any fresh firm fish. Enjoy!

Eat well!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garden Fresh Saute

Saturday nights' harvest becomes Monday's vegetable sauté.

There is something basically good about eating what you grew from seed, a connection to the earth, to self reliance. What is novel today for a middle class white guy was a necessity not so long ago. How is it that we've become so disconnected?

Sure we got  lazy - buying food in shrink wrap, but that's not where it comes from. Next time you eat some vegetables remember the hunched man or woman working in the hot sun, picking your produce, working harder than you do for less money.

Better yet grow your own!

Let's reconnect with what we've misplaced.

Eat Well!

My garden blog
My cooking blog
Twitter -

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Big Sunday Breakfast

Maybe there are people who are not fans of a nice sunday breakfast. But the trinity of meat, potatoes and eggs, is holy in its own right.

I prefer to bake bacon in the oven - less shrinkage and curling combined with consistant results and less fat as it drops away, make this my method of choice. This is lovely bacon, thick and lean.  The cookie rack really helps drain the fat.
Potatoes sliced on the mandolin. This is a cheap version but it works. Always use the food guard. It is wicked sharp.
I am more and more a fan of cast iron. First the skillet, then the dutch oven, now the grill plate. I had an aluminum one earlier. There is no comparison!
Finally done, I seem to have forgotten a napkin.

Eat well!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Spicy Pickled Green Beans

With the 4lbs of green beans we picked last night, we need to do something to put them up for later.

I've already frozen some, and having done one canning exercise I decided to do another.

I won't bore you with the complete step by step, but let's make some spicy pickled green beens.

Here we are all prepped and ready to go. Beans, garlic, dill, peppercorns, jalapeno. A brine of water, vinegar and salt.
Canning station outside so as not to steam up the inside.
Boiling away!

Cooling in a "cool dry place". They should be ready to try in about a month.

My garden blog
My cooking blog
Twitter -

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Food Philosophy

My cooking blog has started out by providing step-by-step illustrations and text of the way I prepare mostly meat dishes, but I haven't talked about what I really think about food and cooking, and what it means to me. Today I will.

Cooking for me, and feeding others, is about love. The joy of a meal, simple to elegant, provided to others, transcends mere.nourishment. It is a chance to slow down, have a conversation and enjoy each other’s company, something that we rarely take time to do.

Many of you might say, “Sure, I’d love to make a homemade meal, if I only had the time.” Make the time!

There are plenty of us who work full time, have activities of our own, or those of our families, or are worn out by the end of the day. A tepid piece of grey meat out of a paper sack eaten behind the wheel is not a meal, happy or otherwise.

Make the time.

My mother, with ten children and a husband to feed, was in the kitchen constantly. I think she must have spent the better part of her time in the kitchen preparing meals for the family. Menus were heavy on roast beef. Not cheap, but guaranteed to satisfy the whole family. Broccoli, iceberg lettuce, carrots, and occasionally asparagus would be the vegetables. She was also partial to Uncle Ben’s Original Wild Rice. It must have been difficult to prepare the lowest common denominator for a menu, week in and week out, that would keep all of us fed and happy. What I discovered later, was that she liked cooking, and when the number of meals or mouths decreased, she was far more creative.

I started cooking or, rather, baking when I was eight or nine years old. As I’ve said before, it started with a box cake mix, an egg, a bit of oil, and some milk in a mixing bowl. But wait, you had to preheat the oven (always check it before you start!), grease and flour the pan (be careful no flour on the floor please!) first.

Using an electric hand mixer was like magic, but I suspect the best part was licking the beaters. After carefully pouring the batter in the pan, I’d wait at the kitchen table, the smell of chocolate cake or gingerbread gradually filling the room. The only part I didn’t like was waiting for it to cool, I was impatient to frost it and eat it!

As I got a little older, I started making the salad. While this is very easy to do, it was then I started to learn about knives. The right tool makes any job easier, and while you can make do in a pinch, in the long run you want the right tool.

College came and went. It was pretty much a gastronomic wasteland. The schools carbohydrate intensive food service was only a little better than 365 ways to prepare ramen noodles. Only when I moved home after school did I have the ingredients to really start having fun. Easy, satisfying meals of chicken, pizzas, calzones, lamb chops and garlic mashed potatoes were some of my first efforts.

I started to hang out at the now defunct 302 West restaurant and got to know the late Joel Findlay, arguably the best chef in the Fox Valley for more than a decade. Listening, watching, and sampling did much to further my culinary knowledge and desire to learn more.

I also started watching food programs on PBS. Oh the joy! The magic! What were they doing? What the heck is that? How will they prepare it? Julia Child, Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet), and Martin Yan were some of the first I watched. Later Food Network became a daily fix; so much that a former girlfriend, when breaking up with me, derided me for my habit. Come to think of it she never complained while she ate what I was cooking. I occasionally watch the Food Network after sucking its marrow for years. You can learn from it, but after some time you’ll know what is coming next in a recipe and it won’t be so new anymore.

During my first marriage, I did most of the cooking because I liked it and because I was good at it. I love the challenge of “There’s nothing to eat!” Hmm, really? Let me check. Here eat this!

So, why read this blog? Am I certified or formally trained? No, not at all, though perhaps someday.

Read this blog because I love cooking, and people love to eat what I cook. From the clean plates, I’m guessing they aren’t just being polite.

I like butter, I like cream, I like bacon. There is much known about the dangers of saturated fats. There is no doubt that high fat meals on a regular basis can’t be good for you, just as there is little doubt that a diet based on refined carbohydrates is a sure path to obesity.

Isn’t it time we used common sense? Enjoy what you like, don’t overdo it, and have fun!

David P. Offutt

The Gastronomic Gardener

Eat Well!

My garden blog

My cooking blog

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Green Beans for a rainy day

With almost 2 lbs of green beans, I need to put them up for a later date. It's not really enough to can in a pressure canner, but I can freeze them.

First I washed, cleaned and sorted them into three sizes.
Boiling water,  blanch for 3 minutes.

Ice water plunge for 3 minutes.

We've had a vacuum sealer for years that has gone unused. I broke it out to see if it still works.

All three done! This took less than 30 minutes to do, and now, in the depth of winter we'll have just picked greenbeans with butter, or in a soup or stew. I look forward to it.

Eat Well!

My garden blog
My cooking blog


We've been eating a lot of meat lately, and now the vegetables are starting to come in. Yesterday in the garden saw a nice harvest of bush beans. I love a good vegetable stew so let’s dig in the fridge and see what we can do.

Looks like I have enough to make some ratatouille based on Molly Katzen's Recipe from the Moosewood cookbook. Along the way I used the green beans from the garden and decided to skip a can of tomatoes that was slightly bowed on the ends. Better safe than sorry.

Nice ingredients: Salt, pepper, olive oil, tomatoes, green bean from the garden, sweet peppers, mushrooms, summer squash and zuchinni, onion, garlic, herbs from the garden, eggplant.
Twenty minutes later, it's all broken down and ready to go.
Look closely, the original one - on the right, appears slightly bowed compared to the one on the left. I discarded the one on the right.

Olive oil, add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
Next add the eggplant, mushrooms, herbs, and salt. Cover and cook, stirring every 5 minutes for about 20 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Plate and enjoy!

My garden blog
My cooking blog

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vegetable Curry & Product review

 We had  some green beans from the garden,  I did not get over there but the wife did. More than enough for dinner.

Here are some strange radish pods or moolachya shenga.

A little chopped garlic and grated ginger.

The prepped vegetables.

Start with oil or ghee and mustard seeds.

When they pop, add the garlic and ginger. Lower heat and cook. When soft, add the rest of the vegetables.
We're testing Baji's Curry Simmer Sauce. It's from Aldi's. You add it to the vegetables plus 8oz of water and simmer. You can use meat, but tonight is vegetarian.

We had some spinach we needed to eat, so in it goes.
It sure cooks down quickly!
Dinner is served!

All in all the Sauce is pretty good, but rather middle of the road. It does nothing to offend, but not much to excite. Not a bad way to make a quick weekday dinner. I'd buy it again.

Eat well!

My garden blog
My cooking blog
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...