Culture

Grilled Beet Pilaf

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I don’t know about y’all, but when I think about rice pilaf, there is always an air of mystery.  But when you look up what a rice pilaf actually is, it’s basically some rice with some other stuff in it.  It’s usually some wild rice, but it could be some toasted onion, spices, raisins, nuts, etc.  Tah-Dah!  Mystery solved.  Of course, some are more complicated where you toast the pre-cooked rice in some butter with some vegetables and spices, then cook everything in some broth or some saffron water.  This recipe is much simpler.

Pilaf can be traced back to the Middle East to about 2500 years ago.  Historians have found that the dish was probably served to Alexander the Great and Darius the Great. It has spread to become a very international dish.  But if you think about it, paella or risotto could be considered a pilaf.  Even fried rice could fall into that category.

Now I don’t really know how to quantify some ingredients since some leftovers were used and everything was thrown together.  I had some beets leftover from some other dish that I didn’t end up doing (I had originally planned that Mixed Green Salad with Chive Flowers and Fried Goat Cheese to also have Roasted Beets.  But it seemed too busy so I nixed the beets.)  Plus, there was some leftover brown rice in the fridge with which I needed to do something.  So this is my first real attempt to “standardize” the recipe.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 beets, peeled and sliced about 1/4 – 1/2 ” thick and cut into quarters (I used a red and an orange beet)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced about 1/4 – 1/2″ thick
  • 1 t. Herbes de Provence
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. chive butter
  • 3 c. cooked brown rice

1.  On a large sheet of foil, place the beets, onion, and herbes de Provence.  Drizzle with the olive oil and toss gently.  Add the salt & pepper.  Fold half of the foil sheet over and crimp the edges to seal them and make a pouch.

2.  Place the foil pouch on the grill and cook for 25 – 30 minutes, until the beets are tender.

3.  Transfer the cooked rice into a serving dish.  Empty the contents of the foil pouch on top of the rice and toss to combine.  Top with the chive butter.

Note — If you are making this for someone who’s vegan, just omit the butter.  Plus you can still cook this on the grill with some burgers and hot dogs and the like along with the beets because they are self-contained.  Since they are in a foil pouch, the beets are protected from the meat.  Of course, there are some who might object to using the same cooking surface regardless.  You could always get a second grill!

June Foodie Holidays

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Happy June everyone!  It’s a lovely day here in SEMI, especially since it was mid-nineties hot here for the past couple of days.  Just wanted to give everyone a little heads up on what we can celebrate this month.

This year, Father’s Day and Juneteenth are both on the 19th.  But culinarily speaking, June is:  National Candy Month (here’s a nice nutritional link from Kansas State University’s Dining Services),  National Dairy MonthNational Fresh Fruit and Veggies Month,  National Papaya Month (which is also in September for some reason), and  National Iced Tea Month to just name a few.  Here are some days of interest:

1 Hazelnut cake day

2 Rocky Road day

3 Chocolate Macaroon day

7 Chocolate Ice Cream day

9 Strawberry Rhubarb Pie day

12 Peanut Butter Cookie day

14 Strawberry Shortcake day

22 Chocolate Eclair day

26 Chocolate Pudding day

I will try to keep these in mind for this month’s postings.  I still have to post some things for National Hamburger Month and National Salad Month which was last month.  Maybe I’ll save them for next year.

Michigan Wines in Food & Wine

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Michigan: In Defense of B-List Wine Country | Food & Wine.

Happy June everyone!  I’ve been out of commission for a couple of weeks cuz my computer had the flu (stupid spy ware, & thanx to Jeremy with a “y” for fixing my laptop).  But I came across this and I thought I’d share this great article about Michigan’s Wine Country.  Not too shabs to get a right up in Food & Wine magazine!  Much in the same way that California wines proved that great wine doesn’t have to be made in France, Michigan wines show that great American wines don’t need to be made in California.  I actually made it up to some of the wineries that they mention in the article like L. Mawby and Black Star Farms.  Hope to make it up to the Old Mission soon and check out some of those wineries.

This is an aside, but if you want to learn more about the whole uprising of the California wines against the European elite, check out the movie Bottleshock.  Sure, you can learn about it in books and stuff, but you know what I like about the movie? — no reading!!!  It stars Alan Rickman, who most people will recognize as Professor Snape of Harry Potter fame. . . or the bad guy from the first Die Hard movie.  Bill Pullman’s in it, too, plus the new Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine.

Blueberry Crumb Cake

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There’s nothing like a good crumb cake to make a brunch special.  Who doesn’t like crumb cake?  Apparently lots of folks.  It’s not that they don’t like crumb cake, it’s that they don’t really know what it is.  Turns out, crumb cake is a regional dish, particular to the East Coast / New England area.   Here’s a little blurb on it from The Food Maven.  It has roots in Northern and Central Europe, possibly Poland or Germany (it is a streusel topping, after all).  Plus when you think of a Dutch Apple Pie, you think about its streusel crumb topping.  The Dutch are from Northern Central Europe, right?

Getting back to the regional cuisine bit– remember your American history from high school?  The Germans and the Dutch had a lot of influence in the area (New Amsterdam was the name of New York before it became New York).  So when they came here, they brought their food traditions.  Although it’s weird that it remains a New England thing.  The Germans, Dutch, and Scandinavians did immigrate to other parts of the country, like the MidWest and Great Lakes region.  For example, there is a lot of Finnish culture in the upper peninsula of Michigan, which now makes me crave some Nisu (It’s a Finnish bread that’s flavored with cardamom and I was able to track some down on my last trip to Houghton-Hancock.  There’s also a great seafood restaurant up there, BTW.  Of course, I could just be a sucker for all-you-can-eat fish.).  But I digress…

I know right now you’re asking, “how is a crumb cake different from a coffee cake?”  Well, let me tell you.  It all has to deal with the amount of streusel on the top.  Coffee cakes might have just a little bit of the streusel.  But the topping could take up a majority of the cake in a crumb cake.  And the topping is the best part!  Well, the rest of the cake is tasty, too.

And that’s a whole bunch of Cultural Nuggets for ya!  A couple of notes before you start:  this recipe has both baking soda and baking powder.  The baking soda is there to help neutralize the acid in the sour cream.  This recipe also uses blueberries, but you can use any kind of berry.  I’ve also see recipes for rhubarb crumb cakes and apple crumb cakes.  There’s also some that just use jam.  And now for the recipe.  It should make one 10-inch cake.  Here’s what you’ll need:

For the topping:

  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. galangal (if you don’t have it available, just omit or use a little bit of nutmeg)
  • 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick melted butter

Combine the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Pour the melted butter over the top and mix with a spoon to form large crumbles.  Set aside.

For the cake:

  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2/3 c. sour cream
  • 1 pt. fresh blueberries

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.   Spray the pan with cooking spray and line with a parchment round.  Set aside.  Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey.  Mix for about 5 minutes to make sure everything is well incorporated.  Add vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.  Stir to combine.

3.  On low speed, gradually add flour and mix until just combined.  Gently fold in the blueberries.  Spoon batter into the pan and level it off.  Evenly top with the streusel.

4.  Bake for 45 -60 minutes until center is done.  Let cool completely.

Cinco de Mayo Menu — Guacamole, Ceviche, and Margaritas

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!  You know what that means — time to get your drink on!  But what it really commemorates is the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (the Mexican Day of Independence is September 16, 1810).  Napoleon was looking to get some money back that Mexico owed France and this invasion was a way of doing that.  But things on this day didn’t turn out the way he had planned and Mexico defeated the superior (yet uncoordinated) French force.  It’s like the Alamo. . . if Texas had won.

So this isn’t really a menu per se.  More of a collection of recipes that are easy to make and that you can have for your holiday celebration.  So let’s start off with the Guacamole.  It’s simple and easy to make.  Plus it’s easy for you to put your simple twist on it.  Por exemplo, you could keep everything in a rough dice and make an avocado salad, or add some jalapeno or serrano chiles, or add cilantro (yuk — I am one of those folks who cannot stand cilantro).  Here’s what you need:

  • 3 or 4 Hass avocados, about 1 1/2 lbs.
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or chopped
  • 1/2 of a small white onion, diced
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prepare the avocados by cutting them in half lengthwise and twisting them to open up the halves.  Remove the seed.  Scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl.  Now mash it with a fork (depending on how chunky you want it).

2.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir.  Serve with some tortilla chips or use as a topping for tacos, burritos, eggs. . .  anything really. . . except like blueberry pie and the ilk.  Press down a cover a plastic wrap onto the surface of the guacamole if you’re not using it immediately.  I have heard that in order to keep this from turning brown, you can place the avocado pit on top of the mixture.  Not sure how or even if this works.  But if it does, in theory, you won’t need to cover this dish and can even cut back on the lime.

Ceviche.  There are all different kinds of ceviche, but they all involve “cooking” or marinating fresh seafood in some citrus juice, usually lime.  “Cooking” doesn’t necessarily happen in this dish, but the citrus does denature the proteins in the seafood, which is what the heat from cooking does.  It probably originated in Peru and made its way up the coastline to Mexico, although some place origins of the dish closer to Central America.  There are some cultures in Asia who may also have a claim on “inventing” the dish (I luv Hawaiian Poke).  Again, a variety of seafoods are used — different fishes, scallops, squid, octopus, crab, I even saw one with smoked fish for those who have concerns about eating raw fish.  Since this is Cinco de Mayo, I will “de-Asian” my recipe to put it closer to the Mexican version (I like to put a little ginger, green onion, and soy sauce in mine).  I will be making some later today.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb. ocean fish like halibut, mackerel, or snapper (go to your fish monger and see what’s fresh and use that.  you could also tell them that you’re planning on making ceviche and ask them for suggestions.  any good fish monger should be able to help you out.  if they can’t offer any good advice buy your fish somewhere else!).
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
  • 1 c. fresh lime juice
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley
  • hot chiles, to taste
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sugar

1.  Cut the fish into about 1/2 in. cubes.  Place in a non-reactive bowl (like glass or stainless) with the onion, garlic, and lime juice.  The fish should be covered with the lime juice, if not just add some more, or top it off with some water.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, to get the fish well done.  If you want it more raw, just marinate it for about an hour or two.

2.  Strain out the lime juice and discard it.  Add your tomatoes, chile, cilantro (or parsley), and olive oil.  Stir to combine.  Season with the salt and pepper.   Balance out the flavors with just a scant amount of sugar, maybe 1/2 teaspoon.

Margaritas.  What would today be without a good margarita?  Origins of this drink are highly debatable, with several stories about where and why this drink was created.  But it is definitely Mexican in origin and can be made in lots of variations, which I’m sure y’all know.  Just go to a local restaurant and see what different kinds they have.  This recipe is simple, requires only three ingredients (not including ice and salt or sugar on the rim of the glass) — Silver Tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau.

1.  Prep the glass by running a lime around the rim and dipping it into a shallow plate of salt or sugar, depending on your taste.

2.  Pour your tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau into a pitcher.  If you use a cup of each, you’d probably get 5 margaritas, depending on how much of a booze hound you are.  Fill a cocktail shaker about half full of ice.  Add enough of your Margarita mixture for a couple of drinks and shake vigorously for about 15-30 seconds to chill and dilute it.  Strain into the prepared glass.

Now these are just a couple of things that you can make today to help celebrate the holiday.  We typically think of this day as an excuse to drink, but take some time to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage.  One e-magazine that can offer some information on a wide variety of topics ranging from culture to cuisine to travel is MexConnect.  On the Culinary side of things, one great resource is Chef Rick Bayless.  He has a series on PBS called Mexico – One Plate at a Time where he explores the culture and food traditions  of Mexico, as well as the variations across the different regions of the country.  He has won various awards including a couple of James Beards.  You can learn about his books, restaurants, products, and his bio at the hyperlink above (I did not know that he did some doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan).

Sorry for the long post, but hope it was helpful.  I’ll try to post some other things throughout the day that are Mexican themed.  Depends on how many margaritas I have 🙂

May Foodie Holidays and postings preview

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Well, it’s May and you know what that means.  Lots of things apparently.  First of all, all those April showers have brought in the May flowers.  But since it still feels a little chilly up here, maybe those flowers will come in June.

So what’s in store for this month?  There’s Cinco de Mayo, which is not the Mexican Day of Independence (that’s in September).  Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, too.  Culinarily speaking, it is also National Hamburger Month, National Barbeque Month, National Salad Month, and National Chocolate Custard Month, just to name a few.  There are a whole jumble of National ____ Days which I could do stuff on, but that’s really no different from any other month.  So this will be the some of the various themes that I’m going to try to focus on this month.  Stay tuned!

Fiddleheads

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It’s spring and I again have an unbelievable craving for fiddleheads.  I haven’t had any since I lived in Maine which was several years ago.  There they weren’t as “odd” an ingredient cuz I could just drive up to the Hannaford up the road and get them.  It might be a cultural phenomenon, which I think is due to the large French influence in the area (Quebec is just north of Maine), and I have found several rustic French recipes that use them, usually from Northern France.  That region is a lot more similar in climate to Maine and Quebec so that could explain the regional popularity of them; similar climate, similar flora.  It’s that whole work-with-what-the-land-gives-you kind of thing.  I am not a horticultural anthropologist, so who knows if it’s true, but it makes sense to me.

Apparently these all come from the ostrich fern.  For those who don’t know, fiddleheads are the immature shoot from the fern.  Now do not go and just start harvesting some ferns from your backyard.  Some ferns are toxic to eat at any developmental stage and if you don’t know what you are doing you could be making a big mistake.  Which is why I just try to scour the markets for them.  I did find them once at a market in downtown Ann Arbor, but they were not in good condition.  The season for them is very very short keep an eye out for them.  That’s probably why there are a lot of pickling recipes out there.  The University of Maine does have a page of info that you should check out.

It’s hard to describe the taste.  I’d say it’s a cross between asparagus and mushroom.  Not like a button mushroom, but more earthy from like a woodland mushroom or morel.  It’s a very delicate flavor, which could be easily overpowered.  So recipes tend to be fairly simple with few ingredients.

Now to prep them, you have to thoroughly clean them.  Since these are hand harvested, I imagine that there isn’t some gigantic mechanical produce cleaning machine to process them.  You’ll have to bear with me (or is it “bare”?) because it has been some time since I’ve made this.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 lb. fiddleheads
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. grapeseed oil (or some other neutral tasting oil)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh dill, to taste

1.  Melt the butter in a saute pan with the oil over medium heat.

2.  Add the shallot and cook until tender and opaque, about 2 minutes.  Throw in the garlic and saute until the garlic perfumes the dish, maybe 1 minute.

3.  Add the fiddleheads and cook for about 3-5 minutes.  Add the salt and pepper and toss.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes until tender.

4.  Sprinkle on your fresh dill and serve.

Again, it has been a long time since I made this so the timing might be a little off.  I still am having some difficulty finding some fiddleheads here.  But I am trying to encourage folks to try something that they might not consider.  Expanding your horizons can be delicious!