Monthly Archives: March 2006

The Price of (organic) Beef

I haven’t blogged much at all lately apart from the obligatory Paper Chef tracking and I’ve been missing it – but work is busy and pretty interesting too, so that’s that. I have been cooking but nothing terribly memorable. Last night for example was the traditional garlic pasta. Accompanied by a variation on my normal greens – this time with purple kale, beet tops, leeks and seasoned with soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. To accompany this was my family’s favorite ground beef dish. I fry the ground beef very high, pour off fat after it has browned and then continue to cook until it begins to become crunchy. Add a little soy sauce and keep cooking until dry again. Sounds horrible but is actually very tasty.

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But eating ground beef led to a discussion of why we buy grass-fed, range beef (preferably organic) and how mad cow disease can be seen as an indicator of lots of other problems in our meat supply – for every cow with mad cow, thousands in similar situations have other food pathogens. So we get beef from places where we know they are clean, make ground beef out of a piece of a single cow and that cow has lived a relatively natural roaming life. As opposed to a cow penned, fed feed made of all kinds of garbage and then slaughtered, hacked up and ground with beef from several other cows along with whatever other bits of material got in the way.

This in turn reminded me of the friend of a friend who has a small herd of beef cows near Half Moon Bay that live in fields and eat grass and artichokes by the ocean. We can go in on a cow – he only sells a whole one at a time – and we reckon we need a total of about eight more people to get either an eighth or a sixteenth of a cow. If you are interested email me or leave a comment…

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Paper Chef #16 Roundup: Oscar, Olympics, Ovals and more

Paper Chef #15 – the Oscar/Sports/Round Edition was clearly too confusing. Somehow we managed to confuse enough of the Paper Chef faithful that we ended up with only six entries – our lowest number ever apart from Paper Chef #1. On the other hand the quality was at least as high as ever with some truly amazing dishes for Haalo to judge.

Emma at the Laughing Gastronome entered a lovely golden prawn mousse with which she was very happy to use some of the verjuice she’s had for quite some time!

Raspberry Sour over at The Sour Patch had an outbreak of pinkness – not the color kind – and made a dramatic statement with her McCarthy’s Pinko Pie. I particularly liked the pastry hammer and sickle!

Bea at La tartine gourmand provided a glowingly beautiful Festive Timbale complete with Olympic flames, ring molds and lots of French attitude.

The most prolific Paper Chef entrant ever (I think), the Two Minute Noodle Cook, entered with another Olympic theme – also with flame – Chariots of Fire. I particularly liked the burning candlenut.

Surfin’ Dave – surely one of the best names ever – didn’t have his own site so I put his dramatic snack plate up here on Tomatilla!

Jennifer at Taste Everything Once was the very first to enter with a simple but scrumptious Roast Beef Sandwich with Verjus and Shrimp Aioli.

B’gina at Stalking the Waiter entered the hilarious and hilariously titled, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Shrimp” which while partially imaginary more than made up for it in drama and hilarity.

Finally, although it can’t be an official entry, last month’s winner, Haalo, entered some fun party nibbles including Oscar Crackers and the Leonardo d’Caprioska!

OK, Haalo, over to you to pick a winner or more than one!

Paper Chef Entry from Surfin’ Dave

Went for ‘Broke’, ended up ‘Crash’-ed at Paper Chef 16

by Surfin’ Dave

Surfin' Dave's Buffalo Prosciutto Wrapped Prawns copyright Surfin Dave 2006

The Oscar 2006 Snack Plate – Grilled Prawns wrapped in Buffalo Prosciutto and stuffed with Basil Goat Cheese, with Jalapeno Dipping Sauce, Fried Basil Leaves, Shrimp Chips, Rice Crackers and Champagne

I wanted to design a recipe for the Paper Chef contest based on the Best Film winner. I envisioned sitting back with a platter of delicacies focused around the winning film, toasting its inevitable award with a chilled glass of Champagne. Everyone would be amazed at my uncanny ability to match the menu perfectly to the evening.

Since almost no one has seen any of the Oscar nominees for this year, myself included, my only hope was to go by the hype. And ‘Brokeback’ had it all. Hype, awards of every sort from around the world. The Oscar win for Best Film seemed like a formality.

So I gave some thought to a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ theme, with Prawns, Basil and Verjuice, round if possible for extra points. Not having actually seen the movie, mind you. But the themes seemed obvious enough – epic love story with a twist, Wyoming, cowboys, etc. Must be something here.

Wyoming would seem to be a great focal point for culinary themes – big, open, wild, rugged landscape. Spectacular parks and skiing. Oddly enough, unlike most other states, Wyoming does not have a state food. For example, Massachusetts has the corn muffin and Boston Creme Pie for state foods. And Pennsylvania has the chocolate chip cookie – really! You can look it up. Even South Dakota, apparently having a lot of German influence, has ‘Kuchen’ as its state cake. But not Wyoming – officially at least. But Wyoming does like its Buffalo. The Buffalo is everywhere – on flags, emblems, anything official. And Wyoming restaurants feature lots of Buffalo dishes. Mostly in the form of steaks – which are pretty hard to come by for anyone outside of Wyoming.

And anyways – Buffalo steak and prawns, with basil and verjuice? Hmmm. Maybe all ground up into a giant meatball to make it round? Doesn’t seem like it would be on the same level with those creative Australians from Paper Chef 15.

But what is available – with some searching – is Buffalo Prosciutto. Prosciutto in general is one of my favorite things. And a great complementary flavor for prawns and basil.

Prosciutto is basically rich man’s bacon. And the thing I like to do most with prawns and bacon is wrap ’em and grill ’em. The grilling fits well with the Wyoming/cowboy theme. Since they are held together with toothpicks – the snacking concept is there. And the rough Buffalo Prosciutto ‘hide’ covering the tender Prawn inside – seems almost like the perfect metaphor for the movie. Plus – the resulting wrap is roundish – sort of, actually more tubular – does that count? Maybe if I serve them on a round plate?

I have to admit to never having tried Verjuice. I’ve seen it often enough, and know just where to get it, but it always has seemed like a bit of a scam by the vintners to make a profit on what appears to be a byproduct of winemaking. But a bit of online research changed my mind enough that I was looking forward to trying it as a candidate for the acid component of some recipe.

Another thing that fits the Wyoming/cowboy theme is hot sauce – from Jalapenos. Since I was thinking finger food – I didn’t want a glaze for the prawns, but more of dipping sauce – so a Jalapeno Jelly Sauce, using the Verjuice as the acid component, would be perfect.

Last step was to work in the basil. And I had already imagined a sort of filling for the prawns for inside the prosciutto wrapper. That got expanded a bit into a goat cheese basil stuffing.

So there it was – Grilled Prawns wrapped in Buffalo Prosciutto stuffed with Basil Goat Cheese, with Jalapeno Jelly Dipping Sauce. Fried basil leaves for garnish add an Oscar touch of class.

But munchies are more than just prawns. Even with goat cheese and prosciutto. Ya gotta have something crunchy. And even though potato chips might have been OK – shrimp chips seemed to match the theme better (and are always fun to make!). Colorful, festive, some are even pink! A few rice crackers to round it out (rice crackers have zero fat! How much better can you match the ‘Brokeback’ theme than that??). A flute of chilled Champagne.

I plated the results on a final four basket ball court shaped plate-just to try to work all possible angles here (but mostly because we couldn’t get a nice looking arrangement on the round plates we tried).

The menu seemed perfectly matched to the evening!

Until the Best Film Oscar winner was announced. ‘Crash’ – who wudda thunk?

My raised Champagne glass slowly came back down. Someone asked “What is the deal with the pink chips, anyways?! And rice crackers? Is this all we’re getting for dinner, or what?” Well, at least the prawns were all gone. Must have been good.

So congrats to ‘Crash’! And even though ‘Brokeback’ didn’t win, Ang Lee did (congrats to him as well!). And I suppose the cowboys are happy enough up on their mountain even without a Best Film Oscar. If you want to know who won’t be winning next year – just let me know.

24 hours left for Paper Chef!

You have 24 hours left to get your entries in for Paper Chef #16! Basil, verjuice, prawns and something movie-inspired or movie-associated and/or something round. See below for lots more details!

Paper Chef #16 The round or the movie edition

OK – here we go. The four ingredients are:

Basil – that one’s pretty straightforward
Verjuice – that one isn’t. Please feel free to substitute freely (grape juice or even wine will sub here).
Prawns/Gambas – obvious but again – feel free to substitute all those allergic or challenged as to source or vegetarian.

and finally – an ingredient inspired by the movies in honor of the Oscars.

There are some potential bonus options.

Make something round or ring shaped in honor of the Olympics or the World Cup or March Madness.

Make something to eat while watching the Oscars.

As usual entries in comments here or to me via email at owenl1998 at yahoo dot com.

Feel free to throw out some questions too.

Paper Chef FAQ, details, past winners, newbies, etc.

Here is EVERYTHING you need to know and more!

Rules and Regulations

As a reminder, here are the ‘rules and regulations,’ which I prefer to think of as something akin to the pirate code of Captain Jack Sparrow and thus ‘more like guidelines.’

For absolutely only the fun of it and for no other reason whatsoever, the Paper Chef challenges each and every one of you reading this to let loose your culinary imagination and make up a dish of your own. Loosely based on the ideas of the Iron Chef, fond TV favorite in the US and Japan, and on the British show Ready, Steady, Cook! (fond favorite in the UK), the Paper Chef is all about creativity and constraint, challenge and cooking.

About a week before the event opens, I post an ingredient list from previous events here at Tomatilla! Older ingredients fall off the list, as does anything that actually got used in an event. Those ingredients are ‘banned’ for a month just to prevent the choices being cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and…you get the idea. Any reader of the blog can nominate a new ingredient (one only please) and it can be anything within the bounds of good taste (both kinds). Three ingredients are chosen at random from the final list and the host (usually me but not always) picks one more ingredient that is topical or seasonal or that suits our whimsy. Then you get a weekend (Friday Noon to Monday Noon) to make up a recipe, cook it and post the recipe to your blog. Then post a comment here or send an email to owenl1998 at yahoo dot com to be included in a roundup. The previous month’s winner gets to be judge (and is ineligible that month) and gives out whatever kinds of awards they like.

I’ve had lots of questions about things like photographs. Photographs are NOT necessary to take part. Nor is having you own blog – I’ll be happy to post a recipe for you if you want. However, it is clear that having a nice photograph will help influence the judges – if they see it looking good it is a lot easier to imagine it tasting looking good…

It is also absolutely OK to substitute if you just cannot find an ingredient or if you or someone who will eat the dish has an allergy – just try to substitute with something close to the original to remain in the spirit of the occasion.< The times are always the first Friday of the month, Noon PST until the following Monday Noon PST. However we aren’t sticklers for timekeeping here – a little late and any excuse will do. A LOT late and you’ll have to have a really good and creative one to do with cats pushing bowls off counters or the like. Past event roundups and winners are here: Paper Chef #1: Cilantro, Ginger, Almonds and Winter Squash

The winner was Curried Chicken and Squash Soup with Meyer Lemon.

Paper Chef #2: Potatoes, Savoy Cabbage, Chicken and Lemon

The winner was Lemon Chicken Egg Rolls with Citrus Dipping Sauce.

Paper Chef #3: Wheat Flour, Cinnamon, Creme Fraiche and Oranges

The winner was Very Posh Cheese and Biscuits.

Paper Chef #4: Eggplant, chocolate, stale bread and pomegranate.

The winner was Cocoa-Pomegranate Roast Chicken with Eggplant Stuffing.

Paper Chef #5: Prosciutto, sherry vinegar, green garlic and goat cheese.

The winner was Garlic chive and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli with Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Prosciutto Shards.

Paper Chef #6: Ricotta, strawberries, almond paste and white chocolate.

The winner was Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Ricotta-White Chocolate Gelato and Scented Madeleines.

Paper Chef #7: Buttermilk, Dates, Honey and Eggs.

The winner was Feta Souffle with Walnuts, Dates and Feisty Greens.

Paper Chef#8: Cheddar cheese, olives, spinach and either potatoes OR cream, not both.

The winner was Warm Spinach, Cremini, and Kalamata Salad with Creamy White Cheddar Dressing.

Paper Chef #9: Chilli, Peach, Flowers and Something Local.
The winner was a Stuffed Pork Loin.
Paper Chef #10: New Orleans version with beer, tomato, sausage and shrimp.

The winner was Stephen‘s Beer-Boiled Shrimp Po’ Boy.

Paper Chef #11: Autumn edition with duck, pears, ginger and nut butter.

The winner was Belly Timber with Ravioli dell’autunno with Sliced Anna Kiwi, Duck Soup with Chicken, Pistachio Ginger Flavor and Nutty* Duck risotto with Ginger and Caramelized Pear.

Paper Chef #12: Lamb, oranges, basil and fish sauce Edition.
The Winner was The Two-Minute Noodle Cook with
Bush Tucker Lamb Parfait with Orange Basil Seed Champagne Jelly and Whitebait Tapenade Sauce.

Paper Chef #13: Other side of the world edition with Carrot, Rice and Anchovy. In two parts.
The Winner was Belly-Timber with Siu Mai and Fried Shrimp with Rice.
Paper Chef #14: Brand Spankin’ New edition with cashews, quinoa, yog(h)urt and a baby food – any kind of baby.

The winner was Magic Tofu of Slurp ‘n’ Burp with a whole day of quinoa, yogurt, cashews and babies.

Paper Chef #15: Valentine’s Edition with pears, beets, lime and aphrodesiacs.

The winner was Haalo of Cook almost Anything with her faux nigiri sushi.

And because of that, Haalo gets to judge this time around!

Keep your eyes open later this afternoon for the official final ingredient list and kickoff!

Paper Chef Ingredient Nominations Now Closed

The final list is:

Something derived from a goat (meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc), rocket (arugula), macadamia nuts, pomegranate molasses, hot bean paste, chestnuts, grits, chicken thighs, ham, kale, dried beans, miso, simple syrup, buffalo (bison), veal scallopine, chocolate, wattleseed, lemons, pomegranates, flowers, cinnamon, gambas/prawns, verjuice, lavender, broccoli raab, lemongrass, coffee, maple syrup, ground coriander, basil and a spikey plant like cactus (nopales!) or nettles.

I will put up a summary later today and the final ingredient list by 5PM – and we’ll give people until Tuesday at noon since this is a late start for us.

And one more new twist. Since the winter olympics just ended and the world cup is coming up and the american college basketball championships (absolutely the best basketball competition in the world) aka March Madness are upon us AND it is Oscar weekend and people will be sitting a-ROUND the TV watching, we are going to take the common element from all of those and ask people to make something with a round or ring-shaped theme for bonus creativity points! And for extra points if it is the basis of an Oscar party or gathering that will double your imaginary bonus points.

Paper Chef Ingredient Nominations At Warp Speed

Help! Caught out by work and the calendar (why don’t they publish these things in advance?) Paper Chef starts Friday – so you have today and tomorrow to nominate ingredients. We actually have a pretty humungous list already since we got lots of nominations the past two months – so here is the list at the moment – you may nominate one ingredient more per person….all usual rules and regulations to follow shortly. Nominate ingredients in comments below…

Something derived from a goat (meat, milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, etc), rocket (arugula), cashews, macadamia nuts, pomegranate molasses, hot bean paste, chestnuts, grits, chicken thighs, ham, kale, dried beans, miso, simple syrup, buffalo (bison), veal scallopine, chocolate, wattleseed, lemons, pomegranates, flowers, cinnamon, gambas/prawns, verjuice and lavender