Monthly Archives: September 2006

Paper Chef Update

My apologies – I didn’t realise Ilva was back – so the roundup will go up later today and hopefully we can get a winner sorted out before we start the next Paper Chef!

I know that the past few months have been difficult for fans of the Paper Chef – I have not paid the event the attention it deserves and despite best intentions when I took it back over I haven’t really delivered. I will keep plugging away at it until the New year and in the season of renewal will revisit how it should all go forward.

I truly appreciate all of your patience and understanding.

I also have the results of the La Censa comparative tasting of grass-fed beef and some insights into jazzing up just about anything – even something as cardboardy as a premade vegetarian burger.

To market, to market

Whenever I go to the Farmer’s Market I always wonder why I don’t go more. The main reason I went this time was to get some local small-ranch, grass-only beef to compare with the La Censa I got sent. That mission was somewhat successful – I was not able to mirror the cuts exactly since our local ranch is running low on what it has from the single cow or so it slaughters at a time.

But I naturally shopped around as well. Here’s what we got: 2 pounds lovely white peaches – perfect in every way. Two pints of raspberries so fragrant you could smell them from ten yards away. Two pints of blackberries. Two pounds of rich, juicy pluots. A pound of crisp, fresh spinach. A pound of teeny tiny button crimini mushrooms. And the big score – 3 pounds of basil at $3 per pound. Do you know how much basil a pound of basil is?

Half of it is already pesto – made simply and cleanly. Here are the proportions. I am sacreligious and use a blender because – well I have a life to live too. I also use walnuts because walnuts are a real local nut and although pinenuts ought to be they aren’t so much.

Pesto

2 really packed cups of basil leaves.
4 cloves fresh garlic
3/4 cup of the best olive oil you can afford to use
1 heaping teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Multiply as many times as necessary – I start with one batch and leave it in the blender and keep adding until the blender can’t blend it any more.

Blend it all together in a food processor or blender. Most recipes make this seem easy – it isn’t – it takes a lot of work for your blender to really puree all those leaves. I use a rubber spatula and pulse mode and keep scraping down and it takes a total of about ten minutes.

So – a few notes. First – no parmesan. I am of the school that says add the parmesan when serving. So that’s what I do. Second, lemon juice? Well – I think it improves the taste and it helps the pesto hold its color longer. Once made, you can freeze or keep in the fridge for quite a while but you will want to cover with a small amount of olive oil to prevent oxidation. Finally – the nut allergic can make a passable imitation using toasted breadcrumbs. The consistency won’t quite match but overall it will work.

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Paper Chef #21 – The Africa Edition

It is time to kick off the latest round of Paper Chef. We got very many fewer ingredient nominations than normal although the pre-existing list was already so eclectic it may just have left potential nominators in a stupor!

Anyway, I have in the past indicated how I select the three random ingredients. I usually use the website Random.org, because it generates true random sequences using atmospheric noise – how cool is that? I do, however, reserve the right to reject sets of ingredients if they just seem too stupid. In practice, however, I rarely exercise this option because after the success of the eggplant, chocolate, stale bread and pomegranate edition, anything seemed possible.

It has been fun seeing the fourth special ingredient morph over time from a simple ingredient choice (eg lemon) to the more exotic topical and subject choices. This month is typical of the latter category. For no reason at all other than that I would like to step further afield in our choices, this month’s special ingredient is something that reminds you of Africa.

And the atmospherically-generated random choices? Eggs, black fermented soy beans and giblets. If you look at the ingredient list you can see that these are a statistically anomalous cluster all at the beginning of the list. Such are the whims of fate and global warming….

So, here we go:

1. Eggs – nothing controversial here but if you are vegan or egg-intolerant feel free to substitute anything that reminds you of eggs.
2. Black fermented soy beans – seems exotic but is found in the Chinese section of most supermarkets labelled as black beans or black bean sauce – this is the stuff of your chinese takeout chicken in black bean sauce. Again – substitute away if unavailable or inedible to you. Maybe unfermented regular black beans as found in many a Mexican plate would substitute?
3. Giblets – here is where I anticipate some stonewalling. How about any form of offal? It isn’t really all that awful. If not or if a vegetarian, then I’d go with something a little challenging as a substitute.
4. Something that reminds you of Africa – you are on your own here….

I can see a whole lot of possibilities here but being realistic not all that many desserts.

Once again, official ‘more like guidelines’ are here. You have until Tuesday Noon PST this time. Why Tuesday? Because Monday is a big ol’ holiday in the US.

UPDATE!: I keep forgetting to stress that you should nominate your dish(es) for either the ‘haute’ division or the ‘home’ division. These are actually more philosophical divisions than anything. Some of our participants like to go all out for top level presentation, flair, etc. Others just want a challenge for dinner. Some thrive on the bright lights of the virtual studio and others are intimidated by the ubiquitous cameras. So select your division or direction. And feel free to enter in both. This is meant to be a low-stress event.

Judge this time around – who I have arrogantly just assumed will take on the responsibility – is, as usual, last times’ winner, Ilva, at Lucullian Delights.

Have fun!

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