Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Relishing the spring produce

What a weird year it's been weather wise. Snow, warm, snow, warm, freezing like the arctic circle, snow, HOT, cold and rain rain rain. Seemed like we would have another early warm spring (and early warm planting season) but, alas, that was not to be. Finally we are starting to see the lovely spring produce and cool weather crops hitting the farm stands and markets

One of my favorite cool weather veggies is the humble radish. Crunchy, a little heat, a little sweet, and such beautiful red color. LOVE radishes !!! Over the winter months I browsed lots of blogs, websites and books looking for the right recipes to make this little veggie shine, as well as give me something new to make for the cupboard, and I happened upon a recipe for Radish Relish. So........ I had to, of course, make my own adjustments to make it "my own" so here it is, and I hope you enjoy.

Radish Relish

2 lbs red radishes, cut into tiny matchsticks
1 cup finely minced onion
1 tsp ground ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tb kosher salt
1 Tb whole coriander seed, slightly crushed after measuring
1 Tb cumin seed
1 Tb mustard seed (I used brown- any color is fine)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar

Cut radishes into tiny matchsticks. The reference recipe said to shred them but I like more crunch and bite to relishes.

Combine vegetables with seasonings and set aside.

In large non-reactive pot bring vinegar and sugar to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add veggies to boiling brine, stir well, return to boil. 

Prepare half pint jars for boiling water bath canning (warm lids in hot water, sterilize jars in boiling water). Ladle hot relish into jars with half and inch headspace. Wipe rim of jar, fix lid and ring and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes (start processing time when water is at a full rolling boil).

I can't wait to try this out on a freshly grilled steamy brat with some yummy stone ground mustard !!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Everyone loves babies !!!

Baby vegetables, that is !!

On a recent trip to the city we browsed the produce section of a large grocery store to see what we could find that was new and different. After our weird winter and very late snow, fresh garden produce in my garden is a long long way off so........we decided to browse.

Compared to our little small town grocery store we probably had triple the selections and I'm always on the lookout for something new to experiment with. Melissa's Produce Company always has some interesting vegetables and they like to feature a lot of baby vegetables. On this shopping trip I found Pee Wee Baby Dutch potatoes and when they say Pee Wee, they aren't kidding. They are about the size of grape tomatoes!!  Well in spite of them being a little pricey I had to have some.

Now....what to do with them? Roasted? Super cute potato salad? Skewer and grill? I had ground beef, chicken breast and pork chops to play with so.....a glance through our herbs and spices and rubs and I decided on chicken.

This dish is super easy to throw together and great for a weeknight. You can switch up the seasoning to whatever flavors you like too!


2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into large chunks
2 cups PeeWee potatoes
1/2 onion, sliced into wedges
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
olive oil
salt, pepper, meat rub of choice

Coat the bottom of a 9x13 pan with olive oil. Arrange chicken chunks around the edge of pan (I cut the chicken into chunks because the potatoes will not need as long to cook as regular "big" potatoes). Sprinkle with salt, pepper and whatever meat rub or seasoning you choose (we make our own meat rub).

Wash potatoes well, put in medium bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of oil, onion chunks, garlic, salt, pepper and more of the meat rub. Toss to coat well. Pile into the center of the baking dish. 

Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until chicken is done and potatoes are tender. At this point, you can add some cooked sliced or baby carrots, green beans, or whatever additional vegetable you like. Toss lightly with roasted potatoes and return to oven just til heated through. 

Enjoy !!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Craft beers and food pairings, a delicious new trend

In the past several years, wineries have been springing up all over Iowa, which is a GREAT thing for Iowa wine drinkers, but along with that another trend has been popping up- craft breweries. Luckily for me, I live close to a wonderful brewery just up the highway in Ames. Olde Main Brewing Co. opened in October, 2004 led by brewmaster Puff Irvin. What started as two friends' dream has now become a full brewery and brew pub.

Another very exciting trend is the food and beer pairing dinner. Much like the wine and food pairings everyone is familiar with, each course of the meal paired with a different beer. The Port on Lake Panorama hosted their first Beer and Food Pairing Dinner featuring beer from the Olde Main Brewing Co. The dinner was a sell-out and the beer and menu perfectly complimented each other.

We began our culinary adventure with a brief story shared by the brewmaster, Puff Irvin. He shared how he got his start, how the business came to be, and offered a lot of interesting and informative facts that a lot of beer drinkers probably don't know! He also explained how to get the best tasting experience from your beer and why a glass is so important.

As the first beer, Longface Amber Ale, was being served he explained the brewing process, the flavor notes of that particular beer and the difference in alcohol content. This particular beer had a mild sweetness and a finish with a hint of caramel.  

The chef paired this beer selection with an antipasti platter, a colorful plate of Genoa salami and coppicola, marinated olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and a selection of cheeses. Just like during wine and food pairings, drinking and smelling the beer before and after eating food gives you two totally different flavor profiles.

The second beer was Olde Main Off Kilter Scottish Ale, which was also an amber colored beer. Brewed in the Scottish style without hops and a lot of malt this beer boasted coffee flavors and a subtle sweetness. With this beer the chef paired two light dishes, the first being a cold Cucumber Avocado and Lime soup, which was a smooth, refreshing and sophisticated blend of flavors and textures, with the smooth soup garnished with diced avocado and tomato. 

Served alongside with soup was a Greek salad with fresh green pepper, tomato, kalamata olives and feta cheese tossed in a light Greek vinaigrette.

For the third course Puff introduced us to Olde Main's Dinky Wheat, a Belgian style wheat ale. 

Dinky Wheat has notes of coriander, orange peel and chamomile along with a secret ingredient. A lot of us who like wheat ales like to add a wedge of orange to bring out the citrus notes, but this fabulous brew already had citrus notes brewed in. It was my favorite of the night.

The chef's selection for this delicious beer was a light and flavorful pasta dish. Linguine tossed with sun dried tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, slices of marinated chicken breast, cannellini beans, garlic, olive oil, garlic, a splash of white wine and slices of grilled chorizo tossed in to kick up the flavor. This dish was so delicious and was the perfect match for the Dinky Wheat.

Our fourth and final beer of the evening was the Sodbuster Stout Ale- a dark, thick and rich brew made with malt that had been roasted in a coffee roaster to bring out the deep dark coffee and chocolate flavors. The aroma of the stout in the glass reminded me of a wonderful espresso.

Our dinner was brought to a delicious finale by the chef's amazing Creme Brulee. There was no better dessert to pair with the warm espresso and chocolate notes of the stout. The smooth vanilla custard and crunchy caramelized sugar topping were flawless.

As much as I enjoyed Puff's presentation and expertise at his craft, the meal would not have been possible without the amazing kitchen craftwork of Chef Joe Riccio. He spent a lot of evenings up late after arriving home from work, brainstorming and planning and researching to come up with a perfect four course dinner. Even though this was a one-time event, Joe is hard at work every week at The Port where he offers nightly specials, homemade soups and a weekend prime rib buffet with an ever-changing menu. Stop in for dinner sometime and you can still enjoy a cold Olde Main brew !!