Monday, May 29, 2017

New Flavors- Nduja

Nwhat? Nduja? What in the heck is that? That was my first reaction when I was reading the menu at The Chef's restaurant for the first time. Nduja is an ingredient in several of the dishes on the menu- sandwiches and pizzas primarily. I had to whip out the Google on my phone and learn more right away. What did I find? A lot of information! 

Pronounced in-DOO-yah, nduja is a spreadable sausage, similar to pepperoni or salami, but quite a bit spicier. It's an Italian salume, originating in Calabria in southern Italy, where it is traditionally made from meat obtained from the head of a pig, except the jowls- those are reserved for guanciale, along with some other parts of the animal, maybe even tripe in some recipes. Roasted hot red peppers give the spread its familiar red color and heat. Here in Iowa, nduja is made by La Quercia in Norwalk and called "nduja Americana" as it is not produced in Italy. They use meat sourced from Duroc or Berkshire/Lancaster hogs from farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Chefs are adding this intensely flavored sausage to all kinds of dishes and featuring it on charcuterie platters as well. You need a bold cheese to stand up to the big flavor of this spread.

Foodies are really getting into nduja too. Charcuterie is a hot trend all over, and hey, this belongs front and center with a good selection of cheeses. Plus, it's pork, and right now pork is King. It's also HOT and we all know heat, hot and spicy and killer peppers are big big big with foodies. 

The Chef is planning on adding a little nduja to his next pot of pasta sauce but I think for me, I prefer to enjoy it in it's natural form. Spread simply on toasted slices of baguette, unadorned. All I need is that and a few cheese slices for cleansing the palate in between bites. When I eat it, the first thing that hits is the pepperoni-like flavor. I'm a huge fan of pepperoni and this is like pepperoni on steroids. Then the spicy red pepper steps up and makes its introduction and it builds with each bite. Couple bites of nduja, bite of cheese, and it's so enjoyable with a glass of wine. I highly recommend you look for this flavor packed sausage and give it a try. It's another one of those unique flavors everyone should try.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Office Food Day

Who loves the Office Food Day? Lots of people, apparently, because we sure do have them a lot! It's actually quite fun- it's a great chance to share good food with the people you spend most of your life with, exchange recipes, try some new things, and break up the monotony of another day in the office. Our office has food days for all kinds of reasons, holidays, seasons, new or departing employees. Sometimes we have a theme- like Cinco de Mayo and all Mexican foods, and sometimes we don't. I've tried all kinds of different foods at food days, from ethnic baked goodies to pulled smoked lamb.

I've always been a fan of appetizers for food days. Sometimes I'll drag a crockpot filled with hot apps to the office, and sometimes I go with something cold, even better if it can sit at room temperature for a couple hours. It makes it easier for coworkers to graze throughout the day with small plates of goodies instead of piling everything on a flimsy paper plate at one time. For this food day I went with a cold app that can hold at room temp and actually tastes better that way. I grabbed a couple bakery baguettes to slice and toast and threw together a quick bruschetta topping and a slightly kicky tapenade made with Peppadew peppers- not hot like jalapenos or habaneros, but just a slight kick in the taste buds.

The bruschetta topping is a riff on Caprese salad, with diced fresh Roma tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella pearls- little balls of fresh mozzarella that are so creamy. You always want to use fresh mozzarella in any Caprese dish. The more common blocks of mozzarella for shredding just don't have the right texture for this. I amp it up with some minced garlic and scallion, a little olive oil and Balsamic vinegar for an authentic flavor. Sinful Food's wonderful infused olive oils bring a big flavor impact to these toppings and make the baguette toasts extra delicious!

Get your Sinful Food oils and Signature Seasoning by clicking HERE.

Toasted Garlic Baguette with Two Toppings

Caprese Topping
4 Roma tomatoes
1 cup fresh mozzarella pearls, drained
1 scallion
2 cloves fresh garlic
small handful fresh basil leaves
Sinful Food Signature Seasoning
2 tablespoons Sinful Food basil olive oil
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Cut the Roma tomatoes into small dice, discarding the seeds and soft insides. Place in medium bowl.

Cut the mozzarella pearls into quarters, add to tomatoes in bowl. Finely mince the garlic and add to bowl. Cut the scallion in half lengthwise, then chop crosswise. Add to bowl. Cut the basil leaves into chiffonade and add to bowl.

Drizzle the olive oil, and vinegar over. Season with Signature Seasoning. Toss to coat everything, cover and chill.

Peppadew Kalamata Tapenade
1/4 Peppadew peppers, drained
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and drained
1/4 cup pitted green olives
2 cloves garlic
1 scallion
small handful fresh parsley
juice of one lime
one tablespoon Sinful Food olive oil, garlic, basil or Italian herb
ground black pepper

Finely chop the peppers, olives, garlic and scallions. Place in small bowl.

Remove parsley leaves from stems and chop; add to bowl. Squeeze the lime juice over, drizzle with olive oil, add 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients. Cover and Chill

Toasted Baguette Slices
2 long French baguettes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup Sinful Food garlic olive oil
Signature Seasoning

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
 Arrange the bread slices on two large baking sheets. Brush with the olive oil; sprinkle with Signature Seasoning. Bake in oven until toasted and lightly golden. Cool before storing in airtight container.

To serve, arrange the toast slices on a platter. Place the Caprese topping and tapenade in bowls. Allow everyone to top their own bread so the toast stays crunchy.

This is the perfect party snack or appetizer, especially for larger groups.  I have made this recipe many times for wine tastings and holiday parties and catered events. It's always a very popular item on the buffet table and I've shared the recipes with lots of friends. The Caprese topping is great for all kinds of other uses and the tapenade is mandatory when making muffaletta or Italian sandwiches.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sous Vide Cooking- Starting Easy with Eggs

Every day I come home from my day job I see the box starting at me. Daring me. Willing me to open it and play. I honestly have no excuse. At first it was "I'm not sure what to do with it" but that evolved into reading loads of recipes and hints and blogs online. Pinning dozens of recipes and ideas. Then it became "I need to find a friend who has used one before" which of course, was easy. I've even joined a Facebook group of sous vide enthusiasts to get ideas and suggestions and hints. Discussions had, ideas shared, and still.......the box sits there. Judging me. It's time to break out the immersion circulation and end this standoff!

Originally I had bought a nice pork loin to cook for my first recipe. Grabbed some fresh herbs to throw in the bag. Lots of garlic. However, I over estimated the size of my stockpot and discovered that I don't have a large enough vessel to cook in. Ugh, that threw a wrench in my plans, and I ended up using the pork for something else. I thought about some Rubbermaid containers I used to use for herb storage, don't laugh, I had a HUGE herb garden, but must have gotten rid of them. The pressure canner? Surely that would be deep enough.

Once I got my cooking vessel issue sorted out I narrowed down my recipe selections and decided (after sitting in the drive thru of a very very very slow Starbucks one morning) that I need to start by coming up with a copycat version of their sous vide egg bites, and that is what I did. In the course of reading all different types of recipe ideas I came across quite a few recipes for eggs and creme brulee and other soft foods that are cooked in 4 ounce canning jars rather than bags. Genius! The heat of the sous vide is much lower than a canner, so the jars would be perfectly safe, as opposed to food BAKED in canning jars- that kind of dry high heat of an oven can weaken the glass and cause jars to explode. Serious safety hazard. The immersion circulator uses temps much lower than the rapidly boiling water and pressurized heat used in home canning and we know they are food safe.

Cooking eggs in the sous vide is foolproof. Butter the inside of the jar, crack in a fresh egg, one per jar, and plain eggs can be cooked to any temp, from coddled to hard boiled. Beaten in a separate bowl, the eggs can be combined with any kind of omelet ingredient you can imagine- cheese, sauteed vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, cooked and drained meats like ham, sausage or bacon, or even bits of crab or lobster. Fresh herbs. Beaten eggs. While this looks and sounds like something truly luxurious, it's actually quite healthy- you're not frying your eggs in a skillet full of butter and if you keep the add-ins on the healthy side, you get the idea.

Since we are going to be cooking with the immersion circulator today, let's unpack this bad boy and get it set up. The pressure canner pot is the perfect deep vessel for this circulator. There is a spring-loaded clamp on the side of the unit that helps stabilize it on the side of the pot. It's not a tight clamp but works perfectly fine with the curved side of this pot.

For our first batch of eggs we are going to use some familiar flavors- scallion and cheese. You're going to love the soft creamy texture of the eggs. It's almost fluffy. We're adding cottage cheese to add body and to lighten up the texture. I HIGHLY recommend using a blender or food processor to mix your egg mixture. You'll incorporate air into the egg mixture, especially using a blender, and that will keep your eggs super fluffy.

Sous Vide Eggs in Jars

4 large eggs
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
1 scallion, chopped, white and green parts
salt and pepper
butter or cooking spray

Set up the sous vide per the manual's instruction and set to 172 degrees. 

Lightly butter the inside of four 4 ounce canning jars or spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, combine the ingredients, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the jars, dividing equally. Fix the lids and rings on the jars and place in the bath.

Cook the eggs in the immersion circulator for one hour. Remove from the bath. 

To serve, you can eat from the jars (perfect for taking to work) or loosen the sides and carefully remove the eggs and place on a late. You can brown them under the broiler if you like a little color. I personally don't like my eggs browned so I prefer them NOT broiled.

How easy was that? This, for me, is a Sunday food prep recipe, not something I'm going to make in the morning, but the eggs reheat easily in the micro for breakfast at the office or a snack. Two eggs make a serving, so I can easily see myself setting up a couple dozen eggs, an assortment of vegetables, cheeses and meats, and making a large batch. Like canned foods, you can double stack these little jars in the bath, so long as the lids are completely covered by the hot water, by at least a couple inches they will cook properly. Now I just need to work out some combinations!

Instead of the cottage cheese, use sour cream, cream or half and half, cream cheese

Cheese- use Swiss, Gruyere, Havarti, Colby, Colby Jack, Monterrey Jack, white cheddar

Vegetables- saute until softened:  garlic, onion, celery, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, asparagus tips, cubed zucchini or summer squash, broccoli or broccolini, scallions, leeks, shredded cooked potato, uncooked chopped Roma tomato, fresh herbs, salsa or pico de gallo.

Meats- diced ham, cooked and crumbled sausage, cooked crumbled bacon, diced turkey or chicken, diced seafood such as crab, shrimp or lobster

FINAL NOTES ON THE TAYAMA- A lot of people I talked to before my first sous vide experience have other brands. I didn't find anyone else who has a Tayama unit. I only had reviews on Amazon to go by and some of those were not that good. However, I was really pleased at the ease of setup and programming. I did not buy a separate plastic tub for the water bath and instead used a great big stockpot and it worked out perfect. The Tayama unit fits snugly against the side of the pot and didn't slip or fall over. It's a very quiet unit. Except for the beeping when it reaches the programmed temp, it's absolutely silent. I would highly recommend this unit to anyone else looking to get started. It's an excellent unit for the price.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 55: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Who wants to open a restaurant?

Owning my own restaurant has been a lifelong dream for me, one that has eluded me for a variety of reasons over the years. I've spent countless years poring over ideas, recipes, themes, designs, ideas, menus, you name it. For years I walked through the skywalk system in downtown Des Moines, past a little cove in one of the buildings, every day thinking to myself that would be the perfect spot for a tiny little bistro. Something small, and elegant, with a menu that changes daily, depending on what's available. Seasonal, local foods, beautifully prepared and served, with a lovely selection of wine. Something that reminds people of a romantic spot in France. 

My very good friend Jessica and I share this dream. She and I found ourselves discussing the possibilities many many times. Would we do catering? Wines and cocktails? Should we go simpler, like a diner or coffee house, or maybe a tea room? So many plans, so many dreams, we even bought a small supply of antique dishware to use in our future tea room, and some kitchen equipment. Sadly, the dream had to be put on the back burner as real life issues were pressing, kids, bills, making ends meet, and we abandoned our immediate plans.

Every once in a while I try to get out and explore the world of food outside of the kitchen. I might sign up for a cooking class, or I might visit a specialty store and browse the unique options, and come up with some decent photos and a fun story. The other day I was flipping through some local stories, new restaurants and the farmers market and so on, looking for inspiration,      when I came across something that piqued my interest right away- the Iowa Restaurant Association was holding a free informational seminar- Restaurant 101, geared at people who were considering opening a restaurant. I knew right away I'd want to go check it out, even if I'm not actively looking to start a business.

The seminar was hosted by Stacey Kleusner. We learned about who the Iowa Restaurant Association is and what they do: they are a member based non-profit trade association. The Association protects, promotes, educates and acts as an advocate for Iowa's restaurant and hospitality industry. They represent the legislative interests of the restaurant and hospitality industry both here in Iowa and in Washington D.C., and they are an affiliate of the National Restaurant Association.

So what is the restaurant industry? Easy- any meal that is prepared away from home, whether it's sit down service or takeout. The industry is made of a mosaic of individual businesses that include clubs, full service and quick service restaurants, cafeterias and buffets, and more. The failure rate of today's new restaurants was a sobering statistic- one out of every four new restaurants will fail within the first year of business, and that increases to three out of five in the first three years. I can say without a doubt that here in Des Moines the competition is fierce. We live in an up and coming culinary hot spot and the new places opening each year prove it. Iowa, as of 2016, has more than 6,000 restaurants. That is just a crazy number to imagine in our state.

So HOW does a new restaurant achieve success in this day and age? Firstly, don't open a restaurant unless you have worked in a restaurant, and preferably, several. You must be a business person first. Just being a great cook doesn't mean you will run a great restaurant. Make sure you understand what customers like, not what YOU like, and then figure out how much they are willing to pay for it. Work your way up, maybe starting with catering, a food truck, or other SMALL venture before you commit to a big restaurant. If you are the owner of the business, you have to be prepared to do what owners do, and it's not always fun. 

Think you're ready to take those first steps towards opening a restaurant of your own? You have got a lot to do, my friends, starting with research. You want to study restaurant and food trends in your area over a period of time. Did you know that in 1955 about 25% of the average food dollar went to the restaurant industry but today that has jumped up to about 47%? Americans value their restaurants! Do your market research- for example, in Iowa in 2016 over $4 BILLION was spent on food and beverage purchases, in fact, on a typical day in Iowa the food and beverage industry estimates sales of about $11.7 million. Million!! While that number seems staggering, it isn't all peaches and cream. Assuming a 5% profit margin, that number of sales, after considering all expenses of operating, allows less than $100 profit as an average. 

Start up costs are an obstacle for many. The average cost to open a small restaurant is around $275,000. If you plan on purchasing a building, that start up cost goes up significantly. To help with costs, many people look to investors or loans to help finance their dream. This requires a business plan. Creating a business plan is crucial. What are the elements of a good business plan? The concept, the team, the market, the strategy, the location, the financials and the offering.

Your concept should contain an overview of your proposed business. What is your unique selling point? What will your guests' experience be? How about menus and signature items, things that set your restaurant apart from the others. You want to talk about your team, with brief biographies of each person. What is their background and experience? What will their role be? You want to focus on your market- who your target clientele will be. What's your marketing strategy? How will you purchase supplies and equipment? Your location will be an important part of your business plan. No one likes to discuss the financials but they are extremely important. where is the money coming from, and how is it being dispersed? What is your anticipated budget? There are lots of resources out there for new business owners to turn to for help. Local economic development agencies can help, the U.S. Small Business Association is another great resource. 

Now that you've some information about getting started, what are some of the licensing and legal requirements you might face? It starts with building permits, whether you're building or remodeling. Alcohol and food licenses are required, your business license, sign and fire permits, state and federal tax permits, food safety certification- lots of hoops to jumps through. There are insurance liabilities to research as well. Hiring a good business attorney would definitely be a first step in the process. 

Now The Chef and I have tossed around the possibility of opening our own restaurant many times. Will it come to be? Maybe, maybe not, but in the mean time, we will continue to enjoy learning, researching, networking and exploring the many restaurants that are already in business and have made someone's dream come true.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Expanding my cheese knowledge, one cheese at a time

As you know, The Chef cooks at a local upscale wine and small plates joint. He is surrounded by amazing wines and incredible cheeses, lots of beautiful charcuterie and ingredients to cook with. In the time he has been there he has been exposed to more types of cheese than in any other restaurant he has cooked at before. I love hearing the stories about what new cheese they got in, how he used it, what he paired with it. While I consider myself to be pretty well educated in cheeses, now and again he will tell me about something I have not heard of. Of course, I accept this as a challenge, and run off to the closest cheese counter and grab some to play with at home. Today it's Piave.

So let's learn a little bit about Piave cheese. I did some research online and learned this cheese is an Italian cow's milk cheese. It comes from the Province of Belluno in the Veneto region. Like so many food and drink, wine, oils, and so on, cheeses often have a DOP- a Denominazione di Origine Protetta, which is a Protected Designation of Origin. Europeans take their cheese, sausages, hams, balsamic vinegar, oils and olives, and winemaking seriously! These designations are assigned to food products depending on where they were produced. If you were to make this same exact cheese, using the same exact ingredients and process, but say you lived in Sicily- you cannot use the name Piave. 

Piave is what is called a hard cooked curd cheese. I had never heard of this before- I am no cheesemaker, that's for sure. Cheeses made in this fashion are cheeses that have had the milk curds heated during production, no more than 132 degrees Fahrenheit, and no less than 118 degrees. Cheeses we know as hard cheese are made in this way- such as Parmesan, and the melting cheese Emmenthal and Gruyere, and others. 

The cheese is available in five different "ages"- Piave Fresco is a very young cheese, aged only 20 to 60 days. Piave Mezzano is aged 61 to 180 days. Piave Vecchio is a cheese that's been aged more than six months. You have to wait more than twelve months to taste Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro, and more than eighteen months for Piave Vecchio Reserva.

Sampling the cheese was heaven. It's very nutty and very firm, but not as dry as Parmesan. It seemed to be almost a cross between Parmesan and Swiss cheese, both in flavor and consistency. It has a strong aroma and creamy color. I shredded it to top our pasta for dinner- it shredded fairly easily when cold from the fridge but became a bit crumbly as it warmed up a bit. It wasn't overpoweringly salty and it wasn't as strong as Parmesan. This cheese would be amazing in salad or sprinkled over onion soup. I wish I had a big glass of Grenache to enjoy with this cheese- it would pair beautifully.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Trying a New Grain- Bulgur Wheat

It's Sunday Funday. Around here, that means The Chef is rocking on guitar and I'm experimenting in the kitchen. The best part is while I am slaving away in the kitchen I get all the free screaming guitar I want. Some people have just one passion in their life, some people have several. The Chef has two. Cooking, and music. His time is literally spent doing one thing or the other. Culinary wise, we are on the same page. Musically, however, we have some differences. He likes classic rock, I am a definite hard core thrash/speed/death metal lover. He plays Stranglehold and I'd like to strangle him. I play Love You to Death and he moans and groans. We do have some musicians and bands that we both love, and that's cool. It works for us. 

It's been a while since we have cooked with a "new" grain around here. Time to get back on the wagon, especially since that was one of my Foodie Resolutions for 2016 and we are about halfway through 2017! So far we have experimented with wheat berries, millet, and a few other grains. The Chef recently took all of my grain hoard out of the pantry and set it on the kitchen island, so we could make some meal plans and use some of these. There are a few more I've been hearing about but I'm strictly forbidden from buying anymore until we use these ones up. It's time for bulgur wheat to make it's appearance. What is it anyway? Bulgur wheat is a grain that has been parcooked and dried. It's a very common grain in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. If you've ever heard of, or tried, tabbouleh, then you know what we're talking about.

Bulgur is another grain that's very high in protein and fiber, with loads of health benefits. What's not to like about that? The recipe we are making today is a salad. I call it jeweled because the bright color of the pomegranate seeds or cranberries look like sparking rubies, and the bright green parsley and scallion tops remind me of emeralds. You can serve this as a side dish or it can easily be turned into an entree with a bit of leftover chicken to bump up the protein, some crumbled cheese or just as it is for a great vegetarian option.

Jeweled Bulgur Salad with Lime

2 cups bulgur wheat

1 can garbanzo beans
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries
small bunch parsley- chopped (about 1 cup)
2 limes, zest and juice
4 tb olive oil
1 tsp cumin
2 tb honey
2-3 scallions, sliced, including the green parts

To cook the bulgur, place the 2 cups wheat in a bowl. Add 4 cups boiling water. Cover and let sit for at least an hour. Drain off any excess liquid.

In large bowl combine garbanzo beans, pomegranate seeds or cranberries, lime zest, scallions and parsley. Toss with bulgur.

In a small bowl whisk together the lime juice from the two limes, the oil and the honey.

Serve at room temperature for best flavor. The cranberries (I used cranberries as pomegranates weren't available) add a lovely sweet taste and spark of acidic tartness and the parsley adds such an herbal flavor.

Speaking of parsley, have I ever mentioned how much I love parsley in salad? I grow loads of it in the summer. Love love love big handfuls tossed in a leafy green salad. The leaves are bright and peppery and I love their perky flavor. Italian flat leaf parsley is the best but I grow both because I love them both. Another great fresh herb that is wonderful in salads, including this one, is basil. That's another herb that comes in lots of varieties and colors and looks gorgeous and tastes delicious. Mint is another herb that is a bright addition to salads. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

It's Morel Mushroom Season

Mushroom haters, look away. Things are going to get really mushroomy in a very short time. It's springtime and in most of the country, springtime means rainy cool weather mixed with a few warm days combined with woodsy landscapes and lots of decaying leaves and wood and that makes the perfect climate for fungal things to start to grow. Things like moss, mold, and mushrooms! In Iowa, as in many other states, the big prize in the woods is the morel mushroom. People will spend entire days tromping through wet and squishy wooded areas, mesh bag in hand, eagle eyes focused, hoping to find that one in a million gem- the morel. Personally, I keep my eyes focused on the ground and scan the trees for my favorite spring mushroom- the pheasantback, which is also plentiful during morel season but it often overlooked. Anyway, the morel is the big draw here and if you're not a mushroom hunter, you better know someone who is and isn't stingy because these babies will cost you a mint in the grocery stores, upwards of $30 a pound depending on the season.

I have to admit, I no longer wander around the woods looking for mushrooms. Growing up as little girls my sister and I always went mushroom hunting with our dad, and in fact the last time I did go out was also with my dad. We found nothing, not even a tick, but ended up having a nice lunch in a small town café afterwards.

This year I had all but given up on the hope of having any tasty mushrooms to eat. Someone offered to sell me some, but they would have to be mailed and honestly, for $30 I wasn't sure what condition they'd be in by the time they arrived, so I declined. Then a miracle happened. One night, and we're talking everyday average weeknight, the kind of night you might do some laundry, or catch up on your DVRd shows or lawnwork, I got a text, from my daughter, and in that text was a picture. It was captioned "Is this a morel?" Incredibly, my daughter, who lives in the city even, was mowing her yard and doing her lawn thing and she found not one, but three nice morel mushrooms growing right  in her front yard. Of course, I exclaimed YES IT IS and then promptly asked "Can I have them?" I drove right over and claimed my prize.

It's pretty unusual to find a morel mushroom growing in a city yard. That's not really the ideal climate for these guys to grow, but on a shady slope in her front yard, apparently there is a pretty significant underground body to this mushroom because it sent up several of the fruiting bodies. Besides the three she found, we saw several stumps of stems where either a keen-eyed dogwalker had spotted a couple, or maybe a squirrel or raccoon found the tasty tidbits. Regardless, I still had two pretty big and one small morels to cook. I'm happy about that!

Most people, at least most people I know, egg, coat in cracker crumbs or flour and fry them. Like a vegetarian chicken nugget in a way, but to me this seems like a boring thing to do to such a delicacy that we have available for such a short time. I decided mine were not destined for the dredging plates but instead would meet some cousins, fellow forest dwellers porcini, wood ear and cute little white mushrooms and have a party atop a sizzling ribeye. Yes, that's definitely the way to go. My recipe is sized for dinner for two, so adjust accordingly if you're cooking for a larger group.

To get the most garlic flavor, use Sinful Food garlic olive oil. It makes a big difference in flavor! You can get your big clicking HERE.

Pan Seared Ribeyes with Wild Mushrooms

2 rib eye steaks
1/2 package (about 5 or 6) smallish mushrooms
3 morel mushrooms (fresh or dried)
4 or 5 dehydrated porcini mushrooms
3 or 4 dehydrated wood ear mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper
Sinful Food garlic olive oil
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
1/3 cup half and half
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in a teaspoon of water
chopped fresh parsley for serving

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water until soft enough to cup up. Slice the button mushrooms and place in a medium bowl. Drain and pat the other mushrooms dry. If using fresh morels be sure to soak and clean them well and inspect for insects. Cut the mushrooms into half inch pieces.

In a heavy skillet (I recommend cast iron) melt about 3 tablespoons butter and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. When sizzling hot, add the mushrooms. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to allow the mushrooms to brown and cook off any excess liquid. Add the garlic and the tomatoes and cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.

When mushrooms have browned, add the cognac OFF THE HEAT and the beef broth. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce slightly. Add the half and half and continue cooking until thickened, using the cornstarch slurry if needed. Remove to a bowl and keep warm.

Rinse out the skillet. Set back on the heat over medium high. Season the steaks well (I like to say season aggressively) with salt and pepper. Add a swirl of olive oil to the skillet and add the steaks, cooking to desired doneness, then remove to a plate to rest. To serve, slice each steak into strips and place on serving place, top with the mushroom sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

This dish looks so impressive when plated with the morels peeking through the rich sauce. We like our steak medium rare and the perfect side for this was a simple green salad with Dijon vinaigrette and shaved Asiago cheese. Simple, delicious food.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." As a Brand Ambassador, the company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift or something of value. Regardless,  I only recommend products or services I believe are of good quality and safe. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."