Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen On The Road: Belgian Food & Beer

After our time in Paris, we continued on to Belgium, home of fabulous beer, chocolate, seafood, frites and waffles. This was a culinary paradise and we did our best to take in as much of the belgian food as possible.

Our first stop was for some waffles. They were delicious, but I'm afraid that the waffles we had may not be the most traditional Belgian waffles of all time and a bit touristy. They were still good though. A traditional belgian waffle (and yes! I have a recipe I've used to make my own Belgian waffles on this blog) is a waffle that is topped with some powdered sugar.  A bit more touristy and you have chocolate, whipped cream, fruit - the whole nine yards.  They were delicious, although a bit on the heavy side for breakfast.

Next up - chocolate. Belgium is world famous for its chocolatiers. We tried two of the more famous ones - Neuhaus and Galler. Both were delicious and I have some great pictures of the Neuhaus chocolates below from their lovely chocolate shop in Brussels. We bought some in the store and brought home several boxes. Such lovely flavors - I even had one with violet. Their pralines were out of this world, as Neuhaus supposably invented the praline.

Belgium is also famous for its frites (Belgian French fries) with spicy mayo.  We went to one of the best fry stands in Belgium to try them out. They had pretty much any type of mayo or other topping that you could imagine (all unhealthy, of course).  We had ours with the traditional spicy mayo. This may have been my favorite Belgian specialty of all - they were delicious. 

Time for some beer to wash it all down. It would be quite easy to write a discourse on Belgian beer. We had many different types of beer while visiting Belgium. There are quite a few varieties of brews that are native to Belgium, including the trappist beers and abbey beers, both of which are brewed in conjunction with monasteries. In addition the lambic beers are traditional to belgium. Below are some photos of a few of the beers we tasted at two fabulous Belgian bars in Brussels - La Mort Subite and Delirium. The beers pictured below include  Lambic Kriek (cherry), Maes (a pilsner), Orval (a trappist beer), Belgian Cookie Beer - but that's just a sampling. Not pictured: Delirium Tremens and Kwak.


Finally - a trip to Belgium isn't complete without some Belgian style moules - or mussels. I can't say we tried the best ones in Brussels but the ones I had were quite good at Aux Armes De Bruxelles (sorry no pictures).


Friday, August 27, 2010

Eric's Kitchen in NJ: 3-Bean Chilli Con Carne

So it's finally starting to cool off in the Northeast, Football season is starting and it seemed about time to make some chilli! Both Jenn and I love chilli and my recipe changes pretty much every time but this is how I made it this time around. I usually use just kidney beans but this time around I decided to try some other beans as well. I've also done it with ground turkey and it's still pretty good but I like ground pork and beef best.

Ingredients: (Feeds about 8)
1lb. ground Beef
1lb. ground Pork
2 cans kidney beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can northern beans
2 cans crushed tomatoes (16oz. ea.)
1/2 large onion
5 oz. sliced baby bella mushrooms
4 tbsp. chilli powder
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. chilli oil
4-6 bay leaves
cracked black pepper & crushed red pepper flakes to taste

served with sour cream, chives, shredded cheddar cheese and cornbread.

I like to get a large pan nice and hot with a little olive oil and start off with the onions, mushrooms, garlic and meats. I saute everything together, turning the meat often to ensure it cooks completely. Once the meat is browned and the veggies are softened, I transfer everything into my crock pot and start adding the beans, crushed tomatoes and other ingredients.

I let it cook in the crock pot pretty much as long as I can. I think this time I cooked it on high for a few hours, turned it to low for an hour or so and then left it on 'keep warm' overnight. Chilli is one of those dishes that only gets better the longer it goes and the next day it's usually ready.

Jenn made some corn bread with whole wheat flour and we ate it with a little sour cream, cheddar cheese and fresh chives and it was excellent. It's really a great dish to make if you're feeding a bunch of people.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Amasea's Kitchen in Sun Valley: What do you think?

So I've started my canning for the year, and thus far have made only spicy dill pickles and hot sweet mustard pickles (I'll post about those soon).

I'm waiting for some additional bulk produce to show up on Idaho's Bounty, and in the meantime I bought 12 pounds of strawberries from Costco yesterday. I'm not certain what I want to make with them, but I know I don't want to make some boring old strawberry jam. Not that strawberry jam isn't delicious, but I have lots of jam in the cupboard already, and want to be more creative.

There are some great onions around, and I've been thinking -- strawberry-onion compote/marmalade? Possibly with some hot peppers in?

A quick perusal of the internet didn't come up with any recipes for that kind of thing, so I could be onto something not often done before. Which could mean it's a great idea, or a very bad idea.

What do you all think?

Eric's Kitchen in NJ: Marinated Elk Steaks

I had only ever had Elk once before when I was young so when the chance to cook it arose, I was very excited! We were visiting my fiance Jenn's hometown and her Dad's good friend Gary had recently returned from a hunting trip in Colorado and had some choice Elk steaks as a result and was kind enough to give us some. He mentioned not to overcook it as it's very lean but that was about all the direction we got so I looked up some recipes online beforehand. There was nothing in particular that blew me away but the Joy of Cooking said to marinate it in a mixture including red wine and rosemary and so that was what I ran with.

Ingredients (serves 2, all measurements are approximate):
2 Elk Steaks (roughly 6 oz. each)
1/2 large vidalia onion
5 oz. sliced baby-bella mushrooms
1/3 cp. red wine (we used a malbec)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. white truffle oil
1 tbsp. minced garlic
pinch of ground mustard
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 large pinch of rosemary

I marinated the steaks for 24 hours after thawing them to let them fully soak up the flavors and ensure that it wouldn't be too gamy. I used a grill pan to cook the steaks and got it nice and hot with a little pam to keep it from sticking. I seared each side for a couple of minutes until it became a little more firm and then took it off and let it sit for a minute or two. I personally wanted mine medium rare. Meanwhile, I sauteed the mushrooms and onions in some olive oil and minced garlic until they were soft and I slowly added some of the marinade until it started to reduce. I added some more and let the veggies cook in the mixture and made sure it boiled as it did have some of the juices from the meat. They really took on the flavor of the marinade and made a perfect pairing for the meat.

We ate it with the wine we used and some caprese salad. Delicious! I didn't find it even remotely gamy and the rosemary and wine really complemented the natural flavors quite nicely. I know the picture isn't my prettiest but I was more concerned with eating it than arranging!

You could also use this process for venison or lamb.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad

Watermelon is one of those quintessential refreshing summer fruits. Summer is really incomplete without it. It can be used so many different ways - as part of a salad or a fabulous summer cocktail, or simply on its own.  I was inspired to do something with watermelon and feta cheese after having a mouthwateringly delicious tapas appetizer earlier this summer at Miriam, a great Israeli restaurant in Park Slope. What I came up with is a simple and easy salad that showcases fresh summer watermelon. This makes for a delicious and low-calorie dinner or lunch and the flavors combine just perfectly.

Sasha's Watermelon Feta & Mint Salad
3 to 4 cups of freshly sliced watermelon
half a block of chopped feta cheese
3 T of fresh chopped mint
1 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar

Combine the watermelon, feta and mint and toss with the balsamic and oil dressing.  Serve immediately.
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