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my new obsession, cold smoking… part one

we all know how delicious smoked food is.  aside from smelling like firewood, it’s easy & has great results.  i come from a home from everything could be smoked, from thanksgiving turkeys to ribs.  this however is a game changer, cold smoking is where it is at!  thanks to a christmas wish fulfilled by my brother, i finally got around to giving it a go.

this is super easy, little mess & cheap!  what the hell is cold smoking?  it is a way to flavor food without cooking it like in a traditional smoking.  Iall you need is a smoker or grill, a pellet tube smoker, smoker wood pellets & a utility lighter.  oh, and lots of random food to smoke!  i used my grill, a 12 inch A-maze-n tube smoker, smoke pellets from amazon & disposable metal trays.  the instructions that come with the tube smoker are simple to follow and worked like a charm.  so, get to ordering your supplies so you can join the fun!  just a note, where i live this is the perfect time of the year to cold smoke due to the 35 to 50 degree weather.  if you live in a warmer climate, i would do some research before you dive in.

what food should you cold smoke? While you can cold smoke bacon & salmon, i am starting with food items that don’t need to be cooked.  aside from smoked salmon or cheese, there aren’t a lot of searchable resources on cold smoking.  i just tried to think about what food items i would want to have a smoky flavor.  i’ve had smoked salt & smoked tomato sauce, so that is where i started.  i decided on salt, tomatoes, onions, garlic, cauliflower, ricotta, cheese blocks & onions.  i’m looking forward to smoking other things like hardboiled eggs, fruits & nuts.  this will be a two part post considering the amount of stuff i smoked.

smoked salt

2/3 cup course salt
8X8 tray

. smoke for 1 hour

i just used kosher salt.  if you want to make more salt, no big deal.  it will just take a little longer & you will need to stir half way through to make sure all of the salt gets even exposure to the smoke.

what to use it for? season anything that you would use regular salt for.  popcorn, roasted veggies or fish for starters.

plum tomatoes

4 plum tomatoes, quartered & deseeded
8X8 tray with 1/8 to 1/4 inch holes in the bottom

. smoke for 3 hours

what to use these for? since they aren’t cooked, i put them in the food processor & will add them to a tomato sauce.  if you wanted to peel your tomatoes before you smoke them, you can make tomato jam, salsa… the list goes on

smoked ricotta


1 16 ounce container whole milk ricotta
8X8 tray
salt & pepper

. smoke for 1.5 hours to 2 hours stirring half way through

. this cheese is super delicate, so watch out for over smoking.  taste test to smoke level then season with salt & pepper.

what to use this for? as you would use any ricotta.  i used it as pictured on a crostini, but i am looking forward to using it in lasagna & pizza.

smoked ricotta & honey crostini

this combination is straight perfection! smoky, sweet, spicy & savory. OH. SO. GOOD.

1 small baguette, thinly sliced
smoked ricotta
honey
red pepper flakes
fresh thyme
salt & pepper
olive oil

. preheat oven to 375 degrees
. place bread slices onto baking sheet in a single layer
. lightly drizzle with olive oil
. bake until both sides are lightly browned, flipping over halfway
. let bread cool enough to be handled
. spread ricotta on bread & place onto serving dish
. LIGHTLY drizzle with honey
. season with red pepper flakes, cracked pepper & salt
. sprinkle with fresh thyme

chickpeas


2 cans chickpeas, drained
8X8 tray with plenty 1/8 to 1/4 inch holes in the bottom

. smoke for 2 hours

oven roasted chickpeas

we have all had the yummy guilt free snack.  this is just the best of the best in flavor town (yes, sadly i just quoted guy fieri).

. preheat oven to 425 degrees
. cover large baking sheet with foil
. place chickpeas on baking sheet & drizzle with olive oil just to coat the chickpeas
. season with salt, pepper & garlic powder
. toss until everything is coated
. bake 20 minute, shaking baking sheet every 5 minutes
. make sure they are crispy before you take them out of the oven, sometimes the golden color makes you think they are done before they are

cauliflower


1 lb small cauliflower florets, do not cut too big for even smoking
2 8X8 trays (or one larger sized tray) with plenty of 1/8 to 1/4 inch holes in the bottom

. smoke 3.5 hours

what can this be used for? replacing protein in things like pasta.  since it isn’t cooked, you can cook to make cauliflower mash (just don’t boil) or even just eat with dip.

cauliflower salad with bacon & sunflower seeds

this is like replacing potatoes or pasta, even chicken or tuna for a healthy salad.  just break down cauliflower into bite sized pieces, you can even finely chop the stalks leftover to add to the salad.

1/2 cup mayo
1 teaspoon apple cider or rice vinegar (i used roasted garlic rice vinegar)
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 large stalk of celery, finely chopped
5 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds
2 scallions, thinly sliced
salt & pepper

. mix cauliflower, mayo, red onion & celery together
. season with salt & pepper & toss to make sure everything is coated
. when ready to serve top with bacon, sunflower seeds & scallions

the happy place that is rose’s luxury 

when your brother that has lived in florida is willing to stand in line in windy dc for dinner, you say yes!    the hype that is rose’s luxury is worth the line, just know how to work it right.  first, don’t lunch.  if you get in at 515, get ready to eat.  we parked ourselves at the bar, told our awesome server/bartender  that we were going to be there awhile.  grabbed our first round of drinks and began to narrow down what we going to pick out of already almost perfected menu.  We ordered 5 plates, an added bonus was a treat from our server and the warm potato bread with delicious butter and we knew we were in for a good time.  the food speaks for itself, so i won’t get too much into that.  just know that the signature pork lychee salad is where my food happy place lives.  cocktails &a booze selection were obviously hand selected.  the ambiance was delightful in my book.  the service was wonderful, know the rules and they are welcoming with open arms for the experience you are looking for.   it’s worth the wait and if you are expecting a great booze program, wonderful food, a cozy place and friendly folks.  this will be a staple when my brother comes home to visit for sure.

oh hey, cape may!

first stop, cape may brewing company.  great beer, killer swag shop & great atmosphere.  

website: http://capemaybrewery.com/

second stop, beach plum farm.  this amazing place is cute & happens to provide local hotels, resorts & restaurants with all things fresh.  add a cute marketplace for ceramics to a selection of yummy food to enjoy on the farm & instant happiness occcurs.  the tomato sandwich couldn’t have been more simple, but so so so perfect.

Website: http://www.caperesorts.com/experiences/capemay/beachplumfarm

the beach, these photos say it all. 

Website: http://www.caperesorts.com/hotels/capemay/congresshall/

congress hall, i will go on to rave about this place below.  photos are of the beachfront look of the hotel & the amazing cocktails had at the brown room every night of our stay. 

when my mom suggested for us to get our toes in the sand for a few days, i said “let’s go somewhere new”.  she was all about it & into our hands fell cape may.  only 3 hours from home, we hurried & booked our hotel quickly.  congress hall, the oldest beach resort in america at a great price, done deal.  this place has 3 places to eat & drink, plus beach food service… want the pool?  add lounge service cocktail service.  not to mention 2 maid services a day, valet parking & wifi all for free… what!?!? the food is amazing, the hotel is charming & the beach tent service came in handy when i got burnt.  well worth the extra money for comfort, relaxation & happiness it brings. i am hoping cape may has made the impression on my mom as it has on me, i want to come here year after year.  We didn’t get back in the car our entire visit & the laid back vibe won me over.  i did a few “food bites” posts on my love for this place & in the above photos, you can see why this place is a pure treasure.  

bon appetite supper club

this idea makes my heart happy & my tummy full. after a good friend of mine had successfully started a bon appetite magazine supper club in portland, she eventually decided to start one here in DC. we are happily a small group of foodies, wine lovers, cocktail enthusiasts & beer nerds. plus you can never even think of making more than a few recipes out of the magazine before the next issue is headed your way. the concept is simple.

.gather a group of friends and friends of friends

.pick a host (which changes frequently)

.host sends invite with link to the current month’s recipes from bon appetite & sets up an online sign up sheet so everyone know who is making what

.make your dish & show up with it (and maybe some booze)

.enjoy cooking (because there is always last minute prep) & having drinks with friends

.eat, drink & be merry
my friend melissa that started this club is an old coworker and this has been a great way to not only stay in touch with old coworkers, but makes some new friends. dogs & beautiful babies are sometimes happily part of the deal. we have only done it for the past 3 months, but i have a good feeling that we will keep things going. with a rotating group of friends it’s always nice to see old & faces, that combined with great food, music & booze. why wouldn’t this be something that everyone wouldn’t want to do?
above pictures include so many things like fried chicken skins with an herb salad over rice noodles, from scratch mushroom & buratta lasagna, roasted jalapeno pimento cheese toasts, potato & roasted beet salad, roasted turnups & carrots, pork sugo, no bake chocolate cake, thanksgiving in sandwich form, barley salad…. i can keep going, but just go to the bon appetite website & get lost in food goodness!

how to make a cheese plate for one

 sometimes you can’t wait to have friends over or a holiday to take care of your cheese plate cravings, so this is an easy guide to making a cheese plate for one.  this is kind of a “crap in my fridge” deal.

step one: check your fridge and pantry out for accompaniments & crackers.  think nuts, honey, preserves, olives, jams etc.

. 1 savory accompaniment (ex: tomato jam, olive tapenade, whole grain mustard)
. 1 sweet accompaniment (ex: honey, preserved fruit, jam)
. some kind of nuts
. olives (*depending on if you are using something salty as your savory accompaniment, omit the olives)
. some crackers

step two:  cheese shop time!  i know we don’t all have easy excess to a cheese shop, so just go to the local grocery store that you know has a good selection.  since we are just looking for ourselves, this is where it gets tricky.  most cheese shops & well equipped cheese sections will have an “odds & ends” basket with smaller pieces of cheese.  this is our JACKPOT.  think about what you have already picked out at home.  i have spent over $30 on a cheese plate just for myself, so i try to keep the cost down if i’m just making it for myself.  i can always seem to find 2-3 cheeses in the basket.  here is a bit of a guide, however this cheese plate is for YOU, you don’t have to think about others tastes.  if you want blue cheese, get it.  i would just recommend one nutty, one mellow and one of something you might love that others don’t.

. 1 cow (a good cheddar or alpine style cheese)
. 1 sheep ( i like a young manchego… something mellow in flavor)
. 1 goat or soft ( double or triple creme or just a simple goat cheese (if you are using honey… it’s a great pairing)

step three: rounding your cheese plate out

. add some fresh baguette or crostini
. add 1 selection of charcuterie, get something that you enjoy… you pretty much can’t go wrong here

step four:  plate it up & enjoy

my plate included:  a triple creme, 18 month aged gouda, a mellow spanish cheese, tomato jam, preserved cherries, mixed olives, marcona almonds, garlicky salami, gluten free crackers & gluten free baguette (not pictured… a bottle of wine, of course)

how to make a great cheese plate

IMG_5961.JPG

as a cheesemonger, it’s my job to school people on what cheeses make a great cheese plate! you can make it easy on yourself & have us do it for you or have some fun creating your own!

to start, THE CHEESE! to make it easy, pick 3-4 cheeses of different milks and textures. this is where you have to trust us cheesemongers. you don’t want 2 blues, a washed rind and a tangy aged cheese, you and your guests cheese palate will be destroyed! think one mellow, one nutty/toasty and one cheesemonger’s choice. if your guests like blue, add one as a fourth cheese.

i love crackers & other vehicles for cheese. i pick “pretty” crackers, a variety of colors, shapes & flavors. i always get a gluten free cracker as well, even the gluten eaters will indulge. 2 or 3 types of crackers are enough, for me if i am making a cheese plate for more than 10, i add a baguette.

meats, jams & other delicious things to eat with cheese! i am a charcuterie freak, so i always need some on my cheese plate, pick 1 or 2 that will compliant your cheese. i normally pick a spicy and a mild sweeter flavor. on a big cheese plate, i don’t use many jams or honeys. if i do smaller a plates, i am a huge fan. if there is a great honey for the blue you’ve picked, just plate it separately with honey, so that people know they belong together. i fill in empty spots on the plate with fruits and nuts, dried cranberries or cherries are easily accessible & cheap.

adding signs that say what kind of cheese are on the plate is a great idea, i have learned that from my current job. at a wedding, no one is paying attention, but at a family gathering, it is a great touch!

so there you have it, a simple quick guide to make a badass cheese plate!

eating & drinking local.

after sometime at my new job, we have done a few events with local vendors.  not only that, but in my dept our intense love and support for local beer & wine.  there is something satisfying about a meal being made of only food that is made or grown within about 100- 120 miles of rockville.  from  the guy who makes his cheese dips in bethesda to the ice cream maker in silver spring.  from one of the many maryland & dc breweries to the farmer that grows my favorite baby grape tomatoes in pa.  if i can buy bacon that is sourced from local local farm, i am going to do it.  if i can buy a handmade coaster from an artist that lives in the dc area, i am going to do it.

yes, my burrata cheese is from italy & my fav cheap white blend to have a bottle of while watching crappy tv is from france but, like i said there is something gratifying about about having a meal that was produced & sourced locally.  its eco friendly & simply supportive of the farm or brewery we may pass on the way to work or to your weekend away.

even if you just keep your eye out for the local signs at your big super market chains, you are helping the earth & your community.  is the 50 cents extra you MAY OR MAY NOT PAY worth the gas it took your corn to come from another country or half way across our country?   the pint of mixed tri color baby tomatoes from pa is at the same price point or cheaper than the half over ripe cherry tomatoes we find in the big chains.  bulk spices that are sold by weight & not a huge container that you  may never use again is far more cost effective.  just be aware of things.  do what you can to support.  we cant bank on all of our ingredients being made or produced next door but, even a few out of your grocery trip come from your city, county or state… do it.

plus when you shop at smaller local markets you are going to find great demos, amazing prepared food selections that are conscious of dietary restrictions,  fun events like jazz brunches & bbqs on saturday afternoons and, most importantly a staff that knows their shit.

so the next time you pass a local super market or even a farmer’s market… stop & enjoy the food, wide selection of items & get to know your community.

buy a meat threomometer dangit!

this is my new favorite kitchen gadget.  it’s really that simple.  while i have only had a few run ins with overcooked/undercooked meats, after using this on a prime rib & even just a chicken breast…it’s kinda changed my cooking life.

most newer ovens are equipped with a thermometer when it comes to roasting or baking meats in the oven. but i like to have one on hand to use in anything from the grill, saute pan or even a smoker.

i like ones with the wire so that you can read the temp from outside the cooking device, which is important when using a grill, smoked or the convection option on your oven.

this is the one that i have and it’s worked great.  it is made by bradley smoker … you can find one like it just about anywhere.

http://survivalnauts.com/racks-and-accessories/51613-digital-thermometer.html?gclid=CISVwfKfvLgCFcOe4AodlWQAQg

obviously, chicken is the biggest concern when it comes to internal temperature.  we never want to undercooking it, but we all know what a dried out piece of grilled chicken tastes like and it’s not something i want to waste my time eating.  using a meat thermometer for chicken cooked anyway for anything will make you think twice about this boring meat.

i know this is a really exciting  post but i PROMISE it’s worth the time to order one.

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