A Feast of Fire and Ice — Our Game of Thrones Themed Feast

•September 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Welcome back, friends! A bit of a hiatus, but it’s well worth it. Been up to a bunch of stuff, mostly involving … food! Fire Island will be posted (and so will the backlog of trips I’ve taken such as the rest of California and Australia), but for now, we dive into the world of George R.R. Martin.

A couple of months ago, with our renovations finished and my 30th birthday looming, we decided to throw a joint birthday/housewarming celebration. Our friend Steve (to whom I will now on refer to as “Wacka”) brought us the king of gifts—the Game of Thrones cookbook, A Feast of Fire and Ice. We thanked Wacka and said we would invite him over to try these recipes out.

Fast forward a few months and here we are. Now, being that when this dinner happened, it was still pretty warm and humid out. The one problem with the book is that 98% of the recipes are very hearty and heavy dishes. Not optimal for that kind of weather. I searched through the book trying to find something that wouldn’t be too complicated and too heavy. Dr. Awesome and I agreed on two recipes: Aurochs Roasted with Leeks with a Medieval Pepper Sauce (inspired by Winterfell) and for dessert, Iced Blueberries in Sweet Cream (a treat from The Wall).

I started out preparing the iced blueberries. All we had to do with the blueberries was freeze them. The cream on the other hand was more labor intensive.

First, I had to slightly beat two egg whites and added it to the cream in a sauce pot.

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While heating the cream and egg white mixture up slowly, I had to whisk it the whole time so that the eggs didn’t scramble and also so that the cream didn’t burn. Once the mixture got to below a boil, I added some amazing honey from Catskill Provisions (their Spring honey) and salt.

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Once that simmered for another two minutes, I poured the warmed mixture into a bowl and added some more cream and sugar. I then put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to cool and thicken.

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Next was preparing the main dish. I had gone to our amazing butcher, Ottomaneli and Sons, to get our top round of beef. The butcher asked me how I was going to prepare it and I told him it was being roasted. I received this amazing cut of beef wrapped in a layer of fat. Just picture a beef wellington. That’s what it looked like.

To prepare the dish, I had to cut up some leeks into circles and use a whole head of garlic.

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Then we added some carrots, sage, thyme and bay leaves.

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I also added a cup of beef stock to the bottom so that the veggies wouldn’t burn (plus it gave them an amazing beef flavor, along with the fat that melted onto them).

Dr. Awesome seasoned the beef on all sides.

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Then we placed it on top of the veggies with the temperature probe inside to make sure it was cooked to a perfect medium-rare.

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While the beef was cooking, we prepared the suggested Medieval Pepper Sauce. Basically, you torch a piece of bread till it’s charred, then we put it into a mixture of vinegar and water with ground ginger and of course, black pepper, and mashed it until we got the right consistency that we wanted. (We had to add some more liquid since it was coming out too thick.)

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After about an hour and a half, our beef was ready to be pulled. And it came out looking great.

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Here are how the veggies came out—all roasted to perfection by a lot of beef fat.

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Now, I’m sure you’re asking, “why are there mashed potatoes on this table when there was no mention of a potato recipe?” Well, Dr. Awesome deduced (like Sherlock) that because potatoes are a “new world” food, they were not included. But we felt we needed some sort of carb, so we broke the rules a little.

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Dr. Awesome thought it appropriate to read to us from the cookbook—quotes which preceded each recipe.

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And then, we feasted.

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We had our doubts, but the beef was cooked to perfection, the veggies had a ton of flavor and the pepper sauce really added a crazy new dimension to the beef flavor.

As you can see, Wacka and his sweet date Micaela enjoyed it too.

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With bellies full of meat, it was time to break out the dessert.

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The frozen blueberries and the thickened cream were great. What was really cool was that the cream froze onto the berries, so it made it almost like a thin layer of ice cream. Really delicious.

All in all, we had a pretty successful dinner. When it gets a bit colder out, we’ll be trying out some more recipes.

And I’m sure Wacka will make another guest appearance 🙂

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Mass Appeal and Fire Island

•July 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hello all! Things have been nuts so far this summer (along with the nasty humid weather we’ve been having). So here’s what’s been going on:

I was on TV! Yup! Earlier this month, I was on Mass Appeal with my father promoting Berkshire Blue Cheese. It was nerve-wracking, but a lot of fun. Six minutes sure flies by. I did the cooking segment (granted all I did was just give a suggestion for a great quick and easy treat using the cheese).

You can read the whole article here as well as watch the video. (For some reason, it’s not letting me post the video directly to my blog.) Hopefully we’ll be able to come back and chat more! And if you have a recipe, send them in. The winner will get a whole wheel of blue!  Below is a photo I took from the set of the food prop I made.

Fig jam and melted Berkshire blue on Mass Appeal

It tastes just as good as it looks. I was very proud of how it came out. So easy. Cut a piece of baguette, slice up some Berkshire Blue, pop it in a 400 degree F oven and let melt to desired consistency, about 5-8 minutes. Pull out of the oven, add some fig/any type of jam you like or honey and BAM. An easy finger food.

I’ve also been having a great time at the green markets. There’s so much now since it was a cold spring. I made an amazing blueberry summer cake:

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And then I shucked some fresh peas:

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It’s been great using things that are in season. Everything just tastes the way it should. I’m looking forward to when stone fruit and heirloom tomatoes come in. I’m also looking forward to my Modern Sprout planter comes in. I’ll be able to grow some herbs hydroponically.

Dr. Awesome and I are headed to fire island this week. I’m bringing my camera with me to document the amazing meals we’ll be cooking. It’s going to be a rough time 😉

Mass Appeal, Channel 22 in Western, MA

•July 8, 2013 • 2 Comments

My father and I are going to be on Mass Appeal, Channel 22 in Western, MA. We’re going to be talking about Berkshire Blue, and I’ll be handling the “cooking” segment. If you’re in Massachusetts, tune in on Tuesday, July 9 at 11am! Hopefully I won’t look like a fool 🙂

“Green” Wine and Apartment Composting

•June 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Dang, it’s been a while, eh? Things are finally slowing down in Casa Awesome, so that means more attention to this blog. I’ve missed writing in it and I still have to post photos from my Australia trip.

Anyways, I was sent in an article the other day by my very good friend Linda about “green” wine. It’s from “The Daily Sip” by bottlenotes and epicurious. According to them, “any wine can be made in an environmentally responsible manner can be considered ‘green,’ but there are a few actual certifications that can make that term more meaningful:

Organic: This term can apply to the grape-growing process (no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides or genetic engineering are used) or the winemaking process (no preservatives are used, such as sulfur dioxide). There are several organic certification programs in the U.S. and each one has its own rules. The “Organic” seal from the USDA promises 95% organic ingredients, while the “100% Organic” seal from the USDA indicates 100% organic ingredients. Both allow only naturally occurring sulfites in small quantities. The label “Made with Organic Grapes,” means the wine contains at least 70% organic ingredients, and may include artificial sulfites.

Biodynamic: These wines are organic by default because biodynamic wineries approach the vines, soil and critters that live in the vineyard as parts to a whole, and no chemicals are used. Some practices include burying a cow horn full of manure over the winter then digging it up in the spring and mixing the manure with water to spray over the vineyard, and timing activities in the vineyard to the cycles of the moon. The theory was put forth by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, and many top-tier wineries now swear by the practice.

Sustainable: A sustainable wine may or may not be organic. The word means that the wine is produced in a manner that allows for healthy future production of grapes and wine, which often involves preventing soil erosion, avoiding harsh chemicals and water pollution. There are sustainable wine certification programs in many states, so check online for each state’s specific guidelines.

Fish Friendly: There are many organizations dedicated to preserving the health of local fish, such as California’s Fish Friendly Farming Program, which protects steelhead trout and Coho salmon in Northern California, or Salmon-Safe in Oregon, Washington and California. One of these labels on a bottle means that the winery works to improve water quality and the wildlife habitat on its property.”

Who knew that so much went into making environmentally friendly wine? According to the article, the movement in the USA is gaining momentum, but we’re still behind places such as New Zealand, where 94% of their vineyards are classified as “sustainable” compared to 12% of California vineyards. It’ll be interesting to see the strides the industry will make in the future. I hadn’t heard about “green” wine until I was made aware of this article. Now if only Greek yogurt didn’t produce acid whey.

Apartment Composting

I follow Grow NYC on twitter. A week or two ago, I noticed a tweet mention composting. A bunch of the green markets offer food scraps collection and I got to thinking that maybe we should start collecting our food scraps and bringing them to the markets near us. Living in the city, we don’t have the luxury of private land to use for composting purposes. What’s the next best thing? Investing in a freezer compost bin. This way, we don’t stink up the place (and the building). I found one that looks pretty good.

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This Fuccillo Design freezer bin had the most positive feedback. It’s made of silicone which makes it easy to keep clean and because we’ll be keeping it in the freezer, we won’t have to deal with odor or fruit flies. I’ve been trying to keep track of how much food scraps we create while cooking. Needless to say, we make a bunch. We’ve been trying to be more conscious of using things that are more environmentally friendly (like sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner, household cleaners, etc.) and having this bin will help us recycle a bunch of our food waste and in turn, help fertilize more crops organically.

*End organic rant* 🙂

Update!: I just found out that the place I was going to order the compost bin from has a store near my apartment! Totally going there tomorrow to pick one up!

Modern Sprout – Gardening Reinvented for Urban Dwellers

•April 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Because of my hydroponics post, this really cool venture was brought to my attention. It’s called Modern Sprout, a company that’s trying to get their product out there via Kickstarter.

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What really drew me to this product was that it’s specifically made for people who live in an urban setting that are interested in growing their own food via hydroponics but just don’t have the room. It looks like just a regular planter, but obviously it’s not. The hidden hydroponic system enables anyone the opportunity to grow a wide variety of herbs, produce, flowers, etc. with little to no effort. The planter comes pre-assembled (which is good for me, cause even though I’m good at putting things together, I hate it!) and only needs to be refilled with water and organic liquid fertilizer about every 2-4 weeks. You can also plant up to three different plants at the same time. I remember my gardening project on the porch and I had about four pots of different plants going which was sort of a pain. I always had to remember to water them. With Modern Sprout, everything is in one place and you don’t have to worry if you forget to water it.

If you’re a foodie or into sustainable living, the planter’s eco-friendly air pump uses an estimated $5-$7 per year to run, as opposed to the standard energy sucking water pump many hydroponics systems use. A solar powered option will be available as a product upgrade. The company will also offer easy tips on how to prune/harvest herbs and produce so that they continue to grow for the full duration of their lifespan

It’s great to hear of things like this coming from people who have busy lifestyles, but wanted to grow their own produce in an urban space. It definitely resonated with me, which is why I’m donating to the cause. If you donate enough to get a planter, you get it for 30-40% below off the projected retail price for a limited time. The Kickstarter runs until May 15.

I hope it gets funded. I’m looking forward to growing some produce!

 
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