Monday, September 10, 2007

Vegetable Stock Recipe

A couple years ago I quite serendipitously had dinner in a small bistro-style restaurant called Le Petit Blanc (now Brasserie Blanc) in Oxford UK.

I had been given a coupon for a two-course dinner for 10 British pounds by my client. Since he was paying my travel expenses, I felt compelled to use it but wasn't expecting very much from the restaurant.

To my surprise, I had a superb meal and came away with a recipe for vegetable stock that I've used several times since with great success.

I ordered poached fish (dorade) as a starter - it was bathed in an intensely flavorful sauce that had the barest hint of cream in it. The cream added a slight richness but the flavors clearly emanated from the stock - what I incorrectly thought was chicken stock.

I complemented my server on the dish and asked her what the tasty broth was made from. She went into the kitchen to find out, returning moments later to inform me it was vegetable stock. I was stunned - surely vegetable stock could not be this intensely flavored! So I asked if she could find out what ingredients they used to make it. After about 10 minutes she returned just as I was polishing off my lamb main course with the entire recipe written on a slip of paper!!

Here it is below - I suggest using it to poach fish or chicken and to inject flavor without fat or added calories into just about any recipe calling for broth. For example, this stock is superb in risotto - it lightens the dish up but without sacrificing one iota of flavor. It is also an excellent addition to legume based soups and even some pasta dishes.


1 tablespoon pepper corns
1 teaspon dried thyme
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon salt
5 star anise

3 carrots chopped
3 ribs of celery chopped
3 garlic gloves
3 leeks or one large onion chopped
1 cup of fresh coriander leaves
1 cup chopped fennel (optional)
5 quarts of water

1. Fill large saucepot with 5 quarts of water
2. Add fresh ingredients and bring to a boil.
3. Simmer for about 30 minutes then add dried ingredients
4. Simmer for 4-5 hours adding some additional water every now and then if needed.
5. Take off heat and set aside overnight.
6. Drain and strain through sieve next day.

Will keep 6-12 months frozen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

20 Spice Pork Shoulder with Coffee Barbeque Sauce

I'm not a big fan of cooking traditional styles of American BBQ - don't get me wrong, I like to eat BBQ, but for some reason it doesn't turn me on from a culinary standpoint. Every now and then though, I feel like cooking something in the traditional BBQ style. This time around I couldn't resist trying to create something new (at least to me) .

In this case, the dish I created calls for 20 spices. Why 20? Because 19 is too few and 21 too many. I don't know....20 just seemed like a nice round number. And with so many spices I couldn't possibly be constrained by the ingredients of a single cuisine. In this case, I had no choice but to draw on spices from several different regions of the world.

The result? Let's just say my kids loved it (hard to please daughter included) and surprisingly my wife loved it too. And she can be very finicky. (Don't tell her I said so).

Anyway, here's the recipe for a dish that I developed this past Sunday afternoon inspired by some recipes I've seen incorporating tea (smoked ribs) and coffee (I can't remember what in the heck it was other than it called for brewed coffee).

Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients. It's worth going out and getting what you don't have as your pantry will be fully stocked to cook many different cuisines as a result.

This recipe may look complicated but it isn't very difficult to prepare and doesn't take a great deal of time to pull together. Simmering the BBQ sauce is the main time component.

6 pounds of boneless pork shoulder cut into 8-10 oz. filets or boneless pork spare ribs'

For the Meat Rub:
1 tablespoon of peanut oil
3 tablespoons of coriander seeds
3 tablespoons of fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of cardomon powder
1 tablespoon of Spanish smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of mustard powder
1 tablespoon of ground ginger
1 tablespoon of red anatto powder
1 tablespoon of fennegreek powder
2 tablespoons of good quality ground chilis
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of ground sumac
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of cayenne powder
i teaspoon of galangal powder
1 teaspoon of lemongrass powder
i teaspoon of dried chipoltle flakces
2 teaspoons of fine sea salt

For the BBQ Sauce:
5 gloves of garlic
1 small sweet onion
2-3 inch piece of peeled ginger
1 medium red bell pepper
3-6 dried chilis depending on level of 'hotness' desired
5 star anise
4-6 oz. (1/2 cup to 3/4 cup) of good quality honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup dark rum
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
8 oz. of brewed dark roast coffee (preferrably prepared using drip method)
2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder or on quarter-half cup of grated unsweetened dark chocolate


1. Place 1 tablespoon of oil in pyrex dish large enough to hold pork lined up. Coat pork with oil.
2. Grind cumin, fennel seed, and coriander seed in a coffee grinder.
3. Add it and rest of 20 spices into a large mixing bowl. Mix together with fingers or using fork.
4. Sprinkle some of mixture on each of the pork filets. Then using hands rub it in and flip over. Repeat again with other side. Rub in well to all of pork is coated. Put plastic wrap over dish and set aside in refrigerator until 1 hour before grilling.
5. Add onion, pepper, garlic and ginger into food processor and pulse until finely minced and somwhat like a paste.
6. Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in 12 inch fry pan at medium. Add paste and cook for 7 minutes at medium heat and then reduce to low for another 5-7 minutes or until carmelized but not burned.
7. Add vingears and cook for a few minutes.
8. Add star anise
9. Add sherry and cook off alcohol.
10. Add rum and cook off alchohol.
11. Have mixture at low simmer. Add tomato paste, stirring in well.
12. Add honey and stir in well. Cook for about five minutes.
13. Prepared coffee. Add to pan. Mix well. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
14. Add cocoa powder or chocolate. Stir in.
15 . Simmer entire mixture for about 90 minutes. Consistency should be like a nice tomato paste but not too thick.
16. Set aside to cool.
17. Get barbecue grill up to about 425-450 degrees fahrenheit. Avoid a hotter temperature. Grill pork fillets about 6-8 minutes a side. Brush on BBQ sauce at end to both sides and cook each side for 2-3 minutes.
18. Take filets off grill and let rest on plate or cutting board with alum foil over them for 5-7 minutes.
19. Put rest of Coffee BBQ sauce in bowl and serve at table with the pork.

Serves 12 to 18 people as main course. Consume with a hearty red wine, something robust - not too subtle or sophisticated, which will stand up to the sweet, spicy and smoky flavor of the pork and BBQ sauce. Recommend a syrah or grenache from whatever country you fancy. Also could serve with a Primitivo from Italy.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Clam Pepper Spaghetti

This is one of my little food inventions. Somewhere along the line I tasted clams with peppers and really liked how the two flavors seemed to marry really well. I've been making this dish for a couple years now and vary the recipe each time. For instance, this particular recipe contains fresh spring peas that I purchased at a local farm. But below is the basic set of ingredients that are used and the procedure for cooking. You can use almost any type of spaghetti but I like fettucine, linguini or perchitelli best.


2 oz. olive oil
5 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
2 red bell peppers (orange, yellow can be used as well or a mix of colors) coarsely chopped
2 oz. of fennel coarsely chopped
1 medium size sweet onion coarsely chopped
10 oz. can of whole clams plus juice (I used Geisha brand wild caught whole baby clams)
3/4 cup of fruity white wine (Colombelle, a tart and fruity wine from Gascony is my preferred choice but any other fruity white will do)
3/4 cup of fresh spring peas or frozen petit pois
8 oz. of whole wheat linguini
1.2 tbsp. sea salt

1. Add garlic, pepper, onion and fennel to a food processor - pulse blend adding 1 oz. of olive oil to smooth slightly
2. Heat 12 inch pan to medium and add rest of olive oil
3. Add garlic, pepper, onion, fennel mix plus salt and saute at low to medium heat until slightly caramelized about 15-20 minutes
4. Turn up heat to medium and add wine - adjust to simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes
5. Add clams and clam juice and simmer for another 10-15 minutes
6. Add peas during last five minutes of cooking
6. Cook pasta to al dente (slightly undercooked) in large pot of boiling water - when cooked use tongs to remove pasta and add it to the pepper clam mixture. Mix it together and let it simmer at low heat for 5-10 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb some of the liquid and flavors.
7. Serve in bowls with chopped fresh basil or mint for garnish.

I typically drink a fruity white wine with this - pinot grigio works well but any other fruity white (no oak) can be used. Rose also goes well with this dish.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer or starter course and four as main course.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Constant Crap: Food Advertising Aimed At Children

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report yesterday of its study of television advertising in America aimed at children.

The findings showed that American kids view several commericals a day on average, the largest proportion of which are for food products. Below are the shocking numbers:

What's even more troubling is the kind of so-called food that is being marketed to children - almost all of it is artifical, processed and unhealthy.

What level of damage is this massive barrage of marketing mind control doing to our children?

As a parent of three children below the age of 15, I sometimes find myself struggling to help them develop the attitudes and knowledge they need to make smart choices about eating. And my kids DO NOT watch very much television, so they are not being exposed to these food ads for the most part.

Unfortunately, advertising crap to children is just the tip of the iceberg of a bigger problem that this country has with its dysfunctional perceptions and attitudes about food. McDonald's is revered more than reviled as an icon of American values - i.e., the quick, the easy, the convenient, the standardized and the profitable.

It's free enterprise. Anything goes. Let the market decide. Freedom of speech. Allow the consumer to choose. Yeah right. Continue using advertising to seduce kids and adults into consuming nutritionally deficient and unhealthy food. Let big corporations define our values. Make a bundle doing it. That's the American way.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Promising Innovation in Local Agriculture

Today's Boston Globe Food section features an article about a new greenhouse operation in Maine run by one of my Carlise, MA neighbors, Paul Sellew.

They grow tomatoes, known as Backyard Beauties, year round in an in-door nursery/greenhouse.

This is a very intriguing idea with great potential to expand the supply of locally-grown fruits and vegetables particularly in areas of the country with a limited growing season.

Despite my Utopian yearning for the return of lots of small family farms across America, economic realities make it unlikely that enough land can ever reclaimed for this purpose.

But creating nurseries and greenhouses using sustainable energy and agricultural methods might just be the thing to dramatically increase local produce production.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Quantity Over Quality

Portion sizes, like American waistlines, have been slowly but relentlessly inching outward. Despite all the happy talk about healthy and balanced eating that you hear, many Americans seem to prefer quantity over quality when they go out to a restaurant.

And according to an article in today's New York Times, "Will Diners Still Swallow This?", the profit models of many restaurant chains are built around the notion of providing diners with massive amounts of cheap calories. Apparently, the bigger the portion sizes they provide, the more they charge and the greater profits they make.

The article contains a wonderful graphic which shows that a typical chain restaurant main dinner course of pasta contains almost the entire daily allowance of calories for an adult.

The article also talks about how one chain, TGI Friday's, is taking what the restaurant industry considers to be a bold and risky step - reducing portion sizes and charging less for them.

Just another of the crazy consequences that result from applying mass production models to food production and consumption.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Michael Pollan Nails It

Today's New York Times Magazine cover article, "The Age of Nutritionism", by Michael Pollan is a must read for anyone with the slightest interest in health and food.

This is a brilliant essay that gets to the very heart of all that is wrong with America's industrial and scientifically dominated food philosophy and production system.

And at the end, he offers nine simple pieces of advice that could - were people to actually practice them- not only kill the likes of McDonalds, Monsanto, and the weight-loss/diet book industry but reinstitute a common-sense and sustainable approach to producing and consuming food.

  1. Eat food (real food that is)
  2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims
  3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
  4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible
  5. Pay more, eat less
  6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.
  8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden - Cooking and growing food allows us to rediscover that food is not merely fuel but communion - with the environment and our very identities as human beings (This last sentence added by me)
  9. Eat like an omnivore