Cleveland Garlic Festival

Pass the breath mints.  It’s time to consume garlic with reckless abandon.  The Cleveland Garlic Festival is the annual fundraiser for the North Union Farmers Market. The two day event allows the market to operate weekly throughout the year in Greater Cleveland.  I’ve gone for years.  But this was the first year I got to participate!

garlic fest raw

The funds generated help them administer and expand their educational and charitable market programs, which include Food Stamp enhanced purchases/EBT-SNAP, Music at the Market, Chef at the Market and the Mighty Locavores K-2 educational programming in Cleveland Municipal School District.

As you make your way around Shaker Square, which hosted the festival, you could sample countless varieties of the vampire repellent.  Purple, elephant, you name it.  Plus local producers had samples of the other products they make from it.

Even more popular were the stands that incorporated garlic, like garlic fries, garlic pickles, garlic burgers, even ice cream and cotton candy.

garlic fest chef demo

Throughout the weekend, there was also a series of demos, and competitions, the Top Chef Garlic Grill Off.  Local chefs were asked to bring their A game and feature various combinations, highlighting garlic.  I was asked to judge the pasture raised pork and garlic round.  Don’t mind if I do?!

Everyman chef, Mike Downing, of Garage Cookin’ presented his “tacanini,” or a cross between a taco and a Panini.  The smoked pork had just enough subtle garlic and smoke flavor to it, and it was very tender.  Loved the touch with the pickle, too.

Table 45 Chef Matthew Anderson gave us a dynamite pulled pork slider using pork butt, garlic used three different ways, a carrot slaw and a killer aioli.  Can you tell I liked that one?

garlic fest winning dish

Chef Cameron Krahel, from Canal Tavern of Zoar, took the classic pork and beans to a new level, and even found a way to incorporate garlic in to the peach garnish…a great surprise.  The vinegar-based barbecue sauce that he provided on the side was a better choice compared to a heavier, ketchup/tomato based one.  And the beans were cooked to perfection.

pork tenderloin

Finally, Chris DiLisi, from Willeyville in the East Bank of the Flats, plated up the prettiest dish of the competition, using pork belly and tenderloin, among other ingredients.  It not only packed the boldest garlic punch of all the dishes, but it also displayed many difficult culinary techniques.

The surprise bonus to those watching the competition? There were samples (full sized ones!) of all of the “contestants” provided to the audience in the demo tent. Admission to the festival was only $9, plus a whole meal’s worth of taste tests.What a deal!

We were asked to judge the dishes in five categories (flavor, texture, appearance, creativity and use of garlic). In the end, the scores were quite close, but my fellow judges (Tricia Chaves of Fresh Water Cleveland and ptaom.com, and Michael Feigenbaum of Lucy’s Sweet Surrender) and I chose Chef Krahel as the winner.  The small town chef was genuinely surprised to nab the win, but he deserved it.

garlic fest winner

What a great way to spend a sunny Sunday.  And I have 3 more cooking competitions on my calendar coming up the fall.  Not a bad line up ahead for me!  Think I could make a living with gigs like this??  I’m working on it!

 

 

 

My Spectacular Spanish Feast: Tapas at Curate

Sometimes you have such an out of this world meal, you gotta write about it. My lunch at Curate Tapas Bar was that kind of experience.


I travelled to the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina to spend the weekend in a stunning cabin for my sister’s bachelorette party.  I’ll spare you the details of that portion of the festivities.  Let’s talk about the food in this tourist town!  The bride has been trying to dine at the popular Spanish tapas restaurant, Curate Tapas Bar every time she visits this charming city.   

Finally upon her third or fourth attempt, we scored seats at the bar where I got to watch our tapas being crafted right in front of us.  My favorite part played out before we even swallowed a bite.  Stunning Jamon Iberico shaved right in front of me. It instantly took me back to my time as a study abroad student in Pamplona, Spain.


We dove right in to the extensive and authentic menu… and admittedly over ordered out of pure enthusiasm and deep hunger.  I crave the kind of freshly cured olives that you get at a classic tapas bar. So I was very pleased when they tasted just as I hoped, beautifully marinated in lemon, rosemary and thyme.


Round one also included an ensalada verano with sheep cheese and pressed watermelon, and a Russian potato salad (another item I remember seeing on nearly every tapas menu in Spain) 

Next came the melt in your mouth Jamon Serrano Fermin.  Sliced thin, the salty, smokey goodness took me away to the land of bull fights and flamenco. Such a nostalgic treat for a me!  The bars in the neighborhood where I lived in the Navarre region had legs of this stuff hanging from the ceiling by the dozens.


Since it was a warm summer afternoon, we couldn’t resist ordering a bowl of refreshing, creamy gazpacho.  I was pleasantly surprised at how delicate the garlic flavor was in this cold tomato and cucumber based soup. Oftentimes restaurants make the garlic element of this iconic dish far too overpowering for my taste. Not Curate. For me, they nailed it.

  
Two other dishes we sampled were new to me and worth trying! The lamb skewers were cooked to tender perfection and accompanied by cunchy pickled cucumbers. And the grilled red peppers stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with parsley purée were decadent. I’m sure these are more modern liberties the chef was taking with tapas, but I didn’t mind.

It wouldn’t be a Spanish feast without croquetas either. These creamy fritters were filled with shredded chicken and cheese. Just rich and crispy enough.


We finished the meal with their most popular menu item, sautéed shrimp with sliced garlic in a sherry broth. And with what can only be described as the classic Spanish tapa, the tortilla espanola.  The egg, potato and onion dish is something I like to recreate on occasion. It didn’t disappoint!

When it comes to authentic Spanish cuisine and a tapas bar atmosphere, I have pretty high standards given my history.  Curate sets the (tapas) bar!

Sisters Pasta Night: Homemade Mushroom Ravioli with Brown Butter and Sage

In colleges, my sister studied abroad in Siena, Italy.  She could barely put two sentences of Italian together at the end of her experience…she mostly studied wine and Italian men.  But she came home with a killer hand-made pasta recipe.  And while she might call me on a weekly basis for meal suggestions, and help with recipe substitutions, she is still the authority in the family on home-made pasta dough.  It’s something we do together whenever she is in town. 

For this round I was ready to make a ton of pasta, and freeze it.  And I wanted to use the bountiful herb garden I was “passively cultivating.”  It’s a real jungle back there because I can’t seem to find the time to maintain it.

herb-garden

I sifted through the hip-high cilantro and lettuce plants, to snip bunches of fresh parsley, chives, sage, and basil.

garden-herbs

I knew we’d need marinara sauce for all this fresh pasta too, so I put a pot of that on as well.  Working loosely off a recipe I learned at a class at The Loretta Paganini School of Cooking, I used garlic and onion, grated celery and carrot, whole peeled tomatoes, a pinch of crushed red pepper, salt and pepper, and lots of the fresh parsley and basil.

marinara-sauce

While that simmered, we got to work on the first dough.  The ingredients are few…it’s the technique that’s still tough for me.

3 c. flour, unbleached

3 large eggs

1/4 c. dry white wine

1 tsp. salt

Water or extra flour, if needed

Lexi-making-pasta

You start by creating a “mound” with your flour, and make a deep well.  Meanwhile crack the eggs in a bowl and break the yolks up with a fork, then add the wine and salt to the eggs.  Carefully pour the egg mixture into the well.  Then, using a fork, slowly bring the flour in to the egg mixture.  When the flour is totally absorbed, begin kneading by hand for 20 min…no shortcuts!  Add water if it seems dry, or sprinkle more flour if it’s too wet.  Gather it in a ball and place it in a mixing bowl, covered with plastic wrap, to rest for 30 min…no shortcuts there either.

The first batch was dinner that night: a classic fettuccine with marinara.  We made a second batch of dough for me to make ravioli with.  I whipped up the filling while Lexi, and my eager daughters, kneaded.

Julia-making-pasta     Natalie-making-pasta

I wanted to use all that beautiful sage.  So I sautéed some mushrooms in olive oil, with garlic and shallots.  Then I added chopped sage, and a drizzle of truffle oil.  I mixed that with some ricotta, salt and pepper, and more truffle oil and let it cool while we rolled the dough.

Natalie-rolling-dough

First we cut the fettuccine, as we’ve done every time before.  You start on the widest setting, cranking that pasta machine to gradually reduce the width until the dough is the desired thickness, then cut it. (angel hair, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)  We sprinkled a tablecloth with flour and let it dry while we moved on to the delicate ravioli.

homemade-pasta

For those, we rolled the dough out, same as before.  Then we laid the sheets of pasta over my grandmother’s old ravioli plates.  I put a generous teaspoon of the filling in each pouch.

ravioli filling

Then we placed a second sheet on top, and used a rolling-pin (and the back of a spoon) to “stamp” or cut them.  We tore off the excess around the edges then carefully popped out each delicate little ravioli.

Ravioli-trays

To be honest, these usually don’t turn out so well for me…but these looked beautiful!!

Last round of dough was experimental.  I chopped up a ton of fresh chives and we incorporated that into the dough during the kneading process.  Toss this pasta with a little butter and you’ve got something pretty spectacular.

pasta-with-chives

There was salted water boiling on the stove…time to taste the fruits of our labor!  First course was the fettuccine and marinara.  It didn’t disappoint.  While we poured a second (or fourth?) glass of wine, I browned some butter and added more chopped sage, plus seasoning.  When the ravioli were cooked through in the water, I drained them and added them to the saute pan to brown them up.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Perfection.

Julia-in-an-apron

I had a full heart and a full belly at the end of the evening.  It was so much fun for my girls to share in a special sisters pasta night!  I hope they carry on the tradition.

Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno White Bean Dip.

This week marks the official beginning of picnic and barbecue season.  Memorial Day, Father’s Day, graduation parties and a host of other outdoor gatherings will bring food and people together (rain or shine) from now through Labor Day.  I never like to come empty-handed.  So I perused my fridge and cupboard to find the makings of a great go-to dip that you can replicate and bring to the next gathering you attend.

cannellini beans

My initial inspiration for this dip was the cannellini beans I had leftover from a vegetable soup my daughter and I made earlier in the week.  The recipe only called for a half a can, so I had about 1 cup left.  The idea of a white bean dip popped into my head.  But I usually find those to be rather bland. I dug deeper into the refrigerator, and came across half of a jalapeno I had remaining from a batch of guacamole.  Bingo.  That would give it just the kick I was looking for.  I decided to roast it, along with some garlic, to take the edge off both ingredients.

jalapeno-and-garlic

I put the halfed jalapeno (seeds removed) and three cloves of garlic into a small ramekin, drizzled some olive oil on them and sprinkled a pinch of salt.  I roasted the combo in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until the garlic achieved “GBD” status-Golden, Brown, Delicious.

roasted-garlic-and-jalapeno

It was time for my trusty food processor.  I poured in 1 cup of the cannellini beans, and added the roasted garlic cloves and jalapeno.  I seasoned the mixture with six cranks from my black pepper grinder and 1/4 t. of salt.  Then I fired up the food processor and gradually added roughly 2 T. of olive oil and let it blend for about a minute.  And, you’re done!

If you’re so inclined, I think a pinch of smokey cumin would be a nice touch in this dip too.  Of if you prefer even more heat, try a pinch of chipotle chili pepper in it.

roasted-jalapeno-and-garlic-white-bean-dip

I served my Roasted Garlic and Jalapeno White Bean Dip with celery sticks, but you could do slices of red, yellow or green peppers, maybe pita chips…whatever you want.  Pop open a cold beer to wash down the heat, and enjoy!

Cinco de Mayo Hangover Soup

I’ll admit it.  On the week of Cinco de Mayo, I’ll always fall prey to the marketing ploys of grocery stores (ex. limes, tortilla chips, Mexican beer, and guacamole components displayed prominently at the front of the store)  I’ve also been known to throw back a few more than I should on a day that doesn’t really have any significance to this Italian/Slovenian girl.  Hey, “when in Rome….errrr, Mexico City…” Right?  This recipe is for those of you who fall into one, or both of those same categories.  

Earlier this week I made chicken fajitas with fresh guacamole, hands down my favorite dish to order at a Mexican restaurant and one of my favorites to make at home as well.  So on day two, I found myself with some leftover chicken, black beans (both cooked), jalapenos, avocado, roasted corn and cilantro.  Rather than transforming the flavor profile of the meat (silly, since it was already heavily seasoned) I chose to make something new with some of the same ingredients I worked with the day before.

leftover chicken fajitas

I don’t know about you, but when I’m working through a hangover, I often like to “sweat it out.”  So I decided to bring the heat…and put these, and a few other ingredients, together to create a Cheftovers version of tortilla soup.

simmering mexican veggies

I chose a dutch oven for this project, and started with chopped garlic, jalapenos and onion.  I sauteed those in some canola oil until the onions were translucent, just a couple minutes.  Then I tossed in the roasted corn and season chicken (chopped into small pieces) I had leftover from “fajita night.”  Next, I cracked open a can of petite diced tomatoes and poured those in.  And since this was a soup, it certainly needed some stock.  I added a carton of chicken stock, making sure to season it generously with salt, and chipotle chili pepper to add some more, smokey heat to my “soup-to-be.”

adding ingredients to cinco de mayo soup

Finally, I tossed in a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, and squeezed a couple of lime wedges’ worth of juice into the pot to give it some brightness and acidity.

simmering cinco de mayo hangover soup

I brought the soup to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer at a medium/low for about a half hour.  Toward the end, I tossed in the leftover black beans (didn’t want them to get too mushy or break down from being in there too long).  I tasted my soup and decided to add just a little more chipotle pepper and a bit more lime juice (a preference thing).  Now, it was time for some elaborate garnishes, since I had some on hand.

finishing the cinco de mayo soup

After scooping out a couple ladles full of my Cinco de Mayo Hangover Soup, I sliced up some fresh avocado and jalapenos, then tossed in a few more sprigs of cilantro.

cinco de mayo hangover soup

You could also add some crunchy baked tortilla strips for texture, or some shredded cheese.

Vamos a comer!  Let’s eat!  This soup should make you sweat as much, or as little as you want…and help you get to Seis de Mayo.  Now, I gotta ask…What’s your favorite hangover meal?

 

Duck, part deux: how I made lasagna out of cassoulet leftovers

I had a pretty awesome birthday this year, topped off by a dinner out at a fantastic French restaurant.  When I have the pleasure of dining there, I order the cassoulet. (a rich, slow cooked casserole of sorts, with duck confit, pork belly and white beans) It’s decadent and delectable.  This time I also indulged in a recommended appetizer, so I couldn’t man up and finish the entire cassoulet myself.  So, I doggy-bagged that dish and brought it home to enjoy again.  But how?

leftover cassoulet

There were a lot of white beans there, which were creamy and beautifully cooked.  But I can’t just eat spoonfuls of them.  I pureed them along with some olive oil and the other stragglers -a couple of carrots and some parsley-and decided I was going to turn this doggy bag of delight into lasagna!

white bean filling

I had some lasagna noodles in the cupboard, so that covered one layer.  I decided the white bean puree would serve the same purpose at the ricotta usually does. (it had the same texture and consistency)  And I had an Italian cheese blend in the deli drawer of my fridge.  All that was left to tackle was the sauce.

leftover duck confit

I decided the duck leg from the cassoulet would substitute for the ground meat I usually work into a lasagna sauce.  So I chopped the meat off the bone, but reserved the bone (figuring it could come in handy later)

Now, a traditional lasagna sauce starts with garlic, onion and olive oil to flavor the browning meat.  Then you add tomato and spices.  So I too began with garlic, onion and olive oil and sauteed that until the veggies softened.  Then I added about 15 oz of canned tomato sauce I had in the cupboard.  I stirred in some salt and pepper, basil and oregano then tossed in the duck leg bone to incorporate that rich meaty flavor.  When the sauce got to a nice simmer, I covered it and let it mature for about 30 min on low.  duck lasagna sauce

Next, I tossed in the chopped duck meat to make for the chunky, meaty sauce that I’m used to.  I let that sit on the stove for another 15 min, also on low.

layering the lasagna

Now it was time to layer.  I started with a thin layer of my sauce.  Then I placed a no-bake lasagna noodle on top, followed by a layer of my white bean puree and a heavy handed sprinkling of Italian cheese blend.  I repeated this process twice more, ending with a layer of sauce and white bean puree mixed together.  Then a last helping of shredded cheese.

duck lasagna

I covered this French-Italian fusion experiment with foil and popped it in the oven at 350* for 35-40 minutes (until it was bubbly).  Voila!  That’s French, right?!

If I’m being honest, I could actually eat cassoulet (leftover or not) a couple times a week.  So it wasn’t my first instinct to mess with “perfection.”  But the idea of zapping this beautiful collection of ingredients into a microwave on day two made my heart hurt.  So, getting creative (or crazy) with these classic French elements was the next best thing the next day!

Pot Roast Dumplings

I was recently given a “Cheftovers Challenge” by a friend of mine: Do something interesting with leftover pot roast.  Challenge accepted.  She said most of the time she just breaks it up and loads it on a pile of egg noodles with the rest of the gravy for “round two.”  I call that unimaginative, and unexciting.  Gotta do better for your family and your guests. And I was ready to be adventurous and try something out of my comfort zone, Asian cuisine.  I was going to make dumplings with this!

leftover pot roast

This past week I made what was likely the most tender and flavorful pot roast I’ve ever prepared.  (Let me know if you want the recipe for that too)  It was very juicy and much too much for our family.  I blame it on the BOGO deal at the grocery story (only large ones left).  There was plenty left, that I tore apart easily with a pair of forks.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t ALWAYS have EVERYTHING I need to execute the ideas I have for my leftovers.  In the same way it “takes money to make money” sometimes it takes food to make food, so to speak.  I finally ventured into to the Asian Food Mart just a couple blocks from my house to get what I needed to make my dumplings, won ton wrappers.  They were $1.99 for a frozen block of them.

leek filling

Next, I surveyed the fridge for more things that would complete the filling for my Pot Roast Dumplings.  I uncovered some sauteed organic leeks I had remaining from the Sunday morning quiche I made.  Hate to have any organic produce go to waste.  I added those to a small food processor and slowly poured in some heavy cream until it became the thick (slightly sticky) and creamy consistency I was going for.

green onions

Then, for variety, I grabbed the beautiful green and purple organic green onions I also had, beckoning to be utilized in an Asian dish.  For this filling, I thought I’d try cream cheese, and I had some chive and green onion…perfect!  I used the same food processor to blend those ingredients until it was enough to bind to the leftover pot roast.

green onion filling

Now it was assembly time.  I did refer to a couple of other dumpling recipes to see if I was on the right track on portion size, filling and assembly/cooking instructions.  I placed a half dozen won ton wrappers on a large cutting board and put about a tablespoon of one of the fillings, then an equal amount of the shredded pot roast.  I had enough to make about two dozen dumplings.

filling pot roast dumplings

Then, I moistened the wrappers around the filling with water and a small pastry brush, gathered the edges and pinched them together.

assembling pot roast dumplings

I put about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a frying pan and placed the dumplings in batches in the hot oil to fry until the bottoms were brown.  Then I carefully added about 1/4-1/2 cup water in the frying pan and covered it until the dumplings were steamed and cooked through.

frying pot roast dumplings

For the dipping sauce, I first read through a handful of recipes, and worked on a soy ginger version, something that was hot and sweet.  I sauteed some garlic and ginger in a little vegetable oil.  Then I added soy sauce, brown sugar and a pinch of red pepper flakes until it thickened up.Now I was on to something!

beef pot roast dumplings

Challenge completed.  I’d taken some tasty pot roast, a few kitchen staples, some special organic produce, and a single “new buy” to make what was easily the best heavy appetizer/light dinner I’d made in a while.  My guests gobbled them up.  So, now that I’ve tackled pot roast, whatdayahave for me?  I’m ready for what you throw at me.