Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sweet Savory Triple Corn and Sausage Waffles

Bless you Dillner Family Farm CSA, I LOVE you! Why?

Having been raised on canned vegetables on sale from the local A&P ("Creamed Corn - 3 Cans for 38 Cents"!), fresh veggies were a revelation. 

As a kid, I despised asparagus. Tell me, do they still commit the atrocity of canning asparagus today? Have you ever eaten long, slimy spears from the tall Green Giant can? Or, perhaps, grayish green Argo peas that were forced to give up their natural sweetness and "pop" by being overcooked and nearly brined to mush in the salty canning water? A shiver goes up my spine just thinking about the veggies of my youth.

The only fresh vegetables I recall as a kid at the family kitchen table were red cabbage - sweet and sour German-style, Brussels sprouts - boiled to a stinky, sulfurous death, and cauliflower - with cheese sauce, so who in their right mind didn't love THAT?! Oh, and carrots thrown in with celery, potatoes and onions along with a chuck roast - maybe with a packet of dry Lipton California Onion Soup Mix if my mom was feeling all fancy - in the old speckled blue enameled oval roaster. That Sunday roast was a classic.

I'll never forget having FRESH, crisp, bright green asparagus with hollandaise-kissed Eggs Benedict for brunch at Uncle Harry's place in Baltimore. "No thank you I don't like asparagus," I averred. "Try these, you'll like them," said Uncle Harry. 

Well, they sure didn't look like any asparagus I'd ever seen on a plate in front of me before, so I trusted my very sophisticated (a least to my young Pittsburgh eyes and experience) uncle - he of the very cool silver Jaguar XKE and fabulous taste in both clothes and decorating style. Trust him I did. From that moment on, a new world of culinary adventuring opened up before me. And I am forever grateful.

Fast forward to today and the fam can tell you that it is rare when we don't have fresh veggies on our plates, even in the dead of winter. Occasionally, you might find canned corn in a soup or - rarer still - frozen petite peas when we have a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes. (I'm a sucker for tiny sweet peas with mashed potatoes and gravy. Sometimes - when I think no-one is looking - the inner four-year-old me will mix them all together. Blush.)

CSA season in our house today is a delightful abundance of very fresh-from-the-farm produce. So far, since early June, we've enjoyed lots of greens - spinach, kale and many types of lettuces, yellow and green squash, red and golden beets, onions, fresh garlic, gorgeous tiny and sweet strawberries, blueberries, kohlrabi, tomatoes, green peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and lots of fresh, unbelievably sweet corn. This last week, the corn was sooooo sweet that our hands were sticky when we finished husking it!

We're a family who loves homemade waffles, so when I considered making fresh corn fritters somehow thoughts turned to fresh corn waffles instead. My usual gluten-free waffle uses corn flour and cornmeal, wouldn't corn kernels make this a triple threat celebration of corn? Too sweet perhaps?

That's when I decided to add beautifully browned crumbles of down-home, savory sage sausage to the sweet batter. A sweet and savory combo waffle drizzled with real maple syrup over all? Breakfast simply couldn't have been any better.

You know what? I still have another cup or so of corn kernels left. What will I do with the last of last week's sweet corn and all the new Dillner Family Farm produce I'll pick up on Thursday? Hmmmmmm...thinking.......

Sweet Savory Triple Corn and Sage Sausage Waffles

  • 1 1/4 C flour (use a good gluten-free flour to make this GF - I use Jules GF all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 C corn flour
  • 1/2 C cornmeal
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/2 C cooked & well-browned breakfast sage sausage - nicely browned sausage gives a good depth of flavor to the waffles (if you can't find sage sausage, a good quality regular breakfast sausage will do just fine)
  • 1 C corn - cut fresh from the cob
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 C milk
  • 5 T butter, melted

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in a separate medium bowl until stiff, but not dry. Set aside.

Beat egg yolks and milk together. While beating, add the melted butter and continue to whisk until the mixture is homogeneous. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Add beaten egg whites, folding gently until well incorporated and finally add the sausage and corn. Mix these in gently, too.

Bake the waffles according to your waffle iron directions, keeping each batch warm as you finish up the batter. Serve hot with syrup for brunch OR dinner.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The One, The Only...True Blue Maryland Crab, Artichoke And Jalapeno Dip Pizza

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook picture of a pizza grabbed me by the heart and made me miss my Maryland days big time! Pizza? Maryland? What's the connection? It was CRAB DIP pizza! Be still my pitter-pattering little mourning-being-near-the-best-crabs-in-the-country, Maryland-missing heart.

I'm not sure exactly who or what page I follow posted the pizza of my dreams, but I'm going to blame Steve Vilnit, Director of Fisheries Marketing - Maryland Department of Natural Resources - for the temptation. Yep, Steve gets the for no other reason than we are as one when it comes to supporting the Maryland crab industry. 

You all know I've forever been an ardent supporter of authentic, honest-to-God, sweet, succulent, Maryland blue crabmeat and I wouldn't use anything else. Not exactly easy when you live this far inland from the beautiful Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore of Maryland now, is it?

Except. That I had one last beautiful pound of REAL Maryland jumbo lump crabmeat stashed away in the freezer just waiting to become something spectacular. THIS was just what it was waiting for, THIS glorious Maryland recipe. I was going to duplicate sweet, creamy, decadent crab-dip-on-a-crust just like in the picture AND I could make it gluten-free to boot.

The big bonus of topping a store bought pizza crust with crab dip - even after piling the mixture of Maryland crab, 3 cheeses, marinated artichokes, jalapeno and just a touch of garlic up nice and high - is that there is a whole lot left over to scoop into a casserole dish for dipping with big, crunchy hunks of bread the next day (or later in the evening if you can't wait that long). What's better than a night of crab? TWO nights of crab! Oh sure, you could make half a recipe, but why would you? More Maryland crab is always better.

When you get to Maryland next time (notice I said when, not if), do like I do and make a local fresh seafood market the very last stop of your own trip. Be sure to take a cooler with you just for the purpose of bringing back pounds of heavenly, real Maryland crabmeat to tuck away in your own freezer. I can guarantee your fishmonger (crabmonger?) will be happy to fill your cooler with enough ice to keep your precious cargo cold. After all, one should always be prepared anytime a crab emergency strikes.

True Blue Maryland Crab, Artichoke
 And Jalapeno Dip Pizza

  • 1 pound MARYLAND jumbo lump crabmeat, picked through carefully for any shell or cartiledge - please don't break up those gorgeous big lumps, thank you.
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened well
  • 1/2 C shredded sharp cheddar, plus extra for top
  • 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 - 4 oz. jars of marinated artichokes, drained, reserve liquid - you'll use 2-4 T reserved liquid 
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise - yes, Hellman's
  • 1 large clove garlic, pressed through your garlic press
  • 1 store-bought pizza crust - I used an Udi's Gluten-Free Pizza Crust to make this GF. The Udi's crust is approx. 8" in diameter. Use whatever crust you like - Boboli, whatever floats your boat!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the mayo and cream cheese together with lemon juice. Add the shredded cheeses and fold those into the cream cheese mixture. Add artichokes, minced jalapeno, garlic and mix well, but gently. Last, gently and lovingly fold the crab into the mixture being careful to keep the lumps as whole as possible.

Place your pizza crust onto a baking sheet. Place scoops of crab dip on top - I used a large (approx. 1/2 C) ice cream scoop - and for the 8" crust used 4-5 scoops that I spread out evenly (don't break up the lumps!) all the way out to the edge of the crust. Sprinkle the extra shredded cheddar over all.

Any crab dip that might be left (you'll use more if you use a larger diameter crust), scoop into a buttered casserole dish. Either bake it immediately with the pizza or cover and refrigerate it for the next night.

Bake about 20 minutes, turn up the oven to 450 degrees and bake until the cheese starts to bubble and slightly brown. Remove from oven and let cool 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges. Enjoy!

NOTE: Enjoying the surf and sand of Ocean City? Bring back Maryland crab. Sailing the waters of Annapolis or St. Michaels? Bring back Maryland crab. Hitting the hot spots of Baltimore's Fells Point? You get the idea.

And while you're in Maryland, be sure to frequent restaurants and fresh seafood stores that carry and serve only Maryland crab. Here's a link to the True Blue Maryland program and a list of awesome places to get your Maryland crab fix!

Look for this logo to know you're buying the best!

True Blue Maryland Crabs Logo

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beer Caramel Chocolate Almond Bar Cookies

Much like mushrooms springing from front yard mulch after the rain, brewpubs are popping up all over Pittsburgh. Among them, is a fledgling spot down the Ohio River that stands out from the (6?) pack. It's not because it's the biggest or has the most taps or even that it has the catchiest name, Aurochs Brewing Company is the only exclusively gluten-free brewery in the 'Burgh.

Ryan Bove, one of the owners of Aurochs, recently led me through the the brewery on Ohio River Boulevard in Emsworth and it didn't take long. The space is cavernous, while currently the brewing capacity is quite modest....BUT...their plans for the future are BIG.

Aurochs current brewing set up.

We stood in the well lit, mostly empty, cement floored warehouse/brewing area while I learned of all that is planned to fill Aurochs to capacity - future big mash tuns, brewing kettles, settling tanks and such. I like an organization with an eye to the future!

Just imagine the gluten-free beer glory to come!

While we talked about plans yet to be realized for Aurochs, one that Ryan told me about was their hopes for a tasting room at Soergel's Farm Market in Wexford. Why Soergel's? Ryan's partner, Doug Foster, is married to Amy Soergel. An Aurochs tasting room at Soergel's is particularly appropos since Soergel's grows some of the hops for Aurochs' brews. 

When the Soergel's tasting room becomes reality, I'm looking forward to some great Soergel's BBQ on a soft gluten-free bun accompanied by a cold, crisp gluten-free Aurochs beer. (If you haven't had the pleasure of BBQ pork, chicken and beef from the huge smoker at Soergel's, get you some NOW!)

What was the best part of the tour? The part when Mark and I got to taste and enjoy two of the brews produced on the premises. We each tried both the White Ale and the Amber Ale. My favorite for a hot and steamy Pittsburgh summer day was definitely the cold, crisp and refreshing White Ale. 

White Ale on the left, Amber Ale on the right.

The slightly smoky and caramel-y, fuller bodied Amber Ale was what we bought by the growler...I had plans myself for this lovely brew in an old favorite cookie I hadn't had in many years. 

Natchez cookies. An easy to make crisp, caramel and chocolate cookie - sort of like a Heath Bar on a crunchy crust - was smack dab on my radar with a few small adjustments to make them gluten-free. The crust, normally a simple layer of graham crackers, would now consist of Glutino gluten free table crackers original premium squares. The caramel? Beer caramel now....with the Aurochs Amber Ale.

Here's Ryan!

The assembly went like this. I placed the crackers edge to edge in a rimmed baking sheet, then (carefully) poured hot, bubbling caramel over the tops, popped the sheet (again, carefully) into the oven until the caramel became a beautiful shade of deep, dark brown, then took the pan out of the oven. Once the caramel had cooled a bit, I sprinkled chocolate chips over the top, let them melt and spread the chocolate evenly over all, then finally scattered sliced honeyed almonds over everything. Once the pan cooled, it was time to break them into cookie-sized pieces and enjoy!

Like Aurochs, I have plans for the future, too...using their product! Already I'm planning on making gluten-free beer battered onion rings - something we gluten-free folk NEVER get. For Thanksgiving I'm already thinking how a chocolate pecan pie with a good dark stout would really make for a festive finish to our family feast!

Speaking of plans, I just got word of Aurochs' new regular schedule at 8321 Ohio River Boulevard in Emsworth. Starting August 7th, they'll be open Thursdays & Fridays 4:00-8:00 p.m. and Saturdays noon-6:00 p.m. Maybe I'll see you all there sometime soon!

Beer Caramel Chocolate Almond Bar Cookies

  • 16 Glutino Gluten Free Table Crackers - Original Premium Squares (7 oz. package) to make these GF (or equivalent of graham crackers if gluten isn't an issue)
  • 2 T gluten-free beer syrup (boil down 1 cup to 2 T - watch carefully at the end as it seems to go quickly then!)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 C dark brown sugar
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  •  12 oz bag Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet chocolate chips - my favorite brand - real chocolate without that waxy component
  • 1 1/2 C Trader Joe's (or like brand) Honey Roasted Almonds - these are sliced, not whole
  • parchment paper to line the 11" X 17" rimmed baking sheet plus Pam spray to spray the parchment paper with (just for good measure)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut parchment paper to just fit the inside of the rimmed pan and spray with Pam, letting the spray hit the inside rim, too. Again...for good measure. 

Arrange the crackers edge to edge as in the photo below. You may have to overlap ever so slightly. No big deal.

In a small, deep pot, boil 1 C beer down to 2 T. Watch carefully towards the end as it goes quickly then. 

To the 2 T beer syrup in the pot, add the butter and dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil until the contents become slightly syrupy. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully add will boil up slightly!

Again, carefully pour he caramel over the crackers in the baking sheet. Use an offset spatula to even the caramel out to cover all crackers all the way to the edges. Carefully put the pan into the oven and bake approximately 20 minutes - more or less. Watch for the caramel to stop being liquid-y and start looking "set." Remove from oven.

Wait just a minute before evenly scattering the chocolate chips over the caramel. Wait another minute. Using an offset spatula, spread the melting chocolate evenly over the top until the caramel is completely covered. 

Wait another minute and scatter the almonds over the top - evenly, of course. Put your hand into a plastic sandwich bag and gently press the almonds into the chocolate.

Let the pan of bar cookies cool and set completely on a cooling rack. Once the chocolate is set, slide a knife under an edge of the cookies, lift up the edge and start breaking the cookies into large "cookie size" pieces. I guess that measurement depends on how big you like your cookies....bite size or giant size...go for it!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Simple South-of-the-Border Meatloaf

Time for a Quickie. A few basic ingredients...some with a bit of a kick(!), a little time in the oven (while you're at it, throw in some small red potatoes and baby carrots to really make it a quickie), add a fresh green side salad and there you have it. Dinner Plan-it Quickie!

Simple South-of-the-Border Meatloaf

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 3 slices bread, torn into pieces (gluten-free bread to make this GF) - leave the crusts on!
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes and chiles
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 T Jane's Crazy Salt
  • Heinz Jalapeno Ketchup - my new addiction! (or regular Heinz if you can't take the heat)

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, cut in half
  • 1 pound baby carrots

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all ingredients well (except ketchup), but lightly - you don't want a compacted, dense meatloaf, do you?

Divide mixture in half and make two loaves out of the mixture. Spray a roasting pan with Pam or line it with parchment paper. Arrange the meatloves in the pan with enough space between them to allow the heat to circulate. Drizzle the jalapeno ketchup on top - I like LOTS(!), scatter the potatoes and carrots around them and pop the pan into the oven for about an hour to an hour and a half.

Stir and baste the veggies a couple of times with the pan juices to keep them moist. If you need to, add a little water.

When the meatloaves are cooked through and the veggies are slightly browned, remove the pan from the oven. Set one meatloaf in the center of a platter, surround with the veggies, let them sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.

I love cold meatloaf sandwiches, don't you?

Don't need 2 meatloaves at once? Freeze one for easy dinners during the week...that's exactly what I do.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Hot Spot For A Cool Cocktail - Wigle Barrelhouse And Whiskey Garden

What's one of the hottest spots in the Burgh for a cool refreshing cocktail on a weekend evening in the Burgh? Wigle Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden! No, not the Wigle distillery on Smallman Street in the Strip, this is their new locale across the Allegheny River from the original. Oh, the Smallman Street location is still whipping up whiskey, ginever...and RUM alright, the casks are just transported across the 16th Street bridge to age in the Barrelhouse.

The new Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden? It's not just a storage facility. When the garage door rolls up, the bar is open! Umbrella-ed picnic tables to lounge around while enjoying your Wigle-made delight of the day, a few games of cornhole to while away a warm summer evening, all accompanied by great conversation with friends and maybe even a guided tour of the facilities is what awaits at Wigle. 

Apparently, this is also where it's happening when it comes to cocktail throwdowns among local bartenders! Twice in one week, I've had the pleasure of being a spectator at some pretty enjoyable contests. 

The first (last Sunday) was a USBG (United States Bartenders Guild) event that pitted four teams of 'tenders against one another in a Whiskey Sour-off. Not just any cocktail competition, no...this one was blindfolded, timed AND judged for taste. 

Each team consisted of one bartender who made the drink while blindfolded and another who coached the competitor each step of the way. No matter the missed pours (very few), over-pours (not such a bad thing), broken eggs (yes, these Whiskey Sours were beautifully silky) and spills (fortunately contained in a capped shaker), the blindfolded bartending race was a sight to behold.

Cecil and Max

The team of Cecil Usher and his coach, Max Stein - both from Meat and Potatoes, Max also from The Butcher and the Rye - were the ultimate champions that night. Two teams from The Summit on Mt. Washington made it quite the contest, but my favorite team - sorry all you guys - was the well-choreographed, simultaneous-mid-contest-shot-swilling team of Carrie Clayton and Abbie Brehm from Bar Marco and The Livermore. The cocktail chicks extrordinaire stole the show! Congrats to EVERYONE!

Carrie and Abbie

And yes, I was back again on Friday evening for the release of Wigle's barrel-aged Landlocked Oaked Rum...and yes, yet another bartender challenge highlighted the evening. This one would be a Tiki competition...hellloooo...rum and Tiki go together like, well...rum and Tiki. What a night!

Hawaiian shirts, flowery leis and grass skirts wandered among the tables. Surf Rock sounds by Dr. Zombo and his Zombotron and the scent of coconut (well, maybe I just imagined that...) filled the air. 

Dr. Zombo says hello!
Were we still in Pittsburgh or were we in some secret Tiki hideaway in some wonderfully exotic locale? Nope, the presence of Pittsburgh accents all around proved that exotic is where you find it...even in Pittsburgh.

The contenders this night? Greta Dunn (aka, Greta the Grass Skirt Goddess) from Meat and Potatoes, Craig Mrusek (aka, Dr. Bamboo) from Tender Bar and Kitchen and Will Groves (aka...hey, what IS your aka Will?) from The Butterjoint threw down the Tiki moves! Each contestant used, of course, Wigle's newest release, Landlocked Oaked Rum.

Whether or not Will is aka-less, he did concoct an intriguing little tiki drink called the Coconut Groves...get it...Will Groves. Will's cocktail used Landlocked, coconut cream, lime AND orange juices and a hint of mole bitters. (Maybe I did smell coconut in the air after all?)

Greta, she of the grass skirt goddess fame, presented a little number using similar ingredients to the Coconut Groves, called a Bombora. Similar ingredients, yes, but totally different once all the parts came together. 

The Bombora consisted of Landlocked, lime and orange juices, honey, mole bitters and egg white. This Tiki drink had a silken feel as a result of the egg white and the honey. The Bombora was the bomb! (Come on, you knew I couldn't resist that one.)

Greta the Grass Skirt Goddess

Who came out on top? Craig Mrusek, Dr. Bamboo! Obviously, the good doctor had the right prescription for the winning Tiki drink of the evening. Craig's cocktail, The Cargo Cult, won by virtue of Landlocked, pineapple juice, a mysterious touch of allspice, finished with just a dash of orange bitters. Congrats, Craig!

Dr. Bamboo

What was going on outside while the competition raged inside? Wigle cornhole, of course.

And totally delicious offerings from none other than the Pgh Taco Truck and the Lomito Truck! Gotta have good eats with good booze!

Wigle Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden might just be THE place to spend a beautiful Pittsburgh summer evening. Casual, laid back, relaxing, a damned fine cocktail in one hand, a taco in the other...kind of like chilling in your own backyard except YOU don't have to clean up after your friends leave. Nice. 

And maybe...if you're really, really lucky...a rousing cocktail competition might just break out!