Archive for June, 2011

Beet Ice Cream

Posted on June 28, 2011. Filed under: favorite, freeze, recipe, technique | Tags: , , , , , , |

Making ice cream from beets sounds like an absurd idea. Beets are a hard, earthy root vegetable. Ice cream is soft and sweet. Why would I think about combining these things? Well, I’m not quite sure what I was thinking when I decided to make this. OK. True confession: it was the Ambien*. What can I say…I had an early morning the next day. A hilarious pre-sleep conversation led to a fantastic idea. Beet ice cream is as addicting to eat as it is beautiful to look at. Honestly.

Juice, or buy enough juice to get:
Two Cups Beet Juice

Add juice to a small saucepan over medium heat.
Mix in:
3/4 Cup Sugar

Reduce the sugared beet juice by half. It should be syrup-like when finished.
It will also have a terrific flavor. Resist temptation to eat beet juice syrup.
Just set it aside.
Continue to resist temptation.
(OK, you can have one spoonful. ONE.)

Bring to a simmer:
1.5 Cups Heavy Cream
1.5 Cups Whole Milk
2 Tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
Pinch Salt

Add reduced beet syrup to the cream mixture.
4 Egg Yolks

Let mix cool.
Add to ice cream maker.

*I suppose I should include a VeryClearAndObvious Legal Statement so you don’t sue my pants off: The purpose of this blog post is not to encourage the use of Ambien to help you make more creative ice cream flavor choices. OK. Good.

**Tempering is technique that is used to combine temperature-sensitive foods, in this case eggs. If you were to add the egg yolks directly to the hot mixture, the yolks would curdle and scramble. That would make for some pretty awful ice cream! So what you do is add a little bit of the hot liquid to the eggs, mix it in, and add a little bit more, mix, repeat a few more times. This will slowly bring the egg yolks to a temperature where they can be mixed into the rest of the liquid without scrambling.

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Chevy, Hamburgers, and Milkshakes

Posted on June 21, 2011. Filed under: hodgepodge, review | Tags: , , , , , , , |

The nice publicity people at Chevrolet offered to take me and a few other Pittsburgh food bloggers for a free ride in some of their 2012 vehicles. The clever people they are, they realized that just offering a free ride in a car wasn’t going to fill the seats, so they bribed us with hamburgers and milkshakes–also free. Well done, Chevy. Our Chevy Shakes and Sliders Crawl took us to three Pittsburgh spots for burgers and shakes: Brgr, The Sharp Edge Bistro downtown, and The Milkshake Factory/Edward Marc Chocolatier.

Brgr’s burgers have improved considerably since the last time I had one, which was shortly after the restaurant opened. My previous visit was a big disappointment, but this time it was delightful. It was clear in speaking with Chef Brian Pekarcik that he has a lot of pride in what he does. He was willing to listen and respond to early customer feedback. It takes cojones to admit you’re not putting out the best product you can, and Chef Pekarcik showed that by changing the way he makes his burgers. I’m impressed. The Button Buster burger was especially enjoyable: juicy angus beef, braised short ribs, cheese, belly rubs. Happy times. Brgr’s shakes were refreshing, but sadly only the King Shake (hello, Elvis!) was made with booze. This was odd, as boozy milkshakes are a big draw. I suppose this probably has something to do with a car company sponsoring our day out–boozy shakes and road tours aren’t an especially smart combination.

Our next stop, Sharp Edge Bistro, was a disappointment. Talk about trying too hard while not trying nearly hard enough. Sharp Edge is basically a mid-sized catering company masquerading as a restaurant. Almost all the food is prepared off-site in the corporate kitchen. It’s…sad. The Bistro Burger (50% bison, 50% beef, with some bacon mixed in) was way too salty. The Ostrich Burger (50% ostrich, 50% beef) was dry and mealy. The chef bragged about how lean the burger was. Great, but who wants a lean burger?! Please. The Duck Burger (50% duck, 50% beef) was OK, but the flavors didn’t quite work. Cherry in my burger? Why, Chef, why? Still, it was my favorite out of the bad bunch. Good thing Sharp Edge has the Beer Emporium in Friendship; I’ll still go there for the impressive selection of beer, but you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t be eating anything. The crisp frites, while quite delicious, again highlighted the apparent ignorance at Sharp Edge. The chef bragged about how the fries were “twice fried,” as if that were something groundbreaking. Dude, almost all french fries are twice fried; it doesn’t matter if you call them frites or fries. (Unless you’re In and Out Hamburger, who only fry their fries once. And they’re quite well known for that because they deviate from the norm…)

The Milkshake Factory/Edward Marc was heavenly. This is a shining example of a local food business doing something so very very very right. The current owners are 4th generation family confectionists–they are in the business of making people happy. Happy happy happy. Oh happy. Milkshakes, ice cream, and chocolates. Seriously. I love my family and they are great and good, but couldn’t Grandpa Benji have opened an chocolate factory instead of working in corrugated cardboard?! We were offered 7 flavors of milkshake: PB&J, Cajun Chocolate, Carrot Cake, Classic Vanilla, Red Velvet, Strawberry Banana, and Chocolate Raspberry Truffle. The effusive (and perfectly named) Marc Edward explained why, in a mix of creative flavors, he offered us vanilla: “When someone gets a vanilla right, you know how good their milkshakes are.” Well, Mr. Edward, you make a pretty perfect vanilla shake. Your milkshakes are beyond good. Especially the Red Velvet shake. Although I might as well had been born southern in many of my favorite foodways, I’ve never quite understood the red velvet cake. Chocolate-like cake with red food dye? Confusing. Milkshake Factory, you have opened my eyes. This was…the best milkshake I have had in my life. Bold statement. True statement. It’s been over a week, and I’m still thinking about it.

Let’s talk cars. It’s the least I can do, since Chevy sponsored the event and everything. There were four cars for us to drive around in (Camero, Tahoe Hybrid, Equinox, and Cruze) and one for us to look at (Volt). Sadly, we didn’t get to test the Volt. Shame, because it looks pretty amazing. I’m a big fan of futuristic gadgets and gizmos that promise sustainability. Ah well. I’m also a fan of fast cars that unfortunately do not promote sustainability–cruising in the Camero was a good time! The Equinox is pretty badass, too. Well, as badass as you can be for a compact SUV. It gets great gas mileage, and the Bose noise-canceling system makes for a you-can-hear-a-pin-drop-quiet ride. I’m a bit more BLAH about the Tahoe Hybrid. It’s GIANT. Most people don’t need anything half as large as this machine, yet the Chevy product dude was pushing it hard. Yes, it gets better gas mileage than an old-timey SUV, but I still question the necessity of mass marketing such a giant. Overall, I’m glad Chevy is still making cars. Say what you will about the auto bailout (or don’t…it worked…), it’s a good thing people are making cars in America. I only spent a little bit of time in each car, but from what I can tell, these are pretty sweet machines. Even the massive Tahoe Hybrid. Also, the cars come equipped with OnStar, and it’s super-hilarious to call them for directions.

Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.
If you’re wondering who else was there, check out:

Culinary Cory (Cory is also one of my classmates in the Food Studies program at Chatham University.)
I Heart PGH
Vanilla Icing
The most excellently named Mr. Bacon Pants

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Make Dressing. It’s Easy.

Posted on June 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I make a mean salad. It’s surprising, considering my non-salad eating years vastly surpass my salad eating years. But it’s true. I make a mean salad. I’ll have to share some of my salad mixes one day, but I haven’t been writing them down. Shame on me. Shame shame shame. My salads are inspired by the whims and fancy of the day. Considering that last sentence, they are also clearly inspired by pretentiousness.

What I will share is an easy dressing recipe. Why is it that we rely so much on bottled dressings? Why do we let something that can elevate a salad be an afterthought? Yes, there are decent bottled dressings at the grocery store. However, they don’t compare to a well-made, homemade dressing. All you need is a whisk (though I prefer a immersion blender), 3 parts fat to one part acid, and a pinch of salt. From there, it’s all about the whims and fancy of the day. (Oh yes, you can be just as pretentious with your dressing as you are with your salad…) My latest whim has a slight touch of curry:

2.5 Tbs. White Wine Vinegar
3/4 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tsp. Sugar
2 Tsp. Honey
2 Tsp. Ground Corriander
1.5 Tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp. Ground Celery Seed
Pinch each of Salt, Black Pepper, and Curry Powder

Slowly whisk or blend in:
5 Tbs. Olive Oil
5 Tbs. Grapeseed Oil


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