Friday, April 9, 2010

Procrastination stinks... Borscht doesn't. And malanga root is awesome.

Oh, I've gotten SO behind in my blogging! Beni has been making these 'to die for' meals, and I eat them and then fall into a pleasure-coma. Meanwhile the pictures and the flavors just build and build and the pressure behind the blog-damn is building and building! So today comes the FLOOD.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, whether you celebrate it religiously, commercially, or just for the candy. We had a gorgeous day of sunshine here. We started the day with some fantastic french toast casserole, bacon, scrambled eggs, and fruit salad. I made my first attempt at homemade mascarpone  cheese, and it actually turned out pretty well. I mixed it with powdered sugar and lemon extract for a yummy fruit dip and french toast casserole topping. I think it would have come out better with actual tartaric acid, but I substituted lemon juice, and it worked pretty well.
Then we hunted eggs in the backyard. We couldn't hid the real eggs, because the dogs kept trying to eat them, but the plastic ones filled with candy were a hit with the kiddos anyway. The boys even banded together and each donated an egg to their sad 4-yr-old cousin who found the least. It made her day.
For dinner tonight, Beni "whipped up" some borscht using only what we had in the house. We were out of cabbage, so he used kale. And we had no beef, but he did use some beef bone to make the broth. Even without the meat, it came out very savory and delicious. The texture and bite of the kale was just perfect.

From Unblogged Food
From Unblogged Food

And here's the highlights of additional meals that boarded the train at procrastination station the last couple of weeks...
Pork Stuffed Pork: Pork tenderloin stuffed with pork sausage, capers, feta, and other things...

From Unblogged Food

Corn cakes topped with steak, eggs, and hoi-sin barbeque...

From Unblogged Food

Smoked Steelhead Trout made 2 meals... The fillets themselves and then smoked fish salad...

From Unblogged Food

From Unblogged Food

And finally (for now) Ahi tuna with sauteed squash and malanga root fritters...

From Unblogged Food

Still more to catch up on, but I don't want anyone out there having seizures from all the flavor stimuli.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Home made sauerkraut - Take 2.

Just in case it was keeping anyone up at night... "Have they eaten the rancid cabbage yet?"
...the first batch of sauerkraut got tossed. Everything was going as it should, but when we took a nibble of the cabbage before the brine was about to be boiled, we could totally taste laundry detergent from the towel that was used to hold the kraut in the brine.
So Beni got some cheese cloth this time, and batch number two is fermenting happily in the cabinet in our dining room. I'll be sure and keep everyone informed of the olfactory assaults as they occur.

Meanwhile, Beni has just left for the store to pick up a couple of things for today's brunch... Stay tuned to see what he's going to do with cornmeal, hoisin sauce, steak, and eggs.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kababs and Hummus. MORE Pastrami! And a Sauerkraut update.

I dread the sun going down on Sunday evening... It means Monday morning is very very close. But I'll squeeze out the last couple of hours of this weekend to tell you about a couple of the superbly savory meals Beni made this week. Friday night was Mediterranean inspired. I told Beni I was in the mood for chicken and kabobs, and he took it from there.
I'm not sure what got into Beni, as neither of us had eaten grilled artichokes hearts before, but something told him to include them with this meal, and the combination of artichoke hearts, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and chicken proved to be fated. It was supremely delicious.

Beni also grilled the flatbread, which we dipped in a tangy black bean hummus.Some delicate cous-cous tossed in olive oil, lime, and garlic rounded out the meal.

Pretty healthy compared to Saturday night. The home made pastrami made it's second appearance in the form of hot sandwiches Saturday.This time Beni grilled some onions to go with it, and tossed the sauerkraut in at the last minute.

The melted provolone and some more home made thousand island dressing made it picture perfect. Beni topped his with a pickled carrot, chili pepper, and green olive. On the side we had New York Cheddar Kettle Chips.

The pastrami made its third and final appearance this morning for Sunday breakfast, and I must say, its most exciting appearance yet.

Yep, that's home made pastrami tossed with cabbage, sweet potatoes, onion and garlic. Add some whipped eggs, and you've got the most amazing hash of your life. Beni served it over a corn cake, topped by another corn cake, topped with MORE HASH, and finally a cracked olive for garnish. By the way, the corn cake was made with cheddar and provolone cheese... Oh yeah.

Before I go enjoy the last few bits of the weekend with my family, I'll give you an updated on Beni's homemade 'kraut... It's living in a cabinet in our dining room. (Literally, living and breathing) The smell is completely rancid. Eli has already declared that he will not be eating it (but considering his love of all foods bizarre, I'm sure he'll at least taste it once). Every once in a while you can hear the lid of the container rattle when gasses are escaping. Saturday morning, I forgot it was there when I reached down to get the griddle for the french toast, and got a nose-full. It wasn't pretty... My gag reflex kicked in slightly.
I keep reminding myself that Sauerkraut actually has many healthy qualities because of the way it is fermented. I won't get into all the details. You can check out Wikipedia or the macrobiotic websites on your own time, but I do keep reminding myself of that fact so I won't be scared to try it when it's done next weekend.

Goodnight and have a pleasant week, from the Helfs and their fermented cabbage...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Another delicious bit of rare tuna and What became of that pastrami

Two meals to post tonight. I am MOST excited to brag about how the Pastrami that went in to cure last week turned out, but I'll start with the tuna, because I'm so type A, I can't go out of chronological order.
Last week Beni made a version of a standard favorite at our house, rare Ahi tuna. This time he spiced it with sesame, ginger, and garlic, giving it an Asian flare.

The tuna was served over a bed of spinach and mung bean sprouts as well as a mandarin orange and pear juice vinaigrette with red onions and sugar snap peas. Here's a close up of the vinaigrette followed by the finished product:

The meal was light but filling and perfectly savory.
Speaking of savory... Let's talk cured meat! Remember that Pastrami I mentioned was going in the fridge last week after the corned beef came out?

Well this pretty little thing came out today and went straight into the smoker. When it came out, it looked a little like this; covered in smokey goodness.

Inside this charred slice of beef is some of the juiciest, tastiest pastrami that ever existed (I swear). It's nothing like the solution filled pastrami slices you get at the Walmart deli.
Beni chopped it up and got all the flavors of the smoked exterior mixed in well with the beef muscle and fat.

Then we piled it high on rye bread with provolone cheese, sauerkraut, red onion, lettuce, and home-made thousand island dressing.


Paired with salt 'n' pepper chips, it was a Rueben fit for a king!! Beni has really found his calling in Charcuterie. The next experiment? Home made saurkraut.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Eggs in red sauce never get old and Seven days is the cure

The weather lately has been nearly Arctic, it seems, and I think all of us have a little cabin fever. Saturday we got out and about and visited the Arkansas Air Museum at Drake field for a tour. It was really interesting. I haven't been in there in years, and they have lots of new exhibits. They still take several of those plane out to fly! The Military Museum was cool too.
After our tour, we had a birthday lunch at Aunt Nan's for my step-mom. I was in charge of the cake, and actually forgot to take any pictures! I was too distracted by the fact that I completely destroyed the layers while trying to get them out of the pans. I have vowed never again to shoot tequila while baking.
We have since discoverd my oven is on the fritz, so the cake and the babka were NOT ALL my fault! I was able to salvage the red velvet cake though, and made a Trifle. I layered the crumbled cake with cheesecake flavored pudding, shaved chocolate, strawberries, and homemade whipped cream. It was a hit even after the tragedy.
After lunch, I was able to kick the boys and the dogs out to play for about an hour, and they blew off some steam. Unfortunately, they also blew mud all over their clothes, but half a bottle of stain treatment took care of it.
I can't wait for warmer weather and cook-outs!
In the meantime, cooking indoors is alright too, especially if Beni is in your doors.
For Valentine's day I got a beautiful card, flowers, and a double strand of pearls! What a sweetheart. Beni also made may favorite, baked eggs in red sauce, and I think it was the best sauce to date. (I also think I say that ever time). He served it over toasted French bread this time, rather than Ciabatta, and I think that was the game changer. The soft bread soaked up the sauce creating a much more delicate texture. It was fantastic.
Here's some pics of the process... (Notice how he does NOT crowd the mushrooms).

For dinner we had our second round of Beni's self-corned beef. He's nearly perfected his method, using a seven day cure. He served it with some VERY fresh steamed cabbage and little purple potatoes that were going to be roasted (before the oven went out), but ended up being cooked in a pan with some red wine. I think they turned out perfect, even with the mishap.
Here's a pic of the corned beef fresh out of the fridge, before cooking:

And here's a pic of the prepared dish with potatoes and cabbage. Talk about comfort food!

As one piece of cured meat comes out of the fridge, another goes in... Next Sunday, homemade pastrami!

Have a good rest of the week and stay tuned until next week to found out how the Pastrami turns out... After the seven day cure it will hit the smoker!

Friday, February 12, 2010

No business like Pho-business

I LOVE magic soup night. It's never been the same Pho twice, but it's been magic soup every time. I can't even begin to name ALL the ingredients in Beni's magic soup, but I'll try and cover most of them.
Beni made an aeromatic broth of beef and vegetables and added clams and beef shank. He also prepared some rice noodles, which the kids love. Then he created a tray of fresh herbs and vegetables to dress the soup "to taste"... This included basil, cilantro, lime, paper thin mushrooms, mung bean sprouts, jalepenos, and green onions.

On the side, Beni made FROM SCRATCH, curried shrimp filled dumplings. Pan fried and then steamed to give the dumplings that perfect, slightly chewy, texture, and filled with flavor.

I'm a woman of few words tonight... I just wanted to share with the world how DELICIOUS and spiritually satifying dinner was. Now, movie night... Zombieland.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Attention Vegans: Avert your eyes, this post is red meat-o-licious.

Last night, Beni and I found ourselves home alone without the children, which is an extremely rare occurance. With both boys at their cousins', we debated for just a few seconds what to do with ourselves. Quiet night at home it was.
To mark the special occasion, Beni prepared the most delicious cut of steak ever prepared in the history of man-kind. No lie. This is definitely "last meal" material.
It started as a simple yet beautiful cut of meat from Richard's they call the 'Razorback'. It's essentially a gigantic ribeye with bone-in. Beni spiced it up and proceeded to smoke it into submission.

While the meat soaked in the smokey goodness, Beni prepared the sides. Roasting in the oven were a medely of fingerling potatoes, carrots, sweet potatos, turnips, parsnips, and LOTS of garlic. The method Beni uses to roast vegetables gives them the perfect texture. The outside is just slightly crispy so your teeth pop through the skin, and the center is light and fluffy. The natural flavors of these roots are amazing. They were seasoned very simply with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Behold, Smoked Razorback with Roasted Roots and Blackened Snow Peas:

Seriously, if I am ever on death row, this would be my last request.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Bad Bad Babka, Mighty Muffelletta, and Tantalizing Tuna

I'm struggling keep up with my 2010 resolution to stay up to date on Beni's culinary creations. He just make so many of them! It would be a full time job. Here's three memorable meals from the last couple of weeks, and the first is actually one of my own...

A couple of weekends ago, we had Beni's sister Terra and our friend Megan and their kids over for breakfast. The plan was to serve Babka French Toast.
Lesson #1: Never invite people over to eat something that you are making for the first time.
I thought the babka turned out great... Don't these look yummy?

From Guess what Beni made!?
One was made with Ghiradelli dark chocolate, and the other was cinnamon and sugar.
But when I began to slice them for the french toast, I was so disappointed. I told Beni to call our guests and tell them not to come.
From Guess what Beni made!?
They were still raw in the middle.
But of course Beni refused to call and cancel on our guests (15 minutes before they were supposed to arrive), and offered to run to the store and get some Hawaiian bread.
I was so flustered, I failed to get any pics of the final product, but I did manage to make some delicious french toast with my special egg dip, and sandwiched them with some super sweet mascarpone filling I had whipped up. Between the decadent french toast, the fresh fruit, the mimosas, and the company, it turned out to be a very pleasant breakfast, indeed.
And we were even able to enjoy a little bit of the babka (tops) dipped in mascarpone.

Next stop, New Orleans... Not really. It's just our kitchen again, but Beni sure did bring an authentic taste to the table. This Muffelletta is full of shaved ham, shaved bologna, hard salami, provolne cheese, and a homemade olive relish that knocked our socks off.

He served it on ciabatta bread with a side of kettle chips and salad. Full of flavor!

Last week we also had a savory light meal, rare tuna on salad. As is common practice in our house, the tuna was seared to perfection and served rare, but this time served with a seasoning of black pepper.

Hopefully you're inspired to go make something flavorful! I'm inspired to go eat something...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tongue in cheek?

This week the Helf family has been traveling ALL OVER Flavor-town, USA. Last weekend we had another fish fry and invited my dad, step-mom, and little sister over to help us polish it off. Dad brought some jalapeno hush puppies and an amazing coleslaw. They made the mayo from scratch, and it had all sorts of yummies in it including red onion and spinach.
Monday also happened to be my mother's birthday, and we visited her beautiful home and enjoyed some fantastic and beautiful cake from Chuck's Cake Shoppe.
Mom got a new apron and a slicer attachment for her Kitchen-Aid among other things.
Tuesday night was probably our most extreme flavor adventure of the week... Cold Pickled Tongue sandwiches... Sounds TOTALLY disgusting, right? WRONG! It was DELICIOUS! Beni cured the tongue himself for ten days in a special brine, then boiled it Monday night, trimmed it, sliced it up, and refrigerated overnight for us to have the next day. Granted, coming home Monday night and hearing:
"The boys and I already ate the salivary glands, but here, taste this"
was a little disturbing at first, but as soon as I tasted the meat, I was converted. It was like the most flavorful corned beef I've ever had, and more tender than any cut of beef ever. Tuesday night we served it on hoagie rolls with horseradish, cheese and cabbage. On the side is a greens mix from Wynn's Tomato Ranch winter market topped with an avacado and corn salad; the perfect cooling compliment to the spicy horseradish.
Beni was very pleased at how it turned out... And the boys LOVED it!
Last night we FINALLY polished off the last of the Dauphin Island fish in one of Beni's most pleasing creations; Smoked whitefish salad. This fish that he drove all the way to Alabama and caught, cleaned, and brought home made its way from the freezer into a smoker fired by some Arkansas hickory. Beni then chopped the fish and mixed it with celery, onion, dill, and some other magical ingredient and served it on buttered rye bread with provolone, and salt 'n' pepper chips and a pickle. A important key in making this fish salad is to keep it fluffy! This was another meal I would have been ecstatic to be served at any deli.
My last meal for this post is tonight's dinner... Lamb Chops and roasted potatoes with fresh green beans. Oh yeah.
The new potatoes were roasted with carrots and spiced with garlic and oregano...
...and the lamb was seasoned perfectly, grilled, and finished with balsamic vinegar, which gave it the most wonderful lingering taste.

Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a great weekend. Stay tuned to find out how the latest chunk of meat curing in my fridge turns out... Home-made corned beef! (Regular cow parts this time... no tongue. =)