Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Bitters Issue

A couple nights ago, I happened across two Trinidadian women (spokespersons for the Angostura Bitters Company) on a cable network news show talking about bitters, more particularly the fact that it had been off the market for a major part of last year. What?! No more bitters? Can that even happen? Apparently, there was an issue on the part of the bottle supplier which led to a shortage in the Angostura's characteristic dark colored bottles. Instead of changing their bottling style, the company preferred to halt production until the issue was resolved. Issue resolved, bitters back on the market.

While Angostura Bitters is popular the world over as the pivotal accent, if you will, of cocktails, there are three things that many people don't know about the product. First, and of which I am most pleased, it is manufactured solely in Trinidad. Second, it has been around for over two hundred years. And third, it is used for more than cocktails.

More than cocktails you say? While it might sound bizarre to many cocktail afficionados, we trinis use the "bottled gold" in conjunction with seasonings for meats (both creole stews and curries), as the finishing touch to soups, in hot chocolate, in lemonade, and it is my all time favorite topping for ice cream. Remember the Windex-wielding father from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding whose cure for every ailment was a spritz of windex? In the kitchen, trinis can be like that with a bottle of bitters. A dash here, a dash there somehow makes every dish, every drink so much more. No one knows for sure the exact list of ingredients (except five people at the top of the company) but it is a concentrated, alcoholic mixture of gentian root, herbs and spices. As for the measurement per recipe, it's all a matter of judgement and is measured in dashes. In other words, we "guesstimate." One dash per scoop of ice cream, a couple dashes per serving of soup, six to eight in stews, a dash in hot chocolate. So concentrated is the flavor that is takes only one dash to create a distinct difference in taste.

Guinness Punch is a popular Trinidadian drink that features bitters. Traditionally made with Guiness Stout (hence the name,) sweetened condensed milk, and spices, it of course can be made with any brand of stout. My version utilizes evaporated milk and a small amount of honey in place of the condensed milk. And I would recommend chilling the stout and milk before blending as opposed to using ice in the mixture which just dilutes a naturally silky and creamy drink.

Guinness Stout Punch
Makes 20 ounces

1 bottle dark stout (brand of your choice)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon honey/agave nectar
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 to 3 dashes Angostura Aromatic Bitters

Blend all ingredients together. Pour into glasses and finish with one last dash of bitters.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Giveaway winner

The Emerilware giveaway is over and the winner is Stephanie Skinner of Orofino, Idaho. Thanks to everyone for your interest. And stayed tuned for more giveaways.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies made with Spelt Flour. Say what?

Spelt is a variety of wheat which seemed to have originated in central Europe but has now gained popularity in the US as a health food. Compared to all purpose flour, one cup of spelt flour contains 16 grams of protein, 88 grams of carbohydrates, and 16 grams of fiber. All purpose flour, on the other hand, has 13 grams of protein, 95 grams of carbohydrates, and only 3 grams of fiber. While spelt is more similar in fiber and protein content to whole wheat flour, it has less gluten than whole wheat. Therefore, it does not produce an elastic and well risen dough when used as the sole source of flour in some bread recipes.

Here, it works perfectly as a substitute for all purpose flour in this recipe. My goal was to create a relatively nutritious version of a chocolate chunk cookie. (I use the term "relatively nutritious" loosely because, let's face it, "double chocolate chunk cookies" in any scenario does not elicit thoughts and comments on nutrition.) Pure whole wheat flour is just too heavy and creates a very dense and dry cookie but, if you cannot find spelt flour, then go right ahead and use all purpose flour. Also, instead of using all dark chocolate like I did, semi-sweet also does the job.

And don't forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win an 8" Emerilware frying pan. Contest ends Friday 9th at 3 pm.

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies made with Spelt Flour
Makes 15 to 20

1 cup spelt flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Set oven to 350 degree F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
2. Melt 2 cups of the chocolate chunks and the butter in a double boiler. Once melted, remove and allow to cool to the touch.
3. While the chocolate is cooling, combine spelt flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
4. To the melted chocolate, mix in the sugar followed by the egg and egg whites. Add the flour mixture and combine well. Fold in the remaining 3/4 cup of chocolate chunks.
5. Scoop two tablespoon mounds unto the prepared baking sheet, and press down lightly to create a mound with a flat top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks before serving.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Giveaway!

I'm excited to host another giveaway! This time it is in collaboration with CSN Stores and their sister sites. At CSN, you can find a wide range of household appliances, furniture, and equipment, from pots and pans to cribs and corner tv stands.

This time, the giveaway is this sleek, Emerilware Pro-Clad 8" frying pan!

Features include:
  • Bonded tri-ply stainless steel construction with aluminum core
  • Ergonomic handle with secure grip
  • Easy to clean 18/10 stainless steel cooking surface for non-reactive cooking
  • Flared rim to keep spills and drips to a minimum.

  • Diameter 8 inches
  • Oven safe to 550 degrees F
  • Dishwasher safe

To enter for a chance to win this valuable kitchen asset, post a comment (along with an email address or some form of contact in the event that you are chosen) on any of this month's posts. The contest is open to readers with US or Canadian addresses only and ends on Friday April 9th 2010 at 3 pm. A winner will be chosen randomly.

Thanks and good luck!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Farmers Market Rack of Lamb with Honey Mustard

I have some exciting news: In May, we will be doing a two week trip to New Zealand! A country well known for many things: great wines and cheeses, gorgeous nature trails, captivating landscapes, a dynamic Polynesian culture, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and lamb! In all of the travel books, blogs and guides that I've perused so far, they all mention the fact that there are 4 million people and 66 million sheep. An impressive ratio, isn't it? But understandable, considering that lamb export is one of the country's major sources of revenue. Guess what I'm going to be eating? This "subtropical earth" promises to be thrilling and filling.

Discipline or reason might dictate that I wait until the trip to get my lamb fix. But it is spring after all and lamb is somewhat synonymous with this season. So last Saturday morning, I recruited my friend Missy and hurriedly made it across town to the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Goal: to source out a rack of lamb, at the same time half-expecting nothing because the farmers were specifically fulfilling Easter pre-orders (which I had not done.) As luck would have it, the folks at Bar 5 had one rack left over due to an unfulfilled order. (And in case you were wondering, the market will be opened next Saturday April 10th, and officially opens on April 24th. Fresh and Local resumes on AM 950 on May 15th.)

This recipe is my typical preparation for rack of lamb. Mustard slightly sweetened with honey (or maple syrup) and hinted with lemony rosemary, and some thyme, are all that lamb needs in my opinion. For the mustard, here I used spicy brown but dijon is typical so feel free to stick to traditional is you so desire.

Farmers Market Rack of Lamb with Honey Mustard
Serves 4

1 eight-bone rack of lamb, frenched*
1/4 cup spicy brown mustard
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp rosemary
2 tsp thyme

1. Set the oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Add a two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a skillet over medium heat. Season the lamb with salt and sear in skillet for two minutes on fatty side and two minutes on the base.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients. Brush this marinade on the seared lamb and place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 130 to 135 degrees F for medium rare (the way I like it) and 140 to 145 degrees F for medium (pictured above.) Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Cut into single or double chops to serve.