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The Meatrix I'm not a vegetarian but I dislike factory farming and I support small, family farms.

 

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Paper Chef, New Orleans, cooking dinner this weekend and the Red Cross 
New Orleans is celebrated for many things. A special culture and community and feeling. Unique food. Unique music. Unique experiences. But it is also celebrated for celebrating! Right now there isn't much time for that but you bet there will be as the water goes back down and rebuilding gets under way. And it is important not to forget what New Orleans was so that in the serious rebuilding ahead those special things also get rebuilt. So in the spirit of a unique place with unique food and its own unique style, it is time for Paper Chef to give a little back and given that New Orleans is one of the three cities most celebrated for food and cooking in the US, I am going to ask you all to please participate in the Paper Chef this weekend specifically INSTEAD of going out to dinner one night (or even two nights). Invite the special someone you'd go out with over for a Paper Chef dinner instead. And then donate the money you would have spent on dinner to the red cross for hurricane disaster relief. If you don't live in the US, why not donate it for famine relief in Niger instead?
Since we are also celebrating the relaunch of Is My Blog Burning with a virtual party, we are keeping one of the ingredients as beer - and there's nothing New Orleans likes better than a good party! But I am suspending our usual methodology and am going to pick and choose from the current nominated ingredients list to allow as much as possible for a New Orleans inspired dish. And I will give everyone a little more time to spread the news about this and get a recipe ready.
The current list is: Sausage, dried fruit, berries, eggplant, summer squash, star anise, shrimp, scallops, cherries, wasabi, tomatoes, pears, fresh coconut, something you get from a neighbour's garden, walnuts, lavender, nut butter, tofu, parsnips, sweetcorn, duck and little fishes.

So we are going to have the following four required ingredients this time around...

Ingredient 1: Beer - for Is My Blog Burning and for New Orleans - Cheers! (if you are allergic or don't drink alcohol, substitute any other celebratory liquid you like)

Ingredient 2: Sausage - nothing more Louisianan than that! (vegetarians - think of a sausage substitute!)

Ingredient 3: Shrimp - ok there IS something more Louisianan  than sausage! (vegetarians - again - substitute...)

Ingredient 4: Tomatoes.
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Sneak Preview of 'Topical' Ingredient for the Paper Chef 
Because it is going to be the official launch virtual party for the revamped Is My Blog Burning food blog metasite on Firday, we are announcing the topical/seasonal ingredient early and in support of the launch party. That ingredient is beer! The usual rule about substitutions applies - since I know gluten allergies make beer a no-no you can substitute any other common party drink. But not being able to find beer isn't an excuse!
 
Update to ingredient list coming later...

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

350+ Food Blogs #-Z 

Monday, August 29, 2005

Nominations needed for the Paper Chef 
It is that time again - the turn of the month is upon us and nominations are needed for ingredients for the next Paper Chef. From this list three ingredients will be chosen as well as an additional seasonal/topical ingredient. Please only nominate once per month and only nominate things that are actually edible and not totally disgusting and gross.

The current ingredient list is:

Sausage, dried fruit, berries, eggplant, summer squash, star anise, shrimp, scallops, cherries, wasabi, tomatoes, pears, fresh coconut, something you get from a neighbour's garden, walnuts and lavender.
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Dinner tonight versus dinner this weekend 
I was thinking about what I am going to make tonight and it got me started musing about how I think differently about cooking in different circumstances. Dinner on a weeknight or even a busy weekend is a very very different affair from dinner on the weekend or even a dinner party and they are both different from a planned cooking project.

An example of a good dinner for a weeknight for me happened last night. I got a call on the way home: everyone was starving and worn out from a busy day. Could I hurry home and hurry up with dinner? I asked for a pot of water to be put on to boil. I remembered that I had baked a slab of Trader Joe's herbed pizza dough that morning simply for fresh bread to go with the kids' lunches (ready in 20 minutes in a 450 degree oven - pull it out hot and wrap a hunk in foil). Then when I got home I rifled through the vegetables. Eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini all in need of use in the next couple of days. I sliced the first two up roughly and put them on to fry in olive oil in a covered skillet on high to help them cook fast. The water was boiling so I dropped in some rotini pasta (10 minutes to cook). Then I sliced up some previously cooked chicken pesto sausage and added it to the skillet with a little powdered garlic, herbes de provence and salt. I stirred the pan about every two minutes for the next ten minutes. I put the broiler on high, sliced up the herbed bread, sprinkled with a little grated cheddar cheese and put halved cherry tomatoes on top and put it on to broil. Then I grabbed some sorrel from the yard sliced it in little strips, sliced the zucchini and halved about half a pound more of cherry tomatoes. I poured a splash of red wine into the skillet and turned it down and pulled some washed spinach out of the fridge (already starting to wilt a little I'm afraid). Then I took the bread and cheese and tomatoes out of the broiler, drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil, sprinkled a little salt and spread out the sorrel. In the meantime I had also put the kettle on and three blackcurrant teabags in a bowl. I put lots of ice in a pitcher, poured the boiling water on the tea and let it sit. Called everyone to the table and served up the bread/cheese/tomato/sorrel appetizers. Poured the steeped tea (and teabags into the pitcher, added about a cup of concord grape juice and served blackcurrant-grape iced tea. Drained the pasta and tossed with the skillet sauce, the spinach and the halved cherry tomatoes. tossed in some gated parmesan and about two tablespoons of lemon juice.

So that's how a nicer weeknight dinner comes together at our house. Elapsed time about half an hour. A more typical dinner might be ground buffalo burgers (preformed and frozen) with orzo pasta made aglio e olio with crushed red pepper and any fresh vegetable sauteed usually with soy sauce and vinegar. That takes longer (lots of garlic to chop).

Nicer meals have more planning. This weekend there is grilling by the pool. That usually means chicken, burgers, sausages and lamb in some combination. The burgers, chicken and lamb will always be different depending on what I can get. Salads, grilled bread, pilau rice (made in the rice cooker), sauces and dips, grilled garden-fresh vegetables, bread and almost any kind of dessert.

Dinner parties get a full day of thought. The guests known preferences are taken into account. So is the weather, what looks really good at the store or the market and what our CSA has delivered unto us. Specialties de maison include indian food, roast leg of lamb, stuffed roast chickens, complex, slow-cooked stews. Then side dishes, appetizers and desserts could be almost anything. My friends tell me it is time to make more puddings again, but I'm liking fruit purees whipped with creme fraiche or mascarpone.

And cooking projects are the most controlled. A dish is thought out completely and time is put aside to make it properly. No rushing.

It doesn't seem to me that it is quite so chaotic for everyone else. Most non-food people I know just make one of their standard sets of family meals or go eat out. People without kids have less time pressure and fewer constraints. But there are plenty of people I know out there with kids who manage the whole process with grace. What I want to know is...how?
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Organization is my middle name - or get ready for the Paper Chef! 
Ha ha ha ha! If anyone I know well ever reads this, please accept my apologies for the bump from where you fell off your chair.

But I am being organized just this once.

Paper Chef is coming up Friday September 2nd. I have a host of constitutional and philosphical issues to sort out before then (OK - one or two) since I have been asked for clarification re judging and the 'competition' side of it. So in the spirit of the brotherhood and sisterhood of the Paper Chef and in the spirit of building a groundswell of consensus from the thousands (OK tens) of you out there who have an opinion, I am opening up the discussion. First, I only decided to have it be a competition because I thought the teeny tiny competitive edge would bring out the best in everyone - the 'I want to show my fellow food bloggers how well I can do with this...'

That seems to have more than succeeded, so I am willing to consider making it all non-competitive. The only issue with that is that I think everyone who judges likes judging!

That brings up the issue of rational criteria and a level playing field for all. This one is tougher. Since we don't get to taste the recipes and since everything is subjective, I'm not sure we CAN do that. I'd prefer to put the burden back on all the judges. I think we should do multiple awards (everyone's a winner) but still pick an overall personal favorite for the main title. I guess it is just nice to have that winner=judge chain thing going on.

But let me know what you all think. I don't want to get anyone or anything all bent out of shape about this.
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Food Blogs coming out of your ears 
Well, there will be soon...

I finally got around to cleaning out my food weblog list that I keep over at Yahoo's MyWeb (kind of automatic bookmarking on the web) and I have a list of 345 food blogs in it. Now some of them have probably closed down since I added them to the list, but that's still a LOT of food blogs. Also remember that I don't add EVERY food blog - these are the ones that I think are interesting in some way and that might be of interest for including in Digital Dish 2.0 if I ever sell enough of Digital Dish to do a second one.

Anyway, I am going to post the list over at Press For Change Publishing as a community resource. That'll be in a day or two. I'll let you know here when I get it up - probably broken down alphabetically kind of like kiplog does. And of course, there's a LOT of overlap in our listings but not completely. The kiplog list is 609 sites by the way but they aren't all blogs. Regardless, it's an awful lot of blogs. If you include all the French and the burgeoning Asian, Italian and German food blogs I'm sure there are more than a thousand now!
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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

It ain't easy bein' greens 
It's funny to me that my most requested dish for potlucks is greens. After all, they are vile, disgusting and your parents MADE you eat them when you were little, so you ended up slowly plastering layers of them to the underside of the dining table and surreptitiously feeding them to the dog who either ate anything or quietly mouthed them and then let them slip to the floor coated in drool.

Even now, when people actually believe that their parents might have been right and that greens might be good for you in some undefined kind of way, greens STILL have a bad reputation - the geeky, ugly, unloved cousin who shows up unwanted and is reluctantly accepted in very, very small doses.

So I am justified, I think, in being proud that people want my greens. People request my greens. People even actually EAT my greens. So what's the secret?

Well, first there isn't really one. Once people start eating greens they realize that not only are they really, really good for you, but they taste really, really good too. If we are getting all excited nowadays about blueberries, pomegranates and broccoli and anti-oxidants and bioflavinoids and so on, just think what they'd find if they looked at greens for anti-oxidants and bioflavinoids!

Plus, Jared Diamond, best-selling author (of Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse) and deep-thinker about society says that our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived on a diet of up to 70 different kinds of gathered plants a day - many of which were some form of greens - and in many ways enjoyed better digestive health than we do today.

So, however you come to the conclusion, it is established that greens are good FOR you. Now comes the hard part - how to make them flat out good so that your children happily agree to eat them and even sometimes ASK for them. Here are the deep, dark secrets...

First, debunking a couple of myths. It is a Southern tradition to make your greens with sugar and lots of pork fat. These greens are edible it is true, but they go a long way toward removing any health benefit. And more importantly, they aren't as good as the much healthier greens described below. It is also a Southern and just about everywhere else tradition that you need to cook your greens for a long time to make them soft and tender and with a good (foodie jargon alert) 'mouth feel.' Also not true.

What you DO need however are salt to bring out the flavor and high heat to cook them fast. The same basic technique applies to all greens but it is a good idea to think about the time taken to cook the stalk versus the leaf. For example, collards have hefty, tough stalks. They DO need more cooking than the leaves. On the other hand, chard has big but relatively soft stalks - all you have to do is add the stalk parts first before the tender leaf tips. I also have to confess that the one green I cannot face is the dandelion - they are just flat out bitter.

The Best Greens Ever



You need the following: a bunch or more of greens, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, a big skillet, frying pan or wok. Optional extras include garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, chilli, onion, spring onion and bacon (pork fat may be bad for you but it does taste good...)

Wash the greens thoroughly and shake 'em dry. Chop them up roughly in strip about three quarters of an inch wide across the leaves (at right angles to the stem). Chop the stalks as well but push as much of the stalky bits as you can to one side. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your pan until hot (but short of smoking). Add the optional seasoning elements and let them cook a little. Now add all the stalky bits and stir them in thoroughly so they are coated and cooking hard. Keep the heat high throughout. Once the stalks are starting to soften (longer for collards, no time at all for spinach) add the rest of the leaves in two stages, stirring them in thoroughly after each stage and letting them start to settle in the pan. Once both sets of leaves are in, stir again and once the leaves start to soften, add a tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of lemon juice (adjust oil, soy sauce and lemon juice upward if making a larger amount of greens and also to taste with experience). Stir in thoroughly and cook just until all the greens are soft. Remove from heat and serve immediately.


There are other great things to do with greens as well. The softer and more highly spiced greens like spinach, arugula (rocket), mustard greens and some of the asian greens can be cooked in with some stock and then blended with a little cream and flavorings to make fantastic creamy soups (see arugula, spinach, sorrel soup with smoked oysters). I also like to make pesto-like sauces from them and finely chop them into salads where they add huge, heaping explosions of flavors.


So there you have it - greens are good and even though Kermit the Frog was right, he shouldn't have been. It should be easy being green.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The 39 Steps 
One of my favorite movies of all time for the eery juxtaposition of the mundane and the extraordinary and the creation of a feeling, an emotion and an atmosphere is Alfred Hitchcock's version of the amazing John Buchan novel 'The Thirty-Nine Steps.'

That novel and movie have almost nothing at all to do with this posting which is about how I am going to try to do the remaining 20 or so things on the food blogger's '50 things' list that I have not yet done. So I really only have 20 steps. But the movie deserves a mention anyway.

I am going to try to do the remaining 20 things over the course of the next year and will write about them here - or at least those of them I am willing to share...
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Monday, August 15, 2005

The Joys of Smoked Lamb 
Although I have smoked a few meats in my time (nothing like the smokemeister, Dr. Biggles of course) I have previously restricted myself to the 'white' meats - in other words chicken, turkey and pork. But a few days ago we had an impromptu gathering around the grill and pool and I had made two different lamb dishes, both from an unusual half shoulder half leg cut. One was marinated in yoghurt and ginger and cilantro and lemon and cumin and garlic and other spicy things. This came out very delicious but surprisingly mild. It was grilled in more or less the traditional way and was first off the grill. The other piece was cooked in the smoker because that is all the room that was left. It was cooked for much longer (the period of the party - about three and a half hours) and over lower heat with deliberate smoke from applewood and bay tree branches. This one was marinated in red wine, garlic, rosemary, pepper, olive oil and bay leaves. And it came out smokey and delicious. Next time we do it even slower for six to eight hours. It was the hands-down winner and even better we had leftovers since people had already eaten all the Indian marinated lamb.

So two days later I made a curry with some of the lamb and eggplant and tomatoes and cardamom and coriander and ginger and garlic and onions and garam masala and yellow squash and zucchini and a little curry powder. It was smoky and stunningly full of flavor - one of my best curries yet. Served with basmati pilau with cumin seeds and with roasted pumpkin seeds and yoghurt on the side. Plus fresh green beans. I thought I had made too much. I was wrong.
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Friday, August 12, 2005

The results are in! 
Jennifer was completely on top of everything and had already visited most of the entrants for the Paper Chef before I got to them! And before the ink was dry on my roundup she had the final results in! Thank you for being such a great judge!
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Paper Chef The Local Edition Roundup 
Here it is at last!

Wow! I think we had a record 19 entries this time (I say I think because I have a sneaking feeling I missed someone out in the following roundup). I absolutely do NOT envy Jennifer her task of picking a winner/winners. I DO very much appreciate how she has already gone around commenting on all the entries she could find. Thank you and I hope EVERYONE had fun!

Without further ado, here are 19 amazing peach, chile, edible flower and very very local entries for the Paper Chef.


Ellen Ferlazzo at Chronicles of a Curious Cook, finally getting out from under the rigors of a long swim season (I know EXACTLY what she means) made Barbecued pork chops with fresh herb rub, Peach-tomato salsa with chipotle peppers and minted peas. Ellen grows a lot of her own produce and I've tasted it, so I know it's excellent!

Stephen at Stephencooks.com aka What's For Dinner? made a stupendous-sounding Pumpkin Blossoms Stuffed with Lobster and Corn, with Chile-Peach Glaze and in the process giving us a wonderful new twist on his local ingredient - lobster. The photos are amazing, too.

Sylvie of 'Food, Got To Love It' made a lovely mixed greens salad with sliced sweet saturn peaches accompanied by a series of photos and a discussion about edible flowers and dianthus in particular.

Alice of Epicurean Debauchery made a wonderful old-school-new-school Korean Kalbi-Gone-Local that makes you wish that you could get your local Korean restaurant to try making the recipe.

Perennial entrant, Kevin of Seriously Good, gave us a Stuffed Pork Loin subtitled 'Pigging Out On Peaches' that absolutely matches his blog name and introduced me to the name and technique for a gastrique.


Honore Mendoza submitted an entry for a Fruit & Flower Salad directly to me and it is posted here. We are going to all have to encourage Honore to get his own blog since he has now entered Paper CHef twice even though he doesn't have a blog of his own!

Brenda at Culinary Fool presented us with scrumptious-looking Mini-Lamb Burgers with Peach Salsa. Her large scale photographs really highlight how good these must be.

Carolyn of 18th Century Cuisine made an absolutely amazing Lavender, Chili and Peach Iced Milk. Since she remains true to the title of her blog and uses 18th Century techniques as much as possible, this is an amazing achievement.

Lady X of Experiment In Writing brought us Peppered Zucchini Scones with Peach Butter, Crème Fraîche and Chrysanthemum & Jasmine Tea and wondered if it was cheating to have the flowers be part of the tea. Not at all! The tea actually sounds divine.

Meanwhile, Sam at Becks and Posh, who hasn't entered in a while, managed to whip an wonderful entry into shape in what sounds like moments! Stone Fruit Salsa, Herbed Yoghurt & Chilli Chips are thoroughly illustrated a wonderful example of making do with what is at hand.

Becky at Two Foot Kitchen (or MMMmm Food...) made us an innovative Peach-Pluot Strudel With Chile Gelato and managed local ingredients despite being in the desert state of Nevada and having to rely on her answering machine and husband for preparation!

Debby of I'm Mad and I Eat made a wild pluot salad from all local ingredients and included the distances every ingredient had travelled!

Jeanne of World on a Plate made Sweet Summer Heat from local Indian Red Peaches , raspberries and local Pt. Reyes Blue Cheese - yummy!

Martin of Serial Griller made us another twist on Pork and Peaches with his Lavender and Chilli Pork with Peach Salsa. He also gave us great photos and a nice discourse on locally sourced ingredients including wonderful pork. Many people outside the US don't realise that there has been a renaissance in locally grown heritage varieties of pork (and other meats) in Britain.

Stef of stefoodie.net went all out with a Peachy Barbecue Party. Get a load of this menu! (and how come we all didn't get invited?)

Peach Chutney with Calendula and marigold flowers with cream cheese on crackers
Pulled Pork sandwiches with Peach Barbecue Sauce
Green Bean, Scarlet Runner Bean Flowers and Walnut Saute, with Peach Dressing
Peach-Strawberry-Ancho Marble Ice Cream with crystallized rose petals and pansies.

Mrs Deedop and (or maybe not?) Chopper Dave of Belly Timber made us the Summer of Prawns, in their own inimitable style with gorgeous flowers from their garden and even the prawns sourced locally. Another splendid dish and presentation.

Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking (with the help of Charlie) made us drinks - all at once and severally - Peach Nectar (with rum) Hibiscus Tea (with vodka) and Chile-Tequila Shooters.

The 2-minute noodle cook of an Electric Restaurant made us a very, very Australian (and red-themed) dessert plate of sparkling Australian native hibiscus shooter, honey poached pear in a quandong inspired reduction, chilli chocolate, and glazed wattleseed figs.

And finally (and hopefully not missing anyone - give us a shout if we missed you) Sara at A Delicious Life brought us some insanity and inspiration with Fig, Peach and Ricotta Eggrolls with Honey Ancho Dipping Sauce!


A mention must go to Janis at The Farmette Report who clearly *would* have made grilled peaches and ricotta with a spicy chipotle-cinnamon honey glaze if she hadn't had real issues in her life to deal with. We hope all went well and will look forward to highlighting her culinary talents and skills another time...
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My own (unofficial) Paper Chef Entry 

Spicey, Peachy Grilled Pork



Peach-Lavender Chutney copyright Owen Linderholm 2005

Get a pork roast of about three pounds - I used a tightly wrapped pork shoulder roast. marinate it (overnight if possible) in a ziploc bag containinga cup of peach juice and half a cup of lemon juice. Once marinated, crush (or grind up the following together into a rub: a tablespoon of fennel seeds, a tablespoon of corinader seeds, half a tablespoon of dried chilli flakes, a tablespoon of kosher salt. Rub this mixture carefully into all the surface of the pork. Now very finely chop the following: A tablespoon of lavender flowers (dried or fresh - mine were about halfway between the two - straight of the lavender in the garden, but dried out rather after two weeks of over 100 degree temperatures), a tablespoon of oregano (I used flowers since there were some on the oregano in the garden, but leaves or dried would be OK) and half a tablespoon of sage (fresh or dried). Roll the pork in this finely chopped mixture until thoroughly coated, adding a little olive oil to the meat if necessary to help the herbs hold on. Slow roast over a charcoal or wood fire (or in an oven) for five hours - if in an oven do this at 250 degrees. If using a fire, add things to make aromatic smoke - I used a branch of our California Pepperwood tree ( an extremely strong variety of Bay Laurel).

Serve with rice and Peach-Lavender Chutney.

Peach-Lavender Chutney



For the chutney, peel and slice up five fresh peaches - as local and fresh as you can get. In my case from Brentwood about 30 miles away. Meanwhile heat a little olive oil in a small pot on the stove and add a teaspoon of chilli flakes, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, a two-inch piece of fresh ginger finely dicedand cook until the seeds begin to brown. Then add a small red onion coarsely chopped and keep cooking until the onion starts to soften. At this point add a tablspoon of lavender flowers and take off the heat for a minute. Then add half a cup of peach juice and return to medium-low heat to simmer for fifteen minutes. Add about a teaspoon of salt to taste. Now take off the heat and stir in the peach slices and let sit in the stove in the pot to cool. Then transfer to a jar or bowl and refrigerate overnight or better, for three days, to let the flavors develop.

Everything in these dishes was local except the ginger, chilli flakes and possibly the fennel seeds.
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Honore Mendoza's Entry 
Honore is a previous entrant to the Paper Chef with his White Chocolate - Fruit and Nut Cheese Blintzes from May. Honore doesn't have his own blog on which to post, so I am putting his recipe up here. At this rate we'll soon have Honore setting up his own blog! Honore is a co-worker of Lyle's who is also a previous entrant to the Paper Chef.

This time around he is entering a Fruit and Flower Salad

Fruit & Flower Salad

Vinaigrette
1/2 C Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 C Lemon Infused Olive Oil
T or + Dried Chilies
2 cloves Garlic
3 T Chive Blossoms (flowers & leaves)

Layer salad as follows:

Bed of Baby Spinach
Sliced Peaches & figs
Slivered Almonds

Drizzle with Vinaigrette


Chives are from my herb garden
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Monday, August 08, 2005

Paper Chef Reminder 
Just a quick reminder. You have until tomorrow afternoon to get you entries in for the current Paper Chef. Jennifer is champing at the bit to judge. I know because she has already visited every entrant do far and left comments! Way to go!

I made something this time and if I get the chance I'll put up a description this morning. I can take photos but not until later. Plus since I can't enter officially it is just for fun. Here's what I made: Pork roast marinated in peach and lemon juice, rubbed with ground red chili flakes, ground coriander (from the garden), ground fennel seeds and kosher salt, then crusted with lavender and oregano flowers and fresh sage and smoked/roasted for five hours with the help of green California Pepperwood branches. I also made a peach, lavender, ginger, coriander and red onion chutney to go with it. Only non-local items used were the chili flakes, ginger and maybe the fennel seeds.
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Friday, August 05, 2005

Paper Chef #9 - The Local Edition 
It's time! I'm off on a work trip tomorrow, so the event starts early. It also gets to finish in a haphazard fashion since I will also be gone Monday evening and Tuesday so I think we'll have to say that entries can come in at any time up to Tuesday late afternoon Pacific Standard Time and I'll post a roundup on Wednesday.

To recap for newbies, visitors, etc. Here are the current rules...

[[NOTE - In honor of the local food challenge from Locavores (also see Life Begins At Thirty)I am going to decree that bonus points go to those who make an effort to get all their ingredients locally. ]]

For absolutely only the fun of it and for no other reason whatsoever, the Paper Chef challenges each and every one of you reading this to let loose your culinary imagination and make up a dish of your own. Loosely based on the ideas of the Iron Chef, fond TV favorite in the US and Japan, and on the British show Ready, Steady, Cook! (fond favorite in the UK), the Paper Chef is all about creativity and constraint, challenge and cooking.

Ingredients have been nominated by readers and three are randomly selected. A fourth gets picked by the host with a topical theme of some kind. Then you get a weekend (Friday Noon to Monday Noon) to make up a recipe, cook it and post the recipe to your blog. Then post a comment here or send an email to owenl1998 at yahoo dot com to be included in a roundup. The previous month's winner gets to be judge (and is ineligble that month) and gives out whatever kinds of awards they like.

I've had lots of questions about things like photographs. Photographs are NOT necessary to take part. Nor is having you own blog - I'll be happy to post a recipe for you if you want. However, it is clear that having a nice photograph will help influence the judges - if they see it looking good it is a lot easier to imagine it tasting looking good...

It is also absolutely OK to substitute if you just cannot find an ingredient or if you or someone who will eat the dish has an allergy - just try to substitute with something close to the original to remain in the spirit of the occasion.

The times are always the first Friday of the month, Noon PST until the following Monday Noon PST. However we aren't sticklers for timekeeping here - a little late and any excuse will do. A LOT late and you'll have to have a really good and creative one to do with cats pushing bowls off counters or the like.

So, the event is now open.

Our ingredients are:

1) Dried Chillies - oh the heat! Matches our current 100 degree weather (where I live, anyway).

2) Peaches - here in California we are still in the tail end of fresh peach season, but canned are fine too.

3) Edible flowers - any kind, but per Mrs. D's suggestion, lavender is considered an extra-special edible flower here.

4) The topical ingredient? Anything at all that really is local - the more local the better - and giving us all the source and distance from your house would be fun, too.

Have fun!
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Final list of nominated ingredients for Paper Chef Number 9 
Butter, asparagus, cured, aged ham (country not city), lemongrass, vinegar, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, dried chillies, sausage, dried fruit, berries, eggplant, summer squash, edible flowers, star anise, shrimp, scallops, cherries, peaches, wasabi, tomatoes, pears, fresh coconut, something you get from a neighbour's garden, walnuts and lavender.



The event itself will open very shortly...
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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Last Day For Paper Chef Ingredient Nominations! 
I have to travel for work so everything will happen a little early this week. Nominations close at midnight tonight and the final ingredients will be up shortly thereafter. So better get your skates on if you want to nominate an ingredient! Just post it in comments here!

The current ingredient list is:
Butter, asparagus, cured, aged ham (country not city), lemongrass, vinegar, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, dried chillies, sausage, dried fruit, berries, eggplant, summer squash, edible flowers, star anise, shrimp, scallops, cherries, peaches, wasabi, tomatoes, pears, fresh coconut, something you get from a neighbour's garden.
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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Eating Locally 
August. A local food group interested in promoting truly local food consumption for reasons of sustainability, practicality, the environment and, of course, freshness, has issued a challenge to one and all to eat locally - within 100 miles of where you live for the month of August.

That means, eat food grown or produced within that radius. Since this is a very difficult challenge, each participant is expected to set their own personal limits and exceptions. Of course, lots of food bloggers are taking part.

Here are my personal rules - rather lenient I'm afraid, but we have in-laws visiting for ten days and my capabilities will be stretched.

1 - I can use anything already in the house regardless of where it came from, BUT if there is a local potion I'll use it.

2 - Produce will all be local - apart from item 1 above. This'll be easy thanks to our CSA from Terra Firma Farms and thanks to farmers markets.

3 - spices and special seasonings will be local if possible (ie bay leaves from the tree behind the house, sorrel and thyme and oregano and lavender and tarragon and sage and mint and chives and basil from the yard, etc.) but don't have to be.

4 - Meat will be tough - I would avoid it if we didn't have visitors. I will promise to get local meat if that option is available to me. If not I will get the most sustainably produced meat I can.

5 - luxury items will be left out of the equation

6 - eating out doesn't count - fortunately for us, we eat out far far less than most families - at most once every two weeks. That'll go up while we have visitors - can't help that.


So those are my fast and loose rules. I should point out that these deviate very little from the rules we have lived and eaten by for the past seven years. On the whole we are pretty supportive of local food production. We have been CSA members for ten years. We buy local meat if we can. We grow a fair amount of our herbs and vegetables and fruit (peaches, lemons, apricots, strawberries, blackberries, arugula, sorrel, tomatoes so far this year). We walk and bike around town a lot. We make many of our sauces etc ourselves. We get honey from a local beekeeper. Etc.

Local is good. Local is fresh. Local is also high-quality since we live in California (that part isn't fair for people elsewhere).

In order to make up a little for not being as local as I should be, the Paper Chef is going to have a new wrinkle this month - bonus points for sourcing the ingredients for your recipe locally.
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Monday, August 01, 2005

Nominations Open For Paper Chef Number 9! 
[[NOTE - In honor of the local food challenge from Locavores (also see Life Begins At Thirty)I am going to decree that bonus points go to those who make an effort to get all their ingredients locally. ]]

It's time once again for the Paper Chef to ramp up into the wild culinary adventure that it is!

Since it has been some time since we formally revisited the rules and procedures of the Paper Chef, here they are.

For absolutely only the fun of it and for no other reason whatsoever, the Paper Chef challenges each and every one of you reading this to let loose your culinary imagination and make up a dish of your own. Loosely based on the ideas of the Iron Chef, fond TV favorite in the US and Japan, and on the British show Ready, Steady, Cook! (fond favorite in the UK), the Paper Chef is all about creativity and constraint, challenge and cooking.

About a week before the event opens, I post an ingredient list from previous events here at Tomatilla! Older ingredients fall off the list, as does anything that actually got used in an event. Those ingredients are 'banned' for a month just to prevent the choices being cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and...you get the idea. Any reader of the blog here or at the IMBB forum can nominate a new ingredient (one only please) and it can be anything within the bounds of good taste (both kinds). Three ingredients are chosen at random from the final list and the host (usually me but not always) picks one more ingredient that is topical or seasonal or that suits our whimsy. Then you get a weekend (Friday Noon to Monday Noon) to make up a recipe, cook it and post the recipe to your blog. Then post a comment here or send an email to owenl1998 at yahoo dot com to be included in a roundup. The previous month's winner gets to be judge (and is ineligble that month) and gives out whatever kinds of awards they like.

I've had lots of questions about things like photographs. Photographs are NOT necessary to take part. Nor is having you own blog - I'll be happy to post a recipe for you if you want. However, it is clear that having a nice photograph will help influence the judges - if they see it looking good it is a lot easier to imagine it tasting looking good...

It is also absolutely OK to substitute if you just cannot find an ingredient or if you or someone who will eat the dish has an allergy - just try to substitute with something close to the original to remain in the spirit of the occasion.

The times are always the first Friday of the month, Noon PST until the following Monday Noon PST. However we aren't sticklers for timekeeping here - a little late and any excuse will do. A LOT late and you'll have to have a really good and creative one to do with cats pushing bowls off counters or the like.

Past event roundups and winners are here:

Paper Chef #1: Cilantro, Ginger, Almonds and Winter Squash

The winner was Curried Chicken and Squash Soup with Meyer Lemon.

Paper Chef #2: Potatoes, Savoy Cabbage, Chicken and Lemon

The winner was Lemon Chicken Egg Rolls with Citrus Dipping Sauce.

Paper Chef #3: Wheat Flour, Cinnamon, Creme Fraiche and Oranges

The winner was Very Posh Cheese and Biscuits.

Paper Chef #4: Eggplant, chocolate, stale bread and pomegranate.

The winner was Cocoa-Pomegranate Roast Chicken with Eggplant Stuffing.

Paper Chef #5: Prosciutto, sherry vinegar, green garlic and goat cheese.

The winner was Garlic chive and Goat's Cheese Ravioli with Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Prosciutto Shards.

Paper Chef #6: Ricotta, strawberries, almond paste and white chocolate.
The winner was Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Ricotta-White Chocolate Gelato and Scented Madeleines.

Paper Chef #7: Buttermilk, Dates, Honey and Eggs.

The winner was Feta Souffle with Walnuts, Dates and Feisty Greens.

Paper Chef#8: Cheddar cheese, olives, spinach and either potatoes OR cream, not both.

The winner was Warm Spinach, Cremini, and Kalamata Salad with Creamy White Cheddar Dressing.



The current ingredient list is:
Butter, asparagus, cured, aged ham (country not city), lemongrass, vinegar, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, dried chillies, sausage, dried fruit, berries, eggplant, summer squash, edible flowers, star anise and shrimp.

So what are you waiting for? Nominate away!
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