Flip past the glistening French apricot-almond tart, the write-up on a London cookbook author’s kitchen re-do and the tasting notes for German kölsch in the newest issue of Saveur magazine, and things start to look closer to home.
Page 62: “Salad Social: Lawrence is the potluckiest town in America.”
The piece by Lawrence food writer Kerri Conan is part of the magazine’s anchor feature about food in the heartland, “Bountiful Prairie.” Conan zooms in on the color, freshness and friendliness encountered at a summertime salad potluck at the former home of beat writer William S. Burroughs (a house now occupied by chef Tom King, its resident caretaker). Accompanying photos and recipes from King’s guests include Curried Potato Salad from Lawrence restaurant owner Subarna Bhattachan, Conan’s own Lentil and Beet Salad with Lavender-Mustard Vinaigrette, and Lawrence resident Neal Ballard’s Summer Succotash Salad.
Pictures smattering the Kansas section of the feature also include a colorful bunch of carrots at the Farmers' Market and teenagers smooching in the back of a pickup (page 55). Tonganoxie resident Christina Rafols shares her cooking inspiration and recipe for corn casserole, and chefs Colby and Megan Garrelts of Leawood’s Rye restaurant share several sweet and savory recipes such as the Extra-Crispy Fried Chicken pictured on the cover of the magazine. There are also features and recipes from farther out in the state, plus tales and tastes from Oklahoma and Nebraska.
Saveur’s August/September “Best Comfort Food” special issue hit newsstands yesterday — look for that crispy fried chicken. At least some of the content should be online soon at Saveur.com.
Try something unusual or know of something interesting going on at a Lawrence restaurant? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Twitter @saramarieshep. For more local food and restaurant news, click here.
Wallace Cochran of the Merc will seek to defend his Chefs Challenge champion title Friday evening at the Douglas County Fair. This year’s cook-off will feature Cochran with Michael Beard of 715, 715 Massachusetts St., and T.K. Peterson of Merchants Pub and Plate, scheduled to open in August at 746 Massachusetts St.
Each chef will have 30 minutes to prepare a seasonal dish featuring locally sourced ingredients straight from county farms and 4-H'ers. They’ll start cooking at 6 p.m. in the shelter area of the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St. Judging — which includes an audience participation score — will wrap up by 7:30 p.m.
The Douglas County Food Policy Council sponsors the Chefs Challenge, and representatives will be on hand from farmers markets, grocery stores and educational groups to promote buying and eating local from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Kansas, and Douglas County in particular, has a rich agricultural history,” County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said in an event announcement. “The county fair provides a great opportunity to celebrate all types of agriculture — from livestock, to crops, to fruits and vegetable production. We hope the Chefs Challenge will highlight our talented local farmers, chefs and 4-H participants, and help connect people to the source of their food.”
I could write pages about how crazy my Christmas Eve/Christmas Day working/celebrating/driving/cooking schedule ended up this year, but I’ll stick to the part that involves juniper berries.
Long story short, I had to find a fairly simple slow-cooking recipe for Christmas dinner, or else. Regular pot roast didn’t seem special enough, and making braised lamb shanks was tempting but seemed daunting for six. When I found this recipe for baeckeoffe — a traditional Alsatian stew of lamb, pork and beef marinated a full day in wine — I knew it would be perfect. I also knew I didn’t have time to go on a wild goose chase for juniper berries, a key ingredient, but figured surely Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza (where we were headed for a pre-Christmas family outing anyway) would have some somewhere. Williams-Sonoma, $5, bingo!
I ended up with a fantastic, hearty Christmas dinner (which, sadly, I didn’t have time to take pictures of) — and a jar of juniper berries I hadn’t even put a dent in.
Last weekend I took to the web to find out what else I could make with the strange little spheres, which taste like pine tree if eaten whole but are much more subtle ground up or used for flavoring only, like dried bay leaves. Juniper berries — which provide the predominant flavor in gin — turned up in all kinds of European roasts and wild game dishes (which makes sense because of the woodsy flavor), plus a couple desserts that, honestly, didn’t sound very good.
This Italian pork roast, which I cooked for dinner Sunday, was delicious, super-easy and definitely worth sharing. I threw in potatoes and baby carrots for the last half hour of cooking to make a full meal.
The only problem? Even after using extra in the recipe — and having some roll away while taking photos — I still have an awful lot of juniper berries. I'm not sure about the practicality of nasturtiums in a gin and tonic, but if I decide to try this very tempting-looking one, at least I have the juniper berries.
Pork Roast Braised with Milk and Fresh Herbs (Maiale al Latte)
Simmering a pork roast with milk and a generous handful of herbs results in very tender meat with rich, silky juices. Many Italians will leave the milk curds that form alongside the meat where they are, but Ferrigno strains them out for a more refined sauce.
Start to finish: 3 ¼ hours (25 minutes active)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (4 1/2- to 5-pound) boneless pork shoulder roast (without skin), tied
3 juniper berries, crushed
2 large rosemary sprigs
2 large sage sprigs
1 sprig fresh or 4 dried California bay leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 F with rack in middle.
Heat oil in a wide 5- to 6-quart ovenproof heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers, then lightly brown roast on all sides with juniper berries and herbs, 8 to 10 minutes total. Add garlic and sprinkle roast with sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then cook until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Pour wine over roast and briskly simmer until reduced by half. Pour milk over roast and bring to a bare simmer.
Cover pot and braise in oven, turning roast occasionally, until tender (milk will form curds), 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Transfer roast to a carving board and loosely cover. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl (discard solids), reserving pot, and skim off fat. Return juices to pot and boil until flavorful and reduced to about 2 cups. Season with sea salt and pepper. Slice roast and serve moistened with juices.
Note: The pork can be braised 1 day ahead and chilled in liquid, uncovered until cool, then covered. To serve, bring to room temperature, then reheat and proceed with recipe.
(Recipe by Ursula Ferrigno from April 2008 issue of Gourmet, as listed at epicurious.com)
On Saturday, over in Johnson County, a library is playing host to what has to be one of the more unusual events they’ve had.
Butcher and charcuterier Alex Pope will butcher half a hog (like a side of beef, only pork) in a public demonstration beginning at 2 p.m. at the Johnson County Central Resource Library, 9875 W. 87th St., Overland Park. Pope owns Kansas City, Mo.’s, Local Pig, an artisan meat-cutting and sausage shop dedicated to locally and humanely raised meats including beef, pork, chicken, duck, turkey, quail, rabbit, lamb and goat.
The library promises real knives, real meat. All ages are welcome, though parental discretion is advised. The event is free, and registration is not required.
But wait — there is a connection between beast and books. Pope “learned his trade in the best way,” the library announcement says, “by reading books.”
During the event, Pope is expected to talk about how meat makes it from farm to table, demonstrate his butchering techniques and share what he learned about the trade from reading books.
The library provides this link to some of Pope’s favorite food titles.
I’ve undoubtedly eaten more than my fair share of Nutella on its own — on ice cream, toast, crepes, fruit, by the spoonful and (I confess!) straight off a knife — but never baked with it.
On the one hand, I’ve always thought, it’s kind of expensive and so decadent, why waste it by mixing it with other things? On the other hand, I mulled as I recently dipped crackers in it for the first time, wouldn’t some kind of salty-sweet dessert with Nutella and pretzels be awesome?
Envisioning gloops of Nutella and chunks of pretzels just needing some kind of something to hold them together, I pulled up a handful of Nutella recipes online but found none like what I had in mind. So I came up with my own.
These cookie bars (inspired by the Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from September’s Kansas University tailgating food story) have mini pretzels and white chocolate chunks in the cookie dough. Not wanting to dilute the Nutella by stirring it into anything, or risk it being smeared away from the top or bottom of a cookie, it’s scooped straight out of the jar and sandwiched safely between layers of dough.
This probably goes without saying, but these are extra good with a glass of milk.
PRETZEL-NUTELLA BARS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE CHUNKS
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Servings: 18 bars
1 box yellow cake mix
1/2 cup canola oil
2 1/2 cups mini pretzels, broken
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 jar (13 ounces) Nutella
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl, stir together cake mix, oil and eggs. Mix in pretzels and white chocolate chunks. In a greased 9-by-13-inch pan, press three-fourths of the dough into the bottom. Bake 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.
Spread Nutella over top of partially cooked dough. Drop remaining dough over the top. Bake 20 minutes more, or until top is lightly browned. Cool and use a sharp knife to cut into bars.
Until a few weeks ago, I knew sumac as a vigorous weed that grows in the ditches alongside Kansas highways and turns bright red in the fall.
It turns out, Middle Eastern people have known for hundreds, if not thousands, of years that dried and ground berries of the sumac plant make a tasty addition to food (not necessarily Kansas ditch-sumac, there are many varieties of the species). I've since noticed that Aladdin Cafe has a dish called Sumac Chicken on the menu, too.
My friend recently hosted a Turkey-themed dinner party (not random, she was just back from a three-week trip there) where she and her husband made main courses for the feast and assigned side dishes to the rest of us. My assignment was Shepherd’s Salad, with a note saying I didn’t have to use the sumac the recipe called for if I didn’t have any.
Of course, I didn’t have any (I didn’t even know what it was). But of course, I was curious. I Googled, determined I could surely find some in bulk at a Middle Eastern market in Kansas City, and wasn’t disappointed — only $2 for a big scoop, too!
The flavor is bright and citrusy, a little like coriander but more earthy. The color is a beautiful deep purpley-red.
Everyone liked this fresh pretty dish, which works as a salad alongside kebabs, lamb or fish, or an an appetizer or snack with crusty bread (to soak up the juice!).
TURKISH SHEPHERD’S SALAD
2 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 large cucumber, diced
1 Anaheim pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon sumac
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Place all vegetables in a medium sized salad bowl. Add sumac, salt, pepper and mint. Toss. Drizzle with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Chill until ready to serve.
(Recipe adapted from giverecipe.com and english.turkishcookbook.com.)