Archive for the ‘Essential Ingredients’ Category

Fall signs. Last Hatch chiles. Freeze ‘em!

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Green chile is a fall tradition, there’s still time to hit the road looking for chile stands. In the Denver area try Federal Blvd, about anywhere from Thornton south, just follow your nose. The less adventurous can consult Denver Green Chili, a great listing of chile stands in the Denver metro area. I’ve always been partial to Hatch Medium chiles, so I was happy to pick up one of the last half bushels of the season from Hilltop Gardens at Federal & 96th.

After selection, the chiles were roasted on the spot then sealed in a plastic bag. Chilies are generally peeled before use, about 30 minutes steaming in the bag leaves them in optimum peeling condition.  Apparently some purists freeze without peeling, but I prefer to get the hard work out of the way by peeling and portioning the harvest up front. As in all things, your mileage may vary, but it certainly saves time later.

Peeling a half bushel is nothing to an aficionado, but it’s a daunting task if you do it only once or twice a year. I recommend using a sharp knife to scrape off the charred skin, then cut off the stem end but leave the chile whole. Chiles freeze well in any size Ziploc bag, but for maximum flexibility I put about half in 8 oz. portions in quart bags and the remaining half with 4 oz. portions in sandwich-sized bags. For best results use freezer bags and squeeze out any excess air before sealing.


Hilltop Gardens

Anson Mills. Organic heirloom grains. Best grits.

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Anson Mills, founded in 1998, is a small mill in South Carolina that is dedicated to supplying the finest organic heirloom varieties of grits, polenta, cornmeal, rice, flours, oats, buckwheat and farro. Especially grits, Anson’s are the darling of so many “New Southern” restaurants around the country: now Shrimp and Anson Farms Grits is almost a menu cliché. Happily, Anson also does a brisk internet business selling to grain lovers everywhere.

This is the source for connoisseurs of grits: Anson’s offerings range from quick cooking varieties to “antebellum” grits that replicate the very grits that might have graced Scarlett O’Hara’s breakfast table. Also exceptional are the polentas, these often much fresher that Italian imports, and the otherwise hard-to-find Carolina Gold rice and farro.

The web site also has a terrific collection of recipes showcasing the various products.

Thick, rich. Fage Greek yogurt. Say “FAY-yeh.”

Monday, May 5th, 2008

Fage YogurtFage yogurt will change your life. Like most all Greek yogurt, it is strained to remove most of the whey; the result is thick and creamy beyond belief. Available at Whole Foods in “Classic” (full-fat), 2%, and 0% (non-fat), even the 0% makes all other yogurt seem thin and flavorless. The culinary possibilities are many: use it to replace crème fraîche or sour cream in any recipe, and with a light touch substitute for butter or heavy cream in others.

La Quercia. Iowa or Italy? Try “Crumble.”

Monday, April 21st, 2008

La QuerciaLa Quercia are a group of fanatics making world-class cured pork products in Iowa. Their Prosciuttos and other cured meats are on par with the best of Italy, and some feel that they outshine anything that is imported into the US.

Quite ingeniously, the trimmings from these noble salumi do not go to waste: La Quercia coarsely chops and packages these as Prosciutto and Speck “Crumble.” This is pure evil-genius stuff: a tablespoon or two of your newest secret ingredient will effortlessly add an astonishing depth of flavor  to egg dishes, soups, and pasta.

La Quercia’s products are used and endorsed by a veritable who’s who of American chefs, see their  website for much more information. Prosciutto (in many variations), Speck, Pancetta, and Guanciale are all available, but an excellent place to start is with a “Kitchen Sampler” which includes smaller quantities of Pancetta, Guanciale, and Prosciutto and Speck “Crumble.”


La Quercia