I found this infographic by Sorelys Liendo about Venezuelan arepas floating around on Pinterest (follow ETW if you haven’t already!) and I thought it was too good not to share. Check out all of the combinations – including the viuda (widow) – which has no filling. Arepas are one of the most popular foods in Venezuela and consist of a fried or grilled masa pocket filled with…pretty much whatever you want, as the graphic demonstrates. Adriana Lopez has a great history of the arepa for the curious, and here is a simple recipe. They really couldn’t be easier to make.
Wow. It is definitely weird how much having a new full-time job affects your life. There’s a whole new schedule to figure out, there are weeks of intense training, there’s tests, new policies and procedures, new people, new office. . . well, you get the point. So my mind has been preoccupied lately, which explains the dearth of postings lately. Sometimes you just have to make a paid gig a priority! But I am sad that I’m probably gonna have to close up the bakery at this point. Just a sign o’ the times! Maybe I’ll just go super-super small-scale, although there is a limit to the amount of downsizing that you can do, especially if your workforce consists of one.
I could eat this everyday!
So this is my attempt at achieving some sense of normalcy — a return to blogging, a return to working out, a return to…
I’m a tonic man. Quinine and sugar are my friends. It’s bubbly, sweet, and glows in the dark. What could be better? My go to drink has always been a vodka (preferably Kettle One) and tonic.
Soda on the other hand. I loathe. Its a stain remover; its the basis of those fountain sodas. It tastes like carbon. Or something. I would never willingly order soda. Unless there was a stain.
I‘ve always assumed gin (and frankly, most vodka), that it’s about the same. It was clear, certainly got the job done, and you could mask it with anything. In college, plastic handles of Uncle Gordon’s Gin could be found littering our house. In fact, hangovers were referred to as “visits from Uncle Gordon”.
Enter Junipero Gin from SF’s Anchor Distillery. Its a craft gin that really changed my mind about what’s possible in a white liquor. Unlike Gordon’s, which had a strong smell of alcohol and and an astringency of juniper– Junipero is wonderfully complex. I thought, wow, that’s what Juniper tastes like?!!?! Give me more. There’s an herbal overtone that’s intriguing, a citrus delight that makes it refreshing– and a perfect summer drink.
I really thought this to be the pinnacle (and it’s very close) of Gin.
Then I met my new favorite uncle. Uncle Val’s. The bottle itself, is arresting. Everything about the design is simple, but elegant and thoughtful.
According to Maple Street, the blend was inspired by said uncle’s Italian garden and has juniper, sage, lavender, cucumber and lemon. That almost, slightly astringent medicinal botanical smell is palpable. When you taste it, the juniper flavor fades to the back and the citrus and sage, followed by cooling cucumber makes drinking it worth really savoring. Complex, not harsh, it needs no further adornment.
In fact. I had it a Uncle Val’s and soda (no lime), of all things. And it was actually deliciously unblemished.
As the national obsession with coconut continues, why not add it to a classic? Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (a slightly healthier alternative) serves in place of butter in this recipe (get it at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods) and the oats and coconut flakes add a really nice chew factor to the whole endeavor.
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of extra virgin coconut oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
8 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chips (use your judgment)
¼ cup unsweetened, untoasted coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 325.
Grind about a cup of the oats in the food processor; then add the remaining oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside.
Beat the coconut oil (which smells delicious) together with the brown and white sugars, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla extract and eggs and blend until smooth.
Continue beating and add the flour/oats/dry ingredients a little at a time until it’s well incorporated. Finally, fold in the chocolate and coconut flakes.
Using a cookie scoop (ok, fine, or a tablespoon) and plunk the cookies down on parchment paper. Since there is so much oatmeal and coconut oil has less fat, note that the dough will be drier than what you’re probably used to. If you find the dough falling apart a bit, just press each ball tightly so it comes together. Fret not, they’ll be delicious.
Its been a while since we last posted, but we are back and promise at least weekly updates (if not daily, but I don’t want to walk before I crawl, as they say.)
We recently has some friends over, and I wanted to try my hand at something that I have never done before…Polenta. I have always been afraid of tackling it mostly because, in my mind it is much harder than it actually is. I found a recipe that I was really interesting in trying and I have to say it turned out pretty amazing..(This recipe is pulled from the book “Fantastico! Little Italian Plates And Antipasti From Rick Tramonto’s Kitchen”)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Torn fresh basil
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. To make the ragu: Put the mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the wine over them. Set aside to soak and hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain, reserving both the mushrooms and the wine. Strain the wine through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois.
2. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, until lightly browned and much of the fat is rendered. Using a slotted spoon, lift the sausage from the pan and set aside. Add the pork and beef to the fat in the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, lift the meat from the pan and add it to the sausage. Leave the fat in the pan.
3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the reserved wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer briskly for about 3 minutes or until reduced by half.
4. Return the meat to the pan, season again with salt and pepper, and add the stock, tomatoes, basil, oregano, fennel, bay leaf, and reserved mushrooms. Simmer gently for approximately 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Skim any fat that rises to the top of the pan during cooking. Cover to keep warm and set aside.
5. To make the polenta: Put the stock and the cream in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly pour the polenta into the hot liquid, whisking briskly to prevent clumping. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.
6. Add the cheese and butter, stirring gently until incorporated.
7. Spoon a mound of soft polenta on each of 4 or 6 plates or shallow bowls. Ladle the ragu over the polenta and garnish with basil, parsley, and grated Parmesan.
For a while I have been thinking about starting a ‘Drinks’ section of the blog featuring some cocktails I have created, tried and enjoyed. Not to toot my own horn but after making us a pretty amazing cocktail while watching the Oscars yesterday I was inspired to finally start writing.
This is a pretty simple drink to make, for the rosemary smoke just take your spring and light the tip on fire, you are going to want to blow it out right away turn your glass upsize down and place your smoking rosemary sprig underneath. Keep the sprig and smoke trapped under the glass for about 2-3 min. While you wait place your other ingredients in a cocktail mixer and give it a good shake ( I kept the ice in the drink but it will be just as good severed without). Once your drink is mixed and your glass smoked pour the drink into the smoked glass (leaving the rosemary inside) lightly mix and enjoy. The rosemary will not add a lot in the way of flavor but will create a smokey herbal aroma while you are drinking it which almost makes you feel like you are having a cocktail next to a warm fire, Enjoy.
I’m a sucker for kitchen toys- from the wildly specific, and hilariously useless cantaloupe knief, to more useful things, like my pastry cutter/scooper I cannot live without.
After receiving the exhaustive encyclopedia (with a limited few recipes sprinkled in) called “Salted: A Manifesto” by Mark Bitterman, my interested in all sorts of gourmet salts and associated products has skyrocketed. Enter one such toy: the Himalyan Salt Plate (we got ours at Sur La Table).
It is a thing of absolute beauty, it’s solid, weighs a ton, really feels like a piece of a prehistoric mountain is on your counter. The advantages of cooking on a salt plate are that while it does take a long time to heat up, it will get very hot and retain it’s temperature for a very long time. Meaning, once hot, you could put it on the dinner table and let people cook their own food, for example.
It imparts a very subtle but delicious flavor on food, a mineral essence that is hard to place, but complex and delicious. As such, in general delicate foods, like the scallops we made pictured here, shrimp or fish is likely to be the most successful. The plate gets VERY hot, so the scallops really caramelized nicely. The amount of salt and minerals actually transferred to the food has to do with the amount of moisture on the plate, so you need to be a little careful with what you decide to cook on it. You can heat a salt plate on the grill, on a stovetop gas flame or in the oven. Note, however, that that very pretty plate does change colors once it’s been heated through.
In theory, salt is completely antibacterial, and all you have to do to clean it is to run it under warm water and dissolve/scrub off the top layer to clean it. They recommend that buy and keep a separate one to use for display/service purposes (cheese plate, raw veggies, etc.) – because– heat will crack and discolor it. Sadly, this is true. And cleaning it has turned out to be a lot more.. involved, and less productive, than I had hoped.
Still, for $30 bucks, this really is a show stopper for your next dinner party. And totally worthwhile to get one just for cold cuts, cheeses and other non-cooked things– since ours ended up kinda grungy looking.
P.S. The scallops were marinated in a ginger/soy/garlic glaze, patted dry, then seared.
Grazing Bears HQ. I was really intimidated by the idea of making risotto at home because I’ve seen enough Top Chef to know this is one dish where people get sent home. Frankly, I’m not sure what the big deal is.
It’s easy, rich, easy to course correct if things are going your way, and totally delicious.
Black or White Truffle oil or shaved truffles (optional, but sortof)
Small pot/small pan/large pan (preferably with high sides)
This is one recipe where advance prep does make things roll a bit faster. Dice up all your veggies so that they’re ready to roll. If your mushrooms have tough stems (they sometimes do, don’t throw them away, put them in the stock!).
Speaking of, put your stock on low on the stove so it starts warming up. Meanwhile, in a DRY pan with high sides, add your Arborio rice and put it on medium heat. You will want to gently toast the Arborio rice, until it starts to turn a little golden yellow, even some brown grains mixed in. You’ll also know its ready by the smell, suddenly it will blossom into this very nutty, earthy scent.
Once your risotto is ready, add a pad of butter and mix in some finely chopper shallots and garlic and stir. The rice will “fry” a bit, but keep an eye on your garlic. As soon as it looks soft, dump a generous amount of white wine over the whole concoction. It’ll sizzle and shutter, make sure to keep stirring and scrape up the bottom. From here on, risotto
making would be a bit dull. Now that your stock is warm, add about a ladleful over the rice and stir, once the liquid has been absorbed, repeat. And repeat. You’ll be amazed how much liquid the Arborio will absorb. Unlike what they say on tv, you do NOT need to stir every single moment – stir regularly, not constantly. Just make sure there’s enough liquid and that you have it on medium (not high) heat and you’ll be fine.
While adding liquid to your rice, you can get started on the mushrooms. In a separate pan, on medium heat, sauté your mushrooms with some butter, salt, and garlic. Finish with a little of the white wine. Once they’re nice and tender, they will have likely release some liquid (plus the white wine) transfer the ‘shrooms to a bowl and set aside. Add the liquid to
your risotto. In the same pan, you can also tenderize your leeks. Again, add a little butter, salt and garlic, and on LOW heat, let them get tender, golden, and buttery soft.
By now, it’s probably time to check the Arborio for doneness. Try a few grains- they should have a bit of a bite in the center, but not crunch. Al dente. Keep adding liquid and stirring regularly if it’s not quite there yet.
Once it’s very close, add a bit of milk or heavy cream (panna if you have it), and combine completely.
Add in your mushrooms and leeks, stir. Add in grated parm, stir. Serve, drizzle with black truffle oil or a ¼ teaspoon of shaved truffle. Have your mind blown. We had this particular batch with a bit of himalyan salt plate grilled shrimp.
Arancini, or little oranges, are so named for their shaped and color. I have another name for them, which may not be appropriate for this particular forum.
Risotto is one of my favorite, go to meals. While a little time consuming to prepare, it’s a totally doable weeknight, one dish dinner.
The question with risotto has always been, what to do with the leftovers? It’s not an easy food to reheat, and if you bother, you’ll likely be rewarded with a lukewarm, goey mess. Enter the arrancino. (Honestly, sometimes I make risotto just so I can have these).
Start with leftover risotto, any flavor will suffice, here, we used left over baby Portobello mushroom risotto. There are a lot of different recipes out there, but for once, I’ve taken the road of least resistance.
Put a heavy skillet on low heat with about ¼ of an inch or less of olive oil.
Make an egg wash with two eggs, a little milk, a drizzle of Worchester sauce, salt and pepper.
Using your hands, take a small, small golf ball sized ball of the cold risotto and pack tightly. Using your thumb, dig a little hole and drop in a mozzarella ball in. Close it up, and pack tightly using both hands, making sure that the mozzarella is completely covered by rice.
Gently roll in the egg wash, and immediately roll in the bread crumbs or panko. Repeat.
Once you have five or six, you can start pan frying them. I used tongs, to gently turn them, though if you press too hard you’ll end up with little squares or tetrahedrons (or just misshapen, like mine).
Once they are golden brown on all sides, drain them on a paper towel and they are ready to enjoy.
You could in theory put any kind of cheese inside (like blue) that makes sense, or just skip that step.
The result is a deliciously crunchy exterior with warm, creamy (mushroomy) risotto, followed up a melty mozzarella center. YUM!
There are some childhood memories that make you smile every time you think of it. My mom
making these “birthday” donuts is one of my fondest food memories.
The recipe was hidden away in my mother’s favorite wooden box, which has literally traveled the world and has been around much longer than me. The recipe card is actually older and came from a family friend who is no longer with us.
So. Invite a bunch of friends over. Have these donuts. Enjoy the decadence of yesteryear and make your own donut hole memories.
PS. I hear a RUMOR, that it is possible to bake these. Like, in an oven. While we at grazing bears would never condone baking when frying is clearly the better tasting option (see: Venezuelan Arepas), feel free to experiment with that if you are so inclined.
“Special” Equipment you’ll need:
Donut cutter (or use a drinking glass and a coke bottle top OR two buiscut cutters in the right sizes from Sur La Table)
A VERY large bowl
1 ½ TABLEspoons dry yeast (about 1½ packets)
¾ cup warm (NOT hot) water
2 cups milk
½ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup mashed potatoes (either left over from dinner, or made fresh- ok, or cheat, and make instant mashed potatoes)
2 cups flour
1 beaten egg
5 ½ cups flour
Flour for sprinkling
Simple Glaze1/4 cup of milk
1-2 cups of powdered sugar
To start, make sure your kitchen is warm. Sounds silly, but temp is important. If it’s not warm, turn the oven on for the duration.
Combine yeast and water in a small cup or bowl, make sure the east is fully incorporated with no lumps, set aside in a WARM place. In a small pan, bring to a NEAR boil the milk, sugar, butter, salt and mashed potatoes. Do not allow it to actually boil, just to a simmer, and remove from heat. Let cool until it’s warm enough to put your finger in it without scalding, but it should still be warm.
Add to mixer bowl and mix in 2 cups of flour and beaten egg and mix until very smooth. The dough will be wet like a cake batter, but don’t be alarmed. Add the yeast and water mixture (which should have already risen a bit) and STIR well.
Set aside for 20-30 min. The dough will visibly rise during this time, but probably not dramatically. Now, transfer to a very large bowl and, using a wooden spoon, and then your hands, incorporate the 5 ½ cups of flour.
The dough will be incredibly sticky. Like, very very sticky. Once it’s all nicely incorporated, cover with a towel and
let it rest in a warm place.
Let rise for 30 – 45 min. If you have other things to do, now is a good time.
Using a sharp knife, slice off about a third of the dough and cover the rest.Once you’re ready to get started (dough can sit for a long while if you need more time for whatever it is you’re doing), get your work surface ready by sprinkling a little flour. Remember, that dough is sticky!
With a floured rolling pin (or whatever), GENTLY flatten/roll the dough out- to about a ½ inch or less thickness.
Dipping your biscut cutter in flour each time, cut out the donut shapes. You will end up with many more holes than actual donuts, try to use as much of the dough as possible.
Set the cut donuts aside, or if you have help, have one person start frying while you repeat the rolling/cutting process. Make sure you aside the scraps, these can be reformed into a ball and re-cut.
The donuts will fry very quickly. Make sure there is enough oil in the pan so that they do NOT TOUCH THE BOTTOM, otherwise that spot will burn.
While the donuts are still hot, glaze them in either a simple melted powdered sugar glaze, roll in sugar and cinnamon or try something chocolate or fruit.
The donuts by themselves are not very sweet- so feel free to embellish!