Tag Archives: mint

Denver Beer is a whole other story.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“Good Lord! This recipe looks ugly.” You’ve said that before, and you’re about to say it again. This hors d’oeuvre has lots of ingredients, many steps and big, scary challenges like homemade mayonnaise. It’s time to channel Dr. Bob Nakosteen. Dr. Bob was my econ and stats professor during my MBA program. One day, he explained why we hate math.

“When we read a paragraph of prose,” said Dr. Bob, “it contains a certain amount of information. Our brains have gotten pretty comfortable with that ratio of text to info. Math, on the other hand,” he said, “contains a lot more info per character. In fact, a line of mathematical symbols could contain as much information as one or several paragraphs of prose. This is when your head explodes.”

The key is to take a deep breath, change the speed on the record, and break the problem down.

Recipes are the same. The purée mashes together peas and sautéed shallot, simmered in a little stock to add depth and liquid, and seasoned with mint. The vinegar balances the slightly cloying sweetness of peas.

Mayo is simply oil whisked into egg yolks, using mustard to hold it together and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and wasabi. We chill the seared steak in the freezer so it is firm enough to slice thinly. Then we put it all on toast.

That’s it. Two really short paragraphs that translate  all those steps and ingredients below. Sure, it’s four recipes in one (if you count toast), but you can do it. Plus, it looks and sounds really impressive, just like math, so you can tell your friends just how amazing you are. That, my friends, is worth a toast (with a Denver Beer – you’ll have to ask Dr. Bob about that too.).

*Shout out to the Isenberg School of Business at UMASS

Berbere beef crostini with wasabi mayonnaise and minted pea purée

Ingredients:

Minted pea purée

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1# bag frozen peas
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 1-2 tbs Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*

Wasabi mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks**
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tbs wasabi powder or wasabi paste

To assemble

  • 1# sirloin steaks, about 1-1.5″ thick
  • 1-2 tbs Berbere seasoning*
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 baguette cut in 1/4″ slices

*Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar is slightly sweet and mildly acidic. I would substitute a splash of sherry vinegar. Berbere is a complex spice blend unique to Ethiopian and Eritrean food. It’s got a lot of ingredients, but you can make a simple start with equal parts cumin, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cayenne and paprika. 

**The egg yolks in homemade mayonnaise are not cooked. There is some risk here, just like crossing the street or bungee jumping. Buy your eggs farm-fresh from someone you trust. If there are special health risks you are worried about, talk to your doctor or use store-bought mayo and mix in the wasabi powder.

Directions:

Make the pea puree:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced shallot and sauté until softened.
  • Add peas and cook 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add mint. stir through and turn off heat.
  • Mash peas in a food mill or a mortar and pestle. You want a little texture to remain. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper. The sweetness of the peas should be light, not cloying.

Make the wasabi mayonnaise

  • Whisk together egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, until yolks are thick and sticky, about 30-60 seconds.
  • Whisk in oil, a couple drops at a time, until mayonnaise starts to form. Add remaining oil in a thin stream until incorporated. Mayonnaise can feel quite thick.
  • Whisk in wasabi. Let rest in fridge. Before serving, season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if needed.

Season and sear the beef

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cut sirloin into 2″ wide strips. Pat dry and season with salt, pepper and Berbere. The Berbere will need to be a thick rub, because the flavor will only come from the outside of the thinly sliced steak.
  • Add 1 tbs vegetable oil to the pan. Heat to almost smoking and add the beef, searing on all sides for 1-2 minutes, until browned.
  • Remove beef to a plate, tent and let cool to room temp. Place in freezer until firm, but not frozen. Using a sharp knife, cut beef into the thin slices, 1/4″ or less.

Make crostini

  • Place baguette slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned. Remove and let cool. (That was easy!)

Assemble

  • Check the seasoning on the pea puree and the wasabi mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper, wasabi, vinegar etc… as needed.
  • Spoon the mayonnaise into a ziplock bag or piping bag. Cut a tiny point off the corner of the bag.
  • Top each crostini with a tbs of pea purée. Place a slice of beef over the peas. Pipe a thin stream of mayonnaise over the beef.
  • Eat them all because they are so delicious. Make another batch for your guests. Or just bust out the Brie and crackers.
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All the fond memories that eggplant has inspired.

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Does anyone have any really cute stories about eggplant? I’m at a loss. Sure, Mom made eggplant parmesan when we were kids and it was good. I can’t get enough Thai eggplant with Thai basil – in fact I had some last night – but that’s hardly an endearing memory.

Here’s the best I’ve got: Eggplant is from the family Solanaceae which includes tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and other members of the nightshade family. It is susceptible to many of the same pests and diseases including soil borne fungi. For that reason, farmers have to rotate crops and let several years pass between growing more eggplant  in the same soil. Fascinating, right?

When I was a young plant nerd selling super-cool plants for Quansett Nurseries, I had the opportunity to meet Victory Garden host, Roger Swain. Trust me kids, this is like sitting next to Justin Bieber on the bus. He told me about a process they had developed in Japan to graft disease-resistant root stock onto eggplant plants to avoid the need for crop rotations, AND they were doing this with robots. Cue the fainting couch – I was over-nerded. (This is like playing video games on your couch with Grant Morrison while talking about his runs on Animal Man and Doom Patrol – freakin’ cool, right?)

So, no fond memories behind this dish. It’s adapted from my vegetarian cookbook girlfriend* Deborah Madison, and the combination is inspired.

*To be clear, a “cookbook girlfriend” is an author whose recipes I feel a strong connection with. I have never actually met her.

Sweet And Sour Eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2” x 2” sticks
  • 1 red onion, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper and Blackberry Vinegar*
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbs. mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Olive oil

*From Sapore of course! Buy it online here or substitute a good, complex Sherry vinegar.

Directions:

  • Sprinkle eggplant with 1 tbs salt. After 30 minutes, rinse and pat dry. This takes the bitterness out of the eggplant and makes it easier to brown.
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Sauté eggplant for 12-15 minutes until browned on all sides. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in 1 tbs olive oil until softened and starting to brown on edges.
  • Turn up heat, add vinegar, honey and tomato. Cook, stirring frequently until vinegar evaporates, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Stir in eggplant, mint and cheese.
  • Sweet and sour is all about the flavor balance between sugar, salt and acidity. Check the flavor and add vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed.

“I’ll take the light potato salad, please.”

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With each new summer cookout, looms the threat that someone is going to show up with those clear plastic containers from the deli counter of potato salad, macaroni salad and coleslaw. Now, rumor has it that these salads actually  contain potatoes, macaroni and cabbage, but the protective coating of mayonnaise obscures any possible proof.

Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole, but most summer cookouts abound with rich, grilled meats and sauces, toasted buns and baskets of chips and dip. What I want from my salad is something light and bright to balance the plate, and a gloopy heap of mayonnaise just doesn’t cut it. Enter the “French” potato salad.

Like may other American “French” delicacies like fries, toast and dressing, I’m not sure how french this is, but I think they would approve. Boiled potatoes are tossed, still warm, in a sharp, buttery vinaigrette, with garlic or shallots and fresh herbs. They soak up the dressing and releasing the flavorful oils from the greens; exactly what you want sitting next to your burger, hanger steak or chicken thighs, complete with flawless grill marks.

This is a recipe I served at Eastern Market recently, but experiment throughout the summer. Toss with halved cherry tomatoes and basil, use fresh tasting tarragon and shallots, baby arugula or minced red peppers. But please, I’ll take my potato salad without mayonnaise. and I like my burgers rare.

French Potato Salad with Mint and Garlic Scapes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups small potatoes
  • 3 tbs mint
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic scapes

For dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup Koroneiko Olive Oil*
*More magical ingredients from Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Champagne or white wine vinegar can replace the Champagne Mimosa. The Koroneiko Olive Oil is Greek. Mild and grassy. Substitute another high-quality olive oil.

Directions:

  • Boil potatoes in salted water until still firm but can be easily pierced through to the center with the tip of a knife. Drain potatoes.
  • Meanwhile, mince garlic and mash it into a paste with coarse sea salt. Whisk with Champagne Mimosa Vinegar. Season with pepper. Set aside.
  • Mix mint and garlic scapes in a salad bowl.
  • Cut warm potatoes in 1” pieces – halved or quartered – and toss with mint and garlic scapes. The heat will release oils in the mint.
  • Whisk oil into vinegar mixture in a steady stream until creamy. Toss with potatoes. Dress lightly so not to overpower the other flavors.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional mint.