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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rhubarb Strawberry Coffee Cake with Buttermilk Ice Cream

There is a special season that only lasts a few weeks every year and I'm not talking about summer in Chicago. That old adage 'if you blink you will miss it' has never been more appropriate than when talking about rhubarb season.

April showers bring May flowers and pretty red stalks of crisp Rhubarb. So many people think they don't like this fruit disguised vegetable; often it's their own preconceived notions or the reminisce of some disgusting goo made by a distant aunt that slithered away on its own accord, just like in the movie Better Off Dead.

This is nothing like that and the only place the cake is going in your belly. Strawberry and rhubarb are a natural combination; the striking part of the dish comes when that tart, sweet flavor meets the tangy buttermilk ice cream. It turned out so much better than planned that I offered to make it the very next weekend for another party.

It was a good week snacking on this ice cream and cake combination until a trip to the store turned up an empty rhubarb shelf. Rhubarb hunting I went. The next store and the next were all out. The season came and went in less than 2 weeks; looking back I should be happy I was able to bag any.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cumin-scented Apple Cheese Pie Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche is a funny name. It rolls off the tongue okay, but it ultimately comes out like a drunken sailor attempting to fit in at a ladies afternoon tea party.

It's a single, bite sized appetizer that is meant to 'amuse' the palate; to tempt the senses for more. Often these are free tokens offered before your meal or between entrees which can help to set the tone of what is to come.

It can also be nothing more than showmanship of a chef's oversized ego as well.... but I love the hell out of these singular bites of intense flavors.

This can be an easy way to elevate your party and sneak in another nosh without adding a full course to the dinner. But don't be fooled at their tiny size, they can become as much work as your main entree if you let them.

This amuse bouche spoon of sauteed apple meets savory cumin and creamy triple cheese is a fun and simple tempting bite that could be used before a meal or maybe leading into a dessert course. It's a play on the Midwest tradition of adding a slice of cheddar cheese to your apple pie and it's just fun.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Homemade Wheat Crackers

These are not a light, super crispy saltine-like cracker. That's important only after you understand that I set out to make a saltine cracker for my sick beau.

The crackers are still good, they just turned out more like a wheat thin. A tasty, tasty wheat thin. Using white wheat lour instead of all purpose white flour deepened these crackers in appearance, depth and flavor.

This really couldn't be a simpler dough and process. The most difficult part is rolling out the dough as it tends to be on the crumbly side, unless you added a pinch too much water, then the dough might be on the soft side. Just have patience. And remember that little cracks in the final product makes it look more rustic.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spicy Strawberry and Mint Grilled Cheese Quesadilla Sandwich

You decide to have a party for Cinco de Mayo- yet your Southern friends want to know if they can view the Kentucky Derby as well? Could be a fun mix of cultural exploration. But how are you going to pull off the the food and drink to satisfy both?

Margaritas and stuffed pork quesadillas versus mint juleps and Benedictine cucumber sandwiches. Of course, we all know each event has an immense more to offer than tacos and bourbon, but today we are seeking one recipe that can tie them together seamlessly. 

This Spicy Strawberry and Mint Grilled Cheese Quesadilla Sandwich is a crazy exploration into marrying these two festivities through one recipe. Imagine you are walking around the party while munching on a warm, cheesy quesadilla and you trip - but catch yourself by landing your cheese filled hand into a fellow party-goer's mint julep, which proceeds to knock into a bowl of fresh strawberries. Yup, that's what this is. Cue the fireworks.

Sure it's far fetched, but it could happen. More important is the how the warm Grand Marnier kissed goat cheese envelopes the sweet strawberries and fresh mint. Simple toasted walnuts add a touch of luxury and refinement to the sandwich while the spicy jalapeno jelly lingers on the tongue. I know it sounds odd, but it's a fun little appetizer; could even be a light lunch on the right day.


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