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Food and Sports….Let the Eating Begin

Rah! Rah! Rah!  Sports and parties have been synonymous since the turn of the 20th century.  The type of sport, football, hockey,

Tailgaiting!

Tailgaiting!

baseball or basketball does not matter.  What matters is the gathering of friends and family to partake in great food, and usually some beverages as well. But as the Superbowl and March Madness approach us, I am often asked what is the best food to serve at such a festivity.

What started out with a few sandwiches and a couple of beers before one’s favorite game has evolved into a great American eat out celebrating sporting traditions everywhere. Whether you are planning on firing up the grill or having all your friends bring their favorite dishes, we are here to help you make the most of your next sporting feast!

Olives and Salami tray

Olives and Salami tray

Regardless of the plan there are always a few key thoughts that are in common; everyone wants great flavor profiles, easy to prepare items, and little to no hassle. The LJ Says serve as much finger food as possible. Nobody wants a sit down down, 4 course meal while rooting for their favorite team. Nor do they have to worry about how to get the beverage absorbing substance in their bodies. Grazing is the name of this game, so make a buffet table that is as easy to access as a velcro fly.

The advice for all you sports fanatics is to ensure that your hot food stays hot and cold food stays cold. The last thing that you want is to have any of your guests get sick. So bring out crock pots and have lots of ice on hand.

Here are a few of my favorite and easy party finger foods!

Drumettes Teriyaki Sauce

1/3 cup soy sauce

2 Tablespoons Sugar

¼ cup shire-mirin (sweet rice wine)

¼ teaspoon of minced scallions

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

½ teaspoon fresh garlic, minced

1 cup chicken stock

5 pounds of chicken drumettes

To make sauce, combine above ingredients in a pan, bring to a simmer, cook 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place drumettes in a baking dish, glaze the chicken and bake until they are done.

Stuffed Mushrooms

3 dozen button mushrooms

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup minced onion

1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning

8 ounces cream cheese

Bread Crumbs

¼ cup fresh parmesan cheese

Wash mushrooms and separate caps from stems.  While caps are drying, place stems in a food processor and chop until very fine.  In sauté pan on medium heat add olive oil, chopped mushroom stems, garlic, onion, and Italian seasoning.  Saute until onions are translucent in color.  Add cream cheese and stir until melted.  Add just enough bread crumbs to absorb any oil remaining.  Stuff mushroom caps with cream cheese filling, sprinkle fresh parmesan over mushrooms and bake for 20 – 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve warm

Gardening for the Apocalypse

ZVine ripened tomatoombies, Flooding, and Polar Shift…OH MY!  Do I believe that December 21, 2012 will be the last day on Earth…no…not sure…perhaps? But what I do believe is that as a country we have seen some major screw-ups in the monetary realm. Food prices are through the roof! Ok let me rephrase … good healthy food that is not filled with shit from some factory that is concerned with profit margins. Fresh veggies that have not been engineered in some lab, but grown in fresh air and sunlight and picked when ripe and at their peak flavor and have the most nutrients.

Let’s see if I can give you an example: Hell yes I have an example! If a lab creates a plant that will kill a bug when eats it what do you think that same plant does to a human body. Yes, yes…I know I am a chef not a scientist; in fact an artsy fartsy chef that believes food should be that of quality not bulk. Oh, I can hear it now…”But LJ you have worked with big business, you promoted [insert]! Yeah I may or may not have, but what I can say is I make choices in my life, what and where I eat. I never roll up to a speaker and yell my “Faux Food” order as someone nukes it into a recognizable form.

By controlling whom I spend my money is an important statement as I buy food. I believe local is best! You have a choice; but remember if as chefs (and consumers) as we support the local farmer they in turn are more likely to eat at our restaurant. Some of you may feed the top of the food chain with the corporate manufactures of food; but for the rest of us the little old lady that grows 75 tomato plants and only needs one maybe the person you buy from. She may come in for a cup of soup from those tomatoes that you bought from her. That’s what I call making the world go round!

I have ran kitchens, so I get food cost and know how difficult it can be to make budget and buy local this is why I garden (and of course in case of the zombies!).

When was the last time a big food purveyor came to you with that days cut lettuce? Or a bucket of fresh still warmed from the sun raspberries? This makes a different in your food flavors. We (I include myself) have been trained that a gassed tomato tastes just fine. This is sad! A real vine ripened tomato is magical. The texture to flavor is so vastly different. Plant a tomato in a bucket if that is all the room you have; but do yourself a favor and understand where your food comes from!

Meat had a face and I am good with that; but I have had people tell me they never thought about the killing or the butchery of the meat. Really, where have you been?!?!? We have become lost as eaters and we must understand food from the roots (pun absolutely intended). I know not everyone is able to kill the animal or butcher, but please understand that someone has to do it. Take the imitative to find out where your food comes from, and thinking the local big box supermarket isn’t the answer.

One of my favorite things to grow is tomatoes. My grandma was an avid gardener and grew tomatoes and cucumbers. She had lots of flowers too. My passion for playing in the dirt started as a boy in her backyard, but my love of watching something grow and then turning it into delicious table faire took longer to understand. Grandma nurtured my understanding and love for gardening just as she did with her garden and showed me how significant growing my own food was to my life.

In honor of my Grandma and perhaps the Apocalypse here is a quick and easy dressing. Use it on your fresh greens or as a marinade, either way the fresh and vibrant flavor will have you licking your lips.

Fire Roast Tomato Vinaigrette

2 Whole Tomatoes; medium to large and spray oiled

1 Tablespoon Minced Shallots; onion is ok as well

1 garlic clove; smashed and mashed

½ c. Balsamic Vinegar

½ c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil; the greener one

Kosher Salt to taste; 2 t

Black Pepper to taste; ½ t

Fire up the BBQ and place oiled tomatoes over medium heat. Let the tomatoes blister and blacken turning as they cook for even flavor development. When skin is slipping rinse under cool water until clean. If a little of the blackened skin remains, that is ok; but too much and it will be bitter. In a blender or food processor or whatever is close at hand, blend everything, but the olive oil. As machine is running add your oil slowly. When combined taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Use however you want, but most importantly, enjoy!

Here’s To School Lunch

Through my travels I have had various opportunities to work with amazing cooks, cutting edge technology, and ideas of food beyond common knowledge. Cook for America is an organization that has spearheaded the need to reboot school food programs.

Wait, you say someone in the system cares what our kids eat while they are at school? Cook for America is not a governmental agency, but a group of like-minded chefs that have taken their craft to levels that effects everyday families. WOW, real chefs sharing trade secrets and training the people that feed our kids. How cool is that!

Let’s start at the beginning; remembering that the school lunch program was conceptualized in the early 1900’s but came to fruition in the midst of the Great Depression. Gee, thanks for the history lesson LJ! But I say, this is an important fact. Think about…if the country was in rations and only surplus food was available; it only makes sense that the idea of feeding our youth was based off of a need not just as a bonus to the educational process.

Very recently I was talking with an amazing woman that I happily call a friend, who was in junior high school when the school lunch program began. When I asked her what was served for lunch, she responded with a full body shiver. She said “Spanish Rice!” Spanish rice did not sound too horrible although her continued description was amusing; it was also scary in the detail and emotion that were still there. As she giggled and cringed at the same time, I was entertained and completely engaged. When finished I asked “what else did they serve you?” and she answered “I can’t remember?” Her response and animated description of her experience shows that “school lunch” has had a major impact on our lives; 70 years later it still makes her nauseas.

When it comes to our kids, there should be no question on the importance and value they receive from the actual food, as well as the experience. There needs to be complete balance between health standards, nutritional value, and variety of all food groups. Yes, there is a difference of between health standards, nutritional value, and balanced food group. If you questioned this, then reevaluate your plight in the human food consumption as a home cook or professional. There is a need to understand the importance of safe and healthy food to the populous, your family, and self.

Ah, you have noticed The LJ IS ON ANOTHER RANT! Hell yes I am.

Believe me as a professional foodie I know that the world is filled with pitfalls and haters. Pitfalls from laziness, lack of knowledge, and worse lack of care. No one needs to be an expert on Classic French Cuisine based on the 10,000 plus recipes written by Escoffier, but you must be knowledgeable on the proper care and preparation of the food you eat and the food you serve.

Cook for America is dedicated to training our great countries foodservice employees that serve the youth of today. With childhood obesity on the rise, sickness outbreaks, and the understanding of food that the curriculum has been developed to assist these unsung heroes of the lunchroom.

The healthiness of the food is not only about nutrition, but food safety and the understanding of needing to balance it all when it comes to food served in a school lunchroom. With the help and concerns of organization like Cook for America maybe our youth can escape the stigma of being Fat and Lazy Americans!

va…va…Vegan

ImageRemember when saying you were a “V” just meant that you were not worldly? Never felt the love of another person or were a square. I think back to the John Hughes epic tale of dentition on a Saturday morning in a library. A character cast of Freaks, Geeks, Jocks, Loner, Preppy, and the late great Mr. Gleason playing the asshole teacher. The cast sits around and discusses the shortcomings of their life. Imagine if that same group of actors had the same conversation today, it would be a longer list of failures and disappointments. Imagine a reunion Breakfast Club what a shit show; the cast of Real Housewives would display more class. Wow a shit show indeed! But I digress…spoiler alert Claire is a [Gasp?!?!] Virgin! Now, almost 30 years later there is a “V” word that creates as much and as many issues among the ill-informed; if you are  va…va…Vegan!!!!

To eat meat is natural; to not eat meat is a choice. This does not mean that meat eaters will not love Vegan fare. I see it as I get to whore my taste buds around to many different dishes. I am a fan of the flesh; but a lover of flavorful dynamic meat-free food. Vegan-Curious…well yes I am. Does that make me a bad person…Maybe but you can kiss my ass! For me, experimentation with my food is always exciting. Cooking vegan always proves a trip worth taking. Anytime I can practice my craft and take ordinary ingredients and make fabulous table fare is a challenge I am always up for.

My most recent adventure came about because of an invitation extended to a vegan friend of mine. I love to cook for Deb because it forces me to work on an aspect of my craft that I do not address every day. Not to mention that Deb is an eager “V” to sample my table fare.

So you ask, what did I cook for my favorite vegan? The theme for our dinner was a bar-b-que to welcome in the summer season. We had black bean burgers, potato salad (with a vinegar based dressing), wild rice salad, grilled asparagus, and corn on the cob with an olive oil truffle salt.

Try this awesome bean cake recipe that tastes killer on a crostini bun with grilled asparagus and fresh avocado.

Peppadew Bean Cakes

2 Cans Black Beans

1 Can Garbanzo Beans

1 Can White Beans

3 cloves Garlic; smashed

¼ sweet onion; minced

¼ cup Peppadews; diced

1 Tablespoon Granulated Garlic

2 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon Sea Salt

2Tablespoons Peppadew brine from jar

Drain and rinse all beans of nasty can fluid. This works just as great with dry beans that have been pre-soaked. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until it has the consistence of wet sawdust and little pebbles. Pull out half and finish pureeing the hell out of the beans. Mix the mushy mix with the wet sand looking beans to create a magical ground meat look. To patty the bean mix, line a sheet pan with tinfoil sprayed with olive oil to ensure the patties do not stick. Utilizing a round cookie cutter the appropriate size to fit your buns press mixture into the round form, remove the form and repeat until all of the mixture is used. Brush the tops of the patties with additional olive oil and bake 350 degrees until the outside starts to turn golden brown, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy the va…va…Vegan experience, I do!

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