Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cartography Punch

Having a holiday party is a huge undertaking and the last thing you need to focus on while being the host or hostess with the mostest is bar tending all night. This holiday season instead of putting out a bottle of vodka or whiskey and some soda try this recipe. This simple punch will impress all of  your yuletide guests.

The Punch
4 cups apple juice or cider
3/4 Applejack Liqueur 
1/4 cup Maker's Mark whiskey 
1 cup MiddleBar's ginger cinnamon simple syrup
3 large apples (rubbed with lemon to avoid browning)
1/4 tsp nutmeg 
2 cinnamon sticks for garnish

When it's time for the party:
Pour all the ingredients into a large punch bowl or pitcher.
Add ice, cut up your apples in 1/2 slices along it's width to see a star pattern. Toss in the remaining cinnamon sticks and sprinkle with nutmeg. 

Last year my good friend Ali Keller got her master's degree in cartography and she served this punch at her graduation party, hence this amazing beverage's name. It was a huge hit! 
Happy Holidays Ya'll! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Roasted Tomato Soup

If you are a MiddleBar follower then you know I love the tomato. Since tomatoes are out of season most of the year and I haven't quite mastered canning, what is a girl to do? The answer is simple: roast em!!!!

If you haven't tried the MiddleBar Roasted Tomatoes (click here) then you better get your butt movin'. For the rest of you, here's another great take on this recipe the pros!  Enjoy Ya'll!

Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup
5lb Roma tomatoes
2 1/2 tbl salt
1 tbl pepper
3 1/4 tbl sugar
2 thbl crushed garlic
1/4 cup balsamic
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chicken stock
3 sprigs basil
1 tbl chiffon basil

Preheat oven to 400. Slice tomatoes lengthwise and place on a oiled roasting pan. Brush with crushed garlic then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle with salt, pepper & sugar and ake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, then hand crush the tomatoes into a food processor add sprigs of basil and pulse 8-10 times until tomatoes are to a chunky soup consistency. Transfer to stock pot and add 1 cup chicken stock. On medium low heat, simmer the soup 15 minutes, top with 1 tbl of basil and serve!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Roasted Beet Salad

This roasted beet salad is the perfect accompaniment to any meal or as a light lunch. I love beets in the winter and roasting them really brings out their sweetness. When serving this dish to guests I use both yellow and red beets for variety and color but mid-winter if you can only get your hands on the red, no worries!

I top the salad with some goat cheese, basil, a citrus vinaigrette and toasted pecans. The softness of the cheese, the crunch of the nuts and the sweet beets are a perfect match!

Roasted Beet Salad
10 small beets
1 tbl orange zest 
1' round of goat cheese
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1 tbl chiffonade basil

MiddleBar's citrus vinaigrette
Salt & Pepper

Preheat your oven to 400. Peel the fresh beets with vegetable peeler, rinse, quarter and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and orange zest and bake 35-40 minutes flipping twice until fork tender. Cool to room temperature and toss with vinaigrette then top with goat cheese, chiffonade basil and lightly toasted pecans.

Yum, Yum Ya'll!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Crab & Artichoke Risotto

You guys, we're in my favorite CA holiday season. Football is on TV, Middlebar is packed every Sunday, Christmas tunes on wwoz, and most importantly, it's California Recreational Dungeness Crab Season.

Maybe next year I'll make it up to NorCal to actually trap some myself, like a good Louisiana girl should. But for now, I think I'll let the guys at Santa Monica Seafood catch 'em for me and I'll concentrate on the recipes.

Crab & Artichoke Risotto
2 tbsp butter
1 cup Arborio Rice
14oz of chicken broth
2-4 cups water
1 shallot minced
2 dill sprigs minced
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbl fresh lump Dungeness crab
2 tbl fried capers

Make your Risotto as per the usual (MiddleBar Directions): Melt butter with the 1 minced shallot until the butter is brown. Add rice and 1 cup of white wine. Bring to a slight boil stirring often. Add salt. Continue to add water and chicken broth slowly while stirring  for the next 30-45 minutes (do not be afraid to add more or less liquid as necessary to keep your risotto from drowning or drying out). Half way through cooking add the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, 2 dill sprigs. The more slowly you add water and more often you stir will effect the overall creaminess of the dish.  Once the rice is al dente and most of the water is absorbed, remove from heat and quickly whip in cheese vigorously (some recipe's will call for butter at this stage as well but I find that there is enough butter to make it creamy enough but if you want it more decadent, please do not let me stand if your way).

In between stirring your risotto, peel a boiled Dungeness crab. In a small frying pan add a little olive oil and shallow fry 2 tbs of drained capers. When risotto is done, top with crab, lemon juice, a bit of fresh dill and a sprinkle of fried capers. Serve this risotto as a side dish (serves 4) or as a meal (serves 2).

I think you'll like it!

Enjoy Ya'll

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pickle of the Month: Cryin' Cayenne Beans

My cousin Jeanna had a very interesting point a few months back: In all the insane pickle combinations I put in the MiddleBar Bloody Mary, I was missing a spicy bean.
She was totally right.

To be honest, the only reason I don't have a spicy bean in my Bloody Mary is that spicy beans here in CA are freaking expensive! And with the way I consume those beans (I can honestly eat them a jar at a time) I'm going to go broke before the Super Bowl.

So with all my pickling, I've concocted  the perfect  spicy bean. There is a disclaimer on this one though. They are HOT, tear jerking HOT, make ya feel god HOT. (and they only get hotter day by day as they marinate in the fridge...) But they are an extremely delicious and wonderful accompaniment to your Bloody Mary, and for the right price!

Thanks Jeanna!

Cryin' Cayenne Beans are now available for purchase!!!!!

Please contact me at for more information

Enjoy Ya'll!

Monday, August 6, 2012

MiddleBar's Award Winning Roast Beef Poboy

Shut your mouth, this is THE BEST Roast Beef Po-boy you will ever eat in your life!!!

I've been experimenting with slow cooked roast beef for what seems like decades (well actually just a decade) since I moved to California. I slowly found a place with the best bread (now it's not Leidenheimer's) which makes all the difference in the world, and then even more slowly finding a recipe that fulfills my extremely high standards for roast beef. I've finally settled it and I'm willing to share the greatness with my faithful readers. Well I'm not that willing because this is definitely an award winning type of recipe, but I'll give it to ya anyway ;)

When the blog first made it's debut last year I wrote one of my first blogs about an amazing shrimp & oyster po-boy and if you would like to read the history of the po-boy and more about the bread, click here. This year I'm sticking strictly to the beef. 

This recipe would actually fall under a style of po-boy made famous by another popular po-boy place in NOLA, Mother's Restaurant. They call it a "Debris" which in the scraps of roast beef that land in the gravy while cutting the roast beef for a regular sandwich. My version is a cross between a debris and a pulled beef sandwich. The flavor of the beef slow roasted in a crock pot for 7 hours is almost sweet and the meat just falls apart when you cut it creating so much debris you just got to call the whole thing a debris po-boy! 

Ok, Ok, I'm going to stop talking about it and just give you the recipe already because it's going to be hard enough to wait the 7 hours until you can actually eat it. 

Debris Roast Beef
1 3lb chuck roast
1 head of garlic (10 cloves)
Salt, pepper, chili powder rub (1/2 tbl of each)
1 tbs butter
3 onions sliced
1/2 cups red wine
1 14oz bottle of BBQ sauce
1tbl liquid smoke (this is estimated btw) 
32oz beef stock
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs worschestchere
3 dash Tabasco

Begin by stuffing 10 whole cloves of garlic in all different areas of the beef then generously rub the spices into the meat. On very high heat, sear all sides 2-3 mins per side. Remove from pan and place into your slow cooker. Add 1 tbs butter to meat drippings and saute 3 onions. Deglaze the pan with the 1/2 cup of red wine and add contents of the pan into the crock pot. Heat on high for 7 hours, pull the meat apart, make your sandwich, and make sure you include plenty of au jous for dipping.

Trust me. It's incredible. Really.
Enjoy Ya'll!  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quick Fix: Abita Vanilla Double Dog Beer Float

No, it's not a Mardi Gras parade coming it's an ice cream float! Well, a float with a twist.

The ice cream soda (aka root beer float) has been around since the late 1880s and was enjoyed by American teenagers in dime stores, pharmacies, and ice cream parlors well into the mid 1900s. For just a dime you could enjoy a fizzy creamy delight with your sweetheart far away from the watchful eye of your parents.

This MiddleBar recipe is a great summer evening snack that will tickle your sweet tooth and will give ya a bit of a buzz. I've chosen Abita Vanilla Double Dog as the stout of choice for this recipe. The 25th Anniversary ale from Abita is brewed with caramel and chocolate malts and is steeped with fresh vanilla beans while aging. The result is a thick and creamy chocolate, vanilla and toffee flavor. Which to me sounded perfect for a float!

1 bottle of Abita Double Dog
2 scoops of whole vanilla bean ice cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Pour, serve, and enjoy ya'll!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gorgonzola Bacon Wrapped Dates

Gorgonzola Bacon Wrapped Dates
Dates. They've been a staple food in South Asia and the Middle East for thousands of years. Today dates are grown around the world in many different countries but here in the US, the most commonly consumed date is the plump, sweet, and succulent Medjool.

This fantastic ancient fruit is extremely versatile. The date is found in both sweet and savory dishes, as well as products like alcohol, honey, livestock feed and have even been used for medicinal purposes. My favorite way to consume this historical and delectable delicacy is to wrap it in bacon and stuff it with cheese of course!

Bacon Wrapped Dates
10 Medjool dates
10 cubes of either Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Stilton blue cheese (cut into 1/2 by 1/4in cubes)
10 unsalted almonds
10 toothpicks
10 strips of bacon (cut 3/4 strips)

Preheat oven to 400 and soak 10 toothpicks in cold water. Carefully slice a small lengthwise slit in dates to remove the pit. Stuff with date with an almond and cube of blue cheese. Carefully squeeze the date back together and wrap with 3/4 slice of bacon and spear with toothpick  Arrange your bacon wrapped dates on a greased baking sheet and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until bacon is crispy turning once during cooking. Remove bring to near room temp and serve.

*If you are having a large party I would suggest removing the almonds from the dates as some people think that they have bitten into a pit. Also, if you find that your cheese has melted due to the crispness of your bacon, you might place another small cube of blue cheese atop the date.

Dates can be purchased fresh at your local market and are easy gourmet treat for any party!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Soba Noodles in Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce

Soba Noodles in Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce
To be totally honest Asian dishes in the past had never been my strong suit. But since I've been writing this blog, I've begun to branch out working with flavors and techniques outside of my comfort zone. The result of trying and creating these new recipes has made me a better chef overall and and influenced my creativity in all the dishes I make.

This dish is a delicious, easy, and healthy dinner that takes just moments to put together. Why buy a prepackaged meal from Trader Joe's when you can make something fresh and scrumptious like this in the same amount of time? Whether it's this dish or anything you read on MiddleBar, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and you might just find your new favorite meal. :)

Soba in Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce
1 package of soba noodles       
1 1/2 cup chopped scallions            
2 tbs minced ginger                          
1/4 cup cilantro                                
2-3 tbs sesame oil                      
2 tsp chili oil (My favorite ingredient: photo ->)
1 tbs soy sauce  
2 tbs rice wine vinegar                      
2 tbs honey
pinch of salt & pepper

2 tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 lime wedges
julianne carrots
1 tbs scallion
1 tbs cilantro
10 slices of cucumber
1 tbs pickled ginger

Cook your soba noodles according to package directions then remove, strain and place in a bowl of ice water, and drain well again when chilled. Mix all ingredients for ginger scallion sauce then toss with noodles. Garnish with everything possible!

Deeeelicious Ya'll, try it!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Official Cocktail of New Orleans: The Sazerac

The official cocktail of New Orleans, The Sazerac
June 23rd marks the 5th anniversary of the Sazerac's appointment as the Official Cocktail of New Orleans.  I can't believe it took the city of New Orleans so long to actually appoint an official cocktail in the first place. And I'm very glad that they didn't choose the Hurricane (although I always love the fancy glass).

To many, the Sazerac is considered to be the World's first mixed drink, but that has never been proven. We do know that the drink appeared after 1830 when Peychaud's Bitters was created by the Creole apothecary Antoine Amedee Peychaud. And, as any New Orleanian will tell you, a Sazerac is not a Sazerac without Peychaud's.

When it comes to a Sazerac, everyone has an opinion on how this drink should be properly mixed. I myself diverge from the way the drink is mixed at the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.  Others have opinions regarding dropping the garnish into the drink or not, and whether to use Angostura Bitters with Peychaud's Bitters, or just Peychaud's alone. That being said, this is MY recipe for a Sazerac and since I'm all the way across the country where people have rarely even heard of a Sazerac, this is the way I do it.

2 oz Sazerac Rye
1 sugar cube (The Roosevelt uses simple syrup)
3ish dashes of Peychaud's (you want a nice red color
1/4 oz Herbsaint (to coat the glass)
1 large slice of lemon rind

Chill a Sazerac glass (rocks glass). In a separate mixing glass combine 1 sugar cube, with Peychaud's and Rye. Add ice and stir until chilled (the elder bartenders at the Roosevelt will tell you to stir exactly 30 times but just make sure your drink is chilled and that the sugar is dissolved).
Coat the chilled rocks glass with Herbsaint, strain into the drink, and rub the lemon around the rim of the glass. Serve the lemon rind on the glass instead of dropping it in the glass, let your guest decide if they want to drop it in. Voila!

If you've never had a Sazerac or if you've been having them for years mix one up for the city of New Orleans! Cheers Ya'll!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Basil Balsamic Strawberries

Today I'm doing a fun appetizer that's unbelievably easy and appears totally gourmet. If you need a simple app for your next party try this one, your party goers will be impressed and they'll never know how easy it was to prepare (which is my personal favorite trick because I throw a lot of parties).

This recipe is great served with goat cheese, atop baked brie as seen in this picture, or even toss it over a block of good ole' Philadelphia cream cheese instead of a pepper jelly. If you really want to get fancy, you can grill some toast points, a sliced baguette, or just serve it with a cracker. It's a treat!

Basil Balsamic Strawberries
1 pint strawberries
3-4ish tbs of good balsamic vinegar (a thin version not the thick glaze kind)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 pinch of Kosher salt
1 pinch of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the strawberries)

Slice your strawberries into cubes and chiffonade (aka roll it up and slice it thin) basil.  Toss with vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar then place in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Serve with any cheese you'd like and...

Enjoy Ya'll!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Quick Fix: Rosemary's Bambino

Rosemary's Bambino a delicate mix of sweet and tart
Baseball season is in full swing (pun totally intended) and tomorrow marks the 64th anniversary of Babe "The Great Bambino" Ruth's death. To salute the greatest baseball player of all time we are trying a new original Middlebar cocktail, Rosemary's Bambino.

I usually don't offer drinks this brand specific, but he spirit brands listed below should be used due to the delicate nature of this drink. It may not seem like much, but substituting Bulliet Bourbon for Basil Hayden's will make a completely different beverage (one that probably won't taste as good). And just because they are both red, Aperol & Campari are two different beverages with drastically different flavors.

This drink is a delicate mix of sweet and tart creating a perfect cocktail. If you're having a classic cocktail party looking for something completely unique, look no further, this is your drink.

Rosemary's Bambino
1oz Basil Hayden's Bourbon
1oz Carpano Antica
1oz Campari
1 oz ruby red grapefruit juice
1 sprig of rosemary

Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice until chilled. Gently strain along one sprig of fresh rosemary into a rocks glass with a large ice cube or ball. 

Enjoy Ya'll!  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Amazing Hass Avocado (and it's simple summer salad)

Tomato, avocado, shallot salad. 
It's tomato time AND avocado time!!! My favorite time of the year. You'll be seeing a lot of tomato recipes throughout the summer and this one's so simple and so delicious, you'll serve it all summer long.

This is the quintessential summer salad especially here in Southern California where 90% of the nation's avocados are grown. The most famous of which is the Hass.

The Hass is the medium sized purple and black prune looking fruit that bears a rich creamy flesh and a large seed. That seed will provide you with another avocado tree if harvested correctly, which most of us learned in our 2nd grade classroom. The most amazing thing about the Hass is that every single commercial avocado that we eat today was harvested from one single tree from La Habra Heights, CA harvested in 1926!!

The flavors in this salad are so fresh they need not be bogged down with garlic or overloaded with spices. At the height of tomato and avocado season let the salad do the heavy lifting so all you have to do is eat!

1 package of ripe grape tomatoes
1 small shallot sliced thinly in rings
1 ripe Hass avocado
1 lemon
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs good balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp white sugar
salt & pepper

Halve grape tomatoes, thinly slice shallot and cube avocado. Toss lightly with olive oil, lemon, s&p and sugar. Enjoy!

Wanna grow your own? Click here for directions!

It's gonna be a good summer ya'll!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thai Peppercorn Bacon Maple Popcorn!

I bet you thought I forgot about my blog, but that is certainly not the case! I was out bringing home the bacon and now I'm back and speaking of bacon, how about a quick tasty treat with a salt and pepper kick and a bit of sweetness.
Thai Peppercorn Bacon Maple Popcorn
Our friends Natalie & Rebecca recently returned from Thailand with some fun spices for MiddleBar. The most interesting of which were Thai peppercorns. Now, peppercorns seem like a pretty normal spice, almost every American dish calls for salt and pepper, but.....

Thai peppercorns or "Prik Thai Sot" are slightly different from their American counterparts. Prik sot grows in all different regions of Thailand and each area has it's own distinct variety much like grapes. White and black peppercorns are purchased fresh at open air markets and ground in a mortar and pestle upon use. The black peppercorn adds a tingling to the tongue as opposed to a burn your face off spice. And the white variety which is the inner seed of the black peppercorn has a milder yet noticeable kick. 

Thai cuisine is all about blending sweetness with spice and this recipe for bacon maple Thai peppercorn popcorn does just that. If you don't have the Thai variety, fresh ground pepper will suffice but mix it up and take a trip to an Asian market, and maybe you'll find some Thai peppercorns!  

Bacon Thai Peppercorn Popcorn
1 bag of plain popcorn
8-10 strips of bacon
1/4 cup good maple syrup
1 tsp ground Thai black & white peppercorns
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and begin to fry bacon. When crispy remove the bacon and pat dry. Mix the popcorn with maple syrup, pepper, salt, 2 tbs of rendered bacon fat and crumbled bacon. (The best way to do this is add a bit of pepper and the salt then the bacon fat followed by the syrup then the remainder of the pepper so that everything gets coated thoroughly) Toss in the oven for about 10 minutes and serve!

Welcome Back Ya'll!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Quick Fix: Cilantro Pesto

Cilantro Pesto & Camembert 
Today's Quick Fix is a lovely little app from MiddleBar's favorite guest Chef Rachel. This Cilantro and almond pesto is a nice change from the traditional pine nut and basil variety.  She serves it with a creamy Camembert and sliced baguette. It makes a wonderful accompaniment to a crisp white wine. Choose something like the 2010 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio that has a lemon-lime nose and light peach citrus flavor. Thanks Chef Rachel!

Cilantro Pesto
1 large bunch cilantro, leaves only 9about 2 cups packed
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp chopped and seeded serrano chili
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 lime (juiced)
salt & pepper

Add cilantro leaves, chili, onion, s&p, and almonds in food processor and begin to blend. Slowly add  the olive oil and lime juice until the mixture is a nice creamy consistency. Remove from the food processor and serve.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Louisiana's Bicentennial Video Spotlight: The Coktail a la Louisiane

Louisiana is celebrating it's 200th year of Statehood this week and to honor my home state's bicentennial birthday I thought I would celebrate with a classic cocktail named after Her.
The Cocktail a la Louisiane

Click here to watch the cocktail being made! 

The land that eventually became the Bayou State was discovered in the early 1500s by a group of Spanish explorers. No one took much interest in the area until 200 years later when the French began their quest for religious and commercial outposts throughout the Americas. The territory surrounding the mouth of the Mississippi traded hands between the French & Spanish for the next 100 years until it was finally purchased by the US of A and became the State of Louisiana April 30th, 1812.

Today's Quick Fix pays tribute to Louisiana's French heritage with a drink rooted deep in French culture. Stanley Clisby Arthur Famous New Orleans Drinks & How To Mix 'Em describes this cocktail as:

"This is the special cocktail served at the Restaurant de la Louisiane, one of the famous French restaurants of New Orleans, long the rendexvous of those who appreciate the best in Creole cuisine. La Louisiane cocktail is as out-of-the-ordinary as the many distinctive dishes that grace its menu." 
The Restaurant de la Louisiane

Cocktail a la Louisiane
3/4 oz Sazerac Rye
3/4 oz Sweet Vermouth
3/4 oz Benedictine
2 sprays of Herbsaint
3 dashes of Peychaud's Bitters

Cheers to 200 years ya'll!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Reinheitsgebot Anniversary: Top 5 Brews

Reinheitsgebot. (God bless you)

Beer enthusiasts love to throw this fancy term Reinheitsgebot around like it's their secret code. As an average beer drinker I did some studying and now I can impress my beer snobby friends, and so can you. Reinheitsgebot (rine-HITES-ga-bote) or the "German Purity Law" was passed by the Bavarian Prince William IV on April 23, 1516. This interesting law officially limited beer brewed in Bavaria to 3 ingredients, water, hops and barley (yeast had yet to be discovered).  This brewing rule protected beer consumers from ingesting adverse ingredients like soot, mushrooms and animal parts (ewww). It also reserved grains such as rye and wheat for bread making.

Reinheitsgebot was a necessity for the Bavarian drinkers 496 years ago and even though no one is using dangerous adjuncts in their brews today, many breweries still offer a pure German style beverage.  Save your Belgians, fruit, wheat, and corn brews for tomorrow and here on April 23rd, imbibe one of the following that still follow the letter of the Reinheitsgebot law.

1.) Sierra Nevada Summerfest: 
The California brewery north of wine country doesn't only carry their signature  Pale Ale. Summerfest is a great beer to try this summer.

Look: Pale yellow color with a thick white head.
Aroma: Grassy and earthy with a touch of citrus.
Flavor: Crisp and clean with Bitter hoppy taste that will get ya. It finishes dry but leaves a bready aftertaste.

2.) Samuel Adams Boston Lager:
Massachusetts born and raised, Sam Adams is known as the beer that started the American Craft Brewing revolution.

Look: Deep clear amber with a offwhite frothy head.
Aroma: Caramel, spicy and hoppy lager.
Flavor: Sweet and crisp with some bitter hopps, it tastes like Sam Adams!

3.) Deschutes Twilight Ale:
Bend, Oregon's beautiful brewery on the banks of the Deschutes river.
"We exist to profitably deliver the finest beers in the world and cultivate extraordinary experiences" -Deschutes

Look: Honey yellow orange amber color, slightly hazy.
Aroma: Mild citrus with a hint of caramel.
Flavor:Orange and lemon flavors and super easy drinking, perfect for warm evenings.

4.) Abita Turbodog:
MiddleBar's favorite Louisiana brewery salutes the Reinheitsgebot with this dark brown ale.

Look: Dark brown with a beige head.
Aroma: Chocolate, roasted malts and coffee with the faint smell of hops.
Flavor: Sweet chocolate toffee perfect for cooling down your mouth after spicy foods.

5.) Gordon Biersch Dunkelweizen:
All of Gordon Biersch's brews are German Pure. And nothing goes better with those garlic french fries.

Look: Deep amber a bit cloudy with an off white head.
Aroma: Caramel, clove, yeast and even a hint of fruit.
Flavor: Strong yeast, roasted malt and a bit of banana. The sweetness creates a nice aftertaste.

What is your favorite Reinheitsgebot brew?
Let me know Ya'll!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Munchies: Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

This post is strictly written tongue-in-cheek and should be taken as such. MiddleBar does not condone or encourage the use of any illegal drugs. 

MiddleBar Fig & Prosciutto Pizza
It's April 20th, aka 4/20 and college students everywhere are joining the 1960s counter culture by gathering at Hippie Hill in San Francisco to celebrate the herb Marijuana. The term "420" was coined in by a group of California high school students in the 1970s as the secret code for the time (4:20) after school that they would meet and enjoy their mind altering high. This code has been adopted by those who participate in smoking "Mary Jane" and today's date is celebrated around the globe as a world wide "holiday." (Seriously celebrated around the world, it's crazy!! Who knew??!) Today's recipe is tailor made for those suffering from a fabled humorous side effect of partaking in Marijuana smoking, the munchies.

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza
1 lb fresh store bought pizza dough (if you want to get fancy, click here for Mario Batali's recipe)
2 tbs cornmeal for sprinkling
8 oz gorgonzola cheese (about 2 cups)
8-10 fresh figs (sliced longways)
8-10 slices of thin sliced prosciutto
2 cups arugula (I don't like arugula so I use mixed greens)
2ish tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar
2ish tablespoons good olive oil
salt & pepper
pizza stone (not necessary but recommended)

Preheat oven to 450 with pizza stone inside. Roll out your pizza dough to your desired thickness (keeping in mind that your dough will grow in thickness as it cooks). Place your figs in a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper then set aside. When heated, remove stone from the oven, sprinkle liberally with cornmeal and carefully place the dough on the stone. Brush your dough with olive oil and sprinkle with gorgonzola. Place pizza in oven for about 15 minutes until the dough is nearly brown and the cheese is melted.

Quickly remove the pizza from the oven and shut the oven door. Layer the prosciutto and figs onto the pizza and return the pizza to the oven. Cook for 2-5 minutes until the figs are warm through and the prosciutto is nearly crispy. Remove from oven. Toss greens in the remaining olive oil, place atop the pizza, and drizzle with remaining fig balsamic vinegar.

This is a delicious pizza that will satisfy whether you have the munchies or not!

Enjoy the fabled 4/20 Ya'll!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Crawfish Tarragon Omelet

Good Morning! Crawfish Tarragon Omelet
Last weekend was another boil here in LA and it was (as always) delicious. I've gotten a few questions as to how we go about getting our lively little mudbugs from the swamps of South Louisiana all the way out here to the sunny West Coast. The answer is simple. The Internet!  And a little help from the Louisiana Crawfish Co.

The state of Louisiana supplies 98% of the crawfish harvested in the United States and I'd be willing to bet that about 75% of that harvest is eaten locally by hungry New Orleanians. The "season" is from March till June for the best tasting and easy peeling critters. The Crawfish Co. ships the crawfish fresh and live, overnight straight to your front door in whatever city or country you're living in.

After each boil, I've been snagging a few peeled crawfish to make some delicious crawfish recipes and today's recipe is the Tarragon Crawfish Omelet. There is no better fog lifter the morning after drinking Abita and peeling crawfish all day quite like a cheesy egg omelet. The addition of tarragon to this dish adds anise sweetness to the spiciness of the crawfish and pairs well with the lemon, garlic flavors inherent to crawfish after they have been boiled.

1/4 cup boiled crawfish tails
2 tsp grated cheddar cheese
2 eggs & 1 egg white
1 tsp chopped tarragon
salt & pepper
1 tbl milk

Heat a non stick pan with a bit of butter (or bacon grease) over a medium flame. In a bowl add eggs, salt, pepper, tarragon and milk and whisk well. Add the mixture to the pan and cook for 1 minute then add the cheddar and crawfish (reserving 3-4 for garnish). Cook for 1-2 more minutes until the egg is nearly cooked. Carefully flip one side of the omelet over on the other cook for just a tiny bit more and remove from heat. Garnish with crawfish and tarragon.

Serve this dish with some Southern Comfort Grit Cakes and a Bloody Mary and enjoy your mornin' Ya'll!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Quick Fix: The Ginger Caipirinha

Ginger Caipirinha
Summer is already here in Southern California (it's pretty much always summer but you get the idea). And it's time to break out the tanks and flip flops which means it's also time for the summertime beverages. This summer MiddleBar is headed to South America and offering you some cocktails from below the equator.

Our first stop is in Brazil for their national cocktail the Caipirinha. Brazil's most common distilled beverage is Cachaca, a sugarcane based distillate like it's cousin rum. Cachaca is pretty easy to find in any Bevmo and some grocery stores will even carry a brand called Leblon (see below).

The Caipirinha is basically a cross between the margarita and a mojito so it makes a perfect summer beverage. Having a summer party and looking for something a little exotic? This is definitely the drink to try.

2 oz Brazilian cachaca
1 lime (quartered)
4 slivers of fresh ginger
3/4 oz demerara syrup (or 2 tsp sugar in the raw)

In a mixing glass strongly muddle the limes, ginger and sugar until the limes have fully imparted all of their juice. Add cachaca and ice and give the drink a little shake. Pour the whole thing (limes and all) into a rocks glass and garnish with a piece of candied ginger.

Welcome to Summer Ya'll
Look for this bottle :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Leftovers Ponchatoula Style

Chocolate & Ginger Covered Strawberries
Did you know that each State in the Union has it's own State Fruit? Because I did not. So I'm excited to share this newfound knowledge and let you know that Louisiana's State Fruit happens to be the strawberry. And there is no place in the South more famous for strawberries than Ponchatoula, Louisiana!

Ponchatoula is a small town of about 5000 located half way between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that consideres itself "The Strawberry Capital Of The World." Now, that may not be an actual fact but that's what I was taught growing up so I'm sticking to it. In celebration of their worldly strawberry status each year the city hosts the annual Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.

For the last 41 years the locals have celebrated the strawberry and the folks who cultivate and sell Louisiana's state fruit with a festival, a King and Queen, and of course a parade. The festival is this coming weekend April 13-15 and is FREE!! If you're anywhere near South Louisiana this weekend, this is an event you should definitely check out. If you're from New Orleans you really have no excuse because the drive takes 45 minutes people.

Since Easter just passed over (see how I did that...) chances are that you're going to have some leftover chocolate Easter bunnies lying around. Americans spend $1.9 Billion on Easter candy each year (just shy of the $2 billion mark on Halloween) so lets put that chocolate to good use. Nothing goes better with some Ponchatoula strawberries than some classic milk chocolate.

1 pint of strawberries
1-2 large chocolate bunnies
1/8 tsp of ginger powder (a couple of pinches)

Chop the chocolate and slowly melt in a double boiler. Do not walk away from this chocolate because it begins to melt pretty quickly. Once the chocolate is nearly melted, turn off the heat and continue to stir. Twirl the strawberries in the melted chocolate and voila!

Enjoy Ya'll!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Fix: The Souffle

"The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It's doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it." 
                                      -Julia Child

They may be hard boiled and colored, Faberge, chocolate, or plastic on the White House lawn, the egg is very popular this weekend. In honor of Easter I thought I would give you my favorite egg dish, Souffle. Now, don't stop reading at souffle thinking that it's a dish to "advanced" for the home chef. I always thought souffle was reserved for fine dining establishments and students of Le Cordon Bleu. But recently I found out that souffle isn't as challenging as Julia Child told us that it was.

Souffle is made by incorporating two parts, a creme patissiere (a sweet or savory cream sauce) with a meringue. The patissiere provides the flavor base and the meringue applies the lift. The dish appears to "blow up" or in French, souffler. Since this was our first foray into souffle, we decided to follow the recipe to the tee. This is not an original MiddleBar creation, but I'm sharing it because it's wonderful. Be brave fellow chefs and give it a try! If it falls, no one's watching but when it doesn't, it's unbelievably rewarding.

3 tbsp butter (room temp)
4 egg yolks (room temp)
1/2 cup grated Cheddar
1 package spinach (defrosted and pressed dry)
5 egg whites (room temp)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp flour
1 cup scalded milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cream of tarter
pinch cayenne
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Butter the inside of a large ramekin (6.5-7.5 diameter) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour (you're making a roux which you know how to do now!) Off the heat, whisk in hot milk, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat whisking until smooth and thick. Remove from heat and one at a time slowly whisk in egg yolks being careful not to scramble. Stir in Cheddar and Parmesan and transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt for 1 minute on low, increasing to 1 minute on medium then on high until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk in 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese spinach sauce and then carefully fold in the rest. Carefully add to the souffle dish and smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help it rise evenly and place in the middle of the oven. Immediately drop the temperature to 375, bake for 30-35 minutes until puffed and brown. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN TO CHECK ON IT!!!! Gently remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Happy Easter Ya'll!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Abita Abbey Ale Marinade

There are so many things that I want to tell you about beer. The history of brewing in New Orleans, monastic brewing in the abbeys of the Middle Ages, and the renewal of brewing in Louisiana brought about by new local craft breweries. But today I'll just be concentrating on the brewing traditions that inspired Abita Brewery's Abbey Ale.

Beer has a long history dating back thousands of years to Ancient Egypt. By the Middle Ages, brewing was already a few thousand years old and took place predominately in private homes or monastic abbeys. The monastic tradition of living by the work of one's hands led to a long history of selling products like bread, cheese, clothing and ale aka "liquid bread" to support the monastery.

Monastic style ales are known for their distinct flavor and high quality. Abita's Abbey Ale is a "Dubbel" or double ale with a dark hue and caramel flavor. Abita recommends pairing this beer "with barbecue, meat stews or a nice thick steak." In this recipe I did just that.

Abita Ale Marinade
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1/2 tbs worcestershire
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1/2 cup Abita Abbey Ale

Ribeye Steak with Ale Marinade Glaze
Liberally salt & pepper your favorite cut of beef, place in a plastic bag and marinate for 1-2 hours. Grill meat to your liking and in a small sauce pan boil to reduce the marinade to glaze consistency. Drizzle over your steak and enjoy.

Make sure you pick up more than one bottle one for marinading and one for drinking with your fantastic steak creation, and 25 cents will go directly to support St. Joseph's Abbey in Covington, LA. 

Enjoy Ya'll!

Monday, April 2, 2012

We Can Pickle That!

MiddleBar Pickle Of The Month
"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle..." Thomas Jefferson 

Take it from our 3rd President, whether it's cucumbers, onions, dill or kosher everyone loves a pickle. Today marks the beginning of a new monthly segment, Pickle of the Month. Each month I will showcase one new pickle recipe. Get it? Now don't worry, if you try these recipes you won't be canning. Because that's a whole process which requires directions, time, and precision. These are "quickles."  All you'll need is some vinegar, a few spices, a jar, and a refrigerator.

This month, we're trying Juniper pickled onions because one of my favorite pickled items is the cocktail onion. As a kid my cousins and I would rush to Ma's fridge during lunch time to grab the jars of pickles, olives, and onions. It was a staple with our sandwiches to have these little tangy delights. The cocktail onion was especially a treat because it was far less common than a pickle or an olive and packed a unique puckering punch.

Juniper Pickled Onions
The cocktail onion is the  famous garnish for a gin Gibson. A Gibson is nothing more than a Martini and the garnish (olive or onion) is the only is the only thing that separates the two. With that in mind, this onion recipe utilizing juniper is tailor made for the perfect gin Gibson.


The bittersweet juniper with sweet smell of rosebuds is an unbelievable combination. When I first came up with this recipe I wasn't quite sure how it would actually turn out but the flavors are amazing. This recipe can be done with small pearl onions rather than the rustic slices. (Pearl onions will take much longer to brine.) Plus, these onions are so good you want your guests to know that you made them!

Pickle Ya'll!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sushi & Sake: The Aviasian

The Aviasian
If you are a MiddleBar fan you know that one of my favorite drinks is the Aviation and I like any variation on that classic mix of gin, maraschino, and citrus. While enjoying some hand made sushi here at MiddleBar, we thought it would be nice to have a cocktail as opposed to the usual hot sake thus the Aviasian was born.

I wanted to call this cocktail the Kamikaze because of it's flying theme, the Japanese ingredient, and it's potential to knock you out. Unfortunately, the name Kamikaze was already taken by a crappy 80s shot featuring vodka, triple sec, and lime. This is 2012 people, out with the old and in with the new. I give you, the Aviasian.

1 oz Dry Sake
1 oz Hendrick's Gin
1/2 oz Herbsaint
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 barspoon of House Cherry Juice 

Shake with ice and strain into a wine glass. Serve with a house cherry.

Akami Sashimi & Tuna Rolls

I would give you a recipe for sushi, but it's pretty self explanatory. Keep these few tips in mind:

Fish: Assure that all of your fish is Sushi or Sashimi Grade and purchase your fish at a well known distributor as opposed to your regular market. Keep your fish uber chilled until the moment you need it and avoid cross-contamination.

Rice: Use Japanese short grain rice, not long grain, brown, or even jasmine. Rinse your rice well, cook it according to the package directions and create a "sushi-zu" using rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to cover the rice in a glass or wooden bowl (no metal, it reacts with the vinegar).

Tools: A bamboo rolling mat. An extremely sharp knife. And keep your knives and hands wet to avoid sticking.

You can take it from there.

Sayonara Ya'll!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Palermo Pear Granita

Next time you're in Rome I highly suggest you rent a classic red convertible Alfa Romeo and take a little trip. From Rome, head 7 hours south down the western coast of Italy, take the ferry from Messina to Villa San Giovonni, head west on the E-90 for about 45 miles and you're there. Palermo, Italy. Palermo is the beautiful capital of Sicily famous for it's history, culture and of course, it's cuisine. My great grandfather Joseph Rizzo Sr. was born in Palermo and I think this recipe (even though it's not pasta sauce) is one that would make him very proud.

The granita is a semi-frozen Sicilian dessert made from sugar, water, and whatever else you can throw in it. A granita is a relative of the sorbet or Italian ice and it's consistency varies throughout the Southern Italy. In Palermo, the granita is almost chunky unlike it's cousin gelato. With that in mind, I've created the Palermo Pear Granita.

This recipe calls for a can of sliced pears which I don't usually prefer over fresh produce. For this recipe though, the can is easy, quick, and doesn't even require adding any additional sugar or water. Plus, most of us have a can or two stashed in the back of the pantry already.

1 can sliced pears in light juice
2 sprigs of mint
1/2 a fresh lime
1 oz of Kinna Lillet (optional)

Place the pears with their juice along with mint and fresh lime in a food processor. Puree for a few seconds, then pour the mixture in a small pie tin. Top with one ounce of Kinna Lillet if desired (champagne would also be nice too) and freeze for about 20-25 minutes. Once the dish has not fully frozen and has a slush like consistency, take a fork and spoon out the mixture into a serving dish. Garnish with fresh mint and wow your friends.

This recipe is unbelievable. It was a spontaneous MiddleBar creation and I was shocked at how delicious this simple dessert turned out to be. You have to try it. Trust me.

Ciao Ya'll

Monday, March 26, 2012

Quick Fix: Tarragon Sour

The Tarragon Sour
I've been experimenting with more and more herbs in my cocktails for the last few months and my newest favorite is the Tarragon Sour.  Tarragon is one of the four French "fines herbes" (along with parsley, chervil, and chive) with a gentle anise flavor. This unobtrusive flavor is perfect for a simple classic cocktail. Lemon and tarragon pair quite well together as evidenced by the use of both ingredients in many dishes both French and otherwise.  Lemon and tarragon are perfect flavors for roast chicken, salmon, and now, bourbon.

2 oz bourbon
1 oz (1 lemon)
1/2 oz Demerara Simple Syrup*
2 sprigs tarragon

Delicately muddle the tarragon sprigs and demerara syrup. Add bourbon, ice and shake well. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass garnish with a lemon twist and a fresh tarragon sprig.

*The demerara syrup adds a supple mouthfeel and added sweetness to this cocktail. If you don't have demerara, regular simple syrup works just as well.

Cheers Ya'll!

Friday, March 23, 2012

"First you make a roux": How to Make the Best Roux for Crawfish Etouffee

The classic start to the best Cajun dishes. 
There may not be a more debatable topic in Creole coking than the infamous roux. Each Southern chef has a different opinion on which is the best technique, color, and flavor. There are a myriad of roux varieties ranging from a "white roux" to the "brick" version and everything in between, blonde, brown, peanut butter or chocolate. Each imparts a different hue, thickening power, and distinctive nutty flavor to your dish. Making a roux is easy, burning it is easier, and mastering it is an art form.

The roux calls for 2 simple ingredients: flour and any type of fat. The choice in fat is yours, but the traditional French recipe calls for butter.  Southerners use bacon grease, lard, clarified butter, any meat fat or oil for their roux. The French use an equal ratio of fat to flour. For my roux I use a blend of fats at the ratio of 2:1 (butter/bacon grease to flour) and prefer the peanut butter hue, but again the choice is always yours. The best part of making a roux is that you can experiment and create a secret recipe which makes all your dishes unique to you.

Crawfish Etouffee 
The key to a perfect roux is to stir, stir, stir! I can not emphasize this enough, cast iron (the only place to make a roux in my opinion) holds heat so keep your pan on low and stir the hell out of the thing with a flat wooden spoon (Southerners often have a flat wooden spoon especially for roux). If you start to see any black specs, your roux is burning and at that point there is no way to save it. Toss it, wipe out your skillet, and start again. It may take you a few tries but you'll get it. Once you perfect your own unique roux, you can officially call yourself a Southern chef. Well...maybe.

Ryan stirring the pot. 
The following dish is brought to you by the official Pastorek crawfish boil. I'm lucky enough to have crawfish flown out to Los Angeles a few times each season, but if you don't have access to live, fresh Louisiana crawfish, you can easily substitute boiled shrimp.  Don't you dare use foreign imported crawfish, that's a sacrilege. Laissez les bon temps ROUX-le ya'll!

MiddleBar Crawfish Etouffee
1 lb boiled crawfish (Thanks Ryan)
1 red bell pepper (green is traditional but I hate green bell pepper)
1 small yellow onion diced
2 ribs celery diced
1 can rotel diced tomatoes
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 sprigs of thyme whole on stem
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tbs tomato paste
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp bacon fat
1 tsp worcestershire
2 cans chicken stock (fresh stock if you have it)
1/2 cup water
Tony Casherie's Original Creole Seasoning, salt, pepper (about 1 tsp-1tbs depending on the saltiness of your crawfish so add seasoning as necessary)
1 large cast iron skillet

First you make a roux by melting the bacon fat, butter adding the flour and stirring until the roux takes on a nice peanut butter color. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, salt, pepper and Tony's and saute in the roux until soft. Add garlic, rotel, worcestershire, chicken stock, water, bay leaf, and thyme and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cover for 20-25 minutes. Remove the lid, add crawfish, and simmer for 10-20 minutes more. Remove bay leaves and thyme. Serve over heaping white rice and garnish with fresh parsley.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Cast Iron Skillet

MiddleBar Cornbread
Before there were non-stick pans, we Southerners had the cast iron skillet. Seasoned with nature's Teflon, bacon grease, the cast iron is a piece of cookware that can outlast you IF you properly care for it.

The cast iron and it's cousin the dutch oven are two examples of cast iron cookware used pre-stovetop days when we were all cooking over an open flame. Cast iron being "cast" out of one solid piece of "iron" distributes heat evenly and also retains that heat extremely well.  These two attributes make it a perfect cooking pan for everything from fryin' chicken to makin' cornbread. You can also smack the hell of a boneless chicken breast with the back of that heavy pan, then batter and fry it up of course! Before you get cookin' here are a few easy steps to keep your cast iron in tip top condition for hundreds of years to come.

Seasoning The Skillet:
Metal is a porous substance and those pores open during the heating process. If those pores are filled with oils and fats food will not be able to stick in those pores. The thin layer of seasoning also seals the metal so that oxidation does not take place causing rust. Before using your pan, and if your skillet begins sticking or rusting use this simple process to season your pan.
1. Preheat the oven to 275
2. Heat skillet on the stove top 
3. When the pan is very hot, coat with bacon grease 
(use the bacon grease for this (or lard if you are really brave) and save your olive oil for a vinaigrette)
4. Once the pan is coated, dump any excess grease
5. Bake for 2 hours
*Use your pan for frying for the first 2 uses after seasoning*

Even this tragic pan can be saved, just re-season!
(And no, I do not own this pan. My Southern blood wouldn't let
something like this happen!!!)
Cleaning your skillet:
While the pan is still warm, rinse with scalding hot water and with a gentle sponge (no soap), remove any remaining food particles. For really tough grit gently rub with sea salt and hot water. Dry thoroughly with a towel and to avoid dust, place a thin layer of paper towel over the surface (it's very important not to store the pan with the lid on. This can cause rust and 2 more hours of your time to re-season the pan) Before each use gently wipe the surface with a paper towel to remove any dust.

If this whole process seems sketchy since you aren't using any soap to clean your skillet, I get it. I was a bit disturbed by this process myself the first time I actually thought about it but if your pan is properly seasoned, the hard patina layer keeps you safe and clean. (After all I've been eating out of cast iron my whole life and I seem ok....)

The Lodge Brand Cast Cookware. Buy This. 
Dos & Donts:
--Don't: Store with a lid on especially when it's humid, this can cause
--Do: Use your pan for frying the first 2 or 3 times after seasoning. (This locks in the oils even more!)
--Don't: Plunge the skillet into cold water when hot, this can cause cracking or warping
--Do: Heat the pan slowly starting at a low heat gradually raising the heat
--Don't: Wash with harsh cleaners, soap, or in the dishwasher
--Do: Enjoy your pan for years to come!

You can buy cast iron skillets anywhere these days and they are quite affordable especially since they last forever you really get your money's worth.  If you can get your hands on your grandmother's skillet though, that's a much better idea!
Cook like a Southerner Ya'll!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato Gastrique

Gastrique over pasta with Italian Squash
With most restaurant menus reading like your high school French textbook, it seems difficult for the average home chef to recreate these masterpieces. In a world of cassoulet, bechamel, and amuse-bouche, the gastrique is my new favorite technique.

A gastrique is a French culinary term for creating a glaze by reducing sugar, vinegar, and fruit. Using the sun dried tomato, we get the sugar and the fruit all in one and just need to add vinegar to create our gastrique!  This is a tasty and unique way to impress all of your gourmet friends. And trust me they will be very impressed.

1 3 oz bag of sun dried tomatoes
1/4 balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
3 sprigs of thyme
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 tbs salt
1/2 tbs pepper
1-2 dashes sugar (most of sweetness is from the tomatoes so don't worry about the sweetness)

Rehydrate the sun dried tomatoes in balsamic, water, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and dash of sugar.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer 20 mins covered and then 10 uncovered.  Until the sauce is the consistency of a thick syrup.

This beautiful thickened glaze is a fantastic addition to pizza, on a toasted baguette with brie cheese or just atop some pasta as a quick dinner. Try this one on for size and please comment and let me know what you do with your Sun Dried Gastrique!

Au revoir ya'll!

Friday, March 16, 2012

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling: The Irish Julep

Jameson's Irish Julep 
A St. Patrick's Day Limerick:

Two hundred and twenty years ago
In the hills were the green grass does grow.
Whiskey was in pots.
For Irish not Scotts.
And I thought that you might like to know.

Ok, so I might need to work a bit on my poetry, but you get the idea. The Irish have been distilling whiskey (and consuming it heavily) since the twelfth century and it's history is forever tied to Catholicism. Christian monks brought distillation as well as Christianity to the Druid community in Ireland.  St. Patrick was influential on the Christianity front but I can't officially say that he was distilling whiskey. He was however, according to legend, busy banishing snakes from Ireland, and comparing three leaf shamrocks to the, Holy Trinity.

Over 1300 years later John Jameson the Father of Irish Whiskey began distilling in Dublin and has been producing his high quality, triple distilled product for the last 220 years. St. Patrick's day has been commemorating the religious feast of St. Patrick since the 1600s and over the years it has become famous as a day to express your Irish identity. Not Irish? Don't worry!  John Jameson nor St. Patrick was actually born in Ireland either and they are considered two of the most famous Irishmen. Tomorrow feel free to cash in of all the "Kiss Me I'm Irish" kisses you can, you're just about as Irish as Pat & John!

The Celtic Highlanders of the Irish Channel, NOLA. 
The Irish Julep 
3 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 oz Simple syrup
1/2 oz distilled water
5 fresh mint sprigs
7 mint leaves

Gently bruise 7 mint leaves with the simple syrup in a highball or julep glass. Add 1 1/2 oz Jameson, fill glass to the brim with finely crushed ice. Swirl with barspoon until the outside of the glass frosts. Add remaining bourbon and more ice. Stir again, garnish with plenty of fresh mint sprigs and serve with a short straw so that you get a nice whiff of mint each time you take a sip.

Erin Go Bragh Ya'll!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quick Fix: Edamame Hummus

I'm always looking for interesting ways to take run of the mill recipes to the next level. Sometimes it's the littlest changes that take the ordinary dish to extraordinary. Today we'll take a Middle Eastern dish on a little trip to Japan.

Hummus is an ancient Middle Eastern dish served anytime of day usually as a mezze course. Traditionally hummus (hummous, humos, hommus, depending on where you live) is made with mashed chickpeas that grow locally throughout the Middle East. In this dish we take Hummus a bit further East and swap the chickpeas for Japanese Edamame. The result is a delicious and unique dish for your next party.

1 12oz bag frozen shelled edamame
2 cloves garlic crushed
2 tbs tahini
3 tbs fresh lemon juice
2 tbs olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 large red bell peppers, cored seeded and cut into thin strips
3 whole wheat pita chips

In a small saucepan boil 2 cups of water, a liberal amount of sea salt and edamame for about 10 minutes. Remove and place into a food processor. Add lemon, salt, cumin, black pepper, garlic and tahini and puree until thin. Serve with sliced bell peppers or crunchy pita chips.

Crunchy Pita Chips
3 whole wheat pita chips, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 salt&pepper, 1 pinch of cayenne pepper. Cut pita into 1/8ths drizzle with olive oil and dress with spices. Place into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Enjoy Ya'll!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mushroom Risotto

MiddleBar Mushroom Risotto
Back in December we discussed the famous MiddleBar Risotto. This lovely Italian delight is a great side dish for any occasion but if you're feeling a bit more hungry, toss in some toadstools!

This mushroom risotto stands on it's own and is the perfect dish for all your vegetarian friends.  I use shiitake and crimini for my risotto but you can try it with any fungi you'd like. I encourage you to get creative and try out some mushrooms you've never seen before. There are 100,000 different species of mushrooms out there, so you'd better get cookin'!

3 packages of mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion
olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
1 sprig of thyme
salt & pepper to season

Saute 1 small onion in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add garlic, mushrooms, salt&pepper, thyme and saute about 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook on medium high heat for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat strain 1/4 cup of juices then set aside and make the risotto.

1 cup abrorio rice
1 cup white wine
2 cup vegetable stock
3 cups water
1/4 cup shreaded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mushroom stock (reserved from mushrooms)
salt & pepper
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Melt butter until it is brown, not burned, brown. Add rice and 1 cup of white wine. Bring to a slight boil stirring often. Add salt. Continue to add water and stock slowly while stirring  for the next 30-45 minutes (do not be afraid to add more or less liquid as necessary to keep your risotto from drowning or drying out). The more slowly you add water and more often you stir will effect the overall creaminess of the dish. Half way through cooking add the juice and zest of 1 lemon and mushroom stock.  Once the rice is al dente and most of the water is absorbed, remove from heat and quickly whip in cheese vigorously. Add mushrooms and serve.

Wait, what's that you said? You haven't had the MiddleBar Lemon Truffle Risotto?  WHY NOT!?!?
Enjoy Ya'll!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Video Spotlight: Ice, The Megalith, and The American Cocktail

Heizer's megalith boulder at it's former home in Riverside, CA
Los Angeles is atwitter with the news of a 340 ton boulder slowly making it's way through LA County. "Levitated Mass" is artist Michael Heizer's new (obviously permanent) instillation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The centerpiece of Heizer's work is the largest megalith boulder to be moved in modern times. This modern day Stonehenge has gotten so much press that it's got it's own twitter account (@LACMA Rock)! All this talk about rocks got me thinking about the most popular rocks, those in our cocktails.

It looks strangely like the megalith! 
The history of the American cocktail takes a dramatic turn in the early 1800s with the addition of ice. That solid piece of water is what makes a cocktail a cocktail. It was good ole American ingenuity that took these cold blocks out of the great lakes in the winter, loaded them into bunkers, and sold them to saloons across the country.

Ice is big business in bartending these days and I mean big. Mixologists are moving away from small thin ice cubes in favor of large dense blocks. The density and surface area of these blocks helps the ice melt slowly insuring that your cocktail stays cold but not watered down.

I am pleased to announce that this is the first edition of MiddleBar's Video Spotlight so without further ado, please watch our video above for a quick lesson in creating your own large surface area ice!