Monday, September 23, 2013

Technique 101: en Papillote

The usual style of cooking here at MiddleBar places ingredients forward, rather than preparation.  I usually don't get too technical as far as recipes go, but occasionally it's nice to incorporate something that requires a bit more technique. One of the tastiest and easiest technically driven recipes is fish en Papillote (in parchment).
En Papillote is a french technique where foods are poached in their own juices or stock inside a folded parchment paper pouch.  When baked, it steams the food, leaving a rich, luscious texture, never dry.  It is a brilliant way to cook fish and vegetables, and recipes can be found throughout the world that incorporate this technique.

In honor of Mrs. Julia Child, who had a birthday not too long ago.  This recipe is dedicated to her, as she would've been a huge fan of this quintessentially french dish.
For each serving:
8 ounces boneless fish fillet, such as snapper, salmon or cod
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 large sprig fresh thyme
2 Ceregnola or other large green olives with pits
Extra-large egg

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the fish fillet on a piece of parchment paper and sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over the top of the fillet. Lay the thyme on top and place the olives next to the fillet.

Beat the egg together with 1 tablespoon of water for an egg wash. Brush the egg wash around the edge of the parchment paper and fold it in half. Carefully fold the edge of the parchment paper under and around the fish to make a package. Place the package on a sheet pan and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Serve hot in the parchment paper.

Pairs nicely with a roasted potato and a little sauteed spinach.  Or, try a rice pilaf with roasted broccolini. Pretty much good no matter what.

Bon appetit, y'all!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Heavenly Tomatoes

June 2013

Something very interesting happened here at MiddleBar that everyone keeps telling me to write about.

A few months ago, I was talking to my friend Elizabeth, a Master Gardner, about wishing I had the space for a tomato garden. Someone suggested the rooftop, but then we'd have to involve the landlord blah, blah, blah, blah.  Our friend Diana told us to simply get some pots and randomly toss some seeds in there.  I never got the chance...

1 week later!!!  I was headed out back to take out the trash, when I saw a fledgling tomato vine growing out of a 2x4 inch crack in the ground.  Not kidding. A crack.  Seriously, no grass, dirt, anything.  Just a vine, growing out of a crack in the pavement.  I was flabbergasted. 

July 2013
So, I cleaned up the area, and made a home for these miracle tomatoes.  I propped the sad little half broken vine up on the legs of MiddleBar by attaching a few hook screws to the legs.  Then, I wrangled in some bricks that happened to be laying around in the yard.  Then it gets even weirder.  When I finished,  I whispered to my plant, "someone loves you now." (Seriously, I said that. Who am I??)  And now, I talk to them EVERY DAY. 

August 2013

It was June 10th when the vine sprung up from a crack in the pavement, and flopped itself down by the trash can out back.  Today, this crazy plant is healthy and bountiful.  How? I'm not sure.  There's seriously no soil out there.  But she's beautiful and totally magical.

-be specific
-believe in magic

Monday, August 12, 2013

Chilled Corn Chowder With Basil Chili Oil

The summer corn is so delicious this year!   Underwood Family Farm and I have become very close this summer. I figured out what to do with all that delicious corn I can't resist!  A great chilled corn chowder for all that farmstand corn. We keep the corn simple and delicious, only adding a touch of salt, and a broth made from water and the husks.  No dairy is necessary in the creation of this creamy goodness, which makes me and my sinuses very, very happy.  (I recently found out I have allergic reactions to soy and dairy) But on the plus side, MiddleBar is rockin' some delicious allergen-friendly recipes these days :)

6 ears of corn
2 quarts of water
1 small onion tiny dice
1 cup basil leaves
1 generous pinch chili flake
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic peeled

1. Cut the corn kernels from the husks and put aside. Milk the husks by pressing the back of a knife along the husk over a pot of 2 quarts of boiling water and add to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

2. In a tablespoon of bacon fat, melt onions until translucent 7-10min. Add corn kernels and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and add to a bowl reserving 1 cup of kernel onion mixture.

3. Strain corn husk water through a fine sieve into the bowl with the corn onion mixture and using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add the reserved cup of kernel onion mixture cover and chill for 2+ hours.

4. For the Basil Chili Oil, as with any herb oil, delicate herbs must be blanched so that your basil oil doesn't turn from green to gray. Blanche for 30 seconds, plunge & lay flat to dry throughly. In a mini prep or blender, add oil, basil and chili flake and puree. Place in bowl, add whole clove of garlic and cover and sit for 1+ hr.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Breaking Bread Together

My first dough on it's second rise.
Our French roots run deep in New Orleans.  Anyone will tell you, our bread is the. best. in the country. There is a lot of talk about bread here at MiddleBar since there are only 3 bakeries in Los Angeles where they bake anything even close to Leidenheimer's. (For my full diatribe on New Orleans french bread click here.)

Bread making is, for sure, one of the great artistic contributions from the French.  But getting started is easier than you think.  One of my favorite take-homes from CAN IT ACADEMY is bread-making, and this delicious boule.

I'm proud to say that my canning education is being put to good use as I'm busy trying to replicate the delicious, light, and terrifically airy french bread of my youth.  In the meantime, here is a simple bread recipe to get you started on your own bread baking adventure.

NY Times Recipe adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising 
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed. 

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stepping Up: Black Beans

I'm all about up-cycling my pantry items. Something as simple as a can of black beans can transform with the addition of some key ingredients. I always keep some garlic and ginger in the fridge. Ya know, the kind in the tiny jar. It's a great shortcut when you're just looking to make a quick meal rather than doing a bunch of dishes.

These beans make a great side dish.  When paired with a few marinated grilled vegetables makes a simple, cheap and delicious vegan dinner.

Ginger & Garlic Black Beans
1 can black beans
1/4 cup tiny diced red onion
1/2 tea crushed garlic
1/2 tea crushed ginger
1/2 tea salt

Simmer beans covered on medium low heat for 20-25 minutes.  
That's it. Simple, Easy, Cheap.
Enjoy y'all!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pisco Sour Happy Hour

Summer is here kids and if you're looking for an upscale alternative to the classic Margarita or the played out Mojito, the Pisco Sour is the drink for you. 

Pisco is a colorless grape brandy produced in either Chile or Peru, and I wouldn't recommend joining any debate as to which region's pisco is superior.  No matter what type you prefer, the end result will always be delicious. Pisco goes down nice and easy, especially on a hot day.  But it packs a significant punch, so keep that in mind.

Pisco Sour
1 1/2oz Pisco
3/4oz fresh lime juice
1oz simple syrup
Several drops Angostura Bitters
1 small egg white
Dry shake egg white pisco and lime, add ice and shake vigorously again. Strain into a well chilled cocktail glass and garnish with several drops of Angostura Bitters on top of the foam created by the egg.

*If you're squirrely about using raw eggs in cocktails, see our blog post: The incredible drinkable egg.

Cheers Y'all

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ancho Chile, Beet Greens & Manchego Quiche

"El Quiche",  with optional fried potato topper

I promised myself I would start working with more chiles this year, since these lovely little dried chile bags are at every market in LA.  Thought I'd start with the Ancho Chile, a dried poblano which has a mild flavor, reminiscent of raisin or dried fig. I paired this fig flavor with Manchego, a buttery sheep's milk cheese and some simple sauteed greens. It's quite a twist on the ordinary spinach quiche. Yummm...

1 cup finely chopped beet greens
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tbs chopped Ancho chile
3/4 cup grated Manchego
1/3 cup milk or cream (almond works great for this)
3 eggs
1 package puff pastry

Soak 1 dried Ancho chile in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425, and roll puff pastry to about an 11"-ish square and place in a 9" pie pan (trim the edges).  In a pan, over medium/high heat, saute the chopped onions and Anchos in olive oil, until the onions are translucent.  Then, add the beet greens, allow to wilt for about 5-7 minutes. Whisk 3 eggs and brush the edges of puff pastry with egg wash then add the milk and cream and whisk again. Fold in all ingredients and pour into puff pastry. Bake until crust is gold brown and the eggs are cooked, about 25 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy y'all!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hot Fun In the Summertime.

Thanks to Erica, Steve, and Patti for the Shun knives. They're amazing!!
There has been a lot going on this Spring, here at MiddleBar! We launched MiddleBar Marys!!! I've been attending an amazing preservation class, and am becoming a Master Canner!!! Plus, we up and got married!!

We're keeping the fun going all summer long! Now that wedding season has passed,  I'll finally have some time to get back in the kitchen. Thanks to our peeps, we have plenty of new kitchen tools & techniques to try out.  So, there will be plenty of new recipes as well. You can also follow us on Instagram for previews of some upcoming delights. Look out this summer for a few of our new favorites!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Meet MiddleBar Mary!

MiddleBar is out of control these days!  We just launched our new product line and we've been getting rave reviews and wonderful feedback!!  Big thank yous to everyone who has been a taste tester, a supporter, and rad purchaser of our new items.  Our MiddleBar Marys were featured throughout the Los Angeles area this Superbowl Sunday, and the feedback was... impressive.  Here's what our fans are saying:

"WTF!!!! The best bloodys I have ever had! I need that in my life!"
                                      Stacey King

"OMG! That's like offering crack to  people...The best frakkin Bloody EVER!!!"
                                   Raquel Hollier

"SO GOOD!  So full of flavor, with a light refreshing body.  Impossible to resist a second glass."
                                 Sarah Tapscott

"In all seriousness--that was without question the best Bloody Mary Bar I have ever witnessed!"
                            Teri Pensky Hlubik

 In addition to our Mary Mix, we also offer the Bloody Mary Kit featuring our superb pickle collection.  Including the soon to be famous Lagniappe Beans, Sweet Beans, Pickled Onions & Garlic with a cayenne kick.  They're guaranteed to make your eyes water, but ya just won't stop coming back for more.

"There's an onion in there that is just outstanding."
                                  Steve Bell

Pickled Celery is a new and unique addition to the MiddleBar line.  We figure, ya gotta have celery in that Bloody Mary, so why not pickle it?   As they say in Portlandia, "we can pickle that!"  And of course, you can't forget the classic MiddleBar Dills.  Just Dill-licious.
If you want to get some for your own, all you have to do is email!
MiddleBar Marys are available in 3 different sizes: Liter, 1/2 Gallon Growler, & 1 Gallon Growler.
No matter how big or small your next brunch, we're ready to furnish you with all the fixins for a brilliant Bloody Mary Bar.

Stay tuned for more products which will be ready in time for next season's football parties:  Pickled Beets, Couture Cocktail Onions, Okra & more!

                                 "Stop.  These bloody marys are too good. 
                                  They're hurting my feelings."

Wanna order, drop me a line.

Thanks Y'all!!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Rocket Crustinis

December was chock full of parties and MiddleBar hit the road doing some boutique catering! This year you'll be seeing a lot more appetizers since I've got so many of them flying out of the MB kitchen. 

Today's recipe for Rocket Crustini is super simple but has a ton of flavor complexity. This recipe calls for Rocket (most commonly known as Arugula). Rocket has a spicy, peppery flavor and is delicious when drizzled with olive oil and a hint of lemon. Throughout history, rocket has been considered an aphrodisiac - and you thought you liked it for the taste alone! ;) 

Rocket Crustini
1 Bushel of Rocket greens 
4oz of Goat Cheese (use plain, rather than an herb variety)
1 pack Prosciutto 
Lemon Zest
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 350. Cut a rustic baguette on the bias, drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil, arrange baguette slices in a single layer and lightly drizzle the top of the baguette with oil and a pinch of salt & pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Over medium high heat, fry prosciutto slices as you would with bacon. Place them on a paper towel and crush into prosciutto bits.

Top the baguettes with rocket, goat cheese, and prosciutto bits as seen above. Sprinkle salt, a tiny bit of pepper, some lemon zest, a drizzle of olive oil, and a hit or two of lemon juice. 

Rock the Rocket Y'all!!!