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.