CSA Box – July 24, 2014

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I know I haven’t posted one of my goodie boxes lately. Not that we haven’t been getting them, I have. I just haven’t had a chance to get pictures before it all gets put away.

This would probably be a good time to introduce my local CSA to those who haven’t seen my original post from eons ago. Every week I get a beautiful box of fresh, local and seasonal food from a little company called Acme Farms & Kitchen. They work with local farmers and businesses to provide things like fruits, vegetables, produce, eggs, milk, cheese, fresh pasta and sauces, breads, meats, seafood and so much more. They started out small, serving a hundred or so customers. When I originally started with them they had a special program that would deliver the boxes to your workplace. You had a choice between a small or large “locavore” box, with either surf or turf, and even a gluten free box. You chose how often you wanted delivery and the “season” lasted about 22 weeks or so. You could also order some of your favorite items individually to add to your weekly box. With each box they also supplied 3 or 4 recipes that were specific to whatever was in your box that week. I found it a great tool for those veggies that I’ve never really used before or were unfamiliar with, like kale, swiss chard, etc. You only had to supply a few pantry items, usually staples that you already have.

Now they have grown so much they service several counties and boxes are available year round. Over time they have changed some of their suppliers but you can guarantee it’ll be the best they can find. They recently added a Chef prepared box. There are three dinners, already prepared, all you need to do is reheat and some minimal cooking and a fresh meal is on the table. Although many things have changed over the past few years they still offer the large and small locavore boxes. I get a small box every week which feeds 3-4 people for a reasonable price.

So here is today’s box from Acme Farms and Kitchen.

Lettuce, basil, Walla Walla onions, fresh garlic, peaches, cucumber, fresh radiatore pasta, flat breads, fromage blanc, eggs, pork kabob, green beans, banana peppers, peaches, cilantro

Lettuce, basil, Walla Walla onions, fresh garlic, peaches, cucumber, fresh radiatore pasta, flat breads, fromage blanc, eggs, pork kabob, green beans, banana peppers, fresh peaches, cilantro

The recipes that were suggested are:

Radiatore with Pesto
Pork Kabobs with Peach Salsa and Green Beans
Flatbreads with Peppers, Onions & Fromage Blanc

Hmmm, where to start? Decisions, decisions.

 

 

Food Network Star – Week 8

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I’ll admit it’s been hard for me to organize my thoughts and write about this week’s competition. It was simply put, weird. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the contestants or the challenges.

First the contestants were given the arduous task of eating a luxurious, over the top dish at a famous Las Vegas restaurant. A $777 burger, a $1000 ice cream sundae, etc. Once the finalists were back from their decadent meals they were split into two teams and had to create a four course meal, including dessert. Apparently it isn’t enough to cook food, you must provide the “whole 360″, think extreme dining experience. The bottom two from last week got to be team captains. So I did have a “huh?” moment there. The losers get to pick the teams? Emma chose Lenny and Loreal because she thought they were willing to put themselves out there.  Sarah had Nicole and Luca.

Caesar walks out with his wife/slave, who knows, holding a tray with little scrolls. As Alton calls out a name Caesar picks up a scroll and shows it to the contestants. All are a protein of some sort. The team captain got to choose if they were going to keep that protein for themselves or give it to one of their team mates. Sarah kept the Wagyu beef, she gave Luca duck and Nicole frog legs. Emma gave Lenny sea urchin (uni) because she figured he would know what to do with it, she gave Loreal langoustine and then had a nice hunk of Mangalitsa pork. I have no idea what is so special about this pork and neither did Emma. It was obvious she didn’t know what to do with any of the ingredients otherwise she would have kept one for herself.

Team Emma was doomed from the start. She didn’t play to her teammates’ strengths. She expected them to come to her level instead of meeting somewhere in the middle. Her idea was a feast from the gods but neither Lenny or Loreal were comfortable with the whole concept, but it doesn’t seem like they tried to offer up any other suggestions.

I think Lenny was trying to portray himself like he was in a Greek tragedy, unfortunately the results were tragic. I’m not sure what the heck he was trying to do. Loreal was trying to be serene, sorry, Loreal and serene don’t make a good combination, she failed. Her face didn’t move, it was like she was frozen in time or something and she spoke in a very weird, monotone voice. The judges were simply weirded out by the whole concept.

Their presentations were terrible and the food pretty unspectacular. In Lenny’s case his uni and cauliflower just didn’t make a good combination. Loreal didn’t do anything with the langoustines but boil them. She did make something she called a chicken “skinarette” for a salad, just not sure what that was. It might have been some sort of chicken skin vinaigrette.

Emma was Emma. She did her calm, soothing voice that really wants to put you to sleep, until she started talking about how people discovered that roasted pork was tasty. She started going off about barns burning with pigs inside and that’s when people figured out that pig tasted good. I didn’t have a problem with that really, it just felt out of place. If she thought that needed to be added fine, but she really needed to work it in better with the rest of her calm, relaxing story. Instead she sounded like she was excited about it all. It just hit a wrong note.

Sarah was the star. Yeah, it was a hunk of steak which is easy enough to throw on the grill and cook, but it is also very easy to ruin but she didn’t. She called it a Texas sized hunk, I call it a Flintstones size hunk it was H-U-G-E.  She made a tasty looking potato side and a lobster cream corn.

Luca did fine but his nerves were showing when he was attempting to pour his sauce, his hands were shaking so bad. But when he started presenting his voice was calm and even toned. He made you really want to eat his dish. Unfortunately the judges didn’t think it really lived up to the hype.

Nicole had never cooked frog legs before but she nailed it. The judges loved her dish, just not her presentation. She started out talking about her husband and then ended up in Thailand so she could get the coastal cooking in there, but they weren’t tied together. Just two separate stories. She also made a pretty good looking dessert, taking a simple bonfire snack like s’mores and turning it in to a decadent dessert perfect for fine dining.

It was obvious that team Sarah was going to be the winner. They really did a much better job all around than team Emma. So that left Emma, Lenny and Loreal in the bottom. I have to admit that this time around I figured Loreal would go home, at this point I think she has more misses than hits. But then again Emma hasn’t had too many hits, so she ended up going home. I’m not sure if they decided it was because she was a team captain and the theme she chose just didn’t work with her team mates, or if it was because week after week she is exactly the same. She doesn’t appear to have grown at all.

I know lots of people are upset that Emma left. I can’t say I’m sad to see her go, she simply has no range which could prove to be boring. I’m sure there is a place for her where she would be absolutely perfect, but Food Network is not it.

Even Lenny is starting to leave me feeling flat. I want to see some good cooking, I want him to smile and engage me, but not so over the top that it is irritating. I honestly believe he could be the next Food Network star if he could just stop trying so hard to be an entertainer and just be Lenny. He’s constantly putting on a show and I’ll be honest, I’m getting tired of it. I really loved him in the beginning. He was so engaging and he was great in the kitchen, now I’m just not so sure any more. Then again I went and checked out his website. Pretty lame and I’m not sure what type of show he would have.

I’ve definitely changed my mind about Loreal. She says she’s the butcher babe, well then let’s see some butchering and good cooking of meat. She must have some great tips she could pass on about cuts of meat. But you know, just because you can butcher the meat doesn’t mean you can cook it. In her defense she didn’t have actual meat this week, she had langoustines which need to be handled just right.

Nicole is just being Nicole. She keeps putting out respectable plates. Her presentation has been off way more than her food, but I don’t know if she can win in the end unless she can really do something to pump up her POV a bit, just give it a little bit more of something. I just started following her blog and she sounds like such a fun person to be around. Friendly, sweet and sincere. That’s what she needs to add to her demonstrations. Give it a little more of who she is and she could go all the way.

I’m still not a Sarah fan even though she hit a home run last night. One home run a Food Network star does not make. I think she is about 50/50 with people who dislike her and those who like her. I haven’t seen her do anything with her POV either. Throwing a steak on the grill does not mean you’re from Texas.

I’m honestly starting to lean pretty heavily in Nicole’s favor right now. Funny how things have changed since week 1. How my opinions change the more I see of the contestants. Nicole definitely has been the most consistent throughout the competition and I’ve liked Lenny and Loreal less and less as the weeks move on.

Food Network Star – Week 7

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The finalists are in Vegas baby! Talk about having some tough competition, do you realize how many chefs have restaurants in Sin City?

First of all Luca is back! He made it through Star Salvation which I’ve not mentioned prior to this. As each contestant was eliminated they had a chance to work themselves back in to the main competition. They started out with fan favorites from the last two seasons, Chad and Marti. Luca beat them all out. I was hoping he would be able to get back to the main competition. He really does know food, he knows how to describe it, he has great charisma and warmth and is so easy to relate to. It doesn’t hurt that he’s not bad to look at either, I’ll admit. His only problem was the camera, but it looks like he overcame that hurdle. More on that a bit later. The other finalists were quite surprised to learn that it wasn’t actually the final six but the final seven.

The first little task the finalists had to complete was to describe some dishes from the buffet to Giada in 90 seconds and make her want to eat them. There were three dishes and they had to get her hungry for the dish before moving on to the next one. Most of them weren’t very good, there was a lot of ummms and ahhhs, quite a bit of generic descriptions or in the case of Nicole, big words like viscosity and unctuous. Only Emma managed to get through all three dishes and she did it by peppering her descriptions with familial anecdotes which has pretty much been her standard.  Lenny got through one and Luca two, but that’s it. The rest of the crew didn’t even make it through their first dish.

The main competition this week was to prepare a dish for a poolside party of 100 guests. They also had to get up there and explain their dish to the guests and from their presentation get them to come to their station. Each guest was given three tokens and could only pick out their favorite three dishes to try out. Not only that, they were given the “dreaded box of doom”. The guests would use this to show their interest in the finalists presentations.

Chris – I’ve never made any bones about not liking Chris and wanting to see him gone. He honestly doesn’t entertain or amuse me and he hasn’t shown me that he could cook. Last night was no different. He tries so hard to be an entertainer he forgets there is another part of the deal, you gotta be able to produce a decent dish. If you’re going to say your dish is the best, well it had better be the best. He picked up some beef tenderloin and proceeded to overcook it. Cauliflower puree? Sorry, I love cauliflower but we are talking about Vegas, poolside and you are going to serve cauliflower? Yuck! Guess that’s why he ended up as one of the final three.

Sarah – I’ve also never made any bones about not really liking Sarah either. At first it was her pageant girl attitude, then she couldn’t make up her mind about her POV, then her criticism of Bobby Flay being a Yankee and not knowing anything about Texas cooking, and last night it was her freaking whining! She had a plan to make some sort of beef dish with beef tenderloins, but Chris beat her to the meat and took all of it. So she goes running off to try and get half of it from him and is surprised when he won’t share. So then the rest of the night was the constant complaints about how Chris wouldn’t share the beef and how she could have done better if she’d used the beef instead of Chris. She used pork instead and went with her same plan. It apparently wasn’t a very successful dish according to the judges. I wish she just would have shut up about the beef. Get over it! Move on! Then there was her presentation, she went back to her pageantry days with a tiara and a wand and kept saying she was from Texas and was going to provide some good Texas food, but she didn’t really explain anything about it. She still hasn’t quite narrowed down that danged Texas POV yet nor produced a decent dish. She also ended up in the bottom three.

Emma – I’ve been pretty ambivalent towards Emma. Her soft-spokenness hasn’t really grated on me. I like Ina and enjoy watching her show so I would imagine if Emma had something interesting to show I’d watch her. But I really haven’t found anything she’s made interesting, nothing she says really would draw me in to watch her. She tries to incorporate too much into one dish. Her travels to a Thailand beach and then something from another visit and we have this odd concoction of mango and squid (?), actually I honestly don’t remember what seafood it was, it was flat, slimy and raw looking. The whole dish did not look appetizing at all. Truthfully, I’m getting a bit tired of the constant stories, it seems very contrived and not natural at this point. Hearing it once is charming but over and over again, it’s getting old.

Nicole – Nicole is another one that I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about. She at least has had more consistent dishes than Emma. But I’m not sure how much I’d want to watch a Coastal Cuisine show. I’m still not sure what that’s all about. After last night though I think I want to put her towards the bottom of the pile. She made scallops wrapped in Serrano ham. The problem was she used prosciutto because there was no Serrano available. Ok, fine, but she lied about it. She straight up said she doubted anyone would know the difference anyway. There was such an arrogance about her assuming everyone was an idiot so it was ok to lie to them. Granted I wouldn’t know the difference, but if I went looking for Serrano and couldn’t find it because it didn’t look exactly like the ham she used I’d probably be upset and not trust her very much.

Luca – I was so happy to see Luca back. I’ve enjoyed watching him on Star Salvation. I was rather annoyed with the other finalists saying how surprised they were that he was back and acting like he left because he couldn’t speak about food. I’m not sure, maybe my memory is going or something, but I thought he left because the judges didn’t think he would be able to talk to the camera. Not that he couldn’t talk about food, he couldn’t talk about it in front of the camera. I always thought he was pretty good with describing the food and giving clear instructions. Lenny asking if he studied the Rosetta Stone was kind of annoying. Luca had issues performing before the camera, not talking about food. I thought he did well and of course the women around the pool couldn’t keep their eyes off of him. Fortunately his seafood salad lived up to the description. Yeh Luca!

Lenny – Lenny was definitely the big winner. He had the most chips by far and his box of doom ratings were higher than anyone else’s as well. He’s always been pretty consistent with his dishes. He’s had a few flops, but not very many. Last night his food apparently lived up to his big personality. Everyone loved him. He’s an entertainer and that’s what he did. BUT…I love Lenny but I don’t think the belly flop was necessary. Come on, dude, maintain a little bit of respect for yourself. And what was up with him combing his beard? I think they must have shown three different clips of him grooming his beard. Now I don’t know whether this is a new affectation or if he’s always done it and those clips have always ended up on the editing floor. Maybe the producers needed something negative about him? But it sure makes you rethink your first thoughts of the humble cowboy cook. I can’t help but wonder how much do the producers have to do with his entertaining the crowd, do they make suggestions to liven up the show? Have to keep those ratings up and if people are watching because Lenny’s a clown then let’s keep it up. (Ok, I know that this is not live, nothing we say is going to make a difference. All of this happened months ago. But, how long before the show is aired to they actually finalize the clips? Do they read our comments and then make sure the next show feeds into what we are saying? More Lenny? Ok we have all of this great footage let’s add that. Just a thought)

Loreal – I guess the best I can say is she did ok. She is relying on her quirky personality a little too much. I don’t even remember what she made last night because she just didn’t impress. It was something with beef. But she didn’t talk about it at all, she spent more time talking about herself and her quirkiness than talking up her food. I thought that was what the whole exercise was for, present your food in such a mouth watering way to make sure the guests hit your workstation and give you a chip. She wondered why she didn’t get that many chips after that performance? No one knew what she was serving.

In the end Chris was the one to go. I am so glad to see him finally gone. I really think he should have left a while back but the finalists haven’t had all that much opportunity to cook so he’d been getting by on personality alone. Well his luck ran out this week. Next week maybe it’ll be Sarah. If she did make it, I wouldn’t watch her.

Food Network Star – Week 6

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This week the finalists had to create their own brand and shoot a commercial to sell their product. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds because they were given rather odd places to hawk their products. The moon, the Great Wall of China, the desert, the old west, Paris, a tropical island, and a tomato patch of huge, oversized tomatoes. Trust me Lenny did not get the old west. The finalists had to really fit their product in to surroundings that did not fit them or their product. The producers of this show are cruel and evil. I know it was to force the finalists to be able to sell their product to anyone, anywhere. Like selling ice cubes at the North Pole.

Only one really stood out, Loreal. She is such a natural on the screen and can be enjoyable to watch. But I have to admit that her schtick is getting old, well so is Lenny’s. I love how natural both of them are but they are trying too hard to be over the top and it would be nice to just see them be themselves and not so loud.

I really have to disagree with the panel this week. Chris made flavored butter coins. How hard is that? Seriously? Susie said it was the best thing she’s ever seen on the show! His commercial was lacking, he didn’t sell anything. How would I use it? Why do I need it? He is who they choose to be one of the top winners this week? He still hasn’t cooked anything! Once again they prove that cooking isn’t the most important aspect of the show.

Nicole was obviously uncomfortable. She had a good product but didn’t sell it.

Emma had this atrocious French accent that was barely understandable. She also had a good product but didn’t really sell it, especially as it was beets and most people cringe at that word. Personally I love beets so I would have liked trying it.

Reuben fell very flat on screen this week. He just didn’t have his usual energy. He’s trying so hard to pull back a little as the judges have suggested that he’s going backwards. The panel was split on his product. It was one of three hot sauces.

Lenny had one of the three hot sauces as well. Fortunately for him his product was loved by everyone on the panel which saved him because his performance in his commercial was way over the top. Even though he and Loreal are my favorites, both of them are getting a little annoying with their “loud” personalities.

Sarah made baby food. She hasn’t seemed to settle in to anything yet. First it was Date Night but she wasn’t able to pull that one off. Then it’s Texas cuisine. I’ve lived in Texas, what exactly is Texas cuisine? Ummm, not baby food I don’t think. She’s going to have to solidify her POV or she’s going to be leaving soon.

In the end the bottom three were Nicole, Reuben and Emma. The judges decided that Reuben wasn’t improving, in fact he seemed to be getting worse so he’s the one that was sent home.

Now they are off to Vegas.

Food Network Star – Week 5

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This week the finalists had to do a live demo at Knott’s Berry Farm. They had to create dishes that were usual 4th of July pairings. Like burgers and pasta salad, crab cakes and coleslaw, etc.

Nothing really stood out today other than half of the finalists can’t seem to cook. Hmmm, thought they were competing for a cooking show. My favorites were Lenny and Loreal. They are so natural and make you want to watch them. I think Lenny is about the only one that can entertain and actually cook.

Lenny did shoot himself in the foot for his demo. He cooked up all of his fish for his fish tacos and forgot to save enough for his demo. He ended up talking about making guacamole. Nothing special, no cool tips about changing it up. Fortunately the judges didn’t hold that against him and he was safe.

Loreal, the Butcher Babe, was definitely likable. However, the judges weren’t impressed with her not seasoning the meat prior to cooking it. During judging Alton told her she had no say, she will season her meat prior to cooking from here on out. But they love her and she was safe along with Lenny.

Sarah changed her POV from “date night” to “Texas cooking”. Once again she made a burger that was not impressive and I thought she was pretty arrogant in thinking that she knew more than Bobby about burgers. I admit that I add spices to my ground beef, but heck, I buy the cheap stuff. Really, I do want her gone. I can’t watch her. She is all over the place, she doesn’t present herself as an expert in cooking and she has a serious case of foot in mouth disease because some of things that come out of her mouth, you just look at her and wonder “did you really just say that?”.

Chris just annoys me. He was entertaining, did a pretty good impression of the president, but he did very little cooking once again. Is he an entertainer or a cook?

Emma and Nicole were pretty much in the middle of the pack this week. Both gave pretty good performances. Emma’s food wasn’t good and Nicole didn’t tie her POV to her dish.

Reuben really is lovable and I would probably watch his show. But honestly, I don’t know what his POV is. Is it supposed to be Cuban cooking? So far he hasn’t really delivered in the cooking department, but he is getting better and speaking slower with his presentations. His chicken wasn’t all that good or flavorful. Oh, and I have to say that I am enjoying his neater look. He trimmed his big, shaggy beard up after the first episode and he looks so much nicer.

Christopher can cook. He had a pairing that was absolutely perfect for him. He delivered on flavor but couldn’t deliver on his presentation. He pretty much just listed everything he did and never demonstrated a thing. In the end, even though he can cook, he was sent home. I’m not going to lie, I wanted him to be the next. He is B-O-R-I-N-G. I want to be taught how to cook new dishes, but I don’t want to be put to sleep in the process. It’s just unfortunate that he does need to entertain as well as cook. If he hadn’t been sent home I’m hoping he would have gotten better with the camera and demonstrating challenges, but I really have my doubts. Not everyone can be a TV personality.

The judges were torn between the two. Giada really doesn’t like Christopher and wants him gone. Bobby likes his food and thinks he’s been showing improvement in each challenge. In the end Alton agreed with Giada, the challenge was to cook AND demonstrate at the same time. I will also admit that I’m torn. Right now I’m not sure who can cook because they’ve had very few cooking challenges. Everything has been focusing on entertaining the audience. I would think that if the challenger can cook, everything else can be taught. But they must be able to speak intelligently about food. So far Sarah and Chris haven’t done that for me.

The thing that really annoys me about the judging is they can’t make up their minds. Are they supposed to be entertainers or cooks? One minute they complain about their screen presence and then the next they complain they can’t cook. I know they need to be able to do both but shouldn’t you find out if they can cook first and then worry if they are presentable on TV? Ok, I’m also going to mention Giada’s attitude. Holy cow the woman is one mean, obnoxious witch! Wow, she was really showing her true colors tonight. She has been pretty blunt all along about not liking Christopher because she didn’t think he was willing to change his way of thinking about connecting with the crowd. But tonight she was over the top. The comments she made about everyone’s food, some were downright mean. Bobby will admit when he doesn’t like something, but he is never rude about it. Not Giada. You always expect Alton to be blunt, but he’s never mean.

The one thing I am definitely enjoying this season is the lack of bitchiness and cattiness between the contestants. In earlier seasons there was so much back stabbing and nastiness, and there was that one person that you absolutely hated and really wanted to be gone. But there they were, week in and week out, hanging in there until the bitter end. So glad that has gone away, it’s not good entertainment. I know there are a lot of people who love that kind of drama, I don’t like it and don’t want to see it. I think that is one of the reasons I stopped watching for a while because I couldn’t stand the drama. Oh…maybe the producers decided because the contestants weren’t providing drama Giada needed to do it instead.

It seems like everyone honestly gets along. Yeah, they make a few smartass comments during the interviews and stuff, but that is expected. I like that they “seem” to like one another. I don’t know if they do, but at least on the screen they look like they do. It’s so much more enjoyable watching the show if you’re not distracted by drama.

My prediction for next week – Sarah or Chris.

Falafel with Tzatziki

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falafel with tzatziki2

I said that one day I was going to make Falafel from the over abundance of dried garbanzo beans I have from my CSA box. Well I finally did it last week and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. It was a bit messy, but then again, it could be that I’m a messy cook so it doesn’t matter what I make it’ll still be a mess.

First I took about 2 cups of dried garbanzo beans and covered them water leaving about 2 inches or so of water over the beans and let them soak overnight. Trust me, you want to use dried garbanzo beans, if you don’t, you’ll end up with hummus.

I used this recipe from Tory Avery, it seemed to be the most authentic. She had some great pictures and good tips for a first time falafel maker like me. It definitely was not a fail.

Form little balls or patties . I used a cookie scoop, which was about 2 tablespoons of falafel mix.

Form little balls or patties . I used a cookie scoop, which was about 2 tablespoons of falafel mix.

Form little balls into patties.

Form little balls into patties.

Carefully drop falafel patties into hot oil.

Carefully drop falafel patties into hot oil.

Serve in pita bread half with your choice of condiments. I used tzatziki, chopped tomatoes and lettuce. Keep it simple to get that great falafel flavor.

Serve in pita bread half with your choice of condiments. I used tzatziki, chopped tomatoes and lettuce. Keep it simple to get that great falafel flavor.

Falafel

1 pound (about 2 cups) dry chickpeas/garbanzo beans
1 small onion, roughly chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I used a combination of cilantro and parsley for a more herbaceous flavor)
3-5 cloves garlic
1 1/2 Tbls flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of ground cardamom
Vegetable oil for frying

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Place in a food processor along with the onion, garlic, flour, salt, cumin, coriander, black pepper and cayenne, cardamom and herbs.

Pulse until the mixture starts getting a bit coarse, scraping down the sides periodically. Pulse a bit more until you get a meal like consistency. I pinched a bit between my fingers and if it held it’s shape then it was good. I probably chopped it up a bit more fine than called for, but the falafel patties held together beautifully. Pour into a bowl and use a fork to loosen and fluff up the mixture. Cover and chill for at least an hour. The longer the better.

In a skillet or pan with high sides heat about 1 inch of oil. Form the falafel mixture into little balls or patties. I used my cookie scoop and came up with about 2 tablespoons or so of mixture for each patty.

Carefully place the patties in the hot oil, I dropped them in away from me so I didn’t get splattered. Fry about 5 or 6 at a time, about 2 minutes on each side. I used a cast iron skillet and it worked perfectly.

pull falafel patties out of oil and drain on rack or paper towels and add the next batch.

To serve, place hot falafels in pita bread halves along with whatever condiments you like. I made a homemade tzatziki and added some chopped lettuce and tomato, keeping it real simple.

The falafel patties were nice and crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

 Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce)

This made a ton of tzatziki, so if you don’t think you are going to use it all in 3-4 days then you might think about halving the recipe.

recipe adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen

3 cups Greek Yogurt
1 Tbls fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced (if using English cucumbers there is no need to seed them, also only need 1 English cucumber)
1 Tbls salt
1 Tbls finely chopped fresh dill or 2 tsp dried dill (I didn’t have any fresh on hand)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds. If you’re using English cucumbers you really only need one and you don’t need to scrape out the seeds. Slice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend. The longer it rests the better it tastes.

This keeps in the refrigerator for about 3 or 4 days. Make sure you stir it before serving.

Food Network Star – Week 3 and 4

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YouTube and selfies this week – umm, where’s the cooking?

First a quick review of last week’s competition. Last week wasn’t even worth the time to sit down and comment, that’s how bad it was. They did send the right person home, Kenny. But the whole show was a waste of time. The challenge was Cut Throat Kitchen. The judges said this was to test that the competitors could cook under pressure and adjust to the circumstances. I really would like to see how well the judges would do with some of the sabotages. It’s real easy to sit back and tell them how they could have done better.

The challengers were split into two teams. For one team the challenge was to make spaghetti and meatballs and the second team had to make a breakfast plate. I honestly don’t remember much about the results of the spaghetti and meatball challenge other than Loreal had to grind her meat with a snow cone machine. See, that’s how much interest I had in the show last week.

For the breakfast plate, Kenny didn’t have any sabotages against him and he came up with a lame breakfast in a cup idea that looked totally gross and I’m sure tasted just as bad. I’m not one of those that can’t have my food touching each other, but even I wouldn’t have tried sticking a spoon or fork in there and tried it.

Lenny was in the bottom three and I was sad to see that. Of course everyone saw him as the biggest threat and tried to deal with him first. He ended up using his entire wad of cash so he wouldn’t be sabotaged, so when the next one came out he didn’t have anything left to spend and they got him. He had to ride the blender bike and make a smoothie which really is just a time waster. He made an egg dish and a bread side, unfortunately the bread side which he called a sopapilla was more of a corn tortilla with no flavor and Bobby actually spit it out. They all said his egg dish was good but all they could focus on was the stupid tortilla. In the end Kenny went, thank god! Emma was the overall winner with chocolate covered bacon sandwiches which actually sounded pretty decent.

This week the challengers had to make a quick little selfie of the Star kitchen and give a quick tip as well as the big challenge of making a viral video. I read some comments on FN Facebook page and the FN Dish blog and the majority were in an uproar because there was no cooking. I do want to state that I understand in the overall scheme of things the purpose of this challenge. In today’s society it seems most everyone in their 30′s and down is electronically connected, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. This is how people communicate and I understand that the Food Network is adjusting as times change. However, I still would like to see some cooking. After all in the end isn’t this what the winner is going to have to do? This week’s challenge really played into my open letter to the Food Network.

The selfies – most were ok. It is what it is, the challenger walked around the Star set and talked about whatever they wanted. It was obvious that some are very socially connected and were totally natural doing their selfie. I can’t say that any of the selfies made that big of an impression on me. Here are some of the highlights that I found noteworthy.

Emma gave a nice calm tour and ended the clip taking a bite out of a fresh tomato. She ended up winning the challenge which gave her a big advantage for the next one.

Loreal was a little out there, as usual. But she was cute and funny.

Lenny gave a decent tip about cleaning cast iron but didn’t really explain why it was necessary, something I would have liked to have known because cast iron has always been a bane to me.

It was obvious that pageant princess, Sarah, was comfortable taking pictures and talking about herself. I thought she did pretty well, but thought her tip was lame and a last minute “oh yeah I gotta do a tip” type thing.

The big challenge was to create a viral YouTube video. The challengers were split into three teams and had to create a video promoting Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Payday, Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars. Emma’s advantage from the last challenge was that she got to pick the three teams.

Team Payday was Christopher, Lenny and Aryen. The skit was in a lab with a big lump under a sheet and Dr. Christopher totally hidden by his wig. I honestly thought this one had the best chance at becoming a viral video. Truly Aryen and Lenny pulled it off. Christopher was in the background too much and didn’t act Dr. Frankenstein enough. He really could have played up the doctor part but didn’t. He let Aryen Igor it up to the max. Lenny was the bumbling Payday monster who really clinched it in the end. The judges couldn’t understand anything Aryen was saying, but that was the character. Igor isn’t supposed to be very intelligible. How this video ended up in the bottom I’ll never know.

Team Reece’s was Rueben, Emma and Nicole. The skit was ok, Reuben was a Spanish teacher trying to teach Nicole and Emma Spanish but I found it hard to understand Reuben and I found it somewhat off putting the way he got in Nicole’s face when she couldn’t roll her Rs enough. Emma was the perfect student and kind of just there. I guess it was enough for the judges to think it was the winning video.

Team Almond Joy/Mounds was Sarah, Chris and Loreal. I honestly have no idea what they were trying to pull off. Two girls dating candy bars and waiting to introduce them to Daddy? Chris had the biggest part and it’s exactly what he wanted. But the concept was lame and they beat out the Payday monster?

The judges were way off base this time. I’m not sure what they were looking for but the one video that would probably have gone viral was the one they chose for the bottom. Seriously, one wonders why they really chose it to be in the bottom. Was it because two of the people on the team are two that I think are the weakest and would like to see gone and the judges happen to agree so needed to have a reason to get rid of them next. But out of the three videos this one was definitely not the worst, so someone from team Almond Joy/Mounds should have actually been the one to leave. There were two on that team that I think are the weakest and will eventually get the boot. But I guess it’s too soon for them, we need to prolong the agony a bit longer.

In the end it was between Christopher and Aryen. Although Aryen was eventually going to leave I’m not sure they made the right choice by sending her home this week. Yeah, her selfie wasn’t the greatest but neither was it terrible. Chris didn’t play hardly any part in the video and his selfie was ok, but he’s just not interesting. Maybe he’ll go home next week.

Anyone else watching the show? What are your thoughts?

 

 

Fusilli with Asparagus and Truffled Fromage Blanc

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pasta with asparagus and truffled cheese 3

Because I had a few other things to do last Thursday I didn’t get a chance to share my CSA box with you all. It had the usual eggs, pasta, some greens and veggies, etc.  One of the recipes was for Fusilli with Asparagus and Truffled Fromage Blanc. I made this a few days ago so I could clear out the refrigerator for the new box this week. This recipe used up a good portion of ingredients. The only thing I had to go out and buy was a lemon and it has fed me for two days now.

It is also one of those 30 minute recipes. Quick and easy. While your water is coming to a boil for the pasta you can be preparing the asparagus. While the pasta and asparagus cook you can get the cheese ready. Mix it all together and it’s on the table in under 30 minutes. I guess it all depends on how long it takes to get your water to a boil. I cut the lemon zest down to 1 teaspoon instead of the 1 tablespoon the recipe called for, it sounded like way too much lemon. I didn’t drizzle lemon over the pasta when it was plated, instead I added fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.

First thing is the Fromage Blanc, all I knew about it was it’s French for white cheese. I knew it was a fresh cheese but not anything else about it so I had to look it up. I ended up at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company’s website. The consistency of the cheese is soft, yet you can crumble it with your fingers. It’s definitely wasn’t the consistency of yogurt, which I guess it can be sometimes depending on how it’s made. It’s a tangy, spreadable cheese. Add some fresh herbs and spread it on toasted bagels for breakfast. You can use it as a substitute for ricotta or even quark. Quark? Quark is a fresh German cheese, they use it in many of their baking recipes. I have a couple of German cookbooks that use quark as an ingredient and didn’t have a clue where I could get some. Now I guess I can try fromage blanc and see if that works.

What is truffled fromage blanc? The cheese I got had black truffle flavoring if you can believe it. It was pretty danged good mixed in with the pasta and asparagus and made a nice creamy coating for the pasta. I also had some fresh parsley from the box and sprinkled a bit of that on top of the pasta with some Parmesan cheese.

truffle flavored fromage blanc

 

Fusilli with Asparagus and Truffled Fromage Blanc

adapted from Acme Farms & Kitchen

14 oz fusilli pasta (spirals)
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ pieces
2 Tbls olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
8 oz fromage blanc
Fresh lemon juice to taste (optional)
Other optional garnishes: fresh parsley, Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and continue cooking until pasta is al dente. Before draining pasta save about 1/2 to 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain pasta and asparagus.

Meanwhile, combine olive oil, lemon zest and cheese in a large serving bowl, breaking up the cheese as you put it in. Stir until combined and smooth. Add hot pasta and asparagus to bowl, along with a tablespoon or two of the reserved pasta water. Toss until smoothly combined, adding splashes of pasta water as needed to create a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with lemon juice if desired. Sprinkle chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese over pasta if desired. Makes about 4 servings.

pasta with asparagus and truffled cheese

 

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