Earlier this month I was contacted by Austin-based Beetnik Foods to try a sampling of their foods. While I’m not one to turn down a free meal, it’s not often that I’m impressed enough to share products on my website (if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a little obsessive about what makes it on my front page). I was happy to see that their food philosophy lines up with mine – start with great ingredients, then make great food – and the food was delicious and easy to make. So I thought I would take a second and share my experience.
I don’t know about you guys, but after our longer-than-expected winter I’ve been in on a month-long grilling bender. And though I love to come up with tasty marinades for my grilling adventures (Exhibit A: Izgara Bonfile), sometimes I just want a tasty creation that’s also quick to make. The solution is pretty easy, really: you just throw a salsa on top of an otherwise basic grilled steak!
This salsa is inspired by Insalata Caprese, a fresh salad originating from the island of Capri in the early 20th century. It’s traditionally made with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, oregano, and arugula, but over time most people have substituted the oregano and arugula with fresh basil. We Americans are even weirder in that we also like to add balsamic vinegar as well. For my salsa I decided to keep a little balsamic vinegar and also add a bit of lemon juice to provide some acidity and sourness without an overpowering vinegar taste.
While spending a few days in Austin last month, I basically dove head-first into Texas barbecue: the pickles, the vinegar-based cole slaw, and man, the brisket! I loved how a dry, blackened crust over their barbecued meats isn’t a bad thing, and how sauce is added according to individual taste, after plating. Even better, the barbecued meats are sold by the quarter pound, so each person gets to choose how much they want to eat. If that’s not the most American way of eating ever, I don’t know what is! These are all concepts that are relatively uncommon in our neck of the woods here in Maryland, so I decided to try my hand at some Texas-style barbecued beef the other day.
When choosing a meat to try, I decided to go the easy route with some boneless short ribs: they are a great size, and fatty enough that I was sure I didn’t need to worry about them drying out while cooking. Turns out I made a great choice – the short ribs were perfectly moist and tasty, and a great change of pace from our typical method of cooking short ribs (braising).
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Kalops is a traditional Swedish stew, first recorded in the 18th century. The word kalops itself is a cognate with the English word collops, which simply means “a slice of meat” – there’s actually some dispute as to whether the Swedish or English word came first. Either way, this stew is very similar to many English stews, but with a few Scandinavian twists: its signature flavor comes from a healthy amount of allspice, and it is commonly served with pickled beets. When carrots are added, the dish is called Skånsk Kalops, referring to the Skåne region (which is in Southern Sweden – perhaps carrots grow most abundantly there?).
Kalops is most often prepared with chunks of beef, but reindeer or elk are used as well. Personally, I thought it would be neat to make it with bison chuck roast, which US Wellness Meats recently sent me to try. It was pretty awesome. Overall, I loved this stew, and its characteristic allspice-heavy flavor gave it a warm, hearty, and very distinct taste.
With our extended winter this year (spring is finally springing in our neck of the woods this week!), I found myself craving comfort foods to help me get over the cold-weather blues. And for that very same reason, I decided to focus on an American classic for this week’s recipe – one that some might consider a quintessential comfort food. Believe it or not, it’s very hard to find any sort of origin or history around the combination of sausage, peppers and onion. It’s a staple food of Fenway Park, so it must be a Boston thing, right? But others associate it with NYC, and still more with Chicago. All I can say with certainty is that it’s of Italian-American descent, with fairly deep roots, and an easy way to make a quick delicious meal.
The word “sausage” originally comes from the Latin word salsus, which means “salted.” There is evidence of it being enjoyed in Italy as much as 2,000 years ago. That it has a long culinary existence isn’t so surprising; sausage is a perfect way of making sure every bit of the animal is used, and deliciously so. Here in the US, the words “Italian sausage” imply a seasoning based on fennel seeds and anise, and can be sold as either mild or spicy.
When removing gluten from my diet a couple years ago, one dish I assumed I would never taste again was ravioli. Seriously, how could I pull that one off without flour? I’m sure it could be done, but it would take weeks, even months, of trial and error. I love ravioli, but frankly, not enough to put myself through that kind of ordeal. Luckily, a moment of genius struck me when trying to figure out something unique to make with my most recent batch of Cappello’s Gluten/Grain Free lasagna sheets. They did all the hard work for me; I just had to put everything together.
Ravioli has been written about since the 1300s, so logic dictates that it’s been around longer than that. It probably took a while to get the attention of the scribes, right? There are countless variations of ravioli, but since this was my first time making it in years, I wanted to style it after my childhood favorite – Chef Boyardee beef ravioli!
The word cutlet is a bit of a culinary mystery – everyone has their own interpretation of what it means. Throughout most of Europe, a cutlet is a thinly-sliced cut of meat (usually pork or veal) that is beaten, covered in breadcrumbs, and fried (think schnitzel). This is the same in the US, but they are mostly made with chicken breasts. The Japanese like to use pork (tonkatsu). Australia uses either chicken or lamb. Great Britain is a little different in that cutlets are usually not breaded.
And then there’s Russia. Somehow, as they trotted down the path of history, the Russians decided that котлет was a pretty good word for what we in the US would call a hamburger steak. Russian cutlets are a very common household dish, probably due to how easy they are to prepare. What’s funny is that they often eat cutlets between two slices of bread as a snack – which sounds a lot like a hamburger to me, although they are still called cutlets.
So at the end of the day, you could have three people walking down the street,
a) eating a Chick-Fil-A sandwich
b) eating a schnitzel sandwich (they exist!)
c) eating what basically looks like a hamburger
…and they’d all tell you they are eating cutlets.
So, after working on my Russian cutlets for a while, I decided to make a dish that is unique in that it would be fit to serve at a restaurant (which is ironic, because cutlets are rarely served in restaurants in Russia).
To start off the New Year, I’ll be posting only Whole30-compliant recipes this month. What is the Whole30 Program? It’s very similar to what I eat already, but with a few more restrictions: no dairy (except ghee), no white potatoes, no rice, no alcohol, no sugars or sweeteners of any kind. It’s a great way to jump headfirst into an ancestral diet (although easing into a Paleo diet is just fine, too) and see some dramatic changes in your health.
For my first January recipe I wanted to share one of my go-to comfort foods: sausage and sauerkraut. It can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes and always hits the spot! Sauerkraut is a superfood thanks to its healthy bacteria; Genghis Kahn took it with him as he conquered Eurasia, and Germans brought it with them on ships as they traveled to America, in order to fight off disease. Admittedly, many of its healthy bacteria are destroyed in the cooking process of this dish, but don’t let it deter you from chowing down on this tasty recipe! When shopping for sauerkraut, be sure to buy some that only has water, salt and cabbage as its ingredients. You can always make it yourself, too; it’s one of the easiest pickling endeavors you could undertake.
Last weekend we got together with our friends Brent and Heather from Virginia is for Hunter-Gatherers and collaborated on a couple of dishes. Brent tackled a cole slaw that was pretty dang tasty, and we also built a few interesting fork-and-knife burger creations based on some standard burger concepts. It was fun to jump into someone else’s kitchen and throw together some food, and it all turned out so well that I figured I should share our results.
The origin of hamburgers is greatly disputed, but most sources point to the bread-and-burger invention being of American origin, and showing up in the late 19th century. A connection to the German port city of Hamburg is a little hard to find, but it turns out that ground beef steaks were common in Hamburg in the mid 1800s, which were brought to the city by Russians. They were served raw. Some years later, New York City became a common destination for travelers from Hamburg, and local German immigrants started selling the raw ground beef steaks, called Hamburg steaks, to visiting German tourists – who were otherwise known as “Hamburgers” (in the same sense that someone from New York is a “New Yorker”). Sometime down the line, the “Hamburger sandwich” was born, and the rest is history.
My friends at Lava Lake Lamb recently started carrying grass-fed beef, and I jumped at the chance to give some of it a try. One particular challenge came in finding a unique, yet somewhat traditional, way of preparing sirloin steak; it’s a very simple cut, which fares the best with a simple preparation (garlic, salt, and pepper are usually perfect). Luckily, after some digging I discovered quite a few different ways that people grill this steak in Turkey, so I developed a recipe based on some of those traditional Turkish methods.
It’s hard to find specific history related to grilled beef steaks in Turkey – in fact, many regions only ate meat during special celebrations until very recently. My guess is that this particular preparation is relatively new to the country, probably only 50 years old. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter – this steak was delicious, regardless of how long people have been cooking it!