Friday, July 31, 2009

Tackling Brisket

Having been inspired by several bloggers, most recently Bob of the amazing bacon-wrapped brisket, to give making beef brisket a go, I finally got around to it yesterday. I went to the local overpriced grocery store and asked the butcher if I could have a hunk of brisket. After debating how much I wanted, I decided on 3lbs or so - just enough for one person to do a bit of an experiment. For $9.54 I got a whack of brisket and I was on my way.

So, remember the POM freebies (or almost freebies) I got? Well, this was the big experiment. I wanted to combine the brisket with the POM. Dave of My Year on the Grill posted a great BBQ sauce made from pomegranate juice that looked really good, but I couldn't find one of the key ingredients. So, I decided on a marinade instead.

Now, I was a little intimidated by the brisket. Bob advised "low & slow" but didn't specify how low or how slow. Dave had a lot of advice for me, however, and also provided me with a great link to a page with lots of great info on BBQing brisket.

I realized I might have an issue. I have access to a BBQ, obviously, but it isn't very fancy or big and it doesn't have very fine temperature controls. It doesn't even have a thermometer. I needed a temperature of about 225F and I really had to guess at it.

But before I get ahead of myself, here is the marinade recipe I whipped up. This was purely something I made on spec, and it took a lot of tweaking before I got a flavour I was happy with.

POM Pomegranate Juice Marinade

1 cup pomegranate juice
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp soy sauce

Combine ingredients in a large freezer bag. Mush around. Add brisket. Put in fridge for a few hours.

OK, onto the BBQing process. Low & slow, right? So, I started the BBQ and put only one half of the element on, and set it as low as I could get it. I put the brisket on some foil on the other, non-lit side of the BBQ, and let her rip. Well, no, not "rip." Keeping "low & slow" in mind, and bearing in mind the advice dispensed by both Dave and the site he mentioned, I was looking at about 1 hour 15 mins./pound of brisket. I was worried about getting a tough, chewy, inedible piece of leather-like meat. I put the brisket on at about 5pm, and at about 6pm, I basted it with the marinade a bit. This is what it looked like at that point:Hm...Looked to me like it was cooking a tad too fast for my liking. So, I got out my fancy-wancy thermometer with probe and stuck it the thickest part. It was 158F. I was going for 180F. I set my thermometer to beep when the temperature reached t 180, put the lid back down, and waited.The beeping stared at about 6:45, so the brisket took about 1 hour 45 minutes to BBQ. After removing it from the BBQ, I let it rest about 20 minutes, while I made a sauce from the leftover marinade, before slicing it thinly. Here is the end result!I would have preferred it slightly rarer, but whatever. And it was so juicy...It could have been more tender, but it was by no means the chewy nightmare I was worried about. The meat was really nicely flavoured, lean, and just plain delicious! The marinade, which I turned into a reduction, was really amazing, too. My dad came over to help me eat it, and he was really impressed. I served the brisket with a green salad and some of my homemade hamburger buns. I even made a POM vinagrette, but that's a post for another time!So, now I have enough leftover brisket and sauce to keep me in beef dips for many days - woo-hoo!

Thanks to Bob and Dave for all the help!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Corn Update

Ok, so yesterday I went to a local fruit stand with my dad in Castlegar. The produce there comes from all over the place in BC, and there was a whole bunch of corn there labeled as "peaches & cream" from Chilliwack, which is in the Fraser Valley (about a day's drive east of here). It was 99cents/cob. While I think that's an outrageous price for corn, I was drawn by the "peaches & cream" claim and purchased two.

At home, I husked the corn and got this:WTF?

The top cob is indeed peaches & cream, but the bottom cob is most certainly not.

After cooking, I slathered my corn in leftover feta butter from the other night, and...

The peaches & cream was tough and absolutely flavourless. It was sooooooo disappointing.

The non-peaches & cream tasted sweeter and was much more tender, but it was still not much better than the corn from the previous night.

Well, that concludes my corn experimentation for this summer. It's either a shitty year for corn in the west, or I was just too spoiled out east.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Corn with Feta Butter

Sometimes the simplest things are the very best, eh? Take for instance this little side dish recipe that came from the August issue of Gourmet.

I love corn on the cob and often bemoan the fact that I don't live near any decent source of local corn on the cob. The corn down east was awesome! You could buy right off the side of the farm it grew on, picked that day. Peaches & cream was my favourite. If you couldn't go out into the countryside and get it, farmer's markets always had it, too. The best corn I've ever had came from the suburbs around Chicago for like 25 cents a cob.

25 cents a cob? I am not kidding. I got 2 ears of corn for $1.49 at the local overpriced grocery store yesterday. And it wasn't peaches & cream. And it kinda sucked. This is why I very rarely buy corn anymore (the other reason is that it's genetically modified and I'm trying to cut down on my GM foods).

Luckily, this feta butter made up for the suckage. I didn't use mint, but rather picked some cilantro from my garden - a herb I'll take any day over mint.

This was da bomb! And so simple! It was truly a treat, despite the mediocre corn. I had some BBQ salmon with it and it was a great meal. Definitely a keeper recipe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Book Review: The Fruit Hunters

I've had this book sitting around for a long time, and I procrastinated for months before finally finishing it today. One of the reasons was the introduction didn't grip me. An introduction should be gripping, shouldn't it? Somewhat? The second reason was that we were having cat peeing/marking issues at the time, and this book was a victim. I sat it on the stairs, where it collected dust and cat hair, so that it could dry out and de-odourize a bit. Eventually, I got sick of it there and did my duty as a book reviewer.

The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession by Adam Leith Gollner is a wild ride to say the least. Taking the reader to the margins of society - much like Krakauer did in Under the Banner of Heaven - this book explores the world of, well, fruit. But not just our grocery store fruit - we're talking the exotic, the rare, and the downright weird fruits that 99% of us will never see in our lives. Gollner travelled the planet during his research, going to the Seychelles in search of the endangered coco-de-mer; the junlges of Borneo to sample the stinky durian in it's natural habitat; Cameroon in search of the miracle fruit; as well as a bunch of other far off places like Hawaii, Thailand, and South America. Along the way, Gollner exposes a cornecopeia of not only exotic fruits, but strange, strange people.

As with most books I read, it's the characters that grab me, and this book was no different. The author meets some of the most obsessed whackos non-fiction has to offer. You couldn't make up some of these people if you wanted to.

There are fruitarian Doomsday cultists in Arizona. There are vicious fruitleggers. There are mega-rich men who spend their time collecting exotic fruit trees. There is the weirdo who invented the Grapple. There are men who make it their life's work to go clomping around the world's jungles cataloging every fruit they come across. There is the guy in Florida commonly known as "Graftin' Clafton", who is addicted to grafting to the point where security guards now make him leave his grafting implements at the door when he enters a certain botanical garden (he'd been caught grafting different species there too many times).

The Fruit Hunters also is a depressing overview of our modern fruit and agriculture industries. The chapter on marketing fruits here in North America was extremely disheartening. I will never go into a grocery store's produce aisle and look at the fruit displayed there the same way ever again.

A few things I'd like to point out:

  • never buy Grapples. Trust me. It's not worth it and I wouldn't give that idiot any of my money
  • 90% of the foods we eat derive from about 30 plant species
  • fruit hunting isn't cheap, which is why it seems to be dominated by rich white men - most of them American
  • some guy named Bob Harvey invented a nuclear powered artificial heart in the 1960s - WTF?

A fascinating read, one that I totally recommend.

Ask & You Shall Receive...

Not too long ago, I left a comment on Bob's blog, jokingly upset that I never got any freebies from the POM people like he did. Well, shortly thereafter I got an email from POM asking me if I'd like some free samples. Like I'd say no! I got the coupons last week and then proceeded to find somewhere to use them at. The coupons stipulate that the maximum price they could be redeemed for was $4.99. Of course, the local overpriced grocery store - being exactly as my moniker indicates, overpriced - sells the POM juices for $5.99.

I hate to say this because I like the idea of my local grocery store, but Safeway is now officially my favourite grocery store. It sells POM for the coupon price of $4.99 (additionally, milk and eggs are also cheaper there). It just happens to be in a different city and I have to travel some to get there.

Today I was near a Safeway however, as it was my day to do the baking at work. I took along my coupons and stopped by on my way home.

I got three different kinds of POM: plain pomegranate juice, tangerine-pomegranate, and blueberry-pomegranate, and I still have one coupon left over.

So, now what? What do I do with this stuff that is slightly more interesting than just drinking it?

Bob made a lamb shank dish with his... But I hate lamb.


- salad dressing (not terribly exciting)
- marinating stuff in it (I was thinking ribs, possibly chicken)
- making a dessert - but what?

Anyone have any suggestions? Anyone want to submit a recipe for me to try?

Monday, July 27, 2009

BAC Sandwich

I have lately become quite the avocado addict. I wasn't too picky about them before, only really liking them in guacamole, but lately I have been putting them in sandwiches and in salads and trying to find other things to do with them. They aren't cheap: they're $1.29 a piece at the local overpriced grocery store, and once in a while go on sale for 99cents. So, I've had to really moderate my avocado intake. I did get one the other day for a salad meal I was making, and I had half left over. Earlier this month, Coleen of Coleen's Recipes had a killer idea: bacon & guacamole sandwiches! I bookmarked it immediately.

I didn't exactly make guacamole, rather just chopped up my leftover avocado and mixed in some lime juice and some homemade salsa. I put my sandwich on one of my homemade hamburger buns and added some cheddar cheese. I call it the BAC: Bacon, Avocado, & Cheddar.

You can't beat anything made with bacon, can you? This was one awesome sandwich! Thank you, Coleen!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birthday Breakfast

Yep, it's a day to throw all dietary silliness out the window - I'm having ice cream cake from the other night for breakfast!

When I'm done this, I have to get cracking & pack for the lake, do some grocery shopping, hit the liquor store, etc.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back to Baking!

Well, it was considerably cooler today, thanks to a cold front and a bunch of thunderstorms, so I decided to do some baking. I'm also off to the lake tomorrow and wanted to bring some treats along with me. And since it's my birthday, I thought I'd make my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

It was a hard choice - because pretty much every chocolate chip cookie recipe I have is awesome and could be considered a favourite. I've never met a chocolate chip cookie I didn't like! So, I decided to pick the most decadent recipe I could find and whose ingredients I had on hand. I chose Giada de Laurentiis's Chocolate Chip Cookies with Hazelnuts. Recipe here.

This is an awesome recipe! I even had a bag of Chipits Skor bits on hand, that I'd bought on sale a while ago but hadn't yet used. I also had exactly one cup of hazelnuts from last year's hazelnut harvest left over, which reminded me that in less than two months, I should be harvesting hazelnuts again from my SIL's parents' tree. I can't wait for that!

The cookies were wicked and I got about 4 dozen - plenty for an overnight camping trip.

I'm totally stoked about going to the lake, even though the weather might not be as hot as it was last week - I don't care! If you are interested in my plans, see this post!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Garden Bounty 2009: Surprise Fruit

I'm reading this really fascinating book right now called The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession by Adam Leith Gollner for a review I'm going to write sometime in the near future.

In chapter 1, I came across an interesting piece of information: spinach is a fruit-bearing plant. Once the plant flowers, it develops a "miniscule, often prickly, fruit capsule." Well, it just so happens that I have an abundance of flowering spinach in my garden, so I decided to go and investigate.

Lo and behold, I find my spinach bearing tiny berry-like fruits a few millimeters long.

If you're thinking this might be the next culinary find, think again: these are barely edible. Even at their size, they are really fibrous and difficult to chew. They taste vaguely of spinach, and vaguely of not much else.

I picked a stalk of spinach and brought it inside because I wanted to see the seeds. With the point of my knife, I plucked off a couple of the seed capsules and split them open. The seed is barely visible, but it's there:
Well, who'd've thunk it? The garden isn't a total loss - I am learning some new things. Did you know that arugula produces some very interesting flowers? Check these out:
Interesting, eh?

Chopsticks Birthday Dinner

So, it's my birthday on Friday, but due to scheduling conflicts within my family, we had my birthday dinner last night. I chose Chopsticks in Castlegar, which is seriously the best Chinese food & sushi around these parts. I also went there last year.

We had a huge feast of both sushi & Chinese food and it was amazing! Here are the highlights.

I started off with a nice girly drink - a pina colada. Yum!

We then had a starter of Wor Won-Ton. It's the best I've ever had.

The non-sushi eaters had some veggie tempura.
This is the Caterpillar Roll, which is made with BBQ Eel, avocado, and a really good BBQ sauce. It's my favourite and it is sooooo good. Not to mention, the presentation is awesome.
We also had the Dynamite Roll, which is my other favourite. Totally excellent.
Then, onto the Chinese food: Lemon Chicken, Ginger Beef, & Chicken & Mushroom Chow Mein. It was all hot, fresh, and delicious.
There were very few leftovers, I can tell you that! And the best part was yet to come: at home, we had a Dairy Queen ice cream cake - Tin Roof Sunday Blizzard-flavour and it was da bomb!
It was an excellent time with my family and I am truly blessed to have them in my life! On my real birthday, I get to go camping! I'm totally stoked about that!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cake Mix Cookies - In the Commercial Kitchen

Sometimes at work I get to make dessert for the residents of the home, and I always enjoy doing that because it's something different than what I normally bake for the hospital. The cook left me in charge yesterday, and since there were a plethora of cake mixes available in the pantry, I decided to make cake mix cookies. It was also handy that the recipe is simple and was easily retrieved from my scatterbrained head.

So, cherry chip cookies with sprinkles and chocolate cookies with sprinkles.

Here, once more, is the recipe:

1 box cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Combine well, scoop, bake. It doesn't get simpler than this!

And here are the results.

For some reason, the cookies in this pan all migrated towards the middle of the pan, smooshing them all. Weird.
Pretty, eh? Once again, thanks to Girlichef for getting me on to cake mix cookies!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Garden Bounty 2009: Dill

My dill is doing very well this year. Last year, it did quite poorly; I got two plants, one small and one big, and both got infested with tiny, dill-coloured insects I couldn't be bothered to ID properly. This year, I have a nice row of lush-looking dill, and so far, no bugs. But time will tell with these things, as it usually does.

So, I harevested some dill last night and decided to make some BBQ shrimp with it. I always keep frozen, zipperback shrimp on hand because they are so convenient and quick. I marinated the shrimp in lemon juice, garlic, and the fresh dill. I put the shrimp on skeweres - wooden ones, after soaking them - and BBQed them. I served my meal with green beans and rice, something I'm doing a lot these days. It was delish!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Magazine Monday #43: Sour Cream Ice Cream

One of the best things about having a heat wave is that I can eat ice cream with less guilt. Currently, I have two ice creams chilling in my freezer: Island Farms Black Forest Cake (amazing, like all Island Farms ice creams are) and this homemade sour cream ice cream I made the other day, after the recipe for it caught my eye in the July issue of Gourmet.

The recipe is here.

I love sour cream. It's one of these things I could eat by the spoonful right from the container, but don't because that's not socially acceptable. Mexican food, for me, is a really good excuse to eat sour cream. Same with perogies.

So, how could I possibly go wrong with sour cream ice cream? Lightly sweetened, frozen sour cream that I can eat a bowl-full without any social repercussions or feelings of weirdness.

This is so delicious I can't even describe it - it's just too good for words. And it's really simple to make, providing you have an ice cream maker, which I do.

Just whiz everything in a blender, add to your ice cream maker, then let that miraculous machine work it's magic, and voila!
I used light sour cream, the 7% fat one, instead of full fat, and got a really good result.

To make mine a little more interesting, I added some chopped fresh cherries I had kicking around. Um, not my best idea ever. The cherries just froze and when I ate a spoonful of the ice cream, it was just like having chunks of frozen fruit to chew on, and this also affects the flavour of the cherries. So, I won't do that again.
Chocolate sauce was a nice addition, though, and I think the next time I make this ice cream, I'll add cocoa powder to it because chocolate & sour cream are really amazing together.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Syringa Creek Dinner

It's seriously hot - mid 30sC! Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be able to escape to Syringa Creek Provincial Park for the day and spend several wonderful hours floating in the lake. It was heavenly.

Of course there was also food, prepared and served by my favourite cooks ever, my SIL Shan & her mom, C. The menu was simple: a whole chicken cut into pieces & BBQed, potatoes roased in a foil package with garlic scapes, and a nice salad. Perfect!

The chicken, happily BBQing away...

Garlic scapes...

Shan preparing the potatoes & garlic scapes...
Dinner is served...
Hope everyone is enjoying summer so far!


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