Thursday, September 16, 2010

...And The Cotton is High...

Some call it paying homage to a great dish at a restaurant, some call it ripping it off. In this case, I am talking about Lula Cafe's beet bruschetta. Super huge. Super good. Super cheap. If you are broke, this is the thing to get and make everyone else jealous of your shrewdness, especially at a place where there are so many consistently amazing options calling from the high end as well. Bread is essentially fried on a flat top griddle, spread with goat cheese and topped with roasted beets and arugula. Simple, and ridiculously huge, in the best sense of the word. Here at the homestead, we always have had a great miche laying around, a bread from Bennison's Bakery baked in huge rounds, then cut and sold in quarters. Miche is supposedly an example of how bread was in France before the turn of last century, a point where bakers started meeting the demand for crustier bread, which led to smaller breads with a higher crust-to-crumb ratio. But this miche is perfect at home used for sandwiches and other dishes where the bread is toasted (which, by the way, is done best with some oil or butter, in a cast iron pan, to get nice, crispy toast), and it keeps in the fridge forever. (My new favorite thing, picked up from Tom Colicchio's Wichcraft book--quick aside: I can't believe I'm saying this, but how on earth did Angelo not win?--is to toast bread for sandwiches on one side only, with the toasted side ending up in the middle of the sandwich, keeping things nice and crisp while the soft side of the bread gently yields to the crunch while protecting delicate mouths from sharp toast, and making the whole thing stay together much more manageably.) Whipped some good goat cheese and spread it on, then came arugula, then chunks of roasted beets that were wrapped in foil with some spices and herbs and salt and roasted for the better part of an hour, thinly shaved red onions, and finally olive oil, s&p, and a squeeze of lemon. Good, light and rich all at once. Thank you, Lula.
More from this summer--pickles. Naturally fermented pickles, soaked in a brine of only salt, water, garlic, herbs and spices, with no vinegar. In about a week's time on a kitchen counter, the lactic acid developed will sour the pickles in the most delightful way--my crazy haired friend loved them, which is a sure sign--and you then have the best pickles you've ever tasted (assuming you grew up being sold pickles by a stork). Easy to do, just like kombucha, the fermented tea drink that has supposed health benefits (despite the knee jerk reaction to remove it from store shelves due to the trace amount of alcohol present as a byproduct of the fermentation), but more importantly a fizzy sour taste that refreshes like mad. Thinking that the trace alcohol wasn't nearly enough, I've even mixed it with Cynar for a super sour cocktail. You have to be into it, but if you like sour, it's the way to go. Find a friend who makes it; each batch brewed produces a new "mother", or "scoby" (lurking about in the picture below) that they can give you--the cake of bacteria that will ferment brewed tea over 7-10 days to produce said kombucha. It's one of those things that is ridiculously easy and cheap to make, and so expensive to buy.
Of course, with the passing of summer, comes the approach of my personal favorite: fall. Braised meats, red wine, fires, leaves and, of course, Brussels sprouts...

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