Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Choco Banana Frappe

It’s a fruit smoothie!
It’s coffee!
It’s a chocolate milk shake!

Do you ever wonder what you could do with all that leftover coffee, instead of pouring it down the drain? Here's an idea, and if it's Joo-Lie hot where you are, trust me, this is what you want, right now.

We fell in love with this frosty caffeinated frappe on our honeymoon in Sayulita, Mexico. We drank many a Choco Banana at a wonderful little community restaurant in the town square by the same name. It's the kind of restaurant that feels like home, where you make new friends, hear about the local goings-on, and nosh on delicious Mexican-style breakfasts like Chilaquiles con Huevos. The original Choco Banana is a frozen chocolate-dipped banana on a stick, but these guys took the thing, put it in a blender with coffee and served it as a caffeinated, chocolate banana smoothie. I guarantee that there is no better pre-surf breakfast than this.

Look at those lefts rolling in at this secret surf spot. Thank you Choco Banana!

I got a raging craving for one of these creamy, banana frappe’s this week, after a summer surf trip to La Push, Washington. It was cool near that Northerly coast, even on a rare sunny day in the middle of July. The water was sooo cold, my hands got stiff and I endured many an ice-cream headache, too stubborn to wear my wetsuit hood and gloves. None the less, it was a chilly summer treat, and it made coming home to hot and arid, late-July Montana feel that much hotter.

Back at the Ranchito, my to-do list doesn’t care that it’s 85 degrees in the house by 3 pm, so I go barefoot, turn on the swamp cooler, and sweat in front of the computer while the afternoon sun beats into my office window. As the temperature rises, my eyelids get heavy, and I start thinking about heading out to the pine-shaded hammock. But I can’t! MUST…KEEP…GOING...

At times like these, there’s no better cure than a frosty caffeinated treat like Choco Banana.

Choco Banana Frappe
(makes 2 - 16 oz. shakes)

I'm not sure exactly how Choco Banana makes theirs but this seems pretty darn close to what I remember from our Sayulita honeymoon. The secret lies in peeling and freezing the bananas first, so the frozen chunks can go right into the blender, making the finished product both ice cold and creamy-thick. A little half and half helps too, but it's still quite good with just milk (in case you're watching your waist line). Hubs on the other hand, with his whippet-like metabolism, insists that next time we try it with vanilla ice cream.

2 large bananas, peeled, chopped, and frozen
1/4 cup chocolate syrup, or more to taste
1 cup milk
1/3 cup half and half (optional, but highly recommended)
1 – 1 ½ cups chilled (leftover) coffee

Put everything in the blender and buzz until completely smooth and frothy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wild Berry Basil Panna Cotta

Have I ever told you how much I love this blog? Or how much fun I have dreaming up ways to make your mouth water, scheming to make your life more delicious? Food-G has been a wonderful laboratory, and sharing and connecting with you here has been the greatest reward. I love it, I do. 

I also work hard at it, tweeting and facebooking, and juggling camera, skillet, and keyboard to bring these treats to you. This little blog has been the fertilizer for my fledgling food writing career, and occasionally it has caught the eye of the right person(s). That's how I piece together work that pays, and that's how I grow my audience. Work like this blog dovetails with and supports other projects, like my former food column in the Juneau Empire.   

Once in a while, the stars align, and an opportunity comes along that has the potential to make a difference in a person's life and work.  

Food-G fans and followers, I have a favor to ask. . . 

I recently came across this super cool site called Food 52. It's written by New York Times' food writers, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. Their mission: to collect, test, and highlight the most excellent recipes written by home cooks. Every week they ask their online community to submit recipes using a specific ingredient. Last week the chosen ingredient was BASIL. They test the recipes, and pick 2 finalists, which the public then votes on. Of the two finalists, the winner gets published in their upcoming Food 52 cookbook, published by Harper Studio.

My recipe for Wild Berry Basil Panna Cotta was born in Juneau, Alaska, after a day of sea kayaking and berry picking on some of the little islands surrounding Juneau. I originally published it in my "Local Flavor" column in the Juneau Empire, along with a recipe for Wild Berry Muscat Granita. I  thought the panna cotta might be unusual enough to pique their interest at Food 52. So I submitted it and went tra la la on my merry way, forgetting all about it.

Yesterday, on the drive home from Burning Beast, I started receiving a string of emails saying stuff like, "Nice recipe! Congrats."

Huh? . . . Oh yeah, the Food 52 thing!

My recipe was chosen as a finalist in their Basil Contest. On their site, I got to see a slide show of Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs making my panna cotta. Cool! Then, they put up a studio-quality video of them making my recipe, telling my berry picking story, unmolding my dessert, and finally, the best part- tasting the finished product. I'm all puffed up and doing my happy dance all over the house. I may need to take it to the next level and get out the ol' tap shoes...but first I'll wait to see if I win.

The public has about a week to vote for my recipe or the other one, until midnight (ET) on July 21. The competition is a simple and lovely recipe for Basil Poached Peaches, so winning will be tough.

Food-G fans and followers, will you please vote for me?

Not just because you enjoy my blog, but because this panna cotta is the most beautiful, creamy, silky, cool and refreshing summer dessert you can imagine. I'm so flattered and happy, I'm melting like gelato, but this dessert will not. You can make it ahead of time and eat it right out of the cup-- no unmolding required. And any kind of berries will do. Use what you got.

Voting requires that people sign in to Food 52, but it's a quick process and you never have to revisit the site again, although you'll probably want to. Food 52 is a great resource for inspired and TESTED recipes, and I never leave that site without printing off a couple of must-try's. It's pretty much my new favorite thing.

Thanks for reading Food-G, and to those of you who went the extra mile to cast a vote for little old me, thanks for giving back. I'll leave it at that-- it's getting hard to type with my fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Morel Mushroom Crepes

Oooh doggy, if only every throw-together meal could turn out this good...but then, this grand success wouldn't have been nearly as satisfying. This savory, egg and mushroom stuffed crepe was the result of a perfect storm of components: a hefty paper sack of Morels bought from a local picker at the Saturday Farmers' Market, a solid Q & E crepe recipe I recently discovered on Closet Cooking, fresh local eggs, and a fat wedge of Ossau-Iraty --Hubs' fave fromage-- that was surprisingly for sale at Costco.

We had our first family visit at our new home last week: Aunt Pam and Uncle Win, the sailors you might remember from our Carribbean Adventures. Before they retired and became full-time sailors, Win and Pam ran the family cattle ranch in Wyoming. Anyone who has romantic ideas about ranch life,  has probably never picked cow pie from the waffle-soles of their steel-toed boots.

As Hubs and I have been putting some serious love (read: sweat) into our own 1.7 acre "Ranchito", I've been thinking about the "big" ranch, and the kind of butt-busting, sweaty, grimy work involved in a regular day tending to so much land. Win and Pam spent a lot of time bucking hay, branding calves, mending fence, digging ditches, herding livestock, and fixing tractors. There is a lot of what we call, "Movin' dirt," involved in ranching. These guys have been kicked by enough cows to tell you all about the realities of ranch life, and what a tough and good life it can be.  

Now, here Hubs and I are, three months into ownership of our very first home, and settling in to all that comes with that. We live in a sub-rural neighborhood that actually used to be a ranch (until it was sold and divided the 1970's). We've been trying lately to get our vegetable garden ready for plants, but with so many deer around, we've been warned over and over by the neighbors that we shouldn't bother planting without a 6 foot tall fence around the vegetable plot. So Hubs and I got to work.

We tore down and rebuilt a retaining wall, roto-tilled the dirt, shoveled two truck-fulls of gravel and sand, removed and disposed of 2200 pounds of concrete, and amended the soil with a ton and a half of Eko Compost-- a supreme and rich blend of black goodness.

We worked from sun up to sun down on every sunny day we could. And we moved a lot of dirt, one shovel-full at a time. I don't know if I've got the grit to be a real rancher, but Ranchito life suits me well. I'm a girl who doesn't mind a little dirt under her nails, sweat on her neck, and twigs in her hair. Few things in life are so satisfying as a hard day's work put towards growing your own food.

I do a lot of good thinking when I'm movin' dirt, and an idea crossed my mind out there, amidst the promises of hot sun and good soil, that this vegetable garden is something bigger than it's 400 square feet. In the swirl of a planet that is crying out in so many ways, both ecolologically and economically, I think our garden, and the gardens of our friends, neighbors, and peers, might be a small but substantial piece of a redefined American Dream. This is so welcome, at least to me. To unplug for a piece of each day, to move dirt, to witness the miracle of a sprout, to snap out of the technology-trance that has become such a regular part of my every day, brings me back to what is real. What I see in the garden, is the original version of the "world wide web". To bring that here, to the internet, and use this new-era version of the Web to share an idea, ....that's pretty cool. That is something to feel hopeful about, like a little green sprout that's just burst from the soil

So Win and Pam show up on the doorstep of the Ranchito and we're like, "Welcome! Here's a shovel."

We moved dirt.

Win and Hubs dug a bunch of post holes for the garden fence, and Pam and I got all the flower beds planted. I felt like a terrible hostess putting our guests to work, but they seemed happy to put their stamp on the Ranchito, and I tried to spoil them as best I could with good things to eat.

One sunny morning, after we all had slept in, I was digging around in the fridge for some breakfast fixin's. That's how this wild mushroom crepe happened. When people sit with full plate and fork, and all you hear from them are grunts of satisfaction, and mmmm's, and "so good", you know it's worth sharing. This is a Ginz and Hubs production, which is often how we manage to put things on the table that make you want to shut up and eat. We're still not done with the fence, but I'm sure we'll be out there getting dirty any minute now. There's so much to do. I'm coming to terms with the idea that we may not get the fence done in time to plant this year, but we have made great strides in preparing the Earth, and building some protection around it. Hubs and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary, and it seems a fitting metaphor to spend time together this way, happily working hard and tending to our garden, filled with the promises of hot sun and good soil.

Morel Mushroom Breakfast Crepes
serves 4

If you'd like a little go-along for these delicious savory crepes, I reccommend a simple salad: arugula, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt,and freshly cracked pepper.

Crepes- This quick and easy recipe is fool proof and fast. Many thanks to Closet Cooking for this keeper.
8 eggs, whisked
2 cups sliced fresh morels
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1-2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon freshly minced rosemary
3 ounces Canadian Bacon, diced
1 cup freshly grated Ossau-Iraty cheese, or Gruyere
2 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper (white or black), to taste

Prepare crepe batter and set aside. Whisk eggs and set aside. Clean and slice mushrooms into 1/4 inch rings. In a large skillet melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add Shallot and cook, stirring until soft and fragrant. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and pepper (I like to use white pepper here). Cook stirring 1 to 2 minutes or just until soft and moist. Morels seem to lose flavor if cooked too long, so increase the heat to make this a quick saute. Add a splash of dry sherry to the pan, and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in half the minced rosemary. Remove from pan and set aside.

If you have a helper (thanks Hubs!), you can get them to make the crepes while you finish the mushroom scramble. Otherwise, get the crepes made, and hold them in a warm oven while you prepare the eggs.

Use the mushroom pan to saute the Canadian bacon over medium-high heat, 1 to 2 minutes or until warm throughout. Add eggs to the pan, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining rosemary, and scramble. When the eggs are mostly cooked, but still moist, add the mushroom saute to the pan and stir to combine. Use this to fill the crepes. Roll the crepe up, sprinkle with a hefty pinch of the grated cheese, and a smattering of chopped green onions for color.
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