the byte

read & learn about delicious things & sustainable eating

Samplrs Friends: Chelsea Newson

Samplrs would not be possible without the ongoing help of some truly amazing friends of mine. When they aren’t tasting, packing, writing, or talking Samplrs, these friends are usually involved in other really cool things. The Samplrs Friends series will give you an idea of who these people are and what they’re currently up to.

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Chelsea Newson. You might recognize her name from all the great posts she’s contributed to the byte. Chelsea graduated summa cum laude from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in Sustainable Foodways. She professes to having a “serious and unrelenting wanderlust [that] has taken up residence in [her] soul,” and she hopes one day to eat her way around the world. As you’ll see below, she’s off to quite an impressive start.

A recipient of the Dean’s Award for Graduating Seniors, Chelsea was given a grant for a postgraduate research project on Icelandic food culture. She documented her weeks-long trip around the country on her personal blog, the smallness of days. The posts are honest, informative, and insightful. Beautiful pictures of food, fjords, and farms abound–do check it out.

Chelsea’s soul has led her to another country with a food/eating-related name: Hungary. On scholarship from The Culinary Trust, Chelsea will spend several weeks working at different Hungarian wineries and then join them at the Budapest International Wine Festival. Expect equally wonderful coverage of Chelsea’s new adventures to come–she’s en route as I write this.

We miss you, Chels! I’m (finally) taking a wine tasting course–thanks for the inspiration.

Jake Siegal

Playing with Tin Mustard

Mustard is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can pair with most fruit, meat, and vegetables. This past week I’ve been playing with whole grain Tin Mustard, which is fantastic with some cheese and crusty bread but can also lend itself to create interesting dishes. Below are two examples of tasty ways to use this delicious product.

Swordfish with Root Vegetables, Endive, and Cherry Sauce

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This is a simple dish that packs a ton of flavor and won’t take you more than 45 minutes to get on the plate.

Ingredients:

Swordfish

Celery Root – diced

Parsnip – diced

Belgian Endive – halved

Dried Cherries

Chicken Stock

Shallot – minced

Crème Fraiche

Tin Mustard

Coffee Salt

White Pepper

Directions:

  1. Turn your oven to 375F.
  2. Heat a sauté pan to medium-high heat and add oil.
  3. When hot, add the celery root and salt cook for 5-8 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Remove the celery root and put to the side.
  4. Add more oil to the same pan and add the parsnip. Cook for 5-8 minutes until golden brown and remove.
  5. Heat water, chicken stock, dried cherries (ratio of 1:1:1) and shallots in a pot and bring to boil.
  6. When cherries are soft blend the mixture until smooth, strain it and season with salt.
    1. If the mixture is too watery, let it cook down more.
    2. Mix crème fraiche and mustard together in a bowl (ratio of 2:1)
    3. Add root vegetables to the mixture, taste, adjust seasoning and add to a pot or pan.
    4. Heat a different pan to medium-high heat and add oil and butter.

10. Place the endive in the pan and sear on all sides until browned.

11. Add a little sugar to the butter/oil mixture and baste the endive until it begins to caramelize. Add to oven to finish.

12. Heat a cast-iron pan to medium-high heat and add canola oil.

13. Season the fish with salt and white pepper and sear on both sides (2 minutes per side until golden brown).

14. Heat the vegetables, cherry sauce and remove the endive from the oven.

15. Plate and finish with coffee salt and a little more white pepper.

The acidic mustard and creamy crème fraiche complement the nutty root vegetables and the sweet endive adds texture and sweetness. The cherry sauce is slightly bitter and tart, and the swordfish is a meat that can hold up to all of these strong flavors. The coffee salt and white pepper aren’t necessary but add another nutty and floral note to this dish. While my photography and plating skills leave much to be desired, the flavors are spot on.

Duck, Black Garlic Aioli, Arugula w/ Mustard Vin, Membrillo, and Pecorino Romano

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Ingredients:

Duck Breast

Black Garlic – minced

Homemade Aioli (or mayonnaise)

Arugula

Mustard Vinaigrette: Tin Mustard, sherry vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.

Membrillo (quince) paste

Pecorino romano

Olive Oil roll

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Prepare your aioli and mix in the black garlic.
  3. In a bowl, mix 1 tbsp of mustard and 1 tbsp of honey with a few tbsps of sherry vinegar.
  4. Slowly whisk in olive oil (double the amount of vinegar) until you have a homogeneous mixture. Taste and season.
  5. Score the skin of the duck breasts so the fat will render easily.
  6. Season the duck on both sides with salt and put the breast skin side down in a cold pan.
  7. Heat the pan to medium-high heat and let the fat render slowly, removing excess fat from the pan when necessary.
  8. When a decent amount of the fat has been rendered put the duck (still skin side down) in the oven and let cook until medium rare.  And let rest for 5 minutes before slicing thinly.
  9. Cut the roll in half and put membrillo and cheese on it. Toast it in the oven until the cheese is slightly melted.
  10. Mix the arugula with the vinaigrette, spread the aioli on the roll and assemble the sandwich.

This is another simple dish with delightfully complex flavors. The salad with the mustard vinaigrette can definitely be eaten alone but lends a bright acidic bite to this unctuous sandwich. The sweet black garlic and membrillo complement the duck but definitely need the bitter bite of the salad and cheese.

– Marshall Buxton

Samplrs Event: Indian Condiments Cooking Class

ImageThis past Tuesday, February 28, marked the very first Samplrs Event! The event, which took place at the Upper West Side’s lovely Tolani Wine Restaurant, featured an Indian condiments cooking class taught by Drake Page of the DP Chutney Collective. Over the course of an hour and forty-five minutes, Drake artfully led an intimate group of ten foodies through five delicious and completely do-able recipes, including a tamarind chutney, a mint chutney, and a fiery onion relish (the three of which are best known as the trio of chutneys one receives on silver serving dishes upon taking a seat in a typical Western-style Indian restaurant), as well as a cooling cucumber raita and a pickled carrot and green bean achar. This was a unique experience in that each of these recipes diverged from what Drake normally produces in his chutney kitchen and sells in his jars, as each of these recipes (with the exception of the pickled achar). As opposed to Drake’s usual, addictively good jarred chutneys, which are thick, jammy, and made in the style of British chutneys (think back to the tomato chutney featured in the very first Samplrs package), each of these recipes produced a fresh chutney that did not require boiling or cooking down. Fortunately for us, this meant they could be eaten on the spot!

With the help of a food processor and a few good cutting boards, Drake introduced us to a world of new ingredients. We learned about Paprika, a traditional Indian spice that, while not typically associated with Indian cuisine, is often used as a base for many curries, and in this case was used to add another flavor dimension to the onion relish. The relish was delicious on our crispy kahara dipping breads, but also goes well on top of split pea soup, on sandwiches, or rolled into an omelet. We learned about tamarind—a key ingredient in the original Coca Cola recipe—and were shown how to use “bricks” of the mushy fruit pulp to make a sticky-sweet, molasses-colored chutney that paired nicely with the spice in the onion relish. Its juice can also be used to make an excellent cocktail, as Tolani’s bartender was only too happy to show us at the end of the class. We also learned about coriander, which, as it turns out, is a more common name for cilantro, and which we used to make the mint chutney. Contrary to popular belief, coriander in fact stores 75% of its flavor in the stems of the herb, not the leaves (something to remember the next time you make salsa verde), and Drake’s coriander-mint chutney is excellent not only with Indian food, but also with rice and beans or topped on a hamburger.

Thanks to our wonderful hosts at Tolani, we also had two outstanding wines to pair with our spicy creations: a mouthwatering 2010 Highness Riesling from Eden Valley, Australia and a jammy, well-oaked 2003 Summit Lake Red Zinfandel. It was a wonderfully tasty evening that got at least a few of us hooked on chutney, and even inspired some to pursue more lofty kitchen tasks in the realm of Indian (homemade paneer, anyone?)

To learn more about Drake Page, check out his website here for information and recipes and read a Samplrs interview with him here. If you missed the event, continue reading for a sample recipe from the evening, and keep your eyes peeled for information about the next one!

Mint Chutney

–       1 bunch fresh cilantro

–       1 ½ cups fresh mint leaves

–       1 green chile pepper

–       ½ tsp salt

–       1 medium onion, cut into chunks

–       1 tbs tamarind juice or lemon juice

–       ¼ cup water as needed (use as little as possible to process the ingredients)

Directions:

In a food processor, combine the cilantro, mint leaves, chile pepper, salt, onion, and tamarind juice. Process to a fine paste, adding enough water to achieve a thick sauce.

— Chelsea Newson

Heritage Foods Meat Shop

I first learned about Heritage Foods when I started listening to a wonderful weekly podcast series by Dave Arnold called Cooking Issues. Cooking Issues is only one of the twenty-five that are made possible by The Heritage Radio Network, broadcasting from the back of Roberta’s in Bushwick.

Heritage Foods buys humanely raised meat products from Heritage Farmers around the country and sells these items to local chefs, restaurants, and anyone looking for high quality, naturally raised meat. By practicing this, Heritage Foods has brought over $20 million back into small-farming businesses in the United States.

Heritage Foods provides some of the highest quality meats on the market. You can find chicken, pork, beef, and duck at the shop on a daily basis. Other products include goat, turkey, bone marrow, and pig trotters.

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Honig, the Director of Sales for the company. I visited Dan’s shop in the Essex Street Market in hopes of seeing some of his highly regarded heritage meats. Upon my arrival, Mr. Honig treated me to a full-blown tour of his display cases, walk-in coolers, and butchering equipment. As if that wasn’t enough, he also gladly offered samples of his wide range of locally cured sausages and meats. I was in heaven.

Charlito’s Cocina provides several incredible sausages for Heritage Foods. Charlito’s founder Charles Wekselbaum sources his pork from Heritage to make his sausages and then resells his final product through the Heritage Shop.

One sample, in particular, stood out: the Trufa Seca, or dry cured truffle sausage. This sausage had the original tang you would get from a similar dried product, but with a pungent aroma of black truffle and the flavor of the earthy tuber itself. Along with this specialty sausage, various saussicons and country hams are available for purchase. Be sure, too, to get a slice of the lamb prosciutto, as you probably won’t find it anywhere else!

I walked out of the Heritage Meat Shop with a better understanding of naturally raised meat products and what it takes to raise a heritage breed. Also, I couldn’t leave without something to cook. So I chose two of my favorite things: pork belly and bone marrow. I cooked half of the pork belly sous vide with Asian flavors and the other half was simply roasted with salt. Each were equally tender, crisp, and fatty—everything we all love about a pig belly. What could be better?

– Andrew Black

The Mead of Enlightenment

As the foodie capital of the world, New York City is also arguably one of the wine capitals—at least in terms of consumption. The city is riddled with top-notch wine cellars and swanky new wine bars, and the wine lists at its thousands of restaurants are some of the most extensive and mouthwatering in the world. Unfortunately, one of the oldest kinds of wine in the world—mead—is rarely found on those lists. This may change in the next few years, as foodies and wine drinkers set their sights on locally-crafted and utterly unique honey-based brews. All it may take is a little exposure.

A few Sundays back, Greenpoint locavore restaurant Eat shed some of that exposure by hosting a very special wine tasting event with New York winemaker Rafael Lyon, founder of Enlightenment Wines. The winery, which took its name from 18th century Age of Enlightenment, which challenged received wisdom and blind obeisance to dogma, today pushes against the “received wisdom” of modern winemaking. Rafael focuses on producing natural, healthful, and delicious “wines, meads, and potions” using traditional, even ancient methods of production. He uses local ingredients—wild flowers, herbal infusions, honey, and apples—and city-sourced tea, and refrains from adding sulfites, chemical preservatives and colorings, and other non-natural ingredients to his wines. He relies only on mechanical labor, as his operation lacks the machines of most other, more traditional wineries. He also employs the “ancestral method” to make his sparkling wine, which means he allows the sediment from yeast fermentation (the “leeds”) to collect at the bottom of his bottles, rather than removing them or flushing them out as other winemakers do through the conventional “Champagne” method of making sparkling wine. This sediment contributes to the flavor of the beverage and is also full of vitamin B12 (another welcome way that wine is good for you). This method tends to result in two very different pours from the same bottle, the first of which is clean, clear, and refreshing, and the second of which is darker and somewhat thicker due to the yeasty sediment.

During the tasting, Rafael pointed out an important difference between honey wines and grape wines. Honey wines, defined as “meads” by the U.S. government, rely on the addition of extra ingredients in order to ferment as grape wines do. Honey is not acidic enough to ferment on its own, and it lacks the tannins found in grape skins and the trace nutrients that help preserve wine after fermentation. Rafael remedies this by adding black tea for tannins and herbs or fruit juices for trace nutrients. Due to this process of addition and adaptation, mead makers approach wine with an altogether different mentality than grape winemakers. Whereas makers of grape wines are focused on “terroir” and are constantly seeking to express the inherent, unique qualities of their grapes, mead makers have no similar responsibility to their honey. Rafael is not interested in the terroir of his honey; they honey all tastes the same once it’s in the bottle, he says, and for that matter it doesn’t always play a strong role in the final wine’s flavor. Rather, he is trying to produce unique, tasty wines that have integrity and express the interplay of the various honeys, fruits, and herbs contained within each bottle.

And so far, he’s been a success. The first wine of the tasting was an apple and honey based mead, with tea added for tannins. Named “Last Gift of My Daemon Lover,” it smelled sweet and at first blush tasted like crisp apples, but it had a grassy, earthy aftertaste. It was one of only 1,000 bottles—another unique feature of this winery, whose production is so small that each bottle is numbered by hand. The second wine was a lovely, raspberry-colored, elderberry-infused apple-honey mead called “Rubacuori.” It was slightly sweet but dry—just the style Enlightenment Wines is currently aiming for, likely in an attempt to shift away from the syrupy, viscous berry and honey wines that many are familiar with. The third wine, “Elsa,” was a very dry, pure honey mead with hops added as a natural preservative. This gave it a beer-like taste, which contrasted well with its strong smell of honey and its sweet aftertaste. The fourth, “Jewels Into Flowers,” was a chrysanthemum and chamomile wine that smelled like apple juice and tasted like herbal tea, with a mild, warming finish. The fifth was another tea-based wine, this time infused with lemon verbana and fermented with wild yeast (as opposed to store-bought, packaged yeast). It tasted smoky and citric, like a mild kombucha, with an abrupt acidic finish that caught the taster’s attention. The sixth and final wine was a special dandelion wine called “Memento Mori.” As Rafael explained, dandelion wine was traditionally made by English farmers from May flowers in an effort to preserve vitamin C. It was consumed in the winter when vitamin C was scarce, and in this way was used to fend off scurvy. Now an after-dinner drink, it was originally used as a tonic and tends to have a grassy, herbal taste. Memento Mori, beautifully presented in a slim, green bottle, contained maple syrup instead of honey and was clear, earthy, and warming—a wonderful way to eat your dandelions. All of the wines at the tasting were simple, delicious, and delightfully unique, not to mention beautiful in elegant and colorful bottles with art-inspired labels.

For the most part, Rafael’s wines can only be tasted by signing up for a CSA share (“community-supported alcohol”), though he does occasionally sell to local restaurants or wine shops like Greenpoint’s Dandelion Wine.  If you do get your hands on one, don’t save it for a rainy day. According to Rafael, the flavor profile of meads changes quite a bit in its first six months of life, and, like many white wines, meads and fruit wines are best consumed within two years of bottling. In the mean time, Eat, a hyper-local restaurant that uses butternut squash oil in place of its far-flung olive cousin, is also worth a visit. It offers simple, wholesome meals that are a conveniently perfect match for Enlightenment Wines.

 

– Chelsea Newson

How the January Samplr Cured My Sunday Night Blues

Sunday, January 22 was a sad day for Ravens fans. I sauntered home from the game, replaying that last missed field goal in my head–Superbowl glory dashed for yet another year. Luckily, I had just received my January Samplr, so I came home to a boozy box of Nunu Chocolates to drown my sorrows. As I made my way through sake, moonshine, and mezcal-chili ganaches, the world started to seem a little friendlier. Nunu founders Andy Laird and Justine Pringle started the company with the belief that the world is a better place when chocolate is involved. Mission accomplished.

After having my fill of chocolates, I dug into my Samplr to figure out what else to do with this month’s bounty. I’d stumbled upon a great recipe for seasoned sweet potato wedges, and I thought it sounded like a good Sunday night project to take my mind off of the injustice of the Patriots’ win. Thanks to a recipe from John and Elena Talk About Food, I now had the perfect complement to Sir Kensington’s ketchup and a great way to make use of the massive sweet potato I’d picked up at the 79th street farmer’s market.

This is an easy recipe that is made even more delicious with the addition of Sir Kensington’s. I sliced my sweet potato into quarter-inch thick slices, put the slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and drizzled them with olive oil and seasoning (more on that later). After slicing, oiling, and salting, I realized I was out of cayenne and paprika, two of the primary spices in the “seasoned” sweet potato recipe.

Oops.

So I winged it. I used taco seasoning.

The sweet potato wedges baked for 40 minutes at 375 degrees (turned over once after 25 minutes). This cooking time and temp is slightly different from John & Elena’s version, but my oven is a little wacky. You really can’t mess these up, so feel free to experiment with cooking time and temperature depending on your preferences.

These wedges were delicious. Like I said… you can’t mess these guys up. Fortunately, my sweet potato was big enough for me to enjoy it the following week–over rice, dipped in hummus, and, finally, simply straight out of my tupperware container. Here’s what you’ll need:

Sir Kensington’s Spiced Gourmet Scooping Ketchup
Two sweet potatoes (or one really big sweet potato) cut into wedges
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne
Cumin
Paprika
Garlic Salt

I went to bed happy on that Sunday. Sad about the Ravens, but happy about enjoying another month of local, lovingly crafted artisan foods, drowning my sorrows in the Nunu booze box, and finding a new use for taco seasoning.

– Emily Weinman

A Sampling of Dumplings


Image source: 101cookbooks.com

Who doesn’t love dumplings? They are the perfect food for sampling, as evidenced by the recent popularity of dim sum breakfasts in Chinatown. Whether savory of sweet, they are sure to be warm, filling, and stuffed with something tasty. While many people enjoy eating dumplings, few realize the expansive influence the almost bite-sized food has had over the centuries on food cultures around the world.

Dumplings have been around for a millennia. While they have a place in cuisines around the world, they play an especially important role in Chinese culture. Chinese New Year celebrations often feature dumplings, and people eat them on the first day of the new year in an effort to secure health, happiness, and fortune for their families. Dumplings were consumed in China at least as early as 200 BC, when the wonton was cited as a commemoration of the fabled creator of the world, Pan Gu, who dissolved chaos by separating the world into two half-crescents, the sky and earth. Dumplings were considered delicacies in China for some time as it was incredibly difficult to prepare them with a dearth of appropriate cooking equipment. The invention of cooking aids like bamboo steamers has now made them ubiquitous, both in China and in foreign Chinese-influenced neighborhoods like New York’s Chinatown. Of course, dumplings do not belong to Chinese cuisine alone. The actual word “dumpling” first appeared in print at the beginning of the 17th century, according to food historian Alan Davidson, and originated in the Norfolk area of England. It refers to cooked balls of dough that are made from flour, potatoes, or bread, which can contain any manner of filling, usually meat or vegetables. Dumplings can be cooked in any number of ways, from boiling or steaming to frying and baking. They are found in various forms in cuisines across the world. A few familiar (and not so familiar) examples include:

Dampfnudel: A German flour dumpling that is steamed and then fried

Doughboys: A savory dumpling found in British and Irish cuisine, often in stews or casserole

Fufu: Steamed dumplings found throughout African, made of starchy bases like cornmeal

Gnocchi: A common Italian dumpling made from potato dough that is sometimes mixed with other ingredients such as spinach and/or ricotta

Gyoza: A Japanese dumpling, usually filled with minced meat and vegetables, steamed slightly and then fried in oil until crispy; Also called “potstickers” in English or “guotie” in Chinese

Jiaozi: A common Chinese dumpling, prepared as gyoza but boiled or steamed rather than fried, and served with a dipping sauce made of vinegar, chili oil and sometimes soy sauce

Melkkos: A South African doughnut-like dumpling made of milk and dough, and then boiled in milk and butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar

Pelmini: A Russian Russian dumpling, usually filled with meat

Pierogi: A crescent-shaped Polish dumpling, filled with sweet or savory fillings and usually served with sour cream after being boiled or fried

Samosa: A savory fried dumpling from India, stuffed with mince meat or vegetables, potatoes, and spices

Takoyaki: A common Japanese dumpling made of four, egg, water, and flavored with a piece of octopus

Tamale: A latin american ‘dumpling’ made of starchy dough (“masa,” usually from corn) and steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper, which is thrown away before the dumpling is eaten; often filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, or vegetables

Wontons: A Chinese dumpling boiled in light broth, wantons typically contain more filling and are made with thinner wrapping than jiaozi

As one of the culinary capitals of the world, not to mention a so-called cultural “melting pot,” New York City is a mecca for dumpling lovers. Here you can find a version of every type of dumpling listed above, plus dozens of others.  Or, if you’d rather not venture out of your apartment, the plethora of dumpling recipes now available on online food blogs and home cookbooks allow even an amateur dumpling-maker to enjoy homemade dumplings in the privacy of their own kitchen. See below for a small list of New York dumpling spots, and as well as a few links to some delicious DIY dumpling recipes. Enjoy!

 

A sampling of New York dumpling restaurants:

Banjara: A restaurant in the St. Marks area of the East Village, specializing in North Indian cuisine, including a variety of sweet and savory samosas, stuffed Indian pastries, and other dumpling-like dishes. 97 1st Ave, New York, NY 10009

B+H Vegetarian: A vegetarian East Village stalwart that serves hearty bowls of matzo ball soup and an array of sweet and savory blintzes pierogis. 127 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

M. Shanghai: An elegant restaurant in Williamsburg that serves up mouthwatering Chinese dishes, including steamed veggie dumplings, pork buns and dumplings, and an amazing spicy peanut wonton soup. 292 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Redfarm: Another, very trendy “neo-Chinese” restaurant in the West Village, gaining acclaim for its “Pac-man” dumplings (inspired by the video game) and a wide array of fishy and delicious dim sum, including steamed lobster dumplings and shumai “shooters.” 529 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014

Or, to make your own:

Plump Pea Dumplings, by 101 Cookbooks: A surprisingly quick and easy recipe with an incredible yield of slightly sweet, fresh-tasting pea dumplings.

Golden Potstickers, by 101 Cookbooks: A slightly more involved recipe for crispy, protein-packed gyoza.

Chicken, Chorizo, and Olive Empanadas by smitten kitchen: A tasty take on empanadas; the blog also offers a recipe for beef empanadas, for those who like their meat red.

Strawberries and Dumplings, by smitten kitchen: An “All-American” recipe for those with a sweet tooth.

Chelsea Newson