Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cooking Challenge - "What is that THING?"

I know we've all been walking along in the produce department of the local grocery store, minding our own business picking apples, oranges and onions. All of the sudden, our eyes fix on something we've never seen before-- its leafy, misshapen or hairy body lying there while all the other shoppers go for the more common, more normal produce. Why does it just sit there? The mainstream population doesn't buy them much, so they get much smaller real estate. Think about it-- how many bins and how many square feet are there for the several variety of apples, oranges, onions, greens and potatoes, but how big is the bin for kale or kohlrabi? Growing up, my mother would make fruit pizza, a sweet pizza with a cookie crust and whipped icing sauce topped with fruits. She would buy star fruit and put slices on the pizza along with kiwi, strawberries and so on. It was one of the funnest things about winter.

Here's the deal:
In this challenge you're going to walk into the grocery store, head to the produce department, and pick out 2-3 types of produce that:
A) You've never cooked before
B) You've never eaten before
C) You don't know what it is
D) You had as a child, but didn't like it cooked a certain way.

Your mission is to create a dish that centers around this produce. No, it doesn't have to be vegetarian, but the meat should not be the star of this show, just a supporting actor doing a cameo to help launch an up-and-coming star.

Here's the catch- The recipe has to be original. Yes, you can Google the ingredients for ideas and instructions on how to cook them, peel them and prepare them. The point of these exercises are to expand your horizons and force you to think outside your cooking bubbles.

Write up your recipes and post them for everyone to see, then link back here in the comments so we all can see your amazing creations!

If you have a cooking blog or site, please re-post this for your readers to participate, and leave a comment below so we can follow this meme across the blogosphere!

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Product Review - Ikea Favorit Grill Pan

First of all, I want you all to know that I love Ikea's products. Do I love being corralled from showroom to showroom just to get out of the store? Not so much. All rants aside, my wife and I were doing some Christmas shopping for ourselves and decided we needed new kitchen stuff, and I wanted some Slitbar knives, so we went to Ikea for some kitchen gifts to each other. We saw this grill pan online and wanted to check it out. I wouldn't review it here unless it was relevant to outdoor cooking, and since the pan is cast iron, it is very relevant.

First impressions:
The pan is light for being cast iron, but very sturdy. I wouldn't do any drop tests, but this pan is not going to warp or crack easily. I like the dual handles on each side, and the fact that it is square is kinda cool-- it has a hotspot right under a stove burner, but if you put it on a grill, the pan heats evenly. The grates in the pan make some nice sear marks, and let the fat drip off George Foreman style. I cooked sausage crumbles for a late night breakfast burrito in it, and the sausage was not greasy at all. The fats rendered off and stayed in the channels of the grates.

At first, I was eager to use the pan that I didn't follow package directions and cook some milk and lemon juice in it. I don't know why you'd need to do that-- it would make a plastic polymer called Casein. Gross. I don't want to eat plastic. I figured the pan was preseasoned, so I just oiled it and cooked pork chops. I deglazed the pan and tried to make a sauce, but it actually was pretty gross. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the pan was to blame, I think it was me. However, the first time it was hard to clean. I don't know if following directions would have helped. Over the last few uses, I've rinsed the pan immediately after use, and in all cases, the burnt on meat has come right off. Just dump in the water, and wipe down with a scrubby. Easy peasy.

Strong Points:
Size. The pan is perfectly sized for a burner, not too big for a grill, and fits in my cupboards. Heat retention. Being cast iron, the pan holds heat very well. I convinced my wife to bake the fish fillets for our fish tacos in it tonight, and when she pulled them out and we plated them, I took my tortilla shells and placed them in the hot pan to warm them up. It worked minutes later when I had seconds too! Weight. The pan is light for a cast iron pan, but the walls are thick and strong. Price. At $40USD, it's a bargain for how versatile it is. You can pan sear, fry meats, put it right in your oven, fry bacon on a grill, just about anything!

So is it my new "Favorit" pan? Absolutely. I use it every chance I get.

Ikea Favorit Grill Pan, $40USD

Bon Appetit! The Outdoors Start at Your Back Porch!