Thursday, September 21, 2006

Surprise in What?

I had planned on devoting more time to this entry, but the forces of nature and a big party tomorrow have conspired to keep it brief. As part of a monthly food bloggers event titled "Sugar High Friday" and hosted this month by St. Louis' own Alanna Kellogg (for SHF specifics visit her blog: ( This month's SHF theme was "Surprise Inside" recipes, meaning a sweet treat with a special something under the surface. I actually came up with my recipe for a cooking class I was teaching this week at the local Viking Store. It was a fundraiser for the Clayton Farmer's Market where I was paired with a local farmer- a bison farm to be exact. Suffice it to say my interest in creating a "Bison Pot de Creme" was nil (although what a "surprise inside" that would have made). Instead I adapted this moist apple cake flavored with green cardamom (much less assertive than black) with a molten center of caramel sauce made with apple cider. It's seasonal and a little different, but not as surprising as it could have been.

Cardamom-Apple Cake with Molten Cider-Caramel

Quantity Produced: Makes 12 Individual Cakes

Tart Apples, Peeled/Grated 6 Apples
Light Brown Sugar, Packed 3 Cups
Eggs 3
Flour 3 2/3 Cups
Green Cardamom, Ground 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon 1 ½ teaspoons
Salt ¼ teaspoon
Baking Soda 2 ½ teaspoons
Pecans, Chopped 1 ½ Cups
Vanilla Extract 1 ½ teaspoons
Butter, Softened 3 oz.
Oil, Canola (neutral oil) 3 oz.

Cider-Caramel Sauce (Makes 1 ½ Cups)

Apple Cider 3 Cups
Vanilla Bean, Scraped 1
Dark Brown Sugar ½ Cup (Packed)
Butter, Unsalted ¼ Cup
Heavy Cream ½ Cup

Preparation Procedure for Cider-Caramel Sauce-

Reduce cider by half, add vanilla bean, sugar, butter and cream. Reduce until thick. Keep warm

Preparation Procedure for Apple Cake-

Preheat oven 350d.. Combine softened butter & oil in mixer using paddle attachment. Add sugar, egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & cardamom).
Mix until combined. Add grated apple and chopped pecans, mix until combined. Using greased individual ramekins, spoon cider-caramel into bottoms of each ramekin (at least 1 Tablespoon) and top with spoonful of apple cake batter. Bake 45min. to 1 hour. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm in ramekin.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Paul's Killer Pots

In the close-knit world of farmer's markets, and those who frequent them, it's inevitable that certain farmers become known for their profile almost as much as the produce they're growing. In the St. Louis area markets you have: The Picture Perfect Abrahams of Berger Bluff Farm (known for their tomatoes & leafy veggies), the Hip & Happening Sam and Joanna of Claverach Farm/Vineyard (salad mix & micro greens), Rock Solid Dave H. of Prairie Grass Farm (all things lamb) and renaissance Paul of Bellews Creek Farm (exotic squash & potatoes) to name a few. When I was in need of some potatoes for a party this past week I knew I could count on renaissance Paul at the Wednesday, Maplewood farmer's market. I'm not the first to dub Paul a "renaissance Man", most of the St. Louis food community are familiar with his big personality and broad passions. Paul is just as likely to be building a new house or barn (virtually by himself) as drying his own chipotle peppers or black beans. His farm, out in Jefferson County, is agro-WillyWonka; an eccentric's workshop masquerading as a family farm. You'll find wrought-iron sculptures mingled with homemade farm contraptions, and always a mysterious structure or two in the works. Of all the farmers whose produce I admire, Paul is the only one who seems to do it as a hobby. This is not meant as a slight on his farming, as he clearly knows as much as anyone in that field. It's just that he is as respected for his breadth of knowledge on matters mechanical and artistic as he is for his kick-ass chipotle peppers or Kennebec potatoes. And on this day it was those Kennebec potatoes that drew me to him.

Kennebec potatoes are an excellent all-purpose cooking potato, but I especially love to boil and peel them for warm German-Style Potato Salad. (The quality that makes them the perfect "all-purpose" potato, is a great balance of starch and wax.) Try them with the following recipe.

German-Style Potato Salad (serves six as a side dish)

Kennebec Potatoes* 1 1/2#
Sweet Onion, Sliced 1 Medium
Bacon, Baked 3/4 crisp, Diced** 8 Slices
Bacon Drippings 1 Tablespoon
Olive Oil 2 Tablespoons
Mustard Seed, Brown & Yellow 2 Tablespoons
Celery Seed 1 Teaspoon
Cider Vinegar 1/3 Cup
Brown Sugar, Light 1/4 Cup
Honey 1/4 Cup
Dijon Mustard 2 Tablespoons
Italian Parsley, Minced 2 Tablespoons
Fresh Black Pepper To Taste
Salt, Kosher To Taste


In large pot cover the potatoes (prewashed) with cold water and a few pinches of salt. Bring to a steady simmer for 12-15 minutes, checking regularly. When just starting to become knife tender, and before you see any cracks, remove from heat. Let sit in the water 15 minutes or so (the key to this salad is for the potatoes to be cooked yet still slightly firm). When the potatoes are the desired texture (remember "al dente"), carefully remove to a strainer and let cool. Do not rinse the potatoes with cold water, but when cool enough to handle peel with a sharp paring knife. Cut the potatoes into quarters and cover to keep warm. Meanwhile, sweat the onions, bacon, mustard seed and celery seed in olive oil and drippings for 5-8 minutes. Deglaze with cider vinegar and dijon mustard, honey and brown sugar. Cook until sugar dissolved then add potatoes, parsley and seasoning (salt & pepper). Toss until potatoes are coated. Serve warm or at room temperature.