#citiscapes

Eat Your Cabbage Patch, Kids! {aka Charred Brussels Sprouts with Marcona Almonds}

People either love or hate Brussels sprouts - and more times than not they're the only side dish remaining after holiday gatherings and dinner parties; until now.  I've devised a delicious way to prepare these "cabbage patch kids" for even the most discriminating, close minded dinner guest.  This charred, nutty technique give the small bundles a new flavor and presentation completely different from what we've experienced, tasted in the past, and they're the easiest dish to prepare at your next alfresco, grill party. 

Al Fresco Designs, Snacks with Daniel Keeley | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Al Fresco Designs, Snacks with Daniel Keeley | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

For the most recent June issue of Citiscapes magazine I teamed up with Thrill of the Grill alum Daniel Keeley of DK Outdoor Design at the immaculate home of Chris Goddard to create a delicious, sublime dinner party for some of our closest friends.  The end result was a beautifully designed environment ideally structured for an al fresco gathering that featured a menu entirely prepared from the grill; a fun, interesting way to engage guests while they chat, imbibe.  https://www.citiscapes.com/eats-drinks

  

Our Charred Brussels Sprouts with Marcona Almonds are a perfect accompaniment to our Herb Crusted Lamb with Grilled Grapes http://www.edibleculture.net/blog/sheep-thrills-or-grilled-herb-crusted-lamb-skewers and Charred Baby Octopus with Olives and Pickled Peppers http://www.edibleculture.net/blog/lets-get-kraken-on-this-charred-baby-octopus-with-olives-pickled-peppers-and-basil-oil and can be prepared in a matter of just a few minutes. 

Cast Iron of Cabbage Patch Kids | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Cast Iron of Cabbage Patch Kids | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

We simply begin by heating a large cast iron skillet over high heat, adding butter, olive oil until sizzling, then hitting the skillet with cleaned Brussel sprouts, mixing and turning every few minutes to coat and heat.  After about five minutes, the sprouts should start to char a bit, so now we add a handful of Marcona almonds, available at Wholefoods, which will toast as we near the end of the cooking process.  Marcona almonds, also known as the “Queen of Almonds,” are imported from Spain. We eat them as snacks at home on a daily basis; they are shorter, rounder, softer, and exponentially more delicious than domestic almonds. We particularly love the blanched Marcona almonds that are roasted in olive oil and then sprinkled with sea salt; a completely different almond than most Americans are used to - give 'em a try.

Spanish Marcona Almonds Elevate Brussels Sprouts | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Spanish Marcona Almonds Elevate Brussels Sprouts | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Once the Brussels sprouts are charred and the almonds are toasted we finish with salt, pepper, grated lemon zest, and a whisper of extra virgin olive oil.  Simple, sublime, delicious.  Thump thump!  

Eat Your Cabbage Patch, Kids! | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Eat Your Cabbage Patch, Kids! | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Marcona Almonds and Lemon Zest

Prep Time:  15 Minutes | Cook Time:  20 Minutes

Author:  Case Dighero | Recipe Type:  Side Dish | Serves:  8

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound Brussels Sprouts (Washed)
  • 1 Cup Marcona Almonds
  • 1/4 Cup, plus 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Lemon - Zested
  • Salt and Pepper

Technique

-Heat large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil and butter, once butter is melted incorporate Brussels sprouts to pan, then cook until lightly charred.  Next, add Marcona almonds to the pan of sprouts and cook until toasted; remove Brussels sprouts and almonds onto a platter, then finish with salt, pepper, grated lemon zest, and final tablespoon of olive oil.  Devour!

SHEEP Thrills {aka Grilled Herb Crusted Lamb Skewers}

"A Toast to Sheep Thrills!" | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

"A Toast to Sheep Thrills!" | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

It's easy to dismiss, forget the virtues of lamb during the non-holiday months, focusing our attention on more traditional items such as chicken, steak, and fish; but really, lamb is as versatile and delicious on the grill as it is braised, roasted or when pulled from the oven.  Lamb has a b-a-a-a-a-d reputation for being too gamey, overpowering for certain palates; yet cooking it over an open flame or gill has a brilliant way of tempering the gaminess, making it exponentially more appealing to even the most discriminating, finicky diner. 

So, of course I enthusiastically added lamb to the menu of our annual Thrill of the Grill al fresco dinner party for Citiscapes magazine, and it was the surprise hit of the party.  

Not to mention, the main course for the party was also the easiest to prepare; Fresh Herb Crusted Lamb Skewers with Grilled Grapes can actually be prepped and completed in under 30 minutes. 

We start with three pounds of boneless leg of lamb from Richard’s Meat Market, then once home, sliced the rich meat into small 3 to 5 inch slivers that went into a medium sized mixing bowl.  I then embellished with syrupy extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a myriad fresh chopped herbs that included basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, and chives. 

"SIZZLE...Repeat" | Phto Cred:  Kerri McMahon

"SIZZLE...Repeat" | Phto Cred:  Kerri McMahon

After 10 minutes of lamb, herb collusion I then skewered the meat, alternating the marinaded pieces between rough chopped green onions.  Once skewered, the lamb hit a high heat grill for about three minutes on each side, a bit shorter or longer depending on your preference, but a total of six minutes will yield a nice medium rare temperature. 

Lamb-a Dama-Ding-Dong | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Lamb-a Dama-Ding-Dong | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

After reaching desired temperature, it's critical to allow the lamb to rest for five to seven minutes, this ensures that we lose less juice when we cut into it, thus, allowing a juicier, more delicious bite for our guests. 

While the lamb rests comfortably, we then coat small clusters of red and green grapes with olive oil, salt, and pepper before applying to the high temperature grill; just until the grapes begin to turn smoky and gently split.

Helping Lamb Achieve GRAPEness | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Helping Lamb Achieve GRAPEness | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Then simply serve both the skewered lamb and grapes on the same platter, garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and rough chopped basil, chives.  Please note how the sexy, slightly come hither split grapes seem to temper the stylized, gamey flavor of the lamb making it the perfect dish to serve at your next outdoor party.

Enjoy the entire article here:  https://www.citiscapes.com/eats-drinks

 

 

Let's Get KRAKEN on this Charred Baby Octopus with Olives, Pickled Peppers, and Basil Oil

Viva Al Fresco | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Viva Al Fresco | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Spring is in the air, and what better way to celebrate this special season than with an al fresco dinner party with some of your closest friends. 

This season I've devised a “mash-up” of High Southern food standards with slightly elevated, healthier Mediterranean fare to create an entirely new genre of exciting cuisine I'm calling “Medi-South”

High Heat, Quick Char | Photo Cred: Kerri McMahon

High Heat, Quick Char | Photo Cred: Kerri McMahon

Charred Baby Octopus with Olives, Pickled Peppers, and Fresh Basil Oil is used as a salad of sorts, melding sexy, exotic octopus with briny, green and black olives, alongside southern inspired pickled peppadew peppers.  We procure the small, baby octopus from Richard’s Meat Market, then straight into a boiling pot of white wine and chicken stock for a quick poach, let’s say three minutes, before cooling in the fridge with a marinade of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, fresh basil, salt and pepper. 

After at least three hours resting in the chilled citrus bath, we “quick char” the tentacles on high heat, using a heavy press or cast iron skillet to compress the seafood against the grates.

Freedom of the PRESS | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Freedom of the PRESS | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Careful not to over-cook here, we only want a tiny bit of char on the arms.  Serve the octopus with an accompaniment of olives from Wholefoods, pickled red peppadew peppers, roasted garlic cloves, fresh basil leaves, and a generous drizzle of pesto olive oil.   

You OCTO-PI my Belly | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon  Full Thrill of the Grill article:   https://www.citiscapes.com/eats-drinks

You OCTO-PI my Belly | Photo Cred:  Kerri McMahon

Full Thrill of the Grill article:  https://www.citiscapes.com/eats-drinks

Pappa Was a Rolling SCONE {Sweet Biscuit}

TOG Selfies with DK Designs, Citsicapes, and the Suel Clan - Strike a POSER!  {Photo cred:  Kerri McMahon}

TOG Selfies with DK Designs, Citsicapes, and the Suel Clan - Strike a POSER!  {Photo cred:  Kerri McMahon}

Strawberry Shortcake was my absolute favorite dessert growing up - simple, unadulterated sugar macerated strawberries, whipped cream topping {typically from a plastic container or aerosol can} held together by the truly American, iconic Bisquick sweet biscuit - flaky, sweet, buttery and utterly delicious - the culmination of strawberry and sweet cream had a special way of turning the southern scone into a mushy, eye rolling bit of culinary nirvana; and to this day, it's still one of my most cherished summer desserts.

I was excited to resurrect a bit of that childhood food nostalgia for the annual Thrill of the Grill article for Citiscapes Magazine, only substituting the strawberries for grilled peaches, blackberries and Cool Whip for mason jar shaken cream. 

I also wanted to share my Pappa Was a Rolling Scone (Biscuit) recipe, albeit a little messy, but one hell of a delicious pedestal for any fruit based dessert, or even as an amazing breakfast accoutrement with either butter, jam, or honey.   Check out the June issue of Citiscapes  https://www.citiscapes.com/eats-drinks for the play by play on 'how to' compose the final dish - and read below for details on my Pappa Was a Rolling Scone {Biscuit} recipe -

Pappa Was a Rolling Scone {Biscuit}

We begin by thoroughly mixing together 2 cups of all purpose flour with a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and nearly 3/4 cup of powdered sugar - do this with a whisk to ensure all dry ingredients are evenly distributed. 

mise en place:  French culinary phrase which means "putting in place" or "everything in it's place"  Not to be confused with 2 Live Crews Mise en Horny

mise en place:  French culinary phrase which means "putting in place" or "everything in it's place"  Not to be confused with 2 Live Crews Mise en Horny

Next, add 1 stick of very cold, cubed butter to the dry mixture

butter:  a pale yellow edible fatty substance made by churning cream and used as a spread or in cooking - "Butter late than never"

butter:  a pale yellow edible fatty substance made by churning cream and used as a spread or in cooking - "Butter late than never"

Then carefully, but quickly work the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until pea sized granules form - then add 3 tablespoons or so of cold whole milk, continuing to work with your fingers until a shaggy dough form. 

Knead the shaggy dough a dozen times or until smooth  dough ball forms - allow the dough to rest for a bit, maybe grab a cold beer or chilled white wine at this point - I'm having Knob Creek straight RYE Whiskey with San Pelligrino Aranciata Soda.

dough:  a thick, malleable mixture of flour and liquid, used for baking onto bread or pastry - it might also mean money, yo!

dough:  a thick, malleable mixture of flour and liquid, used for baking onto bread or pastry - it might also mean money, yo!

Once the dough has settled down a bit, roll it out until about 1/2" thick - you may have to use a handful of flour here, just to ensure the dough doesn't stick to your surface - there are only a couple things worse than sticky dough, I won't bore you here, but message me and I'll send details with images. 

Once the dough is rolled out, use a glass or dough cutter to make circles - whatever size you like - for this application, I like a 4" diameter. 

circle:  a round plane figure whose boundary consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the center).  "Don't be a circle, jerK!"

circle:  a round plane figure whose boundary consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the center).  "Don't be a circle, jerK!"

Arrange dough circles on a sheet pan lined with parchment, brush a whisper of melted butter atop each, sprinkle with sugar, then place into a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

I love to eat them right out of the oven - you know, when they're really too hot to consume, so you chew them with your mouth open in a half assed attempt at cooling them down, even though it's too late and the top of your mouth is blistered - yeah, that's like the fourth BEST way to enjoy these delicious, slightly dangerous sweet biscuits.     

MMMM - Dessert {Photo cred:  Kerri McMahon}

MMMM - Dessert {Photo cred:  Kerri McMahon}

Don't Get Hangry, Get Natural State Sandwiches

I’m HANGRY. Famished after a long, late-morning workout, I point my car in the direction of downtown Springdale, en route to one of my favorite taqueria destinations on Emma Avenue for a regular fix of authentic Mexican grub. It’s cold, the early-spring cold in the Ozarks that fakes us out every year. Following a weekend of balmy mid-70s temperatures, this Monday is suddenly in the lower 30s, an additional factor fanning the flame of my HANGER.

I slow down as I approach my destination, but the line is long with freezing patrons dancing in place at the walk-up window; and frankly, it’s too cold, and I’m too hungry to wait. I’m panicky, frustrated as I continue west on Emma ­– and then suddenly I catch sight of a large Arkansas-shaped sign to my left, above large windows showcasing crowded, warm indoor seating. I see people eating. I nearly take out three pedestrians as I quickly, frantically, parallel park on the opposite side of the bustling street. Ah, Springdale, a downtown that is becoming my favorite in Northwest Arkansas, chock-full of smart development led by smart, forward-thinking people, and without a doubt, the most diverse of any of her sister cities. Ah, Springdale.

Solemnly, I enter Natural State Sandwiches — as the sign states — and within seconds my icy disposition thaws and blooms into something quite warm and happy. The bearded man at the register, shakes the room with a loud, welcoming voice that encourages everyone to pay attention, lean in and listen up inadvertently. The menu board is pasted with a generous, but not overwhelming, selection of soups, snacks and sandwiches. My nose echoes everything I read – tortellini and tomato soup yields perfumes of chopped fresh garlic and blanched ripe tomatoes; French onion soup evokes the scent of sweet, caramelized onions and rich beef stock; the Pittsburgh sandwich sparks fragrances of salty salami, cheek-puckering pickled vegetables, earthy and deep fried potatoes. I close my eyes for a moment, swaying to the smells and sounds that become beautiful, cramped images in my mind amid the noisy atmosphere of locals having lunch and a sexy amalgamation of contemporary jazz and hip-hop. “Sir, may I help you? Excuse me, sir, may I help you?”

Licking my chops, I step up and place an order of the tortellini and tomato soup, and the Pittsburgh sandwich along with a Coke. Trust that I would have ordered a beer, but the restaurant at the time of publication had not yet acquired a beer and wine license; however, the owners have assured me that said license is coming soon.

I perch myself atop a barstool at a thin counter at the front window, the perfect spot for looking out at Emma Avenue while watching the small dining room equipped with long, wooden communal tables. People are happy, chatting, laughing, enjoying a quick lunch in small clusters with friends and business associates – my mood continues to improve. Then a woman wearing an apron emerges from the kitchen carrying a large bowl of soup and a towering, stratified sandwich.

The soup is delicious, not at all creamy, but pureed to a velvety, bright pool supporting several plump cheese bundles. I dive in face first, nearly inhaling the simple soup that simultaneously warms and coats me from tongue to belly, the experience propelled by the inclusion of the pillowy, soft tortellini. And yes, before lunch was concluded I accidentally anointed myself with a single, dime-sized crimson spot on the lapel of my blazer – a tomato memento of epic, delicious proportions.

But the sandwich was nothing short of sublime — evolving my hangry attitude to happy — stacked over six inches high with griddle-fried salami, egg, melty provolone, hand-cut fries, pickled jalapenos, and vinegar slaw between toasted French bread. I take a deep breath, contemplating the difficult task at hand ­– eating it! I slowly extract the wooden skewer holding everything in place, then press down on the top, expecting to hear a loud accordion sound as I unhinge my jaw like a giant snake, close my eyes (for the second time) and squeeze as much of the Pittsburgh as I can into my mouth. Both elbows are on the bar as vinegar and juice race down my forearms, forming a small puddle as I bite, chew, swallow – then repeat. Without a doubt, this is one the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten.

The owners of Natural State Sandwiches, Tino (short for Celestino) and Amber Belasco, started their culinary journey in 2014 with the opening of a food truck in Fayetteville. After a couple years of harnessing success, they decided to expand their vision into a brick-and-mortar as part of the burgeoning cultural renaissance happening in downtown Springdale. The husband and wife duo work as a tight, compact well-oiled machine, with Tino manning the front of the house while Amber serves as executive chef, designing recipes and devising weekly menus.

One of the great virtues of the eatery is the owners’ passion for promoting sustainable, local ingredients to ensure the freshest product; hence, the weekly specials bookended by only two sandwiches served on a regular basis – the aforementioned Pittsburgh Sandwich and the Chicken Salad, made with local apples, celery, fresh herbs, embellished with bacon bits, gargantuan onion rings and field greens on locally baked onion bun.

On a recent week, the early spring menu was teeming with items such as the Chicken Berry Brie made with juicy oven-roasted chicken breast, sliced fresh strawberries, spiced pecans, creamy brie cheese, homemade onion rings, and organic balsamic salad on toasted local ciabatta; or perhaps the uber healthy Springtime Sandwich delicately constructed of roasted asparagus, pesto goat cheese, sautéed onions, peppery radish, a local farm egg, more onion rings for crunch and texture, and organic balsamic salad on toasted sourdough; and even incredibly delicious BBQ Sliders of local grass fed beef, cheese, sweet and spicy barbeque sauce on toasted King’s Hawaiian buns. Indeed, a little something for everyone.

So, as much as I whine about the finicky early-spring climate of the High South, perhaps without it I might have missed an opportunity to engage in one of the greatest sandwiches of all time, the Pittsburgh at Natural State Sandwiches in downtown Springdale.  There’s always a sunny side to everything, even in this complicated world where a drop in temperature, a wrong turn, or a long line can inexplicably turn HANGRY into HAPPY.  

*Taken from the April 2018 Issue of Citiscapes Magazine