Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I think I'm in L.O.V.E.: Lebherz Olive Oil & Vinegar (And a Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe)

Have you made the trip to Lebherz Olive Oil & Vinegar on North Market St. in Frederick yet?

Well, what are you waiting for??

This new store has a nifty concept new to Maryland: olive oils and vinegars in stainless steel casks, ready to taste and tap on your own.

Pic lifted from the L.O.V.E. website

Before you start thinking that this is the same evoo you're getting at the grocery store, think again. From the L.O.V.E website: "L.O.V.E. has over 40 different flavors of oil and vinegar for you to taste, pour, and purchase. I am sure you already know this, but olive oil is such a healthy option when cooking instead of butter, and it just so happens I have a butter 100% natural oil for you to try! That alone is a good reason to come and taste the butter oil for your future meals, popcorn, and more!".

Not only is the store well designed, but the owner, Maggie Lebherz, is cute as a button too. And let me tell you this...girlfriend knows her stuff! Maggie won't hesitate to take the time to educate you on the finer points of production, flavor, and uses of her products, which are imported from all over the world.

Personally, I've purchased a classic olive oil from California and a traditional balsamic, no infusions or added flavors for me. But I've tasted the infused oils, and they're delicious.

Prices range from around $10 for a small bottle to $30 for a wine-sized bottle, so this isn't the stuff you're going to use for general cooking. No way man! These oils and vinegars are meant to be savored and appreciated for their flavor, so don't waste them in tomato sauce or the like. Use these to finish a dish, or straight for dipping, even in a lovely vinaigrette. Speaking of which, here's my semi-famous Honey Balsamic Dressing recipe for you, to give a try with some of the goodies you'll find at L.O.V.E.:

Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe:

1/2 cup Good Quality Balsamic
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 to 2 tablespoons Honey
1 cup Good Quality Olive Oil (I like the Arbequina from L.O.V.E.)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Whisk together Balsamic, Dijon, and Honey in a medium bowl until combined. Slowly stream in Olive Oil while whisking (this will keep your vinaigrette emulsified instead of separating). Store in fridge for up to two weeks. Note: I like my vinaigrette tart, so I use a lot of vinegar (1:2 vinegar to oil). The traditional ratio is 1:3, so feel free to use a little more oil (or less vinegar) if you don't like it so puckery.

L.O.V.E is located at 214 N. Market St, just a few doors down from VOLT. They're open Tuesday through Thursday, 11-6, Friday & Saturday 11-9, and Sundays from Noon-6. Everyone needs a break sometime, so they're closed on Mondays.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How You Know Top Chef has Jumped the Shark

The BABYFOOD challenge.


Make a dish that pleases Tom & Padma (judges), and their babies?

Sometimes, you know exactly when the show you love is no longer worthy of your attention. And tonight, it was my beloved Top Chef.

Sayonara sweetheart. The dvr has been changed.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Problem with Chefs Move to Schools: A Cook's POV

You know that I went to the White House on June 4th to participate in the kick-off program for the new initiative, Chefs Move to Schools.

You know that I was super-excited about participating in this launch, even though there were many, many people attending, and I still see several bold-faced names who were in attendance missing from the list of chefs who have signed-up to participate in the program.

But after some time, and a chance to dig into the web site and the program, I'm realizing an important fact.

There is no program.

Now don't misunderstand. There's a web site and a lot of excitement among those in the food community, particularly those of us who already work with kids and love doing so. But I haven't yet found a specific program to help put this all into action. To help all of the participants, both from the school & chef sides, to be on the same page.

An email received from Share Our Strength, a really fabulous organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America, encourages us to "Search for your state, then look for a school near you; there is a contact listed for each school. You are also encouraged to match yourself with a school of your own choosing - where your kids go, near your restaurant, maybe even the one you attended as a child! If there isn't a school near you at this point, check back later or just ask around in your community to make a connection! "

Ok, I can do that. In fact, I'm already teaming with Monocacy Elementary School. But it seems to me that by encouraging Monocacy to participate, I may have just added a layer of red tape to our process. Maybe? I really can't tell.

Here's what I thought would happen:
  1. Schools and chefs would register for the program, then be paired
  2. Schools and chefs would both be given program guidelines to follow with the flexibility to put our own spin on things
  3. Suggestions for funding would be offered (not the actual funding, but ideas on who and how to approach this issue)

Instead, here's where it stands today:

  1. Schools and chefs register for the program and are expected to pair themselves up (no problem here)
  2. There's a website with info as it pertains to school lunches and daycare, but with no curriculum guidelines for chefs and cooks going in and teaching the kids about food.
  3. No one is discussing funding. This is 100% volunteer.

Before you start thinking I'm greedy, please understand that food costs money. And when you're going into a school with hundreds of kids, and you're expected to provide not only your time but the food as well, we're talking what could be a major financial commitment from some very small business owners who probably don't pay themselves very much, if anything.

If you're a big name in the field with successful restaurants, tv shows, and the like, that's very different from someone who owns his or her own business and isn't raking in the big (or even medium) bucks. I will willingly donate my time, but providing all that food for samples etc.? Where is that money going to come from? Are there grants? Ideas on working with PTSAs, or do I need to figure it out myself? Doesn't it seem a little silly to have 900+ chefs (those currently registered for the program) all starting from scratch, on their own? Seems like we'll end up with 900+ different approaches.

I love me some Obama, deep, deep down in my heart, but either I'm missing some major info on this program (which is not impossible), or it's just not there, or it's not easy to find.

I've gone ahead and registered for Share Our Strength's Operation Frontline program to see what their curriculum looks like and see if perhaps that program is a good fit for me & the school. I'd like to know what other cooks & chefs are doing and what their plans are for participation in this program and if maybe, just maybe, I'm missing something here. Because right now? I'm just confused.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Awesome Summer Recipe: Panzanella (Tomato & Bread Salad)

This week, we're holding an Italian-themed camp at The Kitchen Studio. Why? Well, I really like Italian food and so do teens & tweens, so it seemed like a good match. My favorite dish of the week so far hasn't been the ravioli with homemade ricotta (though they're near the top of my list) or the focaccia or even the cool and refreshingly delicious lemon sorbet. Nope. The honor this week goes to Panzanella. A rustic, casual tomato/bread salad.

We used the aforementioned focaccia bread (a day old and left out to stale a bit overnight), and threw in some homemade mozzarella, but you can improvise as you wish. Here's the recipe we used:

Serves 8 (or 4 if you're really, really, really hungry)

6-8 cups of day old bread, cubed (not the sliced bread from the grocery store, but good, rustic bread)

6 Ripe, juicy tomatoes, diced into 1" pieces, seeds removed

1/2 cup fresh Basil leaves, sliced into a very thin chiffonade

1/2-3/4 cup Olive Oil, plus a little extra to toss with the bread (maybe another 2-3 T.)

1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1-2 Garlic Cloves, minced

1/2 pound Fresh Mozzarella, cubed (totally optional, but delicious)



Preheat your oven to 400-degrees. Scatter your bread cubes onto a baking sheet with sides and toss with 2-3 T. of olive oil. Bake fore 10 minutes, or until a little crunchy but not tooth-breakingly hard. Cool.

Pour red wine vinegar into a large bowl. Add Dijon Mustard and whisk until combined. Slowly drizzle in 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil, while whisking. (Hint: The less oil, the more tart the dressing, and I like my dressing tart.)

Add garlic to the dressing and whisk to combine.

Add diced tomatoes, bread, fresh basil and if using, the cubed mozzarella to the dressing. Sprinkle with a good bit of salt (1/2-1 t.) and pepper (1/4-1/2 t.). Toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Ta-dah! Summer in a bowl I tell you. Not the sexiest picture you'll see, but it is yummy! Make it, love it, enjoy it. Happy summer!