The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

9:17 PM

Memorial Day Barbecue, Part Two

Posted by Food Pear-ings

Memorial Day Barbecue, Part Two - Fish

Yellow fin tuna, grilled artichokes
and tri-color cauliflower

To start off with, we hope everyone had a fantastic 
Memorial Day weekend!
As we have mentioned before, "Food Pear-ings" is a collaboration
between our team members; or, a synonym for
everyone falling  over each other in the kitchen.
And our "guests" are basically
people who are really getting hungry
and wondering if we will ever finish photographing
the food so they can eat...
As you may have seen, we had a grand shopping event
However, our beautiful tuna steaks
were purchased separately at Santa Monica Seafood


The tuna steaks were also cooked on our gas grill,
but pre-heated to about 500 degrees and maintained at about 400 degrees
We prepared these to a medium rare
They were just lightly brushed with avocado oil,
roasted garlic flakes, freshly-ground pepper, and
Pink Australian Flake Salt
Along with these lovely pieces of heaven,
we served grilled organic baby artichokes
and some lovely tri-colored cauliflower


The artichokes were braised with a champagne
marinade that we used on the grilled vegetables
from part one of this series
This included champagne, balsamic vinegar, olive oil,
a French herbes de Provence blend, garlic, freshly-squeezed lemon juice,
and some chipotle chili powder
They were then drizzled with a
champagne mustard sauce (also served on the side)


The Champagne Mustard Sauce
What you will need:
2 tablespoons of champagne (or a very dry sparkling wine)
4 tablespoons of mustard aioli
4 tablespoons of Greek-style yogurt, plain
1 clove of garlic, minced
Mix all of the ingredients until they become smooth and incorporated
(Also makes an excellent sauce for fish)


Coming up will be our grand finale:
Dessert - Caramelized Pears on a bed of
Mascarpone, with a surprise whipped cream topping

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4:56 AM

Memorial Day Weekend - Barbecue, Part One

Posted by Food Pear-ings

Memorial Day Barbecue, Part One - Steak


This weekend, we are having a couple of nice barbecue meals to share with you guys.  Our first one incorporated the beautiful steaks we bought at the butcher shop the other day (see: Shopping).  Be sure to keep an eye out for the next upcoming post as well, which will feature our fish feast!
At the butcher shop, there was a large selection of steaks, including grass-fed beef, dry aged steaks, and even Kobe beef.  With all of the available options, it took some careful consideration (meaning we were standing at the counter ogling the meat for a good ten minutes before we picked anything!).





For our barbecue, we picked up two gorgeous rib eyes.  One was a USDA Prime Delmonico rib eye, which was beautifully marbled.  The other was a boneless grass-fed rib eye that was super tender and juicy. Not quite as tender as a filet mignon, but much more tasty and rich than many other types of cuts, this cut is a great balance of flavor, size, and texture.  Both steaks came out wonderfully!
Before cooking, I coated each in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled them generously with freshly-ground black pepper and fleur de sel, and patted the salt and pepper in so it wouldn't fall off.  A great steak doesn't need anything more... No steak sauce here!

The steaks were cooked on a gas grill which had been pre-heated to about 600 degrees.  This allowed us to achieve a nice crust, but still have a steak that is juicy, tender, and flavorful, without overcooking.  The steaks were cooked to a rare/medium-rare consistency.  While the flames jumped up to meet these beauties (especially the heavily-marbled Delmonico steak), the high quality of the meat allowed them to dance and laugh in the face of such heat, and the result was a perfect steak!


There is nothing quite like a well-cooked, high-quality steak, and these definitely did not let down.  The knife slid right through them like a fish through water, and they melted in the mouth like butter.  The high heat allowed for a nice crispy crust, but the inside was soft and tender.  Delicious through and through!
To go with these lovely steaks, we also put together a couple of sides.  First of all, we made two types of potatoes, purple and white, and mashed each with garlic.  These were served on top of one another, for a delicious and colorful addition to the plate.
We also threw some vegetables on the grill, and let them cook until they were just starting to become charred.  We had mini portobello mushrooms and red and yellow peppers, in a champagne marinade that included champagne, vinegar, olive oil, a French herbes de Provence blend, garlic, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and some other spices (including salt and pepper, as well as some chipotle chili powder).  These came out juicy and tender, and the mushrooms were especially delicious!  If you have never grilled a portobello before, it's time to give it a try!  You won't be let down.

What a wonderful early summer meal!  A nice cool, sunny day, some drinks, and a beautiful barbecue feast... What could be better?  


Later on today, round two of our barbecue weekend will include a great tuna steak, and some grilled artichokes.  Don't miss it!

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5:46 AM

Memorial Day Weekend - Shopping

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Shopping for Memorial Day
Plus a Snack

In celebration of Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to have a nice barbecue.  So we went out to Trader Joe's (the local specialty food store), the produce market, and the butcher, to pick up some wonderful and delicious foods to make for you guys over the weekend.  
I would like to share some images from my trip to the butcher, where we picked up a few things for our barbecue extravaganza!

This store had a nice selection of meats, cheeses, wines, and other specialty food products.  Since we were there, we picked up a great unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, and a couple of finishing salts (an Australian flake salt, as well as a container of fleur de sel).  Both salts are very good, but fleur de sel is the king of salts.  If you think all salts are the same, try a piece of bread with olive oil, and put iodized salt on one and fleur de sel on the other... It will change your mind!  
For more information on salts, check out our post on salt here.


We also picked up a couple of cheeses for the occasion.  Both are actually delicious variations of truffle cheese.  One is a strong, tasty truffle gouda, and the other is a more mild cow's milk cheese, with a strong truffle flavor (if you have ever had the truffle cheese from Trader Joe's, just imagine that multiplied by 10 in terms of taste).  They were absolutely delicious!  For a little grocery unpacking snack (hey, shopping is hard work!), we had some bread with olive oil and salt, and a few slices of cheese.  What a heavenly snack.


Here is a close-up image of the olive oil, to give you an idea of the color (you can see by the slightly cloudy coloring that the olive oil is unfiltered):


While we didn't purchase any wine there yesterday, it is something we will be taking a closer look at in the near future... However, I took a couple of images of the cheese and wine selections to give you guys an idea of what we were working with:




I hope you enjoyed this peek at our weekend shopping, as well as our simple but delectable lunch.  I will posts pictures of the meat when I post that section of our weekend barbecue adventure!  Also stay tuned for barbecued fish and vegetables, and more!   

For any locals that may be interested, I would definitely recommend this butcher shop for your meat and cheese needs, and they have some other nice treasures to be found as well.  The selection was fair, the prices were reasonable for the most part, and the environment was perfect. 
The information for this store can be found below:

The Meat House
103 E. 17th Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627
(949) 548-6328
Open 9 AM to 8 PM every day

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5:06 AM

Food Quote

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

 
 
"We are indeed much more than what we eat, 
but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are."
 
Adelle Davis

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5:12 AM

Update - Triple-Layer Brownies

Posted by Sugar and Spice

The triple-layer brownies post has been updated with images.  Go check it out!  I hope you enjoy them.


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3:02 PM

Food Quote

Posted by Truffle Shuffle



"Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress." 

Charles Pierre Monselet


Painting:
Fruits of the Midi, 1881
Pierre-Auguste Renoir

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11:59 PM

Food of the Week - Capsaicin

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Capsaicin


While capsaicin is not a "food," per se, as in something we would normally eat in and of itself, it is something that many of us ingest regularly, and it helps to provide a lot of the powerful flavor and kick to many of our foods.  Without capsaicin, the world of food would be a much duller place!

What Is It?
Capsaicin is the component in hot peppers that makes them "hot".  Ever bite into a jalapeño or get a mouthful of spicy hot sauce?  That strong burning sensation is caused by capsaicin in Capsicum plants that irritates tissues, giving a sensation of "heat," though there is no actual burning going on in a literal sense.

Culinary Uses
Spicy peppers, spices, sauces, and other food products make our every-day dishes powerful and interesting.  Try imagining a world with no capsaicin... Your salsa would be bland, there would be no hot sauce, no chili powder, no Mexian food! (Or at least not as we think of Mexican food today).  Sounds like a pretty dull world, if you ask me.  The thrilling heat of capsaicin allows us to kick up our foods by giving them an eye-watering, mouth-burning sensation of heat that most of us probably couldn't live without.

Other Uses
Capsaicin is also used for a variety of other things, including as a pest repellent, as a pain reliever, to treat dermal issues, and even to help treat cancer.  It is also used in law enforcement for pepper-based sprays.

Capsaicin in Peppers
There are many hot chili peppers (chiles) that contain capsaicin.  If it has any sensation of "heat," there is capsaicin in there.  There are some peppers that have none, like the bell pepper, and some that have a lot, like the habanero.  Each has its uses, and the more capsaicin involved, the more spicy the food will be.
Pepper can be used fresh, dried, ground into spices, or made into sauces and other additions to heat up food.  Capsaicin can also be extracted from peppers for use in various applications, or used in its pure form (though this is generally considered as being far too spicy for use in food, and capsaicin in and of itself has no flavor, which defeats much of the purpose of using chili peppers to spice up foods.

How Do You Measure the Heat?
Since there are many different types of chili peppers, ranging from sweet, to mild, to spicy, there needs to be a way of measuring the heat of these peppers.  While one can taste that something is spicy, and label it as more or less spicy than something else, in 1912, American chemist Wilbur Scoville created a system of measuring how spicy each type of pepper is.  The scale used to measure this is called the Scoville scale.
The Scoville scale measures the perceived "heat" of chili peppers, from having no heat whatsoever (e.g. a bell pepper), to the heat of pure capsaicin. Water and sugar are added to capsaicin oils extracted from the peppers, and taste testers drink the liquid.  This is done until the heat in the mixture is imperceptible.  The amount of times the oil needed to be diluted to make the capsaicin undetectable is the Scoville rating.  For instance, if the capsaicin oil neeed to be diluted a hundred times before it no longer tasted spicy, the rating would be 100.
Since different tasters will have different perceptions of the heat, and since there is a wide variation in the heat of many different types of chili peppers, this is an imprecise science.  However, it gives us the ability to rank peppers in an order of spiciness, and give us a general idea of how hot a pepper will be compared to others.  The following table gives an idea of just a few of these numbers, ranging from a bell pepper (no heat) to pure capsaicin (numbers are not exact, but are meant to be a general reference):

Scoville Ratings

Ingredient Scoville Rating Image

Bell Pepper

0

Pimento

0 - 500

Peperoncini

100-500

New Mexico (Chile Colorado)

500-1000

Anaheim Pepper

500-2500

Poblano/Ancho/Pasilla

1000-2000



Guajillo

2500-5000

Jalapeño

2500-8000

Chipotle/Hot Wax Peppers

5000-10000


Serrano

5000-23000

Chiles de Arbol

15000-30000

Cayenne/Tabasco Peppers

30000-50000


Thai Peppers

50000-100000

African Devils(Bird's Eye Peppers)

100000-225000

Habanero/Scotch Bonnet

100000-350000


Red Savina Habanero

350000-580000

Bhut Jolokia (Naga Jolokia/Ghost Pepper)

800000-1041427


Pure Capsaicin

16000000
*Note that some of the images above may depict fresh, dried, smoke, and/or pickled.


Interesting Facts
The hottest pepper ever recorded so far was a Bhut Jolokia pepper rated at 1,041,427 on the Scoville scale. That's about 130 times hotter than the hottest Jalapeño!
Law enforcement-grade pepper spray measures about 5,300,000 Scoville units, about a third of the potency of pure capsaicin!
While capsaicin cannot actually "burn" you, peppers with high amounts of it can cause serious irritation to skin, and especially to areas with mucous membranes, such as the eyes. Be careful when you handle hot peppers! For some, such as habaneros and hotter peppers, gloves are a must.
Many seekers of spicy foods enjoy the adrenaline rush they get from eating foods with hot peppers. This is because the pain receptors in the body cause it to release endorphins due to the pain of the "heat" caused by the capsaicin in peppers. This causes a rush and a feeling of excitement.

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