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Recipe: Simple Summer Ceviche

After an intense week of cooking, eating and drinking in Atlanta, Kyle and I wanted to keep it light for a few days. A few weeks ago at a BBQ hosted by the Birch & Barley cook Kyle made an awesome ceviche that really hit the spot. I love raw seafood of any kind and I would drink vinegar and lime juice by the glass if I could, so ceviche is a welcome addition to any meal. I think the sliced vegetables served with ceviche should be just as important as the fish. It really makes it a meal. Honestly, the produce (avocado, cherry tomatoes and bell peppers) could stand on their own, making a nice vegetarian salad. I am a huge fan of tofu, which you could replace the fish with and do a vegetarian “ceviche.”

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RECIPE
4 appetizer servings

1 pound snapper or tilapia fillet, skin off
1/4 red onion
1/2 red pepper
1/2 orange pepper
3 TBSP cilantro, chopped
1 cup sweet yellow cherry tomatoes, split in half
3 limes
1 lemon
2 TBSP rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 ripe avocado
Maldon or other large grain sea salt

DIRECTIONS

1) Slice red onion and bell peppers as thin as possible. If you have a mandolin that is ideal but a sharp knife will do the trick.
2) Layer the onions, peppers, cilantro and tomatoes in a jar or glass. Pour the lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil directly over the vegetables. Allow to sit while you prepare the fish and avocado.
3) Place the chilled fish on a clean cutting board. Slice on a slight bias 1/4 in thick, transferring each slice to the serving platter, shingling them. Sprinkle lightly with Maldon sea salt.
4) Split the avocado and remove the pit. Use a spoon to gently dig out the flesh. Try to keep it in one large piece. Slice the avocado into 1/4″ thick slices and lay over the fish. Sprinkle the avocado with sea salt as well.
5) Shake up the vegetables and citrus until well combined. Pour the mixture over the fish/avocado, covering them eventy. Sprinkle with maldon salt.
6) Cover and allow to sit in the refrigerator at least 2 hours but up to 5. Serve cold with grilled bread.

Kyle and I enjoyed this on our patio with delicious cocktails in our hands. The weather was just perfect and the sun was going down. It just made the ceviche taste that much better.

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

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Wow! What an amazing weekend. Kyle and I just got back from the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Kyle was invited to present dishes in the tasting tents on two days of the 3 day event.

On Friday he represented the Georgia Growers Association by preparing a dish using only local produce. He decided to do a composition containing watermelon dressed lightly in white balsamic vinegar and olive oil, fresh blueberries, candied pecans and vidalia onion soubis. It was a huge hit, especially because most of the food at the event was heavy and meat driven. The pecans were grown in Georgia, shipped with DC to be candied then driven down with us on a 10 hour car ride. They were delicious and worth the effort!

On Sunday Kyle participated in the Fried Chicken Trail. He and 5 other chefs presented their best fried chicken. Kyle did Buttermilk Fried Chicken served with buttered pecans, crispy smoked chicken skin and a freshly fried brioche doughnut glazed in maple chicken jus. It was by far the most complicated of the dishes at the event. Not only were we crazy enough to attempt to fry 2 different items on our dish, they also “couldn’t find” our marinated chicken until 10 minutes after the event started. We were doomed from the start. Luckily, Southern Hospitality is a real thing and the amazingly talented and sweet chef from Magnolias in Charleston, SC jumped over to help me plate up our dishes. It was hard work but it was worth it because people really loved the dish. We went through about 650 portions. And yes, I had to make 650 doughnuts…

But enough about us, I want to talk about our food experience in Atlanta. Having never been to Atlanta I wasn’t sure what to expect. I honestly didn’t expect much simply because I hadn’t heard much. Boy was I pleasantly surprised. I had some amazing meals while I was there. Abattoir was possibly one of the top 20 meals I have ever had… That is saying a lot since I’ve been eating out at great restaurants for the last 6 years. Rumor has it that the chef has just taken over. I was with a group of 6 and we ordered all the snacks, cold appetizers and hot appetizers. About 18 dishes in all. Some standouts include an octopus hot dog which was a cased sausage made from octopus, pork and chicken (I think). It was AMAZING. It had a beautiful texture, full octopus flavor and was served on a nicely toasted roll with condiments that made the flavor reminiscent of taco yaki. The pork rind came to the table “still talking to us” as the waiter put it. They were giant pillows of sizzling fried pork skin. They were simple but by far the most delicate texuture I’ve ever had. The charcuterie board had many lovely components. My least favorite was the prosciutto powder, which had a little more funk than I like but the blood sausage, which was still a brilliant red, was very impressive. Fried chickpeas, something very easy to make and usually good but not great, were made special with a cumin-salt seasoning that really had great flavor. My only regret was that we didn’t get back for entrees before we left.

Other notable meals were Fox Bros BBQ, where we had our first meal in Atlanta. Some of the local chefs told me there was much better BBQ at other shops but those pork ribs were the juiciest, most perfectly smoked and cooked ribs I have ever had. Maybe it was an extra “on” day in the kitchen but I’m sure glad we ate there. The braised collards were great too. Holeman and Finch was another knock out. The pan fried sweetbreads with bok choy and sorghum glaze was outstanding. Rabbit livers, carbonara and tartare were other standouts. We got the infamous burger and it was really really good but I think the chef is putting out some really great stuff and the burger is good but not as good as his more creative dishes. Although if I were sitting at the bar sipping cocktails for a few hours and then got that burger, I’d be one happy customer!

Empire State South wins for best hospitality. They stayed open extra late every night serving really well executed cocktails to loud, and at times obnoxious, chefs. I can’t even count the number of Pimm’s Cups I had over the course of 3 days. And we stopped in for a quick (and I mean 45 minutes quick) lunch on Friday and even though they were packed we got our food fast and perfect. Everything was very very good but the big standout was the most simple thing on the table. There was a side of rice and red beans that was so perfect beyond belief it blew my mind… And Kyle’s too. I absolutely LOVE when something that is normally not the star of the show jumps out at you like that. Attention to the little details like that are what separate a chef from a great chef.

I wish I had taken more pictures but I was so busy enjoying the food (and company) I just snapped quick shots with my phone. Atlanta, thanks for an amazing weekend! Can’t wait to see you next year.

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Recipe: Rhubarb Crisp

Rhubarb is such a special ingredient. It lets us know that winter is officially over and warm weather is right around the corner. For pastry chefs it is the first produce after a fruit dry spell. Sure, citrus is still around but other than that it’s slim pickings.

If you made my apple-cranberry crumble then you already know how easy crisps and crumbles are to make. This is even easier than the apple crumble because you don’t need to pre-cook the fruit. Just cut it up, mix with the other ingredients, cover with the streusel and bake. Super quick and easy!

You can find rhubarb at farmers markets and sometimes even in whole foods. It is tart and crisp but softens when cooked. It looks a bit intimidating if you have never cooked or eaten rhubarb but this recipe will be your gateway drug into the world of rhubarb. Next thing you know you will be anxiously waiting for rhubarb season and making pie and ice cream! At the beginning of the season they are a beautiful with both a pink flesh and skin. Later in the season they remain pink on the outside but the flesh tends to turn green. It still tastes delicious, just looks a little different.

Rhubarb Mix:

8 cups Rhubarb chopped (5-6 short stalks)
1 cup Sugar (or vanilla sugar)
3 TBSP Cornstarch
1/4 tsp Powdered Cinnamon
2 tsp Fresh Lemon Zest
2 tsp Fresh Orange Zest
1 tsp Fresh Lime Zest
1/2 tsp Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 tsp Grated Nutmeg

Directions:

1) Chop rhubarb into 1/4 inch thick slices and reserve
2) In a separate bowl combine all the other ingredients. Toss with rhubarb and allow to sit 15-30 minutes until rhubarb begins to release liquid. During this time prepare the Brown Sugar Streusel and pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees F
3) Re-toss the rhubarb and place in a 9×12″ baking pan. The rhubarb should mound above the top as it will cook down significantly.
4) Top liberally with the Streusel and bake 30-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. I recommend putting a cookie sheet under the crisp to catch anything that might drip over the sides. (Cooking if fun, cleaning up is not!) Pierce with a knife in the center to make sure the rhubarb is soft and fully cooked.
5)Serve warm with ice cream (I like ginger best!)

Brown Sugar-Oatmeal Streusel:

1 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cups Quick Cook Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
2 TBSP Cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Cinnamon
4 ounces Butter, chilled and cubed (1 stick)

Directions:

1) Mix together flour, sugars, spices and oats.
2) Using a mixer with a paddle attachment or your hands work the butter into the flour mix until it resembles sand. Do not over mix. Store in the refrigerator up to one week until needed. Great on crumbles, crisps and as a muffin topping. If you have any extra you can bake it off on a cookie tray until golden and use as an ice cream sundae topping.

Besides these crumbles I make lots of other things with rhubarb. Upside down cake, sorbet, muffins, sundae toppings. I’ve even been known to juice them and use the juice in a cocktail with gin, lime and club soda. I’m getting thirsty just thinking about it.

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