Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jazzy iced coffee

I had a recent conversation with a friend, wherein she told me that hanging out with me had led to her drinking coffee in the afternoon. After making sure that wasn't a euphemism for me being boring, I told her "you're welcome."  As far as I'm concerned, an increase in coffee consumption is a good thing, so long as you are savoring and enjoying this ancient beverage. Oh, I just love coffee.

More than loving coffee, I love really carefully crafted coffee. Artisan coffees have caught a bad rep over the years, in large part due to an unwieldy purveyor who has doused coffee in a slew of syrups and whipped cream and calling it gourmet. This is a bad rep that artisan coffee does not deserve.  A well-crafted cup of coffee reflects the thirsty work of a farmer, a roaster, a buyer and a barista who all love to understand the complex nature of a simple bean.  A good cup of coffee offers a sense of place, a story of cultivation and careful preparation and is a reliable friend on an early morning.  Oh, I really love coffee.

It was at a Blue Bottle kiosk at the Ferry Building farmers market that I first tried a New Orleans iced coffee, and people, it was worth the absurdly long line I waited in.  Cold brewed coffee with chicory, milk and simple syrup- safe to say it is a joie de vivre.  I was already suspicious that the baristas at Blue Bottle were apron-clad undercover angels, and when I discovered a recipe card for the NOLA coffee on my way out the door, I my suspicions were confirmed. Prep some of the coffee concentrate and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days to really enjoy these last warm days.

New Orleans Iced Coffee adapted from Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
(we have had the worst time finding chicory in Boulder, so we have opted for the Cafe Du Monde coffee and chicory blend, and it has been a great runner runner up to the Blue Bottle version)
Prepare concentrate in a large enameled cast-iron stock pot with a lid. 
Add a full can of Cafe Du Monde Coffee and Chicory to the stock pot. Cover coffee with 2.5 quarts of cold water. Stir, cover, and let steep at room temp for about 8-12 hours (overnight is perfect). 
Strain the concentrate through a fine-mesh strainer.  You can line a strainer with a large coffee filter or cheese cloth to catch as much sediment as possible.  This will look like used motor oil and should yield about 4-5 cups. Mmmm motor oil. 
To make the simple syrup, combine 3 oz. sugar with 2/3 cup of water over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Agave is a good substitute for simple syrup, just use to taste since it's a little sweeter than sugar.
To serve, pour 3 oz. of coffee concentrate into a tall pint glass.  Stir in a splash of simple syrup and top with low-fat milk. Add in one or two ice cubes.  Put Louis Armstrong on the turntable and spend your coffee break in the French Quarter. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Labor Day meal of epic proPORKtion

It deeply saddens me to say goodbye to the summer, which I suppose is a testament to how great this summer was to me, but shush babe-I hate goodbyes.  In order to soften the blow a little, I planned a special end-of-summer meal that we carted over to the park and grilled out on the picnic table.  Everything's just a little bit more enjoyable over a good meal.

This meal in particular was a stretch for me because I made (pause for dramatic effect) pork chops. Yes, as in swine.  I cooked it. I ate it. I even liked it. This is significant as I've had it out against pork since I was about 8 years old. I have a distinct memory, which I'll spare you the details of, where it ended in me declaring to the world: "I'll never eat pig again!" And I didn't. I ate Kosher. When I didn't eat Kosher I told people that I thought the animals were too cute to be food (lie). I had a bevy of reasons I wouldn't eat it, and for about 16 solid years I stuck to my guns. I saw no pork. I cooked no pork. I ate no pork. 

Sadly, Mr. LovelySplendid totally digs on swine and has long bargained with me and requested I branch out. That I please give pork a chance. Happy Labor Day to him.

As I was planning out the meals for the week I came across this absolutely lovely farm stand on Valmont and 75th called Munson Farm. (Which you have to visit if you are local, because it's totally awesome.) They were selling local peaches the size of softballs and the freshest ears of corn I've ever seen in real life. Once I loaded up on my side, all I needed was a good meat to round out a delicious summer meal. Well, lucky Mister, pork chops were on sale and I was feeling courageous.

Pork Chops with blue cheese, grilled peaches and corn on the cob (recipe for 2)

This recipe was not only delicious but also easy to tote over to the park for a picnic. Add 5 bonus points.

You'll need:

2 pork chops; we opted for smaller sized chops for the budget and my deep-seated fear of hating this dinner.
Roughly 3 tbsps Stoneground or dijon mustard (you can eyeball this)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
Blue cheese to taste; I liked the Salemville Amish cows milk version, which is sold by the wedge at Whole Foods Market.
2 ears of corn
1 giant peach (a la James)

1. Rinse the pork chops under cool water and set aside.  In a large bag, combine the mustard, water, salt and pepper. Once you have your desired consistency and flavor for your brine*, place the pork chops in the bag and seal.  Place in fridge for 2-4 hours to chill and allow the flavors to fully marry. Place the bag in a baking pan in case the zipper lock gives way- unless, of course, you like to live dangerously.  
*Many people add an apple cider to their brine, but I wanted to keep it savory since we were going to be pairing the meat with peaches. 

2. Heat up a greased grill to a medium heat.  Place the pork chops on the grill and cook thoroughly, flipping as needed.  

3. While pork chops are cooking, place ears of corn still in husks directly on the grill. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until corn is fully cooked but still crisp in texture. To eat, pull back husks and use them as a handle. (add 5 kitsch points)

4. If you have additional room on the grill, slice peaches in half and place flesh-down the the grill.  Cook these to your desired consistency. I found a good indicator for me was the temperature of the skin. Once the skin began to feel warm to the touch and there were visible grill marks on the flesh of the peach I pulled them off the heat. You can experiment with this one, but probably want to stray away from over cooking since it makes the texture really stringy and saps much of the flavor.

5. About 5-10 minutes before pulling the pork chops off of the grill crumble the blue cheese over the meat so that it begins to soften and melt but is not runny or liquid in texture.

Arrange these items on your plate and pair with your favorite summer beer or wine.  Follow it up with a great conversation with your friends or a Lady GaGa sunset dance party.  Your choice.