It’s August and the sun has been set on a slow roast. We are starting to feel like braised beef when our attempts to cool off are met with lukewarm bath water pools. We have been combating this temperature with fresh fruit granitas (recipe below) and avoiding having to turn on any kitchen equipment. The staff also headed out to the lake to celebrate the summer before coming back and digging in for the holidays (which are apparently already here!) Now that we are on the back end of the summer culinary kids camps we have had a chance to reflect on all the great food that was made and of course the shenanigans. Its experiences like this validate the importance of engaging the youth in the art of making food by hand from scratch. It is a skill that regardless of what happens can never be taken away from them.
The calendar over the last few months has been booked solid with private and special events at the Vidal House. In the hospitality world, we are at the crossroads of celebrating life both coming and going. It’s often a reminder of how life is special and fragile. With food being central to how we gather, we are honored to get to be a part of these significant core memories. We look forward to making your event special and hassle-free with special touches and impeccable foods. Our cafe can hold up to 50 people and let’s face it, we aren’t really digging the big crowds in general anymore so it makes our quaint intimate space perfect. Email us for details, we would love to be part of your next important day. email@example.com
There is something very comforting about making bread. Getting to knead a sticky dough into submission before letting it rest and rise. Punching it down, shaping and creating divots. Throwing it in a hot oven to poof up and brown. It’s one of the more intimate moments in a kitchen; creating something that is living and then watching its life cycle to the end. Is it just us bread geeks that get excited about this?
As the earth begins to cool down relatively and ‘winter’ appears here, baking bread is a must. It somehow creates a sense of home as the air is filled with the aroma of yeast, toasted flour, and often herbs. Kitchens are a great place for experiencing Hygge, a danish word that means creating comfort and coziness much like bread making. Yes, please!
During kid’s culinary camp, we bake bread every day. On the last day, each kid gets to choose what final bread they want to make. Pretty cool to see these young bakers fly solo and create beautiful bread from memory without a recipe in sight.
Wanna get your hands into some dough? Here is a four-ingredient all-purpose bread that is perfect for beginners or as an option to knock out during the busy week. So proof away.
|Pickled Watermelon Rind|
Watermelon is everyone’s favorite summertime treat. In fact, this summer we went through 60 pounds in a week during one of our Kids Cooking Camp. But, by far, one of our favorite things is a by-product which is the rinds! Watermelon is a southern favorite to pickle. Follow this link to our website for the recipe!
Chef Tip: Mise en place:
Ever wonder how restaurants or caterers are able to pull off feeding a lot of people? Has it never crossed your mind or, do you believe things magically appear? Either way, none of it happens without organization, timing, and what we call mise en place; ‘everything in its place, everything has a place.’ This is probably the single most important in a kitchen but it also works really well in other parts of our lives. If you have a chef loved one, you know we have a certain way of doing or seeing things. It’s our training. And most likely we have been up the creek without a paddle one too many times that we are always on high alert and over-prepared for any disaster that may lie ahead. That said, if you want to give mise en place a try, here’s how you do it:
- Read your recipe thoroughly (first to the last step) and ensure there are no surprise steps along the way.
- Take inventory. Make sure you have all the ingredients you need.
- Prep Everything. Make sure they are defrosted or at whatever temperature you need them. Make sure they are chopped, shredded, whipped, whatever. ALL before you start cooking.
- Put things in containers or lay them out in an organized fashion from first to last needs. This ensures you aren’t fumbling around while executing a dish.
- Last but definitely not least (and the one that is the hardest to implement often) Clean as you go. A clean workspace means clean (and safe) cooking.
Featured FT Chef Recipe:
Granita is an Italian frozen dessert very similar to sorbet, except that it’s made by hand instead of in a machine. Because of this, the texture of granita is coarser and flakier — like eating snow! It’s briefly crunchy at first and then melts deliciously in your mouth. If you have ever had that ‘good ice’ it’s exactly like that only flavored.
To begin this recipe you need to throw a mint plant in your garden in January and then forget about it. Come July you will either have a weed you are fighting to pull out of your flower bed and plenty of mint or it will have died and you will need to go buy some mint at the store.
It is known amongst the plant world that us chefs EAT them. Therefore they conspire against us and refuse to grow. This is why we can’t exactly tell you how to grow and have adapted to having good gardener friends and the plants are none the wiser (we know that is completely the truth though don’t we?) If you have ever seen an abandoned area with plants pushing through cracks you know that mother earth will always win. And in the end, it will be us that is ultimately consumed.
Yeah, but back to the Granita recipe. Granita is this really simple concoction of fruit and sugar that is frozen and constantly scraped to turn into something between shaved ice and sorbet. Icy, smooth, full of flavor, and incredibly refreshing. Kiddos will love to have this as a project. But I recommend putting it in a cup or something with tall sides otherwise you will be finding sticky spots in very random places in your kitchen.
Peaches are in season and recently we hosted a wine pairing dinner where peaches were the star. Our introduction to dinner was a glass of champagne with peach mint granita; a play on the Italian Bellini. It should be called the drink of summer, you’ll want to drink this every sunny summer day.
Minted Peach and Prosecco Granita
Keep in mind that the exact measurements for granita can vary depending on how ripe your fruit is, how sweet or sour it is, and how much liquid it holds. Use the following as a base and then adjust to your taste and need for ingredients.
- 4 cups cubed fruit: You’ll need about 1 1/2 pounds of fruit total.
- 1/4 cup flavorful liquid: Lemon and lime are the standards, but you can use liquor or wine, or kombucha here. Pick something with a little acidity that balances the fruit’s sweetness.
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar: You can add more or less depending on the sweetness of your fruit.
- A pinch of salt herbs or spice. Not required however this will bring complexity and fun to the fruit.
4 large ripe peaches
½ cup fresh mint leaves
¼ cup sugar (more or less as needed)
¼ cup champagne
- Blend the fruit, juice, and sugar. Combine the fruit, lime juice, sugar, and salt in a blender or food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Purée until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Freeze the purée in a shallow pan for 30 minutes. Pour the purée into a 9×13-inch metal pan. The purée should be about 1/2 inch deep, although it’s OK if the purée is deeper; it will just take longer to freeze. Freeze for 30 minutes.
- Scrape the granita with a fork and freeze again. Take the pan out of the freezer. The purée should have begun to freeze, especially around the edges and top. Scrape the mixture with a fork and return to the freezer. Repeat this process every 30 minutes for a total of 4 hours. The granita is done when the mixture is completely frozen and appears dry and flaky in texture.
- Scoop into bowls and serve. Scoop the granita into bowls alone or with yogurt. Top with sugared lime zest mixture if using.
You can store granita for up to a week covered in the freezer. Granita will get hard eventually. To serve again simply pull it out of the freezer and let it defrost a bit. Scrape with a fork and you should be good to go.
Chef Wisdom: Experience new things.
Anthony Bourdain got this one right. Travel (if you can do it), Eat at new restaurants (if you can afford it) and buy that weird thing at the farmers market (if you can get there). Order something besides your favorite meal. Get. Out . Of. Your. Comfort. Zone. You’re not going to like everything, you’re going to get terrible service, but, that is okay. It is in the trying of bad things and often terrible meals that you find the things that will leave their mark and forever change your love of food. Keep exploring and Keep eating
Don’t stress. We have the foodies in your life covered!
Tis the season of gift giving which sends some of us straight to the bottle (we can only hope it’s at least a good red.) But fret not, we have your food lovers covered. Gift certificates can be purchased on our website and used for hands-on or observation cooking classes or our gourmet gift baskets. So if they just want house-made fresh food to nosh on, enjoy a specialty chef wine pairing dinner, or want to learn how to make their favorite food, we are here.