episode 64 :: so long, farmers market

Three years ago, Katrina and I discovered our local farmers market which had just opened. On our very first visit there, I brought along my iPod and recorded our experience, asking questions along the way. I asked where they were from, what they grew at their farm, how large the farms were, and how on earth they were able to sell enough produce to justify a 4-hour drive to and from Buena Park.

As I started to suspect after a while, some of them were lying. Not only were they lying about where the food we were buying from them was from, but the fact that many of them didn’t even grow it. And all of that “No Pesticide” stuff? Pure nonsense. As it turns out, you can ask all the questions in the world. The key is keeping the bullshit filter on high.

In what I can only sum up as a swift kick to the balls, it was a total let-down to watch a recent undercover news report from our local NBC affiliate that featured one of the farmers I’d been suspecting of selling produce he didn’t grow for a long time. Our farmers market is riddled with false claims, but ours is not the only farmers market with this problem. It’s wide-spread. This was not the kind of thing I needed to see after coming home from another stellar trip to Sonoma/Napa.

Listen to episode 64

In this episode:
• My numbers are way down. Time to step it up.
• How I overcame not being able to bake
• Farmers Market fraud – I feel so . . . so . . . used! [watch the report here]
• Sean Paxton’s new show “The Homebrewed Chef” on The Brewing Network
• Michelle Obama wants restaurants to show some culpability. Who’s she kidding?
• The makers High Fructose Corn Syrup would like a name change. Who didn’t see that coming?
• Re-visiting the audio from our first farmers market visit
• Sonoma/Napa re-cap
• Don’t miss Duskie Estes from Zazu Restaurant on The Next Iron Chef, October 3rd

Music in this episode from Stereophonics. You can buy the song in the iTunes store or from the band’s official web site.

Chilled Corn & Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Basil

If you’re ever having a conversation with someone and need an indication that the conversation has run its course, that you’ve run out of things to talk about, wait until someone brings up the weather. When the well of topics has run dry, someone will inevitably start talking about the temperature of the air, or the amount of rain or snow you’re getting (or lack thereof).

Take this recent conversation I had with one of my neighbors for example:

“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Great.  How are you guys doing?”

[insert long awkward silence here]

“So, how about this weather?”
“Yeah, crazy.  Hot enough for ya?”

But being foodies, we have one thing in our arsenal of conversational skills that few do — a recipe to share.

Thus, “Hot enough for ya?” quickly becomes “Yeah, this is the perfect time to make [insert dish here]” and the conversation quickly takes a turn for the better. You become the most interesting man or woman in the world and, as an added bonus, you get a chance to share your passion for cooking with others.

While Summer might be winding down throughout the country, we’re still faced with quite a few hot spells here in Southern California before Fall becomes official. And as the last remnants of the opulent Summer corn crop find their way into our baskets, we get a chance to turn “Hot enough for ya?” into “Dude, try this amazing chilled soup.”

When I first made this soup, I had not tasted it before. In fact, I had no idea what was even in it. I saw a picture on a blog somewhere from a restaurant where this creamy corn chowder was being poured table-side into a bowl containing shrimp.

Shrimp and corn, as we all know, is the best hookup since Ben met Jerry. So the idea of adding coconut milk, which also goes well with shrimp, was a no-brainer. And the added element of basil would put this soup somewhere in the neighborhood of Thai flavors. And that is never a bad thing.

It’s a pureed soup. So after cooking it, allow the the soup to cool down completely.  As I’ve said many times before, blending hot soup is never a good idea.  The soup will be served chilled anyway, so what’s the rush?  In fact, this is a perfect soup to make the day before you actually intend on eating it. An overnight stay in the refrigerator just makes this soup that much better.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this soup, and send the hot weather packing until next year:

4 ears of corn, husked and cleaned
4 cups of chicken broth (homemade, preferably)
2 shallots, minced
1 small leek (white part only), chopped
1 cup coconut milk
8 large shrimp, cooked and chopped into 1/2 pieces
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Put the corn into a stock pot with the chicken broth, shallots, and leek, and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and continue to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until kernels are able to be pierced easily with a fork.

Transfer corn to a large bowl with a pair of tongs, and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, take the broth off the heat.

Using a sharp knife, take the corn kernels off the cob.  Reserve 1/4 cup of kernels and set aside, putting the rest back into the broth.  Add 1 cup of coconut milk, and over medium heat bring the soup to a low boil.  Remove the pot from the heat, take the cover off of the pot, and allow the soup to cool for 45 minutes to an hour.

In batches, puree the soup until completely smooth.  Taste the soup, and season with salt if necessary.  Put the pureed soup in the refrigerator until cold, about 4 hours or longer.  Soup can be refrigerated overnight (even better).

To prepare the shrimp, devein them, then cook them in their shells by either steaming, boiling, or baking them.  That part is entirely up to you. Just make sure they’re cooked. Allow the shrimp to completely cool. When ready to serve, place 2 tablespoons of chopped cooked shrimp, 2 tablespoons of corn kernels, and a pinch of basil into the bottom of the bowl and pour soup over shrimp. Garnish with more shrimp, corn kernels, and chopped parsley.

dude food :: episode 4 :: potato skins

With apologies to TGI McFunster’s, the potato skin is an incredible denigration of one of our greatest food gifts.  Potatoes have nourished humans for hundreds of years, an in some parts of the world even provided a cure for hunger. Regardless, potato skins are on the menu this time on Dude Food.

I know it’s been around for over 20 years, but the potato skin plays right into the hands of the whole Atkins craze. I don’t know why else we’d bake these beautiful things, slice them in half, carve all the good stuff out, just to fill the empty cavity with meats and cheeses. But that’s what we’re doing today. And we’re doing it in style.

In 12 quick minutes, you’ll learn how to make your own potato skins. Trust me, it really doesn’t get much easier than this.