Smokin’ with Show Me Beef™!

Show Me Beef™ ribs slow smoked on the grill makes for a great summer meal with beef raised, processed and sold in Missouri. In full disclosure I was gifted this beef to prepare and enjoy at home to showcase in this post and as a self proclaimed beef aficionado I am happy to do so.

Chefs have many things in common. When it comes to food, we all get excited when a new high-quality purveyor comes to our area. Recently I was invited to a grand opening event introducing a line of beef raised, processed, and sold in Missouri both for retail consumers at Price Cutters and for restaurants and chefs from Springfield Grocers. It is also sold throughout the state. For more locations and information about the beef go to https://showmebeef.com

Show Me Beef™ short plate. Photos from top right- Short plate has three bones, Two plates broken down into boneless short ribs, soup trimmings and silver skin for beef jus, and bone in ribs for smoking, BBQ glazed ribs ready to eat, dry rubbed ribs ready to be smoked.

In this post I am using the short plate. The short plate is the sub-primal cut from which comes short ribs that are highly prized by chefs and beef lovers. Smoked short ribs that are fabricated from the plate are used in many ways such as slow smoked, braised in red wine and cut thin marinated and grilled in the Korean Style. For more information on the short plate go to https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/cuts/cut/2850/short-plate-primal.

Located in the front part of the belly in the carcass the short plate comes from the forequarter portion of the animal. It is a tough cut of meat with high amount of fat which makes for better flavor when cooked slowly.

Smoking the ribs with the indirect grilling technique for a low and slow method takes time and patience.

The process to prepare the ribs first starts by trimming off the silver skin (tenuous gristle) and fat from the top of the short plate. Then portioning the plate into ribs by cutting down the plate between the bones separating them into single bone ribs.

Next prepare the spice and rub into the meat on the ribs and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This enables the spice to penetrate and flavor the meat prior to smoking.

Prepare the beef jus use as a basting juice on the ribs in the next step.

To smoke the ribs I used my weber grill with charcoal and hickory smoking chips. First build a hot fire on one side of the grill. Bring out the ribs and allow them to come to room temperature for about 20 minutes and soak about 2 cups of chips in water. Once the charcoal is white and hot, sear the ribs directly over the coals. Once they are marked on both sides move them to the opposite side of the grill so that they are not directly over the coals (this technique is called indirect grilling). Place the smoking chips on a disposable pie tin or on a tray made from foil and put over the coals and bring them to a smoking point. Then cover the grill and open all the vents on the cover. Let smoke for 45 minutes and then uncover and add a few more charcoal briquettes and re-cover the grill. Continue to grill for 45 more minutes. Uncover and turn the ribs and baste with the beef jus. Check the charcoal fire and add a few more briquettes if needed then re-cover and continue this process two more times for a total time of 3 hours of smoking. Then turn the ribs once more and baste with the BBQ glaze and add a few more briquettes to the fire and continue to smoke for 30 minutes. Repeat the process until the beef ribs are tender. Then remove from the grill and cover with foil (tenting) and let them rest for 30 minutes, serve with BBQ sauce if desired. The total cooking time will take around 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Short Rib Spice Rub

Yield approximately ¼ cup

2 Tablespoon  Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon  Sugar

2 teaspoons    Black Pepper

2 teaspoons    Paprika

1 teaspoon     Chili Powder

1 teaspoon     Granulated Garlic

1 teaspoon     Onion Powder

Mix all together and use or store in a jar.

Beef Jus

Yield 2 cups

½ pound    Silver skin beef trimmings

½ each       Small yellow onion, cut into slices

1 each        Garlic Clove cut in half

1 each        Small bay leaf

8 each        Whole black pepper corns

2 ½ cups    Cold water

Optional     Parsley and rosemary

  1. Spread out the silver skin on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400F until brown (to render out the excess fat) for 15 to 20 minutes
  2. Drain the fat and discard or reserve for another use
  3. Brown the onions in a little beef fat in a thick bottomed pot over medium high heat
  4. Add the browned silver skin, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and herbs if used
  5. Bring to a boil, skim and simmer for 1 to 2 hours
  6. Strain and use as a basting juice for the ribs or reserve for another use.

BBQ Glaze

Yield ¾ cup

½ cup BBQ sauce (commercial tomato based)

¼ cup Beer (IPA, Pilsner or light beer)

1 teaspoon Honey

Mix together and use as a mop to glaze the smoked ribs in the last 30 minutes of cooking.

Smoked Short Ribs with Bi-colored Corn, Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes… Yum!
Show Me Beef™ Rib Eye in all its glory!

As an added bonus I was given this rib eye to cook. It had great marbling of fat throughout the muscle and the steaks that were tender and flavorful. Compound butters are a great and easy accompaniment for steaks. Here is a recipe for one of my favorite butters that goes great with a grilled rib eye right off the grill or out of the the cast iron pan. Use the best quality butter for the best taste and flavor.

Hope you enjoy it and until next time- Keep on Grillin!

Steak Butter

Yield 18 to 20 servings:

1 pound          Butter (Unsalted European style)

1 Tablespoon  Fresh Tarragon leaves

1 Tablespoon     Fresh Chives

2 Tablespoons    Fresh flat leaf Parsley leaves

2 Tablespoons   Minced shallots

½ teaspoon     Ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon     Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon   Worcestershire sauce

  1. Prepare the steak butter by coarsely chopping the herbs and mixing them along with the rest of the ingredients thoroughly with the soft butter.
  2. Roll up in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill or freeze slightly to firm up into a cylinder.
  3. Slice and top hot grilled steaks or chicken right off the grill.

Sold out! Six of my most popular Chef Specials.

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Grilled Colorado Lamb Chops with Charred Romaine, Red Bell Peppers, Artichoke and Kalamata Olives.

After a semester of only serving food to go in our student run-restaurant “Scallions” at Ozarks Technical Community College, I am excited to announce that we are planning to reopen for full service dining this Fall. In this post I will summarize my teaching methodology for our capstone class and will showcase six of my past specials from 2019 that will hopefully give you some ideas for cooking at home or in a professional setting.

Held on the OTC campus in Springfield Missouri the aim of our Restaurant Operations class is to teach the students how to run an a la carte kitchen. The class is designed to give the students some real world experience in an actual restaurant setting and is open for lunch one day a week.  In the restaurant we serve between 60 to 80 covers (guests) on an average day. In the class I teach how to design a menu, write the recipes, how to cost out the recipe items and determine the menu food cost as well as how to develop prep sheets and par sheets for each station. In culinary training I introduce new techniques and skills in the core menu and in my chef specials. The recipes also re-enforces previously learned techniques from earlier fundamental classes. 

The students rotate between 6 stations every two weeks. The stations which are typically found in actual restaurant kitchens are Sautee, Middle, Grill, Pantry, Pastry and Sous Chef. The theme of the menu focuses on American Bistro style and offers the types of foods that are popular and easily procured in the Midwest region of the country. The menu is broken up into three sections: the core menu, student specials and chef specials. We prep the menu on Tuesdays and service is on Thursdays. The majority of menu items come from the core menu which I tweak every semester, the student specials come from a four-course signature menu that they plan and create at the beginning of the semester, and includes a salad, soup, entrée and dessert. I create the weekly chef specials and teach the students how to prepare and serve them. The orders are taken and the guests are served by the front of the house management class. 

My chef specials showcase my philosophy for designing menu items that are desirable for the majority of guests that live in this part of the country. In this post are six of my most popular creations from past semesters, each of which sold out, with between 16 and 25 portions that were produced.

The opening image is of Colorado Grilled Lamb Chops. These were marinated in a Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette prior to being grilled to order.

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My version of Surf and Turf- Filet and Lobster.

The next special is Filet and Lobster which was a center cut 5 oz filet of beef topped with Maine Lobster and Asparagus Béarnaise sauce and a Veal Demi Glaze. Béarnaise sauce is a classic derivative sauce made from a base Hollandaise sauce, which is basically a butter egg yolk emulsion and is classified as one of the five mother sauces in classic haute cuisine. It is produced by making a tarragon reduction by cooking down white wine, vinegar, tarragon, and shallots and then adding it to Hollandaise sauce.

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Grilled Swordfish and Sweet Corn Risotto

Grilled Swordfish with Sweet Corn Risotto was another popular dish that I served with grilled sliced zucchini planks, small diced red peppers, and corn. I then garnished it with grilled shrimp and charred scallions. Seafood is very popular in the Midwest however only well-known species are normally consumed by most diners. That being said I sell only sustainable species and steer clear of endangered overfished options that are often sold in many restaurants.

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Beef Roulades with Spätzle, baked Acorn Squash, braised Red Cabbage and Green Beans with Hazelnut Butter.

During the month of October, I sold Germanic-style inspired specials to celebrate the month. The most popular was my version of the German Classic- Beef Roulades with Spätzle and Red Cabbage. Two of the other Octoberfest specials of note were Chicken Bavarian, and a duo of Wiener Schnitzel and Venison Medallion with Huckleberry Sauce and Potato Pancakes both sold out quickly. Germanic style dishes are becoming harder to find in most restaurants, as of late, and I believe when done well are still very much desired by many Midwesterners. Supporting evidence of this statement is illustrated with the amount of feedback that I received when I posted this image on a “German Recipes and Traditions” Facebook group. The post garnered more than 1000 likes and comments combined.

Stuffed Sole and Sea Bass with Clams
Two seafood presentations- Sole stuffed with Royal Red Rock Shrimp, Bay Scallops and Italian Vegetables with Pernod Burre Blanc, and Braised Bronzini (Mediterranean Sea Bass) with Little Neck Clams in a Tomato, Fennel, Leek, and Garlic Broth.

Another popular Seafood Special that I prepared was Stuffed Bronzini filet with Royal Red Rock Shrimp and Bay Scallops with Italian Vegetables. To be more specific I used Zucchini, Fennel, Red Onion, Leeks and Red Peppers with a touch of garlic, basil, and oregano. Which was then served with a Pernod Beurre Blanc. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of the special so I used this image that I took from a seafood lab in my Fabrication class where I made the dish with Filet of Sole instead of Bronzini, the plate in the background is Bronzini also known as Mediterranean Sea Bass

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Braised Short Ribs of Beef in Red Wine with Sundried Tomato- Wild Mushroom Risotto and Fried Parsnips.

The last of the six most popular specials is Braised Short Ribs of Beef in a Rich Red Wine Sauce with Risotto made with Wild Mushrooms and Sun-dried Tomatoes garnished with fried Parsnip Ribbons. I make this dish with a regional red wine -Saint James Norton which is a red grape varietal that is produced from Saint James Winery in Southern Missouri.   A great dish that is always popular during the cold months of the year. If you want the recipe I have previously posted the recipe in my recipes page of this blog.

Classic traditional cooking techniques and recipes using regional popular foods will always be hit with diners. Unfortunately, many of these types of dishes are hard to find in many of today’s restaurants for a variety of reasons.

From Garden to Table

Yellow squash with their beautiful edible flowers are prized by chefs for stuffing with cheese and then serving them tempura fried.

When I was a young cook it was always about learning advanced techniques with exotic ingredients. Although I still love that aspect of cooking… as I grow older I gain satisfaction from growing my own food and cooking it direct from the garden. Cooking fresh vegetables with basic staple items brings out their natural flavors giving new appreciation to the term- Eat your vegetables.

Nappa Cabbage looks like lettuce when young. Here it is planted in a raised bed with Swiss Chard and Leaf Lettuce. As it grows it pulls together to form a foot ball sized head.

Nappa Cabbage is very popular in Asian cuisine. Perhaps best well known is the Korean national fermented dish Kimchee. It’s mild thin frilly leaves are also great when blanched quickly, shocked in ice water and then wrapped around fish with a stuffing prior to steaming. For a simple home use I often stir fry it with garlic, oyster sauce, chili oil and sesame oil.

Potatoes, Baby Carrots and Sugar Snap Peas with Chive Butter. Garnished with Nasturtium flowers and leaves. One of the trendy IT! garnishes used by Chefs on many fine dining plate presentations.

Minimal processing and cooking with fresh herbs, olive oil, grapeseed oil, butter, vinegars, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt will allow your vegetables to taste their best.

In my garden I grow as many types of fresh herbs that I can in my region of the country like Basil, Chives, Thyme, Tarragon, Dill, Flat Leaf Parsley, Cilantro, Dill, Sage, and Oregano. Three of the best ways to use them are in Pesto, Chimichurri, and Herb Compound Butters.

Compound butters are made by mixing soft butter with herbs, spices, citric acid and often other ingredients. In French classical cuisine there are many types. Maitre d’hotel butter is perhaps the most well known which is made simply with butter, lemon juice, shallots, parsley, salt and pepper. All compound butters should be served soft an slightly melted on a hot grilled or pan seared steak, chicken breast or firm fish steak (swordfish, tuna, etc.). Here is my recipe for a steak butter. I like to use it for grilled Rib Eye or Strip Steak.

Steak Butter

Yield 18 to 20 servings:

1 pound                                              Butter (Unsalted European style, Plugra) room temperature

1 Tablespoon                                      Fresh Tarragon leaves

1 Tablespoon                                      Fresh Chives

2 Tablespoons                                     Fresh flat leaf Parsley leaves

2 Tablespoons                                     Minced shallots

½ teaspoon                                         Ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon                                         Kosher salt

1 Tablespoon                                      Worcestershire sauce

  1. Prepare the steak butter by coarsely chopping the herbs and mixing them along with the rest of the ingredients thoroughly with the soft butter.
  2. Roll up in parchment paper or plastic wrap and chill or freeze to firm up into a cylinder.
  3. Slice into disks and top hot grilled steaks or chicken right off the grill.
Chives, Basil and Marigolds… Marigolds are used for both pretty flowers and to help keep away harmful bugs when planted next to edibles.
Herbs are very easy to grow in containers from left to right Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Chocolate Mint and Sage.
Refrigerator pickles are easy to make from pickling cucumbers which are shorter and smaller than other types.

Preserving the harvest has always been a challenge for home gardeners as well as farmers throughout time. There are many different methods used. Pickling or fermenting with salt, vinegar, herbs and spices is a popular age-old method used for many vegetables.

For fresh herbs drying works well and can be done in a low temperature oven or in the traditional method by tying in bunches and hanging. Making Pesto and freezing or infusing them to make herb oils or herb vinegars also works well.

For tomatoes I like to make sauces and then freeze them in small batches to use in the winter. At home any of these methods will help you to enjoy your garden raised produce and herbs all year long. Bon Appetit!

Thank you to our Artiste en Residence for this lovely sign – My beautiful wife Brigitte.

Sundried Tomato Garlic Pork Sausage

Sausage is enjoyed all over the world and is a great way to use up the trim from fabrication of larger pieces of meat. In my fabrication (butchering) class at Ozarks Technical Community College I teach the fresh sausage making technique. Although my recipe Sundried Tomato Garlic Pork Sausage calls for using pork butt here I used the trimmings when I broke down a whole end to end pork loin. Shown here in the image.

Useable cuts from a whole end to end bone in pork loin are pork chops, boneless pork loin roast, pork tenderloin, sate meat, and trim that I use for pork sausage.

In this recipe I use an additional technique of brining the trim in a salt and sugar solution prior to grinding the meat and stuffing the sausage casing. This step increases the flavor and moisture of the meat in the final sausage. I also tied the links in shorter lengths to create a more dramatic presentation once plated.

The next step I use is to poach the sausage in beer and onions prior to grilling the sausage. This also increases the flavor and is done so that the sausage does not burst open in high heat of the open grill.

Poaching the sausage prior to grilling will keep the sausage from bursting through the casing in the direct heat of the open grill.

Here is my recipe for the sausage:

Sun-Dried Tomato and Garlic Pork Sausage

By Chef Daniel Pliska CEC

Yield 3 1/2 Lbs

Ingredients:

3 Lbs Pork Butt cut in 1”x 1” strips Cured in brine for 4 hours

5 oz Sun-dried tomatoes Blanched reserve blanching liquid and reduce to 1 cup

5 oz diced white onions

1 oz chopped garlic

1/2 Tbl. Chopped fresh sage

1 Tbl. Chopped fresh rosemary

1 Tbl. Chopped fresh thyme

1/2 Tbl. Fennel seed

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 Tbl. Coarse ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. Sweet crushed red pepper

2 extra large eggs

1/8 cup Cornstarch

2 Tbl. Olive oil

1 cup Sun-dried tomato blanching liquid

Curing Brine:

2 Quarts Warm water

1 ½ cups Granulated Sugar

1 ½ cups kosher salt

2 Tbl. Crushed Red pepper flakes

2 Tbl. Coriander seed

2 Tbl. Fennel seed

1 Tbl. Crushed Star Anise pods

12 Each Bay leaves

2 Tbl. Cracked Black pepper

20 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

Method:

  • Sweat onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes all herbs and blanching liquid and reduce until dry then cool to room temperature
  • Remove the pork from the brine and rinse off all of the spices
  • Add the sun-dried tomato herb mixture and chill
  • Progressively grind the meat thru a large die in a meat grinder then thru the medium size die
  • In a mixing machine mix in the eggs and the cornstarch and chill
  • Place in a sausage stuffer and fill pre washed casings then tie into lengths
  • Poach in beer, onions and water or broth
  • Grill or pan fry as desired.

The final plated dish is completed. Skewered sausages on toasted sliced baguette and country mustard coleslaw topped with a olive-caper relish accompanied with fried Yukon gold sliced potatoes.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte – Germany’s most famous cake

Known in the English as Black Forest Cake this national cake of Germany features chocolate, cherries and cream. Image taken by Robert Watson featured in my book- Pastry & Dessert Techniques

Made with only 10 ingredients this popular cake has two tricky steps that take some practice to get just right. The first is the Dunkel Wiener Masse which is better known as Cocoa Genoise or Chocolate sponge cake. Considered to be a pastry basic this extremely light sponge cake contains no leavening agents and is created by whipping a warm egg and sugar foam to its highest volume then folding in the flour and cocoa powder followed by a small amount of melted butter. This is where the technique of folding in the dry ingredients followed by a little melted butter must be done with utmost care to keep the batter from deflating.

The other step that takes some skill is making smooth chocolate cream. Once made it must be used immediately to sandwich the sponge cake layers with dark sour cherries. It is made in a three-step process: first whip heavy cream to soft peaks, then mix 1/4 of the cream into melted dark semi sweet chocolate (couverture). Lastly, pour the chocolate cream base back into the remaining 3/4 of the whipped cream and quickly whisk it all together. If not done correctly the cream will turn into a chocolate chip whipped cream instead of a smooth rich chocolate cream.

Kirshwasser, dark chocolate and sour cherries are the three main flavors of Black Forest Cake

According to legend the cake was created by Josef Keller in 1915 at the Café Agne in Southern Germany in what is now the city of Bonn. The distinguishing feature of this famous torte is the use of Kirshwasser (cherry brandy) that some have called cherry firewater. In the torte, as in all tortes made with sponge cake, the sponge must be saturated with kirshwasser mixed with a simple syrup of sugar and water. Genoise is extremely light however it is somewhat dry if not doused with a syrup.

Lastly, to create the best torte use the best quality Kirshwasser and dark sour cherries to yield the best results. As in all pastry, and cooking as well, the best finished products use the finest base ingredients. Light and creamy with rich chocolate cherry flavors this world famous cake has been and will continue to be a popular dessert that has stood the test of time for over a century.

Listed below is the recipe for the cocoa sponge cake and the chocolate cream. To make the cake cut the cake into three layers and soak each layer with a good kirshwasser simple syrup and sandwich each layer with the chocolate cream and canned sour cherries. Lastly, make more whipped cream and sweeten with a small amount of powdered sugar and ice the entire cake with the cream. Pipe into the top large rosettes of cream and top with cherries. Shave dark chocolate and cover the cake then dust with powdered sugar.

Black Forest Cake (Swartzwalder Kirsch Torte)

Yield 1 -10” cake

Genoise (Sponge Cake)

6 each                                      Extra-Large Eggs

6 oz.                                        Granulated Sugar

4 1/2 oz.                                  All-Purpose Flour or Cake Flour

1 ½ oz.                                    Cocoa Powder

2 1/2 oz.                                  Melted Butter

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and the sugar together over a pot of boiling water until warm (110F).
  2. Transfer the egg sugar mix into a mixing machine bowl and whip on high speed until light and frothy (ribbon stage).  Reduce the speed to medium and continue to whip for 10 minutes (this creates a more stable egg/sugar foam)
  3. While the egg foam is mixing, sift the flour and cocoa powder together on to a piece of parchment paper.
  4. Turn off the mixing machine sift in and fold in the dry ingredients by hand (be very gentle and do not over mix or batter will deflate).
  5. Fold in the melted butter last and pour into the cake pan that has been greased and lined with a parchment or wax paper circle covering the bottom.
  6. Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes or until the cake springs back when depressed slightly with your finger-tips.
  7. Sprinkle the top with granulated sugar and turn over onto parchment paper.
  8. Let cool to room temperature then remove from the pan and use or freeze.

Chocolate Cream

2 cups                                      Heavy Cream (whipped to soft peaks)

8 oz                                         Semi Sweet Dark Chocolate Couverture ( melted)

  1. Mix  1/4th of the whipped cream into the melted chocolate
  2. Quickly whisk in the remaining whipped cream to form a smooth chocolate cream
  3. Use immediately before the cream sets up.

The Love Apple -a Guide to Missouri Tomatoes

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Homegrown tomatoes are one of the hallmarks of summer. I originally wrote this for Missouri Life Magazine where the article was edited and shortened, Here is the full un-edited piece with some tips for growing and using your own tomatoes. To see the magazine article go to https://issuu.com/missourilifemagazine/docs/ml0817lr

 Tomato or Tamato, no matter how you pronounce it, the fact is Missouri grows some of the best varieties of this annual favorite. Indigenous to South and Central America the word tomato comes from the Aztec word Tomalt. They were first brought to  European cooking in the 16th Century and have since then become prominent in cuisines of Italy, Greece, Spain, Southern France, and of course Mexico where they originated. Known as “pomodoro” by the Italians, which means golden apple, tomatoes are also called “pommes d’amour” in French means love apple.

Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from green and purple to yellow and crimson red. There are many varieties; some that are better for eating raw and some that are at their best when cooked. Once thought of as poisonous because they belong to the nightshade family, the fruit itself is obviously harmless although the leaves and stems are toxic.

Tomatoes can be classified as heirloom or hybrid. According to Tim Reinbott, the Director of Field Operations for CAFNR at the University of Missouri, heirloom tomatoes must be grown from seeds that have not been crossed with any other varieties for at least 50 years or longer. Heirloom tomatoes are not known for their beauty since they are often misshapen; however they do ripen into many different colors and when it comes to flavor and taste, heirloom varieties have some of the best flavor. To be classified as an heirloom, the seeds for the annual planting are saved and passed down from many generations. Reinbott says that hybrid varieties, unlike heirlooms, are interbred in order to improve their disease resistance, thickness of skin, and yield. By creating new hybrid varieties, taste and flavor is sometimes sacrificed to improve other qualities.

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Celebrity tomatoes are a popular hybrid tomato. Easy to grow and pair well with homegrown cucumbers for many uses in salads and soups.

When it comes to selecting tomatoes that will be grown at home one should consider the harvest season for when the fully ripened tomatoes will be ready for picking. Some gardeners like to have the bulk of the tomatoes to ripen at roughly the same time and others wish to have tomatoes ripen at different times so as to make them available throughout the growing season. This characteristic is known as the determinate or indeterminate variety of plant. The determinate types is when all of the tomatoes on the vine grow to maturity and ripen at the roughly the same time. The indeterminate type is when the vine bears tomatoes all season long in lesser quantities and they consequently ripen at different times. Missouri has a good climate for both determinate and indeterminate types. As far as general tips for home growers Reinbott offers this advice:

  • When it comes to keeping the tomato vines disease free sanitation is very important. To do this wipe down the steaks, cages or anything that touches the vines with a 10% bleach to 90% water solution
  • Mulch the vines with a thick layer of straw or leaf mulch. This helps with water retention as well as disease prevention
  • When low branches touch the ground make sure to stake them up or trim them
  • Tomato plants love the heat but do not do well in wet conditions. When the growing season is rainy tomatoes tend to have a lot of problems
  • One of the pests that can damage tomatoes is the hornworm. If you find them on your plants it is best to hand pick them off and dispose of them
  • Blossom end rot is another common problem for tomatoes which is attributed to a nutrient deficiency. To guard against this, use calcium nitrate around the roots of the vines

Tomatoes come in a vast array of varieties many of which grow well in Missouri’s hot humid summers. They can be loosely categorized into four major groups: salad, plum, cherry, and beefsteak tomatoes. Each group of tomato has its own specific characteristics which pertain to the sweetness/acidity level, thickness of skin, amount of seeds, and amount of water that the tomato contains. Tomato colors span the spectrum from red, orange, yellow, purple, pink, black and green when fully ripe. Some varieties are best grown on the ground, some staked or in cages and some grow well in pots or containers.

Salad tomatoes are normally 2 to 3 inches in diameter and are used in salads, sandwiches and salsas. Heirloom and hybrid varieties include Arkansas Traveler, Creole Original, Djeena Lees Golden, Oh Happy Day Hybrid, Green Zebra and Garden Peach.

Plum Tomatoes contain less seeds and water then salad tomatoes. This makes them an excellent choice for sauces and soups. This is also the type of tomato that is used to make tomato paste.  Plum tomatoes along with cherry tomatoes are delicious when dried or slow roasted in olive oil with garlic and herbs. Some varieties are Roma, Amish Paste Tomatoes, Amos Coli and San Marzano.

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Pico de Gallo also known as Salsa Fresca is a good way to use Plum tomatoes due to the small amount of seeds. Made with just 5 ingredients tomatoes, onion, chili’s, lime and cilantro.

Cherry and grape tomatoes bear fruit in clusters and can be grown in pots. Served most often in salads, cherry tomatoes are a good starter plant for young children who love to eat the tasty ripe tomatoes when harvested. Varieties include Chadwick Cherry, Fox Cherry, Pearly Pink, Black Cherry and Blue Cream. Some of the best are Super Sweet 100’s, Sun Sugar, Sun Gold and Sugary.

Surimi Salad
Cherry and grape tomatoes are excellent in pasta salad. Served with a light vinaigrette and fresh herbs.

Beef steak tomatoes are prized for their size and mild flavor, usually used in sandwiches. These behemoths can weigh as much as 1 to 3 pounds. Due to their gigantic size, they have a longer growing time when compared to the other types of tomatoes and special care has to be taken since they are so large. Some types of beefsteak tomatoes are: Steak House hybrid, Mortgage Lifter, Big Rainbow, Cherokee Purple, Brandy Wine Pink and Missouri Love Apple

Three of my favorite ways to serve tomatoes are as a smoked tomato relish (great with grilled steaks), as a slow roasted tomato in olive oil known as a tomato confit in culinary terms (best served on croustades with chopped olives and herbs or as a garnish for grilled fish or chicken), or in a cream of roasted tomato soup garnished with goat cheese and chive mousse. No matter how they are served, when homegrown tomatoes are picked at the peak of their ripeness and prepared carefully with top quality ingredients, they will be the hit of any summer get-together or dinner party. It is no wonder why they are called love apples.

1st steps in peeling tomatoes
Peeling and deseeding tomatoes is important for many recipes. Here are the steps on how to do it.

next 4 steps for peeling tomatoes
Once peeled and seeded, tomatoes can be chopped up for a variety of uses. Classically they are called “Tomato Concasse”.

Cooking with Rice

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Rice can be prepared in a vast variety of ways! Pilaf, Steamed, Boiled is three ways to cook it. Leftover rice stirfried with Duck and Cashews makes a delicious meal.

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Saffron Rice is a variation of rice pilaf that goes great with Grilled Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp.

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In this style of rice, I used a blend of chopped Onions, Celery, Bell Peppers, Fennel and Garlic that I sauteed in Olive Oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepot, prior to adding the Rice.

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In the next step, I added Saffron, Chicken broth and drained diced canned Tomatoes then brought it to a boil, covered and baked it until all of the broth was absorbed.

Rice is perfect for long term storage at home which is more important than ever at this time. Rice can be prepared in many different ways. It can also be used for many types of dishes, perhaps that is why it is one of the world’s most basic foods. In this post, I will feature three ways that I have recently prepared it at home for my wife and myself.

Two of the most basic types of rice that are widely used are short-grain rice (used for sushi and risotto), and long grain rice (long-grain white, basmati, jasmine). For this post, I will focus on long-grain rice and the technique for cooking it known as the pilaf technique in a variation of saffron rice. Two other ways that I prepared rice this past month are with cooked lentils and leftover rice in stirfried application with duck breast and cashews.

Rice Pilaf is made with long grain rice it is easy to make once the technique is understood and the ratio of rice to liquid is measured correctly. Pilaf in its most basic form is made in 4 simple steps:

  1. Brown the rice in butter until it is light brown and fragrant (normally a small about of minced onions is also used)
  2. Add hot chicken broth or water and a pinch of salt and a bay leaf ( in a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 1/2 up to 2 parts liquid) in the saffron rice in this post I used 1 cup rice to 13/4 cups chicken broth.
  3. Bring to a boil, then cover and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes (until all of the broth is absorbed)
  4. Remove from the oven, discard the bay leaf, and fluff up the rice loosely with a fork, then let it sit for 5 minutes and serve.

Variations that can lead to one-pot meals are Jambalaya, Paella, and Arroz con Pollo.

Rice Pilaf can also be made with other vegetables such as carrots, celery, bell peppers or mushrooms in the first step and other spices as well such as paprika, curry powder or cumin. After the rice is cooked, frozen peas, cooked beans or other grains can be added as well. Diced cooked chicken or shrimp can also be added.

Learning to cook rice with its many types and variations will open a whole new world of culinary possibilities. Enjoy and be safe and well my friends!

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Roasted Chicken with a side of Rice served with Lentils, Zucchini stewed with Tomatoes and mashed Acorn Squash made a tasty nutritious meal.

Three Marinades for Cooking at Home

Three Simple Marinades
Left to right – White wine herb, Mustard garlic and Maple apple cider vinegar marinades. Make all three at once to use time more efficiently.

During this time of a world-wide pandemic and home isolation, many people will need to cook who previously may have frequently eaten out or had food delivered. This can be challenging and even frustrating for some, however, cooking can be made easier, less stressful and even satisfying and joyful when basic techniques and recipes are used.

Marinating food prior to cooking is one way to improve flavor and preserve it for a longer period of time which is even more important than ever at this time. The process of marinating will preserve meat and seafood for 5 up to 7 days, also the food can be frozen which can help prevent freezer burn and when thawed the flavor will be enhanced once cooked. Here are three of my favorite marinades that are easy to prepare with basic pantry ingredients.

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Mustard Garlic Marinade
Yield ½ cup- 2 chicken breasts or 4 to 6 chicken thighs

1 Tbl.                     Whole grain mustard (Dijon can also be used)
1 Tbl.                     Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tbl.                     Sugar
2 each                   Garlic Cloves, chopped
6 turns                  Black pepper from a pepper mill
¼ cup                    Vegetable oil

  1. Mix first 5 ingredients together in a small bowl
  2. Whisk in the oil in a slow steady stream to form a thick (emulsified) marinade
  3. Use to marinate chicken or refrigerate to use later.

Maple Apple Cider Vinegar Marinade
Yield 1 ½ cups- 6 to 8 large pork chops

½ cup                   Pure maple syrup
¼ cup                   Apple cider vinegar
¼ cup                   Finely chopped shallots
1/2 Tbl.                 Fresh tarragon leaves (cut the amount in half if using dried herbs)
1 Tbl.                    Fresh thyme leaves (cut the amount in half if using dried herbs)
1/4 cup                 Vegetable oil
1 Tbl.                    Coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp.                     Crushed red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together and marinate pork chops or refrigerate for later use.

White Wine Herb Marinade
Yield ¾ cup- 3 to 4 pieces of salmon or chicken

¼ cup                    White wine
1 Tbl.                     Finely chopped shallots
1 Tbl.                     Chopped fresh herbs such as basil, tarragon, dill or chives (use 1 teaspoon for dry herbs)
6 turns                  Black Pepper from a pepper mill
½ cup                    Olive Oil

Mix all together and marinate salmon or chicken or store for later use.

Here are some tips for proper marinating:

  • Make sure that the meats and fish are all well coated on all sides prior to storing them.
  • All of these marinades add the most flavor when they are left overnight in the refrigerator to enable the flavors to fully penetrate the proteins.
  • Turning the meats or fish after 8 to 10 hours helps to ensure more even penetration of the marinade.
  • If a shorter time is needed to marinate the protein in the case of the Maple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Herb Vinegar the marinade can be heated on the stove or microwaved then cooled prior to use.

Cast Iron Seared Maple Apple Cider Vinegar Pork Chop
Marinated Pork Chop with Apple Cider Vinegar Marinade is topped with fresh thyme sprigs and basted with butter while cooking.

Marinating foods prior to cooking is just one example and an easy way to create great meals at home when combined with good cooking principles and flavorful accompaniments. I hope you enjoy these recipes and be safe and well during these trying times.

Celebrate Octoberfest with German Beef Roulades

October is the perfect time to cook traditional German foods. I first learned how to make this dish when I was a young 19-year-old sous chef working for a world-class German chef at the brand new  22-story Sheraton Hotel in Billings, Montana. Many decades later I revived this classic dish known as “Rind Fleisch Rouladen” in Germany in our student-run restaurant at Ozarks Technical Community College and we quickly sold out of all of the orders. Here is how I made it.

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The nerve end portion from the strip loin of beef contains a tendon of gristle that runs through the middle of the loin and should not be used as a steak. Using them in this application for braising is a good way to utilize this cut.

I started by using the nerve end of the striploin of beef. Normally the top sirloin or top round is used for this, however, the strip loin end with the tendon going through the middle of the loin is a perfect way to use this portion of the strip which is often sold as a steak in stores (buyer beware). I then covered the sliced strip ends with a layer of plastic and pounded the meat with a meat mallet to tenderize it and make it thinner.

IMG_2561 Next step was to brush with whole grain mustard and top with sauteed red onions, crisp bacon, and a julienne of dill pickles with the seeds cut out.

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In the last step before braising the roulades, I rolled up the meat (hence the name Rouladen) and secured them together with skewers making sure that the seams of the meat are pushed tightly together. Then I browned them and braised them slowly in rich brown veal stock. At home, a good quality low sodium canned beef broth could be used. Here is the full recipe;

German Style Beef Roulade

By Chef Daniel Pliska CEC AAC
Yield 12 portions

24 Each                        6 oz strip loin nerve end slices or top sirloin slices pounded thin
24 each                        thick bacon slices, cooked and cut in half
12 each                        Dill Pickle spears split in half lengthwise, seeds cut out
4 each                          Red onions, medium size, peeled and cut into julienne and sauteed
1 cup                           German, whole grain or Dijon mustard
1 quart                        Seasoned flour with salt, black pepper, Hungarian paprika
3 quarts                      Brown veal stock
½ cup                          Tomato paste
Vegetable oil for sautéing ( bacon fat mixed with oil can also be used)

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups                    Red Wine
½ cup                          Red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons             Chopped Shallots
12 sprigs                      Thyme
4                                  Bay leaves
1 teaspoon                   Whole black peppercorns
Cornstarch                   for slurry if needed
2 cups                          Sour cream
Salt and black pepper if needed to adjust the seasoning

Method:

  1. Sautee the red onions until translucent
  2. Layout the top sirloin slices and brush with the mustard
  3. Top with 2 half slices of bacon, red onion, and julienne of pickle spears
  4. Roll up tightly and secure with toothpicks or skewers
  5. Dredge in the seasoned flour and brown well in a Sautee or braising pan
  6. Take out and place into hotel pans
  7. Deglaze with some red wine, add tomato paste and veal stock and bring to a boil
  8. Pour over the beef roulades and braise covered in the oven until tender at 350 F
  9. While the beef is cooking make a reduction with wine, vinegar, herbs, and spices and reduce to 25 % of original volume and reserve
  10. When the roulades are cooked and tender remove from the pan and reserve warm, strain the braising liquid and degrease by skimming well
  11. Put into a pot and return to the stove and bring to a simmer
  12. Add the reduction and tighten if needed with cornstarch slurry or with a roux made with 50/50% corn starch and flour.
  13. Temper a small amount of the sauce into the sour cream in a metal bowl and then add into the pot of the sauce
  14. Remove the toothpicks from the roulades and serve two per order with the appropriate starch and vegetables.

Some possible sides could be- Spätzle, buttered noodles, knodel, red Cabbage, green beans with bacon, mashed root vegetables.

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Beef Roulades with Spatzle, Baked Acorn Squash, braised Red Cabbage and Green Beans with Hazelnut Butter.

A Chef’s Tips for Shopping at the Farmers Market

 

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Farmers markets are becoming more popular and prevalent all over the country and when in season are the best place to buy vegetables and fruits that are locally grown. Many other types of foods and goods are also being sold at these markets and with a little thought and guidance, your trip to the market can be fun and fruitful as well.

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I love buying my vegetables at the farmers market! Here are my top reasons why!

  1. The freshest vegetables in season.
  2. Because they are so fresh they last longer at home.
  3. Finding out where and how the vegetables are grown.
  4. Getting some good deals on vegetables with slight blemishes.
  5. Supporting our local small farmers.
  6. Many of the vegetables and fruits are pesticide-free, make sure you ask.

fire roasted peppers at the famers market
Some unusual methods and products are often found- here fresh bell peppers are charred and then sold by the pound.

Here are some tips for finding the best deals and using the vegetables once you get home.

  • Walk the market and compare prices before you buy. Often the best deals are on the fringes of the market in the smaller stands.
  • Look for small or imperfect vegetables and fruits they are often marked down and if you plan to cut them up and cook them then it won’t matter if they are the not the perfect size or have some small blemishes.
  • Alternatively, if you are seeking the best perfect produce go early to get the first picks.
  • However, if you shop at the closing time you can sometimes find good markdowns because the farmers don’t want to take all of the vegetables back to there farms.
  • Resist the emotion of getting caught in the moment and buying vegetables or fruits that you don’t know how to cook or won’t cook when you get home. Beets is my example. I don’t like them even though they are cheap and very healthful.
  • Make sure you cook them properly and season them accordingly once you use them at home.

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Baby pattypan squash is a type of summer squash available in early to mid-summer.

Pattypan, summer squash and zucchini cook quickly when sauteed. To mix them with other vegetables such as green beans or carrots in a sautee application it is best to first pre-cook the other vegetables by steaming or boiling them and then stopping the cooking (shocking) of the vegetables by chilling them in ice water. To prepare a tasty medley of these vegetables sautee them with minced shallots in butter or olive oil and then finish them with sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, and chopped fresh basil.

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Using the abundant amounts of vegetables once they are harvested before they go bad has been an issue since ancient times. Preparing vegetable soups is one way to use them and they can also be frozen for use later in the year. Here is one of my recipes for a delicious cream of tomato soup. This recipe was previously published in the Missouri Life magazine. Use imperfect tomatoes which are cheaper and plentiful later in the season at your local farmers market. For an extra special garnish top with whipped goat cheese and crunchy croutons. To see the article and learn more about tomatoes go to page 71 of the  Missouri Life issue found at the following link-  https://issuu.com/missourilifemagazine/docs/ml0817lr

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Cream of Tomato Fennel soup was published in a tomato article that I wrote for Missouri Life Magazine in August of 2017 the photo was taken by Harry Katz.

Cream of Tomato Fennel Soup
By Chef Daniel Pliska
Yield: 6 cups
Ingredients:
2 pounds                      Tomatoes cut in quarters
1 cup                             Red Bell Peppers large diced
½ cup                            Yellow Onions, large diced
½ cup                            Leeks, white part only, rinsed well and large diced
½ cup                            Celery, large diced
1 cup                             Fennel, large diced
1 Tablespoon               Garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons             Olive oil
3 Tablespoons             All-purpose flour
½ cup                            White wine
2 Tablespoons             Tomato paste
6 cups                           Water or Chicken Broth
1 Tablespoon               Balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon                   Sugar
½ cup                            Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons             Fresh Basil chopped
1 Tablespoon               Fresh Chives chopped
To Taste                        Salt and pepper
Olive oil for roasting the tomatoes and bell peppers

Method:

  1. Toss the quartered tomatoes and bell peppers in a small amount of olive oil
  2. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 F
  3. Sauté the onions, leeks, celery, fennel, and garlic in three tablespoons olive oil
  4. Add the flour and stir in
  5. Add the white wine
  6. Add the roasted tomatoes and bell peppers
  7. Add the water or chicken broth, balsamic vinegar and sugar
  8. Bring to a light boil and skim off the scum and reduce to a simmer
  9. Cook for 1 hour while skimming off any scum
  10. Puree in a blender and return to the pot and cook 30 minutes
  11. Strain and add ½ cup of cream, and continue to cook until the right consistency is met.
  12. Add the chopped herbs, season with salt and pepper if needed and serve.

For more ways and tips for preparing vegetables, go to my previous post, On cooking vegetables- 7 tips! Enjoy and live well!