Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Celebrate Winter at the Museum of Modern Ice in Millenium Park

Purple Asparagus will be a part of the City of Chicago's Museum of Modern Ice, a Winter celebration in Millenium Park. The centerpiece of the event is a brilliantly colored ice wall that will be nearly 100 feet long and over 10 feet tall, a monumental exhibit by renowned artist Gordon Halloran, whose work has been showcased around the world most notably during the 2006 Turin Olympic Games. This is the first time that Halloran's work has been showcased in the U.S. and it promises to be the largest and most spectactular of his sculptures.
We will be in a heated tent adjacent to the artwork with several fun and fabulous family-friendly activities with a focus on a healthy lifestyle and good eating. On February 2 and 3 Chicagoans can enjoy building a snowman out of honey popcorn balls. Other activities include making maple taffy in the snow, growing a salad in a jar and sharing some good eats with our feathered friends making a pinecone birdfeeder.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Purple Asparagus' First Project Dine Out at May Street Market

To take your mind off this dismally depressing primary season, join Purple Asparagus for good food and family fun at May Street Market on Tsunami Tuesday. For our inaugural Project Dine Out, Chef/owner Alex Cheswick will prepare a 4-course dinner celebrating the flavors of the season. As an added treat, special guest Olivia Gerasole of Spatulatta makes a personal appearance to demonstrate a recipe from her new cookbook, co-authored with her sister, and sign books. Dishes for kids aged ten and under will be prepared using recipes from The Spatulatta Cookbook. Wines for this event are being donated by Stone Paddock.

Project Dine Out is a new initiative to help parents answer the recurring question of how to eat out with kids in a restaurant without chicken fingers. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to Purple Asparagus’ partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, in which Purple Asparagus members help teenagers cook dinners for their families at the Depository’s Kids Cafes.

The cost for the event is $25 kids ten and under and $65 for adults. For reservations, contact Melissa Graham at 773-991-1920 or email info@purpleasparagus.com. Tickets can also be purchased online
The folloing is the menu for adults and kids over 10:
First Course
baby spinach salad with smoked bacon and shallot dressing, truffle poached quail egg, and pretzel melba toast
lemon grass and sweet potato soup with peanut brittle croutons, and lime crème fraiche

Second Course
Sorbet intermezzo

Third Course
smoked roasted chicken with imported feta polenta, pickled red onion and seedling farms dried blueberry chutney
grilled arctic char with fennel confit, fennel pollen dusted doughnuts, fennel and apple salad and fennel frond froth
organic parsley risotto with vegetable capellinni, warmed tallegio, white truffle emulsion, and poached quail egg

bittersweet flourless chocolate cake, espresso cream, passion fruit sorbet, and crispy milk-chocolate
sorbet assortment, ruby red grape fruit, lemon, tangerine and candied kumquats

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Puff Pastry

During my Bloomie's demo, I used Du Four puff pastry, an all-butter puff pastry available for sale at Whole Foods, Provenance Food & Wine and at Fox & Obel. It's an excellent product and great when making appetizers for hundreds. However, when I cook for small groups or for my own family, I'll ordinarily make my own. Contrary to conventional thinking, making puff pastry from scratch is not inherently difficult - it just takes time, albeit mostly unattended time. There are a few secrets. First, use the best butter possible. At Thanksgiving, I made it with an uncultured butter from a Minnesota co-op available (occasionally) from Zingerman's. I used it to make apple tarte tatin - it was awesome. Second, you need to balance keeping the dough as cold as possible with retaining its pliable nature.
Puff Pastry
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cake flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3-1 cup water
2 sticks unsalted butter

Combine the flours onto a clean surface in a mound and, with your fingers, make a well in the center. Cut 1 tablespoon from each stick of butter and melt. Put the salt, 2/3 cup water and melted butter into well. With the fingers of one hand, mix the liquid ingredients until the salt is dissolved. Mix in the flours slowly with a plastic pastry cutter – make sure that you don’t break the walls of the well. Mix until well-blended, adding more water as necessary. The dough will be slightly sticky. Cut an “x” ½-inch thick into the top of the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap, parchment paper or a lightly-floured towel and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Tap the 14 tablespoons between 2 sheets of parchment paper into a square ¾-inch thick. Wrap in the parchement until you're reading to move to the next step. Set the flour dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out four arms from the center outward. The final product should be mounded in the center. This is critical to make sure that there is enough of the flour dough to cover the butter without breaking through. Put the butter square on top of the mound. Cover with each of the arms and tap with a rolling pin to seal. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 7-inches wide and 21-inches long. Fold up the bottom third to the center and the top third to meet the bottom seam. Wrap in floured parchment and refrigerate for 30-minutes. Turn the dough a quarter turn to the left and roll out to a rectangle. Make another quarter turn and roll it out again. Refrigerate for a half hour. Give the dough another quarter turn. The dough can now be frozen for later use. Before using, give the dough two more quarter turns. The pastry is now ready to be rolled out and cut.