Thursday, April 29, 2010

Celebrate Barbecue and Fight Hunger at the Culinary Center of Kansas City

Nearly 1 in 4 American children struggles with hunger. One national organization that fights this problem is Share Our Strength, a nonprofit whose mission is to end childhood hunger in the United States. A big component of their fundraising efforts is the Great American Bake Sale, in which people from across the nation create and sell sweet treats with 100% of profits going directly to this charity.
On Saturday, May 1, the Culinary Center of Kansas City, in Overland Park, Kansas, will hold its first annual Great American Bake Sale in conjunction with its first annual Festival of Smoke, a quintessential barbecue event that will run from 8:30 to 2 and feature smoking and grilling education, competition among Culinary Center chefs, a make-your-own-rub station and, loads of great barbecue plus fixings and much more.

When you're ready for dessert, or a sweet treat to take home, visit the bake sale. In 2009, Great American Bake Sales held across the nation raised more than $1,220,000 to fund after school and summer feeding programs for children, and support Share Our Strength’s Operation Frontline®, a chef-led nutrition education program for low-income children and families.
Here are nine more reasons to hold your own Great American Bake Sale:

12.6 million…American children wonder if they will eat in the morning
13%…of American families with children under six years old face hunger
50%…of American food stamp recipients are children
60%…of requests for emergency food assistance come from American families with children
89%…of low-income American children who receive school lunches do not receive regular meals during the summer
One…summer of poor nutrition will seriously impair a child’s ability to learn
1 in 3…Americans who stand in a soup kitchen line are children
1 in 5…American households with children live at risk of hunger
1 in 10…American households lack access to enough food
You'll have a wonderful time, eat some amazing food and support a great cause during the Culinary Center of Kansas City's Festival of Smoke and Great American Bake Sale.

*Lisa Waterman Gray is a part-time employee of the Culinary Center of Kansas City

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Winter Harvest at Seghesio Family Vineyards

Pete Seghesio (center) continues his family traditions with fellow wine growers.

For Pete Seghesio, nothing tastes better than freshly made sausage served atop a slice of crusty bread, with a glass of Zinfandel, at 10 o’clock in the morning. It’s a flavorful way to celebrate two family traditions – making wine and handcrafting Italian sausage.

Seghesio Family Vineyards, located in Sonoma County, has long been known for quality wines, including their 2007 Zinfandel, which appeared on Wine Spectator’s list of the top 100 wines. But when harvest season has ended each year, the family shares another tradition - making sausage amidst the wine barrels.

The Seghesio family creates 2,000 pounds of sausage every December. They use Boston butt with 10 percent fat blended back in, because pork is much leaner now than when Pete’s grandmother created this recipe. Once the meat has been spread across a long table, family members pour a mixture of Zinfandel and fresh garlic across every 100 pounds of meat. Healthy doses of salt, pepper, nutmeg, clove, and allspice follow. Then dozens of gloved hands knead the meat to incorporate the seasonings.

The sausage machine (circa 1859) that has been used by the family since the late 1800s

In the early days, the Seghesios used an 1859 sausage machine. Although their grinding machines are newer now, filling the casings still requires plenty of hands-on attention. Pete blows into a sheath of cow intestine before placing it on a spout and then holds it tightly as meat fills the long casing. Expert hands tie-off the casing in six-inch lengths and then hang dozens of sausages on clotheslines near the wine barrels.
Pete Seghesio fills cow intestine with sausage

The Seghesio family also has turned this event into an annual party, attended by many members of their Centennial (wine) Club; some even help to make the sausage. As everyone works the wine flows, finished sausages sizzle in frying pans and neighbor, Frank Passalacqua, cooks risotto to accompany the freshly made meat. Pete shares samples of his own Sicilian-inspired sausage recipe with friends, full of fennel, fennel pollen, red pepper flakes, pepper, fresh garlic and secret ingredients.
Ed Seghesio, Chef Jon Helquist, Will and Pete Seghesio taste testing in the winery kitchen.

If you’d like to learn more about this lovely winter tradition, see their YouTube video,

Lisa visited Seghesio Family Vineyards during a press trip, in February 2008

Birthday Baking With Chocolate and Coffee

My birthday was coming up in several days and my husband, Mark, asked how I wanted to celebrate. Among other things, I mentioned that I might want a birthday cake.

But then this baking enthusiast realized that Mark wouldn't want to make a cake - great grilling and awesome breakfast food are his favorite kinds of cooking - and I really didn't want him to buy a cake. So I decided to combine two of my favorite flavors - chocolate and coffee - while celebrating my birthday and my joy in baking.

I started with a Chocolate Buttermilk 'Sheet Cake' recipe from Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK and the tweaking began, with substitution of whole wheat pastry flour for unbleached flour and olive oil for half of the butter, a little less sugar, the addition of coffee. Then I put the batter in round cake pans so that I could create a layered cake with loads of frosting. See what you think:

Lisa's Dark Chocolate Layer Cake
Makes 16-20 servings

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons strong coffee
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder and water. Bring mixture just to boiling, stirring constantly. Add and incorporate olive oil. Add chocolate mixture to flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed, until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute - batter will be thin.

Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean; do not overbake. Cool completely, remove from pans (VOE-be very patient as you remove the cakes, they're quite tender and may break easily) and allow to rest on parchment paper.

Put one layer on cake plate or tray and spread thick layer of frosting on top (see recipe below). Place second cake layer on top of frosting and then frost entire outside of cake. Keep refrigerated until 15-20 minutes before serving, allowing to reach room temperature. ENJOY!
Chocolate frosting

4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons strong coffee
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa
2 1/4-2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
milk as needed

Combine butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla, coffee and cocoa and mix thoroughly. Slowly add confectioners sugar, stirring to combine until all sugar is incorporated. Add milk by the tablespoon to thin, if needed.

San Francisco's Ultimate Chinatown Tours

photo courtesy of Shirley Fong-Torres

Within moments after joining Shirley Fong-Torres on a tour of her beloved Chinatown, it’s easy to understand why, in 2007, San Francisco Weekly named her company, Wok Wiz Chinatown Tours and Cooking Company, 'The Best Chinatown Tour in San Francisco.' The New York Times, Gourmet, and Cooking Light also have called the tours top San Francisco attractions.

Photo courtesy of Kenny Wardell

Fong-Torres lives and breathes Chinese history, culture, and cuisine as she shares the area she knows so well, coupled with a dazzling smile and boundless energy. She and her guides enchant visitors during the Wok Wiz Daily Tour, and the I Can't Believe I Ate My Way Through Chinatown! tour.

photo courtesy of Shirley Fong-Torres

Because each tour leader speaks fluent Cantonese, visitors can experience some of Chinatown’s oldest restaurants. A traditional Chinese breakfast or dim sum luncheon; visits to a Chinese temple or a neighborhood farmer’s market; history lessons about Chinese immigration to the area, and tips regarding the best places to shop, are only a few tour highlights.

If Wok Wiz tours can help participants achieve a greater understanding of Chinese immigrants and their contributions to American life – while introducing them to great food – then Fong-Torres believes she has accomplished her mission.

While this 5’2” human dynamo lights up San Francisco’s culinary and cultural world, Wok Wiz is far from her only pursuit. Fong-Torres is a passionate food-lover and traveler who also has shared her infectious enthusiasm with Good Morning America, the Food Network, the Discovery Channel, Fine Living TV, PBS, and Rachel Ray viewers, plus European and Australian networks. She frequently gives talks and seminars, and has been a guest chef at food fairs such as Goldsboro, North Carolina’s "Feast in the East,” and the Iowa State Fair.

Fong-Torres’ books include her most recent, The Woman Who Ate CHINATOWN: A San Francisco Odyssey. This freelance travel writer also has appeared on the History and Discovery Channels and in (in-flight) videos for Qantas and Hawaiian Airlines, and JetBlue.

The next time you visit San Francisco, sign up for a tour of Chinatown with Fong-Torres. You'll learn a lot, eat well - and have a blast!

photo courtesy of Shirley Fong-Torres

For listening: In Nov. 2009, I talked as an 'expert' on Kansas restaurants w/the food editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, who talked about Missouri restaurants - & listen from 23-41 minutes into the podcast. ENJOY!