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Watermelon Feta Salad!

Watermelon Feta Salad!

Full Disclosure, this is the simplest most delicious thing ever.  The secret as with all things, but especially simple things, very good base ingredients.  You can use anything, but the fresh mint we are bringing in is especially flavorful and sweet, the Grove and Vine olive oil will add a great bitterness that is essential and the watermelon has to be ripe!  We use our sheep feta because it is so darn creamy and balances the juiciness of the melon with a nice richness but the Meredith Dairy feta would also work well! 

Ingredients:

Fresh Peppermint -  1 Bunch

EVOO(Grove and Vine) - For Drizzling

Watermelon - 2 Lbs (cubed)

Sheep Feta - 2oz.

Recipe:

To start finely chop your mint, then drizzle lightly with EVOO, crumble your feta into the mint and EVOO mixture.  Finally, fill a bowl with your cubed watermelon. Spoon the Mint/EVOO/Feta mixture over top and gently turn over the mixture with a spoon or your hands to incorporate. Finish with a touch of coarse salt!  

 

Enjoy!

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Ends Meat Salumeria - Producer Spotlight

Ends Meat Salumeria - Producer Spotlight

We first met John years and years ago when he was doing his infamous whole pig roasts in the backyard of a bar in Williamsburg. He’d expertly turn a huge animal into the most succulent and tender meat you could imagine. You’d get a huge plate of pork and a couple of sides for a totally reasonable price; that paired with a cold beer on a summer evening as the sun was going down was about as close to heaven as two twenty-somethings could hope for.

Right then we knew we had stumbled upon an incredibly talented producer and a few years down the road when it was time to plan the food for our wedding, we thought nothing could be more fun and more delicious than one of John’s pigs. There was a mix up at the farm and we ended up with a pig that was about 100 pounds larger than what we ordered. That means a longer cooking time, and the roast that was supposed to start at 9 am had to be pushed up to 3 am!! Chris didn’t get much sleep the night before saying his vows helping John with the HUGE pig. But he probably wasn't going to anyway. 

Fast forward many more years and John’s business Ends Meat has become a great success. From making amazing whole animal charcuterie, to expanding to two retail locations in the city, we’re so glad that more people are able to get their hands on John and his team’s delicious creations. What helps make John’s meat so fantastic is his impeccable sourcing. All his animals come from NY and NJ farmers who raise their animals on pasture in a sustainable and responsible way: Pork from Roaming Acres Farm in NJ, Beef from Duell Hollow Farm in NY and Chickens from Cascun Farm in NY. (Have you had these chickens? Seriously, they are flavorful enough to make someone passionate about chicken…) John and his team care about their impact on the environment and the way they are supporting the farmers that they partner with and that is why we chose them as our partners!  Especially with meat, the care for the animal and the farmer has to be paramount, their is too much bad meat from food lots out there, it isn't healthy and it isn't as delicious. 

Whole animal butchery is harder, the margins are slimmer, the labor is higher, but at the end of the day you know that your farmers are not on the brink of failure (the well being of their business totally dependent on the price whims of the Mercantile Exchange futures market). Just as important, because they buy whole animals the farmers don't have to choose between turning a profit and doing what is right for the animals! They don't have to spend half their time trying to sell the off cuts below cost to cover the in-demand steaks and chops, they get to focus on raising the best animal the best way they know how and you can taste it.  Butchers like Ends Meat take on the burden of finding a home for every part of an animal from the farmer and they do it because they love to teach and educate.  We have learned a LOT since this all started and John and his team of amazing butchers have been at the forefront of our meat education! 

We’re so proud to be partnering with Ends Meats to bring beautiful pastured meats to all of our customers! The upcoming holiday is the perfect time to pick some up for the grill! What could be more American? 

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Cheese School - Parmigiano Reggiano

Cheese School - Parmigiano Reggiano

PARMIGIANO REGGIANO VS. PARMESAN

What wouldn't be improved with a little Parmigiano Reggiano - tomatoey pasta, crisp green salads, fluffy eggs: no brainers. Simple grilled vegetables are taken up 3 notches covered with shards of Parm. Throw the rinds into your soup stock for an extra burst of rich umami. Even gelato is possible with the King of Cheeses, though maybe you should leave that to the gelatarias in Italy.  So, what is real Parmigiano and what is parmesan? Parmigiano Reggiano is 1000+ years of tradition while Parmesan is an imposter created by Kraft and made by a hordes of industrial food manufacturers.  Though not all Parmigiano is even equal these days.  Like most old world products industrialization and global markets have had a toll and most Parmigiano is now made by very large companies, farmstead production is limited to 10% of the total producers (it is even less when you look at the actual number of wheels).  We pay alot more for small producer cheese but we are happy to do so because keeping these small farmstead producers alive is what gets us up every day!

So what is Parmesan?

Parmesan is so far from Parmigiano Reggiano and the complexities of flavor therein not to mention centuries of traditional cheesemaking, that these two should not even be uttered in the same sentence. In the U.S. there are hardly any regulations on what the word “Parmesan” can be applied to (even though the rest of the world outlawed using the label “Parmesan” on anything other than real Parmigiano Reggiano in 2008). This includes powdered cheese product in a can with ingredients including cellulose and potassium sorbate. 

What makes Parmigiano Special?

Compare that with Italy where there are a limited number of producers (no more than 400) who are legally allowed to make Parmigiano Reggiano, and who are also regularly visited by The Consortium to make sure that the cheeses they are producing fall in line with the VERY specific rules that allow the cheese to be labeled as authentic Parmigiano Reggiano. The cheese can only be made in a carefully designated 10,000 sq kilometer area of the mountainous region of Emilia Romagna. The cows can only eat local grasses and forage. Every part of the cheesemaking process is controlled all the way through the aging. In fact, if your wheels don’t pass muster with the Consortium, they can be de-rinded, which means the identifying vertical stencil of “Parmigiano Reggiano” on the outside of the wheels is removed, and you cannot sell  your cheese on the Parmigiano market.  

The result of all this obsessive control: a magical combination flavors, an indispensable umami, an almost indescribable visceral reaction when you taste it that goes up your spine and tellls you, THIS IS PARMIGIANO REGGIANO. It’s so dense with flavor, you only need a little bit to taste the spectrum of grassy fields, toasted nuts and tropical fruits. It’s got that tongue warming sharpness and crystalline texture that can only come with years of careful maturation. 

We’re obviously not here to bad mouth hard working cheesemakers in Wisconsin. But it seems like such a waste of time, milk, and effort just to make a cheaper substitute for such a beautiful, authentic expression of Italian terroir, cheesemaking brilliance and legacy. Yes, real Parmigiano Reggiano is more expensive than those triangles of dubious origin in the cold case. But spending your money on something that’s just a sad replication doesn’t seem worth it. 

The Parmigiano Reggiano we import at Chef Collective is very special and we are very particular about it. Our standard Parmigiano Reggiano is aged for 28-32 months and produced by Latteria Mariani just outside of Parma; they’ve been making their superb wheels since 1941. We select wheels that are made with spring and fall milk, when the temps are lower which leads to less stressed cows and better milk, ie. when flavor is as it’s peak and it’s qualities are best for making Parmigiano. During the lengthy aging process, flavors of ripe strawberry, pineapple and pear develop, with lovely undertones of roasted hazelnuts and buttery brioche, even at 32 months, these wheels could age for much longer, they still have a beautiful richness thanks to the cheesemaker being generous with the amount of cream that is added to the vat.  

What about vacuum sealed chunks of real Parmigiano? They are ok, but they aren’t as good as it gets! Cheese doesn’t age once you cut it, and it doesn’t get better from that moment on.  Every wheel of cheese we cut at Chef Collective is cut the day we send it out and it makes a huge difference that you can taste. This is why precut cheese is cheaper than cheese at a local cheese shop. For our Parmigiano we crack our wheels the old fashioned way with a special set of knives specially designed centuries ago for splitting the massive wheels. Every day we split new wheels, so your little chunk of cheese heaven will be full of bright fresh flavor!

How do I store Parmigiano Reggiano?

The secret to storing all your hard cheeses is air, keep it away, once you open up the package, wrap it tighly in...Plastic Wrap!  Why not cheese paper or cheese bags, because cheese paper allows cheese to breathe, the rind on a chunk of Parmigiano isn't active, so it doesn't need to breathe, what you need to worry about it is drying out, if you Parmigiano is allowed to dry out, the less you will taste those volatile and oh so delicious flavor notes.  So keep it wrapped tightly and use it often, and buy it often so that you are always getting a fresh chunk!  If you aren't going through pounds a week, its ok, it will last for 4 weeks in the fridge( if tightly wrapped) without a ton of flavor degradation and if you forget to wrap it and it dries out, don't toss it, incorporate into sauces, grate in bigger chunks or toss into your stock for an added boost of umami! 

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2 Recipes to help you use all those eggs!

2 Recipes to help you use all those eggs!

Homemade Custard Ice Cream

Remember that ice cream maker attachment that you bought for the Kitchen Aid that has been hanging out in the back of the freezer? Time to put that baby to use. Make sure it’s nice and cold now, because you’ll be using it tomorrow to churn the custard. 

You’ll need: 

  • 6 egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar (you can use whatever kind of sugar you want here, sugar in the raw, demerara, brown sugar, maple syrup, etc. Go ahead, get crazy)
  • 2 cups Good Whole Milk (we suggest Ronnybrook, Battenkill, Ithaca, whatever good local milk you can get your hands on)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream 

This is your basic custard recipe, it will make about a quart and half of churned ice cream. This ice cream will be delicious as is because of the high quality dairy and eggs you are using. But if you want to add some additional flavor, feel free to add any of the following:

  • Vanilla extract - 1 tbsp. (best quality you can get your hands on, or if you can get a whole vanilla bean, this is a great time to use it) Add your extract to the milk, or if you’re using the bean, split the bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Save the pod for another use! 
  • Cacao powder. Add about ½ cup (sifted) This will make something akin to a Wendy’s Frosty, mmmmmmmmmm. (just add french fries)
  • Fruit ice creams: Substitute 1 cup of super ripe and flavorful fruit puree for the cream. (If you want to make sure your ice cream maintains richness, change the 2 cups whole milk to 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup cream) 

Okay, in a medium saucepan, whisk together your yolks, whole milk (or combo milk + cream), and sugar. Place over medium heat and continue to whisk to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed. You want to heat this mixture gently to make sure the eggs don’t curdle. Keep everything moving and wait until you see tiny bubbles start to form at the sides of the pan and the mixture is steaming gently. Don’t let it boil. It should start to thicken slightly. 

Take off the heat and strain through a mesh sieve into a bowl. The straining will catch any egg bits that may have started to cook too much and you don’t want those in your lovely ice cream. 

At this point, you add your 1 cup of cream (or fruit puree) and stir well until everything is incorporated. Keep stirring to aid the cooling process. Leave your custard mixture to cool on the counter for a little while, maybe an hour. Then cover and refrigerate overnight before churning. 

The next day, churn your ice cream - my batches usually take about 30 mins. Quickly get that stuff into the freezer and you’re done! 

Ultra Fluffy Angel Food Cake 

Angel food cake is a great summer dessert because it’s really light and airy. It’s also great because it’s a perfect way to use up a bunch of egg whites, and you don’t really need much else besides some sugar and flour. You really do want to eat this with something though. Something like ice cream. Or macerated fruit and whipped cream. Or chocolate sauce. Or all of the above.  

You’ll need: 

  • A tube pan (straight sided bundt pan) or if you don’t have that, 2 larger loaf pans would work. The point is that you want to maximize the crust on this one, it will bake better that way. 
  • About 270 grams egg whites. (this is from about 9 eggs, if you only have 8, it will be fine)
  • 1 cup flour - use cake flour please! (Or the Janie’s Mill Sifted artisan flour from the website worked very well.)
  • 1 and ½ cups sugar, divided. 
  • Fine salt 
  • 1 tsp Cream of tartar 
  • Vanilla extract for flavor. OR something else: the zest of a lemon or orange? Delightful. 

Preheat oven to 325. You don’t have to grease the pan! 

Very important: SIFT your flour and the ½ cup of sugar together and have it ready to go for later. 

Put your egg whites in the bowl of the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, mixing them on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until they start to get foamy. Add in your two heavy pinches of fine salt and the cream of tartar. If you’re using zest, add that in now. Keep mixing. 

When the egg whites are really fluffed up and are forming soft peaks, add 1 cup sugar in a slow stream while the mixer is still going. Then add vanilla if using. Keep mixing until stiff peaks form and the egg whites are looking glossy. 

Take your bowl off the mixer. Shake about half the flour/sugar mixture over your eggs whites and start to fold in VERY GENTLY.  Do a few folds until it starts to incorporate and then add the rest of the mixture. Continue to fold gently, turning the bowl and scooping up from the bottom. Don’t over mix, folding should only take a minute or so. 

Pour batter into the pans, level off gently and place into the oven. Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour. Check after 50 mins, mine needed about 1 hour, 5 mins but every oven is different. The cake should spring back to the touch. You want a nice, browned crust to form, that’s the most delicious part of this cake. 

When you take the cake out of the oven, you can invert the pan for the first hour of cooling if you choose. This will help the cake maintain some height and airiness, it’s not totally necessary though. 

After about an hour, take a thin knife and loosen the cake from the edges of the pan all the way around. 

Eat immediately!! (If you have leftover cake or don’t have time to eat asap - you can pan fry wedges of cake, this allows for a nice crispy crust and carmelized the sugar adding hints of toasted marshmallows!



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The Ultimate Brownie Recipe

The Ultimate Brownie Recipe

If you want a brownie that is full blast CHOCOLATE flavor this is it!
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