Monday, July 20, 2009

July Americana: Red, White & Blueberry

It’s blueberry season again, and I can plow through a pint like a tub of buttered popcorn… easy. Here’s a way to sneak them into yet another meal, dinner. This recipe works great with frozen blueberries, so this is also a nice nugget to tuck away for mid-winter meals when y’all could use a little antioxidant punch.

Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Dijon Glaze
Serves 4

1½ lb. pork tenderloin
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grape seed or vegetable oil
2 cups frozen blueberries
½ cup water
4 tablespoons golden brown sugar
4 tablespoons good quality Dijon mustard (preferably with mustard seeds)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To ensure even cooking, tuck in any thin ends of the pork tenderloin. Secure with toothpicks or cooking twine as necessary. Sprinkle pork loin with salt and pepper. In an oven-proof pan, heat oil on high. Add pork tenderloin and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side.

Place pork in the oven in the pan used for browning. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add frozen blueberries, water and sugar. Mix well, crushing blueberries with a masher until texture slightly resembles chunky jam. Cook on medium heat until heated through and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Pull off of heat and add mustard and rosemary.

After the pork has been in the oven for about 15 minutes, flip the loin and add the blueberry glaze. Put back in the oven. If at any point the glaze looks like it is starting to burn or get very thick (resembling taffy) add a couple of tablespoons of water to the bottom of the pan and continue cooking. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 160 degrees.

Remove the meat from the oven and let rest for 5 - 10 minutes (meat will continue to cook outside the oven until it reaches the internal temperature of 165 degrees). Slice and spoon glaze generously over pork medallions.

Serve with wild rice or couscous. Excellent with a side of sweet and sour red cabbage.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Heart Coffee

The last time I ran into Leo Rios he was perched under a pop-tent on a lazy Saturday afternoon with his girlfriend Liz and their button of a toddler. The faint smell of coffee was in the air and customers lined up for cups of the best brew in town: Café Corazon.

Leo is a coffee roaster, and is, at the very least, passionate. In his spare time, he studies plantations and growing practices. On weekends he spends hours filling orders for small batches of coffee beans, hovering over the roaster, jotting down temperatures every thirty seconds. In addition, as the business owner, he is inundated with paperwork and phone calls. “If you are not prepared to have your business consume every part of your life, then you are not prepared to have a business,” he says.

Leo’s first roast experiment was years ago at home with a modified popcorn popper and some green coffee beans. “That very first roast left me in awe,” he confessed. It wasn’t long afterward he knew he had a business on his hands. After a short stint owning a full-fledged coffee shop on the Fulton Mall, Café Corazon now provides fresh roasted coffee beans to local customers. “People are learning the difference that a fresh roast makes,” said Leo. And he’s right.

My first cup was supreme. Dark and smooth. None of the tricks certain coffee companies use to substitute complexity for sheer smoky bitterness. It was almost immediately I realized I was screwed- all other coffee tasted inferior to me. I had found the best. The freshest. The Master. Right here in Fresno.

My second bag was an Organic Chiapas from the PROISCH CoOp. Leo painstakingly took into account the natural growing conditions and inherent flavor of the bean. It was roasted to bring out the subtle complexity instead of being burnt to a crisp. I savored… Chiapas has earthy notes and a wisp sweetness that I never could have tasted if it were charred. “When you sip on a cup of Organic Chiapas… you're tasting the true flavor of Mexican coffee. You're tasting the flavors of the rainfall, the earth, the sun and the hard work of the processing that has gone into it,” said Leo. Hats off to respecting the true nature of the beast.

Tasting a cup of coffee made with Café Corazon beans sells itself. Leo’s painstaking care and love of the process is evident in every sip. “It is my aim to bring out the finer aspects of a coffee and give the coffee connoisseur something to savor,” he says. And, Leo is a man with an abundant heart, corazon, for his coffee, his family, and our little spot in the world, “You help in any way you can to improve the community. This is what I saw my parents do growing up, and it's what we wish to do, be true Chicanos. I'm trying to help build a strong community.” We’ve got a true Fresno treasure on our hand people. Drink up.

Get yourself a bag!
Email Leo:
Follow him on Twitter for the latest roasting info: @CafeCorazon
Pick up orders at Yoshi Now! On Broadway in downtown Fresno

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Beboparebop Rhubarb Pie

Until recently, the only rhubarb pie I had was from Marie Callender’s. It was, at best, unremarkable. And then, inspired by a documentary of Garrison Keillor at a rhubarb festival in Minnesota, I decided to try my hand at the real thing.

I was blown away. The filling is deliciously tart, swirled with caramelized sugar and buttery crust. And, technically, is it not a vegetable? Eat up.

Rhubarb Pie

Pate brisee pie dough (enough for a double crust)

1 ½ cups sugar
1 ¾ lbs. fresh rhubarb (cut into ¾ inch cubes)
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 small egg yolk
2 tablespoons Demerara sugar

Toss sugar, rhubarb, sifted cornstarch, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon, zest, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside to allow juices of the rhubarb to soften the sugar.

In an oversized tart pan, form bottom pie crust, allowing 1 inch overhang. Add filling (it should be 1 to 2 chunks of rhubarb deep). Tab butter on top of filling. Form lattice crust and crimp edges of pie together. Glaze crust with heavy cream and egg mixture, careful not to allow too much to spill into filling. Sprinkle crust with Demerara sugar.

Place a pan under the pie to catch any drippings and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and put on crust shield if necessary (aka crust is getting too brown). Bake for approximately 40 more minutes, or until center of pie filling bubbles. Cool 2 hours before serving.