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One of my favorite childhood meals has to be sloppy joes. A flavorful rich meaty sauce over grilled bread topped with cheese. My families sloppy joes were made with a homemade meat sauce which is the key. You cannot get the flavor of a true rich meat sauce out of a can and as with most canned goods the sodium levels are through the roof.
A good meat sauce takes time but you can make it in a large batch and it freezes beautifully. For my sloppy joes I use a lean or extra lean ground beef. You can mix in ground pork, veal or chicken as well but for simplicity I stick with beef.
I use grass fed beef from a local supplier (Getaway Farms). You cannot get this kind of flavor in grain fed beef and nutritionally it is far superior. I also know if it is fresh or frozen and can handle it appropriately. It comes from one or at most two cows which makes it more controlled from a food safety standpoint. My butcher and farmer can tell me the exact cut or cuts that went into it so I know what I am eating. With this beef I never get that liver/organ meat taste that I experience from some factory food ground beef.
Unlike a burger which benefits from a higher fat content to add flavor and moisture in a meat sauce you would just strain off the fat so you might as well go lean. Also extra lean ground beef benefits from the long slow simmer we will do a the end of this process to meld flavors. We will also use celery, carrots and onions in this sauce and caramelization to build a deep rich flavor. This sauce is a favorite of mine and it makes the perfect sloppy joe.
To bring this dish up a notch I replace the burger bun with some panini pressed french bread and add in some of the garlic scape pesto from my last post. I also replace the traditional cheese slice with some fresh cheese curd. It is still sloppy and super flavourful.
1.5 tbsp grape seed oil
2 pounds of fresh or thawed extra lean ground beef (allow to sit at room temp for 1 hour before using)
1 large or 2 medium onions (small dice)
3 large or 6 small carrots (small dice)
3 stalks of celery (small dice)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/3 cup bourbon or rye
1.5 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 cups red wine tomato sauce (prior blog post)
salt and pepper
In a large pot or dutch oven heat up 1.5 tbsp of grape seed oil over medium high to high heat, I tend to do mine on MAX. I use grape seed oil here because of it’s high smoke point. My dad used to tease my grandmother about there being other settings on the stove then Max, now I understand why she cooked with high heat… flavor. We have warmed the beef a bit so we don’t cool the oil off, we want to caramelize the beef to build flavor adding cold beef to hot oil will give you boiled beef. Break the beef up and add it into the oil, sprinkle in a tsp of salt to help draw out moisture. Stir the beef with a wooden spoon often, don’t leave it sitting on high heat while you do something else, it will burn. Keep stirring and breaking up the beef until it is well browned. Brown is flavor. We will end up with brown bits on the bottom of the pot, we will get that later too.
When the beef is browned, remove the beef to a plate and set aside. If there is not enough oil to cook the veggies add a tsp more and reduce the heat to medium high. We have find diced the veggies because we want good caramelization and when we simmer it the veggies will almost dissolve into the sauce adding amazing flavor. Add the onion, carrots and celery into the hot oil, add in another 1/2 tsp of salt which will flavor and draw water out of the veggies allowing for better caramelization. Stir the veggies until they start to brown, then add in the garlic. Continue to cook until everything is browned. Be careful not to burn any components here.
When everything is well browned add the tomato paste, and paprika and cook until you see the oils separate, tomato paste is always better when you fry it off a bit. Now we go after the brown bits on the pan which are full of flavor. Deglaze the pan with the bourbon and worcestershire sauce. Then add in the beef, stir well to combine and add in the milk and nutmeg and finally the tomato sauce. Now reduce the heat to low and maintain a low simmer. Cover and let simmer for a good 2 to 3 hours. Stir every half hour or so adding in a little water if it starts to get too thick. This will make the meat super tender and the flavors will meld beautifully. When it has finished simmering add salt and pepper to taste.
This sauce is amazing in lasagna, on homemade pasta or in this case on a sloppy joe. Make lots and freeze it for a quick family meal during the week.
Now for the Sloppy Joe
Slice the french bread horizontally across the middle and then cut into as many servings as you desire. Lightly butter the bread on both sides and put it into a hot panini press and cook until crispy, turning 90 degrees half way through to create cross hatching. Then spread on a layer of garlic scape pesto. The cross hatching we created will grab a little extra pesto which is a nice treat.
Heat up your broiler to 500 degrees, top the bread with the meat sauce and a generous amount of fresh cheese curds. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown, top with a little more pesto and serve.
Thanks to my local producers for providing me with ingredients to make this pop:
Beef: Getaway Farms via Meat Mongers at the Halifax Market
Celery and Onion:Taproot Farm
Garlic and Carrots: Evans Farm Market
Milk and Cheese Curd: Fox Hill Cheese House
I love being introduced to new product, it is one of the main reasons I enjoy my CSA share. Garlic scape is the green ropey sprout that grows out of the garlic bulb. During the summer these are trimmed off so the bulb can finish maturing. I got a bunch of these in my CSA share over the last few weeks and went to the internet to figure out what to do with them. They are too tough to just cut up and eat as you would a green onion but they have a beautiful, sweet, fresh garlic flavor.
The first thing I tried was making garlic scape pesto. I removed the flower buds and cut the scape into 2 inch pieces which I then ground up in my food processor. I then drizzled in olive oil until I reached the consistency of a rough paste. Then it is just a matter of adding a little salt and pepper to finish it. I love the fresh garlicky taste of this pesto and set off on finding dishes I could make with it.
Creamy Garlic Scape Pizza:
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup béchamel sauce
1 tsp garlic scape pesto
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup green olives
3/4 cup fresh cheese curds
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
I have a simple bread machine recipe for pizza dough that I like to use, the bread machine takes all of the time and effort out of this. I can even set a timer so it is ready for me when I get home if I am out all day.
While the dough was in the bread machine I made one recipe of the béchamel sauce from a prior blog post and set it aside to cool. Then I added in 1 tsp garlic scape pesto.
I rolled out the pizza dough onto a square cookie sheet, brushed on the olive oil and blind baked it for about 3 minutes in a 475 degree oven to crisp it up a bit. When the pizza skin came out of the oven I spread on the béchamel sauce until the skin was covered with a thin coat, it took about a cup. Then I topped it with tomato, sliced green olives spinach, and fresh cheese curds. I then grated the parmesan cheese on top and baked at 500 until the cheese started to brown and the sauce was bubbly. Allow to cool so the sauce will set up, slice and enjoy.
Garlic Bread made with Garlic Scape
Garlic bread is a favorite in this household and there is no better way to make it than with garlic scape pesto. Raw garlic is harsh and garlic butter can get really greasy. Garlic scape pesto has a nice amount of oil and will give a fresh garlic taste without it being over powering.
1 loaf of french bread (I used my bread machine for this as well)
Garlic Scape Pesto – enough to cover off the surface of the bread
Fresh Cheese Curds
Take your loaf of french bread and slice it down the middle horizontally butter it lightly and spread with the garlic scape pesto, I like a nice layer across the whole surface, you can be generous with it. Then top with fresh cheese curd and put into a 475 degree oven until it is bubbly and the cheese starts to brown. This is no doubt the best garlic bread I have ever had.
I have one more recipe that I want to share with you but I will do that in my next post later this week. Sloppy Joe’s on panini pressed french bread topped with garlic scape pesto. It is a winner.
This is an amazing ingredient that I was not familiar with but you can pick it up at many of the local farmers markets in Nova Scotia in July and early August.
I would like to thank my farmers for the following ingredients:
Tomato, Spinach, Garlic Scape : Taproot Farms
Milk for the Béchamel and Cheese Curds: Fox Hill Cheese House
Flour for my bread and crust: Speerville Mills
I was looking for a little culinary inspiration last week and tweeted out asking for suggestions about what I should cook. Amy Sears (@sweetamyrae) came back suggesting a hamburger that was spicy with something crunchy on it. That was just the ticket and I was off to the kitchen.
I am fortunate to have a great supply of Getaway Farm ground beef in my freezer. I gave up on factory food ground beef about a year ago when I requested a food safety inspector check out the use of frozen beef in Superstore ground beef. This beef packaging was not labeled as previously frozen and I thought the practice was inappropriate. A fellow foodie (Susie the Foodie – her link is to the left) recently tried to get clarification from Superstore about their ground beef and could not get a clear answer either. Unfortunately this has not as of yet lead to changes but I am still in discussions with meat inspectors to see if we can get labeling changes. Though I think their behavior is reprehensible I am thankful for them pointing me the way to local food. Had they produced a quality product I would have never found the bounty I enjoy today.
If you have great beef as your base you need to do very little to it to make a great burger. To a half pound of beef I add 1/2 tsp of salt, a half dozen turns of fresh ground black pepper and a tsp of worcestershire sauce. Mix the beef well with your hands and form into patties. Cook the beef in a very hot pan in a little grape seed oil. The sear adds flavor and locks in juices, brown well on both side. The patty should be cooked to a temperature of 160 degrees. Place a thin slice of medium cheddar on the burger. I used Fox Hill Cheese for this burger.
I placed this burger on a homemade bun which I made using a Fresh Crusty Sandwich Rolls – Mexican Inspired” href=”http://realcreativeeats.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/fresh-crusty-sandwich-rolls-mexican-inspired/” target=”_blank”>bun recipe I blogged out earlier. The only change I made to it was I a did not use an egg wash and shaped the buns differently. To shape a hamburger bun roll a 2.5 oz ball flatten with the palm of your hand and then allow it to rise. The rest of the instructions are the same as in the original recipe.
To add a spicy element I wanted a sauce. I have seen a number of hot pepper mustard sauces so I wanted to make my own. I roasted off 2 habaneros 3 serranos and a hot cherry pepper. I put them into the blender with 1/2 cup of yellow mustard and 1/2 of a cup of apple cider vinegar, and 2/3 of a cup of sugar. Blend until smooth then strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any skin and seeds. Bring this to a boil and add a Tbsp of honey. I then mixed together equal parts of oil and flour to a bowl and added 2 tsp of this mixture to the sauce to thick it, stir and then remove from heat and allow it to cool. This got spread on the top bun of the burger.
To add some brightness I tossed some fresh spinach with my fig and vanilla aged balsamic and put that on top of the cheese. You can make a vinaigrette with 1 part vinegar 2 parts oil, 1 part honey and a splash of vanilla. To finish the burger I made some fresh cut fries and crispy onion strings.
To make the fries cut potatoes into fries and then in 325 degrees blanch them until they just start to brown. Don’t over crowd the oil do in smaller batches. Drain the fries off and allow to completely cool. Heat the oil up to 390 degrees. Add the fries back into the oil and cook till golden brown. Drain on fresh paper towel and then salt right away with fine sea salt.
To make the onion strings peal the onion, cut in half and slice each half into thin slices. Break the strings apart and coat them in lightly salted flour. Drop them in the hot oil for a few seconds until browned, this does not take long at all but they are delightfully crisp and yummy and really add to the burger.
Thanks to My Local Providers
Beef : Getaway Farms
Cheddar Cheese: Fox Hill Cheese House
Every now and again I ask my readers via Twitter to challenge me with a recipe that they would like to see done. I find it interesting to see what my fellow foodies desire to eat and then challenge myself to cook it using primarily local ingredients in a creative manner.
Amy works at Fox Hill Cheese house and she said she wanted to create a birthday cake for her to bake this weekend using Fox Hill’s Quark and Yogurt. I had to make it seasonal and add some flare so I decided to use the Quark (a less rich cream cheese/ricotta like product very popular in Europe) to make a filling for between the layers and flavor it will an apple caramel sauce. The yogurt will add richness and moisture to the cake and I have used cinnamon to tie all of the flavors together.
I was going for a balance of flavour, a cake that has a nice balance of sweet, spice and sour. I love the sour flavor from creamed cheese and quark has the same taste. I also like the crunch and sour provided by the apple. The cinnamon in each element provided a nice bridge. I hope you enjoy as well.
Step 1 – Almond Brittle
I like a little crunch in a cake to break up the soft texture of the frosting, filling and cake. For this recipe I made an almond brittle then ground it up in a food processor and then used the crushed brittle in the caramel, filling and to dust the sides of the cake.
1 cup almonds
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Lay the almonds on silicon mat or piece of parchment paper in a baking sheet in a single layer close together. Combine the sugar and water in a pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Then turn it down and boil until it reached 295 degrees on a candy thermometer. Be very careful with this mixture it is very hot and can burn severely. Pour the hot syrup over the almonds to cover them and let them sit until they harden and are cool. Be very careful it will look cool before it is. When it is cooled break it up and crush it in a food processor. Set aside to use later.
Step 2 – Sheet Cake with Fox Hill Yogurt
3 cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 cups of sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
3 large eggs (room temperature)
2 cups of plain yogurt (room temperature)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
Prepare a 17 x 11 x 1 inch sheet cake by greasing and flouring the bottom and all sides. After you grease it just dust it with flour and shake off the excess.
Sift together your dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.
In a separate large bowl (I use a KitchenAid Mixer) add in the sugar, butter and vanilla. Beat this on high for 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy. This is a critical step to getting a light cake. The sugar builds little tunnels of air to the butter adding fluffiness. You will want to scrape down the sides of the bowl two or three times during this process. You want to do the serious beating before you add your dry ingredients. If you beat it after you add the flour you will build gluten and end up with a tough dry cake that has those tunnels through it. You don’t want any part of that.
Now that you have fluffy butter and sugar you want to add the eggs. Break the eggs into a small bowl. You always do this, if you add them directly into the butter and sugar and you lose a piece of shell it is a bugger to get it out of the batter. Add the eggs in one at a time until each egg is incorporated.
Now we will add the flour and yogurt. This is the point where we want to keep the mixing to a minimum. With the mixer on low add in 1/3 of the dry ingredients stir until incorporate. Then add half the yogurt and scrape the bowl and mix in. Add the next third of the dry and then the rest of the yogurt and ending with the dry stirring and scraping after each step.
Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes. It should start to brown a little and a toothpick inserted should come out clean.
Allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes then invert it onto the bottom of another sheet try and cool for at least an hour more. It needs to be totally cool before your assemble the cake.
While the cake bakes and cools you can complete the rest of the parts. Note: I used half of this cake for the birthday cake. The other half will be cut up and frozen for trifle at another time. I got 10 slices an inch thick and as large as my hand. If you want more cake use the whole sheet cake and double the following steps. (you will have enough brittle)
Step 3 – Apple Cider Caramel Sauce.
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean (2 tsp vanilla)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
2 Tbsp Butter
Put the cider in a small pot, add in the cinnamon stick and vanilla
and boil till it is reduced by half. Add in the sugar and butter and return to the boil and cook until starts to thicken so that it coats the back of a spoon. About 5 min. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Step 4 – Fox Hill Quark Filling and Frosting
2 Cups of Fox Hill Quark (you could use half and half ricotta and creamed cheese)
5 Tbsp of The cooled caramel sauce
Whip the quark until it is light and fluffy, add in the caramel and beat until incorporated. Oh yum!!! (I have used quark on bagels before but it is the most amazing ingredient for frostings and fillings.) I will be playing with this food!!!
Step 5 – Caramelized Apples
5 small macintosh apples pealed and sliced into wedges
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Melt the butter in a frying pan and add in the brown sugar, stir. Add the apples and sprinkle the cinnamon. Cook until the apples soften (there should be a little crunch left). Allow them to cool.
Cut the cake into 3 equal pieces widthwise and then in half lengthwise. If you are using the whole cake do not do the lengthwise cut. Take one of the pieces on the bottom of your cake plate and top with quark filling, dust with the almond brittle and then a single layer of apples. Put the next cake section on top and repeat. Top with the last section of cake. Apply a layer of frosting on the top. Layer the apples on top overlapping them leaving a 3/4 of an inch around the edges. Frost the sides of the cake. Then apply a layer of the crushed brittle around the empty edges on the top of the cake and then press on the sides. Drizzle the top with caramel sauce.
If you have any left over brittle it would be a great ice cream topping, and left over quark could be used on toast or a bagel.
As always thanks to my local suppliers:
Yogurt and Quark: Fox Hill Cheese House
Apples: Noggins Corner Farm Market
Apple Cider: Suprima Farm
Eggs: Elmridge Farm
“Evolutionary flow every luminary glow when he show what the revolutionary know.” (Talib Kweli, Strangers) For years people who have spoken out against the industrialization of food have been branded as radicals, hippies and wing nuts by the marketers of industrialized food. It is people who are passionate, and often times the most creative among us that first stumble on hidden truths. Because these people, live outside of mainstream societal norms their manner of expression is often used to marginalize their views. This marginalization allows those who are doing wrong at the expense of society to buy themselves more time. Eventually society catches up to these “revolutionaries” and evolution takes hold. Only then are they proven right and we achieve positive change.
Of late we have had a rash of video evidence of the unsavory practices of factory food producers that only backs up what those passionate creative revolutionaries have been saying for decades. The movie Food Inc. along with other lesser known documentaries have the corporate crap food mob bosses calling on their enforcers (lawyers and lobbyists), pimps (marketers) and pushers (factory food outlets) to strike back.
We have had a rash of crap food producers like Kraft, Campbell’s, Dominos and President’s Choice running commercials trying to cloud the fact that their food is pretty unhealthy. Shots of farmers fields, talk of eating veggies and ads featuring a goof ball CEO handing out samples are all designed to warm us up to eating some pretty bad food (More info available on FoodThug.com).
Now we have the corporate agra-crooks in the US trying to outlaw hidden videos and unauthorized photography done on these factory farms. (see Globe and Mail Article). They are actually trying to buy enough politicians to see freelance investigative journalists jailed for exposing the risks to our health and the abuse of animals that is now an every day occurrence in industrialized agriculture.
No I am not a vegetarian, and yes animals have to be killed for me to eat meat. However the way those animals live their lives, are fed and are killed matter. The practices of industrial food production provide the animals with a miserable existence and death. It also produces an inferior product for us to consume. Farming practices do matter and the evidence that is out there coupled with their efforts to hide the truth about their practices just proves they are doing something wrong and have no intention of changing.
To contrast the smoke and mirror’s diversion and legislative thuggery of big agra all we need to do is look at our small Nova Scotia food producers. Since I started blogging I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking to dozens of amazing producers. They are open and honest about their practices and have not only welcomed me but invited me to their farms for me to document their practices. I have been to Active Life Farms, Blue Barn Farms, Fox Hill Cheese and have been invited to Get Away Farms to see and even photograph their operations. I have in depth conversations with the owner of The Fish Shop at the Halifax Market about how his seafood is sourced and handled and will be heading to the valley at the request of other farmers to shoot their operations. Not one of my request to interview or photograph one of our local producers been met with a negative answer. It is met with smiles, and thanks for helping them share their business with my readers.
I love food, always have. I am so appreciative to those of you who are dedicating your work life to providing me with food I can enjoy and trust. I love cooking with, eating and sharing your products and the time I get to spend with you is very enjoyable. Please keep doing what you are doing, and to anyone who loves food like me and cares about your health I invite you to join me on my journey away from the food confusion of industrialized agriculture.
I have been a big fan Fox Hill Cheese House for 4 or 5 years now. I have an issue with commercial milk products. Something in the processing causes me to have itching on my hands and I get stuffed up. I thought I was reacting to dairy products which was really strange because it was never an issue for the first 30 years of my life. Being a cheese freak I could not stop eating cheese and when I heard about Fox Hill I drove right up the next weekend for some cheese. The first thing I noticed was that I did not react. I decided to test it out and went back and bought some gelato and some cheese curd and consumed it all in one night (the sacrifices we make). No reaction at all. I was thrilled. I have been a customer ever sense.