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From Business Publications Corporation Inc., 100 4th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Copyright © BPC Inc. 2011.

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Thursday, Aug 4, 2011

Don't miss an issue of dsm's Savor! On Aug. 19, we are switching to a different method of delivery for this newsletter as well as dsm's other e-newsletters, Giving City and Premier Club. To ensure you don't miss an issue of any of these publications, you will need to confirm your desire to receive them by that date.

To do so, follow this link: http://visitor.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?m=1102534574124&p=oi and select any or all of the dsm newsletters from the list. If you already receive the Business Record Daily or the RE Weekly, you already have an account with us. Upon entering your e-mail, you'll be sent instructions on how to update your existing account to add the dsm publications.

Restaurant Week

Be sure to mark your calendar for Aug. 19-28, when you can indulge your inner gourmet with the best cuisine Greater Des Moines has to offer. Chefs at 36 of the metro area's top restaurants will create special fixed-price menus that will feature fabulous cuisine at irresistible prices--just $25 for two lunches or one three-course dinner. Restaurant Week not only is the perfect time to dine at your favorite eateries but also gives you the perfect excuse to try somewhere new. And that's not all. You'll also have a chance to win a trip for two to California's wine country. What's not to love about that? For more information and to view some of the menus that restaurants will be offering, click here. --Christine Riccelli

Written by Stephen Exel

Jill Means and Jamie Gorey

Two Iowa bakers share their culinary roots in this homey cookbook.

Jill Means and Jamie Gorey are happy to call themselves "two chicks from the sticks." So much so that the two women named their cookbook "Two Chicks from the Sticks: Back Home Baking," which publishes this week. Means and Gorey will sign books 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 9 at Kitchen Collage in the East Village and will appear daily, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Iowa State Fair in the Elwell Family Food Center.

The childhood friends grew up on neighboring farms in Grand River in southern Iowa and have remained close through college, careers, marriage--you know, those adult things--but never strayed far from their culinary roots. Their mothers, exceptional bakers, were the inspiration for compiling this collection of recipes, tips and stories.

"As we traveled around the country for our jobs, we recognized what great bakers our moms and their friends were," Means says. "We realized we wanted to pay tribute to these farm women. As kids, we couldn't wait to go to a potluck or other event because we knew there would be someone's delicious pie or cake waiting to be sampled."

Tips from the book include the impish--always lick the beaters when you're finished--to the practical: Sprinkle 2 tablespoons crushed graham crackers on the bottom crust of fruit pies to prevent a soggy crust.

Check out the Two Chick's blog at twochicksfromthesticks.com/blogs, but in the meantime, try out this "Impossible Pie" recipe from their cookbook.

Impossible Pie
Courtesy of Jill Means and Jamie Gorey, "Two Chicks from the Sticks: Back Home Baking."

I can't think of a pie that's easier to prepare than my mother's custard pie. She calls it "Impossible Pie" because it's almost impossible to believe that a pie that takes less than five minutes to mix comes out of the oven tasting so good.

When finished, what you have is a duvet of lightly toasted coconut atop sweet custard filling--both enclosed by the easiest-ever crust--the flour makes its way to the bottom of the pie in a wonderful no-fuss fashion.

The fact that the whole pie is made in a blender scores high marks for busy bakers. --Jamie Gorey

4 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups whole milk
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a blender or food processor, combine eggs, flour, sugar, and butter; blend on high speed 15 seconds. Add milk, coconut and vanilla; blend on medium/high 1 minute.
3. Pour mixture into #10-inch pie plate. Bake 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool pie to room temperature on wire rack; transfer to refrigerator. Serve cold. Makes 6-8 slices.

Jim Hudson
Local entrepreneurs take Iowa products nationwide.

In July, I attended the summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C. Fancy Food is a sort of foodie convention where specialty and gourmet food producers show off their wares to crowds of retail buyers, media and distributors. Attending the show requires stamina and a cast-iron constitution--it's three days of eating dangerously. A tough job, but someone has to do it.

I was pleased to find old friends Kathy and Herb Eckhouse of Norwalk showcasing their LaQuercia cured meats. As I travel around the country, I notice the LaQuercia name popping up on menus at many of the fine restaurants I'm privileged to visit.

New and notable from LaQuercia is their Tamworth Country Cured Bacon--a bacon so silky and smooth, it can be eaten without cooking (you read that correctly). The flavor is both sweet and smoky. Kathy Eckhouse recommends cooking it, if you choose, at a lower heat and for a shorter time than other bacon. (LaQuercia Tamworth Country Cured Bacon; 1 pound, $18; laquercia.us)

A few aisles over I was stopped by a gentleman who noticed "Des Moines, IA" on my badge. He's Johnston resident Jim Hudson, and he's the maker of Luke's Heirloom Tomato Juice, Tomato Nectar, and Bloody Delicious Mary Mix. Keep an eye out for his products--they are among the best tomato juices I have sampled, made from the select varieties of heirloom tomatoes Hudson grows.

Hudson started developing his recipes after taking wine-tasting classes. He applied the same approach to blending tomatoes as vintners do to blending wines, balancing sweetness, acidity, flavor and sugar levels. It was an old friend, the late Paul Trostel, who encouraged him to continue and refine his Tomato Nectar, a super-clean, pure tomato water chefs use for poaching, cocktails, sauces or just as a refreshing aperitif.

Luke's Heirloom products are just going into retail outlets. You'll be able to find them at Dean and DeLuca locations in September (you'll have to special order; go to deandeluca.com for stores or online ordering).

Just remember you read about it here first.

Slim D's BBQ Sauce
While we're on the subject of local food…

Jim Dietrich earns his living selling grain equipment. No one would ever guess he possesses his father's secret recipe for a barbecue sauce that was famous around Garner in north-central Iowa, where his parents owned a meat locker catering to local farmers. "Slim D" shared his homemade sauce with friends and neighbors but never the recipe. He left that legacy to his sons before he passed away.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Jim started bottling Slim D's BBQ Sauce. I can understand why the neighbors raved--the sauce is mild and subtly spiced with hints of curry, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar and smoke. It's not hot, not sweet and definitely not dull. Try it as a finish to grilled meats and chicken or as a substitute for anything you would serve with ketchup. In fact, I just had it on a fried egg sandwich.

Find Slim D's BBQ Sauce at select Dahl's and Hy-Vee stores. (22 oz., $3)

Caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink.
My favorite summer sips start with rum.

From a simple rum and cola to a more complicated sleight of hand from a master mixologist, rum calls out to me during the summer months. This may be due to its island associations and a boyhood dream to run away and be a pirate. More likely, it's the molasses-like sweetness of dark rum or the clean sugar cane quality of white rum.

A well-made mojito makes me feel like Hemingway. Or maybe Ricky Ricardo. I love the smash of mint and tang of lime. I like to muddle in fruit; strawberries, blueberries and watermelon are favorites. These are drinks to sip, not chug, and a few will ensure that Sunday afternoon slips by in a slow, hazy, hammock-y way.

Rum gets hidden in daiquiris, so try a caipirinha, Brazil's national drink, substituting white rum for the usual chachaça (also a sugar cane rum): Place 1/2 lime cut in 4 quarters and 2 teaspoons refined sugar into an old-fashioned glass and muddle. Fill glass with crushed ice and 1-2/3 ounces rum.

After dinner, I enjoy sipping 10 Cane Rum from Trinidad. It should be drunk neat, like cognac or a better scotch. 10 Cane is distilled from first press sugar cane (think of how extra-virgin olive oil is processed) and aged in oak barrels. The result is pale in color and smooth on the palate. Premium aged rums (rum añejo) will also have this after-dinner quality.

B's Mini-doughnuts at the Downtown Farmers Market.
A warm, sweet Saturday morning indulgence has happily broken my resolve.

My Saturday morning trips to the Downtown Farmers Market are pretty straightforward--I'm there to shop and socialize. I try to avoid the temptation of breakfast burritos, taco-ramas, egg rolls, samosas, crepes, pulled pork sandwiches and the rest because I know I'll eat them all--with great gusto.

So when Carrie Fleming offered me a nibble from a small bag of mini-donuts, I was resistant, for a millisecond. And then I was off to get my own bag of B's Mini-Donuts. Strolling along, I resolved that I would only have two of the freshly baked, puffy little bites of air and sugar and save the rest for later.

No such luck. I finished the bag.

Even though B's stand is in the middle of my market route, it's now my first stop so I can have mini-donuts with my coffee. They have taken over and I can no longer fight. I'm delightfully, joyfully ruined. (B's Mini-Donuts; 1 dozen, $4; Third Street north of Court Avenue at Saturday morning's Downtown Farmers Market)

STEPHEN EXCEL of Des Moines is a freelance food editor, writer, producer and recipe developer. He is contributing food editor for Traditional Home and a former food editor for Better Homes & Gardens. His work has appeared in dsm as well as Fresh Home, Cooking Club of America and Country Home.

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