Coffee Break

I love a good cup of Joe. There is something to be said for drinking a big cup of coffee, black, hot, bitter and wonderful. The little pep I get from the caffeine is a welcome friend first thing in the morning and close companion during mid-day.

I’ve always enjoyed coffee and over the years I’ve tried them all: black, with cream, with cream and sugar, cappuccino, latte, Americano, caramel macchiato, low foam, no foam, and whipped cream.

A macchiato, slow-poured through steamed milk doesn’t need caramel to make it special.

I’ve enjoyed coffees from around the world; Hawaii, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, and Jamaica.

I’ve enjoyed every level of quality, from Dunkin’ Donuts to Folgers and Maxwell House, Chock full o’Nuts (you know, that Heavenly coffee) to Mavis Bank Blue Mountain (at a whopping $50 a pound).

Our family can easily put away two pots of coffee a day and after our trip to Italy last year, my interest in a really good espresso and cappuccino sent our coffee bill through the roof.

A failed attempt at art.

My two sons have worked for the coffee shop “that must not be named” for several years. They learned quite a bit about the flavors and roasting of the coffee bean. Our youngest gave us a wonderful gift one evening a few years ago of a “Coffee Tasting”, in which the participants sampled 15 different varieties of coffee, beginning with mild, soft tones and progressing to dark, full-bodied brews. It was an evening we won’t forget because we didn’t sleep for several days after the party as a result of the caffeine rush.

Recently our sons both started working for an amazing little coffee and confectionery in Fishers aptly called The Quirky Feather. This new gig has not reduced their passion for coffee. In fact, they’ve found that this local shop has made it possible to expand their creativity in the coffee world. They can make their own concoctions and offer them to the guests without running into problems with a corporate expectation and rigid menus.

An absolutely perfect head of foam, a dash of cinnamon and raw sugar cap off this cup of love.

My father-in-law didn’t help our curb our family’s addiction when he decided to start roasting his own coffee beans. I had the privilege of watching him one day as he cooked up a batch. This man has taken the term hobby to a whole new level! In a modified gas grill, Don puts green coffee beans into a rotisserie canister. Carefully watching a temperature gauge and listening for the tell-tale crackle of the beans, he perfectly times the roast to ensure the perfect cup of coffee. Pouring the beans into a specially crafted colander fitted onto a blower, the chaff is parted from the now-dark beans. Taken into the house while still hot, ground and brewed, this was perhaps the best coffee I’ve tasted…in my lifetime…ever.

No matter how you brew it up, there is just something special about that juice.

Be Brave & Eat (or Drink) Well!





Cooking 101

Jonathan provides information about our family’s philosophy concerning food.

I love to cook and people love to eat: It is a match made in heaven. But teaching others how to cook raises the power of food to a higher level. So we were thrilled when we were recently invited to teach our first cooking class. I can report with all modesty that it was a great success.

A group of north Indy women meets on a regular basis to share stories, laughter, and learning. Earlier this year they asked if I would come and show them a little bit about cooking. They didn’t have to twist my arm. On a cold Friday morning in March, a dozen women gathered and my oldest son and I walked them through a few easy, and absolutely wonderful appetizers.

We started with a simple favorite; Bacon-Wrapped Dates. For those who were squeamish, holding raw bacon was a barrier, but the once cooked, it was one of the favorites among the group.

Little soldiers, ready for the oven.

Lay out the dates on a cooking tray with an edge to prevent the bacon fat from running off into the stove. Cook for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Pull them out of the oven half-way through the bake to ensure both sides of the bacon are browned. Do not over-cook. The bacon should just begin to get crispy.We begin by wrapping pitted, whole dates with strips of thick, wood-smoked bacon. Avoid sugar-cured bacon as the dates provide enough sweetness. Wrap the bacon around the date a time or two and cut the strip with a sharp knife. You should be able to wrap two dates with each strip of bacon. Push a toothpick through the bacon and date to secure the meat.

Caution: Do not eat hot! The molten centers will scald your mouth. Seriously, serving these sweet and salty nuggets at room temperature is best for everyone involved.

While the first group finished the dates, a second group began mixing the filling for a Blue-cheese crumble, Chopped Pecans and Cranberry Salad on Endive leaves. This is a simple dish that has a tangy punch.

Mix together the three ingredients in roughly equal measure, giving more space for the Blue Cheese. Cool in the refrigerator as long as over-night. If you are preparing for the same day, you can cool it as you wash and separate the Endive leaves. Endive is not a lettuce but comes from the Chicory Family and has a nice snap and slightly bitter and peppery flavor when you bite into it raw. As you tear the leaves off the stalk working toward the center, you will have progressively smaller leaves. Spread them on a platter, distributing the sizes to give a nice variety to your presentation.

After the mixture has cooled, spoon out small helpings into the Endive leaves and drizzle very little but high quality Balsamic or Modena Vinegar on top.  Serve as soon as possible. These are a crisp and cold appetizer that is sharp to the tongue and very satisfying.

Cutting the bread and preparing for our final appetizer of the day.

Our final appetizer was an experiment. When we announced this, it threw off the women in the group. They came expecting exact measurements and step-by-step guidance through a meal. But my son and I don’t cook that way. We aren’t baking a cake, we are creating a dish. The act of creation is part experience and part experiment. In truth, we were really making a type of tapenade, but on the fly and without any directions. We had the ingredients, an idea and that was all.

Building a masterpiece, the assembly line is up and running at full steam.

We first asked them to cut French bread on a bevel, lay each slice out on cookie sheets and drizzle with high-grade olive oil. We toasted the slices in a 350-degree oven until just brown. While some of the group completed this task, others were slicing cherry tomatoes in half, chopping green and black olives, crushing garlic, and stirring together in a large bowl and adding a touch of olive oil. We added freshly ground pepper and set aside. A few of the women carefully sliced fresh mozzarella.  A couple others sliced fresh basil. Another group was separating prosciutto.

Once the bread was finished, we set up an assembly line. First, a single slice of prosciutto was placed on the toast, followed by a thin slice of mozzarella. This was covered with a spoonful of the olive and tomato mixture and a few slices of basil. The final dish was beautiful and it was fun to see how an experiment could taste so good.

Our first cooking class was a great success.

While the class was fun and the women enjoyed both the process and the end product, the best part of the day was working with my son to teach the class. We’d never done anything like that before and it flowed easily and was enjoyable for us both. Our give and take made the time go quickly and provided a young, fresh face for the women to enjoy. It was a fun experience and we would do it again.

We agreed that, given more time and more than one oven, we could easily teach the group how to do a more complex meal, including something as difficult and time-consuming as Boeuf bourguignon or a Herb-roasted Chicken.

We are certainly up for the challenge!

Be Brave & Eat Well!