Friday, March 30, 2007

Cafe Descartes Oatmeal Latte

Earlier today I was working on initial drafts of a logo for a cafe. While doing some online research, I came across the recipe for the Cafe Descartes Oatmeal Latte. There was a Cafe Descartes just up the street from the Lincoln Square Chopping Block, and I would often stop in for an Oatmeal Latte on my way in to assist a morning cooking class. It's served in a tall cup with a spoon, so you basically drink your coffee and then eat the oatmeal and dried fruit. It's a great concept—coffee and breakfast all in one! It tastes great as well, and I love the texture that the oatmeal adds to the coffee.

If you live in the area, I recommend stopping in at a Cafe Decartes near you and trying one for yourself. If not, try out the recipe below. You could substitute strong coffee or add espresso powder to the milk if you don't have an espresso maker, and just scald the milk by heating it until it bubbles around the edges. I felt the collective cringe of coffee geeks everywhere as I wrote that, but really, I think it would work out okay.

If you're a purist, you can learn all about making espresso drinks at home on the CoffeeGeek website. From what I understand (and I would say that my understanding is limited) the easiest and least expensive way to accomplish this is to use a Bialetti Moka Express.

Cafe Descartes Oatmeal Latte

8 oz Oatmeal, uncooked
2 Tbsp. Golden Raisins
2 Tbsp. Chopped Walnuts
2 Tbsp. Slivered Almonds
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 Shot of Freshly-Roasted Cafe Descartes Espresso
1 tsp. Honey
1 Tbsp. Hazelnut or Vanilla Syrup (found at specialty shops and some cafes)
8 oz. Skim Milk
2 Tbsp. Fresh Blueberries

Pour 8 ounces of raw oatmeal into a large cup.

Add the dry ingredients to the cup: 2 tablespoons each of golden raisins, chopped walnuts and slivered almonds; and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Pour in a shot of freshly-roasted espresso.

Add 1 tsp. honey and 1 tbsp. of hazelnut or vanilla syrup into the cup.

Froth 8 oz. of skim milk in a stainless steel pitcher, for about 10 seconds.

Add the other ingredients to the milk.

Froth all the ingredients together, about 15 seconds.

Add 2 Tbsp. of fresh blueberries to top it off.

Pour back into the cup and enjoy!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Foodie Tweet of the Day

"Seems like with bananas, you basically have a three-minute window between green and brown. Bananas are always 'becoming.'"—Merlin Man, via Twitter

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How to Buy a Good Knife

When I worked at the Chopping Block, people asked us about knives quite a bit. What knives should you buy? What brand? How do you sharpen them? These questions recently came up on a culinary email list that I'm on, and I thought I'd repost my answer here.

The only real essential is a good Chef's knife. You can accomplish almost any task with that one basic. All of the high-end knives are equally good; you want forged knives, and you want to keep to the around-$100 range, give or take a bit. Size, style and weight are totally personal. I've assisted a lot of Knife Skills classes, and I've seen big burly guys that prefer the lightweight Global 8" Vegetable knife (Global knives were probably the most popular knives in the store that I worked in) and petite women that preferred the heft and weight of a 10" Friedr Dick knife. I really like my 10" Wusthof, but I did develop a fondness for the Global knives after working with them for a while. It's best to buy knives from a store that will let you hold and even test out a few different styles. I like to say that you don't choose your knife—your knife chooses you.

You also want to buy a honing steel. I really like the diamond steels—they're more expensive but they sharpen just a bit and I find that really useful. Some kind of sharpener is also good to have. I like having a stone, but you have to know how to use it properly or you can ruin your knife. There are also a variety of sharpening tools, such as the Global MinoSharp, that are okay. If you don't know how to hone and sharpen your knives, take a class or have someone show you. You should hone your knife every time you use it, and again if you notice the knife getting dull. A sharp knife is much easier and safer to use than a dull one. You should sharpen the knife once you notice that honing isn't doing much anymore.

After that, you want a paring knife for small tasks and a serrated knife for bread. Anything else you buy should be based on what you do most. A boning knife is nice if you like to bone out your own meats. If you carve a lot, buy a carving knife. If you make a lot of sushi, look into a sashimi knife.

You get the picture. Most of the chefs I know own a LOT of knives, but they'll also tell you it's more of a collector's impulse than a necessity.

I also highly recommend that you take a knife skills class to learn how to use your knife properly. If you're in the Chicago area, the Chopping Block offers some great knife skills classes. If not, most areas these days have cooking schools that cater to the home chef and offer some kind of knife skills class. You will, however, need to practice after the class or it won't do you any good!

Recommended reading: The Professional Chef's Knife Kit by the Culinary Institute of America.