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Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Frank Flashback: Soup Season

I originally posted this in early 2012. With the cold and snow moving into our area, this weekend, my mind is going straight to soups, stews, braises, and the like. So, I will share this great recipe for you to give a try!

When the weather turns cold, one comfort food really comes to my mind: SOUP!

Growing up, my mother made a potato soup that I have never been able to replicate, or find a recipe that comes out like hers did. It had a thin, milky base… actual CHUNKS of potatoes (not those mashed up, thick soups)… bits of crunchy white onions… a raft of butter floating across the surface… a nice seasoning of black pepper. I used to practically sop all the broth out of the soup with saltines. (This is probably when my “one sleeve per can of soup” saltine habit developed!) There is just something about that soup memory…

When we got into a cold spell in December, I came across a soup recipe online that sounded very interesting. It came out absolutely fantastic! I will reprint it below for anyone interested. It had some really deep, complex flavors that just meshed so well together, and provided just the thing we needed for a cold December evening. I’ve been ready to delve into some more soups, but it got a bit warmer out, to which we’ve become accustomed in Missouri. However, this week it has gotten frigid, again; and I felt it would be a good time to approach the soup subject with you.

So, tell me... What are some of your favorite soups, in the depths of winter? Do you have a family soup recipe that you just have to make every year? Or even, where do you go for a great bowl of soup?

I’ll be looking forward to your comments and feedback! 

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Note: This is a recipe that was submitted by a user named Mary P. on and can be found here. This is not my recipe, and I do not take credit for creating it. 

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 C. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 C. beef broth
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. red wine
4 large tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped
1 C. thinly sliced carrots
1/2 Tblsp. packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1½ C. sliced zucchini
8 oz. fresh tortellini pasta
3 Tblsp. chopped fresh parsley

1.    In a 5 quart Dutch oven, brown the sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

2.     Sauté onions and garlic in drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

3.     Skim fat from the soup. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top of each serving. 

Notes from my personalized preparation of the soup

1.  You can use hot Italian sausage in place of the sweet version, if you desire. 

2.   I actually used dried basil, instead of the fresh. I used approximately the same amount, although you would normally use a 1 to 3 ratio when replacing dried herbs for fresh. (That is, for example, if you need 3 Tblsp. of fresh, you would use 1 Tblsp. of dried.)

3.   Instead of whole tomatoes, I used whole canned tomatoes, and scraped out the seeds. If you haven't notice in recent years, the tomatoes you purchase "fresh" at the store are horrible excuses for a true tomato. 

4.  I actually added the carrots while the onions and garlic sautéed, to add a little caramelization to them. I won't get into all the science and intricacies about caramelization (I'll save that lesson for another post, at a later time.), but anytime you put a little caramelization, or browning, on a food, it adds a richer, nutty, more complex flavor. It helps add a "pop" or pizzazz to your dish. 

5.  I topped each bowl of soup with some Parmesan-Reggiano ran over my Microplane grater, and served with a nice crusty piece of French bread. ( I split the loaf and put it under the broiler in the oven, until it had a nice crusty surface.) A nice glass of red wine compliments the layers of flavor from this soup very well. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cooking With Carol and Webb City Farmers Market: Pumpkin Dip

It's that time of year, again! Harvest parties, Thanksgiving dinners, and various other gatherings. You might be invited to several of these gatherings.You may be at a loss for time, and/or ideas. An old standby that I like to make that is inexpensive, fast and easy to prepare, and is always popular with guests and friends. I'm talking about a pumpkin dip. 

With the winter market hours at the Webb City Farmers Market in full swing, market manager Eileen Nichols asked me if I would be interested in demonstration some fall or winter recipes. I thought the pumpkin dip would be the perfect recipe. I will be at the market, this Saturday, November 8 from 9am to 12pm. 

I also had the pleasure of joining Carol Parker on "Cooking With Carol", today, on Living Well on KSN16. Here is the segment:

This is a very basic recipe, and is great served alongside gingersnaps and graham crackers. Be sure to have the cream cheese softened, to facilitate a smoother, creamier consistency.

Pumpkin Dip
8oz. cream cheese, softened
2 C. powdered sugar
15oz. can solid pack pumpkin (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix)
1 Tblsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tblsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. frozen orange juice concentrate

1.  In a medium bowl, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar together, until smooth. 

2.  Gradually add the pumpkin. 

3.  Stir in the cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and orange juice concentrate, until smooth and well      incorporated. 

4.  Place into serving vessel and chill before serving, at least one hour. 

5.  Serve with graham crackers, gingersnaps, and/or any other item you would prefer. 

Makes approximately 4 Cups of dip.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Frank Quickie: Pecan Cheesecake Squares

Pecan Cheesecake Squares


Shortbread Layer:

1½  C all-purpose flour

¾ C firmly packed light brown sugar

½  C butter, softened

½ C finely chopped pecans

Cheesecake Layer:

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

½ C sugar

½ C milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

Pecan Pie Layer:

¾ C firmly packed brown sugar

½ C light corn syrup

1/3 C butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp vanilla extract

1½ C pecans


1.      Preheat oven to 350°F.

2.      For the shortbread layer: In a medium bowl, combine flour and ¾ cup brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in ½ cup pecans. Press mixture evenly into bottom of a greased 9”x13" baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven, and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

3.      For the cheesecake layer: Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a paddle attachment, and beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugar. Add milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla, and beat until combined. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cooled shortbread layer. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

      4.   For the pecan pie layer: In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ¾ cup brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Gently stir in the eggs, salt, and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla extract. Stir in 1½ cups pecans. Pour pecan mixture over cooled cheesecake layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center is set and pecan pie layer is a rich brown color.

I prefer serving this dessert chilled, and cut into squares or triangles.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Webb City Farmers Market Demo: Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

I had the pleasure, today, of doing another cooking demonstration at the Webb City Farmers Market. With the fall produce in full swing, I chose the often misunderstood spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is quite unique in that the inner fibers can be scraped from the roasted halves and resemble thin spaghetti. I wanted to find a preparation that went beyond the typical spaghetti substitute. 

Recently, during a charity dinner demonstration for the Joplin Area Catholic Schools, I prepared a Mediterranean spaghetti squash course. The garlic and onion add a mild sweetness, while the feta and Kalamata olives layer a subtle tartness and brine character to the dish. The tomatoes and basil add freshness and round out the recipe. 

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 C tomatoes, diced or chopped
3 Tblsp Kalamata or black olives, sliced
3/4 C feta cheese, crumbled
2 Tblsp fresh basil, chiffonade

1.  Slice squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds. NOTE: You can also roast    
     the seeds like pumpkin seeds, and eat as a snack or garnish the dish.

2.  Place the squash, sliced side down, on a baking sheet or baking dish and roast at 400*F     
     for 35-45 minutes, or until you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork.

3.  Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in about 2 Tblsp of the olive oil over medium-high    
     heat, until translucent. 

4.   Add the tomatoes and heat through. 

5.  When the squash comes out of the oven, set aside to cool slightly.

6.  Using a fork, scrape the strands of flesh from the squash halves. 

7.  Place the "spaghetti" in a serving dish and toss with the onion, garlic, tomato mixture, olives,      feta, and basil. If necessary, or desired, toss with a little drizzle of olive oil. 

8.  Serve as a side dish or pasta course. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Niche Filled: The Bruncheonette!

With the current food movement in Joplin, focusing on eclectic food, from locally sourced products, there is a niche that had not been filled: breakfast and brunch. That void has been filled in a fantastic way! 

Sean and Chasity Flanagan have opened one of the newest, and most unique eateries in Joplin, Missouri. From the first flick of the Open sign on October 23, 2013, The Bruncheonette has served a creative and exciting interpretation of the brunch menu. Their regular and daily features have included such things as a truffle Benedict, Monte Cristo with foie gras and plum compote, Champagne Sabayon, syrups made with local beers, and even a classic Mornay sauce with a oldies beer twist with Hamm's. Everyday menu staples are unique as well, with such dishes as Poutine, Nutella Crepes, carrot fries, an assortment of delicious Benedicts (Bennies), and their famous biscuits and gravy, with a chorizo and bacon gravy. And with all that, you can even get a brunch cocktail or a local beer! The Flanagans and staff source a vast array of local produce, meat, and other products from the Webb City Farmers Market. You can often spot Sean on a Tuesday evening or Friday morning at the Market, as he slips away from the kitchen long enough to gather his bounty for the daily specials. It's obvious to see why The Bruncheonette has become one of the hottest spots in Joplin!

Some of The Bruncheonette's Daily Features, including a couple of my favorites:
Truffle Benedict and Foie Gras Monte Cristo with Plum Compote.

With every new restaurant, there is a long story of how it came into being. Let's look back at Sean and Chastity's journey to opening The Bruncheonette. 

Both Flanagans come from the area, Sean growing up in Columbus, Kansas and Joplin with Chastity growing up in Riverton, Kansas and Joplin. The summer after Sean graduated high school, he found himself working pantry in an upscale restaurant in Yellowstone. This was Sean's first real restaurant experience, and still holds fond memories for him. 

Sean's first more permanent position was obtained through his best friend since 8th grade, Schuyler Winn. Schuyler's father owned the very unique Undercliff Bar & Grill in Tipton Ford, Missouri. Sean joined the kitchen crew as "Dish Dog", washing dishes by hand for hours on end bent over a three bin sink. Eventually Sean worked his way up to Kitchen Manager, but burdened with home ownership, needed more money, and quickly. He had to find a better paying job. While Sean worked at Undercliff, he had gained a couple of very vital things: a foundation of kitchen knowledge and experience, and he had worked with and met Chastity. 

Chastity's restaurant tenure, in addition to The Undercliff, includes manager at Woody's Woodfired Pizza, and stints at Instant Karma, Eagle Drive In, and Mohaska Farmhouse. 

Sean found his better job when he joined his parents Mike and Linda, known as the Flanagan Group Realtors, a couple of Joplin's strongest and most successful real estate professionals. Sean found that he was damn good at selling real estate, and continued making great money for five years. 

After a trip to Yellowstone in 2006, Sean and Chastity decided to move there for a new experience before settling down and starting a family. They took off for Idaho with no jobs, and expected that Sean could easily find a real estate sales position. They ended up living near a tiny cafe in Victor, Idaho. In fact, the cafe was approximately half the size of The Bruncheonette. It was the first time Sean had tried Eggs Benedict. Enamored with the small cafe, Sean began hounding the chef for a job. Eventually, he was hired by Chef Matty Lake. Matty Lake spent most of his entire life in Hawaii and California, and was an incredible cook and human being. He possessed the type of personality that just made people gravitate to him. Sean and Matty became great friends. 

When Chef Matty was offered a Sous Chef position at The Southfork Lodge resort owned by part of the Rockefeller family in Swan Valley, Idaho, he brought Sean along. It would prove to be his first extensive fine dining experience and first experience with true French technique in the kitchen. When Matty excelled to Chef, he promoted Sean up along with him to Sous Chef. 

In August 2007, Sean and Chastity welcomed their first baby girl, Marley Kai, into the world, and headed back to Joplin in October with new recipes and a plethora of inspiration. That little cafe and the friendship and experience with Chef Matty would play an enormous role in Sean's career. Sean remained close friends with him, and even feature some of his dishes on The Bruncheonette menu, such as the B.A. Baracus, and Island Stylee. Sadly, Matty Lake passed away from a sudden heart attack this summer. 

Upon the Flanagans' arrival back to the Four States area, Sean worked the 2007-2008 Holiday Season at Wilder's Steak House. Then, moved on to Crabby's Seafood Bar & Grill. In just six months, he worked from Sous Chef up to Chef. After two years at Crabby's, Sean began to burn out. Jason Miller, a fellow Crabby's/Chatters alum, hooked Sean up with a stint at Instant Karma.

Then, Sean accepted a position under Chef Anthony Warrior at Red Oak Steakhouse in Downstream Casino. Working as a Cook 2, Sean made a calculated move in order to gain more experience and knowledge. He had missed out on a lot of the French based technique that he missed out on, by not going through culinary school. He quit the position and basically in turn, demoted himself to a line cook, a position that many people try to work themselves up from. The Red Oak experience proved to be the hardest and most rewarding job he had worked.

With the demotion, Sean became flat broke, and after eight months, he contacted the Pawlus family and accepted the Chef position at Wilder's Steak House. Serving as Chef, Sean had all the freedom in the world and it was the best cooking job of his career. 

With their second girl, Kiera Young, born in 2010, Sean found himself in the same predicament that every professional cook encounters: a family at home, but being wrapped up on nights and weekends in the restaurant. Missing out on dinners with the whole family, bedtime stories, and quality time with his girls, Sean started considering some visions he had for a while. He remembered walks home with his father, after experiencing that small cafe in Victor, where he would have conversations about a small place, with a small staff, serving inspired food. Sean even knew WHERE he wanted his dream cafe... where he got his childhood haircuts, Heath Brothers Barber Shop on North Main in Joplin.

Ever since moving back to the area, Sean and Chastity had been striving for their own place. Sean credits Chastity for her incredible patience over the six or seven years of pay cuts and long, late hours, allowing for all his moves, even if they were down instead of up, to gain the experience and knowledge base to someday make their dream come true.

And it did come true! October 23, 2013, Sean and Chastity with at the time, the only full time employee, their "rock", Schuyler Winn, opened The Bruncheonette at 424 North Main St, in the building that formerly housed Heath Brothers. There wasn't much of a leap of faith in opening The Bruncheonette, according to Sean. It pays about the same as the jobs he has held, but he is happy with that given the area and that it is "keeping the family fed and the bills paid."

Sean explained to me that it was more about getting away from nights than serving brunch. They had always planned on breakfast and lunch service, with perhaps benedicts on the weekends. But as Sean pointed out, he couldn't keep brunch off his mind.

"Somehow, a month or two before we opened, that damned eggs benedict kept coming up in conversation and ideas, and the brunch menu began to unfold."

Obviously, the inspiration behind The Bruncheonette came from the small cafe and Chef Matty Lane in Victor, Idaho. But where does Sean's inspiration come from?

During his time at Wilder's, Sean accumulated a great library of the best cookbooks, novels and other media that helps inspire his creativity. Some comes from learning and practicing technique.

"A lot of times, someone (Schuyler, Chastity, or me) will say something stupid, and I can't get it out of my head. So I just have to try it. Sometimes, it works! Peanut butter creme fraiche, for instance. We just have fun; I can't really explain where it comes from."

Today, the full time staff includes Sean & Chastity, Schuyler Winn, Karsten Nicholas, Jordan Jennings, with help from Brandi Prudlick. 

Frankly Speaking...

I met Sean last year as a fellow judge at the tomato contest at the Webb City Farmers Market. He was still working as chef of Wilder's, but was working on getting The Bruncheonette ready for business. I kept in touch with Sean, as I am always interested in talking to local chefs that focus on locally sourced product and bring creativity to their menus. Once Sean and Chastity opened up, I was excited about the menu and the unique daily offerings. 

I have never been disappointed in anything I have ordered. He brings in some ingredients that no one in Joplin is even trying to utilize, and then, uses them in unorthodox preparations to make a dish magical. I mean, Sean actually put a thick, rich slab of foie gras right onto a Monte Cristo. It was amazing how it melted right into the Gruyere and ham. Or the truffle benedict... using a gentle hand in adding enough of the prized truffle to the dish to make it discernible, but not overpower the dish. 

Sean, Chastity and the entire staff are all extremely friendly and helpful. Every time I have been in, either Sean and/or Chastity will come around to see how everyone is enjoying their meals. 

A couple of aspects might cause some to balk at only a quick glance: prices and size/busyness of the restaurant. As far as prices go, yes, they aren't dollar menu at McCorporate. But you also aren't getting crap food. The prices are actually extremely reasonable for the quality and portions of food you receive. When you eat at The Bruncheonette, you know that part of that money is going out to local farmers and food producers that Sean purchases from. And you know those ingredients are raised responsibly, sustainably, and with great care. There's a LOT of pride in those ingredients, and in the food Sean and Crew put out, especially given how incredibly generous and humble the Flanagans are. 

As far as how busy The Bruncheonette can be... The place is small. The place is generally packed during prime brunch hours. You can't sit down, first; you must go to the counter to order before selecting a table. Do you know why? No matter how busy it has been, I have never had to stand and wait for a table after ordering my food; the system works, and it works well. Somehow, the Flanagans have figured out the art of keeping the seating process flowing well, and it is very successful for The Bruncheonette. So, if you see a trail of cars parked along Main Street, do not fear going inside and still getting seated. 

I highly recommend that everyone give The Bruncheonette a try. I have no problem when I say I truly believe they are the hottest restaurant in Joplin, Missouri, right now! 

Give them a try! 

The Bruncheonette is open at 424 North Main Street, Wednesday through Friday from 6:30am - 2:00pm, Saturday from 9:00am - 2:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am - 2:00pm, or as supplies and cooks wits last! In addition to the menu, they offer wrapped and ready-to-go burritos for anyone needing to grab breakfast quickly on their way to work. Their number is (417) 781-3447.

They have a Facebook page here. Click on over, and give them a Like. Whether on Facebook or when you go in to try them out, be sure to let them know you read about them on Frank About Food. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Frank About...Cherry Tomato Bacon Jam with Carol Parker and at the Webb City Farmers Market

I was fortunate enough to be Carol Parker's guest, again, on her "Cooking With Carol" segment on Living Well on KSN 16, Tuesday afternoon. It was a little preview of what I will be doing Saturday at the Webb City Farmers Market. 

At the moment, tomatoes are ruling the market tables! I have been eyeing some gorgeous, dark red cherry tomatoes, recently. I wanted to do something that would incorporate them and really take them on a different journey. I decided to make a cherry tomato bacon jam. This can be used sooooo many different ways: a sandwich condiment, mixed with cream cheese to make a dip, or even as I did, serve over a crostini, smeared with a nice chevre. And since Terrell Creek Farm just took home their second consecutive Best Overall Dairy product at the Missouri State Fair, last week, it was a no brainer that I should work that in. Add in Redings Mill Bread Co. baguette and you have a locally sourced appetizer that is perfect in every way! 

Cherry Tomato Bacon Jam

1 lb bacon
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 lb cherry tomatoes
2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1 Tblsp apple cider vinegar

1.  Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain, reserving the bacon drippings in        the pan. When cool, crumble the bacon. 

2.  Add 2-3 Tblsp of the bacon drippings to a heavy bottomed pan, such as an enameled Dutch      oven. Heat the pan to medium, and cook the onion and garlic until onion is translucent,     
     about 6-8 minutes. 

3.  Add the crumbled bacon and remaining ingredients to the onion & garlic. Increase heat to 
     high, and bring to a gentle boil. Then, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, 
     stirring occasionally. Once thickened, remove from heat. 

4.  Serve warm or chilled. Use as any condiment or topping. I recommend toasting some                  crostini, smear with a spot of goat cheese, and top with the jam! The jam should last for 
     about week or two in the refrigerator, or 2-3 months in the freezer. 

Frank's Notes:
1.  You can use any type of tomato for this recipe. I highly recommend nice, dark, ripe cherry or        Roma tomatoes. You can also use a mixture of tomatoes.
2.  You could caramelize the onions over medium low heat for approximately 30-45 minutes. If         you go the caramelization route, you may omit most of the sugar from the recipe. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Frank About... "Right to Farm"

Firstly, I will say that I do NOT "get" politics. I don't do well playing the politics game at work, with acquaintances, nor understanding the politics of society. Secondly, I don't ever discuss politics; I was taught early in life not to discuss politics or religion in most situations. Any political leanings I possess, I typically just keep to myself. 

However, as a blogger, cook, and eater that appreciates locally produced food products, it would be remiss of me not to speak about the proposed "Right to Farm" Missouri Amendment 1, that Missouri citizens will be voting on, this Tuesday, August 5. 

I honestly have not read much detail about this amendment. What I do know of it, involves opening doors for foreign and corporate interests in Missouri farms. Everything about this amendment is suspect; it does not seem to aid any small, independent family farmers. 

Most importantly, how do I know that I should vote against this amendment? 

The very people I trust to feed my family, the people that I go to at least once a week to purchase the food that I prepare, knowing it was raised without chemicals, without genetic modification, in a humane, environmentally responsible manner... the local farmers in my area... all agree that this amendment is wrong, and should be defeated. If I trust them with my family's well-being, why would I not listen to them? 

If you read this blog regularly, I will assume you take a great interest in the food you consume. And I will assume you are concerned about where your food comes from, and how it is produced. 

I will be voting NO on Tuesday, will you join me in protecting local, independent farming in Missouri?