Friday, August 28, 2009

Flash Fried Shrimp with Penne, a White Wine Reduction with Thyme, Rosemary and Parmesan.

Here's a quick recipe from tonight's (8/28/09) dinner.  Thought you might enjoy it. We sure did.

1 lb 16-20 ct raw shrimp

some fresh ground pepper

1 box Shore Lunch Breading Mix

1 stick butter (don't worry, you don't use the whole thing)

1 box penne pasta

1 red onion

3 inches of rosemary

4 inches of fresh thyme

3 spoonfuls pasta sauce

grated parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cup chablis or other white wine

Thaw, pat dry and place shrimp in large plastic bag.

Add 3 spoonfuls Shore Lunch Breading mix, a little pepper and shake until shrimp are lightly covered.

Melt 1" butter in large pan on high.  Add shrimp and fry on one side until just red, then flip each one and cook until done, about 2 minutes.  Don't over cook.  Set aside

Cook 1 box penne pasta, set aside.

In large frying pan, melt 1" butter then add 2 handfuls chopped red onion.  Cook for 2 minutes stirring.  Add 1 1/2  cup Chablis or other white wine.  Cook on high for 3-4 minutes stirring often.  Add 3 " rosemary peeling the leaves off the branches.  Do the same for 4" of Thyme.  Add 2 large spoonfuls regular pasta sauce. Simmer on medium until relatively thick.

Place pasta in bowls, spoon a small amount of sauce over  noodles and stir until noodles are coated, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and top with cooked shrimp.  Serve hot.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

This Year's Food At the Minnesota State Fair, a review, a perspective, what to get.

Alas, the bell tolls for another summer.  I don't care how warm September can be, or that the autumnal equinox is on the 20th, once the fireworks finish on the last day of the Minnesota State Fair, the summer is over.

The fun part of these final measures of warmth is that the Fair offers us some of the most interesting and most comforting food of the year.  Interesting because there are combinations that we would normally never eat, and comforting because so much of the Fair is based around tradition. I was able to go this first day and try out some of our favorites along with some new entries in the company of a celebrity cookbook author. Our goal was to decipher whether the Fair's food was actually good or just something we get every year because it comforts us to know it's still there. I did most of the eating, as is my wont, and my friend provided the perspective.

So here are our results with a little letter grade to coincide with the start of school.

Apple Cider Freezies, $1 Horticulture Building. Grade A

Still the best value and one of the healthiest snacks one can get.

Fresh French Fries, $4.75 for a small, across from the Dairy Building - Grade A

As we approached the French Fry Stand, my friend asked if the fries here were really good or was this just one of those traditional things Minnesotans eat every year.  After the very first fry, we both agreed, tradition has nothing to do with it, these fries are good. There's a very fresh flavor to these chips as the English would call them.  I had mine with malt vinegar and my friend dipped hers in ketchup. If your arteries can take it, make sure to get some of these.

French Fry Covered Hotdogs.  $6 - Blue Moon Cafe. Grade - C

While this has gotten a lot of media attention, it was a big disappointment. The french fries were like a carpet that was wrapped around the dog. It was hard and a little tough to eat. Neither of us took more than a bite nor would we get it again. The theatre seating and the Gilligan's Island reruns were a fun touch though.

Deep Fried Candy Bar. $5 Across from the Republican Building. Grade - A minus

These have been around for quite a while but I had never had one.  But I have to admit while the first bite was only OK, it really grew on me and I wanted to eat more.  We tried the deep fried Snickers bar and there was nothing not to like.  Warm, crunchy, salty and sweet.  Stay away from these, they are really good.

Chocolate Covered Bacon, $5 - Famous Dave's next to Sweet Martha's Cookies.  Grade - B

I tried these last year and was pretty sure I wouldn't get them again.  But as we were doing a tour of the food we felt compelled to give them a second try. I felt they were improved significantly from last year with more salt to balance the sweetness. The chocolate tasted better and was less waxy than 2008's version.  We were getting pretty full or I might have had more. But still nothing worth a return trip. (then again, I said that last year.)

Scotch Egg, $6 - right in front of the Rabbit Building. Grade  A minus


This sausage covered Deep Fried egg is one of our perennial favorites.  With the various sauces like Horseradish and Honey Mustard, there's a lot to like with this pricey but meaty treat.  

Pronto Pup, $4 - Various Locations Grade B+

(no photo available, we ate it too fast)

It was great to have an outsider's take on the Pronto Pup.  My multi year love affair with the Great Minnesota Eat Together has come at the cost of my ability to have perspective on the stick mounted treat's actual taste.  My friend liked it and even mentioned it later in the evening as a good thing. It was the only thing we finished that night. Yummy goodness on a stick. 

The Mouth Trap Cheese Curds. $5, Food Building. Grade A

I'm not the the biggest curd fan, but am open to the fact that people like them.  The Mouth Trap is known as the best place for the yearly treat and this year was no exception.  They were hot, crunchy, salty and good. Even Cookbook Writing Californians like them.

Malts from the Dairy Building. Grade B minus


Going to the fair and not getting a malt from the Dairy Building would be like not going to the fair at all. Or so I thought.  Tonight we got both a pineapple malt and an apple and caramel malt.  My guest thought they were more like sundaes than shakes and were probably more a byproduct of tradition than actual good taste.  I had to agree.  Try the shakes down by the cows.

Deep Fried Pickles filled with Cream Cheese and Ranch Dressing $6 - Food Building - Grade A

I do not like pickles, never have, never will.  But somehow these little sandwiches of goodness, sourness and saltiness have won me over.  They were hot with just the right amount of cream cheese in the middle.  I ate one more than I would have liked but still felt good about myself. These are surprisingly good.

We also checked out the Nachos on a Stick from Axel's but couldn't pull the trigger.  It just seemed like they were trying a little too hard.  The casher had trouble even describing what the dish entailed.  If someone else tries them, let me know and if you have any other favorites, put them in the comments.  

Summer, 9 days left, and ticking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stretching Boundaries Beyond What They Can Bear, or How To Grill Tofu.

I just did something I never thought I would. 

Tonight I grilled tofu.  Let me explain.

Earlier today I did a cooking segment on a local TV program where I made Peanut Butter Beef, an Asiany marinade that is one of my favorites.  A relatively large debate started on my Facebook page as to whether this would be good on tofu and whether tofu is even fit for human consumption.  OK, that last part came from me, but it was a lively discussion.

I told the debatees, lets all get together and do a taste test, I'll marinate both the beef and the tofu, we'll grill them up and give them a try. This is a big step for me.  I am a texture guy and soy bean paste doesn't seem like a fit for me.

One of the first hurdles was finding the tofu in the store.  I had to ask 3 people.  (it's in the produce section.)

First I pressed it for 20 minutes to get extra moisture out. Then I put it in the marinade. (Go to and see the Peanut Butter Beef recipe)

put it on skewers

and grilled it up

here's the beef, similarly marinated and grilled.

Here's the tofu in a rice bowl I'm working on.

I'm still not sure about it. It wasn't terrible but wasn't something I would make again unless I had to. I'll admit, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  

I don't think that's the ringing endorsement the Tofu Lobby is looking for but it's the best I can do.

Cook well,  it's worth it.

Rob Barrett

Cooking For Dads

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dinner and a Rub

If you've ever wondered what dinner is like at our crazy house, here's a little glimpse.  Not every meal is like this but way too many are.  

Tonight I'm working on a coffee/cocoa rub for pork so I made 1 pork chop with a rub from Great Lakes Tea Company (a great and known entity) and 1 pork chop with my own rub. Tonight is my first go at it.

Rob's Coffee and Cocoa Rub
2 spoonfuls freshly ground coffee
2 spoonfuls unsweetened cocoa
2 sp. brown sugar
1 sp. salt
1 sp. minced onion flakes
1/2 sp red pepper

I rubbed it on the pork and also some ribeye.  

I also am working on a new citrus marinade for shrimp;

the juice of one orange
the juice of half a lime
2 sp canola oil
1 sp sugar
1/2 sp salt
a little black pepper 
and a couple shakes of red pepper.

I marinaded a pound of 16-20 ct shrimp and then grilled them up.  Ellie cut up some peppers, I made some rice and we were ready to go.

We invited over some friends, as there was a lot of food, and I got feedback from everyone. The rubs got good ratings as well as the shrimp.  I need to make some adjustments but it's a good start.

a little bit of everything.

So that's how we roll.  If you've ever around during meal time, be sure to call, there may be testings we could use your help with.

Rob Barrett
Cooking for Dads

How To Sear Tuna and Steak on a Hot Rock

I think this one speaks for itself.  Try it it's really fun. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Not To Save Money On A Date Night

We weren't planning on a date night, but my friend Peter lent me his car for a quick trip and I ended up keeping it all day. When you have a Porsche Boxster you have to take advantage of it. Since it had been a long time between date nights for us (almost 4 days!) I went to the grocery store to buy a quick meal. Then we piled in to the Boxter to cruise the lakes and enjoy one of our favorite picnic spots. The weather was perfect.

But the meal was the most expensive in recent history - $29. You would think a grocery store would be cheaper than a restaurant but not in this case. A loaf of warm French Bread, 2 small salads, a cheese spread, 2 plums, a small desert, and a small sushi roll came to $15 dollar a person. We got out of our happy hour deals almost always in the teens or low

 twenties. Hmmm. 

I will admit the scenery was better than any of the restaurants. I'm just surprised that the grocery store (which will remain anonymous - Byerly's, oops) was so much more expensive.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What Julia taught me.

For my birthday this year, my youngest daughter gave me a handwritten coupon for a movie night with her, her treat - the popcorn too.  So tonight we went to Julie & Julia. She got all dressed up and we had a great time. Apart from the stray F word and the shirtless love scene (she covered her eyes) the movie was great for young audiences.  It was the second time for me and the themes that hit me the first time were even more prevalent the second.

One of the best parts is when Julia Child has not yet found her niche. She decides to take hat making lessons (She likes hats). She takes Bridge lessons (She like Bridge). She has a great look on her face during these scenes where she knows this isn't right, but doesn't know what else to do. I wonder how many of us think we're in our own hat making lessons or bridge lessons. We know what we're doing isn't right but don't know what else to do.  What hats are you making?

The other great part of the movie is in the struggle. Julia struggles to get her book published, being told many times along the way she has no talent for cooking or she'll never be able to teach anyone anything. For 8 years she strives to finish missing deadline after dealine. Eventually she thinks it's for naught when the publisher turns it down. She laments, "Maybe it was just something for me to do." Anyone in that chapter? You're striving but there's no clue as to whether it is going to amount to anything.

I don't know if there's hope in this or not.  Not everyone who strives succeeds.  I guess there's encouragement that for those who do, it didn't come easy either.

cook well,

Rob Barrett

Chocolate Peach

Slice peach just less than half, 
place Dove Dark Chocolate in middle, 
place in oven at 350 for 2-3 minutes until just melting, 
spread around peach, 
place in refrigerator until chocolate hardens,
enjoy and try not to smile.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Langostino Pasta with Carrots and Rosemary

Here's a quick pasta I came up with last night.  It's a creamy sauce that I made with skim milk.  I did it with langostinos and some leftover seared Ahi Tuna but we all agreed it didn't need the tuna.  Try it and let me know what you think. Langostinos are called little lobster tails but I think of them as crawdad meat.  Whatever they are, they taste sweet and are available at your local grocery store or Trader Joe's if you have one.

Cook one box of mostaccioli or other noodle.

Fry up 12 oz. langostinos in olive oil with a little garlic salt., set aside

Melt 1 inch of butter and add one handful of finely chopped onions. Fry over medium heat until onions turn clear, around 5 minutes.  

Add 2 spoonfuls flour and stir until paste is made.

Add 2 cups cold skim milk slowly stirring as you add it.

Stir until it starts to thicken, turn heat to low.

Add 2 carrots chopped.

Add handful parmesan cheese , a little garlic salt, 1 spoonful of finely chopped fresh rosemary, and some freshly ground pepper.

Add langostinos.

Heat on low for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally.

serve over cooked mostaccioli 

For more go to

Cook well,

Rob Barrett

Thursday, August 13, 2009

5 Dates in 5 Nights, or How to Have a Second Honeymoon Week

For 2 weeks this summer my wife and I have had the previously unthinkable priviledge of both kids being at camp at the same time.  In other words - NO KIDS! We've called them honeymoon Week No. 1 and Honeymoon Week No. 2. (I know, original) We planned a fun date every night so the week wouldn't just go by with us watching TMZ and Seinfeld. We've walked around lakes, seen movies, and discovered our new favorite way of eating out.

Happy Hours, early (3-6) and late (10-12).

Usually the price for food is in half and there are drink specials as well.  Not being big drinkers, we've mainly gone for the food, mainly.

If you're in the Twin Cities area, here are some we've gone to and liked.  If you live elsewhere, go to and search for your city.  It's a great site.

Figlios - Uptown Great food and no drink minimum.  We had the pizza and the Mini burgers and they were both great.  $3 for 2 mini burgers and fries, where else can you touch that! The selection was limited though.

Figliio's Mini Burgers and Fries.

McCormick and Schmicks - Edina

No drink specials (the city doesn't allow it) but amazing food specials.  $1.95 for a half pound burger and fries, $2.95 for Catfish Nuggets.  Everything on the menu we wanted. There is a $3.50 drink minimum but it's worth it. This is one of the best ones out there.

Chino Latino

Two words, great but loud.  The food was unique and inexpensive. The room was so loud it was hard to talk, hard but not impossible. Chino makes its own tortilla chips and they are worth the trip. We had one of everything. (stressful day makes for hungry Barretts) The best part was the Empanadas with the Pico - crunchy, spicy and meaty.  Some of the Sushi selctions looked amazing. Overall, really good. Next to McCormick and Schmicks this was my favorite.


The Kung Pao Wings - 9 for $3

Woody's Grill - Plymouth

The service was excellent but the food values weren't as good as some other dates we went on.  For instance, the miniburgers were $4 and didn't come with fries. They have a bottomless glass of wine for $6.95 (we didn't get one) and some amazing buy one get one free deals for an early supper (3-5) or maybe a late lunch,  The food was tasty, just the portions were too small.

Woody's Firecracker Shrimp.

Kincaids - Bloomington

They just cut the prices of a lot of their food in half, you still get the full portion, but the food is a little old. There are some nice things, but the last two times we went the food was disappointing. 

So if you've got a free night, or you've just locked your kids in a closet. go to a local happy hour and eat cheap.

Live well,

Rob Barrett

Monday, August 10, 2009

how To Grill a Pizza, or Summer Fun For Everyone.

It took me a while.  
My wife always wanted me to grill pizzas in the summer.  I resisted. "The tops don't get done and bottom burns" I would complain and want to fire up the old Kitchen Aid stove. 
 Well, I think I've finally figured it out.  Pizza's great on the grill, imagine that, my wife was right. 
What I started doing was creating a tin foil or pie pan cover that would keep the hot air down by the pizza top and melt the cheese.  This way the whole pizza gets done in about 4 minutes, keeps the kitchen cool and makes my wife happy. 
 Of those 3 the last one is the most important.  So enjoy, Summer Pizza on the Grill

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Andrew Zimmern on Food, Life and Getting Kids to Eat.

I recently had the chance to ask Andrew Zimmern, the host of Bizarre Foods (the number one show on the Travel channel), a few questions. On Bizarre Foods Chef Andrew travels the world in search of unique cuisine. And then eats it. (most of the time, see below) Watch his new show Bizarre World coming soon.


When you're faced with a daunting item to eat, is it harder to get past the mental part, the thought of the food or the taste? 

Absolutely the psychological part. The cultural messages in America make eating bats in Samoa quite a challenge. Vampires, Halloween, etc…its tougher than the actual taste or texture to push out of your mind and experience something new.


What health precautions do you take when eating in some of the countries you've been to? Have you ever had to take Cipro or another antibiotic because of something you've eaten? 

Never had to ,which continues to surprise me,  but I always carry Pepto in my overnight bag.


You are in high demand as a chef and a consultant to restaurants and food companies, how has your experience on Bizarre Foods influenced your cooking and meal preparation?

 Its extended my flavor memory bank and exposed me to techniques I was never aware of before. The reason that island style pig and goat roasts are so good is because they pound coconut palm roots and layer them n the rocks to caramelize and infuse flavor into the food. Who knew that? But more importantly I learn the  value of alternative foods on the road. Wallaby and donkey, turtle and cricket, squirrel and reef runners (small fish) are the answers to the questions surrounding how we are going to feed ourselves on this planet moving forward. Eating less pig, chicken, beef in this country also  means easing up on the pressure on the commodity food industry which is killing our citizenry. New foods and lessons learned from old cultures will and save the lives of our children and ourselves.


Is there an example of an ingredient you learned about on the show that you now use?

Motes (swollen dried corn)


Culantro…large leafed cilantro


Ripe plantains

Korean fermented bean paste…the best!


But mostly its technique…Japanese drop lid cooking, pit roasting, Chinese velveting, Chinese steaming, and so on….i was pretty worldly around the house to begin with, and much of the stuff I see and want to eat more of is pretty location specific, but we try to keep the mix varied around our house.


Bizarre Foods is one of the most popular shows on the Travel Channel, was being on TV something you wanted to do or something you fell into?

 Always wanted to do, and it has changed my life.


It took 7 years for you and Colleen Needles to sell the show, did you ever think it just wasn't going to happen?

Everyday. Selling a show is such a rare thing, you just never count on it. I thought it would be an amazing experience to try to sell one, never thinking it actually would fly.


Now that it's popular, who passed on it?

You name it, they told me to look elsewhere, and not just with the Bizarre Foods concept. All the major cable networks took a pass on my other ideas and me as well. But that’s the nature of the beast. I have good relationships, collegial ones with other networks now…of course being “in” the club helps these days.


I saw the episode with the Stinky Tofu, has there been any other times when you couldn't finish the food?

Durian, which I don’t care for.

A strange sausage in Uganda sold on the side of the road, which I am sure could have killed me if I took a second bite.



Of all the places you've eaten, which was your favorite?

Wow…hard question. Lalumanu Beach in Samoa eating fresh tuna, coconut and lime. Baojao Seafood House in Palawan Philipinnes, eating lunch on a restaurant on stilts in the middle of the ocean. Street hawkers in Vietnam,a day in the kitchen at el bulli with Ferran Adria,  Mary’s Laksa in Singapore, Harrods Food Hall, dumpling house crawls in Taipei, the BBQ day in Collanco Chile, motes in Boliva, prowling La Bouqeria, roasted piglet and angulas at Botin in Madrid, the cococnut grub lunch with my Pilchi guide in the Amazon of Ecuador, puffin hunting in Iceland…the list goes on and on…as a food freak the best eating day of my life was one day in Paris, we started out doing behind the scenes at Poilane, went to get a private cooking class from Herve This, lunch at Gagnaire (with Pierre)  and dinner at Rostaing (with the master himself)…pretty good..


You're a respected restaurant critic as well, how would you compare American restaurants with those you've been to in the strange places you've eaten? 

American restaurants take themselves way too seriously. Additionally , in America people in general eat out for many reasons…price, convenience, ambience, glitz factor, show off factor…but around the world, generally speaking, people eat out for the quality of food/service which is what it should be all about. I also love the “dish-specific” restaurants in countries I visit. Motes Magdalena in Quito only serves motes with roast pork in big bowls, tempura restaurants in Tokyo only serve tempura, dumpling houses in Taipei only serve dumplings…I like to eat that way.


Any ideas for keeping the restaurant business alive in these hard financial times? 

Sure, remember that first and foremost its called the hospitality industry for a reason. Many restaurants forget that. Second, don’t dumb your concept down to the point that you lose the essence of what you are doing and ultimately fail to play to your strength. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Most markets are oversaturated with eateries built in the last 5 years. In Minnesota we have more restaurant seats and hotel bedrooms than we have customers. Its very sad.


Any ideas for how to get kids to eat broccoli?

You have to get to kids before the pop culture gets to them. We don’t play games with food at our house, but we did get to our son early with the ” try it all” message. He eats what we eat now. Kids will get it real fast if you draw the line on cooking for the family and not for each individual. That being said most kids don’t eat certain food because their parents keep cooking it poorly, and then serving it 7 days a week which gets boring. We let our son shop and cook with us, which gives him a lot of ownership in the meal. You know the first diners running to the cooking hut when bats are on the menu in small tribal villages are the kids. They don’t have any pejorative cultural messaging about vampirism or Halloween, and they still eat out of necessity. That’s the gist of it for parents today…get to your kids early with positive cultural messages about all foods, and create an atmosphere of necessity (health, wellness, cost), not convenience (chicken nuggets 6 times a week).


What's your favorite meal to make/eat when you're home?

One pot Chinese drunken chicken. It’s a master sauce dish. Brown chicken and dump golden rock sugar, soy, sake, ginger, chiles, star anise etc into the pot and boil it down around the poultry until its all glazed…a phenomenal dish and the recipe is on my web site.


Were you a picky eater, are your kids?



What do you hope kids and parents take away from your show?

Without exception, the biggest surprise of the our show run is the incredible amount of kids who watch and families who watch together…16 year old sis and 12 year old brother can watch this show with their parents, and many do. I am overwhelmed with feedback from parents who tell me that the show has changed their kids eating habits for the better, making them more open minded and really inquisitive about food and other cultures. It’s the ultimate compliment.


What has been your favorite/least favorite episode?

Faves- Mexico, Samoa, ParisUgandaSicily

Least Faves- AlaskaSt PetersburgGulf Coast….they were great shows, audiences loved them,  but we could have done a much better job with our work there.

Best trip….the 3 week spin through East Africa. Wow what a journey, from Ethiopia to Uganda to the Ngorogoro crater in Tanzania. Simply amazing.


What's next for Andrew Zimmern?

If there is a God in heaven, more sleep.



See: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel and

Log onto:

Read: Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine and

 Food Matters covers everything food related.  Go to for more.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Peaches, Chicken And A Little Thyme

We were where I have been many times before, alone, at home (my daughter and I) and no plan for dinner.  Open come the cupboards, the fridge and the scanning begins.  There is some cold grilled chicken, we have mayo, peaches, there are some baby carrots in the bottom drawer. We feel an idea coming on.  Since we're in Pennsylvania we have the delightful and ubiquitous  Martin's Potato Rolls (the best bread product in the world, and I've been a few places) and since we're at my mom's house we have every spice known to man.

We chop the chicken (2 handfuls), the peaches grown in the yard (1 large peach), a handful of finely chopped baby carrots, we add one large spoonful of mayo, salt and pepper.  A quick scan of the spice rack yields crushed thyme and paprika, a half spoonful of each. We stir together.  Rats, no fresh lemons for a spritz. On to the potato rolls with a piece of lettuce. 

A tentative first bite ...

And a new favorite was found - Barrett Chicken and Peach Salad sandwiches. Sweet yet spicy from the paprika, interesting from the thyme and crunchy from the carrots.  

Try it and let me know what you think.

If only we could get Martin's Potato Rolls in Minnesota.  Mr Martin, what do you think?