Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas, 2010

Christmas dinner came out beautifully this year.  It was small, for just Kid Cayenne, myself and a friend.  I roasted my first duck.  I was terrified to do it, but it came out well and I'm over the trepidation hump so I think I can continue to hone the skill.  Other dishes included roasted red and golden beets with arugula and goat cheese, a nice baked mac and cheese and  roasted sweet and spicy pumpkin wedges.  We had milk chocolate and  salted caramel gelatos from La Divina for dessert.  All in all, quite lovely.

Amongst my Christmas gifts this year were these jewels:

  • ad hoc at home - Thomas Keller

  • Around My French Table - Dorie Greenspan

  • How To Cook Everything Vegetarian - Mark Bittman

  • The Art of Simple Food - Alice Waters

  • tart pan

  • madeleine pan

  • kitchen scale

  • a Kitchenaid stand mixer

  • 1 of those beautiful iitalla EgO coffee cups I oohed over earlier this year.  *sigh*

  • Needless to say, I'm thrilled with the prospects.  I've hardly put my cookbook stack down since Christmas morning (and quite a hefty stack it is, since each book feels like it's about 45 pounds a piece, at least!)  I've inaugurated the mixer with a batch of tart dough which is currently chilling in the refrigerator and is destined to become a Meyer lemon tart this evening.

    I'm looking forward to 2011 with great anticipation.  Rather than compile a list of resolutions for the new year, I'm just trying to think of new and interesting things I'd like to try that I haven't yet.  I'll get back to you with some of those.  Hope your holidays were warm and full of love and joy and your new year is brilliant!


    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Hollygrove Market and Farm Home Delivery

    I've been a fan of Hollygrove Market and Farm for some time now.  They are close to my house, have Tuesday afternoon pick up hours in addition to regular Saturday hours and always provide really lovely produce, eggs, milk and more.  Despite the fact that I have often picked up some goodies from Hollygrove Market, it has always been from the Lagniappe tables, never the box itself.

    I'm about to change that.  Because they will bring it to my door.  Yeah I know and yes, I really am that lazy.

    Hollygrove Market and Farm recently announced their Produce Box Home Delivery Program, whereby you can get your nice locally grown fruits and vegetables, yard eggs and even Smith's Creamery milk (which I adore like crazy and deserves an entire post of its own) all delivered to your doorstep on Saturdays.  They will deliver to all neighborhoods within the city limits of New Orleans (excluding New Orleans East) as well as limited service to Metairie.  Boxes must be paid for in advance and there is a $2.00 delivery fee.  Well worth it, I say.

    Initially, the packages were produce box only, produce box with half gallon of milk and produce box with a dozen eggs.  I wanted produce with half dozen eggs and a half gallon of milk, so I emailed asking if that could possibly be an option.  Wonderfully, it became one.  Thanks, Bill!

    I'm excited about spending time on Saturdays to review the box and plan a week's menu accordingly.  And yard eggs for breakfast!

    Does anyone else go to Hollygrove Market?  What have you cooked from their offerings?  Also, anyone have any great recipes for mustard greens?


    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Sickie Soup

    I just concocted a makeshift sickie soup out of 2 cups water boiled with ginger, a bundle of soba noodles, 2 packs of instant miso soup mix, some chopped red onion and sriracha.  It is not my finest hour.  It looks as unappetizing as it tastes, which is just as unappetizing as it sounds, but I am sick and alone and I need a hot soup lunch that will help clear my sinuses and warm my insides.  This is all I could come up with without going to the store.

    What do you eat when you have a cold?


    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Chocolate Whiskey Cake

    There is a food blog I follow, called Blank Palate and whose author has changed locations from Alabama to Spain, that has lovely, interesting recipes that intrigue me.  I enjoy the blog in general quite a bit, but there is one post, in particular, that haunted me for the longest time.  It was a recipe for Chocolate Whiskey Cake and I couldn't get it out of my mind.  I had to have it. 

    I've made it twice now, each time for guests, and the response is always a vigorous "YES!"  Also, depending on the person's caffeine tolerance, it can elicit an occasional "You want me to paint the house now?!?"  Very dark, very dense, decadently chocolate-y but with sweetness tempered (and made more fascinating) by deeper layers of flavor (black pepper, cloves, coffee), it is now one of my favorite cakes.  Make it for people you like very much.

    Dark Chocolate Whiskey Cake

    3/4 cup plus 3 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 1/2 cup strongly brewed good coffee
    1/2 cup whiskey
    12 TB unsalted butter, cut into chunks about 1 inch wide
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    2 cup all purpose flour
    1 1/2 ts baking soda
    3/4 ts salt
    1/4 ts fresh ground black pepper
    1/8 ts ground cloves
    3 eggs
    2 ts vanilla
    1 cup mini chocolate chips

    Preheat your oven to 325° F.  Butter a 9 or 10 inch cake pan (or spring form pan) and then dust the pan with 3 TB cocoa powder, knocking out the excess.

    Heat the coffee, butter, and 1 cup of cocoa powder on low heat until the butter is melted. Whisk occasionally.  Add sugars and whisk slowly until sugars completely dissolve.  Transfer the mixture to a large bowl to cool for a few minutes.

    Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and cloves in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla.  Starting slowly, drizzle eggs into the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk them in to combine.  Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

    Pour the batter into your pan and bake until a wooden pick comes out mostly clean, about 1 hour and 5 minutes.  Mostly cool before eating.

    After a day (should you have any left) keep it stored in the refrigerator, covered in plastic wrap.


    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Swiss Chard and Tomatoes over Soft Polenta

    I've been on a really big polenta kick ever since returning from Venice.  I can't get enough of it.  I've gone so far as to contemplate buying relatively expensive, very high maintenance freshly stone ground polenta from the internets.  I still might.  In the meantime, here is a little recipe that I made using Bob's Red Mill Polenta Corn Grits, available at your friendly neighborhood Whole Foods, and probably lots of other groceries as well.  Bob's are par-boiled, so the cook time is really short compared with true, long cooking polenta that takes an hour or more.  Start cooking your chard and tomatoes about 10-15 minutes into the polenta cooking process.


    3 c water
    1 c polenta
    1 t salt
    2 TB butter or olive oil
    1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

    In a heavy bottomed pot, boil 3 cups of water.  Whisk in the polenta and salt.  Turn down the heat and stir constantly until the polenta is suspended in the water and no longer settles to the bottom of the pot.  Cook for 30 minutes at a bare simmer.  Stir frequently, being careful not to burn yourself if the polenta bubbles pop and splatter.  Add water if the polenta gets too thick.  You want the it to stay soft.

    Stir in butter and Parmesan.  Taste and add more salt if needed. 

    For the Chard and Tomatoes:

    1-2 bunches swiss chard (1 bunch if you are cooking for two, 2 if you are serving 4)
    1 TB extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 ts crumbled red chili pepper flakes
    2 large garlic cloves, sliced finely or minced
    a handful of grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise

    Prepare chard by washing,  rinsing and drying thoroughly.  I dry mine after it's cut (in a salad spinner) but it can also be dried with towels while still in whole leaf form.   Pull or cut the leaves from the center rib.  Chop the ribs into slices and cut the leaves into ribbons, approximately 1 inch wide.

    When your polenta is about half way through the cooking process, start cooking the chard.  In a heavy pan, heat the olive oil until it shimmers over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute until it just begins to be fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute.  Add the chili pepper and quickly stir.  Add chard ribs and saute gently until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add chard leaves and salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chard leaves begin to wilt and become tender.  Add a tablespoon of water if the pan begins to dry out at any point.  Add tomatoes and saute gently until they are warmed through but not breaking down.  Taste for seasoning and salt if desired.  If you have a good finishing salt like Fleur de Sel de Guérande, this is really nice place to use it.

    Serve immediately by placing a large spoonful of soft polenta into a bowl and using the spoon to create a dip in the center.  Top with sauted chard and tomatoes.


    Monday, November 15, 2010

    2010 Po-Boy Preservation Festival

    I looove the Po Boy Fest.  I look forward to it each year, plotting out which po boys I want and never making it to the end of the list before I'm full and need to sit down.  This year was no different, except for one crucial thing. Apparently everyone else in the world decided to love it too, because Oh Mama, was it crowded.  I don't mean, really good festival crowded.  I mean, no room to breathe, let alone walk crowded.  Stuck in one particular human bottleneck, I started thinking rash thoughts about pushing and shoving and screaming, "Get OFF of me!!" just so I could have a tiny bit of space to take a breath.  I know the organizers spent a lot of time and effort in making the flow work better this year.  I think it was more the sheer volume of people.  I wonder how many attended...

    Aaaanyway.  The po boys.  Kid Cayenne and I made it to the far end at Eagle Street so we could get to the Palace Cafe booth where I had the smoked duck po boy with citrus marmalade.

    Kid Cayenne got the BLT po boy with Crystal hot sauce aioli.

    The real highlight of our day though, was at the Blue Frog Chocolates tent, where we bough chocolate dipped Zapps Cajun Crawtaters.  Genius.  Mmmm.
    I would love to do this for gifts at Christmas, but am concerned that they may have a very short shelf life in our humidity.  Do you think the chips part would go soggy within a day or so?  I might call Blue Frog and find out.


    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Needed: Pointers on How To Properly Eat a Boiled Crab

    I am completely inept at eating boiled crab.  I destroyed mine at Kenner Seafood today, and hardly got any of the meat out.  I did it wrong.  I may have also eaten some gills.  I need lessons.  Seriously.  Who'll give me pointers?


    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Orecchiette with Broccoli, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

    This is an easy and lovely dish using one of my favorite pastas, the tiny orecchiette.  Shaped like (and named after) a "small ear", its delicately curved, disc-like shape is perfect for capturing tiny bits of deliciousness in every bite... hence the broccoli.  Cutting the broccoli florets into very small pieces ensures that they will nestle into the hollows in the pasta, along with the pine nuts and grape tomato halves, to delicious effect.

    1/2 lb (8 oz) orecchiette pasta
    boiling water
    2 TB extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 lb (a medium sized) broccoli crown
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 ts crumbled red chili pepper flakes
    a large handful of grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
    2 TB pine nuts
    freshly shredded Parmesan to top
    salt to taste

    Here is how I time things so that they all finish simultaneously.

    Start your pasta boiling water and when it is getting close to boiling (but not really there yet), begin to chop your garlic and broccoli.  Cut the broccoli a bit obsessively (and wastefully, to be honest).  You want only the florets, chopped to their smallest parts, discarding the stems and stalk.  Mince your garlic.

    Add pasta to the boiling, salted water.  Cook for the amount of time dictated by the package (usually about 11 minutes).

    Heat olive oil on medium high heat in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan.  Cook for about 30 seconds and then add the broccoli.  Lightly salt.  Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes.  Let it rest at times, so that you get a bit of caramelization on the broccoli.

    Meanwhile, in a small skillet, lightly toast your pine nuts over medium low heat.  Toss them frequently, since they burn easily.  As soon as you see them begin to get a golden hue (after about 2 minutes or less), add them to the broccoli.

    When broccoli is wilting and beginning to get a glossy, garlicky coating and the pasta only has a minute or two left on it, add the halved tomatoes to the broccoli skillet.  These should only cook for about 2 minutes, long enough to warm through but not really break down.  You want them to retain their shape.

    Drain pasta and add to the broccoli pan.  Mix well.  Salt to taste.  Serve immediately, topped with shaved Parmesan.

    Serves 2 with seconds or 4 with salad and bread.

    * adapted from a recipe in the Italian Easy: Recipes from the London River Cafe Cookbook to have no pancetta but a ton of flavor anyway.


    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Cane River Meat Pies

    I recently had the pleasure of having lunch at Charlie's Seafood in Harahan (what a wonderful meal that was!) and it was there that I discovered Cane River Meat Pies.  Handmade by Janet J. Caldwell, they are served as appetizers but are also available for bulk purchase.  I bought a dozen pies (half meat pies, half seafood pies) to have for lunches. I'm still patting myself on the back for making that decision.  They are so fantastic.

    Packed with care, they are pre-cooked and then frozen.  All it requires to restore them to their former glory is 20 minutes in a 350° oven, turning them a couple of times along the way.  What comes out is a crispy, stunningly delicious Natchitoches meat pie.  I've been eating them for lunch with a little salad tossed with the best Caesar dressing I know how to make.  Serve the meat pies with a smear of Creole mustard and hot pepper jelly and you elevate it to the sublime. 

    For your own take-home meat pies, go down to Charlie's or email Mrs. Caldwell (who is just about as sweet as she can be, by the way).  You can buy a dozen for $40 or six for $20.  Perfect for parties and holiday gifts too, I'd bet.  Who wouldn't want a box of meat pies for Christmas??

    Cane River Meat Pies
    at Charlie's Seafood
    8311 Jefferson Hwy
    Harahan, LA 70123
    (504) 737-3700 or
    (504) 296-1061


    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Last Call for SnoBall

    Saturday, October 30, is the last day of the 2011 Hansen's SnoBliz season.  The Halloween menu is fab.  Here is my (half-eaten) Corpse Bride: wedding cake snowball with strawberry sauce, whipped cream and posdered milk.  Ashley Hansen says that while the powdered milk is great for the Halloween Ick factor, it's also a traditional snowball topping in Costa Rica.  It took a bit of getting used to (a bite or two) but it's actually quite nice.  Almost makes you feel like you are eating dry cake batter mix from the box.  Strange but but not at all awful.

    If I can get back by Saturday, I'm going to have the Murder On The Orient Express (cream of coffee with cardamom), now that the temperature is dropping.  Even though it's snow, I still think of cream of coffee as a cool weather flavor.  Can't help it.


    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Fruits Of The Sea: Eating In Venice

    I've been telling myself that I need to collect my thoughts before writing about the food in Venice, but now I'm running the risk that it will slip away so I had better begin.  We spent less than 48 hours in the city, getting to enjoy two dinners, two breakfasts and only one real lunch.  Oh, and two gelatos.  One would think that it would be easy enough to summarize such a short experience but not so.  Venice.  My God, it was stunning.  All of my senses were fully expanded and indulged.  I wanted to express it all here, but I realize now that I'll be lucky if I can just give you flash impressions.  This will be the first of several.

    So!  Did you know that they have eensy, beensy shrimps there?  All (most?) of the seafood in Venice is small.  The lagoons surrounding Venice are teeming with seafood but it grows small, delicate and is intensely sweet.   One of the first things I was given to eat (as a little appetizer to an excellent dinner at Antiche Carampane) was a paper cone filled with tiny, fried shrimps (schie) with the shells still on.  Tiny as in only an inch or so long.  Shells were so delicate as to crunch ever so lightly along with the perfectly fried batter.  We ate them with our fingers, licking the salt away, while drinking prosecco and waiting on our meal to arrive.  We sat in a narrow alley, lined by centuries-old stone and brick buildings, several stories tall. The moon was nearly full and high in the sky.  Dinner took hours, despite the fact that we could only fit in three courses. Here, I had my first fritto misto, a platter of the freshest possible selection of seafoods of the day, along with small bits of vegetable like slivered eggplant, dipped in a very light batter and fried quickly and beautifully.  Delivered piping hot to the table, it was impossibly delicious.  More tiny shrimps, bits of squid and minuscule octopus, sardines, scallop, myriad bites of fishes and so much more.  Each was perfectly fresh, perfectly tender crisp, exquisite.  I think it's my new favorite thing to eat.  Pity that I'll maybe get to eat it only a few more times in my life unless I win the lotto and run away to Venice forevvvaaaaah.  

    Also, mixed Venetian appetizers: stewed shrimp on polenta, mackerel in tomato sauce on polenta (remind me to tell you that the polenta in Venice is fine, like silk, and that I need to find better polenta here in the States because now, I am spoiled) and mantis shrimps.  Mantis shrimps are beautiful by the way.  I have no photos of them cooked but here are some from the fish market.

    Another gorgeous dish was tagliolini with a delicate spider crab sauce.  All of this accompanied by a lovely bottle of Tocai.  I drank too much of it and can't even remember the dessert but I'm certain we had them and that they were excellent.

    It's no wonder that the seafood is so divine in Venice.  Fishing and fish selling is taken very seriously and the fish markets are a wonderland.  We had time to visit the Rialto Fish Market on our last morning and I wandered the stalls of gorgeous (cheap!) fruits of the sea, marveling over them like some girls ogle diamonds.  I think I took more photos of raw fish than anything else.
    Is it not beautiful?


    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Eat, Eat!

    Various lovely things eaten in the last few days in Berlin:

    * Assorted Turkish appetizers
    * Japanese noodle soup bowl with pork and dumplings and ginger tea
    * Korean pancake with seafood and vegetables
    * Sausages with pommes (french fries)
    * Pasta with eggplant and olives at an Italian cafe
    * Picnic out of the trunk of a car after mushroom picking in the woods: buttered rolls, liverwurst, goat cheese, salami, herb marinated black olives, sliced honeydew melon and lemonade.
    * Parasol mushroom and potato pie with sausage.
    * Sauteed mushrooms with duck breast and roasted potatoes
    * Homemade elderberry pancakes (eierkuchen)
    * Organic pistachio ice cream (eis)
    * Assorted coffees, teas and small pastries (waffel, pear tart, chocolate dome, etc).

    Fortunately, I am walking more than enough to make up for the calorie intake. 

    Tomorrow, we go to Venice.  The pleasures that await!


    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Mushroom Teaser

    I picked these with my very own hands this morning in the German woods.  Do you know what kind they are?


    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    My First Turkish Food

    My Berlin dining companion is vehemently, vehemently opposed to photographing food in restaurants.  Out of respect for her wishes, I will probably not get many opportunities to take pictures of what I'm eating.  I did get these two clandestine shots of our Turkish lunch today.  She was mortified (the second is blurry because I had to quick, STOPITNOW!).  Ah well...

    I have never eaten Turkish food before so it was quite a treat.  We shared several appetizers which included a tomato and cucumber salad, a fantastic humus (liberally sprinkled with sesame seeds and a splash of chili oil), lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce and fried eggplant and peppers.  I wish I had paid better attention to what the bread was called.  It was delicious.


    Monday, September 13, 2010

    In Which Your Heroine Goes on a Grand Adventure

    Tomorrow morning, I am leaving for a trip to Berlin, Germany and will also be spending a couple of days in Venice, Italy.  It is impossible for me to adequately express how excited I am to be going to Venice.  Ever since I learned we'd be able to go, my insides won't stop bouncing. Venice!  I am THRILLED.  Beyond thrilled.  There may not be any other place on the planet that I have more longed to see.  I plan to drink in the texture, the shade and light, the water reflections, the air and the smell and bridges and stones and churches and espressos and wine and art like it's the only thing keeping me alive, then store it up in my mind like a camel stores water.  I plan to swallow it alive.  Well, as much as can be done in 2 days.

    Anyone have any recommendations for goodies I should be on the look out for to bring home?  Italian chocolates?  German jams?

    I'll do my best to report back on our culinary adventures.  We'll see how well that goes (dubious).  Wish me luck!


    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Panchita's Mexican Criolla, New Orleans

    I have a new restaurant obsession: Panchita's Mexican Criolla on South Carrollton in the Riverbend area is, by far, the best Mexican food I've had outside of California.  Ooooh, it's delicious.  Authentic, flavorful, delicious.  Handmade, fresh corn tortillas like discs of heaven.  Good beans.  Really good beans.  With lard.  So much goodness. 

    Gaze upon my tostadas.  One chicken with black beans, one shredded beef with pinto beans and one bean only.  Completely fabulous tostadas.  I want to tell you about the nuances of flavor and preparation but I was too busy gobbling them up.  Bad food blogger!

    Kid Cayenne had the chiles rellenos with rice (which she loved), refried beans (which she detected the lard in instantly, unfortunately for her... fortunately for me since they then became mine).  The poblano pepper was stuffed with cheese and fried beautifully in an egg batter then served with tender, steaming hot corn tortillas.  *sigh*

    I would have no problem with eating here every day. Has anyone else gone?  What did you think?

    Panchitas on Urbanspoon


    Breakfast in Holland

    My friend Lisa, in Amsterdam, has been telling me about how different Dutch breakfasts are from American ones.  Even better, she wrote a post for us about them!


    In my travels, I have had breakfast at dozens and dozens of hotel breakfast buffets.  In America, the spread is pretty typical: breads (toast, muffins), cereal, scrambled eggs in a big chafing dish, some sausage and bacon, maybe some hash browns.  Standard breakfast food.  Order from the menu instead and you get pancakes and waffles, an assortment of egg dishes, maybe some sausage gravy.  In the South, we always had grits on the buffet (I love buttered grits).  Still, it is recognizably what we Americans consider breakfast food.

    The only place in the US where I have run into a more international breakfast was during an extended stay at the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Los Angeles, right in the middle of Little Tokyo.  The vast majority of the guests were Japanese tourists, so waffles and home fries were in short supply on the buffet table.  Instead, we could get steamed rice, soy sauce, smoked fish and various vegetables to go with our scrambled eggs and toast.  Worked well for me, since I am a big fan of savory breakfast fare – rice and veggies made for a pleasant change.

    Breakfast here in the Netherlands is really unusual.  I was surprised to find on my first trip that our hotel did not offer any hot breakfast food (other than coffee).  The only eggs available were hard-boiled.  There was yogurt and granola, and sometimes oatmeal, usually with fresh fruit and also fresh vegetables, which you don’t often see on American breakfast tables.

    My favorite thing about breakfast here?  Chocolate sprinkles!  It’s weird, but it’s a common Dutch thing – I have seen a lot of our execs having them for breakfast.  We’re talking about the kind of chocolate sprinkles that you put on cupcakes here in the US.  On the buffet, they come in little boxes and you spread them on your bread, no butter or any other topping, press them into the bread and eat it.  It’s like a Dutch poptart or something!

    I don’t actually eat the chocolate sprinkles, I am just heartily amused by their existence.

    Other features on Dutch buffets are meat and cheese – as in typical lunchmeat style meat and cheese.  Every morning, there are also large dishes of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers.  My hotel also has hot croissants – plates and plates and plates of them – and they are especially good with hazelnut spread. Oh, Nutella!  One of the joys of being in Europe is that little tubs of Nutella are on the table, the way we have grape jam in the US.  I usually have a hard-boiled egg, a croissant with hazelnut spread, some cheese or maybe some corn flakes.  We have a choice of orange juice or “tropic” juice (which tastes like mango) and coffee or tea.  It’s much lighter than most American breakfasts, and much less sweet.

    Until you add the chocolate sprinkles!


    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    5 Delicious Things

    Inspired by Bouillie's Random Stuff, here's my top 5 (at this moment) things I love to taste.

    * perfectly ripe avocado, smashed onto toast with a sprinkle of sea salt
    * that first sip of very good coffee in the morning
    * jamon iberico
    * salted caramel gelato (I know you said it first, Celeste, but I'm claiming it anyway, since I am somewhat responsible for it being at La Divina *inordinately proud and big-headed*)
    * roasted Brussels sprouts

    What are yours?


    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Lisa Eats In Amsterdam

    Guest posting from Amsterdam has got to be among the more glamorous things I can think of.  Lisa is a good friend who frequently travels from her hometown, in Ohio, to Amsterdam for work.  While there, she eats well and leaves me salivating at the descriptions of her meals.  Very kindly, she agreed to guest post for me about the types of food she encounters in the Netherlands.  Lisa is an avid reader and writer of a great book review blog, which is full of excellent ideas for a good read.  

    Greetings from Amsterdam!  My name is Lisa and I first met Julie when she played tour guide for me in New Orleans.  She’s very lucky to live in such a terrific food city – there is so much good food in New Orleans!  I work for a Dutch company with facilities all over the world.  I have been lucky enough to visit all of our labs in the US, and they are in great food cities like Los Angeles (had the best ramen there) and Houston (burgers at Beaver’s and oysters at Gilhooley’s) and Philadelphia (sushi at Morimoto’s).  But lately, I’ve been in Amsterdam and one of the things I love about this city is the food…but not the Dutch food.

    On my first visit here, my boss told me that the Dutch National Cuisine consisted of bar snacks, and I did fall in love with bitterballen, little meat or mushroom croquettes that you dip in mustard and wash down with good Belgian beer.  One of our favorite ways to dine here is to walk from plein to plein, stopping for beer and bitterballen at any outdoor café with an empty seat.  It’s a lovely way to spend the evening.

    The thing I really love about dining out in Amsterdam is the variety – you can find cuisine from all over the world, all right at the end of your fork.  Within just a short walk of our hotel there is terrific Indonesian, Italian, Japanese and North African food.  There’s an Irish pub, an Argentine steakhouse and a Hard Rock café with good old American burgers.  We’ve passed places serving falafel, sushi and baby back ribs, all along the same street.  There are Greek, Catalan, Chinese, Morrocan, Peruvian, Malayan and Indian restaurants; I’m trying to talk my boss into taking us to FLO Amsterdam for French food, because I don’t want this place on my expense report!  Later this week, I’m planning to try a Surinamese restaurant, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen one back in the states and I am really curious.

    We also lucked into some great fine dining.  Last week was a special week for the restaurants in Amsterdam, according to the hostess at Elkaar.  The restaurants put together special tasting menus and there is a website where you can sign up for discounts and make reservations.  We were fortunate that they had an empty spot, because it was the best meal I’ve had in Amsterdam.  They brought us amuse bouche of cream of courgette (zucchini) soup topped with a bell pepper foam, along with a roll of beef tenderloin and duck liver, topped with a soy cream sauce. My starter was wine-roasted veal with caper mayonnaise and a veal tartare topped with a baked quail egg. My main course was a bone-in farmhouse chicken with haricots verts, a green bean mousse, confit of chicken and a dutch-style whipped potato topped with tiny mushrooms. For dessert I had a mille feuille filled with a vanilla yogurt cream sauce and red fruit, champagne sabayon and dotted with intensely-flavored dollops of sauce - green apple and black raspberry.  Absolutely fabulous food!

    For someone who loves to try new things, this city is restaurant heaven.  You can really find just about anything you’d like to try…as long as you aren’t looking for Dutch food.


    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Fig Butter

    Melinda, who guest posted about Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls recently, was gifted with a bounty of very ripe figs last week.  What better to do than make jam?  I am particularly happy to hear how her jam making went, since I am still hoping that my half of the fig tree that straddles mine and my neighbor's backyards will some day render me enough fruit (before the birds eat it all) that I too can make jam.  Her thoughts on the addition of ingredients like ginger, cardamom and orange make the whole idea so very seductive to me.  Can't wait 'til my tree produces again.  Thank you, Melinda!


    At work one day, I happened to mention that I like figs a lot. My manager was interested to hear this, because it just so happens that he has a fig tree himself, and nobody in his family likes figs. I was stunned to hear this, as I previously didn't think it was possible to grow figs in the Pacific Northwest or to dislike them.

    I forgot about this conversation entirely, until I came to work one day to find a bag full of figs at my desk. They were easily the largest figs I have ever seen- about the size of avocados- and they were green and purple, with a lovely creamy texture on the inside, and a delicate flavor. I ate one with a spoon right there and then, but what was I to do with the other four and a half pounds of them?

    The answer, I decided, was jam. After they sat on the counter for a couple of days and turned a little more mushy, I removed their stems and threw them in a pot, peels and all, with a little water, white sugar, lemon juice, ginger and cardamom. I brought them to a boil, simmered them until they congealed a bit, and blended the whole thing up with my hand blender.

    It didn't turn out much like jam at all - it had a consistency more like apple butter, which I love, so I was happy with that. Next time, though, I think I'd rather use brown sugar, orange juice and a little orange rind, and more cardamom, with less ginger.  I think that those ingredients would do a better job of highlighting the fig flavor rather than overpowering it. What I made has a very satisfying gingery bite, though, and it would go very well with some smelly cheese or on a burger with caramelized onions.


    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Five Years

     I can't commemorate this day by watching footage of the suffering.  It is still too raw, too painful.  I don't think it'll ever not be.  I was in a sandwich shop last night and on the tv was Katrina aftermath footage.  I felt, instantly, like I had to get out.  GET OUT!  What I feel in those moments is panic, rage, darkest anguish.  It was nearly unendurable then.  I can't deal with it now.  Not even for a moment or two.  I wish I were stronger and tougher than that, but I am not.

    What I can do is thank the people who helped us, who housed us and our cats for sorrow-drenched weeks upon weeks, who sent us care packages of coffee, gnocchi and love, who slipped us $100 bucks during a long hug or via Paypal from the other side of the country saying "...for urgent stuff like kitty litter and tampons", who, from afar, helplessly listened to us pour out our anguish and agony even though they couldn't fix anything, even when it had been months or years since and we were still crying, still hurting, still broken.

    Thanks to the millions of people who donated their vacation time to come help, their money and possessions and hearts.

    Thank you to those who did not judge us, who kept their minds and hearts open when they saw our city ripped open and it's ugliest parts surface.  Thank you to those who did not pretend that their own city would not also have such an underbelly.  Thanks to those who never once questioned whether we should rebuild.

    It's five years and many of us have finally started to feel normal again.  Many of us still do not.  We rejoice over the things that have returned but even those are bittersweet.  "More restaurants than before the storm!" we crow... not always mentioning that there are huge swaths of the city, like the one my dear friends live in in New Orleans East, that have no restaurants at all.  My friends own a lovely house on a once lovely street that is, to this day, still mostly vacant because its residents have not returned.  They have fixed the tremendous damage to their own home, but for varying reasons, many of their neighbors have not come back to New Orleans.  I often wonder what it feels like to, for five years, still come home every day to a mostly empty neighborhood.  I marvel at their strength and resilience and I ache for them (and the many, many others who are in the same boat) despite that fact that they do not complain.

    Katrina damaged everyone it touched in unspeakable ways.  Every New Orleanian, Southern Louisianan and Mississippi gulf coast resident.  We learned things we never wanted to know, lost faith in things that should never have been challenged, lost it ALL and struggled to put it all back together again afterward. Some things were rebuilt stronger and better.  Some things are desperately askew.  Our biggest loss is certainly our people, those who perished (during and after the storm) and those who left.  I still can't forgive Katrina for that.

    We will never be the same but we will still be beautiful, unique, vibrant and strong.  We will still be.


    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    Culinary Adventures in Cleveland

    My friend, Melissa, describes herself as "wife, writer/editor, petmom and with 20 years in newspapers as a homes writer, sportswriter, news reporter, features writer and entertainment writer. I'm a native of Connecticut, a New Englander at heart, living in the Cleveland suburbs with my husband, cat, iguana, and turtle."

    I describe her as a sweetheart.  She was kind enough to take time from her own busy life and blog to share with us a Guest Post about restaurants in her area, and a family dinner recently shared at Bar Symon in Cleveland.


    One of the things I love about reading blogs like Julie's is discovering the everyday food of a region, the stuff people grab for lunch and the places people go for date night. She brings New Orleans and its food to life in a way no tourist brochure can.

    When my husband went to Boston recently, he felt he had to try Union Oyster House since it was a local institution. While the seafood was fine, the experience was a bit disappointing as he realized the place has become a bit of a tourist trap. He was happier at places recommended either by locals or by family and friends who went there frequently.

    When my New England family comes out to visit me where I live now, Cleveland, we don't go to the high-end restaurants. We find the good neighborhood places, and hit the markets to find delicious local treats for cooking and enjoying at my house.

    Many people would be surprised at how much good eating there is in a city with a lunch-pail, meat-and-potatoes reputation. But local chefs are taking our prosaic comfort foods, our ethnic treasures and our All-American classics and turning them into fine dining.

    One of the people leading that movement has become a celebrity chef. Michael Symon has been straddling the worlds of the Food Network and his Cleveland roots since he worked on "Melting Pot."  He's now one of the network's vaunted Iron Chefs.

    The foundation for his business remains in Cleveland. While high-end Lola satisfies those seeking a white-tablecloth Dining Experience amid the twinkling lights and bustle of downtown, he keeps his other restaurants accessible and affordable. The east side's B Spot is a burger joint where the beers are cold, the condiments are homemade, and the juices drip down your arm. Lolita, located in the grit-meets-gentrification neighborhood of Tremont, is a neighborhood spot that serves up bistro-style dishes with the flavors of Symon's Mediterranean heritage.

    Bar Symon opened in Avon Lake in 2009. The name says it all. Its Symon's take on bar food and pub grub. John and I took my parents and my sister there when they visited last week.

    Appetizers are a lot of classic bar/pub snacks kicked up several notches. House-made potato chips come with whipped avocado, bacon and blue cheese. Sliders are a recent culinary trend. Symon does duck confit sliders, with peppery radish and bright cilantro. The duck is so rich and velvety, that one makes a perfect starter. Succulent wings come in either a sriracha hot sauce, or a citrus-cilantro sauce.

    Symon puts some quintessential Cleveland foods together for an entree called a Cleveland Classic. It's got all the goodies that my Kowiako ancestors in Cleveland's Warszawa/Slavic Village neighborhood loved: pierogi, kielbasa, cabbage braised in hard cider and some Stadium Mustard on the side.

    Fried chicken is a bar food staple. And you can't throw a stone in Northeast Ohio without hitting a perch fry, especially during Lent. Bar Symon has both. The fried chicken is drizzled with honey for a savory-sweet punch. The fish fry, featuring Lake Erie perch in a batter made with Dortmunder Gold beer from Great Lakes Brewing, is an upscale take on fish 'n chips.

    Need comfort? Mac and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Symon's features goat cheese and rosemary.

    Symon is known for his love of pork. The man has a pig tattoo. I don't know where he found the pork shanks he braises with beer and apples, then serves with spaetzle and Brussels sprouts, but mine was the most flavorful pork I've tasted since pork unfortunately became "the other white meat."

    Sometimes, you just can't beat a good burger. My mother fell in love with the savory lamb burger, with a sauce featuring feta, dill and cucumber.

    As fans of "Iron Chef America" know, host Alton Brown always gets excited when someone fires up the ice cream makers in Kitchen Stadium. Symon used his imagination to fashion a dessert out of a classic bar combination. The beer and pretzel sundae features homemade Guinness ice cream, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and crumbled pretzels. The slightly chocolatey, slightly bitter ice cream blends with the sweet chocolate and caramel, and the salty crunch of the pretzels to wow the tongue.

    Hope you've enjoyed this culinary trip up north!


    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    We Long For Oysters!

    Next up in the Guest Blogger line-up is my good friend Tim who truly, truly knows how to indulge his senses.  He has an excellent blog that covers wine, beer, organic gardening, cooking and so much more.  He contributed this post, not realizing that our oyster season hasn't started yet and may not be quite right for a while (thanks a lot BP!) but we won't hold it against him.  We'll just have to have him ship us a few cases of those Kumamotos if the longing gets to strong.  Some of that stout too, while he's at it!  Mmm, oysters...   

    Hey everybody. I’m Tim, guest blogging here today. I’m a writer/blogger living near Vancouver Canada. I work in the wine industry and spend a lot of time travelling, eating, drinking, cooking and above all, making/producing my own comestibles, including making most stuff from scratch, curing my own meats, making cheese, and growing an organic garden. I most especially focus on anything that will ferment, including making wine, beer, sauerkraut, Kim chi, pickles et al. If you ferment it, they will come, and ask for a serving.

    I’ve only been to New Orleans once (so far), so I’m not qualified to talk about local cuisine (although if you want to know how to get in trouble in the French Quarter at 3 am, I’m your man). In fact, most Canadians lack proper context to talk about US Southern food—with a straight face, most of us will call grilled meat ‘barbecue’ (I know, I know) tea is drank hot with milk and sugar, where I live ‘the Gulf’ is a strait between Vancouver Island and the Pacific coast of British Columbia and if you have white powder under your nose nobody thinks ‘beignet’.

    But food is the universal language. In New Orleans, like every other place I’ve visited, I felt most welcome and at peace when I was elbow-to-elbow with other hungry strangers at a counter that served well prepared and well respected food that reflected the sensibility and character of the city and its people. I once heard of New Orleans that for the natives, the major topics of conversation when you go out to eat are restaurant meals that you have had in the past and restaurant meals that you plan to have in the future. Now that’s a place where I feel at home!

    I’ve actually been meaning to contribute to NOJuju for quite a while. One of the early blogs asked ‘What are the oysters like in your neck of the woods and how do you like to eat them?’ I’m the Glutton King of oysters. My all-time favourite birthday meal is six or seven dozen oysters and a half-keg of Stout, and I’ve never said no to a bivalve mollusc.

    But oysters are different around here. The gulf oysters I’ve had were big, soft and very sweet. I enjoyed them raw, but saw more potential in them cooked. At home I’ve almost never eaten them anything but raw. I generally get my oysters from the Lobsterman in the Granville Island Market . Visiting Vancouver means you have to go to the market. To miss it would be to go to New Orleans and skip the French Quarter. It’s one of those places with gorgeous, exotic, intensely desirable and tasty stuff, from a soup joint that could make you cry with the happy, to a cheese monger who can not only spell Époisses, but also can sell it. It’s a wonderful place.

    The Lobsterman specialises in crabs, lobsters, clams, mussels, bits of fish, but mainly (for me) Pacific Northwest oysters. Local oysters are all from very cold, deep water. This gives many of them a much firmer, dense meat. They also tend to be quite briny—not so much salty, as having a resonant note of minerals that can make the right wine (or beer) sing out like a chorus line all on its own. Some are named after the bays and inlets where they’re gathered from: Fanny Bay, Mary Point, and others the species, like Royal Miyagi,Kumamoto, and Kusshi.

    The flavours of each variety vary widely, partly from the terroir (hmm. Oceanoir?) of where they’re harvested from, partly from species character. Fanny Bay are very mild with just a hint of creaminess in with the brine. Mary Points are quite small, have a creamy texture, sometimes almost like clotted cream and are delicately salty. Kumamoto are buttery, and have the most amazing aftertaste of melon. Some folks say watermelon, but I’ve never gotten beyond, ‘Holy Hannah! It tastes like melon!’ Miyagis are less buttery and more firm—not rubbery, but definitely with more tooth—and have the most amazing note of cucumber to them. Kusshis are sweet and buttery and mild.

    My favourite way to eat ersters is the simplest: squeeze of fresh lemon and a dot or two of hot sauce. I favour habanero-based sauces because along with the heat, which I adore, they bring a lovely fruitiness that seems to work so well with a great oyster: Melina’s brand is excellent for most purposes, but I also make my own, for fresh and really hot-hot sauce.

    The most important condiment to my taste is the beverage that goes with it. With a briny oyster I like good old stout: Guinness or similar does a great job. With more delicate versions like Kusshis or Miyagis, I like sparkling wine. Bollinger when I can get it, Gloria Ferrer when I can’t, and to cover all my bases I often make Black Velvet cocktails—a mixture of Guinness and sparkling wine that has the charms of both.

    Hmm. Looks like I’m stopping at the Lobsterman on my way home, never mind that it’s twenty kilometres in the wrong direction. There’s a scent of brine in the air and a bottle of Bollinger in the cellar with my name on it.


    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Vegetarian Pigs in a Blanket (Cabbage Rolls)

    I am intensely fortunate.  While I am still struggling with wrist and hand pain from my new Rheumatoid Arthritis diagnosis (about which I am still totally and completely all "WTF?!"), I have dear friends who will stand in the blog breach for me.  Today begins a series of guest posts from friends of mine, mostly located in places far from New Orleans, who love food and are generously willing to bare their kitchens, recipes and restaurants to our wondering eyes.  This post is from the lovely Melinda, who lives in the beautifully fair city of Seattle.  Please make her feel welcome, folks!  *warm round of applause*

    Hi! I'm Melinda, and I'm excited to be guest-blogging here at NOJuju. At first I was hesitant to write for this blog - after all, I don't live in New Orleans, and I know next to nothing about the food culture there, other than the fact that everything I have ever eaten there was extremely delicious and made from crawfish. I live in Seattle, where it's easier to get good Eritrean food than anything that hails from Louisiana (which is a whole 'nother blog post), and where we can't even grow okra or peppers because it doesn't get hot enough. I live right in the city with my husband, who enjoys cooking as much as I do.

    And after an introduction like that, I have to tell you that this post of mine isn't even about food specific to Seattle. It's about cabbage rolls. Except that I don't even call them cabbage rolls - everyone in my family has always called them 'pigs in a blanket', much to the confusion of almost everyone else I talk to here, who think of pigs in a blanket as being hot dogs stuffed inside croissants. If you're wondering why that is, Wikipedia has the answer, as usual: it turns out that "In regions heavily influenced by Slovak immigrants, such as northern Pennsylvania, the term usually refers instead to stuffed cabbage rolls, such as the Polish or Ukrainian Gołąbki." Seeing as how I'm originally from Michigan, which is full of people of Eastern European descent, there's no surprise there. In Michigan, people get excited about pastries that nobody has heard of outside of Poland and the Upper Midwest.

    A few months ago, I went to visit my grandma, and she made pigs in a blanket for everyone who descended upon her house that day. When I stopped eating pork about ten years ago, I figured I'd be giving up pigs in a blanket along with my bacon, but grandma made some extra ones with a meat substitute too, and they were darned good. They inspired me to start making plans for the enormous cabbage that has been growing in my garden since last September.

    Pigs in a blanket aren't normally the nicest thing in the middle of August - they involve the crockpot being on all day, and that's much nicer when it's cold out. Ordinarily, I'd want them in January, but the cabbage's day of reckoning has finally arrived, and drastic measures are needed to use it all. I could only fit about half of it in the crockpot today; luckily, my husband promises that he has plans for the other half. I, for one, am half-hoping that he doesn't, because I'd love to try my hand at making kimchi or sauerkraut.

    I ended up leaving these in the pot for around 7 hours, and they were tender and delicious. I attribute some of the niceness of this recipe to the homegrown cabbage, but I'm excited about how well my first attempt at pigs in a blanket turned out! I could definitely see them becoming a winter staple. I'd like to experiment with stuffing them with mushrooms instead of sausage; lots of nice mushrooms grow in the Pacific Northwest, and there is a wonderful variety of them available here during the fall and winter.

    This recipe is vegetarian. To make it with meat, omit the olive oil (it's there to give the fake meat enough fat), and use ground pork or pork sausage. You can also use rice instead of bulgur, if you're so inclined. Some people parboil the cabbage leaves first in order to make them easier to manipulate, but I didn't.

    1 package of vegetarian sausage
    ¼ cup olive oil
    2 cups of bulgur wheat
    1 onion
    3 green peppers
    1 box strained tomatoes
    salt, pepper and herbs to taste (I used oregano, since the sausage already had some sage in it)
    1 ordinary sized head of cabbage

    Dice the onion and green peppers, and put them in a big bowl, along with the olive oil, bulgur wheat, and sausage. Smash this all up with your hands like you're making meatloaf. Roll it up in cabbage leaves and place them in the crockpot. Mix the strained tomatoes (or tomato juice, or tomato paste with water, or ketchup, if you're really in a bind) with salt, pepper and herbs. Dump over the top of the cabbage leaves. Turn the crockpot on and wait.


    (Shown with a side salad that my husband made)


    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Peugeot Pepper Mill Winner!

    I'm so excited to announce the winner of my first ever giveaway. I used www.random.org to select a random number between 1 and 15 (the number of commenters on the giveaway page).

    The outcome:

    ... which means that the winner is Lisa M. who said:

    Lisa M.,  August 7, 2010 12:24 PM

    I see myself as a kitchen failure and that is why I have trouble even entering the kitchen. However your simple yet pure way of cooking has inspired me to take more of an interest in what I consume. Bravo on your anniversary!

    By the way, that comment brought a prickle of tear to my eye.  Thanks, Lisa M.!  I sincerely hope that you continue to gain confidence and skill in the kitchen.  You can do it, I know you can!   Contact me at nojuju.blog@gmail.com to claim your pepper mill!

    All of the comments were fantastic, by the way.  I hope you all decide to stick around and comment more often.  It felt like a part-ay!


    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    A Reminder

    Just wanted to remind everyone to enter the Peugeot Pepper Mill Giveaway from last week.  I am accepting comment entries for the rest of the week and will announce the randomly chosen winner on Monday 16.  Go, comment, win!


    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Einstürzende Neubauten's Pasta with Ginger and Tomato Sauce

    There is a band, an intensely beautiful and beautifully intense German experimental band, called Einstürzende Neubauten who epitomize all that I love and need about music.  They are my absolute favorite musicians and because of them, for various reasons, I am a much better cook.  Years ago, the band had a virtual spaghetti dinner with their supporters (fans who joined together on the internet to support the band's continued work, financially, intellectually and emotionally... patrons of their art, so to speak).   A pasta dish recipe was used, cooked and eaten in unison by people located all over the world, as a collective dining experience.  I was not a part of that event, but I have the recipe and I can attest that it is very, very good, excellent in fact, for sharing with your financial, intellectual or emotional supporters.  I shared it with friends last night, and we all agreed, it is superb.

    Pasta with Ginger and Tomato Sauce

    3 TB olive oil
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 TB fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
    3 small dried chilies, crumbled or 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
    1 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, drained
    14 oz. pasta (spaghetti, penne, linguine, whatever... you choose)
    juice of 2 lemons
    1 TB or so additional olive oil
    salt and pepper
    parsley (optional)
    freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

    Heat 3 TB olive oil in a large, thick bottomed pan until it shimmers.  Add garlic and allow to just soften and barely begin to color.  Add ginger and chilies and stir together.  Add drained tomatoes, squishing them in your hands as you add them to the pan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir.   Cook over medium heat for about 35 minutes, allowing the tomatoes to break down, stirring occasionally.  When sauce is ready, pass it through a coarse sieve or mash tomatoes with a wooden spoon to render a smooth sauce.

    Meanwhile, boil water for pasta.  Time it so that your pasta and sauce finish around the same time.  Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain and return to the pasta cooking pot.  Add lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil and toss.  Stir in tomato sauce.  Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Serve topped with Parmesan and chopped parsley.

    Serves 6


    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Sleep Blogging and Tartine New Orleans

    I blog in my sleep.  Does anyone else do that?  I wake up thinking that I have a fully written post and am ready to hit publish, but suddenly it fades away.  Last week, I sleep-blogged about the orange jam I picked up at Little Morocco.  Also, about how hard it is to find a really excellent orange marmalade.  Last night, it was about the Peugeot Pepper Mill giveaway, how much I adored everyone's comments (I really, really do) and to keep them coming.  Needless to say, no posts were actually written.

    Yesterday, I went to the lovely new Tartine for the first time.  Everyone is talking about it in blogs and Twitter and for good reason.  It's a truly wonderful cafe, hidden on a tiny block in a tiny corner of Uptown, close to Audubon park, a stone's throw from the river.  One would think that the location was less than ideal, but when we walked in, there were more than enough people to show that the word is getting around.

    I had the pork rillette tartine (a smooth shredded pork spread on a toasted baguette with herbed butter, cornichons and onion marmalade) which was so good!  Not too rich, scrumptious cornichons, very satisfying and delicious.  Accompanied by a bright, lively black eyed pea salad and some pickles and olives, it made a perfect light  lunch. The portions are quite generous, the quality high and the prices very fair ($8 for my tartine).  I had to take half of the tartine home for another time, because I couldn't finish it all.  Oh, and I made it a not-so-light lunch by enjoying a milk chocolate mousse ($1!) for dessert.  Mmm, fantastic!

    My lunch companion, Celeste of Bouillie, had the tuna nicoise salad ($9) which looked heavenly and like very much a meal.  I spied green beans, potatoes, olives, roasted red peppers, beautiful anchovies, oh all sorts of delicious salad goodies on her plate and it's definitely the next thing I'll try there.

    I have a feeling that this is going to be a go-to spot for me.  I strongly approve!

    Tartine on Urbanspoon


    Friday, July 30, 2010

    One Year Anniversary Peugeot Pepper Mill Giveaway

    One year ago today, I started my blog with this post, proclaiming my intentions and telling a bit about myself.  Yay, one year anniversary!!  What I didn't tell you was this: the reason I really started my blog was because I was very lonely.  My entire social circle disappeared after Katrina and because I have worked from home for the past 5 years, I had little opportunity to rebuild it.   Kid Cayenne (my wife, were it legal... otherwise known as partner, since it isn't) and I share most aspects of our lives, but my wide open-armed love of food is not really one of them.  I decided that if I were to build a new circle of friends, I wanted it it to include other people who shared my obsession for food so that I'd have kindred souls to exchange recipes and ideas with, fixate on obscure ingredients with and hopefully even share a meal with.  My blog is my attempt to create that for myself, both virtually and in real life.

    This means I need readers and even more, I need commenters.  I need the exchange.  I need the give and take.  I need YOU, dear readers, to talk to me about what you think, what you like and don't like.  What you agree with, what you don't.  What you are intrigued by and what you can teach me.   I need feedback.

    I know you are out there.  My stats tell me you are. Since few of you comment, I've decided to try luring you all out by offering an anniversary celebration giveaway of one of my favorite kitchen/dining room tools: the Peugot pepper mill.  I've had mine for years and it's dear to me.  Even though I have one, I would happily take another.  It is beautiful, both in aesthetic and design.  It functions superbly.  It is perfect for stove-side or table top.  I will be giving away one Peugeot Paris u'Select 9-Inch Chocolate Pepper Mill that features Peugeot's masterfully engineered grinding mechanisms and the patented u'Select feature, which lets you choose the grind from six settings with a simple turn of the base.  Yours will be even better than mine, which has the old style adjustable grind mechanism and doesn't lock into place.  I hope you all enter because this is a fine pepper mill and deserves a wonderful home.
    How to Enter:

    Leave a comment on this post telling me one thing about yourself.  Any one thing.  Anonymous comments will be not be counted, since I would have no way of knowing who you are.  One entry per person.  Entries will be accepted until midnight on Saturday, August 14, 2010.  The winner will be announced on Monday, August 16.  Winner will be selected randomly.  The giveaway is not sponsored by anyone but little old me.

    Good luck!


    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Penne with Baked Tomatoes

    I recently mentioned a recipe I wanted to share with you.  It's great for this time of year, when the grape tomatoes are little jewels of sun warmed power and flavor and perfection.  It'll be fine later, when the tomatoes are hothouse harvested too, but right now, if you go down to the farmer's markets (or your own backyard if you are far fancier than I am), you can get little tomatoes that taste so entirely like their destiny that you are reluctant to do what I'm doing, smothering them in bread crumbs and cheese and sticking them in a hot oven.  If you are, I get it, but push past and try this anyway.  It's so worth it.

    I have become a big fan of The Wednesday Chef and this is the second recipe I've made from her blog.  She got it from The Best American Recipes Cookbook.

    1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 pound very ripe grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
    1/3 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
    2 TB freshly grated pecorino (or more Parmigiano)
    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 pound dried penne or other pasta
    1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish with one third of the oil. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in the dish.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

    Please ignore my vaguely dirty stove and focus instead of the beauty of these tomatoes.  Gorgeous, right?

    In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheeses and garlic.  Mix well. Sprinkle the bread  crumb mixture over the tomatoes, making sure that each cut side is well covered with the crumb mixture. The recipe made a bit more than it felt like I needed.  I think I sprinkled a bit more after I had taken this photo and still had a bit left.  I'm sure adding it to the pan would have been fine.

    Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, about 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, or until al dente. Time the pasta so it finishes cooking around the same time that the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven.

    When the tomatoes are done, add the torn basil and stir vigorously to mix everything into a sauce of sorts. Drain the pasta and immediately add it to the baking dish.  Add the remaining olive oil and fold it all together until the tomatoes and cheesy breadcrumbs are married with the pasta. Serve at once.

    Serves 4


    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Mahony's Po Boys, New Orleans

    It's been yeeeears since I last went to Mahony's.  So many years that everything is completely different now.  I remember a small dining room that was very much like sitting in someone's front parlor.  It is now opened up and light, airy, still cozy but with far more space.  An extensive po-boy menu graces the front wall.

    I went with a friend and we split the Fried Green Tomato and Grilled Shrimp 12 inch po-boy.  While the remoulade was a little too Creole-mustardy for me, she pronounced it the "best po-poy I have ever eaten."  High praise, indeed.

    The tomatoes were freshly fried in a crisp cornmeal batter.  Shrimp were perfectly grilled.  The sauce was heavily flavored with green onion, Creole mustard and more (too much flavor for me actually but my lunch companion was fine with it).  All in all, a very nice po-boy.

    Mahony's Po-Boy Shop on Urbanspoon


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