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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

scenes from an expat’s Mardi Gras

In In My Kitchen on March 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

There are plenty of us expat New Orleanians here in the DC-Metro area, and plenty of opportunities to celebrate Mardi Gras with our Louisiana peeps, but they generally involve expensive tickets sold by lottery, formalwear, and lining up a babysitter. Since I rarely want to deal with all that, I’ll do something like meet my friend Ryan in Dupont Circle for a taste of home. First stop, The Cajun Experience. The owners are from Lafayette (like Ryan and I). The chef and bartender are from New Orleans. Our waiter was from San Francisco, but we’ll forgive him for that.

Seems like other expats have been pounding the Abitas at the restaurant lately. They were out of a couple of Abita drafts, as well as out of Andy Gator, so we went for Abbey Ale a Belgian style dubbel ale.

Ryan had been to the restaurant before (they’ve only been open about 5 weeks), and he said the hush puppies (often a freebie afterthought in many Louisiana restaurants) were the lightest he’d ever had. He was not exaggerating. These little buggers just about melted on the tongue, and the chipotle sauce was a nice surprise.

We ordered an appetizer portion of crawfish mac-n-cheese. Hardly a traditional dish, but a pairing I was up for after loving crab mac-n-cheese here in Chesapeake country.

Pot roast poboy. I would have liked some debris, the gravy from the bottom of the pot that Mother’s slathers their roast beef poboys with. But, nice tender beef on Leidenheimer French bread shipped in from New Orleans.

We also ordered crawfish etoufee, which we were so busy enjoying I forgot to get a pic. I make a great etoufee at home, but right now even Chinese crawfish tail meat is $16 a pound, and Chinese crawfish is just — wrong.

Anyhoo, I was having such a good time, I let the waiter talk us into beignets, despite our plans to get them in Northern Virginia. Sorry Ry! They were good, but a little doughy.

After a ridiculous drive through Georgetown (reminding me how glad I am I don’t have to commute into DC everyday anymore), we popped into Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia. I picked up som Porkorn (spicy caramel corn with bacon — fantastic) to bring home to hubby.

Somehow we had room for a second dessert, buttermilk chocolate for him, red velvet for me. And an iced coffee to fuel the drive home, also fitting since Ryan introduced me to iced coffee many years ago at PJ’s Coffee in New Orleans.

Decorator’s tip: tear up your old cookbooks and decoupage them all over your bathroom for funky wall paper!

Tomorrow morning as the Krewe of Zulu rides down St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans handing out those legendary coconuts, I’ll be in my boot camp class at the gym, sweating off the calories from the weekend. N’awlins, I miss ya, dahlin. Happy Mardi Gras, y’all.

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sweet and salty and sassy

In Food, In My Kitchen on March 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

 

Recently I was reading through Bryant Terry‘s cookbook,  Vegan Soul Kitchen, and was intrigued by Terry’s listing of musical pairings with each recipe. How would someone (like me) without a particularly musically influenced background (like Terry) go about pairing up tunes with food?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I tend to have my own version of musical pairings in the kitchen. When I’m wishing I was there in Louisiana or Texas, cooking gumbo or smoking brisket, I’m likely to turn on the music I love from those places. Maybe Better Than Ezra or Lucinda Williams for the gumbo, definitely Lyle Lovett for the brisket.

But I’m not always homesick in the kitchen. Sometimes the music I turn on will be about my mood. Lately it’s been G. Love, Mumford and Sons, and Ingrid Michaelson. Other times it might be about the particular dish. Like when I was baking these peanut butter pretzel brownies from Joy the Baker. I turned on another Louisiana fave, The Figs, who, like the brownies, are an excellent mix of sweet and salty and sassy (“High-Heeled Stomp” and “Guns” are particularly fun).

What about you folks? What’s the soundtrack of your kitchen? Inquiring ears want to know.

Oh, yeah, and  I know, there’s parchment paper under those brownies. Sue me.

soup worthy

In Food, In My Kitchen on February 28, 2011 at 8:36 am

Soups have eluded me most of my cooking years. I knew decent cooks could throw together a solid chicken noodle at the very least, but my efforts would come up lacking somehow. Sure, I could crank out an awesome gumbo with one hand tied behind my back, but turn that Thanksgiving turkey carcass into a delicious bowl of comfort? Oh, there were some ugly, ugly moments.

Shudder.

I gave up trying to make up my own concoctions and leaned heavily on recipes. If I thought a recipe looked good, I’d give it a whirl. My absolute favorite soup recipe came from Louisiana chef John Folse. It’s a gorgeous creamy soup with colorful bits of spinach and sweet potatoes and red peppers, and just enough spice to keep the cream from being too much, and LOTS of garlic that just makes me hum for the yumminess.

But.

It’s a bit on the rich side for every day. It starts with a roux of butter (well, margarine, but I use butter) and flour and ends with A QUART of heavy whipping cream. So the other day when I had the leftovers of this roast chicken, I decided to try a lightened version of my favorite. It made for a great late winter lunch, and even the kids could not object too strenuously to the familiar ingredients. And unlike the Thanksgiving horror show of years’ past, this is a soup I can stand behind.

Creamy Colorful Chicken Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic

1 quart poultry stock (I used turkey stock)

1 1/2 cup peeled diced sweet potato

1/4 chopped roasted red pepper

2 cups chopped cooked chicken

4 cups spinach, washed and roughly chopped

1/4 cup half-and-half

1 cup cooked orzo or other small pasta

salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add stock and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 5 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are tender. Stir in red pepper and chicken and cook until chicken is heated through, 5-10 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add half-and-half, and when ready to serve, add orzo and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

brownie winner and king cake recipe

In Food, In My Kitchen on February 27, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Congratulations to Beccie, who is the winner of a pan of peanut-butter pretzel brownies. Thanks for playing!

Below is the king cake recipe I promised earlier. Mardi Gras is March 8 this year. Celebrate with a knock-out pastry.

 

Traditional Mardi Gras King Cake (recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse and Danno)

For the Brioche:

1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)

2 packages dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

4 to 5 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)

1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled

5 egg yolks

1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

 

For the Cream Cheese filling:

1 Cup Pecan halves, broken up slightly and roasted until fragrant

2/3 Cup Brown Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Allspice

1 pinch of salt

4 Tbsp Steen’s Cane Syrup (maple syrup is a decent substitute)

1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened

Combine all of the ingredients together.

2 cups sifted powdered sugar

juice of 1 lemon

Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the warm water, yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside to a warm place for about 10 minutes. Combine the 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind and add warm milk, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes, I did all mixing and kneading in my stand mixer, but it can be done by hand or in a large food processor). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch the dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Mix all filling ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Spread filling over the middle of the dough cylinder, then fold over the long edges to form a tube, pinching the edges together to form a seal. Move tube to baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

 

la tamalada

In In My Kitchen on February 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

In December, I wrote about adventures I was planning for this year. My friend Mayra helped me check off one of those adventures when she invited me and a few friends to make tamales with her. I was tasked with purchasing the corn husks, so I checked out Anita Spanish Grocery in Annapolis to pick up the corn husks and fulfill my tienda shopping goal (and I picked up some horchata drink boxes for the kids, which won me major points).

In Mayra’s hometown in Mexico, tamales are traditional fare on el dia de la Candaleria (Candlemas in English), when the Catholic church marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple. A few of our amigas gathered in Mayra’s kitchen recently to whip up a batch of tamales.

Mayra had cooked up some chicken ahead of time, shredded it, and mixed it up with a batch of mole she brought back from a recent visit to Mexico.

2 large rotisserie chickens

1 jar mole sauce

1 large bag corn husks

6 cups masa flour for tamales

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup lard or vegetable shortening

2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions

Shred the chicken and marinate in the mole sauce.

Soak the corn husks in warm water until soft, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl combine broth, masa flour, salt, and baking powder, using your hands. Once well combined, beat masa mixture and lard or shortening in a mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until a drop of the mixture floats in water as clump rather than falling apart.

Take a corn husk in your hand and spread a large spoonful of masa in the middle (use 2 husks if they are narrow). Spread a large spoonful of marinated chicken on top of the masa. Fold the sides of the corn husk toward the center over the masa so that they overlap to make along package. Between two fingers, pinch the husk package at the bottom of the masa portion and push upward to help form a seam. Fold the bottom part of the husk up.

Place the tamales in a steamer or double boiler open ends up, and cook tamales for 35-40 minutes. Check every 20 minutes.The tamale is cooked when it separates easily from the corn husk.

time for adventure

In In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind on December 8, 2010 at 9:32 am

I am so over New Year’s resolutions. They are so 20th century. But I have been compiling a list of adventures to have in 2011, or whenever. Here’s the first batch, along with some background.

ski down a mountain

attend a film screening

It’s been about fourteen years since I’ve been skiing. And in a few weeks, my little family will head out to Park City to visit the fabulous Heather and Chris. Serious skiing there, people. Like, my heart is skipping a beat just looking at pics Heather is sending us from the trails. AND. We’ll be there during the Sundance Film Festival. How cool is that? I’m such a voyeur, I can’t wait to walk down the snowy street with the Hollywood types, and take in a flick or two while I’m at it.

visit a dairy farm

build something

go to a Tractor Supply Store

shoot a shotgun

I admit to falling under the influence of good friends. And two of my bestest buds, Jen and Christian, have got me loving their new home in Pennsyltuckey — er — York County, PA. I could easily do all of the above in a weekend trip to visit these doers on their 11 acres. The building I’ll probably do at home. Maybe a bat box. Maybe a desk. We’ll see. Either way I’ll probably bug Christian for advice.

ride my bike

And speaking of influential friends, Christy was crazy enough to say “yes” when I asked her in 2008 if she wanted to train for a triathlon with me. I borrowed a road bike at the time, and my own hybrid has sat neglected for I don’t even know how long. It’s high time I tune it up and roam the hood with the kids, or chase after Christy on her road bike.

visit the Smithsonian

It’s right there!

shop at a tienda

I want to improve my game in the Mexican cuisine category. And sometimes it’s fun to just explore a store I don’t usually visit, pick up some mystery vegetable, bring it home and try to turn it into something worth eating.

write a friend a letter

I write a mean letter. Well, nice letters, really. And who doesn’t like to receive a real, honest-to-goodness handwritten letter?

make beignets

make king cake

Because they are yummy. Because I know what it means to miss New Orleans. Because I can.

read poetry

write poetry

Where oh where has my literary mojo gone?

practice yoga on the beach

I don’t know about all you other baby mamas out there, but I have a hard time with self-care when I’m tending a new baby. But he’s not so new anymore, and I could use a little more downward dog in my life. Pair it with staring out at the water, and that spells serenity for me.

spend the day doing nothing

Too many days of my life are overscheduled. A whole lot of nothing will have to fill my calendar sometimes.

let’s see if this will work

In Family, Food, friends, In My Kitchen, In Other Words, On My Mind, Writing on November 17, 2010 at 9:52 am

I love how my friends can ask me these simple little questions and suddenly I can think more clearly.

“Well, what do you want?” says friend.

“Hunh,” says I.

I write a list, because I’m a list maker. What do I want? What do I want to do? What do I actually want to accomplish in any given week? See, I hadn’t actually given that question much thought in the last year or so. Here’s the list.

-1-2 blog entries

-3 hours writing fiction/poetry

-8-12 hours working (for money!)

-workout 3-4 times

Not a huge list, but I have not been protecting my time to do these things I want to do. It seems doable, even with all the stuff I don’t really want to do but must do (mountains and mountains and mountains of laundry come to mind), and all the stuff I want to do and must do (cooking, loving on the babies). Ok, let’s give this a go.

Rockin’ radishes

In Food on May 22, 2008 at 11:24 am

I’m not a huge radish fan, but when the cute little Easter egg variety showed up in our CSA box last spring, I decided to find a way to show them their props.

Sautéeing radishes significantly mellows their bite. But better yet, this recipe combines sugar snap peas and dill — two other items that were in the box waiting to be used. It’s a perfect dish to celebrate the season.

Sautéed Radishes and Sugar Snap Peas with Dill

from Bon Appétit April 2004

Makes 6 servings.

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
12 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, strings removed
2 cups thinly sliced radishes (about 1 large bunch)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon dill seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
This side dish would pair beautifully with roast lamb or salmon. To remove strings from fresh peas, just snap off the stem end and pull string lengthwise down each pod. Melt butter with oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add sugar snap peas and radishes; sauté until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add orange juice and dill seeds; stir 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in chopped dill. Transfer to bowl; serve.

Down on the farm

In Family, Food, In Other Words, Writing on May 20, 2008 at 9:47 pm

About three years ago, I wrote an article for the food section of the Annapolis Capital on Ivy Brand Farm. The farm is owned by Sara Colhoun who is one of those really cool people in the world who get good things done.

We subscribed to the Ivy Brand CSA (community supported agriculture program) for a while but dropped out over the winter. On Sunday, we went to the farm on a field trip arranged by our church. We talked about the benefits of sustainable, organic, local agriculture then weeded onions in one bed and planted onions in another (pics on flickr). It was a lovely pastoral setting on the South River — one I really wanted my kids to see more of.

Sara and I got talking and I agreed to go to the farm on Tuesdays to “work” a bit while my kids ran around and then I’d deliver a load of produce boxes to a drop in my neighborhood. In exchange, I’ll get some produce to bring home. So today the kids and I went after (yet another) morning of rain. Madeleine and Dax looked for tadpoles in puddles and climbed onto haybales. I weeded tomato beds for two hours then we drove back home muddy and satisfied.

So if you ever wonder where your money’s going when you buy organic produce, think about me bent over and kneeling in the mud digging clover and nettles and potato beetles out of your heirloom tomatoes.