Last Saturday I actually made it to the Farmer’s Market. This was my haul:
Don’t you love how I subconsciously arranged everything in ROYGBIV order? I swear it wasn’t intentional.
I figured it might be fun to turn my Farmer’s Market trips into posts about how we eat for a week on our delicious local produce.
The cukes and the yellow squash immediately became pickles, the squash joining some zucchinis we had grown to become summer squash bread and butter pickles (seriously, such a good recipe, though I skip the whole ice bath part and they still turn out just dandy), and the cukes becoming my absolute favorite, I swear they’re as good as Claussen’s, dill refrigerator pickles.
The gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and the Japanese eggplant joined some mozzarella and some home-grown basil to become a delicious margherita pizza.
The pattypan squash was sauteed in olive oil with home-grown herbs and served alongside a red lentil salad with heirloom tomatoes, and some tilapia.
And the remainder of the squash, eggplant, and tomato were turned into a sort of ratatouille which we ate with goat cheese over pearl couscous:
I’m not a vegan, but I’m very interested in eating less meat and animal products, for ethical, environmental, and humanitarian reasons. As I strive to eat more and more meat free meals each week, I’ve been perusing vegan cooking blogs and have been inspired to try my hand at vegan baking. I’ll probably never end up a vegan, but I can see myself going mostly vegetarian– I’ll never give up eggs or dairy completely, though. (Seriously, there is almost nothing in life that isn’t improved by cheese.)
This weekend, I decided to give the whole vegan baking thing a go, and I started with pumpkin muffins. True fact: there are a few things I hoard like the apocalypse is coming. It’s not anything practical, like toilet paper or something– no, I hoard butter, which I buy every time I go to the store, and canned pumpkin. You may remember a few years ago when there was a canned pumpkin shortage? Anyway, at that time, I wanted to make something pumpkin-y, but there was no pumpkin to be had. When I finally got my hands on a can of pumpkin, I held it to the sky like Scarlett O’Hara with her turnip and swore that as God is my witness, I’d never go without pumpkin again. Look in my pantry and you’ll find probably six cans of the stuff. I like pumpkin, and, though many think of it as just an October/November treat, I enjoy it as long as the weather is cold.
I looked at a few different pumpkin muffin recipes, and this is what I cobbled together.
Vegan Pumpkin Muffins
(This recipe was supposed to make 24 muffins. Mine made more like 28. Magic!)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2cups sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin (Make sure it’s not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup soy milk (almond milk would work too)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
+ a few tablespoons sugar and a bit of cinnamon (I used 3 T sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon) for sprinkling on top of the muffins
Feel free to fold 2 cups of chopped nuts into the finished batter if you’d like.
Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and maple syrup together in a smaller bowl. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with the batter, then sprinkle each with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
Verdict: These muffins have great flavor, and I’d totally make them again. I took them to church on Sunday, and everyone loved them. They were a particular hit with the kids, even my friends’ kids who are extremely picky. My only complaint is that they’re a little denser than non-vegan muffins. If I decide to fiddle around with the recipe some more, I might add a little baking soda to see if I can get more fluffiness.
See, when I was in school, I had a crazy person for a mom. She made me re-use the same brown paper bag to carry my lunch every day for a week, because it would be wasteful for me to throw a bag away every single day, when they could be re-used. She probably would have made me carry a lunchbox, but I threw a wailing hissyfit about how UNCOOL lunchboxes were and BUT ALL THE COOL KIDS CARRY THEIR LUNCHES IN BROWN PAPER BAAAAGGGGGGSSSSSS. As if the cool kids gave two shits about what my lunch was carried in, but these things strangely matter in high school. So, I carried my lunch in brown paper bags, which I carefully folded and tucked into my pocket to take home and use again the next day. Because clearly, my mom wanted me to be unpopular.
Beyond the bags, there was what I carried in them. Always, always a turkey sandwich with ranch dressing. But the bread, well… it wasn’t NORMAL. It didn’t come in a nice little sleeve all sliced up from the store. Nope. It was the uncoolest bread ever. It was made by my mom in her breadmaker, and the last slice was always wonky because it had a hole in it from the machine’s little kneading paddle. The slices were always slightly uneven and often too thick, and I was, for some bizarre reason, convinced the other kids would think I was like, poor or something because I didn’t have normal store-bought bread. Yep. I looked gift bread in the mouth and basically acted like a brat over BREAD. What can I say? I went to a “rich kid” high school where even bread and lunchbags could be status symbols.
Fast forward to today and my high school self is rolling her eyes at me as I proof dough and shape loaves. It’s possible that in the new locavore, DIY, Etsy world we live in, homemade bread is now actually more of a status symbol than I thought store-bought bread was in high school. But it’s also possible that homemade bread just tastes better, especially warm from the oven and slathered in butter. I love the way my house smells all yeasty and delicious. I love the satisfaction of making something with my own hands. I love knowing exactly what is in my food. And I love my mom for lovingly baking bread and packing lunches and taking such good care of me, even when I was such an ungrateful brat. I’ll have to bake her a loaf sometime…
*the title of this post comes from what Jon always says about my homemade bread: “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!”
My Kitchen Catch-all posts are a roundup of what I cooked, where I ate, what I’m thinking of cooking, and what’s got my brain cooking each week. Let me know what you think, and tell me what you’ve been cooking lately!
This isn’t everything I cooked this week, but more of a highlight reel.
The best dinner I made all week was this French Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. (At the time of writing, this link was giving me “database errors” but I swear it’s where I got the recipe.)
The same night we ate the tomato tart, I also made us a fancy dessert: Honey Lemon Pots de Creme. Usually, you see chocolate pots de creme, and though I love them, they’re not very summery. This recipe makes a VERY lemony, tart, creamy dessert. Jon wasn’t crazy about them, but I was a fan. Be sure to grate the lemon zest very fine or it will make for a strange texture.
Berries in Meringue bowls with Orange-Scented Chocolate and Vanilla Cream: Because the pots de creme used a bunch of egg yolks, I had a bunch of whites left over. I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver this week where he made a big meringue with pears and chocolate and cream and decided to try something similar. My vision was to have little bowls made of meringue, filled with summery berries and drizzled with orange-scented chocolate and sweet vanilla cream. To make the meringue, I whipped my six egg whites until they formed firm peaks, then added about a cup and a half of sugar and a pinch of salt and whipped on high for about 8 minutes. I formed the meringue into 6 little bowl shapes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and baked for about an hour at 300. I filled each bowl with blackberries, and drizzled them with chocolate (the chocolate was bittersweet chocolate, melted with the zest of 1 orange and thinned out with a little cream) and topped them with a vanilla cream (1.5 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla). SO YUMMY.
Much like I did for Charleston restaurants, I plan to make a running list of places I’ve tried in Little Rock.
Wednesday night I joined some girlfriends from church for a girls’ night at Salut Bistro on University. The restaurant is a little hard to find, as it’s in the first floor of what seems to be a tall office building, and the entrance isn’t clearly marked. I had a yummy $6 glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling from Washington and enjoyed a beef brisket sandwich with a side of fries. The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were well seasoned. The menu was a bit scattered, but the food was good, and I think everyone I was with enjoyed their meals. They also have a late-night menu that looked pretty good– might have to go back and see what that’s like sometime.
food for thought
I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making my own pitas for a while. Now I’ve got my eye on making some tzaziki sauce to go with them (Serious Eats).
My favorite restaurant in Charleston was the Glass Onion. Located just around the corner from our house, the GO was a regular haunt for us. I liked things there that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, including biscuits and gravy and meatloaf. Their delicious Southern food is also deeply local, and they served as the pickup point for our CSA. All this to say, they have a blog, and word is they’re going to be putting out a cookbook. I was happy to see they shared their Country Captain recipe and plan to make it soon. It’s a Southern curry dish– yes, there is such a thing!
Along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bourbon is one of my favorite things. Somewhere high on the list is also peach cobbler. So I decided to combine the two into a boozy peach cobbler, to great effect, and I thought I’d share my recipe, created after looking at several recipes and finding none I loved, with you.
This cobbler has a rustic cornmeal crust, which I think really goes well with the peaches and adds to the Southern appeal.
Rustic Cornmeal Crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
generous pinch salt
1 T sugar
9 T frozen or very cold butter cut into cubes
3-4 T ice cold water
Pulse the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together 2 or 3 times in the bowl of a food processor fitted w/ a plastic blade. Add the cold butter and pulse another 8 or 10 times, until the mixture looks like small peas. Drizzle the cold water through the mouth of the processor while pulsing until the mixture starts holding together (It may take you more water. That’s fine. My crust didn’t hold together very well, so I wish I had added more water). Turn the pastry onto a lightly floured surface and form into a 2 inch thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Boozy Peach Cobbler:
Peaches (I had about 8 smallish peaches, another time I had 4 softball sized peaches, so you be the judge of what will fit in your dish)
1/2 cup honey (or sugar, if you don’t keep that much honey around)
Zest of 1 lemon
2 T bourbon (or more, you can never have too much!)
2 T cornstarch
Cinnamon to your taste (I like cinnamon, so I used 1 tsp)
4 T butter
Preheat oven to 425. Peel and slice the peaches and mix with all ingredients except the butter. After your crust has chilled, roll out to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface and transfer gently to your pie dish/cake pan/whatever you’re using, letting excess hang over the sides. Pour in the peach mixture, placing pats of butter on top. Fold over the overhanging crust, tearing off peaces to cover the middle if necessary. Place the cobbler in a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any overflow of the bubbling filling and bake at 425 for 40-50 minutes, until bubbling and crust is nicely browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
We are moving this Saturday, and will be picking up our last CSA box this afternoon. We’ve arranged for friends to take over our boxes for the three weeks left in the season after we’re gone. All of this means: this might be my last CSA post for a while, because who knows how long it will take us to get our internet hooked up in our new house. Here’s what we did with last week’s goodies. We gave away a good portion of it because we wanted to be able to eat at some of our favorite Charleston restaurants one last time, but I made some goodies with what we used!
8 ears corn (gave away half)
4 slicing tomatoes
1 bag cherry tomatoes
4 bell peppers (gave away 2)
3 yellow squash
1 watermelon (ate at the beach)
2 eggplants (gave away 1)
1 bag green beans (gave away half)
3 pattypan squash
7 banana peppers (Jon ate 2 raw)
1 bag potatoes (gave away half)
I confess I forgot to write down which days we ate what, so I’ll just write up each meal.
Then I arranged the slices on top of the sauce, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, sprinkled with herbes de provence, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. I baked the pizzas for 20 minutes each at 450. They came out delicious!
Meal 2: Ratatouille with poached eggs over couscous
After the pizza, I still had a gallon bag full of sliced squash, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers. I also had half of my tomato sauce leftover. So I decided to try a baked version of ratatouille following this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Ratatouille’s ratatouille, inspired by the Pixar film. Mine wasn’t as pretty as Smitten’s, but I don’t have a mandoline for fancy slicing, so I think I did pretty well with just my knife!
I decided to serve my ratatouille over couscous with a poached egg on top. Considering I’d never poached an egg before, and considering I’m still getting over an aversion to runny yolks, I think my poached eggs came out pretty darn well! It was an absolutely delicious meal. and we still can’t decide if we liked the ratatouille pizza or the ratatouille with poached egg and couscous better!
Meal 3: Smoky corn chowder and Greek cucumber salad
I made a smoky corn chowder with the corn using this Real Simple recipe, which I’m a big fan of. I’m an even bigger fan of it now that I have an immersion blender– the first time I tried the recipe, I had to use a blender, which resulted in a molten corn chowder volcano. An immersion blender is really a must-have for creamy soups, and it’s also crucial to the tomato sauce I mentioned above.
To go with the chowder, I decided to go Greek with the cucumbers and slicing tomatoes. I chopped them into bite-size chunks and tossed them with a dressing made with the following recipe:
Whirl the following in a food processor:
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
2 sprigs oregano (any herb fresh from the garden would work!)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 dashes hot sauce
The resulting salad was delicious, and the smoky cumin in the sauce went well with the smoked paprika in the soup.
Meal 4: Nicoise salad with pesto
To use up the last of the veggies, I adapted tworecipes to make a nicoise salad with a pesto dressing. I always have good pesto on hand, because my mom makes her own with home-grown pesto, and, even if I have to pack it on ice in a cooler, I always bring home a jar or two after a visit.
I boiled four eggs and let them cool. I chopped the potatoes and the green beans into bite-size pieces, then boiled the potatoes for 10 minutes, then added the green beans to the pot and boiled both together for 5 more minutes. Then I drained the potatoes and green beans and rinsed with cold water to cool. I cut the cherry tomatoes in half and tossed all the ingredients in a bowl with a can of tuna and a can of garbanzo beans (both drained) (not traditional, but I wanted to use them up before the move). Then I dressed the salad using a mixture of pesto, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Yum!
Meal 5: Pattypan scramble
One morning when I was home alone, I fried up some bacon, sauteed the pattypan squash in the drippings, and then scrambled them with eggs, mozzarella cheese (it’s what I had), oregano (it’s what I grow in my front yard), and the bacon. A yummy brunch!
After all those meals, you need dessert: Key Lime Coconut Cake
I’m not kidding about my Smitten Kitchen fangirldom. I went looking for a recipe to use up some coconut before the move, and I found this Key Lime Coconut Cake recipe. Whaddaya know? I had limes too! I was so excited about this cake, only to be devastated when It got half stuck in the pan and crumbled into a big mess. I tried again, this time buttering and flouring the pan instead of following the instructions to butter it and place parchment paper in the bottom, and this time it came out great. A great summer cake. I have a feeling I’ll be experimenting with the recipe, maybe trying to turn it into cupcakes or a layer cake.
And there you have another week of fresh local eats!
Bonus: restaurant reviews
When not eating delicious food at home, we ate out a lot! One night we ate at FIG, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants (seriously, a must-visit if you come here). Another night, we rounded up a whole gang of friends in search of a seafood feast. We had planned to hit up our favorite, Bowen’s Island, a true experience and a must-visit if you’re in Charleston for oyster season (any month that has an “R” in it), but Bowen’s was closed for a private party. So we ended up trying the Sand Castle, a seafood joint on Folly that we’d never visited before. I was sold when I saw that they had fried softshell crab and $3.25 pinot grigio, and Jon got a seafood feast which featured fried flounder, shrimp, oysters, and deviled crab. Saturday we hit up Red’s Ice House with a bunch of friends. Red’s has miles of deck space overlooking Shem Creek, and my one goal was a giant pina colada, a goal I achieved. We also spotted a guy paddle boarding with his DOG on board, and were amazed at the dog’s steady, calm pose aboard the surfboard. Just another great night in Charleston! I’m going to miss this place!
This will be the last Kitchen Catch-All for a while. We’re starting a new season with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA on Tuesday, our second season with them after the late summer/early fall season we did last year. On Tuesday, I’ll walk around the corner to the Glass Onion and pick up a ginormous box of fresh, local veggies (my husband, a sucker for the “best deal” likes to sign the two of us up for a family-sized box). I’ll lay them all out on my kitchen table, take a photo of the spread, and then get to cooking. Each week, most likely on Tuesdays, I’ll post a round up of what we got, what I did with it, and how we liked everything in a CSA: Charleston post. It will basically be an Iron Chef battle of me versus a bunch of produce each and every week, and sometimes the veggies do win. There will be an added challenge this season because we’re moving at the end of it, so I can’t freeze things for later. I’ll have to figure out to eat it all!
It’s rare that I make something that turns out not-so-yummy, but I figure I owe it to you guys to share the bad along with the good. This week, I made a dish I didn’t really care for: Bowties and Spicy Broccoli Rabe with Crunchy Crumbs. It was not particularly flavorful, and I won’t be making it again. The rest of the week, most of our dinners consisted of leftovers or popcorn.
If you haven’t been reading this blog very long, you may be noticing by now that I basically only cook vegetarian and seafood dishes, with the occasional hint of bacon or chicken stock. This is because we radically changed our eating habits about a year ago, after seeing the film “Food Inc.” and reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. This involved a shift toward eating more locally grown, and, when not local, organic produce, and giving up most meat at home because we cannot afford to buy, nor can we find as readily, the type of pastured, sustainably grown meat we have committed to eating. So, we mostly eat vegetarian and seafood dishes when we cook at home, flavoring our foods with certified humane all natural bacon, which is readily available at our usual grocery store, and organic free range chicken stock, which we find at Costco. We also eat a lot of pastured eggs. Anyway, I just thought some folks might be starting to wonder why they almost never see chicken or beef dishes around here, and that’s why. For the record, while we try to mostly frequent restaurants that serve food that fits in with our values, we don’t hold hard and fast to our “rules” when dining outside our home. Onto what we ate this week:
We mostly ate at home this week, so I did a lot more cooking. This week we ate:
Rachael Ray’s Tuna Orzo Salad. This is a really colorful and tasty dish, full of veggies and sprinkled with feta cheese, one of my favorite things. It made good leftovers for me to take for lunch at work this week, because they don’t have to be reheated. I recommend using less red onion than called for unless you are just really a big red onion fan. Sometimes I don’t have the suggested red wine vinegar, so I use balsamic instead. I also don’t bother to buy tuna packed in oil, so I just make my own vinaigrette using regular olive oil, rather than the oil from the tuna.
Real Simple’s Skillet-Poached Huevos Rancheros. Though this recipe says it serves four, it served the two of us for exactly one meal. Maybe we’re just hungry hungry hippos. We love Mexican flavors, and we love eggs, so this recipe hit a real sweet spot for us. I’ll definitely be making it again. I’ll note that I forgot to buy scallions, so I sauteed some onion in the pan before putting the salsa and beans in. This would also be yummy with the addition of pepper jack or cotija cheese on top.
Hummus! I started making hummus a while ago, because we eat so much of it, and it’s much cheaper to just make it myself. I follow this recipe from The Kitchn, for the most part, though I always add more lemon juice than called for, as well as lemon zest, because I like my hummus to have a real lemony kick. This week I followed that recipe but made two different types. With one batch, I threw in a can of artichoke hearts, which makes for very creamy hummus with a subtle artichoke flavor. With another batch, I threw in some sundried tomatoes and a little bit of smoked paprika– this batch was AMAZING. I’m going to be making more sundried tomato hummus in the future for sure. It was an especially yummy treat when scooped up with red bell pepper slices.
Fried Rice. At the end of the week, when I have some leftover veggies in my fridge, I often make a big thing of fried rice (a lot like the frittata method I used the other week). This week’s batch featured brown rice, bacon, egg, squash, celery, carrot, red onion, and green peas.
Only ate out once this week. Friday night, I met up with some friends and ate at WOK (World Oriental Kitchen) on King St. for the first time. I described WOK to Jon as “the Chipotle of stir fry.” You basically get to choose noodles or rice, a protein (tofu, shrimp, beef, or chicken), a few veggies, and a sauce, and they fry it up in a wok and bring it to your table. The service was a little slower than I expected, but the food was tasty. The entire place is very eco-friendly, with reclaimed wood tables and other “green” touches, and all local, organic ingredients, all of which I LOVE. My only suggestion would be to ditch the paper straws. They turn soggy and useless halfway through a drink. Why have straws at all if they’re useless?
food for thought
So, the other day, when pondering my stove-top popcorn obsession, I mused to Jon that maybe popping popcorn in a pan I’d just fried bacon in would make for lovely, bacon-flavored popcorn. He thought that sounded insane. But then, what to my wondering eye should appear on The Kitchn but “How to Make Bacon Fat Popcorn.” I’ve yet to try it, but I think I might have to, since I invented it.
So, I’ve been slacking on the blog a little this past week. I expect posting to be lighter than usual for the next few weeks, as I work at a college and the end of the term gets a little crazy, and on top of that, I’m trying to get things ready for a new person to take my job, trying to sell a house, and working on coordinating our move to Little Rock, AR. That said, we’re still eating and cooking and working extra hard to try as many restaurants in Charleston as we can before we leave, so Kitchen Catch-Alls will definitely continue!
Didn’t do a ton of cooking this week, but one thing I did make was a spring fish and veggies dish loosely based on Rachael Ray’s Spring Fish in Parchment. Loosely because I used salmon, asparagus instead of green beans, and didn’t have enough parchment, so I cooked them in foil packets instead of paper. Still, a yummy dish! I had to make a quick run to the liquor store to get white wine for this recipe, which brings me to my next point…
We tried Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon this week. Firefly is a local vodka company, best known for their Sweet Tea Vodka, flavored with tea grown here in Charleston. We’ve been to their distillery and tried every single one of their products! I’m not a huge vodka drinker, but I am a whiskey girl, so I’m PUMPED that they’re now making a sweet tea flavored bourbon. I find the warmth of the bourbon is a nice compliment to the flavor of the sweet tea, and my favorite way to drink it is watered down with a big of homemade iced tea. I haven’t tried it mixed with lemonade yet, but I’m sure that would also be tasty.
Also this week, I got obsessed with popping popcorn on my stovetop. Apparently there are ingredients in microwave popcorn which can cause lung disease. This, on top of my concern at producing so much waste (a plastic wrapper and a paper bag) every time I pop a bag of microwave popcorn, was enough to make me give up microwave popcorn. My first two attempts at stovetop popcorn turned out a bit burned and once, very much oversalted. By the third attempt, I’d figured out that lower heat works better, and sesame oil is a better oil to use than olive oil. It’s a little more time consuming, but I figure shaking the pan burns off some of the calories from the OMGREALBUTTER I like to put on top, right?
Sunday we were hungry and the fridge was slim pickin’s as we had reached the end of the week and I’d yet to shop for this week’s groceries. Glancing in the fridge, I saw a few random veggies (half a red onion, half a green bell pepper, half a pint of cherry tomatoes), some eggs, and some bacon, which I threw together into a brunch of veggie-bacon frittata served with a dollop of Greek yogurt. If you have eggs and a veggie or two, you always have the makings of a meal.
If you look in the “eating out” section, you’ll see that we tried Baked this weekend, and I was so impressed I plunked down $30 (which, don’t be dumb like me, buy it for $18 off Buy.com) for their cook book. Sunday afternoon, I made their Root Beer Bundt Cake, and, given that the blurb before the recipe says to expect an “avalanche of root beer flavor,” I was expecting some serious root beer taste. But this was not the case. While the cake was rich and chocolatey, and the “fudgy” frosting was so thick it was literally like smashing fudge on top of a cake, there wasn’t even a hint of root beer flavor under all the chocolateyness. All in all a great chocolate cake, and worth trying, but certainly not the “avalanche” of flavor it’s billed to have. Perhaps if I try again, I’ll use root beer schnapps as suggested for more intense flavor.
On Tuesday we checked out Aluette’s, which bills itself as “holistic soul food.” Though I’m sure some would argue with a pork-free restaurant that calls itself “soul food,” I found the place plenty soulful. Aluette herself, along with Chef Absalom, prepared our meals, and chatted with us while things were cooking. We enjoyed fried shrimp in a light, almost tempura batter, along with fries and coleslaw, and a delicious lamb dish served with rice and collards. Everything was plenty tasty, but a bit pricier than I’d be willing to pay for what we got without a restaurant.com certificate.
Crossing another restaurant off my list, we tried Bambu in Mount Pleasant this week. I had a Thai Basil dish with tofu, Jon tried General Chang’s Chicken, and our friend had Green Coconut Curry. We also sampled the potstickers, which were pan fried for a really satisfying crunch on one side. All of the food was excellent, the patio we sat on was lovely, and if I weren’t trying to try so many restaurants before leaving town, I’d say we’d definitely go back.
Friday night, after a dinner of leftovers at home, we met friends at McCrady’s for another 25 cent cocktail night. After giving our waitress the password, “beep beep,” we received our 25 cent sidecars. A sidecar is a drink made with brandy, and I’m not a huge brandy drinker. The sidecar was probably a little sweeter than I’d order regularly, and would definitely not top my list of favorites on McCrady’s cocktail menu (I think my favorite is still the Blood and Sand, or maybe the Ward 8), but it was still a tasty drink. We also enjoyed fried green tomatoes with green goddess dressing, and Jon and I shared an apple tart with bourbon ice cream (I wasn’t kidding about my love of bourbon).
After McCrady’s, we decided to head across the street to Baked for still more sweet treats. Baked originated in Brooklyn, and when they expanded, chose to add a location in good old Charleston, SC (apparently one of the owners has family here). Baked is not a frilly, frothy, pink and white sort of place. The entire shop is themed in orange, brown, and white, with some seriously trendy elements like antlers and lots of knotty pine. Their desserts are not typical. Each person in our group got a different dessert, and they were all passed around the table for everyone to try. Among the things we sampled: salted brownie (OMG, I will have to fight the urge to put salt on all my brownies from now on), strawberry whoopie pie (I confess I’d never had a whoopie pie before, and it was darn tasty), key lime bar (I’m always a fan of key lime), cherry cream cheese bar (this was my choice– a bar with a crushed pretzel crust, a thick layer of caramel, and a fluffy layer of cream cheese and cherry goodness on top), and a cashew bar (I’m not a cashew fan, so I didn’t try this one.) I loved everything so much that I bought their cookbook, so you can expect to see some Baked goods on this blog, probably sometime soon! (You can score their Red Hot Red Velvet Cake recipe right here.)
Saturday morning we met friends for brunch at Virginia’s on King. Virginia’s is one of the best brunch spots in a town that is seriously all about brunch (other great options include Hominy Grill, the Glass Onion, Fleet Landing, Lost Dog Cafe). One perk of Virginia’s? $9 bottomless mimosas. And our waitress’s stated mission was “to get you sloshed.” Man, I love this town. We downed so many mimosas we lost count, shared fried green tomatoes, and some of the braver among us tried fried chicken livers (our waitress brought us a complimentary plate of them)– I admit I did not try them after witnessing 3 people recoil and describe the aftertaste as “like dog food.” I had a plate of biscuits and gravy with a side of hash browns. I have to tell you, I didn’t like biscuits and gravy until I moved here, and I’ve realized it’s because they make actual sausage gravy, not that gloopy white stuff of unknown origin. Jon tried the fried chicken with collards and mashed potatoes, and though he got some funny looks for tearing into it like a caveman (but seriously, who eats fried chicken with a fork? Only stuffy people, that’s who!), but it was darn good. After all those mimosas, we wandered around on King Street until the buzz wore off. A great way to spend a Saturday.
I’ve mentioned before that we try to go vegetarian a few nights per week, because we’re concerned about the way conventional meat is raised and slaughtered, because we’re concerned about the impact of meat consumption on the environment, and because we’re concerned about the impact of meat consumption on global hunger. One of the easiest veggie meals is some form of beans and rice. This week I made Cuban style black beans and served them with coconut rice. Coconut rice is seriously one of my favorite things, so if you’ve never had it, try it! This meal is especially delicious with a Cuba Libre (aka a rum and coke).
Saturday night I made one of our favorite meals. It’s the almond tilapia from this recipe and this minty chickpea salad, which I made with bulgur instead of cous cous and added some lemon juice to make it even more like tabouli. If you try it, the method to use bulgur is to add 3 cups boiling water to one cup bulgur in a large bowl, cover, and leave for 45 minutes. When the time was up, I still had some water that hadn’t been absorbed by the bulgur, so I strained it and proceeded as usual for the rest of the recipe. We actually eat a LOT of cous cous, so using the bulgur wheat was a nice change up.
Two words: Margarita. Cookies. You know you wanna try. Here’s the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. I made mine mostly following the recipe, though I didn’t have an orange, so I just added in some triple sec (half a teaspoon). I’m sure it says something about me that I had triple sec but not an orange, but there you go. A friend who had tried the recipe before recommended adding a little extra lime, so I doubled the amount of lime zest and added the juice of one lime. I STILL think that wasn’t enough lime. I’m now wondering if you can get lime extract, as I really like the idea of these cookies, especially the hint of salt.
I also made my own hummus this week. I followed this recipe from The Kitchn, but added in a whole can of drained artichoke hearts in water for a bit of a flavor boost. The artichoke made for especially creamy hummus, and I’m very pleased with the results. The hardest thing about making hummus is getting my hands on tahini, but Harris Teeter stocks it in the international food aisle. Even though tahini is a little pricey, it makes several batches worth of hummus and is still a lot more cost effective than paying $5 per tub of pre-made hummus. If you’ve got a food processor, you should check it out.
I was true to my word and went back to McCrady’s with Jon this week so he too could experience the wonder of a pre-prohibition cocktail for 25 cents. We got a booth in the bar area, and when the waitress asked us what she could get us, we said “donkey.” She smiled and said she’d have those drinks right out for us. This week’s cocktail was a Ward 8, and featured whiskey, orange bitters, and grenadine. We sipped our cocktails while snacking on crispy duck rillettes with cranberry ketchup and fried housemade bread and butter pickles with ramp buttermilk dressing. Even without the super cheap drink special, McCrady’s is fast becoming one of my favorite places to have a drink in Charleston. It’s exactly dark and cozy enough that you could almost pretend you really are in a Speakeasy.
I’d been itching to check out Ted’s Butcherblock ever since I started searching for sustainable meat sources after seeing Food Inc. In addition to being a great butcher/wine/cheese shop, Ted’s has lots of sandwiches and salads and other food items. On Friday nights, they serve a $12 supper, so we decided to see what kind of food we could get for such a great price. This Friday’s supper was lemon pepper shrimp skewers with grilled eggplant and Israeli couscous with radishes and cucumbers, with an almond custard for dessert. The food was fabulous and filling. I’m going to be searching for an almond custard recipe so I can try to recreate it soon– such a rich flavor and served with this amazing honey-nut crispy thing that I can’t even describe. In addition to the super cheap dinner, Ted’s also has $5 wine tastings on Friday night. $5 got us four samples (about one glass in total) of two whites and two reds. I especially liked an Oregon Pinot Gris. We also had some fun people watching as there were two very elderly couples in the shop, cutting each others’ eggplant, snagging each others’ dessert, and holding hands, and there was another couple with a particularly adorable and chubby baby who was wearing a very cute hat and drooling all over the place. You should definitely check out Ted’s on a Friday night. I’m convinced there isn’t a better deal in town.
The Farmer’s Market is back! While we’re blessed with a crazy-long growing season, the time without the Farmer’s Market in Marion Square always seems like an eternity. Saturday was opening day, and we headed down town excitedly, with plenty of room for crepes from our favorite food stand. I went for smoked sausage, egg, and swiss with peppers and onions, and Jon got the egg veggie which features mozzarella, spinach, tomatoes, and mushrooms. The crepe stand’s line was three times as long as any other vendor, but they’re always worth the wait. Bring a blanket and sit under a shade tree and enjoy the people and puppy watching while you devour your crepes.