kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • Clafouti. It sounds like an instrument you’d play in a band that also features a flugelhorn. It turns out, however, that a clafouti is a tasty dessert, one that Julia Child had a recipe for (Bon Appetit!), which I found, by way of Honest Fare (you can go there and read for yourself what Gabi’s husband thought clafouti sounds like, and also snag the recipe).  When I read that it was like a cross between a custard, a cake, and a pancake, I knew I had to try it.  I love custard AND cake.  I made mine with fresh raspberries and blackberries and some frozen cherries.  After we finished eating our first slices, Jon said, “I like clafouti.” Me too, man, me too.  To paraphrase Schlotzsky’s Deli: funny name, seriously tasty dessert.   You should try making one– way easy, way good.  Tip: to make the homemade whipped cream extra yummy, add a little vanilla to it.

    my beautiful clafouti (yeah. it sounds funny.)
  • But don't you want to try it, funny name and all?
  • Image via Real Simple.

    We’re still trying to eat all the food I froze during the last CSA season, so I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking this week.  One recipe I did try was a hit, though.  It was Real Simple’s roast salmon and peppers with caper vinaigrette.  We really liked this, and I pretty much followed the recipe– the only change I made was adding some lemon juice to the vinaigrette, because I thought it needed a little bite of citrus.  I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my binder full of keepers.

eating (or should I say drinking?) out

McCrady’s is probably the most talked about restaurant in this town full of excellent restaurants.  The chef, Sean Brock, was nominated for a James Beard Best Chef Southeast Award this year, and in a recent Oxford American Food Poll, many of the chefs and food writers surveyed listed Brock as a favorite and an inspiration.  McCrady’s is also rather expensive– we ate dinner there because of one of my husband’s work events, but would otherwise only go there for a special occasion.  But the expense of the dinners isn’t a reason to miss out on the McCrady’s experience– just head to the bar!

McCrady’s is known for its pre-Prohibition Era cocktails, which are priced reasonably, on par with most other cocktails in town.  And to add even further incentives to check out their spirited offerings, they’ve been running a Prohibition style promotion on Facebook and Twitter, releasing a password to their followers and fans each week that will get them a pre-Prohibition Era cocktail for just 25-cents!  Friday night, a friend and I settled ourselves at the bar, and whispered “Burma” to Ben the bartender.  He smiled and whipped us up two Pegu Cocktails, a combination of Gordon’s London Dry Gin, Cointreau, Stirring’s Orange Bitters, and lime.  They were delicious, and I’m not usually a gin drinker!  We also checked out the menu of bar snacks.  I ordered the Crispy Pork Rillettes with Cranberry Ketchup, and my friend chose Fried Green Tomatoes with Green Goddess Dressing.  We loved both!

Since our first cocktails were only 25 cents, we had plenty of money left over to try another of the cocktails.  My friend, who had studied abroad in England, went for a classic Pimm’s cup, and I, being a whiskey fan and a sucker for a cool name, went for one called the Blood and Sand.  I mean, doesn’t that drink just sound badass??  It featured Dewar’s Scotch Whisky, Sweet Vermouth, Brandied Cherry Juice, and Blood Orange, and I enjoyed it very much.  While McCrady’s might be out of my price range for regular dinner dining, the cocktails and bar snacks are very much my speed and friendly to my budget.  I’ll have to take Jon back to try other things very soon!

food for thought

the truth about high fructose corn syrup

New research confirms that consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) promotes considerably more weight gain than consumption of the same amount of calories in regular sugar (glucose).  Though the study was done on rats, there’s reason to believe they’d get similar results on human beings.  Jon happens to be on an endocrinology rotation right now and got the lowdown on why this is from an endocrinologist (they’re the ones who are experts on diabetes and stuff, so they know all about the body and sugar). I thought I’d try to explain it as simply as my simple mind understands.

Basically, when your body breaks down glucose (normal sugar) to make energy, there’s a special mechanism that tells the body to stop processing the glucose once the body has enough energy, and rather than break down the rest of the glucose, the excess just passes out of the body through urine.  However, with fructose (found in HFCS), there is no such mechanism to shut it off once you have broken it down into all the energy you need.  So the body just keeps breaking down fructose, and the excess gets converted to fat.

Our bodies just weren’t designed for consumption of high fructose corn syrup, and this research (and understanding why they got the results they got) confirms my decision to avoid high fructose corn syrup as much as possible.  HFCS is in almost every processed food, probably even in the bread you buy, so start looking at those ingredient labels!  If you’re a big soda fan (I like some soda with my whiskey or rum), see if Jones Pure Cane Cola is available in your area.  It’s the cola I use at home, and I can find it at my local Harris Teeter.  Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are also sometimes available in “throwback” form, and if you can find ’em, they’re sweetened with cane sugar.  Right now you might also be able to find “kosher for Passover” Coke, which is also sweetened with real sugar.

kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • For St. Patrick’s Day, I made Tartelette’s Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Creme.  Tartelette is also a Charleston resident, and her site is full of gorgeous photography and delicious baked goods, and definitely worth checking out.  She features a lot of gluten free recipes, so especially check her out if you’re looking for gluten free food.  This Pots de Creme recipe combines a couple of my favorite things: whiskey and chocolate.  The recipe is really similar to the Hominy Grill Chocolate Pudding recipe I’ve written about previously, except this recipe is sweetened with honey instead of sugar and obviously, involves whiskey.  Despite the whole baking-in-a-waterbath thing, the recipe is pretty quick to put together, and the result is DELICIOUS.  Thick, richly chocolatey, not sickeningly sweet, with a warm hint of whiskey. If you, like me, are a big chocolate pudding fan and/or big whiskey fan, check this recipe out.
  • Saturday morning I decided to be fancy and make the Sticky Lemon Rolls that had caught my eye on The Kitchn this week.  First and foremost, let me say this: if you want to have these rolls on a Saturday morning, start them on Friday night. They need two separate one-hour rises, plus 30 minutes of bake-time, so the time to start them is not 9 am on Saturday if you want to have them for breakfast. Despite the long prep time, these rolls are DELICIOUS.  I didn’t have the called-for cream cheese to make the cream cheese frosting, so I made a simple glaze with powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  They weren’t as sweet or pretty as they would have been with the cream cheese frosting, but they were still a unique and tasty treat.  I even took some pictures for y’all:
  • I’m not too proud to admit that I make an occasional Rachael Ray recipe. I cooked a lot of her recipes when I was first starting out as a cook, and many of them remain favorites.  On rainy Sunday evening, I made her Sweet Onion Mac and Cheese, which is basically an extra cheesy French onion soup meets pasta. It was delicious.

eating out

  • Wednesday we went out to celebrate a friend’s birthday with dinner at Wild Olive, an Italian restaurant on John’s Island.  Wild Olive is a newer venture from the people who brought us the Fat Hen, a French restaurant very similar to downtown’s Rue de Jean, another favorite, where the owner of Fat Hen and Wild Olive was once a chef.  One of my favorite things about Wild Olive is the $25 carafes of house wine.  I also love that, much like Rue and Fat Hen, they have a delicious mussels appetizer– Wednesday I tried the white wine, fennel, and sundried tomato variety, and, as expected, they were delicious, with a yummy, buttery sauce that we ate up by soaking bread with it.  The beef carpaccio was also quite good.  For an entree, I decided to try something new and went with ricotta gnocchi with wild boar ragu.  It was delicious!  Any readers who visit Charleston would do well to remember that all the good restaurants aren’t just down town, and both Wild Olive and Fat Hen are worth checking out.
  • Saturday we checked out a place in Mount Pleasant called Crave Kitchen and Cocktails that I had never heard of until friends asked if we wanted to go.  While I’m not sure it ranks in my top 10 or even 20 Charleston restaurants, and it had a fairly generic atmosphere, Crave’s food was prepared well and presented beautifully.  I’m a huge fan of mussels, and we tried both varieties of the mussel appetizer, one in a coconut red curry broth similar to one I’ve had at Atlanticville, the other a more traditional white wine broth like I’ve had at Rue de Jean and the Fat Hen.  Both were large portions that would be a bargain at the regular price of $10, even more amazing at a half-price special they were running.  I had a cedar-planked salmon entree which was served ON the plank with a Greek spinach salad featuring artichokes and olives and feta.  It was pretty good, though the fish was a little dry and could perhaps have used a marinade or sauce of some sort. Jon had a burger, which he said was very good, and our dining companions had sea bass, which was very impressively plated, and butter-poached seafood, which featured some really tasty lobster claws.  Just goes to show that even a Charleston restaurant that fails to blow me away still provides a darn good dining experience. I’ve yet to have a bad meal in this town.

food for thought

  • I started a new tab up top, Charleston Eats, to track all the places I’ve tried and have yet to try in this town.  It’s full of links and mini-reviews, so if you haven’t already, check it out.
  • I’m not much of a vodka drinker, and I confess I’ve never had limoncello.  Having read the Manhattan Food Project’s post about making homemade grapefruit limoncello, though, I might have to remedy this.  Anyone else ever made their own limoncello?
  • Apartment Therapy featured a peek inside the Maker’s Mark distillery kitchen.  It’s 1950’s retro, it’s full of my favorite color, red, and I LOVE it!  I already have a kitchen full of red, featuring a black and white checkered floor, so maybe now I’ll be inspired to try some robin’s egg blue accents.
  • New York’s schools are having a battle over bake sales.  If you ask me, officials are looking in the wrong direction if their concern is childhood obesity.  An occasional baked-good is essential to a healthy life, I personally believe.  Not to mention, most homemade items contain real ingredients instead of corn syrup and preservatives, and beat out most processed foods.  If we are really concerned about what kids are eating, we need to focus on reforming the school lunch program.  Right now, students are fed sub-par food and a minimal amount of fruits and vegetables. Most of their food is pre-packaged and re-heated, not fresh.  Getting fresh produce into schools and getting processed foods and vending machines out would go a long way toward making our students healthier.  So would ensuring that they have an hour of physical activity per day.

an embarrassment of riches

I write all the time about what a great food town Charleston is.  It’s mostly because of the food (but also because of the beach, and yeah, ok, fine, because of our friends, and the beauty of this old city) that I’m so sad to be moving. I’ve been working on a list of all the restaurants (using The Charleston Chef’s Table as a sort of guide) we’ve tried here and all the ones I’ve been meaning to try, and thought I’d make it a post, and perhaps it’s own page on this site. So, if you look up top, there should be a new tab of Charleston Eats where I list most restaurants I’ve heard I should check out, with ones we’ve actually tried checked off.  Sometime when I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll write up blurbs about all of them, but for now you just get a list.  It’s amazing to me how long it is, how many we’ve tried, and how many we have yet to try. It’s also amazing how many other places aren’t even on the list– this is just a serious food town, and if you like to eat, I recommend coming here for at least a week and trying to eat your way through it.

the kitchen catch-all: a new weekly series on FOOD

While we’re not currently involved in a CSA season, which fueled most of my cooking-related blogging recently, I’m still doing a lot of playing around in the kitchen.  I spend a lot of time reading about food, thinking about food, making food, and eating food, and thought it might be fun to do weekly roundups of what I’ve done in the area of food each week.  I think I’ll do each post on Sundays, and post them at the beginning of each new week.  This week is a short one, as we were out of town for half of it.

Eating In (things I cooked):

  • Zucchini Bread. Immediately upon returning home from vacation, I felt the urge to get in my kitchen and make “real food.”  Back during the height of the CSA season, I froze shredded zucchini in 3 cup increments to use in this recipe.  If you would like to make some zucchini bread for yourself, here’s my mama’s recipe (copied straight off a handwritten piece of notebook paper, just for you):

    Mix in large bowl:

    • 3 eggs
    • 2 c brown sugar
    • 3 tsp vanilla
    • 1 c veg. oil

    To these add:

    • 3 c shredded zucchini
    • 3 c flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 2 T cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 c chopped nuts (I tend to go with walnuts)

    Pour batter into two greased and floured loaf pans and bake for 1 hour at 325.

  • Beer Bread.  I found this recipe via Honest Fare.  For any of you afraid baking bread will cost you your hopes and ambitions (sorry, I’m gonna beat that joke to death), this could really not be a simpler way to get homemade bread fast. Because it contains no yeast, there’s no waiting for it to rise.  You just throw all the ingredients together, put the batter in a loaf pan, bake 35 minutes, and then you have tasty bread warm from the oven.  I think my next attempt will involve less sugar and perhaps a darker beer.  My first try was with a Sam Adams Winter brew, and it came out a little sweet and light for my taste, though it was still delicious.  I will probably also cook it a bit longer than specified, as it was a little doughy in the middle.
  • Chicken Pot Pie.  It was a rainy Friday, I wasn’t working, and so, rather than making like a normal person with a craving for pot pie who grabs a Marie Callenders and nukes it, I decided to really go homemade on this thing.  This involved roasting an organic, free-range bird, and then following Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of an Ina Garten recipe.  After reading a few comments that were less than stellar, I jazzed mine up with the addition of some thyme, sage, and herbes de provence, and thought this was a truly flavorful, amazing dish.  I wasn’t happy with the way my crust turned out, so I chucked it and decided to make it the way my mama always does: with a biscuit crust.  Turns out this was rather hip of me, as Bittman wrote about biscuit-topped pot pie this week.  Here’s an admission for you: I made Bisquick biscuit for the topping, not the real buttermilk kind.  It’s still yummy.  I’ll also note that this turned out way more filling than the 4 bowls worth SK says it makes.  I filled up a large rectangular casserole and a smaller square one. (I’m not enough of a cook to be able to tell you the measurements of my dishes.)
  • Hominy Grill’s Buttermilk Pie.  Sunday was Pi Day (3.14, geddit?), so I wanted to bake a pie.  Not in the mood to chop a bunch of apples for my favorite Apple Pie with Gruyere Crust, I decided to go with a local favorite.  You can check out the recipe here (pdf).

Eating Out (places I ate):

  • Bushido.  When Food Network’s Man vs. Food came to town, the host took on local Japanese restaurant Bushido’s Spicy Tuna Roll Challenge.  You can read more about the challenge and MVF’s visit at the Charleston City Paper.  Basically there are 10 levels of spicy tuna hand rolls, with level 5 being a jalapeno, and level 10 being something called the Vietnamese Ghost Pepper.  If you eat all ten levels, not necessarily in one visit, you are given a special headband, you get your picture on the wall, and you get free appetizers for life.  I am not one to tolerate extreme levels of spice, so I was at the restaurant to cheer on friends taking on the challenge, and to eat delicious sushi.  After watching one friend consume level 8, with extreme face redness, sweating, swollen eyes, and even later, some parking lot vomiting, I can say that I am simply not up to the challenge.  The sushi was delicious, though.
  • Sweatman’s BBQ.  South Carolina is a mecca of good BBQ, and there are many choices close to my home worth checking out, including Fiery Ron’s Home Team.  However, once I saw Sweatman’s featured on Anthony Bourdain’s South Carolina episode of No Reservations, I knew immediately: “I want to go to there.”  (Though I have some issues with that episode, like why he hung out eating oysters and drinking champagne out of mason jars with the Twee Lee Bros. instead of going to the more authentic and local Bowen’s Island, it’s a good ep.) So we recruited friends, drove for an hour into rural SC, and sampled the wonder that is Sweatman’s.  They’re only open two days a week, they don’t take cash, and they don’t cook with gas. It’s that simple.  Sweatman’s does wood-fired whole hog BBQ, and they do it well.  It turns out they also do banana pudding quite well too.  Get there early, because otherwise, they can’t guarantee to have ribs or skins (they have several signs to this effect), and you’ll want to try both.  In fact you’ll probably want to try everything.  After plunking down $9.95 for the all you can eat buffet, one of my companions asked the good-ole-boy cashier what he recommends.  “All’ve it,” he said. “Ya paid for all’ve it, didn’tcha?” Indeed.  I’m already planning a similar trip sometime soon to Scott’s BBQ in Hemingway.

Food for Thought (worth a read):

  • Ending Africa’s Hunger“, by Raj Patel, Eric Holt-Gimenez, and Annie Shattuck, in The Nation.  Yeah, I just found the Nation’s food issue from last September.  Still, this article hasn’t gone out of date and is worth a read if you’re concerned about global hunger.  Money:

    Nnimmo Bassey, director of Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria, suggests, “If the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations wish to extend the hand of fellowship to the African continent, they should move away from strategies that favor monoculture, lead to land grabs and tie local farmers to the shop doors of biotech seed monopolies.”

So, do you like this new weekly post idea? Have any suggestions? Tried anything delicious this week? Let me know!

eating is a pleasure

So, I was going to write a great big ole political post about the Founding Fathers and the rule of law and the idea of liberty and my disappointment that it looks like Obama is going to cave on trying accused terrorists in the criminal justice system and try them in military tribunals instead, but it’s the day I start my vacation and I just don’t have it in me. So maybe that post will show up sometime after next week, full of quotes from my favorite Founder, John Adams.  In the meantime, you get yet another post about food! Because I’m crazy about food! I talk about it all the time! When I told my boss that my main contribution to my trivia team the other night was knowing that “banh mi” is a type of Vietnamese sandwich (thank you for teaching me that, Anthony Bourdain), he said, “Why am I not surprised that you’d know the answer to a food question?”

The trigger for this particular food post is yet another piece from DoubleX. I promise I’m not going to go on yet another rant about baking my own bread while sacrificing my hopes and dreams and ambitions, so bear with me.  Before I get to that, though, I have to talk about the Salon post that inspired the DoubleX post which in turn inspired this one.  In a piece for Salon, Kim Brooks writes about pregnancy and weight gain.  She describes a moment when, post-partum, a stranger asked her when her baby was due, making her feel ashamed to still be carrying “baby weight.”  Now, if you ask me, Kim Brooks really shoulda told that nosy asshole off and then written a post about the GALL some people have to comment on women’s bodies or to ever dare to ask the question “when is your baby due?”  But instead, Brooks beats herself up for still carrying baby weight 6 months after her baby was born.  (If you ask me, it took you 9 months to put it on, cut yourself a break already, lady.)  In fact, she makes the audacious claim that mothers aren’t shamed enough for daring to “get fat,” aka, look like they’ve actually grown a human in their bodies, pushed it out of their vaginas, and then lived to tell the tale.  All of this is of course, completely insane, and I’d like to point Brooks and anyone thinks like her in the direction of Shapely Prose and the Healthy at Every Size movement.

But what inspired Amanda Marcotte’s DoubleX response to Brooks, and what inspires my post on the subject, was the guilt Brooks heaped upon herself for daring to LIKE FOOD.  Marcotte writes: “Brooks shames herself for loving family meals, the smell of baked bread, and the flavor of cheese. I don’t consider that out of control; I consider that being human.”  Marcotte, rightly, I believe, points to a culture that tells women they have no right to enjoy eating actual food (hello 80 calorie soups??) which creates monsters:

“The kind of eating that Brooks describes that causes women to put on way more pregnancy weight than recommended doesn’t sound like the eating of people who just love to eat. It sounds like the eating of women who’ve been deprived of the right to enjoy eating for so long they have no discernment at all—sucking down milkshakes, devouring entire pints of ice cream, vacuuming up white grains and pasta like they’ve never really been allowed to eat before. And in a sense, they haven’t. Not without feeling guilty, and having their enjoyment of the food dramatically compromised by that. I’m inclined to think that binge eating isn’t a matter of being a bad girl who likes food too much, but being a woman who hasn’t been allowed to enjoy it and so goes a little nuts when given even the slightest permission.”

I would liken it to my growing up in a teetotaling household and going a bit nuts with the drinking during my first semester in college. Continue reading “eating is a pleasure”

CSA: Charleston– the season ends

Almost two weeks ago, we got our final Pinckney’s Produce CSA box of the fall season.  It has taken me this long to get a post up about it because without another box’s arrival to give us a deadline, we had the opportunity to eat the last shipment of veggies at our leisure, which, though I did freeze a little bit of it, proved my theory that each box was at least two weeks’ food for us.  Here’s what we got:

  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 bunch collards
  • 3 bunches spinach
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 eggplant
  • lots of green beans
  • lots of tomatoes

The first night I made a variation on one of our favorite dishes, Rachael Ray’s Italian Tuna Casserole (I have the cook book this recipe is from, but someone recreated it here).  Tuna casserole is one of my comfort foods, and I’m a big fan of this recipe.  Jon suggested adding in one of the heads of broccoli, and so this recipe used up one of those as well as two of the bunches of spinach.  This recipe fed us for a couple of days, plus at least one lunch for me.

The kale was used up another night in this pasta with sausage and kale, which was almost as good as the bacon and collard linguine we’ve loved this season. Continue reading “CSA: Charleston– the season ends”

CSA Charleston: sometimes even i get overwhelmed

Another delicious week with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA!

DSC05663Another great haul this week! Here’s the breakdown:

  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 bunch collards
  • 4 small heads broccoli
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • lots of various tomatoes

This was our next to last CSA box! I’m already getting sad about the season ending, and will do more of a retrospective on the experience next week.  I’ll also post a picture of the stock of food we’ve now accumulated in our freezer– at least one friend seems to be unable to believe everything I’ve said is in there fits! Continue reading “CSA Charleston: sometimes even i get overwhelmed”

CSA Charleston: think it’s possible to eat too much soup?

Another week, another CSA post about our Pinckney’s Produce CSA share! Now that we’re into November, I’m actually pretty sad that we’ve only got two more boxes left, one we receive today and one we receive next week!

Food styling by Jon this week. I came home from work and he had everything all laid out on the table, ready to be photographed.

This is what we got:

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 bunch collards
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 4 small heads broccoli
  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • 2 bell peppers
  • lots of tomatoes
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 rutabagas
  • green beans

The first night (Tuesday) Jon and I made two batches of soup AND dinner (and I managed to write a presentation for class the next day AND watch So You Think You Can Dance, because I am just that awesome, or, more honestly, because I can get a lot more done more quickly in the kitchen when Jon is helping). With the sweet potatoes and rutabagas we made another batch of the curried soup we so enjoyed last week, and we froze about 4 quarts of it. We also made broccoli cheddar soup (loosely following this recipe, except I just put the cheddar IN the soup– didn’t melt too well but it was delicious) with the broccoli and cauliflower.  We froze most of the soup, saving two servings to have for dinner the next night.  And for dinner, with half the mustard greens and half the collards, we made a batch of smoky beans and greens, which I also enjoyed for lunch at work the next couple of days. Continue reading “CSA Charleston: think it’s possible to eat too much soup?”

CSA Charleston: attack of the killer sweet potatoes

Another week, another post about what we got and what we did with our CSA box from Pinckney’s Produce! DSC05657This week’s haul:

  • 4 sweet potatoes, one of which was the size of a football
  • 2 heads broccoli
  • 2 bunches collards
  • 2 turnips with greens
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 bag field peas/black eyed peas/bean-type things
  • 4 rutabagas
  • 4 slicing tomatoes
  • 6 small tomatoes
  • 4 peppers

When I went to pick up this week’s bounty, I was most impressed by one item in particular.  A sweet potato the size of a football. I held it up in astonishment and showed it off to the folks at the Glass Onion, one of my favorite local restaurants right by our house which happens to be our CSA pick up point. No one could believe the size of the monster sweet potato. In case you think I’m kidding, this is the beast both in my hand and on a dinner plate:DSC05658


Insane, right? Continue reading “CSA Charleston: attack of the killer sweet potatoes”