kitchen catch-all

eating in

  • image via Real Simple

    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.

eating 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.
    the crepe menu.
    just a taste of the puppy-watching

    I loved these vibrant flowers.

food for thought

  • Got a lot of leftover Easter candy? Try this method for Peeps Brulee.
  • If you try the hummus recipe above and want to use up some of the rest of your tahini in a soup with a similar flavor profile, try hummus soup (I’m gonna try it soon!).

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 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!

save slow food for retirement?

I’ve blogged a LOT about my forays into the slow food movement.  From giving up most of the meat I had been eating to  joining a CSA and all the adventures that entailed to starting to bake my own bread, the way I eat has changed a lot in the past year.  Apparently, according to a DoubleX writer, I’ve been wasting my time.  Margaret Wheeler Johnson writes, responding to the New York Times’ recent followups to their hugely successful No Knead Bread recipe:

The truth is that unless you are a chef by profession or truly love cooking, spending a minimum of seven hours a week in the kitchen—and that’s just making dinner—is not the best use of an ambitious youngish person’s time. Wouldn’t the energy we expend making the meatloaf our mothers never did, or feeling guilty that we don’t, be better spent connecting with peers, putting in extra hours at work, or pursuing personal projects? If you want an Amy’s loaf, get it from Amy’s. Otherwise buy a sleeve of Nature’s Own, and leave the no-need bread for retirement.

Continue reading “save slow food for retirement?”

puddin’ head

Image via Flickr user Navin75 under a Creative Commons license.

The last time my mother was in town, we took her to The Hominy Grill, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants, and a media favorite too– I know Anthony Bourdain and Alton Brown are big fans.  We told her she absolutely had to try the chocolate pudding, as it was the best we’d ever had.  So thick it’s practically ganache, so rich it’s practically deadly, and so dark it bears almost no relation to the milk chocolate pudding cups most of us carried in our school lunchboxes, it’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever had.  It’s also one of Alton Brown’s picks for “Best Thing I Ever Ate,” as our waitress told us when we were there with my mother.  Alton knows his stuff.  This is pudding so good, Jon got a little embarrassing mmmmm-ing and ahhhh-ing in what was basically a chocolate pudding-gasm at the table, right there with my mother in the middle of the most polite city in America.

Today, I got a hankerin’ for some Hominy Grill chocolate pudding and thought I’d use Google to find something similar.  But it turns out it’s not a closely guarded secret, and I found a .pdf of the Hominy Grill chocolate pudding recipe from local food writer Holly Herrick (I just got her Charleston Chef’s Table cookbook and her Southern Farmers Market Cookbook, so check those out!).  It came out absolutely delicious, and a chocolate pudding-gasm definitely ensued.  Because I couldn’t find the recipe in easily linkable form, I thought I’d reproduce it here.  It seems to have been originally published Jan. 5, 2008 in the Charleston Post and Courier.

Hominy Grill Chocolate Pudding
chef Robert Stehling

  • 8 ounces dark, Belgian bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Reserve chocolate in a large bowl.  Separately, whisk 1/4 cup sugar into egg yolks.  Mix remaining sugar with cream and vanilla in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour a little hot cream into the bowl with the egg yolks and whisk, then pour the remainder of the cream over the chopped chocolate, stirring with a spatula until smooth.  Add the egg yolk mixture and salt, and then strain into a pitcher.  Refrigerate to cool.

Pour into 2/3 cup ramekins (I have no idea how much my ramekins hold, but it ended up being 8 ramekins full), place ramekins in a shallow pan half filled with water (water bath) and cook at 300 degrees for about an hour.  Chill for at least 3 hours before serving (we ate ours after only an hour and it was still delicious), and serve with a fat dollop of fresh whipped cream.

a holiday gift for you

Garnishing the Russian Tea with cinnamon sticks and orange slices would be a good idea! Image via Flickr user thedabble under a Creative Commons license.

In my “nightmares before Christmas” post, I mentioned Russian Tea, which is a holiday tradition in my family.   I served it at last year’s Thanksgiving Potluck, and our friends all demanded the recipe.  When I announced this year’s Thanksgiving Potluck, people wanted to know if I’d be serving the Russian Tea again, pretty please please please.  I should say first off that Russian Tea is not, as far as I know, actually Russian.  My family is not Russian, and the roots of this recipe as far as I know them, are to vaguely English/Irish folk in rural Arkansas.  My Memaw made this tea every Thanksgiving and Christmas that I remember, serving it from a big commercial-type percolator that always kept it a little too hot– I’ve scalded my tongue almost every holiday, because I can never wait for it to cool.  It was only later, as an adult, that I emailed my mother for the Russian Tea recipe and learned that it was originally supposed to be spiked with booze.  Which may be the real reason it goes over so well at our potlucks.

So, my holiday gift to my readers, thanks to a comment from reader bluebears, is the recipe for this yummy beverage.  Think of it as a spiced, citrusy cider alternative, and spike it with either dark rum or bourbon.

Russian Tea

Boil 4 cups water and steep 4 regular-sized tea bags.  Add to that mixture in a large stock pot 1½ cups sugar, 2½ cups pineapple juice, 1½ cups orange juice (frozen concentrate, not diluted), 6 Tsp. fresh lemon juice, 8 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 8 cups water.  Bring to a boil, serve warm, add dark rum or bourbon as desired.

Easy double batch:
Boil 8 cups water with 8 tea bags, add 1 large can pineapple juice, 1 family size frozen OJ, and 12 Tsp. lemon juice, 2 cups sugar, 16 whole cloves, 4 cinnamon sticks, and 16 cups water.

I made mine in crock pots for my potluck, which worked fine and kept it warm, but this recipe usually works best in a really large stock pot.  I like to keep leftover tea in pitchers in the fridge to make individually microwaved cups throughout the holiday.  Oh, and you might want to add the alcohol to each cup at time of serving to keep the uh, buzz-inducing-part, from getting cooked out.

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”