Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Food: Thanksgiving

I figure since Christmas is this upcoming week I need to get organized and finally post my Thanksgiving entry! Where are all of these weeks going?!? Seriously!

This year turkey day was a bit unusual for Jonathan and I because instead of traveling and enjoying a meal at one of our family's houses, we decided to host dinner...not only for our immediate families but for twenty-two people! I was a little bit nervous since I had never cooked a whole turkey before. And with my crazy travel schedule for work I didn't have time to do a trial run. So, after looking at a ton of turkey recipes, I decided to bite the bullet and experiment on our company. I suppose being brave in the kitchen can be a good thing as long as you have a back-up plan (we also prepared a ham just in case...).

The recipe I ended up using is more of a technique than an actual recipe and I discovered it in an old issue of the LA Times. Basically the article describes Judy Rogers' method for roasting turkey which is pretty similar to a trick she uses for her famous Zuni roasted chicken. Since I've made her chicken before and the dry rub technique so far has been pretty fool-proof, I decided this was the safest technique to attempt on my company. And I was not disappointed. The vote's in and the results were awesome - a moist, wonderful turkey and I did it on the first try - on two birds! Thank you Judy Rogers!

Luckily I did have some help over the weekend with Jonathan and my family bringing many of the side dishes - things like fluffy and sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls, sweet, salty and tangy broccoli salad, flaky, buttery crusted pecan and apple pies, creamy mashed potatoes, crisp green beans, steaming sweet potatoes with a crunchy sweet topping and a simple lettuce salad. We definitely had more than enough food to feed twenty-two and then some. So in the end, I felt like what I was responsible for wasn't unreasonable since all I had to do was reheat the ham, brine and cook two turkeys, prepare and bake the stuffing and, of course, make the cranberries.

I talked about the perfect turkey but the other thing that received rave reviews was the cranberry chutney. The recipe I selected is an unusually spiced combination of cranberries, pistachios, golden raisins, dried apricots, mustard, cinnamon and ginger. The surprise ingredient, ginger, gives the entire dish a nice bit of heat to go along with some sweetness and tang. So in other words, it's a true treat for your tastebuds. And, BTW, it's great on toast or pumpkin pancakes the day after.

You'll find the recipes for my turkey and cranberries below. And who knows, maybe you'll find some inspiration from them and want to experiment with these on your next holiday crowd too. Let me know if you do :)








Cranberry Chutney with Ginger

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
  • 2, 12-oz bags of cranberries
  • 3 c sugar
  • 2 whole, medium tangerines, diced (DO NOT PEEL but remove any seeds) (MM tip: If substituting, pick an orange that has a thinner peel to avoid some of the bitter white pith)
  • 1/2 c jumbo golden raisins
  • 1/2 c toasted, shelled pistachios
  • 10 dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 2 T freshly grated peeled ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t dry mustard
  • 1 t salt

Directions

  • Cook all ingredients in a non-reactive pan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Increase heat to a boil and cook until cranberries pop (takes about 3 minutes)
  • Cool and refrigerate - the chutney will keep up to 6 months in fridge if you keep it tightly covered

Dry Salt Brined Turkey
Adapted from Judy Rogers/LA Times

Ingredients
  • 12-16 lb turkey (MM Tip: Fresh is best but if buying frozen, look for one that does not have much solution/salt added)
  • Smoked Salt (MM Comment: Can also use kosher salt but I think smoked gives the turkey more depth in flavor and a sense that it was cooked in a brick oven instead of a regular stove. You can also experiment with other flavored salts too)
Directions
  • DAYS 1 & 2
  • Wash the turkey inside and out and pat dry
  • Measure out 1 Tb of salt for every 5 lbs of turkey
  • Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt and then rub the remaining salt all over the outside of the body
  • Place the salted turkey in a plastic bag (MM Tip: I used kitchen size garbage bags but you can also use 2 gallon sealable bags if you can find them) and wrap/seal tightly, placing the turkey breast-side up in the in the refrigerator
  • Chill the salted bird for 2 days

  • DAY 3
  • Turn the turkey on to its breast and chill for one more day

  • Day 4
  • Remove turkey from the bag and place breast-side up on a plate, refrigerating uncovered for at least 8 hours

  • Day 5 - THANKSGIVING
  • Remove from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for around 1 hour
  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Place the turkey breast-side down on the roasting rack in a roasting pan and place in the oven (MM Comment: I was able to fit two, 14 lb birds into one large roasting pan. I recommend cooking the turkeys unstuffed to ensure proper temperatures and cooking times)
  • After 30 minutes, remove pan from the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so breast is facing up (MM Tip: I recommend using silicone oven mits to do this)
  • Reduce oven temperature to 325, return turkey to oven and roast until the temperature in the thigh reads 165 (~2 3/4 hours of total cooking time)
  • Let turkey stand for 30 minutes prior to cutting to allow the juices to redistribute

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Food: My Friend Farro

I know, I know. I've been super neglectant about writing lately. But I do have a fairly valid excuse. My company decided to staff me on two projects - one in Atlanta and one in Salt Lake City. So I feel like October thru November has been a complete blur (not to mention I somehow managed to pull off (with some help from family) Thanksgiving dinner for twenty-two! in the middle of it all). I wake up some mornings and don't know where I am...rolling over expecting to see a familiar alarm clock face rather than a sparse bedside table with an outdated lamp and some carpeting you would expect to see in an English-garden loving grandmother's house (Hilton, if you're reading this, your core hotels desperately need some major refreshing).
This is my last week in Utah and the temperature has been pretty cold - at least colder than it has been in Detroit so far. So it's making me crave things hot and hearty, warm and comforting. When I think of food like this, my friend farro definitely fits the bill. I'm about to share with you my go-to comfort dish. There's just something about it that's just so very fufilling. I don't know what it is about whole grains with sweet onions, salty feta, and bitey (is that a word?) hot sauce. But it is soooo good. And I thank Molly for the wonderful idea a while back. This has become my favorite thing to eat when I'm in the need of a warm food hug. And guess what, it's actually pretty healthy too!
Don't be concerned if you don't have everything below in your pantry. For example, if I don't have onions I'll often make it with farro and black beans (no lentils) instead. And sometimes I'll throw in some crispy onions instead of carmelized ones. It's open for creativity. But keep in mind, it's never complete without a few dabs of tangy hot sauce and feta cheese. That's the selling point.






For Orangette's Farro (including a scrumptious description on how to make it), click here. Once you know the basics you can make it from memory and modify however you please.

For those of you in metro-Detroit you can find farro at Whole Foods or Busch's (both carried a semi-pearled variety - and don't fall over when you see a $7 price tag on a little bag of grain..it's worth it and goes a long way). I generally use 1 cup of farro, about 3 cups of water and some salt. Combine ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, simmering for 25 minutes or so. Then you can drain the farro, stir in some black beans, feta cheese, and hot sauce. Good to go! And in case you're curious, even my beef-eating, anti-healthy-food office co-workers have commented how heavenly this smells.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gardening & Food: Labor Day Weekend at Home

I've been a little behind in my postings...I've had material and ideas for a lot of entries and am not very quick in sharing them with you. If only work didn't take up so much time ;) Seeing as the leaves are now changing and falling to the ground and we've had a killing frost to eliminate any hopes of more fresh items from our gardens, I think it's about time I share photos from visiting my family's place on Labor Day weekend.

Visiting my parents' place in peak harvest season is definitely a treat. After all, who can resist fresh veggies and fruit? And when items are in abundance you can guarantee you'll be taking some wonderfulness home with you. This year the garden was even more bountiful than usual. My parents had so many tomatoes for example, my Mom took excess heirlooms to school with her to give away. Can you imagine? Free heirloom tomatoes?!? I hope her co-workers appreciated how much those would have cost at a grocery store :)

Some highlights from our garden-fresh weekend meals include grilled pizza in traditional style (i.e. homemade dough and sauce from scratch with fresh veggies from the garden), my dad’s famous omelets (his version of a Western with bacon, green pepper, onion and cheese) topped with delicious fresh salsa and served with toast and homemade jam (blueberry, grape, and raspberry!), Hamburgers with fresh salsa (including tomatillo), and fresh basil pesto with heirloom tomato mozzarella caprese. My mom has been really busy with her canning this year too – salsa, banana peppers, pickles, sauerkraut, jams - and their garlic was so successful, my dad braided it into a rope for storage.

Here are some photos to show the fruits of their labor. Maybe some day I'll have my own beautiful canning closet and braided garlic rope...








Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food: Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh

I don't like to admit failure. But I know when you decide to try out different recipes almost every weekend, sometimes things are going to be a flagged a failure. You just have to hope that you have more hits than misses to avoid giving your kitchen skills a messy reputation. That, and you have to be thankful to have a boyfriend who enjoys trying new things and doesn't insist that everything be plain and boring and all meat and potatoes :)
A few weekends ago I made something that in theory was supposed to be warm, nutty and comforting with lovely asian flavors like soy, ginger and orange served on a bed of chopped kale. But what I ended up with was something Jonathan and I both intensely disliked - so much so, when I tried to eat the leftovers the day afterwards (why do I have to feel guilty about wasting food?), I felt slightly ill after doing it. Lesson learned.
It's such a shame. The recipe sounded good, offered a chance to try a new, unusual ingredient (tempeh from Trader Joe's) and looked wonderful (I am always enticed by Heidi's lovely photos on 101 Cookbooks). I must apologize to her that we did not enjoy the recipe as much as I had hoped. I promise to try something else on her site soon to make up for this foiled attempt. And I apologize to all those tempeh fans out there that I haven't yet grown to love it. Maybe someone can share a better recipe with me to change my mind?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food: Shish Kabobs

We're in the middle of tailgating season right now and it just so happens one of my favorite things on the grill works pretty great as tailgating food: Shish Kabobs. In three simple steps (1. Marinate the meat overnight; 2. Skewer the morning of the game; 3. Place in gallon-size ziplock baggies for easy transporting) you have something easy and delish to throw on the grill. And since these bad boys consist of both veggies and meat, you don't need to pack a million side dishes to go along with them! If you're in charge of all of the tailgate food, you could turn this into a complete Mediterranean meal by buying some pitas and hummus and mixing up a quick tabouli mix with fresh, diced tomatoes. Ask a friend to bring some cookies or brownies and you're all set!

MM Note: I don't know why I don't make these more often. First of all, the marinade transforms any meat into something tangy, juicy and flavorful. And second, they're so easy! I generally do a mix of chicken and beef to keep the crowds pleased and alternate skewers with pearl onions (defrosted frozen pearl onions save time since they're already peeled), grape tomatoes, pineapple chunks, sliced green pepper, and garlic.

Shish Kabob Marinade

MM

Ingredients
  • 1 c Cooking Oil (I like to use something with little-to-no flavor like Smart Balance)
  • 1/4 c Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 1/2 t Kosher Salt
  • 1 T Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
  • 3/4 c Soy Sauce
  • 2 T Dry Mustard
  • 1/4 c Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 c Wine Vinegar
  • Juice from 1 Lemon

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Food: The Perfect Chocolate Cake

As you've probably learned from my postings, I'm not typically a baker. This is mainly due to the fact that I prefer savory over sweet -and- with only two people in the house it's not really wise for me to make desserts very often - 3 dozen cookies, 2 people, one weekend? You do the math :)

Although I typically reserve the baking responsiblity for my mother or sister, I do like to make desserts for special occassions. As a result, I decided for Jonathan's birthday this year to try Molly's famous chocolate cake. Being prone to experimentation, I did modify the recipe slightly, using a chocolate bar infused with chili to add an extra special touch and a little spice/heat. Also, I didn't trust my cake pan in terms of sticking-risk, so I lined the entire pan instead of just the bottom with parchment (not particularly pretty but it worked).

We had slivers of the cake served at room temperature after dinner to celebrate and then I froze the rest. Since then we have shared some thawed cake slices with a house guest and have a few slivers left in the freezer, reserved for another special day. It holds up perfectly when frozen! And I've decided this wonderful, rich treat may become a birthday staple.











"Molly's Winning Hearts and Minds Chocolate Cake"
Adapted from Orangette

Ingredients
  • 2, 3.5 oz Dark Chocolate Bars with Chili (MM: Such as "Lindt Excellence" Chili or Vosges Red Fire)
  • 7 oz Plugra (MM: European-style butter)
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 T whole-wheat pastry flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment. You will probably want to grease the parchment too.

Finely chop the chocolate (a serated bread knife is a great tool to use for this) and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler, stirring regularly to combine (Note: You should not try to do this in the microwave due to a high risk of burning the chocolate). Add sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Finally, add the eggs one by one stirring well after each addition. When the mixture is a gorgeous, silky brown, add the flour.

Pour the lovely batter into your cake pan and bake for around 25 minutes (Depending on your oven's true temperature this may vary - mine took 30-35 minuites). The top of the cake should be cracked and the middle just slightly jiggly (if at all). Allow the cake to cool before slicing. And don't panic - the cake will deflate some after cooling...this won't change the fact that it will taste fabulous.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dining Out: Sugo Restaurant and Tapas

I had an incredible food experience last week while on business to Duluth, GA...and I just had to share it with you. First of all, this restaurant serves delicious, lovingly prepared food. Second, great prices are accompanied by huge portions (I was happily able to box and bring home about half of my meal to enjoy for lunch the next day). Third, and perhaps most importantly, most menu items had an unusual but stunning combination of Greek and Italian ingredients.

My co-worker and I started off the evening trying their "famous" Meatball al Sugo (one meatball is plenty for two people). It was an fantastic combination of sausage stuffed with roasted tomatoes, dates and caramelized onions topped with a touch of tomato basil sauce. I enjoyed them so much it inspired me to come up with a meatloaf recipe using the same ingredients (to be posted here soon!). Then, for dinner
I enjoyed a dish called Pernice’s Chicken described as "dressed with a touch of tomato basil sauce, Prosciutto di Parma ham, caramelized onions, dates, spinach, pecorino romano, and provolone cheese. Served atop basil and black pepper papparadelle pasta tossed with roasted parsnips, caramelized radishes, figs, cherry tomatoes, cremini, portabello, and oyster mushrooms." It was soooo good and had some distinctive ingredients - I can't say I've ever had tomato sauce with figs, roasted parsnips and caramelized radishes. Who knew that combo would be so fabulous?

Amongst all of the deliciousness of the evening I have to admit my favorite thing was the caramelized onions. In both the meatballs and the chicken dish, it took me a while to figure out the secret flavor even though I knew it was something warm, translucent and soft with a hint of tangy sweetness. After Google searching Sugo recipes on the web, I soon discovered what I enjoyed were some very special caramelized onions...super slowly roasted with honey and balsamic vinegar. I think it will forever change the way I cook onions.



MM Comments: These onions are incredible. Since it takes a long time and some patience to make them, I recommend doubling the recipe and freezing the leftovers. I made this with 3 large, sweet onions this past weekend and ended up using them all weekend long - in meatloaf, on top of a sausage sandwich, and tossed in a pesto pasta dish. Soooo good!

Sugo's Caramelized Onions
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Ingredients:

  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 T plus 1 t olive oil divided
  • 2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t cracked black malabar pepper
  • 1/2 t chicken stock base
  • 1/4 t smoked Spanish paprika
Directions

To roast the garlic: Prehead oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off a head of garlic. Place in a garlic troaster, clay pot or baking dish and drizzle with 1 t olive oil. Cover tightly and roast until the garlic cloves are soft but still white about 30-45 minutes. Set aside 1/2 of the garlic for the onions, reserve the rest for another use

To carmelize the onions: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pour the remaining olive oil into a baking pan and top with the onions. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and honey. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from 1/2 head over tehe onions and stir to combine. Sprinkle with salt , pepper, chicken stock base, and paprika. Cover with heavy alyuminum foil and roast for 4-6 hours until onions are very soft and gently caramezlied (medium brown).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Food: Deep Dish Pizza

My first experience with deep dish pizza wasn't actually in Chicago but in Detroit at a place in Greektown called Pizza Papalis. Being one of my first comforting food discoveries after moving to Motown, this became a place I occasionally took visiting friends and family. Over the years I've discovered other restaurants and developed new favorites. But the deep dish pizza remains something I crave when I'm in need of comfort. It's warm and hearty and flavorful and crusty. And I can't think of something more perfect than this dish, served with a bold bottle of red wine and some candlelight to help you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and forget about the stresses of the outside world. Yes, it IS that good.

Over the years, not every deep dish pizza I've tasted has met my standards. For example, I sometimes think restaurants get carried away with the amount of cheese they use, even if the excuse is to try to keep it together when it's sliced. With that said, I've tried and tweaked several recipes and finally arrived at something that very closely resembles perfection. The crust has a biscuity texture to it and is great to sop up the flavorful (and quick) sauce. And other than baking in the oven as part of the pizza, the sauce doesn't require any cooking! What could be more simple than that? (My quick sauce trick is to combine a favorite condiment of mine (Trader Joe's Red Pepper spread with Eggplant and garlic (I mentioned it previously here)) with some chunky style crushed tomatoes and a touch of Italian style spices.)

If you're making this in a smaller pan than the recipe calls for, I'd recommend reducing the amount of sauce you use just to prevent a mess when you cut the pie into slices. And feel free to modify the toppings as desired. This time around I used roughly chopped and pitted kalamata olives and fresh baby spinach (two things I had in the pantry/fridge). Some variations to try:
  • Roasted garlic and pineapple (trust me...it's WONDERFUL)
  • Fresh mushrooms and mini meatballs
  • Shredded roast chicken and artichoke hearts
  • Ricotta cheese and caramelized onions
  • Tuna (mix into the sauce) and asparagus





Deep Dish Pizza
MM

Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c very warm water
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/2 c neutral-flavored cooking oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (~2 1/4 t)
  • 28-oz can chunky style, crushed tomatoes
  • 2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 2 c fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 5 T Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant & Garlic
  • 1 1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
Directions
Preheat oven to low for 10 minutes and then turn it off.
In a mixing bowl, add water, salt, sugar, yeast, flour, cornmeal. Mix for a couple of minutes until dough comes together and then slowly add the oil. Mix for a few more minutes until the dough is wet and smooth (not sticky).
Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a towel and place in warm (turned off) oven). Let the ball rise until it is about doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a draft-free area on the counter.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a 15-inch deep dish or spring form pan with cooking spray. Place the dough ball in the center of the pan and press it out until it covers the entire bottom and using your fingers, pull the dough up the sides of the pan. Cover the bottom of the dough with cheese, add toppings and then sauce. Top the pie with some grated parmesan cheese and spices.
Cook the pizza for 25 minutes, turning the pan 180 degrees mid-way through cooking.
After taking the pizza out of the oven, carefully remove the ring from the spring pan. Allow the pizza to cool for ~5 minutes before slicing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Food: Five Spice French Toast

Although my typical breakfast is a bowl of cereal or fresh fruit and yogurt, my favorite types of breakfast foods fall into the "weekend" category (i.e. the things you probably shouldn't eat every day since they're heavier in fat and calories...but we won't mention that part, will we?). I place these "special occasion" foods into two categories: savory and sweet. On the savory side I love Greek-style omelets, huevos rancheros, grandma's buttermilk biscuits with sawmill gravy...you're getting the picture, right? But on the sweet side, besides my mom's whole wheat, blueberry pancakes, my favorite food is French toast.


I would describe the perfect French toast as piping hot, crisp on the outside and slightly doughy in the middle, with a custardy constitution reminicent of bread pudding. It's a food that is most definitely completely about texture and warmth with a touch of sweetness and spice. Thinking about this, several weeks ago I decided to modify my normal recipe adding some orange extract and five spice flavor to give it a warm and citrus-infused flavor. We found it to be a nice departure from the traditional cinnamon and vanilla version. Also, if you're wondering about a trick to make the toast both flavorful and crispy, I've found that using a combination of both butter and oil in the skillet works the best.

This recipe holds up well if in case you have leftovers and decide to freeze some slices. Just heat them up in the toaster oven when you're ready to finish them off. Jonathan and I had a couple of slices in place of toast last weekend with our cereal...and they were perfect even without adding any sort of toppings.

five spice, french toast, oil, butter, bread, motown maiden, detroit, breakfast
five spice, french toast, oil, butter, bread, motown maiden, detroit, breakfast
Five Spice French Toast

MM


Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, beaten until slighly frothy
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t five spice powder
  • 1/2 t orange extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3/4 loaf french or vienna bread, cut into thick slices
  • 1T butter
  • 1T light-flavored cooking oil (I used Smart Balance)

Directions

  • Place 1 T butter and 1 T oil in a skillet and pre-heat stovetop to medium heat
  • In a large, shallow bowl, stir together eggs, skim milk, sugar, five spice powder and orange and vanilla extract
  • One slice at a time, dredge the bread through the egg mixture soaking approximately 5 seconds per side until it is soaked through
  • Place the bread in the pre-heated pan and cook for 2-3 minutes a side on medium heat until cooked completely and nicely browned on both sides
  • Plate and serve

Friday, August 28, 2009

Travel: San Francisco's Farmer's Market

W O W!!! Take a peek at all of these wonderful, beautiful, punchy, vivid colors!!! Can you believe these dazzling shades of life come from something a lot of people take for granted and many children fear - fruits and veggies?!? Hello lovelies!

A couple of weekends ago when I was visiting my friend Christine, we took time out to visit the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. Boy was it a delightful feast for the eyes (and mouth)! My camera lens and tongue were in foodie heaven. Although I couldn't bring back a large bounty, I did find my share of happiness. For example, I purchased a bunch of the most delicious, green table grapes I have ever tasted. They're called "Princess" and we picked them up at G L Alfieri's stand. They almost had a muscat sort of quality to them and if a woman hadn't handed me a sample I probably would have passed them right on by! We also purchased some sweet and tangy Green Grenade Pluots from Bella Viva Orchards, an unnamed "Batch #5" cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and crusty bread from Acme. All of our purchases were loaded into a backpack, carried on a 4.3 mile, 900 foot elevation hike from the Green Gulch Farms and Zen Center (who also happen to have a booth at the Farmer's Market) to Muir Beach, and then finally to the lovely front lawn of the The Pelican Inn B&B where we plopped down our tired bodies and feasted on our Farmer's Market treats, washing them down with a frosty, post-hike beverage. Now that's my idea of a perfect day!


Random: Just One of Those Days

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Food: Miguel's Fish Tacos

Most of us who like to cook know the love of preparing and enjoying dishes isn't just about our own satisfaction, it's about sharing our sweat (and sometimes tears) with others. Cooking is truly about nurturing and nourishing both the body and the soul and definitely about companionship. As a result, I can't think of a memorable dish without associating my experience with a person or group of people I care about.

When I think of food with family and friends, this is one of the first recipes that comes to mind. A couple of years ago, Jonathan and I visited our friends Miguel and Anna in Atlanta. The pair are truly the most wonderful hosts and do everything they can to ensure your comfort. Since part of this hosting responsibility involves satisfying rumbling tummies, Anna and Miguel definitely didn't let us go hungry. One unforgettable meal from the weekend involved Miguel's fabulous fish tacos (and not because one of the dogs decided to dip his nose in the guacamole on the counter and show all of us his creamy, light green beard).

I'll let you in on a secret - not only are Miguel's tacos excellent because they taste incredible, but because they're super, super simple. The concept is relativey easy - so much so, I'm not even going to prepare a formal recipe for you, just provide you with some basic instructions.

First, you're going to take fresh filets of tilapia (figure 1-1.5 per person), rinse them in some cool water and pat dry with a paper towel. Next you'll decorate the filets by seasoning them heavily with "Old Bay" brand seasoning on both sides and some freshly squeezed lime juice (just cut the lime in half and let your hands do all the dirty work - don't be afraid to get them all citrus-sticky). After you're done doing this, cover the fish in plastic wrap until you're ready to cook, placing them in the refrigerator if you don't plan to grill for a while.

When you're ready to fire it up, grease the grill ("Pam Grilling" cooking spray will do the trick) and pre-heat to medium-high heat. When it's reached the desired temperature, place the fish on the hot grate and cook for approximately five minutes, turning mid-way through and dousing with beer a couple of times during the cooking process (I generally pick a bottle of what ever we have in the fridge. This past time it was Negra Modelo).

When the fish is fully cooked, lightly shred the filets with a fork and put them in a large serving bowl. Then serve them up with some shredded red cabbage, fresh salsa, homemade guacamole (my easy proportions for "perfect guacamole" can be found
here) and freshly toasted corn tortillas. And if you're wondering the trick for cantina-style tortillas, heat them on the grill while the fish is cooking and then wrap them in foil until ready to serve.

What could be easier and more delicious? I think you'll be very pleased with the results - and the smiling faces. Buen provecho!


fish tacos, motown maiden, detroit, atlanta, salsa, guacamole, quick mealsfish tacos, motown maiden, detroit, atlanta, salsa, guacamole, quick meals
fish tacos, motown maiden, detroit, atlanta, salsa, guacamole, quick meals

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Travel: Late Summer Weekend in San Francisco

As I mentioned in my last posting, my current work assignment is located quite a distance from Detroit (i.e. in Reno, NV). So last weekend I decided to avoid the 7 hours of travel time and take a quick flight over the mountains to visit a friend in my favorite city - San Francisco. Christine, a food lover like myself, had a ton of great places picked out for my visit. Thanks to her planning, we essentially ate our way through the city (with walking and hiking in-between, of course, to work off all those calories).

Thursday: When I arrived on Thursday evening, Christine picked me up from the airport and took me to Circa on Chestnut Street. There, I had a nicely prepared, flat iron steak with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a delicious, smoky asparagus (the asparagus was the highlight of the dish). The steak was plated with a red wine demi-glace and topped with horseradish foam (Christine and I had a discussion about foam - we're not really sure we'd categorize it as a food). We shared the Truffle-Parmesan Fries for an appetizer, which were good, but I prefer metro-Detroit's Town Tavern's version. By the way, I've already decided I want to check out Laiola the next time I'm in San Francisco. It's next door to Circa and the menu (and atmosphere) looked excellent.

Friday: After wrapping up the work day on Friday, we took a long walk from the Presidio area to Union Street. While doing some window shopping, we passed by a sweet shop (Miette) and decided a small, pre-dinner treat was in order. I tried an old fashioned cupcake (a very tasty chocolate cupcake with french meringue frosting and a candied peanut on top) while Christine had a delicious, pistachio macaroon. Then, after browsing in a couple of cute stores, we decided to eat dinner at Mamacita. Mamacita was jam packed and everything they brought out of the kitchen looked delish. We waited for our meal and snacked on "guacamole al don" - i.e. guacamole with fresh tortilla chips and crushed tomato salsa. I had the pan-roasted halibut with poblano chile-polenta and roasted chile-tomato salsita and Christine tried braised meyer ranch tri-tip beef enchiladas baked with oaxacan mole coloradito, leeks and goat cheese. Both dishes were savory, filling and very good. We were so full when we left the place, we decided it was a good thing we had a couple mile walk home -and- that next time we should probably skip the guacamole and chips and wait for the main event.

Saturday: Saturday we started the day with crepes (I love the fact SF has a ton of creperies!) at Crepevine. Both of us selected savory crepes (I had the Greek since I love spinach, feta and kalamata olives). We then took some time out to visit the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building (I'll blog about that experience later). After the Farmer's Market we visited J-Town for a festival and then went to Rose's Cafe for lunch. The brunch menu was still in effect so I ordered the Crescenza-Stuffed Focaccia with white truffle oil. It was very good, but I think what they served me was the pizza crust with crescenza and truffle oil instead of a stuffed foccacia bread. Christine opted for the roasted Turkey Breast, Avocado, Provolone & Dijon on Brioche. It seemed to be lacking tomatoes, so when she ordered some on the side you can imagine our surprise when they showed up with a gorgeous plate of heirloom slices (I stole a few as well as some arugula from her side salad to add to my "pizza"). The highlight of the meal were Italian sodas - I had peppermint, Christine had curant. After lunch, we joined one of Christine's roommies for a hike near Muir Beach and after effectively working off both breakfast and dinner on our 4+ mile hike, we cleaned up and had a late dinner at Nopa. We started the evening with flatbread of house smoked bacon, grape tomatoes, goat cheese. It was excellent and better than any sort of BLT you can imagine. Christine ordered their famous, grass fed hamburger with pickled onions and french fries, and I tried a roasted chicken dish served with a salad of purple heirloom tomatoes, purslane, croutons. Although it was fun to eat the purslane (purslane is pretty much a weed you can find in your own yard if you'd like...and the flavor is fresh and lemony) and the tomatoes were super-fresh and flavorful, my chicken was a little dry. Next visit I would definitely have the hamburger or the pork chop...the two dishes for which they are famous.

Sunday: My last day in town, Sunday, we started the day intending to go to brunch at a funky little place called Liverpool Lil's. However, since they weren't yet open when we arrived (why do so many places in San Fransicso open super late for breakfast?!?), we opted for Judy's Cafe. My favorite thing I ordered was the delicious, fresh-squeezed OJ (although it was quite pricey at $5 a glass). I had a farmhand omelet that had a little too much spice on the potatoes, but was good. If you visit Judy's (and many small restaurants in SF) by the way, be sure to bring cash - they are a cash-only venue. If I visited Judy's again, I'd try the huge plate of Sourdough French Toast (sharing with a friend is probably a good bet). After breakfast, we wandered around the fabulous new Academy of Sciences, checked out the Sutro Bath Ruins, relaxed on Crissy Field for a couple of hours and saved up our appetites for dinner at Zuni Cafe where we feasted on their famous "Chicken for two" (which takes an hour upon placing your order) and shoestring fries. The bloody mary we had for a pre-dinner drink was excellent with balsalmic, finely diced onion, and plenty of spice. And the chicken was perfectly, perfectly, perfectly cooked and served with a warm, chewy, flavorful bread salad. We did notice it the dish was very salty though (between the brine from the chicken skin and the cooking juices poured over the bread salad). So you may want to take that into consideration when placing appetizer and drink orders. For those of you who are unable to visit this San Francisco institution, Zuni has a cookbook (or rather the awesome Judy Rodgers has a cookbook)...with fantastic descriptions and instructions (it may change the way you cook). You can find it at several retailers including Amazon and Overstock. You can also find their recipe for their famous chicken and bread salad here.

Click on the image below for a better view of what we ate.

San Francisco, Dining, Nopa, Miette, Mamacita, Zuni, Crepevine, Rose's, Circa, Motown Maiden

Monday, August 17, 2009

Food: Pesto with Zucchini

My little Riley is at "summer camp" at my parents' house since my current assignment doesn't give me very good hours for picking her up at doggie daycare (7 hours of travel time Mondays and Thursdays is a huge burden on a girl's schedule). When I dropped her off for her many weeks of fun, my mom loaded up my car with fresh basil, zucchini, and raspberries! Oh how I miss living in a house with a big garden!

Jonathan and I polished off the raspberries almost instantly. And knowing I needed to make something with the basil and zucchini before I went out of town for a week, I remembered reading about Molly's dinner party (from her book "A Homemade Life") where she used these two ingredients as key flavors in a wonderful pasta dish. The pesto recipe below is my own, and unlike most store-bought versions, I prefer it to be hand chopped due to the nice, homemade texture it lends. I also like a dollop of sour cream on the side for a hint of tartness (I grew up with a creamy version of pesto spread over rotini noodles that was basically pesto blended in with sour cream and parmesan). This is an easy and super fresh lunch (or dinner) idea and is perfect for this time of year - especially since zucchini and basil are in abundance.

Pesto, Zucchini, Motown Maiden, Orangette, Molly, Linguine, Basil, Garlic
Pesto, Zucchini, Motown Maiden, Orangette, Molly, Linguine, Basil, Garlic
Pesto, Zucchini, Motown Maiden, Orangette, Molly, Linguine, Basil, Garlic
Pesto, Zucchini, Motown Maiden, Orangette, Molly, Linguine, Basil, Garlic
Basil Pesto and Zucchini
MM, Inspired by and adapted from Orangette

Ingredients
  • 2 large bunches of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic
  • 1 small handful of raw pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of loosely packed Parmesan (freshly grated)
  • 3-4 Tb of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large, garden fresh zucchini
  • 1 package of long, pasta noodles (I used linguine)

Directions

  1. On a large cutting board, roughly chop the basil
  2. Add the garlic and pine nuts, further chopping to combine. Chop until the garlic and pine nuts are fine bits
  3. Fill a large pot with water and place over high heat, salt generously and bring to a boil (once it reaches a boil, slightly reduce the heat to prevent water from spilling over the edges of the pot)
  4. While the water heats, carefully slice the zucchini into thin, long slices (use a mandoline for the best effect)
  5. Place the zucchini slices into the pre-heated water for 6 minutes or so (just enough time to cook them but not become mushy)
  6. Drain the zucchini and place aside (do not get rid of the hot cooking water!)
  7. Add the pasta to the cooking water and prepare as directed on the box for al dente
  8. Drain pasta, toss with pesto and zucchini and serve with some freshly shaved parmesan (I like to use a vegetable peeler to make nice curls) and a dollop of sour cream on the side (if you'd like, this is optional)
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