Monthly Archives: June 2010

Magical Fruit: Black Beans Two Way

Migas! putting the burrito back in your breakfast.

After a week of eating heavily–I’m making a lot of delicious, calorie-laden dishes for this blog it seems– and before a bad eating weekend (gaming necessitates pizza and soda, people) I wanted to make something healthy and cheap. What could be healthier and cheaper than a pot of beans? Soak ’em, cook ’em up, flavor ’em any way you want, and you can chow down for days. Flipping through Mark Bittman‘s biblical-proportion cookbook, How to Cook Everything, I was intrigued by a recipe for “Black Beans with Orange.” It sounds colorful and interesting, doesn’t it? It could as easily be named, “Black beans with cumin, pepper, garlic, and orange” as the orange isn’t as prominent as I might have liked. But still, a good recipe for black beans and certainly a good starting point for me.

Black bean soft tacos

These images just emanate summertime, don’t they? Can’t you feel the warmth of the sun, smell the pool, see lightening bugs, hear cicadas? Can’t you? Just humor me, then. The bean preparation was fairly simple: simmer three cups of cooked beans and 1 cup liquid with sauteed bell pepper, onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Add a tablespoon of cumin and some salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup red wine and squeeze half an orange over the beans. Cook for a bit and allow flavors to permeate. Serve with cilantro, tortillas, and any fresh fixin’s you desire. Squeeze an orange slice over the top if desired. J and I went the soft taco route with this dish. They look so pretty I could eat them all over again. I added some shredded chicken into the fixin’s for J. We ate every bit of this spread.

Soft taco fixin's with chicken

This morning after the dog park and scrubbing the house down and working out and going to the dreaded Wal-mart we needed a big lunch. Migas was a perfect solution for staying relatively healthy and using many of the previous night’s ingredients. We didn’t know about migas before we visited Austin, Texas to get engaged two years ago and had our first taste at the South Congress Cafe. Basically, migas, or “crumbs,” are a combination of eggs, stale tortillas, and anything and everything left over from the week. They are amazingly simple and good. Migas have a special place in our hearts because they were what we ate the weekend we got engaged and what we served at our wedding brunch buffet.

Cooking up migas

Today’s migas included the bell peppers, onions, and jalapenos from the previous night, fried up and chopped tortillas, eggs, and leftover cheddar cheese. We sauteed the veggies, added in tomatoes and tortillas and let them cook a bit, then added in four eggs and turned down the heat a bit. When the eggs were mostly done we sprinkled the cheese and mixed it in. What makes migas is the corn tortillas in them and I hope everyone will try these– the corn tortilla flavor adds something different and richer to what would be glorified scrambled eggs. We served the migas with homemade salsa and black beans. I like to mix the beans and migas in each forkful. J went for the extra carbs and put his migas in corn tortillas and had breakfast soft tacos.

tortillas in eggs in tortillas

The black beans were a great start to the weekend. We got at least two meals out of them and don’t have to feel guilty about either. They may have been an afterthought to the migas, but without the beans and tortillas already on hand I wouldn’t have even thought of making them. It’s awesome to see the connections I’m making as I write and cook for my family and my audience. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Homemade: Rosemary-Balsamic Pork Chops

Browned chops cooking in balsamic sauce

As I said in my last post, sometimes a home cook needs to get out of the meat and potato box and make something different. But oftentimes those frozen chicken breasts will save your wallet and quell the hungry masses. Rosemary-Balsamic pork chops is one such dish that’s both different and reliable. I’m not sure to whom I owe the credit for this recipe– and there a lot of similar recipes out these on the internets. We started making it over a year ago in Stillwater and probably eat it twice a month now. It was a lifesaver during vet school when we were, ahem, penniless students. Pork chops are good meat on the cheap and can be dressed up in any number of ways. J likes to fry up simple pork chops and serve with a fresh mango-jalapeno salsa. But this recipe turns out moist chops in a tasty brown sauce that you’ll want to eat more than once.

To make the chops you will need:

Ingredients and Garlic Zoom

  • 2 pork chops, not too thick
  • 3 tsp flour
  • 1-1.5 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 2-3 tbls olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1.5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Make the breading for the chops. Combine flour and spices in a bowl big enough to accommodate one chop at a time.
  2. Dredge the chops in the flour mix and set on a plate. Make sure the meat is thoroughly coated.
  3. Heat the butter and olive oil in the pan at medium temperature. When the butter melts, saute the minced garlic. PSA: DO NOT brown the garlic. brown means it’s burned. It should only saute for a minute or so.  As soon as it even begins to look like it’s thinking about changing color, the chops should go in or the pan should be removed from the heat. Burned garlic is a travesty and makes everything taste bitter. Throw away browned garlic, it’s better than throwing away your dinner.

    Throw away burned garlic

  4. Spread the garlic out around the pan and place the chops side by side on top of the garlic. Allow to cook 2-3 minutes until browned and turn gently with tongs so as not to disturb the breading. Brown both sides and then remove chops from pan and set aside.
  5. Carefully pour the chicken broth and balsamic vinegar into the pan. If the sauce starts boiling away immediately, turn down the heat and add a little more broth. Cook for a few minutes without the chops until the sauce is slightly thickened.
  6. Put chops back in pan and simmer, turning the meat every four or five minutes. Cooking the meat thoroughly takes about 8-10 minutes. Cut the chops open to be sure they’re cooked all the way.
  7. Serve with veg and or carbs of choice. DON’T leave any sauce in the pan–you’ll be fighting over it later.

    complete meal in 45 minutes

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We ate this particular meal with farmer’s market corn on the cob and fresh green beans sauteed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. It’s a comfort food meal, one best eaten after a long day at work or when you just need something satisfying. We were kayaking on the Armand Bayou earlier in the day and while we had a hearty lunch, our aching muscles begged for something more homey.  It was all so… warm… and… yummy. We may have split a bottle of Chateau St. Michelle Gewurtztraminer and watched Battlestar Galactica while eating this. It certainly all made for a blissful night’s sleep.

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Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, and Apple casserole

Casserole before baking

I wanted to make something meat-free and different. Meat free, because, really, why not? I don’t always need steak in my meal and it allows me to try new things in the kitchen. As Micheal Pollan prescribes to those of us trying to be more conscious eaters: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It’s an adage I try to remember, particularly the “Eat Food” part (as opposed to overly-processed pre-packaged dinners, breakfast bars, etc). I’m guilty of tailoring my dinner to whatever meat is in the freezer, so I like getting out of the box at times. I stole this vegan casserole and toned it back to a vegetarian meal. No offense to vegans, I’m just not sure I’m ready for tofu cheese. This recipe is a little wintry with apples and squash and cinnamon and allspice, but it’s very filling and not so wintry we couldn’t enjoy it.

blue cheese and walnuts

This is a spectacularly simple recipe. Bake 1 large or 2 small halved butternut squash on a pan, cut side down, for 45ish minutes at 350 degrees. Scoop the baked flesh out of the rind and mash it in a casserole dish (like you might mash potatoes). Mix in the spices: 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon, allspice, salt and rosemary. They call for cardamon but I don’t have that. I may have used more rosemary as I am addicted. After tasting and adjusting the squash flavor, smooth the surface and sprinkle good blue cheese or another stinky cheese over the top with nuts of your choice. Lay apple slices over the top and squeeze half a lemon over them; this guarantees tart apple flavor. Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 350 for 20-ish minutes.This casserole made a satisfying weeknight meal. I know it sounds too simple, but the squash is very filling and healthy. You don’t have to feel bad eating this for dinner or even taking it for lunch. We’ll be making it again.

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Small Bites and Highlights: Colorado Part 2

On the way to Boulder

As much as I enjoyed my trip to Denver a few weeks ago, I’ve been remiss in finishing my recollections from the trip. Here, I’d like to include a few good bites and experiences of the wedding and my visit to Boulder.

Bruschetta at Maggiano's

All the weeding food was satisfying and comforting, things you really crave when you’re away from home and living in a hotel for four days. The rehearsal dinner was held at Maggiano’s, a pretty popular location for parties, events, and rehearsals in Englewood. The food was good, the company was better. Much like any rehearsal dinner, the people and the thought that went into it made it a party. Each table included quotes about love and partnership as well as photographs from the couple’s 8+ years together. Everyone had a good time and ate a TON of food.The rehearsal is often thought of as the anti-climatic formality of a wedding, something to occupy in-laws. But I like the rehearsal dinner as a time for family and close friends and memories. It seems a rehearsal is a time to tell stories and relive old times before the big, new day.

Reception Decadence

The wedding itself was simple outdoor ceremony at the Cherokee Ranch Castle in Sedalia, CO. This place is a treasure. It was built high up on a hill overlooking a valley and across from some gorgeous mountains. It’s scenic, comfortable, and full of amazing antiques. I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I did have other duties while I was there. Upon realizing that the groomsmen were in one room playing cards while the bridesmaids were in a separate room playing cards, we all decided to get dressed early and take pictures in hopes of avoiding the impending rainstorm. Thankfully, the rain held off for the ceremony and we were able to celebrate in the courtyard overlooking the mountains. Afterward, we toasted, we laughed, we cried, we imbibed, and we danced. It was a touching and lovely wedding and I was so privileged to be a part of it.

With the gorgeous bride

On my final day in Colorado, my aunt took me to Boulder, CO for the Boulder Creek Festival. The festival was little bit of everything: performance, art, culture, activities, and businesses gathered together near the University of Colorado. Boulder is an adorable college town set in the foothills. The parts I saw were reminiscent of my old college haunts and I’m planning a return visit soon, perhaps next summer. The festival was nice and I was happy to spend time with my aunt, even though I was exhausted. I was bound and determined to eat pizza on my last day in CO and I got my wish at a very peculiar location.

Dushanbe Teahouse Interior

The Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder was originally constructed in Tajikistan and shipped to Boulder, it’ sister city. Boulder, in turn, sent a cyber-cafe to the former Soviet Republic country. The interior is gorgeous with a hand painted ceiling, elaborately carved columns, and a small garden with statues in the center of “The Seven Beauties.” They serve a variety of teas as well as light, yummy foods perfect for lunch and breakfast. I ordered the most amazing pizza which I did not take pictures of. It was a thin crust pizza with spinach, roasted cherry tomatoes, caramelized onions, olive oil, goat cheese, and figs. Oh. My. Goodness. It looked a lot like this, but a little less populated by toppings. Wow. I was tired, I was cranky, I was in need of comfort food as breakfast at the hotel was not comforting. This cured my ills. I’m making it at home as soon as I figure out figs. They seem mysterious. If anyone knows about where to buy and how to know if they’re ripe, please share. I haven’t a clue and I am suffering due to lack of fig and goat cheese pizza in my life. This pizza provided me the emotional strength to take this photo later in the day:

Indeed, those are... Guitar Glasses

And that’s it folks. It was the best of times, it was the tiredest of times. But overall I got in some sightseeing beyond the airport and hotel, made friends, and enjoyed the hell out of my trip. I can’t wait to go back!

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Cook and Tell: Fried Green Tomato Experiment

1/4 inch slices. Not too thin.

The first time I ever ate fried green tomatoes was at the Tulsa State Fair when I was 16 or 17. This was during my turkey leg phase, a time which my parents felt compelled to document in photos and show to prospective love interests. Needless to say, turkey legs are no longer at the top of my list, but fried green tomatoes have stayed close to my heart. They’re quite yummy, particularly when paired with the right dressing. Forget about ranch, all you Okies and Texans. That’s right. Can you say Remoulade sauce? No? Neither can I because years of Spanish class has ensured that all words foreign to me come out with a bad Spanish accent. But this sauce, applied to fried green tomatoes especially, or any other fried item and particularly sweet potato fries, will make you very happy.

Frying

Remoulade sauce can be made in a number of fancy ways including with shrimp, but I just took inspiration from Recipezaar and then used what we had in the fridge to make it up. We mixed mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, Tabasco, Worcestershire, lemon juice, minced garlic, paprika, and black pepper to make ours and it turned out pretty good. a tad mustardy for my taste, but suitable for brightening up the fried goodies.  As for the tomatoes, I coated them with flour, dipped them in an egg-milk mixture, and then coated in Italian bread crumbs (starting with a dry flour coating is GREAT for dipping anything in bread crumbs! The flour soaks up more egg which sticks to more breadcrumbs. Everyone wins). I fried them at medium heat in a small amount of grapeseed oil 4 at a time until they were golden brown on each side. We drained them on paper towels and ate them warm with Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy beer.

tasty pairing

Our fried green tomatoes turned out very nicely. I would have liked a better batter, something lighter and crispier, but for something I didn’t want to deep fry, for something entirely simple, this fit the bill nicely. This was a great way to experiment with our under-ripe farmer’s market finds. It would make a great appetizer to any summertime meal as long as you’re not serving friend food as the main course too. These were a great treat to eat on the back porch while enjoying the beer and the heat and some Saturday laziness.

Appetizer, anyone?

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Tomato Fest at Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market

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Farmer’s markets are political places. We have a lot opinions about them. American farmer’s markets themselves tend to embody and project a variety of positions on food, farming, and how we live our lives in general. Farmer’s markets are elitist. They’re conservative. They’re liberal. They’re expensive, badly located, and full of pretentious yuppies who think themselves above Wal-mart. Farmer’s markets attract “foodies” and all of their poorly conceived, romantic philosophies about nature and getting back to “slow,” simple food.  Farmer’s markets are just a symptom of the new sustainable, local, organic, earthy-crunchy, free-range, hippy-dippy movement that encourages corporations like Whole Foods to bring you “organic” food from all over the globe and tries to scare you out of consuming HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup)–ideas here courtesy of Michael Pollan.  They’ve born slogans like “Think globally, eat locally” and “Eat where your food lives.” Some people believe this “movement” only exacerbates the problems they claim to want to solve— how big IS your carbon footprint if you haul food from across the state? How hypocritical are you, selling me “organic” food in plastic bags?  But farmer’s markets also allow us to meet face-to-face with the people who grow our food and ask questions we might never get the opportunity to at Wal-Mart. They encourage us to think more deeply about how food connects our community. They provide a source of income for people with a passion for farming. Farmer’s markets remind consumers that there are alternative ways to eat, cook, grow, and taste. And farmers markets are really, really fun.

Beautiful and fresh

I’m a fan of farmer’s markets mainly because I’m a fan of outdoors, festive atmospheres. Oh, and food. I love the Cherry Street Farmer’s Market in Tulsa, OK. It’s crowded and small, but it’s got a warm place in my heart from all those mornings I used to go with friends, eat bakery pastries, buy spices and veggies, and drink tea at a nearby teahouse. My first market visit was probably to the famous Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. We’ll be visiting later this summer and I am already in rapture over the smells, sounds, colors and variety of the place. I can’t wait to see they men throwing fish and showing off for the crowd, the rows and rows of fresh flowers and fruit, the original Starbucks coffeehouse, and all the random street performers busking for a dollar. And then there’s the Stillwater, OK farmer’s market. Held every Wednesday and Saturday near Shortcakes, no one in Stillwater had an excuse not to go. It’s small, rustic, and full of wonderful finds like homemade sausage and tons of fresh herbs. The only other farmer’s market in Houston I have visited is the Mid-town farmer’s market at T’afia. Chef Monica Pope of Top Chef fame hosts a farmer’s market in her restaurant and parking lot every Saturday morning (which is right next door to the Breakfast Klub!) The chef herself is usually there hosting a free cooking demonstration in the classroom where you can watch, listen, and eat whatever she’s making. It’s a great experience and one of the places you can catch the adorable Houston Dairy Maids. But you can still find awesome cheese at the Urban Harvest farmer’s market and we did happen to pick up a small ton of goat cheese, milked and made earlier that week.

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Heaven

Our first visit to Houston’s Urban Harvest Farmer’s Market coincided with Tomato Fest, a two-week long showcase of the season’s prettiest and tastiest tomatoes. Tomato fest is also happening next Saturday, June 12, so get on over there if you’re interested. We saw a LOT of tomatoes, along with a lot of other produce and prepared foods. J expected a veritable cornucopia of tomatoes, a million varieties and colors and kinds, people dancing the tomato dance and loudly singing the praises of tomatoes all day. But it was really just crowded, hot, and kind of  anticlimactic for him. We did see red, yellow, green, purple, and orangey tomatoes, but you can’t impress someone who wanted blue tomatoes in his life.  In any case, we ate crepes for breakfast and that was a great consolation for his broken heart. Naturally, we forgot to take pictures until we’d almost devoured them.

Nutella, strawberry, and whipped cream crepe

We also tried watermelon gazpacho, cheeses, blackberries, and salsa. Samples at farmer’s markets are great! Much better than grocery store samples, IMHO. We ended up with two flats of tomatos, bluberry peacho-de-gallo (yum!), fresh chevre, and white and yellow corn. We spent about $45 with breakfast, so this was not a cheap shopping trip, but we had a lovely morning and we’ll use all the food. Actually, we have already made something I only dreamed could occur in a home kitchen: fried green tomatoes (post to follow momentarily). We’ll definitely return to the Urban farmer’s market soon– if only for a chance to venture downtown without the oppressive afternoon traffic. Houston is full of little treasures like this an I imagine we’ll only find more as we keep exploring. I encourage you to make a trip to your local farmer’s market soon! You never know what might challenge your ideas about food or what new thing you’ll find or be inspired to try.

study of tomatoes with basil

colors

fashoinable statement shopping bags

squash and eggplant

our haul

couldn't resist!

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The Bachelorette’s Last Meal: Colorado Part 1

At Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret Downtown

My wedding weekend in Denver was fantastic. Good friends, good food, lovely ceremony, low drama, a super fun bachelorette party, and a quick trip to Boulder in addition to visiting downtown Denver and Castle Rock. I was privileged to be in the wedding of two dear friends from college who made their partnership “official” after 8 years. I became assistant to the Maid of Honor and my duties included running interference for the bride, calling the groom to bug him, shopping at Walgreens a bunch, and being generally distracting to all stressed-out parties. I think between the 80’s dresses I brought and dying my armpits red before we changed into wedding clothes, I did a good job.

Getting ready for our night out

The weekend started on a high note with the bachelorette party dinner at Vesta Dipping grill and entertainment at Naughty Pierre’s Burlesque and Comedy Show at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret. Vesta was so accommodating. We were late because the groom’s parent’s ran out of gas a mile from the hotel and the groom borrowed our car to go rescue them. We had to push back our reservation nearly 45 minutes, but when we arrived they were happy to see us and prepared to seat and feed us immediately. The hostess was so impressed with our bachelorette costumes it seemed like she wanted to quit her job and join the party. We chose an 80’s theme to make the night more festive and spent a lot of time on outfits, makeup, and accessories to make ourselves 80’s-tastic. We covered the range from Madonna to Cyndi Lauper to the bride’s gorgeous prom frock.

Grilled Salmon

Vegetarian Mixto

Vesta Dipping Grill boasts a wide variety of foods, for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Dinner started with bread and a head of creamy, roasted garlic, a revelation I wish more restaurants would try. If you’ve never spread mild roasted garlic cloves all over hearty bread and dipped it in olive oil you’re missing out. We ate adorable, crispy rock shrimp in ponzu sauce, roasted vegetable and potato samosas, moroccan spice grilled salmon, jalapeno grilled pork tenderloin, a grilled vegetable medley, and coconut masala grilled tofu steak. Vesta’s major feature, besides really well-made food, is that each dish comes with three dipping sauces for your enjoyment. It’s great for those who love condiments, love change, want each bite to taste different, or just want more variety for $20-30 a plate. We shared a bottle of S. A. Prum “Essence” Riesling from Germany with dinner. I am a firm believer that a sweet white goes with nearly anything, but then again, no one was eating beef. It should be noted here that while enjoying the weekend and eating amazing food, pictures didn’t happen as often I wish. I’ll try to do better in Austin.

The gang with the adorable "Fanny Spankings"

I don’t want to say too much about the burlesque at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, but I do want to encourage everyone reading to find a burlesque show where you live or on your next vacation and go. The show we attended was a traditional burlesque and variety show; women performed a strip tease for the length of one song, emphasizing the costume, music, and the art of removing clothing without showing too much at once. The big reveal was always the removal of the bra, but the women all wore pasties underneath, and underpants never came off. A couple comedians and singers provided breaks and we saw both acrobatics and juggling in addition to striptease. However, the show wasn’t exactly tame. It was sensual, sexy, funny, powerful, evocative, and beautiful. It was a celebration of women and a subversion of simple objectification (watch this documentary, A Wink and A Smile, for a lesson in the history and meaning of burlesque.) We got the special treatment because we called ahead– tiaras for the party, a lavish booth, and guaranteed public embarrassment of the bride. Lannie’s had dessert and drinks, both of which were serviceable but unremarkable. The show was very much the best part. We had a great night! Afterwards, we went dancing and had more cocktails until late into the night and in no way went back to the hotel early for sleepy-time.

With "Fanny Spankings"

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