Sunday, February 8, 2015

Oatmeal Pancakes: I’m never going back

Well never is a pretty long time, but I can’t imagine making anything other than these Oatmeal Pancakes II anytime soon. Where have oatmeal pancakes been all my life?! I’ve never had them before until I got a random craving for them recently (also, only pregnant ladies get random cravings for things they’ve never had before…). Something about a hearty, textured oat pancake sounded good to me. And boy were they ever.

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I have made a number of things from AllRecipes.com before. While I love the concept of user-generated recipe sites (I even used to work at one!), I am sometimes wary of “home cook” recipes. Sure user reviews and ratings mean something – if lots of other folks like the dish it must be good, right? – but there is also something to be said for a test kitchen full of experts developing recipes that will work.

All that aside, these pancakes rule. The recipe got a 4.5 out of 5 stars from a total of 596 reviews! It’s hard to argue with that many people. I strayed from the recipe some in that I added cinnamon and fruit. I used sliced bananas the first time and blueberries this time. Absolutely delicious with a little butter and maple syrup. I also don’t blend the dry ingredients – I like the chunky texture of the whole oats.

And while I wouldn’t exactly call pancakes a health food, the oats are a bit healthier than refined white flour with  whole grain and more fiber.

Writing this post reminds me of a post I wrote VERY early on about real maple syrup and how having grown up in Ohio and near maple syrup farms I prefer real maple syrup over the maple-flavored stuff. It’s a real blast from the past.

Print

Oatmeal Pancakes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Add the blueberries or bananas (or whatever) once the batter is in the skillet. Also, if you don't have any buttermilk on hand, you can make some by adding white vinegar to milk and letting it sit (and curdle) for about 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk (or a little less than 3/4 cup milk with a splash of white vinegar in it)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
A handful of blueberries or 1 sliced banana, if desired
Maple syrup and butter for serving

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing just until combined.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over high heat. Scoop pancake batter in 1/4-cup increments into skillet. Sprinkle batter with fruit. Flip when bubbles begin to form and bottom side begins to brown. Serve hot with maple syrup and butter, if desired.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Getting “Goozy” in Green Hills

I have been lucky to have delicious jobs in my career which I’ve written about a few times, herehere and here. My latest job-related eating adventure was at client Goozy’s recent blogger event. Goozy is Nashville’s first dessert bar, and wow is it good. I have been craving sweets like no other with this pregnancy, so I was especially excited to get to sample a number of menu items.

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Goozy is the creation of Christie Hauck, of Christie Cookie (which he no longer owns) and Bravo Gelato fame. He says he and his lovely wife Melissa created Goozy to satisfy all of their vices in one place – the shop features gooey grilled cheeses, boozy shakes, a killer beer list, ultra-decadent desserts and even a turntable to play his 30-year-old record collection on. It’s a small space behind Corner Bar in Green Hills (Hobbs and Hillsboro Pike) but there’s a LOT going on.

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When you walk in you’re greeted by a colorful display of Bravo Gelato.

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I started the night off with a Bourbon Salted Caramel Milk Shake (sans bourbon for now). It did not disappoint!

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Before we got too far into desserts we started off with some savory fare. Tomato Basil soup was up first.

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The charcuterie plate is a must-try. The three cheeses were so flavorful and complex. The selections vary; ours included an aged French goat cheese, a piquant blue and a firmer, tangier one, that I didn’t catch the details on. I was too busy snacking!

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And then we got into grilled cheeses. This first one is called The Nashville and features pimento cheese, pickles and Benton’s bacon. So indulgent yet so good.

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Next was The Parma, with mortadella, prosciutto, roasted red peppers and arugula. I also tried the Brie, Turkey, Pear. All outstanding, and there are so many more!

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Don’t you just love Creme Brulee? The berries were soaked in some kind of liqueur and the sugar was perfectly burnt.

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Sometimes desserts are prettier when you dig into them!

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Next up was the Chocolate Molten Cake with a caramel drizzle and vanilla gelato. So classy.

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I mean look at how “molten” that is!

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I love when food bloggers get together. There’s as much photographing as there is eating.

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Beyond the food, there are many little details around the shop to note. You can choose to play a record from Christie’s collection or you are welcome to bring one of your own!

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I love the chicken wire on the wine racks.

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We also tried the skillet cookie, and it was just perfect.

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Especially when it gets melty and messy in the cast iron. Oh so good.

Desserts we also tried that I was too busy sampling to snap a picture of included:

  • Croissant Bread Pudding
  • Warm Apple Crostata
  • Dark Chocolate Raspberry Molten Cake with Coconut Gelato

PLEASE check out the full menu. There are also some killer salads, artisan cocktails, and really good coffee drinks included.

I’m thankful to be part of the Goozy team, and extra thankful to have a place to satisfy my pregnancy sweet tooth and then some!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wintery Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

The winter months are a time for hearty soups and stews, roasts and meaty things. This is precisely why I didn’t want to go vegetarian for a month like we usually do this season. I love cold-weather cooking. But this cold weather season doesn’t have to be absent of green, leafy things either.

Wintery Kale and Brussels Sprouts salad is the perfect wintertime salad. It’s seasonally appropriate in that kale and Brussels sprouts are cold-weather plants (i.e., don’t grow kale in July). I love texture, and the combination of thinly sliced kale and Brussels sprouts together is interesting. Both vegetables are served raw, and sometimes I find they can be abrasive and too strong this way – especially the Brussels sprouts – but together they mellow each other out. The lemon juice in the dressing helps tenderize them some, too.

The other accompaniments – toasted almonds, lemony dressing and finely grated pecorino cheese – complement the vegetal flavors of the greens well. Make sure you season the dressing with salt and pepper before tossing the salad, but I also find a sprinkling of Kosher salt right before serving really enhances the flavors.

Enjoy!

Salad

Print

Wintery Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

You can prepare the kale/sprouts a day in advance and make the almonds for easier assembly when you're ready.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot or onion
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 pounds total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces brussels sprouts, sliced thin or finely grated
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Directions:

In a pint-sized mason jar, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Screw on a lid and shake to blend. Prepare kale and shredded brussels sprouts and mix in a large bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add almonds and mix into oil. Stir until almonds begin to toast and lightly brown, about 2 minutes. Drain and cool on a paper towel–lined plate and sprinkle with salt.

Add remaining olive oil into jar with lemon-juice mixture and shake vigorously to emulsify. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Almonds, kale mixture and dressing (minus olive oil) can be prepared a day in advance. Store almonds in an airtight container and keep at room temperature. Store kale and dressing separately in the fridge.

To serve, toss kale mixture with dressing and cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with almonds.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup

Chicken soup on a chilly, rainy evening is a treat. Especially when you get to enjoy it in a cozy house with an old friend. My college/Chicago/adventuring buddy Hadley came to visit with her husband Jeremy and new baby Leaf last week, and we had this lemony chicken soup for dinner.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 7.53.57 PMBy the way, I’m pregnant! We’re expecting a baby girl in May. 

The recipe as I found it in Bon Appetit Magazine is below. Instead of simmering the chicken in broth as the recipe states in step one, I used some of the chicken and drippings from my Crockpot chicken recipe, slow-cooking the leaks and celery in the crockpot, and reserved the rest of the chicken for another use. So skip step one if you’re following my Crockpot method.

One of the best parts about this soup is the piquant dose of lemon that finishes the dish. After the soup is in the bowl, a hearty squeeze of fresh lemon juice from half a lemon goes on top of each serving. The lemon really wakes up your senses and balances out the savory, complexity of the chicken and chicken drippings in the broth. The lemon, combined with the fresh dill and orzo, gives the soup a Greek flavor profile. The combination is so nice I think this soup could also be good served at room temperature during the summer months – the lemony broth doesn’t weigh you down.

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Enjoy!

Print

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Serve this soup with a nutty bread to sop up every last drop of lemony goodness.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise
1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Lemon halves

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. Add leek and celery and stir until softened, seven to eight minutes. Add chicken and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat then let chicken simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove chicken to a plate and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Bring broth to a boil and add orzo. Cook until al dente and then return chicken to the pot.

Portion soup into bowls and top with dill and the juice of a lemon half (I like to use my lemon juicer to get all the juice out. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Southern City Flavors Stone Ground Grits & More

A few weeks ago I received an email from Southern City Flavors, a local purveyor of barbecue sauces, jams, spreads and grits. They wondered if I’d want to try their products. I get a lot of requests like that that I don’t normally act on, but the gal who reached out to me was so pleasant and nice, I just had to take her up on it. Plus, I was excited to try the grits.

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As a girl who grew up in the Midwest, the closest thing to grits I knew was Cream of Wheat, a breakfast porridge. It’s finer than grits since it’s made of ground wheat instead of ground corn. Cream of Wheat has a certain nostalgic quality to me – I can remember eating it on cold mornings before school – but grits are seriously so much better.

Southern City Flavors’ grits are stone ground and, according to their package, made at one of the few water-powered mills left in the U.S. They have terrific texture and more nutrients since stone grinding doesn’t grind the grains as evenly as more modern production methods would.

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The texture of these grits was wonderful! They were smooth and creamy but still had some bite and chewiness to them.

Also in the package was Sweet Potato Butter, which is TO DIE FOR. It’s got cinnamon and spice and reminds me of apple butter in its consistency. I made biscuits for some friends the other weekend, and we couldn’t get enough of this sweet potato butter.

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Last Sunday, I cooked up the grits with some cheddar cheese and plopped a fried egg on top. I cut up some apples and served toast with the sweet potato butter on it on the side. It was a fabulous fall breakfast.

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These grits would also be tasty for dinner. They cook in just 20 minutes, and would be wonderful with a piece of grilled fish or even just some grilled vegetables on the side. Martha Stewart has a simple Chipotle Shrimp and Cheddar Grits recipe I like. Although now I’ll use Southern City Flavors grits instead of the instant grits this recipe calls for.

You can order their products online, or find them at a few local gift shops in Franklin and Leiper’s Fork. Jenn Todd recently reported in The Tennessean that you can also find these products at Whole Foods.

I can’t wait to introduce my relatives to grits this year for Christmas. You better believe Southern City Flavors Stone Ground Grits will be on my list.

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Cheddar Cheese Grits & Eggs

Yield: 2 servings

You can use any kind of cheese in these grits. I had cheddar cheese on hand, but the original recipe called for Havarti which would also be tasty.

Ingredients:

1 cup broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Southern City Flavors Stone Ground Grits
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
hot sauce, if desired

Directions:

Bring broth, water, salt and butter to a boil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Add grits and turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring at least once. During the last few minutes of cooking, add the cheese and stir to combine.

Fry two eggs however you like - I like mine over easy - and place on top of grits in two bowls. Grind fresh pepper on top. Serve with hot sauce, if using.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Asheville Anniversary: Good Eats and Drinks

This is more of a “drink” blog post than a “food” blog post. Although we did have some good food.

The other weekend Andrew and I hit up Asheville for our TWO year anniversary. Time flies! We’d been five or six years before for a friend’s birthday, but neither of us could remember much about this beer-centric, mountain town.

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To prepare for the trip, I read Beth Sachan’s “Eating and Drinking in Asheville N.C.” blog post, which was where we got the recommendation to hit up The Admiral, a must-try. (More on this below.) I also found a 36-Hours in Asheville from the NY Times and Lonely Planet did a similar 48 hours in Asheville story.

We also got recommendations from co-workers, including this great list of brewery stops, which Andrew got from his beer connoisseur co-worker, Jeff.

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We hit up The Admiral on Friday night. I wish I had a picture of the outside of the building. It’s a one-story cinder-block box. The inside is equally unimpressive. It basically looks like the dive bar it apparently once was.

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Here’s what The Admiral says about their concept from website:

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But the food – the food! – was the star. They change the menu pretty regularly. Here’s what we were up against on our visit.

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We started with the mushroom dashi soup. Dashi is a broth made of fish and kelp that’s popular in Japanese cooking. In it was a soft-cooked egg yolk (no white!), some seaweed, delicate soba noodles, shitake mushrooms and a few green nasturtium leaves for color. The broth was amazingly light, and the super flavorful.

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Next up were melt-in-your mouth short ribs with a sweet potato hash and radicchio slaw. I think this one was Andrew’s favorite.

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My favorite was the NC Trout. It had a chiogga (candy-striped) beat puree, smoked balsamic reduction and apricot cous cous underneath the flavorful, crispy-skinned fish.

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Our final dish was scallops with a lobster risotto and pea puree. This was the richest of the dishes. We ordered it after the lady at the table next to us implored us to get it – and it really was good. And so pretty.

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The trout and short ribs were supposed to be small plates, but they were basically entrees on their own. So by the time we got to the scallops, we were filled to the brim! 

After we left The Admiral, we went downtown to explore the bar scene and have a night cap. We hit up the the basement of The Thirsty Monk, which specializes in Belgian beers. I love this style of beer – so floral and spicy.

We stayed at the OM Sanctuary, a retreat space about 1.5 miles from downtown Asheville. We weren’t sure what to expect but it was so lovely! No TVs, beautiful rooms, free yoga, healthy breakfasts and an amazing garden with a waterfall we could hear from our room. And the rates were great – $150 per night which was by far the most economic option we found (it can be EXPENSIVE). It’s two miles from town, so we did have to drive  a bit, but Asheville just got Uber ride sharing and I hear Lyft is on the way, so we were able to get around pretty easily between the breweries.

This was the garden right outside our window.

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On Saturday morning, we started the day with a hike. We went up to Lookout Mountain, which offered stunning views and an easy, pretty, 0.57 mile hike. The elevation was pretty steep getting up there, but it was worth it. Here are details on how to find the trailhead.

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Check out these views! It was the perfect distance to hike – we were ready for beer drinking right after.

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Which is exactly what we did! Pisgah Brewing is in Black Mountain, a town neighboring town Asheville, which was also where the Mt. Lookout trailhead was. It was an easy stop on the way back.

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The ambiance here was cool – the tap room was kind of hidden at the back of an industrial park. It was a perfectly crisp, sunny fall day, and the garage doors in the back were wide open letting in a nice breeze.

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You could do small 4-ounce pours for $1 apiece! So we tried them all.

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After Pisgah, we went downtown for lunch at Salsa’s, a Mexican-Caribbean place we’d heard good things about. The only picture I managed to get was of the salsas, which were really interesting. We tried three to start, Fire-roasted Chipotle Peanut, Tomatillo Pumpkinseed, and the Guacamole. They had satisfying texture and flavor in each bite.

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We tried to hydrate here, too. A long afternoon of beer drinking awaited us!

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Before we hit up the next brewery, we did a little sightseeing. Asheville entered its initial heyday in the 1920′s, and it’s evident in the architecture. Check out this pink, art-deco number downtown. It’s City Hall!

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Next up was Burial Beer. This was probably my favorite-tasting beer. They’re doing a couple of saisons – farmhouse ales – including an amber one. Those are a little but fruity, but light and crisp at the same time.

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Here’ the view from within the tiny taproom.

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Next up was The Wedge. This one was in an old warehouse down by the train tracks.

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We found a good spot outside at a picnic table and ate peanuts while we drank our beer. Andrew had an Iron Rail IPA, which was probably his favorite beer of the trip.

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After Wedge, which was a mile or so outside of town, we walked back up the hill to town and stumbled upon Hi-Wire Brewing. One of the nice things about Asheville being a brewing town is that they’ll let you try small, 6- or 8-oz pours in addition to a regular glass so you can try more. Hi-Wire also had a sense of humor.

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Our last stop of the night was Wicked Weed, which was one of the more established breweries in Asheville. In the basement they have a sour beer bar. Sour beer is a style of beer that’s become popular again. The beer has a sour, acidic, crisp taste to it. I really liked it.

The next day we wound our way down to an edible park, which means there are pecan, hazelnut and apple trees growing and you’re encouraged to sample the goods! We found out about this place through the NY Times 36-Hours piece.

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Apples were the only fruit in season, so I helped myself.

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We had to cross a neat covered pedestrian path to get there.

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It was a delightful trip to Asheville. We’ll certainly try to get another trip on our radar soon.  I couldn’t help but hyperlapse the view in the mountains on the way home.

See you next time, Asheville!

 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quinoa and Garbanzo Greek Salad

This post is my goodbye to summer. These last few cherry tomatoes were so high up on my gargantuan tomato plants I nearly needed a step ladder to reach them. Fall is a coming, but not in my mind before I can put the last few fresh cherry tomatoes to good use.

DSC_0559It looks so pretty as it’s coming together in the bowl.

I made this Quinoa and Garbanzo Greek Salad and thoroughly enjoyed all its flavors and textures.

Some people are weirded out by textures in their food. They don’t like shellfish for its slipperiness, for example. I am the opposite. I prefer lots of textures in my food. Crunchy nuts, crisp-tender roasted vegetables, cooked beans with firm skins and creamy centers, juicy citrus segments, silky over-easy egg yolks – even slippery shellfish. The more interesting shapes and varied ingredients the merrier.

More textures also probably mean more healthful ingredients. Leaving the skin on a cucumber or crust on bread for croutons, for example, will add more to the chew, and those parts, skins and crusts, have more nutrients.

Here are some quick tips for adding more texture to dishes like salads, soups, stews, rice bowls, quesadillas and stir fries.

  • Add poppy or sunflower seeds, or chopped cashews, peanuts or almonds to almost any dish.
  • Include multiple parts of a vegetable in a pasta, such as the florets, stalks and leaves (sautéed) of broccoli.
  • Use a vegetable or fruit in different forms, such as spinach sautéed in a soup and chopped fresh into ribbons for garnish, or include onions sautéed, raw and pickled in a rice bowl.
  • Use different kinds of noodles (penne and fusilli) or rice (brown and basmati) in soups and stir fries.
  • Add a pile of fresh herbs to nearly anything.
  • Make a vegetable soup and purée half the cooked veggies and leave the other half whole or at least chunky.
  • Get creative with toppings like dried fruit for salads and rice bowls (raisins are awesome in Mexican-flavored dishes) or olives and capers to pasta.
  • Choose naturally textured foods like chunky peanut butter and jam with its seeds instead of jelly.

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The smooth garbanzos and wiry quinoa in this recipe have very different textures and together make a hearty base for the salad. The unpeeled cucumber and creamy feta cling together while the crunchy sunflower seeds peek around every nook and cranny. Even the dressing gets heft from the pile of fresh chopped herbs infusing it.

Enjoy this last burst of summer. Fall weather – and vegetables – will be here before we know it.

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Quinoa and Garbanzo Greek Salad

This recipe makes a lot. I make it on Sundays and we munch on it throughout the week in salads with greens and other veggies, in a bowl with spice sautéed greens and an egg on top, or in quesadillas.

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
Juice from two lemons at room temperature
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup (or thereabouts) fresh herbs minced such as dill, thyme, oregano, and/or parsley (I grow all of these herbs so I use a mix, but if you don't have easy access, go with the dill and thyme.)
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 container feta cheese
1 whole cucumber, unpeeled (more nutrients that way but peel it if you prefer), chopped
1/2 red onion, minced as small as you can make it (nobody except maybe my Dad likes a big bite of raw red onion)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
1/2 to 3/4 hulled sunflower seeds

Directions:

Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the lemon juice, olive oil and mustard in a pint jar. Tightly screw on a lid and shake vigorously until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add herbs and shake to combine; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add quinoa once cooked and cooled slightly. Stir to combine then pour dressing over and mix well.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Second Annual Inter’NASH’ional Food Crawl

If you’re looking for something fun to do over Labor Day weekend, consider participating in a food crawl down Nolensville Road! The Nolensville Road corridor is a true melting pot of ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries. In a relatively small area, you can find Ethiopian, Thai, Mexican, Kurdish, Turkish and El Salvadorian cuisines, and lots, LOTS more.

food crawl_2014The tour takes place on Saturday, August 30, from noon to 3pm.Organized by TIRCC, the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, this tour will surely unearth all kinds of tasty hidden gems along the corridor.

TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create a strong, welcoming, and inclusive environment.

Like their Facebook page here.

They host the Food Crawl to encourage Nashvillians to explore the culinary offerings along Nolensville Road while learning about the different cultures that call Nashville home. Facts about the tour:

  • The event will highlight a 2-mile span of Nolensville Road.
  • Cost is $10 per person and includes samples of delicious foods from around the world from participating restaurants.
  • Participants should start at Casa Azafran (2195 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN 37211) to pay, and get a map and wristband.
  • Five to six different restaurants will open their doors to share their food and culture.
  • Last year, 300 people attended! Here are some photos.
  • Click here to RSVP yes to the Facebook event.

They haven’t released the list of participating restaurants and grocers yet, but I am told there will be Cuban, Moroccan and Kurdish stops along the way.

In another life, I led culinary tours down Nolensville Road with my partner Paulette Licitra, cooking class instructor and publisher of Alimentum Journal. The Scene’s “Bites Blog” even wrote about us! To whet your whistle about the delicious possibilities down Nolensville, here’s a video Paulette made from one of our tours in 2011.

Sean Maloney, food writer at The Scene, also did a series called “The Road” where he ate his way down Nolensville Road and wrote about it.

I’m so looking forward to this tour. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Heavenly Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Crust

Over the weekend I made a blueberry pie. There are few things more satisfying than making a pie completely from scratch. The pie featured fresh blueberries we picked ourselves. The crust also has 1/4 cup cornmeal in it, and blueberry and cornmeal together is a delicious combo. It got RAVE reviews from the recipients.

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The pie was even more special because we picked the blueberries ourselves last weekend from The Blue Berry Patch in Murfreesboro. It was so fun! It took about an hour to pick 9 pounds of blueberries. Very sweet place about 45 minutes from Nashville.

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I picked blueberries in Nashville one other time with my friend Audrey. You can read my post on The Blueberries on the Buffalo farm here. It was a little further away otherwise we would have gone there.

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I mean these things were so good I could have eaten them right off the bush. Which I did a few times.

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I call this one city meets country.

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The pie-making process is just so pretty.

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I was so pleased with myself when it came out of the oven I decided to parade it around the house a bit.

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And poof it was gone! It would have been even better with vanilla – or better yet lemon – ice cream.

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The recipe comes from – where else – Epicurious. Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Crust. It also includes a link to a Lemon Cream recipe that I didn’t end up making, but it gets rave reviews so I probably will next time.

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Heavenly Blueberry Pie with Cornmeal Crust

Yield: 8 slices

This pie rules! The cornmeal crust can easily be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks plus two tablespoons total) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Filling:
5 cups fresh blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water

Directions:

For the crust:
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until it resembles coarse meal. Add 4 to five tablespoons of ice water and blend until it starts to clump up. Add more water if necessary (I added 2 to 3). Pinch pieces with your fingers until it starts to stick together like dough. Turn dough out onto the counter and roll into a ball. Divide in half with a knife and flatten each half into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least one hour in the fridge or as long as a day. Keep the dough chilled and bring out 10 minutes before you want to roll. It will appear hard but start working it with the rolling pin and it'll flatten right out.

For filling:
Mix the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon water in large bowl and combine with a spoon. Let this mixture stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or so to let the juices start to leak out.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the pie dish by placing it on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.

Roll the first disk of dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment. Once the dough is large enough to fit in a 9-inch pie pan with some hanging over, invert it into the dish then carefully peel off the parchment. dough into 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Carefully peel off second parchment sheet. Gently push the dough down so if neatly fills the pie dish, then spoon in the filling.

Do the same with the second disk of dough, then flip it onto the pie and remove the parchment. Trip what hangs over too far then press to seal. Somehow, decoratively make the crust. I never do this well. Make sure you cut slits into the top to let the steam escape.

Bake pie for 15 minutes, then turn it down to 350 degrees and keep cooking for another 1 hour and 15 minutes until the blueberries are bubbling thickly through the slits and the crust is golden brown. Cover crust with foil if the crust gets too brown.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fine Eating in Portugal

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I almost called this post “Snails, Sardines and Gooseneck Barnacles” but thought that might not sound as appetizing. Although we did eat those things during our nearly two weeks in Lisbon (pronounced “lish-boa” in Portuguese – go on, say it! It’s a fun accent) the capital and largest city, then Porto, the second largest city three hours up the coast, along with a few day trips to near by towns. We also took a trip to Greece in the middle to celebrate the wedding of two dear friends. You can read all about them in this post, and you can get a delightful recipe for moussaka.

Here’s a shot of one of the beautiful plaza’s in Lisbon.

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Eating is such a great way to experience a new culture, and we took full advantage of the country’s offerings.

During our first dinner, we walked into a tiny neighborhood place near our hostel outside the hustle of the tourist zone. I noticed plates of small tan and brown bean-shaped morsels on most everyone’s tables, and requested a plate of the same before we even got our menus. They were snails! Tiny brown snails, still in their shells, sautéed or boiled and bathed in olive oil and garlic. I honestly enjoyed their flavor but couldn’t do more than about half the plate.

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The rest of the meal was soft cheese and fresh bread, boiled potatoes and olive-oil poached shark.

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The next evening we found a great little cafe with a view of Lisbon.

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The heart of old  Lisbon is located on a river very near the Atlantic Coast, so seafood is huge here. Grilled sardines are another local specialty so I tried those our second night. They were served with salad, and I ordered a chilled gazpacho (chunky tomato bread soup) with it. The sardines have a pretty strong flavor but the char from the grill was pleasant paired with it. Grilled sardines are a traditional dish in Portugal – you could find them on almost every menu. 

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The next day, after wandering around a 1,000-year-old castle (no big deal), we spent the afternoon at a cafe, sipping Sagres beer (a refreshing lager brewed in Lisbon), and eating bread with sun dried tomato spread and olives. So civilized.

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The Portuguese like pork. A lot. One of our favorite pork experiences was in sandwich form at this pop-up place in the middle of a large, main plaza in Lisbon. Dry-cured pork, similar to Spanish “jamon serrano” or Italian prosciuotto, was layered on super fresh bread smeared with queijo amarelo, a super soft, almost runny cheese, sort of similar to brie. Yum.

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We are big vegetable eaters in regular life and found greens and other healthful foods a bit difficult to come by in the restaurants. A soup of the day was offered at most places which was usually a vegetable broth soup, so we often ordered that to get a shot of veggies in.

“Caldo Verde” is a typical soup and literally means green broth. It’s made with chicken broth, potatoes and cabbage and or kale. That was one of our faves. The one below came with a poached egg.

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Cherries were everywhere in Portugal! Often cherries were an option as dessert at the end of a meal. This restaurant served them over ice. A perfectly refreshing end to a heavy meal.

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I love finding restaurants with good food AND good atmosphere. We had several meals on the windy, stair-studded steps of Lisbon, like this one.

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We took planes, trains and automobiles to get between Portugal and Greece. On one leg of a flight we were served a surprise meal, smoked salmon sandwich, with a fruit smoothie! Also, contact solution came in the mix. Kind of a strange addition, but I’m not complaining.

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And then we got to Greece for the wedding. And what a wedding it was! We were so so SO happy to celebrate with Chris and Maria. This is them during the Jewish part of the ceremony (the first part was in a beautiful Greek Orthodox church in the village) under the chuppah that some friends and I built.

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Our time in Greece was spent doing wedding prep and hanging out with dear friends, but we did manage to sneak down to Amoudi Bay to have some fresh-grilled calamari. The calamari is only seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice so you can really taste the sea and the smokiness from the grill.

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Absolutely delicious, especially when you’re sharing the meal with this guy.

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We ate a lot of fine things in Greece, but the best part of those meals was dining with dear friends.

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This was a shot from Myrto’s birthday party and the day before we left. What a delight.

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See you later, Greece. We’ll be back soon.

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On our way from Greece back to Porto, a city in Northern Portugal, we had a six-hour layover in Barcelona, so we went to La Boqueria, a large, public market, for breakfast.

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We finally made it to Porto. What a beautiful city on the banks of the Rio Duoro. This is where Port wine is made, and another spot for excellent seafood.

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When we first arrived, our hostel told us about “Francesinhas,” or “little Frenchman” sandwiches. Legend has it some drunk Frenchmen were missing home and asked a Portuguese restaurant to make them a croque madame, the famous grilled ham sandwich with an egg on top. Because they were drunk, they kept demanding more and more ingredients, and this sandwich was the result. It has about five kinds of meat sandwiched between two halves of white bread and cheese. There’s fragrant gravy – tomato and cumin-scented on top – along with the friend egg and fries. We both agreed it was something to try but one was enough for us.

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I mean look at that. Wowza. We split one and were still super full.

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One of my favorite travel food activities is to check out the chip flavors. You often see such crazy flavors! I like doing this so much I even wrote a blog post on the topic when Andrew and I were traveling in South America a few years ago. The “ketchup” flavored Ruffles were our faves on this trip.

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We couldn’t go to Porto without tasting port. Everyone recommend Taylor’s, so we hiked up the hill to sample their ports. We tried tawny, ruby and a white port. I liked the tawnies best. Those are aged in smaller barrels which gives them more exposure to oxygen which makes them taste a bit sweeter and fruitier, and have a lighter color than the rubies.

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If you go to Portugal, you MUST go into the Duoro Valley. We took the train up the Duoro river into the valley, then rented a car. We stumbled upon this guesthouse, Casa Grande do Serrado, on booking.com and boy did it work out. They not only had a gorgeous 200-year-old house to stay in, but they make their own wine and port so they took us out to vineyard for a private tour and tasting. All for $50! It was like Napa Valley but mountainous.


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Our host Nuno was so hospitable and spent several hours sipping wine and port with us and talking about wine, soccer, Portugal and life. It was an absolute delight.

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The next day we went to Lamego, a small town just south of where we were staying at Casa Grande. They’re famous for their sparkling wine. Andrew was driving so I finished the better part of this afternoon aperitif. Made the train ride back to Porto pretty entertaining!

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Portugal is huge on custard pastries. We had a LOT of them. This one was coconut-flavored. It was super eggy and sweet – so good with an espresso. I don’t want to admit how often we stopped for these. Yum.

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The most famous dessert in Portugal though, is Pastel de Nata. They are simply custard tartlets with caramelized sugar on the top, and you can find them everywhere.

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On the way home one day we stopped in this fruit shop and stocked up on nectarines, peaches, bananas and oranges. It was so refreshing!

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Our last night in Porto we took a tram out to the coast then walked up the beach several miles to a cluster of seafood restaurants. Our hostel had instructed us to try these sea barnacles (the small dark things at the bottom of the plate). They were hard to eat! You really had to dig in to pull out the small edible part. They sort of reminded me of crawfish – a lot of work for a small pay off. The shrimp we got were totally amazing and tasted very fresh. The dipping sauce you see is straight mayo.

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After Porto, we headed back down to Lisbon, where our return flight departed from. To celebrate the last night of our trip we had a progressive dinner. We started around happy hour at Lost in Esplanada. Beautiful city views, happy hour specials and fresh, creative food. We had an impressive cheese plate with some roasted vegetables. I had rose and a beer while Andrew had an infused green tea and a beer. We relaxed, people-watched and enjoyed the view during our last night. It was totally delightful.

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For Part II of our dinner, we splurged at Bistro 100 Maneiras, one of Chef Ljubomir Stanisic’s four restaurants. He seems to be a chef in the spotlight right now, and is food really proved that.

We started with smoked mushrooms in a jar with asparagus and a poached egg. The server brought the jar over, then mixed it all up and served each of us a portion. The mushrooms had some of their own liquid, which mixed with the poached egg. Definitely delicious.

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Next up were these tasty little clams in an incredible ginger-garlic-dill broth. Really interesting. The grilled bread was totally necessary to soak up all the broth.

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Our final course of the night was a dish of black pork with some fresh sprouts and polenta cakes. The pigs feast on mushrooms in a certain part of Portugal, which gives their meet a distinctive sweet taste. I read about black pork and other Portuguese delights in this post from Epicurious. A helpful read if you’re also planning a trip.

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It was a delightful and delicious trip! I’d highly recommend Portugal to anyone. On to the next adventure!

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