Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spaghetti Pie: An Excellent Recipe for Leftover Pasta

A chef friend of mine, once shared an awesome secret for a recipe utilizing leftover pasta noodles. I’ve kept it logged in the giant recipe file in my brain, but had never tried it until last night. And I’m so glad I did! The recipe is for a spaghetti pie of sorts, and is easy, low in fat and a great use for that pasta in the fridge that no one is going to eat. As a person who hates HATES to waste food, I love this whole concept. We also don’t have a microwave which usually isn’t a problem, but reheating leftovers like pasta is one thing I do miss having a microwave for.

The secret to this recipe is finishing the “pie” in the oven. You begin cooking the egg on the stove to make sure the outsides are set, then pop it into a 350 degree oven for 10ish minutes to set the middle. It’s so elegant, delicious, and great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I googled “spaghetti pie” before making this to check on ingredient ratios and was pleasantly surprised to see a number of recipes pop up, including one even from Emeril. Apparently this is something other people know about. Have you ever had spaghetti pie?


Pesto Spaghetti Pie

Yield: 2 servings

Total Time: 30 minutes

I used leftover whole wheat angel hair pasta with pesto on it in this recipe, but you could use anything. If yours doesn't have any sauce, make sure you toss the pasta with some olive oil and herbs or a quick tomato sauce before adding it to the skillet so it stays moist enough.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 to 3/4 cup of assorted vegetables such as chopped broccoli, thawed frozen peas and/or halved grape tomatoes, etc.
3-4 eggs
1/2 cup milk or cream
1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese such as Parmesan or feta
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 servings of leftover pasta such as pesto spaghetti pasta (any kind will do)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat small, ovenproof non-stick skillet* over medium-high heat. Once skillet is hot, add olive oil. Add onion, and saute until translucent but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add assorted veggies and cook until bright green or beginning to cook through.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cheese and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste).

3. Add pasta to skillet and toss to combine with veggies. Pour egg mixture over top making sure it thoroughly combines with pasta and hits the bottom of the skillet. Add an additional egg if mixture looks dry or doesn't fill skillet thoroughly. Cook over medium heat for 7-10 minutes, or until sides are set. Transfer skillet to oven and cook an additional 10-15 minutes until center is set.

4. Remove pie from oven and allow to cool slightly. With a rubber spatula or butter knife, loosen edges from pan. Being careful not to burn yourself, put a cutting board or plate on top of skillet and flip, inverting pie onto cutting board. Slice, and serve immediately or at room temperature.

*If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, put aluminum foil around plastic handle to protect it from the heat.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blueberries on the Buffalo Farm – the Local Table, Summer 2011

My latest piece for the summer issue of the Local Table is below! One of my favorite parts of writing for this awesome publication is interviewing the folks I feature. Dan and Debbie Eiser (featured below) are such lovely, enthusiastic people. It was great hearing their story and the passion they have for what they’re doing. Enjoy!

Grower Profile

Blueberries on the Buffalo Farm
By Annakate Tefft

“I hate blueberries,” said a customer at “Blueberries on the Buffalo Farm” in Lawrenceburg. “Well then – try this. This is a blueberry.” said Dan Eiser, proprietor, offering up a perfectly plump berry. After tasting the berry, the woman became one of his best customers. “She’d only tasted those cardboard things you buy at the grocery store – she had no idea what a real blueberry tasted like!” he says jubilantly.

* It’s important to the Eisers to teach their PYO customers how to select the ripest berry. “We make sure every single berry in their bucket is good,” says Dan.

Dan and Debbie Eiser take the quality of their berries seriously on their 60-acre, pick-your-own farm. They do everything themselves; from picking the berries for their pre-orders to meticulously pruning every berry bush each winter. “We probably go overboard, but we really have a commitment to quality,” says Debbie.

It’s important to the Eisers to teach their PYO customers how to select the ripest berry. “We make sure every single berry in their bucket is good,” says Dan. To test for ripeness, Dan advises taking the berry between your thumb and forefinger and gently rolling it around. If it comes off easily, without tugging, it’s ready.

Dan and Debbie grew up in Chicago, but moved to rural North Carolina in the 1970′s in part to escape the cold. Both were working full time but wanted land on which to garden. They moved to Pennsylvania and then Georgia, continuing to experiment with fruits like berries and figs, as well as, rabbits and chickens. “We got into all kinds of ‘back-to-the-land’ stuff, you know, before it was cool,” Dan says grinning. “Being a locavore is in vogue. We’re enjoying the movement for a second time.” They purchased their current farm and moved to Tennessee to begin farming full time when Dan retired in 2000.

In addition to the PYO blueberries and blackberries, the family-friendly farm offers a 1.5 mile mowed path leading to the Buffalo River. There is a gazebo; tables for picnics, several ponds stocked with catfish to feed. There is also a small retail store for purchasing fresh herbs, flowers and more from the Eisers personal garden.

One of the highlights for Debbie is sharing the farm with those without much experience in rural spaces. “One 12-year-old girl had never been on a farm before. She had a ball feeding the catfish and learning how to pick the berries. All of a sudden she looked up and said, ‘you’re going to get very, very rich soon because I’m going to tell everyone about this place!’ The farm experience was something really special for her.”

Reflecting on their lives now as full-time farmers, the Eisers say they feel grateful. Dan says happily, “It really would be paradise, if it wasn’t so much work!”

Blueberries on the Buffalo will be open once the berries are ripe from 8am to 6pm (closed Wednesdays and Sundays). This will be the 2nd week of June for blackberries and for blueberries the 3rd week of June. Please call before visiting: (931)-964-4578.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The NEW Whole Foods

So, I’m part of a group of food bloggers in Nashville, and periodically we get together to go on food outings. And it’s awesome. I feel really lucky to have gotten linked up with these folks. I have a nice group of friends here, and I love them, but it’s refreshing to get together with a group of like-minded foodies so we can really get into it about food and cooking. I’ll tell you, the super-foodie geek-factor really skyrockets when this group gets together (and I love it!). Case-in-point: Conversations I overheard at a recent Whole Foods event included: “Did you hear about the new Filipino food truck in town?”"Do you guys have a good source for buying dried fruit without added sugar?”and “What does everyone think about the new format/style of Bon Appetit magazine?” OK, those last two comments were mine, but I got great responses from friends in the group! People really know and care about food, and they want to talk about it, and I so appreciate that.

A WF rep gives us the scoop on bulk bins.

OK, on to the reason for this post. As I mentioned, about two weeks ago we all got together at the new Whole Foods in Cool Springsto take a tour of the store. We visited different stations (i.e. produce, health/beauty, meat/seafood counter) and got a short overview on the highlights of each from representatives. I have to say, it was really impressive. I’ll admit though, I’m not a very regular shopper at Whole Foods as it is (I’m cheap, and the closest location to me is in Green Hills, a really congested part of town), so I didn’t have much to compare the new store to. But I wanted to provide some highlights of what I found innovative and exciting.

Bulk laundry detergent!
  • You can buy lots in bulk, and they encourage you to bring in your own containers to fill. Many standard containers have already been pre-weighed (like various sizes of mason jars) so the cashier just hits a button when you bring your quart-sized mason jar filled with French green lentils up, so they’ll automatically be able to subtract the weight of the jar from your order. If you have a more unique container, you can easily get it weighed when you enter the store for ease in checking out later.
  • As far as the bulk items go, while they’ve got the regular dried beans, legumes and grains (and there are lots of different kinds!) you can also buy things like granola, nuts and even laundry detergent in bulk. I like buying in bulk because 1) it’s often cheaper, 2) you have no packaging to throw away and 3) you can get the exact amount you want. They also have bulk spices, so if you just need a teaspoon of, say, turmeric, a spice you don’t use that often, you don’t have to buy an entire jar and risk most of it getting old before you can use it.
  • They have a ridiculously expansive meat (fresh, smoked and cured all have their own cases) and seafood section. The meat looks so glorious! There’s a focus on local sourcing, and what’s not local has clear labels indicating where it came from and other pertinent information (like sustainability factors for seafood).
  • The store is also hosting the Tuesday Franklin Farmers’ Market in its parking lot. The market was being housed at The Factory, but there’s not a lot of traffic over there on a Tuesday, so hopefully the market gets more foot traffic at its new location from 3-6:30pm on Tuesdays.
  • The prepared food section is great. I realize the prepared foods are a staple of most Whole Foods stores, but this one even had details such as a trail mix bar (!!). You can mix your own containers of trail mix, choosing just what you want.
All in all it was pretty awesome over there. While Whole Foods will still be a destination store over a place for staples for me, this tour definitely reminded me of all the cool stuff they have to offer. The next time I’m in a cooking rut, I’ll have to pop down to get inspired. Then I’ll of course have to meet up with my Nashville Food Blogger pals for more inspiration — and to get geeky over food.
Monday, March 21, 2011

Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses

I was among a lucky group of Nashville food bloggers and writers who got to on a visit to Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses in Austin, KY, this weekend. A van picked us up in East Nashville around 7:30 a.m., and we started the scenic drive north. During the car ride we talked about almost nothing but food, recipes, cooking, restaurants — you name it. It’s really refreshing being with a group of like-minded foodies, I must say.

When we arrived, we were treated to an assortment of baked quiches from Roxy Baking Co., a regular vendor at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. After that we quickly switched gears to cheese. Kenny gave us a short history of his cheeses, explained the process of cheesemaking and gave us a tour of his facilities.

I always enjoy learning the story behind a product and meeting the people who make it. It gives whatever it is — chocolate, bread, homegrown meats — more meaning. Kenny started making his cheeses as a way to add value to his dairy farm. He was first inspired to try his hand at cheesemaking from what he saw on family farms in Europe. Then, between his mother, who made cheese on a small scale for the family when Kenny was a child, and a family friend and mentor in Canada, he began to try his hand.

To differentiate himself from his competitors, Kenny uses vegetable-based rennet in his cheeses. (Rennet is a naturally occurring enzyme in the stomach lining of mammals, and is meant to aid in digestion of milk.) Kenny also does most everything by hand. He says this helps ensure quality as so much of cheesemaking is about “feel.”

During their first year of cheese production they made 4,000 pounds of cheese. Last year it was nearly 70,000. They started out making gouda, and now have everything from asiago to cheddar to havarti. The havarti variety, he says, was actually an accident. He started with a batch of cheddar. When it was time to add in the live cultures, he realized he was out of the kind he needed for cheddar so he added in some gouda cultures. After awhile, he realized he was making something very different than cheddar, so he called up his mentor in Canada and she said simply, “well, it sounds like you made havarti!” And they’ve been making the variety ever since.

Kenny with the family dog, Cheddar.

Two things really struck me during this visit. Because of the way his production is set up, Kenny’s cheese leaves a very small carbon footprint. Milk needs to be around 90 to 100 degrees to begin the cheesemaking process. Since the cows that provide the milk are right next door to the facility, the milk doesn’t have to travel far, and, because the cows are milked that morning, it’s already at the right temperature when it’s pumped into the cheese “laboratory” so it doesn’t require additional heating. Because the milk is so fresh, it doesn’t require pasteurization, which some say can change the flavor.

The other thing that struck me was the crafsmanship behind the cheeses. I’ve often thought that my generation has really lost interest in creating something with our hands. For so many people, typing on the computer is the only thing their hands are used for. Plus, so many things are mechanized these days. Where there was once an art — furniture-making, embroidery, sewing — we now have a machine-based process. However, Kenny, and many other artisan food producers are following their passions and creating a truly beautiful product. It’s really refreshing.

When Kenny first started making his cheeses, he says it was a confusing and challenging process. At one point his mother realized he was getting discouraged, so she sent him up to the Louisville Farmers’ Market where his cheese was sold. He’d built up a strong following among his customers there, and his mom thought it would do him good to see the excitement from their perspective. She was right.

After the tour, we got to sample about eight varieties of Kenny’s cheese. My favorites were the Brie, Norwood and Kentucky Blue. The Brie had the most delicious rind on it. It wasn’t too hard or soft, and had the perfect “bite” to it. The inside was so creamy and soft, but not too runny. The Norwood was a harder cheese that I’m told is like a gruyere. It would pair excellently with a grainy mustard. I purchased some and intend to make grilled ham and Norwood sandwiches, with a grainy mustard and maybe some chutney or apple slices. They call the Kentucky Blue a “gateway” blue. It’s not as stinky as some blue cheese can be, but it definitely has a blue cheese essence, even if it is a bit muted. I loved the flavor of this cheese.

After our cheese tasting, we went inside for lunch from a couple of aspiring food truckers. B.J. and Carlos, of Riffs Food Truck, cooked up quite a feast for us, featuring some of Kenny’s Cheeses in their dishes. Our lunch started out with a panzanella salad with cornbread croutons. It was followed by mini grilled brie sandwiches with jerk-seasoned pork tenderloin and homemade chutney, and cheese grits with salt cod fritters and homemade lime aioli with a kick. YUM! If that wasn’t enough, they served us a savory bread pudding with tomato marmalade for dessert. It was really a spectacular day.

It’s days like this that remind me how sweet life can be. Good food, great people and a beautiful sunshiny day in the South.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Special Lunch

This title sounds like it should be a Seinfeld episode. Anybody? Is this thing on? More and more I’m feeling like I relate to George Costanza more than any other sitcom character (and my boyfriend is getting worried). Anyway…I’m back to the blog to reflect on the idea of the “Special Lunch.”

Last night, I was hanging out with some friends, and it came up that my friend Will’s birthday is in a few weeks. It falls on a Wednesday this year — the middle of the week. Mid-week birthdays are hard to celebrate properly unless you can take the day off, or you have a really motivated group of friends who wants to plan something fun that night. Everyone is working the next day, so evening festivities must be kept to a minimum.

Enter the “Special Lunch.” During a busy week, for all the reasons above it’s hard to schedule something fun. So, why not enjoy something a little bit different, a little bit special, a little bit decadent for lunch during the workday? Most people are probably going to run out at the noon lunch hour to grab something anyway, so why not kick it up a notch?

Well, apparently not everyone shares this view. When I made this suggestion to Will and our friends last night, I was met with stifled giggles and empathetic looks, albeit kind ones. Everyone agreed that a “Special Lunch” was an “Annakate thing,” and not something everyone could get behind. It was as if they all thought I was from another — foodier — planet.

To that, I must take a stand. I really don’t think my suggestion was unreasonable. Now the “Special Lunch” doesn’t have to be something over-the-top, like a three-course lunch with wine pairings from Capitol Grille downtown, or to a favorite restaurant all the way across town (although, I for one, think both of those would be wonderful excursions, and totally acceptable reasons for a somewhat prolonged absence from the office on your birthday). The “Special Lunch” could be as simple as getting extra bacon on your sandwich at your favorite take-away place, or a milkshake with that burger instead of the typical diet cola. Doing something a little bit exotic or outside your daily routine, and taking the time to enjoy it, makes the day seem special, even if it’s just a small modification to something you’re already doing. 

Am I wrong? I really think it’s a cut and dry issue. I can see that some may find this hard to swallow at first,  but I’d encourage them to really think about it! Why not? We all have to eat, so we might as well eat well. That’s something my first boss, Brenda, taught me, when I worked for her at a boutique food-focused PR agency in Chicago, and I find myself saying it often. Eating and enjoying good food is something we all should take more time to do. The stand-up dinner, the breakfast in the car — totally lame. But unfortunately, in our fast-paced, digitized world, taking time to really enjoy a meal isn’t always possible. But when you do take a little extra time for yourself — like on a birthday — you might as well fill that time doing something enjoyable like treating yourself to a nice meal, just because. So there.

At this very moment, I’m sitting at Burger Up, a lovely little joint in Nashville, enjoying a trio of sliders, some of their famous fries, and a beer — a beer! — for my lunch today. It’s not my birthday, but I took the day off just for fun, and I felt something special was appropriate. I’m sitting here with good music on the stereo, interesting people walking by, a really delicious lamb mini-burger with arugula and Dijon on my plate, and I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying it.

So with that, I challenge all the readers of this blog — including you Will! — to go out and get themselves something special for lunch sometime soon — even if it’s as simple as asking for extra pickles at your favorite fried chicken place. I bet you won’t regret it.

I’ll treat you to lunch if you do.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

RiverView Mounds Century Farm – The Local Table, Fall 2010

Is this my blog? Hello? Where am I?

Wow. It’s been awhile. Do you feel like you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship with this blog because it keeps making promises that it’ll be updated more often with new kinds of posts and then it lies? Because I do.

I thought I’d take the summer to reevaluate the blog, its name, its look, etc. And I suppose I did do that – think, that is. But I came to few conclusions. The only thing I concretely determined, in fact, was that I’ve spent too much time thinking about my blog, and way to little time writing.

So I’m back! And this time, no more broken promises because I’ll stop promising all together. Instead, I’ll work on my blog material: the cooking part. I’ll get back in the kitchen and dream up some questions and inquiries about food and farming, which we can discuss here, as often as I can, which may not be the often. How’s that? It’s a win-win!

But I did do some pretty cool other writing during my hiatus that I thought I should make you aware of. Check out this post in “The Local Table,” a free, quarterly publication discussing the food and farmers in middle Tennessee. Only one of the three pieces I wrote is electronic, so here’s a little taste:

http://www.localtable.net/articles/featured100806b.php (and copied below)

If anyone is still reading this, thanks a lot. Hopefully we can still be friends.

Grower Profile

RiverView Mounds Century Farm: One Family’s Journey to Life on the Farm

By Annakate Tefft

It’s a quandary shared by many small farmers today. “We had to find a way to sell the farm, without selling the farm,” says Chris Rinehart, co-owner of RiverView Mounds Century Farm, located near Clarksville, Tennessee. Not wanting to sell the land, and not interested in continuing to farm traditional row crops such as corn and soybeans like his father, Chris and his wife, Scarlett Mulligan, set out to find a new way to make a living on their family’s farm.

“Our kids would be the seventh generation to live on this land. We couldn’t bear the thought of selling it off to developers. So we came up with another idea.”

Prior to farming, the couple spent time in the military and eventually moved to Spokane, Washington, with their son, Miles. There, Scarlett earned a degree as a physician assistant and Chris pursued a master’s degree in philosophy. When Chris’s father fell ill in 2006, the couple decided to return to their roots in Tennessee to spend time with family and raise their children (their daughter Harloew was born shortly after the move). It was also time to deal with the 375 acres of farmland that would soon be left to Chris and his brother.

“We knew we’d have to decide what to do with the farm someday,” says Chris, “but not as suddenly as we did.” Scarlett adds, “Our kids would be the seventh generation to live on this land. We couldn’t bear the thought of selling it off to developers. So we came up with another idea.”

After some soul-searching, along with lots of research, and guidance from organizations like University of Tennessee-Tennessee State University Extension Offices and Pick Tennessee Products, Chris and Scarlett found the answer. They decided to turn the farm into an agritourism destination, to educate kids and families about life on a farm. “For us, it’s about closing the gap between the food and the table,” says Scarlett.

“We get calls from small farmers like Chris and Scarlett wanting to do something more with their land all the time,” says Karla Kean, at the University of Tennessee-Tennessee State University Extension Office. But Chris and Scarlett’s passion stood out. “They have such a feel for the land,” she says. “They really want to share it with others while teaching about its heritage and conservation. They just kind of have an aura about them-it’s hard to put into words.”

The passion that Kean describes, along with their unique blend of fun, educational on-farm events and alternative crops such as blueberries and Chardonnay grapes, recently won them the title of Tennessee’s Small Farmer of the Year 2010 from Tennessee State University.

RiverView Mounds is also a certified Tennessee Century Farm. In the fall of 2008, Chris and Scarlett celebrated the farm’s 175th anniversary with their first Fall Festival, offering hay rides, pumpkin-picking, a corn maze, and barnyard animal feeding activities. They will kick off this year’s Fall Festival on September 11, and will follow that with Country Christmas 2010, beginning on November 26. Their busy roster of activities also includes hosting school groups. Kids learn about farm animals, plant life cycles, and seed-planting, and they can take a hayride out to the farm’s Mississippian Era Native American mounds. The mounds, which were recently added to the National Historic Registry, are also the origin of the farm’s name.

“The education piece is the most important thing for me,” says Scarlett. “When I ask kids where their milk comes from, nine times out of ten they say ‘Wal-Mart,’ as if there’s a faucet inside the store filling up the gallon jugs. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Upcoming plans include providing produce through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture program), and selling cut flowers and year-round produce from two greenhouses that Chris built. They’ve also applied to the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program, a cost-sharing program for farmers, to build a Discovery Barn where kids can participate in farm activities such as churning butter and composting.

“Lots of the kids that come out have never been in a green space like this,” says Scarlett. “They leave so happy and energized. It’s just so powerful to be able to share this with them.” Chris adds, “It’s as if they come out here in black and white, and leave in full color.”


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Burger Up

In honor of Eat Out For Nashville last week, a group of friends and I headed to Burger Up to support our flooded city (learn more about that in my last post) by eating really delicious burgers. Burger Up is from the Frothy Monkey people, and it’s located in the hip little 12 South neighborhood in Nashville.

Upon walking in, my first impression was good. The vibe strongly reminded me of a Chicago restaurant, not a Nashville one. Nothing against Nashville here, I just don’t typically encounter ultra-urban environments ’round these parts. I’d describe the decor as modern rustic, with exposed wood on several walls, super high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and communal tables. Hipsters abounded, with their v-neck t-shirts and ironic haircuts, but there was also a good showing from the yo-pro and hippie sets. I think I fit somewhere in between all of those genres, so I felt right at home.

The place was packed (the organizers of EOFN did a GREAT job of promoting this) but we were able to sidle up to the bar. I ordered one of their special cocktails of the evening: a Strawberry Basil Ros

é which is just exactly what it sounds like. Simple syrup, strawberries, muddled basil and rosé wine. One of the reasons I love rosé so much is because it’s so dry, and the simple syrup kind of counteracted that so I probably would have left that out. Plus the strawberries were sweet enough. I also would have upped the anty on the basil, maybe muddling some in the bottom of the glass. But overall I liked the concept. And the drink sure was pretty.

To start we ordered the Fried House Pickles. I am a huge fan of fried pickles, and these were some of the best I’d ever had. They were lightly breaded slices, or “coins”  of pickles instead of full, deep-fried spears. I always find the breading falls off the spears, and they’re usually too hot to eat for awhile. The smaller pickle pieces alleviated these problems. The bredding was crisp and light and not soggy at all. It also didn’t compete with the pickle flavor. Definitely something I’d recommend.

For our mains, we ordered three different burgers, with sides of different kinds of fries (truffled, regular and sweet potato were among the mix). The fries are almost worth a different post. They’re hand-cut, meaty, perfectly cooked fries with creative ketchups to boot. When the burgers arrived, they were served on soft, ciabatta-style rolls that were dense enough not to fall apart under the meaty weight of the burgers, yet were still slightly chewy and tender. I ordered the lamb burger with wilted arugula, peppermint dijon and boursin cheese, and I absolutely loved it. I ordered the lamb medium rare, which I almost never do with burgers but always do with steak. In a different life I worked for the beef industry and one of our cardinal rules of thumb was to cook burgers to a minimum of medium doneness. Steaks are fine rare or medium rare since they’re a whole muscle and thus only the outside can carry contaminates. Since the burgers are ground and those contaminates can get folded in throughout the burger, it’s best to cook them to at least medium doneness. Anyway…I threw caution to the wind and ordered the lean lamb medium rare. And I’m glad I did. It was tender, juicy and ultra flavorful. (There is nothing worse than a dry burger in my opinion). My other dining companions ordered the Pimento burger and the Woodstock, and I think they were all satisfied. Read all about them here: http://www.burger-up.com/

In total, Eat Out For Nashville raised $48,000!! Can you believe that? Burger-Up was packed and I hear almost all of the 50 or so other restaurants who signed up to participate were packed as well. In addition to making such a hearty contribution to the flood relief funds, most of the establishments had better Monday sales than they almost ever do. So it really was a win-win for everyone. 

In the end I highly recommend Burger Up and will definitely be back! 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Eat Out for Nashville

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you’ve probably heard about the flood. Nashville was literally under water last weekend, and much of the water is just starting to subside now. Houses and businesses were destroyed, highways were shut down and local tourism came to a screeching halt.

So, local restaurateurs are rallying to raise some money. In a movement called Eat Out For Nashville, on May 17, local restaurants from Nashville to Cool Springs will donate at least fifty percent of proceeds to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund of the Community Foundation of Tennessee.

So far participating restaurants include Amerigo West End, Amerigo Cool Springs, Baja Burrito, Burger Up, Lazzaroli’s Pasta, The Melting Pot, Menchie’s Yogurt, Paradise Park Trailer Resort, Patterson House and The Perch.

And that’s pretty damn good considering this movement started exactly one week ago and has been promoted and seeded almost exclusively through social media platforms. Consider that for a moment. While many jump at the chance to bash social media as a “waste of time,” Eat Out for Nashville shows how these platforms can help mobilize an effort, communicate for a cause — and all for free. For updates and to join in the support, follow @EatOutForNash on Twitter (already 230 followers!) and “like” them on Facebook (907 fans so far!). The word is spreading like wildfire, or perhaps like rising flood waters. 

If you’re local, dine out next Monday and share where you ate! I haven’t yet decided where I’m headed but I’ll be sure to post it to the blog. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Portland, Pinot and Pale Ales

I’m on location in Portland this week. Ah…the land of beautiful landscapes, local eating, and the hipster, hippie-dippie set. Love it out here. The main purpose of my visit is to attend the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, which kicks off today. Over the next four days I’ll be listening to the likes of Kim Severson, food editor for The New York Times, and Ruth Reichl, former executive editor of Gourmet magazine, wax on about food and cooking. I’ll also be attending sessions with topics like “The Death of Recipes” with Michael Ruhlman, “Career Strategies for Food Writers” and “Culinary Medicine: Eating Something You Believe In.” You can imagine my excitement.

In addition to all that, I’ve also been visiting with friends and doing some of my own food and drink “research.” On Sunday my friend Ashley and I went wine tasting in Yamhill County outside of Portland. We tasted lots of famous Oregon Pinots including Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and several Pinot Noirs. I love Pinot Noir, and was surprised at how different each was, based on vintage and winemaker. Some were the typical jammy wines with red cherry and plum notes. Other were peppery, with a hint of mushrooms.Yesterday, my buddy John and I enjoyed some late afternoon beers at the relatively new brewpub Ninkasi in Eugene, Ore.

The Pacific Northwest is famous for their hoppy beers, so we did a sampler of several of them, so I could taste the differences. Until recently, I thought I wasn’t a fan of pale ales and their signature hoppiness. But as I’m learning, that’s like saying I didn’t like something as vast and varied as bread or pasta. There are a zillion different kinds of pale ales and India Pale Ales (IPAs). In fact, I’ve long-considered Bass to be one of my favorite beers, not realizing that it was a pale ale, too. Guess I needed to get my facts straight, and Ninkasi helped me do that. PK Nice was one of my favorites of the five we tried. It’s a pale ale with more corn than barley so the malt is smoother. It also had notes of vanilla, which complemented the malt well. And the hops somehow squeezed their way into all of that for a round, refreshing beer. My second favorite beer was Tricerahops…a double IPA! Can you believe that? Double the hops of a regular IPA. Somehow it was citrusy and refreshing without any of that “bite” I thought I didn’t like in hops. My mind was blown.

To read more about IPAs and pale ales and their differences, including an interesting fact about how India pale ales got their name, check out this article published in Seattle Weekly a few years back. It gives a great overview of the two styles.

More to come from this conference and Portland, I’m sure. Stay tuned!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bagna Cauda

I think garlic is exciting. When using it minced as an aromatic in a saute, I add it at the point the onions are becoming translucent and only allow it to cook until fragrant, or about 30 seconds, before I add the next ingredient. Whenever I hear that sizzle as the small minced morsels hit the pan, I swear my heart starts beating a little faster. Garlic just elicits good feelings..

Imagine my excitement when I read a recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appetit for bagna cauda, a garlicky dip for crudites or steamed vegetables like artichokes that called for three heads – not cloves, heads — of garlic.

In Food Lovers’ Companion, Sharon Tyler Herbst defines bagna cauda as a combination of “…olive oil, butter, garlic and anchovies served warm as an appetizer with raw vegetables for dipping.” She also notes that the dip hails from Piedmont, Italy. The term comes from bagno caldo, Italian for “hot bath.”
Here’s the recipe, along with some pics. I enjoyed this with lightly sauteed asparagus instead of artichokes the first night, then used it as a dressing on a spinach salad with toasted sunflower seeds, tomatoes and some parmesan cheese the second. I also added diced red onions. The onions combined with the garlicky dip gave me some sort of garlic-onion hangover the next day. I felt headachey and awful! If only my toothbrush could talk…

Bagna Cauda
3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled
3 tablespoons butter 
1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained, anchovies chopped 
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
crudites, steamed veggies, crostini for dipping (I used sauteed asparagus)
Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes.

Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from peel and place cloves in small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).