Monday, May 26, 2008

Traveling to the South

I've logged many miles lately to New York, Austin, and North Carolina for jobs and friends. I've been able to taste a lot of good food, too. Anything I can't get fresh in Texas, I indulge on these trips. The most recent was to North Carolina, where I fell in love.
I was born on the beach and I've been attracted it since last year, when I first surfed. It's hypnotic, it's soothing. I can watch the waves, walk in the surf, and stand in the sun for hours. So when I got off the plane in Norfolk, I headed straight to Virginia Beach.
Of course I got lost, almost gave up, but the beach was calling me. Soon I found the boardwalk and a parking spot. I basked in the sun before my stomach grumble. It had been hours since breakfast and I went in search of seafood. What I found was Spicy Devil Crab aka spicy crab cakes. And the crab cakes were not all bread and little meat. They were in fact all meat. I dug in hungrily. They were flaky and not too spicy. I could have eaten a dozen.
After another walk of the beach, before I drove to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Once again I got lost, unable to find the Hampton Inn. Fifteen minutes later, there I was inside my nice room with a very large bed. I quickly left to explore, finding the Main St and the few blocks of downtown. The city sat on the bay and boats docked at the harbor. I went for a quick run, trying not to get lost.

Soon my tummy grumbled again, and I went in search of bar-b-que. My compadre on the plain said that I might not like the bbq here because they use vinegar. I told him I was german and loved all things sour. So I found myself at the Bar-b-que Barn, looking at the menu confused. There was a bar-b-que sandwich, bar-b-que plate, ribs, hamburgers, etc-- no sausage, brisket, choice of ribs, chicken. I was definitely not in a Texas bar-b-que country. So I chose the sandwich, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I found my first reason to move to North Carolina, coleslaw on a sandwich, GENIUS!
The next night I was invited over to a local's house for a grill out. I gladly accepted. There was a several things to choose from. There was chicken, beans, corn, ribs, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Plus there was this famous bar-b-que sauce I had to try. One taste of the sauce on a chicken wing and I knew the cook had developed a great recipe. I soon started guessing ingredients only to find silence. I wasn't going to get the recipe, but I enjoyed it anyway.

On my last day, I hit the Outer Banks for some seafood and the beach. Upon arrival, I hit the visitor center to get tips on local restaurants, before making my way to the beach. It was soft-shell crab season, I was told. I kept that in mind and landed at one of the recommended spots, The Black Pelican. A place located close to the beach. I ordered She-Crab soup, which was delicious and creamy, and shrimp and grits. The grits had a kick from jalapeno, but were perfectly cooked and creamy. The shrimp was plump and soft. A southern classic made right.
I was sad to leave, but hope to be back soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mexican in New York, is it better?

Texas is known for two things-Mexican and Bar-b-que. Of course this is besides the accents and the size. So can New York compete?
Well, at least one restaurant can.
In a recent trip to upstate New York, I found myself dining at Raul's Mexican Restaurant in Glens Falls. I was shocked to find that you had to pay for chips and salsa unlike most restaurants in Texas, where it is often free. Another shocker was that you had to pay extra for rice and beans, when you ordered tacos! My eyes bulged. It would be around $15 if I wanted chips, salsa, tacos, rice and beans. In Texas I could order 2 taco meals or 5 tacos from TacoDeli in Austin.
Despite the math, I ordered the pork tacos, which was marinated in Seville oranges and Mexican oregano in blue corn tortillas. My companion and I also, ordered guacamole and chips. What did I find?
I discovered that Tijuana might be more than 3000 miles away, but you could taste it in the tacos. Plus, it was better than the Mexican meal I had, had the day before in Dallas.
Though the tacos were delicious, I missed some of the tanginess from the oranges in the sauce and I didn't taste a lot of oregano, but it didn't lack seasoning like the restaurant in Dallas.
So if you ever find yourself in Glens Falls, New York, try Raul's, it maybe a little pricey, but you'll get a good meal.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Taco Revolution

I am a girl who eats salsa right out of the jar. That's right, I will get a spoon and dig it. Maybe its my Texas background, but salsa is one of my favorite condiments. I eat it out right, I use it as salad dressing, I put it on tacos, and the list is endless.
With the recent taco truck debacle in L.A., I am craving salsa and tacos a lot more. For those of you who don't know, part of L.A. wants to pass a law that makes taco trucks move every hour to a new location. This is causing quite a ruckus in L.A. among foodies, Latinos, and taco lovers. It makes me want to go out to L.A. and sit down to as many taco trucks as I can. But since I can't, I've decided to make my own.
I looked in the kitchen to see what I could use. I found tomatoes, onions, fresh cilantro from the garden, chicken, spices, lime, and green bell peppers. I decided to make a pico de gallo without jalapenos, caramelized peppers, and grilled chicken. The verdict?
Well it isn't carne asada or fish tacos, but it sure was tasty. The perfect Friday night meal when there isn't a taco truck or shack nearby.

Protest Tacos
2 chicken breasts
white pepper
cayenne pepper
sugar (optional)

Pico de gallo
1 tomato
1/2 onion, white or red
1/3 c cilantro
1/2 of a lime

Caramelized Peppers
1 bell pepper

Dice up tomatoes and onions, then chop cilantro, mixing them all into a bowl. Squeeze the lime and flavor with salt and pepper, mixing again.

For peppers, slice them in strips, caramelize in oil on medium heat. They will get a brown tint to them.

Pound chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thick. Mix spices in bowl, rub chicken with spices, let sit at least 10 minutes. Use indoor or outdoor grill to cook meat after letting it sit with spice rub. After grilling, let rest 5 minutes before cutting. Top with peppers, pico de gallo, and other condiments such as sour cream, cheese, guacamole.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

La viva Mexican Brownies!

I have a weakness, known as chocolate. I'm steadily making it a habit to have at least one piece of dark chocolate a day. My excuse- they say its good for my heart and anything good for that sucker is promising. Also, a reason to drink red wine, no? It goes along with my friend's idea that because there is milk in a cafe mocha, your getting your calcium.
So we all have are little cheats and sayings that go along with why we eat certain foods. And to me that is all good. I believe in moderation not exile. A reason I can't be vegetarian or vegan, anymore. I love ice cream, bison burgers, and eggs over easy, way too much.
So when it came to my monthly drum circle meeting, I decided to bake something. It was the Cinco de Mayo festival, too. I had seen Rachael Ray's recipe for Subtle Spicy Chocolate, but had no cocoa powder. So I searched the web to find another recipe, and soon found one from Emeril. Can you ever go wrong with Bam?
So I made Emeril's Chocolate Chipotle Brownie, and they were good. One friend kept on going back for more. I missed some of the chocolate taste, but am going to tweak so you get a chocolate and spicy taste. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chipotle Brownies

1 teaspoon plus 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 tablespoon plus 1 cup all-purpose flour (I split it and used half wheat and all-purpose)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
4 eggs
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate or semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and flour an 11 by 7-inch baking pan or dish with 1 teaspoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the flour. Heat the remaining butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. In a medium bowl, stir together remaining flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ground chipotle. Add sugar mixture to melted chocolate mixture, stirring to combine. Add eggs, mixing until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate or chocolate morsels.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan or dish. Bake until the center is set, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely and then cut into small squares.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Food Prices

Last week, I almost killed over when I saw the price of raspberries at a local grocery store. Eight bucks for a pint of raspberries. I don't know about you, but I go through a pint in 2-3 days. Thats a lot of money on one fruit. Of course, haven't we all noticed the higher prices in food lately?
I've been keeping my eye on it because I love food, to eat, but also, my dad is a farmer. He's growing wheat, soybeans, and corn this year because of the prices. I guess that the higher price at market offsets the higher gas prices, but I haven't crunched the numbers.
Along with this, I visited a local farmer's market, only to find that everything wasn't local. There was watermelons, peaches, and other produce not in season. One vendor said, "Wait a week or two and I'll have Georgia peaches."
However, I know peach season isn't until June depending on where they are grown. This guy wasn't going to put a veil over me. The past couple of years in Austin gave me the knowledge of seasonal produce, how to choose the right one, and the compassion to buy local. This guy was a fake.
But I took my tomatoes and my peaches home, to find the tomatoes unripened and the peaches going bad. They say, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." So I took those peaches, mixed them with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, let them marry for awhile. Then I took them and made a cobbler.
So what have I learned, research farmer's markets in local areas, and if you get some bad produce try and find something to make out it.

Peach Cobbler
(adapted from Gourmet)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granola without dried fruit
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

3 lb peaches, sliced
1/2-1 cup sugar

Take sliced peaches mix with sugar and spice and let marry for a little bit. Then place in baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Stir together sugar, flour, granola, spices, and salt in a bowl, then work in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps.

Take crumb mixture and spread over peaches.

Bake in middle of oven until topping is golden and peaches are tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.