Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Too much....

Ok, ok that was a little dramatic, but seriously, my fridge is like so full for a single person. Well, unless you factor in that I'm a huge food dork. And that's not even all of it.
No, my counter has peppers, squash, and cucumbers on them too. I don't know what to do with them all. I keep on telling myself, I'll make this and that, but I procastinate and it never gets done.
Why am I in abundance? I do not know how to say no. You may laugh, but when it comes to people giving me food, I feel bad saying no. But then again, I also, feel bad when people around the world are starving and I throw out what was once perfectly edible vegetable.
So, I promise myself that this time, I won't. The cucumbers will become pickles. The peppers..... I think I can pickle those too? The squash?
A chocolate zucchini cake. I know, I know, its odd. But strangely enough its really really good! You never taste the zucchini in it. All the vegetable does is keep the cake very moist and gooey. Trust me I know.
I have already made it for pot luck dinner this week. And I even converted a seven-year-old, who said she didn't like squash. I believe she even ate most of it, well her and her father.
So next time you have too many vegetables think outside the box.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
(adapted from Epicurious.com)
2 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 2 1/2 medium)
1 6-ounce package (about 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter and oil in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions each. Mix in grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A peach festivel gone astray

I'm shocked. Appalled and downright saddened. Why you may ask?
The Knott's Island Peach Festival has no peaches from North Carolina. I mean, if you are going to have a peach festival in North Carolina, you shouldn't ship in 6,250 pounds (an exact number) of peaches from South Carolina, it just isn't right.
Maybe it's my Texas pride coming out, but no county or city in my home state would ship in peaches from "the outside" for a festival. It would be an abomination. It's unheard of. I'm ranting, but still.
What happened to a festival, celebrating the local crop that has sustained that town for years?
Add to this that the pies came from Sam's Club, no telling where the ice cream came from (it didn't have much of a peach taste, anyways). My hopes and expectations were crushed. My thoughts of getting a pie crust or peach pie recipe were fleeting because I soon realized that I was not going to get any.
Defeated, I walked away. I could get South Carolina peaches at any farm stand around. What then to do?
I went home on the ferry, a very disappointed. My first peach festival and the peaches weren't even regional.
However, the next day, I went to an orchard where I picked peaches (there is peaches on the island at a winery, but not enough to supply the festival, i guess). The woman told me that many had hail damage to them, but I decided to pick a few anyways.
All had hail damage, bugs, or were rotting on the ground. I was able to find some soft with no bugs to bring home with me. I then, took them cleaned them, mixed them with blueberries, and made cobbler.
The cobbler was wonderful. Though I am more of a pie person, I think it is the crunch with the crust. But still this was quick and easy, plus a lot less work.
Blueberry and Peach Cobbler
(adapting from Eating Well)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced-fat milk
1/2 cup sugar
cinnamon and nutmeg
3 ripe but firm peaches (about 1 pound), pitted and sliced into eighths, or 3 1/2 cups frozen
2 cups (1 pint) fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place butter and oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Heat in the oven until melted and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add milk, sugar and vanilla; stir to combine. Add the melted butter mixture to the batter and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spoon peaches and blueberries evenly over the batter. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the top of the cobbler is browned and the batter around the fruit is completely set, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Throwing Out the Menu

My ex might describe me as a little uptight, maybe a little anal. Though I would just say that I like my routines and often than not I break them. Because they occasionally get boring. Like last week, I took a week off from running to sleep in and do nothing but play on my computer. Was it productive? No. Did I get anything done? No. Did I enjoy it? Well, yeah. So it wasn't that bad. It wasn't a life change, no, but I did what I thought I needed. It is balancing this and what actually needs to get done.
Included in my routines is weekly menu. I look what I have or don't have and try and plan around--Gazpacho-Tuesday, BBQ chicken-Thursday, etc. But I have to say that no week goes as planned. This week I've only stuck to my menu once. Why? I have a lot of squash and tomatoes
from the garden and berries I picked in VA. I'm only one person and can only eat so much. So what do I do? The one thing I can do. Throw out the menu and start over. I zucchini, well what can I do with- bread, fries, grill it. Think outside the box.
We forget that menus and grocery stores are something new. They aren't really that old if you look at history. People a hundred years ago, still lived off the land and now I need to think like that. Think about what I can do with one thing and prepare it a hundred different ways. Create something new even. There are no rules in the kitchen, just the ones you make yourself.

Monday, July 14, 2008

All Mussels, No....

Ah cable. It is a glorious thing. A place where any foodie can sit down learn something new and not be in a kitchen. Or if you are like me, it is background noise. But I don't have it. Like I said in my last post. I don't have cable, budget doesn't allow for it. So I make due without (although, I believe I am going crazy without). I read now. I read gastronomy.
Oh yes, right now I can recite a lot about Chinese food because I just got done with The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, learning too much about the fact that the Fortune Cookie is from the Japanese. But where am I going with all of this?
Nowhere, really. I got sidetracked. Back to cable. So life without cable is boring, and when visiting friends, I seem content to just sit on their couches and watch Food Network there. I know I am a horrible guest, but I miss it. I miss Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef, Good Eats, etc. So when I went and visited a friend in D.C. this is what I did. (No, I didn't veg out the whole time- we did things that normal 20 somethings do.)
But while, we were watching the food channel. We came across Throwdown with Bobby Flay and wouldn't you know it, he was in D.C. for an episode-mussels and fries at Granville Moore's. I was ecstatic and told my friend we had to go, plus the chef was extremely cute (added bonus points).
So on Sunday evening, my friend and I hopped in her car and took the winding ride to the other part of town. Her comment was "if this place is in a shady neighborhood, we are leaving." Slightly bummed, I agreed. But soon we realized that it wasn't that shady and parked. Outside was none other than the chef himself- Teddy. I smiled and told him we saw him on the Throwdown and I was to go eat my first mussel.
Now you maybe shocked that this is my first mussel. Yes, folks, indeed it was. There are only a few people who like seafood in my family-my father and I. So the rare occasions I got it as a teenager (don't make me explain that either), I always ate salmon.
We were soon informed that there were no tables. It was around 6 p.m. on a Sunday. We shrugged and sat at the bar. On the wall was the list of beers. My mouth about dropped at some of the prices. Thirty to forty dollars for a bottle of beer, but people spend thousands of dollars on wine. So I shouldn't be so shocked.
Soon we got our menus, I looked at the wine list and tried a 2006 William Pinot Blanc, a fabulous light white with a slight tropical taste.
I soon chatted with the bartender, learning they sold out of mussels Friday and Saturday night and had a fresh load in the back. My friend and I were shocked, here we were on a Sunday night going to dine on mussels that arrived that morning. I asked Teddy, who was sipping a beer at the bar, how many pounds they received, he said, "150 pounds." They had gone through 220 on Saturday and close to 180 on Friday he told me. He estimated that they went through almost 500 pounds this past weekend. Very close to their record. All of this because Bobby Flay and the Throwdown?
That is what was speculated because, when I saw the episode it was only the second time, it had run.
But don't think Granville Moore's is a two trick pony. Yes, their fries and mussels are excellent and fresh. His blue cheese, bacon, mussels that I tried converted me to mussels and their spectacular taste (I'll be making them at home). Plus, you can never go wrong with bacon! But also, on the menu was a bison, which I am a HUGE fan off. And they had daily specials.
Being partial to bison, my friend and I ordered it medium-rare. The burger came out nicely cooked with the correct pinkness to it. It wasn't over cooked or tough. It didn't need ketchup or mustard. It was perfect plainly dressed.
Oh and the fries! They were perfectly crispy with great seasoning. The hints of sweet and spicy hit your tough when you bit into a fry. It's great to see a place doing much more than just adding salt to french fries these days.
So I suggest trying out Granville Moore's, not just for the mussels, but the other menu items as well. They are truly a place worth going back to. I know I'll be heading back the next time I'm in D.C. and this time I'll have a beer.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Swooning over Mario Batali

If I had to name my favorite chef it would be the one with the orange crocs. Better known as Mario Batali. I don't know when I became a fan. Maybe it was the Iron Chef Americas challenges because he always won, or his Italian cooking, but I fell in love with him one day.
I have told some people if I ever met him I would faint. Probably not the best first impression from me to him, but it's either that or I might lose the ability to speak to him, which is the more logical choice.
Now you would think with my admiration of Mr. Batali, I would own all of his books, most of his cookware and orange crocs. However, I do not. I own a Mario Batali wooden spoon, but that is all. Shocking, I know.
Also, due to my recent move, I no longer have Food Network, which means no more Iron Chef America, Good Eats, or all of which I use to watch. But trust me this doesn't mean I am lacking in food knowledge. Or that I am not cooking. Quite the contrary.
I rarely am seen outside my kitchen because most nights are spent there cooking quick meals. With this in mind, I decided this week to make a Batali dish, but having some of the ingredients already. I came up with my own, an ode if you will to Mario. The perfect light summer pasta dish, simple and elegant. One that calls for seconds. Fresh tomato and basil spaghetti.
I picked basil from the garden, picked up local tomatoes and garlic, but off cooking for a day, then cooked it for lunch. I was craving Italian food, so I took his spaghetti with sweet 100 tomatoes, garlic chives, and lemon basil and used what I had. It was me being economical, a localvore, and well, avoiding searching all over North Carolina for lemon basil and garlic chives. What came out? Well, I guess you'll have to try it for yourself and see if you like. I am adding it into my recipe book and am sure to make it when my tomatoes come in on my vine.
And if you see the man in orange crocs, can you send him my way for a cooking lesson or two?

Fresh tomato, basil spaghetti
1 tomato, cut into slices
handful of basil, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 of a bag of spaghetti

Begin boiling a pot of water for the pasta. Once boiling, add dried spaghetti.

While the water comes to a boil, saute garlic in olive oil, once turning lightly brown add tomatoes. Cook until softened. Once pasta is cooked, drained and add to tomato mixture. Toss together and basil. Serve and Enjoy!