Friday, January 30, 2009

A Ray Of Sunshine On A Cloudy Trip

Though I have mentioned all the BAD parts of my trip up north, I have not told you about any of the good parts. Yes, honestly there were some good parts. I got to see all of my immediate family along with some of my extended family including my cousin whom I have not seen in about 10 years! Considering I was in Indiana for less than 48 hours that is quite an accomplishment!
As I mentioned before, I went to Dayton, Ohio to see one of my best friends (who I have not seen for 2 yrs) on my way to Indy. Now I have LOTS of "best friends. " But she is one of only two, that knows ALL my secrets. Mostly because she like the other one, was my partner in crime in many of those secrets. These are the kind of friends that you will always be friends with because it's too dangerous not to be!
Besides our "wild youth" (relatively speaking) one of the things we share is that we are both Foodies. We have an unriveled love of unique flavors and textures and willingness to try just about anything.
During the 2 1/2 days I was there we did some major eating. One of the places she took me (twice actually) was a small independant resturant called "The Medowlark" She had raved about it! But when we pulled into the parking lot of a non-descript strip mall my heart sank a little. That lasted about 2 mins (the time it took us to park and walk inside) here, hidden in this strip mall was certainately a treasure!
Inside the decor was a charming beatnik,alternative, funky modern art conglomeration. Unique cloth napkins and placemats at each table.The employees matched the decor and so did the food!
The menu, is somewhat small and changes seasonally. It touts mostly salad, sanwiches and soups and read like poetry. No generic terms like mouthwatering, delicious... blah, blah, blah. It gave beautiful discriptions of the fresh,wonderful cheeses and vegetables and spices. There was no need to ask for explanation of any dish, you could imagine exactly what it would taste like just by reading wait you could "almost imagine" because it tasted EVEN BETTER!
There were so many wonderful things there like a grilled portabella sandwich topped with roasted red peppers and Brie grilled to perfection on a beautiful Rye bread. Roasted tomato soup with basil. Garlic Frites with home made catsup (sure to be the topic of a future post). I could go on and on! But, since it is a 10 hour drive it would only serve to torture you. But believe me, if it were not for the cold weather and snow. I would consider moving to Dayton just to be able to eat at this resturant!
One of the dishes I had there was a beautiful beet salad with goat cheese which is half of the inspiration for todays post. The other half is a Ina Garten recipe that I found on Food Network. This sort of a fusion of both. The colors are so bold an lovely. It makes a great presentation that would be perfect for a dinner party or luncheon.
Beets tend to be a "love' em or hate' em" Food. Many people do not like the "earthy" flavor they have. But, the orange and vinegar in this recipe cuts through that and gives them a fresh, bright flavor!
I had originally planned on roasting fresh beets (which I have never done) for this; but, Ina's recipe called for canned beets. If canned beets are good enough for the Contessa, darnit they are good enough for me!
Orange Beet Salad with Goat Cheese
2-15 oz cans of sliced beets,drained
1/4 cup Raspberry Vinegar
1/4 cup Freshly squeezed Orange juice
1 Tbs Olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 large seedless orange
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Wisk together Vinegar, orange juice and olive oil salt and pepper. Place beets and onions in a bowl and pour mixture over top. Toss lightly, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Immediately before serving zest orange and set zest aside. Remove remainder of peel and with a sharp knife remove as much of white pith as possible. Segment oranges.
With a slotted spoon remove beets and onions from vinaigrette and arrange on individual serving plates. Drizzle a small amount of the vinaigrette over top. Divide orange segments between each plate and arrange on top of beets. Break up goat cheese into small clumps and arrange on each plate. Grind additional black pepper over entire salad. Top each with orange zest and sprinkle with walnuts.
Notes: For a more substatial dish you could also serve this on a bed of spinach or field greens adding a bit more of the vinaigrette to flavor the greens.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Don't Burst My Bubble

I am sure that you expected to open up today's post and find some soup or a casserole or some other cuddle up and stay warm and cozy food. But I wanted something to make me think warm and tropical!

You see, the snow today and all of the cold weather we had last week? That is my fault. I was in Ohio and IN two weeks ago, and it followed me back. I apologize, well except to the kids who are enjoying the day off. To them I say, "Your welcome".

My trip was kind of a disaster. It started off by a miserable drive through endless rain and fog for 9 hours. 20 minutes before I reached my first destination in Dayton, I had an accident. Standing on the side of the interstate I got a chill to the bone that I could not shake for the remainder of my trip.
I won't bore you with the details. But Firetrucks, police cars, a tow truck, a trip to the Emergency room (were I was told I did indeed have a brain and it was mostly intact just a little angry from banging against my skull)insurance companies, rental car agencies,extra days in Dayton when I should have been in IN, a funeral, a whirlwind of trying to seem my entire family in less than 48 hrs,and 13 (very tense) hours of driving back to NC.

When I reached my driveway, I looked down at outdoor temperature gauge on my fancy rental car and it read 47 degrees. "I AM NEVER LEAVING NORTH CAROLINA AGAIN!" at least not in the winter.

So, you can imagine that I was not happy when a few days later, the temperatures here began dropping and definitely not excited to see snow this morning! It's a good thing that I don't have to work today because I do not plan to peak my nose outside my door.

So, though I know those of you who did not grow up with snow and all the kids are enjoying your snow day. I am going to turn up my heat and eat my tropical dish and pretend I am in the Bahamas!

I found a recipe for Ceviche on a blog called The Omnicon after seeing a picture of it on Tastespotting. Besides the beautiful picture what caught my attention was the Tequila in it. I happen to be a big Tequila fan. Sadly though, I did not have any on hand but believe me the next time I make this, I will. I was also intriqued by the sweet potato in this. I was sure (from the picture) it was going to be mango. There are endless variations of fish, fruits and veggies in creviche I am looking forward to trying many more recipes for this wonderful Latin American dish.

Important Note: I know that everyone is concerned these days about food contamination. So , I did some research about this. In this recipe (like most Ceviche recipes) the acid in the lime juice denatures the proteins in the shrimp and gives it the texture and appearance of being "cooked". It does also kill bacteria. Though it may not kill ALL of the bacteria. The FDA states that shellfish that is frozen to -31 degrees for 15 days is relatively safe for raw consumption. For this reason I would only use commercially frozen shrimp. It should also be noted that pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system should NOT eat raw seafood.

If you still feel uneasy about eating raw seafood you can lightly steam the shrimp then marinate it in the lime juice for about 30 minutes.

In Denial of Winter Shrimp Ceviche

1 lb thawed raw shrimp, cleaned and roughly chopped
10 oz lime juice
1 cup cubed sweet potato
1/2 cup diced red onion
2/3 c chopped cilantro

1/4 cup,diced red/yellow peppers
2 Jalepeno peppers cleaned and sliced
1 can coconut water (also called coconut juice,NOT coconut MILK)
1 shot tequila (optional)
1/4 c coconut, toasted

Place chopped shrimp in a ziplock bag and cover with lime juice. Squeeze out all the air and roll up bag so that all shrimp is completely covered in lime juice. Let sit in fridge for 3-4 hours.

Placed peeled,diced sweet potato in a pan of boiling water and cook until tender. (15-20 mins) drain and cool.

Drain shrimp, reserving 1/4 cup of lime juice. Combine with remaining ingredients (except toasted coconut). Chill for 1 hr. Place in beautiful glasses and sprinkle with the toasted coconut. This can be eaten by itself as is or enjoyed on a tortilla or crackers.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Always a Yankee

I have lived in the South for most of my adult life (GA for 5 yrs and here for 13) and I have adopted many Southern customs but for New Years my Yankee roots are showing.

I know that here in the South most people eat Collard greens or Black eyed peas for luck on New Years. But in Indiana cabbage is the traditional "lucky" food for the New Year. My family usually makes a Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup to get our dose of luck. But this year I thought I would try something a little different.

I started perusing my usual recipe sites looking for a recipe containing cabbage and the very first thing I came across was Stuffed Cabbage. Mmm, simple flavors. Tomatoes, ground beef, rice and of course Cabbage. Perfect!

The most difficult part of this dish is separating the cabbage leaves. But this task is simple with just a pot of boiling water. Bring large pot of water to a boil. With a sharp knife remove the core of the cabbage leaving the rest of the cabbage intact. Once water is at a full boil drop in head of cabbage. With a pair of tongs begin carefully coaxing off leaves one a time and remove from water. At this point leaves should be just flexible enough for rolling. You do not want to actually cook the cabbage otherwise it will be be flimsy and tear when you are rolling. I promise, it sounds way more complicated than it is.

Simple Stuffed Cabbage

8 whole cabbage leaves

1lb ground beef

1cup cooked rice

1-8oz can tomato sauce

1-15oz can tomato sauce

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped green peppers

2 tsp minced garlic

2 TBS Brown sugar

1/2tsp Allspice

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet brown ground beef along with onions, peppers and garlic. Drain well. Combine ground beef and 8 oz can of tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place approx 1/2 cup of ground beef mixture into the center of each cabbage leaf. Fold 1/2 of leaf over meat and tuck in ends. Roll the rest of the way up and place each one seam side down in 8x8 baking pan. (spray pan with cooking spray first) Mix together remaining tomato sauce, brown sugar and allspice. Pour sauce over cabbage rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Place in the oven for 45-55 mins. (45mins for cabbage that is al dente longer for softer cabbage) Uncover and spoon sauce over rolls once or twice during baking.