Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Goodbye, Clyde Phillips, I'll Miss You Most of All

   By the time this posts, I'll be making my final drive back to Tennessee from North Carolina.  Last year at this time when I moved back to Tennessee, I had no intention of ever returning to the Jacksonville, NC area.  It is different now.  I'm not dealing with a husband who is delpoying; his getting out of the USMC.  I'm not moving back in with parents; we have a huge house to move into (and fix up.)  I'm not going to be looking for my career job, just something to make a little money while I work on food.  The prospects of moving home are so much better this time around, but the move itself is much more bittersweet.  I've really grown to love some of the places around here.  It didn't sink in about how much I love them until I came back in March.

   Without a doubt, my single favorite location in Eastern North Carolina is Clyde Phillips Seafood Market.  It's a little salmon colored plaster shack on the White Oak River in Swansboro, NC  Absolutely unassuming with the weathered exterior and jumble of boats docked behind it.  Those boats are my favorite part.  There is nothing better than walking into a place to buy seafood and the trawlers are still wet from the morning's shrimping expedition.
   The small shop area is low key and utilitarian.  A cement block resevoir filled with ice serves as the cooler display case in the center.  Along the back wall is a long, shallow, stainless steel cleaning bench.  A few failing rocking chairs serve as the waiting area.  Each day the selection varies.  Generally it is filled with mullet, croaker, flounder, and shrimp.  Sometimes they'll have crabs, clams, oysters, drums, grouper, snapper and scallops (depending on the season, tides, and weather.)

Mullet in the front.
Croaker in the back, a flakey, buttery, mild white fish.

Beautiful red snapper

Creamy white bellies of flounder

My favorite item: huge, fresh shrimp.
16-20 per pound, an absolute steal at $5.50/lb (head on) in season

   Even with buying shrimp about once a week, I can't get enough.  I am going to miss the fresh seafood so much; I am actually crying about it a little right now.  While I wish Jacksonville, NC and I had never met; I fell in love with Wilmington, the Outer Banks, Bear Island and Swansboro.  Clyde Phillips caught my heart the moment I pulled into the gravel lot the first time:  the boats, the breeze, the estuary islands in the river, the seafood.

Monday, July 25, 2011


   So I've had a shit-awesome day (that is my new ironic description for days like today.)  I spent the bulk of my morning painfully sifting through the just-downloaded David Bowie discography.  I condensed 10 GB to about 4.  There was so much unusable and non-working crap that tagged onto that download.  But it's done, and I feel accomplished.  Just as I was finishing, I noticed it getting warmer in the house.  The AC broke.  It is 100 deg F outside..... awesome.  My plan was to change the air filters anyway today, so I went out to buy those.  (And was assured that the AC did non break due to lack of changing filters, this house is just shite.)  As I left Home Depot, I noticed a cart a little to close to my car.  Yeah, some ass hole soccer mom/dejected Marine wife (I saw her as I entered the store) let her cart slam into car when there was one of those drop off lanes 10 ft away.  I got home, and it was 80 deg F in the house.  (It is 83 now....)  I was told someone would come fix it today.  Then, right after I hung up with our fucktard property manager telling me someone would be out to fix it today, the hubs tells me they just called him saying it would be tomorrow.  So, thank you Century 21 American Properties (located on Lejeune Blvd.) for reminding me of why I am so happy to be moving away from this place.

   The best part of my day was the leftovers I had for lunch; what was left of my dinner from Saturday night.  Two weekends ago we tried to get into this restaurant we've been meaning to try for over a year now.  At 7, the wait was 1.5 hours, so we went elsewhere.  This past weekend it was too hot for our kayaking plans, so we went to the Fort Fisher Aquarium and then back to the restaurant.  We got there early this time (a little before 6, but we still had to wait 20 minutes.)  I suggest you make reservations, and actually speak to a hostess.  There is a good chance your reservations will be lost if you do not insist on confirmation with the name of the person who took your request and/or you speak to an old Asian lady.  This happened to us.

   Indochine is about 5 minutes outside downtown Wilmington, but is often more crowded than the downtown joints.  Its wonderfully, tacky-lavish decor is the result of the owner's lifetime collecting habits of Southeast Asian nick-knacks.  And the outdoor eating area is a gorgeous courtyard with little pagodas over each table.  Marketed as a Vietnamese and Thai place, the menu includes a huge variety of dishes.  The menu really has too much.  The sushi section, Chinese dishes, and few Indian creations need to be cut out completely, if you ask me. 

   Our service was decent, but a bit lack-luster.  I don't want a server to be overbearing, but I like a little presence and warmth from the people handling my food.  We ordered goi cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls) with shrimp as an appetizer.  They were fresh, and tasty.  The rice noodles and rice paper were the perfect texture and with just the right amount of cilantro and mint.  As a personal preference, I would have liked more carrot and cucumber for more crunch.  Also, the plum sauce was more of a peanut and plum sauce combo, still delicious though.  I really wish I had tried it with mango instead of shrimp.  The sweetness of the shrimp was lovely and I think the mango would have been even better.

   I attempted to order a White Tiger, a sake-triple sec-lychee drink, but the server brought a Tiger beer instead which Louis decided to drink, so, um, make sure your order is heard correctly.  Louis ordered a Naga Knock Out, a rum punch/mai tai thing.  I really liked it, Louis wasn't crazy about it, so I drank it.  It is a knock out, it is a strong drink wrapped in a pink girly package.
   Louis ordered pork Pad Thai.  I've had a lot of pad thai... none of it good.  It's been dry, gummy, too salty, flavorless, and not actually pad thai.  But this was fantastic.  Great balance of flavors, egg evenly distributed, pork tender, the sauce stuck to the rice noodles in just the right way... I was almost jealous I didn't order it.
   Except that I wasn't terribly jealous because I ordered the Pho Bac.  This was one of the revelatory dishes in my life.  The clear broth was so clean yet complex.  The rice noodles were perfect, slightly chewy but tender with a bit of cilantro and lots of scallions mixed in.  There were soft, thin slices of beef poached in the broth.  And it was served with a plate of goodies:  minty Thai basil, sriracha, bean sprouts.  With my first bite, I started to giggle.  I unceremoniously curled over my bowl; chop sticks in one hand, spoon in the other.  I gobbled and slurped my way into soup nirvana.  At one point the owner came over, she asked how everything was.  With noodles hanging from my mouth, I just laughed a little and then sucked the noodles into my mouth the way your parents told you not to.  She smiled widely at my enjoyment.  That was enough for her.

7 Wayne Dr.
Wilmington, NC 28403

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Gorgonzola Garden Lasagna

   I've mentioned before that I didn't really grow up eating lasagna.  However, it has become one of my favorite comfort foods.  Anything with pasta is comforting to me, honestly.  I was in my teens when I first had vegetable lasagna.  It blew my mind; why had I never had it before?!  Frequently, I have little mental debates with myself about whether I like traditional or veggie better.  It depends on the season, it often the conclusion I come to.  The traditional stuff seems too heavy for the summer.  This veggie packed version is just what those cravings call for in the summer.  Use whatever vegetables you like.  The twist in this particular dish, is the light gorgonzola sauce.  It adds a beautiful background depth that is a little sweet, a little tangy, and cheesy without being heavy.  Oh, and can you believe I forgot to put garlic in this?!  Whatev, it was still delicious.
Gorgonzola Garden Lasagna
8 oz whole grain lasagna noodles, cooked 1 min less than pkg directions (12 noodles)
2 lrg carrots, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced (your favorite color)
5 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 lb frozen broccoli florets, thawed (break down the larger pieces)
1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
salt, pepper, oil
white sauce:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 C milk (I like buttermilk for it)
1 C low sodium chicken broth
3/4 C crumbled gorgonzola
1/4 C grated parmesan
1 tsp oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flake
pinch nutmeg
cheese mixture:
1 1/2 C part skim ricotta
1 1/2 C part skim shredded mozzarella
1 egg
1/4 C chopped parsley

   Combine ingredients for cheese mixture.
   Heat a little oil over medium heat in a large pan, saute onions, carrots, and bell pepper until tender, 7-8 minutes.  Add tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli.  Cook together for 4-5 minutes.  Lightly salt and pepper.
   Melt butter into oil for white sauce over medium heat.  Whisk in flour.  Cook for about 1 minute, keep whisking to prevent lumps.  Keep whisking while slowing pouring in milk and broth.  Allow mixture to thicken.  Whisk in gorgonzola and parm.  Add oregano, red pepper flake, and nutmeg.   
   Spread a little bit of sauce (~1/4 C) into the bottom of a lightly sprayed 13x9 deep sided. baking dish.  Add the rest to vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste, it shouldn't need to much.
   Add four noodles to bottom of baking dish.  Spread 1/3 of cheese mixture over noodles.  Add 1/3 of vegetables.  Repeat 2 more times.
   (From this point, it will keep in fridge for 2-3 days.  Add 15 minutes to covered baking time if baking straight from the fridge.)
   Bake at 350 deg F for 25 minutes covered.  Uncovered for 15 minutes.
   Serves 8.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Summer Berry Clafoutis

  cla·fou·tis (klä-fū-tē') pronunciation n. A baked dessert composed of a layer of fresh fruit topped with a thick batter.

   Clafoutis (generally spelled clafouti in English speaking countries) is a French country dessert.  Traditionally made with pit-in cherries, it is intended to showcase in season fruit.  Don't be scared by the "French" aspect; it is really easy to make.  The custardy pancake batter is often poured in a thicker layer than I did, but I wanted about 66% fruit, 33% batter as opposed to a 50/50 thing that many seem to have. 
Summer Berry Clafoutis
1/2 pint strawberries, halved
1/2 C (or more) blackberries
1/4 C sliced almonds
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 C sugar (all white or half white, half brown)
1/4 C flour
1/4 C milk
1/4 C half and half
1 tsp blackberry liqueur (or 1/2 tso vanilla)
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch on salt

   Whisk together ingredients for batter.
   Butter an 8 or 9 inch pie pan.  Arrange fruit in pan.  Pour batter over fruit.  Top with almonds.
   Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, until batter is set.  Allow to cool.  (Batter will puff up while baking and then sink back down.)
   Serves 6.  (Maybe with some vanilla bean frozen yogurt.... mmmm.)


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chipotle Orange Pork "Steaks"

   This is a really fantastic all-seasons marinade.  Roast or pan sear for the colder months, and grill when the weather allows.  Cutting a pork loin into medallions allows you to enjoy the heartiness of a steak without the heaviness of red meat or the price tag of a good cut of beef.  (Though, this would be great on a flat iron or flank steak or chicken if you don't do the mammal thing.)
Chipotle Orange Pork "Steaks"
1 1/4-1 1/2 lb pork loin cut into steaks about 1 1/4 in. thick
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 oranges (~3/4 C, maybe a little more)
1 lrg chipotle
1 tsp of adobo sauce (that the chipotle is packaged in)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

   Combine all ingredients except pork. 
   Between two piece of plastic wrap very lightly pound meat to help tenderize it.  Put in marinade.  Marinate for 1-12 hours, the longer the better.
   Shake off excess marinade and sprinkle a tiny bit more salt on pork.  Place on hot grill.  (If you are using charcoal, throw on a couple hunks of wood to give a nice smokey flavor)  Grill 5-6 min per side.
   While pork is grilling, pour excess marinade into a pot.  Heat over medium/med-high until it starts to bubble.  Reduce by half to form sauce.
   Let pork rest for 3-4 minutes under a foil tent.  Serve and spoon sauce over.
   Serves 4.

Also, check out SAVE THE ARTIST for a post about developing your palate!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Poblano Beer Pork Tacos

   I love tacos, I've done several variations and I just can't stop coming up with more.  These came about because someone left cans of Bud Light here a while ago.  Neither Louis nor I particularly like Bud Light, so I kept coming up with different ways to cook with beer.  Obviously, I suggest you use a better beer, but it doesn't have to be anything too expensive.  Even regular Budweiser would be good.  The beer adds a nice little acidity, and the carbonation and hint of alcohol will help to tenderize the meat as it cooks.  The beer flavor is subtle and marries so well the fruitiness of the chilies and richness of the pork.
Poblano Beer Pork Tacos
2 medium poblanos, very thinly sliced
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 medium jalepeno, minced
1 large chipotle, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 12 oz can beer
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp honey*
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2.5-3 lbs country ribs
salt and pepper
shredded jack, red onion, cilantro

   Remove stems, seeds, and ribs from poblanos and jalepeno.  Combine first 10 ingredients in a deep roasting pan or baking pan.  Salt and pepper pork pretty liberally.  Add to sauce.  Cover.  Place in 325 deg F oven for 1.5 hours.  Uncover, turn heat down to 300 deg F and cook another hour.
   Shred pork and remove bones.  Serves immediately (or store in air tight container for 3-4 days.  To reheat, place in a pot, cover and heat over med-low heat.  Add a little stock or water if needed.)
   Place on tortillas with some cheese, red onion, and cilantro or whatever else you like.
   Serves 4-6.  (Number of servings really depends on how large the bones in the meat are.  Stretch your budget and servings by upping the sides.  Rice and beans are cheap.)

*You can use all honey or all brown sugar.  I used both out of necessity but the two different sweetnesses was really nice.  The floral aspect that plays off the chilies from the honey and the caramelized sweetness of the brown sugar is perfect with pork.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Front Street Brewery

   Yesterday was so lovely in Eastern NC.  The winds have shifted and the wildfire smoke is being carried more inland.  We took our final trip (while living in NC at least) down to Wilmington yesterday.  We ate lunch at Front Street Brewery.  Well, it was more of a mid-afternoon snack feast.  I love this place.  It is located on Front St (go figure...) in the beautiful downtown area.  This micro-brewery is fitted into an old row building with pressed tin ceilings and dark, old hardwood.  The way you picture a turn of the [last] century bar to look.  The front left portion houses the brewery where they brew their four standards: River City Raspberry Wheat, Coastal Kolsch, Port City IPA, and Dram Tree Scottish Ale.  In addition to the standards, they carry a wide variety of bottled beers, have a full bar, and have rotating seasonal brews created by the FSB brew masters (generally 2-3 varieties).

   These are two of the seasonal brews for Spring/Summer 2011.  On the left is the Triple Play which is a Belgian style tripel.  For a light (in color) beer, it is rich and smooth with very little hops, just enough the balance the flavors.  All varieties except this have the option of a pint, but this brew approaches 10% ABV.  Even with the high alcohol content (as far as beer goes) it goes down easy... maybe a little too easy.  I really enjoyed this refreshing break from my usual dark beers.  The other beer pictured above is El Hefe, a hefenweizen .  This wheat beer is light and crisp with hints of spice and citrus.  Almost no hops, it is incredibly smooth with a hint of sweetness.

   And I couldn't resist a dark because I love Scottish ales.  This is my second favorite Scottish ale (the first being from Bosco's.)  Dark and rich, the Dram Tree Scottish Ale is smokey with caramelized notes of coffee and chocolate.
   The menu is a pretty standard selection for a bar/pub.  Burgers and sandwiches, fried goodies, and classics like fish and chips and shepard's pie.  Every once in a while they'll throw in a Gulf/Coastal favorite like jambalaya or gumbo.  I know their burgers are wraps are fantastic; the FSB Pita Wrap with portabellas is my favorite sandwich here.

   Every day from 3-6 pm and then after 10 pm, about half of the appetizers are half price.  Perfect for relaxing with a beer and just enjoying the afternoon.  We sort of indulged in our app selections, but it was so good.  We started with the crab dip (not half price but a really good deal at about $10.)  Normally this is a fairly heavy dish and I was surprised at how light it was!  It was almost fluffy, I kid you not.  Fresh shreds of crab run through the creamy, cheesy concoction and the parmesan dusted pita points are soft and lightly toasted, like the best pita from a great Greek restaurant.  I could have eaten the whole thing by my self, but it is a great option for sharing.

   The buffalo chicken tenders are cooked perfectly without too much breading and the sauce isn't too greasy or spicy.  Really really good, but not quite as special as the other items we ordered.  But if you fancy yourself a chicken tender connoisseur, you will not be disappointed.

   Oh, and these beauties.  I hate these things.  They are too good.  Deadly good, in fact.  Beer nuggets.  See how terrible they are?  I'm not writing full sentences!  Fried hunks of beer dough rolled around in garlic butter and served with marinara.  Damn you FSB for creating these!  I really really hate you because I love these so much.  I wanted to cry when I ate the first one because it was so fucking delicious!

   I highly recommend Front Street Brewery if you find yourself wandering around the Wilmington area.  It is fun, casual, relaxed, ironically family friendly (up until the night life kicks ups later in the evening).  Great food and great beer, what more do you need?  Maybe some beer to go?  They offer several options for at home enjoyment from half kegs to 64 oz jugs (that are refillable!)

9 N. Front St.
Wilmington, NC 28401

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fried Eggplant Salad w/ Garlic Caper Vinaigrette

   Eggplants are just coming into season.  If you frequent farmers' markets, in a few weeks you'll have quite the variety to choose from.  I made this salad with the best eggplant I could find as the wonderfully upscale Food  Lion (............) near me.  I had never worked with eggplant before, which means I had never purchased one.  Even though I knew the criteria of choosing: firm, not too large, heavy for its size; I was skeptical of my selection, but Louis really wanted to try this salad.  (I bought an extra box pasta and some tomatoes as a quick backup, just in case.)  Before I even cut into it I knew there would be seeds and it would be slightly spongy.  I was right, but went on through with it.  Despite it's dubious produce origins and seemingly lackluster interior, it was delicious.  It was not the dreadfully bitter, mushy vegetable I had prepared myself for.  (Still try to find the best eggplant possible.  I lucked out, but try not to buy one from Walmart or Food Lion.  I just didn't have any other choice... but I am moving soon! Yay Publix!)

Fried Eggplant Salad
1 head romaine, chopped
Goat cheese, crumbled
Lemon wedges
1/2 of a large eggplant or 1 small eggplant
~1/2 C flour
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sugar (If you are nervous about the eggplant being bitter)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 C season bread crumbs
oil, for frying
Garlic Caper Vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp capers
~1 tsp caper brine
2 tsp white wine vinegar (up to 1 Tbsp depending on personal taste)
salt and pepper

   For Vinaigrette:  Heat oil and garlic together in a small pot over med-low heat for about 5 minutes.  When garlic just begins to sizzle a little, remove from heat.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Cut eggplant into thick slices, about 1 inch thick.  (4-6 slices)
   Combine flour, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Coat eggplant slices in flour, then egg, and then coat with bread crumbs.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
   Heat about 1/4-1/2 inch of oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.  Fry eggplant for 3-4 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels over a cooling rack.
   Place eggplant alongside lettuce.  Drizzle vinaigrette over the top and sprinkle with cheese.  Add lemon wedges on the side.
   Serves 2

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Bit About Vinegar

   I adore vinegar; at one point I found myself living alone with 6 different types.  Now that I don't live alone 6 varieties doesn't seem crazy.  (It would be 7 but I left my malt vinegar at my parents house.)  And believe me, if I find another kind I will buy it.  These 6 are all that are available at my nearest grocery store.  

   Yesterday I was asked about using different vinegars for the cucumbers I put on the burger. I realized that I'll often write something like "a mild vinegar" without ever fully explaining what I mean.  So here is a quick run down of vinegars common in the American household.

White Vinegar:  The Strong Stuff
I own a rather large bottle of this because I use it for cleaning appliances (like my coffee maker) in addition to cooking.  Generally, I use plain white vinegar in cooking if I want a neutral tanginess and quite a bit of something sweet will also be added.  This is my favorite for traditional pickling.  If you measure (or just have a steady hand) a little splash can be added to dishes when you need just a touch of acid.  But be careful, it can easily overpower food.

The "Milds"
Apple cider, white wine, and red wine vinegars are what I call mild vinegars even though they are really more medium-ish; they are mild by comparison to the regular white.  While each has a unique flavor, they are all relatively equal in acidity.  I find they can generally be used interchangeably.  (Likewise, lemon and lime juice can often be substituted in equal amounts for these vinegars.)  These are the perfect everyday vinegars; great for marinades, vinaigrettes, and just to punch up the flavor of food.  I would also include sherry vinegar in this category.

The Asian Persuasion
In Asian markets you can find a wide variety of rice vinegars.  In the regular grocery store it is often plain old regular rice [wine] vinegar.  It comes in seasoned and unseasoned... buy unseasoned!  It is more versatile.  Seasoned rice vinegar means it has sugar added.  It is slightly less acidic than the "milds" but they may be substituted for one another in a pinch.  I reserve my rice vinegar specifically for Asian foods:  broths, dipping sauces, marinades, etc.

Balsamic:  The Italian Muscle
It is a touch on the sweet side, and the more it has been aged, the sweeter it is.  For general use, go with a lightly aged variety (3-5 years).  Balsamic instantly adds a punch of Italian flair to food.  It is great for marinades, sauces, and salads.  Reduce your everyday balsamic it into a syrup that adds a unique sweetness to savory and dessert applications.

The Ta-Da and Finishing Vinegars
There are a lot of boutique vinegars popping up in addition to the traditional "condiment" vinegars (like English malt vinegar):  white balsamic, herb infused wine vinegars, fruit balsamics, champagne, other various wines distilled in vinegar, I've even seen truffle infused vinegar.  They are often much milder than the standard grocercy store shelf varieties.  My rule of thumb with these is to apply as little heat as possible to them, and the more expensive it is the less heat you use.  Use them in raw applications such as vinaigrettes and as just a finishing sprinkle of acid over a dish, like squeezing a lemon over your plate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Provençal Burgers

   Rachael Ray may have proclaimed herself the Queen of Burgers, but I can make pretty damn tasty burger too.  This French inspired burger is so simple with only a few flavoring ingredients.  If you don't own a bottle of herb de provence, go get some!  I love the Spice Islands mix because I find it has more lavender than many other blends.  Subtle and unique, herb de provence is fantastic on roast chicken, grilled vegetables, and in this burger.  The quick "pickles" are done the way my grandma made pickles: cucumbers soaked in vinegar.  They compliment the rich cheese so well.  Leave them to soak as long as you like if you want them really sour.  (For even more sourness use plain white vinegar.)

Provençal Burgers
1 1/4 lb ground pork or dark meat turkey
2 Tbsp parsley
2 tsp herb de provence
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
Salt and pepper
baby spinach
1/4 of an English cucumber in 1/4 inch slices
white wine vinegar
French bread hamburger buns
Dijon mustard

   Place cucumber slices in a bowl and add enough vinegar to just barely cover them.  Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes.
   Use your hands to mix meat, garlic,  parsley, herb de provence, salt and pepper.  Make and cook a bite sized patty to test seasoning.  Adjust if necessary.
   Form into 4 patties that are slightly larger than the buns you intend to use.  Cook in a little bit of oil in a large non stick skillet over med heat for about 5-6 minutes per side.  Or grill over med-high for the same amount of time.  When there is 2-3 minutes left of cook time on the second side, top with slices of cheese so it has time to melt.
   Toast buns and assemble burgers.
   Serves 4 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Keema Bhutuwa

   Louis and I love Indian food.  There are no Indian places within 100 miles of us here.  Sort of hand in hand with that, there are no places to buy Indian spices.  Just finding cumin seeds was a frustrating endeavor.  This means I have to experiment.  Even though we are moving back to Tennessee in about three weeks, I will continue to experiment. 

   And I will definitely make this dish again.  Keema bhutuwa is super easy, delicious, cheap (because it uses ground meat) and does not require any crazy spices.  I used fenugreek, which was fantastic, but you do not need it.  Also, this is a really good intro to Indian food for your kids or ultra-non-adventerous friends.  The flavors are familiar enough that people won't be scared.  Basically, if you like taco meat, you'll love keema bhutuwa.

Keema Bhutuwa
1/2 lrg onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cracked fenugreek*
1 heaping tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red pepper flake (more if you like)
1 lb ground turkey (the white/dark meat mix)
14 oz can crushed tomatoes (~2 C)
1/2 C chicken broth (or water)
1 C frozen peas, thawed
1/2 C chopped green onion
1/4 C cilantro
salt and pepepr

   Heat about some oil in a large skillet over med.  Saute chopped onions for 3-4 minutes until tender.  Add garlic, ginger, cumin, and fenugreek.  Saute about 1 minute.  Add chili powder, turmeric, and red pepper flake.  Saute another minute, stir constantly. 
   Add turkey and some salt and pepper.  Cook turkey until about halfway cooked, break it up as you go.  Add tomatoes and broth.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, continue to break up turkey as it cooks.  Liquid should be mostly evaporated and the whole thing should have a thick meat sauce consistency.  Toss in peas, green onions, and cilantro.  Heat peas through.  Salt and pepper to taste
   Serve with roti, naan, or rice
   Serves 4

*Don't have fenugreek?  Use 1 1/2 tsp chili powder.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cauldron Cakes

   This may be my new favorite cupcake.  While scouring the internet for Harry Potter inspired recipes (that weren't dumb as hell) I ran across several recipes for cauldron cakes.  Each one was just some variation of a spice cake.  And that is what mine is too; I love spice cake.  The mix of spices I used is a little different than most spice cakes because I do not own the ground version of several traditional things like clove and allspice.  Although I do own two bottles of whole allspice berries... I don't know why....  These little beauties turned out so wonderful with this spice mix and the chocolate honey ganache is the perfect topping!  I know I will be making these again because they are so easy and so unexpected.  (Even the hubs loved them and he generally does not like spice cake.  Bonus!)
Cauldron Cakes
1 1/3 C AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1/3 C softened, salted butter
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I like roasted Saigon cinnamon)
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp nutmeg
pinch cayenne (trust me, just a pinch)
2/3 C milk (2% or whole)
for gananche:
1/2 C dark chocolate chips
3 Tbsp cream
1 Tbsp honey
pinch of sea salt

   Combine flour, baking powder, and walnuts.
   Cream together sugar and butter.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add extracts and spices.  Alternately add flour mixture and milk in order:  flour, milk, flour, milk, flour.  (This prevents over mixing and helps with the texture.)
   Place liners in muffin pan and lightly spray the top, just to make sure nothing sticks.  Fill about 2/3-3/4.  (These are supposed to be flat on top, so do not over fill.)
   Bake at 350 deg F for 25-30 minutes, when a wooden toothpick is inserted into the center it should come out clean.  Cool.
   In a double boiler set up, melt ganache ingredients together.  Stir until smooth.  Dip the tops of cupcakes into ganache.  Let set for 30 minutes.  (Ganache will not harden, it will remain slightly soft.)
   Makes 12 cupcakes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beetle Rollups

WARNING:  Addictive.

   My mom made these for almost every party my parents had.  They are cheap, easy, and so so good.  She just calls them tortilla rollups, but I changed the name for Harry Potter.  I went a little extreme in my imagination for naming.  I thought, the chilis are sort of like bug guts, the olives look like shell bits, and the onion adds just a little bit of crunch like exoskeleton.  Sorry, you probably didn't need to know my throught process.....  I told Louis they were addictive before he tried them and his response was, "They are good; I don't know about addictive."  But, when we were eating them, he just kept popping them into his mouth without thinking.  He took back his previous statement.
Beetle Rollups
3 oz softened cream cheese (light or reg)
3 oz chopped green chilis (canned)
1/4 C chopped black olives (1 small can, drained)
2-3 Tbsp finely minced red onion
flour tortillas (6 6-inch or 3 10-inch)

   Combine cream cheese, chilis, olives, and onion.  Spread in a thin layer over tortillas.  Roll up.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until service.  (1-8 hours)
   Slice into about 3/4 inch slices.
   Serves 6-8 (or more) in a party setting

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gillyweed Dip and Our Potter Picnic

   OMG *geekgasm* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 is fantastically mind-blowing!  Yesterday may not have been ideal, but at least I got to see the movie early and for free.  We arrived three and half hours before it was set to start to ensure our seats.  There was already a good line forming even at that time.  It was hot and humid; within 5 minutes, sweat was rolling down my face, my back, and that awful between the boobs sweat.  Louis left go get chairs, why we didn't think about them before, I don't know.  But we waited and joked around with the guys and ate our Potter Picnic.  Then I ended up sitting in front of the awesomely dumb movie-talker couple and behind Mr. Huge Wiggle Head.  I was almost laying on my side in the aisle to see the whole screen while listening to Sir Movie-Talker explain the movie (as it is happening in front of her) to Lady Movie-Talker.  Oh, and this couple of jackasses truly believed that Snape was Harry's father.... seriously, wtf?  They didn't strike me as the book-learnin type....

   Anyway, I am really excited that I get to share my recipes for our picnic before the general release so you have inspiration for your Harry Potter viewing pre-party, which I know you are going to have.  First, gillyweed dip.  Really, this is the easiest spinach dip you'll ever make.  I just wanted to name it something fun.

Potter Picnic Menu
Beetle Rollups
Gillyweed Dip
Cauldron Cakes

Gillyweed Dip
1 10-oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1/2 C light sour cream
1/4 C + 1 Tbsp light mayo
2 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper

   Combine all ingredients.  Salt and pepper to taste.
   Serve with crackers, pita chips, bagel chips, veggies, anything.
   Serves 8-10.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chick Pea and Spinach Soup

   This is a pre-scheduled post because right now I should be preparing for a Harry Potter picnic.  A week early, you ask?  Nope.  ADVANCED SHOWING BITCHES!!!!!!  It's free, so I am going to have to hang out on base (Camp Lejeune) all day so that I can get my ass in a seat.  I'll hit children if I have to.  I know, this is like the coolest movie thing that has happened to me since I was allowed to go the the pre-screening of Hidalgo.  I am pretty sure Louis is very happy all my costumes are in TN, because I would be that weird Marine wife lurking around the base theater with a wand yelling shit at people and then trying to get them to eat my food.

   Alright, this soup is so delicious!  Crazy good in fact.  What is it about chick peas and spinach that are so damn tasty together?  The key to this soup is the pureed can vegetable soup.  I used a Campbell's Healthy Request soup I found, any non-condensed veg soup without pasta or meat will work.  I prefer it to be made with veg broth instead of beef, but that is your choice.  It makes the soup so rich and wonderful without adding a lot of fat or calories, perfect for any time of year.  Oh, my mouth is watering thinking about this soup.
Chick Pea and Spinach Soup
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbsp)
2 medium russet or idaho potatoes, peeled, chopped (3/4 inch cubes)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 14-oz can vegetable soup, pureed
3 C water
1 14-oz can chick peas, drained
8-10 oz frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
1/3 C half and half (optional)
juice 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

   In a dry pan, add seeds.  Toast over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until just fragrant and sesame seeds are lightly golden.  Crush in a mortar and pestle (or in a plastic bag and rolling pin or heavy skillet.)
   In a large soup pot, heat about 1 Tbsp evoo over medium heat.  Saute onions for for 4-5 minutes until tender.  Add a little more oil and add potatoes.  Stirring constantly, cook another 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic and tomato paste, stir for 1 minute.  Add about 1/2 C water and scrape the bottom of the pan (deglazing).  Add the rest of the water, the pureed soup, bay leaf, sesame seeds, cumin, and coriander.
   Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to med-low heat.  Cook about 13-15 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Add spinach, chick peas, half and half, and lemon juice.  Add cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.  Cook another 8-10 minutes.
   Serves 4-6.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blushing Creme Brule

   I learned to make creme brule about 8 years ago.  I started with the classic vanilla, but I have since made... I don't know how many varieties.  I've done Bailey's, chocolate orange, white chocolate raspberry, hazelnut, and I can't remember what else.  The last time I made creme brule, I decided to go a little more subtle with the flavor.  I had some raspberries that needed to be used so I made a raspberry honey syrup to incorporate into the custard but it would be fabulous just over some good vanilla ice cream.  It was light, delicate, and so so good.  I named it blushing creme brule from the slight pinky, peachy color the syrup lends to the custard.

Raspberry Honey Syrup
1/4-1/3 C raspberries
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp water

   In a small sauce pan combine ingredients and  heat over med-low.  The raspberries will break down and release their juice.  Once that happens, turn up to medium and reduce by half.
   Pass through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and pulp (optional step).
   Cool.  You should have about 1/8 C syrup.
   (Easily multiply recipe for a dessert topping.  Keep in fridge for up to one week.)

Blushing Creme Brule
1 recipe raspberry honey syrup
3/4 C cream
1/4 C milk (2% or whole)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
brown sugar (for caramelizing)

   In a small sauce pan combine cream, milk, and syrup.  Heat over med-hi until it starts to bubble around the edges.  Stir occasionally while heating.  Pull off of heat when it starts to bubble.  Cool for 3-4 minutes.
   Whisk together egg, yolk, sugar and vanilla.  Slowly add a little bit (~1/4) of the milk mixture to the eggs while whisking vigorously.  Whisk well for about one minute.  Then slowly add the rest of the milk to the eggs while whisking.
   Pour into 4 3-oz ramekins.  Place ramekins in a roasting pan and add boiling water until it come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Place in a 325 deg F oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and wiggles only slightly in the center.
   Cool down to room temp, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (up to over night).
   Sprinkle about 2 tsp of brown sugar over the top of each creme and use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar.  (Hold about 3-4 inches away and move in small circles to prevent burning the sugar too much.)
   Serves 4

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Orange Champagngria

   Alright, this wildfire bullshit in North Carolina is getting out of hand.  I still feel like absolute crap and would veeeeeeeery much like it to stop.  Hence my, yet again, absence.  Also, Louis having several days off for the 4th and the Tour (that one in France.....) really cut into my do-anything-in-the-morning time.  I am determined to get back on track. 

   I feel a little silly posting this considering all the sangria recipes I've seen posted this week.  But, this not your traditional sangria.  It has champagne.  Fancy.  Ok, not real champagne.  I used Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigio (which is really amazing if you haven't had it... and a steal at about $12/bottle!)  Personally, I think this does best with a dry variety (not brut or extra dry... regular dry, a step down from the really sweet) so you get a little sweetness but the light, fresh crispness that characterizes sparkling wines is still in the forefront.
Orange Champagngria
1/3 C white rum
1/3 C triple sec
1/3 C fresh squeezed orange juice
1 medium orange thinly sliced
1 lime thinly sliced
~2 Tbsp grenadine (optional, mostly just enhances the color)
1 bottle sparkling wine

   Combine rum, triple sec, juice, fruit, and grenadine.  Allow to soak together for at least 6 hours, up to 48 hours.
   Add 2-3 Tbsp to the bottom of service glass.  Top with sparkling wine and a few slices of soaked fruit.
   Serves 6-8.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Spicy Sweet Potato (Potato) Salad

   This past week has been pretty hellish for me:  sunburn, hurting my back, emotional trauma, and bizarre draught-torrential downpour-wildfire weather wreaking havoc on my allergies.  I haven't really felt like doing anything at all.  My past few days have literally been spent watching the hubs play Oblivion and laying on ice packs.  I know, I lead an exciting life. 

   Today I will make it out of the house so I can 1) procure more medicine 2) watch fireworks over the water.  I sort of wish there was some big BBQ happening... but honestly, with the way I feel right now, I'm not disappointed that the bulk of my day will be spent, yet again, lazing around.  However, I hope you are do something terribly exciting.  Like a backyard cookout or pool-side BBQ.  And I have a great, unique recipe if you haven't figured out what you are taking yet.  Potato salad generally graces (or disgraces) every summer picnic table.  But let's face it, it can be boring, bland, gloppy, and gross.  This sweet potato potato salad is just thing to spice up your next summer get together.
Spicy Sweet Potato (Potato) Salad
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 C light sour cream
1 Tbsp milk
5-6 large cloves of roasted garlic, mashed*
2-3 chipotles, minced (1-1 1/2 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tsp cumin
salt, pepper, oil

   Very lightly drizzle sweet potatoes with oil.  Salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 deg F for 25-30 minutes, until tender.  Allow to cool.
   Combine sour cream, milk, garlic, chipotles, cilantro, and cumin.
   Toss potatoes and dressing.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
   Serves 8.

*Don't have roasted garlic on hand?  Just take however many cloves you want to do (still in their paper,) place on foil, liberally drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and seal up foil packet.  Toss packet in the oven with the potatoes.