Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Unemployed Cook Omnivore’s Hundred

Fun little experiment on this site, with the following instructions:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Well, I'm working late and my editor is on his dinner break so why not?

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos Rancheros
4. Steak Tartare
5. Crocodile (well, Alligator)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24.Rice and Beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce De Leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken Tikka Masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly Pear (does prickly pear juice count?)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (I've had soju, is that close?)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I feel Blackberry Farm should count for something here, but alas)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft Shelled Crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermador
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
100. Snake

Pretty random and arbitrary little list, isn't it? But that killed a half hour. Oh dear, am I really to be here until 2am? Ouch.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Sides

Fall is looming, even if the temperatures don't show it. Labor day is literally around the corner and my enormous maple tree is flecked with orange, gearing up for its big show (and making me dread all of the raking to come). But at the Farmer's Market, and in my little kitchen, it's still pure summer.

I've never been one to curse the heat and pray for the relief of fall. Fall, while very lovely, always makes me a bit melancholy. I think it's because no matter how gorgeous fall is, winter is around the corner. And I hate winter, even the mild winter we have in East Tennessee. If I had my way it would be winter just for 6 weeks around Christmas and New Year's Eve, then Spring would takeover.
One of my favorite post-Farmer's Market activities is shelling beans. Tedious to some, I find it very relaxing, and of course it helps that fresh shelled beans are truly delectable--a seasonal treat not to be missed. These lovely beans are Purple Hull Peas, and they are tender and flavorful. They hardly require a recipe, just shell, cover with water, and simmer until they are as tender as you prefer. Since I was making a Very Southern Sunday Dinner I dropped in a couple of slices of salt pork and a vegetable boullion cube. The salt pork has a clean, porky flavor but doesn't add smoke. And the boullion, while not very fancy, is how Chris' grandmother cooked her peas and they were always so delicious.

I also picked up some very perfect zucchini. I know this is about the time when people start to feel overwhelmed by their squash and zucchini harvests but I just LOVE zucchini. I probably have a dozen favorite ways to make it, though this is a new favorite. The inspiration came from my friend Jessica highly recommending this squash recipe. It looked like comforting goodness, but I like my squash to have a bit more texture to it. Also, I just had zucchini, no yellow squash, so I had some meddling to do.

Zucchini Casserole
serves 4
salting the zucchini while sauteeing helps draw out the moisture, avoiding a soggy casserole.

2 large zucchini, chunked
Vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers tossed with 1 tbsp melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat a splash of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and a generous pinch of salt and saute until beginning to soften. Dump zucchini into a sieve and let drain for 10 minutes, pressing gently with the back of a wooden spoon on occasion.

Wipe out your skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onion in butter for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and mix all ingredients together except cracker crumbs. Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with cracker crumbs. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Leftover Lunch: Sweet Pea Risotto Cakes with Grilled Shrimp and Corn Vinaigrette

Ah, the mighty leftover. Last week I made a delicious risotto loosely based on a Cooking Light recipe. It was a veggie-packed risotto in a lovely moat of sweet corn broth, and I topped the lot with grilled garlicky shrimp. Pure summer, and good for you to boot. And of course, I cooked for your average family of four, as I often seem to. I dutifully packed the leftovers away and vowed to not let them go to waste.

The next day I scooped out two balls of the chilled risotto, flattened them slightly, and dredged them in cracker meal. Not unlike the more traditional arancini, I then quickly pan fried them in a little olive oil.

The warm cakes found their home on a pile of baby lettuces, topped with the cool leftover grilled shrimp (I didn't want them to be overcooked so I didn't reheat them). The corn broth I whisked into a quick vinagrette, which made a sweet savory dressing that perfectly complimented the salad. All told I think it took me 10 minutes to make this leftover lunch that ended up being worthy of first-run respect. Yum.

Sweet Corn and Pea Risotto with Corn Broth
serves 2, with leftovers

for the corn broth:
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine 2 1/2 cups water and 2 cups corn kernels in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until corn is tender. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place corn mixture in blender or food processor; process until smooth. Strain corn mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Set aside and keep warm. This would also make a lovely soup all on its own!

for the risotto:
3-4 cups organic vegetable or chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked arborio rice
1/2 cup diced onion
1 medium carrot, minced (or more if desired)
1 medium stalk celery, minced (or more if desired)
1 cup frozen green peas
2 cups fresh corn kernels
grated Parmesan cheese and basil, chives or parsley for garnish

Warm broth either in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add onion, carrot, and celery; cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add warm broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next. Add peas, corn kernels, a good grating of the cheese, and herbs, stirring until blended and hot.

Place a mound of risotto in a shallow bowl and ladle some corn broth around it. Top with more cheese and herbs if you desire. This is great with some garlicky grilled shrimp piled on top, but also makes a lovely light vegetarian meal. And obviously, these pictures are not of the original recipe, but of my leftover feast. Enjoy!

Roasted Baby Eggplants

What is it about tiny fruits and vegetables? Why do I find them so endlessly appealing and adorable? Take these mini eggplants:

ADORABLE! And look at these tiny heads of garlic:

I mean people, I practically squealed.

So excited was I to find these at the Farmer's Market that I quickly came home and prepared them for dinner. I split the eggplants almost completely, leaving the tops intact, and stuffed them with crushed tiny cloves of garlic (eee!) and slivers of lemon.

I drizzled olive oil and lemon juice over the tops and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Some thyme sprigs rounded things out.

Cover and cook for 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven, then uncover and cook until they are as soft as you'd like.

As ravenous as I was, I didn't get a shot of the final product in the dish, but it's very pretty. I did catch the leftovers, which I took with my lunch the next morning.

The result? Did the tininess make the eggplants more delicious? Honestly they were a little bitter but made a good foil against some rich salmon we had alongside.

But you can't beat them for sheer adorableness.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Change is good...change is good...sometimes I have to tell myself this, creature of habit that I am. But change is good, it's exciting and it's challenging.

For a while now the magazine I write for has been moving in a new direction, not a bad one, but...different. Moving away from the standard food and wine review and more towards straight journalism--interviewing chefs and owners of local restaurants. Interesting and insightful, but also not my passion.

And so, I'm taking some time off, and to be honest I'm really excited. I am feeling energized about the blog again and I plan to incorporate more reviews into the current structure, along with the literally dozens of great recipes that I've taken photos of, but haven't written up yet.

Eventually I would like to create an email list for those Knoxvillians interested in receiving my latest review in their inbox. My partnership with Foodbuzz is going to be great for this as well.

So it's true, change is good. Stay tuned...