Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Quietly last November, a shop opened in Lodo that I think should have been accompanied by fireworks, bands playing, and lines of people.  The name of the shop is EVOO Marketplace. Yes, EVOO, but this is beyond the stuff that Rachel Ray glugs over everything. Olive oil and Balsamic vinegar like you’ve never seen before. In all kinds of flavors, like Persian Lime and Wild Mushroom and Sage olive oils, a Honey-Ginger and a Dark Chocolate Balsamic.  Mick and Carolyn Major, the creative minds behind this exciting venture will pair oils and vinegar together in combinations that will send you into a dream state just thinking of all things you’ll want to put it on.  The store is a gem, with high ceiling and brick walls, and lots of room to walk around the banks of stainless steel “fusti” that the oils and vinegar are kept in.

Continue Reading »

For 15 years, I’ve been looking for a meatball as good as the ones my ex-mother-in-law made.  As far as I’m concerned they don’t exist. There were no secret ingredients, no magic potions, no unusual cooking tricks. Simple, straightforward meatballs. I can tell you what’s in them, ground beef (she preferred triple ground) italian seasoned breadcrumbs, water, salt, pepper, and a grate of romano cheese. She browned them in oil on all sides and plopped them in the pot of sauce to finish cooking. That’s it. I’ve done it a hundred times. I’ve made them start to finish with her standing next to me. They NEVER tasted as good. I was convinced that there was some chemical reaction that took place when she rolled them in her hands that was the difference. I have no explanation for it, it doesn’t make a bit of sense, but it’s true. When you put one of her meatballs in your mouth, the lights when off in your brain, all your senses stood up and paid attention, and you thought, “Ooohhhhh, this is what a meatball is supposed to taste like!” and then ate every one on your plate (and anyone else’s plate you could get them off). From that moment on, it’s over for you as far as meatballs are concerned. I’ve had them everywhere and nothing compares.

So, what do you do when faced with the knowledge that the best beef meatball is unobtainable?  You look for different meatballs, made from other meats, in varying sizes, in endless combinations of ingredients. Let me tell you, there are some GREAT meatballs out there. This is a search that’s fun to be on.  Ok, a bit more than a search. An obsession. A small, quiet, no one ever knew it existed obsession. Anyway. I have found some great ones. I found a lamb and risotto meatball that’s so good I’ll knock you off your chair to eat yours. A pork meatball so soft and yielding stuffed into a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich that will just floor you. Then there are these. Now I’m not sure they are in the category of the best thing ever, but they’re pretty damn good. I found them bookmarked in a last years copy of Gourmet (don’t you still miss that magazine?) and finally made them. They’re flavorful, with a lovely texture. Like me, I think you’ll going to think of so many things to put them in, and like me, look down and realize you ate four of them (I know, but I was hungry!) while you were daydreaming.

Continue Reading »

A Simple Jam Tart

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.* I had everything I needed to make almost anything in the house. I couldn’t muster up even the slightest interest in cooking. When did this happen? I woke up a few mornings ago and after brushing my teeth stood in the kitchen thinking “Isn’t there anything here that doesn’t have to be cooked?” Huh? So not like me. No idea of why. Well, maybe I know. I had a bad week, cooking wise. I pulled out all the stops, buying the ingredients I needed for the recipes I had bookmarked, made sure I had the correct pots, pans and whatever else I needed. I arranged the week so plenty of time was available. It was downhill from there. Let me break it down for you. #1, disaster. #2, Meh, not good enough to talk about. #3, Great! But I forgot to take pictures. #4, I have no idea what that was in that pan. It overflowed and jacked my stove up, and the only thing in common that it had with the recipe was it was brown. Yeah. #5, Well I didn’t exactly get to #5. I got the stuff out, but the previous 4 had me shook, and I put it all away. I called for Thai take out and called it a day. Or week. Whichever, better to forget it all. So there you have it. I fell flat on my butt in the middle of the no cooking zone.

Late at night a day or so later, I was clicking my way through my favorite cooking blogs when my eye fell upon David Lebovitz’s post for an “Easy Jam Tart”.  Looked good. Reading the recipe, it did look easy. After looking around a bit, it seemed all my favorite bloggers had made this recipe and all had been successful. In fact, the praise for the ease and simplicity of it was unanimous. Was this it? The one? Could this pull me out of the no cooking zone and back to my happy cooking self? I decided it was. All I needed was a sure thing to boost my confidence a bit. After a week like the one I had, can you blame me for being a bit wary of cooking? So, here’s the thing. They didn’t lie. It is that easy. It was really good. Sometimes you forget that baking (or cooking) doesn’t have to be complicated or hours on end involved. Sure, stretching your cooking chops is fun. Learning new methods and techniques is great. Occasionally you’re going to completely duff it. Just go back to simple. It will totally reset you. Make this. You can make this. Trust me, I’m a woman who knows how badly things can go in the kitchen. You can do this, you’re going to have fun doing it, and you’ll blush from all the compliments you’ll receive.

Continue Reading »

A New Kind of Syrup

Photo Credit: Jeff Martinez

Close by me, on my way to and back from many things, is a new eatery called Syrup.  As the name suggests they serve breakfast and lunch and you should go in and check them out. I sat down with the Chef, Tom Willis, to talk a bit about the concept and direction of the new place, and I think you would have enjoyed talking to him as well.  Before we get into that, the space has been completely redone. There are contemporary colors of spring green, brown and white, the furniture is freshly painted, and all the natural light coming through the windows makes the whole place glow. Syrup has an open kitchen where you can see your food as it comes up, and watch the cooking dance of the chefs. The idea, say Chef Tom, is to make classic comfort food yet update it and make it exciting.

Photo Credit: Jeff Martinez

Yeah, you can have pancakes, but you can have them any way you want them, with any of the (as of now) six different infusion syrups they have.  They make all of them in-house, with flavors like apple-cinnamon, buttermilk, and honey-agave. They also do a cool little thing, they have breakfast apps!  Fruit kabob, beignets, a basket of little muffins.  Great for sharing with your friends while you wait for the rest of your meal.  Everything they make there is made from scratch, and they hope to have around 10 different syrups by the end of the summer with a line of preserves and conserves to go along with them.

Continue Reading »

My Uncle David likes to cook. He enjoys tinkering and tweeking recipes until they taste just right to him. Best of all, he shares. And does so seemingly without a bit of jealous, guarding, MY secret recipe behavior that often accompanies a finally perfect recipe. Now me, I have to fight off my grandmother’s little devil voice encouraging me to pretend I just didn’t hear the request at all, or leave an ingredient out so it won’t taste as good as mine. I do admit that there have been a few times that I have grudgingly turned over a recipe, and once that I just flat-out refused to give it to anyone for years. Now I have this blog, where I give out all (almost) my recipes and encourage others to do so as well. Anyway, back to Uncle David. He has long been a foodie, well before the term was even coined, searching out and celebrating great cooking and food wherever it could be found. He loves the small Mom & Pop businesses that have none of the flash and splash of the big celebrity restaurants preferring the smile of the cook in the back and a plate of simple, fabulously good food. Once when visiting him, he took me to a place for lunch (I can’t remember her name) that was basically a camp. Stoves set up outside and plastic tables set up under a tarp to keep the sun off your head. The food? Pork chops and greens, skillet cornbread, gravies, sweet tea, heaven. I don’t think I had much to say that lunch, I was too busy stuffing food in my face and watching everybody else do the same. The man definitely finds the best places to eat. Like my Mom, his cooking is intuitive and fearless, substituting, adding, and combining ingredients until it all fits just right.

This is his breakfast bread recipe.  One he’s been playing with for a bit and one that’s he’s now happy with.  That doesn’t mean I won’t get a revised version at some point, but for now, this is the one. This is most certainly a sweet bread recipe, with a hearty crumb and sturdier texture than the loaf cake it resembles. There is one unusual twist, and I’m telling now so you don’t get to that part and think you can skip it. You can’t eat this right out of the oven, well, you could, but it’s better if you don’t. You let it cool and then wrap it tightly in foil and let it sit at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.  The cake kind of settles into itself. The texture improves and the flavor intensifies. Yes, I tried it both ways and he’s right. So plan ahead and do it his way. It’s a perfect vehicle for cream cheese or jam as he advises, and I think it’s perfect on its own as an afternoon snack with tea.  I had a sneaking suspicion that there was another way this would be perfect for. Now you know me, I have a compulsion to turn anything bread or baked into bread pudding. I don’t know why, but I do. I try very hard not to have leftover baked goods of any kind in my house because I know what will happen. Now, I actually didn’t think this would be good bread pudding on its own, but I thought maybe bread puddings distant cousin, French toast (come on, bread soaked in eggs and fried, bread soaked in egg custard and baked, cousins) would be perfect. I also love to make French toast out of anything other than regular bread. Oh boy, was I right! Slice thickly, let it dry out just a bit, usual french toast method, and ta da! A little bite of heaven on a plate. See if you don’t agree.

Continue Reading »

Sure, sure, it sounds easy enough.  Truth be told, it isn’t hard. What could be difficult?  Canned, yes you heard right, canned chickpeas. Canned tomatoes (I know, again with the canned!). Some onions, some spices, and Bob’s Your Uncle, Chana Masala. What isn’t spoken of is the obsessive tweaking, the endless variations, and an order of said dish in every restaurant that makes the stuff. This isn’t a life long quest for me. I fell in love with Chana Masala several years ago at a friend of friend’s pot luck, party, fund-raiser thing. Balancing glass and plate in hand, wandering the table of offerings taking a spoonful of this and a dab of that, I almost passed it over. Very unassuming, chickpeas in tomato sauce, I thought. Pass. Well, maybe not. I like chickpeas, ok, a spoonful on the plate. A few moments later, in the middle of doing the very awkward, sip from your drink, hold your plate in the same hand as the glass so you can put of bite of food in your mouth, smile, chat a bit while trying not to spill anything on the lovely carpet it happened.  My first bite of Chana Masala slipped through my lips, seductively played with my taste buds, and slid away. Whoa, what was that? Another bite, the last one on my plate. Now I was eyeing the buffet table, and scouting a quiet corner where we could be alone. I inconspicuously made my way back to the table, took a another spoonful, ok, two, and backed into the corner by the bookcase. Sweet tomato, with an underlying smokiness, and a hit of tang.  The meatiness of the chickpeas and the spice that started at the front of your tongue and then gently filled your mouth with heat and left a slow burn. Hooked. I was totally hooked. I started collecting and making recipes from the internet. I visited every Indian restaurant I could to taste their version. I went to the bookstore and copied recipes from cookbooks. Over the last several years I’ve been refining and adjusting the same recipe over and over again. I think I have a version that works on so many levels. But of course, those levels would be the ones I define.

That is the best thing about cooking at home. You get to decide how you want your food to taste. Sure, use a recipe, but use it as a guideline. Don’t like chickpeas? Try this recipe with cut up cauliflower, or add a bunch of different veggies and create an Indian ratatouille. Hate cilantro? Leave it out. You get to be the magician and create your own magic. So make my recipe, and then stand there, hand on hip, taking bites and deciding what you like and don’t like. Scribble your thoughts on the margin so the next time you make it, it’s already your recipe. Really, you’re gonna have to trust me, it’s so much fun!

Continue Reading »

I love to make cakes for people. Not just random, anyone next in line people, but my friends and family. My usual rule is the higher the better. I’m madly, madly in love with 3 layer cakes. They make me beyond happy. There is something about the all those layers stacked up, filling gently oozing out and swirls and swirls of icing. Never mind the decorating part, ooohhh! When I get one of those cakes done, the sense of accomplishment is so very sweet. Turning it around for a last look, nodding, yep, they’re gonna like this. I just know that with each bite they’re going to feel the love. Mercy! Feel the love! CAKE = LOVE. Okay, before you start looking up the closest Mental Health facility (do they have spas?) I am aware that cake is not love (sob) and there won’t be a tent revival in anyone’s mouth when eating a piece of cake.  I was just letting you in on the giddy delirium that happens at 2am when you finally finish one of those suckers. But I digress.

Sour Cream Lemon Cake will not make you giddy, it’s not a 3 mile high show stopper, and I’ve never put icing on it.  An abundance of powdered sugar sometimes (I can get carried away with that), a fruit sauce might get dribbled over now and then, but never icing.  This cake is very simple to put together, there are no scary ingredients, or stacks of cake pans, and lists of a plan of attack need not be attached to your fridge.  One bowl, one pan, one cake.  Embellish or not.  It’s good, tender and delicately tangy, and appropriate for almost any occasion.  The LBD of cakes.  So you know, I will only make this cake in twos from now on.  There will be one in the freezer, ready to be unwrapped, put on a plate and served so that anyone who drops by for tea will think that there must be a bit of magic in my home.  I might suggest that you do the same.  Oh, and pssssssttt? Cake does equal love.

Continue Reading »