Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where does the time go?

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I'm cooking a big thing of corned beef and cabbage (yum!) because I love making holiday themed food for no reason. I realized that you still haven't seen my New Orleans food pictures! And this seems to be a good a time as any, as I wait to hear from our realtor if she's made us any appointments for the day and the beef simmers away on the stove.

In case you don't already know, the food in New Orleans is a-frickin'-mazing. While we went to many fancy places, I limited my pictures to informal food, as I hate being that girl in a fancy restaurant trying to take pictures and bothering people. Here are some class New Orleans dishes that you don't want to miss.

1. Beignets at Cafe Du Monde

I'm getting the obvious out of the way. There was not a single friend, guidebook or website that did not tell me to go to Cafe Du Monde. Despite being "touristy," it delivers like nobody's business. Here's an order of beignets (fried dough with mountains of powdered sugar) and an iced cafe au lait.

Imagine amazing, warm doughnuts. Now put yourself outside where street musicians are playing, it's a warm sunny day and you're laughing at your husband futilely trying not to get covered in powdered sugar. These are a classic and not to be missed.

Zack thought we could split an order (um, NO). He's funny like that.

2. Muffletas at Central Grocery

These too are a New Orleans staple. They're in all the books. I never thought of Italians being a large presence in New Orleans, but they are for sure (if you ever have extra time and a rental car, for god's sake, go to Mosca's and get Oysters Mosca. You'll thank me later). But back to the sandwiches.

They're stuffed with Italian deli meats and cheeses and olive salad. I'm not normally an olive fan, but I'll give anything a try.

It was good - juicy and tangy. The olives aren't overpowering, they play nicely with others. It's a good time.

3. Fried Chicken Livers with Pepper Jelly at Elizabeth's

I made Zack walk all over New Orleans to get to this place. We didn't really know where we were going, we were hungry, tired, our outdoor buzz was wearing off and then finally, we turned a corner and there it was. This was the first thing we ordered and I am now obsessed with it.

These are chicken livers that have been battered and fried like fried chicken! Creamy and sharp, they just melt in your mouth, surrounded by delicious batter with a sweet/spicy kick of jelly. Amazing.

4. Boiled Crawfish and Oysters - anywhere

I am a huge fan of oysters. People are scared to eat Gulf oysters and other seafood after the oil spill, but don't be! The Gulf is clean and the economy needs you. That's right. You should eat oysters to support the local economy.

We'd never had crawfish before, but I was determined to find some and "suck de head and de tail."

These were boiled in a mixture of Zatarain's and Old Bay (from Maryland - Zack was so proud). I love "interactive" food, so I went nuts for these. Delicious.

5. Po' Boys at Domilise's

Zack saw this place on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and decided we had to go there. I'm thrilled whenever Zack shows an interest in food, so off we went. These sandwiches are a New Orleans tradition, their twist on a submarine sandwich.

We had one filled with fried oysters -

- and one "sausage" where they took breakfast sausage links and threw them in the deep fryer. It seemed unbelievable but it tasted great.

I also got a "red creme" soda which I've never seen before. Is this a Southern thing?

All in all, it was an amazing trip. We went to so many great places (and gained so much weight). I'd go back in a second. Until next time!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My new favorite city

Welcome to New Orleans! Zack and I just got back from our trip and it was amazing. The Crescent City is my new favorite place - the food, the people, everything was just great.

We lucked out on our trip. It was the first weekend of Mardi Gras! That means parades galore. We saw a few parades with really impressive floats, but my favorite thing was the Krewe of Barkus - or the dog parade.

I know, I know. You're shocked. My 17 year old self is breaking the time/space continuum to slap me in the face. But this years Mardi Gras theme was the Best of Broadway! Dogs dressed up as Broadway shows! Even I have my limits. I took about 200 pictures, but here are my favorites. See if you can identify each show! Put it in the comments.

Some of these are really obvious - there were a lot of Phantom dogs and Cats dogs (weird), but I love more obscure ones - some of my favorite shows are in there.

Like every good New Orleans parade, there were amazing bands -

- and beads everywhere. Next post will be about the food, I promise!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Eating for one

Zack was out of town all last week, so I spent most meals doing something I never do - cooking just for myself. I usually overcook and make a bunch of leftovers so that Zack can take them for lunches, but it didn't make sense for just me. I had to invite a friend over just to help me get rid of all the spaghetti and meatballs I made last weekend. So the rest of the week, I ended up making myself this:

And it was so amazing, I made it over and over again. I hope it doesn't look complicated - it's really very simple.

Sausage, grits and vegetables for one

First, make one serving of instant grits. I boiled one cup of low fat milk, added 1/4 cup grits and a pinch of salt, covered the pot, lowered the heat and simmered for five minutes. At the end, I stirred in some grated cheddar cheese (not too much - just enough to make it a little tangy).

While that was happening, I broke up a sweet sausage and sauteed it in a little olive oil. Sometimes I threw in a chopped shallot as well. When it browned, I threw in some halved cherry tomatoes and then a handful of spinach. Add a little salt, maybe some chopped garlic and you're done.

Put the grits in a bowl, pour the sausage and veggies on top and you've got a meal! It took me eleven minutes flat every time. If you had other vegetables or meats in your fridge you can vary your options, but I didn't, which was fine with me. It's a great full meal - a little bit of meat, a little bit of grain and as many vegetables as you can stand to eat. It's warm and satisfying.

I could eat this every day. And I pretty much did all last week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Okay, go.

For whatever reason, I am just not getting onto the computer as much lately. Well, not whatever reason - because all I do is work away from my desk all the time and when I get home there are 23 new emails that I have to answer right away and it's a little bit stressful. So sometimes when things are stressful, you need to eat cheese.

I made this for a party the other day. It's a big hit down in Texas (or so I've read), but this is the second time I've tried to serve it in New York and no one seems to like it except for me (and Meredith). I mean, some people ate it. But it wasn't a huge sell for some reason. I think it's because it looks kind of icky, but believe me, eat it with some Ritz crackers and you'll be happy as a Texan clam (are there clams in Texas? I'm not sure).

First, get some pimentos.

Yay Goya! I love Goya products. Drain and chop your pimentos. Grate a pound of cheddar cheese (seriously) and add it to a bowl (or in this case, the tupperware you're taking it with) along with 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, two chopped garlic cloves and 1/2 - 1 tsp of cayenne pepper (depending on how much heat you can take). Do not try to make this low fat. That's just ridiculous.

Chill for a few hours and serve with Ritz.

See, it doesn't look pretty. But I love how it tastes. It's cold spicy cheese dip. I think it's great. Make it for a party if you're not with snobby New York people.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A rocky start to a new year

Good lord, it's been a while. I apologize for the lack of posting. If I could go back and start 2011 over again, believe me, I would. And what's great when your new year sucks? Cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

I saw this recipe awhile back on many different websites (homesick texan and smitten kitchen to name a few). Since I had several bags of coconut and 2 pounds of pecans leftover from holiday baking, I bookmarked it for January use. So, here we go~

Hello Dolly Bars, adapted from everywhere

1 1/2 cups crushed cinnamon graham crackers (about 8 graham crackers)
2 cups of chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups of shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans
1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup of butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or you know, whatever I can get my stupid oven to get to these days. Can I move yet?).
Melt your butter and pour it directly into an 8x8 cake pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs into pan, and mix well with melted butter to form a crust. Layer on chocolate chips -

- then coconut -

- then pecans.

Pour the can of condensed milk over everything.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top turns brown.

Let cool in pan for at least half an hour, cut into bars and serve.

Aren't the layers pretty? These were super easy. I thought I wasn't wild about them at first, but then I ate the whole pan over a few days time. They have a nice down home taste that was simple enough to make and was really satisfying. I recommend cutting them into small squares - otherwise they can be overwhelming.

More to come soon, I promise!

Friday, December 31, 2010

One last post of 2010

As 2010 draws to a close, I can't help but notice that it's been a pretty good year. Sure, no one cured cancer, or global warming but overall, I feel good about life in general. I also cooked some awesome things this year, one of which was a goat cheese cheesecake for my friend Becky who is deathly allergic to cow's milk.

I think my friends could tell you that I am very accommodating to people's food allergies. It makes me feel like I'm in my own version of Iron Chef: Allergy edition (people could also tell you that I am not so accommodating to picky eaters. If you're not eating something for no reason, I have no patience for that and you can't come to my house for dinner). So when Meredith made this cheesecake a few months back, I thought immediately, oooh, I can make this for Becky.

My one thought about this recipe is that it had the consistency of a souffle rather than a cheesecake. But Meredith told me it's because I forgot to chill it for four hours first. Whoops.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake - adapted from here

Butter and granulated sugar for the cake pan (or oil if butter makes you break out in hives)
Graham Cracker Crumbs and a light tasting oil - for a crust
11 ounces fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pint blackberries (about 1 cup) (I skipped these)
1 pint raspberries (about 2 cups)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Press some graham cracker crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Drizzle olive oil on top and bake for about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Put the goat cheese, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth.

Mmmmm, cheese.

Stir in the egg yolks two at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the flour until incorporated. If you're at your mom's house and don't have access to a stand mixer, use a hand mixer instead. It'll be fine.

Put the egg whites in another mixer bowl, fit the mixer with the whip attachment, and whip on medium speed until soft peaks form.

Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the goat cheese mixture. I used to be totally afraid of folding egg whites. Now I have confidence and these egg whites folded appropriately. Woo!

Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

To serve, run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, invert a platter on top of the pan, and then invert the plate and pan together. Lift off the pan (or, you know, just take the springy part off the springform pan).

Top with the berries and serve. Chill to get the consistency all creamy like a cheesecake. If you don't, it's still good.

It's a great option for those who can't have milk! Happy super belated birthday, Becky and have a happy new year everybody! See you in 2011.