Monday, December 13, 2010

"Thank You, Baby Jesus..." I'm Cooking Again. But, First, Check Out My Tree.

Thank you, Kaleidoscope Farms for an amazing tree.
Loveliest tree ever.

Will eventually have a live tree in my office or kitchen that only has food/food-relate ornaments on it.

One of my favs I got from FD's parents the year FD and I married.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Creative Nonfiction: A Call for Nominations

The literary journal Creative Nonfiction is hosting a food writing issue and calling for a few good food blog posts. Rather than asking for submissions, Creative Nonfiction is asking for nominations--a pretty clever idea.

Without a doubt, dear reader, I would like you to vote for your favorite posts from The Everyday Palate! These are a couple of posts that supporters plan to nominate: In-N-Out Burger, I Melt for Melt, The PawPaw Adventure, PawPaw Season 2: Admitting Failure, I Can Sweat Duck Fat, and The Greenhouse Tavern: Revisited.

According to Creative Nonfiction, ""Deadline for nominations: 11:59 PM EST, Monday, November 29, 2010. Nominate as many posts as you like, though we ask that you not nominate the same post multiple times."

You can cast your nomination here: Nominate A Blog!

There are many other food writers too which awesome posts I am nominating: Prose & Potatoes, Quest for the True Climate, Madame Fromage, A Written Recipe, and many more!

Thank you for your support! And eat on (in lieu of rock on)!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Give A Dog A Bone (I Mean, A Carrot)

Bleu dog is 3 today. And he's hungry. Always hungry.
He's hungry for the carrots I'm dicing for a Lentil Soup.
He's very happy when I offer him a carrot.
Off he goes with his carrot. Happy Birthday, Bleu.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

C'est La Vie

I'm discouraged.

All summer I had time to plan elaborate meals, to shop at all the farmers markets and specialty stores, and to cook elaborate, tasty meals.

Right now I'm lucky if I have enough time or energy to wash, spin dry, and fry an egg and some kale in a skillet.

Between prepping to teach, teaching, conferencing with students, going to committee meetings, volunteering, grading, writing, editing, and just plain getting by, my meals are suffering.

Let me clarify. I've been throwing together the good ole standby--Lentil soup--and roasting a chicken on Sunday that we use in tacos, wraps, sandwiches, salads, soups, pastas, etc., but I really want a day to slave over the stove. Seriously, it's fall, my favorite season. I should be braising meats, roasting veggies, and simmering sauces. I should be homemaking pie crusts and spending hours peeling and thinly slicing apples.

Or do I just think I should be doing those things because I'm a self-pronounced food writer and food lover?

I just feel as though I'm letting down my readers (and my husband) by not serving up goodies that are blog worthy. Really, do you want to read about the turkey burgers I made Monday night or the Chipotle burrito I scarfed down 7:30 after teaching and  before I walked the dog and started grading at  9 p.m.?

I want to promise better blog posts from here on out, but until winter break, it's just not possible.

What is possible, though, is a sharing of our go-to foods when we're in a hurry and don't have a lot of time to cook. Ground turkey tacos are one of our favs. But what I've really been loving lately are the quick pasta dishes we whip up by using the tomato sauce I made this summer and froze. And I've been loving the joy of autumn fresh apples, which have been lifesavers for snacks and side dishes.

What are your go-to dishes? What do you make when you have only 15 minutes and barely anything in the fridge? I need ideas!

Now back to grading...

Friday, October 1, 2010

LIVE This Week

The leaves are turning colors and the air is crisp.

Fall has finally found its way through our open windows and screen doors.

With Fall, though, has come the mid-point of one crazy semester, which is why my food posts are few and far between. But that doesn't mean I'm not cooking and making a list of all the food adventures I need to blog about soon.

In the meantime, be sure to check out my other food writing at Connotation Press and BG News.

Connotation Press this month is all Potlucks! So join the feast and check out the great dishes from writers such as Kathleen Rooney, Arielle Greenberg, Anna Kauffman, and Katherine Willis Pershey.

And my weekly food column at BG News serves up a variety of topics from tailgating to an upcoming column about Facebook and Food.

Thanks for all your support and readership! I promise more tasty treats are on their way from Everyday Palate to Connotation Press to BG News!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pawpaw Season 2: Admitting Failure.

Kaleidoscope Farms Mt. Cory, Ohio. Another season of pawpaw hunting with the ever-generous tree farmer Dave Reese.

Dave planted new pawpaw trees, but the deer munched on most of them.

Pawpaws: Season 2.

Haven't lost my gatherer instinct.

In the bag.

For pawpaw bread.

Scrapping the membrane--which contains a lot of flavor--from each and every seed.

 Finally a perfect loaf of pawpaw bread.


Food Columnist to the Falcons!

This past summer I was invited to be the food columnist for our campus paper BG NEWS.

My good friend, summer editor-in-chief, and former student AMB  hooked me up with this amazing gig, and I'm staying on staff this fall and, if Pulse editor Matt L. will have me, for a long while.

While I'm still learning AP style (I'm an MLA geek), each week I'm even more energized by food and food writing because of the work I do for the Pulse.

Matt's favorite piece might be the one about Twilight, but I'm quite the fan of my piece this week about competitive eating.

In a sense I feel like a brand new writer. I keep remember the days back in undergrad when I decided that poetry was my life. I started emulating all of my favorite poets--Jane Kenyon, Daisy Fried, Campbell McGrath. Only now I feel like I'm imitating Jim Harrison, Molly Wizenberg, and Steve Almond while trying to hold steady my own voice and be the ever-charming me.

I'm not sure I'm worth a damn as a food writer, but I sure enjoy it. And I'd sure be delighted if you subscribed to my BG NEWS food column here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

For the love of Tomatoes!

Tomatoes from our friends' Anna & Jesse's Garden
The September issue of Connotation Press' From Plate to Palate is live and ready for a thorough read.

This month check out a special late summer issue devoted to our friend, the vegetable (no, fruit...), the Tomato.

And if you're a aspiring food writer, please submit your essays of yummy today!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Greenhouse Tavern: Revisited

Crispy Hominy
Back in July I visited The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland and absolutely LOVED my dining experience. It was one of the most incredible-tastiest, most-satisfying, so-happy-to-eat-in-Cleveland experiences I've had to date.

So I figured when I took FD there for his special birthday dinner it was going to be the same mind-blowing, mouth orgy again. That doesn't seem an unreasonable assumption, does it?

Chef Sawyer is known for his seasonl spin on contemporary comfort food. And I firmly believe in his Green mission and the restaurant's farm-to-table mentality. There's no doubt in my mind that my food values are completely aligned with The Greenhouse Tavern's; we're totally on the same page.

But FD's birthday meal has left me frustrated and reconsidering going to The Greenhouse Tavern again. At least for anything else other than Animal Style Frites.

Chilled Sweet Potato & Cabbage Soup
I want to be clear that the opinions I express are as an honest food critic and paying customer. It is not my intention to slander any restaurant. It is only my intention to share my dining experiences as an average-Jane diner with no strings attached.

Let it be known that I think the good at The Greenhouse Tavern is definitely worth experiencing, but the customer service is something, I feel, needs much improvement.

Let it be known that the intoxicating, primitive experience event of eating Animal Style Frites is something every food lover MUST experience. However, I must warn any diner that the sassy-and-not-in-a-good-way attitude from a few of the servers and runners at The Greenhouse Tavern might disrupt that experience and turn it into something not-so-much-fun.

Animal Style Frites
Because I am a detail-oriented person who believes arguments should have ample credible support, I feel the following examples will illustrate how lack luster the customer service at The Greenhouse Tavern is.  First of all, when we were seated we were not approached immediately, and once the server approached our table, he did not announce the beers on tap or show us the beer and wine menu. For an establishment that has tavern in its title, I feel is imperative that every server share this information before asking diners what drinks they want. It's helpful and it makes diners feel comfortable in additional to a little of booze and a few recommendations mean a bigger tip usually. Also, the The four course chef's tasting menu used to be $39; now it's $44. If you do the math, it's a rip off; you can order food from each section and usually pay less than $44. I understand this doesn't have to do with servers, but it has to do with customer service and not taking customers (who are in a city that is having hard economic times!) for a ride. Next, our first and second courses were served at the same time. Our table ordered the four course chef's tasting menu because we wanted to have a long dinner; serving both courses not only screwed up the timing and our experience, but also it upset the taste of each course. I have no interest eating chilled soup with hominy or even better hominy with lardo speck gnocchi, which is what we did in much of a rage. Our server's response to the matter: "First and second courses are small tonight; we're serving them together." However, all the surrounding tables were receiving them separately and our portions were huge. The runners had to be asked to box leftovers, and during dessert when a decaf cup of coffee served to our table was cold, the runner deliberated aloud the time it would take to make a fresh pot, which was really rude and destroyed the flow of our table's conversation. Finally, the server forgot one of our guest's desserts and overcharged that same guest by two desserts, even though dessert was included in their four course chef's tasting menu. Needless to say, I didn't leave feeling satisfied this time.

Strip Steak with Pomme Frites
Dear reader, I'm not happy to report these examples of rude, unorganized, and sloppy service. It breaks my heart quite frankly. But I feel the need to share because as food lovers and paying customers we expect a meaningful dining experience, and we, as paying customers, are shelling out a lot of hard-earned money to get that experience, especially in times like these. I have a huge problem with celebrity chef restaurants and talked-up restaurants not delivering on customer service. Restaurants are part of the service industry. That means meeting the expectations of customers and making those customers happy. In this case and in other cases, such as Michael Symon's Bar Symon, I feel the servers are hired because they need jobs and look indy enough to work there. But the servers and runners should know about the food, about serving a table, about the etiquette of dining, and about who actually is paying their paycheck, which are the customers, essentially. If I drop $200 at a restaurant, like I did at The Greenhouse Tavern, I expect the server to be respectful, knowledgeable, and competent. That's not much to ask. And as diners that's all we want. I understand some servers are flirty, some friendly, some hands-off-but-aware, or some funny. A little personality is great. But there must be smarts to match it. And that training MUST come from the owner, the manager, and the executive chef. I can't justify spending that amount of money on a meal when half my experience is spent frustrated at a server who looks and acts like he just did ten lines of coke and is saying his allergies are bad today.

Gravy Frites
With that said, the lardo speck gnocchi was to die for. The halibut was absolutely perfectly cooked, even though the garnish was useless. The kick of hit at the end of a taste of the Ratatouille Vegetables Involtini was divine. The texture of the sweet potato and cabbage chilled soup was so silky it was like sexy satin sheets. The strip steak had a flawless sear and was faultlessly cooked to medium. And the Gravy Frites and Animal Style Frites--I live for them. Period.

Alas, I'm sad this review isn't more about the food. But it replicates my turmoil during this meal. I would have one moment of ecstasy which would be clouded by an unnatural desire to throw a punch.

What's the balance of food and service? Which is more important? Or are both equally important? Is a small dining room like at Revolver or Lucky's Cafe--where service is ALWAYS good--the key? I don't have any answers. But I sure wish I did.  

Pure coolness. The Greenhouse Tavern serves Black Label in a can for under $2.
The Greenhouse Tavern on Urbanspoon

Goodbye Summer & Picnics at the Quarry

Tomorrow  the semester starts and summer ends.

While I really excited to get back in the classroom with my students, I'm a little sad too. It means I'm going to have a lot less time to cook.

One of my favorite summer activities has been going to the Portage Quarry with our friends N & I. They are as food obsessed as me.

So really, while swimming was totally fun, what was even more fun were our picnics. All of us brought A game to every meal. We're talking spreads that would shame wedding buffets. And what a better way to use up all that fresh produce that was overtaking our refrigerators' crisper drawers?

Also, what picnic days taught me was how to think outside the box of what was picnic food, and they forced me to experiment more with grains, chilled salads, and sides, most of which could easily become main dishes.

I had a blast spending the whole day before our outings scouring through online and magazine and cookbook recipes, creating various flavor simple syrups, testing adult lemonades, finding plastic containers with tight fitting lids, and cooking.

Thanks to our picnics I've learned to love lentils even more, and I feel much closer to N & I (and our friend J who joined us once too!), who were rad to begin with but who are even more rad after I got a chance to chill, swim, and eat with them.

As homage to the last of our picnic days (and summer, in general), here are photos from our summer of good eating, good swimming, and good friends.

Homemade grape leaves, homemade hummus, egg salad, chicken salad, coleslaw with beets, beet salad, etc.
N & I made their own pickles. True love at first bite.
A lot of our produce came from the community garden and farmers markets.
N's baking is divine. This is her cupcake with mint (or basil?) frosting. It's hard to remember everything...
Lentil wraps, fried chicken, bbq chicken & tofu, pasta salad, kale salad, roasted potatoes, peach crisp, etc.
Green bean and cherry tomato salad with onion--produce from my friend Sarah's garden.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Birthday Love Made From Scratch

A good birthday includes great food.

At least that's how I was brought up.

You should choose your own meal or pick your favorite restaurant. And, without a doubt, the day should end with a special cake. (Or pie or cupcakes or cheese platter--whatever you prefer.)

When it's a family member or friend's birthday I always want to make sure their food wishes come true along with his/her birthday wishes.

A great birthday dessert  is a sign that you're loved. Take, for instance, my Hello Kitty cake from SEM.

This past weekend it was her birthday, so I wanted to share the love and ensure her food wishes came true.

But that I meant I had to get over my fear of baking...

Ever since I've started cooking seriously I've proclaimed to be the worst baker ever.

Baking is a combo of science and genetics. You're good at it or not.

At least that's what I used to think until I made a two layer white cake with orange whipped cream and fresh strawberry filling with orange butter cream frosting. Let me rephrase: I made all of that from scratch, even the whipped cream.

I think that wins me some bragging rights, especially when every batch of sugar cookies I make come out of the oven charred and smoking.

I do have to give Alice Waters props. She's the one who walked me through my first made-from-scratch cake. Her 1-2-3-4 Cake recipe in The Art of Simple Food is so easy to follow it make Easy Oven look difficult. Her variation suggestions are spot on and her whipped cream and frosting recipes were a snap.  The cake came out perfectly moist and crumbly. The frosting wasn't too sweet or too hard. And the filling didn't drench the cake. It was such a breeze, I could hardly believe it.

The most difficult part was making the sprinkle turtle look like a turtle. That took a little work on mine and FD's behalves.

Thank you, Alice Waters, for giving me some baking confidence.

More importantly, Happy Birthday, McGuire! If I didn't love you so much and want to make you something special, I would have never known that I can bake.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This Week at BG Community Gardens

BG Community Garden at First United Methodist
Sweet carrots
Melon hiding

Baby watermelon

A row of crisp cukes
Cabbage Patch Kid in the making

Squash still growing

Monday, August 2, 2010

Avocado Kick

I love avocados. Their shape. Their color. Their creamy texture. Their light fruity flavor.

Everything about them makes me happy.

And when I eat them, I'm even happier.

After having a raw kale salad with avocados at a dinner party, I had to make it at home so I could eat the whole thing myself. (Okay, I did share with FD, but I finished the salad the next day by myself.) And I'm thinking I might make it again for dinner tonight. It's my new fav, as if you couldn't tell.

While reading Local Flavors by Deborah Madison I found yet another recipe with my silky green addition. The Tomato and Avocado Salad with Lime-Herb Dressing is one of the best summer salads I've made this year. Probably because I used my first batch of the heirloom tomatoes I've waited all year to taste again. (I just can't bring myself to buy fresh grocery store tomatoes, so when summer comes I overeat real fresh tomatoes.)

Bleu begging for the Tomato and Avocado Salad
This Tomato and Avocado Salad has crunch from the lettuce and peppers, creaminess from the avocados, juiciness from the plump tomatoes, and heat and spice from the dressing. I adore it. What follows is an adaptation from Madison's recipe:

Lime-Herb Dressing
1 T chopped mint
1 T chopped basil
1/2 c chopped cilantro
4 T olive oil
1 jalapeno chile, finely diced
3 T fresh lime juice
1/4 t sea salt

The Salad
1 1/2 lbs tomatoes (use a variety of cherry, slicers, or paste tomatoes), cubed into bite size pieces
1 large avocado, peeled and cubed
1 cucumber, peeled and cubed
1 sweet pepper, cubed
1 small red candy onion, finely diced
2 cups lettuce, shredded (I used a mix of Red Amaranth, tri-color Amaranth, Oracle, Wild Spinach, Malabar Spinach, and Romaine.)
sea salt
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

1.) Combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl. Taste to make sure there is enough acid.

2.) Put bite size pieces of tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and pepper into a large bowl with the onion. Add the lettuce and a few pinches of salt. Toss, add the dressing, toss again. Add feta cheese before serving.

For any salad with avocado, I usually add it individually to bowls. This way if any salad is left over, the avocado won't brown in the salad. If I have any avocado left over, I wrap it tightly in cling wrap and keep it in the fridge. It usually lasts one day. I cut away any brown spots before eating.

What are your favorite avocado recipes? I need more!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stuffed, Part II

After making my Hot Pigs in a Summer Couture Wrap, I had about 4 cups of the filling leftover and one huge zucchini that was a gift from my friend Sarah.

Even before all the storms last week and this weekend, I saw a flash a fate-lightning that led me to this recipe: Stuffed Zucchini.

For my Stuffed Zucchini, all I did was cut a LARGE zucch in half, lengthwise, spoon out its seeds, add my filling from the Hot Pigs in a Summer Couture Wrap, drizzle a little local tomato sauce in the pan before and after putting the stuffed zucch in it, grate some of CJ's Farmstead Cheddar on top of the stuffing, and cover the pan with foil.

Again, I baked it on my grill for about 40 minutes on indirect medium heat. (Please see the note from my previous post.) And it turned out AWESOME.

Truthfully, the BIG zucchs are perfect for stuffing but they are a bit overwhelming to eat. I want you to know it's okay to eat half a half and then the filling from the other half and then see how full you are. If your stomach is full, you can grate its leftovers into a lunch salad or grate it and put and freeze it. No worries.

What's awesome is zucchinis have fed us two solid meals in two days in a row with abundant leftovers.

I can't complain.

Stuffed, Part I

"Turn your back on the little zucchini for just a few minutes and they grow into baseball bats," said Epicurious recipe review A Cook From NH.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

This growing season there so many summer squash I can barely grate it and freeze it enough before some more finds its way into our kitchen again. Be it from the community garden, a friend's garden, the farmers market, or the local farmer we order produce from, zucchini has aimed its target at me. And like a good cook, I'm up for the challenge.

On the Epicurious website, I found this recipe for Cabbage Stuffed with Beef, Zucchini and Herbs. While all the ingredients sounded like a perfect fit for my crisper drawers, the recipe reviews were something left to be desired.

But I braved it and tweaked this so-called bland recipe into a keeper. At least I feel confident saying that after getting the approval from our gracious neighbors and friends A & J who dedicated their Saturday night as taste testers.

What follows is the very revised version of the recipe from Self magazine using quite a bit of the comments from A Cook from California. I also must thank my mum-in-law Sally for giving her original pigs-in-a-blanket recipe that I used as a foundation.

Note: The baking instructions are clearly for summer. Being this last week Bowling Green only saw temps in the higher 90s, there was NO way I was going to turn on the oven. So I turned to my grill. I baked the cabbage rolls over indirect medium heat for 50 minutes. To get indirect heat on a charcoal grill, place a disposal aluminum pan in the middle of the charcoal tray. Fill the open space around the pan with 2 layers of charcoal. Bake the rolls in another disposable pan. (After cooking you can either recycle the pans or wash them for re-use. It's up to you.)

Hot Pigs in a Couture Summer Wrap (aka Pigs in a Blanket--Summer Style)

Suggested albums while cooking: The Beatles White Album, especially "Piggies" and Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard's One Fast Move Or I'm Gone.  (Thanks, Jenn!)

1 large head of local cabbage
1 medium local zucchini
1 medium local summer squash
1 small local eggplant
1/2 bunch of kale
1 can diced tomatoes (local), drained (reserve juice)
2 medium local onions (red or white or mix)
3 local garlic gloves, minced
1 lb local, grass-fed ground beef
1 T each fresh local basil, parsely, thyme, & oregano
2 T organic olive oil, divided
1 c cooked rice
pinch of cloves
pinch of nutmeg

1 can zesty tomato soup (local) with 1/2 water, mixed well, and all of the herbs with some leftover for sprinkling.

Begin by cooking rice. Use wild grain rice, jasmine, minute brown rice, etc. Whatever you have on hand that floats your boat.

While rice is cooking, blanch cabbage. From the top of the head cut a straight incision that goes through the head (so surgical, I know) but that does not cut away any leaves. Blanch for 5 minutes or until bright green. If inner leaves aren't blanched enough, you can always re-submerge. Of course, you'll have ice cold water on hand to stop the cooking immediately after the head has been blanched. Set aside to drain and cool after ice bath. After cool, half and core cabbage, carefully tearing away leaves. Set leaves aside to dry and drain.

In an large non-stick skillet, brown ground beef with 1 T olive oil, salt, and pepper. Drain. Set Aside.

Saute onions and garlic until soft. Add squash, zucchini, eggplant, diced tomatoes, cloves, and nutmeg with a little of the diced tomato juice (I'm sorry I'm not technical like Cook's Illustrated). Cover and cook until soft. Add kale for last two minutes and cover again.

Stir in meat and cooked rice with veggie mixture.

Trim cabbage leaf veins so they are easier to fold. Be sure not to cut leaves.

Hold a leaf with the core side towards you. Add a bit of meat in its cup. Roll once, then fold in the sides and roll until it's covered. Place seam side down in a pan where the bottom is lightly covered with sauce.

Repeat until cabbage leaves are gone. (Recipe can be doubled and frozen, if you so wish.)

Pour remaining sauce over the rolls before covering with the pan with foil. 

Bake on the grill according to the above note. If baking in the house, preheat the over to 350F and bake for 45-60 minutes.

When done, as the French say, "Mange!"

For dessert, consider homemade brownies! Our friends made-from-scratch their brownies using a recipe from How to Boil Water.  As a brownie fanatic all I can say is that they were AWESOME, especially after they added whipped cream and Baileys to them.

Cheers to a fantastic dinner party!