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Archive for the ‘Appetizer’ Category

Tallahassee, Florida is home to the Florida State Seminoles, state government, and my family.  It’s located in what we call the “panhandle” of our Sunshine State.  As you know, the Panhandle borders the Gulf of Mexico, a body of water that has recently met its match thanks to the unbelievable Deep Water Horizon oil spill.

I’m bitter – can you tell?  These are the beaches that I grew up on. I spent family vacations, spring breaks, and days in college when we just wanted to relax instead of going to class.  I caught my first “real fish” on this shoreline (a 10 pound black drum that was almost as tall as me!), jumped waves with my grandmother, and caught crabs in order to orchestrate “crab races” (it really didn’t take much to entertain me as a child!).

Over the last few weeks, I’ve experienced predictable emotions in response to disaster in the Gulf: anger and sadness.  But I’ve also experienced, unpredictably, joy.  Unable to to see into the future, Mike and I planned a trip with Boulder friends (who happen to be originally from Louisiana) to head to the beach in the Gulf.  And so, while I am angered and saddened by the oil disaster, I am grateful that in light of all of this, we were able to hop on a plane and beat the oil to our destination.  We made it.  I savored the trip as much as possible, realizing that this would be (short of a miracle) the last chance we would have to visit “my ocean” in the way that I remembered it.

And so, we chartered a boat for a little deep sea fishing and caught, cooked, and ate some snapper

We went to the local seafood market, Goatfeathers, for some grouper, shrimp, and tuna

Goatfeathers

Robert preparing the grouper for the grill

Grouper with blackening spices

Grouper on the grill

Bay shrimp (grey) and Gulf shrimp (pink - saltier, and sweeter)

My cousin Katie's, famous shrimp!

Tuna

Prepared tuna platter with wasabi paste - compliments of Mike

And we made sure to spend plenty of time in the ocean and on the beach…

My two loves - Mike and ocean

Santa Rosa Beach - 10 miles from Destin, FL

 

Cousin Katie’s Delicious Peel n’ Eat Gulf Shrimp Recipe

Serves 2

1/4 cup of Old Bay seasoning (classic – loose powder, not in the bag)
1/4 cup of caraway seeds
1 lb of shrimp (shell and tail on, preferably fresh, if not fresh then at least thawed)
Large pot of water (filled with 1 or 1.5 gallons of water)
Seasoned salt (we like this one called Aunt Cora’s but I think that’s only available regionally)
1/4 cup of white vinegar

Fill the pot with the water, vinegar (vinegar helps make shrimp easy to peel), seeds, salt, and Old Bay.  Bring to a rolling boil and add shrimp.  Continue cooking until the water just comes to a boil again (sometimes even before.) It’s very important not to overcook the shrimp or they will be rubbery.  Once cooked, remove the pot from the heat and strain the shrimp.  Your strainer will collect seeds and spices.  I serve the shrimp hot or ice cold in a bowl with their seeds and remaining spices.  I also dust the shrimp with fresh Old Bay – or even sprinkle it on a plate to dip the shrimp in as I peel them.

Mike and I read about using the famous (or infamous) Sriracha Sauce (with the green lid and rooster on it) to mix with a little mayo.  It didn’t sound appealing to me at first but I tried it and it makes for a great tangy yet spicy dipping sauce for the shrimp.

Optional Sriracha Sauce Recipe

Sriracha Sauce
1/8 cup of mayonnaise
However much Sriracha you can handle

Mix together to your taste and voila!

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So – it’s official as of May 7th, 2010 I have an MBA!  We celebrated the occasion by having “the dads” – mine and Mike’s – visit for the festivities and a little spring golfing.  We had graduation dinner at a delicious restaurant called John’s.

I first ate at John’s last year when I volunteered for the Boulder Chef’s Up Front Committee.  We were down to the wire and needed one more chef to commit to our lineup.  Our Chair was swamped and so I volunteered to go in and spend money I didn’t have on a meal I didn’t need in order to try to get the chef to participate.  He agreed.  Score for him (my money and now loyalty) and score for me (success).  I digress.

At any rate, we ate at John’s on Friday and then headed to Denver on Saturday night for a lovely steak dinner with my Denver friends and family.  After sending my dad off on Sunday, I spent most of Mother’s Day pampering Mom with a pedicure and lunch.

Since I was in Denver, I took the opportunity to go to one of my two favorite Denver shops, Marczyk’s.  For the record, The Truffle is the other of my two favorites.  It’s such a bummer that I have to strategically plan my visits to Denver in order to frequent these shops.  I love Whole Foods as much as the next person, but I do wish Boulder had more specialty stores like this.  That’s why, in my dreams, I will one day open a specialty food store – similar to Dean and Deluca – in Boulder.  Oh, to dream…wouldn’t that  be paradise?

Marczyk's

Pressing the rewind button – Dad and I tooled around Boulder earlier that weekend and stopped at my favorite kitchen store, The Peppercorn.  I purchased two-much needed escargot dishes.

Fast forward to Sunday- what’s a girl to do with escargot dishes if she doesn’t have snails?  And what better place to go for snails than to Marczyk’s?

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I’ve been on a diet.

I hate diets and I kind of really hate talking about them because I don’t like body-snarking, even when I do it to myself – and especially in front of others.  I never want my words about myself to inadvertently hurt someone else.


Like many people, I have complicated relationship to my own body and I’m always trying to be more at peace with it.  Happy, healthy, not hung-up.  I’ve always loved food, loved to cook and eat and try new things, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that food was not just nourishment or fun but, well, it’s my thing.  Some of my friends are beautiful knitters, others are photographers, marathon runners, amateur musicians, or weekend motorcyclists.  One of my cousins is sky-diver with his own plane!  As I’ve settled into my adult self, I’ve realized I’m not the adventurous wanderer I once thought I would be – I’m a nester.  I like to take care of my home and I love to spend time in my home cooking, eating, and sharing delicious homemade food with friends and loved ones.

Of course somewhere in there, I went from a person who bought heavy cream a couple of times a year to someone who has a carton of heavy cream in her fridge at all times – and I’m not a coffee drinker!  Learning more about food brought all kinds of complicated thoughts and ideas about what was “good” food.  Like many people, I have struggled to re-define my relationship to food – rather than low-fat being good for me, I now want to eat cleaner, more natural and unprocessed whole foods.  Beyond pursuing the most exotic imported foreign goods I can find, I am interested in mining the depths of local food items.  But somewhere in there things got complex and heavy.  And my pants got tighter and tighter.  Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and not just sort of generally think about “eating healthier” – but to commit to the dreaded thing, a diet.

In the end of course I chose one that worked for me.  It’s based on simple whole foods and emphasizes eating “super-foods” like nuts and olive oil at every meal.  The program starts with a “jump-start” where you eat whole vegetables and fruits and lean proteins with no salt – this is the most gimmicky part of the whole thing.  Going salt-free and keeping foods very simple and clean is meant to reduce bloating and boost your confidence by immediately helping reduce your waistline.  It worked!  However, it was very boring.

What was fascinating was that as I began to eat normally after those days of no salt and very simple, clean (dull) food, I starting tasting things anew.  I needed less salt to really taste what I was eating.  I could enjoy the richness of a small amount of chocolate without having to have the whole piece of cake.  I remembered the difference between feeling “full” and “ridiculously overstuffed” (and didn’t feel cheated).  This was a revelation!

The very boring part is over and I’m back to thinking about food, cooking with luxurious, fabulous, amazing salt (it’s so important, y’all!), and eating the kinds of foods that satisfy not just my physical needs but my senses as well.  I’m just doing it a little leaner and lighter these days.

Back to cooking means – back to blogging!  A dear couple of friends hosted us for shabbat this week and I brought this to share with our Mediterranean meal.  It’s adapted from the fabulous Deborah Madison, of course.  She calls it yogurt and cucumber salad – to me, it’s just tzaziki.

One tool that I use for this dish is a yogurt strainer.  This is the kind of device I would not have bought for myself – I have cheesecloth and a bowl, and I’d always figured I could strain my own yogurt.  But somehow this little tool makes the whole process a snap (thanks Aunt Julie and Uncle Nick for the awesome Christmas gift!).  It fits nicely in your refrigerator for overnight straining, which produces a gorgeously thick almost cheese-like substance.  For this tzaziki, I strained the yogurt only for a few hours which thickened it up but still left it quite liquid and lovely.  I’ve also eaten yogurt cheese on toast with za’atar and salt or on a biscuit with Mimi’s homemade strawberry preserves.  The tzaziki below is amazing with lamb burgers and pretty fab with felafel, too.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

2 cups plain whole or low-fat yogurt, strained for several hours or overnight
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, white and part of green parts chopped
Fresh mint and dill chopped, to taste (about 2 tbsp each)
2-3 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Good-quality olive oil

Mix together ingredients.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.  Let stand for at least 15 minutes or several hours.  Drizzle with olive oil and serve.  Makes 3 cups.

Tip: To keep your tzaziki creamy and not watery, toss your chopped cucumbers with a little salt and let them sit in a strainer in the sink while you prep the rest of the ingredients.  This draws out some of their water and leaves you with a luxuriously thick dip.

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I had the pleasure of spending my last Spring Break as an MBA student (hip-hip-hooray!) facilitating a merger and acquisition.  What?  How did I accomplish that during Spring Break?  I spent it by merging part of my family with part of Mike’s family and acquiring some food, drink, and fun!

What’s the recipe?  Take 13 people in a mountain house full of taxidermied animal heads, and add the a few random houseguests, beautiful weather, and great food and drink and you’ve got a successful vacation!

Each night had a “theme” that fueled the inspiration for food – from Southern to Eastern European to Italian.  The Italian-themed night was particularly fun.  My brother (born in Florence, where his dad is from) and his new bride made pasta carbonara, while my aunt made delicious eggplant stacks.

Aunt Julie's Eggplant Stacks

Ingredients
Eggplant (try for eggplants that are more uniform in shape as opposed to bulbous because they are easier to stack)
Mozzarella cheese (fresh is best)
Parmesan or Romano cheese
Fresh basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram or sage (obviously you can use dried herbs in a pinch)
Your favorite jarred tomato/marinara sauce
Olive oil

My aunt says that she has made many variations of these to include other vegetables like artichoke bottoms, zucchini, roasted red peppers, portabella mushrooms or fresh tomatoes.  She has also used jarred or homemade pesto sauce in place of the herbs.

Directions
Slice eggplant and lightly coat with olive oil.  Broil, roast or grill eggplant until just tender – in this case we roasted them for a few minutes.  Stack with marinara sauce, herbs, and mozzarella cheese.  Repeat this process twice and then top the stack with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for a few minutes – just until the cheese melts.  Drizzle with olive before serving.

It wouldn’t be family cooking without a little inspiration from Mimi.  Apparently, my aunt’s inspiration came from a similar recipe that Mimi cooked – only she didn’t actually stack the eggplant.  I thought the stacks made this a perfect party food idea and they also provide a great presentation!

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Super bowl-shmuper bowl.  Sorry guys, I hate to break it to you – I am not a big football fan.  In fact, I am not a big sports fan in general.  Right now I am picturing both my brother’s and my sister-in-law’s blood pressure rising, since their wedding date was chosen based on Florida State’s football season last year.

I digress.  I don’t like football,  but I love to socialize – especially if food is involved!  And so, when I got an email from my girlfriends in Denver to attend a Super Bowl party I happily accepted.  My task was to make an appetizer.  Since I knew there would be copious amounts of football-themed/less-than-healthy snacks I decided to make something different.  I googled “healthy super bowl snacks” and found a great looking recipe for kale chips.  I knew it would be a perfect, healthy, salty, crunchy bowl of deliciousness.  And it was!

Kale Chips
Adapted from www.Fitsugar.com

1 large bunch kale (10 to 12 leaves), or you can buy pre-cut kale
1 tablespoon olive oil (no need to over-oil your kale)
Sea salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 275°F. Remove stalks and ribs from kale. Rinse and dry leaves. Or if your kale is already cut, just make sure to rinse and dry it.  Use some tongs to toss the leaves in a large bowl with olive oil. Sprinkle leaves with sea salt and ground pepper.  Be careful not to over-salt.  Remember that when you bake these in the oven, they will shrink up, creating less surface area for the salt. Spread the leaves onto a baking sheet.  Make sure that each leaf or piece of a leaf has its own space.  Don’t layer.  You want to give the leaves plenty of room to dry out.

Before: Chopped raw kale

The recipe that I found said to bake these for approximately 30 minutes. I use a convection oven at home and I probably only baked them for 20 minutes.  You don’t want to burn them but you do want to bake them until crisp. Transfer and let cool onto a wire rack, a cooled baking sheet, or paper towels.

After: Baked kale chips

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This summer we cleaned out my grandmother Mimi’s house, a herculean task (though it seemed more sisyphean at the time) which took a team of eight working in shifts a week to complete.  Mimi now lives with my aunt, but she started life 93 years ago on that same parcel of land – and though her first home is long gone, the bricks from its fireplace are still amongst the camellias up by the highway.  This four-lane highway now runs right through the middle of town but when Mimi was born it was a dirt road marked by hoof-prints and wagon tracks on the outskirts of town.

Many of the azaleas and camellias that bloom in technicolor each spring were planted by Mimi’s mother, whom I never met, but to whom I feel perennially connected.  If I close my eyes I can remember so many parts of that land: deep inhales of the jasmine tree by the corner of the house; stepping down the hill toward the vegetable garden, looking for wild spring onions and four-leaf clovers; Mimi on her ladder, obscured by dense leaves high up in the fig tree; the secret cave-like spot she showed us inside the shrubbery; the impatiens, azaleas, camellias, lilies, roses, hydrangeas and ferns that she tended so carefully; all the good spots for hiding an Easter egg.

Food also invokes the sensuous, deep memories of time with Mimi and helps me feel connected to her even when I’m not with her.  Countless times, I sat by the little outcropping of formica countertop where Mimi did most of her prep work, watching her chop onions, de-bone a chicken, roll out dumplings on torn-up brown paper bags, and stir together whatever magic she was working on.  If I was lucky, what she was stirring together was homemade pimento cheese.

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Hello there.  It’s been a little while – a little longer than I like or realized.  Time seems to have gotten away from me:  I don’t know how I passed so many hours so quickly and every week it’s hard to believe that another seven days, fourteen days, month has passed.  Not only are the days getting shorter, we had to turn back our clocks and lose another hour of daylight – and now we’re getting to that time of year when everything seems all crammed together – hallothankshanukkchristmasyears – and days fly by in a blur.

But my, I’ve been having fun.  I went to Vegas for my brother’s wedding.  He got married!  To an amazing woman!  And they came out dancing to P.Y.T.!

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I tried to find a good photo of them dancing to P.Y.T. but none were up to snuff – I had to make do with the sweet image above.  I met my new sister-in-law for the first time at my own wedding weekend, which was a pretty great party, if I do say so myself.

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Photo by Eli Reiman

Don’t you wish you knew what song we were singing?  I do.

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