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Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve been here!  What is it about the fall…?  I remember posting this time last year after a too-long blog-hiatus, sharing the highlights of my busy-ness and the cooking and eating that accompanied it.  But this fall is something else altogether.  It had to happen that after I publicly delighted in living in one place for a whole year (long enough to start a little teensy tiny garden, the inspiration of this post) that we would move again.  And not just any move: we have relocated from Atlanta to Los Angeles.  It doesn’t get much further without moving to another country!

Dan got a great new job here and we had less than two months to sell or pack our stuff, find a new place, and make our way – with Piggy the cat and Sweet Pea the dog – cross-country.  We arrived, amazingly, with our relationship, our sanity and our stuff in tact and settled into our new (rental) home in the Highland Park neighborhood of L.A.  Because packing, moving, leaving our jobs, Dan starting a new job, me searching for a job, unpacking, and all the attendant concerns hadn’t been quite exciting enough, I had to go and have emergency surgery a few days after we landed in L.A.  Sigh.

Luckily, we had tons of support from our families, friends and Dan’s new workplace – I am now fully recovered and the house is even starting to come together.  Check out this harvest from our grapefruit tree, a gem that I didn’t even notice when we first saw this house on our whirlwind house-hunting trip:

They are sweet and so good.

Speaking of sweet and good, there’s this recipe.  Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.  Have you heard of it?  It was featured on NPR about 10 days ago, in an interview with Dorie Greenspan about her new cookbook.  At the farmer’s market the next day (Oh, the farmer’s markets in California! I am sure I will be devoting post after post to them in future…absolutely amazing!), all around me I heard whispers and far-away utterances: “Pumpkin…stuffed…with everything good.”  I wasn’t the only one who had been captivated by the NPR piece, coming to the market with dreams of soft, roasted winter squash, oozing  a warm stuffing of  breadcrumbs, cream, cheese, and herbs.

One of the most delightful moments of Dorie Greenspan’s telling of the story behind this recipe – and you really should listen to the whole thing yourself – is her description of her friend’s garden, where the family grew their own pumpkins for this dish.  Parents and children selected their own pumpkins when they were small on the vine, and each carved his or her name into the squash.  As the pumpkin grew, so did their carved names, and each knew exactly which steaming gourd of goodness was theirs when it finally came to the table.

It is too soon to start hoping that I’ll live in one place long enough to have another little garden, where I too might carve names – or drawings, or poems, or hieroglyphics – into my very own pumpkins?  I certainly hope not.

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good
Adapted from Epicurious.com

1 pumpkin, about 4 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 pound cheese (I used Gruyère), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
About 1/2 cup whole milk

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Begin by opening your pumpkin as for a jack-o-lantern – cut a circle around the stem to create a kind of “lid” that you can pull off.  Scrape out the insides of the pumpkin and discard (or, even better, save your seeds and roast them separately).  Generously salt and pepper the inside of the pumpkin.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients except for milk, season with salt and pepper, and stuff into the pumpkin.  Pour the milk over the top – you want the filling to be nice and moist, but not swimming in liquid, although I think it really is hard to do wrong here.  Replace the “lid” and place the pumpkin onto or into the baking dish of your choice, either well-buttered or using a silicone baking mat.   (I used a silicone mat on a rimmed cookie sheet, which was perfect.)  Bake for about 2 hours.  Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.  Slice into quarters and serve.

A few notes: Dorie Greenspan’s recipe calls for cream, not milk, and I have no doubt that it would be even richer and more wonderful than this version.  She also suggests many different combinations for the filling.  I stuck closely to her recipe, since this was my first time making this dish, but it is easy to see that this is a very forgiving and flexible recipe and that you could make this into anything you want.  She suggests trying other cheeses and herbs, adding freshly grated nutmeg, using cooked rice instead of bread, omitting the bacon for a vegetarian dish or replacing it with sausage (I think vegetarian sausage, of which there are several good varieties, would be great in this, too).  She also mentions adding in kale or other greens, and even frozen green peas.  I think roasted chiles would be incredible, as well as apples or pears, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and even nuts.  The possibilities are truly endless!

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Among summer’s incredible bounty are fresh-shelled peas of all varieties: from fava beans to English peas to whiteacres and more.  Last week at the Morningside Farmer’s Market I picked up a couple of pints of pink-eyes, knowing they’d been shelled a few hours before and I’d be cooking them a few hours later.

Raw pink-eyed peas

There are many wonderful things that you can do with fresh peas.  I highly recommend this black-eyed pea, corn, and tomato salad from Virginia Willis’ Bon Appetit, Y’all.  After seeing her make this last summer (and tasting it!) at a market demo, we enjoyed this salad at home several more times last year.  I certainly don’t intend to let this summer slip by without making sure it’s as good as I remember.

Cooked pink-eyed peas and grits

But my favorite thing, and the easiest, to do with fresh summer peas is just to boil them up and serve them in their own broth, perhaps over rice or grits.  Here I served them over stone-ground grits cooked with fresh cream and parmesan.  A friend said she topped the same thing with crumbled up local bacon, and I just bet that it was out of control.

Simple Fresh-Shelled Peas

Fresh-shelled peas – pink-eyes, whiteacres, field peas, and on and on
Enough liquid to cover (you could use just water, or use vegetable or chicken broth or bouillon)
1 white onion, cut into eighths, length-wise
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Ham hock

A note on seasoning: My mom and grandmother would never have cooked peas without a ham hock in the broth to flavor them.  Salty, fatty, savory, and smoky, pork is used to flavor much Southern cooking – here’s a new book with recipes and history that calls pork “the King of the Southern table.”  (If anyone feels like buying me a present, feel free to make it this book!) However, as a vegetarian for many years, I adapted this dish to my needs.  I found that a few cubes of veggie bouillon, the cut up onion, salt, and maybe some additional olive oil or butter for fat content mimicked very well the taste I remembered from childhood.  If you do use bouillon, broth, or ham hock, you will need far less salt in the cooking liquid than if using just water, so do adjust accordingly.

To cook: Place peas in a pot with onion and enough liquid to cover.  Boil for 20-30 minutes, or until tender but still firm and not mushy.  As the peas cook, you will notice a gray foam forming on the surface of the water – simply skim this off with a shallow spoon and discard.  Taste before serving for salt and pepper.  As mentioned, these are wonderful just in their own juices, perhaps with a piece of cornbread to soak up the liquid, or on top of white rice or creamy stone-ground grits.  Serve and enjoy!

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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 remember a question that a classmate/friend of mine asked me during the fall semester.  She said, “What’s your goal with the blog?” Of course my next question was, “What do you mean?”  As we got further into the discussion, I realized that she was asking about whether or not I was pursuing a revenue model and if so, what it might look like.  Obviously, what other question would a fellow MBA student in my High-Tech Marketing class ask?  And while it was completely appropriate  – even expected, it shocked me that people might assume that I had a motive behind this blog other than the one I had in mind – which was to connect with my sister over food, from a distance, and in a new way.  In my head, the blog was the next best thing to cooking in person with my sister.  Somewhere along this last year it has become even more – it has become a creative outlet for me to share with friends and family about something I enjoy – food.  And when Mike gave me this amazing camera, it fueled my excitement for taking simple, beautiful photos of food and telling people about it.

Here’s the fun and unexpected surprise….

While business school didn’t exactly pave the clearest career path, it did inadvertently encourage me to re-connect with my love of food.  Following a professor’s recommendation, I volunteered last year on this fundraising committee to get involved in the Boulder food world. Here’s my plug for this event that has become so near and dear to me.  The event is called Boulder Chef’s Up Front, which is a program run by a larger nationally based organization called Share Our StrengthBoulder Chef’s Up Front is a culinary event aimed at raising money to support healthy child nutrition in Boulder County.  I felt like I scored by joining this committee for so many reasons: I was able to “give back”, the people are great, the cause is near and dear to  my heart, and the event itself is an evening fueled with flavors and talent from some of the best chefs in Boulder.

And so, without hesitation, I am volunteering again this year. Much to my surprise, the Chair of our planning committee has asked yours truly to be the photographer for the event! So while I had no personal goals for this blog other than the ones I have already acknowledged, it turns out that it has led me to this exciting opportunity.  Who knows what other things will come.

So here’s my plug: please come!  And if you can’t, please enjoy the photos on my blog afterward!  This year’s event will boast the head chefs from A Spice of LifeBoulder ChophouseCentro Latin KitchenColterraL’Atellier/RadexQ’s at the BoulderadoRadda/MateoSALT – the bistroTerroir and The Kitchen Café.

Shifting gears, of course, I can’t leave you without some eye candy although I have no recipes for you today.  Below are some photos that I took of various cooking and food shopping on my recent trip to Toronto to visit Mike’s family.  His sister Eva took me to this fantastic market called the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

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