Saturday, December 31, 2011

the best five minutes of today.

My mom sent me this video. It's well worth the five minutes it takes to watch it, a few moments of peace.

And on that note, happy new year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

happy (almost) thanksgiving!

the only tg picture i could find on my computer.

I cannot wait for Thanksgiving. Christmas certainly has its charms, and I'm excited to start singing carols, wrapping presents, and looking for snow (that's a pre-Christmas possibility in Nashville!), but Thanksgiving has a special place in my heart. It's not just that food takes center stage, although I certainly enjoy that. I just love the whole idea behind it:  the devotion of a full day to gratitude. 

Also, I can't write this post without mentioning that I have a special ancestral tie to this holiday. My mother's side is descended from Stephen Hopkins, one of the passengers on the Mayflower and thus a participant in the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth. My grandmother, forever the Bostonian, never let a Thanksgiving pass without reading aloud to us "The Women of the Mayflower," an essay on, you guessed it, the women of the Mayflower. As a chubby five-year-old, I didn't quite see the value in delaying supper to hear a history lesson, but of course now I look back on the tradition with fondness. I am amazed at how vividly I remember sitting on one of my parent's laps on that ugly green couch, half-listening, half-daydreaming about pecan pie.

Anyway, that's a long enough trip down memory lane. Twenty years later (!), our family has both shrunk and grown, we have Thanksgiving at the beach with a substantially smaller crowd, and we have a copy of Grandma's essay to read to ourselves. Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday, though, and I want to share with you what we're planning to make this year. Some of these recipes we've had before, and some of them are variations on family favorites. I'm also using this to highlight some of my go-to recipe websites and sources (although most of them have already made appearances on here).

This is a pretty traditional menu with a few twists. We've never been much for changing it up on Thanksgiving, and although I'm all for culinary creativity, on this holiday I like to take the familiar route. Maybe this will provide a little inspiration for your menu or prompt you to share some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories or dishes. Regardless, I hope that you have as much to give thanks for as I do.

a thanksgiving menu
for snacking and drinking:
   the modern relish tray (The Kitchn)
   cocktail suggestions (Cooking Light)
   beer pairings (Saveur)
   wine pairings (food52)
sides (the best part!):
   beet salad with chevre and walnuts (Williams-Sonoma)
   cranberry-pepper jelly (Bon Appetit)
   summer squash casserole, aka "Sarah's foot casserole," but that's another story. 
      (Southern Living)
   spicy roasted green beans with bacon candy (Tasting Table)
   creamy mashed potatoes (Cook's Country) and gravy (just wing it...get it?)
   golden-crusted brussels sprouts (Serious Eats)
   spicy creamed onions (Saveur)
   cornbread and sausage stuffing - my favorite! (Cook's Illustrated)
   herb-roasted turkey breast (Ina Garten)
   maple-glazed ham (Real Simple)
   pumpkin-praline pie (Cook's Country)
   sorghum pecan pie (The Lee Bros.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

apple-cardamom upside down cake

A year ago, I wouldn't have recognized the flavor of cardamom. I had unknowingly tasted it before in Indian dishes and maybe a Scandinavian-influenced sweet or two, but I certainly would not have been able to pin it down. It's slightly floral (but not in a potpourri kind of way), earthy, with a little bit of black peppery kick. In this recipe it's combined with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, so you're not smacked in the face with cardamom flavor. Thus, it's a good introduction to the spice if you're not sure you'd like it on its own.

A few notes on potential adjustments to the recipe:  next time, I think I'll up the whole-wheat/oat flour ratio to half of the flour (3/4 c white, 3/4 c whole grain). I might even add some whole oats; the substantial amount of spices in the cake can support a heartier texture. Also, you could reduce the sugar a bit, to maybe a cup or so, since the caramelized top already bring the sweetness factor up a notch. A few spoonfuls of honey in place of some of the sugar would be nice as well. Oh, and maybe some toasted walnuts or pecans on the bottom with the apples! (This is the first time I made this, so bear with me.)

In short, you could do a lot with this recipe to make it totally yours. I think it's pretty forgiving, considering I accidentally used baking soda instead of baking powder and then just added some cream of tartar to make up for it, and it still tasted great.

apple-cardamom upside down cake
adapted from the kitchn 
12 servings
per serving:  285.5 cal, 8.4g fat, 54.9g carb, 1.8g fiber, 2.9g protein, 8+ weight watchers

8 tbsp salted butter, divided
1/2 c dark brown sugar
3 medium apples
1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat or oat flour (or a combination)
1 tsp cinnamon, plus extra to sprinkle over apples
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 c sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 6 tbsp of the butter in a small saucepan and add the brown sugar. Let bubble for a couple of minutes, then pour into 12 x 8" pan (13x9" would probably be fine, too; your cake will just be a little thin). Keep the saucepan out; you'll use it again.

Peel, core, and slice the apples, and lay them flat over the butter-brown sugar mixture in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, spices, salt, and baking powder. Warm milk and remaining butter in saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Meanwhile, beat the eggs until they are thick and pale, 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat 5 minutes more. Add flour mixture and milk, and stir until the batter is smooth. Pour batter into pan.

Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, then invert onto serving platter. If having for dessert, serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

uh-oh, this piece fell apart. guess I have to eat it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

the fall of freddie the leaf

All of my friends who work in college admissions are wrapping up their last recruitment trips of the season, and as they've relayed their stories about cheap hotels, missed flights, and clueless high schoolers, it's just begun to sink in:  I'm not in that world anymore. I'm a student again, and I've stayed put for the months of September and October for the first time in three years.

Okay, so three years may not sound like long, but I've only been alive for 25--that's 12% of my lifetime! (Yes, I had to pull out a calculator to do that math.) Dealing with change has never been my strong suit, and although I think I am exactly where I should be, I'll be honest--this has been an adjustment.

For some reason all this change reminds me of a book I read as a child, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. Although the author wrote it to explain to children the complex idea of death, it's really about life, and change, and hope. It's not a sad book.

As I reread the story, it spoke to me in a new way, one part in particular:
Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows. Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie's tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.
"What's a purpose?" Freddie had asked.
"A reason for being," Daniel had answered. "To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all the reasons for being."
I loved Charleston, and I still do. I loved my friends there, my home, the water. But I couldn't fulfill my purpose there. The crazy thing is, I don't even know what that purpose is yet, but I know I needed to come here to find it. So here I am.

P.S. - Forgive my navel-gazing for a moment, and expect a recipe soon! I sat down to write a post about apple cake, and this just came out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

it runs in the family

My family likes food. A lot. My mom, sister, and I like to make it, and my dad and brother-in-law like to eat it (okay, they occasionally help in the kitchen, too). Every Christmas and birthday we exchange various cooking gadgets, try out new recipes on each other, and eat more than we should. And when we manage to get together on a normal weekend, we devote a good chunk of our time to food then, too.

My sister Emily and brother-in-law Jon just moved to Atlanta, which works out quite nicely for the rest of our family, as Atlanta marks the halfway point between Nashville and the town where my parents live. So, we had some family time this weekend that included house hunting, furniture shopping, and lots of delicious food. We tried a couple of great restaurants, JCT Kitchen for dinner on Friday and Rosebud for Sunday brunch, but Saturday's dinner, prepared by Emily and Jon, topped them both. Something about cooking a meal yourself (or, at least, watching as it's cooked!) just makes every dish taste better.

The great thing about this menu is you can make it as easy or labor-intensive as you'd like. It's also endlessly modifiable and completely carbtastic--two features of most of my favorite meals. Feel free to tweak the recipes, but they're pretty delicious as-is.

As for timing everything, cocktails first, of course. Then I would recommend starting the pasta sauce, boiling the pasta, making the pizza, and tossing the salad last. For dessert, we had vanilla ice cream with granola (both homemade!), and that's a great ending if you're feeling ambitious (and easy to buy if you're not).

I'm calling this menu a "new Italian family feast" because, well, I have to call it something, right?

new italian family feast
serves 4-6
kir royales a la emily
tossed salad with fig-balsamic vinaigrette
pear, brie, & arugula flatbread
pasta and tomato sauce with onion and butter

kir royales a la emily (makes 5 cocktails)
1 bottle prosecco
3 oz brandy
3 oz creme de cassis
5 lemon twists, for garnish

Divide prosecco, brandy, and creme de cassis evenly among five champagne flutes. Rub rims of flutes with lemon twists and drop in the drinks to serve. (If you don't make anything else on the menu, make these!)

tossed salad with fig-balsamic vinaigrette

   2 tbsp olive oil
   2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
   2 tbsp fig preserves
   5 c mixed greens
   1 small bell pepper, sliced
   1 small cucumber, sliced
   1/4 c kalamata olives
   1/4 c chopped toasted nuts

Whisk together first three ingredients; toss with salad ingredients and serve.

pear, brie, & arugula flatbread


1 ball store-bought pizza dough (try Whole Foods), or homemade version
1 pear, sliced thinly
4 oz. brie, chilled and sliced thinly
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 c arugula

Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or as high as your oven will go. Sprinkle flour on baking surface (a cookie sheet will do just fine), and stretch dough into a thin round--or whatever shape you can make it! Place round on cookie sheet and top with pear and brie, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake until edges are brown and brie is bubbling, about 10 minutes. Top with arugula and serve.

pasta and tomato sauce with onion and butter

simple & delicious.
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
5 tbsp butter 
1 medium yellow onion, peeled 
   and halved
16 oz dried or 24 oz fresh pasta 
   (Jon made our pasta from big deal)
salt, shaved parmesan and red 
   pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

Place tomatoes, butter, and onion in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer and reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes, and cook for about 45 minutes or until you're ready to eat. In the meantime, prepare pasta and other dishes. Salt to taste, and top with parmesan and red pepper flakes.

Monday, October 3, 2011

"ultimate" banana nut bread

I've tried dozens of banana bread recipes over the years, and honestly they've all been pretty good. Take a few speckled bananas, add sugar, flour, butter, a couple of eggs, and some leavener, and you're basically guaranteed to turn out something at least a little bit delicious. So when I saw America's Test Kitchen's recipe for "ultimate banana bread," I was skeptical. Could it really be that much better than your typical banana bread?

So I tried it, and it's definitely impressive. The title may have gotten my hopes up a little too high, but if pressed I can't recall a banana bread that I've enjoyed more than this one. I wasn't sure if the extra steps of microwaving the bananas and reducing their juice would be worth it, but actually the smell of bananas cooking in the microwave might have been my favorite part of the bread-making process!

The only step that I found unnecessary was topping the bread with sliced bananas and sugar. They're supposed to end up caramelized and crunchy, but honestly mine just turned out kind of chewy. Next time, if I'm feeling ambitious I'll try topping the bread with some honeyed walnuts instead. I'll include those in the recipe below, but my pictures have the banana topping. If you want to stick with that (it is pretty), just omit 1/4 c of the walnuts and the honey, slice an extra banana, and top the batter with banana slices and two teaspoons of sugar before baking.

P.S. - There is something weird going on with my formatting--the font size changed for this post, and I can't figure out why or how to fix it. This is driving me crazy, so if anyone has any words of wisdom please let me know!

"ultimate" banana nut bread
makes one loaf (about 12 servings)
per serving:  304.9 cal, 14.2g fat, 47.6g carb, 3g fiber, 5.1g protein, 8+ weight watchers

1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
5 large ripe bananas
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
2 large eggs
3/4 c packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped (optional)
1 tbsp honey (optional)

instructions (I pretty much copied them straight from ATK...too lazy to type my own version!):

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flours, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

Place bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic. Microwave on high until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, 10-15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher or fork until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in 1/2 c walnuts, if using. In a small bowl, combine other 1/4 c walnuts with honey. Scrape batter into prepared pan and top with honeyed walnuts.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, September 26, 2011

fall! (means comfort food)

Fall has arrived! (at least chronologically, if not meteorologically...the weather in Nashville has been alternating between summer and fall) I love the changing of the seasons, and fall might be my favorite one. The colors, the activities, the food...just soak it all in.

I had both an acorn squash and a butternut squash on hand this week (thank you again, CSA, for making me exercise culinary creativity), so I roasted them together and let my imagination take it from there. First I made a version of this recipe for farro with acorn squash and kale (delicious, but not exactly pretty), and then I used my butternut squash for something resembling mac and cheese.  This recipe is not quite as cheesy and hopefully a little bit healthier, but it is still top notch comfort food!

I had something like this for the first time last fall, when my sister made this recipe. I'm not sure why I didn't make it myself until last night, but I'll certainly be making it again.  About 17385 other food bloggers have posted a version of a butternut squash mac and cheese recipe, so this isn't exactly new, but it may be new to you.

I had my pasta bake as part of the first "homestyle" meal (meat, vegetable, starch) I'd eaten in awhile, and I could not believe how satisfied I felt afterwards! The dish can certainly stand alone as a vegetarian main course, but I had mine with chicken and green peas last night, which are also featured in one of the photos below. I think I'll have leftovers again tonight, and I'm actually looking forward to it. I think that says a lot!

P.S. - With my remaining cup of butternut squash, I think I'm either going to try this bread or these cookies. If anyone has other suggestions, please share!

the best part!

cheesy butternut pasta bake
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 6 as a main course, 12 as a side
per large serving:  460.2 cal, 10.2g fat, 63g carb, 11.2g fiber, 27.4g protein, 12+ weight watchers

16 oz whole wheat pasta (I used spirals)
3 c cooked mashed butternut squash (I roasted mine)
2 eggs
1 c skim milk
1 c fat-free cottage cheese or ricotta
4 oz cheddar cheese, grated
1 oz parmesan, grated
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 c breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs (Ritz are the best!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and butter a large casserole. (I used one that was about 8 x 12; it just depends on how thick you want it!)

Boil pasta until al dente, according to package directions; drain.

Combine squash, eggs, milk, cheeses, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Add pasta to squash mixture and mix until combined. Transfer mixture to casserole and top with crumbs. Bake until top is crispy and edges are browned, 40-50 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just a lovely little thing I read.

One of the best parts about studying what I'm studying is that just when I think I can't read anymore, something lovely pops up out of the blue. I think I'll start posting these snippets whenever I come across them. (Also, what do you know, this particular quotation talks about food! This was bound to happen.)

"The urgency of the times calls for a return to a great simplicity that would permit us to look upon life that surrounds us with all its beauty and ugliness, with all its comedy and tragedy, in all its sweetness and bitterness as having potential for global change.

"This spirituality is like the wholesome food found in the home, that simple food that one relishes so much because it does us immense good. It is the spirituality of being attentive to the other, of mutual support, of sharing of joys and sorrows, of sharing of problems and search for solutions. At the moment these little things are important until the so-called 'big things' come our way."

-Ivone Gebara, "A Cry for Life from Latin America"

Saturday, September 17, 2011

microwaves are magical.

We're reading Augustine's Confessions for my Formation of the Christian Tradition class, and this has inspired me to make my own public confession. Today I did something I have not done since college...I bought Lean Cuisines. (Gotcha! This will not be a theologically-themed post.)

I'm coming up on Week 5 (I think it deserves the capitalization) of class, and as my time spent reading, writing papers, and working increases, my time in the kitchen decreases an equivalent amount. For the most part I've continued to subsist off of fresh produce, grains, and beans (cheap!), but sometimes you just need a meal that only requires you to pierce plastic with a fork.

Anyway, the recipe I have today is a cross between freshness and convenience. Thanks to my friend Hailey, I happened across this method for microwaving potato chips on Pinterest. I was skeptical but tried it anyway, and it really did work. This week my CSA box has a few sweet potatoes in it so I made a batch of chips with one of those, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and fresh rosemary. I had them for lunch with what I'm calling an early fall BLT, with tomatoes (still sort of in-season!), thick-cut bacon, sauteed kale, and lemon-garlic mayo. Yum.

The chips taste like they're baked rather than fried, but they are about as crunchy as kettle chips, which I love. They're a great option if you want something snacky but not junky. You can change these up with whatever flavors you'd like, and serve them with a dip if you want--they're definitely sturdy enough to handle it. Here are a few flavor suggestions:

-sweet potato chips with cinnamon and sugar and a side of maple syrup
-regular potato chips with seasoned salt and a side of ketchup (easy, and a good substitute for seasoned fries!)
-potato chip "nachos" with bacon, cheddar, sour cream, and scallions (not exactly healthy, but I bet they would be delicious!)

microwaved (sweet) potato chips
makes about two servings, easily multiplied
per serving:  88 cal, 2.4g fat, 15.8g carb, 2g fiber, 1.1g protein, 2+ weight watchers 

1 medium potato or sweet potato, sliced into thin disks (a mandolin would be helpful
   here, although mine turned out fine without one)
1 tsp oil
seasoning of your choice

Toss potato slices with oil and seasoning, and place in a single layer a microwable dish (I used a casserole). Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes. Flip the slices over and microwave for another 2-4 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don't burn. Let cool--they will crisp up as they cool.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

why "bring a little bread"?

If you know me, you probably know that I'm not exactly into overt religious expression. It doesn't bother me so much when other people tell me how they feel about God, but I usually refrain from reciprocating.

And, if you know me, you also probably know that I just started divinity school.

So. How exactly does that work?

I wish I knew. I've discovered over the last week, my first week of class, that divinity school is not just an extension of my college religion major. Already, two of my classes have required that I tell others--strangers!--about specifics of my spiritual life and religious leanings. To say this has made me uncomfortable would be quite the understatement.

Somehow, though, I know this discomfort serves a purpose. These feel like growing pains or sore muscles after a long run, not signs of injury but signs that I am stretching myself. Thus, I've decided to expand the scope of this blog.

Perhaps it was meant to be. I took the name "bring a little bread" from Genesis 18, when Abraham and Sarah welcome in three strangers for a meal. In verse 5, Abraham tells the men, "Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant." To be honest, I chose this title not only because I like the passage and what it says about hospitality, but also because it was an obscure enough reference that I didn't think anyone would realize it's biblical!

Of course, I haven't done a complete 180 in the last week. I still don't feel comfortable talking about my personal religious or spiritual views, and I don't intend the focus of this blog to shift entirely to what I'm learning about religion and about myself in school. Rather, I hope to bring my full experience to the table--not only of the food I make, but, to be just a little bit trite, of the spiritual nourishment I take in over the course of my time in divinity school, and perhaps beyond.

P.S. - That bread at the top? It's Cook's Illustrated's "almost no knead" bread. Try it; it will change your life.

Monday, August 22, 2011

summer across the south

I've lived in Nashville for just over a week now, and I have discovered that although it differs from Charleston in a number of ways, the two cities share at least one thing in common: they have awesome summer produce. High-quality, inexpensive fruits and vegetables are hard to find, so as soon as I decided to move to Nashville I began scouring the internet for places to buy produce here. Luckily, I almost immediately found Green Door Gourmet, a local "farm to fork venture" that offers weekly CSA boxes for $20, with no seasonal commitment. I ordered my first box on Friday and picked it up on Saturday; I was not disappointed. Corn, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, squash, basil, cucumbers, and okra filled my rather large box to the brim, and they even threw in a free bag of locally sourced cornmeal for good measure.

But what to do with all of it? I'm only one person, and this was a LOT of vegetables. Nostalgia kicked in soon enough, and I decided to combine some of my okra, tomatoes, and corn with black-eyed peas for the quintessential southern summer dish.

I'm not even going to feign humility here; this turned out damn good. (Unfortunately, the pictures did not, so you'll have to trust me on this one.) One thing I love about food is that it can make me feel at home no matter where I am, and as I create a new home in a new city I find this quality especially important. It's nice to know that even though I'm nine hours away from Charleston, at any moment I could be eating the very same variety of tomato I would find at the farmer's market on Marion Square.

black-eyed peas with summer vegetables
makes about 6 servings as a side dish, 4 as a main
nutrition: it's healthy except for the time to calculate 
   nutrition facts now that i'm actually busy!

1 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c diced bell pepper (about 1/2 medium)
1 c okra (about 8 large pods), sliced into disks
1 c corn kernels (from about 1 large ear)
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained, OR
   1 c. dried, prepared from package directions
1 c water
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt, or more or less to taste

Melt butter in large cast iron (preferred) or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and bell pepper and cook until lightly browned, a minute or so.

Add okra, corn, and tomatoes, and cook until slightly softened and blackened in spots, 5-7 minutes or more. Add black-eyed peas, water, molasses, vinegar, thyme, and red pepper, and stir to combine. Let cook down until little liquid remains. Add salt to taste (and more molasses, vinegar, thyme, or red pepper, if you want) and serve.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Oh, Charleston... I will miss you!
Thank you to my friend Christina for this lovely picture!

I leave for Nashville in less than a week, and I am in a state of disbelief. I have spent some of the best years of my life in Charleston, and I can't believe my time here is coming to an end. The funny thing is, I never expected to like it here. I planned to be in Charleston for a year, two max, yet here we are approaching three and my parents are practically having to tear me away for my move!

Let me be clear, I'm excited about Nashville and this new grad school adventure, but the change is bittersweet in the truest sense of the word. It is hard to leave such a charming, vibrant, captivating city. I won't even go into the difficulty of leaving the people who surround me here--you (and hopefully, you know who you are) have filled my life here with love and laughter and genuine connection. I can't thank you enough.

Okay, enough with the sappy stuff--this is a food blog, after all, and the purpose of this post is to share with you some of my favorite food/drink finds in Charleston. I'm not attempting a comprehensive list and am naturally predisposed to sandwiches and pizza (as you'll see), but it's a start! Even so, I hope it helps you discover some new gems. These places are all very affordable, which is a bonus...and one of the reasons why they're all on my list of favorites!

The Bagel Shop:  Great bagels, better coffee, best sandwiches.
Bin 152:  A lovely little wine bar with a host of offerings by the bottle and glass, plus generous and relatively inexpensive cheese plates.
Black Bean Co.:  A wide selection of wraps and pitas (the best value), and my favorite yogurt and granola in Charleston.
EVO:  I generally don't eat "meat lovers" anything, but for their pork trifecta I gladly make an exception. I love pizza, and EVO does it right.
Gene's Haufbrau:  An unrivaled beer selection and greasy (but good!) bar food to go along with it.
GrazeOne of the few places I'll venture to Mt. Pleasant for...have only been for lunch, but I'm sure dinner is equally fantastic! 
The Kickin' Chicken:  Okay, so their food isn't that great. I've gone to trivia here practically every week for two years, though, so I just had to put it on here. Oh, and cheese pretzels...get them.
Macaroon Boutique:  French pastries and breads made by French people...always a good choice. They recently added a second location that focuses on lunch, and I've heard good things.
Mellow Mushroom:  This is a southern chain, but I just want to say how happy I am that they have a location across the street from the Vanderbilt campus.
Nirlep:  I have to admit that I've only been here once, about a week ago. Indian restaurants are few and far between in Charleston, though, and my experience at this one was top-notch.
Santi's:  margaritas.
Sermet's Corner:  This is a sentimental favorite for many reasons. Food is hit-or-miss, but I like the atmosphere. My mom always orders the chicken with butternut squash ravioli, and it never disappoints.
Sugar Bakeshop:  So cute, and great baked goods to boot. If I'm not baking my own cookies, cakes, etc., I get them from here.
Ted's Butcherblock:  Anyone who knows me knows of my love for Ted's. Great sandwiches, high-quality meats, cheeses, and other gourmet treats, monthly beer dinners, Friday night $5 wine tastings and $12 dinners, a bacon of the month club (!)...the list goes on and on. Probably my favorite place in Charleston.

Now, I just have to start looking into the (cheap) Nashville food scene. Suggestions are welcome!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

fig & walnut cinnamon rolls

Oh my gosh, I LOVE figs. Fresh ones have been hard to come by this season, so I've only had a precious few thus far...but if I could, I think I would eat them every day.

preferably over Greek yogurt, drizzled with honey.

I can't, though, so I have to make do with dried figs, fig preserves, perhaps even the occasional fig newton. Since I'm moving out in just over a week, so I am currently trying to eat every food item I have in my apartment (a gallon of nutritional yeast, anyone?). One of those items was a jar of fig preserves, barely touched since I bought it to pair with a wedge of brie a couple months ago.

After very little deliberation, I decided to make a healthier version of cinnamon rolls. This was determined partly by my love for all things sweet and breakfast-y, and partly by the walnuts in my freezer, the half-block of cream cheese in my fridge, and the three bags of powdered sugar in my pantry. I told you I was dead-set on eating least I didn't try to incorporate the nutritional yeast.

The resulting rolls were sweet, sticky, and wheaty enough to make me feel like I was eating something marginally healthy for breakfast (I wasn't). Even though I've painted this recipe as a pantry-cleaning endeavor, these buns are worth making regardless of your aim. I think they'll be an even better winter breakfast, when figs aren't in season, I want to eat warm and nutty things all the time, and it doesn't matter what I look like in a swimsuit. 

fig & walnut cinnamon rolls
makes 12 small rolls
per bun:  229.1 cal, 7.1g fat, 37.8g carb, 2.5g fiber, 5.0g protein, 6+ weight watchers

   1/2 c fig preserves, room
   1/2 c chopped toasted walnuts
   1 tsp ground cinnamon
   1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
   1 1/4 c whole wheat flour
   2 tbsp sugar
   1 1/4 tsp baking powder
   1/2 tsp baking soda
   1/2 tsp salt
   1 1/4 c nonfat milk
   3 tbsp butter, melted and divided
   1/2 c powdered sugar
   2 tbsp light cream cheese, softened
   1 tbsp nonfat milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray 9" round pan with cooking spray. Combine fig preserves, walnuts, and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

Whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Combine two tablespoons of melted butter with milk in a medium bowl, and add to dry ingredients. Mix to form a ball of dough, then turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.

Form dough into a roughly 9 x 12" rectangle and brush with remaining melted butter. Spread preserve and walnut mixture over surface. Roll long side of dough into a pinwheel and cut into 12 rolls.

Place rolls in pan, cover with foil, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10-12 minutes more, or until rolls are light brown and filling looks caramelized.

Prepare glaze: using a mixer set to medium, mix together powdered sugar, softened cream cheese, and buttermilk. Pour glaze over warm rolls and serve.

Friday, July 29, 2011

a unique rice salad

 The idea of making a rice salad had never occurred to me until I read this post on America's Test Kitchen's new website. For some reason I disassociate rice from other grains, so while a barley or quinoa salad recipe wouldn't seem odd to me, rice salad did. Anyone else feel that way? No? Just me?

Regardless, I'm glad I came across the post, because the slightly adjusted version of the salad I made was absolutely delicious, and perfect for summer. The combination of flavors--sweet mango and coconut, cool mint, and sour lime--was refreshing and completely different from anything I've had before. I liked the whole thing so much that I made it again for a group of friends two days later.

I mostly stuck to ATK's recipe but substituted brown rice for white, added fresh mango, and adjusted the amounts of a few ingredients. I also omitted the shrimp and served mine with seared tuna. (Okay, so maybe I changed it a lot.) This version is perfect for a summer picnic or cookout, or if you just want to try something a little different. You won't be disappointed.

a unique rice salad
adapted from America's Test Kitchen
4 main-course servings or 8 side dish servings
per large serving:  380.4 cal, 18.2g fat, 48.9g carb, 8.1g fiber, 7.2g protein, 10+ weight watchers

1/2 c mango chutney
1/4 c fresh mango, mashed
2 tbsp lime juice, about one lime's worth
1/4 c olive or grapeseed oil
2 c cooked and cooled brown rice (I recommend this method of cooking
   brown rice--it turns out perfect every time!)
2 c fresh or frozen green peas (thawed if frozen)
4 scallions, minced
1/3 c chopped fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c toasted coconut

Whisk together mango chutney, fresh mango, lime juice, and oil to make dressing. Toss with rice, peas, scallions, and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and top with toasted coconut.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

grilled pizza, my new obsession

Although I've expanded my culinary horizons quite a bit since I was a child, I remain the same as my ten-year-old self in one respect:  pizza is still my favorite food. It's bread, cheese, vegetables, and (usually salty and fatty) protein all rolled into one--so how could I have found anything better in the last 15 years?

For most of my life, my pizza intake was limited to what I could find in restaurants and the freezer aisle of the grocery store. Eventually I graduated to baking homemade pizzas in the oven, adding better-quality ingredients along the way--a little whole-milk mozzarella here, some fresh basil there, perhaps a dash of Italian red pepper flakes to top it off. But I always baked my pizzas in the oven, partly because that's all I had and have, and partly because no other method occurred to me.

Then three weeks ago, my life changed. I grilled pizza for the first time.

Okay, so maybe "life-changing" is a bit of an overstatement, and maybe it wasn't the first time I had thought of grilling pizza, but for some reason I had never gotten around to trying it. Over the 4th of July weekend, the perfect opportunity presented itself:  I was at the beach with a giant gas grill, my dad to man it, and two impulse-bought balls of pizza dough from Whole Foods.

I was amazed at how easy it was; the whole thing went off without a hitch. I liked it so much that despite not having a grill of my own, I have found ways to grill pizza two more times in the two weeks since.

So if you have a grill, have a friend who has a grill, or can afford to buy a grill, you should try this. As long as you're prepared when you actually start grilling, it takes very little effort. The only special equipment you need is something to brush the crust with oil and tongs to flip the pies. Make sure to have your ingredients and equipment ready and waiting when you put the dough on the grill. The pizza cooks amazingly fast, so you won't have a lot of time to get everything on there.

Yep, that's my foot.

You can top your pizza with whatever you like, but here are a few of my favorite combinations:
-olive oil base with mozzarella, feta, tomatoes, bacon, & basil
-tomato sauce base with mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, & spinach
-barbecue sauce base with mozzarella, blue cheese, chicken, caramelized onions, &
-olive oil base with brie, pear, brown sugar, and arugula

grilled pizza
inspired by The Kitchn and Serious Eats

pizza dough (I've made my own using Peter Reinhart's recipe, but Whole Foods has
  very good white, wheat, and multigrain versions)
olive oil (nothing fancy, although I like to infuse mine with garlic)
toppings of your choice

Preheat the grill. Depending on whether you go with charcoal (better flavor) or gas (more precise), the specifics of this step vary.

If you're making more than one pizza (which you should), preheat your oven to 200 degrees to keep the first pizzas you make warm while you grill the others.

Prepare the dough by stretching or rolling it into thinnish circles. You don't want to dough to tear when you put it on the grill or flip it, so you might want to make it a little thicker than normal. Since I've been making a few pizzas at a time, I stack my rounds of dough on a cookie sheet with foil in between, making sure to brush each layer with oil so they don't stick to the foil or to the grill!

Prepare your toppings and put them all together, so you can put them on the pizza quickly. Also have a small bowl of oil to brush the pizza with if it looks dry when grilling or sticks at all.

When the grill is preheated, use the foil to pick up a round of dough, and flip it onto the grill. Cook until the bottom looks done and begins to char just a little, anywhere from 2-8 minutes, depending on how hot your grill is.

Using your tongs, flip the dough over, then arrange (or throw, depending on how much time you have) your toppings on the cooked side. If your grill has a cover, cover the pizza during this part so the cheese melts more thoroughly.

Once the bottom is done, slide the pizza off the grill and onto a cookie sheet. If you have more to go, keep your already-made pizzas in the oven until ready to serve.

Friday, July 15, 2011

hummingbird cake

If I had to name my favorite cake, hummingbird might be it. While I love Texas sheet cake, and coconut cake, and caramel cake...okay, most cakes...hummingbird really, well...takes the cake (forgive me).

For those of you who aren't familiar with this dessert, it's sort of a combination of ambrosia and carrot cake...the tropical but often packaged components of ambrosia combined with the hint of spice and cream cheese frosting of carrot cake. That description doesn't do it justice at all, though. While the ingredients by themselves are humble, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The origin of the cake's name is debatable; some say it's called hummingbird cake because it is so good it makes you hum with pleasure. In my opinion, the more convincing explanation is that it is sweet enough for hummingbirds, who are apparently very picky eaters; they only drink nectar that is at least 10% sugar.

I can guarantee this recipe is more than 10% sugar.

But take heart! One thing I like about this cake is that even though it's chock full of fat, sugar, and refined carbs, I can half-convince myself it's healthy because of the large quantity of fruit and nuts it also contains. Also, cake is good for your soul, so this has that going for it. I say eat up.

hummingbird cake
adapted from Southern Living
makes one three-layer cake (about 16 servings)
per serving:  536.3 cal, 23.4g fat, 78.8g carb, 3.5g fiber, 6.0g protein, 15+ weight watchers (hey, it's cake)

  1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  1 tsp baking soda
  1 tsp salt
  1 3/4 c sugar
  1 tsp cinnamon
  3 large eggs
  1/2 c vegetable oil
  1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
  1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1 (8-oz) can crushed pineapple
    in juice
  1 c chopped toasted pecans
  3 large bananas, mashed
  1 (8-oz) package light cream
    cheese, softened
  1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
  16 oz powdered sugar
  1/2 c toasted coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans and coat with flour.

Whisk together first six ingredients (flour through cinnamon) in large bowl, then mix together all other cake ingredients (eggs through bananas) in medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir together until combined.

Pour into prepared pans and bake approximately 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes then flip onto wire rack. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer medium speed until combined. Gradually add powdered sugar and continue beating until smooth and creamy.

Spread frosting between cake layers and on top and sides of cake. Top with toasted coconut.

Forgive the background...this was for an office birthday!

Friday, July 8, 2011

charleston [food] bucket list

The countdown is on. I'm moving to Nashville in just over a month, and every day the prospect of leaving Charleston is becoming less surreal and more...well, real.

When I moved here almost three years ago, I had just begun to develop a strong interest in food and cooking. I think it's safe to say that my interest (some might call it "obsession") has grown exponentially since then! I attribute much of this development to the vibrant and, more importantly, accessible food culture in Charleston.

One great example:  a few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I went to a cooking class at The Coastal Cupboard, a kitchen store in Mt. Pleasant. Jeremiah Bacon, the executive chef at Oak Steakhouse, who has worked at such Michelin-starred restaurants as Per Se and River Cafe, led the four-course class. Sounds expensive, right? 

The price was $60 a person...including wine!

There aren't many places where you can spend $60 to watch a world-class chef cook a four-course meal for you, not to mention answer all your questions and offer to chat after class. 

Yeah, I'm going to miss it here.

And this is only one example. The breadth and frequency of food-related opportunities and events in this city absolutely blows my mind. From the Charleston Wine + Food Festival to the weekly downtown farmers market to monthly beer dinners at Ted's Butcherblock (another super-affordable gourmet option), the hardest part about eating is Charleston is deciding where to go and when.

And the restaurants. Oh, the restaurants! I've had amazing meals at places as fancy and traditional as Peninsula Grill (their coconut cake = perfection) and as quirky and cheap as Party Kingdom (basically Chuck E. Cheese with pho).

But I'm not done. I intend to make the most of my last month here by checking off as many items from my "food bucket list" as I can. When I first moved here I started one list and have carried it in my wallet ever since. I'm a little embarrassed by a few of my choices, but I was new in town and basically picked all the places with positive reviews in Charleston City Paper (a great source for all things Charleston, including restaurants). Please be kind.

The check marks mean I've been, the lines mean the places have closed or I changed my mind. Three years later, I'm a little older and a little wiser (at least in regards to Charleston restaurants), so I've edited my list a bit. Here are the places I really want to go, with a few particular highlights:

181 Palmer:  arguably the best lunch deal in town, $15 for three courses prepared by students at the Culinary Institute of Charleston.
Avondale Wine & Cheese:  $5 tastings? Yes, please.
Bowens Island:  a Folly Beach legend.
Closed for Business:  two words:  pork slap.
Dave's Carryout:  preferably at 2am.
Husk:  I've actually been here twice (delicious), but their famed cornbread was not on the menu either time!
Kim's:  have also been here, but apparently the stone bowl is where it's at.
McCrady's:  whenever you're ready, Hailey. 
Mia Pomodori: ordered takeout before, but I need to have a Sicilian slice in-house.
Oak Steakhouse:  that cooking class left me wanting more!
Poe's Tavern: although I'm not a fan of the pictures of bugs on their menu (yeah, I know, "gold bug" and all that) I've heard the burgers and fish tacos are amazing.
Trattoria Lucca:  have to go for the Monday family supper...authentically Italian!
Wildflour Pastry:  from what I've heard, sticky bun Sunday makes it easy to get up at 8 on the weekend.

Okay, Charlestonians...what do you think? Anything you would add? Subtract? I have a limited amount of time but am willing to put in the effort!

Soon to come:  the places I'm saddest to leave behind...and there are a lot of them!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

1402 palmetto shrimp & grits

First, a confession:  although I've lived in the Carolinas my whole life, until this weekend I had never made shrimp and grits. (I still haven't been to a NASCAR race or seen Gone with the Wind...I have a long way to go.)

Although I grew up in the South, my mom was an Air Force kid so we didn't eat your typical southern cuisine. We called our evening meal "supper," but it was more likely to be Chinese stir fry than chicken-fried steak.

If you know southern cooking, you probably know the Lee Bros...and if, like me, you have just started to get acquainted with it, their Southern Cookbook is a great introduction.

My recently wed sister and brother-in-law used this as a guestbook at their wedding this spring, and lucky for me they also gave copies as bridesmaid gifts. This is the kind of cookbook you can actually read, with stories to go along with every recipe and pictures that make you want to jump in and eat what's on the page.

I'm making my way through the recipes slowly but surely, and I thought I'd start with an essentially Charleston dish: shrimp & grits. My family changed it up a little to suit our tastes and what we had on hand, so for now, in honor of our beach house, I'm calling it 1402 Palmetto Shrimp & Grits.


1402 palmetto shrimp & grits 
adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook (83 East Bay Street Shrimp & Grits) 
4 servings

shrimp stock
   1 1/2 lbs headless large shrimp
   3 c water
   1/2 tsp peppercorns
   1/2 tsp celery seeds
   1 bay leaf, in pieces
   1 tsp kosher salt
   1 tsp ground red pepper (if you like things spicy) 
   1 1/2 c stone-ground grits (recommended:  Anson Mills)
   1 1/2 c whole milk
   3 c water
   kosher salt and black pepper to taste
   kernels from 3 ears of sweet corn 
   1 lb tomatoes (about 3 medium tomatoes)
   1 tbsp olive oil
   1/4 lb andouille sausage, diced
   1 small green bell pepper, chopped
   1 small yellow onion, chopped
   1 tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
   kosher salt and black pepper to taste
   handful chopped chives, to garnish (optional)

Peel shrimp, reserving the shells. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add shells and rest of stock ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the stock and reserve. Discard shells.

While stock simmers, stir grits into a bowl of cold water and allow to settle. Corn hulls may float to the surface. Skim off hulls and drain grits. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and 3 c water to a boil over high heat. Add grits, stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce heat to medium, add salt and cook, stirring occasionally

Once grits thicken (about 10 minutes), reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently and adding water if grits become too stiff. Cook until grits are fluffy and creamy, 35 to 45 minutes. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and stir in corn kernels.

While grits cook, place tomatoes in a medium roasting pan or cast-iron skillet. Broil them about 3 inches from the flame or heating element, turning as their skins blacken, until they’re blackened all over, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a food processor or blender and pulse to a soupy liquid, about three 1-second pulses. Press the liquid through a food mill or coarse strainer into a medium bowl.

Pour olive oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and with a slotted spoon move the pieces around until they are browned, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and onion and sauté until they just begin to soften, about 2 minutes.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the shrimp stock into a small bowl, add the flour and whisk until it becomes a smooth paste. Pour remaining shrimp stock into the skillet with the sausage, pepper, and onion. When the mixture reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook at a vigorous simmer until vegetables have softened.

Add flour paste to pan, whisking vigorously to distribute flour evenly. Add sieved tomato mixture to skillet, stirring, and return to a simmer. Cook until the mixture turns into a gravy thick enough to coat the back of a spoon heavily, 10 to 12 minutes more.

Add shrimp to gravy and continue cooking until they are pink and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide grits among 4 plates and ladle the shrimp and gravy on top. Garnish with chives.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

summer brunch (& happy father's day)

We're wrapping up another Father's Day, and I have an announcement to make:  I have the best dad in the world. I know, I know, many of you probably thought your father or husband held that title, and I'm sure those men are all perfectly lovely human beings. To me, though (and I speak for my sister here as well), my dad wins.

So, what do you make for the best dad in the world on Father's Day? Brunch, obviously.

Brunch is an institution in Charleston, and there are a ton of great places to go (a few of my favorites:  High Cotton for food, Triangle for mimosas, Fuel for everything). But I was visiting my parents at Edisto Beach, and homemade brunch holds a special place in my heart anyway...not least because it means I can crawl back to my bed after the inevitable food coma that comes along with two meals in one.

We had a small group today, just my mom, my dad, and me, but the good thing about small groups is you can make a lot of different dishes without too much trouble. Our menu included light blueberry muffins, not-so-light cheddar and cream strata, fresh tomatoes and watermelon, mimosas, and the star of every show, bacon.

And now I'm really sad I didn't bring any leftovers home with me. But hey, at least I have pictures.

summer brunch menu
blueberry crunch muffins (recipe follows)
cheddar & cream strata (recipe follows)
sliced tomatoes 
sliced watermelon

blueberry crunch muffins
adapted from america's test kitchen 
makes a dozen
per muffin:  199.7 cal, 2.1g fat, 45.8g carb, 1.0g fiber, 4.5g protein, 6+ weight watchers

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 c packed light brown
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c plain nonfat Greek
1 1/2 c blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or line it with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose and cake flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

In a small bowl, melt 1 tbsp of the butter. Add 1/4 cup of the flour mixture, remaining brown sugar, and cinnamon, and mix together with a fork to make a crumbly topping. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, use a mixer on medium-high speed to beat remaining butter with granulated sugar until thoroughly combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Using a mixer on low speed, alternatingly add flour mixture and yogurt to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill each muffin cup with about 1/2 cup batter, then sprinkle crumb topping over them all. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out with a few crumbs attached.

overnight cheddar and cream strata
adapted from america's test kitchen
serves 4
per serving:  353.6 cal, 21.4g fat, 22.3g carb, 1.6g fiber, 18.3g protein, 9+ weight watchers

does this look like a US state to anyone else?
1 tbsp unsalted butter,
a few slices dense white
   bread (I used sections of
   an epi I had left over)
4 oz sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 c whole milk
1/4 c heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 shallot, minced
handful of parsley, chopped
dollop of dijon mustard
1/4 tsp hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Grease a small casserole and line bottom with bread. Butter tops of bread and sprinkle with half of cheddar.

Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, shallot, parsley, mustard, and hot sauce. Pour over bread and top with remaining cheddar. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dish and bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. You can also speed up the browning process by broiling for a couple minutes at the end.

my dad ate all the bacon before i could get a picture of it (who am i kidding? i ate most of it.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

an unseasonable salad

There was a time back in the dead of winter (which in Charleston translates to temperatures consistently in the fifties) when I ate brussels sprouts at least three times a week. I roasted them, sauteed them, put them on pizzas and in omelets. To my surprise I liked them raw as well as cooked, and a salad I found on food52 became a regular menu item for me. I talked about this salad A LOT, as anyone who spent more than 10 minutes with me during that period can attest.

But the bounty of spring and summer made me forget about the miniature cabbages that had served me so well in January and February. I moved on to salads of baby lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet corn. Brussels sprouts left my life as suddenly as they had appeared.

Then, this Sunday I saw a tiny basket of them at The Vegetable Bin, my favorite source for produce in Charleston. I took all of them. I made my winter salad again. I'm not ashamed to say I licked the bowl.

brussels sprouts salad
adapted from food52
4 small servings, or 2 large
per large serving:  238.5 cal, 16.3g fat, 21.1g carb, 4.1g fiber, 6.2g protein, 7+ weight watchers

This is a very flexible recipe. You can use whatever cheese you want, or omit it altogether for a vegan version. I've replaced the cheese with nutritional yeast with some success. The salad could also easily be turned into a light main dish by adding some protein; chickpeas work perfectly.

1/4 lb brussels sprouts (about 12 large),
   trimmed and sliced thinly
2 ribs celery, diced
2 c arugula, chopped
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c crumbled feta
2 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
juice of half a lemon (about 1 tbsp)
2 tsp oil of your choice (I used
salt and crushed red pepper, to taste

It's a salad. Toss all ingredients together and serve! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

beets: a love(/hate) story

I always think I love beets. They make any dish more beautiful with their deep magenta color and jewel-like sheen. But when I'm honest with myself, I realize that beets are my food version of a "small dose" friend:  fun with a group for a night out, but too much of them and I want to gag. (Sorry if that's a little too graphic and/or mean; I promise no one who is reading this falls into that category of friend!)

just look at them...anyone would be tempted!

So, of course I bought a giant bunch of beets at the market on Saturday, and now I have to eat all of them. Last night I roasted a few, and I'm looking for different things to do with them that aren't totally beet-centric. Today for lunch I made this sandwich, and it was everything I could ask for:  crunchy and melty, sweet and savory, comforting and refreshing.

So, if you find yourself with an extra beet or six, give it a shot.

open-faced beet and brie melt
serves one, but is easily multiplied
no nutrition facts for this's too imprecise.

hard roll, or sandwich-sized
   section of baguette
1 small beet, roasted*
1 ounce brie
a few toasted chopped
1 leaf lettuce
a few leaves of fresh basil
red wine vinegar, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Set broiler on high. Cut roll in half and beets and brie into thin slices. Top each half of roll with beets and brie, and broil until cheese is melted and brown in spots. Remove from oven and top with walnuts, lettuce, basil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Tell me this isn't delicious, whether you love beets or not.

* I like to peel my beets when they're raw, wrap them individually in foil, and roast them in a 425-degree oven. Depending on their size, it takes 45-60 minutes to get them to fork-tender stage.