Saturday, May 30, 2009

Just when you need a lift

I’ve been suffering with TMJ and that is an awful thing to happen to someone who loves to eat as much as I do. In a nutshell, it hurts to chew. Isn’t that what you do when you eat? Chew? I’ve been feeling pretty down, but when I tuned into my Blogger Dashboard this morning and started to see what some of my foodie friends were up to on a weekend, low and behold I found that I had received an award from one of my favorite chefs, Chef E. Isn’t this the cutest thing you’ve seen? 

Chef E does it all. Currently she teaches culinary classes, runs a catering business and still manages to share her knowledge and love of cooking with us all. Thank you Chef E. These flowers are for you. While you’re visiting her blog, be sure to enjoy the questionnaire that Rico gave her. I just discovered Rico’s blog. He has many fun culinary adventures of his own and I’m sure I’ll be visiting him again soon. The first question is “diamonds or pearls?” I’ll take two of each please. 

I would like to pass this award to Joie de Vivre and Tangled Noodle. Yes, I know Chef E also gave Tangled Noodle the award, but a girl can’t have too many friends or bras can she?

Joie de Vivre and Tangled Noodle collaborated on a healthy and informative series on mindless eating. They shared the secrets of why we eat more than we think based on a life-changing book from Brian Wansink titled Mindless Eating. I enjoyed each bite of their series and thank them for doing a wonderful job.

I have a good appetite and as Anthony Bourdain says, “I’m always hungry for more.” I clipped out a great article on eating that I thought you would enjoy that appeared in the September 2008 issue of Bon Appetit. Food writer and recipe developer Melissa Clark shares her tricks of the trade on how to stay slim and still enjoy every bite in this fabulous article. She’s come up with wonderfully simple plan – Don’t eat what you don’t like – ever. Read more....

Sounds simple but think about it. How often do you eat something just because it’s on your plate? I know I do. I was raised in what I call a “clean plate” household. My mother graduated from college at the height of the Depression and by golly, we were expected to eat everything on our plate. Not bad if you’re a teenager who can pack away a zillion calories and none of it shows. But I’m no longer the ninety five pound girl I was when I married. 

It’s swimsuit season and I’m ready to go to the beach. The one below fits the bill for me. It's in the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas where we once called home. To see more about Abaco, stop by my blog Island Time in Abaco.

I hope you’ll click over to Joie de Vivre, Tangled Noodle and Bon Appetit to read more about eating and staying slim enough to fit into your favorite suit. And don’t forget to check out Chef E and take Rico’s fun questionnaire. 

Enjoy your weekend everybody.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Please don't feed the bears

This weekend my husband and I were sitting on our screened porch enjoying the cool mountain breeze when I heard something outside. 

“What’s that noise?” I said. 

“Oh, probably just a curly tail lizard,” he replied.

Curious, I got up and looked out. I could hardly believe my eyes - there was a big black bear walking through our yard only five feet away from where I was standing on the porch. It was huge and far from adorable and cuddly as the teddies above.

I said to my husband as quietly as I possibly could so as not to scare the bear, “You aren’t going to believe this, but there’s a bear walking through our yard.”

He hopped up to take a look. “Quick, get the camera,” he told me.

“You go get it. I’m watching the bear.” Finally I relented and ran inside to get the camera, but of course the bear was gone by the time I got back. It was too late to snap his picture. Where is that camera when you need it?

Black Bear Photo courtesy of PD Photos

There are bears all over the mountains of western North Carolina where we live, but we’d never personally seen one, especially not in our own front yard. The bear we saw probably weighed 150 pounds and, if he had stood up, he would have been as tall as my husband, who’s 6’2.  We’ve seen all sorts of critters on our property since moving here – a bobcat, a red fox, a mountain lion, a wolf, but this was our first bear. We’d heard from neighbors that the lady who owned our house before we bought it had left birdseed outside on the back porch and a bear broke in the porch to get the food. I’ve always wondered why that wasn’t a disclosure on her listing agreement? Oh well, at least there’s some excitement in our little part of the world. 

So - what did you do for excitement this Memorial Day?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Roasted fingerling potatoes and herb green salad with house vinaigrette – a quick and easy lunch

Gourmet fingerling potatoes are in the markets right now so I decided to roast them in the oven and serve them with a fresh herb green salad for an easy, light lunch. I used red-yellow fleshed Idaho fingerling potatoes, but there are other varieties available. You can substitute any fresh herb for the rosemary, such as thyme or dill, or use dried herbs de Provence on the potatoes. For the salad I bought organic greens and made our standard house vinaigrette. 

It took less than 20 minutes from oven to table. This recipe serves two but could easily be increased for more people. We served it for lunch, but it could also be a substantial salad course at a larger dinner.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Baby fingerling potatoes, about 3 - 4 potatoes per person, depending on their size
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary 
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the fingerling potatoes in half lengthwise and place on a sheet pan, and then toss the potatoes on the sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Roast 10 – 15 minutes, until tender and brown. Remove from oven and serve with tossed herb green salad. Serves 2.

House vinaigrette with herb green salad 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard 
Dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco 
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Tiny pinch of sugar (optional)
Fresh herb salad greens, such as Earthbound organic blend, or mesclun mix for 2 people

For the vinaigrette, put the first 6 ingredients in glass top jar with lid and shake until well blended. 

Toss the greens with enough vinaigrette to moisten, season to taste with fleur de sel salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 2.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Oven Baked Pancake / Popover – so easy it practically makes itself

Some people call this oven baked pancake / popover a Bismarck while others call it a Dutch Baby Pancake. Both are baked in a black cast iron skillet in a hot oven where they puff up dramatically in a few minutes and make an impressive breakfast dish. The Bismarck was one of the most popular recipes in the original Silver Palate Cookbook, one of the best selling cookbooks of all time which has recently issued a 25th anniversary addition. It can be served plain with powdered sugar and fresh lemon wedges or gussied up with fresh fruit or sautéed sliced apples.

The first time we ate a Bismarck was in 1995 when we lived in the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. One evening good friends invited us for an elaborate gourmet dinner at their home and extended an invitation to stay over for the night. Nasty weather was predicted and they didn’t want us driving the boat home in the dark. How could we decline an invitation such as that? Besides, our friend Tony was the Julia Child of our crowd. The next morning his wife Diane, also a fine cook, prepared their favorite breakfast – a Bismarck straight out of The Silver Palate Cookbook. We watched as Dianne quickly whirled flour, milk and eggs in a blender until she had a smooth batter. Meanwhile Tony melted some butter in a black cast iron skillet and, when it was melted, poured the batter in the pan and popped it in a hot oven for ten minutes or so. It rose like a popover and we instantly fell in love until we realized Tony had used a whole stick of butter for one pancake.

Even though it’s an easy recipe, it’s only been in the last five or six years that I’ve mustered up the courage to give it a try. Why you ask…well, the original recipe called for 8 tablespoons of butter, in other words an entire stick. One day I read that if you have a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, it can double as a non-stick pan. A light went on in my head. By gosh, they are right. So I decided to reduce the butter in the original Bismarck recipe to two tablespoons and give it a try. I didn’t have much to lose and the basic ingredients were cheap – eggs, flour and milk. The results produced a success and we didn’t miss the other 6 tablespoons of fat. I also added a pinch of salt and some freshly grated nutmeg to the batter. We served it with confectioner’s sugar and lemon wedges, just like we’d always done with popovers. I also added some fresh raspberries and strawberries and it was an instant hit. In the winter we like to sauté apples, season them with cinnamon and sugar and use them in place of the fresh berries.

It’s funny how things can happen in your life that parallel other people’s experiences and you don’t even realize it at the time. (I would love to hear if it’s ever happened to you.) Molly Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life and the immensely popular blog Orangette, tells a similar story about the first time she had the pancake at the home of friends in Seattle. Her pancake was called a Dutch Baby instead of a Bismarck and she too decreased the butter in her version. Molly’s recipe calls for four eggs instead of two and she uses half-and-half in place of the low fat milk we like.

Martha Stewart calls the Bismarck a Dutch Baby Pancake as well but adds sugar and vanilla extract in her recipe which appeared in the March 2009 issue of Everyday Food. As you can see, this pancake has made the rounds and adaptations abound. No matter what you call it or how you vary the ingredients, it's a winner.

Oven Baked Pancake / Popover
Adapted from the Bismarck in The Silver Palate Cookbook

2 large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup 2% milk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 or more tablespoons sweet butter
Fresh lemon juice + a few lemon wedges
Confectioner’s sugar
Fresh raspberries and blueberries, optional

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk together 2 large eggs, lightly beaten, with ½ cup flour, ½ cup milk, pinch of salt and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.

Melt 2 tablespoons of sweet butter in a 10” cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Pour batter into skillet; place in oven. Bake until the pancake is golden and fluffy, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from oven. Quickly remove the pancake from the pan and on to a serving plate. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar. Add a few raspberries and blueberries, if using. Roll loosely jelly-roll fashion, slice and dust with more confectioners’ sugar. Garnish with more berries, if using. Pass lemon wedges at the table. Serves 4, unless you love it; then it only serves 2.

Variation: In the winter we like to sauté sliced apples with a little cinnamon and sugar in a skillet until desired degree of doneness and serve in place of the fresh fruit.

Update – Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yesterday when I did this post there was a nagging thought in the back of my mind that I was leaving something out of this post. Now I know what it is thanks to T. W Barritt. He left a comment that triggered my memory. His fabulous blog, Culinary Types, featured a savory Dutch Baby this past February. Savory ingredients such as gruyere and ham bring a whole new dimension to these pancakes. Thanks T. W. for reminding me. I urge everyone to click over to Culinary Types to see his pancake dinner and the savory Dutch baby.


Martha from Lines from Linderhof has graciously presented me with the “One Lovely Blog Award” and I am very grateful. Martha and I both have a lot in common as we both write a food column for our local newspapers. She lives on the prairie in Kansas in a lovely 1920’s home. Her blog is filled with great recipes as well as gardening and decorating ideas. Be sure to drop by and say hello.

I would like to pass the “One Lovely Blog Award” on to my friends and readers who visit my kitchen and leave their comments, which I enjoy reading immensely. Please feel free to post the award on your blog and, if you wish, nominate 10 other blogs and link to them. Send some love back to the person who bestowed the award on you by telling them who gave you gave it to and posting a link to their site. Let your nominees know that they’ve received the award. If you do pass the award along, please let me know. I would appreciate it.

Hugs to you all.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spicy Fruit Salsa inspired by The Food Shack, Jupiter, Florida

Fruit salsas are very popular to serve with fish. I’ve seen numerous recipes in food magazines recently. We ate at Little Moir’s Food Shack, a fish joint in Jupiter, Florida that served a spicy, sweet, and colorful fruit salsa with a tuna basil roll, which quickly became my favorite. I had never tasted anything like the fruit salsa before. It was sweet, spicy and hot all at the same time and it burst in my mouth with flavor. They use whatever fruit is in season; currently it’s a melon combination. I personally prefer the mangos, nectarines and tomatoes, which was in the salsa the first time I tried it there. Taste and adjust ingredients as you go. If you like it spicy, add more peppers. They grow their own peppers and I’ve never quite gotten a handle on what they are, but they are spicier than the jalapenos I use.

The Food Shack is in an ordinary looking strip mall stuck in between a dentist office and H & R Block where you think you would least likely find a great seafood restaurant. Owner Mike Moir (rhymes with foyer) is the head chef and a genius when it comes to seafood. He calls his cooking “a simple twist of taste,” but it’s far superior to simple. The small dining room is long and narrow with hand painted tables that Mike made himself. Surfboards and children’s paintings adorn the walls. A young and attentive staff takes care of your every need. They also happen to serve some of the best soups I’ve ever eaten. The Soup Nazi is a wizard when it comes to unique and flavorful combinations. We were there a couple of weeks ago and my husband had the sweet potato, coconut, ginger and crab soup that was fabulous. My favorite appetizer is the deep fried tuna basil roll with wasabi dipping sauce served with the spicy fruit salsa. The tuna is very rare and the egg roll like shell is light and crispy. My husband’s favorite is Panko fried oysters over greens, mixed fruit and gorgonzola.

The "joint jumps" as they say and has definitely been discovered. They don’t take reservations and the line can be so long on Saturday night that there are tailgate parties in the parking lot waiting for their name to be called. Little Moir’s Food Shack is open from 11 to 9, closed on Sunday. Our favorite time to go is either around 11 when they first open or late afternoon before the dinner crowd.

Here’s a portion of the New York Times Sunday review:
“Concealed in the back of a strip mall along U.S. Highway 1 in Jupiter, Little Moir's Food Shack looks as if a raucous Key West bar had been uprooted and trucked up north. Not only is this the coolest place I visited but it's also among the best, turning out terrific and creative local seafood with Caribbean and Asian accents.” Continued…….

This is our version of their salsa. We serve it with simple broiled salmon but it would be equally terrific with fresh tuna or grilled chicken.

My Carolina Kitchen's Version of Little Moir’s Food Shack Fruit Salsa

1 large mango, peeled and diced
1 large nectarine or peach, peeled & diced
1 tomato, peeled, seeded & diced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced or well chopped
Juice of ½ to 1 lime
1 tablespoon hot pepper such as jalapeño, minced
2 to 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut in chiffonade

Place all ingredients in a bowl and gently toss. Season to taste with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Serve within 30 minutes of mixing as it can get watery. Do not omit the cilantro or the basil. Serves 4.

Simple Broiled Salmon
My Carolina Kitchen's basic recipe

2 pounds boneless wild salmon fillets, preferable with the skin left intact
2 to 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other neutral tasting oil 
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut the salmon into four pieces approximately the same size and weight. Put salmon in a dish; rub with oil, salt & pepper and let sit at room temperature for 10 to 20 minutes. Preheat the broiler.

Arrange fish in one layer, skin side down, on an unheated sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil for easy clean-up. Place the fish under the broiler about three inches from the source of heat. Broil 8 to 10 minutes or just until the pieces are cooked through. It is not necessary to turn the fish. If fish starts to get too crispy on the top, change from broil to bake and bake at 400 degrees until done. Do not overcook. Serves 4.