Friday, July 3, 2009

Garden Layout

For those of you reading this, you're probably all well aware that I recently married and my husband, F, and I have moved into a house in the country. This excites me for many reasons; the predominate reason being I will be able to have my very own garden at my own house, rather than traveling to the garden at my parent's lovely home.

Now though, it is too late to begin a summer garden, so I focused on plants that can still be planted from July 15 - Sept 1.

This is the diagram I have created for a 32 square feet of garden space.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Our First Harvest...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Things are a growin'

Things are definitely growing down here in the garden. I went out on Friday morning and spent the day with Mom & Dad weeding- boy, was it rough work. But so worth it!!

We've also got quite a few little sprouts of baby veggies!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Risotto Cakes

Back when I made my Beer Can Chicken, I saved the carcass and boiled it in water all night with an onion and some celery. It made the most flavorful stock. I filled Ziplock bags and froze that flavorful stock and began having dreams of using it to make risotto for the first time.

There were the most beautiful English Peas at the market the other day. I happily shelled my peas and knew I would put them in with the risotto. Another addition was bought at the store, a lovely ear of corn. So with my stock, corn & peas, I was going to have a lovely risotto

It was a great risotto in fact, but too much for just F. & me. So I spoke with my most trusted source, my grandmother on whether you could freeze risotto or not. She told me in fact she freezes individual tablespoons of risotto to make Risotto Cakes.

And that’s what I did. I lined a cookie sheet with some wax paper and scooped heaping tablespoons of my risotto mixture. Then, I stuck them in the freezer overnight.

When my lovely Matron of Honor came over for dinner the other week, I knew just what I’d make as my premier. I took the frozen cakes out and let them thaw about 5 minutes. Then, they took a quick dip in an egg wash, and into a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs & panko breadcrumbs before hitting the hot oil in a sauté pan.

Ten minutes later…

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Oven Ribs

Yes. These were made in an oven.

Take your raw baby back ribs and put them in a high-sided, oven-safe pan. Fill the pan up with about an inch of water. Add 1/4 C apple cider vinegar to the water. Add the plain, raw ribs into the pan. Cover the pan tightly in aluminum foil, crimping the edges so that no steam escapes.

Put them in the oven for an hour at 225 degrees F.

Remove Ribs from pan and onto a jelly roll pan. Coat the ribs in your choice of BBQ sauce. (We used Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet n' Spicy sauce)

Put the pan on the second to top rack in the oven under the broiler. Broil until bubbly. Remove and baste again with sauce. Replace pan under the broiler. After about 5 minutes under the broiler, these babies are ready to be separated and devoured.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Garden

the backyard Garden, age: 3 weeks.
I was so close to joining a CSA this year. In fact, I did enroll, and then I backed out and canceled my order. Instead, I decided I would support a family CSA. My Family's.
Okay, not really a CSA. But we are in it for a fun summer of hobby vegetable gardening this Summer. We have over 30 tomato plants. Over 15 pepper plants. Cucumbers, zucchinis, bush beans, leeks, onions, and countless herbs and even some cutting flowers.
It's progress is magical. After half a week of heavy raining, the bean's (not seen in this photo) went from 2" bean sprout stubs into magical broad multi leafed plants. The onions already can be harvested as "green onions." We have three blooms on the tomato plants, and we also saw three baby red bell pepper buds.
It's all very excited.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tasca Brava

Tasca Brava
607 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC
(919) 828-0840

I went to Tasca Brava with a friend for a drink and to try some American tapas. The converted restaurant was once just another older house on Glenwood. An old closet has been fitted with wine racks to store the proprietors lovingly selected Spanish wines. The dining areas are decorated with care. The chair seats are upholstered in a blue velvet print; above the doorways are decorated with flower pots arranged on wrought iron holders, reminiscent of Madrid side streets.

Ironic to the picture perfect decor otherwise, the menus were the nice, large, faux-leather covered type frequently used, however, on the front a Tasca Brava logo had been glued to partially cover the original logo of Bistro 607 (the restaurant that existed in the location prior to Tasca Brava).

While my friend and I were there for tapas with the idea of a little something to nibble on while enjoying a drink, the "tapas" at Tasca Brava (including things like pan roasted asparagus with olives, octopus & goat cheese mashed potatoes, wild boar sausage cooked in a wine) seemed more like side dishes that would be featured on the side of a great meal rather than the pinchos that I experienced when I was in Spain.

With my friend being a cheese lover, and myself wanting Serano Ham, we ordered the $16 "Spanish Sampler" plate. It came with some chorizo, a few thin and moist slices of Serrano ham, Marcona almonds, and three different Spanish cheeses: one goat, one cow and one sheeps. The jamon & chorizo were of the highest quality. Sometimes Serrano ham can be sliced thick and the gamey-ness can overwhelm, the paper thin slices at Tasca Brava were succulent and delightful with the slight game after-taste. The chorizo was very tasty, full of smokey paprika and heat from other peppers. The olives were also very well done, with several different varieties, each with a distinctive taste in a little dish. The $2 roll I ate though was a disappointment, being dense and bland, the accompanying garlic butter was a nice touch, but the roll did not improve much with its addition.

I had the house made sangria ($6/glass). The chilled wine drink was luscious and thick and almost creamy from the fruit juice emulsion with the wine. Very Delicious!

All in all, I give Tasca Brava a B+ . While it is not budget friendly, the food is extremely well done with obvious care and pride.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Oakwood Cafe

Oakwood Café

300 E Edenton St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 828-5994

F. & I were in luck this Friday. We got to eat at the Oakwood Café. I’ve longed to eat there – I wanted to go for their lunch menu (cheaper) and I work in Durham. Therefore, I hadn’t had the opportunity to go for lunch. Unfortunately, the Oakwood Café is only open for lunch on workdays. So, Friday I was off of work for Spring Break, and F. always gets off early… so we went!

We started off with an appetizer of a single beef empanada. I cannot rave enough about this empanada – crispy fried oil bubbles delicately adorning the hand sized empanada, filled generously with perfectly spiced beef. We couldn’t eat it fast enough.

F. then ordered the Beef Milanesa, a large but thin breaded and fried piece of steak. He had it with Fries (the frozen type, nothing remarkable) and a salad (with a thick & tasty homemade ranch dressing).

I had the Churrasco Steak. It was about a 1.5” thick ribeye type cut, beautifully tender with a tangy chimi-churri sauce on the side. With it I had fried yucca and plantains – both were delightful.

Overall, I give Oakwood Café a B+ Go and give it a try yourself!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pineapple Pavlova

In April's Gourmet this month, they feature a Berry Pavlova (meringue with lemon curd topped with ... you guessed it: berries!). My F. doesn't care overly for berries though, so I made ours with pineapple. Though not as photogenic, this Pineapple Pavlova was really divine.

First comes making the meringue:

3 egg whites
pinch of salt
3 tb. cold water
1 Cup superfine granulated sugar
1 TB cornstarch
1 ts rice wine vinegar

Let the egg whites come to room temperature for a half hour and mix cornstarch and sugar together. Then, add the egg whites to your mixer on medium with a pinch of salt to arrive at soft peaks (about 6 minutes). Add water, and re-arrive at soft peaks (another 3 min. or so).

On medium high speed, gradually add tablespoon by tablespoon of the sugar mixture to the egg whites. Let the mixture go for another minute after incorporating all the sugar mixture. Add the vinegar and continue to mix for another 5 min. or until glossy with stiff peaks.

Spread the mixture onto parchment paper and stick in a 300 degree F oven for 45 min. When the time's up, open the oven door and let the meringue cool undisturbed for an hour.

Meanwhile... make the lemon curd!

1 C sugar
6 TB room temp. butter
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 C fresh lemon juice

Cream sugar and butter together over medium speed in your mixer. Then, add the eggs until incorporated. Finally add the lemon juice. (The mixture may look lumpy)

Put the mixture in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir constantly over medium low heat. The butter may separate out a little before it's all warmed. No worries, keep stirring over medium low heat until the mixture reaches 170 degree F. This will take 25 minutes or so, so get comfortable. Once it reaches 170, you're good to go with delicious lemon curd.

Then it's easy as pie to assemble. Remove the meringue onto a dish, spoon lemon curd in the center crater of the meringue and then top with pineapples.

The Pavlova is really fabulous. There's a layer of the meringue that's crisp and brittle, and then the center is luxuriously marshmallow-y. Enjoy!

Potatoes Gribiche

Recently, one of the blogs, The Wednesday Chef , featured a recipe that is also on another blog I read, Chocolate and Zucchini. And since this latest reference to this recipe, I've found myself desiring it: Potatoes Gribiche. Potatoes tossed in a sultry smokey paprika vinaigrette spiked with pickles and salty. The thoughts whirled until I had to make it. At 1am, bien sur.

While the original recipe is much larger - I was only cooking for myself at past midnight. Also, I lacked the shallot & capers the original recipe call for. However, I fancy my recipe was quite tasty in it's own right.

Warm Potato Salad

1. Roast - 2 hand size Yukon gold potatoes cubed & tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper at 425 F for a half an hour.

2. Mix - 1 chopped hard boiled egg, three minced baby dill pickles, 8 manzanilla olives, 1 ts. sherry vinegar, 1/2 ts. Dijon mustard, 1/2 ts. dried onion, 1/4 ts. granulated garlic & 1/4 ts. smoked Spanish paprika

3. Toss them together & Enjoy!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chicken Wings: Three Ways

Every so often, F. and I like to fry. We'll do fresh fries every other week or so. For the final four though, we did a wing night. I put together a variety of sauces and F. trimmed all the wings.

The best way to cut the wings is to:

-Separate the drumette from the wing portion by cutting down to the bone, paralel to the drumette, and then twist the bones out from each other.

-Cut away the wing tip and discard those bits (the only purpose I can see for them would be to save them to make stock with).

The sauces we used:
L to R: North Carolina's Bone Suckin' BBQ sauce, Asian, then the classic Buffalo

First, we fried the wings in some paprika & garlic seasoned flour

We had to fry the wings in three batches, which worked out well with our three sauces. After frying and draining them on a paper bag, we then just tossed them in the bowl with the sauces until they were covered.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Herb Garden

So today I planted my spring herb garden. Last year I was in an apartment with no outdoor access, unless and open window counts. This year, F. has a screened in porch, where I have planted a few herb plants: rosemary in the large pot and basil in the smaller pot, then cilantro, thyme, & parsley in the windowbox planter.

Here is hoping these herbs do better than my herbs last year. I grew my herbs from seed last year, so they didn't even become as hardy as these herbs here. The ones this year I picked up at Whole Foods ready to be planted into larger containers.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fruit Love

Nectarine Turnovers

I had F. go to the store for me to buy some things, including nectarines. He brought back fruits that were as hard as a baseball and smelled... well, of nothing. I left them on the counter for a few days in the fleeting hope they would ripen and when they didn't, I knew I would be making fruit-something rather than eating them plain as planned.

So I let a sheet of puff pastry thaw from the freezer.

Began a caramel sauce (1/2 C of water to 1 C of sugar... letting it cook alone without stirring for 15 minutes or until golden) as if making a tart tatin or something.
Instead of arranging the fruit prettily about as in a tart tatin, I added the peeled and chopped nectarine and let it cook in the caramel sauce for about ten minutes.
The fruit released a lot of juice, so I found it much too liquidy to put all in the puff pastry. So I strained the caramel/fruit mixture and reserved the caramel.
Then, I added the goozy fruit mixture to the middle of the pastry, brushed the sides with butter and folded them up, rolling together the ends where I could.
I brushed them with butter, and put them in a 350 oven for 15 minutes - they emerged looking very edible.

With some ice cream and the reserved caramel sauce all over ... even more edible

Pan Fried Gnocchi

Gnocchi, amore
So, after reading a few other blogs about it (one at 101 Cookbooks & one at bitchin' Camero) I gave it a try.

I formed the gnocchi, and then I put them in a hot pan with some oil and let them hang out for a few minutes.

I was afraid they would fall apart in the water if I tried to boil them. They were delicious-like a light potato cream melted in the middle of the two crisp sides. I encourage you to try to make your own gnocchi. It's a much more affordable and yummy side than the store bought kind.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

Beer Can Chicken

Take one 5 lb chicken and give it a good rinse and one over, plucking off any yellow outer skin hanging on or feathers. Sit the Chicken on a ¾ full open beer (we used Miller Lite). Rub the chicken of a mixture of ~1/4 C olive oil, 3tb salt/spice mixture.

To make potatoes on the side, par boil 1 lb. halved red new potatoes for about 5 minutes. Then drain and toss with a blended mix of 4 tb. Olive oil and half of a packet of onion soup mix. Arrange the potatoes around the chicken.

Cook the chicken dish in the center of a 325°F oven for an hour.

After an hour of cooking the chicken (once it reaches an internal temp of about 130°F) prepare the glaze.

We used a small bottle of Orangina type juice drink, the juice of half a lemon and one lime, ¼ ts fresh ground ginger, red pepper flakes & cayenne pepper, finished off with a nice dredge of honey. Let your glaze ingredients come together for a good half hour then dab it all over with a brush then pour remainder over chicken.

Let the chicken go until it reaches a temperature of 180°F (in the breast, ~165°F in the thigh)

My Love

My one true love.

Everything Bagel "Softwich" with Mesquite Smoked Turkey Breast,

Peppered Bacon, Avocado, & Red Onion


With so many cooking magazines coming to me daily, I've recognized that there's a lot I still haven't cooked that's normally in a well rounded repetoire. So here is a list of foods I'd like to give a go at:

Tart Tatin
Beef Stroganoff
Baked Enchiladas
Creme Fraiche
Fish & Chips
Pickling Cornichon
Chicken Paprikesh
Israeli Couscous
This is just it to begin with... another list I made today was dishes that we have all the ingredients and can enjoy this week:
Marinara Baked Eggs Gratin
Beer roasted Chicken with Italian Citrus Glaze
with onion roasted new potatoes and spicy kale
Oven Roasted Acorn Squash
Strombolis with Broccoli, Salami, & Port Salut
Spanish Tortilla with roasted red peppers
Baked Bacon Stuffed Avocados
Adobe Refried Beans
Golden Crusted Brussel Sprouts with Romano cheese
Pork Chops stuffed with roasted red peppers
Spicy Chicken in Bibb Salad wraps
Crispy Crusted Pork Chops

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Roasted Chickpeas

Working in a vegetarian office sometimes makes me want to scream. However, it often provides the inspiration to find interesting ways to enliven my brown bagged lunches. Inspiration paired with a sincere desire to lose some weight before the wedding has me leaning towards leaner recipes… and thus,
roasted chickpeas

1 can chickpeas
½ tb Olive Oil
1 ts smoked Spanish paprika
1 ts Ras el Hanout
½ ts kosher salt

Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Let the dry in the colander for 10-15 minutes, giving them a good jiggle every so often to work the water out. Put them in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and spread the chickpeas out in one layer. Cook at 375 for 40 minutes or so. Cool completely before storing or enjoying.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Poole's Downtown Diner

For Valentine's day brunch, F & I headed to
Poole's Downtown Diner
426 S Mcdowell St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 832-4477

I started out with a cocktail named "La vie en rose" ($9).

There wasn't really anything "rose" about the cocktail. It seemed to be simply a raw sugar cane cube with champagne/sparkling wine poured over it. A nice rosey start of the day though, right?

F. had an irish whiskey ($7). Lacking proper glasses for the concocation, it came as below.

F. ordered a grilled biscuit ($4), 2 eggs ($4), and bacon ($4). Simple, no frills and very straightfoward is how he described them. I ordered a BLT with avocado & english cheddar cheese ($11). The only issue I had with this sandwich was it was a bit unweidy. It was also toasted and unfortunately while I was trying to eat it in complete bites, the toast scratched at my hard palate.We split their order of Frites w/ malt vinegar aioli ($9). They really do make a great fry - very crisp indeed.
There were some interesting other options for brunch. Unfortunately our table didn't have a great view of the menu so I can't really recall them. All in all, I gave this experience a B+

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture

This year I had the forethought to join a CSA before spring, and thus ensuring myself 20 weeks of glorious, fresh, organic produce! I went with the decision to support Coon Rock Farms. They are the farm that backs Zely & Ritz’s local organic menu. I’m extremely excited about this summer and the inevitable culinary adventures that a box of mixed veg will induce!

So, follow lead and join a CSA *now* before all the shares are bought up!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Sour Cream Bundt Cake

1 stick butter
1 stick margarine
1 ¼ C sugar
1 ts. Vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 C sour cream
2 C all purpose flour
½ ts. Baking soda
1 ts salt
1 ½ ts baking powder

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat together butter, margarine and sugar until fluffy. Add some of dry ingredients. Add eggs. Mix in rest of dry ingredients to combine. Try not to overmix.

2 tb. Brown sugar
¼ C chopped pecans or other nut
2 tb raisins

2 tb raisins, covered in boiling water to plump and then drain. Add together handful of chopped pecans & 2 tb brown sugar.

Spray your bundt pan with nonstick spray. Add 1/3 of the batter, add half of sugar mixture, add 1/3 batter, add remaining sugar mixture and top with remaining batter. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until pulling away from pan.

Deep Fried Sweet Potatoes with Garlic Aioli

Fry peeled sweet potato sticks for about 15 minutes or until crisp in vegetable oil.

For the aioli, combine two tablespoons mayonnaise with ½ tb Dijon mustard, 1 garlic-pressed clove of garlic, and salt & pepper.

Review: Poole's Downtown Diner

Poole’s Downtown Diner
426 S Mcdowell StRaleigh, NC 27601
(919) 832-4477

F. and I went to eat at the relatively new Poole’s Downtown Diner on Friday.

I had read about it both on New Raleigh and in the very late arrival of the September Bon Appetit. It mentions chef Ashley Christensen of Enoteca Vin fame. Indeed, Poole’s, in my opinion, had the menu of Vin and lacked the pretentious vibe. Our waiter was cool, calm, and had character. He was also appropriately attentive. F. and I arrived around 6h30, and by 7h15 the little entry way and first curvature of the bar was jammed packed with mainly a middle aged (30s-50s) crowd.

The menu was divided into “Apps,” “Vinagariettes,” “Mains,” “On the side,” and “Poole’s Pies.” Baguette with homemade butter was available for $3. As an appetizer, F. and I shared the “Duck and chicken liver pate with two mustards and toasted brioche” ($9). The pate was fabulous: smooth, tasty, with the slight unctuousness of organ. The mustards cut the pate’s heaviness perfectly. However, the toasted brioche was a little brittle to be an ideal surface on which to spread pate. We found it tasted much better on the warm, chewy baguette. Other sides included roasted Beauregard sweet potatoes ($7), carrots in brown butter and thyme ($6), macaroni au gratin ($9), and haricot verts with roasted tomatoes ($7). Mains included a roasted chicken with garlic mashed potato ($14), flounder with Crowder peas ($13), the “royale,” an open faced burger ($12), and the *special of bone-in NY strip with au poivre sauce and pomme frites (for a wopping $39 – considering the other prices on the menu, I felt it was a sneaky overcharge). We had the “roasted beets with avocado and blood orange vinaigrette” ($9) which was divine. The avocado’s creaminess complemented the even soft texture of the roasted beets. Roasted golden beet cubes garnished the dish. The blood orange vinaigrette was light and flattered the sweetness of the dish. The macaroni and cheese was in F.’s opinion the best he had ever had, and I agree that it was flavorful. The only bad point was that the steak was unevenly cooked. We ordered it medium rare, and while in the nook of the bone it was a nice red rare, the perimeter of the flesh side was definitely considered at least medium, with nary a blush of pink in the meat’s center; at $39 one expects a perfectly cooked steak (granted, we did not know the price going into the meal, so I can’t really say we “expected” perfection. Nevertheless, it was a disappointment.)

Overall, I give Poole’s downtown diner a B+. It would have easily been an A if the steak was evenly cooked.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Crock Pot Pulled Pork

So my mother actually came up with this recipe. Contrary to what it seems like, my mother doesn't actually like to cook. But I will give her credit when due; this dish turned out great. My F. loves barbeque, and this way was so simple and easy.

Crock Pot Barbeque

At 10 pm the night before take a 5lb boneless and netted pork shoulder and put it in a medium sized crock pot. Add a couple cups of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and a 1/4 ts crushed red pepper flakes. Put the crock pot on "low" and let it go all night.

At 9ish the following morning, turn off the crock pot, and remove the netted pork shoulder to cool. Strain the liquid off and reserve. Clean the crock pot. Once cool, remove the netting from the pork. The boneless shoulder will break apart easy where the bone once was, when this happens, scrape the fatty bits off the meat with a knife, then "pull" the pork apart with two forks.

Put the pulled pork back in to the crock pot with about two cups of the reserved liquid. Let it go until you're ready for a fabulous pork lunch. Serve with steamed buns and a tabkespoon of your barbeque sauce of choice.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year: 2009 at Humble Pie

F. & I went to eat at Humble Pie to ring in New Year 09. We shared a menu for two.

Humble Pie
317 S. Harrington Street
RALEIGH, North Carolina


Grilled Romaine Salad: parmesan toast points, shaved manchego, orange segments, sherry vinaigrette
As you can see from the above picture, my salad did not appear to have been "grilled." Upon tasting, it did not seem to have a sherry vinaigrette either. The Romaine tasted as a bitter salad green does when it's not dressed, not entirely pleasant or displeasing. The orange segments gave the salad some much needed juice when eaten, but as there were only three segments uncut, this happy occurrence was not frequent.

Lobster Wonton Soup: scallions, ginger, cilantro, crispy shallots

The Lobster Soup was delightful. The broth had a zing from the ginger and had a full savory/umami taste. Bits of cilantro added further brightness to the soup. The fried wonton dumplings softened during the eating of the soup. In both forms, either slightly crisp or damped softly with broth, the lobster filled wontons were a nice contrast and a pleasure to eat. The crispy shallots were each a joyful catch in my spoons' eddy and a crunchy treat with each spoonful.

Avocado and Crab Salad Godzilla Roll : pickled mung beans, ginger, wasabi, spicy ponzu

I felt a little misled when I received this dish. I assumed "godzilla roll" would be what a maki style sushi roll with rice. Our waitress kindly told me that the roll was "wrapped in tuna" which I thought meant a small layer of sashimi would be around the rice. I was wrong. It was raw tuna wrapped around an avocado/crab mushy blend. While I typically enjoy the smoothness of raw tuna in a sushi roll, the pure mass of raw fish and mushy filling really did me over. When my tongue was halted by tight ligament running through the tuna, I felt like I was going to vomit. Then besieged by tuna-aroma . . . I gagged it down, F. tried one and had a similar experience. We put it aside and took it home to the pet turtle.

Pulled Pork + Crispy Truffled Sweet Potato Fries . malt vinegar aioli, chervil, thyme

This dish was fun. It was a little haphazard, and after the disappointment with the godzilla roll, we were both amiable to putting it aside and enjoying the rest of the dinner. The sweet potato fries were delightul, sweet and salty at once. The pork was a little dry, but otherwise flavorful. The aioli was underneath the entire dish, making it difficult to easily enjoy.

Chateaubriand . grilled vegetables, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, peppercorn bordelaise

This is a picture of F.'s steak, he ordered it Medium Rare. It was very tender indeed, the perfect steak example. The bordelaise saice was not overly peppery and very consumable. The potatoes were great too. While F.'s were not, my zucchini were charred a tad too much. A delightful end to a meal.

Overall, I give HUMBLE PIE a B - fun, tasty food, not overly original but definately not banal. Overwhelmingly hit or miss.