Headed North

Headed North

I’m venturing north of the Mason-Dixon Line tomorrow. I’ll be meeting my crush’s family this weekend–wish me luck! Before we leave, I insisted we eat some good southern food just to make sure we will make it back down to the better half of the country after the weekend.

Enjoy these shrimp and grits!

The “Im”pressure is on

I was invited to my first potluck at my crush’s house since the inception of this blog.  Cooking for him is one thing but when its time to meet the friends, the pressure to impress–the “im”pressure–is on.  

Saturday morning I scoured 7th Street Public Market for the best ingredients.  I walked away with 3 pounds of black angus ground beef and a pound of bacon from Meat and Fish (http://meatandfishcompany.com/) and a quarter pound of smokey blue cheese from Orman’s cheese shop (http://www.7thstreetpublicmarket.com/vendors/orrmans-cheese-shop/).   A picked up an onion from my favorite fresh fruit and veggie stand at the front of the market as well.

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BBB sliders were born.  Bacon, blue cheese, and black peppercorn sliders with carmelized onions. 

The photos below will guide you through the process.  I don’t have a picture of the final plating because they were gone so quickly!  Success!Image

Chop the cheese into very small pieces.  It is important to cut into the smallest pieces possible so that when you cook the patties, the cheese does not melt out of the slider burger.  

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Cook the bacon separately then break into tiny pieces and work into the ground beef.  

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Mix the bacon, black peppercorn, and cheese into the ground beef by hand.  

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I don’t have a grill so a George Foreman countertop grill had to do the trick.  

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For the onions, I used a yellow onion, butter, and the same Washington Applewood Smoked Salt from Salts of the Earth that I used on my grouper last week.  

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A rose by a different name does “taste” as sweet

After the gorgeous bouquet of roses I received from my crush, I attempted similarly to give a rose, but one I think men might like a little more.   ImageFor dinner a few nights ago I cooked some delicious ingredients that I picked up at Meat and Fish at the 7th Street Public Market.   Below is pictured a 8 ounce salmon sockeye filet with a mediterranean herb couscous in a large leaf of green cabbage.   Plated next to the salmon is a tuna carpaccio rose.  This is a very thin piece of raw tuna that is rolled and then folded to look like a rose.  It is a bit complicated to eat, but I cut mine into small pieces and combined it with the salmon in the couscous.   My go-to vegetable is asparagus with fresh cracked pepper.  

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Some tips as far as the salmon.  Check out this beautiful piece of sockeye (or red) salmon from 7th Street!  Sockeye is such a great choice because it is very low in methylmercury (the downside to eating fish on the regular.)

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SKIN: salmon skin is edible but only if the skin has been fully de-scaled.  While I served the salmon skin, I had not prepared the skin to be eaten, only to be cooked with.  Whenever cooking meat/fish, always start with skin-side down in the pan.  Before cooking, score the skin.  To score, rake a fork in a cross-hatching design and thinly penetrate the skin.   COOKING: instead of using vegetable or canola oil in the pan, I instead used coconut oil.  I didn’t have any so when I was at Dean & Deluca (total indulgence) I picked up a jar.  I mean I literally picked up a jar.  And then I set it right back down.  18 dollars?!  For the oil to put in the pan?  I don’t think so, thank you.  However, I then was at Marshall’s later that day.  I walked through the cooking aisle and there, for $6, was an equal size jar of coconut oil…hooray!  The sweetness of this oil was a great substitute.  I coated the bottom of the pan liberally and let heat.  Salmon should sizzle when placed, remember, skin down!  

A Taste of Texas

It’s no mystery that I am from Texas.  As you enter my room, a 2’X4′ flag greets you in the hallway to the left of the door.  There are so many things that are truly Texan and when it comes to food there are two that nothing else can compare: queso and Texas sheet cake.

My crush says he has this aversion to all things Texan.  Now I get not understanding how to take so much pride in one’s state if you aren’t from Texas because what other state deserves that much loyalty?  Anyways, in an effort to make him like the Texas part of me rather than count that as a strike against me, I cooked up these two hometown favorites.

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This is some ridiculously easy crockpot queso.  I am not going to pretend it is remotely healthy though I did add spinach and serve with multigrain tortilla chips if that is any consolation.

Ingredients:

1 block of Velvetta cheese

1 can of diced tomatoes with peppers

2 handfuls of shredded spinach

Directions: Combine and melt in crockpot

As you can see, it was a hit!  He dove right in…point for Texas!Image

Point number two came from this sure-to-please crowd favorite.  Texas Sheet Cake.  I don’t like pecans so I selfishly removed them from the ingredients which I now will admit is a total Texas no-no because the pecan is our state nut.  So, true Texans and all those who wish they could call Texas home, please don’t forget our state nut when you try this one out.  The secret is pouring the hot icing on top of a hot cake so that the icing sinks into the cake.  I will give more details soon but got to run.  Hope I leave your mouth watering!Image

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Journey to Love: The Story of Coleslaw

It’s hard to admit this being from the land of BBQ, baked beans, and coleslaw but that last little side dish has never done it for me.  It is one of the few foods I willingly pass by and don’t scoop onto my plate.

But you know how you first meet someone maybe they don’t immediately catch your interest.  Maybe its nothing negative but you just didn’t seem them like that.  I do.  That crush? I knew him 4 years before he caught my eye.  It’s not because he isn’t handsome and amazing, I just wasn’t looking at him.  For one he was a baseball player with a schedule that prohibits any sort of life.  Also, typical of me in a BBQ buffet line, I get distracted and overwhelmed by all the options.  Anyways, all of this is to say that this crush is kinda like coleslaw.

Coleslaw has been sitting in front of me for years.  I maybe occasionally pick at it when its put on my plate, but it is never something I pursued.  Until I went to Zoe’s Kitchen with my mom and she ordered their coleslaw.  I first turned up my nose but then after seeing it with the right pair of eyes, I just had to have it.  It was delicious.

A few days later I was at 7th Street Market, por supuesto, with my favorite friend in the front with his small stand of fresh fruits and vegetables.  There was a cabbage, looking at me, challenging me to finally say yes to him.  A dollar later, I walked away with a head of cabbage and headed home to conquer the slaw.  Here is how I see coleslaw with new eyes.

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Mediterranean Coleslaw (original recipe)

(pictured with pan-fried alligator over dirty rice)

Ingredients:

1. Head of cabbage

2. 1/2 cup Olive Oil

3. Feta Cheese

4. Strawberries

5. Spices (I used Penzeys Spices-Mural of Flavor)

Directions: (I love how easy this is!)

1.  Wash and chop the cabbage into thin and short strips

2. pour olive oil over cabbage in bowl

3.  Season to taste

4.  Toss ingredients together

5.  Add feta cheese (I use about 3/4 cup)

6.  Toss

6.  Dice and add 5-8 strawberries

7.  Very gently toss (you want to have tossed everything together before hand because strawberries get mushy and loose their beautiful appearance when tossed around too much)

8.  Serve or chill in refrigerator

Smorgasbord

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#1:  Dover Sole with lemon and pepper

 

Ingredients:  

1. Frozen dover sole fish fillets from Trader Joes

2. one fresh squeezed lemon

3. crushed pepper

4. cooking spray/oil

Directions:  Defrost fish according to package instructions (run under cold water).  Spray the pan and heat to medium high heat.  Squeeze the lemon and cover fish in juice.  Place the fillets into pan, cooking all the way through, approximately 3 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and crush black pepper over the top.

 

 

#2:  Red Wine and Balsamic Vinegar Chicken Breasts

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Ingredients:

1. 6 free range skinless, boneless chicken breasts from Trader Joes (can be substitute with any skinless, boneless chicken breasts)

2.  1 cup of flour

3.  2 eggs

4. 2 cups of red wine (any blend)

5. 2 cups of balsamic vinegar

6. 1 can of Trader Joes artichoke hearts

Directions:  Heat over to 400 degrees F.  Whisk the red wine and balsamic vinegar in a stovetop pan, bringing to boil.  Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.  Create an egg wash by cracking the eggs into a bowl or pan and place flour into another nearby bowl or pan.  Dip each chicken breast into the egg wash and then into the flour.  (This can get messy and I haven’t perfected how to do this yet.  Any tips would be appreciated!)  Spray the skillet and heat to medium high heat.  Place chicken breasts onto skillet cooking 3/4 of the way through.  Remove from heat and place in oven-safe dish.  Spread chicken across bottom of pan.  Pour red wine and balsamic vinegar into the pan.  Place artichoke hearts around the chicken.  Finish cooking the chicken all the way through (approximately 8 minutes). 

#3.  Sea Scallop Risotto with side 

Ingredients: 

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1. 1/2 pound of 2 cm sea scallops (Meat & Fish Co.)

2.  Archer Farms roasted red pepper risotto (Target)

3.  butter (per risotto instructions)

4.  Trader Joes frozen artichoke hearts

5.  French baguette or other sliced bread

6. 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

7.  blackberries

8.  2 sprigs of basil (I used parsley here as that was all I had but highly recommend basil instead)

9. crushed black pepper

10.  crushed red pepper

Directions:  Scallops: Spray skillet with oil and heat to high heat.  Sear scallops for 30 second on each side.  Remove from skillet.  Risotto: so yes, I took a short cut here and used the boxed risotto.  It is still delicious and is inexpensive but feel free to substitute your own risotto.  I will be cooking my first soon.)  

Combine artichoke hearts and risotto.  Plate then place scallops.  Crush black and red peppers over the top.  Slice bread and cover in a 1/4 inch layer of ricotta cheese.  Top with blackberries and basil.  

 

I am getting hungry…more coming on the smorgasbord.  Tonight I’m thinking sockeye salmon with a tuna carpaccio rose.  Vegetables TBD. 

 

Meat & Fish Co.

Last summer, I returned to Charlotte to begin my new job.  I had a few days off, and so I headed down to 7th Street Public Market.  I remember knowing nothing about navigating the parking situation downtown and trekking from my car half way across town at the first free spot I could find.  I remember a lot about that day.  I was wearing jean shorts, a plaid shirt, and my white lace Toms shoes.  Remember my new crush?  I actually saw him on the street that day last year, though he doesn’t remember.  Guess I won’t wear that outfit ever again.

Anyways, I went to Not Just Coffee and said down with a delicious French Press Coffee and my journal and a book.  I wandered around the market but about all that was open was Meat & Fish Co.  I looked at it, overwhelmed and walked away.   Nevertheless, there was something about that place.  It took me a while to make it back…in early April I went to have a pizza on my day off and that’s when it clicked.  I could do this.  As I walked around, Meat & Fish Co. didn’t look so overwhelming.  A challenge, yes.  Thankfully, I met the most helpful person behind the counter, Jake.  A lot of the tips for cooking the meat come from him.  He takes time whether a busy Saturday or a slow Thursday afternoon to come out from behind the counter and discuss all of the options with me.  After we settle on something my budget can afford, we discuss cooking techniques and pairings.  Sometimes I feel like it’s Jake who should be starting this blog, but he is so encouraging that I know he is excited for me.  Most of my meat, then, is from Meat & Fish Co, at 7th Street Market in Charlotte.  Some of my selections are unusual and unique to my butcher but others can easily be picked up at your neighborhood grocery store.  I hope you enjoy some selections below!

P.S.  I have since taken that crush I saw on the street to 7th Street Market.  While he doesn’t remember the first time he saw me on the way there, who cares now that he was by my side there last Saturday morning.

My Seat in the Cupboard

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I grew up thinking cooking was a pointless art.  My mother was good at it but her plate was full.  I believed plated meals were served only by wealthy stay-at-home mothers with families of 2.5 children or for holidays and other special occasions.

What I’ve learned is that cooking is expensive but can be done for a reasonable cost while working full-time.  My goal here is to tell you how.

My cooking started with the simultaneity of a move and a crush.  Over the year I had bought and frozen some quality ingredients that I needed to cook.  Also, this crush sparked a lot of cooking because what guy turns down a home cooked meal?  Especially when photos can be sent to pull him away from work to meeting you at the dinner table.  I started small, cooking by the book recipes and lots of baking but three months later I have fallen in love.

Of course, I’ve always loved eating so get ready for some great meals, cooked and dining out.  I’ll start off with some posts of my variety of my dishes with ingredients, their purchase place, and cooking directions and tips.  All images are #nofilter.