Monday, January 30, 2012

Coffee cake

I made coffee cake yesterday in between brewing. The basics:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

1) Into the mixer (not exact): 1tsp salt, 1tsp baking powder, 3/4tsp baking soda (or vice versa), 2 1/4 c flour, 8T butter cut into 12 pieces, 1 1/c c sugar. Beat it up a bunch.
2) Then, add 1/2c sour cream or plain yogurt

3) In a different bowl mix 1c sour cream or yogurt, 4 eggs, some vanilla (eh, pour a reasonable amount, I like vanilla).

4) Mix the wet into the dry

5) Pour it into a greased 9x13 pan.

6) In a bowl mix something like (I really made this up) 3/4c flour, 3/4c sugar, a bunch of dark brown sugar (maybe 3/4 cup?), 8T butter cut into 12 pieces, and then some brown spices like cin, all spice, cloves and a bit of fresh nutmeg. I did some double-knife action to cut the butter into the dry goods.

7) Bake for about 40 minutes. Watch the butter pooling and bubbling and almost deep frying parts.

8) Nom nom nom. Oh, I'm sorry, did you want some?

8) Watch the butter pool on top

Saturday, January 21, 2012

36 Hours in New Orleans

We actually spent seven luxurious days in NOLA, but if I blogged about all of it, it would get boring. Or at the least, I would get bored halfway through and might never get to some of the highlights. Instead, I'm going to boil down my recommendations for a 1.5 day food-centric excursion through the Crescent City, based on things I ate during this trip. I stayed in the French Quarter, so everything in this list is basically easily accessible from there. Someday I'll get back and roam a little more widely through other parts of the city.

Arrive. Eat an order of beignets and have a coffee at Cafe du Monde. It doesn't matter what time you arrive - any time is the perfect time for beignets. Enjoy the busy atmosphere, the old school uniforms that the servers wear, and the shower of powdered sugar that you will inevitably be wearing once you're done.

Lunch: stand in line at Central Grocery. It looks unbearably long, but it'll move fast, and you'll wind through what might as well be a museum of food oddities, but is actually a market. If there is only one of you, get a half a muffuletta. You probably won't finish the whole thing, but if you only get a quarter, you might long for one or two more bites. Also get a root beer in an old fashioned bottle. And some Zapp's potato chips if you like the salt to cut through the olivey goodness of the sandwich. Take your lunch to Jackson Square and eat it on the grass. They're closed Sunday and Monday and are only open til 5 on the other days, so plan accordingly.

Snack: walk into the Central Business District and grab a crepe and an espresso beverage at Merchant. Or a frozen yogurt at Pinkberry, because you can't go wrong with frozen yogurt. Or a Pimms Cup at Napoleon House Bar if you don't want to leave the Quarter and you want a refreshing drink surrounded by excellent atmosphere.

Dinner: start with the spinach salad at Muriel's. It's warmed slightly by the apple bacon vinaigrette, and topped with a perfect combination of sweet spiced pecans and thinly shaved sweet onions. I usually dislike raw onions, but these were thinly shaved enough that they just blended in with the rest of the salad rather than overwhelming it. Next, I'd have the butternut squash soup from Restaurant August. Butternut squash soup is everywhere, but this rendition was especially creamy and luxurious, just the right temperature, and garnished well. For an entree, I had so many crazy rich good dinners that it's hard to choose, but I guess the prime rib at Besh Steak wins, for being over the top and still excellent. It is probably the largest portion of meat I have ever been served. The veggies on the side were also lovely, though the potatoes were way too buttery. For dessert, I'd go back to Muriel's and its bread pudding, because bread pudding is a must in NOLA, and this one was rich and comforting and the portion size was right.

After dinner: dueling pianos and hurricanes at Pat O'Briens. Even the sixth rendition of Sweet Caroline sounds fine after a couple of hurricanes.

Super late: at 2:30am, a hard cider from the Dungeon poured into a plastic cup and drunk on the streets with all the revelers was pretty great.

Breakfast/Brunch: The corned beef hash and eggs at the Old Coffeepot plus the grits with roasted corn from Zea's plus some boudin and a pastry from Cake Cafe plus an cappucino shakerato (refreshing and strong despite its silly name) from Merchant would be my ideal combo while I recovered from the night before.

While you wait til you're hungry again, roam the shops in the French Quarter. Check out the Mardi Gras and Katrina exhibits at the Presbytere museum (it sounds like a weird juxtaposition, but it totally works). Sit on the benches and watch the boats on the Mississippi. Visit the excellent Aquarium. Browse through the cookbook shop on Toulouse.

Lunch: be more adventurous and leave the Quarter. Ride the St Charles streetcar to S Carrollton Ave @ Willow Street, and walk a block to Boucherie. I liked this place so much I would order the whole meal again without having to supplement from other places: get the duck confit po boy with roasted garlic, bread and butter pickles, arugula and creole tomatoes if you're a carnivore, or the curried vegetable stuffed roasted beet with red jasmine rice and beet hoisin if you're a vegetarian, and split an order of fries. We didn't sample cocktails here, but a sazerac is one of those quintessential things you should try in NOLA. The thai chili chocolate chess pie was fine - I wish my people had been willing to try the krispy kreme bread pudding, though.

Hop back on the street car and take it to Avenue Pub. The selection is great, and you get $2 off a pint between 4 and 6pm.

Dinner: you might be too full for another super rich meal, so sample a bunch of appetizers like the eggplant caviar and olive tapenade, Crispy Smoked Quail Salad with Pears and Bourbon Molasses Dressing, and fried pork cake with poached egg, spinach and warm lentil dressing at Bayona. Check out their beautiful courtyard and toast a successful trip. If you're too full for dessert, order the petit fours plate to go, and eat them in your hotel room after you've digested properly.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Inspired by Mary's post of Gluten Free Goddess' Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas, we threw a bunch of stuff in tortillas last night, topped it with canned enchilada sauce, and called it a day:

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Toss some potato and sweet potato in olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, toss in oven til tender.
3. Thinly slice an onion and saute in olive oil. When it's soft, add a can of black beans, then throw in potato and sweet potato, and a small can of olives.
4. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 pan with a layer of enchilada sauce.
5. Bathe tortilla with sauce by moving it around in the pan, then add some filling plus some cheese, roll up, and leave in pan. Repeat til you're out of space, adding more enchilada sauce as needed to keep tortillas moist-ish.
6. Bake at 350 or so until the cheese melts.

I have a lot to say about our weeklong trip to New Orleans. Hopefully I'll get to it soon!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chard and Sweet Potato Soup

Chard and sweet potatoes are my go-to winter vegetables. I love them both, and they are plentiful. I usually put them in a coconut milk curry, but my coconut milk consumption is getting a little out of hand. So, when Lynne Rosetto Kasper featured a newer, lighter soup based on these veggies on her podcast, I thought I should try it. I am pickier than I'd like to be when it comes to soup. I almost never like soups with chunks of things in them, possibly because I want every bite to have every taste in it, and if there are more than a couple things, it's impossible to get them all on a spoon. I also have trouble getting just the right salt level, and so soup often seems too bland or too salty for me (plus, Tim and I have different salt preferences). I do love a creamy, pureed soup, but again, often not as healthy due to cream ladenness. I like this one - there aren't too many competing flavors, and the bit of cheese at the end gives it extra earthiness. The lemon juice also balances the saltiness.

Anyway... here's what we made:

original Splendid Table recipe

Sweet Potato and Chard Soup, our version:


1 yellow onion, chopped
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of the knife and roughly chopped
1 large yam, about 12 oz.
6 cups water
6 tsps better than boullion
1 bunch Swiss chard, about 12 oz.
salt and pepper
a dash fresh lemon juice
gruyere cheese
additional olive oil

  • In a medium sized skillet, sauté onion with a pinch of salt in the olive oil, stirring often on medium low heat until it is soft and beginning to color. Add the chopped garlic, and keep cooking on a low flame, stirring often, until the onion is golden brown, about fifteen more minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peel the yam and cut it in 1/2" dice. Wash the chard, slice the greens off the stems, and cut the leaves into 1-2" pieces. Thinly slice the chard stems. Combine the yams, chard, water and bouillon concentrate in a soup pot and simmer gently, covered, for about twenty minutes.
  • Add the sautéed onions to the soup, and simmer another ten minutes. Add fresh ground black pepper and  lemon juice to taste.
  • Ladle steaming hot soup into deep bowls, drizzle the top of each serving with some fruity green olive oil, top with croutons and grated cheese.