Friday, October 24, 2008

Fall Delish!

It's October, and in Ohio I would be pleasantly chilly admiring the red and orange leaves outside but I am living in Texas, happily mind you, but missing the fall. Autumn's unique crispness always has me craving new shoes and big, steamy bowls of soup. I'm thinking some ankle boots from Me Too but as for the soup I want something savory and light. Garbanzo beans are a staple of mine, I put them in salads, patties, pasta, hummus, and most favourably in hearty soups such as this Parmesan Broth Chickpea Stew. This soup is highly flavorful from a Parmesan rind boiling away in the broth and a pure delight on a cold November's day. Even if you are living in the eighty degree autumn of Austin one bowl of this and you'll be daydreaming of tea and sweaters in no time.

1 16 oz can of garbanzo beans rinsed, drained (or a cup of dried beans soaked,boiled)
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 leek, trimmed and white parts thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
2 medium to small potatoes chopped
1 small Parmesan rind
3 cups of chicken or veggie stock
2 cups of warm water
3 tbs of olive oil
salt and pepper

Saute the onions, shallots, garlic, and leeks in oil until translucent, 7 min.
Add the beans, potatoes, stock, and cheese rind.
Boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove Parmesan rind, blend half of the soup.
Add water as needed.
Taste, add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with a big chunk of bread, a salad, or just a clean spoon!



Monday, September 1, 2008

Salmorejo Cordobes

It's September and it's still a blazing inferno outside. I am somewhat adapting, ever so slowly, and this recipe has lent a cooling hand to my feverish disposition. Salmorejo is an Andalucian chilled soup, created in the farmlands of southern Spain. Incredibly simple, fresh, and filling it's all I can ask for in a late summer meal.

3/4 Baguette
4 Roma tomatoes blanched and peeled, or just peeled
1 long pepper ( not spicy ) chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped
3 tblsp. Olive oil
3 tsp. Sherry Vinegar ( can substitute white wine vinegar )

For Garnish:
Hardboiled eggs
Green Olives

a sturdy bowl
an immersion blender

Tear the baguette into one inch pieces and place in bowl
Chop the tomatoes over the bread in bowl
Add chopped pepper and garlic
Add the oil and vinegar
Blend until smooth
Salt to taste
Add more oil or vinegar to taste
Ladle into bowls
Garnish with eggs and olives

Enjoy, relax, cool off.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Represent! Go Forth and Potluck

The potluck, once a way for wifeys in the 1950's to show off their Waldorf salads, has progressively become hip again and here's why:

1. Going out to eat in a massive group is expensive and aggravating (especially for those with a 'split checks for 30 people is normal' mentality).
2. It's far more interesting to see what your strange friend has cooked then what they will order.
3. It's an excuse to drink, dance, and debaucherize in the safety of your friend's home.
4. Potlucks are like a blue-collar American tapas bar with Dixie cups!

So, on that celebratory note, me and mine participated in an exciting potluck themed "Bring a dish from your state or culture." The host is Iranian; she made Persian kebabs and Moroccan rice, fabulous. A girl from Minnesota made snicker's salad; a dish that has no business being in a salad category and consists of snickers, nuts, and cool whip. I of course called to my southern roots and made Sweet Potato Casserole ( beautifully illustrated in the lower left hand square ) which, despite its horrifying amount of butter was a big hit. Try it the next time you potluck!

Sweet Potato Casserole

preheat the oven to 350 degrees
a 9X9 or similar pan

The Base

3 cups of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
1/4 cup of milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick of softened butter

The Topping

1 cup of nuts, I prefer a mix of walnuts and pecans
1 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of softened butter
2 tbs of flour

Mix the base ingredients together
Lay mixture out in the pan
Mix the brown sugar and flour together in a separate bowl
Mix in with the nuts and butter
Dot the topping along the surface of the casserole
Bake for 30 minutes covered with foil until bubbly

Remove and amaze!

Thank you Britta Johanson for the photos.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Four Spots, One Slice: Looking for the Best Pizza in Austin, TX

I love pizza, as do most people and we all have our favorites, but there are definite standards by which to judge a slice that we can all agree on. Hot delicious crust thin/thick, flavorful sauce, and fresh toppings are the basic necessities. These along with service and atmosphere were my ruler as I delved into the world of Austin Texas Pizza. As of now, I still haven't found the perfect slice in Austin but I have found some solid pies.

1. Home Slice

When I first arrived in Austin the almost ubiquitous answer to my "Where is the best pizza?" query was "Homeslice, it's awesome." Even people I didn't know at bus stops informed of the great Homeslice. So, I visited this hallowed pizzeria first. Homeslice is comfortably located in the commercial area of southern Congress amidst shopping and bars. Inside it's punk which, in my experience, is a strong indication of good pizza. I either want to see a mohawked figure or a serious Italian throwing dough and Homeslice employs. The pizza was tasty. The sauce is light and tangy but the crust is unadorned, uninteresting. I had a Margherita pizza with sauce on the side and was delighted with the generous amount of fresh basil on the pie but what most impressed me about Homeslice was the service. Our server, a gentleman with a mohawk and lovely tattoos, pulled and replaced our silverware with every course, offered us freshly ground pepper, and a first for me: repeatedly poured our pitcher of Lonestar as if it was a bottle of wine. So I do recommend Homeslice, as long as servers like him are still there.

2. The Parlor

Some people think avocado has no business being on pizza and their unfortunate view will forever leave them wanting. The smooth and oily avocado, a perfect foil for spicy jalapenos, raw garlic, fresh basil, bacon, tomatoes, and pineapples, is a sensuous topping that I highly recommend for these hot summer days. The Parlor situated in the Hyde Park area is my favorite place to enjoy said topping and listen to Reagan Youth, Fear, or the as this is another punk pizza place. The parlor has a very sought after patio but the inside is fun too, hosting a variety of arcade games you thought you'd never see again. Alas, the crust is not interesting. The service is sweet and casual. The pitchers are generally cold, try it out.

3. East Side Pies

I went to this tiny pizza shop once after a show at the adjoining record store Trailer Space and had a delicious thin, greasy, slice of pepperoni. My mouth waters just thinking about it and how much it reminded me of NYC pizza. Since then I've been back and repeatedly disappointed by burnt spinach and raw garlic. Bland pies aside, I still think about that first slice. Oh who was in the kitchen that night and where have they gone?

4. Frank and Angies

What I liked about Frank and Angie's right away is the location. It's downtown on West avenue and easily accessible by many forms of traffic. This is a family style Italian diner owned by the same people who on Hut's hamburgers. Frank and Angies has spagetti and meatball specials and the restaurant is decked out in kitchy Italian memorabilia. The wait staff was young and personable but on to the pies; most self aware pizza I've had in Austin. The pie seemed just as purposefully Italian-American as the decorations on the wall. How? The pies are small and hand thrown with lobed uneven edges. Purposefully thin sauce applications and a heavy hand with cheese reminded me of mom and pop pizzerias back in Ohio where garlic is scarce and grated parmesan is unloaded by the pound. Cute place, worth a visit.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Relocation: The joys of building a new kitchen

So all,

I have left the land of corn and in my attempt to obtain cheap gas prices have moved to the land of oil; Texas. Actually I am going to graduate school here and I sold my car on the way down but, all reasoning aside, I am now living in Austin, Tx and Dinnerella is already banging away in the kitchen, south-west style.

Currently I live in French Place which is adorable and hotter than hell. Without a car I knew grocery shopping would be an adventure of sorts but luckily I live very near a Fiesta, a Mexican influenced grocery store, where unbelievably mangoes are 3/ a dollar and avocados are 2/ for a dollar. Roughly a third of what we pay in Ohio, yeah North! Also, Fiesta has a downright frightening selection of "other" foods. Things I've never seen in a food aisle. Cactus leaves, fresh ezpazote, and dried seahorses were most notable and although a cacti seahorse taco sounded all right I opted out, maybe next week. Instead I made a lunchtime variation of the popular frijoles con papas breakfast tacos, delicious.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos with Avocado Sour Cream


1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 can of black beans, or 1/2 cup of dried beans soaked and boiled
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup of orange juice
1/4 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 clove of garlic

salt, pepper
soft small flour tortillas

Heat some canola oil in a medium skillet and add onion
Cook for four minutes and add the cinnamon and cumin, coat the onions evenly
After a minute add potatoes, garlic, jalapenos
Cook until potatoes are tender about 15 minutes, add beans
When beans are warmed through turn the heat up to high and use the orange juice to deglaze the pan
When orange juice has simmered away, add parsley, salt, and pepper to taste, remove from heat and fill in tortillas, top with avocado sour cream

Avocado Sour Cream

1 avocado
1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 cup of cilantro, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Mash up the garlic and salt to form a paste
Mash the garlic paste into the avocado until smooth
Incorporate the yogurt until homogenized
Stir in the cayenne and cilantro

Either let sit in the refrigerator for an hour to meld or serve right away, it keeps in the fridge for about three days


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Forest Food

This is the kind of dish to make for your earthy friend. The incredibly nutty pesto is softened with a velvety Bechamel sauce and used as a base for blanched asparagus and oyster mushrooms creating a woodsy, satisfying Spring lasagna.

For the Pesto:

1 1/2 cup hazelnuts (about 4 1/2 ounces), toasted lightly and skinned
2 cups packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves (about 1 large bunch), washed and dried
3 medium garlic cloves
3/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor blend together first three ingredients while slowly incorporating the olive oil

p.s. to toast and skin the hazelnuts just bake them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees and then roll them around in a kitchen towel until skins come off toast

For the Bechamel from Mario Batali:

5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

For the lasagna:

1 box of no boil lasagna noodles
1 lb of button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb of dried oyster mushrooms (reconstitute in simmering stock and wine)
1 1/2 bundles of asparagus, blanched and sliced into two inch pieces
1 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano
black pepper and salt
a glass lasagna pan

Preheat the oven to 350
cover the bottom of the pan with bechamel sauce
layer with noodles
add a layer of pesto and bechamel
add button mushrooms
layer with noodles
add a layer of bechamel
add asparagus
layer with noodles
add a layer of pesto
add oyster mushrooms
layer with noodles
add bechamel, pesto, pecorino and pepper to top

bake for 45 minutes covered with foil, remove foil and bake for 15 minutes, let sit for 10 and enjoy!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Weird food in Austin, Tx

I do not like to be disturbed in the morning. Sleep has always been important to me and despite my love of food, breakfast has never had a strong spot in my daily agenda. Alas, times have changed. For this, I will awake into the cold morning and force myself to the nearest stand in order to obtain the only breakfast that is worth waking for: The Breakfast Taco.
During my stay a friend demanded that I try one of these ubiquitous morning meals before I leave Texas. I wasn't hard pressed to find one, thinking the taco would be much like heuvos rancheros which I can easily find in Cincinnati. Later that evening, when I mentioned to my host, "Someone told me to try this thing, a breakfast taco..." her face dropped as if I had asked what in the world is this apple thing everyone's talking about, "You've never had a breakfast taco?!" she exclaimed. "In Texas we don't bring donuts to the office, we bring breakfast tacos!" And so it was at 8:30 the next morning at a little stand that I stood in line with a growing hoard of Texans and waited for my very first breakfast taco. The menu was straight forward and inexpensive:

I ordered one of each, of course, and slowly ate them all. The bean taco was refried pintos, eggs, and cheese; soft and salty. Next I had the chorizo, the greasiest of all, and then the sausage which tasted exactly like a sausage omelet in a tortilla. The potato and eggs were light and almost my favorite until the migas. The best! Corn was the overpowering flavor but I also tasted onions and peppers wrapped in hot eggs and cheese. Divine. I soon found out a migas is a delicious mixture of day old tortilla strips sauteed with scrambled eggs, chopped onions, peppers. Once one has added the house made pico de gallo and bitten into the hot and savory migas taco, donuts seem like a sad way to start the morning.

Breakfast tacos were the tastiest food I encountered in Austin but the weirdest definitely goes to the Frito Pie at The Shady Grove The Frito Pie is a questionable thing. It isn't really a pie, although it is layered. The Shady Grove has taken the popular combination of Fritos on top of Texas style chili and reversed the placement. So the crunchy, corny Fritos are on the bottom of a pile of The Shady Grove's spicy sirloin chili, cheese, onions, and jalapeno peppers, dutifully soaking up the mess. Like eating nachos with a spoon the odd and junky Frito Pie is one of my Austin favorites.

The Frito pie is served in its original casing.

And in minutes...

There was lots of other food namely smoky beef BBQ and homemade tamales but they will have to wait for another edition of Dinnerella. Let me know what you eat in Austin!

P.S. For a chicken tortilla soup free of heavy cheese and blessed with a clear, lime infused broth full of avacados and tender chicken, head to Reata Grill at the Dallas Fort Worth airport.