Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Babette's Great Food Events, 2010

So this week is often the week of lists all around the world, right? As we say good-bye to one year, welcome another, we get to look back on the highs and lows of the past 365 days...which brought me to thinking about the good things in the food world I've done--or discovered--this year. So here, in no particular order,

1. Backyard beekeepers. I met someone who has been keeping hives in his back yard for decades (first his father, then this guy), which led me to pitch a story to Edible Piedmont about the back yard beekeepers in Charlotte, NC, my new hometown. I got to taste some great honey, but more important, I got to talk to people who have incredible passion for what they are doing. In almost all cases, they are doing this as a hobby. They sell some, but mostly they lay out money so they can coax bees into filling the hives with honey. I spent a lot of hours learning about bees, even attending a "bee school" field day. I got closer to bees than I ever thought I'd get. I was looking at every space thinking, "I could put a hive there." That was a fun story.

2. Another local story that put me into the heart of the food scene in Charlotte was also for Edible Piedmont. I got to meet and interview Cassie Parsons and Natalie Veres, who own Grateful Growers Farm in Denver, NC. They've started one of the few food trucks in Charlotte (this town being a little slow, due to INCREDIBLE red tape surrounding opening such a truck), Harvest Moon Grille, which sells lunch meals made with truly local ingredients--60 miles or less (I think unless they are talking about flour, for example). While talking to Cassie at the truck, I got to meet Peter Reinhardt, whose books I own. I visited the farm. I spent an evening at the farm when they hosted a fund raiser and we dined under the stars, where we met new friends, with whom we've done a few things since. I've made mozzarella twice for the restaurant they've opened, Harvest Moon Grille in the Dunhill Hotel in Charlotte...AND I may teach a kids cooking class at the restaurant in January. I've said before I love food people and this is just one example of that.

3. I got to cook for Guy Fieri at the Super Bowl in Miami in February. A call came out of the blue in late January: was I interested in food styling for a Guy Fieri/Ritz Cracker segment on Super Bowl Sunday? Oh, yes. After a week of TV segments for Laura's Lean Beef, I spent three days doing some nonstop cooking and prep work under...hmm,  let's say not great conditions. My knives got stolen. I was on my feet for HOURS (oh, how I'd forgotten those restaurant days). I cooked Guy's recipes for Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher (go Steelers!)--and more. Can't even recall. Got a fun photo with the team (that's me, "Kleetus" and Guy). Oh, and bragging rights. [GuyBKCrop.jpg]

4. Here's a sad one: Florida Table folded. And since they changed web hosts, they DELETED the entire Florida Table website and archives. I still can't quite believe that, but there you go. It was bad enough they folded and I lost the food editor job I loved so much for the past three years, but then to delete all those beautiful photos, stories, etc...sigh. They tried hard, but for whatever reason, the magazine just couldn't keep going. I loved the people I met and the work I did.

5. I learned to make mozzarella cheese! (Inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver) I got the needed rennet and citric acid (from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company) and cheese curded my way to fabulous, warm mozzarella. Actually, I committed to TEACHING A CLASS in cheese making (at our apartment building) before I'd even made batch one. (Have I ever told you my motto: how hard can it be?...and that's why I said, Sure! I'll teach a class!)...which meant in the two weeks after I got back from the Late July vacation to California (San Luis Obispo area: loved loved loved it), I made about eight batches of mozzarella and only really ruined ONE...I taught the class, it was a huge success (sent everyone home with about a pound of mozzarella) and have made mozzarella fairly frequently since then. (And for Harvest Moon Grille at the Dunhill: see above.)
Teaching a class of 10 to make fresh mozzarella

6. I successfully completed the Blogathon. I was worried. Very worried. Daily posts for the entire month. But blogging is like so many things: the more you do it, the easier it gets. It became a habit, one I need to recommit to (is that a resolution in the making? Or just a good idea???)--I enjoyed doing it, I read new blogs, I got new readers. No down sides whatsoever.

7. I made Marcella Hazan's lasagne. This was SUCH a big hit. In fact, it may have pushed lasagne into one of my favorite meals. THIS lasagne to be exact. And then, after I'd blogged the whole event? I got a comment from Marcella. That just made my day. And I've made the lasagne again. Worth it. In fact, her book, Essentials of Italian Cooking is one I reach for more and more frequently these days.

There were, of course other highs--Alton Brown's pumpkin pie from real pumpkin was an absolute runaway favorite (we voted) at Thanksgiving.  I had the most incredible solo dinner at Blue Hill NYC.
I read A Homemade Life and the recipe for creamed cabbage changed our veggie-eating habits forever. I wrote about rules you should break in the kitchen. I returned to canning and made the BEST peach jam EVER. I bragged about my garlic bread domination.

It was a good year in food. I'll try to make 2011 even better.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Treats

Five things to make sure you eat (or make) over the holidays:

Panetone: this is an egg-y, buttery Italian bread filled with raisins and candied peel--two things I hated as a child, but love as an adult. I love coming home with a red box, with its ribbon handle on top, to slice and toast as my breakfast for many days during December. This year I am thinking about making it.

Trader Joe's Mint Joe Joes. Think Oreo with peppermint stirred into the vanilla cream center. Mmmm. Even "mmmm-ier"? Mint Joe Joes dipped in chocolate.

English Christmas Cake: I hate fruitcake. I love English Christmas cake, a rich, dense fruitcake topped with a layer of marzipan and a layer of royal icing. I use Delia Smith's recipe. Most excellent.

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Espresso Wafers. This is just a special cookie. You mix real espresso powder into the dough.

Peppermint Bark..Look, if you are reading this blog, you'd better be making your own peppermint bark...You can buy it EVERYWHERE, but what could be simpler. Melt chocolate and pour into pan in thin layer. Crush peppermint. Sprinkle peppermint candy over chocolate. Cool, break, enjoy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gifts for a Food Lover...

Okay, okay. I know it's not exactly romantic, but I love cooking tools. Useful, ingenious ones, not stuff like..oh, I don't know, like the avocado slicer that made me roll my eyes (what, it's too hard to scoop it out with a spoon and chop it? Or even mash it with a fork, right in the bowl??)....So here, in no particular order are a few things I'd get myself ...just because.

1. New Kitchenaid  mixer. I use my mixer often. And the little 4 1/2 quart one with a tilt head has been sorely challenged over the past year. I hear its motor protesting with a whine on some of the heavier lifting (mixing) it has to do. So I would love to upgrade to a 5-quart lift-bowl model. Price tag? Around $300. I don't think that will be in the stocking.

2. To go with the new mixer, I'd love one of these bowl scraper paddle attachments: hello genius! It's the paddle with plastic blades added to scrape the bowl as it mixes. Did I say genius already? They make them for all the models, the price tag is around $24--this could be in the stocking for that 4 1/2 quart mixer. Maybe I'll just have to live with this smaller model longer. I'll take the scraping paddle, Santa!

3. Enormous kitchen towels from Sur La Table. These look as if they could make a small woman a skirt, they are that big. But I love them. They run around $12 and as far as I am concerned, no chef can have enough cool kitchen towels. Enough said.

4. Two new Lodge cast-iron skillets. Ask my friend Michelle Marie: I bake everything in the 12-inch skillet I have, but sometimes, I could use a smaller version. At under $20 each, this is so affordable and so versatile. The bonus is that if you season it after every use (these days, the skillets come pre-seasoned--anathema to some purists, but I'm okay with it) by drying it, coating it with a thin layer of oil and placing it into a warm oven for about 20 minutes, you'll have some of the best non-stick cookware with non of the nonstick compounds.

5. Either a new Le Creuset Dutch oven (I saw one at Marshall's for about $160), which is enameled cast-iron OR a Lodge Dutch oven, which probably would run me about $50. You know I'm cheap. So Santa can bring me the Le Creuset. But since Santa doesn't read my blog, I'll probably buy myself the Lodge Dutch oven.

6. Salts. I want sel gris to use every day. I want truffle salt so I can make truffle fries. I want pink and black and smoked salt. And I want to get them all from The Meadow, run by Mark Bitterman, whom I met at The Greenbrier Writers' Symposium.

7. BOOKS. I really covet a few books this year. I want Tartine Bread and Tartine. Chad Robertson, who I worked with many many years ago, wrote the bread book, and his wife, Elisabeth Prueitt (they are James Beard Award winner, btw. And I SO know them. NAME DROP.), wrote Tartine, about their San Francisco bakery's pastries. But I've decided I ONLY want to buy it from them in their bakery, so i guess I need a ticket to San Francisco. I also really want Amanda Hesser's Essential New York Times Cookbook. I admit to being insanely jealous of Amanda. I love her website, Food52, which I wish I'd have thought of first. Oh, the sponsors wouldn't be a bad thing to have, either. But the thing is, I pretty much like everything I've read of Amanda's and I really like the website. (Check it out.)...so yes, this is one of THE cookbooks to own. I also want Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, written by Mark Bitterman (see #6).

8. This isn't exactly a FOOD tool, but I would so use it in my kitchen: I want an iPad to work on for recipe development in the kitchen. Right now, I develop with a pencil and paper nearby, making notes that I then have to transfer to the computer page. I'd love to have the iPad on my counter, make changes right there...Of course, I'd do plenty of other things with it, but I can't help wanting it. Yes, my name is Barb, and I love Apple products. (For the record, they fixed my computer last month, honoring the warranty because it was only just expired and two days ago, they replace my son's iPhone...because they are so cool. They like happy customers and happy customers are loyal customers. No, I'm not a paid advertiser!!)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Whew--My month in food...

Last time I posted, I'd made Dorie's pumpkin flans and chicken...that seems so long ago...I've been cooking, but I'm sorry to say I haven't been writing about my cooking...or even thinking about writing about my cooking. Bummer, that. I still want to make that semolina cake, and I will certainly be catching up on December's recipes...please, it's a win-win situation.

So a recap of the past month.
I actually did keep up with Dorie one more week and put together the most awesome potato gratin. This dish is proof that simplicity is sublime. Or, as my neighbor Lauren put it: potato crack. (See how others fared here. You'll see links to other recipes, too.)

I bought a grinder attachment and played with sausage recipes, something I'd always wanted to do...and now maybe I'll be one of those people who grind their own beef for burgers.

I finally hung these fabulous little framed ....fun-ness that I bought when I had my weekend with the girls in Delaware...I love these little pieces of art. They make me smile:

That definitely sums up time with college friends. We dance. We have fun...well, the pork one? That just made me smile, because you KNOW I always say bacon makes everything better. And I should do all of the above far more often.

Before I knew it, Thanksgiving was here and I had a lot of family come into town, which I loved. But if you can believe it, I barely took any photos. (Yes, of course the Thanksgiving dinner was lovely. Best gravy EVER. A Trader Joe's Brined Turkey: FABULOUS. Cranberry sauce made with port wine, the bottle I've been lugging around for...a few years. That was certainly a good use of port wine.)The one thing I did get a shot of was the day after's Turkey and Wild Rice Soup. I'd come home from my Minnesota trip with a pound of wild rice. After eating it so many places, I wanted to eat some at home, too. So Turkey and Wild Rice Soup it would be...I will write the recipe (ahem. as I recall it) in the next post, but this was so good.

I made a bunch, but it was like we couldn't get enough of it. I savored THOSE leftovers for days. Sammy did justice to the turkey sandwich as often as he could. We made good use of that turkey.

The days since then have been filled mostly with work. I had a ton of it and my goal was to be done with it ALL so I could really enjoy the weeks around the holidays. Then in the middle of it all, I committed to heading into the Dunhill Hotel here in Charlotte to make fresh mozzarella in the new Harvest Moon Grille restaurant there. So twice now, I've shown up at 7.15 a.m., banged out 6 pounds of mozzarella and headed home. It is definitely fun being in the restaurant kitchen. It really feels like home, but at the same time, 10 hours a day might not look so appealing. One good thing coming from that is that I'll likely be teaching a kids class at the hotel in mid-January. I think the theme will be "Eat Your Science Experiment" and we'll make some mozzarella cheese, pizza dough and end with pizza. Cool, right? 2011 is the year I do more teaching, which I love to do.

For now, the tree is up, some presents are wrapped, Ian is home, Bryn will be off soon. I want to bake, to cook (our dinner will be Beef Wellington. Tenderloin already in the fridge ready to be broken down. What? It was the least expensive option. Who knows what goodness will come of it all?). Some friends will make it for dinner on Christmas Day and maybe we'll revive the tradition of Boxing Day Steak Pie Open House...that would make me happy. Then I could eat pork, have more fun and dance, baby dance. Sweet.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Catch Up: French Fridays: Chicken AND Pumpkin Flans. It's the Two-fer.

In an effort to stay ahead..ah, enough with the excuses. Here are Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux (the Lazy Ones Among Us) and Pumpkin Gorgonzola Flans, both from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. I have to keep this short and sweet in order to catch up.
The chicken? Good roast chicken. Acutally, GREAT roast chicken, the best roasted chicken I've had, maybe ever, but I think that honor is because the chicken was just processed by the folks at Red Dirt Ranch here in NC. The freshest, juiciest, nicest...everything.

Here's the thing with the recipe. I used a dutch oven, but that didn't really give me enough space for the veg to go in...next time, this is going into a roasting pan...But the veg that did get nicely roasted here...that was really good..

The flans? I loved them, but G wouldn't try them...nor would B--she doesn't like gorgonzola. Their loss. These are rich and smooth. The blue cheese is a great touch and the pecans (I prefer to walnuts) are great for texture...I didn't have great ramekins--not the right size, I'd say...I'd love these in my creme brulee dishes--very shallow with a good ratio of nutty cheese topping to pumpkin flan...And they are gorgeous...

Both recipes very simple. I'm having roast chicken (from Red Dirt) again because it tasted that good...
This week is a good one to try the cake AND the potatoes...oooh, in fact, maybe the potatoes will go nicely with the roast chicken tonight...even though there's  no one here to eat dinner with me tonight. Doesn't mean I won't cook!

Side note: I made stock with the chicken bones right in the dutch oven I used to roast the chicken. Best. Stock. Ever..Brown and rich. Now that? That I would do again.
Side SIDE note: So I made the chicken  in a shallow roasting pan? Let's just admit Dorie got it right. It did splatter everywhere. Note to self: Trust the Dorie.

Need to see other results? Check out French Fridays with Dorie.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Marie-Helene's Apple Cake for French Friday's with Dorie

Yum. Make that apple RUM cake. This ends up being chunks of apple just held together by the barest bit of buttery rummy batter.

And it works.What more can I say? The apples look like a tile mosaic in the slice of cake, they are packed together so...When I mixed the apples into the batter, I was thinking: uh oh. I did it again. Too many apples for the batter.


This cake is so simple and so fabulous...everyone should know how to make it.
Check out other blog posts about Marie-Helene's Apple Cake on French Fridays with Dorie while we cook our way through Around My French Table.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Officially Autumn

Guess what we did last night? This was the fall out...part of the evening I love every bit as much as the carving....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Friday's Hachis Parmentier on Monday

(Guess the title should really read "Friday's Hachis Parmentier Made on Monday, Posted on Wednesday)

Rush rush rush rush.
Cook cook cook cook.

I was trying to get this done BEFORE I headed out to get my daughter from dance class, and it just wasn't going to happen.

So I left it in the oven, turned the oven off, and headed out the door for about a 30-minute round trip.

Came home, relaxed. Had this waiting, along with some kale (thanks, MM!!) cooked with lots of garlic and sprinkled with balsamic.

This is comfort food as it is meant to be. I loved the mashed potatoes with gruyere. I loved the sausage crumbled up with the beef...I loved the veg, which I left in...because Dorie said I could.

I cooked it all in my black cast iron skillet, workhorse that she is...We could easily have fed 6 people, 8 if we'd had more sides...super generous meal...oh, and great leftovers.

Check out links at French Fridays with Dorie,
and, of course: BUY THE BOOK!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chocolate Covered Burnt Caramel with Sea Salt

Why yes, I DID see almost all of my best college friends this weekend. Why yes, a photo of a candy IS the first thing I manage to post...

But who wouldn't??

I am SO working on recreating this. And you are all getting homemade candy from me for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gougeres: Catching Up is Sweet (or Savory)

See the spiky cheesy goodness of a gougere hot out of the oven.
I couldn't pass up an excuse to make gougeres. I realize that French Fridays will be easier for me because I pretty much have all the ingredients for the savory recipes...I just do. That baking on Tuesdays With Dorie just wore me out with the sweet ingredients I didn't have...never a chance to do a quick baking session.

Gougeres? Simple. Bring milk and water, salt, butter to the boil. Add flour all at once and stir HARD. (It ends up looking like mashed potatoes). Then put that batter into mixing bowl. Beat with paddle, adding eggs, one at a time. Then beat in 6 ounces of the BEST grated cheese you can imagine. Spoon (or ice cream scoop) onto trays. Bake until golden brown.

Eat one hot. Eat another one hot. Try not to eat them all. Give a big batch to office staff. Knock on neighbors' doors (yes, PLURAL)...take them to rooftop and give them to friends while savoring sunset and a glass of wine. Offer to random passers by...take the to game night and force players to enjoy...finally hide one so you can savor the custardy, cheesy, salty goodness of the gougere one last time.

But then? Don't remember how easy they are to make. Don't make them again and eat THEM for dinner instead of a proper dinner tonight.

Just don't.

DO Check out other blogs and photos at French Fridays with Dorie..
And of course, buy the book!

Monday, October 18, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Gerard's Mustard Tart a.k.a. Dorie Greenspan Makes the Best Pie Crust of Anyone, Anywhere, Ever.

Is the title too much? Too bad. Because any time I have EVER made a Dorie G crust, it's been awesome...and therefore I come to think of myself as one awesome pie crust maker. And the sum of the parts on this mustard tart is greater than the whole...no, not kidding.

I made the dough. My impatience does not allow me to let it rest in the fridge at 7 p.m. So I made it.

Rolled it out between two sheets of parchments (oh, another awesome trick I have learned from Dorie)...

...then I froze the dough in the tart pan while the oven heated up to 425. Then I partially baked it--I, for one, always go the extra minute or two, because I do love a crispy crust, so it got 20 minutes with the foil and an additional five without the foil. Perfect.

The shell is delicate. Which is good. But bad if you can be a bit cavalier with your baked pastry crust---as I was. The shell shrank from the pan a bit, and instead of moving the pan, I held the pan by the rim, touch the crust..and cracked this little bit.

Ruh roh. Would the custard seep out and make it ...awful? I balled a bit of foil up and wedged it under the rim so the custard tipped ever so slightly away from that crack (you can see the edges of the foil in that photo above). Problem solved.

There's not a ton of custard in this. I was lucky enough to have rich rich rich Lakeview Farms Home Delivery cream (I have to shake it up to incorporate that heavy cream back into the liquid) to use with my eggs.
I also made way too many carrots and leeks..I used three, just like DG says, but she never says: 3 carrots, cut into matchsticks (you should have about 3 cups)....And yes, I should know better. But I love leeks and I love carrots. I couldn't edit them out of the tart shell.

So I didn't. In the end, maybe not the prettiest mustard tart of the lot.
But it has to be in the running for one of the best tasting, I'm sure of that...That combo of just enough mustardy custard, the leeks and the sweet carrots? Heaven. (Changes I'd make? I'd slice  the leeks crossways and dice the carrots. The long, slender cuts just pulled everything off the tart shell..)

Check out how others did at French Fridays with Dorie, and BUY THE BOOK.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dulce de Leche

Today my daughter came to me at lunch and said she wanted to make something. Something liiiiiike...fried chicken.

Um. No? When I eat fried chicken, you can be pretty damn sure it's not from my kitchen. All I can think of is the mess. Plus why should I make fried chicken when I can eat it at Price's Chicken Coop here in Charlotte, the best fried chicken I ever had?

So she started listing other possibilities and she got to dulce de leche--milk caramel--which is so popular in Latin America AND in South Florida...We've had it spread on things, in things. We've eaten alfajores (say alfa-hore-ace), buttery cookies sandwiching dulce de leche and sometimes dipped in chocolate... Bingo. Both of us had seen Alton Brown make it, so we got to work, and it couldn't have been easier:

4 cups Lakeview Farms whole milk (the stuff that comes to my door in glass bottles)..(okay, you can use milk local to YOUR area)
12 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise.

That's it. Get to simmer, add sugar, stir til dissolved, add baking soda, stir more. Here's what it looks like at first. None too pretty:
Take bean out after about 45 min., and continue to reduce
until you have about 1 cup of golden, thick homemade dulce de leche. (Click on link for Alton's detailed instructions.)

Eat with spoon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

French Fridays with Dorie: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup.

And so it begins. I think (I hope) I can do better with French Fridays than I did with Tuesdays with Dorie--baking was always a bigger challenge, but this? This is dinner.

The minute I read the recipe, I knew I that it would be a hit. It has all the flavors I love: coconut, curry(an option I took), shredded chicken and rice noodles. Total comfort.

It. Was. So. Easy. Add spices, garlic, onion--and all the except (almost except) the chicken. When that comes to a boil, reduce to simmer, poach chicken. When it's done, take chicken out, shred it, add it back in, stir in cilantro, serve with bean sprouts, basil, mint...We finished it all.

This is going into rotation. Permanently.

I have to give a shout out to Viva Paper Towels: when no chic little muslin bag was available for my spices, I wrapped them up in a square of Viva. Stayed whole.

Today I MAY play catch up and make the mustard tart with leeks and carrots... because it looks FABULOUS.

Go to French Fridays with Dorie to check out links to other bloggers' results...and Buy The Book!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Minneapolis in Food By Way of Food Photos

I spent a fabulous weekend with my mom and my sister in Minneapolis. My mom graduated from high school there in '53, and Pat and I accompanied her back for a trip as a way to celebrate the 75th birthday she had this year.

Of course, I was responsible for food planning. With the able (VERY able) help of my online (and now offline!!) friend, Amy Rea, we hit some great spots.

We were hungry when we got in, so we had our first bowl of wild rice and turkey soup at Keys Cafe. Cool, retro spot in Foshay Tower. It may look thick--too thick?--but it was incredible.

Walking on the street later that day, I came upon a nice farmers' market where they were also selling bouquets of flowers mixed with kale roses...cool in a foodie kind of way.

That evening we strolled to Joe's Garage for a restaurant week dinner: $15 for three courses. My first course was this oyster slider. Pretty much perfect. (I also had beef short ribs with mashed potatoes. Also incredible...just not so pretty in a picture.)
I liked this view of the basilica from the rooftop at Joe's:

Friday morning, after a nice breakfast at the Westin (oh, yum, the poached eggs with salsa...very nice)

 and some touring, we headed to St. Paul and the St. Paul Grill at the St. Paul Hotel.
Pat had one of the best burgers I can imagine, the Kobe burger with cheddar and bacon (it was the daily special burger). Oh, and did I mention? Hand cut fries, the only fries worth indulging in EVER. (Really. Is it so hard to make real fries? What is up with frozen fries, people?)

 I had one of the grill's signature dishes, chicken pot pie. Comfort food at its finest...

The next morning started with a visit to the fabulous Mill City Farmers' Market down by the Guthrie. We saw beautiful tomatoes...
Lovely sunflowers...

Colorful carrots...

We ate Indian Spiced donuts from the Chef Shack....

The sunshine made the carrots glow...

A few hours later we headed to lunch at Sea Change, where we had one of the best meals I've enjoyed in a LONG time. Everything was spot on...
Mom had the crab cake....

Pat had the shrimp and grits with a poached egg...
Amy and I both chose the Jidori egg coddled with (in?) truffle cream and served with toasted brioche so we could get every drop of that rich cream. My mouth waters just recalling how good this was...

We shared this yuzu tart for dessert...but it came with sweet graham thins, the tart, a goat cheese cheese cake garnished with a lime curd chip (cool) AND incredible cherry jam/compote/jam...Please, Sea Change, may I have some more??? Oh, and see the green dust on the side of the plate. Lime zest. I WILL figure out how they did that...

Mom chose the ginger ice cream sandwich that came with a gorgeous (looks AND taste) glass of prickly pear soda....

Two drinks stand out for me...

The serrano margarita at the bar at BANK, the restaurant at the downtown Westin. This is one well-made drink...packs a punch with heat and flavor. I really wanted a second and I would head to BANK just to have that drink again...

And the cardamom and rosewater mojito I had at Spoonriver with my Sunday brunch...(I could have used more cardamom flavor, but it was tasty...)

Of course we did other things in Minneapolis...great city, great people and, for this weekend in October, great weather...We visited my mom's alma mater, Academy of Holy Angels, we saw St. Paul and the Minnesota History Center (the 150 Great Things About Minnesota is excellent), we had a coffee on Grand Avenue, we saw Minnehaha Falls, we drove along the Mississippi, we saw a Louise Erdrich Play, Master Butcher's Singing Club, at the Guthrie, we rode the light rail, we walked along the Mississippi and over the Stone Arch Bridge, we saw some of the Mill City Museum, we marveled at the mill ruins in Mill Ruins Park, my mom even got to mass at the same church (new church, rebuilt post fire) she used to attend at times, St. Olaf's.

It was a great weekend and a great way to celebrate my mom's birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! Pat, thanks for all the planning.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Stop and Eat Here

Last week, I was backing up my photos, because I love each one of them...okay, not true, but I am not discriminating enough..Anyway, I decided to try one thing..hit delete, and even though it warned me, I said, "Oh, yeah, sure. I know what I am doing....CLICK!"

And then they were gone. You know that sinking feeling you get? Yeah, that one. I  had it. I tried to be cool. But then I gave up cool and went and bought recovery software, ran it...and recovered 70,000 jpeg files.

Seventy. Thousand.

And proceeded to spend the next 20 gazillion days looking at each file. Well, until I realized that I only wanted to recover the large files or I'd be left with such low resolution that it wouldn't matter if I recovered it or not...
Long story short, I saw not only photos I'd lost, but photos I'd forgotten about. Like this one from Rosas Farms. (THE place in Central Florida for grass-fed beef--and more. Just check out the website.)

I love this sign because it just sums up the open door policy I would like to live by every day.

So stop and eat here!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Garlic Bread Throwdown or The Best Garlic Bread You've Ever Eaten

Whoa. If you want to get a few comments on your facebook posting, claim to be the one to make the best garlic bread ever.

So I did. Make that claim, I mean. I wrote it just after a very simple dinner of pasta and garlic bread. As I enjoyed the slice of garlic bread, I thought to myself, "I make the best garlic bread ever." Then my daughter piped up: "Your garlic bread is the best I've ever tasted." Mr. BabetteFeasts agreed.

So what else would I do but brag on facebook? That brag resulted in requests for the recipe, one challenge (you are on, Jeanne) and one description of another friend's method.

But I have the secret, and I will share it. Make a paste of the garlic and some coarse Kosher salt, then warm butter with that garlic/salt paste in it--let it sit (steeping, I suppose) while you prep anything else (get the bread out, put the pasta in the water, clean up a mess). I think this step takes some of the sharpness from raw garlic out of the equation and it makes ALL the butter flavored with garlic. Then brush that melted garlic butter onto GOOD bread (I got La Brea baguettes warm from the market ovens yesterday). Sprinkle with chopped flat-leaf parsley and some freshly ground black pepper--again, just a bare grinding or two. Wrap in foil, warm in oven. Eat.

Here are my proportions--very garlicky, but...um...it's called garlic bread, helllOOOoooo? Vary proportions as you like. Use good butter, too. I used some fresh from a local dairy during the week, some KerryGold from Ireland for this blog post so I'd have a photo.

Babette's Best Garlic Bread
For 1 12.5 ounce baguette
2 garlic cloves
1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 to 2 ounces butter, depending on how decadent you are feeling
1 (roughly) 12-ounce baguette
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Mince garlic then sprinkle with salt. Use a fork to mash garlic and salt to a paste. Place into microwave-safe bowl and add butter. Heat until just melted, stir, then heat another 20 seconds or so. Stir then let sit at least 3 or 4 minutes.
2. Slice baguette in half lengthwise. Generously brush each cut side  with butter, making sure you "scoop" up chopped garlic each time you dip brush into butter. Sprinkle with parsley and a few grindings of black pepper.
3. Wrap loosely in foil (if it's too tight, the crust doesn't brown as nicely--leave top almost open--the real purpose of the foil here is to keep butter from dripping out in the oven) and heat in oven until hot and crust is nice and crunchy--roughly 8 minutes. Cut into pieces and enjoy.

Then tell me it's the best garlic bread you've ever eaten.

Note: If you are using unsalted butter, you may want to add another pinch of salt to buttered halves before you put the baguette into the oven. Salt according to taste at that point.