Monday, September 17, 2012

Teach a Kid to Blog - PLUS a Restaurant Review

Photo from:
Hi there again, food fans.

I had an interesting experience this past week that led me here.

I was asked by a friend and former co-worker to be a guest speaker in her 8th grade class. The topic: blogging.

Wait, what?

Believe me, I know.

It all happened so fast! Before I knew it, it was Friday morning and I was standing in front of a group of kiddos, introducing them to the wonders of blogging.

I came prepared with an arsenal of candy and goodies because crossing the threshold of a junior high instantly evokes all long-forgotten feelings of LIKE MEEEE! A few years under one's belt and that all changes, according to my friend the teacher. But not for me. LIKE MEEEE!

In all seriousness, I thoroughly enjoyed being back in a classroom again. The students were wonderful and so full of enthusiasm. I earned my degrees with every intention of teaching once I finished, and only time will tell whether that's where my life takes me. But it's experiences like last Friday that keep the spark going.

The experience also got me thinking about my blog and why it can be so hard to dedicate time to it. Part of it is my fault. But I also see people who manage to cram so much into their days, and all I can think is, there are still 24 hours in the day, right? How do they do it?! I wish I were that... together. But I'm not. Many nights, we don't have homecooked meals. We have thrown-together-ness. A last minute effort to put something in our bellies. My husband works a lot of evening shifts, and it's hard to work up enough give-a-damn to cook a meal at that point, much less photograph it for the blogosphere.

I know. Excuses, excuses.

In an effort to make amends for this, I'd like to switch gears a little bit, blog-wise. I still have every intention of posting recipes and how-tos. Cooking is as important to me now as it has ever been. But so is eating. I love eating. My waistline is a testament to my food love affair. To better reflect this interest of mine, I'd like to incorporate some restaurant reviews into my blog in the hopes it will alleviate some of the gaps I experience due to a lack of cooking and thereby a lack of recipes. I know a lot of blogs post recipes picture-free, and I enjoy a lot of these blogs. However, it is important to me to maintain a visual element to my blog, and that takes time, guys. When I do it, I want it done right. So for the times when I can't do it right, you'll get to hear about the food I am eating.

I know some of you don't live in the area, but I hope you'll stay for the foodie chit chat. I love hearing about food from far off places and adding it to my foodie bucket list. I hope maybe some of my reviews will do the same for you, should you ever be in my neck of the woods, and also educate you on some places to avoid. Trust me, I'll be sufficiently up front about the misses and not just the hits.

So, without further ado, let's move on to my first review, shall we?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Morning at the Red Stick Farmers Market

Hey, ya'll!

Normally I cringe at that word—ya'll—the way one does when they watch a FailBlog video or hears someone mispronounce a common word or name. Yeah, you know that face. But on this occasion it seems appropriate since recently spent a morning in "Red Stick." For those unfamiliar with Louisiana colloquialisms, Baton Rouge, the state's capital, is actually a French term meaning "Red Stick."

Baton = stick

Rouge = red

Now strike that, reverse it. 

Every weekend in Downtown Baton Rouge, local growers gather under a smattering of tents tucked away in a precious little corner of the city. Joining them are assorted bakers and home cooks who also come out to share their culinary gifts with the masses. But once a month, on the first Saturday of each month, to be precise, this crew that represents themselves as the Red Stick Farmers Market step it up.

The community of tents doubles in size as crafters and local artists join the ranks. And in a building that hugs the perimeter of the market, there are even more booths for coconut cakes, caponata, and sausages to be sold, to name a few of the many wares. The best part: a gathering of musicians plucking away at their various, oddly shaped instruments playing fun little ditties like "Squirrel Heads in Gravy."

Yup. You read that right.

Nope. Not making that up.

Check it out...

How about that?

Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me. That video was taken with my cell phone. And it was so crowded around the market itself, I was never able to stop and take photos with it. Don't worry though; I'll be back soon enough, and next time I'll be ready.

In the meantime, what I can show you all is one of the dishes that I made with portions of my goodies! But first, check out this haul!

So many bright, beautiful colors!

Eggplant, Japanese eggplant, and a butternut squash.

Spicy onions and more Japanese eggplant.

Last but not least, a variety of tomatoes.

Is it sad that I get this excited over produce? But come on, they're gorgeous!

There is no limit to my food nerditude.

The Japanese eggplant and tiny tomatoes will become part of a roasted veggie pasta, and the butternut squash will be made into a light, summery soup. 

Can we talk about those green tomatoes? I didn't think I was a tomato lover until I tried a green tomato, and what better way to showcase this Southern sensation than by coating it in a cornmeal crust and frying it up? 

I've been on a serious green tomato kick for the past few weeks. I can't get enough. Just today, Hubs asked, "Boy, you're really into them, aren't you? Umm... just remember that I'm eating them too..." I get the picture, Hubs. You're not as obsessed as I am. But with such a small window of opportunity, I need to get my fix before it's too late!

I've been toying around with the many wonderful things that can be done with fried green tomatoes, and this recipe was inspired by a dish Hubs and I had when we stayed at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We always visit one of the many hotel restaurants, Memphis Q, any time we stay there, and while we don't always stay for a full meal, we have to get our fix of their BBQ nachos—the best we've eaten outside of Memphis or our home—and their sourdough bread that is in plentiful supply throughout every visit. Because I lived in California for many years and know what true San Francisco sourdough tastes like, I'm a very picky little connoisseur, and Memphis Q just happens to have some of the best sourdough I've had since I left Cali.

On this particular occasion, we were just about to order our usual BBQ nachos when the waiter graciously informed us of the specials, starting with a fried green tomato appetizer. When listening to its very name made my mouth water, I knew we had to try it. 

It was delivered to our table and we feasted our eyes on the fried green tomato mountain before us, a tiny little volcano oozing forth a creamy, slightly tomatoey crawfish sauce tinged with notes of paprika and cumin. The BBQ nachos were pushed aside as we devoured our newest discovery, taking special care to mop up every last drop of sauce with pieces of sourdough.

While this isn't exactly diet food, a small helping goes a long way. And best of all, you won't have to drag out the deep fryer for this one! Here's the thing about fried green tomatoes: the crust clings better when you pan-fry it. This dish utilizes the green tomatoes pictured above, as well as some of the spicy onions my farmers market buddy Sarah shared with me. Sarah is also who requested this post, so shout out to Sarah! Yay!

This is one of those "little effort, big reward" dishes, and aren't those just the best?

Memphis Q Fried Green Tomatoes with Creamy Crawfish Sauce

1 large or two small green tomatoes, sliced 1/3-inch thick
Crusty bread (optional)

1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon hot sauce (I like Louisiana brand, but to each his own)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere cajun seasoning, or your fave
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced spicy onions (or shallots are fine)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere cajun seasoning, or your fave
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 cup crawfish tails

For frying:
vegetable oil


1. Combine the wash ingredients using a whisk or a fork in a shallow storage container. Arrange the sliced green tomatoes in the buttermilk mixture, flipping them around to saturate them completely. Place the lid on the storage container and let the tomatoes marinate for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.

2. Combine the dredge ingredients in another shallow container. I like to use a cake pan or a pie dish. Use a whisk to make sure the spices are thoroughly combined with the flour/cornmeal. 

3. While the tomatoes marinate, work on the sauce. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat and add the minced garlic and onion/shallots. Sautee until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the tablespoon of flour and cook for one minute or until the flour flavor cooks out. Slowly add the chicken broth, whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth. Next, add the cream, spices, tomato paste, and lemon juice. When the sauce is warm and thickened, add the crawfish. Keep over low heat while you finish the tomatoes.

4. Warm the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. Meanwhile, remove your green tomato slices from the buttermilk mixture and dredge them in the cornmeal/flour mixture, coating each one completely and thoroughly. When your oil begins to slightly ripple, fry the tomatoes in batches. Cook for 1-2 minutes on the first side or until golden brown and then flip. Cook for another minute on the other side, and then transfer the fried green tomatoes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain while you prepare the remaining batches.

5. To serve, layer the fried green tomatoes on a plate and spoon the sauce over the top. Serve immediately with your favorite crusty bread, if desired.

Serves 2

My apologies for the quality of this photo. It was taken with a camera phone
because we were too excited about this dish to wait long enough to find the camera!