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Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

BEEF UP!: Filetting Whole Fish

In Musings on April 30, 2013 at 9:46 am

BEEF UP!: Filetting Whole Fish

I’ve recently become of fan of Sheepshead fish at the farmers’ market for both the flavor of the dense fish, since it tastes more like shrimp or crab, but also because it’s economical too. Sheepshead can be cooked a lot like shrimp as well – fried, grilled, blackened, baked, dipped in butter, etc.

The last time I cooked sheepshead, I had the skin on and realized it was way too tough and unpalatable for eating. For some reason, the farmers’ market no longer fillets fish, so I tried it at home. I probably should have seen this video prior to savagely mangling the fish, but I am sharing the basic way to fillet a fish, so you can try various fish that you see at the market and explore the different flavors and textures. Have a sharp boning knife for best results.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1e2FdspN5E

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The Third Space – Atlanta’s Premier Food Testing and Education Celebration Venue

In Restaurants on April 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm
The Third Space Kitchen

Photo Credits: The Third Space, Atlanta, GA
Asha Gomez and team, 2013
http://thethirdspaceatl.com/

Atlanta has a new beautiful food education celebration venue, officially opening May 1st – The Third Space, which is the brainchild of Cardamom Hill’s owner and chef, Asha Gomez.

Here, chefs will hold candid cooking classes and test their recipes in a beautifully welcoming, yet modern cooking and prep facility. I would love to partake in some of these classes – some of the chefs mentioned here are ones I’ve met in the past, and they’re all passionate, soulful, salt-of-the-earth people.

From an interior design standpoint, the space is an open floor plan with a high efficiency work area. Miele provides much of the high-end appliances used. To soften the space, Asha and her designers chose rustic and organic colors and textures, much of which I personally try to use in my own home to bring the feeling of the outdoors in – think soft greens, cinnamon and chocolate stained hard flooring and antique furnishings and decor.

The Third Space brings a hint of old British Colonial flavor to some of the furniture lines as well as some Indian-inspired pieces, like the jali (lattice-metal screened) cabinet shelving. The space should be a breath of fresh air for professionals and food-lovers alike. Check out photos posted by Asha on Facebook to see the progress!

For the official press release click here: http://www.360media.net/pdfs/ts13_nowopen.pdf

The Third Space culinary class schedules are posted here, register online to attend any of the classes: http://thethirdspaceatl.eventbrite.com/

Cardamom Hill Summer Hours Soon | The Third Space in Full Progress

In Awesome People, Chefs, Restaurants on April 25, 2013 at 4:42 pm
Cardamom Hill's Kerala Fried Chicken

Cardamom Hill’s Kerala Fried Chicken

Cardamom Hill has all the natural beauty of fresh Indian foods with the atmospheric sensibilities of the grand hotel restaurants in India with American restaurant business savviness.  The Cardamom crew will be changing to summer hours soon to focus on their great new chef testing, educational and event facility, The Third Space, which I hope to write more about and post interior layout plans and construction progress later.

Original Link: https://twitter.com/CardamomHill/status/327163046327906304/photo/1

I first tried Chef Asha’s fried chicken at last year’s Fried Chicken Festival. It took me back to India and reminded me of a fried chicken recipe that some of my family members have perfected and serve for lunch. Warm spices marinate throughout the chicken, tenderizing it, and you get a nicely spiced crunch as you bite into the chicken, not a mouthful of battered bland breading, like some cooks prepare their chicken (over-battering is not my fave).

If you’ve only tried Southern fried chicken, I’ve gotta say that there’s a whole world of fried chicken to try and enjoy. I may go on a quest within metro Atlanta to find all the different versions of fried chicken that the world has to offer. ‘Kentucky’ may get a run for its money with Kerala, Kolkata and Korean Fried Chicken.

As an Indian chick, I’m a big fan of Asha. I’d like to see more types of Indian cuisine come to the forefront of dining culture – where the real spirit of Indian cooking is showcased, instead of buried in cost-cutting measures, as is the case with a lot of Indian restaurants: few pieces of veggies or meats swimming in a sea of greasy sauce, bad customer service, and unappealing eating areas.

Asha Gomez truly gets the opportunity of bringing Indian culture to the dining table and adds the personal and beautiful touches that grandmothers and other beloved family members have done for generations when feeding their loved ones.

Try the Kerala Fried Chicken, of course – but venture into Asha’s stuffed eggplant dish, the variety of croquettes, and for something different, try the seasonal roasted fish, prepared in a particularly wonderful Indian method of wrapping the fish in banana leaves for maximum flavor and juiciness. Full menu for Cardamom Hill is available on the website: http://cardamomhill.net/ ; check Cardamom Hill’s social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr to get specially-created dishes of the day.

Spread the Love, Restaurant Owners!

In Musings, Restaurants on April 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm

In Atlanta, all the great ethnic restaurants and even particular local cuisines are all bunched up in certain areas of town – there’s not a nice even spread to expose people to various cultural expressions of food. For example, all the Korean and Vietnamese restaurants are lined up on Buford Highway or Jimmy Carter. Is that the case in your town? Why do you suppose that is?

The neighborhood I live in has a lot of Mexican and quasi-Mexican (think Korean-taco, Cali-Mex, Tex-Mex, and the like) places available. So when I want something yummy nearby, in my mind I get a bit irritated that my choices are “Hmmm,….do I want a real taco and tamale dinner, taco with kimchi in it, or super fancy bistro taco that I have to get out of my yoga pants for?”

Ugh.

Furthermore, I have to hike 20-30 minutes to get decent Asian food, 40-60 minutes drive to get my hands on some German sausage (yes, I LOVE me some sausage, sausage from all around the WORLD even! That’s another blog post for another day, my hungry little food | porn readers) and get giddy over spaetzel. ALL the Ethiopian places are right next to each other in one neighborhood, so I really have to know that I’m having a massive spicy Kitfo craving before I head out.

Yoohoo, restaurant owners! We need Asian, Ethiopian, Argentinian, German, Italian, French, Middle-Eastern, Jamaican, Indian, and other great restaurants available in different areas and neighborhoods! We food enthusiasts crave and appreciate the variety.

Build it and we will come!

The Cupcake Craze is Slowly Getting Stale

In Musings on April 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm
The cupcake craze is slowly getting stale. Thank the food Gods.I like cupcakes and all, but if I had a choice between cupcakes and cake, I’d take CAKE!Look… comedians like Eddie Izzard and Gabriel Iglesias talk about *cake,* not cupcakes. It’s “CAKE OR DEATH??!” not “ummm CUP-cakes…or death?”

When you can have a mouthful of layered rich buttered sugar goodness that clings to dear life on a fork, however big you can possibly make it without it falling off the split second it reaches your piehole, why choose cupcakes?

That leads me to another grand and delicious invention: PIE.

Pie.

Need I really say more? You can stuff just about anything on top of a crust or between multiple crusts – savory, sweet, sour, BURSTING with goodness with flakes of buttery pie crust delivering the goods….

*Sigh*

Cupcakes are fine…they’re kinda fluffy and non-committal. I’m a full-commitment, let’s dig into this thing, kinda gal.

The world needs more cakes and pies, bring it on!

http://www.neatorama.com/neatolicious/2013/04/19/The-Market-for-Gourmet-Cupcakes-is-Crashing/

Eddie Izzard’s Skit “Cake or Death” (Contains some adult language)

Upgrade to Standard ‘Bachelorette Meal’: Almond-Crusted Flounder with Shrimp Stuffing

In Do-it-Yourself on April 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

 Almond-crusted flounder with shrimp stuffing,
on a bed of garlicky Swiss chard

I tend  to do a lot of what I call “Bachelorette” meals. Some “Bachelor” meals are exactly the same as the aforementioned Bachelorette meals, maybe with less or non-existent veggies, but there’s a rung below that which perhaps I’ll dub as “Dude Food.”

Dude Food is probably something I am not likely to touch. Dude Food is cooking up that last little bag of instant rice and pouring and mixing in the last remainder of the crusty-bottled, forlorn-looking ketchup sitting by itself in the fridge (you know, next to the beer and some foreign substance that is growing tentacles in the very back of the fridge).

Dude food is smashing potato chips, Kix Cereal, and the leftover 5 year old soy sauce packets unstuck from bottom of the sticky catch-all kitchen drawer (yes, I think 99% of people have this drawer) in between some WonderBread.

*Dry heave.*

So, Bachelorette food is nowhere near the same vicinity of Dude Food.

Bachelorette meals usually consist of thawing out some animal out from the freezer earlier in the day before I leave for work, shake some spices, toss into the toaster oven. Done.  This cooking method dates back to college days.

What you see above is a slight upgrade to the simpleness of the standard Bachelorette meal. However, it looks so freakin’ fancy, I’m slightly ashamed to even post it. I also know that other people are super busy in their lives and may appreciate how wonderful this dish tastes with little prep work.

First of all, I’d like to thank the Academy…and thank my beloved Mini-Food Processor, for making this yummy meal possible with little hassle. I also used some leftover things I had in the fridge that I could use up that, of course, weren’t growing eyes or tentacles yet. Hooray for resourcefulness and frugality!

And I used brioche – which makes for part of an AWESOME stuffing (like there was any doubt brioche could ever be bad in anything…).


Prep and Method

I used what I had in the fridge and used the Taste of Home recipe link at the bottom of this blog post for inspiration and to get a hint at the process – after that, I just went at it on my own.

Basic Steps

Have:
– Skillet, Food processor OR blender, and spatula
– 2 Mixing Bowls,  1 spoon
– Foil lined Baking Tray
– Knife to chop, if needed
– Oven or Toaster Oven
– Fish Filets
– Leftover veggies, cheese, bread
– Spices (I LOVE herb de Provence and/or dill), salt, pepper, optional lemon

  • Have some fresh or thawed fish filets on hand. White fish is great: Orange roughy, catfish, swai, tilapia (not my fave, but it’ll work), cod, flounder, etc.  Few pieces of shrimp, if you have it, is great too.
  • Throw any veggies, shredded or pieces of cheese, onions, garlic, spices and other stuff in food processor or blender, put it aside in a bowl.
  • Hand-chop any big items or things you want to have some texture, like bell pepper or broccoli (optional). Add to your bowl mentioned above.
  • Grab some fresh bread or ideally, any leftover sorry-looking and stale pieces of bread you have in the fridge (end-pieces, etc.) and put that into the processor or blender.  Put that in a separate bowl. Add some salt, pepper, and spices. Drizzle some melted butter into your resulting breadcrumbs.
  • Sautee your veggies and spices, toss in your shrimp in the skillet; after you’re done, put back in your bowl.
  • Mix your breadcrumbs and veggie/shrimp mixture in the bowl
  • Lay out your raw filets flat on a foil lined baking sheet. Spoon in your sautée and breadcrumb mixture into the filets. Roll the filet as best you can (You’ll have some oozing out, that’s fine). Any leftover mixture can be scattered on top of the fish. Drizzle some olive oil over the fish.
  • Optional – I packed some almonds that I put through the food processor on top of the fish to coat it too. You can coat the fish before lying it flat on the foil line pan or pat some down afterward, whatever is easiest.
  • Optional, you can use some toothpicks to hold your fish filet rolls together while baking, but it’s not necessary.
  • Bake at about 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes. If the fish filet is thick, you can try 350.
  • Use your same skillet to sautee some greens.

Method Details

I sauteed the shrimp and garlic with a combination of stuff I tossed into the food processor at different times. I combined a few things depending on what it was in the food processor before sauteeing (spinach, fresh basil, garlic, shallot, mushrooms) and hand chopped diced green bell pepper since I wanted that to have a bigger diced texture.

I had put some old leftover brioche bread and butt-ends of multi-grain Italian bread in the processor too and put that in another bowl. After sauteeing, mix the shrimp mixture with the bread crumbs into a bowl together with a little bit of olive oil and a little drizzle of melted butter. I added a little bit of shredded Parmesan cheese I had in the fridge too. You use that to stuff the raw fish.

I had some sliced almonds in the pantry, so I put that in the mini-chopper too and added some spices and dredged the olive-oil coated and salt/pepper seasoned fish through that and then put the filling in. I poured a little bit of melted butter and lemon juice on top of the stuffed fish and I baked in a toaster oven.

While the stuffed fish was baking, I rough chopped some swiss chard I had and sautéed that in the same skillet with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Lemon juice optional.

The fish was delicious and flaky, almonds were toasty and provided some texture, the filling was very moist and comforting. It took, maybe 30-45 minutes for prep and cooking time.


Inspiration recipe
Flounder with Shrimp Stuffing Recipe:
http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Flounder-with-Shrimp-Stuffing

French-Pressing My Luck

In Gluten Free, Healing Foods on April 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

My throat feels like it’s being attacked by microscopic beasties pelting sand at it and happily crunching the sand beneath their beastie-microscopic feet.

*Clears throat.*

Okay, that just brought on more sand by the microscopic beasties. Needed something to remedy this.

I don’t get bad spring allergies as some people do, but with the off-the-charts pollen counts and amount of dust, smog, and lack of humidity this time of year in Atlanta, even I’m prone to some nasal drip and scratchy sore throat. This morning, I’m enjoying some French-pressed chai yerba mate with creamed/whipped honey and milk. It’s helping tremendously!

French-pressing is pretty old-school. There are some great machinery out there that makes terrific brews for coffee and tea, but I find French-pressing great in terms of easy-clean-up, quick brewing time, and mostly, flavor. From what I’ve heard and read – French-pressing allows you to have some wonderful volatile oils from your tea or coffee that like to dance on your tongue, but since you’re not overly boiling or brewing, you keep the coffee or tea from releasing too much tannin, which causes a bitter, astringent taste and can bring enough acidity in your belly to make you feel pretty horrible later.

I find joy in pouring my bag of loose tea or coffee into my French press, all the while watching steaming hot water swirl the leaves around and letting it steep while I’m fixing something else to eat. After you get a satisfying color of the brew a few minutes later, something about mashing the plunger down to unify all the grinds together makes you feel momentarily that you’ve cleared your own soul and mind into absolute simplicity.

I discovered the joy of real honey as a pre-teen. A family friend went to France and brought back home some lavender honey. Even over a decade later I can still remember biting into the artisan bread that was lightly toasted and drizzled with the lavender honey. The nutty grains of the bread with the earthy floral scent of the honey pretty much made me envision a sunny day out in rolling lush fields. A mouthful of sunshine.

I was hooked.

Something honestly awakened in me – it was as though this was some amber-colored glorious gift from the Gods. It really is a gift from nature, if you think about it. Previous to that occasion, I had your regular squeeze-bear grocery store honey or stuff in packets from McDonald’s to pour over my pancakes. What a difference – I had NO clue.

On a nutritional note, raw honey (note: not processed honey or honey-flavored corn syrup like you would find at fast food restaurants) has trace nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and minerals which help your health and immunity.

I usually find and use local raw honey; today I’m enjoying some Cox Honey Farms’ natural creamed honey.

http://coxhoney.com/index.html

Creamed honey, as it suggests, is very creamy and spreadable with the amount of air whipped into it. The whipping process keeps the sugar crystals from forming and locking together, which makes honey so wonderfully sticky, but creamed honey has a bit of a different experience on your tongue than regular honey. I find both kinds, regular honey and creamed, absolutely decadent.


Wait, wait wait….What was that funky word? Yur-buh whaaa?

Okay, more about Yerba Mate.

It’s not Australian like you’d think. It’s not catnip for Koalas or anything that you may be thinking. It’s actually South American in origin, pronounced with a weird mixture of ‘s’ and ‘ch’ sounds in the beginning.

No, you won’t sound like a Clingon. Okay, maybe REMOTELY like an old woman from Long Island cursing you out with Yiddish terms. Try it with me:  SCHERE-bah MAH-tay.

Good job :).  Now go drink some.

No? Don’t know what the heck it is? Well, here you go:

Some links about yerba mate – it’s SUPER good for you, and easier on the stomach than coffee:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yerba_mat%C3%A9

http://guayaki.com/mate/130/Yerba-Mate.html


Okay, so it’s good for me, does it TASTE good?

In terms of the flavor of yerba mate: some people liken it to green tea with the earthiness of coffee, but it’s nowhere near as grassy like green tea or as darkly ‘thick’ and murky and earthy like coffee.  It has a mellow flavor that is great, with nowhere near the regular astringency of black or green teas.

FunnyFoodie…you keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

100 points to you if you’re a Princess Bride fan.

What do I mean by astringent? Think of a super dry, possibly cheap wine – it makes your tongue feel like it’s been dipped in rubbing alcohol to the point you have no idea if you can even produce any saliva to moisten your mouth. THAT is astringency.

Yerba mate can be mixed with other herbal teas, sweeteners and milk/cream just like tea or coffee can, and tastes wonderful hot or cold. You get about the same amount of caffeine as coffee without jitters and stomach lurching or acid-inducing lava burning, but see above for French-pressing coffee – French-pressing usually prevents some of the lava craziness. I love both tea and coffee, but truth be told – nutritionally, mate scoffs at both coffee and green tea with how many body-healthy chemical compounds and cancer-preventing properties it has. A definite winner of a drink. I say, definitely add it in your repertoire of stuff to imbibe on a daily basis.

You can take my word for it – or you can pretend you’re a fabulous Argentinian basking in the sun at the equivalent of a local hip coffee shop and go sip some yourself. I always feel happy and like a million bucks afterward.

Tamarind-Date flavored Chicken Wings

In Do-it-Yourself, Gluten Free on April 5, 2013 at 10:29 pm

These Tamarind-Date flavored Chicken Wings are good for a party snack/small party meal or for a casual meal.

Tamarind-Date Flavored Wings

Fusion Finger Foods:
American / Indian Tamarind-Date Flavored Wings

I’m all about quickly tossing things together, throwing it in the oven and it doing all the work while I relax or do something else, especially on days that I had a full day at work.

This chicken wing recipe is simple:  rinse, coat, toss, and bake. …

COOKING METHOD AND SUGGESTIONS

These chicken wings are super tasty and simple   to make. Pair it with some carrot sticks, celery, sliced cucumbers, or something remotely vegetable-based to make a very balanced meal. Since I made these wings a while back, I’ll share what I remember of the cooking process.

Grocery stores typically carry wings frozen or  fresh in packets or bags.  I rinse all the chicken and quickly pull off any stray unsavory parts (a wayward feather, extra glob of fat that is barely hanging on).  In a huge mixing bowl, toss the chicken wings in.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Get a flat baking pan or cookie sheet, line with aluminum foil and place that on the countertop or stovetop for later. In another bowl,  I used a jar of Tamarind-Date sauce from a local farmers’ market or Indian/Indo-Pakistani store. I did a quick taste test of the sauce.

Sometimes, Tamarind-Date is either in concentrated paste form, which you need to dilute a little bit with water or even sweeten it a little bit, or they already make it into ready-to-use sauce form. It also lets me know if there’s already salt in the mixture or not.  If the label does not indicate that it has any salt, you can spread a little kosher salt and cracked pepper to your wings and let it sit there for about 10 minutes or so while you’re working on your sauce.

For any sauce or paste, add some olive oil and/or butter so that the mixture sticks to the chicken, and it crisps up the skin while it’s baking. You can make enough so that you can transfer some of this sauce to another serving bowl for dipping later during the meal (this bowl will not be contaminated with raw chicken). By baking the chicken wings, this is healthier, safer, and less of a mess than frying, and makes it nice and crispy. Also, with using high heat from the oven, you’ll see that the fat from the chicken skin renders and melts off the chicken, but leaves you a crispy skin. If you use lower heat, you’ll have full-fat, rubbery tasting chicken. So in my bowl, I put in the tamarind-date sauce, and if I need to add any salt, pepper,  or any spices that I feel like throwing in there, I do, but I wanted a nice sticky tamarind wing, so I didn’t do too much to this sauce.

I added some olive oil, and whisked this mixture.  Pour this mixture in your big bowl of chicken wings and toss with some tongs or a huge wooden spoon. Spread your coated chicken wings on the foil-lined baking tray, spreading it out all over so that each piece can have its time and space to cook. You can drizzle a little more olive oil if you’d like on top of the wings.

This part is something I don’t quite remember.  I know I did the wings high heat and checked on them in about 25 minutes or so. I may have basted them again in some additional tamarind-sauce and slid the tray back in the oven until the skin looked nice and crisp. You can take one out and see if the inside is done and not red/bloody. When poking cooked chicken, it should run clear juices, not pink. If you feel like the outside is nice and crisp but the inside is still needing some help, turn down your oven to about 300 degrees F and cook another 10 minutes or so. Once chicken wings are done, let it rest on the stovetop or heat-safe countertop for about 10-15 minutes until serving.

Rest all meats/fowl  at least 10 minutes after cooking or the lovely juices run out all over your hands and plate instead of your mouth.  I simply plated the chicken on a plate for my friend and I to grab and eat, but you can garnish with some veggies, lime wedges, cilantro or anything you’d like.

Oh, and have plenty of napkins handy 🙂

Enjoy!

Soul-to-Soul Food

In Awesome People, Chefs, Restaurants on April 5, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I feel pretty honored and humbled at the same time to meet a few great chefs in Atlanta the last few months and am excited that Atlanta is gaining more attention with the food and restaurant industry.

Today, I bonded with Chef Sammy Davis Jr., a former contestant on Food Network’s show, Chopped, over food, liking food too much, and of course, spinal problems. Frequent cooking, in general, wreaks havoc on your knees, feet and spine. He is always great when I see him, and today I got a hug because I come in so frequently. He will be starting up cooking classes soon at his neighborhood eatery, The Park Market & Deli in Grant Park. Chef Sammy’s Philadelphia-style sandwiches pack a flavorful punch and satisfying sink-your-teeth bite in a world full of wimpy, soggy, squishy, flavorless subs; his other signature dishes like Shrimp and Grits, are some of the creamiest grits I’ve ever tasted in Atlanta.

Mihoko Obunai

Chef Mihoko Obunai

Also, I recently met Chef Mihoko Obunai, who is  also a former contestant of Chopped, at a recent charity event for CARE at her restaurant, Joli Kobe. I was amazed at her grace, beauty, and absolute skill in the kitchen, and I was secretly rooting for her as a woman in a competitive industry. I watched her in action from my countertop right next to the kitchen as she artfully plated her Yuzu Kombu-cured Kona Kampachi, all the while working alongside Chef Todd Richards, Chef Cooper Miller, and Chef Hector Santiago in a tiny space.

WP_001052

Joli Kobe CARE Event Joli Kobe CARE Event

It was pure poetry in motion – they instinctively knew how to work together and glided around the kitchen without bumping elbows or keeping the other chefs from perfecting their dishes. Had this been in my family, there would be a lot of spills, clamoring, and hollering – but this is why these chefs are true professionals. But it’s beyond that – they have a silent understanding, some sort of secret code in the kitchen amongst each other…all for the love of food, that I will never know.

It’s really something to have a chef chat with you, and generously pour you an extra glass of sake at the end of the night after a successful event as they wind down and enjoy the rest of the evening. The gift of food is so intimate and ritualistic. I felt that I got to experience Chef Obunai’s passion, her art and Japanese heritage through her food, and with the same care as though I was a special person invited into her home. I can’t wait until her next dinner affair to see her in action – it’ll be a smaller event featuring specialty fresh Ramen noodle topped with a choice of pork tonkatsu (a panko-breaded Japanese cutlet) or seared beef belly.

I’ll also get to see Chef Todd Richards at this event, whom I originally met at Atlanta’s Fried Chicken Festival (yes – it now exists in Atlanta, and you can die happy after that festival, I assure you). His fried chicken dish was actually the winner of the competition. I later got properly introduced to Chef Todd through one of my old friends, KC Scott, who got into the restaurant business as a chef at the Ritz Carlton but has since ducked out of the restaurant business to raise four of her own little ducklings. Hopefully this time Chef Todd won’t be working in the kitchen and I’ll have a chance to break bread, or in this case, slurp noodles, with him.

What’s wonderful is that these three folks are down to earth, are an absolute joy to talk to, and that they share that same glee over presenting their food and take pleasure in you enjoying it.

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