Recently I returned to New Orleans – just about a year and a half after my first visit. I was delighted to find all the classics were still there and that not a thing had changed. The beignets at Cafe Du Monde were still hot and crispy and still worth the line. Deanie’s fried catfish dinner was still the freshest catfish I have ever had – melt in your mouth and not greasy crispy goodness. And of course – you can’t go to New Orleans and not have a muffuletta. A muffu-what?? Even if you don’t like olives, I bet you’ll LOVE this sandwich. It’s all about the quality of ingredients though. And if you’re in town, you must get your muffuletta from the original place Central Grocery. Now I admit it’s a bit of a tourist attraction, but I think it’s worth it.
In summary, a muffuletta is a sandwich made on a round Sicilian sesame bread with a chopped olive salad (olives, celery, cauliflower, carrot, etc) and layers of capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham, emmentaler and provolone. The bread is very similar to focaccia but not as greasy. Although this isn’t a warm sandwich (my usual preference), it’s fresh, crunchy, salty and full of flavor. Apparently I was eating my sandwich so well that some news photographer insisted on taking multiple photos of my sandwich. He said it was “smiling”! This is a definite must if you love sandwiches!
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Posted in American Cuisine, Healthy Foods, Italian Cuisine, tagged Arizona, breakfast, bruschetta, Food Network, olive oil, olives, organic, pancakes on May 1, 2010 |
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A couple weeks ago, I ran my first charity 5K with my mom in Arizona. It was early in the morning, so we were feeling good and starving by the time we were done. We decided to head to a place we’ve been meaning to try in Gilbert – Joe’s Farm Grill.
Joe’s is a local place we’ve read lots about in the paper and was even featured on The Food Network on Guy Fieri’s show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This ‘50s style fast food joint is not what you would expect. First of all, its location is in the middle of farm land. But it turns out Joe’s owns about 12 acres of what it calls “Agritopia”. It grows a variety of leaf crops, vegetables and flowers. Most of which makes its way into the food you eat at Joe’s. Their farming methods even EXCEED the standards for USDA organic. Can you believe that? It’s an organic fast food restaurant. Already this place is unique. To make the entire experience even better, the restaurant is surrounded by picnic tables (in addition to tables inside) and beautiful views of its farm land.
My mom ordered the ‘pancakes and meat’ with sausages, and I had a two-egg grilled vegetable omelet with pecorino romano and a side of fruit. The pancakes were amazingly fluffy and the sausages weren’t heavy or greasy at all. My omelet was of course deliciously fresh with seasonal asparagus inside. It was a beautiful day, and we ate breakfast under a HUGE grapefruit tree with grapevines in front of us! If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend this place. It’s a perfect family place with plenty of room for kids to run around. Or stop by if you just enjoy being outdoors and eating good food!
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"Pancakes & Meat"
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In celebration of Naples earning the right to label its pizza as “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed” (an EU trademark), I thought I’d give it a shot at making my own. Coincidentally, I’ve also started reading Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. In the last section I read she went to Naples and gave a delicious description of eating pizza there, and it made my mouth water. Now I set out with the best intentions – thinking oh I’ll make a healthy pizza! I even bought whole wheat pizza dough from Fresh & Easy!
But let’s face it – pizza is not the same without cheese. And cheese isn’t exactly the healthiest thing to eat (if you love it as much as I do). And if you’re gonna make a pizza, I feel like you’re really cheating yourself if you go for fat-free which doesn’t have much flavor. So I splurged on the cheese and went healthy on the dough
My brother’s instructions (he’s a chef) for preparing the dough was to first knead the dough on a surface dusted with flour. And because I wanted thin crust, he said to pick it up by my finger tips and hold the dough by the edge and kind of rotate it while thinning the edges. Somehow I completely forgot this advice and just went straight for kneading the middle with my knuckles. But I was having too much fun to worry about not eating thin crust – so I just went with it! My main concern was that it would fit perfectly in the round pizza dish I was using.
Anywho – my main objective here is to share my yummy pictures with all of you and hope it’ll inspire some of you to go out and make some pizza for yourself!
- Pizza dough from Fresh & Easy (not sure what other groceries sell it these days)
** You could always be brave and make your own! I found an Alton Brown recipe
** I was feeling a bit lazy and didn’t have a lot of time to put into my pizza sadly, so I cheated and just bought it at Fresh & Easy since it was right next to the dough. But you could easily make a simple marinara, add oregano, let cool and blend.
- Mozzarella cheese of course!
** I added some ‘Habanero cheese’ that was on sale at the store the other day, so added it in for a little kick!
- Black olives
- Sweet onions
** At the last minute I decided to caramelize these a little with balsamic vinegar.
** Any sausage will do really or any meat you’d like. I browned it in a pan with a little bit of chili flakes before putting it on the pizza.
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Posted in American Cuisine, tagged beignets, bread pudding, Cajun, Creole, dessert, garlic, gumbo, Muffuletta, New Orleans, olives, oysters, pudding, salami, seafood, southern, sweet on January 25, 2010 |
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About a week ago, I was very fortunate to make an unexpected trip to New Orleans for the NFL Divisional Playoffs between the Cardinals and the Saints. Although I do like football, I love food more. So I jumped at the chance to visit the South for the first time.
When growing up, I would hear loads of stories from my parents about the amazing experiences they had in New Orleans. Of course in my family, those stories consisted mainly of crawfish, everything Cajun or Creole, shrimp and muffulettas. And naturally they loved the energy and hospitality that ‘Nawlins’ showed them every time. My experience was no different (despite the fact that I was rooting for the Cardinals). * I warn you that there is a whole lot of food that will be discussed in this post. That’s what happens when you unleash a foodie into New Orleans for a couple days!
But let’s just get straight down to business. Our first stop (immediately after checking into our hotel) was the Acme Oyster House (http://www.acmeoyster.com/). My parents and aunts and uncles had been here many times before, so my mom insisted we go here first. Now let me preface that I do love my shellfish but have only ever tried oysters once and wasn’t all that impressed. But now that I’m going to be going to culinary school, I’ve promised myself to at least try something no matter how scared or grossed out I might be. So first thing was first – raw oysters.
After a moment of hesitation, I swallowed my fear and then the oyster. It was slimy, kind of gooey and covered in hot sauce. Honestly, it didn’t taste like anything other than a delivery system for hot cocktail sauce. So I tried another with lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. Again, it didn’t taste like much. I really was expecting it to taste salty and kind of fishy, but that experience fell a little flat for me. So I moved on to the next thing.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the most beautiful picture because we started digging in immediately before I realized I wanted a picture. The first dish is a combo of beans and rice, gumbo and Cajun Jambalaya. The second dish is a wonderful assortment of fried goodness – fried shrimp, fried oysters, hush puppies and my all-time-new-favorite fried catfish. The gumbo and jambalaya weren’t particularly impressive compared to others I’ve had before. However, the catfish – oh the catfish – was exactly as I dreamed it always would be. From all the food shows and movies I’ve seen with fried catfish – my goodness it was ‘scrumptious’ as my good friend Anwar would say. It seriously melted in my mouth. You have to love fish that is so fresh it melts. The batter was cornmeal and was incredibly light and crunchy. The hush puppies were also fantastic although I honestly felt that if I had to feel guilty about eating fried food I’d prefer the catfish. The fried oysters and shrimp, sadly, just tasted fried – masking the actual flavor of the seafood.
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