Everyone’s life can be hectic from time to time, and sometimes here in Nashville we feel as though we’ve been sequestered into seclusion (when it comes to family and friends). This post is intended to be an update for what is going on up here and the stages of life Scott and I are going through.
The most imminent life change we are about to go through (me more directly) would be that I am starting back to school this coming Monday. After a three-year hiatus from tests and homework, I have decided to rejoin the realm of the classroom learner. For about the past four to five years, I progressively and earnestly became more and more interested in food, nutrition and the classic fundamentals of culinary arts and have a blog and journals filled with recipes to prove it. During my short internship with Southern Living magazine I was afforded the opportunity to get to see how the test kitchen worked and food has been my obsession ever since. About a year ago I decided that self teaching, a job as a baker at a local Nashville establishment, books and independent research were no longer enough to quell the desire for more knowledge on the subject and that led to the decision to start researching and saving for culinary school. In a digital world where anyone can be a self proclaimed “expert,” I have determined that I want to go through a more classical training to gain the knowledge that I crave and to become a credible member of the culinary society. Thankfully, due to courses transferring from my prior education, this process should only take about a year to complete.
Another big change for us is our recent undertaking with a local startup apparel company called 1907 Apparel. Scott is charged with doing what he does best by heading up the Creative Development side of things. He’s writing, brainstorming and making contacts with people to get the word out about this awesome company. I offer up my photographic services to the team as well. 1907 Apparel at its core is about helping build communities. Every purchase helps in one of three areas: Poverty, Education and Sustainable Agriculture. If you’d like to learn more about 1907 Apparel, their story and their products you can click here to learn more.
I believe it is important to note here that I have not given up on photography. I am still scheduling photography work in my free time and still love and enjoy it as an art form. Maybe someday I will be able to find a way to combine culinary arts with my visual journalism degree in ways other than our blog. Scott and I are also in the works of our own start up business here in Nashville and hope to bring details of this venture to you soon, but we will see what the future holds.
Despite all this, we still plan to continue posting to this site about our many adventures out-and-about Nashville, in the kitchen and in our travels. Scott is currently writing a piece about our recent trip to Fall Creek Falls and our fun and mishaps canoeing on the Harpeth river and I have peppers roasting in the oven as we speak. The format may change a little as I am hoping to spend more time sharing what I will be learning in school at the time, but the content will mostly remain the same. Just me and Scott,”lovin’ life, lovin’ each other.”
Scott had been saying for about two weeks that he was in the mood for Cajun food. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever really studied a Cajun restaurant’s menu at all, but around here, vegetarian options are few and far between, so that would leave me with nothing to eat but a garden salad. Now I absolutely love etouffee and have for years, so I decided to whip up my own vegetarian version to hopefully satisfy the hubby’s craving and my love for the dish.
Traditionally, etouffee is served with crawfish or shrimp over rice or grits. It’s made with a thick and spicy tomato based sauce that is, in a word, divine. So in coming up with my version, I knew I needed a hearty protein to compensate for the loss of the shellfish. I initially thought of kidney beans but thought it would be too similar to gumbo, so I decided to give black eyed peas a go. I was not disappointed. Now to all you etouffee purists out there, this recipe is not meant to be an authentic interpretation, obviously, so go easy on me.
Etouffee translates to “smothered” and the thickness of the sauce comes from a roux which is made by cooking equal parts flour and fat until it reaches a dark color and thick consistency. I like to make my roux by using a combination of butter and oil, so that I get the flavor of butter while the oil stands up the heat. Have patience. It’s rather a long wait to get the color you’re looking for: dark brown. I was slightly impatient, but I’m going to blame that on hunger, and didn’t let it get as dark as it should be, but it still tasted fabulous. Once again not really going for authenticity as much as flavor, you just want to make sure you cook it long enough to get rid of the floury taste.
If you have a omnivore enjoying your etouffee with you, make this a He Made/She made by transferring some of the sauce to a separate pot prior to adding the beans and then adding shrimp and/or crawfish tails to the pan until just cooked and pink. Next, serve by “smothering” your rice or grits with your sauce and topping with a few scallions for added freshness to cut through a little of the thickness.
There’s no reason a vegetarian can’t enjoy Cajun cuisine. So the next time you have a hankering for some spicy fare, this dish will be sure to hit the spot. Just make sure you have some bread nearby to give your taste buds a little relief. The recipe is below. Cheers!
Click here for a printable version of the Recipe Card
Typically the Super Bowl is something we usually get into. This year it really couldn’t hold our attention due to the fact that Scott’s team choked in the regular season (shocker) and my team couldn’t pull it out in the playoffs (as usual). However, that didn’t mean we couldn’t get into cooking a fabulous dinner.
The weather has been going back and forth from warm to cool the past couple of months here in Nashville and right now we’re experiencing cooler temps, so we opted for a filling Black Bean Soup. This recipe is super simple to whip up but has loads of flavor. Win/Win! Had my Ravens been playing in the game, this recipe would probably be named Flacco Frijoles, but they didn’t, so it’s not. (Bitter much?)
This is one of those recipes that you really don’t have to babysit that much, so once everything was in the pot, we could enjoy (well sort of) the game and not worry about it until the timer went off. Scott enjoyed a Dos Perros from Yazoo, a local brewery here in Nashville, alongside dinner and said it paired quite well with this dish. So if you can get your hands on it, we recommend it.
The carrots add sweetness, the beans and rice are robust, and the chili powder, cumin and cilantro liven the bunch up. For some extra heat add some hot sauce. You could also add shredded chicken or turkey for meat eaters in place of the rice. Scott likes to add the rice at the end so I prepared it separately. To make this a one pot meal—stir the rice in with the vegetable broth and cook until the rice is tender. Even easier.
Loads of flavor, filling and simple. What more could you ask for from a meal? The recipe is below. Cheers!
Click here for a printable version of the Recipe Card
First off, I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I don’t know how you like to spend your days off, but when we have free time, we like to go out in search of culinary stimulation. So yesterday, we spent our afternoon perusing a local international grocery store. We had intended on shopping at the Nashville Farmers Market that afternoon, only to realize the only part of the market open was a little store called Shreeji’s International Market, which carries Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods. Much to the chagrin of the security officer, who clearly was not happy to be working, we ventured inside.
Some foods we recognized, some we had never seen before, and some we may never know exactly what we were looking at. It was a fun experience. Some items were sold in bulk, like rice and spices, while most items could be bought in smaller quantities. They also sold fresh produce, like chilies, plantains, and mangoes.
It’s always fun to see and learn about foods from different cultures. At the Nashville Farmers Market, you can also eat at the food court, which hosts several international restaurants. So you can eat Jamaican food for lunch, pick up a few items from Shreeji’s and the produce vendors, and cook Indian food for dinner.
At Shreeji’s we found a spice mix for Bisibele Bath, which is a spicy masala rice dish with vegetables. So we decided to give it a go. Now this recipe is no where close to authentic on my end of the preparation, but the spice mix was awesome. It was a mixture of coriander, blackgram dal, chili, cumin, cinnamon, fenugreek, palmolein oil and clove. Traditionally, bisibele bath is made with ghee (clarified butter) and tamarind juice, but I didn’t have any of that at home, so I worked with what I had. In my preparation, I replaced the tamarind juice with vegetable stock, and the ghee with coconut oil, then simmered, diced carrots, potatoes, cashews, and green onions with the spice mix and served with brown rice. It was very flavorful and extremely spicy. If you ever have a cold, this dish will clear your sinuses right up.
You can reduce the amount of spice mix to alter the heat in the recipe. Also, more or less stock can also be added for a thicker or thinner consistency. So next time you’re looking for a new dish to add to your repertoire, try scoping out an international market for ideas. The recipe is below. Cheers!
Click here for a printable version of the Recipe Card
I was recently given a sack full of sweet potatoes. It’s so exciting when someone has an abundance in their garden and shares with others. Isn’t that what this season is all about?
The only thing more exciting than the gift itself is figuring out what to do with it. You can always go traditional in preparation, but (especially when you have a lot of that particular ingredient) sometimes it’s nice to step outside the box with your recipes.
I used some of our sweet potatoes to prepare a sweet potato souffle for Thanksgiving. It’s one of our favorite things and I immediately knew I was going to make that dish with them. But what to do with the rest? I decided to go with a completely different flavor profile than what usually accompanies the sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes with Mexican flare, that sounds fun doesn’t it? I made a casserole of sorts using black beans, baked sweet potatoes, salsa verde, mozzarella and rice. And I must say we really enjoyed it. Cilantro and lime juice gave a deeper layer of flavor and really complemented the sweet potatoes.
Baking the potatoes takes a little while, so you could definitely do it ahead of time and then save them in the fridge until you’re ready to chop them up. Or you could pop them in the microwave if you are really pressed for time. Otherwise you can just have them baking while your rice is cooking. Then all you have to do is assemble, bake it off and enjoy.
So the next time you get a little extra of an ingredient, think outside of the box and you may end up with a new favorite recipe. Cheers!
As you know, around these parts we love Top Chef. By default that means we also love Richard Blais, season four runner-up and Top Chef: All Stars winner. Chef Blais has a long and impressive resume, studying under chefs like Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria and becoming recognized for his whit, creativity and molecular gastronomy on Top Chef. He has several restaurants, including Flip Burger in Atlanta and Birmingham, HD-1 in Atlanta, and will be opening The Spence in Atlanta in 2012.
Recently he has taken on a new, slightly different venture: T-shirt designer. I stumbled upon Tasty Cotton this past weekend and was immediately enthralled. With apparel sporting butcher charts, giant knives and forks, and cheeky food jokes, the appropriately chosen slogan for the company is “Shirts For People Who Eat.”
With food culture becoming ever more present, it was only a matter of time before people started wearing their food. These shirts are the perfect gift for the foodie in your life. Below are a couple of my personal favorites, but there are plenty more where that came from.
The one complaint I have is that there are only regular T-shirts. I wish they had a few fitted tees for women and maybe some kid shirts too. But it’s still early in the game. Hopefully we see much more food fun in the future.