Category Archives: Food!

Keep Calm Cucumber Sandwiches

The Brexit has happened!

Regardless of your feelings on the momentous decision made yesterday by the Brits to leave the European Union, we can still all do as the Brits do:

Keep Calm and Carry On (And drink tea). 

high teaPausing your afternoon for tea and a snack is indeed a very civilized activity and, I believe, quite good for one’s peace of mind. If you want to step up your game, here is my own cucumber sandwich recipe–easy peasy and great for impressing guests. You can also add some scones, cakes, clotted cream, jam, and/or biscuits and make for a truly fancy high tea (guests optional).

If you have never had a cucumber sandwich, you are in for a treat. They are filling, refreshing, slightly sweet and slightly tangy, and great for breakfast or whenever you set your tea time. I recommend using a mandolin for even, thin slicing. I also suggest peeling the cucumber, unless it has a very thin rind as in the case of hydroponic cucumbers (a tidbit I recently learned!).

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Emily’s Cucumber Sandwiches

1/4 cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon fresh mint, diced (alternatively, you could add a dash of paprika)
dash of salt and pepper
1/2 cucumber, thinnly sliced
4 slices bread of your choice

Mix first six ingredients thoroughly until you have a smooth texture. Spread on bread slices and assemble cucumbers for even distribution. Slice off crusts for extra fanciness, if you choose, and cut sandwiches into triangles. Serve with your favorite tea.

 

 

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Four Under-the-Radar Foodie Paradises in Nashville

Nashville has no shortage of Southern cuisine, whether you’re looking for meat and three or haute. But less well known are the bustling international food experiences to be enjoyed all across the city. As my husband and I continue to explore all Nashville has to offer, I thought I’d share some of the more recent findings from some tasty forays into less mainstream parts of town.

  1. Kirin Sushi 
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    Image credit to Valorie from Yelp

    This new sushi restaurant seems to be getting decent reviews without help from me, but as it is new and located in Antioch, I wanted to give it some love. We were looking for dinner near the $2 movie theater before our show, and I was craving sushi (when am I not?). Low and behold just off of Bell Road is the new Kirin Sushi offering a wide range of Japanese favorites from sushi to hibachi to udon soup. The restaurant provides a welcoming interior great for dates. We ordered several rolls and a bowl of Udon. I kept a menu on the table in case we needed more, but the rolls were bursting with seafood goodness and the bowl of Udon turned out to be bigger than my head! We ended up taking most of the soup home, along with a large plate of tasty tempura, and it was just as delicious and umami-packed the next day. We will be returning.

  2. So Gong Dong Tofu House Restaurant
    So, apparently, this place is a chain. We found out about it from our cousins from Chicago who came to visit and wondered if their favorite Korean restaurant had a location here. Lucky for us, rich soups and hearty bibimpab and seafood pancakes are just down the road. You wouldn’t know it to look at the questionable strip mall in which it sits, but stepping inside you discover a lovely, homey restaurant that feels worlds away from the nearby busy Harding Road. Seriously, I have never had tastier Korean food. Ever.
  3. Goha Ethiopian Restaurant 

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    Another Yelp Photo

    A bit out of the way (unless you already live in Antioch), this charming Ethiopian restaurant is located in a converted house. You dine in the living room or on the front porch, whichever you choose. The menu is extensive and the food comes fast and flavorful along with piles of spongy injera. This place is great whether you are novice to the cuisine or a long-time connoisseur. There are only a handful of Ethiopian restaurants in town, but so far this one is the overall winner for flavor, service, and ambiance.

  4. The Shawarma Sandwiches at Newroz Market 
    There is a string of Kurdish markets along Nolensville Pike that serve the needs of Nashville’s substantial Kurdish population. They also serve the rest of us delicious shawarma sandwiches at Newroz Market, made to order on your choice of freshly baked breads, with chicken or beef or mixed, and any veggies or sauces that tickle your fancy. Best of all, you can stuff yourself full of tasty shawarma for only $4! Everyone inside is very kind and willing to explain all the choices available. While you are there, you can also pick up bucketloads of dried chickpeas, homemade tahini paste, and date syrup for your Mediterranean cooking adventures.

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My latest in Edible Magazine

The gorgeous new issue of Edible Nashville hits coffee shop shelves this week. Inside is my latest article entitled, “World Class Kitchen.” Woot woot!

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This was yet another awesome assignment where I got to learn about some great work being done here in Nashville. Just up the road from where I live, there is a community center called Casa Azafran that serves the immigrant populations of Nashville, offering everything from English Lessons to daycare. One of their coolest programs is Mesa Komal, the shared kitchen space available to food/restaurant start-ups.

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Inside Mesa Komal

By sharing kitchen space and its costs, these start-ups are able to start-up faster, as well as create camaraderie among their number through a shared dream. Read all about it!

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The Four Food Entrepreneurs of the article

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A Thursday Bechamel

We’ve had a butternut squash sitting on our counter for some time. I knew I wanted to make stuffed shells with it, but this was only half a plan. It needed a sauce, something herby, something creamy, but not too heavy. Then on my way home I remembered a snippet of a Barefoot Contessa clip where she made a bechamel, and I had my answer.

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So here is a new recipe for you. Enjoy!

Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash and a Sage Bechamel 

Stuffed Shells
Large Shells
1 Butternut Squash
1 shallot
3 tbs sherry
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper, and sage to taste

Sage Bechamel
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
sprinkle of lemon juice
sage, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Cook the shells to a lovely al dente.

Peel and chop the butternut squash. Roast pieces at 400 degrees until tender and can be pierced with a fork. Puree squash.

Dice the shallot and saute until translucent. Add the sherry and let it boil down. Add the butternut squash puree and cook until liquid is absorbed. Stir in heavy cream, and then the cheese, lemon juice, and spices.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and add the flour. Stir until smooth and cook the roux for a minute. Add the milk and cream and simmer until thickened. Add spices to taste.

To assemble, spoon the puree mixture into the shells and drizzle bechamel across the tops. Top with sliced fresh basil. Savor.

 

 

 

 

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My Latest from Edible Nashville

The new issue of Edible is still circulating around town, so grab your copy! I was thrilled and honored by my assignment for this issue covering a non-profit called Meals 4 Health and Healing.

These wonderful people prepare and deliver immune-boosting meals to cancer patients here in town. This is a critical service for several reasons:

  1. Cancer patients and their caretakers are exhausted from running between doctors appointments, too tired to prepare healthy, home-cooked meals. M4HH takes care of the research, the shopping, and the cooking.
  2. Many Americans eat the Standard American Diet, or SAD, which is mostly highly processed carbs and meat. The SAD diet does more to cause immune deficiencies than combat them. Simply, SAD diets lead to SAD consequences. M4HH partners with clients to educate them in super food science and how eating well can give our immune systems a fighting chance.
  3. Research shows that patients who eat whole foods during treatments show greatly improved reactions to the treatment and reduced side effects.
  4. These improved responses to treatment lead to greatly reduced healthcare costs, up to 60%, in fact, according to a study from the Ceres Project in California.
  5. Many individuals combatting illness also face isolation as a result of their condition. M4HH makes sure every client knows they are loved and supported.

M4HH is always looking for more volunteers! Find out more at their site. Also, here are some of their top healthy eating tips:

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Been Busy Making Things

I’m making progress on my 30×30 Makers List. To recap, I challenged myself to make 30 things before my 30th birthday. I have just under two weeks left. I’ve come a long way. Got a long way to go.

Here is some stuff I’ve been working on…

  1. PEKING DUCK. 
    That’s right. I did it. I made a Peking Duck at home. I dried that sucker out and coated it in a maltose solution and roasted it vertically. The last part I managed thanks to a tip from Serious Eats to stuff a beer can full of water up the cavity and stand it up in a roasting pan. 1.5 hours later, we feasted on delicious Peking Duck with all the fixings. And a side of snow pea tips in garlic.

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2. SHADOW PUPPET
I started this shadow puppet years ago after returning from Cambodia inspired by the art form. I don’t know why I decided on a flamenco dancer, but I was pleased to find this recently and add it to my maker’s list.

3. Recipe for Josefin
My friend Josefin, when she last visited the US from Sweden, had a brilliant idea: that she and I exchange recipes with the stories behind them, and perhaps one day assemble them all into a transatlantic cookbook. Naturally, I agreed. When I listed the first recipe on my maker’s list, my cousin provided this fantastic start to the challenge: my grandmother’s recipe for rye crackers written in her handwriting. The story is below.

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Our grandmother, Mimi, was an anomaly in our family. Mimi, you see, was always very proper, very feminine, reserved, and clean. She cared very much about appearances, much to the chagrin of the rest of us. My mother, by contrast, was very much a tomboy, always valuing athleticism, ingenuity, and silliness over traditional feminine attributes. Her grandmother, Mimi’s mother, was creative and affectionate and pleased to get dirty (or so people tell me…I never really knew her). My mom once told me the story of how she and her grandmother were in a row boat and my mom got out to swim alongside. She remembers her grandmother peering down at her from the boat above, shaking her head and asking rhetorically, “How did you ever come out of your mother?” All of us in the family laugh at this story. The idea of Mimi swimming in a lake, or even just messing up her hair, tickles us in its absurdity.

Growing up with Mimi, I hear, was much less funny. My mother constantly felt burdened to impress Mimi. Despite her efforts, she never seemed to escape the shadow of unachievable perfection she believed her mother sought from her. Whether or not Mimi actually desired perfection, or felt any disappointment with my mother’s choices, cannot be known until Heaven, and possibly not even then. However, my mother’s paranoia to please Mimi was transferred to me, and the unfortunate result was that I never felt comfortable around my own grandmother. I too always felt the need to put on a show, to dress well around her, and to hide my messes and shortcomings. It was stressful. We had so very little in common.

Very little, that is, except eating.

              After Mimi passed away my aunt asked us for any happy memories we had of our grandmother. As I look back on my fonder moments with Mimi, almost every single one of them involves eating. She was no chef, but she definitely appreciated delicious things. I remember sleeping over at her house during those years she lived near us in New York. Our ritual was to go out to a fancy Chinese restaurant for dinner and then in the morning she would make blueberry pancakes with kumquat marmalade and bacon. For family dinners, she would make a beef pot roast and serve it with gravy over fluffy dinner rolls baked with significant quantities of butter. As I got older, I began to cook for her, and very much enjoyed watching her eat my handiwork. She would close her eyes and make funny little grunting noises which, from her, somehow came out dainty. She would save chocolate to regift to me, knowing I would appreciate it, and she regularly had a tin of cookies and a tin of crackers ready for snacking during our visits.

It is the crackers that I share with you today. She enjoyed eating them with cottage cheese and tomato slices for lunch. I don’t remember enjoying the crackers much as a child, but my uncle brought a tin of them to Mimi’s memorial service and I gave them another try. As strange as it sounds, tasting the crackers that day made me smile. I remember the day was sunny and breezy and everything was green. We sat outside the church, munching away. They were Mimi crackers. Despite grieving her loss I felt, for me, that they manifested in a small way a celebration of her life.

And the crackers are scrumptious.

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How to Make a Renaissance Feast

This past weekend our friends hosted a murder mystery dinner party set in Elizabethan England. They called it “Myrder at the Blackfriar Taverne.”

They put me in charge of food.

I told them that I might need some boundaries.

They thought I was kidding.

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As I set about thinking through my plan, my initial inclination was to make things I already knew were delicious and pretend they were from the period. Then I remembered that I had the internet, and such access to knowledge holds us all to higher standards. Here are the steps I underwent. Should you ever host or cater a similar event, I hope will this be useful to you:

  1. Think through the categories of food you need: Starters, drinks, breads, entrees, sides, desserts (I made a spreadsheet to keep track of my plan and potential recipes). This is important because your research could easily send you spiraling off down rabbit trails and two hours later you find yourself with eighteen recipes for chicken and nothing else. Have a mission in mind. Therefore, instead of looking for “Elizabethan Recipes,” look for “Elizabethan Cake Recipe.” That said, your mission should also leave room for serendipity. You might find little factoids, as I did, of foods typical to the period that we no longer use. For instance, Elizabethan cuisine involved many floral flavors like rose and lavender, and we use much less of that today. Because of this, I knew that I needed to incorporate floral notes into the food when appropriate, thereby making it more accurate to the time period. Incidentally, this cake and this frosting were fantabulously delicious.

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    Elizabethan Honey Cake with Lavender Buttercream

  2. Choose your recipes with care, but don’t go crazy. Given that it took humanity a shockingly long time to add amounts to their recipes, many of the documented dishes that survived history are, for practical purposes, useless. Many people have made their own guesses as to what the recipes required, so given the high level of uncertainty, choose your recipes in a way that balances historicity, feasibility, and potential edibility. Remember, this is your dinner too. Challenge yourself, but be kind to yourself as well. For example, for this party I had to choose a recipe for manchet bread, a white bread typically reserved for nobility as white flour was expensive to obtain. Many recipes used lard, which I didn’t have, and others had no measurements, so it became very difficult to figure out what “real” manchet was. In the end, I picked a recipe that looked delicious, seemed supported by research, and had contemporary measurements. It was delicious and beauteous.

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    manchet, the bread of nobles

  3. Cross reference whether people ate the ingredients you want to use. Research the eating habits of different social strata…it’s fascinating. It seems Elizabethan peasants ate much more healthily than their noble counterparts. Believing vegetables to be “ground food,” nobles typically shunned nutritious options and instead indulged in white flour and white sugar, and paid dearly to do so. They loved sugar so much that the financially pressed nobles would blacken their teeth with soot to make them appear to be rotting from the sugar. It is also important to realize that, depending on when in the Elizabethan era you choose to focus, foods like potatoes, chocolate, and tomatoes had not yet made it across the ocean, and even after they did, they were only consumed by the most adventurous. Tomatoes were considered poisonous, in fact, for many years after their arrival in Europe. I share all of this because depending on your dedication to era-appropriate menu items, it helps to consider the facts.

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    mini meat pies, made with roast shredded pork, minced beef, minced sausage, carrots, onions, and peas.

  4. Think through your timing. This is true of any large catering venture, but you might not realize how long your leech, a milk and wine jelly, takes to set. Each layer of this pudding requires 12 hours each in the fridge, so I’m very thankful I checked the recipe a couple days before. In addition, bread needs time to rise and pie dough (with butter) needs to chill before rolling it out. Because you (probably) don’t have a kitchen staff in your castle bowels to get everything out on the table at the right time, you have to schedule yourself wisely.

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    Eight Cornish Hens

  5. Everyone loves cheese. 
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Best of luck with all your themed party cooking experiments!

Also, in other news, after this party I can now cross off several items from my 30×30 Maker List, including #8, the tiered cake, and #9, the Renaissance costume. Technically I made two costumes, because I was responsible for the hubby costume as well as my own. I made my costume out of curtains and a pillow sham. Seriously. I am also going to add Renaissance Feast to my list, as that was quite a feat of making.

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Let the Christmas Crafting Begin!

The last few Christmases I spent more money at Michael’s craft store than I care to admit. Normally I’m not the “crafty” type. I don’t typically strive to make things generically cute, and I never scrapbook. I have nothing against scrapbookers; I just don’t cut things well–very bad with scissors.

But at Christmas a change comes over me and I get the urge to create adorableness and give it as gifts. Last year I wrote about this same phenomenon. I said how growing up we had a refrigerator magnet that read, “Martha Stewart doesn’t live here,” but judging by my Christmas crafts I didn’t deserve the magnet anymore.

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I channeled my inner Martha, and it looks like this year will be similar.

Add to this that this year, working for Edible Nashville, I am exposed to so many nifty ideas for food gifts to give that it is difficult to set boundaries. Here is a list of five fantabulous new challenges I plan to undertake:

  1. Sugared Cranberries from Love and Olive Oil
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  2. Homemade Bourbon Marshmallows from For the Love of the SouthBourbon-Vanilla-Marshmallows
  3. Passionfruit Caramels/Gingerbread Caramels, Love and Olive Oil
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  4. Rhubarb Simple Syrup(Assuming I can find rhubarb in December)2014-05-19-rhubarb-syrup-1
  5. Goozy’s Chocolate Decadence Cookie
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I think I just had the best Ethiopian food ever…

Among the many perks of working with a food magazine is the excuse (assuming I needed one) to try out new restaurants. I’m in the process of writing a piece on international coffee spots in town and, as part of this quest, I decided to try Awash Ethiopian, a hole-in-the wall gem where I think–I think–I may have just enjoyed the tastiest Ethiopian food of my life, and certainly the most authentic.

Before going, I had read that the little cafe was run entirely by one woman who begins prepping your food as soon as you walk in the door. Reviewers described the space is tiny, only enough room for a few tables, and over all very bare bones. It is also located in a neighborhood that would be considered obscure by many Nashvillians. Even so, every review glowed with praise when it came to the food and the hospitality of the hostess/server/chef, Zi*.

When we walked in Zi jumped up and immediately started moving toward the kitchen. She paused and smiled and asked us if we had had Ethiopian food before. “Oh yes! We love it!” She smiled again and started pulling out pans and ingredients. She didn’t take an order. She just went to work. We took a seat and watched her cook. The room was a little smokey, and we found out later why. We looked around at the Ethiopian tourism posters that lined the walls, and watched a little bit of the Ethiopian channel on the TV.

When she brought out the platter of yumminess I felt the grin stretch across my face. The stewed dishes were piled high on top of the injera, and the aromatic steam filled our nostrils. We tore off pieces of injera and started digging in, each bite better than the last. We had stewed beef in a mild berbere, yellow lentils, cabbage with carrots, fresh cheese, and greens. The greens in particular shocked me with their powerful flavor. I literally twitched with the fireworks going off in my mouth. It was just like that scene from Ratatouille.

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Zi wasn’t finished with her magic yet. We came for the coffee, but what I didn’t expect was that she would roast the coffee to order. I watched her as she scooped raw Ethiopian Coffee beans into a pan and shook them over the flame. When they were finished she brought the smoking pan over to us so we could smell up close. “This is Ethiopian culture,” said the older gentleman sitting next to us. She took the pan back and set to grinding the beans to a fine powder. She then put the powder in a clay pot with a high spout and boiled the coffee over the fire. She brought out the pot on a platter with a bowl of sugar and two dainty coffee cups. Though I feared the coffee would be very smokey and burnt, given the method of roasting, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The flavor was wonderfully smooth and not overly bitter. The coffee was strong and earthy, and with the sugar added it reminded me of chocolate and cinnamon, even though neither were present.

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Raw Ethiopian Coffee Beans

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Zi roasting the beans over the stove

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Ethiopian cup

I just sat there shaking my head and smiling. That might have just been the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had.

Go figure…Nashville, of all places.

 

 

*Zi is her name, but I don’t know if that is how it is spelled. 😦

 

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