Plum Crazy

A few weeks ago Lucas discovered a produce stand near our house. I spent the day away from home, shopping and getting a pedicure, and returned to a kitchen full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

I should do that more often.

Everything he bought was fantastic, so the following weekend we went together, and I got to see for myself where all of the food we ate that week came from. I can’t express how good it feels to be so close to the source of our food. Meeting the people who grow what you eat feels special. Honest. And the food tastes better.

HG Produce is a family run operation, set up in front of my dream house at 24703 Saddle Spur Lane in Katy, TX. Seriously, I want to live there. Their produce is grown in a nearby garden, sourced from other local farms, or brought in from as far as East Texas and the Valley. The selection is varied and fresh.

Beautiful tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers and carrots, tender okra, crisp green beans, and spicy habaneros. They have bags of fresh beans and peas in a cooler. Jars of salsa, pickled okra, candied jalapeños, and peach jam are lined up for purchase. And then there are the fruits … huge watermelons, sweet cantaloupe, bright red strawberries, juicy peaches, figgy figs.

FullSizeRender copy

And plums. Shockingly delicious plums. One bite and I was hooked. Gone is the girl who pushes her cart past the plums at the grocery store. Now I’m the girl who drives past the grocery store, happy to go an extra ten minutes for her plum fix. Dark plums with a sweet, bright red flesh. Perfectly juicy fruit that practically explodes, dripping onto  your hands and feet when you bite into it. The kind that’s best eaten outside or over your kitchen sink to avoid making a mess.

We now go every weekend for those magical plums … and yeah, yeah, I guess the other stuff, too. Visiting the stand has become the best part of our grocery shopping routine. HG Produce is open on Saturday and Sunday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  I’ve read they’re only operating from April through September, so go while you still can! And definitely get the plums.

 

 

Advertisements

Wramen Pop-Up

On Sunday, April 13th, two of Fort Worth’s highly talented chefs – Jesus Garcia of Little Lilly Sushi and Kevin Martinez of Tokyo Cafe – hosted a Wramen Pop-Up at the Culinary School of Fort Worth.  Pronounced double-u ramen, Wramen implies westernized ramen, or a version you wouldn’t expect to see in Japan.  The term originated in Seattle when food writer Jay Friedman called for “a change in nomenclature”.  He proposed that authentic Japanese ramen continue to be called what it is (ramen) and anything else that is not authentic should be termed “Wramen”.

If you think he’s being a food snob, I’d urge you to think about what passes for Mexican or Chinese food in your neighborhood.  I was lucky to grow up in the big melting pot of Houston, where friends taught me the distinction between authentic and Americanized versions of their cuisines.  Since ramen in restaurants is still relatively new to many Americans, I’m happy that someone hopes to maintain its integrity, much like we Texans differentiate between Mexican and Tex-Mex.  So I guess to me it makes sense that two Mexican sushi chefs from Texas would understand and want to promote the Wramen naming concept.

Double-u ramen, ramen, whatever you want to call it, these guys do it well!  Some of the Wramen we sampled was relatively authentic and some was definitely unconventional, but it was all outstanding.  I completely respect what these guys are doing … for themselves, the restaurants they work for and our city.

Lucas and I arrived at the Culinary School around 5:30, grabbed some wine glasses (byob!) and sat at a table for two.  Many of the tables were large enough to accommodate bigger groups, but as we watched people make their way inside it appeared most came in pairs.  We weren’t certain what would go best with each course so we showed up with some belgian beer, a bordeaux and a bottle of champagne.  I sipped on the champagne while waiting for our meal to begin, since I knew from some pre-dinner snooping that our first course would be light.  Also, this was my birthday dinner so I felt like celebrating.

The first course was Branzino (European sea bass) seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, a perfect small yellow tomato sliced in half and placed between it and some rocket salad with a hint of lemon and remarkably good parmesan.

DSC01991

Next was the Bao Bun Duo.  One was filled with savory duck and figs, reminiscent of five spice, topped with pickled cucumbers.  The other was full of moist, tender Miyazaki Beef, sprouts and spicy chile oil.  L.O.V.E.D. both of them.

DSC01993

The 3rd course was our first bowl of Wramen!   Continue reading

Homemade Pork, Apple & Leek Sausage

On a drunken night back in March, for reasons I cannot recall, Lucas ordered a meat grinder.  What I do remember clearly is him running around the house screaming “STX Turboforce 3000!”.  And everyone loving the name so damn much that at some point the purchase button was hit from his Amazon cart.

Two days later this showed up.  Why did we need a meat grinder again?  Oh yeah, awesome name!  And the surprising thing is that it’s actually been used.  We’ve ground meat for all sorts of things, including hamburgers, chili and Italian sausage.  Really good Italian sausage.  So good it sparked an interest in stuffing our own (sausage). Continue reading

Baked Eggs in Moroccan Ragout with Spanish Chorizo

Whew, that’s a mouthful!  But a delicious one.

Modified from Food 52’s recipe for Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs, this is what I chose to make for our Christmas brunch.

cilantro

What makes it so special, so Christmas Brunch-worthy?  If I had to choose one answer, it would be the ras el hanout.  What is that, you wonder?  It’s a North African blend of spices, typically made of cardamom, ground chili peppers, coriander, cumin, clove, cinnamon, peppercorn, fenugreek, paprika, turmeric and more.

photo-36

In Arabic, ras el hanout means “head of the shop” or a blend of the finest spices available.  At one time ras el hanout would have included cantharides, or Spanish fly (it’s a beetle, why not call it that?), as an aphrodisiac.  Here is what wikipedia has to say about cantharides:

“As it passes through the body, cantharidin irritates the genitals resulting in increased blood flow that can mimic the engorgement that occurs with sexual excitement.[3] For this reason, various preparations of desiccated Spanish flies have been used as some of the world’s oldest alleged aphrodisiacs, with a reputation dating back to the early western Mediterranean classical civilizations. The ease of toxic overdose makes this highly dangerous, and for this reason the sale of such products as Spanish Fly has been made illegal in most countries.” Continue reading

Bourbon-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

It’s Christmas Day.  I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas, watching Lilo & Stitch and not so patiently waiting for Lucas to wake up.  Since he’s working nights we’ll open our presents this afternoon, eat a brunchy meal and then finally (finally!) I will get to take a bite of the Bourbon-Soaked Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake I baked around 1:00 this morning.

photo-31

Normally I despise baking, but when I saw this Fleur de Lis Bundt Pan I wanted it so very much that baking didn’t sound too awful.  I put it on my Amazon wish list and there it sat, marked high priority, ignored by all for the past year.  Until it showed up on my doorstep a few days ago.  A gift from Santa Claus?  Close enough.  Thanks Mom & Dad!

To break in my new pan I wanted to make a boozy cake.  One so boozy it might make me feel a little tipsy.  I searched online and found this recipe, courtesy of the New York Times.  They call it whiskey-soaked, but I used bourbon.  And since all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon, I feel the need to specify. There are rules people! Continue reading

Bean Butt Chicken

Yesterday morning, while leafing through Mastering the Grill (the #1 grilling cookbook in our house), Lucas and I discussed what to make for our Memorial Day dinner.  We’ve been throwing a lot of chicken boobs on the grill lately, so initially we leaned towards a different animal.  But the moment he said Bean Butt Chicken I was all over the idea.

Now, I’m not sure how the idea of inserting something up a chicken’s butt and then cooking it came about.  I can only imagine, kindly keep my thoughts to myself and then thank that certain freaky individual.  Beer, beans, whatever … it doesn’t matter. Continue reading

Penguins

What appetizer do you take to your first company Christmas party in Pittsburgh?

Penguins!*

Okay, okay.  We didn’t eat REAL penguins.

Just olives stuffed with a cream cheese mixture, skewered, and brought to life by a carrot – for the penguin’s beak and feet.

They are fun to make, insanely cute, mildly tasty and definitely a big hit.  Co-workers were taking pictures to send to friends & family and asking for the recipe.

Here’s a link!

*For those of you not-so-sporty types … The Penguins are Pittsburgh’s hockey team.

Summer Rolls

A few weeks ago as I was walking through the Asian market I saw spring roll wrappers.   Not anything out of the ordinary, but they were a surprising reminder that even with all of my dabbling into Asian cooking I’ve never made spring rolls.  Which is really a pity.  I threw a package into my cart and when I got home placed them on a shelf in the pantry where they were out of sight, out of mind.  Until today.

I have been incredibly lazy this weekend so when Lucas decided to make Thai Grilled Chicken Thighs with Peanut Sauce for dinner I was determined to make myself useful.  Side dishes it was!  In my opinion lighting the grill without throwing corn on it is a waste of good charcoal.  Perhaps grilled corn isn’t your typical Thai side dish, but it was on sale 5 for $1.00 at Randalls.  Yes, it was added to the menu.

But what else?  I wasn’t in the mood for rice and my feeble attempts at searching online left me drooling …not in hunger, but boredom.   Right when I was about to give up I saw a recipe for fried spring rolls.  The gears started turning and I remembered the spring roll wrappers and thin rice vermicelli I bought weeks ago.  I definitely wasn’t going to fry anything, but some nice, light summer rolls sounded like the perfect way to round out dinner. Continue reading

I Love Ramen!

When I woke up this morning my first conscious thought was about Ramen.  Weird, I know, yet Ramen happens to be one of my favorite things to eat.  It’s quick, super inexpensive and – when done right – delicious.  It might not be the normal thing to think about in the bedroom, but you’ve probably thought of stranger things.  Don’t deny it.

I should probably clarify that when I refer to Ramen I mean the instant noodle packs, not the Japanese style which interestingly enough originated in China.  Someday I’ll travel to Japan for real Ramen and visit the Shin-Yokohama Raumen Museum, but in the meantime I’m content eating Maruchan Ramen.

Did you know that instant noodles were invented in 1958 by an awesome guy named Momofuku Ando?  He’s one of my heroes, and apparently the Japanese agree since a poll in 2000 named instant noodles the greatest invention of the 20th century.  Yeah, yeah, instant noodles are not health food.  They are high in carbohydrates, fat and sodium.  All of the good stuff like fiber and vitamins are basically non-existent.  But I ate them for an entire summer and lived to tell the tale.

My Ramen cravings always strike when there is no Ramen in the house <– insert sad face here.  So after my morning shower Continue reading

Curried Shepherd’s Pie

I took a bit of a break from my blog.  Too long, methinks.  Started a new job, the holidays hit and then we moved.  All excuses, really.  Amidst all of these changes I’ve just been uninspired and cooking a hell of a lot less.

I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things and post more frequently.  Which would require cooking more frequently.  No promises, though … I went from a job with a lot of free time (company was closing down) to a stressful job that inspires me to drink half a bottle of wine in lieu of taking a yoga class.  Yes, that would be its own issue.

I have a lot to work on, but I’ll get there.  We’re slowly settling into the new house and while I am now cooking on an electric stove (I know … the horror!!), I’ve had a couple of weeks to get used to it and it’s not as awful as I thought it would be.  Water boils a lot more quickly.  Not sure I have anything else positive to say at the moment so we’ll just leave it at that.

So!  Food.  What did I finally make that was blog-worthy?

Curried Shepherd’s Pie.

Continue reading