Beet Vichyssoise

Fall activities might be in full swing by now but the weather is still hot and humid in the Lowcountry and sometimes a cool meal is in order for supper. Vichyssoise, the cool and creamy French classic is one of my favorite soups when the weather is hot but I still want something with a little substance. I’m not a fan of baked potato soups but vichyssoise is something else entirely; it’s also not all that different from the Irish potato soup my grandpa passed down to my mom and I, with the exception that his was always served hot. 

I make a huge shortcut in this soup by using store-bought juice instead of roasting and pureeing beets. This all occurred because I purchased a beet/purple carrot/purple sweet potato juice that I just could not bring myself to drink. It tasted great but not great for an actual drinking juice. Thus, I decided to make a soup out of it. I prepared a basic vichyssoise and tweaked it a little to suit the flavor of the juice. The result was bright, smooth and equally good served hot or cold. Cold is my preference but my hunny prefers his hot. Just a suggestion, really do try to use leeks instead of substituting with onion – the leeks produce a mellow flavor that onions don’t do justice.

 

Beet Vichyssoise

2 T butter
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 c chopped leeks
Leeks Chopped Leeks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c no sodium added chicken stock
1 c water
1/2 c sauvignon blanc or other dry white wine
2 c Bolthouse Farms Daily Roots or equal amount of beet juice
1/2 c cream or half & half
20 leaves fresh tarragon, finely chopped
splash lemon juice
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste (I didn’t use any but I’m sure some folks would want it)
ricotta or plain yogurt, for serving, if desired

In a large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add sliced potatoes and saute until soft and golden; add garlic and leeks, sauteing until translucent.                                                                                                                                                      

                                                     Potatoes & Leeks

Add chicken stock and water and simmer for 20 minutes, reducing heat if necessary. Using the back of a fork, gently press on the potatoes so that they begin to break up. 

Simmering

Add wine and simmer for 15 more minutes. Then whisk in cream, pouring in a little bit a time. Stir in tarragon and whisk in splash lemon juice.  Salt/pepper to taste.

Finishing Soup

Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight. Either way, serve with a dollop of ricotta or plain yogurt, if desired.

Along with a plate of Spanish manchego, yogurt cheese, charcuterie, raw almonds and grapes, this made for an excellent casually elegant meal.  What makes this soup super outstanding is that it’s even better after one or two days. 

Served Soup    Charcuterie Platter

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Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté

Lately, I’ve had trouble finding recipes to get really pumped about. With that being said, I’m the proud owner of a pretty extensive collection of cookbooks (for a 23 year-old at least), with cookbooks ranging from the South Carolina Wildlife Cookbook, which includes great tips and recipes for cooking anything from deer to snapping turtle to beaver, to one on Lebanese classics and comfort food. My favorite cookbooks tend to be Australian; the Aussies have a penchant for great Asian fusion as well as English classics. Despite my plethora of options for finding ideas, I rarely actually use recipes. Instead, I pour through about 5 cookbooks at a time and get ideas for flavor combinations that will work. 

Last night, while trying to decide what to do with the pound of shrimp I had just purchased, I stumbled upon a great recipe in one of my go-to cookbooks. If you do not own The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh, you must find it ASAP. This gem includes 1100 recipes that are quick, easy to follow and cover a spread of ethnic and American flavor palettes. 

The recipe for Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté is so vibrant and full of spice – not the hot kind of spice but the delicious, fragrant kind. I served it atop roasted chick peas and brown rice but lentils and greens would be just lovely as well. Whatever you choose to serve with it, be sure it simply seasoned – this dish calls for subtle sides the balance it’s dynamism.

Fast Easy Fresh

Moroccan Shrimp and Red Onion Sauté

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger (I subbed Gourmet Garden ginger in equal quantity and I honestly don’t think it made any difference)
2 teaspoons hot chili sauce (ex. Sriracha)
12 uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact
1 red onion, halved, peeled, each half cut into 4 wedges through root end
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (for serving)

Ingredients

Toast coriander seeds, cardamom seeds and cumin in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, shaking skillet, about 1 minute.

Toasting Spices

Coarsely grind spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (or just crush spices with the end of a wooden spoon). Transfer to large bowl; mix in oil, ginger, chili sauce, cinnamon and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and onion; toss to coat.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until blackened in spots, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes.

       Red Onion in PanRaw Shrimp Added to PanAll Cooked in Pan

Add shrimp and marinade; sauté until just cooked through; about 3 minutes. Transfer shrimp and onion to plate. Top with cilantro. 

Served

Break the Silence: My Story

In light of a recent news story (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/03/emma-sulkowicz-mattress-rape-columbia-university_n_5755612.html) that’s been circulating on social media, I feel compelled to share a story of my own. 

While pro-women’s rights and feminist articles and statements are prevalent online, sexual assault and rape happen everyday regardless of background and circumstance. On one hand, women are encouraged to speak out and support each other while on the other hand denial and victim-blame are still the harsh reality. Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student in the linked article is a rarity in that she was brave enough to actually report the atrocity that happened to her. 

It is nearly impossible to know how many rapes and assaults occur because most go unreported. Why? For a variety of reasons. I have been assaulted and raped, and by more than one man. Have I reported anything? Never. Being assaulted eats at you from the inside out. Personally, I went into shock after the incidents, told no one and then inadvertently, thoughts of what happened went away. Even though thoughts of what happened went away, I was an oscillating mess of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Many months after, I had nightmares and thoughts of what happened would hit me out of the blue. After revealing what happened to a close friend, I decided I needed to go to therapy.

My therapist helped me sort through what happened in a way that worked for me and I do think I’ve recovered. I have only told my whole story to three people and live my life happily yet still feel as if there is a chunk out of my heart. Support groups for rape victims have proved impossible to find, at least in my little corner of the world. What helps me most is writing poems and talking out my thoughts on issues relating to assault in our society. 

Back to a question I posed earlier. Why do assaults go unreported? These reasons are hard to explain and differ based on the individual. After a year and a half, I feel more able to sort out my reasons which include the following: 

  • Because I didn’t think they’d believe me.
  • Because I didn’t think they’d take it seriously.
  • Because he was my boyfriend.
  • Because I thought they’d blame me.
  • Because they’d say I had it coming. Had it coming because I enjoy sex and have a open attitude about it.
  • Because I was scared.
  • Because I felt ashamed.
  • Because, in part, I blamed myself.
  • Because I was afraid of what would happen to him.
  • Because I didn’t want our mutual friends to know. 
  • Because I made excuses for his actions.
  • Because I felt bad for him.
  • Because I felt lost.

Even if you don’t report what happened to you, tell someone you trust. Someone who will keep your confidence. Don’t hold it in. Let yourself have as healthy a release as possible. Don’t let what happened to you make you feel permanently broken and unwanted. Let yourself heal. Even though it may feel like a chunk is missing, you are still wholey and entirely yourself. 

Raise awareness. Offer support. Find your strength. 

Emma, you’re a hero in my book. Fight on. 

Speak out. End this pervasive cycle.

Smoked Pork with Carolina Peach BBQ Sauce and Cheddar Biscuits

Once again, it’s been awhile. When constantly out of town, recording recipes seems be one of the things I let fall to the wayside, kind of like dusting. Inspired by the end of summer and the onset of fall and after spending time in what I call yankeeland (aka anything above North Carolina), I needed a good dose of Southern food.

After spending a couple days with his family in Waxhaw, Caleb came back with a TON of smoked pork shoulder and beef brisket from his dad and lots of peaches from his mom.

Of course pork and peaches are a stellar match; I shredded up some of the pork shoulder and decided I’d try my hand at a peach bbq sauce. Rather than serving with buns as pulled pork sandwiches, I made good old biscuits with sharp cheddar and green onion and served with simple cut green beans with nothing but garlic, salt and pepper.

The biscuits are pretty non-traditional and super simple but the ingredients are not measured at all. I fix biscuits this way when I plan on serving them with something heavy on top, in this case, pulled pork.  

Carolina Peach BBQ Sauce

Ingredients

1 large peach, peeled, pit removed and finely chopped
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 T butter
1/4 c spicy peach preserves
1/3 c honey
1/3 c dijon mustard
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1 T worcestershire sauce
1/2 c chicken stock, optional

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter and add chopped red onion. Saute until translucent.

Sauteeing Onion

Add remaining ingredients, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring frequently.

BBQ Sauce Ingredients

If sauce becomes too thick for your liking, add chicken stock and increase cooking time by 10 minutes.

Cooked Sauce

Set sauce to the side. If smoked pork shoulder is hot, allow to cool completely. 

Smoked Pork

Using your hands and a fork, pull the pork apart. It does not need to be perfectly shredded.

Pulled Pork

Pour that yummy Carolina Peach BBQ Sauce on top and stir it up real good. Serve it on top of sliced biscuits and make sure the biscuits are covered completely.

Pork with BBQ SauceCheddar-Green Onion Biscuits

Instead of a list of ingredients, I’ll just provide basic instructions for these. 

Preheat oven to 400 F. 

Add desired amount of flour (any kind of your choosing, I use whole wheat) to a large mixing bowl. Stir in a good pinch of baking powder and salt.

Little by little add in yogurt, stirring as you go. Stop adding yogurt once mixture is crumbly and yogurt and flour and evenly distributed. Now, stir in cream until dough becomes a thick and discernible ball.

Stir in freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chopped green onion.

Place dough on a well floured surface and roll out to 1/2″ thickness. Using a biscuit cutter (or top of a mason jar, like I like to do), cut out biscuits and place on greased baking sheet.

Biscuits Before Oven

Cook for about 15 minutes or until golden. If using whole wheat flour, biscuits will be significantly darker than usual. 

Cooked Biscuits

Keep in mind that the texture of these biscuits won’t be quite the same as a traditional, fluffy Southern biscuit. They are however, very tasty and still definitely biscuits.

Gaulart & Maliclet Fast & French

I have to brag on my favorite little place to grab a bite in downtown Charleston, Fast & French. Mon favorit petit café is now 30 years old. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall and yet well-known enough to be packed every time I go. I would eat there every day if I could and with their prices, it wouldn’t be unreasonable if I lived or worked downtown. One of the great things about it is the crowd. College of Charleston students, lawyers, businessmen/women, locals, Europeans, any person imaginable. They can all be found here.

Panoramic

My poor attempt at a panoramic shot.

Don’t go expecting the average American dining experience. This is a quintessential European nook on Broad Street. The seating is communal and servers are not there to be your buddy but are still plenty cordial. Go to enjoy some simple yet delicious café food. The lunch special is always to die for and comes with a glass of house wine (or other beverage). When available, I highly recommend a bowlful of their vichyssoise but all of the soups are delightful. I used to hate mushrooms with a raging passion but this place helped change my mind with their earthy pâté.

While the overwhelming majority of reviews are raving, I’ve read some of people complaining that the food is bland and poorly prepared – I couldn’t disagree more. They use fresh herbs and ingredients and offer flavorful simplicity. Not to mention the outstanding prices. On my most recent visit, my bill was ~$23 for a soup & sandwich, lunch special with wine and a dessert. Pas mal, n’est-ce pas?

Lunch Special

Lunch Special 8-16-14 : Seafood Creole with aioli, melon, cheese, baguette.

Wine

The house white wine – crisp, dry sauvignon blanc.

 

Peach Almond Tart

Dessert. Peach Almond Tart. This was orgasmic and had the best crust I’ve ever had on pie or tart.

Potato Cakes with Garlic Aioli

This weekend was the last weekend Caleb and I will be home for four weeks and his parents and younger sister came down to visit and volunteer during Matriculation Day at The Citadel. (Side note: his family are simple and unadventurous with their food.) Having taken on the role of the cook in the family, I tasked myself with making something simple for supper; I chose to make chicken marsala, roasted brussels sprouts, sauteed carrots and my special fennel mashed potatoes. There’s so much I could say about that supper, for which my family also joined us. All I’ll say is that the meal was fabulous, cooked traditionally with only fresh ingredients.

No matter how good mashed potatoes may be, they always seem to leave a bounty of leftovers. Being the Irish girl that I am, I knew just what to do with those leftovers – POTATO CAKES. These are by no means healthful but half of one potato cake is all I ever want and there’s no denying how delicious they are, especially topped with spoonful of garlic aioli or more traditionally with butter.

Potato Cakes

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes – please be sure to use good mashed potatoes, not the kind that have the consistency of baby food (I make mine with fennel and serve slightly chunky)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted

Dough

The green you see is a bit of the fennel fronds that I add to my fennel mashed potatoes.

On a floured surface combine mashed potatoes, flour and salt with your hands. This will create a thick dough.

Form into a rough ball and quarter.

Shape the quartered dough into rounds that are about 1/2″ thick and 4-6″ inches wide.

Dough Formed

In a small pan, heat a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat. One by one, cook cakes until golden or about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Cake in Pan

Finished Cake

Plated Single Cake

Sometimes the simple way is the best way.

Serve hot with a pad of butter or as I do, with garlic aioli. Click for the YouTube video instructional for the aioli I served. The guy gives a great tutorial that is both concise and informative. I added fresh chopped Italian parsley and basil, as well as a tad bit of dijon (as suggested) to mine.

Plate Potato Cake with Tomato

I like to eat mine with a sliced garden fresh tomato.

Plated Potato Cake

I served Caleb his with leftover chicken marsala. Italian meets Irish?

These are great for a filing breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack or anytime really. Don’t eat too many, though!

Almond-Crusted Chicken

I have been feeling dreadfully uninspired in the kitchen lately which is probably due to weekend trips that have kept me from my Saturday morning trips to the market. But I am happy to say that after getting some amazing news which is sure to impact the rest of my life, I have perked right back up and am glad to say I’m out of the culinary doldrums.

My most reoccurring food challenge is to give Caleb food that feels hefty enough to satisfy the appetite of man who works fourteen hour days in the hot, humid Charleston sun while also satisfying my desire for food that doesn’t sit like a rock in my stomach and clog both our arteries. I’ve begun making one true ‘man-food meal’ a week – heavy, meat and potatoes stuff. The rest of the week, I focus on what I always do – well-rounded, healthy meals.

This almond-crusted chicken works wonders in my house because it gives Caleb the feel of fried chicken while eliminating the actual fried element. He loves for me to use the leftovers in his sandwich for lunch the next day. Imagine almond-crusted chicken on toasted focaccia bread with a slice of provolone and sundried tomato pesto. I’m salivating already.

Almond-Crusted Chicken

6 chicken cutlets
2/3 cup crushed roasted almonds
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg, beaten
salt to taste, if desired
olive oil

  • Using cutlets cuts out the meat pounding process here. If you’ve had a frustrating day, just use boneless skinless chicken breasts and pound away until breasts are about 1/4″ thick.
  • Set oven to broil.
  • Combine flour and crushed almonds in a shallow dish. Add a dash of salt if you wish. (Feel free to use almond flour or rice flour here. Either would a lovely substitute.)Ground Almonds

Dip chicken in egg and transfer to dish with flour and almond. Even and thoroughly coat.

Place chicken on greased baking baking sheet and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
Pre-Oven

Cook under broiler for 4-6 minutes on each side, until golden and juices run clear.
Fresh Out The Oven

I served with one of my favorite veggie sides – spinach aglio e olio (aka spinach with garlic and olive oil, add a splash of lemon juice and white wine). I have to confess that I used a cheat in this meal – French brie ravioli that I did not make. I pick up my pasta from the farmers market and freeze any excess. Rio Bertolini’s makes wonderful fresh pastas, ranging from squid ink spaghettini and saffron papardelle to the most amazing raviolis you can imagine. The brie ravioli is no exception and I served it simply with a quick creamy basil sauce.

  • Plated

Poached Shrimp with Warm Fennel & Beet Salad

Served - Adjusted

After a few days of slackened attention to healthful eating, last night’s dinner was refreshingly light and flavorful. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m a huge fan of beets. I’m such a huge fan, I’ve been purchasing two bunches each week, slicing, roasting and using to snack on at work. With fresh shrimp sitting in my refrigerator for two days, I had no choice but to make something shrimp-y and I had just so happened to have a hankering beets, fennel and shrimp – all together.

Shrimp is one of those things a person has to like for me to be friends with them and even for non-shrimp lovers, it’s hard to resist fresh Lowcountry shrimp. We’re kind of known for it, i.e. shrimp and grits. All too many people prefer their shrimp fried which often ruins the delicate, sweet simplicity of this fruits de mer. I, on the other hand, adore poached shrimp. As opposed to boiling, which is an all too violent approach to shrimp, poaching gently simmers your desired food item in just about any liquid found to be palatable. Typically, I poach shrimp in butter and sauvignon blanc, but wanted something a little different this time. I chose to poach in a coconut milk combination which yielded such subtly vibrant flavor. 

I have to admit that I’m terrible at measuring ingredients. Mostly, I eyeball anything I can and operate in the kitchen with a monitor-and-adjust attitude. Take this ‘recipe’ with that in mind. Taste it as you make it so you’re finished product is to your liking. 

PS – the leftover poaching liquid made a great base for a Tom Kha-ish soup! 

Poached Shrimp

1 lb. fresh shrimp, deveined 
2 cups coconut milk
1 cup sodium-free stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 T lemongrass paste

  • Combine all ingredients except shrimp in a pot. Stir and thoroughly combine. Slowly bring to a simmer.
    photo 3 photo 4
  • Allow to simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Bring poaching liquid back to a simmer and add shrimp, leaving peel (you can remove after poaching). Keep a watchful eye over the shrimp and remove from liquid as soon as it is just barely cooked. 
  • I warmed a large kale leaf in a pan with a tiny bit of olive oil, served the shrimp atop the leaf and poured a little poaching liquid on top.

Warm Fennel and Beet Salad

1 large beet, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
splash lemon juice

                             photo 2photo 1

  • In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. 
  • Add sliced beet and cook for a about 3-5 minutes or until just softened. 
  • Add minced garlic and sliced fennel and cook until the fennel gains translucence. The beet will make the fennel a lovely shade of magenta. 
  • Add a splash of lemon juice, stir to combine and serve alongside the coconut milk poached shrimp. 

    Wanna know a secret? When I made this last night, I accidentally added a much too large splash of lemon juice and it ended a little too tart for my liking. Don’t do what I did. Be conservative with your splash and only add more if you think it needs it.

Served - Adjusted

The little bit of a tan in the top corner, that’s a PBR. Yep, Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s still my everyday beer of choice, Caleb’s too.

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Steak

I stringently restrict red meat consumption in my household to no more than once every two weeks. Caleb and I both have family histories of heart disease; in my case, two grandparents dead by age 40 of sudden massive heart attacks. However, this does not mean I don’t enjoy red meat. There aren’t many things in life as sumptuous as a ribeye cooked to perfection or a melt-in-your-mouth medium-rare prime rib with all the juices surrounding it. 

As you may know, I do most of my produce shopping at the local farmers market. I also happen to buy meat there when available. Wishbone Heritage Farms of Ridgeville, SC is a favorite of mine; they grow and sell herbs, produce, duck eggs, quail eggs, duck, goose, pork, beef, whatever they have. I  recently picked up two huge and ever-so-lovely ribeyes from them as a treat for Caleb. I originally planned to save them for a special occasion, like his birthday or our upcoming anniversary but they were just asking to be eaten last night. Happy Monday steak night? – yes! 

I had just one small issue – no grill. How is this possible you ask? As recent college grads, a nice little grill just hasn’t happened yet. It’s such a shame during a beautiful South Carolina summer but we do alright without one. So what do you do when you have beautifully marbled, 1 1/2″ ribeyes and no grill? Well, you can just cook them stove-top or you can bake them. OR you can do a little of both. 

Basically all you have to do is coat the room temperature steak in olive oil, generously salt and pepper them, sear for 30 seconds on each side, then put under the broiler for two-three minutes on each side in a cast iron skillet. Click here for detailed instruction. 

These steaks were cooked to a perfect medium-rare and had a wonderful crust. I served with fennel-garlic mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts for a man-approved meal. Alas, I failed to take pictures. I’ll leave the details to your imagination. 

Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies

Ladies, if it is that time of the month, I recommend you stop what you’re doing right now and make two, maybe three batches of these. I don’t remember the original basis for this recipe but it’s one I have memorized and can make at the drop of a hat.

These are not, in fact, very truffle-like once baked but the texture of the dough is quite truffle-y and rich. They satisfy my monthly craving for French truffles and I can’t keep peoples hands from them, especially Caleb’s.

Although it may be a cardinal sin as an American, I actually don’t very much care for chocolate chip cookies; instead, I prefer a rich chocolate cookie like this one. Also mint and chocolate are a match made in heaven.

 

Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies
Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies

1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c butter, room tempurature
1 large egg
1 1/2 t vanilla
2 t mint extract
1/4 c cocoa powder (heaping)
1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 salt

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy.
  • Add in egg, mint and vanilla extracts and mix until well combined.
  • In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and combine thoroughly.
  • Grease a baking sheet.
  • Make small rounds with the dough, about 1 tablespoon each. Arrange the balls 2″ apart on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 8 minutes and to prevent sticking, allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from baking sheet.
  • EAT UP!!!