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Noshing

22 Feb

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On a daily basis, my family uses Yiddish words. My mother grew up in an area where she heard the slang-phrases, thus making it common in our family, even though we technically have no cultural nor religious ties to the language. When Jenn and I would hype up the dog to where he was running all over the house like a wild-ass animal, we’d hear: “Stop it! You’re making him mashugana!” The groan following too much fried food preceded, “Ehg, the ajada.” “Jill! You’ve got schmutz all over your face!” was the typical retort after an ice cream splurge.

When Rob first heard some of this language during our dating times, he would quietly ask for a translation, but now he uses the phrases just as much. So our conversations go something like this:

Rob (horrified): “Your mother is cutting the fat off the bacon with scissors.”
Me: “Yeah. Thinking about eating all that bacon fat makes her verklempt.”

Another word often used, especially in my household, is “noshing.” Google-ly it’s defined as: verb, informal, to eat food enthusiastically or greedily. My definition is: eating enough popcorn, peanuts, and wasabi peas between the 3:00-6:00 hours to turn me into a human pub mix. I don’t go as far to be binge-worthy and unhealthy, but it’s not the best habit to have (and Rob doesn’t exactly share in it).

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So feeling the urge to nosh, but not having any of my noshing goods in the pantry, it inspired me to create something else – something a little bit fancy, a little bit booshy, a dish I would like to order as an appetizer with a glass of bubbles. Nordically inspired, I’m super into pickling and marinating, and my mind (as it often does), turned to cheese. The light in my fridge divinely directed me to the creamy, fresh ball of mozzarella, just pleading for its makeover. In 5 minutes, Marinated Mozerella was born: the cheese was thickly sliced and soaking in a bowl of 1 diced shallot, 1 minced garlic clove, 1:1 ratio of white balsamic vinegar to rice wine vinegar, all the basil I could manage (about 1 tbsp, chopped, but more would have been dandy), a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a sprinkling season of s&p. Making sure all the slices were submerged, my lovely cheese had a quick 30-minute marinade. Placing a handful of baby spinach on a plate, I then used two slices of the cheese – with its marinade – and finished the dish with a drizzle of amazingly thick extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt. Is there a Yiddish phrase for holy cow?

Any way prepared, this little gem of a loosely-termed “salad” is perfect for a fancy entertaining evening, or simply for your afternoon nosh. Discussing the flexibility of this delicious dish with my mom, we thought it would be fantastic slightly warmed over green veg like beans and asparagus. Or maybe, it would be succulent atop tender, slow-roasted, sweet Roma tomatoes. I suggested placed on top of bread for a crostini. Mom’s response: “I would call that pizza – even in Yiddish.”

Enjoy!

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A United States Coastie

26 Mar

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My dad and I share a lot of “likes”: smoked salmon with dill and capers, classic rock, unplugged alternative rock, a good beer, a great wine, The Lawrence Welk show, dancing, going to bed early, stars, and road biking, to name a few. Biking stands out as a long-time memory, as I grew up watching my dad strap on those funny shoes and click away on some race he was doing that weekend, 50, 65, 100 miles no problem. I, too, eventually had the biking itch, and while I never rode competitively, I think I can hold my own on a bike.

On some long rides, as we clicked in and started down the pine and eucalyptus-lined greenbelt to reach the road leading to the hilly, California beach canyons, Dad would sternly remind me, “Eat before you’re hungry, and drink before you’re thirsty. Or else you’ll bonk.” Eating on a bike isn’t exactly gourmet, but calorie quality is a necessity.  Bananas, granola bars, and peanut butter M&Ms are all perfectly unbonkable foods.

When Rob became a serious fixture in my life, Dad was quick to ask if he rode. He did, and was quite good in fact. Even when Rob was “out of shape” he could fly passed me up a hill in a lower gear no problem.  I think even my dad was impressed.

So last weekend when we decided to take a leisurely 10-mile ride to try out the new fixie Dad has worked for me, it was odd to see Rob almost a quarter mile behind us, peddling like the dickens.  He had just gotten a new chain, and was giving it a test-ride as well. But there was no reason for such a lag, especially on these flat, Jacksonville country roads.

When we arrived to our destination (Chili’s for lunch), Rob realized his brake had been rubbing on his tire the whole time.  A convenient excuse!  But a legitimate reason nonetheless.

Lunch, sans bananas and peanut M&Ms, was nice and filled us a little too much to feel extremely comfortable on a road bike.  As we pushed through the gut-bomb feeling and picked up the pace (this time, Rob right in line), it seemed all was smooth sailing.  That is until I heard Rob’s voice from a ways back.

“We’ve got a problem!”  he yelled. I echoed the same to my dad a couple feet in front, and we slowed, turned, stopped, clicked out, and looked back. There, with another legitimate reason to fall behind, was Rob, holding his brand new chain, hanging limp, completely snapped.  There was no way to fix it (the guys tried as I watched), and they finally came to this conclusion:

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Well, they don’t call Rob a Coastie for nothing!

After the eventful ride, a good dinner was definitely in order.  Rob has started to take a liking to shrimp (Yay! Woohoo!  Hallelujah!), and of course, anything fried in these parts warrants a decent meal.  But to keep things on the lighter side, I got a little creative with my Boom Boom Shrimp.

Using a local U-15/20 shrimp (these are good medium-sized buggers, weighing in at under 15-20 shrimp per pound), I peeled and deveined them myself.  There’s something about sitting on our back porch in the early spring sunlight, peeling shrimp, sipping tea, with Sig at my feet watching the golfers go by; definitely antebellum-esque.  After the shrimp – and my hands – were cleaned, I lightly drizzled over some beautifully green grapeseed oil, and more liberally sprinkled Old Bay. Yep, we went old school, folks.

After a relaxing seasoned and oiled spa treatment in the fridge, the shrimp were ready for the jacuzzi – a quick and very light douse of s&p seasoned flour, and into a shallow, coconut oiled cast iron pan they went.  Coconut oil is 1) healthy, 2) tasty, and 3) holds a shallow pan-fry well because of its high smoking point (however, I would not use it for deep frying.  That’s when rice bran oil or peanut oil get their 15 minutes of fame).

Taking only a minute or two per side, the shrimp get pink, plump, curled, and crispy. It’s amazing that only a tiny bit of flour and a good quality oil can produce a “fried” shrimp that could probably stand up to other beer-battered Boom Booms of these parts. We had a trio of sauces; my favorite was my Strawberry BBQ sauce, while Dad and Rob loved the Asian-inspired sweet ginger sauce.  With a not-so-Southern cole slaw on the side, the meal was perfect, and filling – especially after such a hard ride!

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Boom Boom Shrimp
(serves 4)

  • 2 lbs. medium shrimp (go for a local, wild source, not farmed), peeled and deveined (keep the little tails on for easy grabbing and eating)
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ c coconut oil
  • 1 c flour
  • s&p

Put the cleaned and deveined shrimp in a large bowl with the grapeseed oil and Old Bay. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

To prepare the frying process, heat the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan (I use my cast iron skillet) until the temp reaches 320, and season the flour with s&p.  Lightly dredge the shrimp in the flour, shaking off the excess before placing in the oil. After about a minute, flip the shrimp, and then let cook for another minute until curled, pink, and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate, and quickly season with a sprinkle of salt. 

Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce, and an unoaked chardonnay.

Enjoy!  

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A Platter of Veg

25 Sep

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I have to say, I am really missing our Wintergreen Farms CSA basket from Oregon.  The beautiful greens of the Oregon summer and fall are nowhere to be seen at this point in the Florida growing season, and the heat is still as persistent as ever.  However, that being said, a few weeks ago, a small local market opened up in our housing community that has filled up our crisper with almost as many goodies as our Oregon CSA baskets did.  For $20, we can get 9 baskets of fruits or veggies, each about the size of holding 3 beefsteak tomatoes.  Good deal?  I think so. 

We made a point to go to the little market last Saturday, as friends were coming into town to stay the night.  All week I had been flipping through my recipes, trying to get inspiration from many a cookbook, all with no avail leaving an empty, white plate sans what to cook for dinner.  I hate that feeling.

Back when I lived in Irvine, CA, the UCI Farmers Market was a Saturday must.  Every week, I’d stock up on the season’s freshest, and would jump into my car with loads of cooking ideas – some of which I had to write down before even driving away.  I would come home to my little 710 square foot apartment (a fourth of which was the perfectly one-person-proportioned U-shaped kitchen) that overlooked the Portola Foothills, and cook the Saturday away.  Most dishes were vegetarian, most were written down, and if I deemed the dish good enough, I’d bring it to my parents’ house to share.  I learned how to cook this way, and found it invigorating.  Thinking about it, even now, I get that same comfortable excitement, motivation, and inspiration.

Rob called it my “Saturday Routine.”  He knew not to mess with it.  When we moved to Oregon, we created our own Saturday Routine together by visiting markets up and down the Coast, stopping at a fabulous winery for a glass of Pinot, and cooking our bountiful veg from our weekly basket.  Occasionally we’d have friends over for a low-key night, or hold down a local dive watching Oregon play that week’s losing team.  While it was never officially mentioned, I could totally see Rob saying, “Oregon’s Saturday Routine totally kicks California’s Saturday Routine’s BUTT!” 

So this past Saturday, filled with the overflowing emptiness and panic ensuing from what to make my guests for dinner, we went to the little market in our neighborhood.  I got excited.  So much so, that I started talking in circles about ideas and recipes; Rob knows from experience when this happens, to just let me have at it.

“Rob, what do you think if I grill some eggplant – should we do eggplant, or would zucchini be better?”

“Babe, I thin-“

“Wait, why don’t I do both!”

“Ok, then.”

“Look!  The Honey Crisp apples are out!”

“Aren’t those the ones that – “

“I LOVE THOSE!  Remember how they were all over the Pacific Northwest?”

“Yeah, I – “

“Ooooooo tangeloes!!!”

The poor lady helping us out had the patience of a Saint, and I’m sure she was happy to see us go – mostly for the reason that she wouldn’t have to hear my voice anymore, but also that I walked away with 3 baby eggplant, 4 zucchini, 3 apples, a basket of pluots, a basket of tangelos, 2 bunches of green onions, 4 heirloom peppers, 3 beefsteak tomatoes, and a basket of cherry tomatoes.  YUM. 

So dinner with our friends consisted of a rustic, marinated, grilled vegetable platter.  With the zucchini, baby eggplant, carrots, green onions, apples, mushrooms, and heirloom peppers, we mixed in some turkey sausage for the omnivores, and paired it with a lovely kale and dill pesto.  Really, it was the marinade that made this dish amazing – it is tangy, sweet, and perfectly complimentary to the smoke of the grill, leaving the veg addictive.  The leftovers were amazing, too.  I simply heated up the veg with some feta cheese, but I can completely imagine the second round as a lovely grilled vegetable soup, or a fantastic Panini.   Yum again. 

The night, and the dinner, was a hit, and it felt so good to be inspired again.  Feel free to use any vegetable you would like in this dish – really anything that can hold its integrity on a hot grill will work fine.  Fruit works, too, and please enjoy with good company.  Hopefully a giant platter of veg will inspire you as much as it did for me.  

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Grilled Veg Marinade
(makes just over a pint) 

  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ¼ c apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • juice of one tangelo (or an orange)
  • 3 whole sprigs of thyme
  • 1 large garlic clove, slightly smashed
  • about 10 peppercorns
  • a 4-fingered pinch of kosher salt

Pour all ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar.  Seal tightly, and shake well to mix.  Put in the fridge for a few hours to marry the flavors. 

About 30 minutes before grilling the veg, pour over the marinade, and mix well so all the juices sink in and impart the flavor.    

NOTE: cut your veg into pretty thick pieces, and large enough that they won’t fall through the grill grate.  Go straight from the marinade to the grill, medium heat, and grill each side.  Mix with, or without a protein of your choice, and serve on a big platter.  And extra sprinkling of fresh basil on top adds a nice touch. 

Enjoy! 

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