Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Garrison Brothers Bourbon

A very belated post but better late than never, right? Well one of my favorite things I did on my extended Texas Christmas vacation was take a day trip up to the Hill Country to visit Texas' first and oldest legal Bourbon distilleries, Garrison Brothers. I took pretty careful notes, and since this blog is half bourbon I thought I'd give you a proper bourbon distillery tour in pictures but just to caveat- my notes may be a little off. If you're familiar please feel free to correct. It was fast typing the way the tour was moving and with all the information given.
A few twists and turn off a minor Texas highway, and then up a mostly dirt road to the starting point of the tour, you then park your car and are then loaded onto a tractor bed of sorts, to be taken the rest of the way to the distillery. For those not from Texas this may be the start of something that sounds terribly cliche and stereotypical, but I assure you there was nothing kitschy in this. It's just Texas. Plain and simple.

Green Harissa and Mussels

While I was in San Antonio most recently, on my last night there I ventured down to Southtown to a little restaurant called Feast. Southtown is a neighborhood just south of the bustling riverwalk-and-Alamo downtown, an art driven bohemian type community on the cusp of the King William historic district. Back in high school I used to go there with friends for the First Friday art festivals and these days it's in slightly better shape and houses some of my favorite San Antonio restaurants one of which, Feast, is tucked into a renovated house decorated inside like a Miami nightclub. You can read more about this restaurant, including it's eclectic decor, in the latest Texas Monthly here, but one of the absolute favorite things we ordered, and almost overlooked, were the Green Harissa Mussels which were also described in the article as one of the best dishes on the menu. My goodness, were these delicious. We were sopping up every last drop with our bread, unable to let a single bit of the broth go to waste.
All that was left before we grabbed some bread and dug in
And in typical me fashion, I wondered if I could recreate this dish with just the vague menu description of "white wine/cream/green harissa" listed. Well the green harissa was going to be the biggest challenge, but while googling recipes for it I discovered that it is actually another name for Zhoug, a Middle Eastern salsa/condiment. Like a pesto almost and I'm certainly no stranger to pesto. I found a recipe online from Ana Sortun, chef at my favorite Boston restaurant, Oleana, and made my own little adaptations, let it sit for a day or so and then basically threw it all into the mussel broth. And clearly this was a success. Seriously, I was licking the container and having to restrain myself from just gobbling up the whole thing every time I went into the fridge to get something else during the time I let it marinate. The best part though was that while the green harissa was perfection with the mussels, I could see it with so many other things too. Brushed over fish or meats, roasted with some veggies, tossed with some couscous. Even mixed with a broth for a soup in a similar fashion to the mussels. And even better is that without cheese, it's the healthiest "pesto" yet.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tom Kha Gai-esque Soup

It's probably not all that unique how I crave soup in the dead of winter but there's just something so wonderful and complete about filling my body with a soothing liquid to heat me up and I think most people would agree. To keep me balanced on those days where the weather has me thrown for a loop. Something about the act of wrapping my hands around a bowl and letting the hot liquid steam up over me face...  it just makes my day. And when that soup happens to be one of my absolute favorite Thai soups, Tom Kha Gai, then double score... it alleviates ordering out for it, I can make it lighter by controlling all the sodium, vegetables, fat etc, and I can make it heartier by adding in some glass noodles to make it more of a full meal, some tofu, even some quinoa for a South American twist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

I love the first snow in New York. It helps me slow down, take a breath. I feel perfectly content holing up in my cozy apartment, venturing out maybe for some groceries here, a little spin class or 2 there and basically just recuperating for another busy week ahead. Why leave if you don't have to, right? And of course my to do list always includes cooking. Specifically a little Texas treat I've been craving since I first read this blog post by my favorite Texas via New York blogger, Ms. Homesick Texan.
While exchanging some emails with my friend Ms. Robin, aka Silk Purse and Sow's Ear, she brought up this delicious sounding recipe again and that sealed it. Although Dr. Pepper may be my least favorite soda, next to Big Red (what a terrible Texan I am), I could see exactly how well it would work in a spice cake. Even on a whim after I got the soda I tried to take a sip, but the sweet sweet and spiciness of it just didn't work on it's own. But in a cake/cupcake batter, oh absolutely. And with some homey, hearty oatmeal, the addition of wintery spices,  a splash or two of warm bourbon (because it's me) and you have a delicious mini cake. That was devoured by everyone who they came in contact with. So try them. Especially if you can get your hands on some Dublin Dr. Pepper for nostalgia (and cane sugar over high fructose corn syrup) sake.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Panko Crusted Mustard Chicken Revisited

This is, has been, and always will be my go to meal. Perfect for nights where I can't think of making anything. Perfect for nights when I just need something comforting. Perfect for nights when I need that no brainer meal for someone, or many someones, special (it is after all a great dinner party meal). And while I love it with chicken legs when I'm feeling indulgent, it's also great with chicken breasts, salmon filets, duck legs, or pork chops. Roast up a veggie or two, a quick side of rice, or quinoa or both and there you have it. My favorite easy meal.

Roasted Broccoli and Potatoes

Snooze right? Just another boring side. Another weeknight spent trying to use up what's in the fridge before it goes bad. But no. No! This simple side was so delicious I had to take pictures of it before it was even plated. Before the rest of my dinner was even done. Because if I hadn't, I would've eaten the whole thing. It's just that good. Oh, and did I mention simple? Seriously, take some broccoli florets and quartered creamer potatoes, maybe a few garlic cloves and then liberally drizzle olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Throw it in the oven. Take it out when it's all nice and browned and then zest a little lemon over and grate a nice, hard, nutty cheese over. Voila.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Roasted Sunchoke and Garlic Soup with Spanish Chorizo

Ok, so this is really more like a stew but who's really keeping track. Which is actually pretty incredible, considering that I started with basically no recipe laid out, just some great winter-y vegetables I wanted to roast and then puree. My first foray into making soups with my food processor... and what I'd been dying to do all last winter as I was coaxing my former food processor to work and manually mashing vegetables when it inevitably didn't. But I digress.
On a whim (which is what 85% of my food shopping is) I picked up some lovely plump sunchokes, otherwise known as Jerusalem artichokes, which when roasted give off this earthy, almost smokey flavor and taste amazing, think roasted potatoes with more depth. Lightly tossed in some olive oil and a few cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of salt and pepper then roasting away. Pureed with a touch of cream and a ton of low sodium chicken stock, threw it all in a giant pot where I had just sauteed up some Spanish chorizo, threw in a healthy splash of bourbon and finally added in the pre-cooked black eyed peas. Let it simmer for a few and voila... soup. Well, hearty soup. Like a stew, but not quite.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Green Goddess Smoothie

I've always been pretty good about not drinking soda, not drinking sugar filled juices, packaged ice teas, any of those sports drinks. I had a brief affair with Kombucha but didn't notice any major health benefits that really offset what was essentially like drinking moldy flavored soda water. But the one thing I absolutely cannot resist when it comes to drinks outside of water (alright... and coffee) is Naked's Green Machine. I don't know why but it's just delicious. But it's also pricey and juice of any kind just means more sugar. So why not make my own.
I'm not a big proponent of diets, or cleanses, or anything that causes me to change up my body's status quo for a short amount of time in the hopes of maintaining once it's done. For me, it doesn't work and just messes up my system even more. But working something into my diet that I can maintain on a mostly daily basis, and is something that I already love to begin with and if sugar and/or money were no object would consume on a daily basis... well bring it on. And the beauty is that for smoothies you really don't need to follow a formula. Need some protein- throw in some nuts or peanut butter. Need potassium, how about a banana. My big thing though is calcium. I loath milk, usually going the soy route, and am not the biggest fan of yogurt so this is a great way to hide it in a smoothie, a la Jessica Seinfeld style. As for veggies, bring it on. I love every kind of green, so that's not a problem, but if it is for you, just add more fruits to help balance it out. The beauty is you can make it your own and make it different every day.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

I don't eat breakfast much (I know, I know), and when I brunch I usually tend to the savory, but there's something about lemon ricotta silver dollar pancakes that always gets me. They're rich and thick, the way a good pancake should be. But light and lemon-y, the perfect way to start a day. A great use for leftover ricotta and a wonderful way to add some brightness into your morning (or afternoon). Sometimes served with stewed apples, lemon curd or even some berries and cream, but I personally don't think they need any extras, they're pretty darn good just as they are. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Monterey in SA

I don't do restaurant reviews. Here is why. But I also don't always play by the rules, including my own and The Monterey in San Antonio is the perfect exception. Inventive, unique, and maybe a little bit crazy but this place is serving food that I'm hard-pressed to find even in New York. Maybe this is why I've only reviewed San Antonio places, to keep reminding people that my hometown is not just chips and salsa Tex-Mex and your usual suspect of chains. Heck they even have a CIA down here now. Great food lives here too, executed by creative chefs who know their stuff and could hold their own and then some against some of the guys up in NYC.

So last night we went for the New Years Eve tasting menu, the menu you can find here. I also included a few pictures of the food we had from just a regular Thursday night right after I got in to SA. And a few recommendations. Go hungry- the plates are small but filling. Go on a nice night- they have a great outdoor patio we haven't had the chance to sit out on because it was very chilly the first night (though they do have heat lamps). Order as much as possible. Come on people, this is probably the only place in the radius of the city that you can get a menu full of inventive food. And at SA prices! Ok, I'll let the pictures do the talking now.
BBQ Brisket, pickle and white bread. I thought this would be dry but the brisket was so moist


Every Christmas for as long as I can remember my Mom has made Baklava. She's not Greek, or from any of the Mediterranean areas surrounding there, though she has visited, and she has virtually no Greek friends. But she got the recipe (and a rather challenging one at that) from a McCalls cookbook and it has always been our Christmas treat. Hers is different, in my personal opinion better, than the sticky drippy soaked in honey confections you'll find at most Greek restaurants. It's crispy and flaky, each element from the paper thin phyllo to the ground pecans and almonds to the cinnamon and orange flavors contributing their part, nothing overwhelming and all combining into the perfectly sweet, but not too sweet, bite.


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