Excavating Green Gold (a post by Josh)

Here, as promised yesterday, is a listing of my top ten. Top ten loves in the oil category. Mainly: olive oil and truffle oil. There’s much to say and even more memories, but here is a smattering of oil loves.

Olive Oil
I have get down to the basics before I go and start telling you about the slight variances that I have fallen in love with. So, here it is to me: olive oil. This stuff (as one sign in Florence, Italy once read) is Green Gold. Wait, green? Yup, most of the good olive oils in Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and New Zealand all have a slight green tint to the oil. This generally means you should get ready for a slight bite. It’s not just food lubrication as most Americans see olive oil, but it’s a flavor unto itself. Wait, let me back up. Olive oil is one of my most favorit-est things because it is universal in the cooking world.

(Notice, I did not say baking. Almost never use olive oil in your baking dishes; it will give that desired sweet a strange savory flavor. Especially if the dish calls for a pinch of salt, which most baked goods do).

It is called green gold because one: it is green, and two: because it flavors most dishes in the Mediterranean repertoire. It’s silky, heavy, robust and compliments garlic, salt, pepper and just about any other savory spice you throw at it. Too much, and your food is greasy, too little and the garlic is burning in a dry pan. Olive oil is something I thought I knew before traveling outside of the US, and something I fell in love with when I got outside of the US borders. Here are a few of my favorite oils I’ve met, taken out for dinner and back to my place for later. » Continue reading this post…

A Few of My Favorite Things

All that's left of a great sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Or, more precisely, ten of my favorite things. Making this list was harder than I thought it would be. For instance, how much of the list was I going to devote to spices or non-essential ingredients? Did these ingredients have to work together? Would this be an “if you were stranded on a deserted island…” list? What if I ended up devoting the entire list to cheese?

What this list has ended up being, however, is a list of foods that recur in my food life, continually influence what I order in a restaurant, or are things I’d just really miss if they didn’t exist. There are a number of food items that come up again and again on this list, such as garlic and tomatoes, that didn’t make the actual top ten, and I’m wondering if that means they should be here too. But then I realize the beauty of a top ten foods list. It’s inclusive.

Olive oil
Josh, having spent six months eating the real stuff in Italy, is certainly more of a connoisseur of olive oils than I am, but I do know a good thing when I’ve got it. Olive oil has the magical ability to transform anything. The bread they serve to you at restaurants? Boring. The bread they serve to you at restaurants plus a little bowl of oil and crushed herbs? Delicious. Broiled eggplant? Boring. Broiled eggplant brushed with olive oil? Delicious. Olive oil is also first on my list because it’s so integral to my cooking. It is a rare dish that wasn’t brushed with, soaked through, or sautéed in olive oil. It’s also first on my list, because it is often how many of my recipes start – a hot skillet drizzled with oil.

Goat cheese
I love cheese. I love all cheese. » Continue reading this post…

Mountains in New Orleans (a post by Josh)

While re-reading some of the archived entries, I remembered that Lyz had written about beignets a while back. Her first post, in fact. If I may quote, “Almost every culture has the compulsion to throw a wad of dough into a hot pile of oil, fry it, cover or fill it with something delicious, and eat it.” I would subscribe to this statement; I mean with all the thoughts of physical health aside, doughnuts are delicious. Especially hot. You know every time you pass a Krispy Kreme Doughnut factory and that “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign is on, you think about stopping. You may not stop, but you think about it real quick-like. Who doesn’t?

Who doesn’t want to gorge on soft, warm, sugary bread that collapses upon fist bite. And if you coat it in a glaze or powdered sugar? You can’t stop yourself. If you are reading this and saying to yourself “No, of course not, I don’t like sweets all that much,” you’re lying to yourself. I know it, I just know it.

But this is much more than Krispy Kremes. This is ever more than the beignets that Lyz and her friends made in that dorm-room kitchen (sorry blog partner). What I’m talking about are the real beignets. The ones that Lyz talked about in her post too: “Beignets, however, evolved outside of France, most notably in New Orleans, where the pastry was brought to the area in the 18th Century, most likely by the Ursuline Nuns.”

That’s right, my travels have finally brought me to New Orleans (“Nawlins,” “New Or-Lee-ns,” or “New Orlins,” whichever you prefer). I’ve tried the gumbo (file style, of course) and the po’boys and the crawfish and the spices and the bread pudding. I mean there are a thousand different varieties of all of these, but I’ve had at least one of those dishes (maybe a po’boy every lunch? » Continue reading this post…

Define Seasoning (a post by Josh)

Southern spread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I don’t know about you, but the most vivid memories I have of my grandparents revolve around the dinner table (dinner, supper, lunch, whatever you want to call it). Usually there would be a giant wooden table joined by eight or ten or twenty chairs, plates, and sets of silverware. I would show up and talk with my family for a bit, then we would extend our visit over the table, passing food dishes as we passed our life updates. There was never too little food, no matter what my grandparent’s economic situation may have been. Come to think about it, I never thought about it because there was always so much food. A turkey, mashed potatoes, beans, beets, green beans, onions, biscuits, corn, sweet potatoes, you try and name it, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on the table at some point.

The meal would progress, and we would slow our talking and our movements and the dishes would sit in the same place for extended periods of time. The sun would set and we would speak of dessert. People’s responses were usually “Oh how could I?” which could be either taken as “Oh how could I eat any more?” or Oh how could I not?”

My grandma usually tended towards the latter and would serve up a heaping piece of pumpkin pie or chocolate pie topped high with baked, homemade meringue. We would get up, stretch, feel the bulk of our plates in our stomachs and re-situate on the couches and continue talking. Really, our meals were part II of our visit.

Why do I talk about this? Well, I’ve been dining like that a lot recently, but in restaurants. There is this beautiful thing in the South, where people like holding on to traditions like boarding houses or eating in big groups or enjoying conversation over a meal. » Continue reading this post…

What Do You Mean, Raw Drink?

Kombucha (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The first time I opened a bottle of Kombucha, I wondered who was dyeing Easter eggs. Then I took a sip of Kombucha and wondered why I was drinking vinegar. But, because I had paid around $4 for that bottle, I kept drinking, and by my last sip of Kombucha, I kind of liked it.

Kombucha is a super drink first made in Qin Dynasty China, where it was called the “Immortal Health Elixir”and thought to balance middle Qi (spleen and stomach).  According to the label on my bottle of Kombucha, it aids digestion, metabolism, immune system and liver function, appetite and weight control, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity, and healthy skin and hair.  Of course, none of that has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Part of the reason I keep coming back to Kombucha must be for its health benefits, because no matter how many times I buy one, the first sip is always a shocker. When it first hits your tongue, it’s sweet and intensely fizzy, but almost instantly becomes sour as it slides past the sides of your mouth.

I recently learned that you can grow your own Kombucha – and I do mean “grow,” because Kombucha is tea fermented by a bacteria colony. Alive like yogurt. To grow your own Kombucha, you brew a weak-ish batch of black tea sweetened with sugar, cool it to room temperature, and then float the Kombucha colony in it. The Kombucha colony, by the way, is called a mushroom and looks like a disk of blubber. In about ten days, you have your Kombucha brew, which you can strain and refrigerate. Your Kombucha colony can be dropped in a new batch of tea and might even start growing baby Kombuchas, which you can give to your friends so they can start their own Kombucha colonies.

» Continue reading this post…

He’s on the Move (a post by Josh)

Fried chicken dinner (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated my travels, my eats, and frankly, my stomach’s adjustment to Southern Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been living in the South for about three years now, but I don’t always choose to indulge in collards with fat back as my staple lunch item. But now – this summer – I’ve got to go big then go home and take a nap to “work off” that fried goodness. O! that fried goodness!

Well since I’ve last updated (on my travels, not my shameful meal), I’ve been to Sapelo Island, Charleston, a few surrounding areas (James Island, Mt. Pleasant), Beaufort, Athens, Atlanta, Watkinsville, and Birmingham. That’s where I sit right now, sipping a well roasted, full bodied black coffee – iced (to cut the 99 degree heat and 110 percent humidity).

With a list like that, I’ve had my share of experiences in different parts of the country. A few come to mind immediately. Like the time in Beaufort, SC where a man walked away from me after this conversation: “Where ya from” – “Well I was born in Virginia, lived in New York -” “Goodbye.” I kid you not. He didn’t even hear that I live in North Carolina now (clearly below that Mason-Dixon line).

But more than anything, my food experiences have been out of this world. And with that, I bring you two excerpts from my 26 days of travel (so far): one international delight and one stomach stuffing, sweet-tooth filling meal with eight perfect strangers.

***

At first I was a little hesitant to go to Atlanta. I mean, let’s face it – Atlanta is so internationally citified that traditional culture is hard to come by. Yes, you have the history of the Tea Rooms and the three P’s of Georgia (Pecans, Peaches and Peanuts). » Continue reading this post…

Shame. Boat-Loads of Shame. (a post by Josh)

We talk on this blog a lot about what and how we cook – be that a cake, egg-in-a-basket, or throwing something down on the grill. Usually, we tell you about the good times and about how amazing and mouth watering food can be.

But get this: I mess up. A lot, actually. The best way to learn, they say (that ever present “they”) is to mess up. But the thing is – you have to learn from that mistake. Cliché? Yup. More than anything, it’s a big cliché that has a lot of truth wrapped up in it.

Tonight, actually, I was trying to make an old favorite but with a new twist. I was trying to make my portabella mushrooms with a summer “flare,” if you will. Mushrooms in my book are really heavy and lend themselves to good, hearty winter dishes. Think: risotto with mushrooms, Thai curry, portabella mushrooms marinated in reduced balsamic vinegar.

So, with my being in the South, home of the Georgia Peach, I wanted to make something with that local ambrosia. I remembered a friend’s dish involving peaches, peach salsa. I wondered if that would go great, well, or even at all with the hearty, earthy flavor of the portabella mushroom. This is where I really started off wrong. That ever-present “they” says to mix opposites to achieve a delicious middle. Wonder what I mean? I would too after a sentence like that. What I mean is: mix salty and sweet. Spicy and mild. Sweet and sour. Earthy and sweet? Nope. Not a chance. At least not how I did it.

The whole night (from which I’m recovering through this post) was a mess. I first cut up some peaches, onions, tomatoes, garlic, mint, and lemon. I didn’t have a recipe, these were just things I thought might go well together. » Continue reading this post…

Big Man at the Grill: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Grilled trout (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Let’s play a game. It’s a warm evening. The pre-dusk glow is thick, and a soft breeze carries the smell of freshly cut grass. Children shout, dogs bark, the night’s first firefly sparks faintly against a blue sky. Smoke, scented with sweet barbeque sauce and pork fat or seared fish and bell pepper drifts under your nose. Someone stands at the grill, deftly grasping a pair of tongs in one hand and a cold beer in the other. Who do you see?

Chances are, if you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the American Dream, you see Dad, out of his suit and tie, tossing Fido a nugget of meat from the grill and watching his two and a half children tumbling through the yard. Or maybe you see a bunch of bros, throwing back Miller High Life and slinging burgers on buns loaded with ketchup and onions.

Whatever you see, chances are good that it’s not me, a petite, fresh-out-of-college woman (gasp – no) pushing hair out of her face with olive-oil greasy fingers and flinging steaks on the grill with panache, all the while swigging from a bottle of Newcastle. If that’s not what you see now, I hope it is soon. Men have steered the grill for far too long, and I’m taking back the tongs.

My goal for this summer is to become a grill master. Lamb chops, eggplant, pizza crust, whole fish, you name it, I’m going to grill it. In facing the grill, a beast I just learned how to turn on a few days ago, I will also come up against one of my other culinary fears – meat. I’m not sure why cooking meat scares me. Vegetables and grains can be taste tested as they cook, so I know exactly when they’re done or whether they need just a little bit more pepper. » Continue reading this post…