Remember the Radish

A bunch of radishes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have just one question. What happened to radishes?

You haven’t thought about radishes for years. They belong to the arsenal of easy vegetables to grow when you’re in fourth grade and learning about gardens and seeds and sex life of plants. After your science class munches those crunchy, rosy bundles, you forget about them completely until one day, you’re walking through the grocery store on a produce kick and wonder what a radish actually tastes like. You remember not being particularly fond of them back in fourth grade, but you have no idea why. Out of curiosity, you buy a bunch. And bam! They’re delicious! You can’t stop eating them! They’re crisp, with the consistency of a water chestnut, but a cleaner taste, and an almost peppery bite.

Ok, so maybe that’s very specifically my relationship to radishes, but I’m willing to guess it’s similar to other people’s as well. If radishes are so good, why are they so easily overlooked? The reason, sadly, could lie with their lack of versatility. Radishes are much better cold than cooked, and are quick to disregard since a bunch bought to chuck in a salad can’t later be made into a sauce or soup. They’re a pretty useless vegetable. They’re hard to cut, hard to use, and hard to remember.

And while radishes make great snacks on their own and are good for you to boot, with lots of folic acid, potassium, ascorbic acid, and vitamin B6, when it comes to recipes, options are limited. It looks like salad, salad, and more salad is the fate for almost all radishes. If the radish is lucky, it may end up in a relish or salsa, but mostly – it’s salad.

Sigh, said the radish.

Lovely radishes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The conclusion is sad – but not hopeless. Radishes are, after all, good as snacks and good in salads. » Continue reading this post…

Easy as Dressing Yourself. Or a Salad. Whichever. (a post by Josh): Salad Dressing

There are a few things that I think people need to make at home. Salad dressing is one of many. No more buying them at some store for too much money. It just seems like a waste to have the ingredients in your kitchen, and also a big jar of Ranch dressing (made of who knows what).

This banter is mainly from my countless dinner parties where someone would ask “is there dressing on the salad yet?” “yeah” “oh, what kind?” “I don’t know, I just made it” “OH! How! I don’t think I could do that.”

Yes, yes you can. And yes, those exclamation points are in there for a reason. It’s real simple, though, to make a salad dressing. I’m going off of a vinegrette (and not anything heavy), but here are the basic ingredients: » Continue reading this post…

Egg-in-Toast Grows Up: Egg-in-Toast

Egg-in-toast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Breakfast has never been a big ritual in my family. Cereal and milk, Pop Tarts, granola, leftovers from dinner the night before – anything went as long as it was fast and could be gobbled up before the bus drove by. Besides Christmas morning, the only time that breakfast was anything special was when my grandparents came to visit. Oatmeal is forever associated with my grandpa, though I know now that the creamy butter and brown sugar confection he served me was far from the ascetic, heart-healthy version he ate. When my grandma came, she’d almost always buy a pack of bacon and I’d eat far more than any child should eat in one sitting. But my favorite grandma specialty was one that goes by different names for different people, but which we always quite unassumingly called egg-in-toast.

Egg-in-toast is simple. It’s a piece of buttered bread with a hole ripped out of the center that gets browned in a skillet and serves as a holding pen for an over-easy egg cracked right in the middle. So simple, but so good.

I remember egg-in-toast being a given on weekends, when there was also time for bacon and sometimes oatmeal as well, but there’d be at least one school night where my grandma would say, “Don’t forget to wake up early tomorrow so I have time to make you an egg-in-toast.” And though I hated waking up early, egg-in-toast was always a good reason to get up.

Today, through a series of budding coincidences – some leftover freshly-made, organic bread, one lone egg in the carton dying to be eaten, cilantro on the brink of ruin – I realized I had everything I needed to make my own egg-in-toast for breakfast.

It felt strange to stand at the stove, ripping holes out of bread and cracking eggs into a hot skillet, because I’d only ever watched it happen. » Continue reading this post…

I’ll Take the Hamburger, Hold the Burger (a post by Lyz and Josh): Balsamic Portobello Mushrooms & Olive Tapenade Toasts

Olive tapenade (Eat me. Drink Me.)

Request! Request! We have a Request for a “vegetarian section with yummy recipes that don’t require a 100 different ingredients.” I think we can do that. Maybe 99 ingredients, but who’s counting?

For me, vegetarianism always seemed like something I should try out. I couldn’t tell you what it was that specifically tipped me over to the other side, but I can say that whenever anyone asked the “why?” question, my response followed:

“I don’t like the taste of meat. And I feel really lethargic after I eat any meat, and that’s not really what I want to feel after eating, you know?”

Both of which are still true today, but I’ve relaxed a bit as to my meat restrictions. Basically, now I don’t cook meat for myself but I’ll have it if someone offers me a meal with meat (see: first day on a farm in New Zealand, and the owner tells me that we’re having lamb that he just killed yesterday).

Partly I don’t cook meat for myself because I don’t enjoy it all that much, but mostly because I can’t cook it. See, I started cooking during my vegetarianism stint in roughly 11th grade. So, most of my repertoire is vegetarian based. Because of that, I used to focus mostly on side dishes, appetizers and some baked goods. I thought entrees consisting of only vegetables would be boring and not satisfying at all. But I had to branch out somehow – I would come home from waiting on tables at 11pm and have to cook myself something to eat. A bunch of side dishes only cut it for so long. So I would scrounge my fridge, throw some oil, garlic and salt in a pan and hop to. A few of these recipes stay as appetizers or side dishes, trying not to call too much attention to themselves, but some of them really started to shine. » Continue reading this post…

Better Days Are Here Again: Pecan, Pear & Blue Cheese Salad

Pecan-Pear Salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The end of Spring Break and the beginning of actual Spring in Davidson are coinciding nicely. Although I ate nothing if not well at the lake, by the end of the week, I found myself craving fruit and sunshine – which could have been the effect of a self-imposed exile to relatively little movement, starch-heavy foods, and the indoors.

Yesterday, after donning an appropriately awkward sunburn gleaned at a table outside the coffee shop, I made the ten minute trek to Harris Teeter (a grocery store chain, if you’re not from the South), and proceeded to buy almost every single piece of produce in the store. Lettuce still dewy from the miniature sprinkler, plump radishes, avocado, cherry tomatoes, oranges, grapefruit, handfuls of lemons and limes –

And so on.

Since bringing those groceries back to my apartment, I’ve been snacking on fruits and making myself delightfully crisp, vegetable-rich meals (avocado, cherry tomato, blue cheese on baguette – go). But my favorite concoction so far has been this pecan, pear, and blue cheese salad. I ate the whole thing slowly, carefully putting together perfect bites of sharp, creamy cheese, sweet pear, and mellow pecan with the perfect amount of spinach and Boston lettuce to curb the richness. Eating this salad, sitting on my front porch, watching people walk by – nothing could be more perfect. Unless, of course, I could enact this scene again without the sunburn.

State of affairs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pecan, Pear & Blue Cheese Salad
This salad serves 1.

For the salad:
1 handful Boston lettuce
1 handful baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup pecans
1/2 pear, thinly sliced

For the dressing:
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Lightly toast pecans in a skillet or in the oven, then cut or crush them into smaller pieces. Toss all salad ingredients, including toasted pecans, together. » Continue reading this post…

In Defense of Eating Together

Pizzas (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s Spring Break season for colleges across the country, and gaggles of students are discarding books in favor of sunscreen, fleeing the ravages of grades and midterms for salt water and sand, leaving irresponsible drinking behind and adopting a more well-rounded schema of poor decision making.

So that was a gross generalization.

For the past three years, however, I have done the absolute opposite of that stereotypical tanning and headed north to a snow-wrapped, fireplace-boasting cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland. My friends and I spend our days reading, watching movies, lounging in the hot tub, and listening to the soothing voice of Rodney Yee guide us through Relaxation Yoga. We also do a lot of cooking.

This year, our menus have included jambalaya, huevos rancheros, chicken noodle soup, baked ziti, goose steaks, home made pizzas, and literally millions of chocolate chip cookies. Today, we’re working on an exceptionally complicated batch of bourbon-banana bread pudding.

Bourbon-Banana Pudding (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My favorite part of cooking at the lake house (because it’s definitely not the two-burner kitchen or the randomly-equipped pantry) is the sense of camaraderie I feel jostling around whoever is washing the dishes or chopping carrots or stirring a simmering pot of ragout. Everybody makes his or her way to the stove at one point or another while dinner is being made–to talk, smell, taste, or make suggestions for the next night’s meal. The kitchen is an intimate space where even silence is shared.

There’s an aphorism that goes, “The family that eats together, stays together.” I would take that one step further to say, “and the people who cook together become family.” To make a meal with someone is to acknowledge a basic, shared need. And to expose our needs to others is to admit that we rely on them and trust that they will provide what we need. » Continue reading this post…

Oh Sweet (Second) Home (Savannah) (a post by Josh)

Savannah, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For the past few summers, I’ve worked as a backpacking leader, tramping around the Appalachian Trail with rising college freshmen for entertainment and for some cash. This is all fun and dandy – I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer – but the breaks in between the sessions (24 hours a day for eight days) don’t come soon enough sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong here: I love hiking. I love being with new people. I love cooking in the woods. But I think what I miss the most is the ability to pick up, go some where beloved, and chow down on some good food. I want to say, I can cook a mean gourmet-backcountry-meal. I just love eating fresh crab from the Georgia coast more.

It’s about a four hour drive from here to there (Davidson to Savannah), but when you’ve got four other compatriots, a loud sound system, and promises of going crabbing, the four hours fly. Along the way we stopped at small gas stations equipped with large pink elephants, a lot of opportunities to buy fresh Georgia peaches, which we hastily took advantage of, and even more chances to get some firecrackers. We all focused on the food, not the explosives, though.

My friend’s house, the one we were driving toward, is located out on a surrounding island of Savannah. It’s not only on an island, but on the inter-costal waterway. What this means is: lots of chances to go out on a boat and search for crabs.

“Hey, if y’all want to get your bathing suits on, we’ll head out to the boat soon.”

“How many can the boat fit?”

“About three.”

“But there’s six of us.”

“It don’t matter, we’ll make it happen. That boat’s a strong one.”

My friend’s optimism never ceases to amaze me. » Continue reading this post…

Brenda’s Carrot Cake (a post by Josh): Carrot Cake

Friends often know each other by many names. Sometimes relevant, sometimes obscure. Just yesterday I got a letter from an elementary school friend, who currently lives in the 7th in Paris, addressed to me as “carrot cake.”

I think I first made this tempting dessert when I was 16 – after an eight hour day of bussing tables. During that shift, my boss had revealed the dessert of the week – carrot cake. It was good, but a typical semi-dry, walnut laden, not so sweet cake trying to border “good for you” and decadence. At that point in my career, I had established a semi-serious competition with the dessert chef. With this new revealing, I had another opportunity to top the chef.

At home that night, I searched through online and hard cover cook books to find a recipe. Epicurious again prevailed – a carrot cake with Maple cream cheese frosting. Giddy and ambitious at midnight, I started prepping the ingredients as if I was going to be able to finish that night. Carrots shredded in a bowl topped with brown sugar, cream cheese sitting out to acclimate to room temperature, flour sitting in a fluffy pile, I was well on my way when my post-work high faded. I left everything out that night, which turned out to be my best use of procrastination.

The next morning, I found the carrots had juiced themselves, leaving me with two cups of carrots, shredded, and ½ cup of sweetened carrot juice. I proceeded through the recipe, adding ginger, cardamom and nutmeg to my liking and prematurely iced the warm cake – allowing the cream cheese icing to sink into the crust.

Obviously I didn’t want to send my “rough draft” straight into the main event, so I packed up my cake and headed off to my elementary school friend’s house to have a proper taste testing. » Continue reading this post…