RSS Feed

Author Archives: onegirlonefork

Ice Cream Dreams

I’m not sure if it’s true of all people, but there is a food item that makes me tick.  A food item that makes my freezer heavenly.  That inspires passionate foodie conversation. That gets me through sweat sessions at the gym.

And that food item is ice cream.  Creamy, dreamy, (dare I say steamy?) ice cream.  I will eat healthy throughout the day just so I can fully indulge in this delicacy.  While eating your feelings is never pretty, I have to admit that even the worst hurts feel a little better with a stolen spoonful straight out of the container.

When did this obsession begin?  When I figured out my mom, the dessert extraordinaire, had ruined me on basically every dessert not made by her own two hands.  Outside of her house, cakes, tortes, pastries, cookies and the like have become joyless experiences, simply because her versions are so much better!

But she never made ice cream. As a result, I learned at an early age that to actually enjoy dessert when away from home, I needed to opt for ice cream.  And then there was that part where I worked at Cold Stone for a whole summer…

Well anyway, I settled for the store-bought varieties of ice cream.  Until now.  I spent a sizable chunk of my meager intern earnings on a kick-ass Cuisinart ice cream maker.

I waited as patiently as I could while the mixing bowl chilled (16-24 hours), I shopped for ingredients (an hour-long walking excursion in 100 degree weather), I waited for the milk mixture to chill (2 hours), the ice cream to set (30 minutes), then for THAT mixture to harden to a hard consistency (another 3 hours in the freezer).

And finally, FINALLY, my first homemade ice cream dream was finished.  I scooped a big old ball of it into a coffee mug, sat in front of my air conditioner, and rejoyced (in all my sweatiness), in the masterpiece I had created.

It’s only cream and sugar, you say.  Vanilla chocolate chip isn’t even an exciting flavor, you say.  But my love for ice cream runs deeper than any nay-sayer’s negativity.  And I have a feeling I will be slaving away with my ice cream mixer for many flavors to come.

 

Back to Basics, Back to Sanity

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I know, I’m a bad, bad person!  Things have been crazy here:  trip to NYC for interviews, finishing school, moving logistics, and the list goes on.

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I could finally catch my breath.  I know I’m a true foodie at heart because the first thing I wanted to do with my free time was do some baking!  With all of my spices, fancy gadgets, and premium ingredients packed up or given away, I had little to work with.  I searched high and low for the simplest of cookie recipes.  Here’s what I found: No-Roll Soft Sugar Cookies, courtesy of www.tastykitchen.com.  No cream of tartar, no fancy dairy products, just the basics:  flour, sugar, vanilla, shortening, baking powder.

And let me tell you, they were delicious!  With a paper-thin crust, and lots of cakey softness on the inside, this recipe is already in my recipe box, ready for the next time when there’s a break in my harried schedule.  When the cookies cooled, I topped them off with generous amounts of buttercream frosting from a recipe I found on the back of a Kroger powdered sugar bag:

Buttercream Frosting

Makes enough for three-dozen cookies, two nine-inch cakes, or a nine by 13 cake.

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 Tbsp. milk

Directions:

  • Cream butter or margarine and shortening. Gradually add remaining ingredients and beat at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Store unused part of frosting in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Chelsea enjoys a cookie as part of a study break

Eating cookies and sharing the baked good love with my equally (if not more) harried roommate, Chelsea, made me smile.  A few cookies and a glass of milk later, I restored sanity to my life after whirlwind of the past few weeks.  It was a divine night in my little apartment, all made possible by the most basic ingredients in a baker’s cupboards.

Everybody Walk (to) the Dinosaur!

I was born and raised on Dinosaur BBQ when I lived in Syracuse, New York, and was under the impression that the hole-in-the-wall biker bar was an original.  After relocating to the Northwest, delicious summer meals at the Dinosaur in downtown Syracuse faded into a fond, epicurean memory.  So, needless to say, when my travel host told me we were headed to the Dinosaur in Harlem, I was amazed…and hungry.  I couldn’t wait to dig in, and wasn’t even concerned about the two days it would take me to get the barbeque remnants out from under my nails.

When I arrived, I have to say I was a little disappointed by the ambience.  Don’t get me wrong, the restaurant is nice…too nice.  The Harlem location pays little homage to the original, miniscule Harley hangout in Syracuse.  The sweeping square footage and faux-rustic decorations of the New York location made me long for the days of waiting outside for an hour to share a seat with one of my older brothers.

The Original Syracuse Dino Pit

But then the food came, and all was right in the world.  My mother still religiously cooks summer barbeque sides from the Dinosaur BBQ cookbook, but there is something about having the whole package laid out in its full splendor.  My group ordered chicken, ribs, brisket, and pulled pork.  After I plated up, I slathered Dino sauce over all visible meat surfaces.  I love the tomatoey, vinegary, and slightly sweet taste of their sauce, and that they’ve taken care not to thicken or sweeten too much.  There’s another perk of the fresh, light taste of their sauce:  lighter sauce means you can eat more meat!  If you’re really jazzed up, you can take some of it home with you.

A Dinosaur BBQ Glamour Shot

Like going to a steakhouse, part of what makes barbeque dinners so satisfying and memorable is what goes along with that ungodly amount of meat.  Dinosaur handles the sides department like a pro.  Bar-B-Que beans and cole slaw are prepared with care and aren’t over processed like some other joints.  But the side that is a real treat for me is the Syracuse-style salt potatoes.  Due to the city’s long love affair with salt production, young white potatoes have been harvested early and boiled with generous amounts of salt for over a century.  The high salt content cooks a crust on the skin of the potato, and the end result is a creamy, tender potato with a sinful amount of salt and butter.

My cut of the bill was about $20, and I still took home more than enough in leftovers to enjoy another session of barbeque bliss the following day.  For that price, I will gleefully pick brisket out of my teeth and attempt to de-grease my nails.  While the Syracuse Dinosaur BBQ location will always hold a special place in my heart, I have a feeling that once I move to New York, the Harlem location will do well to keep a place in my stomach.

Best Restaurant in Seattle

Ever since I’ve started this blog, people commonly ask me, “What’s your favorite place to eat in Seattle?”  Some people might expect a fancy Tom Douglas joint or a price-gouging meal at El GauchoI’m happy to report that my favorite meal can be found at a literal hole-in-the-wall on The Ave:  Thai Tom.

This is the entirety of Thai Tom.

I’m surprised that not more Seattleites know about this place.  They consistently receive CitySearch’s “Best of” Award for Thai Food, and word-of

My favorite dish: steamed vegetables with fried tofu and peanut sauce

-mouth in the Seattle food scene travels quickly.  Not that I’m complaining.  If more people knew about it, I would have to wait even longer to get a seat.

If you like getting pampered as a customer, you’re not going to like Thai Tom.  There are no reservations.  During prime time (Fridays and Saturdays after 6), waits can be upwards of 20 minutes.  You are crammed like cattle into a narrow hallway that seats 30.  If you sit at the bar, there will be chefs plating other people’s food at your seat, then servers coming by to reach around you to grab the food.  On the flip side, you will get your food as soon as humanely possible, as they will be eager to give your seat to someone waiting outside.

If you like quiet, subdued meals, you’re not going to like Thai Tom.  The Thai reggaeton hits that perpetually blast out of the restaurant’s speakers barely drowns out the sounds of tofu exploding into the deep fryer, and the sounds of stir-fry being mixed in cast-iron woks.  Watching the wait staff and the cooks working at the speed of sound is enough to ma

WARNING: this is a cash-only establishment!

ke you dizzy.  In fact, the first time I ever took my boyfriend to Thai Tom, I think he had a mild panic attack.

Why do I put up with this, week after week?  The food is insanely delicious, and very affordable.  The ingredients are always fresh, and are expertly combined by the “wok master,” as I like to call the guy who mans the 10-range of 6-inch flames. I could eat a delicious, steaming plate of Thai Tom Phad Thai, or a brimming bowl of Tom Kah soup everyday and still want more.  And as my dining check shows, a very filling meal for two, with a tip, comes to only 23 dollars(but you’ll have to pay in cash).

Maybe I’m weird, but I also love to crazy energy this place gives off.  If you can handle it, the mere experience of cramming yourself into the bar, sipping a Thai iced tea, and going into a stupor watching the wok master at work makes all your troubles worth it.  Even as I sit here in my living room and eat my leftovers (for breakfast), I am planning my next trip to my favorite restaurant in Seattle.

Pike Place for Locals

Pike Place Market has become, in some cases, synonymous with Seattle.  Locals take their visiting guests there on a regular basis.  Seattleites know the tourist hot spots and where to find the best hokey shlack.  We even have our preferred produce vendors.

While tourists have their own special relationship with Pike Place as a characterizing symbol of the city, what does the Market mean to a local?  In my last few months in Seattle, I went to find out.  It was a 9 a.m. on Wednesday when I passed the notorious bronze pig and entered the main entrance of the Market.  But where were all the people, all the musicians, the tourists?  The fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Company were playing to an almost non-existent crowd.  Samuel Samson (pictured left), a Pike Place Fish Company employee, informed me that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are very slow in the Market.  While some people love the hustle and bustle of lost and bedazzled tourists, I welcomed the opportunity to peruse the Market without figuring out how to navigate the throngs of slow-moving onlookers.  As I nibbled on samples of alder wood smoked wild king salmon, Samuel and I talked about what the Market means to him.  He said meeting different people from all walks of life was what he looked forward to at his job.  Even at 9 a.m., Samuel was pumped with energy and ready for a day of selling fish and telling jokes to his customers.  I asked him whether it was Starbucks or Tully’s that fueled him past his 5 a.m. wakeup call.  He replied it was neither:  the people at McDonald’s will be glad to hear that its coffee satisfies this Seattleite’s affinity for caffeine.

After saying goodbye to Samuel, I wandered over to visit the Doughnut Company.  After almost 30 years in the market, workers at this understated food stand report that like Sam, their favorite part of the Market is the people.  We talked about what makes the Market special as they prepared my half-dozen assorted doughnuts.  These little devils are fried in non-hydrogenated soy oil, fried only two inches wide for maximum crispy-to-doughy ratio.  A third of my order was covered in cinnamon sugar, another third in powdered sugar, and the last third in chocolate and sprinkles.  The amount of doughnut toppings was not too much to overpower the simple flavor of the oil and the delicate crisp of the dough.

The daughter of the vendor next door enjoys a doughnut.

Walking down the main drag of fresh produce and flower vendors, I stopped off at arcade number six to grab one of my favorite Washington edibles:  the Jazz apple. The Jazz is a hybrid of the Royal Gala and the Braeburn, and produces a juicy, extremely crunchy, and tangy-sweet apple.  Currently, the Jazz apple is only grown in Washington, New Zealand, Chile, and France, so you’re going to pay a pretty penny for them.  If you’re a foodie and an apple nut like I am, you’ll gladly shell out the money for these exceptional apples.

A short stroll from arcade six, I was lured to the Chukar Cherries stand by the pleasant smiles of the twenty-somethings running the stand.   It’s hard to pass up a free sample when the product in question is fresh, local cherries dried smothered in quality chocolate.  Chukar Cherries started off as a Washington cherry-growing operation, but later the business realized that they were better at creating cherry products than the actual growing of the cherries.  Now, Chukar buys cherries from the Prosser area, the Columbia River Valley, and the Wenatchee River Valley.  A few of their more exotic products include pinot noir cherries, cabernet cherries, and the famous chipotle cherry.  While at the stand, I sampled the dark chocolate-coated dried cherries with a bittersweet cocoa powder dusting.  I must say, it was a perfect combination of tart, moist cherries, and the dense, strong flavor of dark chocolate.  The bittersweet cocoa dusting kept the delectables from being overly sweet.

The people running the stand talked about the Market as I savored my sample.  Based on our conversation, the employees at Chukar Cherries share the sentiments of the other employees I interviewed.  They look forward to coming to the Market to work because of the people they meet.  In addition, they appreciate the sense of community, directly contributing to the support of local business, and the relaxed work atmosphere the Market offers.

It was a truly enriching experience wandering through the market, taking on a new sense of adventure and exploration as a result of the lack of crowds.  The Market workers do their best to put forth an agreeable demeanor to each one of their customers, but if you really want to get a chance to connect on a personal level with the people who grow and sell the food at the Market, stop by on a lazy Tuesday or Wednesday morning and have a conversation with them.  It might take a while to break the ice, but if the vendors love the people at the Market as much as they claim they do, I have a feeling they’ll be willing to engage in a meaningful exchange with you.  It sounds cliché, but good, homegrown food is a common denominator that brings together all sorts of people.  Maybe that’s what keeps me coming back to Pike Place.

A Party Fit for the Queen

This guy's ready, are you?

Get your pinky fingers ready, cause Will and Kate are gettin’ hitched!  Since the occasion probably won’t be a rowdy good time like most weddings are (they’ve even banned beer from the occasion), us here in the States must compensate by doing what we do best:  turn a mildly festive occasion into a reason to gorge ourselves on fatty foods and booze.  How, do you ask?  By staying up tomorrow night to watch the first hours of the live wedding coverage, fueled entirely on scones and tea-infused alcoholic beverages.  I’ll show you how.

While the English aren’t known for their delicious food, they do know how to serve a proper tea.  The best part of high tea is the scones.  Who doesn’t love a good scone?  The problem is, here in the States, our scones are total rubbish.  If you’re planning to eat a scone sold in a coffee shop, make sure to have a Nalgene full of water on hand to help you choke down the dry, hard chunks of overly sweet dough.  Homemade scones are fresh, moist, and very simple to put together.  With some basic baking ingredients and a half an hour, you can make your own supremely satisfying scones.  Below is my tried-and-true recipe for scones, adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour, plus ¼ cup for rolling out dough
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons COLD butter (temperature is critical here)
  • 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
  • Handful dried currants or dried cranberries
  • Handful of toasted nuts or mini chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix well with a wire whisk.

3.  Cut in butter and shortening using a pastry cutter or a fork. The resulting mixture will be dry and crumbly.  Don’t overmix at this point!  Doing so will result in tough dough and a premature melting of the butter.

Don't have a row if your butter and flour mixture looks like this.

4.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg.  Add the cream and extract.  Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture until all of the ingredients create a single mass.  If there are remaining dry ingredients in the bottom of the bowl that will not adhere to the mass, gently and scarcely push the dough into the remaining dry mixture until it combines.  Quickly and gently massage in the dried fruit, nuts, and/or chocolate chips. Push dough into the shape of a square on a floured surface.

5.  Cut the dough into rounds using the rim of a water glass, or cut the dough into triangles. On a cookie sheet, bake for 15 minutes, or until tops are light golden brown.

6.  Pat your scones with a little more butter, and slather with your favorite jam.  Try to be nice and share with others.

Now, on to the tea-infused alcoholic beverages.  There are two ways to achieve this part of your royal wedding experience, One avenue to tea cocktails is to purchase tea-infused or tea-flavored liquor.  If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, now would be a great time to try the new trend of sweet tea-flavored vodkas and whiskeys.  You can find them at any liquor store (or if you no longer live in a prohibition state such as Washington, a grocery store).  Go ahead and mix your flavored tea with brewed iced teas or lemonade.  Or, if you’re feeling sassy, pour it on the rocks.

A second avenue to tea cocktails is to mix your non-flavored alcohols with brewed tea. You’ll have to be a little bit better at mixing drinks for this technique and have a fair amount of tea on hand, but then again, you won’t have to make a trip to the store to buy a flavored tea.  Here are some simple tea cocktail ideas to get your creative juices flowing.  After a few drinks, I’m sure you’ll think of more fantastic concoctions with which to salute the Queen.

Now that you have your food and drink in order, call your family and friends to come over to join your royal wedding viewing party.  As long as your tea choice is caffeinated, you shouldn’t have any problem keeping the party going through the rambling processions and asinine commentary.  If things get dull, consider checking out some royal wedding drinking games to raise your spirits (no pun intended).

I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how to make this royal wedding memorable (or hazy, depending on how much you like the tea cocktails).  If things get too out of hand, at least you’ll have a proper breakfast of tea and scones ready to go to take the edge of that morning-after headache.  Cheers!

“Deep Dish” on Southern Cookin’

What happens when two budding Southern cooking show hosts attempt to be the Cooking Channel’s next big star?  A food fight.  In Mary Kay Andrews’ book, Deep Dish, Regina Foxton is the host of a Georgia public television food show called Fresh Start, focusing on fresh, healthier versions of classic Southern dishes.   Tate Moody, is a regulation hottie who hosts Vittles, a kill-it-and-grill-it show on the Southern Outdoors Network.  When a big-shot producer comes down to Atlanta to take a look at the on-site filming of both shows, he can’t decide which one he wants to sign on to his network.  Instead of choosing for himself, he lets the viewers of the Cooking Channel decide by hosting the network’s first-ever Food Fight.  Similar to the setup on shows like Top Chef or Chopped, Regina and Tate are sent to a remote island off the coast of Georgia to battle it out in a series of culinary challenges.  As the two opponents move closer toward the prize of their own show on the Cooking Channel, they also grow closer to each other.  All and all, Deep Dish is a book filled with food, humor and romance; the perfect combination of ingredients for a romantic foodie like myself.  Let’s just say I devoured this book (and the descriptions of Tate Moody without his shirt on).

My favorite part of the book?  Learning about Southern cuisine.  Mary Kay Andrews goes to great lengths to carefully describe the ingredients and methods used by both chefs.  At one point in the story, Regina and Tate are given a box of everyday pantry items from the average American home and asked to create a meal.  The box contains Frosted Flakes, parts of a frying chicken, confectioner’s sugar, mayonnaise, and a whole slew of other boring and unrelated cooking items.  While the “Tatester” fails miserably at the challenge, Regina dives deep into her childhood memories of cooking from her mother’s cookbooks.  She whips up a feast of oven-fried cornflake chicken, tomato soup cake, and vinegar pie, amongst other classic Southern dishes.

While most people cringe at the thought of southern dishes like Snickers salad or Sprite cake, the people I know who were born and raised on these dishes swear by them.  Which got me thinking:  when have I ever tried making Southern food?  With the help of a few recipes in the back of Deep Dish, I decided to make my own down-home, Southern feast.

First, I researched online to find a recipe for cornflake chicken.  Surprisingly, (to me at least), lots of people use cornflakes with oven-fried chicken to replicate the crunchiness that results in deep-frying battered chicken.  I decided to use this recipe for “Best Chicken Ever” after it received rave reviews from fellow cooks on www.allrecipes.com.  First, I dipped my chicken pieces in sour cream (I used light sour cream and added cayenne pepper and hot sauce for kick).  Then, I rolled my chicken in crushed cornflakes.  A second dash of seasonings and a drizzle of butter, and I popped them in the oven.

Based on my research, it seems like many people use the cornflake oven-fried cooking method as a healthier alternative to deep-fried chicken.  If you are trying replace the crispy, buttery hot goodness of a piece of deep fried chicken for dietary purposes or from a lack of a deep fryer, you will be sorely disappointed by cornflake chicken.  While nothing was wrong with the taste of the final product, I spent the entire meal thinking about how much better a piece of authentic fried chicken would be than the impostor on the plate in front of me.  If you must try cornflake chicken, don’t be shy with the use of cayenne powder and hot sauce to add heat to whatever wet ingredient you are washing the chicken in.

While collard greens would have been the ideal vegetable side dish for the chicken, I don’t care for them.  I’ve tried them over and over again, hoping to taste a delicious version of greens, but I am left in disappointment (and a mouth full of salt and pork fat).  I went for the healthier alternative of steamed green beans with a little garlic and butter.

Now for the grand finale of my Southern meal:  Regina Foxton’s “Simply Sinful Tomato Soup Chocolate Cake,” as written in the back of Deep Dish.  I can’t share the exact recipe with you because of copyright law.  But I can tell you that yes, indeed, the recipe has a can of condensed tomato soup, along with conventional cake ingredients like flour, sugar, butter, and cocoa powder. Here is one of the public recipes for tomato soup cake that I found online.

willing myself to put tomato soup into my cake batter

With much hesitation and conflicting inner dialogue, (“you just put WHAT in that batter?!”), I got the cake made and put in the oven.  The cake was easy to put together, and baked without incident.  After the cake was cooled, I threw some of Martha Stewart’s cream cheese frosting on it, and dug in.  It didn’t taste anything like tomato soup, but it didn’t make me want to “slap my momma“* either.  It tasted like a run-of-the-mill devil’s food cake.  That being said, my boyfriend claims the cake goes “PERFECTLY” with ice cream (was he just trying to be nice?).

After much research and attention to culinary detail, I feel like I’ve failed to produce a satisfying Southern meal.  I don’t know what Regina Foxton and Tate Moody did to get all their Southern cooking know-how, but I am definitely in the dark.  Maybe with the help of some serious Southern family recipes, a Fry Daddy, and a generous pour of SoCo, my next attempt at a Southern feast will be a success.  Until then, I’ll be tearing my way through more of Mary Kay Andrews’ delicious stories.

*NOTE:  No mommas were harmed in the making of this meal.