Friday, August 23, 2013

Hidden Memphis Gem

Maybe all of you knew about this place, but I surely had never heard of it, or heard it even mentioned.  It's called Cordova Farmer's Market, located at 1150 N. Germantown Pkwy.  No, it's not like the downtown, Cooper Young, or botanical garden farmer's markets.  It's a grocery store.  An international grocery store.  And if you love to cook as much as I do, you can find anything your heart desires here.  They have food from every nation, fresh fish, and the most elaborate layout of produce I have ever seen.  I didn't know what half of the shit on display was.  And I can't quite describe how awesome this place is.  You have to go there to see for yourself.  Here are a few pictures from my last trip.  Did I mention that it's cheap.  Go check it out if you haven't been there.  And if you have, shame on you for not telling me about it.

 Look at that dragon fruit on the left!!  Gorgeous!

Many, many fresh fish options

I have no idea what any of this is, but it's so cool!

 It is said that this fruit smells like absolute hell, but is the sweetest thing you'll ever eat!  I was afraid it would stink up my car, so I didn't get it this time.  I'll keep you posted if I get up the nerve to try it.)

More fresh fish

Interesting produce
  Rows of fresh shrimp, oysters, mussels, clams, etc.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Awesome Blossoms

This, my friends, is a squash blossom.  It is the flower from a squash plant.  And I have been seeing these things on practically every food show and menu for the past few years, but I have never eaten one.  

A wonderful person I know has heard me talk of these blossoms for a few weeks now, seeing as how they are in season and so I was recently presented with my very own package of squash blossoms, straight from the Memphis Farmer's Market.  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking that I work for the Farmer's Market.  Which is why I keep talking about it.  Well you're wrong.  I don't.  I DO, however, volunteer my time to help them as often as I can.  Why you ask?  Because I love having locally grown food at my fingertips and I'll do whatever I can to help keep it in business.  It's inspiring to walk around the farmer's market.  It's educational, stimulating and amazing.  So that's why I keep bringing it up.  If you've been there you know how I feel.  If you haven't, you should go.  If you volunteer there, you're awesome.  And if you don't, you should.  And if you don't live in Memphis, make it a point to go to your own local farmer's market.

Back to squash blossoms.  As soon as I got them, I started to research them.  You can do a lot with them.  But most of the recipes I found had them stuffed with some type of cheese and/or bacon and then battered and fried.  I didn't want them to be fried.  And I didn't want bacon to overpower them.  I wanted to taste them, and I felt like if I fried them, they were BOUND to be delicious, but they would taste like all fried food.  So I stuffed mine with cheese and baked them.  Rather than cheesed and baconed them (see what I did there??)  And they were awesome. 

Here's What I Did:
Preheat oven to 350.  

Inside of the squash blossom is a little stamen or pistil (depending on whether or not it's a male or female flower).  You want to remove this part.  At least that's what most of the recipes I read said.  There were a few that didn't mention it at all, but I heard these parts are bitter and I wanted nothing to taint my first experience with a squash blossom.  Then mix about 1 cup of ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of chopped chives and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add this mixture to a ziplock bag and snip the corner.  Now...pipe this mixture CAREFULLY into the squash blossom and twist the flower around the mixture.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  But keep your eye on it.

As you can see from below, you are going to lose some cheese.  This may be why so many people go for the battering and then frying technique.  But I assure you.  This recipe is good.  The squash blossom has such a delicately sweet flavor.  And who the hell doesn't love herbed, garlicy cheese?  And if all else fails, you tried something new.  And loved it.  Promise. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Get Galette

I'm not the best baker.  I fear failure.  I'm too impatient and too meticulous for baking.  I read too far into it.  I over think it.  And in turn, I mess it up.  Cookies don't rise or don't brown, cakes sink, pies burn.  Which is strange because my mom makes the best homemade pies in the universe.  I just do much better when I can throw a bunch of things into a saute pan and brown them.  However, I bought a pint of blueberries for .99 cents at the grocery store that shall not be named (because I despise it) and I had a leftover pie crust from the delicious Tomato pie recipe I made the other day and I wanted to use them both.  I have seen numerous chefs make galettes and they seem really easy to make and you don't have to know how to make them look pretty, like you do with pies, they just do.  So here's the recipe I didn't follow to a tee (although I'm quite certain if you do, it will be wonderful).

Here's What I Did Different:
Obviously, I have already confessed to the fact that I cheated on the pie crust part.  Shoot me.  I fear baking failure.  But I promise to get over that fear, one galette at a time.  I halved the recipe because I only had 2 cups of blueberries.  So instead of trying to get 1/2 tsp. of lemon zest out of the lemon, I just sprinkled the juice of 1/2 the lemon over the blueberries.  And I used cane sugar instead of granulated.  And I obviously didn't have any parchment paper, so I used aluminum foil.  I was a little nervous that the folding over of the crust would be difficult, but it wasn't.  At all.

So there we have it.  It didn't fail.  It's super duper easy.  And it's out of this world delicious.  Especially with ice cream.  Get Geletting. 

My bleeding galette

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Boiled Peanut Hummus

So, there must be some thing about boiled peanuts.  As in, only Southerners like them.  Or at least that's what my perception was after having eaten some boiled peanuts at a friend's house recently.  He offered me some and then said, "Do you like boiled peanuts?  Most Northerners don't."  Well first of all let me start by saying I'm not like most Northerners.  I love the North.  I love where I'm from.  I spent 25 years of my life in the North (half in Pittsburgh and half in West Virginia, which sorry WV, I consider you North after living in the South).  But now that I've spent time in the South, I realize that I have always been a Southern girl trapped in the body of a Yankee.  I don't do the cold.  I love grits, cornbread, greens, country ham, pimento cheese, chow chow and fried pickles.  I prefer gravy on my fries to ketchup, I say ya'll, and I suck the head when I eat crawfish.  And...I like boiled peanuts.  

But...they do have to grow on you.  The first time I tried one I was turned off by the texture and the wetness.  But you get past that.  Boiled peanuts are raw peanuts or green peanuts.  You can't just buy roasted peanuts and boil them.  You have to get them raw and then boil them.  (I found raw peanuts at SuperLo in Memphis.  Never seen them anywhere else in the city.)  

Here's How You Do It:
Put your peanuts in a large stock pot.  Cover with water (you are going to have to place something on them so they are all submerged).  Add in 1/2 cup of kosher salt, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of onion powder, 1/2 tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  Add in more of anything you like, some people use Old Bay, etc.  Cover your peanuts with another pot or bowl to weight them down and then wait.  For EVER.  I'm not kidding.  You have to boil them for about 7 hours.  So do this on a rainy day.  We usually start testing our peanuts after about 6 hours.  This is when you want to adjust your seasoning.  We added more salt.  Yes I know, seems like a lot.  But boiled peanuts are salty.  When they are done, you want them to be creamy.  Not like mush creamy.  But like kidney bean creamy with a slight snap (or al dente) still left in the peanut.  That's it.  That's boiled peanuts.  They are addicting as all hell.
Peanuts boiling under a bowl so they cook evenly.

finished product - boiled peanuts
Boiled Peanut Hummus:
1 cup of boiled peanuts (shelled)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of tahini (use peanut or almond butter if you don't have tahini)
Juice from the half of 1 lemon (I used lime in this recipe and it was still awesome)
1/4 cup of olive oil
Cayenne to taste (unless you added in a bunch of cayenne to your peanuts, which we did, so we didn't have to season with anything other than pepper)

Mix everything in a food processor.  Add in water until you get it to the consistency you like.  I like mine to have some body.  And serve with veggies, tortilla chips, etc.  It is SOOOOO good that I eat half of it just testing for the right seasoning.  And now I'm not hungry for dinner because I just ate a ton of boiled peanut hummus.  Don't be afraid to try it.  In fact...if you are afraid of trying boiled peanuts, start with boiled peanut hummus.  Because you will be FLOORED by how good it is, and then those little boiled peanuts won't be so weird anymore.  TRUST ME! 

This recipe is inspired by Hugh Acheson's cookbook A New Turn in the South.  You know Hugh Acheson.  The uni-brow chef.  He's weird.  And I love him for it.  And he makes a bad ass boiled peanut hummus.  And if it weren't for him, I'd never have eaten it.  And I wouldn't be about to go finish it all off right this very second.       

Monday, August 05, 2013

My, My, Tomato Pie

Tomato season is one of my favorite times of the year.  It's right up there with Halloween and Thanksgiving.  It should actually be a holiday.  Because there is never another time during the year when you can purchase tomatoes that taste like candy.  EVER.  Yeah, yeah, I know you can BUY tomatoes year round.  But they taste like crap.  During tomato season, they are juicy, sweet, and beautifully colored.  They smell like what a tomato should smell like.  Add a little salt and pepper and you really could eat vine-ripened tomatoes like an apple.

On a recent trip to the Memphis Farmer's Market, I passed by a stall that had THE MOST GORGEOUS tomatoes in the entire lot.  And I'm an asshole because I didn't even take the time to look at what farm they came from.  I was too busy being mesmerized by these plump, sexy, redder than red tomatoes.  And at $5 for 5 enormous maters, I was sold and my mind immediately started to think about what I was going to do with them.

Tomato Pie.  I've been craving tomato pie all Summer long.  I've never made a tomato pie.  I've never even eaten a tomato pie, if we're not counting pizza here.  But I imagined it as a pie with layers of tomatoes and cheese and I thought, how on Earth could this go wrong?  So I pulled up a recipe I had been eying and I rushed to the grocery store to buy a pie crust (whatever...don't judge.  I had 2 hours before I had to be at work and I wasn't in the mood to make a damn crust from scratch).

And here's what happened!    

Here's the recipe.

And here are the changes I made/would make:
1.  I bought my crust.  But in the future I would make my own.  Not that Pillsbury doesn't make a good crust, I just think it would put this dish over the top if it had a homemade crust.
2.  I didn't have any fresh thyme, so I just left it out.  But I LOVE thyme, so I will definitely use it the next thyme.
3.  I added crushed red pepper to the cheese mixture to add a little spice.
4.  I think the next time I will add some roasted garlic.  Because I think everything is better with garlic.
5.  I didn't let my tomatoes sit as long as the recipe said, but it really didn't make much of a difference.  My crust wasn't soggy.  I think as long as you remove the seeds and dry them good with paper towels, they should be good.

So there you have it.  My first tomato pie.  Will DEFINITELY not be my last!