Charleston Travels. Charleston Eats.

If you know me, you know I would do anything to be a Charleston girl. I love that city! People ask, "why do you love it so much?" Oh let me count the ways. [Insert day dreaming music please].

The food to start. Nothing else needs to be said about that. The people are some of the friendliest I have ever met. Holding doors, smiling as you pass by, (meaningful) small chatter in the stores and restaurants, no furious road ragers (for the most part). The weather. I am the weirdo that loves hot and humid. Yep, even with this naturally thick curly/wavy hair, I love it. The ocean. Nothing else needs to be said about that. The old buildings, the culture, the shopping, the melting pot of people eating up the city. It is all amazing.

I just got back from taking my grandmother; her trip there since I took her in 2010. Pics of us, but mostly food, to follow :)

I visit the city often so feel free to shoot me a message if you plan to visit and I am happy to give you my recommendations on everything Charleston.

You can do it Sous Vide Miso Marinated Salmon

Most of us have heard the term, "sous vide", and thought to ourselves that it is to chef-ish of a term and we just don't want to mess with it in our home kitchen. After all, every time we see contestants of Chopped preparing a beautiful sous vide steak or delicate piece of fish, they are using bulky equipment that frankly most of us just don't have or care to have at home. I am here to tell you, YOU CAN DO IT without all of that stuff. Here's how I prepared a miso ginger marinated piece of wild caught salmon for dinner last night with as little as a plastic bag, digital thermometer, pot of water, and a little plan ahead.

Supplies:

  • stock pot deep enough to submerge your plastic bag into
  • digital thermometer
  • clip to secure your bag to the side of the pot
  • skewer or another clip to hold thermometer onto side of pot
  • plastic zip lock bag
  • vacuum sealer if you have one
  • cast iron skillet or stainless skillet for finishing salmon

Ingredients:

  • 4 (6 ounce) portions of salmon
  • 1/4 cup miso paste (white soybean paste usually sold in produce section of grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup mirin (this is a sweet Asian seasoning sold in Asian food aisle of store) Oh, and keep this refrigerated after opening. I made that mistake.
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (low sodium is fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter for finishing (olive oil can be subbed)

Directions:
Combine all marinade ingredients up to butter into a bowl and whisk until combined. Add salmon. At this point you can vacuum seal the bag if you have a contraption to do so. Otherwise seal bag and place in fridge to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

 This is the one I just got, well my husband surprised me with it.  Great for not only this application but also saving some $$$ by keeping food fresh!

This is the one I just got, well my husband surprised me with it.  Great for not only this application but also saving some $$$ by keeping food fresh!

Add water to your stockpot 3/4 full. Place your thermometer on the side with a skewer laid flat across the top and thermometer threaded through or clipped on the side. Using the air replacement method, place your OPEN zip lock bag into the water and submerge into the water pushing out air as it lowers being careful not to get water into bag. Secure top of bag to side of pot with clip. Heat water to 122 degrees F. Set your timer for 45 minutes, checking your thermometer regularly to ensure it stays around 122 degrees.

 Stockpot with water, thermometer probe over the side, and my little marinated salmon in a bag

Stockpot with water, thermometer probe over the side, and my little marinated salmon in a bag

Heat a cast iron or stainless skillet over medium high heat. Add butter. Turn off heat once butter is melted. Remove salmon from water and zip lock bag. Add to pan, tilting slightly to spoon butter over fish for about 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

 Finished product!  Those little things on top are coriander I threw in the butter while searing the salmon.  Not necessary by any means.  

Finished product!  Those little things on top are coriander I threw in the butter while searing the salmon.  Not necessary by any means.  

Side note: I would recommend having the fish monger remove the skin from your salmon or removing it yourself before marinating. As a person who loves fish skin, this particular dish works better without the skin.

Side Side Note: I paired this with some simple sides- carmalized chopped onions and chopped fennel in olive oil, added chopped garlic, fresh kale, and champagne vinegar and simmered while the salmon cooked. I made some barley simmered in chicken stock (homemade of course) and tossed that into my kale mixture just before serving.

Salmon with Mango Salsa

Continuing with the "no meat Monday" trend, I made for my husband and I another salmon dish this week. I am trying to keep things exciting with all of the salmon so this time I did a fresh mango salsa on top. Salmon and most fish in general, are so healthy and provide loads of Omega-3's which our bodies need. I just feel better when I can have a delicious fresh fish dish compared to heavy meat and/or poultry. I encourage people to replace dinner with at least one seafood dish a week. Here is what I did.

Salmon topped with fresh mango salsa

  • Fresh salmon, around 3 ounces per person, skin and pin bones removed
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil plus more for drizzling
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper. Drizzle salmon filets with olive oil or I used avocado oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes until center is cooked but slightly pink (cook all the way through if you prefer). In the meantime, combine mango, red onion, lime juice, olive oil or avocado oil, salt and pepper, cumin, and cilantro in bowl. Chill in fridge while fish finishes in oven. Top your warm salmon with the salsa and voila! Healthy, tasty, fresh seafood dinner. I put my over a bed of Israeli couscous seasoned with fresh chopped mint. Super simple. Enjoy!

Clean Eating Dinner Ideas

As my husband and I continue on the "no meat Monday" kick, this past week I made a dinner using fresh Atlantic salmon and a little side dish to satisfy our "carb" fix. I used cauliflower to make a crostini with a fresh topping of green beans. I infused the veggies with fresh herbs from my garden, which is loving all of the rain we are getting by the way. Recipes are below. Keep in mind that you can top the cauliflower "crostini" with anything that you would like, which is the beauty of this little guy. You can also use the cauliflower as a crust for your next homemade pizza! Yummy and guilt free.

Cauliflower Crostini

Cauliflower crust/crostini

  • 1 large head of cauliflower or 2 small heads (enough to make 2 cups)
  • 1 egg

Super simple here: Preheat oven to 425. Prepare a 10 inch round baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. You can also use a baking sheet and lay out parchment paper on top and spray. Remove florets and rinse. Add to food processor and process until fine, rice-like consistency. Put into microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 8-9 minutes. CAREFUL removing plastic wrap from bowl as escaping steam can burn you. Allow to cool in bowl. Once cooled, use a dish towel to remove all liquid from cauliflower. This will take a few rounds of squeezing. Once all water is drained, transfer back to bowl and incorporate the egg. Here is the part where you can add cheese um, yum, and seasoning. I had an Italian six blend in my fridge so I added it here along with some grated parmesan and salt and pepper. Go crazy and add whatever you would like! Once all combined, press into 10 inch baking pan or press out onto parchment paper on baking sheet into round or rectangle shape. Bake until crispy, about 15-20 minutes. I used a pizza cutter to cut into triangles and topped with my mixture of: blanched green beans tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon juice and fresh mint and basil. I smeared a ricotta cheese drizzled with olive oil onto the crostini first then topped. You can use marinated carrots, olives, snow peas, etc. here. Enjoy!

Wine and Dinner Class 05.15.15

Last night I was honored to be asked to teach a wine and dinner date night class at Dierbergs School of Cooking. The guests were all so terrific and a lot of fun! We had lots of great menu items compliments of Dierberg's recipes. I added a few on as well. I made a homemade dinner roll for everyone to eat along with their Caesar salad. I mentioned a homemade version of the store bought vanilla ice cream used in class. I have put the recipes below.

As this was my first class instructing, I was the silly girl that practiced all of the recipes at home beforehand. I made my husband critique my instruction delivery to ensure I was not talking too fast or "too Southern". Although I was extremely nervous as the class started, our guests were all so friendly and welcoming that after a few minutes (more like 20) it felt natural to be standing in front giving out tips and tricks that I use in my own kitchen. I think everyone really enjoyed the wine too ;-) What a great group of people and I hope to see them all again soon in another class!

**Simple Yeast Rolls**

Total time on these is around 2 hours to be sure to prepare and make ahead

Serves 48

Ingredients:

2 packs of active dry yeast

2 cups warm water (warm enough to activate yeast)

1/2 cup sugar

1 whole egg

1/4 canola oil*

2 teaspoons salt

6-7 cups all-purpose flour** 6 tablespoons butter melted for brushing

*canola oil, if not available, can be substituted for vegetable oil or even olive oil in this recipe. Keep in mind that vegetable oil is a combination of different oils and can be higher in calories. Olive oil has a stronger flavor and therefore will be prominent in your bread's flavor profile. Canola oil is used here because it is very neutral in flavor and will not overpower your bread. It is pressed from a hybrid plant of the rapeseed plant and has the lowest levels of saturated fats of all of the vegetable oils. Fats or oils are used in bread mostly to maintain moisture. You will notice that most french loaves for example only contain flour, yeast, salt, and water. They do not last longer than a day or so before becoming too hard hence the use of oil in the recipe.

**If you desire to have whole wheat dinner rolls, substitute half of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour.

  • In a small bowl dissolve the yeast into the warm water
  • Fitted with a dough hook prepare your stand mixer
  • In a stand mixer bowl combine the sugar, oil, egg, salt, and yeast mixture along with 4 cups of the AP flour (this can also be done in a large bowl by hand using a rubber spatula)
  • Once all is combined, continue to add the remaining flour cup by cup until a stiff dough forms. The mixture should separate from the side of the bowl and form a ball when enough flour is added
  • Turn dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 7 minutes (I know, it's a long time)
  • Place in a large bowl sprayed with cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for 1 hour in a warm place until it has doubled in size
  • Turn the dough back onto your floured work surface and for the fun part, punch down the dough. Divide into sections starting with quarters then each quarter into 12 equal pieces. Here is where you can get creative if you like: You can roll each piece into a ball or you can roll each piece into a rope then tying into a loose knot and tucking the ends underneath.
  • Place each piece about 2 inches apart onto a greased sheet pan and cover with kitchen towels and allow to rise for 30 minutes until doubled (again) and preheat oven to 350F during this time
  • Melt butter and use pastry brush to cover the tops of each roll before placing in the oven. You can repeat process after they are removed from the oven and still warm
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown
  • Remove from oven and brush with more butter if desired and place on wire racks to cool
  • Enjoy with dinner, mini cocktail sandwiches (chicken salad, turkey, ham, etc), breakfast with jam.....the possibilities are endless!

    **Easy No-Cook Eggless Vanilla Ice Cream**

Ingredients:

1 cup whole milk

3/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

2 cups heavy cream (or half and half if that is what you have on hand)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

*You can make vanilla bean ice cream by taking two vanilla bean stalks, cutting down the center and scrapping out the inside with a paring knife. Add into mixture when adding in vanilla extract

  • In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer on low speed, combine milk, sugar, salt
  • Stir in heavy cream and vanilla
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours
  • Remove and place in ice cream maker until it becomes solid, 20-25 minutes. Place in airtight container in freezer **If you do not have an ice cream maker, no worries, you can remove from fridge and place in airtight container in freezer overnight where it will become solid

Keep your ice cream in the freezer to use in desserts, sandwiched between leftover cookies for an ice cream sandwich, in a milkshake, or just to enjoy by itself!

Chowing down in NYC

                    

                   

On a recent trip to NYC to visit family, my husband and I had to nosh at every eatery we could belly up to, of course. We tend to go for the restaurants that are well known for their chefs and food but not pretentious. My husband, a lover of all Asian cuisine, had his heart set on Sushi Nakazawa (the apprentice to the famous Jiro Ono of Japan). He requested reservations exactly 29 days before our visit since reservations are only available at 30 days out but alas, we were not able to get in. We settled for lunch the same day at Izakaya MEW. Ramen bowls hit the spot after a morning of traveling and empty stomachs. The Saki and Sapporo didn't hurt either.

We took a little time in Bryant Park to enjoy a coffee....and a mean game of Guess Who.

It was Thursday night in NYC and nearing 5pm by the time we decided on Bobby Flay's, Gato. We were able to get reservations with such short notice and were oh so glad we did. After 2 rounds of bright and flavorful drinks at the bar, we ordered appetizers and entrees at the table along with wine. We indulged a bit. I had the best vegetarian paella with wild mushrooms, toasted rice, kale, crispy artichoke and a sunny side up egg. My husband had large red prawns in a Meyer lemon (my all-time favorite ingredient) sauce. The apps ranged from crispy artichoke with uni to brandade (salt cod) croquette. We were not disappointed. I hope to replicate some of these soon....as well as the cocktails. Since we were indulging, I could not pass up dessert. My husband does not care for sweets but even dove into this one for a few bites. It was a walnut brown butter cake with Armagnac (brandy) gelato.

The next day we had an assortment of eats including shrimp dumplings, fresh oysters, fresh Uni, bacon and maple doughnuts, vegan sushi (my husband tackled that one), and IPA-Wheat beer. These fabulous edibles were all at the Chelsea Market. Highly recommend a stop here if you are ever in NYC. It is an indoor market with every type of fresh meat, seafood, cheese, and ready made delectable you could dream of. There are spices, teas, salts, wines, clothes....the list goes on. For a foodie, you will be amazed.

 The Lobster Place.  The freshest seafood.  They shucked oysters and opened and cleaned Uni right in front of us as we stood there and ate it.  It will really make you think twice about ordering Uni anywhere else.

The Lobster Place.  The freshest seafood.  They shucked oysters and opened and cleaned Uni right in front of us as we stood there and ate it.  It will really make you think twice about ordering Uni anywhere else.

                                                                              Fresh Uni for lunch

                                                                             Fresh Uni for lunch

I should add that when we stumbled out of the market like two college students after an all night rage, disoriented from our food coma, I realized that I was standing underneath the Food Network building (or what I believed to be the building, maybe it was just loading) but I was super excited. What are the odds?!

We rounded out the trip spending the day at the Chelsea Market before meeting my husband's brother to take the bus into New Jersey to spend the rest of the weekend with family and friends. It is hard to beat NYC food but the family cooking was not too shabby either.

Dinner 3.30.15

I realize the "no meat Monday" is now a trend. I have always said, "I could do without meat". Well that is not completely true. I mean let's be honest, I am from the South, and meat is a staple in our diet. However, fish and shellfish have so many wonderful health benefits and we as Americans do not have enough of it in our diets (yes I am throwing facts at you but they are backed by the research done in my Nutrition class). With that said, my husband and I have latched onto this "no meat Monday" trend and have been inspired to see how it goes. Two weeks in a row and this is what I came up with last night:

Round one:

Mussels in Coconut Curry

serves 4, cut recipe in half for 2 people

  • 2 pounds of mussels, placed in cold water for 10 minutes to release dirt/sand, cleaned, beards removed. Discard any that are open and cannot be closed and remain closed
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1-2 Thai chili diced, seeds intact if you want the heat
  • 3 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1.5 tablespoons curry powder (I use a mild yellow curry powder)
  • 1 can coconut milk (I like Aroy-D brand)
  • 1/2 cup shrimp stock (I made my own and keep frozen in containers-instructions to follow)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • Kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • lime wedges
  • chopped cilantro
  • kosher salt for seasoning (or pink Himalayan if you have it)

  • Heat oil in a large skillet with straight sides (I used my dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent and soft but not browned. Stir occasionally.

  • Add the chili(s), ginger, and curry powder. Stir and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp stock and reduce the mixture by half (cook down until there is less liquid in the pot than you began with). Add the coconut milk, a pinch of salt, and Kaffir leaves if using. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the drained mussels to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 6 minutes so the mussels can open. Discard any unopened ones after about 7-8 minutes.
  • Spoon delicious mussels into a large bowl and don't forget to drizzle the flavorful coconut curry sauce over the top. Garnish with cilantro (if you like cilantro-can use flat leaf parsley as alternative) and lime wedges. *I had a half loaf of rosemary sea salt bread leftover from Sunday brunch that I smothered with herb butter and toasted in the oven. We soaked up our curry sauce with the bread. Highly recommend this with any mussel dish!
currymussels.jpg

Shrimp Stock Simple as this: Take the shells off of 1.5 lbs of shrimp. Put the shells along with 3 carrots, cut into chunks; 3 celery stalks, cut into chunks; 1 yellow onion, cut into chunks; 3 garlic cloves sliced; all into a stock pot with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Saute all it on medium high for about 12 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and 1/3 cut of tomato paste, 8 sprigs of fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning; 1 tablespoon black peppercorns; 1 tablespoons kosher salt; 1 tablespoon smoked paparika; and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Strain all of the solids off and cool your stock in containers. Once cool, place in freezer to use in future recipes. Don't buy when you can make your own.

Keeping it simple, fresh, and healthy. Welcome to my blog!

me vegas.jpg

I feel passionately about a lot of things but fear not, I will not spit them all at you at once during my first blog entry.  In fact, I will not really spit them at all.  You will instead pick up on the things I live by and the views that I have.  Not to worry, I don’t talk politics and I do not talk religion.  You will get insight into my life and recognize my passion for food.  This is somewhat of a new passion. I loved food before; it was great.  But I never had an appreciation at the level that I do now.  I have never had a fire inside of me pushing me to learn about something more, study it, prepare it over and over.  Now I do and at 31 years old, I strongly advise that you do the same.

I realize while on a domestic flight, of all places, how food is involved in our lives.  And trust me, I am not referring to the terrible overpriced food airlines provide these days.  The Southwest flights offer free wi-fi on certain flights.  As I scrolled through the channel option (free live tv), I noticed repeat season episodes of Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, Unique Sweets, Cutthroat Kitchen, Man Fire Food (haven’t seen that one yet), Brunch at Bobby’s, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman, Restaurant Redemption, Guy’s Grocery Games, and Food Network streaming at all times.  That means that out of 20 live streaming channels and 37 repeat episodes available, 10 of these are food related.  The other channel options range from children’s shows, national news, sports, and your typical realty show featuring a so called housewife of a well known city. 

This concept seems crazy to me.  I mean, I love food, lots of people love food, but who knew that it actually plays such a dominant part in our lives…even on flights from STL to Vegas (tagging along for husband's conference).

As this is one of the many reasons I choose this career.  I choose this field and I choose to contribute to the way we as humans view that vast genre of “food”.  It is constantly changing in form, preparation, flavor combination, and the way we appreciate it.  Food is viewed not as something that provides us with ability to move and function everyday but instead a type of delicacy if you will.  We are developing more and more of an appreciation for the 5/6 food groups we put into our mouths.  That is the exciting part. 

Now I have just a mere few minutes before I hop off the free wi-fi food network stream and into a city full of cuisine that excites the taste buds and the senses.  I will report back to let you know what the Sin City has offered.  Until tomorrow, enjoy your food!

burgr

chanterelle mushrooms + arugula + figgy-onion jam burger compliments of BURGR Planet Hollywood Las Vegas