Month: March 2015

kugel-bake

Like many holidays, Easter is celebrated with a feast: a feast full of spring vegetables; a hearty meat as the star of the meal; and a nice, light dessert to finish. While I miss my Grandmother’s ham and raisin sauce as well as the rack of lamb I used to make, I have found a new main course that not only pleases the vegetarian in me, but also is a reminder of family.

My Great Uncle Ray was the only family member we had in Florida when we moved here in 1985. I viewed him as a surrogate Grandfather after my own Grandfather, his brother, passed away. He attended all family gatherings and he loved to eat. I never remember a time hearing him say that there was anything he didn’t like. He always filled his plate with everything offered and always came back for seconds. He finished off every meal with dessert and black coffee. He derived such pleasure from family and food and life. He loved to cook for his friends and family and was always experimenting with new recipes. Looking back, I think that he was the first foodie I ever met. I’m not sure if he was even familiar with that term, but he definitely embodied the definition: he was a great lover of all things food.

Inspiration

Tuttorosso-margherita-pizza
Tuttorosso’s Margherita pizza.

Simple. Fresh. Honest. Humble.  These four words summarize the food that my husband, Ed, and I ate on every leg of our journey through Italy 14 years ago. We hit seven cities in ten days. Our tour gave us so many culinary firsts and “bests”: from the potato focaccia in Cinque Terre; to a foot-long calzone in Rome; to my first aglio y olio pasta in Sorrento; to our grilled, fresh mozzarella in Capri; to the crunchy, cheesy, sweet sfogliatella in Naples; to our daily breakfast of little toasts with jam alongside the best coffee on the planet; and finally, to our multi-daily trips for gelato. These food memories are still fresh on my palate and despite the years that have passed, I can recall all of them vividly. Ed and I are always on a quest to find these items again stateside, just to see if anyone can match what we found in Italy so long ago.

There is one additional item that has had the most lasting impression on the two of us: the pizza we had in Naples. Our first bite of Margherita pizza at L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele was like no other I had had before. The crust was so thin and crisp; one person could easily eat an entire twelve-inch pizza. A scant amount of fresh tomato sauce was spread so thinly that you could still see the crust underneath. Fresh mozzarella cheese was sparsely placed and used as a topping as opposed to a covering—the other version offered had no cheese at all and was topped with a few strategically-placed basil leaves. After many years, many mediocre renditions, and a few winners along the way, we finally found a place in our own backyard that is a close second to our Neapolitan favorite; the restaurant is Tuttorosso Pizzeria Napoletana. How have we not found this place sooner?

Making it count Travel

Let’s talk dining out–it’s one of my favorite things to do. But, how many times have you planned a meal out, only to be disappointed by a mediocre experience? To top it off, you find yourself saying, “We paid how much for that food?” Sadly, since I became a vegetarian, I find that this is the case for me more often than not. Not only are the vegetarian offerings at many restaurants a letdown–or at times even non-existent–but also it feels as though the spontaneity of dining out is gone. If I want to ensure a good meal these days, I now have to check a restaurant’s menu before I can even consider it an option. This has rendered me somewhat inflexible and a bit neurotic.

Making it count

almond-butter-cookie-ingredIt’s time for something sweet and I’ve got three words for you: One. Bowl. Cookies.

Trust me, there’s nothing I love more than creaming butter and sugar together and sampling it when it’s perfectly combined–for me, that’s the best part about making cookies. But, there’s something to be said about not having to break out the stand mixer just to make a special treat. Six ingredients, one bowl and a wooden spoon are all you need to make these tasty little gems.

Inspiration

seattle-dog

No judgment, please…I just ate an entire bowl of sauerkraut. Just sauerkraut. In a bowl. With a little salt. What can I say, I’m German and Polish; I grew up eating this stuff with everything from pork to pierogies–but never in a bowl, by itself. I think I may have a problem…

A friend of ours recently started making his own sauerkraut. He has generously shared with us and now we are on our second jar. I can only imagine his kitchen counters lined with pickle jars full of this magenta-colored, crunchy, vinegary cabbage; just awaiting the fermentation to be complete enough to call it sauerkraut.

When I brought home my first jar from him, the question swirled around in my mind: “What should I do with it?” At the time, eating it all by itself did not register–I don’t think that thought registers with many. But, typically, sauerkraut is paired with meat. What to do?

Tidbits Travel

chickpeas-for-hummus
Whether you opt to use canned chickpeas (left) or dried (right), you need only a few simple ingredients– including tahini (pictured)–to transform these beans into creamy, homemade hummus.

If I had a nickel for every container of hummus that we have gone through in the past year, I could probably buy myself a few cups of coffee from Kahwah. I say “we” loosely, but what I really mean is my husband, Ed: the quantity of hummus he consumes on a weekly basis borders on addiction.

It wasn’t that long ago that Ed and I were discussing his “problem” and he suggested that given how much hummus he eats–and the fact that each carton costs around $4.50– maybe I should be making my own. I started questioning myself and why I had never attempted homemade hummus before. It wasn’t out of lack of interest–I bought tahini with the intent to make hummus at least four times–and then I didn’t…and the tahini expired every time. Tahini is a sesame seed paste that is an integral ingredient in hummus making.

Tidbits

market-finds
My bounty from last week’s Saturday Morning Market.

One of the things I love about St. Petersburg is our downtown Saturday Morning Market. Have you been? It’s so great to get outside, walk around, listen to the live music, sample new items and stock my kitchen—and my belly—full of delicious finds. I recently found out that getting there early is a really good idea—probably commonsensical—we’re just never ready to be anywhere by 9:00am.

Aside from our usual stop at the Pop Craft popsicle cart, produce is the other thing I almost always buy on market day. Shopping for produce at the market is always tricky: there is never enough room in my fridge for all that I would like to bring home. But, last week, I found some unique items that I knew I had to make room for. First, I found some Romanesco, which is just about the funkiest looking vegetable ever. Then, just when I thought I had seen it all when it came to produce, three veggies jumped out at me that I had neither seen nor heard of before: Yukina Savoy, Hon Tsai Tai, and Celtuce. No matter what is awaiting me at the market, it is an ever-changing source of inspiration.

Inspiration