Sunday, February 8, 2009

things from the fridge

spinach wrap, isreali couscous, baby spinach, fried eggs, thin sliced radish, avocado, hummus, chili powder, tumeric.


Saturday, July 26, 2008


Half Sour Pickles

Half sour pickles are "fresh pack" style pickles that ferment very quickly and still maintain a crispy cucumber-like texture. The most important thing in this very simple process is picking out really high-quality fresh cucumbers. I usually go to the Memphis Farmers Market and look around to see who has the best looking crop. Once you've washed them, all you need do is place them in a salt-water brine with dill and pickling spices, and leave them in a cool dry place for 24 hours. Then, place them in the fridge for 2-5 hours and they are ready to go.

To make the brine, boil kosher salt in water and then let cool. I usually use 1/4 cup for 2 quarts of water.

While the brine cools place the pickles in a jar with dill, pickling spices, and 3-5 cloves of smashed garlic. Small cloves are generally more flavorful than large ones.

Once the brine is cool, add enough to each jar so that the pickles are fully submerged, then cap them.

If you like your pickles a little more fermented, you can leave them out of the fridge for 2 days and than leave them in the fridge for another 24 hours. I like mine a little less pickled and I am pretty impatient. Good luck.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tofu Frittata and Chicken Sausage: a full day's cuisine

FOR BREAKFAST: Tofu Frittata with Mushrooms

A fritatta is a great simple way to make eggs for a few people at a time and is also considerably less anxiety provoking than trying to make a good omelet with a hangover (after it's in the oven, one has time to make coffee or bloody marys). Simply sautee your vegetables (mushrooms and scallions) and tofu in a little olive oil, beat some eggs (about 1-2 per person---and I usually do half eggwhites half whole eggs), pour in the eggs, wait until the sides firm up in the pan (*note: this requires cast iron) and bake it in the oven on 350 until the top is brown. I like to add a little feta or goat's cheese mid-way through the baking process. Garnish with some raw scallions and serve with whole wheat toast.

FOR DINNER: Grilled Italian Chicken Sausage with Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes and Sauteed Green Beans

(Hooray for the Farmer's Market!! Fresh fingerling potatoes and green beens from local organic growers!)

This is as easy as it looks. Start your charcoal and while you wait, go inside and throw your potatoes in a roasting pan with olive oil and rosemary, salt, and pepper and put them in the oven at 400 degrees. When your coals are ready, spread them out and close the cover on the grill to lower the heat and add the sausages. When the potatoes are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, take them out to let them cool and while the sausages finish, sautee the green beans in olive oil with garlic salt and black pepper.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July Memphis Style BBQ

4th of July Memphis Style Pork BBQ

Since Moving to Memphis two years ago I have tried to make it a tradition to barbecue a pork shoulder for the 4th of July. This conquering of fire and flesh is a very labor intensive and time consuming process that requires patience and blind faith so I feel like I need some sort of event around which to center this dish. The first time I ever attempted to slow smoke a large piece of pork was not on the 4th of July and I had to use a weber grill instead of a real oil-drum barbecue grill (also called a Cajun Microwave, I'm told). That recipe was handed down to me by former Stax trumpet player named Micky Gregory, and was full of MSG and liquid smoke. That recipe served me well on three glorious Pork shoulders, but this year I wanted to try something a little more natural. Here's how it all went down:

I began on the night of the 3rd with a 9lb shoulder (also sometimes called a Boston Butt) and rubbed it down with spices. Some will tell you that all it takes is coating the thing in black pepper and throwing it on the pit, but I like to make it more interesting. I mixed mainly black pepper with a little chili powder, garlic powder, and salt then moved on to the baste marinade.

According to Micky Gregory the baste marinade is the most important part as it flavors as well as tenderizes the meat. So, taking the natural route I boiled up a chopped onion with one part Apple Cider Vinegar and 3 parts water, adding some beer, Worcester sauce, mustard and salt and pepper. I brought the ingredients to a boil and then simmered them for a couple hours then left them to sit over night. Remember that former Black Panther Bobby Seal says never to add anything sweet to a baste marinade.

I set my alarm for 5 AM and tried to get a few hours of sleep before waking up for the main event. 4 hours later I was up and ready, although a little slow-going initially. The first thing I did was strain the onions out of the baste marinade and soak my wood chips in water for 45 minutes. I prefer the small chips versus the big chunks because they absorb more water and make for thicker smoke. It's best not to let them soak longer than an hour before draining them as they should be moist, not wet, when you add them to the fire. For this shoulder, I settled on a mix of Apple Wood and Mesquite smoke. Some people argue that Mesquite is too strong a flavor for pork, so I did the majority of the smoking with the apple wood then switched to mesquite for the last few hours to add that extra bit of smoke flavor. Hickory also works well.

Next I stumbled out into the pre-dawn to get the fire started. I don't recommend match light coals as they burn too fast.

Once the coals caught I added the first layer of wood chips creating a beautifully thick haze of smoke. Depending on the length of your smoke time and size of your meat, you may have to add coals as the day goes on. It's best to soak them in lighter fluid ahead of time.

I quickly put the meat on in a roasting pan and injected the first round of baste marinade. I usually do a few internally and then baste the outside as well. The pan is optional but helpful when moving the meat to add more coals and keeping the meat away from direct heat during the initial smoking when the coals are a little hotter. I put the meat directly on the grill after adding the second round of coals.

Once the meat was on and the smoke was flowing, I shut the grill and let it fill up. The best way to keep the smoke flowing consistently throughout the day is to jostle the coals when you see the smoke start to thin. When that stops working, add more wood chips, and when that runs its course it's time to add more coals.

It was a particularly cool July 4th, but it did rain for about 15 minutes around noon. I enlisted a friend to help me drape a tarp over the grill. This tarp now smells a lot like barbecued pork.

After 6 hours standing by a hot grill in the Memphis summer, a cold beer and kiddie pool is in order. Just ask the folks in North Memphis.

After about 10 or 12 hours I wrapped the meat in foil and put it in the oven for the last couple of hours. The meat stops absorbing smoke flavor after about 6 hours and a couple of hours at an even 220 degrees can really help you get the desired consistency. Once the meat reaches 180 degrees, take it out and let it sit before pulling it apart or chopping it.

We pulled it apart by hand and served it on buns with sauce (the remainder of the baste marinade mixed with a half bottle of ketchup and some brown sugar).

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Favorite Breakfast

Poached Eggs on a baguette w/ goat cheese, tomato, and spinach

If you don't know how to poach an egg, you can find many helpful "how-to" videos on YouTube. This is the easiest, healthiest version of eggs benedict. Spread a little goat cheese on your baguette to substitute for the overly rich and fatty hollandaise sauce, throw some spinach on the plate, and you've got a pretty healthy, non-greasy breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chicken and Angel Hair Pasta with Artichoke and White Wine Sauce

There are two kinds of recipes I work from: Those I learned from my mother and those I picked up from friends or various food service jobs I've held. This one was a favorite in my house growing up. This can be made with boneless skinless breasts, bone-in thighs or legs, or in this case boneless skinless thighs.

One of the best things I learned from watching my mom cook as a kid was to always sear and brown the chicken ahead of time and then finish it with the sauce later. I usually roll my chicken in a little flour so it browns easier in the pan. Then I sautée the shallots in olive oil, add a little chicken broth and white wine and then simmer the chicken until it's cooked all the way through. Then I add artichokes, fresh or dried basil, and toss it with angel hair pasta. I believe this one was featured in my mom's 15-minute gourmet cookbook she compiled for her friends one Christmas.

Too hungry to cook? Have a snack...

Tonight we got home and were too hungry to cook. We found this beautiful package of sliced tuna in the cabinet (only cost $1), put a little soy sauce and sesame seeds on top, toasted some whole wheat bread...and there you go. The perfect appetizer. Amazing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Baked Tofu with Black Beans and Ginger Tahini Slaw

Baked Tofu with Black Beans

Ginger Tahini Slaw

This is the kind of stuff people buy from the prepared food section of the Whole Foods, but it's cheaper and better if you make it at home. For the slaw, just mix thinly sliced cabbage and carrots with slivers of ginger, tahini, and a little canola oil. Then add some canned mandarin oranges if you want it a little sweeter. I stole this recipe from an old roommate of mine who would suggest eating this with chop sticks.

The Tofu is best when it's a little crispy on the outside so I suggest making it in the broiler. Just rub it down with spices and olive oil and while it's cooking, sautee the onions, then the black beans and add them to the baking tray for the last minute or so.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Broiled Tilapia Tacos with Beet and Cucumber Salad

Broiled Tilapia Tacos

Beet and Cucumber Salad
with romaine hearts, chickpeas, mint, green onion, and goat cheese

This is a great simple summer recipe based on a dish I had at my cousin's house in Oakland a few years ago involving grilled Halibut. But without a gas grill, it's too much of a hassle to grill out fish for two and Halibut costs about $16 lb, so I made some poor man's substitutions. Tilapia is a great tasting fish that absorbs spices really well and only costs $8 or 9$ lb at the Wholefoods (for more information on why I encourage their's over other Supermarket chains ask their fish guy and he'll explain it to you pretty well), and only takes about 5 minutes to to cook in the broiler.

Here's the long and short of it: Rub the fish down with olive oil, black pepper, and a little garlic salt. Make sure to grease the broiler pan with a little oil so the fish doesn't stick. Cook for 3 minutes on each side (or until the fish is white in the middle), cut it up and put in a warm tortilla with your favorite garnish. We used green onions, cilantro, and lime. A little salsa doesn't hurt either.

The salad is what it is, though generally this much stuff gets a little busy. The goat's cheese was an afterthought, but if I were to do it again , I'd substitute the mint with basil and get rid of the chick peas, but without the goat's cheese, the mint and chick peas are perfect.

Top it off with our standard homemade salad dressing: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and a little soy sauce.

About this blog, plus our recommendations for amazingly good, unhealthy memphis fare

This is our food blog in Memphis. Lots of good food, recipes, ideas, and knowledge. We write about what we eat. We eat what we like. We like good food.

You can't eat cheeseburgers, bbq and fried chicken every day (though Memphis has the best of all three) and live a long life. So this blog will try to provide alternatives. That said, here is a list of some our favorite unhealthy establishments in Memphis

Memphis has an amazing array of soul food, bbq, and burger joints many of which have been featured in cooking magazines and on the food network.

Here are our favorites:

Soulfood/Fried Chicken: Uncle Lou's for Honey Dipped fried chicken, Ellen's Soulfood (they are in the process of moving , but have the best fried chicken and mac and cheese in Memphis, not to mention fried okra), Gus's Fried Chicken---it's touristy and takes too long, the sides are terrible, but they serve quarts of beer and have a juke box.

Barbecue: Payne's Barbecue on Lamar has the best chopped sandwiches and at $3.50 they are the best deal in town. Cozy Corner ribs must be experienced to be believed. Best in the world? Maybe. If you are eating after 6pm, try A&R Barbecue on Elvis Presley Blvd. Ribs, Sandwich, and sides are all great.

Cheeseburgers: The Lamplighter serves wonderful patty melts and is a top notch beer joint straight out of the 70s. Fantastic old country/western juke box that only plays 45s. Wild Bill's, one of the city's finest authentic soul clubs not only has great live music and dancing on weekends, but also serves one of the tastiest cheeseburgers I've ever eaten.