We are back: Begin New Orleans Wine and Food Expirience Recap

Well, we made it back alive, but barely. Five days of over indulgence of wine and food, in New Orleans of all places, is enough to kill a weaker person. I am not going to go into details right now because I have about one million things to do on my last day of vacation buuuuuttttttttt.......

Wednesday night was a total veg out night, nothing going on with New Orleans Wine and Food Experience known henceforth as NOWFE.

Thursday was the V.I.P. party and the Royale Street Stroll. What fun! The V.I.P. party was held at NOLA. The food was fantastic and they served Cambria wines. Then we headed down to the Royal Street Stroll which was basically a HUGE South Main Trolley Tour type thing. It was awesome. I have never done anything like that before and it was an absolute blast. All of the wineries that were at the Grand Tasting were there, set up in various galleries. Man does New Orleans have some galleries!

Friday we got up at the crack of dawn to hit up the Rose' Champagne seminar at 9.30 am. What a way to start the day. After some time recharging we attended the Sonoma county seminar and the Malbec seminars before hitting up the Grand Tasting that evening. Talk about a long day.

Saturday morning we crawled out of bed to make the Rabbit seminar at 10.30 and then the Blind Tasting Seminar afterwards. After that, it was on to the Grand Tasting, again.

Sunday morning we had the best intentions of making the Bubbles and Brunch (I can't say no to champagne) but after a weekend of wine and food, and some food and wine, and spending the last two days drinking for about eight hours straight, we were dead on our feet. So we hit up the Whole Foods to pick up our take home wine (because you can buy alcohol any time in New Orleans) and we headed home.

I am going to type up more detailed posts about the seminars and Grand Tastings later so stay tuned. And let me just say that if you ever ever have a chance to attend NOWFE, DO IT!!!!!!! It is a absolute blast. The seminars are informative, the wine selections are fantastic, getting to meet the wine makers is awesome, the food is amazing and the city is one of the most entertaining, hospitable places on the planet. We love it and will try to get back every year that we can.


Veggies to Eat Before You Die: Sauteed Zucchini Done Right

Right now I should be packing for theNOWFE this weekend but we had another awesome veggie last night that I had to share before I disappear for a long weekend. We get the great magazine called Cook's Illustrated from Collin's Mom and it rocks. It reminds me a lot of Good Eats on FoodTV. It covers the in's and out's of all things cooking related, its highly informative and most of the pictures are hand drawn, hence the name Cook's Illustrated.

Anyways, every time I read Cook's Illustrated I learn something new. Like why my zucchini turns out to be a soggy flavorless mess when I sauté it. Evidently zucchini is 95% water. On a grill, the water drains off, leaving you with highly condensed zucchini flavor. In a pan the water does not cook off and the zucchini turns into a flavorless soupy mess.

Cook's Illustrated says that this can be avoided, so I had to give it a try.

First thing you have to do is get as much of this water out of the zucchini (already tired of typing that word) as possible. To do this you either need to grate it by hand, or, if your in-laws rule and got you a brand-new bad-ass Cuisinart for your graduation from graduate school, you can use that to grate the zucchini in about 3 seconds. (If the zucchini is large and has large seeds, cut it in half and scrape out the seeds before you grate it.)

Then you take that zucchini, you put it in a colander and you sprinkle salt on it. About 1.5 teaspoons for 10 cups of zucchini. Let it sit about ten minutes and then ring out the zucchini in batches in a kitchen towel. You would not believe the amount of water that comes out of that stuff. Now you are ready for the recipe.

Sautéed Zucchini with Garlic and Lemon
  • 10 cups drained zucchini
  • couple of garlic cloves minced
  • olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

    1. Toss the zucchini with the garlic and about 2 teaspoons of oil

    2. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. when it starts to smoke, add the zucchini in a thin layer on the bottom of the pan with tongs. After the bottom layer has browned (about two minutes) stir the zucchini with tongs and allow the new bottom layer to brown (about 2 minutes).

    3. Remove from heat and add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

    This zucchini was so flavorful. Still kind of mushy (I didn't use a high enough heat, or have the zucchini spread thin enough I think) but the flavor of the zucchini was rich and the browned bits were caramel-ly. I definitely see what I am supposed to be aiming for and I am definitely going to try it again. I give it three thumbs up. Way up.


  • Friday

    Veggies To Eat Before You Die: Boiled Potatoes with Brown Butter

    I know I know I know what you are thinking. Boiled potatoes, Must eat? Yes, you must eat these potatoes before you die. We eat potatoes at least three times a week. That being said, every now and then potatoes get boring. Last night we decided to have potatoes, again. I was feeling lazy and didn't want to get in to mashed potatoes, which was ok with Collin because we didn't have everything I needed for the gravy. (Note to self, Please make chicken stock THIS weekend). So we decided on boiled potatoes, again.

    Now we have developed a new tradition of hanging out in the kitchen all the time. Most of the time we read cookbooks, because we are food geeks. Collin was going through one last night and mentioned something about using brown butter on veggies instead of plain ole raw butter. This got me excited. I love new twists on old side dishes. And thus a new veggie to eat before you die was born.

    You'll need-
    As many small waxy white potatoes as you think you can eat. About 1-1.5 inches in diameter.
    Water and salt for boiling

    1. Boil the potatoes in liberally salted water until they can easily be pierced with a knife. (I can't for the life of me remember how long that took.)
    2. Drain the potatoes and return to pan
    3. Add as much butter as you would like to the pan and crank the heat up to about medium high.
    4. Stir continuously until butter begins to brown. Coat the potatoes with the butter.
    5. Dish the potatoes up, cut them open and drizzle with remaining browned butter.

    These potatoes were amazing. The butter was nutty, and almost had a caramel-y quality to it. The waxy potatoes were nice. (I hate that water logged mealy crap that you get when its hard to find those baby potatoes later in the summer.) And this dish was super easy. Nothing to it.



    Sandwich Night: Pseudo BLT's

    After a trip out east yesterday, we swung by Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana for a late lunch. Thanks a million Squirrel Squad, you make the best suggestions for good eats. Since we polished off a chorizo tortuga and elephant ear tacos around three in the afternoon, we weren't really feeling dinner. But I hate to wake up hungry so as it got later I started jonesin' for a snack. Thus Sandwich Night was born.

    We wanted BLT's but we didn't have all the BLT stuff and I just HAVE to spice everything up. Best part, the only dirty dishes were two knives and a cutting board. Sandwich Night, YOU RULE!!!!!!!!

    Pseudo-BLT Checklist
    • Bacon
    • Arugula (home picked from our backyard plot of greens)
    • Tomato
    • Avocado
    • Caramelized vidalia onions
    • Mayo
    • Toasted whole wheat bread

    As far as direction for assembly are concerned, I'll let you use your imagination.



    Weird Things I Eat for Breakfast #1

    Rice with scrambled eggs, fish sauce and mango salsa.

    We had a delicious pan fried Tilapia dish with some killer mango salsa (because right now, the mangoes at Viet Hoah market RULE!) And we had rice for dinner. And do you know why I love rice for dinner? Because it means leftover rice for breakfast. And I love rice for breakfast.

    I took a picture but it was pretty boring so I'll leave it to the imagination. The beauty of "weird things I eat for breakfast" posts is that no recipe is needed. Scramble your eggs, put em on top of the rice, fish sauce to taste (I like the fish sauce made especially for spring rolls, another Viet Hoah gem) and top with the leftover mango salsa that was an afterthought, but really pulls it all together. See, no real recipe needed. Unless you want the recipe for the salsa. FINE!

    Mango Salsa
    2 mangoes peeled and diced
    2 tbsp sweet onion diced finely (Schnucks has vadalias but they are looking kinda rough)
    juice of 1-2 limes
    cilantro to taste
    salt and pepper to taste
    (And I think Collin put vinegar in it this time because the limes weren't as acidic as we had hoped.)
    Mix it all together and eat it on your eggs.

    And just a heads up, I have started running again. The more I run, the weirder my breakfasts get so be prepared.



    Carrot Orecchiette

    Un-Frickin'-Believable. This is a spin-off of a carrot orzo dish that I found in Bon Appetite. Since Schnucks only sells orzo in those ridiculously priced seven dollar containers (it's pasta for christ's sake) I opted for some orecchiette and tweaked the recipe to fit.

    Carrot Orecchiette
    6 oz carrots, peeled
    2 garlic cloves sliced
    2 tbl fresh rosemary chopped
    2 tbl butter
    1 cup chicken stock (homemade if you've got it, the dish is so much more rich with homemade)
    1/4 cup parmesan grated.
    10 oz orecchiette pasta
    3 tbl green onions chopped

    1. Start you water for pasta, salt it pretty generously. Cook pasta according to directions.
    2. Chop the carrots up pretty fine, see photos for guidance. ( I used my brand new cuisine art because I love it and it makes everything easier).
    3. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the carrots, garlic and rosemary, sautéing until aromatic. Add the chicken stock. Let this reduce until only about 1/4 cup of the liquid remains.
    4.Toss carrot reduction with pasta and stir in cheese. Stir in green onions. Add extra stock if the "sauce" is too thick.

    This turned out sooooooo good. It's the best pasta dish that we have tried in a while. Super easy and full of flavor.
    We served it with braised bok choy and bacon, and Collin's fabulous Chicken Provençal.


    Weird Things I Eat for Breakfast: The Series

    One of the highlights of my day is rummaging through the fridge to come up with my "power breakfast". I have not been a fan of conventional breakfasts for quite some time. Honestly, I don't see how anyone survives from breakfast until lunch on a pop tart or a bowl of cereal. So about 4 or 5 years ago I gave up on the bagels and pancakes and waffles and cereal and started making "Power Breakfasts".

    My basic rule of thumb is, if you add eggs to it, it is breakfast food. It started off with an obsession with Bob's 8 grain hot cereal . I couldn't just eat it like oatmeal, I needed my protein dammit. So I started mixing in eggs. Then I decided I needed some veggies with it too. (The easiest way to get in all those veggie servings is to start off with two or three in your breakfast). I came up with over 100 ways to eat this cereal in the months that I was addicted, my favorite being sweet and hot curry with peas and onions. Collin said that my B.O. smelled like curry for months.

    Then I switched to soup. Soup every day for breakfast. Broth based and always with eggs and tons of veggies. But when it is hot outside, soup for breakfast is no good so I switched into the burrito mode. Nothing is the fridge is safe from one of my breakfast burrito recipes. This morning's installment is an open faced pink eyed pea "burrito" on corn tortillas with fried eggs.

    Because we have a surplus of salad greens growing in the back yard, my latest kick has been breakfast salads (no eggs) which I will post a recipe for soon enough.

    After 5 years of being intrigued by my odd breakfast choices, Collin thought it would be a good idea to start documenting them, lest these culinary wonders be lost forever. So I guess I will. Although I feel a little self conscious about the whole thing. So far, my strange ways of breaking the fast have been our little secret.
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