Culture Shock: The Salad That Wasn’t

This is a “salad,” according to Texas.

Yep. Spicy chicken on a thick bed of refried beans and deep-fried tortillas, smothered in cheese and pecans (yes, pecans).

To be fair:

(a) When I mentioned I was trying to eat healthy and would therefore be ordering a salad, I was warned that “the fajita salad isn’t really a salad-salad.”
(b) It does have some sliced vegetables on the side, plus a small scattering of shredded iceberg lettuce.
(c) Probably the most delicious and filling “salad” I’ve ever eaten. I’m into it. Props, Tex-Mex. Thank you for continually improving my life… and challenging my preconceived notions of what I can classify as a healthy dining option.

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Desperate for a Garnish

It’s tough goings for the garnish industry in the winter. Fresh herbs refuse to pop up until the weather warms so I’m left with spices, sauces and dried herbs to lay that finishing touch on a dish.

Earlier this year I wrote about a different type of garnish issue – I used an ingredient foreign from the dish to decorate it. I thought the beautiful black pellets of mustard seeds would contrast nicely to the orange sweet potato soup splattered with bright, white yogurt. And in fact, I think it looked lovely. I decided it didn’t matter that I hadn’t used mustard seed in the soup. I’d use it to enhance the look of the dish, without compromising the taste.

I used the opposite approach this weekend in my bean and cabbage dish. This was a simple, hearty dish combining tiger eye beans, slashed cabbage, onion and garlic, flavored with chipotle and cumin. The cabbage, onion and garlic adapted the brick color of the chipotle and adobo sauce and the tiger beans lost their stripes in the long cooking process, turning into a similar hue as the rest of the dish.

It needed some contrast. It needed some brightness. And I didn’t have a goddamn fresh herb in sight.

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Super Bowl Grub: Top 10 Dips

Bravo to the NFL marketers! The Super Bowl has turned into something that is as much about food, commercials and friends as it is about football. Standard at almost every Super Bowl party is a dip of some kind. Here at ES we have covered dips, been covered in dips and we even have a theory as to why dips are so universal. Today we’ll just stick to sharing our Top 10 dips as you prep for the thundering herds.

10. Poblano and Garlic Scape Dip
Highlight: Roasted poblano lends a heat gentle enough for all crowds.

9. Tequila Mango Salsa
Highlight: One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

8. Texas Caviar
Highlight: Creamy mustard meets sweet-tart apple cider vinegar, which encircles black eyed peas and fresh corn.

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Gridiron Grub: Venison & Ginger Beer Chili

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A couple of weeks ago my Eagles were knocked out of the NFL playoffs and before that, my beloved PSU Nittany Lions embarrassed themselves in the Outback Bowl. Thankfully, while I drowned my sorrows last week, BS provided us with a look at overpriced NFL beer and provided me with some time to regain my composure so that I could return reinvigorated for the final 2 weeks of the 2010/2011 season.  The forecast for the games this weekend isn’t too promising and where I live we are expecting single digit temperatures. Needless to say, I will not be heading out to watch any games, but instead thought I would make a big pot of the ultimate winter comfort food….chili.

I don’t know if I have ever come across a bad bowl of chili. There are so many different ways to prepare it and they all end up being pretty delicious. While doing a little research for this post, I confirmed that the word chili is Spanish and the first recorded use was in 1604. The rough translation was: “a bunch of tasty shit stewed together for awhile.” Partly inspired by ML’s recent post about game meat, and the fact that I had access to locally hunted venison, I decided to go with a venison chili. This chili recipe started out a few years ago, straight from a Field and Stream recipe, but with small changes each attempt, I came to this week’s incarnation:

Venison and Ginger Beer Chili with Lime Cream

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Carrie Bradshaw Makes Awful Decisions

bacon and beans

I can’t even lie and say “it’s that time of year.” Because frankly, I’m always trying to cook with what’s in my house, it doesn’t matter if it’s the end of the year, end of the month or end to Bernie Sanders reading sob letters all day. Bernie Sanders for president!

This Sunday’s lunch kicked-off the eat-what’s-here trend. It’s called crackly bacon. And my house smelled of the cured meat all day. First off, I let the bacon sizzle in the oven: 10 minutes at 425 on a wire rack over a baking pan.

And then I started to reorganize my long-sleeve shirt drawer, deciding on what to fold and return to the drawer and what to give away, while watching the episode where the girls attend Steve and Aidan’s bar opening; and Bunny shops with Trey and Char for a new bed; and Samantha is a lesbian. Wow I miss Sex and the City. Honestly, though, Carrie should have never gotten back with Aidan. And Carrie should have never married Big at the end of SATC 1. Carrie makes awful choices. It might be why I haven’t seen SATC 2 yet. But please don’t tell me what happens. I will see it as soon as it’s out on DVD.

But before I could decide whether or not to donate that black and white graphic adventure shirt from Barcelona, it was time to cook again. I decided this was the year. 80 and I would finally party with our neighbors – we attended our building’s holiday party.

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A Pain in the Ass, A Pleasure in the Stomach

Fava Bean Spread

I’ve heard about these suckers for a very long time. Raves. Raves. Raves. And as diligent as I am in eating what’s in season, I sometimes miss very short-seasoned produce. But this time around, in what one vendor labeled as the last available weekend, I scored a quart of fava beans.

Lord these beans take a lot of work. I didn’t follow a recipe, just the quick advice Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market manager Rebbie called out to me before 80P and I schlept back to our apartment.

She commanded that the process required 2 beers and a friend. One beer for releasing the beans from the pod and the next for releasing the bean from its skin. Because of my bachelorette party induced hangover, I skipped the beers but still persuaded 80 to be my friend in the process.

Fava Bean Spread 1 (500 x 332)

Sesame Enhanced Fava Bean Puree

First I took the fava beans out of the pod. After the de-podding, I boiled the beans for a minute and a half, shocked them, and then removed the skins. A not difficult, but slightly annoying process, especially as waves of hangover fell upon me. In case you’re wondering why I’m going through this multi-step process on what should have been a lazy weekend afternoon, it is because I wanted to bring a snack for the World Cup watching party.

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The Punishment for Being Late

Asparagus and Cannellini Beans 1 (500 x 332)

It’s become my rule. Invited to a BBQ? Bring something not for the grill.

I’ve learned my lesson. I’m a late girl. I come from a late family. We are late. Always late. So if I want to bring something for the grill, I always get there too late. The grill is taken.

That is why I bring a side. Sure, it’s more cooking then bringing marinated eggplant rounds, but people expect more from me anyway.

This past weekend my coworker threw a party for her daughter’s middle school graduation. It was a cook-out. So while I longed to be lazy and just bring my fresh bundle of asparagus bought that day from the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market to throw on the grill—I didn’t. I whipped it into a salad instead.

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