Posts from the “Food” Category

Stout

Posted on March 18, 2013

For at least a year, I’ve wanted to abandon the WordPress Thesis template that powered this web site. I didn’t like that it made a blog the focal point of my domain because, the thing is, I either don’t blog or I force myself to blog a bunch of stuff that winds up being hit or miss. I don’t do “miss” so well. Or, I wind up blogging about how hard it is to maintain a blog, but how I’m going to resolve to update it more and do better this time (only to do just the opposite). Blogs are super-duper problematic for me, which is why I found a new template that stuck mine at the bottom of the page…as an afterthought…because let’s face it, that’s what it is.

So welcome to the new paigebowers.com, a landing page where you can click around to find my clips, my bio and a way to contact me for writing assignments large and small. Yes, there’s still a blog, but it’s tucked away in a spot that works for me. I hope the new site works for you too. So click around, make yourself at home and let me know what you think about the new look.

Onward…

I titled this post “Stout,” in part as a commentary on the solid new design of this site, but also because it was St Patrick’s Day this past weekend. For me, St. Patrick’s Day and Guinness go hand in hand. But it’s also worth noting that I’m a chocoholic of the first order. What do St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness and my chocoholism have to do with each other, you might ask? Well, St. Patrick’s Day serves as a good excuse for making chocolate stout cake.

The other excuse? This old ad:

guinness

Photo: SmithsonianMag.com

Now that I’ve built my case, here are the recipes I used, both from Gourmet.com:

Chocolate Stout Cake

Stout Creme Anglaise (I hereby rename this “Awesome Sauce”)

And here is the end result:

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Shrimp Caesar Salad

Posted on October 24, 2012

Yesterday, I showed you the Romaine lettuce that was growing in my garden.

Today, I’m going to show you what I did with that lettuce.

I made a Caesar salad with homemade dressing and grilled shrimp. Caesar salads were created by the Italian restaurateur Caesar Cardini who, during a July 4, 1924 rush, wanted to create something great with the dwindling supplies at his San Diego, Calif. eatery. Using whole Romaine leaves, olive oil, egg, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, pepper and croutons, Cardini tossed the ingredients together tableside to create what has become a staple on many restaurant menus today. Ever since Cardini famously made do with his ingredients-starved kitchen, cooks have put their own twist on his simple masterpiece, adding chicken, seafood and sometimes even steak to the mix.

Because I live in Louisiana, I decided to use grilled shrimp.

So here’s what I did:

1. With my youngster’s help, I picked a bunch of Romaine leaves from my garden. Pretty, no?IMAG07802. Then, I peeled and deveined about a pound of 20-25 count shrimp.IMAG07773. Once that messy work was done, I cracked open this lemon pepper marinade (which officially makes this the “Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee” part of this post).

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4. Then I poured the marinade on the shrimp and put it in the refrigerator for about a half-hour or so.IMAG07795. At that point, I informed my husband that the shrimp were officially his problem and that he should grill them so I could concentrate on how not to kill us with the semi-raw egg part of this exercise. He followed my directions while I ripped the Romaine into bite size pieces and then boiled an egg for precisely one minute. After that minute, I set aside the egg and got to work building the base of the dressing.

6. The New York Times Cookbook says you should use a wooden salad bowl for this next step, but I did not follow directions. I went rogue and used a ceramic bowl. And into that bowl, I sprinkled salt (to taste), crushed one garlic clove, and then blended it all together with 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, 1 tablespoon of Meyer lemon juice and Tabasco sauce (to taste).

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7. After that, I added 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the above mixture, stirring it rapidly until it was well-incorporated. Then I added the Romaine leaves to the mixture, as well as 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. I cracked the semi-cooked egg on top of that, tossed the ingredients together, and got this:

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8. I topped the above with grilled shrimp and here’s how it looked:

IMAG0783The salad was crisp and fresh, the dressing was bright and tangy, the shrimp were subtly sweet with a hint of mesquite smoke. Cardini’s recipe may have been driven by a crush of hungry diners, but the result remains one of the delicious little accidents of culinary history.

Ode to Charm City

Posted on October 9, 2012

Photo: Concierge.com

Photo: Concierge.com

We moved to Baltimore in 1981 so my mother could take a public relations job with a prominent defense contractor based there. Ronald Reagan was president then and although the world was technically at peace, he oversaw the biggest arms buildup in U.S. history. My mother’s job was to promote her company’s missile systems for warships; her colleagues nicknamed her “Lady Launch” and even caricatured her riding the back of a missile fired (presumably) into the former Soviet Union or maybe even Afghanistan. These were heady times full of American might.

For me, part of the lure of moving to Baltimore was

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Morning in the Garden of Good and Evil

Posted on October 2, 2012

I have morning routines that set me up for working through the rest of the day. Generally, I devote an hour to yoga or a walk each day, but I also throw in a bit of gardening for good measure. I started a backyard vegetable garden when I first moved to Louisiana two years ago and it has been the site of just as many glories (tender baby carrots, sweet leeks and sugar peas in Spring) as defeats (the wilt disease that gobbled up my cucumbers and squash this Summer). But I keep at it because a. there’s something wildly therapeutic about weeding (out with the bad so the good can flourish) and b. it’s a way to bring something good and positive into the world.

After my walk this morning, I checked in with my backyard plot, which has begun to sprout fall produce. Here are a couple of highlights:

tomatilloTomatillo: I saw these seeds over the summer and thought I’d try them, largely because they’re supposed to yield purple fruit when they’re ripe. Roasted, they should serve as the base for a good salsa that could include the onions (you can see them poking up in the background in this picture) and cilantro growing in other parts of this box. The authors of Latin Chic also have a great tomatillo salad dressing recipe that was a hit at a baby shower I once catered for a friend in Atlanta. So I have big plans for this crop and hope it continues to flourish.

wintersquashWinter squash: I wish I knew what type of squash this was. I bought a general winter squash seed packet that included butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash seeds. But the seeds were all mixed up, so I’m not sure what I planted here or on the other side of my plot. It’ll be a surprise. I like surprises. I’ll either have something that will make a great soup (butternut), something that will be a healthy pasta substitute (spaghetti), or something that will be great roasted on its own (acorn).

okraOkra: This plant is almost tall and sturdy enough for my child to climb. It is also yielding a constant supply of pods that I’ve tossed into gumbos, fried in cornmeal, or packed in my kid’s lunch. The kid will eat raw okra, which is amazing to me, especially because it took me a while to acquire a taste for them. One thing I might try this fall: Pickling okra. Pickled okra make good stirrers in a Bloody Mary, after all.

blackeyedpeaBlack-eyed peas: I’ve tried and failed with a lot of different things in this box over the past two years. But I decided over the summer that as a self-respecting Southern gardener, I needed to plant black-eyed peas. I had no idea this plant would grow the way it did, exploding with yellow and white blooms that yield pods of sweet, fresh peas. In my house they don’t last long, but I’ll be stockpiling some for a black-eyed pea hummus.

Grouper

Posted on September 5, 2012

grouper

I have a friend who likes fresh grouper. Actually, he doesn’t just like fresh grouper, he waxes enthusiastic about it, as if there were no other food on this planet worth eating. The friend in question buys his grouper from the same seafood place in Perdido Key, Fla. everytime he’s in that neck of the woods. So when we vacationed near that spot this summer, we made a pilgrimage to Grouper Mecca and were not disappointed with our haul.

Pictured above: Abita Beer-battered grouper, made by yours truly.  Informal recipe is as follows: 1. Pour a bottle of Abita Amber or Abita Golden into a bowl; 2. In another bowl, mix a few cups of flour with sea salt, black pepper, red pepper, garlic salt, onion salt, paprika and maybe parsley; 3. Dredge grouper slices in flour first, then in beer, then back in flour (expect messy fingers); 4. Fry covered grouper slices in hot oil until golden brown; 5. Dig in and enjoy what my seven-year-old declared “the best fish I’ve ever had in my life.”

Macaron Madness: Baby Steps

Posted on June 8, 2012

macarons

See these? These are macaron cookies from Laduree in Paris. Laduree was founded 150 years ago during a massive economic boom that transformed the city. It became known as a tea room where ladies could visit with each other (sans male companions) without being considered, as Edith Piaf once put it in the song “Milord,” ombres de la rue (translated: shadows of the street, or prostitutes). The folks at Laduree didn’t make macarons in those days, but by the twentieth century they had this bright idea that maybe they could take light-as-air cookies that had been around for centuries and sandwich them together with a thin layer of ganache.

It was a good idea and it became the way to make macarons. Just ask any fashionista who has been in Paris for Fashion Week, or any Franco-geek like me who has attempted to recreate them Stateside after having religious experiences with boxes like the one  pictured above. The cookies are delicate, not overly sweet, and a bit of a scientific marvel, if you ask me. On the face of it, macarons should be easy to make. They have few ingredients and their recipes are fairly straightforward. How hard can it be?  Well, even he admits it’s not so simple, that making picture-perfect macarons is more about technique than it is following a recipe. After reading his The Sweet Life in Paris and staring at the very technical Les Petits Macarons, I decided to venture into this pastel land of no return, hoping that something edible might result from my efforts. The method to my madness: Use Lebovitz’s chocolate macaron recipe (because who hates chocolate?) and refer to Les Petits Macarons in case of trouble (which was sure to come).

Here’s what happened:

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A Wrinkle in Time

Posted on June 2, 2012

I had coffee with my academic advisor yesterday. He told me I looked composed and (believe it or not) relaxed. He also told me this post was “weird” because no one was trying to “get” me, or drag me back for a PhD against my will. I told him it was an ill-conceived joke, just me making fun of my inability to read anything off-topic. And then I told him that I surprised myself when I rewrote the bio for this web site. In an effort to keep myself honest, focused and real in my writing pursuits, I discovered that nothing looks the same, or feels the same, at least bio-wise. He said I needed more time. I told him I don’t wait well.

By the time we had finished our wide-ranging conversation, three hours had elapsed.

And three days after I went through the exercise of “rebranding” myself (or so to speak), I still haven’t posted my effort here. What gives?

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A few weeks ago, I finished reading A Wrinkle in Time with my daughter. I didn’t really understand Wrinkle when I read it as a child and certainly wouldn’t have recommended it to any of my friends because fantasy was so not my cup of tea. As an adult, I found myself on the verge of

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Signs of Summer

Posted on May 31, 2012

cucumberbudOne of the really exciting things about having a vegetable garden is that sense of change and renewal you get as one plant runs its seasonal course, only to give way to something new. Although it is hot as the face of the sun here in South Louisiana right now, the backyard box suggests we are merely on the cusp of summer. Creole tomatoes hang from the vines, plump, but not quite ripe for the picking. Early green beans hang like little needles. Serrano chiles? Oh how I wish they’d hurry up and grow so I can make fresh salsa. And, as pictured above, cucumbers are starting to emerge from cascades of yellow blooms. Within a week, I may have more of them than I can rightly handle, but it’s a good problem to have. Cukes are such a refreshing summer staple, and can be used in anything from salads to cold soups like this one from epicurious.com.

What are your favorite signs of summer and why?