Saturday, April 28, 2007

tropical grapes?

Today I visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I meant to take a closer look at edible plants, but was distracted by all the pretty flowers. I'll have to go back. One tree caught my eye big time. It was in the Climatron, where all the tropical plants dwell. Here's the photos I got of this odd looking fruit tree:

As you can see from the tag in the photo, this is a Myrciaria Cauliflora, otherwise known as Jabuticaba tree. The fruits apparently (you can't taste MOBOT plants, of course) taste similar to grapes, and are indeed used to make jams and wines. I'm tempted to order some wine made from Jabuticaba from Volcano Winery in Hawaii. Or maybe I should take a vacation....Here's a review of the wine. And here's a Food & Wine article about discovering tropical fruits.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

zucchini mushroom hominy tacos

Tonight I made some veggie tacos inspired by fellow St. Louis food blog Veggie Venture (please check out her site and others from my new list of St. Louis related links I added to the side bar over there -->). She got the recipe from a Rick Bayless cookbook, and you can't go wrong with Rick Bayless. She added the hominy part, though, which is genius. I love hominy (check out this ancient post where I made a soup with it). The recipe also calls for chipotle, a favorite ingredient in the ironstef household.

I basically followed the recipe as it appeared on Veggie Venture, except I used more zucchini (and a yellow squash) and a 29 oz. can of hominy and more tomatoes (2 14.5 oz. cans diced, no salt added) I guess I pretty much doubled the recipe. Anyway, I also added fresh garlic, salt, Mexican oregano and cumin while I was cooking the onions and mushrooms. I also drained most of the liquid from the tomatoes before adding them, and added some sugar. Usually I find I have to add sugar to things I make with canned tomatoes. I forgot to get cilantro (how could I?!?) but I did get some limes, which was a lovely addition squeezed on at the end. Oh, and I used plain old Mexican-aisle corn tortillas instead of the whole wheat ones. It was a great meal. Filling and healthy. I have so many leftovers, which I imagine will taste even better tomorrow.
Here's how they looked:

I had it with beer (a Belgian beer with a French-sounding name with a Mexican meal...brilliant!), but here are some tips to pairing wine with Mexican food.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

the other cook in the house (installment 2)

This weekend Jack whipped up some tequila lime chicken on the grill. It was really good, so I asked him to share his recipe and notes. He's much better at making up recipes and being analytical about what he makes than I am:

The marinade had the following:
1/2 C Cilantro, chopped fine
2 green chiles (jalapeno or serrano), halved and
1/4-1/2 C lime juice, fresh (7 limes)
2 Tbsp lime zest (or zest of 3 limes)
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp black pepper, ground
1 1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix first 10 ingredients in a large bowl. Reserve 1/2
cup of the liquid. Add chicken pieces to bowl or
large plastic zip-top bag and coat in marinade. Add
enough water to cover chicken. Allow chicken to
marinade for at least 2 hours.

Mix the reserved marinade mixture with an additional
1/2 cup olive oil. Stir or shake in tight container
to mix thoroughly. Mop chicken pieces during cooking.

Next time, let's blend the marinade in the food
processor to pulverize the cilantro. Also, less water
and more tequila. The plastic bag idea should have
been used (less liquid needed).

Also, I could make a tequila-lime glaze instead of the
mop for more of a sticky coating.

We should serve these fajita-style next time.


On the grill, getting mopped with deliciousness.


Served with a green salad made at the local salad bar, and blue corn chips...and beer and hot sauce, of course.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

more asparagus + homemade icecream!!!

Last night I whipped up this savory asparagus bread pudding that I saw on 101 cookbooks. It was fairly simple. I prepped all the veggies and everything before going out for an evening jog, and when I came back I just threw everything together and stuck in the oven. With asparagus being in season, I can't get enough. This recipe also involved Gruyere cheese, just like the tarts from a couple posts ago. Gruyere and Asparagus make a good pair. they should get married or sumthin! I bought the processed Gruyere this time just to see what the difference is. For one thing it's cheaper. But it's also a more...plastic-y texture...similar to Velveeta (but nowhere near as disgusting!), Which is why it looks kinda scary on top of my bread pudding. It tasted pretty good, though. I'll be sticking with the natural stuff from now on, though. The pudding was lovely. Kind of comforting without being too rich. It would be great for a brunch, but who does brunches? Anybody? Invite me if you have on, will ya? :) I'll bring this:

For dessert I had some Kulfi I had put together the night before. Kulfi is an Indian ice cream with pistachios and cardamom. And using this recipe from CHOW, it's super-easy to make! I don't have an ice cream maker or anything, and for this you don't need one. I did have the problem one of the commenter's had, with the cardamom sinking to the bottom and the pistachios floating, but the flavor of both was still good throughout. I just bite of the cardamom top (as seen in the photo below) and spit it out, then enjoy the rest of the kulfi-pop. And I do mean enjoy. These are delicious!! Rich, flavorful, unique. Mmmmmm...I want another. The photos do not do it justice, but anyway:

here you can see all the cardamom bits. I obviously did not do a very good job grinding it up in my little mortar and pestle, but those pods are hard! Next time I'm buying ground cardamom, darn it...although these make things really tasty.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

fried chicken and collard greens

Obviously, if I value my health, I can't be eating things like the famous meatloaf cupcakes everyday. Saturday I came across a Food Network show I hadn't seen before, Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger. On the show she was making healthier versions of some American favorites. And I don't mean healthier as in no-fat, artificially sweetened diet food. She was using real ingredients, making real food...just cutting back on certain things such as oil and butter and egg yolks. Not cutting them OUT completely, just using enough to get the taste/texture benefits.

I decided to try her oven fried chicken and the short cut collard greens. Both turned out really good. The chicken was slightly reminiscent of the shake and bake I remember from childhood, but much better. The addition on Sesame seeds is my favorite touch! And it did end up being crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. I did substitute boneless skinless thighs for the bone-in skinless breasts and thighs she used. I just couldn't find that particular cut. Plus, I just love me some chicken thighs.

The collard greens were my favorite. Canadian Bacon provides the porkiness and I loved the tanginess of the vinegar with the sweetness of the maple syrup and bitter greens. I've only tried cooking collard greens once before. They took forever and didn't taste this good. These only took about 30 minutes and they were tender and yummy. And healthy!! The way you start them, by microwaving them with a small amount of water, is one of the best ways to cook them so that they don't lose all of their nutrients. I added a little liquid smoke to them, just because I had it on hand, and figured why not. And I microwave bakes some sweet potatoes to serve as another side...nothing crazy there...just a little salt and pepper was needed, because sweet taters are so good the way they are! It was a filling, warming (I made it on a cold rainy Saturday) and healthy meal. See?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

gruyere asparagus tart

Via tastespotting, I found fer food's asparagus tart. So pretty! So easy! And using two of my favorite things...gruyere cheese and asparagus. So I made it! It was simple and really really tasty. What a great flavor combo! This would make a fabulous party dish. Next time I make this, I'll grill the asparagus first, because grilled asparagus is one of my favorite parts of summer. Here's the pictures of my first of many asparagus tarts (I have one in the oven right now!):

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

stir-fried coconut noodles

I got a few Mark Bittman cookbooks from the Library recently. I saw a couple of his New York Times article/recipes, and thought I'd check out his books. I really enjoy flipping through The Best Recipes in The World, and I may just purchase it. Tons of recipes from all over, and they look pretty darn tasty and for the most part, simple.

Last night I tried a recipe from The Minimalist Cooks Dinner. It was for Stir-fried Coconut Noodles. I pretty much followed it exactly, except I couldn't find the fetuccine style rice noodles, so I used the thin ones, and I flavored the vegetables while I was cooking them with some soy sauce, fish sauce and red pepper flakes. It turned out pretty good. Not as flavorful as I'd hoped, but I guess this recipe is more about the taste of the ingredients than any spices...the coconut and the pork are both very rich, while the bell pepper ads sweetness and the eggplant a little bitterness. I added some soy sauce and sriracha to mine, but Jack liked his fine with just the Nam pla, black pepper and cilantro.

Here's the Recipe:

Stir-fried Coconut Noodles

3/4 pound fettucine-style rice noodles
3 tablespoons grapeseed, corn or other light oil
1 pound minced or ground pork or chicken
1 yellow or red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 eggplant (about 1/2 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
One 12-to-14 oz. can (about 1 1/2 cups), unsweetened coconut milk
Nam pla (fish sauce), saoy sauce or salt
Freshly ground pepper
Minced cilantro

1) Soak the noodles in very hot water to cover until you're ready to add them to the stir-fry.

2)Meanwhile, pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large skillet or wok, turn the heat to high, and heat for a minute. Add the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until it browns and loses it's raw look, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3)Add another 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet, followed by the bell pepper and eggplant. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionaly, until the pepper and eggplant are browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and combine with meat.

4) Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, followed immediately by the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon, for about a minute. Drain the noodles and add along with the meat and vegetables. Cook until the noodles absorb most of the coconut milk, about 3 minutes.

5) Season with nam pla, soy sauce or salt to taste, then add plenty of black pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

and here's the finished product:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

carnivore cupcakes

Cupcakes are all the rage, that's for sure. Why not? they're cute, yummy and versatile. Recently, I came across this gallery of meat cakes. And noticed someone had tried meat cupcakes. And I decided I needed to try to make some meat cupcakes. Basically, small meatloaves with mashed potato frosting. I've never made meatloaf, though, so I wasn't sure how to begin.

Like a sign from above, America's Test Kitchen was making meatloaf today!! So after watching the show, I went online, registered on the site (it's free and they offer you a free issue of the fabulous Cook's Illustrated magazine!) and got the recipe. I then spent my Saturday night making Meat Cupcakes. And they were so yummy. America's Test Kitchen did not fail me. It's a great recipe:
Glazed Meat Loaf or All Beef Meatloaf
from the Episode: Meat Loaf Dinner

If you can't find chuck and/or sirloin, substitute any 85 percent lean ground beef. Handle the meat gently; it should be thoroughly combined but not pastelike. To avoid using the broiler, glaze the loaf in a 500-degree oven; increase cooking time for each interval by 2 to 3 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8
Meat Loaf

3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese , grated on small holes of box grater (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion , chopped fine (about 1 cup)
1 medium rib celery , chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (powdered)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup crushed saltine crackers
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound ground beef chuck


1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

See Illustrations Below: Creating a Free-Form "Loaf Pan"

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread cheese on plate and place in freezer until ready to use. Prepare baking sheet (see illustration below).

2. Heat butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until foaming; add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, and paprika and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and add tomato juice. Cook, stirring to scrape up browned bits from pan, until thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to small bowl and set aside to cool.

3. Whisk broth and eggs in large bowl until combined. Sprinkle gelatin over liquid and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in soy sauce, mustard, saltines, parsley, salt, pepper, and onion mixture. Crumble frozen cheese into coarse powder and sprinkle over mixture. Add ground beef; mix gently with hands until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Transfer meat to foil rectangle and shape into 10 by 6-inch oval about 2 inches high. Smooth top and edges of meat loaf with moistened spatula. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loaf reads 135 to 140 degrees, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and turn on broiler.

4. While meat loaf cooks, combine ingredients for glaze in small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Spread half of glaze evenly over cooked meat loaf with rubber spatula; place under broiler and cook until glaze bubbles and begins to brown at edges, about 5 minutes. Remove meat loaf from oven and spread evenly with remaining glaze; place back under broiler and cook until glaze is again bubbling and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes more. Let meat loaf cool about 20 minutes before slicing.

photo time!

Here are the little meat cakes before meeting their fate in the oven.

Out of the oven! Pretty messy...making little cakes this way causes a lot of grease build up. I transferred them to a clean dish to glaze them.

Putting the glaze on. The glaze is wonderfully flavorful. Sweet, spicy, sticky. Yum!

Here's the finished Meat Cupcakes! I used instant mashed potatoes (sue me!), which helped me get a good thick consistency for piping it on the meat cakes.

The "cherry" on top is a peppadew, who's sweet peppery flavor went really well with the meatloaf.

I served the meat cupcake with some baked acorn squash. They were so cute together!

Here's the cupcake all cut open. It was moist and delicious!

These were a blast to make. A bit messy and kinda time-consuming, but for a chilly Spring weekend night, I highly recommend it. For more inspiration, check out these cute meat cupcakes from Food Network Canada! Candied fennel, huh?

Thursday, April 05, 2007


If you're ever in the Creve Couer area of the STL, go directly to pita+. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. This is one of my favorite places to grab lunch. I would recommend the gyro and the chicken gyro. The pitas there are far superior to any I've ever found at a store. Tender, tasty, fresh. I went last night for dinner and got the Falafel platter. So good. So much food! It came with 5 falafel, a pita, some hummus, tahini and mediterranean salad (tomaotes, cucumbers and kalamata olives.) Gorgeous. See?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I've been enamored of kumquats for years. The name is funny. Fun to say and because it sounds silly but also naughty. And, they are cute little fruits. Tiny little oblong oranges. So why have I just now gotten around to trying them? Crazy! I got a carton of them this weekend, and they are terrific! So sour! with the sweet skin eventually taking over and making my taste buds calm down and enjoy it as a yummy fruit. But a whole carton is hard to eat just plain like that. 4 in sitting is the best I could do, and I made a pursed-lipped face every time. So I looked for recipes.

And I found this one, which I cooked for dinner tonight. It was very tasty. I highly recommend it. The sweetness of the sugar and vinegar, the sourness of the kumquats, the spicy red pepper flakes with the earthy fresh spinach and the meaty moist chicken. Do it! I listened to the comments on the recipe, and didn't add as much sugar as it stated. I also used chicken thighs instead of boneless, skin-on breasts, because they are cheap and my favorite chicken part. I probably added more red pepper flakes, too, 'cause I like it hot. I had some spaghetti squash on the side, which I steamed in the microwave and dressed with fresh garlic and olive oil. A good meal. Here's the evidence:

a lone kumquat at sunset. gorgeous.

the kumquats are like mini-oranges. the tiny slices killed me with cuteness.

and without further ado...the meal itself...