Saturday, September 29, 2007

Miss Saigon (the restaurant, not the theatrical production)

I still haven't really got the hang of this foodblogging thing. I have this tendency to dig into my food and get halfway in before I realize that I neglected to take a picture. Such is the case for a lovely Bibb lettuce salad I had at Green Hills Grille earlier this week. Note: the vegetarian menu there is separate from the main menu so you have to ask to see it. Frankly, I think they should have the vegetarian items on the main menu; even omnivores like to have fresh, healthy, meat-free meals once in a while.

I did, however remember to take pictures during yesterday's lunch with my friends, Emily and Tabitha. We went to my favorite local Vietnamese restaurant, Miss Saigon. Where the vegetarian section of the menu is thoughtfully placed on the very first page, directly underneath the appetizers.

Tabitha and I started off the meal with an order of vegetarian spring rolls. We were both ready to dig in, so I neglected to get a picture of them. But they're very large and filled with lettuce, vermicelli, shredded carrots and cucumbers, and shredded tofu. A note on the tofu: I don't know how they prepare it or where they get it, but it has the consistency (al dente, that is) of pork. So much so that the first few times I ordered the appetizer, I had lengthy discussions (okay, inquisitions) with the staff to make sure it was really tofu. They're delicious and at two for $2.75, a bargain. They come with a soy-sauce type dipping sauce which I have not yet asked about. There's no oiliness about it, so I'm hopeful it's vegetarian. I've been reluctant to ask, though.

For lunch, I ordered the tofu and vegetables with vermicelli (AKA #10). It's a bowl dish with layers of vegetables, the thin white rice noodles, tofu and some toppings. At the bottom is a layer of shredded lettuce and bean sprouts (both crunchy, not soggy), then a layer of vermicelli, and topped with shredded carrots, shredded cucumbers, chopped peanuts, the same shredded tofu that's in the spring rolls, what I think is carmelized onions (crispy and brown) and a garnish of chopped fresh mint leaves. It comes with a sauce that's similar to the spring roll dipping sauce, but I usually just use my leftover dipping sauce so that I don't have a soup in my bowl. This is one of my favorite dishes at this restaurant. It's light but also filling and very satisfying. And only $5.95!

Emily ordered the lemongrass tofu (AKA #12). She opted for the vermicelli, so it comes prepared in a similar way as the tofu in vegetables, with the key difference being the preparation of the tofu. Instead of shreds, it's sticks of tofu breaded and fried with essence of lemongrass, which gives it a citrusy and spicy kick that is very yummy. It also comes (as you can see) with large chunks of stir-fried onions and the same sauces at the #10. I highly recommend it, but note that it's a heavier dish than the #10.

Tabitha ordered crispy noodles with shrimp, so we won't talk about that. Except that to say that minus the dead crustaceans, looked quite yummy.

Getting to Miss Saigon can be an adventure if you don't know where you're going, too. It's in a shopping center that's not really visible from the road, so the best directions I can give to locals is that if you're driving west on Charlotte from White Bridge Road, stay in the left lane and right before it ends, turn left up the hill into the shopping center. Miss Saigon greets you as you crest the hill. And be sure to leave some time to stop in to the K & S World Market next door. They have an incredible selection of international foods and drinks (real Pepsi with sugar!) and an impressive produce section. Sometimes, the stench of the dying or dead seafood at the rear of the store is a little overpowering, so beware.

Update: Miss Saigon is closed on Tuesdays.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Baghali Polo

An update to my previous post on one of my favorite dishes, Persian green rice (baghali polo). My friend read the post and shared her recipe with me. She also clarified that baghali polo is the rice dish with dill and fava beans and sabzi polo is a rice dish that is prepared with a variety of herbs (including parsley, cilantro, dill, green onion stems or chives, and mint among many others) and is usually served with fish.

Here's the baghali polo recipe she sent:
First, prepare the rice.
• Soak rice in salted water for a few hours prior to cooking [check the rice package to determine amount you need; she uses brown basmati rice]
• Boil salted water in pot you are going to cook your rice [the amount of water doesn't need to be an exact amount since the rice won't be soaking up all of the water as is typical when you cook rice]
• Once water boils, drain previously soaking rice and add rice to boiling water
• Check in about 5 minutes, the consistency of the rice should be soft on the outside, but hard in the core/middle - I guess you could call it "Persian" al dente for rice. If rice kernel is soft, you have gone to far and rice will turn out mushy
• Drain rice and pour water from tap on top of rice and drain again
• In your pot, add 1 to 2 tablespoon of oil (canola, olive, enova, butter, etc...choose your fat). Also, add enough water to have it cover the bottom of the pot about 1/4". You can also use a saffron and water mixture instead of plain water (saffron-infused water prepared by grinding up saffron threads in hot water and left to infuse). Depending on how much saffron you add to the water, the saffron/water mixture can be burgundy to yellow in color. I prefer it on the burgundy side, which means more saffron. The combination used on the bottom of the rice pot can vary greatly. Optional: You can add potatoes in the bottom, or bread, onions, so you get that in the bottom in addition to the rice. [I prefer just rice and fava beans.]
• Add drained rice

To make the baghali polo, alternate dried dill [because it is stronger in flavor than fresh dill] and [cooked] fava beans [or lima beans] in between layers of rice. Then cook on medium heat for about 12 minutes and then on low for 45 minutes and then you should have tadeek (the crunchy rice on the bottom) and cooked rice.

When serving make sure you mix up the dill and fava beans and enjoy....

Reading the recipe makes it sound a little on the labor-intensive side for me, but it's very much worth the effort. It can be a main dish or side dish.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Potato, Potahto

I learned a tough lesson the other night. A lesson that I should have already learned at some point during the past never-you-mind how many years that I've been cooking for myself. That lesson: Yukon Gold potatoes are for mashing, not for baking.

You can look at the various types of potatoes and tell there are some differences, but it never really occurred to me how different they really are. That is, until I baked a hefty Yukon Gold potato for well over an hour and instead of getting a soft, fluffy inside, I was met with one tough potato. There's a reason why the labels on the bags of Russet potatoes say "baking potatoes." But I did not (and rarely do) want to make mashed potatoes and it's possible that my potato was beyond the point of no return after having been baked to death, so I ate it anyway. It wasn't good. So, for future references, The Food Network offers this explanation of potatoes. And what's good for what purpose.
Starchy potatoes have high starch and low water. Starchy potatoes are great for baking and French fries, and good as mashed potatoes. When cooked in water, they disintegrate but when cooked by dry heat, they become crumbly and fluffy. Russet Burbanks are a popular type of starchy potato. Often russets are called Idahos or Washingtons (these are not varieties, only the farm location). Starchy potatoes can also be purple, like Purple Peruvians.

All-purpose or chef's potatoes have medium starch and medium water. All-purpose potatoes are great in stews, soups, mashed potatoes or for roasting. When cooked, they are at once moist and fluffy: they keep most of their shape in soups and don't dry out when baked. All-purpose potatoes are white, like White Roses, although they are also yellow (Yukon Golds), red (Red Golds), and blue (All Blue). Some all-purpose potatoes are called Maines, Long Islands, and Delawares (again, not variety names, but only the location of the farm). Fingerling potatoes are long, oval-shaped potatoes that have not grown to full size.

Waxy potatoes have low starch and high water. These potatoes stay firm in liquids and moist when roasted. They are good for stews, roasting and potato salads. Waxy potatoes can have red or tan skin, and white, red or yellow flesh. Different varieties include Irish Cobblers, Red Bliss, All Reds, Ruby Crescents and Butterfingers.

By the way, new potatoes can be any texture or type of potato, as long as the potatoes are harvested when the potato plant is still alive and the potatoes skin is still so thin that it can be rubbed off easily. Nearly all new potatoes behave as if they are waxy; that is, they have a low starch and high water content. New potatoes are good roasted, boiled and steamed. Creamers are potatoes that are no bigger than 1-inch in diameter.

Note that it doesn't say "Don't bake a Yukon Gold potato." But I will. Roast it or mash it, but take it from me, don't bake it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

(Almost) A Vegan Day

I'm not a vegan, but I've been steadily reducing the amount of eggs and dairy I consume over the last seven years I've been a vegetarian. I still like to eat baked goods that contain eggs and still eat way too much cheese and butter. So I set out to have a vegan day on Saturday. For breakfast, I had my usual banana. For lunch, I decided to have a very unbalanced meal of raw peanuts and a McIntosh apple. And for dinner, Indian-ish food.

I was inpsired to have Indian food when I saw this More Than Tofu Indian Masala-flavored tofu at Wild Oats last week. I figured it would make a good substitute for the paneer/panir that I love to eat in Indian restaurants. So, for dinner, I cooked some jasmine rice (to which I added some cardamom and cloves while it was cooking) and made a main dish to go along with it.

And that's where my plans of veganism got off track. When I bought the Seeds of Change Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce, I didn't think to look at the ingredients (starting to see a pattern here with that?) because I just assumed a tomato sauce would not have dairy in it. Au contraire, there it is--heavy cream. Though there seems to be little of it since it's fairly far down on the list of ingredients. Nonetheless, I wasn't able to get through the day without consuming a dairy product. I should have gotten the Madras sauce instead.

But I decided to go ahead with my Indian food preparation. I browned slices of the tofu in a pan, then added the simmer sauce along with some thawed frozen green peas and a handful of currants. I cooked it all long enough to get hot, put it on the plate with the rice and garnished it with some fresh cilantro (popular in Indian food as well as Mexican and Vietnamese). Voilà!

It was good, but I don't think that the cream added anything valuable. Perhaps next time, I won't be so lazy and I'll make my own sauce.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mourning Food

I attended a visitation and funeral this week and it made me think a lot about the tradition of sending food over for the family of the deceased. Based on my personal experience (I have, at this point, very few close living relatives), I believe that the practice arose out from ensuring that the family eats decent food during the initial time of mourning. When a loved one passes, there's a lot of work to do and preparing a large meal or even going out to dinner can be a very daunting task.

As such, guidelines for funeral food seem to be:
• "Comfort" food (i.e., tastes good but isn't good for you) and typically homemade.
• Food that can be eaten hot or cold or is easy to re-heat.
• Food that will usually keep for at least a week or so.
• Food that can be eaten easily and quickly.

You also take the food to the member of the family you're closest to unless they request otherwise. And if there's a daytime visitation at a funeral home that has a kitchen area, it's a nice idea to take some food there as well, particularly for long visitations. Friends and relatives brought food to the funeral home for my grandmother's visitation and I remember being very grateful. There's little time to think about eating and it's nice to have a good excuse to take a break for a little while to eat some pimiento cheese sandwiches and homemade cookies.

A lot of funeral food isn't very vegetarian-friendly and is even less so when you live in the south as I do. This week, I saw the staples of sliced ham (which fits all of the above criteria), roast beef, and chicken spaghetti. Several people brought dishes of vegetables, but as is de rigeur in the south, the green beans were seasoned with ham. Luckily for me, there was creamed corn and my favorite, lima beans. I can eat my weight in beans. And desserts! There was pie, cake, fruit salad, and more. One dessert item I recognized immediately from its wonderful smell. Dump Cake. It looks like cobbler, but the crust is actually cake mix. It's an easy dessert and very delicious.

Dump Cake
• 1 box cake mix
• 2 cans pie filling
• 1 (or 1-1/2) stick of butter

Dump the pie filling in a 9 x 13 pan, sprinkle the cake mix evenly over the top. Cover cake mix thin slices of butter (the more completely you cover the cake mix, the more uniform the "crust" will look). Bake for one hour (until brown) at 350. The original version I had was cherry with white cake mix. The one we had Wednesday was peach with white. I've also made it with apple pie filling and mixed cinnamon and pecans into the cake mix (very good) and used chocolate cake mix with cherry pie filling. Use your favorite filling and favorite cake mix--there's really no way to go wrong.

But the big surprise I saw was Ritz Pineapple Casserole, a dish my cousin, Terri makes for every family gathering (she's also known for her peppermint bark). It's essentially a mix of pineapple, shredded cheddar cheese, and crumbled Ritz crackers. It doesn't sound good, but it is. And it doesn't really sound all that unhealthy and fattening, but it most certainly is.

Ritz Pineapple Casserole
• 2 20 ounce cans of chunk or tidbit pineapple, drained
• 1/2 cup flour
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
• 1 sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed
• 1 stick of butter

Place pineapple in a 9 x 13 or comparable baking dish. Mix together flour and sugar and sprinkle over the pineapple. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top and then add the layer of crackers on top of that. Slice the butter and place evenly over the layer of crackers (does not need to cover the crackers completely). Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes. Baked longer if you prefer the cheese to be very melted, but Terri's casserole usually has the shredded cheddar still pretty much intact. Can be served hot or cold.

I used to eat tons of that casserole every time we had a family gathering until I found out what all was in it. It's not exactly low-calorie. But it is comfort food, which apparently is defined as having a high sugar, carbohydrate, and fat content. Ah, why must food that is bad for you taste so good?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Several times, I have asked my mom if there's anything she's wanted from the produce stand I usually visit. She lives three hours from here, but when I go back to visit, I like to take a little something with me. She's growing her own tomatoes (and doesn't have the squirrel problems I've had) and hasn't needed much else she couldn't get at home except peanuts. That is, locally-grown raw peanuts.

Most people don't eat raw peanuts; they're either roasted or if you're in the deep south, boiled (no thanks). So when I read this post over at the Nashville Scene's Bites Blog and saw "peanuts," I got excited because I've not been able to find them at my usual produce place.

When I walked up and asked where the peanuts were, though the very nice guy manning the stand said, "You mean peanuts for squirrels?" Thinking that well, yes I do eat rabbit food but generally not squirrel food (unless you count tomatoes) and wondering if there was a difference between squirrel-grade peanuts and human-grade peanuts (hey, I'm not a farmer; I don't know), I asked "Are those peanuts only good for squirrels?" He replied, no, they were for humans, too but they were raw so most people have been buying them for squirrels. I told him I've already been feeding the squirrels against my will with my tomatoes and these peanuts were for me, not for squirrels. I taste-tested a couple before I bought them, though. Oh, yeah, these were Lesley-grade peanuts.

As my mother explained (and I was able to confirm), the raw peanuts you buy in the grocery generally come from Mexico. They're bigger peanuts, but usually only two to a pod, with pink or tan skins and fairly bland. Tennessee peanuts (or, in this case, southern Kentucky peanuts) are smaller, but come three or four nuts to a pod, have dark red skin and are much more flavorful. I had some grocery store peanuts in the pantry, so I did a side-by-side comparison.

You can really see the difference and side by side, I could really taste the difference. The Kentucky-grown peanuts were very flavorful and the skins weren't so dry they got caught in my throat since they've been harvested recently. So I recommend buying some southern-grown raw peanuts in the shell the next time you're in the market for a tasty snack to keep around the house. But I recommend eating them instead of wasting them on tree rats.

Non-Local Food

One of the biggest trends amongst environmentalists and foodies is the pursuit of local food--food from within a 100-mile radius of your home. While I consider myself a very environmentally conscious person, it's just not something I can get behind. I have a banana every day and bananas come from faraway tropical lands, not from the farms of Tennessee. Though I do buy other produce locally when I can. But even the local produce stand goes beyond the 100-mile border to bring us these lovely babies. Gala and McIntosh apples brought in from Michigan. If the intersection of Highway 100 and the Natchez Trace Parkway is local to you, I recommend stopping by to get yourself some apples. They've got early "winter" squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and others), pumpkins and other gourds as well.

And if you're wondering why I haven't been posting about what I've been eating...well, let's just say I've been raiding the freezer more than I'd really like to admit. And tater tots really shouldn't count as dinner, but hey, they're vegan so there's that.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Since I had a less-than-yummy dinner the night before, last night I decided to bust open that can of tomato sauce and make myself a pizza.

First things first. You've got to have a good crust. I like mine very thin and crispy and though I'm sure I could go to lots of trouble making one from scratch, I don't becase Weisenberger's Mill makes an excllent pizza crust mix for less than one dollar. I prepare as directed and let it sit for half an hour as suggested.

Once it's ready, I oil up my hands with a bit of olive oil and spread the dough out on re-usable parchment paper (more economical and versatile in the long run--see link on the side menu to purchase). As I said, I like mine very thin and crispy, so this can take some time. Then I spread a very light amount of tomato sauce on the crust. For the sauce, I use organic tomato sauce and add some chopped garlic, Italian seasonings, salt, fresh ground pepper and dried rosemary (because I love rosemary).

After the sauce, I sprinkle on a small amount of Sargento shredded mozzarella (I keep it in the freezer for pizza nights) and then the toppings. Last night, I carmelized some onions (sauteed in butter over medium heat until brown) for the first layer, added thinly-sliced Roma tomatoes, sprinkled on a little more cheese and then topped it off with some fresh sliced baby portobella mushrooms.

Once that's done, it's ready to go in the oven, preheated to 500 degrees. Here's where some other essential tools come in. I've made this pizza on a cookie sheet, but to get the crispy crust, a pizza stone is a necessity (it should be preheating in the oven; I keep mine in the oven full-time). Even if you like a thicker, chewier crust, the pizza stone ensures that the crust gets as cooked as it should before your toppings get charred.

To make life easier, pull the rack out from the oven to place the pizza on the stone instead of trying to squeeze into a 500 degree oven. This may seem obvious to some, but not for those who are a little inexperienced around the kitchen (or frequently absent-minded like myself). And to make life even easier, get yourself a pizza peel. Those are those long-handled wood implements you see pizza chefs use to pull the pies out of the ovens. I just have a small metal peel (which is easy to store) and it works great. Trust me, no spatula can do the job on getting a pizza in and out of a very hot oven.

After 9-10 minutes in the oven, you've got a pizza that's almost as good as any pizzeria (certainly better than most of the pizza joints in Nashville). And you can use your pizza wheel to slice the pizza right on the reusable parchment paper--it won't cut it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You can't win them all

If you ask a great photographer how to get a great shot, most likely they'll tell you to take lots of pictures. It's not just about practice, but about volume. For every one good photo, even a great photographer takes probably a hundred or more that aren't good at all.

I try to keep that in mind not just when I take pictures, but when I try new things in the kitchen. Though I can't help but be very disappointed when something doesn't taste as good as I'd hoped.

First, the list from yesterday: a banana and piece of 100% whole wheat toast (with organic butter), a salad (and bread) for lunch, and enchiladas for dinner. And, okay, yeah, a couple of handfuls of Ghirardelli chocolate chips for an afternoon snack instead of the fruit that is likely now rotting in the refrigerator. One can only be so healthy.

I decided to experiment with the filling for the enchiladas. I sauteed some chopped squash, zucchini and frozen corn, mixed it with some salsa and placed it, along with some slices of cheddar and monterey jack cheese, into three corn tortillas. I topped them with more salsa and placed them in the oven for 10 minutes at 365 degrees. Since this was a mini-meal, I didn't really want to break open a can of tomato sauce. I thought I could just put a little extra salsa on top of the enchiladas and sprinkle some shredded cheese and it would be just as good. Heck, I like my tortillas crispy on top, so I thought it might even be better this way.

I was wrong. Apparently, the tomato sauce adds an essential flavor to the dish that salsa just couldn't replicate. The enchiladas looked really good, but really didn't taste all that good. So, the lesson of the day (which in its written form seems fairly obvious): don't make enchiladas without tomato sauce.

To add injury to insult, the extra salsa was a little more pepper-y and onion-y and acidic than my semi-healed ulcerated stomach was willing to put up with, particularly after eating chocolate and tomatoes earlier in the day. So I've been up since 3:30am. Should've taken my Aciphex before bed. This was a job that was too tough for Rolaids.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Yesterday, I got back on the wagon of my healthy greens-and-whole-grains diet. A banana for breakfast, my favorite salad for lunch, and a Gardenburger for dinner.

Mondays are yoga days and since I had a salad for lunch, I knew I'd want to eat an early, pre-yoga dinner. Yoga starts at 7:15, so I needed to eat around 4:30. Because you're not supposed to do yoga on a full stomach. Though I can tell you that doing yoga while you have gas is not great fun, either.

Now gas isn't much of a topic of conversation for most people, but it is among vegetarians and vegans because carbohydrates cause more gas in the digestive tract than proteins because they're broken down more completely (and you therefore get more health benefits from them). Beano can frequently be found near the checkout at most natural food supermarkets for a reason (though not all forms are vegetarian--check the label). But we shouldn't really need it. See, the problem for most of us isn't what we eat as much as how we eat.

A lot of people don't realize that what goes on inside your mouth is a very important part of the digestive process. If you chew your food completely (anywhere from twenty to forty chews per bite), the food breaks down inside your mouth rather than inside your digestive tract, thereby reducing the amount of gas produced. A nice side effect is that you're more satisfied and eat less. Chewing more is one of several things, but the most important one that you can do to reduce gas. If you have problems with gas, try any or all of these things to reduce belching and flatulence:

• Eat more slowly

• Take smaller bites

• Don't talk and eat/drink at the same time--taking in air while you're eating or drinking introduces air into the digestive system. And it has to be expelled somehow. Even chewing gum will make you take in air. Though a lot of times, this will just result in belching rather than flatulence (which is nowhere near as big a problem in yoga). And keep your mouth closed while you eat.

• Chew your food until it's pulverized. Digest it as much as you can inside your mouth. You'll enjoy it more, too (though all bets are off with broccoli; if I could just open a chute into my stomach to bypass all tastebuds, that's how I'd eat broccoli).

If you do all of these things and still have a problem, you might investigate a little more into what you eat. Diet foods contain a lot of indigestible sugars that cause a lot of gas (I avoid maltitol at all costs) and some people have lactose intolerance that produces gas. Try avoiding foods with these ingredients and see if your gas is reduced. Because unless you're Le Petomane, you probably would like to have less flatus in your life.

Ref. Wikipedia: Flatulence and Burping.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


At some point, I do intend to cook for myself again. Really. The extent of my cooking yesterday was a piece of toast. In my defense, it was only meant to tide me over until I could get to the Greek Fest. I didn't want to waste valuable real estate in my gut on an actual meal.

This Greek Fest was a little larger and had more food than the Greek Fest I'm accustomed to in my old neighborhood in Memphis, but apparently cannot compare to the Greek Festivals held in my two friends' hometown of Detroit. I've never felt the need to visit Detroit, but if by some grace of God, the Greek Festival and the Polish Festival were held at the same time, I'd have to go. Anyhoo, despite rain and it being around 4pm when we got there, it was fairly crowded. I even saw some Nashville-area blogger friends: Linda and her son, J.J., Jag and husband, Hutchmo and wife (sounds like a tv show, no?), and David, Malia and family. Where there's good, cheap food, you'll find bloggers.

I'd already seen on the website that their dolmades (stuffed grape leaves also known as dolmas, dolmadhes, dolmathes or even dolmeh, depending on which Mediterranean or Middle Eastern country you're from) were vegetarian. Depending on the ethnicity of the cook, dolmades are frequently stuffed with meat instead of just rice and a pine nuts (my favorite preparation; here's a dolmathes recipe that's close to what I prefer), so I was pleased to see that I'd be able to have some. I also got some tiropita (and some to go) as well as two (yes, two) orders of saganaki. Opa!

Notice the lack of photos accompanying the previous paragraph. I was so giddy with excitement to dig in (and eat my saganaki before it cooled off too much), that I didn't get any pictures. But! Fortunately, I was able to get some pictures of a few of the desserts we got. Obviously, I took the photos while we were digging in ("Wait! I need to take a picture!"). The desserts. Oh boy. There was an incredible selection of pastries and cookies available, so we got a couple of combo packs which included several variations on baklava. Here's what we got:

• Loukoumades (pictured above, right) - honey dipped pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar. Imagine a funnel cake's taste and texture concentrated in a small ball the size of a donut hole. And then drizzled in honey and powdered sugar. Delicious, but I could only eat one. It was rich.
• Baklava (pictured at left) and its friends saragli (pictured on the right side of the tray), kataiffi (pictured--looks like a large Shredded Wheat) and flogeres, which is baklava drizzled with chocolate and my new favorite dessert (and not pictured before it was experienced--experienced, not just enjoyed)
• Kourabiedes - shortbread cookie sprinkled with confectioner's sugar (pictured). A lot like a wedding cookie and very good.
• Koulourakia - butter cookies (pictured in a twist)
• Melamakarona - a "spice" cookie drenched in honey and walnuts. We decided that the spice was mostly allspice or nutmeg. Tasty.
• Diples (pictured at right) - Rolled and fried dough, dipped in honey and sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts. I bought a big ol' diples, but discovered that I didn't care for it. I probably would have liked it had my palate not been spoiled with sugary goodness as this dessert is nowhere near as sweet and rich as the baklava variations. Not to worry; I found it a loving home.

Today, I finished off the leftover baklava as well as a very generous helping of tiropita and then cheated and just had some pasta for dinner. Tomorrow, I need to start eating home.

Friday, September 7, 2007


After getting my fill of fiber and leftovers yesterday, I decided to head out for both lunch and dinner today. I still started the day with a banana and watermelon, though. The cantaloupe remains in the refrigerator, however. I ate so much of it as a child that it's hard to get really excited about it. Though when your choices are cantaloupe and broccoli, you choose the cantaloupe even if you have to eat half a melon at a time. Boy, could my mom take the fun out of any food.

Knowing that I was going out to dinner as well, I convinced my friend to have a light lunch of sushi. I had a salad, avocado roll and what they (at Sushiyobi) call a "green roll," which is avocado, cucumber and asparagus topped with seaweed. It was really very tasty and though a little pricey for vegetables, it was large and well-presented.

But dinner. I last ate at Mirror about three years ago because my usual dining companion doesn't care for the restaurant. The dining room is small and rather cramped as well as fairly noisy. But I was pleased tonight to see that they have a patio (which I don't recall from three years ago). The weather was perfect for dining al fresco and it was nowhere near as noisy and cramped (festive?) as inside. I was pleased to see potato crisps drizzled with truffle oil on the menu still. I'd had them on my visit before and they were good enough to stick in my memory. The truffle oil gives the potato chips a nice earthy kick.

I had trouble deciding on another dish...there was a special of creamy cucumber soup, but I opted instead to go with the fried goat cheese salad (pardon, goat cheese cake) with mushroom ragout over mesclun greens. It was a fairly large plate, but I still saved room for dessert which was an apple cake dish with vanilla ice cream. It was good, albeit a bit sweet even for me and my large sweet tooth. It was the caramel sauce--not just overly sweet, but a little too rich. For perspective, I needed to eat it with the ice cream to balance it out. I couldn't even finish it. It's a rare moment when food is left on a plate at the end of a meal, particularly if it's dessert.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed tonight's dinner, I'm counting down the moments to Greek Fest tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I am still working my way through the large number of covered bowls in the refrigerator leftover from the weekend. It's all good stuff, but I fear that so much of it will go bad before I can eat it. It's a typical problem for people who live alone, I suppose and a reason why so many of us eat from a can, a freezer, or a restaurant.

A survey of what's in the fridge that needs to be consumed very quickly:
• Half a seedless watermelon (small, fortunately)
• An almost too-ripe whole cantaloupe
• Spanish rice
• Fresh cilantro (I will eat this cilantro somehow!)
• Rice pilaf
• Parts of a sweet onion, two zucchinis and two crookneck squashes
• Baby portobello mushrooms
• Fruit cocktail (leftover from making the sangria--might toss this out for the rabbits)
• A chunk of mild cheddar and a chunk of monterey jack cheese (that will start to mold in about a week...maybe I could freeze it)
• Two partial cartons of eggs (which I don't eat, but my frequent houseguest does)
• Champagne grapes (these suckers are too expensive to waste)
• Baby romaine lettuce (I don't remember the last time lettuce went bad in my refrigerator!)

You see what I'm faced with. Lots of good food and not enough time or energy to eat it all. I could spend all weekend eating this food, but there's simply no way I'm going to miss The Greek Festival. I mean, flaming cheese and vegetarian dolmades! And more pastries than my gut can hold. Yum.

Until then, it looks like I might be having grapes and cantaloupe for lunch and watermelon for dinner. Oh boy, that's a lot of fiber.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas

UPDATE: Revised recipe here.

I'm not a chef. I'm going to get that out of the way right now. Most of the food I prepare is really easy and isn't very complicated with regard to the amount of ingredients and so forth. And I frequently make food that seems like it's more complicated that it really needs to be. Enchiladas are a good example.

I only recently decided I like enchiladas because I stumbled upon Amy's Kitchen Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas at the grocery. I was feeling adventurous, so I tried them out. Like everything by Amy's I've tried, they were excellent, though I couldn't help but think to myself, "Hey, I can make these!" So, I did. And here's my very simple recipe:

• Corn tortillas--for two people, I usually use five when served with a side dish and I use corn because it's a whole grain and really enhances the taste
• Organic black beans (about 1/3-1/2 can for two people)
• frozen corn, heated (about half a cup)
• salsa
• mild (soft) cheddar cheese and/or monterey jack cheese
• one 8 oz. can of organic tomato sauce (I don't bother to use enchilada sauce)

Here's the thing about corn tortillas--they're often difficult to work with unless they're really fresh because they'll fall apart rather than roll up. I just usually break the two sides over and preten that they're rolled to avoid a mental breakdown. Anyhoo, put a corn tortilla in a glass baking dish (to the size/number of enchiladas you make--I use a dish smaller than 9 x 13--it's more like 6 x 10). Make sure it's all the way to one side and put a couple of thin (1/8-1/4 inch) slices of cheese in the middle, longways. Then spoon in the beans, corn and a little salsa (I like to mix all three ingredients in a bowl first) and add a couple of more slices of cheese. Fold over the sides and lay a slice of cheese on top. Repeat until you've filled the dish (mine holds five) and then pour the tomato sauce over the top. Stick them in the oven at 350 degrees and heat until the cheese is melted. I also like to leave some of the tortillas uncovered by the sauce so they get crunchy in the oven. Garnish with some fresh cilantro at the table if you prefer (I do).

And that's it. Simple, but good (at least that's what my hungry friends have told me). We had these for dinner Saturday night with some spanish rice (still working on that) and sangria.

Ah yes, sangria. Another delight that tends to get far more complicated than it should. But here's my simple recipe that never fails (unless I make the mistake of switching out ingredients, as I did recently):
•1 box cheap red wine (box = 3 bottles). Cheapest you can find. I've used a cabernet, a merlot, or whatever is cheap. I prefer a burgundy or cab as the base.
•1 2L bottle of ginger ale
•1 big can of fruit cocktail (I think it's 26 or 32 ounces and I use the "lite" version with extra cherries)

Mix all three in a big punch bowl. If you want to be fancy, float some very thinly sliced oranges or lemons on top. To make a smaller amount, use just one bottle of wine, a can of ginger ale and about 8 ounces of fruit cocktail.

See how simple that is? It's so simple that I know it doesn't sound great, but I promise you it will be better than any sangria you've ever had. Promise.

And it must be that time of year, because two other bloggers have posted enchilada recipes as well. Check out The Vivacious Vegan's version and Eden in the Kitchen.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Corn on the Cob

I learned a tough lesson this weekend. "Tough" being the operative word.

Last week, when I went to the produce stand, I picked up four ears of "Peaches and Cream" variety fresh corn on the cob with intentions of grilling and eating it over the weekend. Mistake #1: Never buy fresh corn on the cob if you don't plan on eating it within 24 hours.

When I got the corn home, I cleaned it up a bit and set it out on the counter. Mistake #2: if you can't eat it within 24 hours, do not remove the outer husks and immediately put it into the refrigerator.

After a couple of days, I saw that the kernels were shriveling a bit. I thought to myself, "Oh, they'll just rehydrate when I soak them in preparation for grilling." Mistake #3: Corn is a grain, but it ain't rice. It does not rehydrate.

So guess what I didn't have for dinner last night? You got it--delicious, sweet corn on the cob. Y'see, as soon as corn is picked, the sugar starts converting into starch. Every tick of the clock results in corn that is less sweet and less juicy.

What I'd intended to do was soak my corn for a few hours, stick it in the oven for about 15 minutes and then throw it on the grill to get a couple of charred spots (and some smoky flavor). It's worked before (but I'd always cooked it the day I bought it). It simply didn't occur to me that it couldn't wait until the weekend. If you plan to cook corn on the cob yourself, I suggest reading this guide to buying and cooking corn on the cob, which should be particularly helpful if you have to purchase your corn at the grocery store instead of a farmer's market or country produce stand.