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Greek Lemon Chicken Soup (Avgolemeno)

October 28, 2013

The weather is getting cooler. A/C is being traded out for that burnt smell the first time you turn your heat on. Falling leaves. Halloween costumes. Bonfires. Boots. Scarves. Pumpkins. Pumpkin Spice. Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

None of these things really have much in common with this recipe, other than the fact that cooler weather means its soup season!

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Avgolemeno is a traditional  Greek soup with a beautiful fresh lemony broth. I fell in love with a version of it at Taziki’s, a Greek restaurant with a couple of outposts in Nashville – theirs being sans egg. What? Egg? In soup? “Not unless its Asian” you might say. I am happy to inform you that that is wrong, and this is delicious. The egg is tempered into a mixture of chicken broth and lemon juice and creates a creamy broth you would have otherwise only gotten from well, cream. In a word, its delightful. For me this soup has become what I crave when not feeling well. The lemon gives you that kick of vitamin C (and if you read this blog with any frequency you know I love lemon), and chicken soup is just nostalgic, wouldn’t ya say?

The second fantastic thing about this soup, after its relative deliciousness, is a) how easy it is to make and b) it is the bestest use of leftovers.

First of all, buy one of those whole rotisserie chickens from the grocery store. They are easily one of the best bargains in the place. $5-8 bucks for a whole chicken, already cooked? Sold. If you are cooking for 1, all the better – eat it for a meal or two, then shred up the rest and put it in the freezer. Then you have chicken to make this soup!

Next, rice.  Leftover rice works great here. Or make a pot while you pull the rest of the ingredients together. There isn’t much to this soup other than warming everything up and mixing it together, so if the broth bubbles a bit longer because your rice isn’t quite done, no big deal!

Seriously. Read the recipe. It’s too easy to not try at least once.

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GREEK LEMON CHICKEN SOUP

Servings: 4
Time: 20 minutes

2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups cooked rice (basmati or jasmine are great here, but any white rice will do)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 eggs
1 Tbs freshly chopped parsley
salt & pepper to taste

In a large pot bring broth to a simmer. Add chicken and allow to warm through. In a separate bowl, add lemon juice, eggs, salt & pepper. Whisk until combined. While whisking, slowly ladle 2 cups of the hot broth into the egg mixture, tempering the eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the broth and bring back to a simmer. Once thoroughly heated, spoon rice into the bottom of each serving bowl, then top with soup. Garnish with parsley and serve!

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Road Trip 2013 – Charleston & Beyond

October 6, 2013

Ah, Charleston. One of the finest cities in the south.

This city was not new to us, but after visiting the year prior we just had to make a trip back. Within the past handful of years Charleston has become the food mecca of the south, and I would challenge anyone to argue that. Charleston has become what I can only hope one day Nashville will also be.

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On our last trip we hit up the well known spots like Husk, McCradys and FIG so this time we wanted to check out some of the rest of what the city had to offer.  So, without further ado…

TWO BOROUGHS LARDER

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Two Boroughs Larder is a combo neighbordhood market and delicious restaurant. As a market they source an aray of locally made home products and grocery items. Jack Rudy cocktail mixes (and if you havent tried the Tonic, get in your car right now and go buy some), local pasta, eggs, meats, candles, totes, jars, water bottles and on and on. While it may be a pretty expensive little neighborhood market, its a great place to pick up a little something of Charleston to take home.

But the food, oh my the food. We could have probably eaten here our entire stay – and given that we only went for lunch we still made a pretty solid dent in the menu. The chalkboard hanging near the door brags about all the local and regional farms their source from, and that care comes through in their food.

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Fried Quail: Berbere, Pickled Apricot, Butter Crumbs, Herbs

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Pork Neck Sandwich: Fried Egg, Sambal, Pickled Carrot, Aioli, Herbs

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Veal Sweetbreads: Escarole, Tofu, Carrot, Quail Egg

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Bowl-o-Noodle: Pork Confit, Soft Egg, Pork Broth, House Noodles

A quick word to the wise – when planning your visit to the Lader, keep in mind they are closed Sunday and Monday – so plan accordingly! You will be sad if you missed it.

THE BAR at HUSK

Being that Nashville is now blessed with its own Husk outpost, we didn’t repeat a dinner here. However, we did pop in for a visit to the bar. The  bar at Husk is in a separate little building on the grounds of the main restaurant – and is the perfect place to pop in for a drink before or after dinner.

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In addition to some delicious whiskey’s (we asked where they were hiding the Pappy, but the bartender slyly changed the subject) and some great cocktails (including one called the Dream Weaver which was basically an alcoholic gazpacho) – they do have some bar snacks you can order. One such snack was a big ol’ leg of cured pork, which they ever so thinly sliced off and served on a charred barrel stave. A perfect American take on a Spanish tradition.

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HANK’S SEAFOOD

Given its costal status, seafood is a big part of the food spread in Charleston. You will find oysters on many a menu and delicious fish about anywhere you go – but if you are looking for a full blown seafood dinner, Hank’s would be my recommendation. Word on the street was that the other major well known seafood house in the city serves frozen fish from who knows where, but Hank’s gets it in fresh every day.

She crab soup is a very popular item in this part of the country, and I have to say that the bowl I had at Hank’s was the best I have ever tasted. In addition to the soup we went for a sampling of various small plates and appetizer, all of which were fantastic. Pardon the dark grainy photos, but you get the idea.

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Ceviche: Selection of Fish and Shellfish, Marinated in Lime Juice

w/ Cilantro, Jalapeno, Onion and Garlic with Jicama and Tomato

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Shellfish Cocktail w/ Lobster, Shrimp & Lump Crab in an Herbed Tomato Remoulade Sauce

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Fried Sweetbreads (do you sense a theme?) w/ a corn relish and pickled okra

THE ORDINARY

The Ordinary is a beautiful seafood restaurant set in an old bank on King Street. Recently a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant of 2013 they are a self described “Fancy Seafood, Oyster Hall, Tavern, Meeting Place”. The oysters are plentiful and deicious and one of their signature dishes, the seafood tower, is quite a site to behold.

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Pickled Shrimp w/ a selection of local vegetables

Full disclosure. This dish was so delicious we ordered it twice. Twice. Perfectly pickled shrimp with both pickled and fresh vegetables. Everything about it was perfectly tart and delicious.

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Heirloom Tomato Salad

SGT WHITE’S RESTAURANT  – Beaufort, SC

Post Charleston exploration we took a drive through Beaufort while on our way down to Savannah. It was a great little detour into a small waterside community – and finally a chance to get some authentic down home Southern cooking. Yelp did not lead us astray in our stop at Sgt White’s. Landing somewhere between bbq and meat & three it was everything we could have hoped for.

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Slow cooked ribs w/ butter beans, greens & cornbread. A true Southern feast

And last but certainly not least, I’ll leave you with some beyond adorable puppies that were just born at the AirBNB house we were staying at.

puppies

Road Trip 2013 – Asheville, NC

July 22, 2013

If you follow me on Twitter you probably know that we recently embarked on a Tour de Southeast road trip. Our wedding anniversary is in June, and we often find ourselves taking trips to celebrate – this year it just got delayed a bit in favor of the long July 4th weekend. Said road trip involved stops in Asheville, Charleston, Beaufort, Savannah and Atlanta and it was a wonderful getaway.

Asheville is a short 4 hours away from Nashville, and a perfect little get away. A great small town filled with local loving hippy types and more breweries than we could count. The folks in Asheville are fiercely proud of their city, and I can’t say that I blame them!

FOOD

CUCINA24

Cucina24 was the first dinner on our road trip and a great way to kick things off. It is an Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Asheville, and they take pride in making everything from scratch, even their cheese.

First up was our appetizer of house made burrata mozzarella with roasted carrots and cashews. Burrata is a type of mozzarella with a creamy gooey inside, and it was absolutely delicious paired with the veggies.

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Burrata Mozzarella, Slow Roasted Carrots, Cashews

Mr Good opted for a pizza topped with mushrooms, beats, greens, ricotta and carrot top pesto. I can’t say for certain because, well, we didn’t ask – but I am fairly confident in assuming they made the ricotta in house as well.

cucina24_pizzaPizze w/ Mushrooms, Beets & Greens, Ricotta, Carrot Top Pesto

And last, but certainly not least, I enjoyed the duck. Not pictured because, well, the photo doesn’t do it any justice. Perfectly cooked duck breast served over cauliflower, currants, raisins and pesto. Protein perfection.

CURATE

You say the word “tapas” and its a pretty safe bet that we will immediately be making reservations. Hate to spill the beans so early in this series, but Curate was one of the top meal of our trip. Why there is such a great tapas restaurant in the mountains of North Carolina is beyond me, but I ain’t complaining. Oh wait, the executive chef & her husband used to work at elBulli? Ok, cred earned, enough said.

What else do you start out with at a Spanish restaurant but a spread of thinly shaved cured meats.  From a slew of different charcuterie platers, we chose the Tabla de Embutidos Ibericos – a selection that included iberico de bellota lomo, cabercero, salchichon and chorizo; translation: delicious. Accompanied by pan con tomate (thick bread smeared with tomato) – it doesn’t get much more traditional than that.

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Tabla de Embutidos Ibericos

Another fond memory from our prior trip to Spain was this fried eggplant dish. I am normally not a fan of eggplant, but if you fry it and top it with something sweet its hard to say no (as with probably most anything..). This version was not topped with the yummy cheese, but was just as good – this time drizzled with wild mountain honey & rosemary.

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Berenjenas la Taberna

THE ABSOLUTE STAR of this dinner was the octopus. Few, if any, cultures treat the octopus with more respect than the Spaniards. The octopus was so tender I would have bet serious money that it was cooked sous vide – but alas it was not (good thing I passed on that bet)… if memory serves me correctly it is simply boiled. Whatever it was that they did, it was so tender it almost melted in your mouth. That is skill that only elBulli can teach you.

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Pulpo a la Gallega

Our next dish, piquollo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, jumped out at me for obvious reasons (read: goat cheese). However it was not exactly what we were hopping for. We were imaging something closer to the pedron peppers we love so much (which were, as it turned out, decidedly absent from this menu) – but none the less it was still quite the tasty snack.

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Pimientos de Piquillo con Queso de Cabra

And last, but certainly not least, another classic treat, Patatas Bravas. Perfectly fried chunks of potato topped with brava sauce (spicy tomato based sauce) and alioli. I realize it looks like ketchup and nacho cheese sauce, but trust me, it is not.  It is a fantastic treat on its own – but I can only imagine how satisfying it would be at the end of  a late night out.

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Patatas Bravas

OVER EASY CAFE

A perfect example of the local loving hippy vibe of Asheville, Over Easy Cafe is a great breakfast spot who is proud of where there ingredients come from and happy to serve you a delicious meal. Order everything from the classing breakfast staples like eggs benedict, omelets and oatmeal – to freshly made juices and locally roasted coffee.

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DRINK

BATTERY PARK BOOK EXCHANGE

Like to drink wine? Like a good book? Like to enjoy both at the same time? I am fully expecting that your answer is…. “duh!”. Battery Park Book Exchange is just a block or so north of the main downtown drag and it the embodiment of both of those fantastic pass times. A used book store stocked with over 22,000 books – plus a wine bar inside. As you wind through the store you will happen upon little seating areas which, at our visit, were filled with everything from intellectual couples to a bachelorette party. A perfect pitstop as you are wondering and exploring downtown, or for a glass of wine pre-dinner!

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VISIT

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THE BILTMORE

To go to Asheville and not visit the Biltmore would be a bit like going to Vatican City and not going to see the Sistine Chapel. It’s quite simply sacrilege. The grande estate built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 1800’s and remains the largest privately owned house in the US. If you are a fan Downton Abbey, it will be particularly interesting to you, having some “knowledge” of what it takes to run an estate such as this. Be forewarned – it’s not a cheap visit. Tickets top $50 per person, but purchasing them in advance will save you a bit of dough. And I highly recommend you shell out the extra cash and take the butlers tour – very cool behind the scenes look at running the house.

Fresh Harvest – a fresh alternative to the CSA

July 17, 2013

Nashville is blessed with many great farmers markets during the spring and summer, giving residents a chance to experience the local produce of the season. Many of the farms that participate in these farmers markets offer CSA subscriptions to sample their goods. The concept of the CSA, or community supported agriculture, is that you invest upfront in the farm of choice and you receive the bounty of the crop as the season progresses. Many farms offer half or full share, and most work out to be around $20-$30 per weekly, or bi-weekly, box. We have done several different vegetable CSA shares in the past and always been very happy with how its gone – it is a fantastic way to increase your intake of fresh vegetables, and also sample items you may not usually purchase. However, the problem most people find with CSA’s is that it is just a lot of food to handle, especially if you are a single individual or travel frequently. Fresh Harvest is a fantastic alternative to that.

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Fresh Harvest is a co-op started by 2 local farms, Drury Family Farm and Turnbull Creek Organic Farm. They joined forces to offer a subscription-based alternative to CSA’s and farmers markets. Both these farms, in addition to a handful of other farms that participate in co-op, sell all Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown produce. Meaning that while not all of the farms may go through the strict regulatory standards to be certified organic, it is still grown in the same manner. Not only do these farms offer a wide array of the fruit and vegetables currently in season, but they also some of the most beautiful flowers out there.551878_612934805387009_861250923_n

Every Sunday evening subscribers to their email list are sent a link to that week’s market. A quick visit to the website and you will find all of the veggies, fruit and flowers that will be ready for harvest that week. Place an order online, and pick up your bounty on Wednesday afternoons. These orders aren’t just limited to the harvest that these farms have to offer either. They have teamed up with other local artisans to bring you meat from Bear Creek & Wedge Oak Farms, cheese from Bloomy Rind, bread form Twin Forks, coffee from Bongo Java and sweets from Dozen Bakery. It takes all the pit stops you could make at a Saturday morning farmers market, and puts it at your digital fingertips. For those of you who can’t always make a trip to the farmers markets, or are looking for an alternative to the CSA where you get a little more say in the matter, I highly recommend you check out Fresh Harvest. To sign up for their email list visit http://freshharvest.locallygrown.net.

-This post was also featured in the Tennessean! Check it out here

**photos provided by Fresh Harvest**

Blistered Spanish Peppers

July 16, 2013

One of the most prolific trips we have taken in recent years was going to Spain with my family back in 2011. Not only was it a beautiful place to visit, with tons of history to explore, but the food was absolutely incredible. I could take on the Spanish way of eating and enjoying food in a heartbeat. Small plates, or tapas, lots of them, sharing with friends, long meals, good wine, and a siesta after.

Any time we find an authentic tapas restaurant these days, we have to visit (case and point, our recent trip to Asheville, post coming soon). One of our favorite things to find on tapas menus are Pedron Peppers. They are a sweet, mildly hot, pepper – lightly fried in olive oil and topped with crunchy sea salt. In Nashville, the closest thing we have found is a current appetizer at Tavern, the Shishito Peppers. Shishitos are a Japanese pepper, but prepared very much the same way, abliet perhaps with a little more kick.
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While this is a ridiculously easy snack to make, the hardest part is finding the actual peppers themselves (at least around Nashville). On our recent stop in Atlanta, we managed to find Twist Peppers, a hybrid cousin of the Shishito pepper. BINGO! These long, slightly ridged, peppers are as darn close to the real thing we have ever found. Slightly sweet, mild heat. So keep your eyes peeled for Padron, Shishito or Twist peppers next time you are at an international (or just plain well stocked) grocery store – and don’t pass them up when you find them. Oh, and call me and give me the scoop!

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BLISTERED SPANISH PEPPERS

Time: 15 minutes

Canola Oil
Padron, Shishito or Twist Peppers
Sea Salt

In a large skillet, pour 1/2 inch of oil. Heat on medium-high for several minutes – test the heat of the oil by inserting the tip of one pepper, when the oil begins to sizzle, add peppers. Cook until the skins are blistered and browned, flipping several times so they cook evenly – approximately 3-5 minutes. Carefully pull peppers from the oil, and drain momentarily on a paper towel. Transfer to a plate or bowl, sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy!

Almond Joy Biscotti

June 26, 2013

This past weekend I had the pleasure of joining together with several of my fellow Nashville Food Bloggers for a lesson in Food Styling. Whenever these folks get together you know there will be no shortage of delicious snacks and nerdy talk of camera lenses, editing software, farmers market finds and cooking ideas – and this morning was no exception. The class was taught the wonderful Teresa Blackburn who is lucky enough to do food styling for a living. Food styling is basically the concept and skill of setting up your food to be photographed. It can be as simple as how you arrange cookies on a plate, or as detailed as how you build a delicious looking salad (with a base of mashed potatoes if you were curious). Needless to say she made it look so insanely easy, and I wanted to run out to buy a million more props – but hopefully at the very least you will see some photographical improvement at Food.is.a.Good.thing!

As my contribution to our foodie buffet I created an Almond Joy Biscotti. Biscotti is something my mom used to always make and keep around the house, and it is the perfect morning coffee accompaniment. The whole double baking thing makes it seem alot more labor intensive, but its pretty simple. Plus this version is essential an Almond Joy chocolate bar that you get to dip in your coffee. Winning.

Oh, and I take no credit for this photo. The wonderful styling credit goes to the aforementioned skills of Teresa Blackburn and the fantastic photograph courtesy of the sweet (literally, I think sugar may pump through her veins) Lindsay at Love & Olive Oil. Did I mention I love our food blogging community?

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ALMOND JOY BISCOTTI

Servings: approx 20 pieces
Time: 1.5 hours, 30 minutes active

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick butter (8 Tbsp), melted
3 large eggs
1 cup whole, roasted almonds (non-salted), roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 egg white, beaten
1.5 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl combine the sugar, vanilla, butter and eggs – stirring with a whisk until well combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and add the chopped almonds and 1/3 cup of the coconut. Mix with a large wooden spoon until combined, and then form into a large ball. On a lightly floured surface, cut the ball in half. Gently form each half into a log and then press down or roll out until it is approximately 1/2 inch thick. Place on the cookie sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart. Brush the tops of the dough with egg white, and then bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once baked (for the first time) remove from the oven and place the logs on a cooking rack to cool completely (20-30 minutes). As ridiculous as it is, keep the oven on (or turn it off, but don’t forget to turn it back on about 10 minutes before the biscotti go back in the oven). Once cooled, cut the logs into 1/2 inch slices width wise. Place the slices back on the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for another 10 minutes. Flip pieces over and back for another 10 minutes or until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and let cool.

 When the biscotti has cooled for a 2nd time (can be as much as 2 days later) – its time to add the finishing touches. In a large shallow bowl, melt the chocolate (approx. 2 minutes in the microwave, but be sure to stop and stir every 30 seconds). Spread the remaining coconut out on a large plate. Gently dip the bottom of the biscotti in chocolate, then dip in the coconut. Lay chocolate side up back on the cookie sheet. Repeat until all biscotti are coated. Place cookie sheet in fridge to allow chocolate to harden. Then (finally!) make your self a cup of coffee, its time to eat!

Note: depending on the temperature and humidity of your location, you may need to keep these chocolate dipped suckers in the fridge as they do not get all melty on you (as they do in Nashville) – if you are so lucky that this is not an issue I envy you. 

In Search of Ramps

June 11, 2013

Apoligies as usual for the radio silence. We’ve got some fun things brewing over at Casa Bueno – but despite the relative quitness here, we are still cooking in full force!

In the meantime, check out my recent article in the Tennessean on the beautiful, fragrant, foragers favorite – the ramp!

ramps

Allium tricoccum. The wild leek. The ramp. Trendy restaurants love it, dedicated connoisseurs know all the right places to forage for it, and there are even festivals in its honor.

Ramps are wild onions that grow from the areas surrounding the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee to as far north as Canada and, along with the venerable asparagus, are one of nature’s first edible proofs that spring has arrived. They look much like a green onion, albeit with slightly wider leaves, and taste like the perfect marriage of garlic and onion.

For the rest of the article, and a delicious risotto recipe click here!

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