killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable


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A Few of My Favorite (Kitchen) Things

1. A new recipe. Confession #1: I easily get into cooking ruts. But last Saturday I unearthed an Everyday Food cookbook I hadn’t used in a while and decided to branch out. So I made this. (Scroll down for Lime-Marinated Flank Steak recipe.) sliced

2. This juicer. For only $20 you can have fresh squeezed citrus juice in seconds. Generally I am against buying appliances that are only good for one thing, but I am never sorry that I have this citrus juicer when I am making drinks or marinades. (Watch for sales. I swear I saw this thing at Kroger for $12.)
juicer

3. Microplanes. I have two. One for smaller zesting (lemon zest, garlic, ginger) and one for larger grating (hard cheeses, chocolate shavings). If you put one of these on your wedding registry, I WILL buy it for you. Heck, I might buy it for you anyway out of that tiny piece of goodness left in my heart.
microplane

4. Culinary treats from abroad. I purchased a cute jar of red pepper flakes while in Sorrento (which I didn’t know is known for their chili peppers) at Aromi di Sorrento, a spice shop off the beaten path. This is a fun thing to look for while traveling. I’ve picked up vanilla in Mexico, maple syrup in Canada, bacon in Knoxville … you get the picture. And speaking of picture, look at the difference!

red pepper

Kroger brand (left), the real Sorrento deal (right)

5. Le Creuset. This little roaster has become my favorite size around the kitchen. Clocking in at 8×11 3/4 inches and holding 2 1/2 quarts, it’s the perfect vessel for half a casserole recipe, a Thanksgiving side dish, or holding my marinating meat in case of any drips.
marinate
6. New skills. Confession #2: I don’t know how to grill. The fire scares me. Plus it’s already hot outside when you grill, so I know I’m gonna sweat, what with the blazing sun and the flames that you are reaching your hands into. Nevertheless, I feel this is a skill that it is beyond time I learn. So my brave neighbor Nate has agreed to teach me. And the first lesson didn’t go too badly, even if I did squeal like a small child when putting the meat on the hot, hot flames.
grilled

What are your kitchen essentials? I’m sure this post is just the first installment of many.

Lime-Marinated Flank Steak
Adapted from Everyday Foods
Serves 4

Juice of 4 limes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scallions (about 1/3 cup), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
Vegetable oil, for grates
Coarse salt and ground black pepper

  • In a resealable plastic bag, combine lime juice, soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, and red-pepper flakes. Add steak, and seal bag; marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour.
  • Heat grill to high; lightly oil grates. Remove steak from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Season with salt and black pepper. Place on grill and  cover.
  • Cook, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes (for medium-rare). Let rest 10 minutes before slicing thinly.
  • Serve with sides or on top of a salad.


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Zucchini with Zing

Remember that time I went to Italy and did nothing but eat amazing food? Yeah, I still miss that. I’m getting through this difficult time of mourning by cooking a little pasta here and there. This week I also tried my hand at zucchine scapece. I can’t say that I’ve perfected the dish I first had at Flavio Al Velavevodetto, but my attempt was so tasty that I sliced up another zucchini and made more.

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Zucchine alla Scapece (Zucchini finished in Vinegar)
Adapted from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita

1/3 cup (give or take) extra-virgin olive oil, for frying and seasoning
5 small zucchinis, thinly sliced
10 to 15 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, quartered
Splash white wine vinegar
Salt

  • Pour a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil into the bottom of a heavy frying pan. Warm over medium to medium-high heat. (Olive oil burns at a higher temperature than, say, vegetable oil, so be careful not to let it get too hot.) Gently place the zucchini in hot oil and fry until golden.
    hotoil
  • Drain zucchini on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.
    drain
  • Meanwhile place the mint leaves and garlic into a bowl. Add the fried zucchini and season with fresh extra-virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, and salt. Toss to coat.
    toss
  • If you can resist, allow to sit for about 15 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Taste for seasoning and remove garlic before serving.


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Dear Italy: A Photographic Love Letter to Seafood and Carbs

Just one week ago I was far, far away in a fairy-tale land. A place where eating pasta twice a day is not only accepted but expected. A land of corner cafes and breakfast pastries and gelato galore. A country that romanced me through fluffy carbs and fresh seafood, wooing me to never leave. Here’s the full story.

The Journey: Rome to Florence to Naples to Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi to Capri to Rome

The Journey: Rome to Florence to Naples to Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi to Capri to Rome. Whew.

In Florence taking in the views from a rooftop cafe

The Partner in Crime: Caroline and I in Florence taking in the views from a rooftop cafe.

My first lunch upon arriving in Rome: mixed seafood salad

My lunch upon arriving in Rome: the first of many mixed seafood salads. I gazed at some ancient fountain while I ate this. But you don’t care about seeing that, do you?

locals

Dinner that night was on my own. The hotel recommended a little trattoria around the corner called Antica Boheme. I was seated next to a table of six locals, only one of whom barely spoke English.

 But this man insisted that we communicate. He also insisted that I order the carbonara, so I did. And by the end of the night we were such good friends that they paid for my dinner. I love Italians.

It wasn’t this man, but he insisted that we communicate. He also insisted that I order the carbonara. So I did. By the end of the night we were such good friends that we were all sitting at the same table and they paid for my dinner. I love Italians.

First pasta in Italy: carbonara. The Italian version of bacon is much more like country ham, FYI.

After meeting up with Caroline in Florence, we had an epic dinner. Epic because I ate this entire pizza topped with prosciutto, arugula, and fresh mozzarella.

After meeting up with Caroline in Florence, we had an epic dinner. Epic because I ate this entire pizza topped with prosciutto, arugula, and fresh mozzarella.

And then I ate this entire tiramisù. I have no shame.

After a late night, we started the next day with coffees at Il Porcospino. One of the waiters has friends in Arkansas and even called the hogs for us. Small world.

Then he told me I would have the fried squash blossoms. So I did.

That night we had a traditional Tuscan meal at Trattoria Cibreo. AKA there was no pasta on the menu. But this sweet server steered us in the right direction. He also told us that he was once in love with a girl from Tennessee. How precious.

We started with the most amazing polenta I have ever eaten.

We started with the most incredible polenta I have ever eaten. It was creamy and oily and salty and cheesy. Just look at all that parmesan.

Then I had this pork chop that was stuffed with a  rosemary concoction. And those creamy potatoes were divine. DIVINE I tell you.

Then I had this pork chop that was stuffed with a rosemary concoction. And those creamy potatoes were divine. DIVINE I tell you. If you are ever in Florence, I highly recommend this little eatery.

The next day we were on to the Amalfi Coast. No place is more beautiful. This was taken in Positano, just a bus ride away from our hotel in Sorrento.

This day also happened to be Caroline's birthday, so we decided to celebrate with—what else—dinner. Ristorante Bagni Delfino started us off with the best bruschetta I've ever had. Seriously.

This day also happened to be Caroline’s birthday, so we decided to celebrate with—what else—dinner. Ristorante Bagni Delfino in Sorrento started us off with the best bruschetta I’ve ever had. Seriously.

My main course was a seafood risotto that was looking back at me, but I didn't mind.

My main course was a seafood risotto that was looking back at me, but I didn’t mind. I ate every bite.

We finished our meal as we watched the sunset into the sea.

We finished our meal watching the sunset into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The next day we stopped for lunch in Positano at Buca di Bacco. As we looked out onto the water, I enjoyed this homemade tube pasta with baby shrimps, walnuts, capers, and parmesan.

After lunch and shopping, we got on the bus to Amalfi. After much Trip Advisor searching, we decided to go to Gerry's Pub for dinner. It was a long bus ride to the top, but the views and Gerry were worth it.

After lunch and shopping, we got on the bus to Amalfi. Through much Trip Advisor research, we decided to go to Gerry’s Pub for dinner. It was a long bus ride to the top (and we almost got lost since the sweet little man we asked thought we said “cherries” and tried to take us to a fruit stand), but the views and Gerry himself were worth it.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I had homemade seafood pasta.

I had homemade seafood pasta.

And then a seafood salad because I was still hungry.

And then a seafood salad because I was still hungry.

Gerry really liked us. He played Kenny Rogers and sang "Ruby" to me.

Gerry really liked us. He played Kenny Rogers and sang “Ruby” when we told him we were from the south. Apparently we didn’t want to leave because we missed our bus. Luckily we caught the last one and headed back to Sorrento.

The Isle of Capri! And I ain't talking about a casino.

The next day we were off to the Isle of Capri! And I ain’t talking about some silly casino.

23capri

After a boat ride around the island, we had a caprese salad and this was our view.

Dinner was back on the mainland at La Fenice which Caroline had read made amazing gluten free pizza. So we went. And it was delicious. I started with the mussels.

Dinner was back on the mainland at La Fenice which Caroline had read made amazing gluten free pizza. So we went. And it was delicious. I started with mussels with garlic and parsley …

And ended with the gnocchi. Those fluffly pasta pillows were delightful.

… and ended with the gnocchi in a mozzarella and tomato sauce. Those fluffly pasta pillows were a delightful last bite of Sorrento.

Back in Rome we found our favorite restaurant, Flavio Al Velavevodetto. These servers, Simone and Sergio, made it great.

Back in Rome we found our favorite restaurant, Flavio Al Velavevodetto. These servers, Simone and Sergio, made our dinner an authentic Italian experience.

We started with zucchine scapece (marinated zucchine) which I am totally going to try to make. It was lightly fried and heavily flavored.

We started with zucchine scapece (marinated zucchini) which I am totally going to try to make. It was lightly fried and heavily flavored. I am always amazed at the way something so simple can be so good.

Then the pièce de résistance for me—handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta in a cherry tomato sauce. People, pasta in Italy does not get any better than this.

Then the pièce de résistance for me—handmade ravioli stuffed with ricotta in a cherry tomato sauce. People, pasta in Italy does not get any better than this.

I finished dinner with a creamy tiramisù.

I finished dinner with a creamy tiramisù.

Our last day in Rome included many sites and two unforgettable meals.

Our last day in Rome included many sites and two unforgettable meals.

After wandering around the Trastevere neighborhood, we stumbled on a quaint lunch spot. I started with yet another seafood salad.

After wandering around the Trastevere neighborhood, we stumbled on a quaint lunch spot. I started with yet another seafood salad. It was my last, but perhaps the best.

Next I polished off this plate of spagghetti cacio e pepe, which is essentially pasta with cheese, oil, and pepper. You could add something, but why would you want to?

Next I polished off this plate of spagghetti cacio e pepe, which is essentially pasta with pecorino, oil, and pepper. You could add something, but why would you want to?

A few hours later, we had seen some sights and were ready to eat again. But even with three maps on the table we couldn't figure out where to go for our last dinner in Rome.

A few hours later, we had seen some sights and were ready to eat again. But even with three maps on the table we couldn’t figure out where to go for our last dinner in Rome.

So we went back.

So we went back.

Since the menu changes daily, we had a completely different experience. But a wonderful one nonetheless. I enjoyed a hearty plate of seafood risotto.

Since the menu changes daily, we had a completely different experience. But a fantastic one nonetheless. I enjoyed a hearty plate of seafood risotto.

Followed by this chocolate torte.

Followed by this chocolate torte.

By the end of the night we had made friends with the table next to us and the entire staff. What a wonderful last supper.

By the end of the night we had made friends with the table next to us and the entire staff. What a wonderful last supper.

Ciao, Italy. Until we meet again!

Ciao, Italia. Until we meet again!


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Inspiration & One-Pot Pasta

blackberryfarm

At Blackberry Farm

Last weekend I seized the opportunity to attend the Southern Food Writing Conference in Knoxville, TN. Along with a full stomach (thanks to Blackberry Farm, Tupelo Honey Cafe, and Benton’s Bacon) and some new friends, I walked away with a head full of inspiration.

bentons

Allan Benton smokes a mean pig and is the kindest man you’ll ever meet.

I realized that I’ve gotten into a bit of a cooking rut, making the same three dishes each week and visiting my usual restaurants in between. It’s time to branch out! So here we go.

fullpot

A few weeks ago, I randomly got a Martha Stewart Living magazine in the mail and came across a recipe for one-post pasta. I was intrigued. You just cook everything in there together all at once. Could it really be so easy? I had to know.

skettiingredients

With the simplest ingredients that I already had in my kitchen, this dish magically cooked itself into a delicious pasta and sauce. The only thing left to add was salty parm.

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One-Pot Pasta
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Serves 2

6 ounces dried linguine (All I had was wheat spaghetti and it worked, but I think linguine would have been better. The spaghetti broke up quite a bit.)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
½ a yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large sprigs basil, plus more for garnish
2¼ cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

  • Place all ingredients (sans Parmesan) into a large pot.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
    magic
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lots of Parmesan cheese and basil leaf threads.


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Salt Lake City Eats

A couple weekends ago, I had the opportunity to explore Salt Lake City, UT. I could not get over how lovely the city was—the mountains, the architecture, the cleanliness, and (of course) the food.

View while driving

After touring the impressive (albeit a little eerie) Temple Square, Les Madeleines was the first stop on my culinary list. Every city guide I read mentioned this French patisserie café and their famous Kouing Aman (pronounced “Queen Aman”). Described to me as “a croissant’s hot, older sister,” the buttery, crunchy, flaky pastry did not disappoint. I was just in time, too—the shop ran out of them while I was munching on mine, and it wasn’t even 10:30 am. Several patrons left empty-handed and some call-in orders did not get filled. I, however, walked away in a dreamy sugar coma with cookies in my purse.

Kouing Aman

Lunch was much-needed after trekking about 5 million miles (you know, if I did the math right) to the 9th and 9th area—a cozy corner of neighborhood shops and restaurants. Mazza Middle Eastern Cuisine was the cool oasis I needed.

Personally, I’m not that familiar with this type of fare outside of falafel, tabbouleh, and hummus. But the menu included detailed descriptions and my server was super helpful in making selections. I opted for the sampler plate, which was an excellent way to try three dishes for only $10, and I chose well! Rich and creamy hummus, warm ful mudammas (a thick mash of fava and garbanzo beans), and muhamara, which was like a zesty, orange, Middle Eastern pesto paste made from ground up walnuts and lots of spices. Everything was served with warm pita bread and cool, crisp lettuce for dipping. This meal put me in a very happy place.

Clockwise from left: Muhamara, Hummus, Ful Mudammas

My final stop was Red Iguana, which turned out to be some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever eaten. And you know that’s saying something. Along with perfectly thin chips, smoky salsa, and chile con queso that looked like Rotel dip (not that there’s a thing wrong with that) but tasted even better, I got to test a mole sampler of seven unique flavors. One made with pumpkin seeds tasted like fall, another was thick and chocolaty, some were spicy, some were mild. The sampler was all over the place in a really good way, but I ended up opting for the Cochinita Pibil based on the server’s recommendation.

This Red Iguana signature dish was a huge hit with me. The tangy, tender, slow roasted pork had the texture of thick pot roast and was delightful wrapped in toasty flour tortillas.

All in all, Salt Lake City was beyond what I imagined. Not only was the setting exceptionally beautiful, but the food was so well-rounded. French, Middle Eastern, Mexican—who would’ve thought I’d experience such a cultural variety of cuisines in a place known for their conservative white people?