Archive | July, 2008

Carbo Loading Farmers Market Style

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On Sunday, I did my first triathlon in three years. Don’t worry, I had no illusions about winning – just in it to finish, which I did in the time I wanted and injury free. Yea!

My friend Eddie asked me what I was going to eat the night before and I really wasn’t sure. I knew I was going to have pasta, but didn’t have a plan for what to do with it. I bought a variety of vegetables and figured I’d wing it. Then, I came home to do some chores and put on a recorded episode of Jaime Oliver’s show Jaime at Home. I started taping it because the show centers around him cooking things he(or his gardener) has grown. This week the episode was about zucchini. Score! I always have zucchini.

Jaime’s last recipe was a zucchini carbonara and I decided it was perfect. He had a lighter recipe than some carbonara’s, but it still had a great rich taste. I substituted the penne with whole wheat penne and used less cream.

Jaime Oliver’s Beautiful Corgette (Zucchini) Carbonara Recipe
Serves 4

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 medium green and yellow courgettes
500g penne
4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
100ml double cream
2 good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil
12 thick slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into chunky lardoons
a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme)
optional: a few courgette flowers

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgettes at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.

To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.

Heat a very large frying pan (a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.

It’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)

Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any courgette flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.

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A New Twist on Burger Night

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The Downtown Austin farmers market was bustling this morning. There were tomatoes, peaches and at least five different types of melons. It was a melon extravaganza. It was hard to pass up anything because it all looked so good.

I however, was on a mission. I have been craving a burger lately, but I have a triathlon next week so I’m also very conscious of what I’m eating right now. It’s amazing what having to race will do to your willingness to put something bad in your body.

So, this morning I decided to compromise and make a portobello mushroom burger. I’ve made these many times, but I was looking for a new twist and I found it on (of course). They had a mushroom burger with a pesto, but the twist is that the pesto contains dijon. It was delicious!

I’ve also been craving some leafy greens so I cooked up some swiss chard. Again, I was going to stick to my standard (sauteed with garlic in olive oil), but decided to check Epicurious first and, again, it did not disappoint. I found a swiss chard with chick peas. I love chick peas and am always looking for a new way to cook them. The chard and the chick peas were great, particularly with the tomato and lemon mixed in. Those Armenians, the culture epicurious credits the recipe to, know a thing or two about their swiss chard.

Portobello Mushroom Burgers with Basil-Mustard Sauce
Bon Appetit, July 1995

Brushed with garlic oil, grilled over the fire and stacked onto crusty buns with plenty of burger trimmings, portobellos are this season’s snazziest alternative sandwich filling.
Servings: Serves 6.

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup shopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 1/2 cups mesquite wood chips, soaked in cold water 1 hour (optional)
6 4- to 5-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms, stems removed
6 3 1/2- to 4-inch-diameter whole-grain hamburger buns, split
6 large romaine lettuce leaves6 large tomato slices

Mix first 4 ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk olive oil and garlic in another small bowl.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). When coals turn white, drain chips, if using, and scatter over coals. When wood chips begin to smoke, brush mushroom caps on both sides with garlic oil.

Season with salt and pepper. Grill mushrooms until tender and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to platter; cover with foil to keep warm. Grill cut side of hamburger buns until light golden, about 2 minutes.

Place bottom half of hamburger bun on each plate. Top each with 1 mushroom, then 1 lettuce leaf and 1 tomato slice. Spoon some basil-mustard sauce over tomato and top with bun. Pass remaining basil-mustard sauce separately.

Chick-Peas and Swiss Chard
Gourmet, September 1999

Pairing chick-peas and Swiss chard is nothing new—Armenians have been doing it for generations. But with great tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon, this quick vegetable stew is as fresh as summer. If you can’t find Swiss chard, spinach is an authentic substitute.
Serves 2.

Active time: 20 min. Start to finish: 20 min.

1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil1 small tomato, cut into
1/4-inch dice
1 cup rinsed canned chick-peas
1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add tomato and chick-peas and cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add Swiss chard and cook, covered, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

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If I fry it, will he eat a vegetable? Fried Okra

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This last weekend, I kept my niece (2 yrs) and nephew (6 1/2 years) so that my sister and brother-in-law could celebrate their 11th anniversary in style, Vegas style. We had a blast, but I have to admit that I got a bit frustrated at meal time.

The kids are kind of picky eaters but not in similar ways – she doesn’t eat much meat but likes vegetables and he will eat the meat, but not the veggies. You would think they compliment each other, but they don’t and in general they just aren’t that interested in food. So meal times were a bit of struggle and, I know that I’m supposed to just let them go hungry if they won’t eat what I gave them, but apparently that gene of reason was removed when I became an aunt.

Anyway, we went to the farmers market on Saturday morning and we bought some cucumbers, which they both love, and some veggies for me. As a long shot, I also bought some okra. My nephew used to love fried okra, but I hadn’t seen him eat it in a while. I decided it was worth the risk.

You may have noticed from the blog that in general, I don’t fry a lot. It is, of course, not the healthiest way to eat the veggies so I usually skip those recipes. But if my nephew would eat a deep fried veggie, then the oil was coming out of the cupboard.

For Sunday night dinner, I pulled out the big pot and warmed up the oil. I got out the buttermilk and cornmeal and away we fried. And, guess what? He ate the okra!

Woo hoo! Score one for Aunt Kiki. Of course my niece didn’t, but we’ll tackle that another day….

Aunt Kiki’s Fried Okra

I learned to fry okra from my dad and he liked it pretty simple. Since I was cooking for the kids, I used salt and pepper for the spice. If I’m cooking for adults, I’ll throw some cayenne into the mix.

1 lb okra, rinsed and cut into bite size pieces
1 pint buttermilk
2 cups cornmeal
salt, pepper and other spices as desired

Warm the oil in a big pot or fryer to about 350 degrees. I fill the pot to about 1/2 way. You have to make sure the oil is hot. I usually put it on the stove at medium heat for a while until I’m sure it’s good and hot. If the oil isn’t hot then you’ll get clumpy, soggy, bad okra.

Put the buttermilk in a medium-sized bowl. Place the cornmeal and spices in another medium bowl. Adjust the spices as necessary.

Dunk the okra in the buttermilk and then dredge it through the cornmeal. Toss it in the fryer and cook until golden brown. You will probably need to cook in batches unless you have a big fryer. Remove the okra from the fryer and let it drain on paper towels.

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Farmers Market on the Road: Cherry Creek Fresh Market in Denver

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I’m in Denver this week celebrating the 4th of July with friends (Jason, Lindy & Avery). They were generous enough to feed my farmers market “jones” by getting up early this morning to explore the nearby Cherry Creek Fresh Market. Like the Sunset Valley Farmers Market in Austin, the Cherry Creek market has some local produce vendors, but has many more vendors of local prepared foods and goods.

There was a bounty of local produce. It was exciting to see spinach, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower and salad greens that have long since passed their season in Austin. There were plenty of summer crops like squash and tomatoes, as well as gorgeous apricots and cherries.

The Cherry Creek market also has vendors for locally raised beef, pork and bison. The smell of roasted green peppers from the hopper filled the market and made me hungry for green chili stew. There were stands full of beautiful breads and pastries, tortillas made on the spot and homemade tamales.

The market offers a wide choice of treats for breakfast or lunch with everything from hamburgers to gyros to potstickers (we had the Chicken Basil dumplings with Lime Soy sauce at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival the night before and they were delicious!) to crepes. We had breakfast crepes and they were amazing. Lindy had a Fruit & Creme crepe (strawberry, banana & whipped creme), Jason had a Cordon Bleu crepe with an egg (chicken, ham, cheese and vidalia onion sauce) and I had a veggie crepe with an egg. They were so good!

We didn’t buy a lot since they had hit the grocery earlier in the week, but Lindy got a fine looking bag of bing cherries and some beautiful tomatoes for our burgers tonight. I treated myself to a big bag of Orange flavored granola from Two Turtles Granola ( It is now my 2nd favorite granola, next to Jake’s Cranberry Pistachio Granola.

The Cherry Creek Fresh Market was a very fun way to spend a Saturday morning in Denver. (Pictures will be posted as soon as I get home and can download them.)

P.S. If you like arts festivals, the Cherry Creek Art Festival in Denver is worth the trek. We saw wonderful art that ran the spectrum: contemporary, traditional, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics – you name it. The music and food are great too.

Some of our favorite artists:

James Aarons – beautiful ceramic bowls, plates and wall installations
Jim C. Brown – digital photography on plaster – gorgeous
Chase DeForest – very novel baskets and furniture made from garden hoses
John Harris – paintings and prints so detailed that they look like photographs – love the water paintings
Owen Mortenson – – gorgeous art made from leaves and flowers – not too “nature-y” even though it might sound like it
Kreg Yingst – Linocut prints of various artists and musical styles. I fell in love with the Johnny Cash and Stevie Ray Vaughn prints

And if you haven’t been to Denver lately, you should come for a visit. This city has something to offer everyone from nature enthusiast to art lover. I had a great time exploring downtown. I spent 2 hours in the Tattered Cover (one of the best independent bookstores in the US – next to BookPeople, of course), had a great time at the Denver Art Museum, and exploring the shops and restaurants in Larimer Square.

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