44 & X 5-8 Club Agave airline miles Al Forno alfajores Amber India Amy's Bread Arizona Biltmore resort & spa Arkansas Arlington National Cemetery Atlanta Baldoria balsamic vinegar banana bread Bannock Bar Centrale Bar LaGrassa BBQ Festival Ben's Chili Bowl Big Gay Ice Cream biscuit BLT Steak Bond 45 Bongo's Cuban Cafe butter butter tart ceviche cheese toast Chef Boyardee cherimoya chicken & dumplings chili chimichurri chips chocolate-banana bread Christmas Christmas Carol cilantro Citrus cookies Cooking Uptown cotton candy country fried steak crab crack pie cucumber salad dates Delta Denver Broncos deviled egg Disaronno Dish Elway's fall farmers market filet mignon Flank Steak Fontina cheese football Freedom Tower fries garden garlic ggarlic bread Ghostbusters Grinch Guest blog Halaal Harlee Hell's Kitchen Henry's Hi-Life High Tide Harry's Hilton Resort Holeman & Finch honey hot dog ice cream iPhone Iran Jake's Good Eats Jewel of the Desert Joe's Stone Crab John's Pizza Jucy Lucy Juicy Lucy Krispy Kreme lemon lemonade Lenny's lomo saltado Magnolia Bakery Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Mamaw Man v. Food Matt's meatballs meatloaf Mermaid Sundae Mia Dona Minetta Tavern Miraflores Mission American Kitchen & Bar Mollie Katzen Moosewood Momofuku Mooo Mr. K's mustard Nick's Family Diner NYC One Travel onions Osteria Al Doge Osteria Marco Papa John's Papaw Pappy's parsley pasta sauce Pellegrino pesto Peter Luger Pig Pickin' pizza potato toe Rao's Ray Ray Red Cat Red Eye Grill rhubarb ribs Rice Krispy treats Rioja Rosebud rosemary Salami Salsa Salty Pimp Salut Bar Americain Schnippers Sean's wedding Seasons 52 Shake Shack shrimp slog Sparks Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark squash casserole St. Louis steak STK Miami Strawberry Fields Swine Wine Table Mesa Tate's Bake Shop The Parker House The Radio City Christmas Spectacular The River Cottage thyme Times Square tomato salad tomato soup Torched Cherry Limeade travel Vesta Dipping Grill Victor's Cafe Wall Street Wildfire Wolfgang wontons XX Dinners Zelo

Love Hate Relationship with the Curing and Smoking Handbook from the River Cottage

Yes, I love this book.  I hate this book.  I'm torn between my emotions.  I hate this book, but oh so love it, because it makes me yearn for the ability to cure my own meat.  I LOVE lardo, bacon, prosciutto, guanciale, chorizo, salami.....a never ending list of cured and smoked meats.  And now, I have discovered, I am in desperate need of a butcher's saw, brinometer, a meat safe, thermo-hygrometer, salami nozzle for my kitchen aid, and a fridge in my garage, one in which I can control the temperature, humidity, and air circulation.  I think I am going to start with Lardo.  Based on my readings of this tomb of knowledge, I believe that I will be able to perform Lardo magic with just my fridge.  (Crazily enough, I have searched ALL over Charlotte, NC for Lardo....no one sells it and most haven't even heard of this heavenly fat...so I'm making it myself).

I just peaked into my fridge and I currently have six logs of salami.  All with various spice and various sweet flavorings.  All with various lengths as some have been sliced and nibbled much more than others.  I love any type of small-batch artisanal cured meats.  So perfect for a meat and cheese tray or my perfect lunch of an arugula and lemon juice salad with a few, or ten, slices of salami on the side.  

This book is genius; it informs the reader of the basics and walks the reader, in a detailed fashion, through each step in the curing and smoking process.  And, most importantly, it includes detailed photographs of each step.  Thus, why I believe....no, I know, that I can be successful in my quest for Lardo.  There is nothing like fresh asparagus that has been grilled and then draped with a succulent piece of Lardo. This book is one to be studied and savored.  This book of mine will have dog ears and stains and notes in the margins.  It may take me a while...as I sit writing this, it is 100 degrees in Charlotte and I need 50 degree weather to air dry my spicy salami!  But I am excited about my path; one that The River Cottage will guide me down.

Stick with me.  I will report back on my Lardo!


Getting a little heat in my life

Taste buds change ever-so-often, or so they say (don't ask me about 'they'....the professionals....I don't know...).  And I can attest to that my taste buds have changed.  Over the past five or six years, I have been constantly craving spicy foods.  The hubs and I always get our Thai food at the Thai hot level...can you imagine?   I love it!  I had always thought that if I ate something really spicy, that I would only taste the heat and not the food so what would be the point?  But, certain foods I think, taste better with a little heat.  Take Indian food - absolutely yummy with heat; even when the spice/heat takes my breath away and makes my eyes water uncontrollably.  So you know when I saw Salsas and Moles, I had to have it.  Mexican food is one of my favorite foods of all time....or really any type of Latin food is my favorite....

Salsas and Moles has wonderful recipes to enliven and heat-up your food!  The photos in the book made me want to try so many of the recipes.  And while I am not really one for moles (I have bad experiences with Moles), Deborah's mole recipes, while elaborate, are multi-step recipes that allows one to build the flavors of the mole.  The reader will be familiar with a few of these recipes; table salsas and taco salsas that are on the table at the local Mexican dive.That shouldn't distract anyone from making the salsas; the addition of the fresh juices brings a brightness to the recipes and allows them to pop!  

Be fore-warned!!  There are some crazy hot salsas in this book; take the Habanero salsa and the Evil Green Hot Sauce...gorgeous colors and extreme heat!  The Habanero salsa, I think, would be really good with the additional of either roasted pineapple or mango to offset some of the heat with a little bit of sweetness.  I haven't gotten that far yet...of bringing my little spin to the salsa....but I plan to....and I will report back.  These recipes lend themselves to your little additions; a great way to make the recipes your own.  Salsas and Moles is a great book for its recipes by the book or as a building block to make you a super-star of Mexican sauces!


Growing Tomorrow

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book!  This book is written by Forrest Pritchard and represents a farm to table journey in that Forrest visits 18 farmers from across the country.  I was sold on this book the minute that I began reading....you see, I am already an organic eater; the less processed a food is, the better.  I shop at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on the weekends and what I cannot get there, I buy at Whole Foods.  When necessary, there is a quick trip to the local Harris Teeter or Publix.  

This book is a must read.  Forrest draws the reader in with his melodious words.  Forrest tells the farmers' stories and draws you into their lives, their hopes and dreams for the future of our food culture.  This book also shows the importance of supporting local farmers as it speaks of the struggles that the farmers face as they follow their passion; a passion of creating food that is nourishing to our bodies and leaving the earth in better condition than what they found the earth in.  These farmers are not growing or raising organics for the fame or the money.  On the contrary,  many of these farmers have faced serious struggles and one mishap or force of nature could destroy their livilihood.  (A neat little necessary listing at the back of the book provides you with information on how to contact each farmers and obtain their products....which is a fabulous thing because I want to order so many things after reading how each farmer focuses on the nature and quality of their products)

This books takes you into the lives of dairy farmers, cattle, goat, and pig farmers, fruit and veggie farmers, cheese makers, bee keepers, mushroom farmers, and grain farmers.  Better yet, recipes are included at the end of each story and are based on each farmers' products.  I haven't made any of these recipes yet but I have so many flagged to make!  Lavender and Lemon Balm mint tea!  Blueberry Salsa! Cherry Clafoutis! Mustard-Braised pork shoulder with fried cornbread!  Orange-Honey drumsticks!  Peach soup! Braised Beef scaloppini! Blood Orange marmalade! Boiled Peanuts!!

There were two items that made me curious and perhaps these are tidbits that will be fixed before this book is published.  (I obtained a copy of this book prior to it being published for review purposes)  The dandelion salad from the honey bee chapter, which sounds great by the way, uses 1 cup of dandelion blossoms.  However, there is a note at the end of the recipe which tells the reader that "dandelions are a favorite for pollinators so think twice before removing them from your yard; instead, share them with the bees".  So, I'm sitting here thinking that these two items, the recipe and the note, really work against each other....either I make the salad and the honey bees loose out or I leave the blossoms for the honey bees and the recipe becomes a useless tidbit because I can no longer make the dandelion salad.  The second item relates to an information tidbit in the Ronneybrook Dairy Farm chapter that notes that Ronney's cows produce roughly ten gallons of milk every day.  This has got to be a misquote because 1) how do they supply their customers with milk, ice cream, yogurt, etc on ten gallons a day and 2) in the body of the chapter, Forrest writes of how the farm currently processes 300 gallons of milk an hour.  An easy fix!  These two items do not, in any way, take away from the magnificentness (yes, i used that word) of this book!  

I am ready for round two of this book! (and round  three, round four, round five...).  Seriously though, this is a great book, one that should be read and pondered and cooked from.  This book should have dog ears and splatters on its pages.  And with the many small farms around the country, there should be additional books from Forrest; it would be a shame not to.


BIG GAY Ice Cream!!!

My heart skipped a little beat when I saw that this book had finally been released....well, to tell the truth, I didn't know these guys were writing a book so I was esctatic when I came across this book.  Now I can get my Salty Pimp on!!!

I have wandered across the Big Gay Ice Cream truck twice in the City (NYC).  I love everything about this food truck.....the bright colorful truck, the bright colorful guys inside, and the silky smooth ice cream with exciting flavour combinations.  My absolute favorite is the Salty Pimp.  The Salty Pimp has vanilla ice cream, dulche de leche (which I would sell my brother for), and a chocolately/cinnamon-ey taste.  

Now(!!) with the Big Gay Ice Cream book, I can make the Salty Pimp anytime I want! So there!  Page 93 for all of you out there.  Buy the book.  Make the Salty Pimp.  If you make nothing else from the book, then then book has paid for itself.  But I don't want to stop there; the Ray-Ray Sundae looks divine (because I love figs) with a homemade fig sauce, pine nuts, and EVOO.  As you guessed, the sundae is named after Rachel Ray.  Fitting.  My only moment of disappointment when perusing the book late last night in bed with my yellow flags (yes, I am an accountant and yes, I use flags to mark pages for easy access) was coming across the Mermaid Sundae.  It sounds divine and I'd love to try it but there is no recipe for key lime curd.  I know that I can find a recipe easily for this or just substitute key lime juice and zest for lemons in my lemon curd recipe but guys, GUYS, why would you give the recipe for whipped cream and not the key lime curd???

The book is a fun read as it is written in the form of a yearbook (annual for those from Lexington, NC).  Bright colors, glossy pages, pictures that will make you want to dive into the back of your cabinet and pull out the ice cream maker, and oh-so-fun recipes!  The Big Gay Ice Cream book is for everyone to get their Salty Pimp on. Even for those ultra-conservative types.  I'm looking at you, X and Y.  


XX Dinners

Let me start out by saying that the photographs are amazing and inspiring and make me want to inch my way out of my comfy tufted-back arm chair to round up a couple of duck breasts for dinner.  And, I love the feel of this book….the “book-feel”.  The pages are somewhat hefty and have an ever-so-slight rough feel against your fingers.  Not glossy….at all.  It makes me think of how books must have been printed ages ago.  I love it – I love the design of this book.  Duck breasts aside, the physical nature of the book makes me want to curl up even more in that tufted-back arm chair so that I can bask in the enjoyment of reading this beautiful book.  This is the kind of cookbook that I can sink into and daydream of the endless possibilities; of having an entire day to cook at my pace and having no worries of getting food to the table; of spending the day cooking and sampling with friends and family.

The book is separated by the seasons and offers dinner menus for each season.  The recipes for fall and winter warmed my soul on this April night and made me wish for autumn leaves and picnics under a cloudless blue sky.  The spring and summer recipes made me jump for joy (figuratively) because I knew that these recipes would be right at home now in my kitchen.

I can never have too many recipes for the perfect roast chicken, should I decide to whip up a roast chicken.  I usually gravitate to Ina’s recipes in these instances but XX’s roast chicken recipe reads as if it would be super simple to prepare and super delicious to sample.  While there are some recipes here that I will shy away from simply because I detest the mouth-feel of mushrooms, I am looking forward to the maple panna cotta….I mean REALLY.  YUM.  The recipes are NOT complicated and, as such, pushes the reader to buy the best products available so that the food, in its simplicity, can shine.  These recipes speak for themselves…..good food is not complicated and is actually fun to prepare.  Oh, and there is this amazing recipe for charred applesauce…..