fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Thursday, July 22, 2010

what was that ingredient?

First think I thought of when I awoke this morning was "what the hell is long pepper?" Here is why:

Last night's Top Chef elimination challenge was exciting for the first time this season with an expectation to produce a great dish best served cold using uncommon ingredients. It even had a twist. During prep, the chefs were told to move to the station to their left and assume it's protein already being marinated, chopped and seared for the previous contestant. Finally, an interesting episode for this boring season. I was familiar with all but the duck testicles but frankly, I don't want to be familiar with them either. I loved watching the chef's faces as Padma ate them, however.

The losing dish was Tamesha's scallops which James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein described as "a tongue on top of your tongue." Not sure what that means, but wouldn't want to experience it. Apparently the scallops were over seasoned with long pepper. Each taster mentioned long pepper casually but unlike the duck testicles, no one said "long peppers are..." I googled and learned. While I googled, Foodie Buddha was crafting a delightful post with helpful descriptions of ingredients and preparations that many non-chefs may not know. Kismet I tell you.

Long pepper

Big Tree Farms who learned about these long forgotten peppers from locals describes them like this "The flavor of Balinese Long Pepper is deep and complex; simultaneously releasing an earthy pungency, a sweet hint of cardamom and nutmeg and the spicy heat of chili. The long peppers look like tiny cattails and once ground, roasted or simply snapped in two, they release an incredible floral bouquet." They do not respond to traditional farming techniques but instead choose to sprout where they will under the canopy of trees and along trails. Plucked from culinary obscurity, you can now buy them in these lovely boxes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Omnivore's 100

I thought I would get interactive with this fun blogger meme from Andrew at Very Good Taste. I originally saw it while reading the lovely From whence the sweet bird sang. Here's what I am to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
*a favorite of mine
2. Nettle tea
*easy enough to try stay tuned
3. Huevos rancheros
*not really a fan. rather have dippy eggs and bacon.
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (well, technically alligator but the same?)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
*I even know someone who lives on the stuff
8. Carp
9. Borscht
*best I ever had was a deconstructed version by Kevin Gillespie at Woodfire Grill
10. Baba ghanoush
love it but it makes me laugh when I order it. Schwarma is even more laughter inducing.
11. Calamari
*yum. I prefer the whole babies as opposed to the rings
12. Pho
*had duck Pho last week. gamey but good.
13. PB&J sandwich
*prefer blackberry jam
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
*yes and I think Atlanta needs more streetfood
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
*looked so benign at first glance. heavenly!
20. Pistachio ice cream
*I love
21. Heirloom tomatoes
*best thing on this list. nothing like a fresh, local, heirloom tomato
22. Fresh wild berries
*picked some from the vine this week
23. Foie gras
*feel guilty when people protest because it tastes so very good
24. Rice and beans
*best are always made with love from someone raised in Louisiana
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
*a professor grew them. Pretended they were not burning a hole in my tongue.
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
*love, love, love. raw on the half shell please
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
*love them until they burn my nostrils
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (had both but never this combo)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
*huge fan all ways except sweetened
35. Root beer float
*prefer just the rootbeer. Best is from a place where they rollerskate it to your car on a hot summer evening.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar had both but never together. have had martini and cigar)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
*grew my babies on it
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
*really love. Like it in Puerto Rico. Loved it in Jamaica. Dekalb Farmer's Market makes a mean curried goat
42. Whole insects
*probably have had but will do over for research sake
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
*raised on it
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
*yes but I cannot tell the difference
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
*love it
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
*not really a doughnut fan but love whe the "hot doughnuts" sign is on
50. Sea urchin
*so. very. disgusting.
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
*cannot believe I have never had one. very proud.
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
*Hendricks please. two olives. up.
58. Beer above 8% ABV
* :)
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
*why? taste like wax.
61. S’mores
*3 times last week even
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
*even caught my own before beer-battering them
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
*confused. These are not the same thing but I have had them all.
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantainsin
*twice this week
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
*food of the gods.
71. Gazpacho
*prefer warm soup. just saying.
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
*reminds me of packed lunches and childhood.
78. Snail
*good until you get a piece of sand. always do.
79. Lapsang souchong
*always in my pantry
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
*better than kobe beef
87. Goulash
*could eat every day
88. Flowers
*love them in salads
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
*pretty sure I have especially since I order from The Meadow so often
91. Spam
*I like it with mustard.
92. Soft shell crab
*incredibly delicious!
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
*like it with hotsauce
95. Mole poblano
*a favorite
96. Bagel and lox
*tasty goodness with capers
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
*really a vehicle
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
*first tried in Jamaica and brought home. very good.
100. Snake

Wow! I guess I am an adventurous foodie afterall. Now I am on a mission to try most of the rest.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

no fiddlehead?

Love these new bowls, platters and trivets from Crate and Barrel's Sprout collection. Fellow foragers will love them too. Wish they had one with fiddleheads. Click on the link to see the image of the radish and cress.

Friday, July 2, 2010

♥ and cohones!

Pura Vida always has ample free parking, a rarity in Atlanta when it comes to my favorite restaurants. On a balmy Friday evening as the sun was setting (think the start of a Top chef episode), we parked across the street and hit the crosswalk that leads right to the door. We were greeted with a smile and the percussion of Latin music. We danced our way to our table after returning a wave and a smile to chef/owner Hector Santiago. It is such an electric atmosphere. I have had a different server every visit and each has been friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, efficient and enthusiastic. I don't say this much.

We sat under the brown glass pendant lamps and noted the "rain" falling only behind one window. It must have been from chef Hector's pepper garden growing on the rooftop. I thought of those tasty peppers as I recalled Bon Appetit's 10 best roof to table restaurants list on which Pura Vida garnered a spot. I need to get another bottle of his hot sauce when I leave too.

We usually order a bottle of wine but this time we opted on a few signature drinks. The mojitos are outstanding! Ours had coconut rum, lots of muddled mint and a fresh quarter stalk of sugar cane. We also tried the mango lemonade. Rummy and mangoey as described. The bloody Maria, made with tequila instead of vodka was spicy and flavorful, a perfect match for our tapas.
On first inspection, I noticed many new items on the menu. Our server, Laura, noted that a new menu came out this week and it was "really exciting." We started with a couple of appetizers from the bar menu--a plate of beautiful serrano ham and a melon dish topped with fried jamon. Simple, sweet and salty.

Our tapas began arriving in a steady stream. Steaming coconut buns, a dish I always order, were mouth watering. I couldn't wait to taste the crispy pilon pork belly on the soft coconut pillows layered with cilantro, cabbage and a tamarind sauce. Heavenly. I love this dish especially because the tiny pickled Chile peppers come on the plate.

My mouth was happily on fire with the piquant peppers when my green papaya salad with king crab was laid before me. Great timing, as the cool, tart, crisp papaya with sweet fresh crab cooled my palate. Very tasty and refreshing. I tried on of the buenelos, puff filled with savory cheese as my table mates enjoyed empanadas with Hector's Diablo sauce and huge testones (Mayan fried plantains with chipotle honey and cilantro puree).

Our server came by to see how we were liking our dishes and we asked a few questions. She was so knowledgeable about the ingredients in each dish and drink. Even if she had not been so focused on our experience, the menu had a glossary of items that may be unfamiliar to the diner. I learned a few things on this particular evening.

The hangar steak pinchos with cilantro chimchurri sauce were a flavorsome bunch of juicy, tender meat on skewers rubbed with adobo caribe. They arrived hot. In fact, every dish came to our table hot and fresh. I noticed and appreciated as much just as I appreciated Hector's inventive and clever food prepared from local ingredients.

My apio dish was placed before me and with just a look I could tell it was going to be interesting--celery in many forms. This was my favorite of the night because by description and ingredients it was so unassuming. Crunchy celery and celery root puree gnocchi with a light sauce, layers of both flavors and textures showcases chef Hector's creativity.

Speaking of inventiveness, this incredible plate of Ahi tuna was a sight to behold. Cubes of bright tuna surrounded by lemon caviar, cilantro, a spicy aoli, coffee "dirt." I loved this playful dish for so many reasons.

A long, thin roja pizza was piping hot with roasted garlic tomato sauce and crumbles of Spanish chorizo. This would be a great option for kids but they would have to fight the adults at our table for a bite. We then shared the wahoo and chorizo skewers with banana mustard. Hot and tasty goodness with a rich, tangy sauce that seamed peculiar at first but paired perfectly. Last up, Lobster on polenta that was warm sweet and saucy.

Despite our many plates, we anticipated the dessert menu. I think we tried them all. House made ice creams tonight included guava ice cream that was buttery and peach-like in flavor, leche cream that was ice-milk yumminess and a nutty one that I never did ask about. It was the best one. The chocolate flan brulee was gone very quick as our spoons dove into it's warm, spicy chocolate middle and we ended with the chocolate tart. A perfect dark chocolate ending to a perfect dinner.

Chef hector came to our table for a visit. We chatted about the flavors, ingredients and his motto "heart and balls." His from the hip cooking with no rules, just experimental tastes makes for the best tapas in Atlanta. He is so very charming and so passionate about his craft. He told us how the Top Chef tour has been and about an upcoming demo at the Ohio State fair. He is also rather stoked about gastrotrek to Peru. He is ecstatic about the Mistura Gastronomic Festival which he described as "a foodie paradise where you can eat from one end to the other all day long" and still cannot taste everything. As the sun set we headed home discussing along the way our favorite hidden gems in each dish. Pura Vida never dissapoints.
Pura Vida on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Watermelon Lime Aqua Fresca

As the evening's sizzling summer heat set in, I headed to the local farm stand for a fresh watermelon. I have been making this sweet pleasure a few times a week. It is a crowd pleaser and gives on-the-spot cooling relief. It is pretty, delicious and healthful. Kids love it and adults can easily turn it into an adult beverage with the addition of a bit of tequila, rum or vodka.

1/2 a large, seedless watermelon cut into chunks
( I don't measure. I just filled up a really large bowl
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (5-6 limes. I use Persian limes.
squirt of honey (I use local Tupelo from Weeks Farm)
grated fresh ginger or a squeeze of Gourmet Garden squeeze ginger
ice cubes
lime wedges or fresh mint for garnish

Blend the watermelon chunks in batches.
You can strain if you like but watermelon isn't too pulpy.
Stir in lime juice, ginger and honey.
Fill glasses with ice and pour over.
Garnish with a lime wedge or sprig of mint and enjoy.