Monday, July 30, 2012

Leftover Potato Wedges

Remember that leftover oil mixture that I put into Tupperware from when I made the LemonOregano Potatoes? That's okay, I didn't really expect you to.

I also had some leftover potato wedges from KFC in the fridge, and as I have said before, I don't like leftover fries or wedges, or really anything like that. I also hate throwing away food, thus I decided to fry the potato wedges in the leftover lemon, oregano, oil concoction.

I guess their time in the fridge had dehydrated the potato wedges enough to completely absorb the oil, making the wedges incredibly oily and I think were left to cook too long, so they got really crispy. Crispy like chips. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of lemon flavor left in the mixture (somehow), so the flavor was not as lemony as I was hoping for. The oregano was a tasty addition, though.

Although I do like the refrying of fries thing, I wonder if next time I should reconstitute them by just baking them. Perhaps it would be less oily. Also, I definitely need to add fresh lemon juice. I used to dislike lemon juice that didn't come accompanied with alcohol, sour mix, or plain old sugar-water. But after my month of exploring Greek cooking, I've learned lemon juice with food can be quite delicious. And the last recipe combining potatoes and lemon juice was nice and tasty.

I guess the next doggy bag of leftover fries that I bring home is a wealth of new possibilities. (It's possibly depressing how often this happens.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Casserole

One of my coworkers has a very abundant garden. He seems to be the only one since our customers have been complaining for weeks about how their gardens are failing, and the state of crops in this country is less than stellar. Good on him! Anyway, since he and his wife can't eat everything they're growing, he's been bringing in bags and bags of zucchini and yellow squash twice the size (or more) of the ones we sell at our store.

Over the last few weeks, I've collected two zucchini and four yellow squash. I finally got the time to make something with them this past weekend. Despite scrounging the apartment for 30 minutes or so, I couldn't find my recipe book that has a recipe for zucchini and yellow squash, so I decided to make something up myself.

First, I sliced up two yellow squash and one zucchini, and placed the slices into my largest glass casserole dish. There happened to be some fresh garlic sitting on my counter, so I took two cloves, chopped them up, and tossed those into the casserole dish, too. After drizzling on some canola oil, I stirred the veggies with the large plastic spoon that I pretty much use for everything.

Next came the spices! I ground on some Himalayan pink salt, then dashes of black pepper, followed by a generous sprinkling of dried oregano and parsley. Since the lemon juice on the previous potato casserole had worked out so well, I decided to sprinkle some lemon juice over the vegetables, too.

With my trusty plastic spoon, I stirred the veggies once again in an attempt to spread the spices and the lemon juice around. Then I filled the pan with 1/3 of water and put it in the oven at 400 degrees F. I set the timer for 45 minutes, and when it went off, I stirred the pan of veggies and stuck it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

I made this dish for game night, but sadly became ill and had to send the zucchini and yellow squash casserole with my roommate Kimmy while I stayed at home. She reported back that they were quite tasty and even she liked them (she is not often adventurous when it comes to food, so this is, indeed, praise).

There are leftovers in my fridge, so I will just have to see how well they reheat. Also, there are still two yellow squash and a zucchini sitting on my counter, so I can always make more.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cooking With Herbs

I recently came across a book entitled Deliciously Easy Vegetables With Herbs by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good. It's really more like an extended pamphlet with only 32 pages and a stapled binding. It was also only $3.50, and since I've been on a continuous search to not only find new ways of preparing vegetables, but how to make use of the herbs in my spice cabinet, this book seemed tailored for me and I bought it. It's actually part of a series called Deliciously Easy Recipes With Herbs that I think may worth further exploration, but anyway, this is where I started.

It was difficult to narrow down all the choices since I had a surprising number of the ingredients on hand. In the end, Lemon Oregano Potatoes won out because I still have a ton of potatoes sitting on top of my fridge, and a few of them have already turned moldy. Also, I had plenty of lemon juice and oregano, the other two main ingredients.

The recipe calls for 4 lbs of chunked and peeled potatoes. Since I didn't know how much 4 lbs of potatoes was, and I wasn't planning on cooking for anyone beyond myself, I just used 4 good sized russet potatoes. The actual first step is to spread the bottom of a baking dish with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, which I happily did.

Next, after the potatoes were chunked, of course (and I tend to leave the skins on rather than peel them away since most of the nutrients in a potato are found in its skin), I poured the potatoes into a bowl with 5 teaspoons dried oregano, a ½ cup of lemon juice, another ½ cup of canola oil (the only oil I had on hand; the recipe calls for olive or any vegetable oil), and a few dashes of salt and pepper. After coating the potatoes thoroughly in the mixture and realizing that I probably didn't need that much for only 4 potatoes, I emptied the contents of the bowl into the baking dish with the butter on the bottom. I then poured in tap water until the pan was about 1/3 full.

Baked at 400 degrees F, it took about an hour for the potatoes to be golden and cooked thoroughly through. The recipe says 45 minutes, so if you try this yourself, start at 45 and go from there.

There was definitely too much liquid when the potatoes were finished, so I drained the remainder into a Tupperware to use later on something else. The potatoes were really quite tasty. Maybe a little too lemony since I'd used too much, but still I liked the flavor! And next time I know to use less. The combination of lemon, oregano, and oil was spot on, and finding something new to do with the mountain of potatoes on top of my fridge was very satisfying. Definitely something I could use for a large gathering, like a picnic. Or game night. Whatever.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Greenfield Village and the Eagle Tavern

If you are ever in or around Dearborn, MI (hometown of Rima Fakih, Miss USA 2010), you might be tempted to drop by the Henry Ford (museum) and Greenfield Village. If you do, I have a great recommendation for where to eat: the Eagle Tavern.

The Eagle Tavern is located within an old stagecoach stop that was brought to Greenfield Village as part of its quest to preserve American history. Living history. There are no electric lights in the tavern, just a few candles on each table, so it's not a bad idea to get a spot by one of the windows. My compatriots who had brought me there indicated that it is sometimes difficult to read the menu when sitting at an interior table.

Foodwise, the menu has only a few, albeit delicious, offerings of old world America. I ordered the beef roast, which came covered in a wonderfully flavorful gravy alongside chunks of tasty fried potatoes and yellow squash and zucchini that had most likely been grown right there in the village, which has a working farm. My boyfriend Greg ordered some kind of sausage and gravy dish that he said had a little too much breading, but the gravy was good, and he doesn't usually like gravy. Another friend, who works at the village and became our personal tour guide, ordered chicken with a cherry sauce that looked quite wonderful, and had really tempted me. As most people who know me already know, I tend to opt for the chicken option at most dining experiences, but I have not had roast beef in many years, so I couldn't not order it, and I was very delighted by my choice.

When you order an entree, you are given a basket of various breads and muffins, a dish of churned butter, a dish of jam, a shallow bowl of salt, and two kinds of pickles. For us, there was a dish of sweet pickles, which I don't like, and another of pickled blackeyed peas, which I really liked a lot. My friends said that the last time they were there, they received something else in place of the beans. Perhaps it is seasonal.

The coolest thing, in my opinion, about the Eagle Tavern is not the historical atmosphere nor the wonderful food. The drink menu is off the hook. Both sides of the menu are filled with their libation offerings. Greg and I ordered sarsaparillas, which we had never had before and ended up really liking, and another party member ordered a shandygaff, a small ceramic tankard of a half ale half ginger ale brew that I liked when I tried it, but I am uncertain if I could have finished the whole thing as it was quite gingery. I am anxious to return to the Eagle Tavern to try many of their drinks! I think I could really sit there all day ordering a new beverage every time the server stopped by.

Point of interest: the sarsaparillas come with noodle straws that are not period, but a nice touch. Period straws would be made of things like lead which is poisonous and could not be used today.

We were so full and satisfied by the glorious meal that we didn't opt for dessert – and there were some pretty tempting options, I must say – though we did end up picking up some candy sticks from a little period shop nearby. There is also a candy store that sells some mighty fine frozen lemonade, and another place that sells cones of frozen custard, the creamiest of the frozen dairy options that seems to be unique to the Midwest.

If you are at all interested in history, and especially historical foods and libations, you owe it to yourself to drop by the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. You will not go away hungry.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chicken With Fig Butter and Balsamic Vinegar

I was recently recommended a chicken recipe by a coworker who makes some pretty wonderful food. She marinated chicken breasts in a fig butter and balsamic vinegar mixture. I happened to have plenty of both fig butter and balsamic vinegar on hand, plus an unopened bag of pre-cut chicken breasts (they were on sale at Meijer) that needed to be cooked into something. I decided to cook the chunks of chicken in the butter-vinegar mixture rather than simply marinate, which takes longer and more planning ahead on my part.

First, I cleaned out my larger fry pan. Then I poured in some canola oil to give me a base to start heating up the pan over medium heat. To this I added a few tablespoons of fig butter, then some splashes of balsamic vinegar. As this heated, the fig butter melted and blended with the vinegar. It smelled wonderful. I then added perhaps 1.5 breasts worth of frozen chicken chunks, covered the pan, and let it sit and cook.

While that was going, I cleaned out the rest of a box of brown 5 minute rice from my cupboard that had been sitting there since I don't know when. It came to about half a cup of dry rice, so about one serving once cooked. I thought the chicken chunks over rice would be a good combination. For a vegetable side, I heated up some frozen veggies that had been sitting in the freezer longer than the chicken had been. Just something simple with butter and a little garlic salt, a pretty standard combination for this household.

The liquid got a little built-up in the pan with the chicken, so I left the lid off the last few minutes of cooking to try to evaporate it away. The sauce thickened quite nicely, and there was plenty to drizzle over the rice.

Oh. My. God. This dish was f@$&ing delicious!! And it had no preptime, and cooked up nice and quick. Deliiiciooous. I cannot stress that enough. The sweetness of the fig butter with the slightly sour balsamic vinegar was the perfect blend of flavors. I have to say, I think I prefer the pre-cut chunks of chicken breast over the breasts themselves or the tenders. There's less shrinkage. Lots of companies tend to plump their chicken with salt water to make the pieces seem bigger, but all that water cooks away and leaves you with some disappointing results. (There's no way I could say that without sexual innuendos.)

If you are wondering where to find this mysterious fig butter, the only answer I have for you is Trader Joe's. I am sure other places carry it, perhaps even your local farmers market, but mine came from Trader Joe's. Fig butter is a very interesting substance that also goes great on toast or in a peanut butter sandwich since it is very fruit preserve-esque and bears no real resemblance to butter at all. (Think apple butter, a more common variety of fruit butter.)

There you have it, not only something different to do with fig butter (you know, in case you needed that), but a new way to cook chicken! I know I am always open to that. Maybe next up, I will try something similar with mango butter. The possibilities are endless.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Eastern Market For Real

As I mentioned before, Eastern Market in Detroit is open on Tuesdays during the summer starting in July. I just happened to have the majority of this previous Tuesday off, so my boyfriend Greg and I headed over. It took is about two hours to get there because I didn't have my GPS, Greg hasn't printed out directions, and he refused to stop and ask somewhere. I eventually used Google maps on my phone and found the nearest highway interchange to the market, which was enough for Greg to get us there at last. (My phone is very slow and not terribly sophisticated, and Google maps insists on treating it like a computer, so the phone generally ends up freezing whenever I try to use the maps for directions. It is incredibly frustrating. Getting directions is one of the main reasons I even have internet on my phone!)

Usually, Eastern Market is huge and spreads across a large area beneath six what they call sheds. The sheds are basically large coverings without walls so the stalls and tables are in the shade. On Tuesdays, only one shed is used, but the market is still bustling. Before we arrived, Greg had expressed disappointment that Eastern Market isn't exclusively Michigan produce and products, but Tuesday seems to be local day since everything I saw was labeled “Michigan grown” and “made in Michigan.”

There was a stall selling a really tasty barbecue sauce that I might have bought had I actually had any money, a few jam and jelly places, tons of fresh produce, including cabbages bigger than my head and plus-sized baby bok choy. The plethora of kale was supremely tempting. The table selling all grass-fed cow's cheeses was not so tempting. I feel bad saying this, but I do not like grass fed cow's cheese. It tastes funny to me. There is a grass-fed organic New Zealand cheddar at work that I just cannot eat. This particular booth specialized in gouda, which was even worse. The texture was creamy and wonderful, but the taste... I just don't like grass-fed cheeses.

Parked along the outer edge of the shed were food trucks, trolleys, and tables. My favorite crepes place, Good Girls Go To Paris, located by the Detroit Institute of Art, was represented, as well as a pirogi place, a Mexican truck, and a tiny trolley specializing in mac 'n cheese and french fries called the Mac Shack. Greg and I decided on mac 'n cheese for lunch. He ordered something that involved bacon, and mine was called the I-80, mac 'n cheese covered in gravy, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and a fried egg. It was delicious! I tried, but could not finish it all, so I took half home for leftovers. (My poor fridge is filled with leftovers.) I washed it down with a can of Faygo red pop, probably the official Detroit beverage. (Faygo is, anyway. Not necessarily their red pop.)
After lunch, we headed over to the shops that surround the market and are located in permanent buildings. First was Greg's favorite, the Rocky Peanut Company. They sell lots of bulk items from candy to spices. Up front by the counter were those horrible suckers with real bugs inside. I have nothing against eating bugs, but I don't want their little legs and wings getting caught in my intestines, as I have been repeatedly told is a distinct possibility and can cause problems. I have enough food problems. Next, we headed next door to a place Greg had never been, but they promised us chocolate, so we had to check it out. It was small, and their popcorn was okay, but other than that, nothing caught our eyes.

I would liketo return to the Eastern Market when all of its sheds are jampacked with stuff, but I have no idea when that will be possible. Not this year, most assuredly, with my new work schedule between my two jobs. It's supposed to be a fairly active place with different themes on different days, so maybe I can make it back again on a weekday when something else is going on. (And maybe pigs will grow wings and circle the moon. Eh bien.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Afternoon Delight

After I moved to Ann Arbor from San Francisco, I went to the library and took out some books on the local area to find out what there was to do here. (The internet isn't always the best resource on such vague subject matter.) One travel book I found centered itself on Detroit, but stretched its fingers out and touched on cities as far away as Kalamazoo (I really can't figure that one out), including Ann Arbor. Strangely, despite Ann Arbor having numerous fabulous eateries, this particular book mentioned only one, and, in fact, stressed that  eating at this particular restaurant was an absolute requirement.

It turns out that I had actually passed Afternoon Delight many times on my way from up Liberty to and from Main. The name always caught my attention due to an episode of Arrested Development that featured the song. Since I kept passing it, and the book touted its excellence, I decided to check it out with my boyfriend when he mentioned going there last week. 

I was a little confused when I first walked in. I didn't see a menu posted, so I picked a paper one up from the counter. It turned out, we had to pick our food, order it at the register just inside, grab a tray and some silverware, pick up a cup and get a fountain drink if we chose (I so chose), then slide the tray down the line to a second register where we reported what we'd ordered from the first register and then paid for it. Our sandwiches came with a side of our choice, which we got to pick up from a salad bar. Everything we could fit in this tiny bowl counted as the free side. I piled on a bunch of fresh vegetables and covered them in ranch dressing (only light was available, sadly), while Greg actually made a little salad. 

We thought the prices were a bit high until the sandwiches were brought out by a server. They were large. Probably worth the price when coupled with my mountain of vegetables. I ordered what amounted to a seafood salad on a croissant, and it was pretty darn tasty! Even so, as much as we both enjoyed our sandwiches, I am not sure I would say Afternoon Delight is must-do. It's clean, it's good, and the prices aren't awful, but I definitely prefer DiBella's for tasty sandwiches in Ann Arbor. DiBella's is absolutely a MUST-EAT.

Even so, it's downtown on Liberty and offers a pretty healthy-looking fresh menu that might interest you if your're in the neighborhood.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Power Out!

Due to some crazy storms that have swept through the Great Lakes region, a lot of my usual haunts have been without power, which means I have been without internet. I have also recently started working a second job at Crazy Wisdom in downtown Ann Arbor. (It's pretty much my dream job.) Regrettably, this means that I have not had the time to update this week. I am terribly sorry, and I hop to return on Monday!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Grilling Pizzas

The history of putting stuff on bread and grilling it dates back countless centuries. This week for game night, my boyfriend Greg decided to try a recipe he had for grilling pizzas on a backyard grill. The sauce was from scratch and included tomato paste, something like 12 various spices (I think; I don't actually remember), and honey. It was really quite tasty! And reminded me of the homemade sauce my mother used to make. I think the crusts were just rounds of pita bread. 

He started by painting the bread with olive oil, grilling it a bit on both sides, then spread on the sauce and added toppings. We had quite the topping spread, including mushrooms, pineapple bacon chicken sausage (yes, that's one thing), turkey pepperoni (delicious, I thought), onions, peppers, chunks of chicken, barbecue sauce, and probably some things that I am forgetting. Oh, and there were three or four types of cheese. Well, more, since one of those cheese choices was quattro formaggio

The first batch of pizzas were burned on the bottom and the toppings were cold, so I zapped mine in the microwave for 30 seconds. Greg turned down the heat on the grill to stop the bottom burning, but the toppings still didn't really seem to want to cook, so there was more microwave zapping after the pizzas came off the grill.

If we tried cooking less pizzas at a time and kept the lid down longer, the toppings might have cooked. It's something to try again later if we do it again, which I am not sure will happen. The pizzas mostly had the taste of a pizza cooked in a traditional wood-burning oven, but there just wasn't that all-encompassing heat like an oven has. 

In my opinion, it's a little difficult to go wrong with pizza. I feel that that the point of pizza is to go crazy experimenting. Every culture and country has their own twist on what a pizza is (Brazil likes corn as a topping, and Japan likes to put a different topping on each slice, known as a "mixed pizza"). If you attempt this for yourself, my advice is be cautious and conservative with your grill temperature. That's about all I can do. Have fun!