Monthly Archives: April 2012

Fish tacos with sweet and sour vegetables

I’ve only recent come around to the gloriousness that is a fish taco (many apologies to my spouse for my initial resistance!) But, no matter, I’ve seen the light and it is tasty! We made them once using a recipe for sweet and sour cabbage and it was a great match. That was the initial plan but when you’re really determined to buy as much local produce as you can, you have to adapt. So it goes that there was no cabbage to be found so we settled on pak choi.

We also had the wonderful heirloom carrots and some radishes from the market today that seemed like good additions. The addition of carrots and radishes and the different shape of the pak choi  led to some improvisation of the recipe but that’s ok. That’s how you learn new things!

Start by chopping your veggies. Keep the stems and the leaves of the pak choi separate as they cook at different rates.

The radishes, carrots, and pak choi stems:

Stir fry these for a bit:

Add the pak choi leaves:

Make the sweet and sour sauce:

Stir it in:

Let this simmer until everything is cooked to your liking. Be warned that the purple carrots will turn the sauce pink. Pink vegetables are fun!

We typically use tilapia for our fish tacos. A little Tony’s seasoning and a few minutes in the cast iron…

Shred the fish, heat up your tortillas and there you go! Fish tacos with sweet and sour vegetables! And, less than 30 minutes to boot!


Categories: Local Food, What's for dinner? | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Sunday Market! April 29

Its market day again! What a difference a week makes. There was so much more produce available this week! Strawberries (yea!), broccoli, snow peas, red leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, kale…oh my!

Broccoli and red leaf lettuce – Rainbow Hill Farm

Snowpeas and kale – Sheerlark Farm

Strawberries – Tidwell Berry Farm

Radishes and carrots – unfortunately, in the excitement of finding purple carrots at the market, I didn’t notice the name of this new vendor. I’ll be sure to make a note next week!

Spelt Millet Bread – Bernhard’s Bread Bakery (home to the best pretzel and my favorite Sunday snack)

Half of the strawberries have been put in the freezer to save for sorbet. The snowpeas have almost all been devoured (oops!) and there are exciting things on the menu for the rest…stay tuned!

A Pure Sodaworks  apple pie soda and a Good Dog hot dog topped off the market trip this week.


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Waste not, want not

I hate to throw away something that might be useful. It’s why I carted around a 6 pack of styrofoam balls that I had intended to create into something unique and beautiful for my wedding for six years after I was married. This includes a move to another state. ridiculous, I know. Luckily, the styrofoam balls are gone and I’ve moved on to saving more useful things. Like onion skins and carrot peelings and chicken carcasses!

Veggie scraps are great for stock. Most anything goes except for things in the brassica family (broccoli and greens) as they will impart an unpleasent taste. I keep a bag in the freezer and add to it almost daily. Trimmings from onions, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, celery and leeks are the bulk of my scraps. When I’ve got several gallon bags full I just toss the scraps in a pot, cover with water and boil until the flavor is to my liking. You can toss in some salt if you want but I prefer not as I don’t always know how I will be using the stock and I’d rather salt as I cook the dish. strain well, transfer to freezer safe containers and freeze. Voila! Free stock right at your fingertips.

The same method works with shrimp shells, meat bones (you get more flavor if you roast the bones before boiling), and even crawfish leftover after a crawfish boil!

This became 14 pints of crawfish stock!

This is the current stock stockpile: chicken, veggie, lamb, crawfish, and shrimp! Something to satisfy every tastebud!


Breadcrumbs are another easy thing to “make”. When the end of the baguette gets stale or no one can be convinced to eat the heel of the bread, just toss the bread in a spice grinder and store the crumbs in the freezer. No need to thaw before use. Again, such an easy thing to do and isn’t it grand to create something that you need out of something that you would otherwise throw away??

When you just can’t find an edible use for your scraps – compost! Eggshells, coffee grounds (buy unbleached filters and they can go in there as well), scraps that aren’t suitable for stock…practically anything goes! Toss your pile around every now and then to keep things circulating and you should have a gorgeous pile of compost in no time for your garden.

This is an interesting article from Culinate about kitchen thrift and using what you’ve got. It’s not necessarily about the money you save (although that is a definite plus) but more about creating something useful and not contributing even more garbage to the piles.


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Cookware as art, cast iron and cornbread

I’m a very visual person and I’ve always been a fan of open cabinetry in the kitchen. My pots and pans are tools, yes, but most of them are well crafted and quite visually appealing. They are the tools that I use to show my love (food is love? you bet!) and seeing them reminds me of meals and stories that have happened in my kitchen. They are my friends and I like to see them. And, apparently I’m not the only one!

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum just announced a Pots and Pans Project to construct a public art sculpture composed of pots and pans from restaurants from around the south. (Have you ever been to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum? It’s fabulous. Go.)

Miller Union Restaurant in Atlanta has a cast iron cookware wall – gorgeous!

I have a special affinity for cast iron. The longevity and history that a pan accumulates with its seasoning is special. I have a Le Creuset pan that is lovely and you can’t find a better pan for a pan sauce, but…its just not cast iron. Maybe one day my great granddaughter will be using that pan and then we’ll talk. Until then, this gorgeous pan that belonged to Neal’s grandmother is the go-to in our kitchen.

Speaking of cast iron, you should check out The National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, TN. Everyone knows that you can’t make great cornbread without a cast iron skillet and South Pittsburg just happens to be the home of Lodge Manufacturing. You can spend the day in South Pittsburg and sample cornbread done a dozen different ways, shop the Lodge outlet (fabulousness!), and tour the historic homes and buildings of South Pittsburg. There’s also a 5k Saturday morning if you’re feeling frisky. Someday I’d love to spend the year doing the races at these types of food festivals. The t-shirt collection would be great!

My favorite cornbread memory is with my Granny Dye. She made the best cornbread with the most perfect crispy edges. She would always let me nibble the edges and never got mad when I ate all the way around! I think I’ve actually figured out the crispy edges, but they still aren’t as good without her.


Categories: Food in the news, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

(food) Porn!

NPR aired an interesting story on the idea of food porn today. This is pretty timely since this has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been posting pictures of my food on my Facebook for a while now. Cooking is my hobby and Facebook seemed like the place to share that with my friends. Oddly enough, I actually really liked spending a massive amount of time in the kitchen conquering the pecan roulade with praline mousse. Cooking is fun to me and I like to share my hobby with my friends. (I mean, just look at it! Isn’t it stunning? It tasted just as stunning, trust me)

It eventually began to feel…a bit pushy perhaps. Maybe everyone really wasn’t interested in my stunning, gorgeous, perfectly ordinary green beans. It felt a bit like bragging and I am most assuredly a girl who really does not like to talk about herself. Yet, here I am, typing a blog and publishing it to the world. Nothing wrong with a little irony, eh? The idea of a blog has been in the back of my mind for a while now. It just felt like a less invasive way to share my thoughts and adventures. And here we are!

You must watch the video that accompanied the story. Eat it, don’t tweet it!

Another interesting tidbit in the NPR story is that some chefs have begun to prohibit diners from photographing the food. Seems a little counterintuitive to me. You should be honored that I’m so awed by the plate you’ve served that I want to photograph it and share it with who knows how many people on my Facebook, blog, twitter, urbanspoon, etc…. Its free promotion! Not to mention the fact that I paid for the food and should be able to do what I want with it. Now, if I pull out my mini tripod and flash…hmm, wait! that might be just the way to eliminate those pesky candle shadows… !

Now, pardon me while I post a link to this blog post on my Facebook 🙂


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Stir Fry and…umami??

This gorgeous broccoli from Rainbow Hill Farm inspired our stir fry dinner tonight. My apologies to my mother but…I love broccoli.  love. it. (why am I apologizing? Because this wonderful woman spent all of my childhood leaving a section of the broccoli hamburger casserole broccoli free just for me. She’s great like that!)

Any dish around here with even a hint of an Asian theme gets cooked by Neal. He makes a mean stir fry (and curry! and fried rice!)

It’s a pretty simple dish to whip up:

Stir fry whatever fresh veggies you have:

Remove those from the wok and cook your protein. We used chicken tonight but anything goes. This is the place to toss in some garlic, ginger and chili pepper

Now, this is the important part…every good stir fry needs a good sauce. We’ve discovered that a slurry helps you get the best sauce. A slurry is a method for using starch to thicken the sauce. Any starch will thicken a sauce but it has to be added correctly or you just get a clumpy, lumpy mess! Whisk 1 teaspoon cornstarch and about 3 ounces water (or broth) together and add 1 tablespoon fish sauce for flavor.

Add your slurry to the cooked chicken and toss to coat.

Add your veggies back in and stir to combine! Serve over brown rice.

Now, what about that Umami?? Umami is basically the taste sensation of naturally occurring monosodium glutamate. It’s often called the 5th taste (the others being salt, sweet, sour, and bitter). Originally discovered in Japan in 1908, a Japanese chemist found that the brown alga kombu was a rich source of monosodium glutamate and contributed a distinct taste that he named Umami. It didn’t take long for manufacturers to begin to synthesize the chemical and make MSG available to try to impart this flavor easily. We all know the chemical is never as good as the real thing so foods naturally high in Umami are great to use to add that extra richness to your meal. Fish oil is high on the Umami list as are other fermented foods. Want to learn more? Check out the Umami Information Center


Categories: What's for dinner? | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Restaurant Week

It’s Restaurant Week! (well, it will be soon!) This is the second year for restaurant week which began last year as part of the Harvested Here Campaign. Local restaurants develop prix fixe menus around local ingredients to highlight our many wonderful chefs and the amazing plethora of locally grown goodness we have right in our own backyard.  Restaurant week is a great opportunity to explore a new restaurant at a pretty good price. Maybe you’ll discover a favorite new local  veggie and restaurant!

Restaurant Week

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Lamb chops

For Christmas last year my parents gave us a share of lamb from Sequatchie Cove FarmWe got half a lamb including bones and some organ meat.


(Isn’t the lamb adorable! My mom included that with the card!)
Tonight we made some lamb chops, asparagus from the market (!) and amaranth.
If you’re not so lucky to find asparagus at your local market, remember to only buy it if it’s been stored with the ends in water. Asparagus dries out quickly and you’ll also want to store it in a small amount of water once you get home.
Before you’re ready to cook, you’ll need to trim the ends. Snapping the stalks seems to work best.


I’ve read many a recipe for asparagus but really, simple is better! All you need is some oil (walnut is great but olive is fine), salt, pepper, and a good sharp cheese. Normally I use Parmesan but this is a delicious cave aged goat milk cheddar from Bonnie Blue Farm that I got at the market today.


Drizzle the asparagus with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook under the broiler on high until beginning to brown and top with a sprinkling of cheese. Very simple and really preserves the integrity and flavor of the asparagus.

The lamb chops have a great flavor on their own and really don’t need much help. Just pat the chops dry, sprinkle with salt and rosemary and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Make sure you let the chops rest for a few minutes before serving to let the juices redistribute.

This was the first time I’ve had amaranth on its own. I’ve used it in a quiche crust before and it has a great somewhat grassy flavor that is quite unique. It also has quite a unique mouthfeel that probably lends itself to being used in other preparations more so than a solo dish! The flavor was great with the lamb, however!



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Taco Sherpa

The food truck phenomenon has taken off in Chattanooga! Taco Sherpa is the latest addition, offering up Korean style BBQ tacos. I opted for the galbi (pork) bowl version today at lunch – minus the corn tortilla and add brown rice. A lavender mint soda from Pure Sodaworks was the perfect complement!

The flavors were great! The pork was juicy and the soy marinade melded perfectly with the vinegary-ness of the vegetables. I was worried the Sherpa Sauce might be a bit spicy but it was just right!

I’m a bit enthralled with food trucks. The overhead costs are lower, allowing more people to jump in the game and offer unique options. The ease of mobility is definitely a plus and exposes more people to good food – always a good thing!

Categories: Chattanooga Market, Food Trucks | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Market Day!

After a long, cold winter (ok, not so cold this year but really, really long without my Sunday market!) the day has finally arrived…Opening Day of the Chattanooga Market!

Early season produce from Rainbow Hill Farm:

Link 41…best bacon ever!

Gorgeous spoons and utensils – adding these to the market wish list!

Sad face…all the strawberries were sold out in 30 minutes! A second delivery came but the line wrapped around and around the booth. Sigh, maybe next week!

I missed out on the strawberries, but I did get…Asparagus! I might actually be more excited about that fabulous find anyway!

It’s still early days for the produce but it was great to be back in the market groove!

What fabulous things found their way into your basket this week?

Categories: Chattanooga Market | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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