May 21, 2008

lucile's stateside bistro, fort worth, tx

This was such a great experience: I want them to add a franchise in Austin.

My sister brought me to Lucille's Stateside Bistro in Fort Worth for a late lunch on a Sunday. Service was perfect. Food was sooo amazing. We started with the fried green tomatoes, which had a light and crispy coating.

I don't recall the name of my sandwich, but it was definitely muffaletta-like, and it was so delicious. Who knew just a touch of rosemary could be so amazing? Until I forget to water it, I have a nice little rosemary plant this summer, so I'll have to make better use of it. (Blurry photo of said sandwich below. Note to self: Work on food photography techniques.)

Georgie had the crabcakes, which were seasoned differently than I've ever had them, but still tasted crabby and fairly traditional. This, in addition to the rarity of actual lump crab meat in Texas (and despite the fact that the east coast is generally supplied with crabmeat from the gulf--Why don't we get better crabs here!?) I couldn't quite place the new flavors: a bit more tangy/citrusy with maybe some bright peppery addition? My taste buds fail me, but trust me, they were great.

A great meal; can't wait to return. Here's a lil' more information, should you find yourself hungry and not desiring barbecue or steaks in Fort Worth.

May 15, 2008

risotto with zucchini and lemon

Milanese style

What to do when dinner and Grey's Anatomy with one of the girls turns into dinner party for four? And you only have three scrawny boneless skinless chicken breasts. Go!

This is what happened to me tonight. I apparently have terrible listening skills and felt like I was caught with my drawers around my ankles when my Coral and her fantastic guy showed up on my doorstep. So I got creative. Thank God they're patient and that we had a little wine and simple garlic bruschetta to keep their appetites at bay.

1 lb rice, arborio
large pinch of saffron
3 C chicken stock
3 C water
3 T butter
1 medium onion
1 large lemon
1 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 C parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 C other cheese
salt and pepper to taste


1-2 zucchini
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Heat 1 cup chicken broth until very warm to the touch, and add the saffron. (I microwaved it at 90% for one minute.) Set aside.

Chop or slice the onion finely. In a large saucepan, melt the butter gently on medium to medium-high heat, then add the onion and cook until golden brown.

In another saucepan, put the remaining 2 cups of broth along with the 3 cups of water and heat to a simmer.

To the onion, add all of the rice and stir frequently, until the rice begins to take a dusty, white appearance and the overall consistency becomes a bit creamy.

Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and simmer on medium to low heat until the wine is absorbed. Add the saffron mixture, and allow that to absorb. Then, begin adding the broth mixture, one cup at a time, until all of the liquid is also absorbed.

While you're waiting for the risotto to solidify (I like mine fairly dense, but typically this should be left rather creamy), cook your additions. I started with the boneless chicken breasts (no pictured, because we ate it all too quickly):

Heat about 2 T of olive oil in a cast iron or non-stick pan. Place chicken breasts in the pan and season with salt, pepper, and a bit of lemon zest and rosemary, reserving some for the other side.

Cook chicken for about 3 minutes on each side, seasoning again as above, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside and slice into 1/2-inch strips.

Cook the zucchini in the same pan for about 5 minutes, until the zucchini are beginning to look clear and take on a few golden brown spots on the flesh. Remove from heat.

Just before serving, fold in 1/2 cup cheese with the risotto. Serve risotto, topped with meat and/or veggies, a bit of shredded parmesan, pinch of rosemary, and a squirt of lemon juice.


May 13, 2008

Mac-n-Cheese Dreams

As I haven't made time to wash the dishes in the sink--let alone cook up anything new--since Sunday, here's my pick of the day from SmittenKitchen, which I'm loving.

What's the statute of limitations on posting to other posts? I don't care--I cannot wait to make Martha's Mac and Cheese Debs's posted here... As soon as I finish a 3-day fast on leek soup. Only kidding.

But seriously, how fantastic does that look?! I can't wait to make up a big pan of this cheesy and crunchy deliciousness and share it with friends. I like Deb's suggestion to serve with a big crunchy salad and steamed veggies. Some nice firm zucchini and a crunchy romaine salad will give good balance to the creamy indulgence. I'm drooling, folks.

May 10, 2008

Crunchy Sweet Nutty Granola

(from Caprial Pence and Melissa Carey)

This recipe is based on a recipe Caprial's Desserts, a great inspiration all things sweet and sticky that was a gift from a friend years ago. Rather than specify exactly what to include, I suggest modifying this based on what you have on hand and on what you're craving.

Today, I used chopped almonds, walnuts, and sunflower seeds and added golden raisins and chopped dates for the fruit. I also substituted half of the honey with lavendar agave nectar because I just purchased it and was anxious to try it. While not as viscous as honey, the lavendar lended that something special to this batch of granola and does not seem to have effected the overall consistency or texture.

I enjoy pairing this with a nice tart yogurt, but of course granola's great plain, with fruit, or with any milk as well.

2 C mixed nuts and/or seeds
(walnuts, pecans, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, etc.)
1/2 C bran
3 C old-fashioned oats
1 C shredded sweetened coconut
2 t ground cinnamon
dash ginger or allspice
1/2 C butter (or butter substitute, but don't skimp on the quantity)
1/2 C honey
1/4 C lightly packed brown sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1 1/2 C chopped dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325o. Line a cookie sheet or large, shallow baking pan with parchment paper. Do not substitute the parchment paper by greasing the pan with non-stick spray or butter, as this increases the risk of burning the granola.

Mix together nuts, bran, oats, coconut, and spices in a large bowl.

In a small pan, gently melt butter. Turn off heat, and add the honey and brown sugar. Stir until dissolved and fully combined.

Add the liquid mixture to the large bowl with the dry ingredients in it and mix thoroughly.

Spread the granola in the prepared baking pan and bake at 325o, stirring every 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes or until the granola turns golden brown.

Remove the granola from the over and distribute the dried fruit over the top. Allow the granola to cool completely, and store in an airtight container or resealable storage bag.

May 9, 2008

Grandmom's Maryland-Style Crabcakes

The crab feast was a key rite-of-passage as kid visiting my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Baltimore and southern Maryland. Dare you eat the fat? Can you crack the claws just right to get that pop-sicle of delicious claw meat? We spent many a visit to my aunt and uncle's home in Drayden crabbing off their dock. That night, my aunt would cook up the crabs in a speckle-painted tin stew pot and we'd have a big crab feast on a newspaper-covered table on the porch.

Here is Aunt Bette at my last visit, preparing her version of Grandmom's crab cakes:

1 C crab meat
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T mayonnaise
1 T mustard with horseradish
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
dash of tabasco
2 slices white bread, shredded into little bits (like the crab meat)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Shape the mixture into small patties, about 3 inches in diameter.

Broil just until set. Allow to cool and set, or freeze for future enjoyment!

I like to eat these with just a bit of lemon and tartar sauce, a caesar salad, and a nice summer wheat beer.

NOTE: If you ever have the occasion for boiling and preparing live crabs, I came across this nice little tutorial. Bring on the newspapers and paper towels! One of these days, I swear I'll host my own summer-time crab feast here in Austin.

A recipe of welcome: Tried-and-true Scones

Alrighty! So this is a fantastic, tried-and-true recipe passed along by my generous colleage Katie.

Scones are fun because you can make them sweet or savory, use seasonal ingredients, and top them in a number of ways. My favorite rendition so far uses chopped strawberries and a simple buttermilk icing.

2 C flour
1/2 C sugar (white, fine)
1 T baking powder
6 T butter
1/2 C buttermilk

additions: berries, chocolate, etc. (see below)
1/2 C powdered sugar (for icing)

2/3 C chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate), or
1/3 C each chopped candied ginger and chopped dry apricots, or
1/3 C each dry cranberries and cranberries, or
2/3 C fresh berries, reducing buttermilk a little, or
2/3 C raisins, or
the zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 4000.

Cut butter into dry ingredients, using a pastry blender or pair of butter knives. Mixture should resemble "coarse crumbs"--or, in my experience a mix of small lumps and somewhat-loose dry ingredients.

Add 2/3 C of additions; stir until evenly distributed.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add buttermilk. Stir quickly, until mixture coalesces, cautiously adding more flour if necessary.

Put mixture onto a floured surface and pat or press the mixture into an 8-in round (flat on top). Using a flour-covered knife or pizza cutter, cut into 6-8 wedges (like a pizza). Place on a buttered cookie sheet (or on a cookie sheet covered with baking paper if you prefer). If desired (particularly for savory scones), brush the tops of the scones with melted butter.

Bake for 14 minutes at 400.

ICING (if desired)
Put the powdered sugar in a bowl or cup and add a little buttermilk at a time, just until the mixture will barely run off the end of a spoon. When the scones are done, cool them on a rack placed over paper towels or the sink and drizzle them liberally with the icing.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!! These are truly delicious; my coworkers and family LOVE them.