Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Kind of Town

I'm off to Chicago for the weekend! Will have lots to report upon my return - including new eats and beats! And so I will leave you with none other than Ole Blue Eyes paying tribute to my favorite city.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 11, 2011

This Rice Would Be So Nice

Somebody stop me! Or just feed me...until I'm full. My stomach has been a bottomless pit the past two days, neither craving a particular food nor satisfied by anything I feed it. I refer to my stomach as its own being in times like these because I can't control its insatiable appetite. The food cravings run rampant from the moment I wake up until the time I go to bed just (just to stay out of the kitchen).

The tragedy in this situation is two-fold. First, I have no food in my kitchen. I've stalled on a visit to the grocery store and consequently have a random assortment of food in my pantry that doesn't add up to a single meal. Second, my hungry hippo self is attending a formal on Friday Chicago...with college students! Stewart's fraternity chapter at our Alma Mater is having their 55th annual formal, and a lot of the alumni decided to use this opportunity for a reunion. And while we're at it, I might as well tell you that I'm sporting a lobster red farmer's tan. And my dress is red! Don't get me wrong. I'm so excited for this weekend. I love getting glammed up and going out for a night on the town; and this night involves an open bar. Woop woop! But me, green tea, and a spray tan are going to rendezvous asap.

So while I'm thinking of all the food I want to eat and don't have, this brown rice salad comes to mind. The recipe originally came from my best friends' family. And I can't compare it to any rice dish I've ever had. This is a quintessential summertime dish. There are so many colors, textures and flavors in this rice, it will send your taste buds on a roller coaster ride! You have to try it. I've made this dish before for a group of co-workers and they loved it. Last weekend we had it at my parents' and the leftovers didn't make it past the first night in my house. This rice dish makes a statement, and people will remember you for a good way.

The perfect beat to pair with this summertime rice salad is Astrud Gilberto's Summer Samba. The song was made to play alongside this dish. It's colorful, happy and exotic.

I hope you enjoy this eat and beat as much as I do!

Brown Rice Salad: 1 Cup rice (white or brown) cooked.
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1/4 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
1 small red onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Cup roasted pistachios, roughly choppped (buy them roasted to cut back on time)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 Cup basil leaves (chiffonade)

1. Cook rice and set aside
2. In a Cuisinart, pulse the golden rasins, 1/4 cup olive oil and red wine vinegar together until blended into a vinegrette. Set aside.
3. In a pan, saute the red onion and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
4. Mix the rice, vinegrette, garlic/red onion and all remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve hot or cold.

*You'll notice in the picture that the chickpeas were substituted for yellow bell peppers. Make it your own. I've made had it both ways, and you can't go wrong.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lykke Li and a New Crab Dip

Have I ever mentioned that I love seafood? I do. I LOVE seafood! Born in the coastal town of Georgetown, SC, I spent many a childhood summers between Charleston and Myrtle Beach. Fried shrimp, crab boils, hush puppies and catfish are my idea of home cookin'.

I can vividly remember my great Aunt Leenie, who at the time was a spring chicken in her 70s, tying raw pieces of steak to a small wood plank in my hand. We then proceeded to wade out into Atlantic Ocean to catch crabs - only knowing you've caught one when there's a slight tug on the strings or your toes become prey to crab claws. Have you ever seen people cast wooden crates off the peer to catch crabs? Amateurs. Leave it to the crazy Carolina women to lure crabs in with raw meet at their feet. They're the best.

The inspiration begind this appetizer comes from the Lee Brothers' recipe for "A New Crab Dip". Forget warm crab dips that tend to be overloaded with cream and cheese. When it's seventy degrees and sunny outside, the last thing I want to eat is a hot and heavy dip. This one is served cold and ushers in Spring with flavors from fresh tarragon and lime juice. I added paprika and Old Bay seasoning to kick the flavor up a notch, and it was just the right combination of spices to do the trick. Per the Lee Brother's suggestion, you could even serve this dip as tea sandwiches instead.

Having never bought crab before from a food market, I was somewhat stunned at how expensive it is! We're talking $12 for a small 8 oz container full. Granted, it's the premium picked crab meat. If I was incorporating the crab in a sauce or pasta, I wouldn't worry. But because the meat is featured as a dip, I say you splurge. It makes a difference.

Both Lykke Li and this crab dip recipe are new finds for me this week. My latest favorite beat, "Dance Dance Dance" comes from this Sweedish native. It's the perfect tune to start my weekend off right.  I'd also recommend you listen to "Tonight", "Little Bit" and "Possibility".

Have a great weekend!

Cold Crab Dip:
8 oz picked crab meat (about 1/2 a pint)
3 tbsp high-quality store-bought mayonnaise such as Dukes or Hellmans (Dukes is my all time favorite!)
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp finely diced red onion
1/2 tsp minced terragon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Paprika and Old Bay seasoning to taste

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended. Season to taste with salt, pepper, paprika and Old Bay seasoning. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator, not more than 24 hours.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

These Cheese Straws Are Really Pink

Things are about to get big and cheesy on My Eats and Beats. I'm talking about big burritos and cheesy snacks.

Big Eat
Tuesday night my sister and I went to the grand opening of Memphis' first Chiptole Mexican Grill. Not since my days as an undergraduate on the campus of Loyola University Chicago have I lived within 50 miles of a Chipotle. And now memories of my glory days and the feeling of being uncomfortably full after eating a chicken burrito were within my grasp once again. I have been counting down to the grand opening for 3 weeks - since they announced the date. I was ready. I was set. And apparently every Rhodes and University of Memphis student was also going to Chipotle the same night as me.

Here is the line when we arrived. I waited 40 minutes outside and 20 minutes inside before placing my order at the counter. There were people who grew weary and stepped out of line, deciding to try another day. The older couple in front of me had not been to a Chipotle. Fantastic folks; welcome! And while you take ten minutes to decipher the right way to order from the menu, do you mind if I step in front of you? The best part was the woman's snort everytime she laughed. Hilarious! The Hispanic gentleman behind me kept laughing to himself and making comments to his wife such as "It's just Chipotle!" Well guess what, sir? While I'm sure you could whip up an even more authentic burrito, you're still in line with us!

Finally, my moment of Mexican grill greatness was upon me. The burrito was stuffed to perfection with chicken, cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and black beans. YUM! After I devoured my meal, I felt what you can only feel after eating a Chipotle burrito  - absolute discomfort and a full belly. So worth it.

Cheesy Eat
Now let's get cheesy. Could you devour an entire bag of Cheetos or a box of Cheez-Its in one sitting? Is there anything better than licking your fingers clean of cheddar? If you answered yes to at least one of these two questions, you're going to love this recipe for cheese straws.

These orange stick snacks are perfect to have on hand for your guests. Fill a clear glass with parchment paper and stack the cheese straws inside for presentation points. This snack is such a simple and fun way to entertain from scratch, and it is sure to please everyone's tastebuds. I'd pair these cheese straws with boiled peanuts and ice cold brews.

This snack is rockin’ and packs a punch of heat at the end, just like Pink. So come on and “Raise Your Glass”. And don’t forget to fill it plenty of cheese straws. I'd recommend doubling the recipe; you'll be glad you did when you see how quickly these disappear!

Lee Brothers' Cheese Straws:
1 1/2 Cups (about 4 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 tbsp (1/2) stick of butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 Cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp half-and-half

1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 - In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper and process in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
3 - On a slightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8x10 inch rectangle that is about 1/8 inch thick. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into long, thin strips. Dip the knife into flour after every few inches to ensure a clean cut. Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving atleast 1/4 inch between them. The dough will sag and may break occasionally in the transfer, but don't be concerned. The straws can be any length from 2 to 10 inches.
4 - Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.
5 - Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for 2 days.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lola Wants Sour Orange Pie

"Woman make pie. Man eat pie.
Man love pie. Man love woman."
- My husband on this sour orange pie (and apparently the secret to a man's heart)

This past weekend was filled with an abundance of good eats and good company – two of my favorite things. Sundays are generally reserved for family dinner at my parents' house. And this Sunday my older sister came home from Chicago for a few weeks!

Thrilled to have her here, I offered to contribute appetizers and dessert to the menu. What the hell? I was feeling inspired to spend my Saturday in the kitchen! And with family dinner providing a perfect venue to taste test new recipes, I immediately dove into The Lee Brother's Southern Cookbook for ideas.

At 5 pm Saturday evening, I turned on the speakers to my portable music player and began work in the kitchen. At 11 pm, my dessert was stored in the refrigerator with the two appetizers I previously made; and this chica was down for the count. You might as well have called me Maw Maw as I sat straight up in a wing backed chair and began to doze off to sleep. But it was all worth it on Sunday afternoon when my contributed food was met with compliments and devoured by family members.

I can’t wait to share these recipes with you! You're going to love them. But the spotlight goes first to the Sour Orange Pie. If you enjoy key lime pie, try this recipe. In fact, my sister loved it more! That’s not saying much since she doesn’t like key lime; but I’ll take that as a win none the less!

This orange infused dessert is sure to please any citrus flavor lover. It’s refreshing, cool and ideal for entertaining in the spring or summer. I made my own pie crust and substituted a mixture of orange juice, lemon juice and grapefruit juice to create the sour orange taste since I could not find sour oranges. (See notes below for the recipe and substitutions.)

After family dinner and with only 2 pieces of pie left in the dish, we found ourselves outside on the patio. A warm 80 degrees and gusts of breeze kept us cool as we conversed until the sun went down, and Stewart and I made our way home with leftovers (including the pie).

Sarah Vaughan singing "Whatever Lola Wants" pairs well with the sour orange pie. Her sassy lyrics and sultry voice sing "I always get what I aim for". And in aiming to make a delicious citrus pie, my goal was accomplished.  


Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups of vanilla wafers, pulsed 10 times in a food processor to make fine crumbs.
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (warm or cold)

Sour Orange Pie (for the filling)
5 large egg yolks
one 14 oz can sweetened condensed whole milk
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup sour orange juice
 *If you can't find sour oranges use: 1 part grapefruit juice, 1 part lemon juice and 1 part orange juice
1 tablespoon sour orange zest
 *I used 1/2 tablespoon navel orange zest and 1/2 tablespoon of lemon zest
4 teaspoons navel orange zest
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the vanilla wafer crumbs and the sugar. Add the melted butter and toss thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the butter is evenly incorporated, about 1 minute. Using the bottom of a sturdy juice glass, press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie pan, creating an even layer on the bottom and sides. Bake on the middle rack until the crumb mixture has darkened to the brown of a pecan shell and the sugar and butter have fused with the crumbs to form a crust, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks well with a hand mixer or whisk until they have lightened in color, about 1 minute. Add the condensed milk and 2 tbsp heavy cream and stir with wooden spoon to incorporate. Add the sour orange juice, sour orange zest and 4 tsp navel orange zest and stir until the filling is consistenly creamy and light yellow in color, about 1 minute.
4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake on the middle rack until the surface is quivery, like gelatin, 14-16 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 30 minutes so the pie can set firmly. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 4 hours (cover in plastic if keeping for more than 24 hours).