In other news… Art of the Menu: Best of 2012

If there are 2 things I truly love in life, they’re great design and great food. And this pairing creates what I feel is one of the most important aspects of a restaurant – the menu. Art of the Menu is one of my favorite blogs, showcasing the amazing results when a graphic designer serves your dining fare. As with the end/beginning of every year for most blogs, they highlighted their pick for 12 Best Menus of 2012. I couldn’t be more proud to see a Philly favorite come in at #1 – Hot Diggity, right here in the City of Philadelphia. Hawk Krall‘s amazing hand-drawn menu and hot dog artwork ups the creativity and talent at a spot serving some of the most balanced hot dog creations, fisticuff-worthy fry sauces, and unique homemade sodas. It’s been a few months since I was there last… which means it’s been too long. Check out their Saigon Fusion (and it’s menu sign) that I stuffed my face with last time I was there!

I hope all these restaurants added some extra menu printing cost into their budget this year… I see many a menu swipe in their futures!

Leftover Lightning! Xmas Eve Eve Leftover Omelette

I’m pretty proud of the Xmas Eve Eve dinner I whipped up this year, but nightly leftover turkey & caramelized onion mayo sandwiches got boring really fast. I still had a good amount of grapefruit & tarragon poached salmon, sautéed mushrooms and extra gruyere, caramelized onions and fresh herbs from my scalloped potatoes and they sounded like a great combo for a hearty brinner omelette. As you can see, in the last year I perfected my omelette-making game…

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Family Style: Xmas Eve Eve Dinner 2012

Last year, my family kicked off a new Holiday tradition of sharing a meal on Christmas Eve Eve at my house in South Philly. With so much running around on Christmas Day, it’s nice to gather with just my parents, sister and our boyfriends without having to rush off to the next gathering. This year, Dre’s mom joined us from Baltimore and it really felt like the family was complete.

Someone, however, was missing this holiday season… my lovely Grandma. On December 20th, she passed away peacefully in her sleep. It’s still too fresh of a heartache for me to share very much right now, however the food love she inspired in me certainly shines through in this year’s Xmas Eve Eve dinner, from the Dutch oven I used to the trivets & tablecloth. I know she was there with me in the kitchen all weekend.

And so I present, my Xmas Eve Eve Dinner Menu 2012:

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Oven Poached Salmon w. Pink Grapefruit & Tarragon Sauce

Emeril’s Potluck: Comfort Food with a Kicked Up Attitude – Recipe

Cider-Brined Roasted Turkey w. Star Anise & Cinnamon

Bon Appétit November 2011 pg 94 – Recipe

Butternut Squash & Corn Bread Stuffing Muffins

Food & Wine: Michael Symon’s Heartland Thanksgiving Menu November 2011 – Recipe

Caramelized Onion Scalloped Yukon Gold & Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from two recipes:

Bon Appétit November 2008 – Recipe #1

Bon Appétit December 2012 – Recipe #2

Broiled Asparagus w. Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Sautéed Shiitake, Cremini & Buna Shimeji Mushrooms

Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Generic Brown & Serve Dinner Rolls

I’m only one woman!

I put the rest of the fam in charge of booze, hors d’oeuvres, & dessert once again. Dad & Mary Ann are always on point with their beer & wine selection. Im polishing off the final, and aptly named, Evil Twin Before, During and After Christmas Beer as I type. Kerry & Rich made mini crab cakes, citrus-goat cheese endive and classic lil smokies & BBQ sauce. Dessert was a selection of cakes including an out-of-this-world Yule Log filled with fresh strawberries that Dre’s mom brought and Kerry’s chocolate chip bread pudding a la mode. And another holiday feast has come and gone…

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Putting Up: Pickled Purple Okra

Now say that 5x fast!

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This summer has been challenging to say the least. On July 4th, I had a bit too much fun and tequila on the Brandywine River. Ever since, I’ve been banished to the first floor of my house with no less than 4 fractures in my right heel. Total. Summer. Bummer. Cooking, and obviously fun in general, were originally lacking from my daily immobile routine but, thanks to my trusty knee scooter, I’m back at the kitchen counter.

Picking up my farmshare from Greensgrow has also been a biweekly respite from my post on the couch. I’ve been steaming husk-on corn in the microwave, mixing donut/saturn peaches into Greek yogurt, cutting my carb intake with half spaghetti/half julienne zucchini dishes, and eating tomatoes in every way possible (mostly on bread slathered with mayo). With last week’s share, we also received $5 in Greensgrow bucks to use at the farmstand.  One of the farm volunteers was so helpful with carrying all my share items that I didn’t want to be my usual indecisive self with spending my “bucks”. So I quickly pointed at a few beautiful green & red tie-dye heirloom tomatoes and a basket of alien-esque purple okra. Look how weird and beautiful they are!

They’ve been sitting on my counter for damn near a week now, challenging me with my first encounter of cooking fresh okra. What to make? I heard suggestions of curry and duck gumbo, baking and frying… but I just wasn’t ready to have that much okra to eat right here, right now. So I referred back to two of my favorite things: my newfangled canning hobby and the amazingness of Food In Jars.

In about 3o minutes, from sanitizing jars to cleanup, I had a pint of beautifully pickled purple okra begging for a future next to some hearty BBQ or bobbing out of a bloody mary with my spicy dilly beans. I’m so excited to try these!

Small Batch Pickled Purple Okra

Recipe by Marisa McClellan – Food In Jars
Sourced from Mother Nature Network
Adapted to 8oz/0.5lb of okra to yield 1 pint

Ingredients

  • 0.75 cups apple cider or white vinegar
  • 0.75 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  • 0.5lbs okra, washed and trimmed into 1inch pieces or leave whole
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

Equipment

  • 1 glass pint jar (16oz/
  • new lid and screw top
  • water bath canner or asparagus pot or stock pot w/ rack
  • jar lifter and lid magnet
  • canning funnel
  • 2 saucepans
  • clean dish towels
Directions
  1. Place  1 regular-mouth 1-pint/500 ml jar in a water canner. Fill both the pot, including the inside of the jar, with enough water to cover the jar by at least an inch. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Place the lid and screw top in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.
  3. Remove  sanitized jar from simmering water canner with jar lifter and dump water back into canner. Place on a clean towel on your countertop.
  4. Put a lemon slice and 1 tablespoon pickling spice in the bottom of the sterilized pint jar. Then pack the okra in, first laying them in so that the points are up. Then insert another layer with the points down, so that they interlock. If okra is cut into 1inch pieces, pack in jar tightly to fill to 1inch from top of jar.
  5. Nestle 1 garlic clove among the okra in each jar. I like to smash my clove first, but that’s just a personal preference.
  6. Combine the vinegar, 0.75 cups water, and pickling salt in another small saucepan and bring the brine to a boil. Make sure all salt is dissolved by stirring gently with a non-reactive spoon.
  7. Slowly pour the hot brine over the okra in each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  8. Gently tap the jars on a towel-lined countertop to help loosen any bubbles before using a chopstick to dislodge any remaining bubbles. Expect alot more bubble release than a usual canning session as there are alot of pockets inside the okra. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary to 1/2 inch headspace. Discard leftover brine, if necessary.
  9. Wipe the rims, apply the lid using the magnet, and screw ring to fingertip tightness. Place in water bath using jar lifter and bring water up to a boil.
  10. Once water reaches boiling, process for 10 minutes. Remove jar from water bath with jar lifter and sit on a clean towel on your counter to cool  for 24 hours. After 24 hours, test lid to made sure the “button” has inverted and is sealed properly.
  11. Store in a cool, dry place. Allow to cure for at least 1 week before eating.

I also want to take a quick moment to thank the family and friends, some of which came out of the woodwork, that have called me, sent cheers, got me out of the house, got me back into the house, driven me to doctor’s appointments, made sure I was well-fed, and visited over the last 6 weeks. And an extra special thank you to my dedicated boyfriend, Andre, who suffered through my control issue breakdowns, moved in without any empty drawers to put his clothes away, makes sure I’m up the stairs & showered, and just takes good care of me every day. You all mean the world to me!