It's a 17th-century British tale of a young, orphaned boy who has great things in store for him as far as his culinary talents go. I'm about halfway through so I couldn't even give the whole thing away if I tried, but I will say that it has elements of some of my favorite stories: recipes that close each chapter, as in Like Water for Chocolate; an "anyone can cook" attitude, as in Ratatouille; an upstairs/downstairs drama in the large manor that employs the main character in its kitchens, as in Downton Abbey; and an eerie, crazy townspeople element that reminds me of The Crucible. Also, it includes gorgeous illustrations:
This week, I'd like to share photos of the Paws on Parade bead dog* sculptures around my neighborhood, the ones I see when I go to work or the grocery store or the gas station. Though there are some awesome dogs I love in other parts of town, these are the ones I'm going to miss seeing on a daily basis when the sculptures are taken down at the end of September. Since hurricane Isaac just did a number on our fair city, I want to take this opportunity to share one of the reasons why I love where I live, despite the occasional floods, power outages, and swampy humidity. I just plain like seeing portraits of saints drinking coffee on giant Mardi Gras beads that are part of a dog sculpture. Is that so strange?
These sculptures are ruffly (ha ha) three feet tall and made of something too strong for mean ol' Isaac to mess with. You can see a slideshow of all the dogs here, but you can't get much detail that way. I tried to get a little closer to my daily dogs to show you a bit more detail. Enjoy! And check out the video about making bead dogs at the bottom of this post!
If you're back in school, back to work, back in stressland of any sort, you might be craving some sort of soul-fortifying food hug right about now. One of my personal favorite food hugs is a big ol' pan of lasagna--and not a thin, dainty one, either. It's got to be tall and stacked through with vegetables, meats, and a ton of cheese. Lasagna is such a childhood classic for many of us who grew up with moms who liked to cook both ground beef and casseroles, yet it's still adaptable to current tastes, or to current needs to clean out the pantry. It's also just a beautiful, big pan of goodness, a culinary specimen of theology and geometry. If you like to build things that taste good and heal your soul, you'll like this.
The beantime is, I've decided, that stretch of days after making a giant pot of red beans during which this debate is always on your mind: Do I freeze them? Keep eating bowls of beans and rice? Or think of some interesting things to do with them? Usually, in our house, we freeze a portion and keep eating red beans at every meal, in some form. Burritos made from red beans, rice, and cheese, or a quesadilla with red beans, cilantro, and pepper jack are two common things we use them for, but huevos rancheros is undoubtedly my favorite. Plus you can eat it any old time of day! It's a super-easy dish to make, and I've got a couple lil' twists to share.
Yesterday was Julia Child's 100th birthday, and this video is a really sweet rendering of her voice, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre. I especially love the clips where she's sitting in her green-cabineted Cambridge kitchen. I used to watch those episodes every Saturday morning when I was in high school, long before I ever roasted my first chicken. I guess I was soaking up the knowledge through Julia. Cheers to her.
This recipe, a favorite of ours for years now, comes from the relentlessly delicious kitchen of The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. I've spent many happy hours of my life curled up with her cookbooks and a cup of coffee, dreaming that I too had a cooking assistant named Barbara by my side, and that I too had a gigantic barn-sized kitchen with two dishwashers and plenty of gorgeous natural light. If I had those things, couldn't I too whip up some fantastically comforting food for my husband and millions of viewers? I think I could.
Did someone say heat wave? Can I get a witness sweatband?
Look, it's too hot to cook, but the good thing is, there's plenty of ripe fruit and veggies to gorge on. Take a simple caprese salad, for instance: tomatoes, basil, mozz, vinegar, and oil. I love it, you love it, we've all eaten plenty of them. But don't think a caprese has to stop there: use fruit, like peaches, nectarines, and avocados. Use other vegetables, like roasted eggplant, squash, and cukes. The caprese salad is one of the best Italian inventions ever, and I'm not going to let the traditional recipe stop me from going ca-ra-zay with it.
Above: one of the tastiest parts of the year: Alon Shaya's charcuterie and relishes.
It was just over a year ago that I decided to get to work. I mean really work, and I mean on this here blog. I started it in 2008, but I tended to just piddle around on it every few months. Last summer, I had a break from work and a need to do something creative and writerly for myself, and I channelled just about all my energy into blogging. It's been an amazing year, some parts of which still make me pinch myself.
Dear readers, thank you so much for coming along for the ride. Thank you for reading my blog, for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Thanks for directing your friends and coworkers here, for recommending it to travelers looking for good places to go. Thank you for inspiring me with your own awesome blogs and food photos. Thanks for following Food Orleans through Facebook, Twitter, OnSugar, email, Pinterest, and RSS feeds. Cheers!
So, a couple of years ago, on this very blog, I made a statement I'd like to retract: "I don't cook grits with milk or cream--I just don't see the need." You see, I was stuck then on the notion that grits cooked in chicken broth were the most flavorful and avoided scalding milk in my favorite pot, even though my friends were all telling me that cooking grits in milk was the way to go. Eventually, I tasted several versions of grits that were so creamy and luxurious, I had to know how they were prepared, and the answer usually came back as "cooked in milk." So now, I'm a milk convert. Whenever I happen to eat breakfast at a restaurant that serves watery, thin grits, I get cranky and insist that they should be doing the milk thing too. And now I have an even richer, more wonderful addition to my favorite grits: mascarpone cheese. We were introduced to mascarpone cheese grits at La Provence in late May, and they were a dreamy revelation of what grits could be. Mascarpone is a thick Italian cream cheese that's not as salty as our usual cream cheese--it's more like a consolidated version of ricotta. In fact, it tastes a lot like unsalted butter to me, and it melts as easily into the hot grits as butter would.