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eat local challenge: drum roll, please

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By Jen White · June 7, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

I've been wanting to post this recipe since Paul and I dreamed it up years ago, when we first moved to town and started enjoying the local seafood...and the Eat Local Challenge month is the perfect time to cook it up again! Of course, since it's a sandwich (built on real, floury bread), you'll need to include the bread as one of your non-local foods for the day. But of course, buy the bread from a local baker! I got my French boule from the Thursday Mid-City farmer's market. It's rustic, but still a good all-purpose bread that makes great toast and sandwiches.  And if you don't want to include bread, just make the other components of the dish and eat them on a plate, sans bread, or over some cooked rice or grits.

This sandwich has several parts: a fruit salsa, for sweet & spicy flavor; caramelized onions, for richness; sauteed greens, for earthiness and color; and the fish, which you can season heavily or lightly, depending on your preference. I don't remember exactly what it was that caused Paul and me to put all of these things together, but it could have been trying to use everything we'd picked up at the farmer's market that day, or it could have been the influence of all the great restaurants we'd been visiting. Our tastebuds were not okay with the same old, run of the mill sandwich. It had to be elevated. ELEVATED, baby!

A panful of onions becomes...

...this! And delicious.

Four handfuls of spinach becomes this, in seconds flat!

Cooking fillets in a pan with butter and Cajun seasoning like this is, essentially, bronzing them.  Look for a deep golden color and just the slightest hint of a "crust" of spices on the outer surface.

the drum roll

for the salsa:

  • 2 large peaches or nectarines
  • 1 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (I used Steen's Cane vinegar)
  • drizzle of pecan or olive oil
  • salt to taste

to complete:

  • 3 medium white or red onions, or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or oil of choice, divided
  • 4 large handfuls fresh baby spinach (or kale)
  • 2 fresh black drum fillets
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning blend, such as Tony Cachere's (optional)
  • 4 slices hearty bread or French bread, toasted
  1. First, make the salsa: peel and dice the nectarines or peaches and place them in a small bowl.  Add the jalapeno, bell pepper, oil, vinegar, and salt. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate to blend the flavors.  
  2. Halve and slice the onions thinly. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat, then add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Stir until the onions become translucent, then reduce the heat to very low and continue cooking until the onions have shrunk down quite a bit and are golden brown and sweet-smelling, about 30 minutes.
  3. When the onions have about 10 minutes left to go, heat another medium skillet over medium-high heat, and melt one tablespoon of butter in it.  Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and stir until the spinach is bright green and wilted, about 4 minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid from the spinach by pressing a spatula against it on the side of the pan. Set aside.
  4. Season the fish fillets on both sides with Cajun or Creole seasoning if using, or with salt and pepper if not.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in it.  Add the fillets and cook until done, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, depending on thickness.  
  5. To assemble the sandwiches, place a portion (half or a little less than half) of the onions on one slice of bread (the juicyness of the onions will also act like a spread).  Top the onions with one of the fish fillets.  On another slice of bread, layer half the spinach, then a generous scoop of fruit salsa.  Repeat with the other two slices of bread.  Top the fruit salsa bread with the fish bread, and smash together and eat it all up!

makes 2 generous servings

eat local challenge: a market in a bowl

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By Jen White · June 1, 2013 · 0 Comments ·
Hello NOLA locavores! For today's lunch idea, I've concocted a simple, restorative soup that showcases a rainbow of fresh market vegetables. Soup is one of my favorite things to eat for lunch, and is a great way to get lots of nutrients and stay hydrated.  I've also been thinking of those doing the Eat Local Challenge who might be wondering how they can get a locally sourced meal during a workday lunch hour--make some soup on the weekend and take it to work for several days! And if you don't have a microwave at work for heating up soup, look up recipes for chilled soups like gazpacho, cucumber-yogurt, or even curried corn chowder. I bet you'll find something that floats your boat.

I made a chicken stock for this soup, but if you don't think you'll have time for that, just grab some pre-made chicken stock at Cleaver & Co. It's made from local chickens so it's acceptable for the challenge!  And if you don't want chicken at all, just make a vegetable stock, or buy one (it might not be local but hey, everything else will be).  Feel free to substitute different vegetables or herbs according to what you've got.  This is a fairly light soup, so for a meal, I'd add some cheese and bread or a salad with fruit and nuts.

If you want to make a chicken stock but don't know how, here's the method I used. First, I roasted a chicken I bought at Hollygrove Market. I rubbed butter all over it and pushed some butter under the breast skin; seasoned all over and in the cavity with salt and pepper; and stuck some onion chunks, lemon quarters, and thyme sprigs inside the cavity. I tied the legs together, stuck the wingtips under the body, and roasted (uncovered) at 400 for 10 minutes, then reduced the heat to 375 for 60 more minutes. It's done when the juices run clear at the thigh bone.

I let the chicken cool a bit, then tore all the meat off the bones and set it aside to use in the soup later. I threw the whole chicken carcass, with skin (minus the lemons from the cavity) into an 8-quart soup pot. I added a few carrots, a few celery stalks, an onion, a tablespoon of peppercorns, some bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to the pot, then covered it all with water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 3 hours, adding more water halfway through if necessary to end up with 3 1/2 quarts of stock.  Strain through a sieve and return to the soup pot.


summer market chicken soup

  • 3 1/2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or butter
  • 2 leeks, washed well and thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups shredded kale, loosely packed
  • 3 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 2 bay leaves
  • thyme sprigs, about 4
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • snipped chives, for garnish

  1. Heat the chicken stock in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the leeks and carrots and saute for a few minutes. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, squash, and garlic and saute until nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add the contents of the saute pan to the stock, along with the kale, chicken, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and let the flavors meld for about 10 minutes at a gentle simmer. Check seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.
  4. Top each serving with chives.

makes 6 large servings

i'll have another...Milk Bar!

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By Jen White · November 19, 2012 · 0 Comments ·
The Milk Bar, 1514 Delachaise St.

When Paul and I first tried the Milk Bar last spring, we were pretty jazzed: we got two delicious, hot po-boys, with not-your-average-bear fillings, for a very good price. But there was the issue of parking, and driving all the way up to Touro (the original Milk Bar is right next to it), and the fact that it wasn't open on weekends if we wanted to take out-of-town guests there. Those things made it not quite convenient enough of a place to eat, even though I really wanted it to be.

The new Milk Bar, 710 S. Carrollton

Now, the world is a better place. There's a new Milk Bar in the Riverbend! AND it's open Monday through Saturday, 8:00 am to 9:00 pm.  My sandwich prayers have been answered!

There are a few things I want to tell you about this place. It's not your average po-boy shop. In fact,

  • there isn't a fryer, so there are no french fries (though they have Zapp's)
  • there's no fried seafood
  • there's no alcohol

But what isn't average-po-boy-shoppy about The Milk Bar is also what makes it a special place, because it has

  • a full coffee menu
  • extremely delicious milkshakes and smoothies
  • lots of salads--not something Nola is known for, right?
  • out of the ordinary po-boy fillings
  • a couple of breakfast sandwiches
  • free lollipops
  • good prices!

The Milk Bar is owned by an Australian wife and a Brit Husband, and though they don't serve lamb pies (which made Paul a bit cross at first), they do serve roasted lamb in po-boys, sandwiches, and salads. And let me tell you that it is GOOD.  The roast lamb po-boy that Paul has gotten twice now (pictured above) is the best-tasting roasted meat po-boy I've ever had. It's rich and meaty but not overloaded with garlic, and the gravy is present, but it doesn't totally soak through the bread, rendering it unpickupable. This is a 12-incher for $8.00 NOT EVEN KIDDING.

And the Thai Chilli Chicken (above) is delicious. Truly one of my favorite sandwiches ever. It's a little sweet from the chilli sauce, but I've never minded that.  $7.00. For real.

This is the Chicken Parmesan po-boy, which is very tasty, but be warned, not fried. They use roasted chicken in it, same as for the Thai Chilli Chicken. Still, warm and melty with mozzarella and red gravy, it's a good tasting sandwich, and healthier to boot.

As far as I can tell, The Milk Bar has no website. I'm including photos of the menu I got last week so you can read and salivate:

the summer of love. i mean lunch.

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By Jen White · August 7, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I've been collecting some lunchtime photos this summer, and I'm trying a new way to lay them out here, in a slideshow-type of gallery. Let me know how you like it!

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of love and lunch: The Root Cafe, Little Rock

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By Jen White · June 22, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

My birthday burger and salad with blueberries and honeydew.

Last week, Paul and I attended a wedding in Little Rock, Arkansas...and also got to hang out with some of our favorite people for my 40th birthday! We've actually enjoyed a whirlwind of weddings, birthdays, and friends since June started, and we've been eating some terrific food along the way.  We seem to visit Little Rock every two years or so, for a wedding or similar event, because Paul spent years living there and has a ton of friends who call it home.  Our friend Alan suggested lunch at The Root Cafe, and we couldn't have had a better meal.

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a tale of two eggplants: Parran's and Liuzza's by the Track

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By Jen White · February 23, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I have a serious love for fried eggplant. Have you ever tried it? It's  served in a lot of places around town, I think because it's a great combination of Italian-American and deep-south goodness in a land where people love their vegetables, but especially if they're fried. Parran's is a good place for lunch if you happen to find yourself in Metairie getting your car worked on, or running other errands or some sort of workday drudgery: they've got a huge selection of Italian-inspired po-boys, pastas, and all sorts of fried goodies, like eggplant and cauliflower.  Parran's eggplant is cut into flat sticks, dredged in breadcrumbs like eggplant Parmesan would be, and served up with a classic marinara. Good stuff. In fact, I'd have to say this type of fried eggplant, which is the most common type, is one of my favorite snackers to order at a restaurant.  They taste soft and sweet, and as good as they look:

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crabby jack's, or how i get jealous of myself

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By Jen White · January 20, 2012 · 0 Comments ·


When I know I'm about to go to Crabby Jack's, I go a little crazy. I dance a little dance, sing a little song, and hop around, driving Paul bonkers until we hop in the car and go.  This is how hushpuppies got invented, I think.  I'm that little puppy begging for seafood!

If you've heard me swoon about Parkway Bakery's po-boys before, especially if I've gone there with you, then you might doubt what I'm about to say, but just trust me on this. Crabby Jack's is better. It's not in our neighborhood, but it's honestly the best po-boy we've ever laid eyes on, from the seafood (or roast duck) to the bread (the perfect texture) to the fixings.  We've been there several times in the past few months before coming to this conclusion (and I went a few times when I worked at Tulane), so it's not some afternoon fling...it's a long-term love affair.  I get jealous of myself every time I go.

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an ode to the lunch counter, and The Company Burger

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By Jen White · October 13, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Between the ages of 3 and 10, my family lived in a place called Weatherford, Oklahoma. It's a small, windy town off I-40, about an hour west of Oklahoma City. Naturally, we all ate a lot of beef, and much of it in the form of burgers. This was the mid-70s, and Weatherford was just small enough to not have a McDonald's (in spite of I-40), but we were big enough to have a Sonic, an A&W Drive-In, a Mr. Burger (local chain), and a great diner called Magill's, on Main Street. It was my favorite place ever, the first eatery I remember loving and wanting to have all to myself. We ate cheeseburgers hot off the griddle, french fries, and thick, dreamy malts. It was the place I made my first "sauce"--mayo & ketchup, mixed. And if I was lucky, I got to sit at the counter.

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rudy at galatoire's: a meditation on salad

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By Jen White · September 14, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

This gorgeous woman is my great-aunt Valentina Wilkinson Sanford Duckworth--or as we like to call her, Aunt Rudy.  She's 99 and a half, and has spent most of her life in New Orleans.  She's pictured here with her boyfriend Joe Minacapelli of Slidell.  My grandmother, Frances, was Rudy's youngest sister; they had another sister, Florence, who passed away a number of years ago. Rudy is the oldest and the last surviving, and she recently moved back to the New Orleans area after a long stint in Cleveland, Oklahoma, where she moved to open a needlework business with Frances.

The needlework business was sort of a "retirement project" for the sisters, and they did well with it for about 10 years, but I don't mean to imply that once Rudy left New Orleans for a small town in Oklahoma, her life somehow quieted down. In fact, once she joined up with Frances, Rudy started to travel the world. My grandmother had taught foreign languages in high school, and had become the kind of French teacher who took a group of seniors to Europe each summer. She'd caught an insatiable travel bug, and when the needlework store started taking off, she and Rudy booked passage to Europe, Scandinavia, the U.S.S.R. (it still was, then), China, Australia, Israel, and places in between, with the dual itineraries of heavy-duty sightseeing and textile purchasing.  But let me not forget eating--they loved to try the local specialties, no matter how unusual. So when Rudy talks about restaurants, she's speaking with a wealth of experience, from cooking during the Depression to 13-course meals in Moscow--but you can tell that her favorite memories are from times she had in the grand restaurants of New Orleans.

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