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big, easy bites

grillades and grits: get your brunch on!

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By Jen White · December 30, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

If you've never had or heard of grillades and grits, then I apologize for not mentioning them earlier.  They're one of the two most wonderful things to eat for brunch in New Orleans (shrimp and grits being the other).  I've never been to anyplace in town for brunch that didn't offer one or both of these goodies.  Grillades (gree'-awds) are made of beef, veal, or pork; I haven't encountered a rabbit version yet, but I won't be surprised when I do.  The beef is a thin, flat cut of top round or chuck--something that can withstand a long, slow cooking.  It simmers in a pot with the trinity (onion, celery, bell pepper), garlic, and a little jalapeno--not traditional, but I really like it--until the rich broth thickens and intensifies, so what you get is a powerfully flavored beef "stew" that is perfect over creamy cheese grits.  This is a great Louisiana recipe to try if you're hankering for some thick, rich goodness but you don't feel up to stirring a roux, because you don't have to.  The small amount of flour used in the browning of the beef will produce all the roux you need.

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the leftover's leftovers, or the cajun frittata

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By Jen White · November 28, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

We didn't even cook a Thanksgiving dinner at our house, and we still have mountains of leftover bits and pieces in the fridge! Part of the reason is turkey gumbo, or what I like to call the best leftover turkey invention EVER (here's Paul's recipe from my hibernating soup blog).  But after the gumbo's been cooked, eaten, and frozen in Tupperware, there's a good chance you still have some veggies and sausage (or turkey or ham) lying around, looking forlorn.  It's frittata time.

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nap-time bolognese: feed your inner starving artist

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By Jen White · November 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Rainy, gray November days beg for something warm and fortifying, and this is certainly both.  You might not be ready to run a marathon afterward, but you'll be ready for a marathon sleep.  Cheers to that!

Sauce Bolognese is perfect on fettucine, penne, or ladled over gnocchi, with lots of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (that's the real stuff) grated over the top.  One of its traditional uses is as the sauce component of lasagna, as in Lasagna Bolognese--but you could also turn it into a baked ziti, or a soup, or even a very cheeky chili. It's also highly adaptable, so feel free to add veggies or substitute other meats (or non-meats) as you wish.  In other words, you have permission to get artsy with your food.  Just another perk of living in the best restaurant city in the universe: a great tip from a neighbor about using veal, which was spot-on.

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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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making soup sing: chicken minestrone with crispy chickpeas

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By Jen White · September 23, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Soup weather, a.k.a. my favorite season, has arrived! Once the high dips below 90 for several days in a row, I consider it official. There are so many delectable soups to rustle up and dig into, though, and it's really hard for me, as a devoted soupster, to choose which to make first. This year, I settled on minestrone for its calming, vegetableish effects, but I had an ulterior motive...I wanted to try frying some chickpeas, and I decided they'd come in handy as a crunchy crouton for the soup. I'd planned to include chickpeas in my minestrone, so what could be easier than reserving a few chickpeas from the can and frying them up?

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summer's last stand: shrimp and okra stew with a secret

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By Jen White · August 1, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Before the intense heat of this summer drives us all inside to eat nothing but cold sandwiches and ice cream, and before every last tomato has been incinerated by the sun, I want to share a special creation with you that we concocted at the beach: shrimp and okra stew with a secret.  The secret is chipotle pepper. (Italics is the typist's whisper).  Not that chipotle peppers in adobo sauce haven't been popularized in recent years--they're showing up in everything from hot wing sauce to salad dressing--but they're not indigenous to New Orleans cuisine.  But they really put this shrimp and okra stew over the top, I tell you!  Wowza!

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turn away, tomato: winter white lasagna with italian sausage

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By Jen White · February 4, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Problem:  Winter.  Boredom.  Hunger.

Solution:  Two hours spent puttering in the kitchen, which totally counts as a workout.  A mess of of dirty dishes to wash.  Lasagna in the oven.  Naps.

I love lasagna of any sort, and this one is rich and full of wintery vegetable flavor. Not using tomatoes just seemed right this time, but I've got nothing against them. Basically, I wanted the flavor of kale to be featured, so I gave tomatoes the boot till next time.

I used freshly made Italian sausage from my favorite corner store of all time, Terranova's.  If you don't have any in the house and you're snowed in, though, no big deal.  Lasagna is basically a layering of pasta, some sort of sauce/stew, and cheese.  So for the stew, I can see a melange of onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms--basically any good veggies you have in the fridge, or even in cans.  Use any kind of cheese.  If you don't have lasagna noodles, cook any shape of pasta and use a third of it to make the pasta layer...or use rice, polenta, or bread.  You really can't go wrong.
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hoppin' jen (aka a big bowl of peas n greens)

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By Jen White · January 25, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Happy 2011, everyone!  Carnival season is well underway.  About 5 weeks left til Mardi Gras.  Our garage has undergone an intense cleaning.  Arcade Fire will be at Jazzfest. We're going to try a small garden. It's shaping up to be a great year.

We were in Oklahoma over New Year's, and didn't get a chance to make our standard black-eyed-pea and greens feast that we've enjoyed since moving here...but here's a simple recipe for some down-home greens 'n peas that'll fit the winter soup bill and sneak in some luck before January's out.

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gazpacho salsa, and grooming your vegetables

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By Jen White · July 3, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I'm a lucky girl. Lynn Becnel, my co-worker and an excellent cook, often shares fresh lemons from her trees, rosemary and basil from her garden, and even the bounty that others have brought to her from their gardens.  Recently, I left work with bags of okra, squash, tomatoes, and cucumbers she'd brought from a gardner friend with a bumper crop.  And when I see fresh cucumbers and tomatoes and it's hotter than hades outside, I think gazpacho.  This recipe started out as soup, but when I tasted the vegetables, before adding the tomato juice that would become the "broth," I stopped tinkering.  It was good.  It tasted like a handful of garden--who was I to cover up all that gorgeous flavor?  So gazpacho salsa was born.

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in need of comfort: pan-fried catfish with black-eyed pea salsa

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By Jen White · May 29, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I have to be honest:  I'm a little down these days. It's normally a great time to be in this wonderful city--festivals, sno-balls, seafood everywhere you look--and of course, that's the reason for the blues.  The seafood.  No fried oyster po-boys, no raw oysters in some spots.  Fishing folk shuttling executives out to the rigs instead of pulling in hundreds of pounds of shrimp.  It's a crying shame.

I haven't even felt much like cooking lately, though I've been desperate to eat something homey and comforting.  I just couldn't think of what that was.  So yesterday I started scribbling, doodling, trying to get down to the basics of what would make me feel better, and I came up with one of my favorite childhood meals:  fish sticks, peas, and mac and cheese.  Have you ever had this, or something like it?  With a little ketchup on the plate, it looks beautiful, in a Crayola kind of way:  crunchy golden fish sticks, a big splotch of red ketchup, bright green peas (cooked from frozen in nothing more than salted water), and orangy-yellow mac and cheese from the blue box.  Every time my mom pulled the ingredients out for this feast, I got so excited.  It was happiness in one of its purest forms:  looking forward to something.  Plus, I liked the challenge of getting one of those straight macaroni on each of my four fork tines before I took a bite. 

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