Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ethiopian Food

Ever since I was a child I have been minorly obsessed with Ethiopia, which is probably what helped lead me to majoring in African and African Diaspora Studies. It all started when I learned about the lost tribe of Israel that was found in North-Western Ethiopia. In the early 90's these African Jews faced severe discrimination and persecution because of their religion. As such, in 1991 the Israeli Government planned a mass exodus of Ethiopian Jews. In 36 hours, non-stop flights of 34 cargo planes transported 14, 325 Ethiopian Jews to Israel... pretty badass if you ask me.

Growing up with this epic story sparked a true curiosity in me. Especially because my mom happened to have a friend who helped with Operation Moses, the first mass exodus of Ethiopian Jews. I began to listen to Ethiopian Music, fell in love with Amharic (the language), and of course tried their food.

Lucky for me, my high school was actually located directly across the street from Little Ethiopia!

However, I was not a huge fan of Injera, traditional spongey flat bread often made from fermented Teff. The fermentation is what really turns me off, I like lots of fermented things: Beer, Sourdough Bread, but the sour flavor that comes along with the fermentation process is overwhelming in this particular delicacy. Between the styrofoam like texture, and the super sour flavor, I am still not a huge fan of Injera.

But it does make a great paper towel! A few years back on my 20th birthday two of my best friends from high school (Dano and Molly) kindly agreed to eat Ethiopian Food with me. One thing led to another and there may have been a food fight. But not to worry! Injera was there to save the day with its' incredible absorbing powers.

We did really like the spicy stews, but I still was struggling to get down the sour bread.

Even with this strong aversion to Injera I did recently enjoy it. After years of dreaming about visiting this far away country, I finally got the opportunity... kind of. Really I just was in their airport, but I went out of my way to buy my ticket from Ghana to Israel through Ethiopian Air so I could get one step closer to visiting. While stuck in the beautiful Addis Ababa Airport I did get my hands on some authentic Injera and it actually was much better (although it may have been the adrenaline and excitement that made it taste so good).

I just found out that there is an Ethiopian Restaurant on Magazine Street, which I would love to check out. If any adventurous NOLA eaters are game hit me up!

Beans, Beans, They're Good For Your Heart

We all know the rest of that little rhyme, but what many people don't know is how tasty beans can be. My vegetarian friend Josh came to visit me recently all the way from Massachusetts. Of course, New Orleans isn't exactly the vegetarian capital of the United States, as I know well from my 4 hungry years as a starving vegetarian. So with shrimp, sausage, and alligator out the window we resorted to cooking our own meals at least half the time he was here. For anyone who does not already know, beans are one of the best sources of protein for animal free eaters. As such, they were the predominant ingredient in most of our meals.

The first night we cooked we made a delicious bean stew with white beans, black beans, tomatoes and onions. It was surprisingly good, considering it all came from cans (minus the onions). The recipe is super simple; just saute the onions in a little EVOO, cumin, salt and pepper and then add the two cans of beans to the pan. Make sure not to drain them first, because the bean broth is what really makes the dish flavorful. Then let it cook down (covered) for about twenty minutes until it looks like a thick sauce. Finally, add a can of diced tomatoes and spice to your liking, again cover the pan and let the stew cook down. I told you it was easy!

We ate this soothing stew along with Roti, Indian flat bread, that I find frozen at Hong Kong Market.

The next night we decided to make another Indian dish, this time with chick peas and coconut milk. We made a nice and spicy curry which we served over buckwheat soba noodles (super healthy). To make this healthy dinner just cook up some frozen veggies in a pan and add half a can of coconut milk, one can of chickpeas, some curry powder and a ton of sriracha. Cook it down for twenty minutes covered and then eat it with your favorite rice or pasta.

Both were incredibly cheap and easy to make. I was so inspired by our simple, and delightful dishes that I continued to cook with beans all week, even after Josh was long gone. However, once my animal loving friend was out of sight I did have to bring the bacon back into the picture. For breakfast I made an awesome spicy southwest burrito. Starting off with bacon fat (and small strips of bacon) I added onions, black beans, corn, and a ton of hot sauce. Then I placed that lovely mixture on my whole wheat tortilla (which of course had cheddar melted on top) and topped it all off with sunny side up eggs. It may be the best breakfast I've made all month. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

But it wasn't as good as my final bean creation... Black Eyed Peas with Onions, Tomatoes, and Italian Sausage. This baby even passed Mackenzie's high standards. I was very proud.

All these dishes involved the same principles of cooking down canned beans with tasty spices and a few extra ingredients for added flavor and texture. I swear the hardest part of any of these was opening the cans. It's like a Sandra Lee recipe... only it actually tastes good!

Let me know if you stumble upon a great bean recipe you think I'd like and I'll try it out. Maybe I'll even make a post about it!!

Strawberry Season

It's finally Spring, and you know what that means, it's Strawberry Season!!! Down here in South Louisiana we are truly blessed with incredible local Ponchatoula strawberries. They are just the right balance of tart and sweet, and almost never too hard or sour. These ruby red berries are sold everywhere this time of year, and for super cheap! Even Walmart sells our local crop, and for only $1.25! With that price it's hard to resist eating them in almost everything.

While they're great on their own (or dipped in Nutella), one of my favorite ways to eat these delicious berries is in a fresh summer salad. Toss it with some fresh greens, yellow corn, and whatever other vegetables you have in the fridge and you have a gourmet (and healthy) lunch. I like to add some soba noodles or goat cheese for a little extra flavor and top it off with some olive oil and balsamic. Sprinkle it with a little black pepper and sea salt and viola- delicious!

But there are only so many strawberries you can eat before they go bad, so if you're like me and Mackenzie and your eyes are larger than your stomach you can always make some home-made strawberry jam (which is exactly what Mackenzie is doing now. Simply boil down the berries, add some sugar, lemon juice and zest and you have yourself some good old fashioned home made jam.

If this just got you in the mood for some scrumptious strawberries get excited because Strawberry Fest is in two and a half weeks!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Willie Mae's Scotch House

As I've made explicitly clear in many previous posts, fried chicken is my absolute number 1 food, even more than bacon. I don't necessarily think that it's the most delicious food there is, but I am ALWAYS down for some tasty fried chicken, even for breakfast... which is just what I did today. Two of my good friends from work happen to be the siblings of Kerry Seaton, the owner of Willie Mae's Scotch House, which is notorious for having the BEST fried chicken in the country. I'm not even kidding, they've been featured on the Food Network and The Travel Channel.
So of course I had to try out this Seaton family treasure and see if my friend Deanna was telling the truth about how good her sister's restaurant is. Let me just say that her description did not even come close to how incredible this chicken is. It was literally the juiciest, crispiest, flakiest, tastiest bird I've ever had. So juicy in fact that it tasted like fried butter (in the best way possible of course)!

Unfortunately Willie Mae's is only open for Lunch from 11-3 Monday through Saturday. So if you happen to find yourself in the Treme in the afternoon DO IT. You will not regret it, it is spectacular. And if Deanna is your waitress tip her well!!!!

Willie Mae's Scotch House on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Midnight Temptations

With a million and one things on my to do list for tomorrow I find myself in the unfortunate predicament of lying awake at 6 in the morning. Not surprisingly, rather than accomplishing one of the many tasks I should be doing I am sitting awake in my bed writing about food. I figure I shouldn't be too hard on myself because if I wasn't writing about it I'd be eating it, a LOT of it!

Strangely enough, my early morning cravings are quite similar to my drunken late night snacks. The greasier the better. Right now I would kill for some crispy, gooey tossed hot wings from Vieux Carre Chicken Wings and Tenders. Located just off of Bourbon, I discovered this gem with my friend Nick, a fellow food lover and hungryheretic fan. These were literally the BEST wings I have ever had. I'm talking mind-blowingly good. So good that I would be willing to go to Bourbon again if it meant getting my hands on some of those babies, and I hate Bourbon. I would even consider driving down there now but I assume they probably closed around 4am.

Number 2 on my list of desirable munchies right now is definitely Chick-Fil-A. I could go for some McDonalds or Wendy's too, but sometimes nothing hits the spot like a chicken sandwich and waffle fries from good old Chick-Fil-A.

Too bad I'm probably going to end up eating cereal... on second though a biscuit from Magnolia Mart is sounding pretty good. Time to let my inner fat kid run free!!!!!

Chick-fil-A (Esplanade Mall) on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 21, 2011

Shellfish Extravaganza

Living in South Louisiana gives me many opportunities to have delicious shellfish caught right off the Gulf of Mexico. With all the fresh seafood many restaurants in the area have incredible dishes for very low prices. Tons of different Asian cuisine joints create traditional dishes with a local flair.

Pho Danh 4 (the best Pho place in the city in my humble opinion) has a special called #24 which is served with pork, chicken and shrimp. You can get a huge bowl of it for less than 6 dollars and then do your shopping next door at Hong Kong Market. Definitely a winner.
But the best Asian seafood soup in the city is Hoshun's Seafood Udon Noodle Soup. It has octopus, squid, shrimp, and an awesome fish broth (not to mention the soft, thick udon noodles). It's a great midnight snack after I get off work. Hoshun is open till 2am so my coworkers and I are big fans.
Then of course there's Sushi. Aside from traditional rolls, Ninja Sushi has a selection of creative crawfish rolls. I recently tried the "Swamp Roll," a roll filled with crawfish and topped with seaweed salad. The name was very fitting, but I think I liked the name better than the roll itself.
And of course you can never go wrong with thai flat noodles, especially when they're paired with fresh caught scallops. This lovely dish is actually not a New Orleans creation, I had the pleasure of eating these scrumptious noodles in Gulf Shores, Alabama (where I went on Spring break). But I highly recommend the combo if you ever see this dish on a menu.
Of course we also have our own seafood cuisine. Gumbo is definitely our most famous, and one of my favorites. And I'm convinced Hank's has the best gumbo I've ever had. Hank's is a pretty sketchy joint in the Bywater on St. Claude. They sell two pieces of fried chicken for 99 cents, enough said. The chicken is a little on the greasy side for me but their gumbo is spot on. They have crab, shrimp, turkey neck and pigs feet cooked right in, shells and all and it is awesome! I highly recommend it.
Then there's always good old raw oysters. I was a little skeptical at first but they are actually really good! I got a dozen at Luke recently and it was absolutely love at first bite (or slurp). I don't really know about the whole aphrodisiac thing but they definitely got me in the mood for some horse radish and cocktail sauce. Now I have to try Drago's famous chargrilled oysters, which are supposed to be phenomenal.
Finally, in honor of the recent Italian American parade I'll highlight one of their best creations: creole shrimp pasta. This particular dish came from Restaurant De Famille, a beautiful restaurant that sits right on the bayou, just 45 minutes from the city. The best part of dining there is the alligator view, but the food is also very tasty. This spaghetti dish came with a crab and shrimp cream sauce. It was definitely on the heavy side, but not bad if you skip dessert! 

And the view was just spectacular. I had never seen an alligator up close and personal before, especially not during dinner. Definitely worth the drive.

Ninja Restaurant & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

L√ľke on Urbanspoon

Restaurant des Familles on Urbanspoon
Hoshun on Urbanspoon
Pho Danh on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Iron Chef New Orleans

Although Mackenzie and I often cook meals together, we had an interesting little competition happen quite by accident a few weeks ago. There must have been something in the air because for some strange reason we both decided to make Italian Sausage with shell pasta for dinner. Now this isn't a coincidence out of convenience, it's not like we share groceries (aside from milk and eggs) we seriously just both went to the store and happened to buy almost the same exact ingredients, with some minor differences. I had whole wheat tiny shells, and she had larger traditional Italian ones.
Our sausage was also slightly different, but quite close. So with these two ingredients (and onion of course) we both set out to make our respective pasta dishes. Of course, my mind went straight to Iron Chef. Mackenzie wasn't as keen on it being a competition, but she couldn't deny the parallels to the show. We didn't say it was officially a competition, but obviously we both wanted our own recipe to be triumphant.
Clearly I was the underdog in the competition, but I think my creativity caught her off guard. Usually when I do something that I think is cool and innovative, other people tend to find it minorly repulsive (such as hoison on pizza) but this time I actually made something that looked, smelled, and tasted really good!
Unlike Mackenzie's traditional tomato based sauce I went for a southwestern spin. As a wannabe cowgirl from out West I had to stay true to my roots and use three of my favorite ingredients: corn, black beans, and BACON! Together with the onion, sausage and whole wheat pasta- whewww it was awesome!
I can't lie, Mackenzie's dish was also incredible (and it looked way prettier than mine) but my tastebuds know what they like and spicy bacony blackbean sauce is just the ticket.

Until next time on Iron Chef New Orleans....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Movin On Up

This little food publication is no longer a blog, it is now officially a website! I haven't updated the site in weeks because I've been incredibly wrapped up in the technological difficulties that go into this conversion, it's actually not that hard but I am awful with computers. But now it's officially not much of a difference, but it makes me happy. The only bad news is that with all the photos I upload of tasty treats my hard drive had enough of me and now is doing some strange things to my poor overheating mac. But never fear the genius bar will save the day tomorrow and I can share with the world more mouth watering food-ogrophy. Happy Eating!!!