Wednesday, August 28, 2013

worlDCrave: New Orleans

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A few weeks ago I traveled to New Orleans for one of my best friend's bachelorette party.  Although the trip started out rough for me (I was suffering from a killer summer cold/exhaustion), I managed to get in some great food on my first night in The Big Easy.  

After wandering around the city on a vodoo tour, we stopped in NOLA Po-Boy on Bourbon Street.  I knew I wanted a traditional shrimp po-boy, which came with lettuce, tomato and mayo.  I actually had to ask for a side of remoulade sauce, which surprised me.  The shrimp, however, was perfectly fried and the bread was delicious!  The only thing that slightly turned me off to this sandwich was when I noticed the shrimp wasn't deveined.  Come on!  Still worth a stop by this spot if you're in the area, though.

The next day, after having my hand nearly devoured by an alligator (yes, seriously) I had to try on some beignets at Cafe Du Monde.  This is a mega food tourist stop in the city.  The cafe opened in 1862, and the only food item that this place serves is beignets.  They cost about $3 for 3 beignets, and it's amazing to me that a restaurant that serves one item is packed and flourishing.  I admit they were amazing!  Perfectly fluffy, not oily, and with the right amount of powdered sugar.  The staff at this place didn't seem especially friendly though.  I guess serving table after table of hungry tourist gets to them . . .

On Saturday night, all 13 of us headed to Emeril Lagasse's restaurant NOLA.  I started with a house martini.  It featured tomolives (cherry tomatoes soaked in olive juice) instead of olives.  Although it was a uinque twist, they tasted almost like a pickle to me.  I switched back to the traditional garnish for my second round.  

I shared a mussel appetizer with my friend Katie.  The mussels were obviously fresh, and had a pink color that I've never seen before.  The broth was definitely southern inspired.  It featured ham, corn, roasted red peppers, and corn bread.  The ingredients were incredibly fresh and offered a totally different spin on mussels than I've ever tasted before.  

For my entree, I chose a traditional southern dish - shrimp and grits.  The shrimp was perfectly prepared and the cheddar grits offered a great complement to the spicy red-chili sauce.  And there was bacon.  So, obviously this dish was awesome.  

Overall, my foodie adventures in New Orleans did not disappoint.  Make sure if you get a chance to visit this amazing city you take in the great food options they have to offer!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Azulina + Ceviche Verde

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My friend Melissa embarked on an amazing adventure. First she headed to  Medellín, Colombia to work for a gold mining company, but within months she quit her corporate job and founded a company, Azulina, that exports hand-painted pottery made by artisan women from a rural village in Colombia. I fell in love with Azulina as soon as I saw Melissa post the pictures online and was totally inspired by her story. We got in touch and she sent me some beautiful custom ceramics. In honor of this beautiful Colombian pottery, we made ceviche! See below for the ceviche recipe and a discount code for 10% off your first Azulina order. 

As told directly to me from Melissa, here is how Azulina got started:

It all started because my best friend was getting married and I was in search of a really spectacular gift. 

Early last year I was settling into life in  Medellín, Colombia after I moved there in late 2011 to pursue a career in the gold mining industry. Thanks to its temperate climate,  Medellín is a delicious place to live and the food, dancing, people, and city views only make it sweeter. Beautiful tropical flowers grow year round and colorful, exotic fruit juices are served at nearly every restaurant and street corner. And what I love about the ceramics I import is that they embody this color, passion, and life that is so present in Colombia.

Check out the mini spoon set
Now back to how it all started. My friend Maggie's wedding was nearing and I was still present-less. After brainstorming with some of my girlfriends, one idea was to get ceramics from a place called "Carmen". So, one morning I hopped in my car and about 2 hours and several wrong turns later I finally stumbled upon El Carmen de Viboral, a small town in the hillsides outside of Medellin. There were beautiful ceramic plates adorning storefronts, gas stations, and hardware stores. The first ceramics store I found was filled, floor to ceiling, in blues, whites, reds, and yellows. 

I ordered a few of their classic blue and white pieces for my friend and since that moment, in February 2012, I haven't been able to stop thinking about the incredible opportunity that exists in this fabulous corner of the world. As the mining conference and travel season slowed down I decided to start studying the ceramics and pottery industry. I visited El Carmen de Viboral many, many times. I started to build a relationship with the owner of a family-owned and operated ceramics-making business. I also made sure that I would be sourcing the best quality possible from the best people possible--I sent the products to labs in the US to test for lead or cadmium, and to make sure they are hardy enough to withstand dishwashers, microwaves and ovens. I only want to sell a product that I would love to have and use daily. The women artisans who paint each and every piece have been specially trained in the El Carmen de Viboral tradition and some have been dedicated to their craft for decades. The ceramics passed all the tests and thus began Azulina!

In January of this year, I quit my job in the mining business to take Azulina full-time. You can now order all of the Azulina ceramics on line here.

I'd love to share the gift of Azulina with you. From now until September 30, 2013, use the discount code "fooDCrave" for 10% off anything in the store for your first order. Shipping is only $10 to anywhere in the US. 


Shrimp & Sea Bass Ceviche Verde, adapted from Epicurious. 

Check out the large serving bowl

For the ceviche you will need:

  • 1/2 lb of of fresh raw sea bass 
  • 1/2 lb of fresh raw shrimp
  • 4 limes (squeezed for the juice)
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized white onion
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1/2 of a cucumber 
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce 

The first step is to steam the shrimp. Bring 1 quart of salted water to a boil. Then put 2 tablespoons of the lime juice and the peeled, deveined shrimp into the water, cover the pot, and return to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, take the pot off the heat and let the shrimp steam in the water for 10 minutes. 

While the shrimp is steaming, cut up all of your other ingredients. We used the mini spice bowls to organize our diced veggies! 

Cut the sea bass, avocado, onion, and cucumber all into small bite-sized pieces and place in a medium bowl.  Toss the fish and vegetables with kosher salt, hot sauce,  and the remainder of the lime juice. 

Once the shrimp are finished steaming, add them into the bowl and toss with the fish and vegetables. Cover the bowl with saran wrap or a lid and place in the fridge for about 30 minutes. The dish is ready when the edges of the sea bass are opaque. 

Serve with tortilla chips or tostadas! The acidity of this dish is perfectly balanced by the brightness of the fresh herbs.  This would the perfect thing to serve at an outdoor party or to savor the last few weeks of summer.

Don't forget to use the discount code "fooDCrave" at Azulina for 10% off anything in the store for your first order!!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

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Sometimes I run into food ruts.  This typically happens over the summer when the days are long and dinner dates are frequent.  A few weeks ago, I decided to snap myself out of this rut by preparing a new recipe from my huge stack of Cooking Light magazines.  After browsing through them, I decided to go with Herb and Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts, with my own minor modifications.  Truthfully, I'd never prepared anything stuffed before so I was excited to give this a try.  I was pretty pleased with the results.  For this recipe you'll need:

1/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 package goat cheese (3-ounces)
1/2 package feta cheese (3-ounces)
1 egg
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
4 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then begin by chopping the herbs.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of mint, but I decided to give it a go.  I figured the goat cheese would probably be the most dominating flavor in the stuffing and would need something to cut through it and brighten it up.

Once the herbs are prepped, add them to a bowl along with the breadcrumbs, goat and feta cheeses.  Mix lightly.  Then add the egg and stir until thoroughly absorbed.  You want the mixture to hold together, so if you need to use another egg or half an egg, add that and mix well.

At this point, clean and cut the chicken.  As I've mentioned previously, I buy my chicken breasts at Harris Teeter, pound them thin, and slice them into individual portions.  This time was no different, except I also sliced a slit in the middle of the chicken breast pieces.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side, or until browned.

At the same time, cook the stuffing over low heat for about 5 minutes.  

When the chicken and stuffing are done cooking on the stove top, stuff the chicken breasts evenly.  I didn't have anything to keep them closed, but you could use a toothpick if you wish to do so.  Place in a greased oven safe baking dish and cook for 20 minutes.

Remove and serve with homemade tzatziki sauce.  I served this to a friend and she loved it! This is a super quick, healthy meal option that reheats well.  I ate this every day for a week for dinner and didn't get tired of it.  Enjoy!