Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Growing green

In Miami, winter is the growing season. That's when it's cool enough -- but still sunny -- to not have your seedlings burn to a crisp. What's in Nancy's garden? Green peppers, right, heirloom tomatoes, Swiss chard. In addition there's arugula, Russian kale -- its frilly leaves have a beautiful rosy blush -- mesclun, scallions and assorted herbs. (The spinach flamed out.) The tomatoes and peppers are well camouflaged amid the leaves, but they are slowly turning bright red.

There's nothing like home-grown vegetables. The taste stand head and shoulders above store-bought. The arugula, for instance, is far more peppery. The seeds, for the most part, were planted on Election Day -- seeds of change, indeed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Nancy's hubby, George, Nancy, Chadwic
k Boyd & Me

Last night Nancy, her husband George Fishman and I went to dinner with a visiting dignitary, Chadwick Boyd. Chadwick is the brains behind Atlanta based Lovely & Delicious Enterprises, Inc., a food and lifestyle branding consulting firm. Chadwick, for the past 9-months or so, has been Join Us at the Table's "roving correspondent"; we have never physically met face-to-face, but when food lovers get together, it is truly just like "old home week", we all fit like old shoes. There is no better place to break bread together than Miami Design District's hottest restaurant, Michael's Genuine, home of Chef Michael Schwartz.

We have mentioned in the past our fondness for Michael's and it seems that whenever someone comes to town, we wind up at our favorite spot. Our last visitor, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of NPR's top food show, Splendid Table, had to have a Michael's experience.

This time we noshed on, what else? Crispy, spicy pork belly (right), of course - on a bed of kimchi - simply yummy; rabbit pate, Berkshire pork shoulder served with those delicious Anson Mills grits, wood roasted Vidalia onion stuffed with ground lamb and apricots and sauteed sweet breads. Oh yes, I cannot leave out one of my absolute favorite dishes, aside from their pork belly, the wood roasted cauliflower with parsley sauce - I could just go and have a bowl of whatever soup they have for the day, a plate of cauliflower and feel like I have dined and gone to Heaven!

We had a wonderful evening chatting the night away and will see Chadwick tonight as Nancy and I head to South Beach for Paula Deen's Poker Party.

Don't forget to tune in to Join Us at the Table tomorrow morning to hear your culinary lifestylist chat with the only female Iron Chef, Cat Cora. If you miss us, just go to the archives and pull up the show. Remember, we are live every Saturday from 9:30 - 10:30 am at Join Us at the Table.

Chat with you soon.
One of the Two Saucy Chicks

Friday, February 13, 2009

I'm a happy camper this week. Why? One of my favorite food vendors has moved to town: Blue Bell Ice Cream! I was first introduced to Blue Bell in 1978 when I moved to Houston; I really was not a sweets fan at that time but a few years later I became a Blue Bell "hoover". I quit smoking and just loved that cream. I realized I was in love when my car was in the shop and I had to walk for food; I probably walked a mile in that hot Texas heat just to get my favorite: Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. I cannot forget this story because the store was out of vanilla and that's how I was introduced to their delicious strawberry. When I moved to Florida in 1990, there was a little black wreath hanging on my freezer door - it was a sad story: no Blue Bell.

If you have not tried Blue Bell, run, don't walk to your nearest grocery. I've been told several of our local supermarkets (Publix, Winn Dixie) carry my favorite vice: Homemade Vanilla. Just to
make sure you get the right thing, here's a photo of an old love.

Happy Valentines Day!

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Friday, February 6, 2009

The Title Says it All

Chinese New Year was approaching -- what's a food-and-culture girl to do? Pork belly! It seems to be the new short rib as far as high-end restaurants are concerned -- cheap, fatty and delicious. And you really trick it out, you can charge a bundle for it. (Yes, I've paid that bundle -- but Michael Schwartz really , really has a way with pork belly.)

George said that he has seen pork belly at the Asian market, so that's where we headed. Fattiest piece of meat I've seen in ages. Scary fatty -- I bought two pounds.

I cut it into 2-inch cubes and marinated them in soy sauce, brown sugar, sea salt and sherry.

Next morning, I quick-browned the pork belly -- in lard (can you believe?) Added cinnamon, ginger, chiles, star anise and the remaining marinade -- threw in some orange peel, too, just like the cookbook said. A couple of cups of water and it simmered for about an hour.

The sauce thickened, the flavors were dead-on traditionally Chinese -- rich, a bit salty, spicy, gingery and unctuous.

This cookbook was more than justified. The title? Jennifer McLagan's tribute to common sense, flavor and moderation -- Fat.

-- Nancy