food

Pig & Fig 2: Spicy Fig Glazed Grilled Pork Chops

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I’ve started mixing sweet with savory just for the thrill. It’s taught me a lot about food, made me a bit more adventurous, and aids me in cooking. With a recent bounty of figs I knew I had to come up with a few new creations before the figs went to the great fig tree in the sky, i.e. went bad. Working on something sweet, I originally made a fig sauce for dipping chicken into or pouring over fish, but the moment I tasted it I knew: This sauce was born for charring pork. My buddy tasted it and said “It’s good,” and then proceed to dunk a grilled chicken tenderloin into it. “Mmmm!…Yeah, okay,” he said while still chewing. “It would be best with pork.” Yes, padawan. I know.

Fig Sauce/Glaze:

1 1/4 cup roughly chopped figs

1 1/2 cup water

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP Ponzu

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup orange juice

Throw everything into a sauce pot and cook down over medium high heat until it’s reduced by at least a third to half. It’s going to be pretty thick. Set it aside to cool.

While the sauce was marrying post simmer, I took two gorgeous, thick-cut bone in pork chops, about 6-8 ounces each, rinsed them, and patted them dry. Once the sauce cooled a bit (you can make this sauce a few days in advance if need be and keep it in the fridge in tupperware for 3-5 days) I blended it with an immersion hand blender, you can also use a potato masher. It’s fine if the sauce is still pretty chunky.

I then slathered the chops with the fully cooled sauce and let them sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. These were thick and needed to come to room temperature before I through them on the grill.

I operate on one speed: Fast. The also means that I generally cook on one temp: High. I preheated my grill, cleaned the grates, and slathered the pork just a bit more and cracked fresh black pepper over them before putting it on the grill. Now these chops were about 1 1/2 inches thick, so they had to cook a while, and though I wanted a char, I didn’t need dry pork. No one needs that. After 4 minutes on one side my friend gave the chops a quarter turn and left them for another 4 minutes.  We dripped a bit more sauce on the top and topped with black pepper again prior to flipping them and lowered the burners to medium-high. After about 4 minutes, there was a quarter turn and they were done two minutes later. You want your pork to register at 145 degrees – YES, this is safe – and remember that as it rests, it will continue cooking a bit.

This was a lot of pork for 2 people, so I served it with simply an arugula and summer greens salad dressed with olive oil, quartered figs, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, which really intensifies the natural flavor and sweetness of the ripe figs. It was a perfect, protein packed, low fat dinner for a summer evening. This is great for everyone, but it’s also paleo friendly and excellent for South Beach or Atkins

The sauce and char makes ’em!

Summer Cakes: Berries, Lemon, & David Bowie

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Summer desserts have to be easy, fun, and minimal on oven time.

I want a flavor that reminds me of my childhood, bright, complex, lemony, and sweet. I also bought my first ever bundt pan, so I want to make something in that, because I didn’t spend $8 for nothin’! I took a simple cake recipe and added a bit of lemon flavors, creaminess, and berries to make the plain extraordinary, and then coated it in a glaze because why not?

Cake:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 sticks/1 cup room temperature butter

1/3 vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 TBSP lemon curd

juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 TBSP honey

1 1/4 cup berries, fresh or thawed from frozen, and pureed. (I used a blend of strawberries, blue berries, and raspberries, but any will work)

Glaze:

1 TBSP lemon juice (or use 1/2 TBSP lemon juice and 1/2 TBSP lime juice)

Zest of 1 lemon

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease the crap outta your bundt pan. In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside. Blend the eggs, oil, butter, sugar, lemon curd, lemon juice and zest until smooth. The lemon may make the butter look almost as if it’s curdled; don’t worry about it. Using a spatula combine the wet mixture into the flour mixture. The batter will seem thicker than your average cake batter.

In yet another bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, honey, and sour cream. Fold or cut the cream mixture into the cake mix. Pour 1/2 of the the pureed berries into the batter and mix slightly. Pour the second half into the batter, but don’t mix, let it hang out all messy like.

Pour/dollop the batter into the bundt pan and cook on the middle rack of your preheated over for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool at least 20 minutes before inverting it and removing from the bundt pan. Let the cake cool at least another 30 minutes before pouring the glaze over the cake and letting the excess drip over the sides. You can also poke small toothpick holes all over the cake before topping with glaze to really allow the sweetness to penetrate the freshly baked goodness. One of my favorite things about this is that it’s flavorful without being very sweet, so a slice in the morning is a great alternative to coffee cake or some other stale pastry.

Want a simpler version? Get a boxed lemon cake mix, prepare the batter according to the directions with the addition of the juice of a lemon, mix in the sour cream concoction noted above, pour in the berries just as I mentioned previously, and bake in a bundt pan according to the box. It’s a faster, less involved way to meet the same ends.

And in the spirit of cakes, a friend made a sheet cake of psychedelic colors, and an airbrushing of Aladdin Sane, in honor of the 40th anniversary of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was delicious and absolutely worth sharing here.

Quinoa & Tomato Summer Salad

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Quinoa (I call it Qwi – No- Ah. Yes, I know it’s supposed to be pronounced Keen-Wah. I don’t care.) is an excellent course of protein, fiber, and iron with a very low glycemic index and no fat. Best of all, it can be used in a number of ways, has great texture and is a great addition to a low-carb lifestyle. It’s gaining in popularity due to its naturally healthy nature and has become relatively easy to find in the pasta or rice aisles of most grocery stores.

One of my favorite summer meals is thinly sliced, grilled rare London Broil with tomato salad. To get rid of the carbs in a serving of fresh white bread or a side of mashed potatoes, I decided to combine my love of tomato salad with quinoa. This in no way needs to be a mere side. The flavors are fresh, bright, and summery. It’s perfect to swap out the heaviness of your average pasta or potato salad with this dish, or just for a filling vegetarian lunch.

Quinoa & Tomato Summer Salad

2 cups water

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 cups uncooked Quinoa

3 – 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 TBSP salt

1/2 TBSP black pepper

2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

3 TBSP freshly chopped basil. A chiffonade is easy, looks awesome, and spreads the flavor.

3 cups various tomatoes. I used 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, 1 cup multi-colored cherry/slightly larger heirlooms, and 1 cup of a beef eater tomato cut into inch chunks

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

a sprinkle of lemon juice (optional)

Bring the water and stock to a bowl in a medium sauce pot and add the quinoa. Prepare as instructed on the box, usual over low for 15 minutes, and then covered over no heat for 5 minutes. Let any extra liquid evaporate after 5 minutes and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Gentle toss ingredients and let sit until quinoa is cooled to room temperature. Add cooled quinoa to the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil over everything and toss. Taste and add more salt or pepper to taste if need be. A fresh sprinkling of lemon juice over it all right before serving adds extra deliciousness. You can also break up a wedge or Parmesan cheese and throw that into the mix, for added texture and richness. It’s a great side with any grilled meat or on it’s own as a filling meal with a slice of focaccia!

Pig & Fig – Quick, Easy, & Fancy – Paleo Friendly!

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A friend of mine has a neighbor with a wealth they don’t appreciate. Or, at least, more bounty than they can eat. Two huge fig trees, lime trees, and peach trees over-flow around the edges of their yard. Recently this friend of mine had the balls to ask that we have permission to pick at their harvest, and they graciously said “Yes”.

I love figs. I grew up with fig trees, in Connecticut of all places, and the sweet and delicate fruit was always a staple as the last course of dinner. My family did not, however, cook with this rich purple marvel. Now, however, with so many figs at our disposal or, rather, on our table, I’ve been forcing myself to come up with some new uses for this favorite fruit of mine.

Pork was an obvious place to turn. What compliments pig better than sweet? So I started with an easy, quick, flavorful, high protein, and – best of all – portable pig & fig recipe.

Ham cups are easy. If you have ham or prosciutto and a muffin/cupcake tin, you can make ham cups. For the filling, I decided on making a quiche like concoction to keep everything light and fluffy. This recipe makes eight cups; I recommend 2 or 3 for breakfast and they are easy to make on Sunday to be stored in tupperware for quick breakfasts throughout the week.

You’ll need:

8 slices deli ham or Prosciutto. I used black forest sliced on 1, though I would have used prosciutto if I wasn’t so lazy and didn’t want to wait in line.

2 eggs + 1 egg white. To make this fluffier you can use 1 egg + 2 egg whites.

1/4 cup coarsely chopped figs

1/2 TBSP Gorgonzola. I used just under a TBSP of Gorgonzola crumbles, but I like this flavor with the fig and ham. If you’re a fan use a little more than 1/2 TBSP, if not, use less.

3 TBSP plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400. Spray a muffin/cupcake pan with cooking spray and lightly press a slice of ham into each muffin cup. It’s okay if your ham breaks or cracks: the egg will still setup just fine. Whisk together the eggs, figs, Gorgonzola, yogurt, parsley, salt, and pepper until blended and slightly frothy. Pour into ham cups until about 1/2-2/3 full.

Bake the cups for about 12 minutes. I baked mine for 11 only because they were cooked enough to dig into, but also so that when I reheat them later they won’t get horribly chewy and over cooked. Once finished the egg will have puffed a bit and, if slightly under cooking as I did, the very centers may jiggle slightly. Remove from oven and let sit 5 -8 minutes.

I served my cups with a trio of silver dollar honey pancakes, a recipe also on this site, and sliced figs. I topped the cups with just a little finely grated sharp cheddar, a bit more parsley, and I drizzled the figs with a little honey to bring everything together. The sweetness of the honeyed figs with the ham, creamy eggs, and bright Gorgonzola makes a great quick and easy breakfast to start the day with – and it’s healthy, too!

Austin Gastro Graze 2 UPDATE: MORE Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

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*Scroll to bottom for Update and new photos of items.

There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant

* 6/23/12 update

Went to the Bake Sale again today with a friend who just had a baby. What better way to get your strength back then to indulge in delicious pastry offerings?! Today was just like the other visits I’ve made to the Bake Sale: Excellent choices, incredible recipes, and cash only. I did notice, however, that after the usual intense burst of early birds, a line that always wraps around the building, the line really wore down to nothing at about 10:45am and there were still plenty offerings left. That being said, they do have a lunch rush so that window of opportunity can be fleeting. I wanted to show the reader, however, exactly what you can get for $20.

Please excuse the bites taken out of a couple of pieces above.

Also, please note that they are not sitting on a regular plate; they are on a platter.

What I purchased this pat Bake Sale was a strawberry cream cheese danish, made with fresh strawberries and it was HUGE, see below. It was more sweet than savory, but because the strawberries were fresh they weren’t too sweet, and the cheese was more tangy than sugary. I’m not normally a fan of “sweet” nor danishes, but this was created in perfect balance. Rather than eating a bit of dessert for breakfast, the freshness of the berries and creamy cheese counter against the flaky and buttery dough.

There’s also a ham & cheddar turnover that was massive and flavorful with thinly sliced ham and a thin spread of mustard on the inside. The turnovers where new and they offered the classic sweet apple as well as the ham. There were also sour cream donuts, that, like the danish, balanced sugar with intense flavors that made it far more in depth than merely sweet.

I  purchased a sausage breakfast sandwich, which was kept from being messy, by the ingenious method of cooking the eggs. While the sandwich itself is very, very large, it’s easily sharable, cutting in half does not cause the layers to fall apart and, as a Neat Freak as well as a Foodie, this is something I appreciate. The eggs are light and fluffy, and have been baked almost in a Yorkshire Pudding like way. If you notice above, it’s classic biscuit followed by a richly flavored sausage – I’m not normally a fan of sausage, but this was sweet and savory, absolutely delicious – and then another layer prior to the bottom of the biscuit. That layer is the whipped eggs, keeping the sandwich from sliding around on a round egg top and making sure that the eater gets a bite of white and yolk in each nibble. And, and finally, there’s a gruyere and black pepper pop-over.

The above plate cost $20 exactly. It fed myself, my friend (who has quite the Saturday brunch appetite), and we still have plenty of left overs to get us through brunch today. Though, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t stop eating that danish! I had brought friends to F+D with me on this trip and they, too, were blown away, asking before we left that we make sure to visit F+D regularly from now on.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Austin Gastro Graze 3: Antonelli’s Cheese Shop & Hillside Farmacy

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Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

Heading to a dinner party and don’t know what to bring? Want something special for an appetizer, but don’t know what to plate up? Or maybe you’re just a lover of cheese, like me and want something exciting.

If any of those are sound familiar, and you’re in the Austin area, I highly recommend Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. This little place down on Duval, just north of the campus, is a great shop to try something new, get something impressive for the table, and really bring an evening of courses together.

If you need a very specific cheese for a recipe, you can bet that not only will Antonelli’s carry it, they’ll probably offer a number of variations. Overwhelmed shoppers need not fear, either, as the staff at this cheese emporium are incredibly nice and, most importantly, extremely knowledgeable. Merely mention what flavors you do like or what you’re serving for dinner, and they’ll share tips and let you taste alternatives you may not know existed. And to bring everything together in perfect harmony, Antonelli’s also offers complimenting wines, honeys, meats, and baguettes. My friends and I have always said that if we were to win the lottery one of the first thing we’d do is have a dinner of a multitude of different cheeses, and Antonelli’s would be the only shop we’d need to make our purchases.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of cheese and charcuterie, Antonelli’s offers classes a couple of times a month for nerdy foodies in the need to know. Tickets are $35 and sell out pretty quick, so be sure to plan ahead. On top of all that, when you check out at Antonelli’s you have the option of giving them your email and name. They then will put you in their system so that you always know what you’ve ordered in the past and they can make recommendations on your next purchases that will delve you further into the world of cheese. We’re looking forward to having a Fromage Fest in fall, inviting each friend to bring a different kind of cheese, putting out pickles, breads, crackers, and wine and gouging until the sun comes up. When you have plans like that, suddenly Autumn feels very far away. Good thing I’ll have time to squeeze in a couple of classes before then!

Hillside Farmacy

Hillside Farmacy is a bakery and eatery located East 11th, just east of Blue Dahlia. My office chose to go for lunch recently for a coworker’s birthday, and our experience would be rated to 3 out of 5 stars, where as Blue Dahlia would be 5. I’ll review that for you at a later date, but let me just say Blue has Farmacy beat on price and execution.

The interior of Hillside Farmacy is very pretty, great usages of classic and modern. The staff is very “hipster”, but the client base is very, very mixed. A person going for lunch should expect to pay right around $10+ for their sandwich, which isn’t too bad. It’s choosing the right plate that’s a little tougher. Myself and four coworkers each ordered a different sandwich. Tap water was placed in the center of the table for us to serve ourselves, which was quaint, but it is Austin in late June, so having the option of ice, or even chilled water would have been nice (it was room temperature and the jar-glasses were iceless).

The short rib sandwich received excellent reviews from the two coworkers that shared it, and there was not a crumb left by the end of the meal. The grinder, which is similar to an Italian sub was also enjoyed, but at $11 it was much more than similar offerings at other locations. One coworker had the Forager, a brie and mushroom sandwich, which was very tasty (see picture below). I had the Faccia Bedda, and it was rather disappointing. Though the menu states it’s made with smoked mozzerella, it seemed to contain a single slice of deli counter cheese, sliced on the thinnest setting. I had to pull it a part to discover if there was any cheese on it at all and it was completely void of the deep smokey, salty flavor that normally accompanies this kind of mozzerella; it could have been American and made no difference in flavor. The single slice of tomato was awkward and the arugula was served on the side. My final coworker got a single bite into her pate sandwich before she began pick it apart (see below), finally quietly settling on going back to the office to eat other food. She was asked by two staff members why she had stopped eating (as well as why she was declining a box) and she explained very calmly and honestly, but politely as is her style: “The pate was very dry, almost like an over cooked burger patty. The bread is too big, and the strong flavors of the pickles, goat cheese, and mustard are far too much competition for each other.” To Hillside Farmacy’s credit, they took the sandwich off the bill, even though no fuss was made and no complaint; my coworker only explained the issue when pressed. One confusing aspect, however, was that one of the two Farmacy employees mentioned that he himself had had similar feelings about this particular sandwich, had received the same review of it from customers “all the time”….so why leave it on the menu or not change it?

While I always recommend trying new places to eat, Farmacy seems fairly hit or miss as well as being somewhat expensive. While it’s in a very good location, and has a charming interior, their menu needs a bit of work to be listed as a full fledged Foodie Find. It’s certainly worth trying, but be aware that what you get maybe hit or miss, especially for the price.

Austin Gastro Graze 1: Michi Ramen, Moo Bawk Oink, and Krak 2

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I like trying new things. By “things” I mean food.

Living in Austin means I get an ever evolving restaurant scene in which to bask in beautiful tasty goodness.

This past weekend I ventured to the North Austin Trailer Yard, NATY. Some bites were simple meh, but one place was amazing.

This trailer yard is right outside my gym, which is…unfortunate. It makes circuit training much less effective. But that’s mostly due to the good food found within.

On Saturday we ordered a beef Snarky cheese steak from Boo Bawk Oink and a Black and White Donut from Krak 2 which is within the same trailer as Moo Bawk Oink and a bottle of water. The entire tab came to $13, which we considered to be a bit pricey for trailer food. The sandwich was overly bready and the meat what I believe to be pulled brisket, in fact at first I questioned if it was pork, a little dry, but not bad. I prefer the horrible cheesesteak sliced meat, but it was a decent sandwich. The jalapenos are not spicy and the cheese more like white goo sauce. Good enough to try, not sure if I’d go back, especially considering its competition at NATY.

The donut was actually a square piece of fried dough with a whole in the center, drizzled with icing, hershey’s chocolate sauce, and Cocoa Krispies. According to the prices on Boo Bawk Oink’s website our sandwich and bottled water was $8. There weren’t prices for Krak 2 and aren’t any on their website, but based on our tab the donut was $5. While the fried dough “donut” was tasty – what fried dough isn’t? – it wasn’t worth $5. It was essentially a large beignets. Now, if it came with a scoop of ice cream then I’d dig the $5…

We also ordered a bowl of ramen from Michi Ramen. Michi Ramen is, in a word, AMAZING. Flavor, rich, warm, traditional, the comfort food you never knew your craved. Michi only has the room to create 50 bowls of Ramen for lunch and 50 for dinner, so their twitter is merely a count down of the bowls they have left. At noon on a Saturday, however, Chip and I had no problem scoring a bowl. The line was steady, though, and for good reason: As an American who thinks of ramen as those dried 38cent packets you can get at the grocery store. What Michi serves is incredible, flavorful, and even served with a poached egg if so desired. The broth is cooked for almost TWO DAYS with all natural ingredients (this is their claim, but boy does it taste like it!), pork bones, leaking their delicious marrow and flavors into a rich base for a ultra flavorful lunch/dinner. The standard ramen is served with two slices of Cashu on top, gorgeous, fatty, soy marinated braised pork. It was $9, but in this case it was money well spent. I took home our left over broth, let it coagulate and then sauteed spinach in it with the next night’s dinner of grilled steak and mashed cauliflower.

Yeah. It was awesome.

Yes, under the pork and poached egg and mushrooms there are ramen noodles.