A couple of weeks ago, the lovely Maggie Ashmore and Kathleen Powers asked me to do a cooking demo for Grow Appalachia. I’ve done this twice before, and each time, I had such a blast. I sort of feel like a fraud–what’s a lower-higher ed English teacher doing pretending to be an expert on food? But they keep asking, and I keep saying yes. This time, we wanted to work with zucchini, to show the Grow Appalachia participants some new ways to fix it. Maggie sent me a recipe for a cabbage dish, and suggested that I might sub in the zucchini for a little of the cabbage. And now, I can’t stop making this. I don’t want to stop making it.
Okonomiyaki is also known as Japanese Pizza. Having never had an authentic version, I may be missing something, but the only kinship I see is the way it’s cut into triangles, and the way you can top it with anything you want. As most recipes for the dish note, it’s more similar to a frittata than a pizza. The word okonomiyaki translates loosely to “as you like it,” so maybe I should think of some Shakespearean name for it, but the point is, you can make this however you want. It’s a blank canvas, begging for experimentation.
The preparation for this dish, while indeed similar to a frittata, was really new to me. It’s not quite as eggy or fried in as much oil as a fritter, and there’s a higher ratio of vegetable to egg than a frittata. The addition of a starch to thicken and stabilize the mixture is also different. Making this dish uses such basic, mundane techniques and ingredients, yet it turns out something completely different. I can tell I’ll run this into the ground, making it over and over, with endless variations and twists, until my family begs me to stop–just like I did with migas, which is similar in that it involves eggs, and whatever else you want, really.
The first recipe I read called for cabbage and leeks, whole wheat pastry flour, and egg. It was topped with fresh chopped herbs and almonds. The first time I made it, for the Grow Appalachia demo, I swapped out onion for the leeks, and subbed in zucchini for about a quarter of the cabbage. We topped it with chopped cilantro and dill and toasted almonds. It was delicious, though I got the bottom a little carbon-y (When I burn things, I will forever use the Frugal Gourmet’s cry: “Carbon makes it tasty!”). But we tucked in and ate it up. The zucchini did make it a little more wet, but it was good.
The other night, I got home late and hungry, and did a super-quick version, with thinly sliced cabbage and onion. I added some soy sauce and fish sauce to the beaten egg before I mixed it with the greens, and since I didn’t have herbs, I skipped that. For crunch (crunch seems to be an integral part of this dish), I added the crumbs from a bag of Lays Sriracha potato chips, one of the ill-fated contestants in Lays’ recent contest (I haven’t been able to find the winner, Cheesy Garlic Bread, or the allluring Chicken and Waffles). It took very little time and hit the spot.
Today for lunch, I tried another variation. I used chopped baby kale (because I had some) and rice flour (because I just felt like it), and thinly sliced white onions–probably about a cup of kale, or a little more, a few slices of onion, and about a quarter cup of brown rice flour. I beat my egg with a few dashes of soy sauce and fish sauce and mixed the whole thing up. I heated my skillet, poured in a very tiny amount of oil, pressed the mixture into the pan, and cooked it over fairly low heat until the bottom was browned. Once the bottom was brown, I slid the whole thing onto a plate, and then flipped it onto another plate, and then slid it back into the skillet to brown the bottom (if you use a small skillet, you might not need to do the flippy-plate-thing. The other night I used a small cast-iron skillet and just flipped the whole thing with a big spatula).
I topped my okonomiyaki with sliced radish and scallions and chopped almonds. Then it seemed a little dry, so I mixed a little mayo with rice wine vinegar and sriracha to make a fairly runny sauce, which I drizzled over the top. I love this recipe, and I can’t wait to try many other variations–I wish I had some sesame oil, because that would be great. This will for sure be my go-to quick dish this summer–a great way to use a wide variety of vegetables. I want to make some bite sized ones for the next party we have and serve them with the sriracha mayo. It’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, supper, late-night snack…I love it. So thanks, Maggie, for introducing me to this great blank canvas of a dish.
Well, hi there. Tricia here. Right out of the gate, let me say how much I miss doing the What’s Cookin’ Now show with my favorite cooks Jenny and Jonathan. I miss catching up on the ride to the station. I miss the little while before the show when we actually plan what we’re gonna do. I miss the frantic cooking in the opulent WMMT studio kitchen. I miss all the great WMMT staff (paid and otherwise) and all of the random fantastic people who show up to be a taste tester/dishwasher. I even miss washing the dishes. But most of all, I miss eating all the delicious things my friends and I would cook. And, of course, Jonathan’s cocktails.
But, life was calling and it was time for me to move on. There are some definite benefits to living near a big city and really close to the country at the same time. Being able to participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for one and not to mention all the great live music! Each week, We get a basket full of locally grown goodness from FarmShare Cooperative. Basically, two small local farms work together to provide produce (and sometimes baked goods, a plant, locally produced maple syrup and farm eggs!) that is grown with only rain, sun and farm-originated compost. No chemical pesticides or petroleum based fertilizers here. Atwood Village Family Farm and Red Sunflower Farm provide responsibly and locally produced deliciously fresh food.
Today I picked up our 4th basket (delivery is also available) of the 9 week spring share. I happily left with spinach, radishes, herbs for tea, chives, mixed mustard greens, green onions, lettuce, a sweet basil plant and some homemade goodies from Atwood Village, chocolate mint cookies and a loaf of lemon balm sour cream cake. When I arrive at the pickup, there’s a sign that tells me what to take.
There’s also a table where you can leave for others anything you don’t want in your share. I’ve seen radishes there a couple times but nothing else. And yes, I took them. They are excellent roasted, green tops and all. Or shredded into slaw or shaved into a salad or chopped into simple stir-fry.
The best thing about the CSA is that it forces me to learn to cook new things and eat more green stuff. I do love a Farmer’s Market but lately realized that I always buy the same things, the veggies I know. So far this year, I’ve learned to love radishes, to cook with “Asian Greens with tops and flowers”, to make mustard greens taste delicious and I now have a love affair with microgreens and pea shoots. So fresh, so spring-y, so tasty.
Watercress, arugula, turnip greens, green onions, spinach, savoy cabbage, chives and a variety of lettuces have taught me to make salads one of the most filling meals I can imagine. We’ve also enjoyed baked eggs with greens and goat Gouda, Napa slaw with radishes and yellow raisins, a kick ass pita pizza with wilted greens, an awesome stir-fry with chicken and Asian greens and so much more.
My bio says I left for greener pastures. If the color of food in my fridge is indicative, then yes. If the giddy smile that I can’t wipe off my face is indicative, then yes.
My life is good and my belly is full. I’ll continue to check in here from time to time, perhaps with a review of some of the fantastic restaurants here in NKY/Cinci. My current favorite is AmerAsia Kung Food. (I would eat their Nunchuck Chicken- a Chinese 5-spiced chicken on a stick, Good Pot Stickers and Dragon’s Breath Wontons every single day if I could. Chef Chu is 239,872,975 kinds of awesome!) Or maybe I’ll post some recipes that make use of my CSA share or maybe I post what’s in the basket and all you wonderful people can tell me how you’d use it.
City Mouse, signing off.
We’ve got the hottest horses and the fastest women. We’ve got Rupp, Ali, and Sanders. We have more barrels of bourbon than people, a fact that should be true of any place that deigns to call itself civilized. We invented the High Five, for crying out loud. Oh, we may have some Unbridled Spirit, but the good folks at Kentucky for Kentucky know that there’s only one motto that really sums our Commonwealth up: Kentucky Kicks Ass.
This month on The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show That We Know Of, we’ll show you how to cook with native Kentucky weeds, twist up some classic Kentucky dishes, and make a cocktail with not one but two of Kentucky’s finest products.
That’s Wednesday, May 1, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY, or you can stream it online here. Don’t miss it!
“It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal.” – Jacques, The Simpsons S1E9, “Life on the Fast Lane”
In our opinion, brunch is not so much a meal as a state of mind, combining breakfast and lunch into a celebration of good times and good people and delicious flavors. Or else it’s an excuse to drink before noon. Either way, we’re for it.
This month on The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) we’ll dive headlong into that culinary portmanteau. We’ll define what brunch is and how it differs philosophically from a late breakfast, and we’ll have some tasty dishes and beverages to help you get your weekend started very slowly. We’re trying to line up some special guests to make this show even better!
That’s Wednesday, April 3, from 6-7 PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY. Stream it live online here, and of course when the archived audio is posted we’ll get it up for you.
Don’t miss it!
Audio is up from our March show about our favorite cookbooks.
I don’t know who it was who scheduled a one-day medical conference in New Orleans on the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, but that person is either an idiot or an evil genius. No responsible adult would set foot in the Crescent City during such a drunken mob scene, so when my boss needed to ask someone on the faculty to go she immediately thought of me. (“Is a pig’s ass pork?” I replied, probably proving that I was the right person for the task.)
Oysters. I love them. They are such a special treat for me–I don’t get them often, and when I do, I really, really enjoy them. Living in Hazard, Kentucky, I can’t exactly count on the oysters at my local grocery to be at the peak of freshness. When I am in range of good seafood, I like to go for the oysters. So when I went to visit my chosen sister Lori, she knew right where to take me. The Southern.
When we arrived, the lovely Laura Gilbert was waiting for us, studying the oyster menu, which lists the varieties of oysters available. Diners can order them singly or by the dozen. We got a dozen of the Appalachiacolas, mostly because they were the cheapest, and another mixed dozen, with Appalachiacolas, Wellfleets, and Bluepoints–and I think some sort of little Japanese oysters, too. They came a dozen to an ice-filled platter, served simply with lemon wedges. Saltines and hot sauce were on the table, and there were some little forks. Forks should never be used to eat raw oysters, although they are handy for loosening them in the shell so you can slurp them down. I ate a few completely naked (the oysters, not me–that would have been bad manners in a place like The Southern) and the rest with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of hot sauce. I refrained from moaning out loud because I live in a holler, which is just a little like having a social disorder, so I am never sure what’s acceptable. But I’m pretty sure moaning while one eats raw shellfish is frowned upon in polite society.
We followed the oysters with dinner, and it was amazing–fish tacos were layered with tangy slaw, crab cakes were the perfect ratio of crab to cake. Laura ordered a pork chop and it was as big as her head–it was an entire roast, not a chop! It was delicious, moist and tender. I picked the pork fat off from around the bone, and Laura let me, because she loves me and I love her. Dining out with friends who will not only allow you to pick the connective tissue and fat from their meat but who find it sort of endearing that you want to eat the nastier bits from their plates is just a gift, one I will never take for granted. Being out in a great city, with great friends, eating great food–it was all a gift, and the Southern was the perfect gift box, wrapping us up, making everything pretty.
I had one of the specials, blackened trout piled with peppery arugula. It was all perfect, and made more perfect by the excellent company and impeccable service. As we were finishing up our meal, Phillip Leaberry, the general manager, stopped by to make sure we were happy with everything. We visited for a while and discovered that Leaberry has a Kentucky connection–he attended Transylvania in the early eighties, at the same time two of my dinner companions were there. Leaberry asked us to visit the bathroom–an unusual request from a manager, but we were up for it. It was a pretty awesome bathroom, with a movie running on one wall and a trick sink. When we returned to the table, Leaberry brought out a ramekin of sweet potato grits, which were almost like a dessert, creamy and rich and sweet. A nice change from the ubiquitous cheese/garlic grits we see everywhere. I’m looking forward to trying them with something really spicy, like chipotle glazed ribs.
I’m back in the holler for a while now, but my two recent trips–Asheville, followed by Nashville–reminded me why I love eating in great restaurants so much. When I was in my twenties, I worked as a server at a place where the manager was fond of proclaiming that presentation was nine-tenths of the meal. I vehemently disagreed, arguing that no amount of good presentation could overcome bad food. But I’ve come to realize we were both right. Presentation, I’ve come to understand, is about so very much more than how the food is arranged on the plate. It’s about creating a space and providing service so that guests feel special and cosseted. Good service is arguably about fulfilling fantasies. It’s about being waited on, and not having to chop garlic or do dishes, and feeling like a whole phalanx of people just want to make you happy. A great restaurant meal is about having the front of the house treat the customer with as much respect as the chef treats the food–and that level of respect better be high. The Southern hits the mark on all counts. I left feeling valued, and sated, and happy, and I can’t wait to go back.
The first Monday of every month Jenny and I go to meet our man. The exchange takes place in a mostly deserted parking lot, where we hand over wads of cash and he hands over the package. We drive away knowing, deep down, that it’s just going to leave us jonesing for more.
“Our man” in this case is Will from Old Homeplace Farm, and the goods are our shares of Will’s meat CSA. Each month he packages up twelve pounds of meat for each of us from his lovingly raised cows, pigs, and lambs, and since he likes to encourage our adventurous streak we really never know what’s going to be in those bags. We’ve had beef tongues, beef and lamb hearts, leaf lard, jowl bacon, beef shanks, and Google-worthy roasts packed up with our ground meat, steaks, and chops. We’re usually on Facebook comparing our hauls within the hour.
This month’s haul included some lamb spareribs.
I’ve never cooked lamb ribs at all, but I’ve eaten plenty of mutton ribs at Old Hickory BBQ, something you should do if you’re within a couple hours of Owensboro. The lamb ribs were, of course, smaller, and are attached to a surprising amount of fat considering how lean lamb tends to be. Knowing the fat would come off more easily after they were cooked, I left it on for the moment. (Besides, I always hate to mess with the beautiful butchery of Will’s meat, which is done by the folks at Marksbury Farm.) The bigger challenge was that the four pieces I had were of vastly different sizes, so the cooking might be tricky.
I was in the mood for something vaguely Moroccan, so I started with a paste of garlic, cinnamon, a little cumin, Bourbon Barrel Smoked Paprika, honey, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.
I rubbed the paste onto the ribs and wrapped them up in foil, splashing a couple of tablespoons of sherry vinegar for some “starter liquid”. (The ribs will eventually give up some liquid on their own to keep the braise going.)
This could have gone in the oven, but on an unseasonably warm March day it was a shame not to use the grill. I got it going to about 250 degrees (indirect heat–I’ve lit the side burners and left the middle one off).
I cooked them for two hours. At that point the plan was to take out the little ones and wrap the big one back up to finish cooking, but in fact it looked like the big one was about right and I had overdone the little ones. That’s OK–that big layer of fat is like overcooking insurance, keeping everything nice and juicy.
I let these rest and gathered the collected liquid into a small pot. I added some more honey and simmered until it was reduced by about half. After trimming the fat off the ribs I brushed on the glaze and threw them back on the grill for a few minutes before chopping them into individual ribs.
Knowing that these would be a fairly small amount of meat, I served them up as part of a much larger plate, with salad, carrots, hummus, quinoa, and kalamata olives. (This is probably the way we should be eating meat, anyway.)
These were delicious! Next time I would probably cook them longer and not quite so hot. (I think my 250 was actually closer to 300, in reality.) I would definitely be happy to see some more of these show up in my CSA basket.
I love my life. I love Hazard, the small town where I grew up and work and where I have so much history and so very, very much future. And yet, when it comes time to eat, I can’t help envying my city brethren. I can get country food, straight up, at a smattering of really Jane and Michael Stern-worthy places. Our town has recently acquired a Coal-Fired Pizza Oven (which I made fun of at first for being yet another Friends of Coal stunt, like the Mountain Top Removal Cake on the menu of the same place, but which Jonathan was quick to point out is actually a crazily coveted asset). I can make do and make excuses when I really want to eat out. But when I want a good meal, I pretty much have to prevail upon one of my many talented friends or sisters to cook it, or cook it myself.
That is why, when I go on vacation, my thoughts turn to food. When I got married, in 1995, we picked Oaxaca, Mexico for our vacation not for the sparkling beaches (I think there are some, but we didn’t even go to the coast), but for the seven moles for which it is famous. That is why, when I am in any city, even small ones, I feel an almost frantic desperation to find the very best, preferably local, food. That is why I do not understand people who think Olive Garden is the height of exotic sophistication–if I want reliably consistent, non-surprising, focus-grouped, consumer-vetted food, I’ll open a can of Chef Boyardee . Our lives are so short, really, and there is so little time to try so many dishes. So little time, so many dishes, and I want to have them all.
Given that attitude, you can see how a restaurant with a Tapas set-up would appeal to me. And yet somehow–and I am as abashed at admitting this as if I was admitting to being a forty-seven year old virgin–I have never eaten at a Tapas restaurant. I’ve pored over the tapas section in my beloved, battered copy of Joy of Cooking. I’ve hinted and cajoled and stopped short of begging my father-in-law to take me to the Sarasota tapas place he favors. I’ve ordered tapas-style appetizers at various places. But somehow, I’ve never gotten it all the way in, so to speak. Until tonight. Tonight, I became a woman. Tapas style.
Asheville, North Carolina is one of my favorite cities. It has everything I love–great food, great hiking, great music. My husband and kids love it too, so when we found ourselves with a long weekend and nothing scheduled for a change, we decided to visit Asheville. We made reservations at the totally overpriced but worth every penny Haywood Park Hotel, started looking at possible hikes, and most importantly, made reservations at Curate, a tapas place with the adorably named Katie Button at the helm. Button, whom I feel sure would bitch-slap me with her James Beard nomination for calling her adorable, was at ElBulli before she came to Curate, and has drawn a lot of well-deserved press and acclaim for her cooking.
I’m a county mouse, unsophisticated and naïve. Button could have phoned in charcuterie from a decent deli, doused some frozen home-fries with spicy mayo, and served artfully arranged tentacles on tiny plates, and I probably would have been sated and at least a little impressed. But even a country mouse knows really amazing food when she sees it, and that’s what we were served. My husband, my fifteen-year-old son, and my fluffy-tutu’d, sparkly-pink jacketed, silk-scarf-hair-bowed six-year-old daughter and I walked from our hotel to the restaurant for our ridiculously early 5:15 reservation. Any doubts I had about bringing children to a place that Yelp deems not good for children were laid to rest by the warm reception Lily’s outfit garnered and the early hour.
Our server at Curate went beyond being nice and helpful–she quickly sized up our giddy anticipation, recognized our indecision as enthusiastic desire, and took us in hand. When we waffled over maybe having something sparkling to drink for starters, she gently guided us to trying some sherry. We never drink sherry, although I sometimes splash some really cheap stuff on bean soup. But minutes after sipping her recommendations, we were making plans to buy a few bottles to serve with food. Both of us had looked at the menu online, but when she saw we were clearly overwhelmed, she pointed out crowd favorites, suggested things the kids would like, and backed off.
We started with Patatas Bravas–simply fried potato cubes served with a brava sauce billed as spicy, which was in fact pretty mild. Of all the dishes we ordered, this would be the one I would be least likely to order again. Not because it was bad–it was delicious. Perfectly fried, golden brown cubes of moist potato, served with a savory sauce that tasted like some hybrid mayo/paprika concoction. It was great, But I could probably reproduce it at home, and I had more important things on my mind and my palate than potatoes. Namely pork.
Spain is known for it’s luscious hams and lovingly-cured pork products. Curate is a traditional tapas joint, which means lots of pork. Our second dish was the Tabla de Embutidos Ibericos. Four differently cured pork products came out on a pig-shaped board–tw0 kinds of ham, salchichon, and chorizo. All delicious. We also had honey-drizzled fried eggplant, light and melting on our tongues. Next, we ordered the Pulpo a la Gallega, which was salty and garlicky and had me licking the plate (surreptitiously–no one saw me. Don’t worry, I didn’t shame the 606). It was all wonderful, and my children were trying everything and behaving too, and it was all such a treat. I was in an amazing city! In an amazing restaurant! With my amazing family!
So we were having a big time, eating with our fingers, trying different wines, taking all the advice of our server. And then came the Secreto Iberico a Las Finas Hierbas. Our server promised us that this simply grilled “skirt steak” of Iberico pork, laid over with sprigs of rosemary and thyme after grilling, would be “life-changing.” Okay. We might be country mice, but come on–life-changing? We might live in a food desert, with no access to healthy food for people living in poverty. We might have a lot of deficits when it comes to food, but good meat is one thing we do not lack, thanks to Old Homeplace Farms and their sustainably-raised meats. So we expected yummy, but we did not expect life-changing.
We were wrong. Our server brought out a wooden plate with what looked like a pork steak on it, sliced into quarter-inch thick pieces, against the grain. This was something called a pork skirt steak. In beef, skirt steak is the lower cut of the brisket, technically (I say not really knowing but in possession of googling skills) the diaphragm muscle between the chest cavity and the abdomen. But that’s from Google, so take it with a grain of Bing. Whatever it was, we were promised life-changing, and this cut of meat delivered. It was crusted with salt and pepper, and marbled with succulent fat, and had traces of rosemary and thyme. I love pork, and I have eaten a great deal of really, really good pork in my life. But this was…The. Best. Pork. Ever.
Frankly, everything after the pork paled in comparison. The brandada de bacalao, ordered at Carson’s request, was delicious–and I happen to have some bacalao in my freezer, so I’ll be making this. The gambas al ajillo, which are the number one tapa in Asheville, according to the menu, were also delicious–salty and garlicky and of course, perfectly cooked. Then there were Brussels sprouts, ordered because we suddenly realized we’d had nothing green all night. The last two dishes were our least favorite–but maybe we were just getting full. Chorizo and chips Jose’s way were little Vienna sausage sized chunks of chorizo, wrapped with potato chips and fried (and if you don’t think a hillbilly version of this with real Vienna weenies won’t show up on some future WCN! show, you…well, you might be right. I don’t really see Jonathan letting me get away with that one.). By the time our tenth dish, Rossejat Negro, showed up, we were too full to do more than pick the squid out of the squid ink-blackened noodles.
All in all, it was a fabulous night, and an amazing meal, made more fabulous and amazing by virtue of rarity. Maybe if I had the chance to eat at award-winning restaurants all the time, my life would be different. Maybe I’d become jaded and hard to please and start to find fault with everything. But that’s not likely to happen, so I’ll just cherish the memory of a great meal with my family. And I’ll try to reproduce that amazing pork–Jonathan tells me it’s a flap of meat near the ribs, and I bet between the two of us we can get pretty close, even without acorn-fed Iberico pork–I’ll hold Will Bowling’s Old Homeplace Farms pork up against any pig on earth. But great meals are about more than just the food, and our meal at Curate was magical because it existed in one magical moment in time. So thanks, chef Katie Button and all the other fine folks at Curate who work to cook and serve that great food. Here’s to you. Cheers.
The internet has given us access to more recipes and culinary inspiration than we could ever dream about at the click of a mouse, but there is still something about a nice dead-tree cookbook, whether it’s a well-worn tome held together with grease spatter and love or an uncracked hardback with big beautiful pictures and that new-book smell. A good cookbook points a cook in a direction–sometimes the one he wants to go in, and sometimes one that he wasn’t even aware of.
Wednesday, March 6, on the World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), we’ll be talking about and cooking some recipes from the cookbooks we cherish. We’ll also discuss what makes a good cookbook, the cookbooks everybody should own, and other aspects of the culinary written word.
That’s Wednesday, March 6, 6-7 PM EST, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, KY. Or you can stream it online here. Don’t miss it!
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