avec gas, si vous plait

Oui. Avec gas. I think it took weeks in France to figure out exactly what the waiter meant when they blurted out something about gas. But once I figured out what he meant…there was no turning back. Today, I only drink water with gas when dining out. For some reason those little bubbles just make everything taste better. Perhaps it is a memory association with my glory days in southern France.

Anyway- I don’t usually like fruit flavored water. But, of course in my quest to try something new, I found myself staring at a variety of Perrier waters. I chose the most outrageous flavor possible- pamplemousse rose also known as pink grapefruit. And actually the flavor was quite refreshing. A bit of a tangy kick and a mild citrus whim.

pork chops and plum sauce

I would never in a million years have thought to pair pork chops with a plum sauce. But chef C did! I must have a plan when I head into the grocery store. I usually have an idea of what I will cook for the entire week and I go to the grocery store once a week. But this week, was a little crazy and my plans didn’t work out. So I sent C to pick something up. He came home with pork chops and two plums. I was skeptical. He peel diced and purreed the plums. He then cooked them down and created a plum curry sauce to top the grilled pork chops. FABULOUS. How does he know how to make these pairings? I am amazed!

sweet basil

I can remember the first time I tried thai food. I met my most worldly friend (Roniaml that is you!) out for dinner in DC’s trendy neighborhood Adams Morgan. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. It was a hole in the wall kind of place. The place that only real locals dine. It was love at first bite. I am a huge thai fan. I think because I love the juxtaposition of sweet basil and spicey chilis. I dream of a visit to Thailand to taste the cuisine in its native land. I am always weary of the American places. So today, I tried a new Thai place here in Gville. I had a garlic pepper chicken dish…sicey level four out of ten. I give it a C. Atmosphere was decent. Service was good. However I think I could have made this dish at home with a little more personality and blending of spices. Perhaps I made a bad selection…I should have had curry.

Dragon Eyes

Dragon eyes. No not the eyes of my nemesis or that girl who stole my first boyfriend. I’m referring to an asian fruit. When I purchased these round little fruits, also known as Longans, I had absolutely no idea what they were. They are about the size of a muscadine grape and look like a round potato…similar in color. I didn’t know if they were fruits or veggies. When I felt them, I couldn’t tell either. So there was only one thing to do….bite in.

I broke through the tough skin to embrace a weird clearish texture. Not as gooey as a muscadine and not as firm as a regular grape. The flavor was similar to a melon….but really weird. The skins were not edible and there was a really black rather large seed in the center. I don’t know if it was the texture or the seed or what, but I had an eery feeling I was biting into one of the cow eyeballs that I dissected at science camp in seventh grade! Guess that is why it’s nicknamed- dragon eyes.

Blushing Bride

Another shower on the horizon…perfect opportunity to try my hand at cupcakes. I found a chocolate chip cupcake with a marshmallow like icing recipe that was perfect. I followed the directions precisely. For some reason the batter was really runny…this could be disastrous. I had publix on stand-by. Luckily the cakes and the icing turned out great. It wasn’t my favorite recipe-but the cupcakes were precious and quite frankly just as cute as the $3 versions! I topped them with these cute little brides and grooms. They were a perfect centerpiece for our celebration.

shrimp and grits

I can remember the first time I realized that grits were quintessentially southern. I was 13 years old and had traveled to NYC on a school trip. I was used to eating grits for breakfast most mornings so it seemed natural enough to ask the waitress if they had Gri-its on the menu. (back then, the eastern NC accent gave way to grits with two syllables). The waitress looked at me like I was crazy. So I said it again, “gri-its”. “Oh” she said…and proceeded to bring me a sprite. WHAT? I tried again to tell her what I wanted, but we just couldn’t see to communicate. I couldn’t even believe that the whole world didn’t eat grits for breakfast. Oh sheltered southern child!

I wonder how many grits I have eaten in my lifetime? Seriously! When I studied abroad, I carefully packed a six month supply of instant grits in my luggage! I really thought that I would “need” them because how in the world could the french offer an equal breakfast! But, I must admit, one taste of the croissant from the boulangerie down the rue and I forgot all about my southern roots.Oui, Oui, Oui!  So what did I do with all of those grits you ask? We had a “grit” party at my school!!!! I invited all the yanks, west coasters and a few french to my grits party. And let’s just say, the grits paired very well with a light bordeaux!

Fast forward a few years, grits continue to be a comfort food for me. Though I don’t eat them as much now that I am “grown” up and know how much butter and cream it takes to make them to my liking. Over this long weekend, I spent some time relaxing and catching up on my magazine reading. The September Food and Wine has a southern focus and offered a recipe for a lightened version of shrimp and grits, I knew this was one recipe I had to try. So what makes this new for me…clearly, I have had a lifetime of indulging in this southern delicatessin….the grits have spinach in them! In all my years, I would have never dreamed of adding spinach to my grits.

Though I do love stone ground grits (Anson Mills are the best)…quick cooking makes life easy for a weeknight dinner. Add a little cheese, some spinach and a handfull of chives and you have the basis for this dish. Most of the time, the shrimp and “gravy” are cooked with bacon or country ham fat. This recipe lightens the fat content by pan cooking the shrimp with a little canola oil, paprika and white wine.The white wine is reduced and the result is a tangy rich sauce. YUM. And as a bonus…dinner is served in about 15 minutes start to finish. The result, a delish, rich version of a southern classic.

Remember to buy FRESH shrimp…the best you can find. Like friends, not all shrimp are created equal.

First Signs of Fall

The morning air is a bit cooler. Some of the leaves have begun to change. Apples are beginning to be harvested. The first signs of fall are upon us. Though the thermometer says it is 95 degrees, my heart says..hurry up fall. Bring on football games, blue jeans and the fall harvest.

My in-laws went up to the mountains this weekend and came back with a big bag of apples- fresh picked from an orchard. I just had to find a perfect apple dish to kick off the fall harvest. How about cranberry, caramel baked apples. Just like a caramel apple from the state fair…but with a hint of cranberry flavor.

The recipe called for me to core the apple using a melon baller (a recent purchase to help with my watermelon “cake”).  I had never cored an apple! Something new to go along with the new dish. I baked the apples with the cranberry caramel for about an hour. After baking, I reduced the sauce then poured back on the apple….pooling it in the carved out core. I then topped it with whipped cream. OMG. TASTY. Tart and sweet all at once. The apple was cooked to perfection…soft but not mushy. The caramel sauce was a perfect combo of deep sweet and a light citrus. One bite and I was transported back to the North Carolina State Fair at age 8.

Happy Fall Ya’ll.