Monday, September 16, 2013

Liberty's Kitchen and Cowboy Caviar

If you don't know about Liberty's Kitchen, you should. It's an unassuming little cafe near Tulane and Broad with a great mission and delicious food. They're only open for breakfast and lunch, which means I don't get there very often but I consider it a real treat when I do.
I've never had anything there that wasn't good; black bean burger, hot sausage po-boy, the salad with green onion-tarragon vinaigrette, the SCONES and their specialty, shrimp and grits, is to die for. They are also very reasonably priced and their sandwiches come with cowboy caviar, chips or coleslaw. You will want the cowboy caviar! But I'll get to that in a minute. I want to reiterate that their prices are lower than a lot of just ok sandwich shops AND include a side (I'm looking at you, ManhattanJack!) I've also dealt with them on numerous occasions for catering and find that they are not only delicious and a good value, they are among the few outfits in this city that can properly estimate how much food will be needed for different sized groups. I'm shocked at how many catering places don't seem to understand that.

Anyway, all that aside, their cowboy caviar is an incredible black-eyed pea salad that I've tried to re-create. I'm sure it's not as good as theirs but it's pretty tasty. The husband went back for seconds and THIRDS! I eat it as a salad/side dish, husband eats it more like a dip, with corn chips. This is just an outline, you can certainly vary the amounts.

Cowboy Caviar

1 lb. black-eyed peas
2 ears of corn, husks removed, charred on the stovetop and cut from the cob.
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
2-3 ribs of celery, diced

1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch green onions, greens and whites
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
a little squirt of Dijon mustard
a little squirt of Steen's cane syrup
a few dashes (or several) of hot sauce

Combine all the legumes in a bowl. For the dressing, whiz this up in a blender, then pour over the legumes. I didn't have any tomato or avocado but I think both would make nice additions here. You want to let this sit for at least a few hours so the flavors can meld together and it's just keeps getting better!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ratatouille Baked Ziti

Again inspired by our time in Provence. I wanted to make ratatouille but also wanted baked ziti. So I combined the two and topped it with b├ęchamel and mozzarella.

Since I made this meatless and I knew my husband would want meat, I made meatballs on the side. I've posted one version of my meatballs before but it's basically for every pound of meat, use 1 egg, a large handful of breadcrumbs, a few cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, about 1/4 c. grated romano and seasonings. Sometimes I do all beef, sometimes 1:1 beef and pork. I add red pepper flakes, basil or whatever else I've got. A glug of red or white wine, it's always different but the structure remains the same. This time, I ground up about a teaspoon of fennel seeds and I loved this addition.

I would have liked more sauce but I'm writing the recipe as I made it. So perhaps next time I would reduce the amount of pasta used (1 lb.) or increase the ratatouille recipe. Or maybe just add another can of whole tomatoes. I think this recipe is fairly forgiving.

1 medium eggplant
1 bulb fennel
1 large onion
2 medium zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 head garlic
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes
salt and pepper

Cut all vegetables (not including tomatoes) in large chunks, coat with olive oil and roast. Also, the garlic doesn't need to be cut, just roast the whole head. Temperature can vary but I did it for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees. Once roasted, add to a pot with the canned tomatoes, bring to a soft boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Add herbs and seasoning. Cook until it tastes good to you. I think this step took me about 20 minutes.

Bechamel (from Mario Batali, Food Network):
5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

Toss the ratatouille with 1 pound of boiled ziti or penne or any other shape you like. Pour the b├ęchamel over the top. Sprinkle about 1 cup of grated cheese over the whole thing and bake for 30 minutes at 375. If the top isn't browned, put it in the broiler for a few minutes.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


So sad when you make something that just doesn't turn out the way you want it to:( So we just got back from a delightful trip to France and of course I tried to recreate a bit of the magic here at home by having people over for dinner and crepes last night. Not having made crepes since I was but a teen, I consulted Alton Brown and smitten I was surprised at the differences between them, not major really but I expected to see a the same standard proportions. See? They both call for two eggs but with significantly different amounts of flour. I went with Alton because I figured SK's more egg to flour ratio might be more omelette-y than crepe-y. Plus, I added 2 T. of sugar and a splash of vanilla. I have to say that they really didn't taste of sugar or vanilla, nor did I like the texture. It was thick, or maybe dense? And kind of chewy? Anyway, I guess I'll just have to keep practicing, which I'm fine with.

Alton Brown:

2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons melted butter


2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Two pinches of salt
Few gratings fresh nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey

I was also yearning for some hearty bread, seeded and rich with different textures. I found a recipe from the Harvard School of Public Health and I can't really fault them because I deviated from the recipe. But they say "There is no right and wrong when making this bread!" And I believed them. Anyway, here's what I did. First, I cut it because I just didn't need three loaves. Plus, I subbed some flours for others that I did not have. Finally, I made a sponge with the flour before adding the seeds and whatnot, unlike the recipe, which says to add flours last and no sponge. The sponge was going a-ok, growing rapidly and smelling deliciously yeasty. Then I added the seeds and it all went to shit. When I started kneading, I can't even explain it. I've never felt dough like that before. There was absolutely no stretch or pull to it, if that makes any sense. I did what I could on the kneading front and then let it rise into a pathetic little ball. I let it go for an hour, during which time it rose almost imperceptibly. Let it go a while longer and then put it in the refrigerator overnight. I didn't even have the heart to turn on the oven for that sad mess. There's only so much kitchen disappointment I can take in one day. I finally baked it, the cruel, hard-hearted knot that it was, but haven't yet tasted it. I'm hoping that, once toasted and gilded with butter, it will be somewhat edible but we'll see. What did I do wrong???

1 1/4 cups of warm water (110–115°F)
1 packets of dry active yeast (1/4 ounce each)
3/4 cup whole grain rye flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2 grams of salt
Canola oil or canola oil spray, as needed
Seeds and Grains

1/3 cup of ground flax seeds (grind them in a coffee grinder, or buy milled flax seeds)
1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup whole rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat bran