This Week’s Eats: 06/14/13

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My Broccoli and Pine Nut Soup, with added cauliflower, toasted pecans, and fresh, homegrown mint!

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Eric’s garden haul for the week: tomatoes, jalapeños, and habaneros.

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See, I told you we’ve been eating a lot of polenta! This is parmesan polenta with “deconstructed pesto” (aka, I’m Too Lazy to Wash the Food Processor): toasted pine nuts and pecans, fried onions, olive oil, grated parmesan, and shredded basil.

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The student has become the teacher! He also made me this amazing dinner: locally made-sausage (leftover from a friend’s food truck, gifted); peperoncinis; penne with homemade tomato sauce from homegrown tomatoes and basil. Delicious! One of his top five meals ever!

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Uh… I’m gonna need more of the Thirsty Planet Franklin Smoked Porter (yes, as in Franklin Barbecue!). Sampled at The Drag Bar (formerly Varsity Bar).

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I know I keep saying it on all media platoforms ad infinitum, but Taco Joint has the best breakfast tacos in town. This is the migas taco (the melted Gouda makes it), with avocado salsa. Dear Lord.

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I might’ve also had lunch there.

(El Señor Crockett: basically, a fajita taco.)

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Eric also made us a really spicy pizza with some of those homegrown chiles.

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Mmm.

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His years working in the family Italian bakery have finally started to pay off… for me.  Here’s his recipe.

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Cast-iron-pan-fried salmon burger from Wheatsville, topped with melted provolone and leftover avocado salsa from Taco Joint. Bunless. I didn’t see any reason to bother!

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Homemade tostadas with homemade refried black beans (with bacon fat and my – refried beans recipe here), Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and homegrown jalapeños!

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Eric added fresh, homegrown tomatoes and black pepper.

So, basically, my diet is now 100% Mexican and Italian food.  No gripes.

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Cheesy Chile-Spiced Polenta with Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Cheesy Chile-Spiced Polenta

We’ve been eating a lot of polenta around here lately.  I thought it was time to expand my ground cornmeal palate beyond my Horseradish Cheese Grits and my Dijon Cheesy Grits (read this if you’re confused about the difference between polenta and grits and masa).

I finally ran out of Henry Langdon’s amazing Sea Salt Rub (as featured in my Shrimp and Grits recipe); my pals Mike and Laura brought a big jar of it back from their trip to Australia a few years back, and it was like magic cooking dust.  I wish I had some more (hint, hint, Shalini).  In the meantime, here’s my attempt at replicating its flavor profile with some rich, cheesy polenta, which, it turns out, is the perfect vehicle for the
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil
we made after our recent, massive chile harvest.

Make a whole big batch of this and then enjoy it reheated for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

2 cups polenta
8 cups water
4 Tbsp butter
1 tsp prepared horseradish sauce
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp fresh cilantro, finely diced
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp dried and chopped kaffir lime leaves
sea salt, or to taste
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil, to taste

1. Bring water to boil in a large saucepan with a little salt.

2. Add polenta. Stir, and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed.

3. Remove pan from heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly until well-mixed. Taste and salt as desired.

4. Spoon out and serve immediately, drizzled with
Habanero-Infused Olive Oil
, or spoon polenta into a bowl, refrigerate, and serve later in slices. You could also use the firmed-up leftovers for my Fried Polenta with Creamy Mushrooms.

Or you could top it with homemade bacon bits.

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Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

Check out this habanero-infused olive oil we threw together after our recent, massive chile harvest. Spicy! I’m hooked!

~2 cups extra virgin olive oil
4-6 fresh habanero chiles, washed

1. Wear latex gloves.

2. Choose a cutting board that is not super-absorbent (such as glass), or, even better, have a dedicated chile-cutting board. You could also line your cutting board with a plastic bag, being careful not to pierce the bag when cutting. Slice habaneros as desired and set cutting board aside.

3. Fill a glass container (Mason jar, recycled and washed olive oil or salad dressing bottle) half full (or so) with olive oil. Add the peppers to the olive oil, leaving some room for air at the top.

4. Wrap a paper towel or cheesecloth around the mouth of the jar and secure with twine (don’t use a rubber band!). Microwave the oil on high for a few seconds, watching closely, or until it comes just to a near-boil—just bubbling. Do not let the olive oil boil, or you will have a huge mess on your hands.

5. If you used a paper towel for the cover, remove it and replace with a fresh one. Turn the bottle or jar upside down and drain the oil into another container (any material will do—I used a Martha Steward plastic fridge containers!). Place in the refrigerator upside-down and allow the oil to cool until it’s solid. Discard chile hulls and seeds; we use ours for compost.

6. Remove the container and pour off any water that has separated. Allow the olive oil to return to liquid form at room temperature. Pour the infused oil back into the glass container and put the lid on. Eccola! Habanero-infused olive oil!

Mmm.

Habanero-Infused Olive Oil

I added a couple more slices to this, for extra kick and pretty presentation!

This Week’s Eats: 05/31/13

Chips & salsa

For our poolside Memorial Day party, chips and e.’s delicious homemade salsa.

Tea

He also made us some raspberry lemon iced tea with mint. Refreshing!

Penn-Mex

Penn-Mex.

Grilling

We grilled burgers, corn on the cob, and Giada’s Lemon-Cumin Chicken.

Cowboy Burger

Cowboy Burgers

Our friends Mike and Laura brought these amazing, spicy Cowboy Burgers from Central Market, which we topped with cheddar slices, grilled, and served on jalapeño buns. A great pairing!

Salvation Pizza

e. surveying his cheese pie at Salvation Pizza. It was good.

Fredericksburg Brewing

Beer flight at Fredericksburg Brewing Company. They have some great beers; recommended.

Pretzel

They were also seemingly the only place in Fredericksburg that serves pretzels! That mustard was out of control, though. So hot.

Sausage plate

Sausage sampler plate, Fredericksburg Brewing Company. Very good, especially the German potato salad. A lot of food, and a good deal.

Egg Sandwich

Breakfast for dinner: a minimalist version of our favorite meal at Fado, the Hangover Sandwich. This one’s just fried eggs and bacon on fried sourdough. Yes, fried, not toasted. Like in England. Well dench, innit.

Mint julep

One of Eric’s mint juleps, with homegrown mint and homemade syrup.

Lavazza gelato

Hazelnut and chocolate gelato, double macchiato, Lavazza Espression on Congress. Dolce far niente, y’all.

Nachos

Dinner: blue corn tortillas, refried black beans, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, Cholula sauce, sour cream, and homegrown jalapeños!

Read about my nacho theory, and see my vegan nacho recipe, here.

Salumi

Lots of things taste as good as skinny feels. Like this hunk of brie, salami, and pecans I had for lunch.

Breakfast tacos

Super decadent breakfast tacos: fresh corn tortillas with refried black beans, scrambled eggs with cream, grated cheddar, Cholula sauce, and bacon.

Biscuits

Perfecting my biscuit recipe.

Biscuits

Biscuits, butter, and Gruene Three Berry Jam. Nom.

Tex-Mex

Lunch special at El Mer. One cheese enchilada with sour cream sauce, one beef taco, rice, and black beans. Oh, and a $3.50 margarita. Oh, yes.

Kismet Cafe

Gyro plate at Kismet Cafe. Prettttttty good.

Dad's Roman Holiday

Dad’s Roman Holiday. Recipe here.

Cheese Enchiladas

My Old School Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas with The Fieldmarshal’s Old School Tex-Mex Sauce. They turned out kind of flat (the horror!), because my tortillas were old, but they were darn tasty.  Not pictured: raw, diced white onions, added to the top.  Crunch, crunch.

Tempura Green Beans

We finally made it to Contigo. These tempura fried green beans were delicious.

Contigo salad

A salad of wilted arugula, onions, mushrooms, and spicy dressing, Contigo.

Salumi

Contigo salumi and pâté plates, Contigo. The foreground is rabbit pâté.

Sausage plate, Contigo

I’m just going to go ahead and call it now. This will be the summer of German sausage plates for me and e.; Contigo.

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Lemon Garlic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

We’ve been watching a lot of Giada De Laurentiis lately, thanks to the giant flat screen TV my mother bought us for Christmas, along with the new DVR we’re paying way too much for. I’ve been a fan of my fellow five-foot foodie for a while, but she’s really been on a lemon kick lately. I recently bought a whole bag of lemons at Central Market (mainly with cocktails in mind), so all that sharp footage of lemon sauces, lemon parfaits, lemon chicken, and lemon cookies inspired me to create this simple recipe.

On Memorial Day, we made her Lemon-Cumin Chicken on the grill out by the pool, so we had some of that left over. You could use plain baked chicken breasts, pan-fried chicken, or shredded roast chicken for this recipe; whatever you prefer or have on hand. The added flavor of the grilled crust, marinated in cumin and lemon juice, really added something special to the final dish, though. Try it sometime.

This simple, bright recipe is a good pasta dish for summer; it’s creamy comfort food without being too heavy, and pairs well with chicken, shrimp, salmon, or grilled portobello mushrooms.

4 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1 lb. capelli d’angelo pasta (angel hair)
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or minced
zest of two lemons
juice of two lemons
1 cup heavy cream (or sour cream)
1 heaping Tbsp flour
salt, to taste
1 tsp black pepper, or to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste

1. Fill a large stock pot with water, salt liberally, and add a splash of olive oil (about 1 teaspoon). Bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook for approximately five minutes, or until al dente. Test a strand to see if it’s done; if not, boil for an additional minute.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter and add sliced chicken, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes, until chicken is warmed through and garlic is fragrant but not burned. Add the lemon zest and juice, and cook for about two additional minutes, stirring constantly. Drizzle in cream, stirring while doing so, then add flour. Mix in with a light hand until flour is well absorbed into the sauce, and a thicker consistency begins to form. Reduce heat to low. Taste and re-season as needed.

3. Drain pasta and return to pan. Lightly toss with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon). Using a slotted pasta fork, plate the pasta. Pour the chicken and lemon garlic sauce out over each helping, and serve immediately.
Lemon Garic Pasta with Grilled Chicken

These pictures don’t really do justice to this dish; it’s way tastier than they make it look! I also went a bit nuts with the pasta portions sizes. Anyway, try it, and let me know what you think! If you like lemon infused savory dishes, I bet you’ll love it, too!