Monday, October 24, 2011

zucchini fettuccine with toasted pecans

     When we were on vacay, I made this dish for the first time and served it with grilled fish. I mentioned it to you in the post entitled, Food Maven in Paradise. It is so simple and delicious, you could pair it with anything.
     I wish I could take credit for its creation, but that honor goes to the October issue of Southern Living Mag. (I even borrowed their photo... why mess with perfection?) 
     I began by quartering the zucchini and shaving it into strips with a vegetable peeler to mimic the shape of fettucine. You could use a box grater if you had to.
     I pared down the cooking time in the original recipe to retain the zucchini's crisp-tender crunch. The only cheese on hand was Parmesan, it was used instead of Asiago. It was still delicious... and there were no leftovers;)
Ingredients
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 12-oz. package fresh fettucine
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 pound zucchini shredded
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 c. grated Asiago cheese
1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, julienned
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions
Toast pecans in a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Stir often, 6-8 minutes or until toasted. Set aside.
Cook fettucine according to package directions, reserving 1/2 c. pasta water. While waiting for pasta water to boil, melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook until it softens... but, don't let it burn.
Throw in the shredded zucchini and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure it doesn't become mushy. Toss in the fettucine and blend. Add cheese, basil and pecans just before serving. Taste for salt and add lots of black pepper. If sauce is too dry, loosen it up with bit of pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.
courtesy of southern living mag

Monday, October 17, 2011

let's review: so many fritters, so little time

     At the end of September, we traveled to the Keys for a week with my sis and her hubby. Their son, a friend and Steve's parents joined us for a couple of days. Whether it was a party of four or eight, everywhere we ate, or snacked, or even slowed down near... if they had conch on the menu, my brother in law ordered it.
     My favorite fritters (of the entire week,) were from a tiny seafood market in Marathon named King Seafood. They don't even have a website or Facebook page... gee whiz. Talk about primitive!
     Sharon and I stumbled upon it while looking for some fresh fish to grill for dinner. We thought it was merely a market. Upon exiting the car, the aroma of garlic and spices filled the surrounding air... We knew we were in for a treat!
     King Seafood is run by a Cuban family who does everything from fishing to prepping to cooking the seafood. The prices were surprisingly low, so we ordered an array of menu items to carry home to our hungry lobster-hunters.
     I love trying a little taste of many things to get a feel for a place. We bought fish croquettes, conch fritters, conch ceviche, crab cakes, plantain tostones, and a huge yellowtail sandwich with the tail still on the fish.
     As we shared all of our goodies, we agreed that the fritters were the winners of the day. We didn't love was the prepackaged Ken's tartar sauce. I added some sriracha chili sauce and fresh lime juice to kick it up a bit.
     When in Key West, the Conch Shack, right on Duval Street is my pick. The fritters were crispy and had a nice amount of heat.
     The key lime remoulade was a great idea, but needed a bit more limey-ness... maybe a little zest would do the trick... Did you hear that, Conch Shack?
     They make something similar to a pancake batter filled with conch and other yummy stuff. The guy scooped them out of a tub straight into the fryer basket. You can watch them being made while you sip on a tropical smoothie or cold beer.
     We also ate fritters at Sunset Grille. They were more like a hush puppy, with a cornmeal texture but filled with meaty conch. Yum! Who knew there would be so many styles and so many sauces?
If we had another week I'll bet we could sample a few more...

The Conch Shack on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

wedding mania around here

     Most of us have been to at least one wedding. I have been to four this year, so far and have three to go. At our house, 2011 is also known as the year of weddings.
     I just love how these young brides plan and shape their individual wedding to reflect their personality. Every one of them has been so unique.
     I'm giving a little wedding shout out to the MOB, my friend and fellow blogger, The Housewife. She has been chatting for months about the plans for Brittany's wedding. You can read the backstory on her page.
     Brittany's wedding was simple and elegant, held in a cozy chapel. Her reception was in a sleek, contemporary place owned by an Opera company. It was the party of a lifetime.
     Memory in the Making... title of the couple's favorite song by Eddie L. Smith of Memphis was the resounding theme of the evening. The father of the bride secretly planned a surprise for the happy couple by inviting Mr. Smith to sing his song for their first dance. This live performance made for a speechless groom and ecstatic bride... The General did good:)
     The reception food was right up my alley even though a few of my meat and potatoes friends didn't quite get it. It had many of the things I love... freshness, healthy choices, bright colors and edible creativity. She employed a really innovative caterer. He and I could be great friends.
     There was a palm tree made out of pineapples, covered with various shish-kabobs. My fave was the goat cheese balls and roasted cherry tomatoes.
     Shot glasses of three types of soup (avocado-black bean, jambalaya and tomato bisque,) ringed the base of the tree.
     Tuna ceviche on endive leaves and cali rolls filled the center of another table. A third spot was piled high with brie and fruit, whole baby carrots with hummus and grilled asparagus.
     The wedding cake was a cheesecake. I know! Fabulous, right? Oh, and the groom's cake was praline... need I say more?
     My only complaint is about the event is their lighting package... hot pink! I am photographically challenged as it is and my photos of the food were cast in unappetizing shades of pink and orange. ugh:(
     These fabulous pictures are by a professional... Becca Yager Photography. Her band of talented and tireless photographers did an amazing job!
     The photo booth complete with props was a hoot. The parents of the bride choose a humorous approach... the groom is a police officer.
Memory in the Making...
so. much. fun.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

food maven in paradise

Cheeseburger in paradise
Medium rare with mustard 'be nice
Heaven on earth with an onion slice
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise- 
Jimmy Buffet, from Cheeseburger in Paradise
 
     Our week in Paradise (otherwise known as the Florida Keys,) did not include a cheeseburger... Well, I did have some little sliders at Oceanview Inn in Islamorada, but otherwise we were tuned to the all-seafood, all-the-time channel.  
     I want to state that I am NOT complaining, here. I could eat fish every day, every week. The one thing that stuck with me was the difference between the flavor of fish I purchase, that has been caught elsewhere and shipped, versus the flavor of fish we caught and ate fresh. Wow!
     My brother-in-law, Steve's dad was with us for a couple of days. Tom would fish off the dock behind the house when not occupied with something else. By the end of the morning he had filled a gallon ziploc bag and half of another with filets, mainly yellowtail snapper.
     The next night, I placed them in a shallow pan, rubbed them with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled them with Weber's mango-lime seafood seasoning I found at Publix. We threw them on the grill for a minute or two and served them with a light, garlicky pasta topped with zucchini and toasted pecans. The pasta recipe was adapted from Southern Living mag. Look for recipe here... it was FAB!
     It had to be the best fish I've eaten since I moved away from Florida. It was so sweet... not at all fishy. Like I stated earlier... eating like this is the real paradise. Who needs cheesburgers?

Monday, October 10, 2011

let's review: sunset grille, marathon, florida keys

     We started our week in the Florida Keys by dining at Sunset Grille and Raw Bar located at the foot of Seven-Mile Bridge in Marathon. The fabulous Caribbean ambiance of the place is hard to put into words. The roof is an elaborate, thatched south-seas tiki affair. The entire property is out of doors... natural air conditioning at it's best.
     An upper level houses the main dining area and a bar. The lower level has a pool and more dining area. Patrons can lounge and swim and eat while enjoying the spectacular ocean view. How many establishments can boast that feature?
     We ordered the smoked fish dip to snack on while making our dinner selections. And what's the deal with smoked fish dip? It must be a Florida thing... every restaurant seems to have one on the menu. As long as we were with my sis and fam, we had to try each version. That rule applied to conch fritters as well... but that's another post.
     My husband and I chose to share a bowl of she-crab soup. Many places attempt to make this popular soup, but not all are successful... Sunset Grille is. We could have made a meal out of this soup or taken a swim in it. I did dab a little behind ear for later... to lure my date into a little late night nibbling;)
     Our entree choices were the Dolphin Jalamango and Blackened Hogfish. Both were served with coconut rice and black beans, plus a seasonal vegetable blend. The dolphin (mahi) was caught locally and grilled to perfection. The jala-mango salsa is made, obviously, from jalapenos and mangos. It was slightly spicy, a very good accompaniment to the dolphin.
     I asked for a light touch for the blackening seasoning on my Hogfish snapper. I really wanted the flavor of the fish to shine through. It was so fresh, it really did not need anything else. I would order this fish again and again. And maybe again.
     While her hubby chose a huge platter of raw oysters, my sis had the Thai Peanut Shrimp Skewers. The peanut sauce had a little kick to it. I liked the fact that the sauce did not overpower the freshness of the grilled shrimp.
     The only downside to the meal was that we were so full, we didn't have room for dessert... maybe next time!
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

let's review: five brothers two cuban grocery

     Have you ever stumbled upon a place that is off the beaten track and had an unexpectedly good meal? Sharon and Steve, Chris and I were driving down US1 on Ramrod Key and spotted a sign for a Cuban grocery.
     A hand-lettered sign near the road said, Cuban Sandwiches. That was all of the prompting we needed to whip the car around the corner and into a shaded parking lot.
     This place was truly a little grocery store. In addition to hispanic pantry staples, they sold calderos (similar to a dutch oven) of all sizes, stove-top espresso pots and a tool to flatten a plantain slice into a tostone... all the essentials of a Cuban kitchen.
     The dining area was a small screened porch off the back, set with plastic tables and chairs. I had a good feeling about it... usually the more primitive the accommodations, the better the food.
     The elderly gentleman taking orders at the counter spoke little English, but lucky for us, my hubby is fluent in Spanish. The man seemed amused that a gringa would order Cuban cafe con leche, extra hot and very strong, sin azucar (no sugar.) That's just how I roll.
     Chris and I ordered a sandwich similar to the more familiar cubano. It's called a media noche, which means half the night, or midnight. The old guy asked him in Spanish who he would be with at midnight. Chris jerked his head in my direction and they both laughed;)
media noche
     The difference between the two sandwiches is the bread. A cubano is made on cuban bread. Media noche is on sweet egg bread. They both have roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. Sharon and Steve opted for the more traditional cubano.
yucca rellenas
     Chris ordered the yucca rellenas, a croquette made from cooked yucca root and filled with meat. They also have the same thing made with potatoes, pappas rellenas.
     Steve ordered bollitos, garlicky, black-eyed pea fritters that he remembered eating on vacation as a child. We also had cheese filled pastries called quesitos to share for dessert... they paired very well with my cafe.
bollitos
     I really wanted to speak with the girl in the kitchen to learn about the grocery's history. Who were the five brothers? Was the elderly man one of them? How long had they been around? Just as we finished eating, the store filled with people. My chance had passed.
quesito
     I love little out of the way places and on this trip we found quite a few hidden gems. My GPS told me there was another Five Brothers store in Key West. I feel like Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
     Next time you're in the Keys, stop by one of the Five Brothers and order yourself a media noche and a cafe. You can thank me later;)
5 Brothers Grocery & Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

it's apple season!!!

     Much to my disappointment, my mom is forgoing her usual pilgimage to the mountains this year. She and three of her cousins usually go to Lake Lure, North Carolina the third week of October. It is considered the peak week for Fall foliage.
     She consistently returns home with a car trunk laden with the most wonderful apples. They are fresh from the orchard, crisp and sweet.
     The varieties are numerous... Braeburn, Fugi, Gala, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Rome, and my personal fave, Mutsu, an early, yellow apple perfect for eating.
     I have begun dreaming of the things I love to make with apples. Apple crisp is at the top of my family's list. Then there are muffins, pies, apple crisp, fresh apple walnut cake, and more apple crisp.
     When speaking to her (in Florida,) by phone yesterday, I lamented on the prospect of an autumn without fresh apples. We came up with a plan to persuade my cousin, who lives in the Georgia mountains to pick us up some. Now, my only problem is figuring out how to get them to MY house.
Do we plan our life around seasonal produce? You BET we do!