Saturday, June 20, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Hasselback zucchini

If you’ve been by a farmers market in the past week, you’ve no doubt seen the big, beautiful zucchinis that have come into season.

And if you, like me, couldn’t resist and ended up with a lot of them, I’ve got a great dish for you to try. My original intention was to use them to make apad thai with zoodles, but when I saw this image of hasselback zucchini fly by while I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, my plans changed.

It looks involved, but this can be a really quick and easy dish to prepare. Beyond the cooking time, all you need is a zucchini and a few minutes for slicing.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Chattanooga's summer food scene

We’re lucky to have a vibrant and growing food scene here in town, and now is a great time to be in Chattanooga. We have wonderful restaurants and chefs providing fine dining experiences, awesome street food (which, at the moment, between Riverbend concessions and this weekend’s Street Food Festival, probably has a lot of us feeling like there just aren’t enough meals in the day), and a variety of farmers markets teeming with local food and flavors.

There are also some great organizations bringing both meals and food to Chattanoogans this summer, and I hope you can all help spread the word. First of all, the YMCA Mobile Fit Summer Food Program is providing free lunches to kids and teens at more than two dozen locations every weekday (and some Saturdays) through Aug. 8. In addition to the meals, there are also activities, educational opportunities and more. This is a great program, and anything you can do to support it—from letting the kids you know about it to being a volunteer—will make it even better.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Zoodles

I’ve mentioned zoodles (zucchini noodles) a time or two as a stand-in for pasta, but until this past week, I hadn’t yet tried making them. They’ve become very popular with those who have gone gluten-free, low-carb orpaleo, and are a good option for anyone with irritable bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome or on a low-FODMAP diet.

The idea appeals to me simply as another option for using up all the wonderful veggies in my farm share while everything is still fresh. I feel a little overrun with vegetables some weeks (not that I’m complaining—it’s a good problem to have!), and zoodles not only provide a nutritious alternative to pasta but also can be used in soups, salads, stews, casseroles or as a garnish on all sorts of dishes. And they are a quick option for weeknights, when you need to go from the door to the dinner table in a hurry. Many dinners featuring zoodles can be made in 20 minutes or less, and some are no-cook meals that would be perfect on a hot summer evening.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Baked beans

The holiday this past weekend got me thinking about classic summer dishes, and one of the most iconic American foods is baked beans. My grandfather used to claim that my grandmother had been up all night making the ubiquitous beans that always appeared at family picnics, but I later discovered that what she really did was open a can of beans, dump them in a baking dish with a few slices of bacon laid over the top and put them in the oven for an hour. I assumed she knew best and continued using canned beans for years, until I found out how easy it is to make baked beans from scratch. There is very little prep involved, the cooking is mostly unattended, and the flavors can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.

Traditionally, beans were baked throughout the day on Saturday and served for dinner that evening, then reheated again on Sunday for a simple, no-hassle meal. And even after most people gave up the traditional Sabbath abstinence from work, the Saturday night pot of beans remained a custom for many people, especially in New England. Although Boston gets credit for this dish, it does have a Southern influence. According to James Beard, the dish originally was sweetened with maple sugar or syrup, but this was eventually replaced with molasses. He notes that "beans flavored with rum were not unusual in the South, and the jump from rum to molasses is but a short one."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Travel food

Street festival food in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Alice O'Dea)

I’ve been traveling this past week, so instead of spending time in my kitchen, I’ve been thinking about the strategies for eating well when staying in hotels while also finding inspiration to take home with me. This has not been a road trip (I’ll likely be writing about that later this summer when I do some driving up and down the East Coast), but rather a visit to a couple of unfamiliar countries (Hungary and the Czech Republic), so my mind has been especially focused on foreign cookery. Here are some guidelines I’ve been following.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Shrubs

Just as the hot weather started to roll into Chattanooga recently, a recipe for a lemon balm shrub appeared on Tant Hill Farm’s blog. This was a timely reminder of a great, adaptable and refreshing drink that can keep one quenched and cool all summer long. Most commonly referred to as a shrub, this beverage also sometimes goes by the namedrinking vinegar and is similar to the switchel.

The shrub is a fruit syrup, which is acid-based (the acid is most often vinegar, but sometimes fruit juice); usually sweetened (with sugar, honey or molasses); sometimes alcoholic (mixed with brandy, rum, champagne, sherry or vermouth); and often served mixed with water, soda or seltzer. They’ve been traced back to as early as the 15th century, but in America fell out of favor after Prohibition. They have enjoyed a huge resurgence in recent years (Michael Dietsch gives some credit for this to Tait Farm Foods, who started making shrubs in 1987, which were later discovered by Wall Street Journal columnist Eric Felten).

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Chicken soup

I’ve been sick with a cold this week, complete with a stuffy nose, scratchy throat and general feeling of affliction. And it is at just such an occasion that I’m grateful for soup, because it really does make a body feel better (especially if I’m the body that’s mixing up the magic potion).

Chicken soup has been conferred with medicinal properties probably for almost as long as humans have been making it. Recent research shows that the curative powers of chicken soup go beyond mythology; chicken soup can indeed ease symptoms of the upper respiratory ailments. Further, I think the benefits of the soup are heightened by the act of preparing it. Slicing and chopping onions, normally an experience that is irritating to the eyes, can help break up congestion. And standing over a steaming pot of broth as it simmers is warming, comforting and decongesting.