I can’t even think about fried food right now. All I want is a big salad or a piece of poached fish. Simple, healthy, clean. Shrimp fritters are a no-go in my life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy them. I’m sure at some point I’ll recover from our trip to NOLA, but for the next few weeks, I’m keeping things light. That’s what five days of shrimp and grits, fried oyster po’ boys, beignets, and Sazeracs will do to a person. No regrets, though. None at all.
Our time in New Orleans was memorable and we left with a good feel for the city. When we travel, I like to do one activity each day and we managed to do that. On our first day, we took the trolley up to the sculpture garden, which is situated in City Park next to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Entry to the garden is free, and one can easily spend an hour perusing the 63 sculptures.
Looking to get a bit more general history of the city, we signed up for a guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery 1. The hour and a half spent walking with our guide was packed with information (some of which I’m sure we missed since he spoke at a dizzying pace). Having now seen the above-ground vaults, I need to watch the infamous scene from Easy Rider again. Apparently (and not terribly surprising), part of the movie was filmed without permission from the city and, ever since 1969, no other films have been allowed to shoot inside the cemetery.
Our third day was a bit rainy, which made for the perfect museum day. The Ogden was down the street from where we were staying. A relatively compact museum, the exhibits gave us a great foundation on Southern art.
But the part I’ll remember the most was what we did on our last day. A friend who lives locally offered to pick us up to drive around the Ninth Ward. While a few buildings have been constructed over the years since Hurricane Katrina (mainly those financed by Brad Pitt), not much has been developed in this area. There are huge gaps between the houses. Instead of a city, it resembles a more rural neighborhood. A number of these houses are in a state of complete disrepair and should have been demolished years ago. Yet they haven’t been touched and just sit there. It’s a sobering sight; one that anyone visiting New Orleans should see.
I’m not sure when Eric and I will have a chance to return for another visit, but we already have a list of eats, drinks and landmarks we missed on this trip. And speaking of dining, I’ll be sure to share my recommendations later this week.
Back to these fritters! So, see that book down there? These fritters are a result of that beautiful book by Ashley Rodriguez (of Not Without Salt fame). I’ve read through Date Night In once already (a sign of a stellar cookbook is that you read it from cover to cover) and have already gone back through passages. I just love them so much. Now, shrimp fritters aren’t in the book, but a tzatziki dressing is and I went off of that. Because a fried frittery thing, especially one with a bit of a kick, needs a yogurt dipping sauce to cool things down (I should note that I modified it a bit by adding some chipotle pepper to give it a little smokiness).
For other a multitude of wonderful recipes and deeply personal stories by Ashley, be sure to buy her book. Don’t wait. Go. Now.
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Our winter routine now consists of a nightly pot of tea. Lemon or lemon-ginger are our go-tos. I often leave mine unadulterated, but sometimes there’s a couple teaspoons of honey, an additional squeeze of lemon, and, on the weekends (or after an especially stressful day), a splash of rum or bourbon. We sip this on our couch, curled up under blankets (Maki is usually wrapped up under two or three of these in an attempt to keep her nose warm). The TV streams episodes one after the next. We’re in full hibernation mode.
On a recent trip to the store, Eric mentioned that he’s been craving some ginger snaps to go with our tea. We bought a box and, while delicious, I couldn’t help but think how nice it’d be if I made my own cookies. Not that it’d be healthier, but, unlike other prepared items we purchase, baking a batch of ginger snaps isn’t terribly complicated. Now, I’m usually a fan of chewy cookies. A little crunch on the outside is fine, but I prefer them a little underdone in the middle. However, my goal here was to make crispy ginger snaps. And I wanted them to be little guys. A couple bites each.
This took a bit of work. I first made the dough, which I knew would result in a flavorful cookies, since I’d consumed half the bowl as I transferred it to the baking sheet. The trick was to roll the dough balls so that when they spread in the oven, it would only be a couple inches in diameter. Next, I needed to figure out how long to bake them for. Too long, and they get burnt (which happened a few times) and too short and they don’t crisp up. It’s a tough job, but I was happy to take on the challenge.
I’ve found that a number of ginger cookies don’t call for crystalized ginger. For me, I love the kick that you get from those little bits, so I’ve included some in this recipe. There’s no doubt that these are ginger cookies. None at all.
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These poor black radishes sat in the fridge for weeks. Actually, it may have been over a month. Totally neglected. As the one who does most of the cooking, it was up to me to get up the guts to work with these again. The last time was almost two years ago and I was a bit stunned by their pungent flavor. It was a similar reaction to what I had when I first tried dandelion greens. But now I’m a fan of those greens. I found a way to mellow them and I knew I could do the same with black radish.
After weeks of meals loaded with butter, cream, sugar, and all those delicious and rich ingredients, I was ready to lighten things up a bit. Slaws are my favorite this time of year. Between the soups and stews, it’s nice to balance things by preparing a big salad with a zingy slaw. A little sweetness comes out through the agave and carrot, with a touch of tang from the lime. It’s got a lot going on. A ton of flavor; a lot of textures. And it reminds me to remain fearless in the kitchen. At face value, an ingredient can be intimidating. Approaching it with a little finesse, however, can transform it into something beautiful.
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What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.
The Year, Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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I failed at posting a Hanukkah recipe. I had one in my head but never got around to making it. I guess I’ll just have to save it for next year. This seems to always happen to me when it comes to holiday recipes. Even this post, a cocktail to ring in the New Year, almost didn’t happen. Vijay, Brandon and I had talked a few weeks ago about doing another What I Drink post, since we had such a blast with the first one. We’re a few guys who not only love food, but enjoy getting creative with our cocktails. And whenever a holiday comes around, you can bet that the three of us have come up with a creative beverage to go with the celebratory feast. But, as I said, we were pretty close to not succeeding in our second installment.
I’m so glad we stuck to our guns, though. Each of us have come up with drinks that use seasonal ingredients and somewhat underused booze. Brandon’s working with champagne and infused brandy. And Vijay did a little switch up by putting mezcal in his version of a Blood and Sand, and cranberries are always a wonderful addition to a cocktail, both in flavor and color.
As for this little concoction I mixed together, well, it took me a little while until I figured out exactly what I wanted to make. Originally, I had a hot toddy in mind, but I’d been anxious to try out this little cider syrup trick and I’ve already posted an apple hot toddy… so that was out. Then I considered doing something with mezcal (I know, I’m obsessed), but when I looked in our cabinet, I found that we were all out (GAH!). So, I went with Scotch. Despite my love for a little single-malt goodness, I’ve never had it paired with other ingredients. Well, I’m hooked now. Don’t be skeptical. Try it, and you will be too. Promise.
I’m not sure I’ll be able to whip up something for next week. I might just take a little time off. We’ll have to see. Then again, if there’s some free time and I’m inspired, you may see me pop up here. If not, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday.
Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Enjoy your Kwanza. Or your Festivus.
Oh, and happy New Year.
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