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Sip Snap Savor

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Washington D.C. - World of Words Cocktail Party

Sometimes we dine on words. Powerful words that evoke new realms of thought and imagery to dance in our heads. But first, before you begin, one must wet his or her whistle.

Our hostess, Erin Weir understands this...she invited 12 or so co-workers & friends over for a dinner of international political discussions injected with finger foods, chili and lots and lots of wine. Everyone who attended was either from other countries or were from other countries who worked in other countries but were based here in D.C.

I sat next to Camilla Olson, a Swedish girl who works for a non-profit.
"It's the people themselves. I hear their stories . . . I travel for 3 or 4 weeks at a time in the Congo or Afghanistan and look at issues relating to refugees. I'm more interested in the cultural side of things. You have two people at a time, traveling together from the organization, in a simple car without flags or guns so it's easier to fly under the radar and really find the stories." - Camilla Olson

Tamara, a friend of everyone's from Ghana, who came to the United States vis-à-vis Yugoslavia - is now working as the Presidential Management Fellow for The Office of Secretary of Defense (Bob Gates). Bob Gates is one of the only people held over from the Bush Administration by President Obama.

Tamara will work on different issues in 3 month shifts to better learn all about the entire defense ministry. "My departments tagline, if you will is: Grooming Future Defense Leaders." - Tamara

Not everything was so serious, though. Sitting next to Tamara were three people who worked on Capitol Hill and were giggling about some senator's cologne.

Melanie, of England, who travels throughout Sudan but lives here in the U.S. told me all about the Sudanese culture and food. She explained the vast differences between Nothern Sudan (think: french press coffee, goat or lamb falafels & kebabs) and Southern Sudan (think: fried dough, fufu, kasava) diets.

"Everyone here in D.C. is here for a reason. Everyone has a purpose, goals, out-comes they hope to achieve. It's refreshing to meet all sorts of people working on all sorts of projects and intiatives."
-Erin Weir

The Cheese Line-Up:
-Santa Teresa
-Genuine Fulvi Pecorino Romano (from the countryside of Rome)
-Morbier Les Trois Comtois
-Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog
-Fresh Chevre
-Aged Gouda

The Appetizer Line-Up:
-Smoked Salmon
-Fresh Raspberries and Blueberries
-Cashews and Candied Almonds
-Cupcakes and Mini-Cakes

"Thats my favorite cheese! Humboldt Fog is a staple in my fridge." - Vanessa Parra (Refugee International worker by day and romance screenplay writer by night. )

"Whats that line down the middle? Where's it from?" - Patrick (Refugee International worker by day and cupcake stalker by night)

Erin's Fast'n'Easy Chili
This chili is medium-spicy, really thick and would be delicious in a toasted breadbowl with shredded cheddar and creme fraiche or sour cream.

3 Cans Black Beans
1 Can Tomato Paste
1 Can Stewed, Chopped Tomatoes
2 Cups onion, finely chopped
2 Cups Red Pepper, chopped
6 cloves garlic
2 TBLSP Chili Pepper
1 1/2 TSP Cayenne Pepper, Cumin, Oregano
1/2 Cup EVOO
3 Cups Grated Cheddar

Heat EVOO in saucepan and add chopped vegetables. Soften, about 6-7 minutes on medium heat. Toss in the contents of all the cans and simmer for 30 minutes. Add spices and cheese and simmer an additional 15 minutes. Enjoy!

"It's simple and thats why it works!!"
-Erin Weir

To learn more about the programming and initiatives of Hostess Erin's beloved International NGO, click HERE.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Florida's Sweet Corn

  • Florida ranks #1 nationally in the production and value of fresh market sweet corn.
  • Sweet corn has typically ranked as one of Florida's five most valuable vegetable crops.
  • A total of 544.1 million pounds of fresh sweet corn, valued at $122 million, was produced on 37,200 acres in Florida
  • In 1997, there were 319 sweet corn producing farms in Florida. Of those farms, 61.4 percent produced sweet corn on less than 5 acres.
  • Most sweet corn in Florida is grown on farms that produce other vegetables, row crops, pasture, and forage crops in addition to sweet corn.
  • Approximately 89 percent of Florida's sweet corn crop is harvested between January and July.
  • Prices paid to producers have risen from 1959-60's $0.058 per pound to a high of $0.224 per pound paid in 2000-01.
  • Nearly 25 percent of sweet corn producers' overall total direct expenses are invested in pesticides and pesticide application costs.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Mimi's Holga Revival

Sometimes my sentiments can best be expressed in a photo or a song or a smile.

Here are a few of my favorite photos, shot on my little plastic Holga with a rainbow flash. These photos start in Key West and take us through Washington D.C.


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Thursday, May 14, 2009


You'd scream and clap your hands too if you passed this joint!

Heaven on a stick if thats even possible. I ate a boneless porkchop on a biscuit with hot black coffee. I have never wished to be near a drive through today, from my house in Santa Cruz, the way I wish I was near the Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina Biscuits

2 1/4 tsps active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1/4 cup plus 1 pinch of sugar
2 tblsps lukewarm water
5 cups self-rising all-purpose flour
1 cup cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces
2 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and the pinch of sugar in the lukewarm water and let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the flour with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.
Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the yeast and buttermilk and stir until the dough just comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 5 times: the dough should have a soft, moist texture. Return the dough to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough overnight.
Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times.
Roll out the dough to a 16-inch round 1/3 inch thick. Using a 2 1/4-inch biscuit cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Gather the dough scraps, knead 3 times and reroll, then stamp out more biscuits as close together as possible from the rerolled dough. Discard the remaining scraps.
Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter. Fold the biscuits in half, then brush the unbuttered sides with the remaining melted butter and place on the prepared baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the biscuits rise in a draft-free place for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes, or until browned on the bottom and light golden on top. Serve warm.

For busy moms: The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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Chapel Hill, NC

Aah yes. Chapel Hill. This is the dinner that Jeff, our trusty road trip bodyguard companion became so hungry that at one point during the dinner we noticed all the food was on his side of the table! Excellent.

We staggered into Chapel Hill and into Simon & Claire's lovely red brick home very late and very tired. It was at this point in the trip that we caught up on Zzz's. Before we slept and after we ate, Simon took us to Top Of The Hill, which is a swanky joint with an incredible view of the city.

Lets back up to dinner. We walked into Simon and Claire's home and Simon was belting out "I stroke it to the North, I stroke it to the South, I even stroke it with my mouth-" in his lilting English accent. I think Claire rolled her eyes at him and giggled.
It's fun to be with a married couple who firmly love and tolerate each other.

Claire and Simon are English and had lived in the Bay Area for many years before moving to Chapel Hill to raise their babies.

"We love it here. Mild weather, occasional snow, slightly muggy warm in summer, great community, less people, it's gorgeous really." - Claire

She said this as she threw together dinner. Have you ever had TexMex in North Carolina prepared by an Englishwoman?

Claire's Chili Con Carne with Cheesy Cheddar Biscuits

For the shortcake biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar, grated coarse (about 1 1/2 cups)
four 2-inch pickled jalapeño chilies, seeded and minced (wear rubber gloves)
1 cup sour cream

For the chili con carne
2 large onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 carrots, sliced thin
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, ground coarse in batches in a food processor or by the butcher
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 1/4 cups beef broth
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
a 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 green bell peppers, chopped

Make the shortcake biscuits
Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, and the salt, add the butter, and blend the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the Cheddar and the chilies, add the sour cream, and stir the mixture until it just forms a soft but not sticky dough. Knead the dough gently 6 times on a lightly floured surface, roll or pat it out 1/2 inch thick, and with a 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter cut out 6 rounds. Bake the rounds on an ungreased baking sheet in the middle of a preheated 425°F. oven for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they are golden.

Make the chili con carne
In a kettle cook the onions in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, add the garlic and the carrots, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the chuck and cook it over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, for 10 minutes, or until it is no longer pink. Add the chili powder, the cumin, the paprika, the oregano, and the red pepper flakes and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce, the broth, and the vinegar, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer it, covered, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Add the kidney beans, the bell peppers, and salt and black pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender.

Et Voila! Enjoy with Rice rather than Biscuits if you so desire.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Soft Shell Crab as easy as 1-2-3

Step 1: Separate egg yolks from whites. Add yolks to shallow bowl. Dip each soft shell crab into yolks.

Step 2: After dipping into yolks, immediately dip into a plate of bread crumbs. You can create your own crumbs. You can buy fancy gourmet versions. You can use plain. You can use panko. Just dip the eggy crab into the bread crumbs. Set aside on a baking pan. Shake Salt & Pepper onto finished crabs.

Step 3: Heat Vegetable Oil in a skillet. When you toss a little bit of bread crumb into the oil and it bubbles around it, you are ready to fry. Give each crab 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Keep warm on a baking sheet (220 degrees) until finished frying all crabs. Serve with ice cold wine and salad.

Soft-shell crab is a crustacean seafood that can be eaten whole if cooked shortly after molting their hard shell. Crabs should be kept alive until immediately before cooking so they are fresh. Usually crabs must be eaten within four days of molting to be useful as soft-shell crabs. They begin to rebuild their shells after that, and when eaten, have a thin shell. These are often referred to as "papershells" or "tinbacks" and are more crunchy when eaten, making them less desirable to some.

The exact species used as soft-shells varies regionally. In the United States, the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) is used typically, although the use of the mangrove crab in Asia has provided another source for this seasonal food.

As crabs grow larger
, their shells cannot expand, so they molt the exteriors and have a soft covering for a matter of days when they are vulnerable and considered usable. Fishermen often put crabs beginning to molt aside, until the molting process is complete in order to send them to market as soft-shells.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

If you can read, you can cook - Savannah, GA

Can you imagine pulling up to THIS neighborhood? Amazing. Ah-MAY-zing! Actually it was beautifully and charmingly SOUTHERN with a big ole capitol "S". The day was rainy in a gently, blowsy sort of way. And we just stood in the street admiring the greenery, inhaling the greenery, loving the greenery. It was spectacular.

"This house has been in the family for thirty years. Most of our family lives within 8 blocks, though. Now listen, we both have ADD and we're hilarious. So watch out"
- Barbara and Coco

"The world knows Paula Deen. That's great. They should know Susan, though. Susan does Savannah in a classier way. Just a little bit. I mean, if you can read, you can cook. You just HAVE to be ready to try new things. "

And try new things they did. They both rocked the kitchen in matching aprons, perfect manicures, not a hair flying out of place and never a voice raised. Dinner was beautiful. The highlight was sitting with Noni Victor and hearing her funny asides and all about her life growing up in a plantation family in Charleston, South Carolina.

You know what?

There is always time for a quick photo shoot outside when the golden sun is setting. Creating beautiful, muted light just for you. Besides, it wipes a girl out to be cooking so hard. I think what we learned from these two lovelies: 1. Challenge yourself. Try new things. Go out on a limb and take a chance. 2. Always go out on a limb looking and acting your best. Do new things with style and grace.

They helped us fall in love with Savannah. Personally, I consider Savannah my very own gentleman caller. Just don't tell anyone else. I don't want to make anyone upset by being, The Favorite.

Salad & Salad Dressing
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 Cup EVOO
1/4 Cup Cider Vinegar
1 tsp Garlic Salt
Salt & Pepper
1 Tsp* Sugar
1 Tblsp** Catsup

1 oz Salt Pork
1 Package Butter Beans/Lima Beans
1 1/2 lbs okra, trimmed and sliced
8 ounces grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
1 medium red onion halved and thinly sliced/shaved
1/2 Cup crumbled Saga Cheese
8 slices bacon, fryed, cooled, crumbled

Simmer Lima Beans and pork Fat for 25-26 minutes. Add Okra to pot and continue simmering for 5 more minutes until okra is soft. Meanwhile concoct dressing by whisking catsup, oils, vinegar and spices together. Drain beans/okra. Discard salt pork.

Chill beans, okra, red onion together in large bowl, in fridge for minimum half an hour. To serve simply dress beans and okra by topping with crumbled bacon, cheese, grape tomatoes and dressing. Toss Gently. Serve.

*Use a small spoon for teaspoon measurements
**Use larger soup spoon for tablespoon measurements

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