It’s been a while.

Yeah.  It’s been quite a while since I last posted.  But after talking with a friend I realized that part of the reason I haven’t been blogging is fear.  There are so many food blogs out there.  So many great food blogs.  I just feel like I’m not good enough so why bother.  But then I realized that as long as it makes me happy, I should do it.  Not for anyone but myself.  And the only way to get good at something is to practice.  So, for now I’m just going to do my thing and do it for me.

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Ramen

Not the real deal that’s so popular right now.  Not even the ‘fancy’ Asian market kind.  The old college stand by 50 cents a pop at every grocery store and quickie mart.  Sadly, that’s where I’m at right now.

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Hiatus

I am on hiatus since I have been in limbo as far as the living situation goes.  But, limbo no more!  I am officially, if not completely, moved in to my new place.  And when I say mine, I mean it.  I own it!  The glory of this new place is a slightly upgraded kitchen.  It is by no means the kitchen of my dreams.  And, let’s be honest, that will probably never happen.  But it does have more space and a dishwasher.  So, once I get settled in I plan on cooking up some seriously good eats!

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Finally!

I’ve been waiting for Sapori di Napoli to open for quite some time.  I work next door and one afternoon, quite a while back, I walked out to head home and saw the sign on the side of the building.  Curious, I walked by, and one of the fellows who works in the realty company next door saw my curiosity and said that I could go in.  He opened the door for me and the Italian brothers we very nice and showed me the wood-fired oven that they had just installed and were trying to cure.  Pretty much ever since then I have been waiting for my first taste of wood fired pizza.

According to Decaturites they had a soft open last night but today was Sapori di Napoli’s first official day open.  Seeing as I had failed to make anything worthy of left-overs for dinner last night, I popped in for lunch today.  Located in a somewhat unassuming retail space off of Decatur’s main drag the interior has been redone quite nicely with exposed brick and light wooden benches along the exterior of the dining space.  There is also quite a bit of outdoor seating with your standard black iron tables.  Inside each table has a roll of brown paper towels on top, much better than silly tiny napkins when it comes to eating pizza.  The way the tables are laid out makes for a convivial almost family style vibe.  I found myself chatting with fellow customers, comparing orders, and joking about the giant pizza set before my tiny, eating-alone self.  There is an open kitchen with the wood-fired grill shipped from Italy as the center of attention.  I was greeted immediately upon entering as were other guests that I saw arrive after me.  Service continued to be top-notch throughout my lunch.  Though, there did seem to be a bit of a language barrier going on.  It did not cause a problem for me though.  Quite frankly, if I have to lean a wee bit of Italian to eat here in the future, that’s fine.  The food was delicious.  I decided to go for broke and order a whole pie although they do have small lunch menu of Panini.  Considering that the pie was at least 12″ wide I have enough left over for 2 more meals.  I had the STG, with San Marzano tomato, smoked bufala mozzarella, speck and mushrooms.  I’ve never had speck before but I knew it was a cured meat product so I figured, how can I go wrong.  With a chewy, slightly crisp crust, sweet tomatoes, smokey mozzarella and the juicy meat this pizza was a delicious and filling lunch.  Though in the future, if I order a whole pie, I’ll go with friends so that we can split the food and the bill.  The pizza was $17 before tax and tip which is pretty standard for this quality and style of pizza.  In addition to pizza, SdN also serves calzones, pasta, salads and antipasti such as arancini.

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Taste Test: Trader Joe’s Masala Dosa

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my love of Indian cuisine.  So much so that one of my co-workers who is from India is convinced I was Indian in a past life.  I don’t doubt that she is right.  It’s just too weird that a Southern girl who was raised on more-or-less your typical American fare.  Oh, I won’t pretend that I don’t love and crave other cuisines as well.  Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Regional American…  I could go on and on.  Probably the only thing I’m not a huge fan of is fish and seafood.  I’ve just had too many bad experiences with this particular ingredient.  Surprisingly, we here in Atlanta have a fairly strong Indian community and so there are quite a few delicious Indian restaurants and even better Indian grocers.  The former is good for learning what is what and which dishes you like.  The later is good for when you have the courage to make your own Indian food.  One of my favorite dishes is masla dosa.  This is also one of the last dishes I will make at home.  For those unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, masla dosa is a South Indian dish of a sourdough crepe (dosa) filled with a curried potato (masala) filling.  It is typically served with coconut chutney and sambar (a lentil soup).  Now, in addition to having lots of hard to find, and cheap, Indian ingredients the Indian grocers also have a good selection of frozen prepared foods.  Whenever I visit the Indian grocer I stock up on frozen masala dosas.  They come four to a pack and with two small packets of coconut chutney.  Now I’m guessing that most of you have never heard of masla dosa or for that matter have the love for them that I do.  Don’t feel bad, you’re normal.  So imagine my surprise while at Trader Joe’s today I came across frozen masla dosa.  I picked up a box of four priced at $1.99, the same price I usually pay for my favorite brand at the Indian grocer, thinking ‘Okay, I’ll bite.’  Deep down inside I’m thinking that this is only going to be a passable substitution for what I’m used to.  But hey!  It will be a quick and easy dinner for a Saturday night.

I was delightfully surprised by Trader Joe’s frozen masala dosa.  First appearances based on packaging and this item is very similar to what I’m used to.  Size, quantity, and the inclusion of coconut chutney all seemed comparable.  The one difference being that the picture of the dosa on the Joe’s package was quite pale.  The dosa is actually golden brown, even before cooking.  The package included four individually wrapped dosas and one large package of coconut chutney.  My usual brand comes with two smaller packages of chutney and probably a little bit more all together when the packages are combined.  I cooked the dosa the same way I normally do.  Two at a time on a cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, baked at 350° for about 10 min. on each side.  As usual I did not follow the package directions.  You can read them if you want but I like to live on the edge.

All in all the Trader Joe’s version is an acceptable replacement for the Indian grocery version.  The TJ’s version is, unsurprisingly, a lot milder in flavor.  The filling is more mildly spiced and almost has a sweet note compared to the Indian version.  The onions in the filling are cut differently, julliened as opposed to cubed, and  for me texture always makes a difference when it come to flavor.  The coconut chutney is also more mildly spiced, though only slightly since the idea behind the chutney is that is balances out the spiciness of the filling.  I have to admit that my first choice would be the brand that I get at the Indian grocery.  But since a visit to Trader Joe’s allows me pick up a wider variety of foods to stock my pantry.  And, if you’re unaccustomed to Indian food this would probably be a good introduction to a dosa.

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Success!

My friends are awesome for many reasons.  Too many to list right now.  But one of the reasons I love and appreciate them for is their honesty.  So, when they tell me that a dish I made is really tasty, I know that they really like it and that I was successful in creating something tasty.  Tonight was my friend Amy’s birthday cookout.  As is de rigueur for gatherings once one has gotten to a certain age, everyone brought a little something to add to the mix.  This time around I contributed a side of stuffed jalapenos.  I decided to nix the tricky ( and no doubt messy ) act of stuffing whole jalapenos and just sliced mine in half so that they were little spicy boats.  I stuffed them with a mix of cheeses ( of course ) and chicken chorizo.  Yes, chicken chorizo.  The DeKalb Farmer’s Market sells a wide variety of chicken ( and turkey ) sausages, one of which is chorizo.  I like this because not only does it appeal to a wider array of diets, but it is also considerably less greasy.  This recipe is quite simple and easy to put together.

 

Cheese & Chorizo Stuffed Jalapenos:

½ pound chicken chorizo

12 oz cream cheese ( I used the whipped kind but any would work. )

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

½  t. salt

½ t. pepper

12 ( aprox) jalapenos

 

Remove the chorizo from its casings and saute until browned.  Drain the chorizo and allow to cool.  Crumble the chorizo or mince fine.  Mix all ingredients except jalapenos well.  Wash and dry the jalapenos.  Slice the jalapenos in half and stuff with the cheese filling.  The amount of jalapenos you will need will depend on the size of your jalapenos and the number of people you are feeding.  My jalapenos were quite large and I had some filling left over.  ( That’s okay, I plan to mix it in to my scrambled eggs in the morning. )  If you’re feeling fancy, sprinkle a little paprika on top of the filled jalapenos.  Place jalapenos on a grill or, alternately, in the oven, until the cheese begins to bubble.

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I’m always telling myself that I’m going to make an effort to write down some semblance of a recipe when I cook.  I say a semblance if a recipe because I rarely use recipes.  Typically when I cook I use a recipe as a guideline.  Sometimes, I just cook.  Pretty much the only time I follow a recipe to the letter is when I’m baking.  I have a friend who is like Nigella Lawson in that she can modify a baking recipe and it comes our okay.  I’m just not that brave.  But at any rate, tonight is my first experiment with actually writing a recipe.  I measured my spices and other quantities of food and am making any other important notes for myself so that if I like the results I can then type up and publish a real recipe that others may want to try in the future.  Tonight’s dish is a Greek-inspired casserole.  It’s sort of turkey pastitccio.  I hate to label something with a specific name or origin if it really isn’t.  Next step is to keep my camera batteries charged so I can add photos to my posts.  While it bakes I’m watching “What Did I Do Last Night?” On Current.  Gotta love that satellite.

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