Foodie In Training

Monday, December 22, 2008

Warmer Days: New Sandusky Fish Company

So, the temperature has been in the single digits the last two days. It was 1 last night when I got home. The windchill was -25. Now, having grown up in Northern Ohio, I'm sure that I've been in colder weather, but I don't remember it. Driveways are covered in jagged, uneven ice, making every step to the car a potential sprained ankle and a concussion.

Yesterday was the first day of winter. I love the changing seasons. I won't ever live in a place with a year round 80 degree climate. But when its this cold, you need something to look forward to. I know Chirstmas is a few days away, but the busy shopping and the snow covered Christmas lights weren't doing it for me.

I was reading a baseball article about the Indians new closer, Kerry Wood. And the article mentioned in passing that in just 52 days pitchers and catchers report!!! That day in late February when pitchers and catchers begin gearing up for the coming baseball season is my signal that Spring is here.

It reminds me of a warmer time. A time when you could enjoy the outside. Walk along the Lake in Sandusky, and eat a perch sandwich.

Yellow Lake Erie Perch (which is what I mean by "perch" in this post- not to be confused with some crappy European "White Perch", or Perch from a different great lake, which is certainly not as good as from Lake Erie) is best in the late summer and throughout the fall. When I moved back to the north coast in September, it was perfect time for eating lots of tasty perch. Now, there isn't a lot of variety as to what people around here do with perch. They catch it. They clean it. They bread it. They fry it. That's it. Perch has a distinct flavor to it, and I'm not sure how it would play in other preparations. Yellow perch is meaty and a little different in texture than a boring flaky piece of white fish. It has a little bite of distinct flavor, not fishy, but definitely fresh. Perch fillets are probably too small to make an appetizing dinner in anything besides their fried "fish and chips" type form.

I've caught perch a few times out on the lake. If you are on a boat and with someone that knows where to go you can spend a couple hours and catch dozens of them on a given October day. Getting someone to clean them can be a challenge, but then you can have your own fish fry. Just dredge and pan fry in plenty of oil. I'll save the details for next summer, when I'm sure we'll have a fish fry.

For now, I want to focus on my favorite place to get fresh Lake Erie Yellow Perch in Sandusky: The New Sandusky Fish Company. This little shack right on the Sandusky Bay is the perfect place for a perch sandwich or to get fresh perch by the pound to make your own. The back of the shop is usually open and in the summer and fall months, you can often see the boat loads of perch being dropped off. There is the guy scaling and deboning the fish and then they are brought to the kitchen where they are battered and fried- fresh to order. I perfer mine with a little tartar sauce and some lemon juice. A little coleslaw or fries, and you have yourself a great little meal to sit and enjoy on a park bench as you enjoy the beatiful Sandusky Bay. Just mind the bees and the seagulls!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A tasty disaster

Last year I made Holiday Biscotti for friends and family for Christmas and they were a huge hit!
I made two flavors: the holiday biscotti with pistachios and dried cranberries and chocolate chip and anise seed. Everyone raved about the pistachio and cranberry biscotti so I definitely wanted to make those again but I wanted to try a different recipe for the second kind of biscotti. I came across this espresso biscotti recipe and liked all the different ingredients and the espresso flavor. Now, I did not use the base recipe for the espresso biscotti, I used the ingredients and instructions for Giada's holiday biscotti. I also change it up a bit, I used a shot of espresso (not the powder) and mixed that in to the wet ingredients.
The espresso biscotti turned out really tasty, I love all the flavors so every bite is a combination of something different, the tart of the dried cranberries, crunch of almond, and sweetness of the apricot and chocolate. And of course the cranberry and pistachio biscotti turned out great!
The end result was tasty, but man was my kitchen a DISASTER! I swear, I could do nothing without spilling. I made the biscotti in the Kelsey's kitchen, which is great, but I wasn't using my kitchen tools so I got all flustered and made quite the mess in the kitchen. Last year everything went so smooth, that I guess I was due for a kitchen disaster.

I only made a batch of each because I was having such a hard time, but they turned out so tasty I plan to make more before Christmas. They make great gifts!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cranberry "sauce"

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think when most people think of cranberry sauce they thing of something that comes from a can. Something that is like some weird jello texture molded into a can shape and then sliced into red discs that sit in a lonely bowl at Thanksgiving, never to be touched or heard of again.
Well, when I think of cranberry "sauce", I think of a delicious citrus-y and slightly chunky version that my mom makes. She hasn't made it the past couple Thanksgivings.
Well, this past week she bought a bunch of fresh cranberries and after making cranberry muffins and cranberry bread, she decided that she wanted to make her cranberry "sauce". Now, I keep putting "sauce" in quotes when referring to my mom's version because it is technically cranberry relish that she makes. Cranberry sauce really is supposed to be cooked and molded like a jelly: at least according to Alton Brown.
My mom's version comes from an old party cookbook. For a good large bowl full, here is the recipe from McCall's Illustrated Dinner Party Cookbook (copyright 1970!):
You need: 2 large navel oranges, 1 large red apple, 1 lb fresh cranberries (4 cups), and 1 1/2 cups sugar.

1. Grate the peel of one orange into a large bowl. Remove peel and white pulp from both oranges.
2. Quarter and core unpeeled apple. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Wash and drain cranberries, removing any stems. Coarsely chop cranberries and oragnes. Add fruits to the large bowl with the peel.3. Add sugar stirring gently until dissolved. Refrigerate, covered for several hours or overnight.
Now- my mom adds only 1/2 the sugar the recipe calls for. This is pretty much my mom's MO- she hates sugar. I think her version is plenty sweet and allows the tart cranberry flavor to come through, but maybe you would prefer it sweeter than we do. Also, she just puts all the ingredients (save the sugar) into a food processor or blender to really make everything into a fine relish. You don't want it to be liquid or mush, but you want everything to be in small bits- think the consistency of store bought pickle relish (though a bit thinner). The sugar should be folded in at the end, evenly mixed, but not in the food processor.
What's the end product good for? Well, it is wonderful with turkey breast, be it store bought lunch meat or on freshly carved off a holiday bird. It is also good on toast or muffins. I like it as a way to liven up any boring meat and potatoes type meal as a little side dish.
NOTE- Erin should add the pictures from my mom's cranberry sauce soon. **photos are posted, enjoy!**

Friday, December 5, 2008

Best Asian Cuisine on the East Side of Cincinnati

I started this post months ago and totally forgot about it. But I found it and decided to finish it today.

Once again, "Best" really means "our favorite". Another quick disclaimer, Asian is a really broad category. For purposes of this post, "Asian" means Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc. It does NOT mean South Asian (e.g., Indian- that gets its own post.) For better or worse, "Asian" gets thrown into one category for the purposes on this post and in American cuisine generally. At every Thai place, they have curry on the menu, at every Chinese place, there is sushi. It makes me wonder, in Tokyo is there a Italian restaurant that also has Greek Gyros and German sausages on the menu? I hope not.

BANGKOK BISTRO, Hyde Park: Probably our personal favorite, and likely the single restaurant we miss the most from Cincinnati. The biggest reason is that we simply don't have much Asain variety up here in Northern Ohio, especially in our small town of Sandusky. Bangkok features Thai food. Some great Pad Thai and varities of spicy Thai flavored noodle dishes. If you ask for 10 of 10 on their spiciness scale- you'll get it. Hit my threshold pretty spot on, in a good way. Erin enjoys a seafood noodle soup with a wide assortment of whole seafood in a perfectly seasoned broth.

DOODLES, Hyde Park: A chinese place that specializes in noodles. I enjoyed the Fiery Flat Rice Noodles and Cantonese pan fried noodles. Not nearly as spicy. Unlike generic chinese Restaurants, everything tastes so fresh and seasoned to order.

DANCING WASABI, Mt. Lookout: Little sushi place within walking distance from our old apartment. I enjoy sushi, but more as an appetizer than a meal. Although I never did it, I liked the idea that I could walk to a Sushi place from my apartment and order a spicy tuna roll at 3 AM. Just made me feel like I lived in a vibrant area; which Mt. Lookout was.

TEAK, Mt. Adams: Another Thai place. It is a little more pricy and elaborate than Bangkok Bistro. And their menu is even more vast and "pan-Asain" than the others.

Wild Ginger, Hyde Park: I think it started as Vietnamese, but has added dishes from all over Asia, especially Japan. They have also expanded since we left Cincinnati, I believe they now have Japanese steak house style seating along with a bigger sushi bar in addition to their normal seating.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pomegranates = Mesmerizing

Last week I bought two pomegranates and now I have a favorite fruit!! I've always loved pomegranate juice (when I can afford it) but had never bought a pomegranate and ate the seeds and used them in recipes.   I think pomegranates are the most beautiful fruit ever.  They are like bright, beautiful little jewels.  I'd almost rather wear them as jewelry then eat them!! 

I was a little nervous to get the seeds out without creating a huge mess or staining myself with the juice.  But I watched a few videos on You Tube and then felt comfortable.  And actually, it's really very easy.  I think they are just intimidating because they are very different than other fruits.  First you cut off the top little stem and then cut a little off the bottom (so it will sit up and not roll over).  Then, score the pomegranate as if your were going to cut it into quarters.  The pomegranates skin is very thin and the inside is just the pith so you easily rip open the pomegranate after it's been scored without breaking a lot of the seeds. 
 To prevent a big mess, fill a large bowl with water and submerge the pomegranate  while separating the seeds from the pith.  The white parts you can't eat will float to the top and the seeds will float to the bottom!! 

We mostly just ate them by the handful, but once, we added them to a salad with sliced fennel, green onion with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  

Oh yea, and they are sooo good for you. Filled with vitamins and antioxidants. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Turkey Weekend!

Ryan and I are heading down to Columbus for the Kelsey Thanksgiving. Since we are still considered "kids" in the family, we don't' have to provide a dish. We do have to bring some donuts and juice for breakfast the next morning, but all of the big Thanksgiving dishes are the grownups responsibility.

In a way I wish I could contribute a dish because for the past few weeks all of the food blogs and web sites I check have been focused on Thanksgiving. I think it would be cool to host Thanksgiving and I know my day will come soon enough. I know it's a lot of work, but it's kind of like the Super Bowl of meals. I so enjoy cooking for family and friends and to cook Thanksgiving for family would be like the ultimate meal!

The Kelsey's have great Thanksgiving traditions, including the annual Turkey Bowl football game and shopping on Friday. It's also a HUGE group! Like 40 people. Which is a far cry from my family Thanksgivings which can be as large as 20 people but usually top out at about 8. I always miss my moms stuffing (it's the best) and my family during this holiday but the Kelsey's are fun and welcoming (I'm one of the newest official family members). :)

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and long weekend!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lola Bistro

I loved the idea of Michael Symon. A Cleveland guy who loves his hometown, loves cooking (his slogan is "live to cook"), despises vegetarians, and is passionate about all things meat (especially pork.) He's become somewhat of a celebrity- winning the Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef" and now a regular on "Iron Chef America". He also did a season of "Dinner Impossible" and soon will have his own show featuring farmers and their food. He was also featured on the Cleveland episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel. He has two restaurants in the Cleveland area, Lola Bistro downtown on E. 4th St. and Lolita in the Tremont neighborhood. he also recently opened a Restaurant in Detroit called Roast. As much as I love the idea of Michael Symon and admired his personality and talents on TV, I've never tried his food. So when Erin asked where I wanted to go for a celebratory lunch on a Friday a few weeks ago, I said, without hesitation, "Lola".

Why were we celebrating? As Erin mentioned, I passed the bar. The simple fact that I passed a test that about 1,000 other people in Ohio passed isn't too exciting. (That's right, 1,000 new Ohio lawyers). Even considering it was a grueling 3 day essay and multiplechoice test, the mere fact that I passed was not the reason I was so happy. I prepared for the bar by taking a class for 1 month and then studying all day every day for another month. When I saw my name on the Ohio Supreme Court's website, the reason I couldn't stop grinning was because I didn't have to do any of it again. Ever. I was done with standardized tests. I finished a journey of becoming a licensed lawyer in Ohio that took the better part of 4 years of my life. Just to think starting in October of 2004, I have:
- studied for and took the LSAT- applied to about a dozen law schools and accepted into a handful
- endured 3 years of law school- applied for the bar exam: which lasted a full year and a half, including a detailed background check to every place I've lived, worked, and any run-ins with the law
- graduated law school
- studied for the bar
- passed the bar.
I honestly believe anyone could do any and all of these things. But it is one hell of a commitment, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone that wasn't certain they wanted to go through it.

Enough about that. Onto Lola: 
The Restaurant has a trendy and sophisticated feel. Yet, still casual. The sleek decor lacked the pretension that could easily be associated with an "Iron Chef's" flagship restaurant. The kitchen was wide open, surrounded by a bar, allowing diners to watch their creative and inspired food cooked before their own eyes. The waiters wore jeans and buttondown tops in Symon's signature solid and cool black with simple ties.

Erin and I started with Beef Cheek Pierogies, a Michael Symon staple, served with a horseradish mushroom sauce. Basically, this was the most delicious ravioli I've ever had. It was a doughy noodle-like savory pastry stuffed with tender beef cheek. We also had the charcuterie of the day. It was plate of cured and smoked meats, featuring some homemade salumis served with homemade pickles and onions and mustard.
I probably could have ordered anything on the menu and been happy, but I decided on a Pastrami sandwich for lunch. The meat was cured right there and topped with more of those homemade pickles, onions and mustard on rye. Simple, yet far superior to your average deli
 sandwich. Erin got a seasonal cauliflower soup and a salad*. With a reasonable bottle of pinot grigio, we were both happily satisfied and ready to continue to celebrate, which we did. Now, we got two appetizers and a bottle of wine, but a filling lunch for two at Lola could cost about $20.

It was a great lunch. Still, it only made me want to go back and try more of Michael Symon's food. Next time we'll go for dinner, if we can get a reservation. And we'll be sure to blog about it.

*Hey all, I could resist talking a little bit about my meal at Lola.  My cauliflower soup was amazing! Beautifully simple, the soup was silky and smooth with a little nutty flavor and every now and then you would get a sweet bite with a golden raisin.  My salad was also great, nice and light.  The greens were dressed in a tangy vinaigrette with a nice crunch from the red peppers. 

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

A few weeks ago when fresh and local peppers were in abundance at Mulvin's, the local farm stand in Sandusky, I decided to make a red pepper sauce.  I found the recipe from a new blog I'm reading Bounty of the Western Reserve.   It was a bit time consuming, as I had to peel the skins off each grilled pepper, but it was worth it because the sauce was really good, very fresh and sweet tasting.  Even though it was time consuming, it was really very simple to make.

  Here's the quick version:  Place 8 large red bell peppers on a hot grill and let them blacken on all sides and until soft.  Then remove them from the grill and let them cool. I placed them in a large bowl with saran wrap over it so the steam will help separate the skin from the peppers.  Pull off the blackened skins from the peppers and cut in to large pieces.   Coarsely chop 2 medium red onions and add to a large put with 2 cloves of minced garlic.  Liberally season with salt (sea salt preferably).  Once the onions have softened, add 3 coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Turn the flame down to low and add red pepper pieces. Cook covered for about 25 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, transfer mixture to food processor and pulse until you have the texture you want.  Then you're done! 
I originally thought about add some sort of stock to make a soup, but decided to just use this as a sauce for pasta or pizza.  This is also something you can freeze easily and pull out in the winter when you're crazing something fresh and summery! 
We had it the next day with spinach and cheese ravioli's and it was really good!  (photo above)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Braised Cabbage- cold weather comfort food

I read a lot of food blogs daily. I always seem to stumble upon more great food sites that give me ideas and tons of recipes to try. Amateur Gourmet (written by Adam Roberts) is one of my favorites and I've tried many of the recipes from the blog (like this, this one here, and oh yea..this one too).

A few weeks ago I read a post where the Amateur Gourmet made braised cabbage. It sounded so good and so cozy and comfort food-y that I had to try it. And it was so good that I made it again and tweaked it a bit to make it more "Foodie In Training" and less "Amateur Gourmet".

I also wanted to attempt the recipe because at Mulvins (the local farm stand in Sandusky), they have beautiful cabbages about the size of a small child. I swear, they are seriously about twice the size of your run-of-the-mill grocery store cabbage. Anytime I can try a new recipe AND buy locally..it's all systems go for this gal!

So, did I mention that this recipe is also super easy? It takes a bit of time in the oven, but other than that it's some chopping of vegetables and that's about it. Adam from Amateur Gourmet got this recipe from Molly Steven's "All About Braising" cookbook so my first attempt I followed his adaptation of the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 325
Oil a 9 x 13 baking dish (I just drizzled a bit olive oil into the baking dish)
Cut green cabbage (about 2 lbs.)* into 8 wedges
Lay wedges in dish
scatter one thickly sliced yellow onion over the top along with a carrot (I used 2 smaller carrots) cut into 1/4 inch rounds
drizzle 1/4 olive oil over the top and 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
cover tightly with foil and in the oven it goes for 1 hour.
after an hour, remove cover and flip wedges and recover for another hour
Once cabbage is tender, remove foil and boost heat up to 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (or until top is browned and crispy.
Season lightly with salt and it's ready to serve!!
*Erin used about a 4 lb. cabbage..seriously it was huge

My first time making it I decided to add two cloves of garlic (I'm beginning to think I can't make a dish with adding a little bit of garlic..it make EVERYTHING good). I unpeeled it, but left the garlic whole more for flavor than texture or bite.

My second time making the braised cabbage it was a windy, blustery day- just perfect for a warm and comforting meal. THIS time I decided to turn up the volume and add some different ingredients. I had some fennel in the fridge, so I coarsely chopped the bulb and scattered that on top of the cabbage. I also didn't have any yellow onion so I coarsely chopped half a medium red onion and scattered that on top as well. The addition of the fennel was key, the flavor was great and it worked really well with the cabbage. And the red onion also was really nice because it turned a bit sweet and was a nice compliment to the spice from the red pepper flakes.

The dish has been a hit both times so I recommend you try it. It's great when it's bitterly cold out with a bowl of hot soup, but I think it would be good in any weather. Happy braising!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Salsa! Salsa!

I found my camera cord!!  I searched EVERYWHERE and I finally found it.  What a relief, I was almost out the door to buy a new one when I looked once more and there it was.  Thank goodness!  Ok, so few weeks ago my Mom's friend Sharon gave us a huge bag filled with beautiful hot peppers.  Her and her husband have a backyard garden of peppers and tomatoes and they can there own salsa and tomato sauce.  They picked one of there last crops and gave some to us knowing how much Ryan likes spicy things. 

What a variety! I still am not sure of all the types of peppers, but I know for sure there are jalapenos,  hot cherry peppers, and habaneros. 
Here is the base recipe we used for the salsa, we made three batches so as we got more comfortable with the process we added a few things here and there.  
Fresh Vegetable Salsa
8 Jalapeno peppers
7 cups prepared tomatoes (7-8 Med-large or 2 lbs.) *We used canned tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 cups coarsely chopped green peppers
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can tomato paste *12 oz. size
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/2 tsp. cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil gently about 30 minutes or until salsa reaches desired consistency. 

Our first batch we kept the the ingredients and instructions of the recipe.  I did all of the chopping but I made sure I wore gloves when chopping the hot peppers.  The first batch was super spicy, so spicy I didn't even taste it (I know I'm a wimp) but Ryan and his parents (our tasters for the evening) said it was spicy even for them so I know I probably wouldn't enjoy it. 

The second batch was my batch (non-spicy) and we added black beans to the recipe.  I love salsa with black beans and corn but I accidentally bought creamed corn instead of regular corn.  Boooo.. so that was a bummer, but we soldiered on and just used the black beans.  To make a non-spicy version I didn't' use any of the hot, hot peppers, I just used the green bell peppers and one jalapeno just for flavor.  
The third batch was another spicy version but we toned down the spice and a bit and added black beans.  Ryan added paprika to this batch for a bit more heat and we also added the black beans. 
The salsa turned out great and it was a great to use fresh peppers from a local garden. In fact, all of the ingredients were from local farms in Sandusky.  Yay for buying local!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


So...I think I lost the camera cord, which really stinks because that means I can't upload all of my beautiful photos of the awesome dishes I've been making and the great restaurants we've been to... Don't worry, I will find it (and in the mean time meticulously clean our bedroom) and when I do I can tell you about the red pepper sauce I made a few weeks ago, the Indian-spiced cauliflower we had the other day, and the awesome lunch we had at Lola (amazing!) and my birthday dinner at Baricelli Inn in Little Italy. 

It doesn't seem like we've been up to much these past few weeks, but I must tell you, we are kind of "foodies in limbo" (if you will) and living in our hometown and basically eating with our parents most meals.  Don't get me wrong, it's great and we are eating some great dishes, but we aren't cooking as much.  

Stay Tuned! 

oh yea...and Ryan passed the bar!! wahoo!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Homemade Applesauce

Growing up I LOVED applesauce. Especially the way my mom prepared it, which is how she had it growing up, which is also how my grandma had it growing up.  We had applesauce a lot for dinner because my and my sister liked it so much (my sister was/still is a picky eater).  We called it "special" applesauce and the reason it was special is my mom added vanilla extract to the jar of Mott's.    It is so good...and whenever I have special applesauce it reminds me of my childhood.  It also reminds my mom of her childhood, my grandma used to make it that way for her and my grandma's mom would make it that way for her!   I love special recipes such as these that are passed down and loved by generations.  So, for my grandma's birthday last week I decided to make her homemade applesauce.  I've never made applesauce before but after doing some research, it didn't seem to hard, and apples are so good right now!! 

I went to Sandusky's local farm stand, Mulvin's and asked Mrs. Mulvin how she makes her applesauce and what kind of apples she recommends.  She recommended the Macintosh apples and she advised only using one type so you get the pure taste of the apple instead of a mixture.  Mrs. Mulvin and her husband have been farmers for their whole lives so I took her advice and bought about 15 gorgeous Macintosh apples to make my applesauce.  

It turns out, making applesauce is super easy.. you basically peel all the apples (I used a paring knife and Ryan used a carrot peeler), core and cut all the apples and put them in a large sauce pan.  I added about a 1/4 cup of sugar and about 1 1/2  cups of water, a pinch of salt and 3 lemon rinds (I read it brings out the flavor of the apples) to the pot and let the apples cook on medium/high heat.  The apples cooked for about 15-20 minutes while I stirred them occasionally.  Once it seems the apples were soft, I took a large slotted spoon and smashed the apple slices against the side of the pan to make it saucier but still a bit chunky (the way my grandma  prefers it).  In a lot of recipes it said to use a food mill or a food processor, but I found my slotted spoon method to be very effective and I didn't have to dirty another dish.  The applesauce turned out awesome! It was very simple and clean-tasting, it wasn't super sweet and you could really just taste the sweet/slightly tart flavor of the Macintosh apples.  Eating warm applesauce is also a treat! It would be perfect spooned over a scoop of vanilla ice cream..

My only goof was I forgot the vanilla!  I've always seen the vanilla added at the end once the applesauce was already prepared (after we poured it out of the Mott's jar) so I didn't know to put the vanilla in during the cooking process...Duh!   In the end I decided to leave out the vanilla and it still got glowing reviews from my family and the birthday girl.  :)

The next batch a make I'm going to use the vanilla.  

Apples are in season right now so it's a great way to try new apple recipes and new apple types. 
I'm currently OBSESSED with Honeycrisp apples.  They are similar to a Fuji in that they are tart and sweet and they are always really crunchy.  I seriously am eating at least 2 a day, sometimes 3.  They are so good.   What is your favorite kind of apple?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You asked for it!

I few people asked for some wedding photos, so here a few. Enjoy!

Ryan just had a bite of cake so his mouth is full, but I love this photo! (note the cake on my nose, Ryan had a bit of fun)

Thursday, October 2, 2008


It's no secret to the people who know me...I LOVE pizza.  I could eat it every day if I could.  I've had a lot of great pizza in Sandusky (Cameo and Chet and Matt's are my favorite) and I love to make pizzas at home.  The pizza in Italy was amazing and my favorite place was just a short drive from our villa, called Cantuccio's.  Recommended by people we met staying at our villa, it was a true local pizza joint.   There menu was huge! It had so many pizza varieties it was hard to choose.
We went there twice, but here is a photo of my pizza from our second night at Cantuccio's- 

It didn't have any marinara sauce, just olive oil and garlic and herbs.  It had fresh and melted mozzarella, shaved Parmesan cheese, fresh arugula, and warmed cherry tomatoes. This combination of ingredients was heavenly.  The melted and fresh mozzarella combined with the salty bite of the Parmesan was soooo good and the warm cherry tomatoes were a great sweet surprise (I thought they were going to be cold). Even though there was no meat on the pizza, it was hearty! I could barely finish it.  Ryan had a simple prosciutto pizza which was also really good.

Cantuccio's has a special place in my Italy food memories, it was such a warm and family place that made us feel very welcome.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Favorite Meal In Tuscany

We spent 10 days in Northern Italy and Tuscany for our honeymoon.  It was AMAZING.  We had a great time and ate so many wonderful meals.  My favorite meal of our trip was in a small hill town in the Chianti region of Tuscany.  We stopped in Montefioralle on our first day in Tuscany, arriving on a wind-y Tuscan road to the top of a hill where we parked near a vineyard and walked in to the town.  It is a small, sleepy town (we didn't really see any locals when we were walking around) with narrow stone streets with colorful doors and shutters.  So cute!  We walked around the town and noticed an open doorway with a menu displayed.  The menu looked simple and rustic so we decided to try it out.  It didn't open for another year so we walked around a bit more, took lots of photos of the amazing views and then walked back to eat.  
The restaurant was a typical enoteca in Italy.  We saw nonna (grandma) in the kitchen cooking while the rest of the family waited and served the customers.  The minute I walked down the hallway to the restaurant, I had such a warm and homey feeling from this place.  I knew it was going to be a good experience.  And our view was amazing! The open air restaurant overlooked a vineyard and the Tuscan hills were in the backdrop.  

OK- now to the food... we started with a bottle of Chianti Classico (we were in the Chianti region) and it was a great start and one of my favorite wines (and believe me, we drank ALOT of wine).  For antipasti we shared the special of the day, fresh figs from their garden and prosciutto.  The figs were juicy and sweet and worked so well with the saltiness of the prosciutto.  
For the first course I had a panzanella salad and Ryan had picci pasta with a traditional tomato sauce.  Panzanella has many different variations, but the common factor is day old bread.  My salad has bread, tomatoes, cucumber, sliced red onion and fresh basil.  They gave me olive oil and red wine vinegar to dress my salad how I wanted.  The panzanella was so fresh and light. The tomatoes were so ripe and gorgeous and the bite of the red wine vinegar brightened up the whole dish.  Ryan's picci pasta was so rustic and simple.  Picci pasta is similar to regular spaghetti, it is just a little "fatter" and I believe it is made with semolina instead of eggs, so it is a little heavier than regular spaghetti.  We had picci pasta several times in Italy and it was always cooked to perfection.   The tomato sauce that topped the picci pasta was simple and tasted amazing.  
We both chose very hearty dishes for our main course.  I chose Italian sausage with a side of Tuscan white beans and spinach and Ryan chose short ribs and a side of the beans and spinach.  My Italian sausage was amazing.   It is hard to describe but it was juicy and a little spicy.  The presentation was so rustic and authentically Italian.  The Tuscan white beans and spinach were also a lesson in simplicity.  Both perfectly cooked, they were seasoned with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and a little lemon.  
The meal was absolutely perfect, the view, the tastes, the wine, the family serving us.  Montefioralle was my favorite Tuscan town and I think this restaurant is a main reason why it holds a special place in my heart. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

We're Back!!

Hello faithful readers, I hope you didn't forget about us.  We're back...and married....with lots and lots of stories to tell!  We got married September 6 (an absolutely perfect day) and the next day headed to Italy!!  We had an amazing time and took photos of everything we ate.  Stay tuned for photos and stories because they are coming soon. 


Erin and Ryan

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blueberry Crumb Cake

I've been finding really great deals on fruit lately. Last night I was at the grocery store and blueberries were only $5 for 2 lbs. Great deal! I knew I could not eat 2 lbs. by myself but I couldn't pass it up. I thought about making more jam, but I didn't have enough jars so I scratched that idea. Before I went to the store I was reading my food blogs and Smitten Kitchen had a recent post about her blueberry crumb bars. Smitten Kitchen has the most gorgeous photos of her food and cooking process, you can even buy prints of her photos on their web site. I definitely recommend her site.
So anyway, I decided to run with the crumb bar idea and even though I had to go back to the grocery to buy eggs and more butter, it was really easy to make. I'm not much of a baker so I think next time I try this I will make the dough more crumbly. Mine was definitely not the same as her pictures and it still tastes good, they are just little dry.
I just used her recipe that she got from www.allrecipes.com. She modified it a bit so I just followed her lead.

I'm going to try and stop copying off fellow food bloggers because what's the point of that!? It's not fun to have the same post on 2 different food blogs. But these just looked so good.
And they are! A photo is to come, I only took one of the finished product.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jam Session: It's all about timing

One of my favorite food blogs is Amateur Gourmet. You may have seen the link on our blog and I definitely recommend checking it out. Adam Roberts is the blogger and he documents his cooking adventures and most recently his new gig on the Food Network.  He had a great post a few weeks ago about making jam and he made it seem so easy.  Easy enough for me to want to attempt it! 
So when I was at Findlay Market in Cincinnati a few weekends ago and there were beautiful cherries at the market for very cheap - like 2 lbs. for $5 cheap - I had to buy them and instantly thought of using them to make jam.  So the next day my friend Mo came over and helped me make cherry jam.  To make this quicker and easier I decided to buy a cherry pitter.  What a great idea!  Who knew for like $11 you could have such a fun kitchen tool!   The pitter stabs into the cherry pit and shoots it out the bottom...and also creates a kind of gory splash of cherry juice that resembles a blood bath.  So Mo was in charge of pitting the cherry's while I sterilized the jars.  I decided to do what Adam did when he made jam and I cleaned the jars with soap and water and then put them in a large pot filled with water and brought the water to a boil to sterilize. 
When Mo was done pitting all of the cherries I roughly chopped them and put them in a large pot and cooked them on medium to high heat with the zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon.  This is one of the instances in jam making when it's all about timing.  We cooked the cherries until they released their juices and became sloshy.   The smell was amazing!  An intensely sweet cherry aroma filled my tiny kitchen and we were getting excited.  Once the cherries are sloshy, it's time to measure how much cherry slosh we had because that is how you know how much sugar you need.  
I'm not much of a mathematician but this is pretty easy. If I can figure it out..you can. You measure the cherry slosh and you multiply that by 3/4.  We had about 2 1/2 cups of cherry slosh and after we dumped the slosh back in to the pot (sounds appetizing right..sorry for my choice of words) we added about 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  We cooked the cherry slosh and sugar over medium heat and this part is where timing is crucial.  As the cherries and sugar cook it will begin to bubble up and foam and you have to stir often so it doesn't burn on the bottom.  
I was nervous about overcooking it so we tested the jam way to early, but I'm glad we did because you can always put jam back on the heat to cook if it needs more time, but you can't save burnt, overcooked jam. To test, it's really simple. At the beginning of the jam-making process put a small plate in to the freezer and when you are ready to test, put a drizzle of jam on to the cold plate.  Wait for it to set and then push the circle of jam and if it wrinkles when you push it, it is ready.  If it's slippery and gooey still, put it back on the heat and keep stirring. 
Since we cooked it on medium heat, we cooked the jam for about 15-20 minutes before it was ready.  Once the jam was ready we ladled it in to the jars and let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.  
The jam turned out really tasty!! Next time I am going to chop the cherries a little smaller but other than that the flavors are great.  I've gotten some raised eyebrows and giggles when I told friends and family I made jam.  My sister had the best comment though..she called while I was making the jam and when I told her what I was doing she said "God Erin what else you are doing, churning butter?"  haha..we are so different it's funny. :)   Making jam was so easy I definitely want to make it again and with other fruits.   It's definitely better than my Smucker's jam I've bought before and they also make great gifts!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Read book and blog ASAP

Hello everyone, just a quick post to inform you that I've added a new link to the food blogs. Anthony Bourdain has a blog through the Travel Channel and it is fantastic. It is all things food and travel related. No one puts words together like Bourdain and I'll leave it at that. Just check it out.

I'm currently reading his book Kitchen Confidential and it is fantastic. It definitely shows a different side of the restaurant and food industry. I'll do a book review when I'm finished but I'd recommend it to anyone.

That's all for now. :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Study Break with Bobby Flay

Debates on the merits and legitimacy of Bobby Flay's career have run rampant recently between Craig, Ryan and me.   Being the wonderfully optimistic person (who always looks for the good in people) that I am, I always give Flay a break.  Yes,  he's over-exposed.. sure he frequently loses Iron Chef America and Throwdowns... of course he sounds like he's always reading off cue cards.. but gosh darnit, he seems like a nice guy who and he actually went to cooking school!  
Ryan and Craig on the other hand, are not in the Bobby Flay fan club.  Ryan displays a distaste and disgust for Bobby that is surprising and makes me want to ask "where is this coming from?Was Bobby Flay someone who bullied you in middle school? did he steal your girlfriend?"  I think Craig just grows tired of the Flay overexposure on the Food Network and gets fed up.  
So our conflicting views on Mr. Flay has let to many debates and even an outburst from me last night where I basically said "will you both relax! Yes, he's constantly on the Food Network but he's a legitimate chef who is obviously successful and knows how to cook!"
Well, today at work I decided to Wikipedia Bobby Flay just so I could back up my rants with some facts.   After learning quite a bit I wrote an email to Craig and Ryan including some fun facts.  Here are a few facts I bet you didn't know about Iron Chef Bobby Flay:
1. He has been married and divorced twice and is currently married to an actress  on Law and Order: SVU
2. For a long time, Flay was known to hate lentils. As The New York Times reports, "An early draft of Bar Americain's menu had a beet and goat cheese salad with lentils, but Mr. Flay rejected it before the restaurant opened. "When I go on vacation, they run specials on lentils, " he said. In 2007, Flay stated that he had "made peace" with lentils.  (phew)
3. He dropped out of high school at age 17 after he was expelled. (what a rebel)
4. Flay received a degree in culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute and was a member of the schools first graduating class in 1984. 
5. In addition to his restaurants and cooking shows, Flay has been a master instructor and visiting chef at the French Culinary Institute.
6. In 2000, when the original Iron Chef America show traveled to New York for a special battle, he challenged Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to battle rock crab. After the hour battle ended, Flay stood on top of his cutting board and raised his arms in premature victory. Not realizing that cutting boards and knives are sacred in Japan, he offended Morimoto who criticized his professionalism, saying Flay was "not a chef". Flay went on to lose the battle.
7. Flay challenged Morimoto to a rematch in Morimoto's native Japan. In this battle, at the end of the hour, Flay threw his cutting board on the floor and stood on the counter yet again to raise the roof with the audience.  this time, Flay won.
8. Jeopardy featured a special "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" category during the March 12, 2008 episode, in which each of the clues featured Bobby Flay. 

Hopefully we've all learned some important tidbits about Bobby Flay.  These are kind of random, but you already know he has 8 million shows on the Food Network. You already know he is the "grill guy" and you already know he has a line of cookware at Kohls. 

Are you ready for a Throwdown?

love youuuu Bobby

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Subscribe: it's the right thing to do...

Hello readers.  I'd like to call your attention to a new item on our blog.  If you scan all the way to the bottom there is a new link to subscribe to our feed so when we have a new blog post, you will be notified! No more worrying about checking the blog for new posts, no more sleepless nights...no more stress.   So really, it's the right thing to do.   For you, for me, for all mankind. :)

Ok, it's not really that deep.  But it will be a good way to keep on top of the Foody in Training excitement!  

I bought a new cookbook yesterday and I'm exciting to look through it and pick out some new recipes to try.  It is called The Organic Seasonal Cookbook by Liz Franklin.  It is all about cooking and eating locally and it also talks about the importance of sustainable farming.  The book is split up in to 4 sections (seasons) and goes through what foods are in season in the fall, winter, spring and summer and then provides recipes for the seasonal ingredients.  

I paged through it a bit this weekend and I think it's going to be a nice addition to my ever-growing cookbook collection. I'm trying my best to eat locally and utilize farmers markets for my groceries instead of the supermarkets and over-processed foods.  I also just finished a book "French Women Don't Get Fat" which was a fun read and the author talked a lot about the European way of cooking and eating seasonal foods.  It reminded me how I want to try and adopt that mind set when grocery shopping and planning meals.  It takes a little extra effort to eat locally and seasonally in Cincinnati, but it's definitely doable.  Cincinnati has a great local market Findlay Market and summer time is a great time to visit all of the area farmers markets. 

Happy Summer eating!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fine Dining on Lake Erie: Restaurant Review of Zinc Brasserie

Our beautiful hometown of Sandusky, Ohio has a beautiful and tasty new restaurant, Zinc Brasserie. Located downtown, a stones throw from the picturesque Sandusky Bay and Cedar Point, Zinc Brasserie opened last summer. Sandusky has a lot of wonderful, local places to eat (and a lot of boring chain restaurants too) but there has never been a restaurant quite like this in Sandusky. The menu is seasonal with elegant and gourmet ingredients (duck confit, blood oranges, and artisan cheeses are rare on menus in Sandtown) and the decor is chic

Now, don't get me wrong I love my local Sandusky restaurants, there are some great family-owned, local restaurants that have great food and a wonderful, hometown charm. But that is a post all in it's own.Maybe after my parents read this they might say "Erin, this isn't the FIRST fancy restaurant in Sandusky...I remember when.. etc., etc. etc" but at least in my memory, I don't remember there being a restaurant like Zinc Brasserie.

Ok- now about the food. My parents, Ryan's parents, and Ryan and I all ate at Zinc Brasserie to celebrate a weekend home, wedding plans and because we're all going to be a big happy family soon! :) Our waitress was really nice and helpful, their late spring menu was full of choices and then there was a chalkboard full of specials they change daily. Zinc also has a great list of cocktails so after we ordered the cocktail and wine, we were ready to order.

I started with the ruby red beets and blood orange salad, which was AMAZING. I have been really loving beets lately so once I saw this salad on the menu, it was a done deal. For some reason as a child and until about 6 mos. ago I never liked beets. Maybe it's because my mom used to eat them cottage cheese and that I thought that was weird or maybe it's their very deep, dark purple color that turned me off, but man have I been missing out!! Beets are so good for you and so tasty. But, I digress.. The salad was really good, the combination of the rich goat cheese truffles with the tartness of the blood oranges and the sweetness of the beats was a heavenly symphony on my taste buds. I think I could have just ate like 3 plates of that salad for dinner but I finished my salad very satisfied and excited for my dinner.

For dinner I ordered one of the specials which I believe may have been an appetizer.. I chose the mussels in a white wine sauce with a spicy sauce in the broth. The mussels were delicious and the broth was very light with a few cherry tomatoes for color and a wonderful sweetness. It all worked so well with the flavor of the mussels. I really liked the spicy kick in the sausage and it provided a little extra something special and spicy to my meal.

Here are Ryan's salad and dinner. He might make an addition to the post and talk about it. I know his salad was something a little different for him and he also chose seafood which is not the norm for Ryan but he thoroughly enjoyed them both.

I definitely recommend Zinc Brasserie to anyone from Sandusky or just passing through. It is a great restaurant with a nice atmosphere and when you walk outside, the view is beautiful (the photo at the top is the view). I also recommend taking a walk around downtown before or after your done. Sandusky is a great city and the more people who spend time downtown the more it will grow in to the great city it has so much potential to be.