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Katie Davis

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Archive for May, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010 @ 11:05 AM

007I have mentioned before how I rarely follow recipes when I cook; and especially when it comes to salads, I tend to just buy the bagged stuff (gasp, I know the horror!) or throw a variety of ingredients together and hope for the best.  However, lately I have found that as summer approaches and I crave more and more fresh items, it is fun to try some new things and expand my palette; and although I am familiar with most ingredients, I am often at a loss for what specific things go well together, especially in salad form.  I would say at this point in my life I know that fruit and sweeter dressings pair well with spinach or romaine, caesar and parmesan are a match made in Heaven, and ranch goes good on ANYTHING…I bet it’s even good on a sock :).  However, outside of the basics, I am clueless, which is how I came across this month’s recipe.

My mom’s birthday was a few weeks back, and like we do for so many family occasions, we decided to all get together and cook to celebrate. My dad was in the head chef for this particular evening (he made ribs…yum!), and he asked me if I would put together a couple fun salads to go along with his dishes, which I was more than happy to do. However, this time, I knew my “throw in the bowl” method just wouldn’t cut it. I mean…come on, it’s my mother’s birthday, and you need to step it up for such an occasion. Still, remember…me clueless at a time like this, so I did what any person living in 2010 would do….Google!

Type in “salad recipes” in Google and you come up with 7,680,000 results; and just going onto Food Network’s website alone and searching “salad,” it will give you 5414 options to choose from…wowzers!  Well, Food Network’s website had the solution; and I was able to find a couple of wonderful choices from some famous chefs, one of which really stood out…Guy Fieri’s ‘Green Bean, Walnut, and Feta Salad.’

Green Bean, Walnut and Feta Salad

Recipe courtesy Guy Fieri

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
5 min
Level:
Easy
Serves:
4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup feta, crumbled
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and season with a large pinch of salt. Add the green beans and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tender but still crisp. Transfer to a boil of iced water to cool and then drain and pat dry.

Add the green beans, onions, and walnuts to a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the vinaigrette over the green beans, onions, and walnuts and toss to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with crumbled feta and freshly cracked black pepper.

Source

My mom said this recipe stood out to her because of its ingredients. I knew the walnuts would especially draw her in, and I had to admit the combo sounded awesome.  I think I was especially intrigued that it required no lettuce, but rather the beans make the base.  This recipe was very simple to create, and the only real tedious part was preparing the green beans and red onion, and all that required was chopping a load of red onion and cooking the beans until tender. Like I said…pretty simple.  However, I will say this now. Do NOT overcook the green beans (til mushy), because there is no way they will withstand the acidity of the dressing. This didn’t happen to us, but I’m sure what you’ll end up with is green bean mush…yuk! What you want is a nice crisp bean, that has the texture and room for the dressing to set in…yum!

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While the beans were simmering I was toasting my walnuts in the oven.  We decided to by unsalted walnuts, so I wanted to crisp them up a bit and add that little salty bite against the sweetness of the vinaigrette.  The beans were ready in mere moments, so I took them off and let them sit and cool while I prepared the vinaigrette dressing.  Lastly, it was time to toss the beans, onions, and walnuts together with that vinaigrette and sprinkle a generous amount of feta and crushed black pepper over the top.  The final result is simple and delicious!

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EASE OF PREPERATION: Overall, this dish was super easy to prepare and accurate as far as the time needed for preparation.  The recipe calls for a 30 minutes, and although it may have taken me a bit longer, I do tend to chat a lot when I cook, I didn’t know the recipe by heart, and was enjoying a glass of wine. 🙂

COST: The cost was relatively cheap since I believe my parents had all the vinaigrette ingredients in the house already and the only purchases were green beans, walnuts, and red onion.  And as I mentioned, it was very easy to toast the walnuts myself.

COMPLEXITY: With only 4 dry ingredients and the dressing, I’d say this was pretty straight forward as far as salads go.

PORTION SIZE: The recipe says it yields 5-6 servings and with 6 of us dining we had plenty for everyone and leftovers remaining.  Now we had also made two salads and had tons of other food, so I think if this was a main side dish it would probably feed just 5 or 6 perfectly.

TASTE:  We all agreed this dish was delicious and one to add to our regular repertoire (including my vegetable phobic husband! ;)).  It was a great alternative to boring old green beans and had a wonderful zing from the vinaigrette that paired extremely well with the saltiness of the feta. Also, the walnuts added a wonderful crunch and nuttiness.  Perhaps what made this dish taste so good was how the beans were able to soak up so much flavor from the dressing. With every bite there was an explosion of all the flavors from the ingredients in your mouth…and it was D-E-LICIOUS!!!

I think the topper to this recipe was that it was such a pretty dish, as well, and it could easily be a great dish to entertain with.  In fact, my mom even re-made the dish for guests the following week, which I think says a lot.  In the end, I was a huge fan of this tasty simple summer side and I look forward to making it again.  I give Guy Fieri’s Green Bean, Walnut, and Feta Salad 5 Little Piggies!

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Thursday, May 20, 2010 @ 10:05 AM

 

017Hello gang…welcome to another week of yumminess; and although this week’s post is going to be shorter than some of the others (since I am at this moment getting ready to hop on a plane to Boston to visit my best friend as well as try out some PCC worthy spots), this week we get really yummy!  Having just returned from New Orleans a week ago, I’ve had many of N’awlins cuisine on the brain, almost sickeningly so!  This is largely because we visited 5 ‘Pop Culture Cuisine’ worthy places and having been discussing them ever since.  We tried a lot of dishes…some good and some not so good, but you will just have to stick around and see the reviews we give some of the Crecent City’s finest culinary hot spots.  But speaking of hot spots, there is one place that we visited on our first trip last year that will forever hold a special place in my heart…the world-famous Cafe du Monde, a landmark cafe in the French Market (French Quarter) since 1862.

We didn’t make it there this time around, although I really wish we had.  However, last March Adam and I visited New Orleans to celebrate his birthday.  New Orleans is a city that is renowned for its cuisine, and there are countless options to appease whatever your appetite, famous and non-famous alike; and Cafe du Monde is likely the most well known and famous of them all and a MUST visit for any first time visitor.  We have seen this famous cafe on a variety of programs (briefly featured on Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food, a variety of travel shows featuring hosts like Samantha Brown and Rachel Ray, etc., and has been in countless magazine editorials…just Google it ;)), and Adam had been there on previous trips.  For me, however, this was my first. 

We chose to visit on a Saturday morning, which brought with it a pretty substantial line.  However, to be honest, the line moved a lot quicker than I expected, and soon we were sitting inside this historic landmark…

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Now if you are not familiar with Cafe du Monde, they serve only a few items…beignets, coffee, cafe au lait, and hot chocolate; so, while tasty, this is not a full hardy breakfast that will last you long.  And, Oh….what is a beignet you ask?  These are beignets…

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…a traditional triangular French pastry/doughnut that amounts to fried powdered sugary goodness! ;)  I chose to have mine with a hot chocolate, so needless to say I was running on pure sugar after this meal.

So….these were amazing!  They taste like a doughier version of a funnel cake, and are fun to eat because powdered sugar literally flies everywhere, hahaha.  We were quite a mess when we were done with these.  Again, I’ll mention these are not super filling, and I was definitely hungry again not long after, so I would maybe try to have them as a dessert (which we may or may not have done that night after one too many hurricanes…whoops!) ;-) 

025…Look how happy I look, clearly suffering from an intense amount of sugar overload.  But in all seriousness, if you are a person who loves doughnuts, elephant ears, funnel cakes, or any other fried dough concoction, you definitely need to give beignets and Cafe Du Monde a try.  I know fried foods are supposed to be the devil, but if we are honest with ourselves, they are pure heaven every once in awhile.  I wouldn’t eat these every day, but once annually can’t hurt right? ;) 

As I said, sadly we did not make it here again this year, largely due to sleeping in late, trying too many other restaurants, and Adam feeling a tad under the weather.  But I can tell you that this is a spot I know I want to try again in my lifetime; and I did “act the tourist” and buy a box of “do it yourself” beignet mix.  Yeah I did…and now I have to actually make them or I will hear it from Adam. So stay tuned…one of these months homemade beignets may show their face as a successful (I hope) recipe of the month!  But in the meantime, without any further ado…I give you the rating for Cafe du Monde:

SIGNATURE DISH: Umm, SERIOUSLY!  Beignets…silly. 😉

TASTE: Fried, soft, delectable, and powdered sugary…dare I say it, pure deliciousness at its finest.

AMBIANCE: Located in the heart of the French Quarter, it feels like you stepped into a traditional French cafe with its simple tables located underneath a green and white striped awning with people buzzing about; and what makes it so fun is that while people are everywhere, powdered sugar is doing the same thing. :)  So, although the beignets are such a simple dish, it is made more fun and exciting by its surroundings.

SERVICE:  Due to the extreme busyness of the restaurant at all times, I would have to say that the service is not stellar.  Although it did not take too long to get our items, just be prepared to make your order the minute they show up to your table or your server might just walk away (AND THIS HAPPENED ACTUALLY TO US…SERIOUSLY!!!); and if you need anything else, the chances are not great your will see a waiter again.  Adam says it has always been like this every time he’s been, so I think it’s pretty standard. 

PRICE:  Very reasonable.  For 6 beignets and 2 hot chocolates it cost us less than $10.  Great Deal!

 

So Cafe Du Monde, aside from the service, you are almost perfect…and I can’t wait to return some day.  Fittingly, I give you a well deserved 4 ‘Little Piggies’ or rather ‘Petit Cochons’ (French for Little Piggies ;))

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Thursday, May 13, 2010 @ 08:05 AM

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Anyone living in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area will tell you that we have no shortage of burger joints around town.  In fact, I have already featured one of my favorites, Twisted Root, on here a few months ago; and I think it has been one of Adam’s missions while living here to try them all and discover which is the best.  Also, I pride myself on staying abreast of new “hot spots’” that pop up as well as researching tried and true favorites by reading various publications, watching TV, or hearing about them through others.  That being said, we have tried a lot of the options, some being just average while others are out of this world good!  This next restaurant is the latter on both accounts.

In 2006, GQ magazine put out an article by Alan Richman (one of the most decorated food writers in history) compiling a list of the “20 Burgers You Must Eat Before You Die.”  From the time I read the article and saw Oprah create a segment on her show about it, I was intrigued.  In fact, I remember printing off the list and thinking I need to try all of them! :)  However, it wasn’t until we moved to Dallas and really got interested in starting this blog that I began thinking about that list again.  I thought, “you know…I bet a fair amount of these places are pretty notorious in their cities, thus making them definitely a blog worthy visit;”  And it just so happened that one of the burgers, number 10  to be exact, was a Dallas favorite and kept being suggested by a couple of friends of ours (thanks for the great recommendation Robert and Holly!).  I’m referring, of course, to the famous Keller’s Drive-In

Upon realizing Keller’s was on the “20 Burgers” list, I knew that a trip there was in order.  So one day after church, Adam and I ventured over to Northwest Highway to try their infamous burgers, including the famous “No. 5” which has a bit of a back story I’ll explain later.  We both really enjoyed it, and I knew after completing my half marathon in March that I wanted my celebratory burger, fries, and shake to come from there! 🙂 (and it just so happened that we saw Keller’s featured on an old episode of The Food Network’s “The Secret Life of…” right after our first visit).

 

Keller’s was built in the 1950’s to be a standard drive-in, and to be honest, it appears as though not much as changed in 60 years!  Still, that is what gives it so much appeal…you truly feel as if you stepped back in time when you drive up…

 094092 095 It may not look like much, but it certainly invokes a feeling of nostalgia and a no-nonsense good food environment.  When you drive up and find an open spot, one of the waitresses comes out to take your order, just like the old drive-in’s…no speaker box here!  They also, like the historic food landmark they represent, are the no-nonsense type…nice, but definitely not out there to impress or be your best friend.  Many of the servers have been there for years and they KNOW their burgers are good, so they don’t really have time for hemming and hawing with you.  Also, the menu is not large, which is good, because really you are only there for one thing…a burger!; and many specifically for their landmark “No. 5” special…

106Here is where it gets interesting.  The story goes that Keller’s “No. 5” special is actually the original ‘Big Mac’ and that McDonald’s got the idea for the now famous sandwich from here.  I’m not saying this is true or not, but Keller’s “No. 5” special is 2 all beef patties, “special” sauce of thousand island dressing, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and tomato on a poppy seed bun.  I don’t know…other than the sesame seed/poppy seed difference, it’s pretty close, but you make the call?  What is so interesting, is that while anyone could have imitated the ‘Big Mac’ and said they were the first, Keller’s created this burger a good 20 years before McDonalds even developed the Big Mac.  So, like I said…you be the judge. ;) 

I’m the first to admit that I’m no ‘Big Mac’ connoisseur, and to be honest I never tried one until I was 25! (shocking I know).  So I left the No. 5 up to Adam to give a full on taste test, while I stuck with a standard cheeseburger with grilled onions (ummm-ummm….love me some grilled onions!), fries, and strawberry shake (yes, I am 12 years old and dip my fries in it haha :)). 

*Our friends Chad and Christina were also there to celebrate as Christina completed the race too and we deserved a greasy meal after our months of preparation!

102 099 098Yeah…those burgers didn’t stand a chance!  What makes them so good is not necessary the meat itself, but rather the combination of the ingredients.  The poppy seed bun adds a unique flavor and is grilled just right to give it a softness and crunch.  The patty, although slightly overcooked, is masked when paired with the creamy cheese that just oozes out with each and every bite…pure cheesy goodness at its finest.  And with my addition of grilled onions, there is a creamy sweetness that comes out that just makes every bite enjoyable.  Adam said that the No. 5 tastes exactly like a Big Mac, except it isn’t bogged down with the extra middle bun and the poppy seeds create a unique taste he preferred.  He said it was a cleaner, simpler version of the fast food classic (and He IS a Big Mac expert! ;)) 

So down to the review…

SIGNATURE DISH – Burgers for sure, but the famous “No. 5” special is their claim to fame!

TASTE – The taste I would have to say is truly an experience.  I said that the burger patty itself is a tad overcooked and doesn’t have much flavor.  But, that is not what makes this sandwich.  It is literally every component together that makes the burger as good as it is; and the cheese alone oozing out is what won me over for sure!  I do have to say that their fries are nothing spectacular, which is kind of disappointing, because you always want a good burger to be accompanied by good fries.  Lastly, their shakes were delicious (very creamy) and I would order one every time I go.  So although it isn’t the best burger in fries I’ve ever had, I still recommend it. (half a ‘Little Piggy’)

AMBIANCE – As I mentioned before, what makes the experience so fun at Keller’s is its old school drive-in ambiance.  There are always tons of cars, bikers, and people just hanging out for the afternoon.  You can even order beer off of their menu, so people will literally just park and hang out all day.  It isn’t necessarily pretty to look at, but to me that is the whole appeal of the place.  I mean…who really wants to eat a messy burger at some stuffy upscale restaurant?  When you want a burger, the burger is all that really matters!

SERVICE – Their service is pretty standard, although both times we’ve been there they’ve forgotten Adam’s drink.  These women are experienced car hop waitresses and they don’t mess around!  But they will get you your order quick, which is all I want sometimes! (half a ‘Little Piggy’)

PRICE – Price alone makes this place totally worth the trip!  At only $2.69 for the “No. 5” and all the other burgers coming in under or around that, your whole meal will typically cost you 5 bucks or less.  That’s hard to beat!  Be aware though…they are cash only, so make sure you have at least $10 in your pocket. ;)  

So I leave you all now with my mouth watering and giving Keller’s a raving 4 Little Piggies! 

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