The Hand of God Has A Green Thumb Named Okra

The hand of God has a green thumb and I’m pretty sure that’s why okra is the absolute best. I know some people claim to hate the “texture” but usually they’re referring to the way the okra has been cooked. Personally I haven’t met an okra dish I haven’t liked and I’ve had one made with okra powder that makes a sort of green gelatinous goo. I was maybe 4 or 5 years old and was being dragged along through the Sahara while my parents were off doing work “in the field”. And then again with “callaloo” in Haiti. It’s been a good life when you can enjoy one of your favorite vegetables across continents.

I’ve only recently started cooking okra for myself but not because it’s difficult. It’s not always available and when it is here’s usually a family friend who makes it for me. “Spoiled”. I know.

So without further ado, here’s just a few of the ways I know I like o eat okra as well as a couple I still need to try.

Grilled Okra with Red Curry-lime Dressing

Grilled Okra with Red Curry-lime Dressing

Spicy Okra Pickles

Spicy Okra Pickles

Roasted Okra (aka. Seared Lamb Chopes with Blood Orange Sauce and Roasted Okra with Chili Oil)

Roasted Okra (aka. Seared Lamb Chops with Blood Orange Sauce and Roasted Okra with Chili Oil)

Southern Fried Okra

Southern Fried Okra

Ladies Fingers (Okra) Fries

Ladies Fingers (Okra) Fries

Okra and Sauteed Tomatoes

Okra and Sauteed Tomatoes

Okra Fritters with Grilled Corn and Goat Cheese

Okra Fritters with Grilled Corn and Goat Cheese

Smashed Fried Okra

Smashed Fried Okra

Okra Rellenos

Okra Rellenos

 

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Forget Those Fools and Get Yourself Some of These Fries!

So on another Foodie Adventure this week. Actually it’s a work trip to learn more about our office database system (wooooo!) so technically I’m being paid to learn and take notes and present and stuff. But it would be a total shame for them to send me all the way down to New Orleans and NOT have me eat myself silly every day.

And here begins the tale of how I ended up wearing nothing decent eating the best french fries on Earth watching “Game of Thrones”. Just a warning, there are no pictures for this post because that would change the ratings on this blog and I’m not sure I can uphold that level of indecent excitement on a regular basis

I arrived in NOLA last night already exhausted from the weird flight patterns and shuttle ride and the whole it being the end of a long week thing. It wasn’t a good look for me. So the universe decided I needed a treat and the hotel I was booked in for the conference had gone and overbook itself. Why? Wrestle Mania. I think that speaks for itself.

In all the need for hitting the ultimate profit margin my room had been given away and as recompense I was given a lovely corner suite on the 18th floor with free internet for the rest of the week. Needless to say, after a full night’s sleep I came back to my senses and trolloped around the room in a towel watching cartoons while researching where to go find breakfast. I settled on the apparently not-so-small-in-reputation Cafe Beignet around the corner from my hotel where I had myself a lovely breakfast of rather little import as well as a beignet offered to me by a nice gentleman sharing my table who is in town for an even bigger conference than mine.

After that there was some work to be done on my other-other job (there are new blogs in my repertoire these day in the line of “guerrilla activism” for an area to which I am greatly endeared: hating stupid people) before an afternoon session clicking around in a database I spend almost 60 hrs a week in learning how to register people for meetings and charging them lots of money to make me. Muahahahaha! Gimme all your money!

Aaaaanyways. Long boring story shorter there was a big reception in a super cool art gallery where I forced myself to say hello to a bunch of strangers (so not my style), check out the food (lines were way too long for little bowls of things), thinking about booze (but not drinking any because of recent issues with headaches). Talked to some lovely folks in Law and Alzheimers (different groups) and then headed back to the hotel to switch into my comfy clothes that make me look like I’m about 10 years younger than I actually am–not the most helpful thing when I already look about 8 years younger than I actually am– and planned a mini-adventure.

I’d been looking up places on Yelp a couple days before coming down south and noticed this kind of random looking place with some interesting ratings on french fries. So I decided to make a little jaunt to what I thought was fairly close only to find that I was about to be working off the food before I’d even gotten it. I walked down some dark alleys behind where all the action takes place at night. Got a little worried when I realized I looked like a teenaged girl wandering around neighborhoods with no streetlights and low traffic but it seemed decent enough and no one raped or mugged me so Yay!

Well there I was just walked down this dark street surrounded by all this cool architecture with the shutters all closed up and thinking I’d be back in civilization soon because it looked like the place I was headed would be near something. Wrong! It looked like any other house on the corner with light coming out of windows partially blocked with the kind of dry goods and detergents you find in small places on the side of deserted highways. Inside seemed kind of seedy with a glassed in cashier area protecting the cigarette’s and lottery tickets. And wouldn’t you know it the lady running the cashier is Vietnamese. It is called Quarter Grocery & Deli and it is located HERE:

Map

But the fries… Yeah. They’re the best fries I think I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something.

They were super hot, had a crunchy coating, and we soft and fluffy in the middle. They were so hot, in fact, that they were still hot and crispy when I got the remainder of my precious cargo back to my hotel room where clothes were shed, ketchup packets were ripped open, and HBO was turned on. Yep, this is going to be a good trip.

An (Armchair)Adventure with Some Seriously Sexy Food

I’m thinking I need to take a trip soon to help quell the over-flowing wanderlust I’ve been suffering from lately. And not one of those well-planned out trips with reservations and logistics. I mean the kind that happen because you’re on the verge of sleep deprivation and someone starts off with “You know what would be epic…?” and ends with you waking up to the sound of sheep under the shadow of Stonehenge (because it’s the one not-cloudy morning in England for the month).

But in the meantime I still have over 1,000 emails to clear out of my inbox at work and I’ve been in bed by 10 pm all week (and it’s already Monday!) so I’ll just have to make do with this little treat I found during this evening’s browsing (follow the link to travel photos that go with the amazing looking recipe pictured below):

 

Raspberry Brown Butter Cake with Goat Cheese Buttercream & A Raspberry Port Reduction, from Adventures in CookingRaspberry Brown Butter Cake with Goat Cheese Buttercream & A Raspberry Port Reduction, from Adventures in CookingRaspberry Brown Butter Cake with Goat Cheese Buttercream & A Raspberry Port Reduction, from Adventures in Cooking

Raspberry Brown Butter Cake with Goat Cheese Buttercream & A Raspberry Port Reduction, from Adventures in Cooking

In the Land of the Sober

Bee's Knees

“Bee’s Knees” from Food & Wine

I don’t quite remember when it was that I first learned about this drink. But I was probably around 15 because I definitely remember being in a resort in Zambia at Victoria Falls when I was 16 and trying to order one and having just the worst luck because no one knew what I was talking about. Back in high school I had big dreams of becoming the very first SDA bartender. My mother very quickly squashed that plan by telling me that I could be a Christian bartender but I was getting a little too specific with the SDA thing and that it was just never going to happen. Later, in college, I learned that some of the church founders spoke out against ice cream because the process of sugar and milk melting in the stomach made alcohol. And that’s just ridiculous but goes to show why my mother was right and I decided that I should really look into some other religious options. It’s not a surprise that I had a lot of fun in chemistry lab that year.

I don’t often post drinks or alcoholic or bacon-based content because every time I do I can just feel my mom feeling disappointed in her child rearing skills in my head. But this week I think I’m in proper order. There are few things at work that make me want to just set up a bar at the front desk and tell everyone “Drinks are on me!” at lunch time but that just wouldn’t go over very well and I don’t have any of the ingredients at home because it’s hard to justify a truly full and comprehensive liquor cabinet with–you know–that mother thing. So my goal this weekend is to try and figure out a way to fulfill my youthful dream of sitting in a proper bar where the bartenders not only know what I’m talking about but who will appreciate the fine art of booze. Because I’m feeling a little parched here and all we’ve got is water and whatever caffeine I manage to sneak in. That’s right. Caffeine is decreed bad, too. We’re a bit loose on that one around here but at some of our sister institutions I’ve got family that have said their job was on the line because of potential “substance abuse”. And that’s just stupid…

Pfft That

Chocolate Nutella Brioches

“Chocolate Nutella Brioches” from Foodagraphy. By Chelle.

While I was visiting a friend in Belgium a couple summers ago a met this cool dude who’s response to many things was “Pfft!”. Similar to “oh pish” and “pshaw” and other variations of using teeth and the exhalation of air to express “whateverness”, “Pfft!” is a perfectly legit response to so many things. When I saw the brioches above on Pinterest at the end of a long work day that was about to become a long work night–I don’t actually have work to DO. Just have to sit here and look productive even though I finished work weeks ago and am not waiting for the rest of the universe to catch up–I was like the opposite of “pfft!”. I was like oo la la and “ayo!” (a common Indo expression similar to “woah”). So I go to the original link to check it out and what’s the first thing I see attached to that beautiful piece of gastroporn…? Dieting and weight loss nonsense.  And to that I say: Pfft that!

Crêpes Are For…

Crêpes with Strawberries and Muscat-Yogurt Sauce

“Crêpes with Strawberries and Muscat-Yogurt Sauce” from Food & Wine

Way, way, back at the turn of the century when I still had brightly colored hair and wore a little too much (all) black, I used to follow my mother around the world dutifully slacking off in my school work and listening to music that we simply will not bring up because it really wasn’t worth all those hours and made a horrifying soundtrack to driving through the Dalmatian coast in the fall…

Back in 200o I was temporarily living in a lovely flat in Baku, Azerbaijan, while my mom was doing work there. My dad had returned to his actual full time job of professoring to students he would still be teaching several years later when I started college and a couple of whom I beat to graduation a few years after that. After our time in Azerbaijan, and many caviar breakfasts later, my mom decided to take me to Paris for a week to get as much art and culture into me as possible. While in Paris we did several things right: Fresh pastries like croissants for breakfast, lunch at a cafe or restaurant somewhere in the city in between our tourist bits, and crepes for dinner.

There was this man who stood in this little box on the corner of some street near our hotel. He probably had a stool in there too but the stand was so small it looked like he just stood there for hours. He had a few shelves with basic ingredients and then a large container with his batter and his round pan in front of him. My mom would always order (in French) and she usually got the classic with a little lemon and powdered sugar.

Basic Crepes

“Basic Crepes” from Leite’s Culinaria

I on the other hand noticed the Nutella jar on his shelf. Sometimes I’d mix it up and get Nutella with strawberries but there was no way anything else could compare to a fresh, hot, crepe slathered in Nutella and eaten on the way to to the Eiffel Tower on a November evening.

Chocolate Crepes

Chocolate Crepes from Kwestia Smaku (This picture also happens to be the background on my phone)

The first time I had ever had crepes was a few years earlier when my mom was still having to spend 2 weeks a month in Haiti and I would usually go with her.  Sometimes we would be in a guest house provided by the office or staying in the house of friends who worked there too but occasionally we would end up in a hotel. Now, most of the hotels we stayed at sustained some damage in the last earthquake but they were high-end enough that they have since done some recovering and last time my mom was there they were housing way too many aid workers than is good for any country. Back then, I’d had crepes for brunch or lunch and it was filled with asparagus and a sort of hollandaise-like sauce that I absolutely loved. I have no idea how to recreate that but I’ve just now decided that I really need to be more purposeful in my trying to.

But ever since Haiti I’ve only ever had crepes savory once. It was after some really awkwardly weird production on “Women Beware Women” at a small theater neat U St. at a crepe shop with a lovely menu. I forget everything that was in it but I do remember goat cheese and eggplant because I know that I saw that option on the menu and I know me so I know that I ordered whatever that was. But other than that it’s usually been sweet crepes like these:

Maryam's Chocolate Crepes

“Maryam’s Chocolate Crepes” from Sips and Spoonfuls

Another thing, is that except for every single time I’ve eaten a crepe “out” it’s been for a meal that started at least around noon while at home, I’ve always had it for breakfast. I think that the only explanation is that crepes are good for every meal at any time of day and that they can be sweet or savory which I think is verging on the perfect food… Yeah I think it’s just about perfect. We’re gonna go with perfect.