Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fowl, Figs and French Cheese

It's raining in Orlando, and the cooler air is moving in after weeks of 105-degree days. I've been getting excited for Fall during the past few weeks, dreaming about wild mushroom risotto, butternut squash tagines and all the earthy and delicious things that the new season will bring. Mind you, I'm not trying to push summer away with its squash and tomato bounty that I've feasted on without abandon in the last three months.  But Fall, I have to say, whether the AP stylebook says it's a proper noun or not, is my favorite time of year.  At least until Christmas.

That being said, I'm on vacation this week (hence the time I have to write a blogpost) so I took the opportunity to make my favorite sandwich.  Yes, my dear readers, this is my favorite sandwich. It combines several things I love the most. Toasted multi-grain bread, French cheese and figs. By the way, figs are BOGO at Publix this week, if you happen to be lucky enough to have a Publix grocery store nearby.

Here's the startings of the perfect late-August rainy day sandwich:

Multigrain bread, raspberry jam, wedge of Brie, Brown Turkey figs, pile of sliced ham and turkey. On va commencer!

So, here we go.  Spread a thin layer of raspberry jam on both slices of bread. Then layer the turkey and ham.  Take a look at the cheese.  I want you to raise your right hand and swear that you'll  never skimp on the cheese. This is a $6 U.S. block of cheese. It's quality. You want the cheese.  You want the cheese bad.

Slice the cheese into good sized slice and layer on top of the meat.  Then slice the figs and layer those on top. There's a reason you layer it like this.  Don't deviate. It'll be worth it. Give it a good showering of fresh black pepper and sea salt.  It'll look like this when you're ready to grill.

Oh yes. That's the stuff.
Heat up a grill pan or, if you're lucky enough to have one, your panini press. Someday I'll own a panini press.  Perhaps when my Cliff and I move into our NEW KITCHEN.  Yes, I said it. Pictures to come.

If you are using a grill pan on medium heat, though, which is totally fine, use a heavy pot or, as I did, the lid of a ceramic/cast iron Dutch Oven to press the sandwich. This is what you should see when you flip the sandwich over, after about 3-4 minutes.
Grill marks = love 4evr. This is looking goood.

After another 3-4 minutes on that side, flip again and onto a cutting board.  Cut that baby in half.  The cheese should have melted and fused the figs and the meat together. That's why you layered it that way! Isn't that amazing! I didn't get an AAS in Culinary Arts for nothing, people. This should be a perfect sandwich.

Exhibit A: Perfect sandwich.
Voila! Bon appetit!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Perfect Southern Summer Salad

When I lived in Birminghan, my roommate and I went to the farmer's market at Pepper Place every Saturday morning before coming home to listen to Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me on NPR and fry up some fresh Alabama eggs for breakfast.

One dish that came out of that beautiful kitchen, once featured in a home-improvement store do-it-yourself brochure, was a quintessential summer salad, marinated lady peas and heirloom tomatoes, tossed with balsamic vinegar and a slap-dash of golden olive oil.

The other night, while my Cliff spent the evening with one of his friends from college (they're both engineers, so I excused myself, understandably), I opened up a can of black-eyed peas and recreated a riff on that salad that comforted me so many times while I lived in the Deep South. It's a vibrant mix of Campari tomatoes, yellow pepper, black eyed peas, cucumber and sauteed shrimp with fresh herbs.  What more could a girl want, really?

The Southern Summer Salad
Serves 2, in the summertime

8 oz medium Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp unsalted butter

1/2 English cucumber, diced
6 Campari tomatoes, or plum tomatoes, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Heat butter over medium heat in a non-stick pan. Once the butter starts to bubble, add the shrimp.  Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until opaque. Season with salt and pepper.

Combine English cucumber, tomatoes, bell pepper, black-eyed peas, fresh herbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.

Divide the salad onto two plates and top with the shrimp and any butter left in the pan (trust me, the warm butter is a selling point). Garnish with fresh herbs.

Suggested pairing: 2008 Domaine de Paris rosé.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Cute Mascot Alert!: Blue Bird Bake Shop

Yesterday, Blue Bird Bake Shop made its debut in Orlando's ViMi corridor to open arms and open mouths. Whether you use a fork and knife, lick off the frosting and then eat the cake, or gobble both cake and frosting all at once, Blue Bird is, simply put, delightful.

The bakery has been well-known in Orlando for a few years, supplying Pom Pom's Teahouse and Sandwicheria with their crave-worthy cupcakes. Now, we don't have to order a sandwich to get cupcaked. The Red Velvet flavor is a personal favorite, topped with cream cheese frosting and walnuts. Try the tri-colored Neapolitan, layered with vanilla, strawberry and chocolate cake, topped with strawberry frosting.  Each cupcake is $2.75, and a dozen of the delightful things run $30.
Alannah Myles sang about the wrong color velvet.
(Photo courtesy of Blue Bird Bake Shop)

The decor is absolutely adorable. I love the toile-esque brown and white wallpaper and the 20+ glass and ceramic bluebirds on the rustic 2x4 shelves behind the counter.  Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald serenade your sweet endeavor. And what about that mascot?  So cute, right?

Not to mention the compostable plasticware made from corn (who knew?) and the paper cups for hot drinks are 100% made from recycled material.  Love it. When you find yourself in a pinch for something sweet, Blue Bird is a lovely way to cap off the weekend...or any day, really.

Location: 3122 Corrine Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, (407) 228-3822