Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Dog Days are Over

This week, summer has come in in full force. In Charlotte, the humidity has been oppressive and it has been just plain hot, with highs hitting the 90s almost everyday this week. On days like these,who feels like cooking? (Admittedly I still like steamers, hot chocolate, and hot tea in the summer, don’t judge.) But, I have to eat and I still want to eat well. So, here is the dilemma, stand over a hot stove sweating or stick with salads. But, alas, it doesn’t have to be this way! Although I have been on a smoothie kick lately (lots of super ripe peaches + blueberries +  yogurt= smoothie), I have also been obsessed with my host mom’s Eating Well cookbook. Herein was the answer. A meal that didn’t require much preparation or a long cooking time and wasn’t too heavy.

I discovered this recipe Monday, after realizing that I was starving. At 5:00 I felt confident in taking on rush hour traffic if it meant that I could get home to some nourishment. Needless to say, when I got back to the house, dinner was my first priority. I had picked up a beautiful purple Asian eggplant at the farmers’ market a few days before and thought there was a roasted veggie sandwich recipe I had seen in the Eating Well cookbook. I put my own spin on this sandwich and came up with one that I actually made again a few days later it was so good. It was still summery and light, using fresh produce but also substantial enough for a filling Meatless Monday dinner.

Roasted Eggplant Open-Faced Sandwich

Serves 1

1/3 Asian eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds

1/4 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 Laughing Cow wedge

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon each of chopped fresh oregano, basil, parsley

Two slices of good whole wheat bread

Combine eggplant, red bell pepper, olive, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Arrange on a baking sheet and put under the broiler. Once eggplant and red pepper slices are browned and tender, which takes about 10 minutes, remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, toast bread until lightly browned. Then, spread with Laughing Cow cheese and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, according to taste. Chop eggplant and roasted red pepper into 1/2 inch pieces and mix together. Spoon thismixture onto each sandwich half. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.



Coming up soon: I will tell about my recent trips to several “Top 25” restaurants in Charlotte. Mouth watering pictures included!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Can You Spell Tradition?

Every family has traditions, many of which center around holidays and food. My family goes to the Christmas Eve service at church and then to my grandparents house for dinner every year. Each member of my family’s birthday is also treated like a special holiday. We all get up early on that special person’s birthday to open presents and have breakfast; also, birthday celebrations absolutely must last at least a week or two, getting together with both sides of the family, the immediate family, and friends. I also shared traditions with my friends in high school. We went to a certain restaurant that served a bucket of in-the-shell peanuts on every tables. Now, with some of my friends I make very regular visits to Summit (THE hip coffee shop in Davidson). It is obvious that many of the traditions I share with the people I love center around food. And, I’m not sad about it.

Well, Jerry and I have officially coined a new tradition. So far, our tradition is only two years strong. Although this tradition is still young, we have no plans of stopping it. This Saturday we went to the Taste of Charlotte, a food festival celebrating restaurants in Charlotte. There we met some of my fellow intern friends and ran into other Davidson students, making this year even more fun. Fun fact: last year we spotted Michael Jordan at the festival. This year, no celeb sightings but the weather was far better, perfect for a sundress or shorts and no need for an umbrella.


Jerry contemplating his next move on the giant Connect Four board. We have each played too many games of Connect Four for one of us to best the another. Although we tied, it was still fun.

There are always random fun things going on other than eating, like the man that escaped from a straight jacket laced with chains, a soulful jazz band playing on the corner, cooking demonstrations, or an over-sized Four Square board. Oh yeah, did I mention the free samples? There are plenty of those although most of the good stuff you have to buy with tokens. All food ranges from one to three tokens. Tokens are 15 for $20. Jerry and I have learned from last year and were able to both eat our fill (although we did take advantage of EVERY sample) with just one cup of tokens. This is cheaper than most of our meals and the atmosphere made it a great way to kick off the summer.

Here is a sample of what I got this year:

IMG_3623Masala Dosa (3 TOKENS) from Woodlands Indian Cuisine (thanks to Jerry for holding the plate, I am no good at juggling a camera, camera case, massive pocketbook, every coupon or brochure that I passed by, and a plate). This classic Indian dish had a bright yellow and well seasoned potato filling wrapped in the equivalent of a crispy Asian crepe. One sauce tasted as if it was a cauliflower puree and was very silky and cool, especially compared to the red sauce which was served hot and had more of that classic Indian spice that I love! Definitely a good choice.


Muffaletta Slider (2 TOKENS) with Almond Cheerwine Pudding(1 TOKEN) from e2 Emeril’s Eatery which utilizes local, seasonal food. The muffaletta was made with capicola, which lent a richness to the slider, and tangy olive tapenade to balance the meat and cheese. I have always wanted to try this Cajun classic and this was a good first experience. The almond Cheerwine pudding was a cute and delicious end to the meal. It played on the classic pairing of cherry and vanilla, while also incorporating North Carolina’s favorite soft drink. Great way to finish the night!

After our bellies were full, we just walked around uptown and visited our favorite Harris Teeter. It is a slightly more compact Harris Teeter because it is located uptown and it even has an upstairs (although I haven’t been up there since it is reserved for wine)! We got drinks (I found out that dark chocolate almond milk is quite tasty and something I want to drink more of) and continued our aimless wandering.


The day after the food festival, Jerry and I were talking about it when he said, “Can you spell tradition?” I knew what he was referring to but had never heard of that expression. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying,  “Yes, T-R-A …” and instead agreed that we would most definitely have to go again next year. Here’s to new traditions!