Sunday, November 21, 2010

It is all in the simmering

Now that summer tomatoes are gone, I am once again faced with canned tomatoes.  No more BLT's and lovely sliced tomato plates.  Just stews and soups and pasta sauces.

If you notice, most of the recipes that call for canned tomatoes include the words....sautee onions, garlic, green pepper, add canned tomatoes, heat for 10 minutes.  Quick.  Tasteless.

I have become a fan of the Hallmark Network Show, Mad Cooking with Lucinda.  She is personable and her food is based on the basics.  And she simmers her sauces.  Not for ten minutes, but for at least thirty.  So I tried it. 

I made a fish stew yesterday.  I chopped my onions and green pepper and started them in some hot oil in my ceramic glazed cast iron dutch oven.  Tossed in some minced garlic from a jar.  When it began to caramelize, I opened two cans of tomatoes (in the pantry I had one can "stewed" and one can diced with garlic and olive oil.)  I lowered the heat to simmer and went to my computer to make some scrapbook pages.  I did also toss in some fresh cilantro.

Much later I added some water and some chunks of flounder.  Trader Joe's had a package of flounder chunks, designed for tacos.  Poured a glass of wine and relaxed from my scrapbooking frenzy (I made 14 pages yesterday for a Christmas gift project....whew). 

Just before serving, I stirred in some red wine vinegar.  I threw a handful of chopped cilantro on top of each serving and then squirted some squeeze-bottle lime juice (the best money-saver around) over it all.

Restaurant quality, thank you very much.

(If you want to add some shrimp or other shellfish....remember to do it at the end so it does not overcook...)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gourmet College Football Weekend?

Now that is surely an oxymoron, I always thought.  Auburn games have generally been at night, so we would leave Charlotte early morning and drive straight through, stopping at the grocery on the edge of Auburn to get a contribution for a tailgate we might have been invited to.  I felt I was lucky to get a decent meal the whole weekend, much less a healthy one.

Well, that changed this year.  Auburn vs Arkansas was a midday game. My lovely SIL's niece works at the local Golf Club and got us the apartment over the golf school.  We drove down Friday and stayed at the apartment two nights.  Gourmet dining room on the property.  My oh my.  Good food, good friends, and we won the game.

Along comes Auburn vs Georgia, another afternoon game.  Miracle of miracles, Larry got a room at a Holiday Inn Express in Auburn.  We drove down Friday, checked in, and drove into Opelika's historic district for a dinner at Cafe 123.  Oh my.  I don't think a restaurant in Charlotte or Atlanta could beat that meal.  And the service was begging for a glass of water or refill!  We went back Saturday after the game and it was just as good.  According to the server, the chef never went to culinary school, he just knows how to cook.  A tiny little storefront on historic Opelika's main street.  Heaven.