Archive | July, 2008

RIP Starbucks and Bennigans

30 Jul


I wished I felt bad about the closing of these establishments, but I don’t. I do feel bad about the people who are losing their jobs; they did nothing wrong. I have no sympathy for the mass production of mediocre fare and the systematic dumbing down of the American Palate.

I mean, C’mon people! Are you really gonna miss nachos, onion rings, buffalo wings, burgers and fries? Are you going to miss jalapeño poppers, southwesten egg rolls, and some hot vegetable dip?

No. Because you can get this stuff anywhere, and that’s where Bennigans went wrong. Bennigans only stood out for the “decor.” That’s it. Nothing new, original or innovative. Oh well, Buh-bye.

Starbucks. I never liked their coffee. Overpriced swill.

Now, I have to be fair. I love lattes, macchiatos, and a decent espresso.  But, I won’t buy them from a global giant with their Stepford-style workers, faux hipness and cultural relevance. Whatever. I’ve had one of those lattes from Starbucks, and nearly got into a screaming match with the help because I wanted a shot of caramel in my then $4.50 cup of insane indulgence.

And after all that, it wasn’t that great.

So folks, I say adieu to these establishments, and pray all those customers who patronize these places spend their money in a locally owned store. Keep the money in your communities.


28 Jul

A Villanelle….

Is a poem of French origin. It is composed of 19 lines, with five sets of triplets and a quatrain. The first and third lines of the opening triplet are repeated in an alternating pattern. The middle lines of each triplet must rhyme with each other, and the ending quatrain must contain the first and third lines of the opening triplet. The most famous example of a villanelle is Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gently into That Goodnight.”

My Villanelle….

Is a snapshot of what happens when you go out for dinner on a Saturday night. You arrive at a restaurant dressed in your best attire with your loved one at your side. The waiter brings your bread and drinks, and takes your order. As you wait for your food, you notice it’s taking a bit long. When you finally receive your food, it was worth the wait. You leave the restaurant sated, and pleased. A lovely evening was had by all.

I dedicate this Villanelle….

to all of the thousands of line cooks, pastry chefs, sauciers, busboys, dishwashers, and executive chefs. My hope is that anyone who has had the unique experience of enduring the frenetic pace of a popular eatery for a living enjoys reading my villanelle entitled, “The Weeds.”


Get a garnish on that plate!

Move quickly if you want a raise.

Where’s the rest of Table Eight?

This is no time for a debate;

Top that asparagus with some hollandaise

Get a garnish on that plate!

You ruin the food that I create,

I won’t tolerate any more delays;

Where’s the rest of Table eight?

Now, get the spoon and sauce that skate;

Mind the Potatoes Lyonnaise!

Get a garnish on that plate!

Hurry now chef, I’m really irate;

That lamb shank needs more time to braise.

Where’s the rest of Table Eight?

The customers are mad, their food is late;

Is your performance just a phase?

Get a garnish on that plate.

Where’s the rest of Table Eight?

For John

Gordon Ramsay stock photo. Gordon Ramsay heats up season three

Retrieved May 1, 2008, from:

Cajun Fish Soft Tacos

25 Jul

Cajun Fish Soft Tacos with Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Serves 4-6

2- 8 oz. catfish fillets
2- Tbl. cajun spice
2- Tbl chipotle hot sauce
1/4 c. ranch dressing
2/3 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
1/4 head lettuce, shredded ( any kind is fine)
1 large tomato, diced
1- small sweet onion, ( red, maui, or vidalia)
6 inch flour tortillas (room tempurature)
vegetable oil

Paper towels
5 ea. containers or small bowls
measuring spoons
measuring cup
kitchen knife
clean curring board ( or surface)
heavy bottomed skillet ( cast iron or aluminum)
soap and water for cleaning

1. Prep garnish:
Wash lettuce and peel off six or seven leaves. Roll leaves in a cigar shape, and with a knife, cut into thin slices. Put cut lettuce into a bowl and cover with damp (not wet) paper towel. Wash and pat dry tomato. Dice tomato, and put into container. Slice onion thinly and put in container. Measure out 2/3 cup of shredded Monterey jack cheese and put into container. Set all aside and refrigerate.

2. Make sauce:
Combine chipotle sauce and ranch dressing in small bowl until mixed; cover and refrigerate.

3. Clean cutting surfaces and knife with warm soap and water

4. Prepare fish
On clean cutting surface, slice catfish crosswise into inch thick, finger long slices. Season the fish slices lightly until evenly coated ( the more seasoning, the hotter it will be). Set aside.

5. Cook fish
In skillet, measure 3 Tbl. vegetable oil. Heat over medium heat until oil is shimmery, then carefully add fish to skillet in an even layer. cook on one side until golden brown (about 3 minutes), and turn. Cook on the other side for two minutes until done, and drain on paper towels. Cover with foil and hold for assembly.

6. Assemble
Assemble in order=

7: Enjoy!

Irrigation water may help spread foodbourne illnesses

23 Jul

The Culinary Chick tips her toque to Amanda Beals of for forwarding an article written by Jessica Wakeman. This article summarizes the benefits of using soap and water to keep bacteria at bay when preparing food. Unfortunately, the article also states the following: Just because you take the precaution of washing your hands before and after cooking, it still doesn’t mean that you are safe.

From Jalapeno Safety, A Cheap and Easy Food Safety Tip:

Does this mean the jalapenos that got people sick were unwashed? Investigators don’t know yet, says Powell, adding that perhaps the salmonella outbreak happened because the jalapenos were washed in bacteria-tainted water. Therefore, making sure your water source is not tainted is important, too. (You’ll have to leave it to the growers to ensure your produce is not tainted on the farm.)

But as the salmonella outbreak is teaching us, vigilance on the hygiene front alone isn’t enough to keep us from getting sick. Bacteria can get inside leafy greens (which it absorbs while growing), so contamination must be prevented on the farm, Powell says. “Food safety begins on the farm and goes all the way through the system. Basically, you follow the poop.”


So, as in the case of the 2006 E. Coli outbreak that affected spinach and baby lettuces, irrigation water may transmit harmful microbes when the plants absorb the water. So kids, we must all be diligent when shopping our small markets. Face it, the stores where you purchase your produce won’t know which source of water was used to water the vegetables, but your local farmer at the farmer’s market will.

This is an even better reason to buy local when available.

Summertime food safety

21 Jul

There’s a lot of attention to bad food that is currently circulating the market. It reminded me to remind you about cooking and serving food in an outdoor setting. Here are some tips to avoid some of the pitfalls:

1. Keep HOT foods HOT, and Cold foods COLD

The danger zone for food is between 41 and 140 degrees. Simply put, microbes thrive in this temperature zone. When outdoors, serve all composed salads super cold by putting the serving container into a bowl of ice. All hot foods should be served immediately or kept warmer than 140 degrees. Keep all food covered when not in use. Make sure that all your ingredients in your composed salads are cold before mixing them together (everybody at one time or another has added hot eggs or warm potatoes to a salad then added mayo to make it; this is not safe).

2. Wash all utensils, food prep surfaces, and your hands after handling meat

Keep a container of warm soapy water handy to wash all food prep surfaces, being careful not to cross-contaminate other surfaces. Keep hands clean by using utensils to handle meat. Wash your hands thouroghly BEFORE and AFTER you handle meat ( and after you use the bathroom, no exceptions). Use a different container to transport raw meat, another to transport cooked meat

3. Do not re-use marinades. EVER.

If you want to baste that chicken with some of that lovely marinade that you made, think ahead and make extra. Marinades can be a perfect anaerobic environment to bacteria that causes all sorts of nasty germs.

4. Keep a thermometer handy

A probe-type thermometer can be bought at any grocery store for about $8, and can keep you in check tor making sure hot foods stay hot, and cold foods stay cold.

5. Cook meat thouroughly

Make sure all meat is cooked thouroghly. Here are the temperatures needed to assure meat is cooked and free from bacteria:

Rare beef- 130°

Pork, Beef, Lamb, Seafood – 145°

Hamburger or ground beef- 155°

All poultry- 165°

Keep these few facts in mind, and your outdoor gathering should be a safe one!

Tomatoes ok again, hot peppers not; Salsa lovers miffed

19 Jul

The FDA took tomatoes off the watch list, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune. However, fresh serrano and jalapenos are now on the list of foods to be wary of.  What’s a pico de gallo lover to do? Use canned or frozen hot peppers? Not likely. Go back to jar salsa. Heck no! Wait it out? Maybe.

In the meantime, here is my recipe for Salsa Crudo. Just think of it as Pico de Gallo’s hot Italian cousin.

You will need:

Non reactive container

sharp serrated knife

cutting board

chef’s knife

paring knife


liquid measuring ccup

dry measuring cup

Salsa Crudo

2 ea. large ripe beefsteak tomatoes ( about 1 to 1½ lbs)

1/2 ea. Vidalia Bermuda Red, or other sweet onion

1 ea. roasted red pepper

1/2 cup fresh chopped basil

1/4 cup fresh chopped garlic, or to taste

3 tbl. balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and coarse grind black pepper  to taste

Core tomatoes with paring knife by inserting the tip of the knife alongside the core of the tomato. Working in a circular direction with short, sawing motions, cut out the core. Discard the core. Using a serrated knife, slice 1/2 inch thick slices of the tomato, then dice into medium chunks.  Place chopped tomatoes into bowl. Dice the vidalia onion, and add to the bowl. Dice the roasted pepper, and add to the bowl. Add garlic, basil,  olive oil and vinegar. Toss gently and season to taste.

This can be used as a bruschetta topping, eaten with chips, tossed in cooked pasta for a pasta salad, used as a topping for grilled chicken, fish, steaks; or combined with cubed fresh mozzarella for a quick tomato-mozzarella salad. The possibilities are endless.

Govenor O’ Malley to promote “Eat Local Week” in Maryland

18 Jul

Governor  Martin O’Malley has deemed the week of July 19-27 as “Eat Local Week” in Maryland.

Link to article :