spatula underground

a collaborative blog for friends who love food.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Is that natural?

Purple cauliflower has got to be one of the coolest things I've ever seen. I stumbled across this unusual creation at the holy grail of all grocery stores, Wegmens. I had never before seen such violet cauliflower in all my days. And what does one do with purple cauliflower???

Make a salad!
Not knowing what would happen to the cauliflower's deep hue if I cooked it, I opted to use it raw in a salad we regularly eat at family gatherings. In this case, however, salad does not = healthy.

This salad involves all the good stuff needed to make raw cauliflower an enjoyable treat.

List of ingredients
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 package shredded 6 cheese Italian blend
  • 3/4 cup cashews
  • bacon (3 strips)
Wash the cauliflower and chop into bite-sized pieces keeping only the florets. Cook the bacon until crispy and cut into pieces. Combine mayonnaise and sugar in a large bowl. Add cauliflower, bacon, and cashews to the mayonnaise and mix. Liberally sprinkle the shredded cheese on the salad and mix again. Voila!

Fun Food Fact: Cauliflower can be found in white, purple, green and orange. Orange cauliflower in particular has up to 25x as much Vitamin A as white cauliflower.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Karma Kitchen

This is pretty cool. Anyone up for a visit?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

hot meat vending machine...WTF?

I’m in to technology and what not, but this crosses the line. Chicken is one of those foods people eat all over the world. From beaks burned off, quadrupled breasted GMO hens to stringy “free range” chickens running around the front of a mud hut in Kenya, people enjoy chicken. It might even be the case that chicken is the most cross cultural meat enjoyed by humans, given that beef and pork is much more expensive and not ever country has access to fish.

Also, chicken eggs are consumed globally for a cheap and easy source of protein. Many microfinance clients in impoverished countries buy chickens with their 50 dollar loan to sell their eggs. But Tyson’s didn’t get no microfinance loan for this bad boy.

What you see above is the picture of a chicken (and pizza) vending machine that I encountered at a hospital in the Washington, DC area. It offers hot chicken sandwiches (on sourdough nonetheless), chicken wings, pizza and hamburgers for about 4 dollars.

As you can see below the chicken is frozen inside the vending machine. Once ordered it is transferred to the oven and “cooked” until ready. Once it is ready it is dispensed at scolding hot temperatures for the consumer to “enjoy.”

There isn’t much to this blog post except outrage and embarrassment. You see, I’m a firm believer in food not only as sustenance but as culture. My food culture is offended by the very idea of a chicken sandwich vending machine because it undermines the food values I hold dear, such as fresh and enhancing human relationships. Therefore, I find it silly that less than 20 feet away a nice man on an open grill prepares the exact same dishes with clean hands and a smile. What might not be different is the quality of the food but his smile is so appetizing. Man with a nice small vending machine anyone?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

To simply share a squash...

I find an unusual source of inspiration for my cooking in the Mennonites. You may be wondering what place they have in a food blog, but cook a recipe from one of their many cookbooks and you’ll understand. I first stumbled upon one of these cookbooks when my aunt passed down to me a box of kitchen items that belonged to my late grandmother. I eagerly read through the recipes, the unique quotes, tips, and stories as if it were a piece of literature. However, I never did take the time to cook from it until I found myself at dinner with friends who planned to prepare stuffed acorn squash from the Simply in Season cookbook (

Patience is required to reap the rewards of this dish. You begin by scooping the seeds from the squash halves and softening the inside of these edible bowls by roasting for 40 minutes. In the meantime, sausage, apples, herbs, raisins and walnuts are combined and eventually placed into the bowls. The entire dish is then put back in the oven for another 20 minutes so the flavors meld together, the aroma tempting you the whole while. When we finally sat down to eat, we excitedly took in the smell, the sight, the taste of our meal--but it was the sharing of the meal, with friends and family, that gave it the true Mennonite quality.

Their cookbooks are rich with recipes like stuffed acorn squash, and furthermore the books are more than just a collection of recipes. They are unique in their educational and stewarding approach to cooking. They set out to empower chefs with the tools to prepare local, in-season foods in a manner that reduces waste and overconsumption. If you are looking for a cookbook to invest in, give the Mennonites a chance.

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

  • 4 medium-sized acorn squash
  • 1 lb. bulk turkey sausage
  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ c water
  • 2 c bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • Black pepper

Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 350° until almost soft but not mushy, 40-50 minutes.

While squash is cooking, sauté sausage in frying pan just until cooked through. Add seasoning, celery, onion, apples, raisins, walnuts and water. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Mix in sour cream and bread crumbs. Stuff into cooked squash and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and enjoy!

Fun Food Fact: After WWII, the Mennonites were providing 40% of America's non-govt. food aid even though they made up less than 1/10 of 1% of the US population, and they are still going strong

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gasp! Goodbye, Gourmet

Another casualty of the recession and the general decline in print journalism: Gourmet magazine will be ending publication after it's November issue is released. A major decline in advertisers over the past year has resulted in Conde Nast publishers axing what is notably the most widely-respected food publication after 25 years of circulation.

The blogosphere has responded in full force since the official announcement was made last week:

Gourmet showed us the real possibilities of food: It wasn't just to nourish the body or excite the palate, but to engage the mind and imagination, to magnify our experience, bringing us more fully into our senses, allowing us to be more completely alive." -Diana Abu-Jaber, NPR

Gourmet challenged American palates to explore everything from the most exotic to the most humble and down-home. I, for one, have learned about everything from Korean banchan to how to bake better bread, and my life and the lives of those I feed are better for it. -Amy Griffith Redfern, Christian Science Monitor

My perspective? Food magazines have encouraged and fostered my love for the culinary arts. Whenever I travel, my guilty pleasure is to spend 5 or 6 dollars on a glossy issue of Gourmet. Reading a food magazine is like a cookbook coming to life. I love food writing (hence, the motivation for this blog). The images draw me in to learn about new ingredients, techniques and recipes beyond anything I've seen or eaten before. Sure, there are lots of websites and blogs which capture some of the same spirit. But no online content will replace the feel of a fresh-off-the-newsstand copy of Gourmet.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

mariscos: san diego for fish tacos

In Spanish mariscos means seafood. In San Diego mariscos means the best fish tacos and ceviche tostados your dollar twenty five can buy. At the corner of 28th and Ocean View Blvd sits the famous Mariscos truck hustling their famous fare day and night. My friend Dave and I split the ceviche tostado mixta which is a fried tortilla with shrip, fish and octopus (pulpo), raw red onions, fresh lime, cilantro and avocado slices seasoned to perfection. Octopus is supposed to be chewy and a bit annoying to get down your throat so it seems ironic to say this but this octopus was tender. Instead of a whole pack of gum at once, it was more like two or three pieces. Not to mention the savory flavor relaxed my pallet while the lime and cilantro invaded my noise.


Next up were our fresh fish tacos- fried fish, raw red onions, fresh lime and cilantro smothered in creama simply melt in your mouth. We cracked open a Mexican Coca-Cola to wash it down; the important difference is that Mexican Coke has real sugar (azucar) in it.

After reclining for a digestive moment I knew I’d have to get more. Dos taocs de pulpo sin creama (as I’m lactose intolerant) I ordered in my gringo Spanish. Three minutes latter I was in octopus bliss.

If you’re ever…ever…in San Diego make a stop at Mariscos to enjoy the food. If you're there on a Sunday afternoon you may be blessed by the spirited and out of tune signing of the believers across the street.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who needs a Fairy Godmother when you have Dairy Godmother?

If you’re lucky enough to taste fresh, authentic frozen custard in this lifetime, you have tasted a piece of heaven. Frozen custard is like the Rolls Royce of ice cream. Its texture is silky—and no I don’t mean soy milk silk. Custard is far from vegan-friendly. I mean the richest, creamiest, softest, edible silk you can imagine. Frozen custard hides under the radar of most dessert connoisseurs, but establishments like Culvers and Ritters are seeking to make this divine dessert accessible to all. The frozen custard culture finds its origins in the Midwest, notably Wisconsin. It takes ice cream to a new level by using butterfat, egg yolks and a slow-churn process that minimizes the incorporation of air, creating a new definition of creamy.

Today we uncovered a foodie treasure in the “Dairy Godmother,” right here in the DC area. The Dairy Godmother is off the beaten path, nestled in the cute, up and coming neighborhood of Del Ray. Each day they serve up fresh frozen custard in chocolate, vanilla and a rotating third ‘flavor of the day’. It was fate (aka my roommate Sapphira) that brought us to Dairy Godmother on the day they decided to feature the flavor kulfi. This may very well be the best fusion food ever known to mankind. Kulfi is an Indian ice cream made with cardamom and almonds, and turning this flavor into frozen custard couldn’t be a more successful blend of East and West! Check out Dairy Godmother’s website for more unique flavors.

Fun Food Fact: Frozen custard won’t be found in the frozen section of the grocery store. It’s made fresh so it can be served instantly, at a warmer temperature than ice cream. This reduces numbing of the taste buds and allows your mouth to really taste the richness of the flavors.