Birmingham has a new TexMex joint! Austin-based Chuy’s is located at the Summit, next to the equally trendy Flip Burger Boutique, and it’s just as good. My lovely friends spent our lunch hour there today, and in addition to the food being really great (I mean, it is TexMex: it’s half grease but all good), the decor is fantastic. The retro junkie inside of me was in heaven.
Clockwise from top: 1) The neon sign is only a small taste of what’s to come; 2) the taco CAR! Get it? It’s the business end of an old Caddy, and during happy hour you can fill your plate and belly with its chips, salsa, and queso; 3) great menu art, even better chips + salsa; 4) my meal: the Southwest enchilada – “a homemade blue corn tortilla stacked with freshly-roasted, hand-pulled chicken, cheese, and green chile sauce, topped with a friend egg;” 5) love the vinyl chairs; 6) the flatware is packaged up in paper sleeves and has Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish blessings printed on them. Jordan made me pray the Catholic prayer, ha!
Also, didn’t get a photo because I didn’t see any, but the owners have hidden 19 tiny soccer balls throughout the restaurant. This location is their 19th one, and it opened during the World Cup. Pretty cool!
This is Jason Parkman.
Jason is the clever guy responsible for bring Lunar Coyote to Birmingham about 10 years ago, which was the ahead-of-its-time, food-built-to-order, Mexican restaurant. Ya know, the pre-cursor to Chipotle and Moe’s. Anyway, Jason is once again on the verge of a fabulous new food concept here in the Ham. It’s called the Spoonfed Grill, and he’ll drive his mobile kitchen to your office area, fix you something rad, and send you on your way. Awse. Here’s his truck, fitted with a full kitchen and two flat-screens.
And here’s what I got, the Apple Butter Panini: smoked turkey, brie cheese, arugula, tomato, sautéed apples, and apple butter of coarse. With a side of pasta salad. I devoured every last bite, and I didn’t even have to leave my cover shoot for it! I was so excited to dig into it, that I almost forgot to pay and I almost ran head-first into the pole holding up his awning.
Jason, please come back to International Park asap!
As ready as I was to come home from Italy to my Southern comfort food, I still love the food over there. Zack and I both fell in love with Caprese sandwiches, so the other night we pulled some basil out of the backyard…
And some tomatoes too…
And combined it with the olive oil we bough in Italy and some buffalo mozzarella (yes, really from a buffalo), and we ate a kick-butt dinner that tasted just like we remembered.
So you’ve heard me go on and on about Jamie at Home and my garden. Sadly, my basil was attacked by a faceless enemy in the middle of the night (slugs) and I have but 3 leaves left. But before this horribly tragedy occurred, Zack and I got to take advantage of my herbs and have a great dinner.
It all started when I got the notion to make his Quickest Tomato Sauce:
- Olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- A bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and torn
- 3 x 400g (14 oz) tins of good-quality, whole plum tomatoes
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large non-stick frying pan on the heat and pour in 4 generous glugs of olive oil. Add the garlic, shake the pan around a bit and, once the garlic begins to colour lightly, add the basil and the tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mush and squash the tomatoes as much as you can.
Season the sauce with salt and pepper. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using your wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Discard the basil and garlic that will be left in the sieve, but make sure you scrape any of the tomatoey goodness off the back of the sieve into the bowl.
Pour the sauce back into the pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate the flavours. It will be ready when it’s the perfect consistency for spreading on your pizza.
Store the sauce in a clean jar in the fridge – it’ll keep for a week or so. Also great to freeze in batches or even in an ice cube tray, so you can defrost exactly the amount you need. But to be honest, it’s so quick to make, you might as well make it on the day you need it.
Next we grilled up some refrigerated pizza dough. Just unroll, brush with olive oil, douse your grill with some non-stick spray, and grill over direct heat till it’s the way you want it.
Then we topped it with some unbelievable goodness: the homemade tomato sauce, roasted tomatoes and peppers, seasoned grilled chicken, feta cheese, goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, onions, basil and a little bit of thyme, compliments of my garden…you name it and it was on there. We popped it under the broiler for a couple minutes to get the cheese gooey and just a little golden…
And guess what? We still had leftovers of the sauce. Didn’t make it till the next weekend though.
Last week I got a really great tip from Linda Franzo, chef, Master Gardner, and owner of New Orleans’ Passionate Platter, on how to roast your own sun-dried tomatoes. It’s so easy, and you’ll never waste another tomato! They’d be really yummy in Zack’s favorite recipe…
Julienne tomatoes (slice to 1/4 inch thickness)
Place on sheet pan with a hefty layer of olive oil
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano, and a dash of sugar
Bake at 425 for 25 minutes
Keep them frozen in small ziploc bags and break off what you want to use as you need it; if you bring the tomatoes to room temp and don’t use them, botchulism begins to spread in the olive oil. Mmmm…
(Thanks to Kamin for snappin’ this beautiful picture!)
Here’s another post in my flurry of holiday blogging. So much fun stuff this year that I just can’t keep it to myself, Blogland. I have shared with you retro Christmas chic and in the coming days you will see Christmas gifts I’ve made and received, recipes, home dec, and the like. You might have noticed that I changed the banner up there. I’m now a domestic arts blog rather than just baking and fashion, as I do love all aspects of homemaking and being a happy housewife! Baked in Birmingham is such a cheeky name, I just couldn’t bare to change it. If only it wasn’t socially odd to wear a big froofy dress, pearls, and a matching apron everyday….
Anyway! Zack’s fam has a big Christmas brunch every year, and I always look forward to it. His family is so much fun, and they crack me up! I love his Aunt Mert because she’s one of the loveliest hostesses I’ve ever had and is a true Southern lady. Last year I baked some killer mini cinnamon rolls, and this year I’m carrying on the cinnamon love with these cinnamon smear scones from King Arthur Flour. They are delicious and deceptively easy to make considering the results.
*note: I do think that 3 cups of flour is a little much. Try using just 2 1/2, and undoubtedly you will use the remaining 1/2 cup while you’re kneading. I also made 30 small scones and baked for 7 minutes in the oven and let them finish baking on the cookie sheet (instead of 15 at 12 minutes). One more thing, the cinnamon/sugar sprinkle on top needs to be swept off the sheet as much as possible with a pastry brush before they go in the oven. The sugar will caramelize while baking, and that’s no fun for anybody.
Cinnamon Smear Scones; courtesy of King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 egg white, beaten slightly
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup evaporated milk or half and half
Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper.
Cinnamon Smear: Place the butterscotch chips, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is rough and pasty looking (you can also do this in a blender). Set the mixture aside.
Topping: In a small bowl, whisk the egg white till it’s lost its cohesion, but hasn’t yet become frothy. In another bowl, mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
Dough: Wipe out the work bowl of your processor with a paper towel, then place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl. Process to blend. Add the butter in chunks, and process to break or cut the butter in, forming a mealy, crumbly mixture. Place this mixture in a large mixing bowl. Alternatively, you can use an electric mixer (or your hands, a whisk, and pastry fork or pastry blender) to combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter.
In a small bowl or cup, blend together the egg, vanilla and evaporated milk (or half and half). Add this to the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together. Turn the crumbly mass out onto a floured work surface and knead it gently, pressing the cinnamon smear mixture into the dough. It’ll look marbleized; this is fine.
Roll or pat the dough into a 10 x 6-inch rectangle, about 1-inch thick, or 10-inch circle. Cut the dough into 12 to 14 squares or wedges. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet, brush each with the egg white, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
Bake the scones about 12 to 15 minutes, or until their bottoms are browned and the tops are lightly golden. Yield: 12 to 14 scones.
Nutrition information per serving (1 cinnamon smear scone, from a batch of 15, made with the extra egg yolk and evaporated milk, 81g): 279 cal, 12.1g fat, 5g protein, 20g complex carbohydrates, 17g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 66mg cholesterol, 191mg sodium, 121mg potassium, 103RE vitamin A, 1mg vitamin C, 2mg iron, 161mg calcium, 91mg phosphorus.
…because for Christmas, Santa Claus brought me my very own pasta roller attachment for my KitchenAid mixer. I know! It’s amazing. I love everything about (although it is a bit heavy). So my happy homemaker self set out to make some pasta. I’ve done linguine, thin spaghetti, and a yummy ravioli so far. Here’s the step-by-step of my latest, and best yet, batch.
First, the recipe. You might want to experiment with your proportions. I have found that adding an extra egg makes it smoother, and cutting back by about 1/2 cup on the flour makes it less crumbly (which is what this recipe is). If it’s too crumbly, add in an egg. If it’s too runny, add in some flour.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted a couple of times
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
dash of salt
Step 1: Using your dough hook, mix together the eggs and flour until it’s a “rubbery” consistency. A lot, if not most, pasta dough recipes will tell you to crack the eggs into a flour well and then use a bench scraper and some elbow grease, but that’s bad news. Last time I did that one of my walls collapsed and I had eggs going allover my kitchen. It was a sticky, disgusting, yellow, bacteria-infested mess. Do it in the mixer. At some point whilst it’s mixing, pour in the olive oil and dash in the salt.
Step 2: Knead the dough a few times on a floured surface. Set up your pasta roller attachment on the widest setting. Using walnut-sized pieces, feed the dough through the roller, fold it in half, feed it again, and repeat.
Step 3: Continue to feed the dough through the roller, each time going down a setting to make it increasingly thinner. I usually go to about the 7th setting. After that, it gets to thin to work with. Repeat until dough is gone.
Step 4: When your finished with the dough and all of your little pasta sheets are ready (a couple hours later!), change to the noodle cutting attachment (here I used the thin attachment). Feed each sheet through once. If you have a pasta drying rack, more power to you. If not, I put my on a baking sheet in a thin layer (if you do this, you will probably use all of the baking sheets in your inventory). You can go ahead and boil them if you’re ready to eat the fruits of your labor, but if not, set them out on your counter and let them continue to dry.
Step 5: Impress all your friends.
Tags: feta, honeymoon, Niagara Falls, pasta, tomato
Cancun? No. Jamaica? Yeah right. Zack and I got married in June, and his parents, so nice to send us on our honeymoon, gave us a few choices for our post-nuptial right of passage. When you get married in the middle of summer in Alabama, tropical destinations aren’t a viable option–to my betrothed and myself anyway–so we chose Niagara Falls, baby. So retro-chic. So beautiful. So Canadian. And so 70 degrees sans the sweltering deep South humidity. We stayed at the beautiful and luxurious Fallsview Marriot and had one of the best meals of our lives in the hotel’s restaurant, the Terrapin Grill. It was a chicken dish that was stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese that sat atop fried risotto. When we got back to the Ham, I set out to re-create this dish, and I think I’ve come quite close. Here’s my recipe for you, which certainly differs a bit from the Niagara Falls version. I use whole wheat penne pasta instead of fried risotto, and the diced tomatoes that I bake it in becomes a yummy, light sauce. It’s Zack’s favorite dish I make, now if only we could look out our window to Niagara Falls…
Niagara Falls Chicken for Two
4 boneless skinless chicken tenderloins, pounded thin with a meat tenderizer
Salt and Pepper to taste
Italian Seasonings to taste
1/2 jar of sun-dried tomatoes
4 tablespoons of feta cheese
2 cans of diced tomatoes (or one large can; I use the regular kind, but you can use garlic-basil-oregano flavored if you’d like)
2 skewers or 4 toothpicks
Shredded cheese (I love the 4-cheese blend by Sargento, but use whatever you like!)
Penne pasta, cooked (or whatever kind of pasta you prefer)
-Preheat oven to 400 degrees
-Pour the cans of diced tomatoes into an 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle with Italian Seasonings. This will become the “sauce” for the pasta.
-Pound the tenderloins with a meat tenderizer until it’s thin enough to roll, but not too thin, and season with salt and pepper.
-Dice up the sun-dried tomatoes and spread evenly on each tenderloin.
-Spread a tablespoon of feta cheese on each tenderloin.
-Roll each tenderloin and secure with a toothpick, or put two to a skewer.
-Place in the baking dish and cover with tomatoes.
-Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
-Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until chicken is baked all the way through.
-Remove skewers and place chicken on top of pasta. Heap all of the remaining tomato-y goodness onto your plate.
-Dream of better places, like Niagara Falls!