Recipes Sweet

Chocolate Basil Cake + $50 Williams Sonoma Gift Card Giveaway [Contest Closed]

Basil is usually treated as a two dimensional commodity, which is upsetting for our sensitive friend. It’s the shining star in pesto, the uniting factor in the group of pine nuts and Parmigiano, and trying to make caprese without basil is trying to conduct a chorus without harmony. It’s like John Daker singing “Amore.”  It just doesn’t work, does it?

Chocolate Basil Cake

Chocolate Basil Cake

 

Still, basil is pretty under appreciated for what it really brings to the table. It’s asked to creep behind the veil of the savory, only being offered a supportive role when it was born to lead. If you look at what basil lends to the flavor of any particular dish, it becomes glaringly obvious how underused it is.

 

Sweets, man. Basil is sweet, and while its herbal sister, mint, has found glory in ice cream, candy and other sugary applications, basil is left wading in a murky red puddle of marinara and despair, seething. Basil gets no respect. But nobody puts basil in the corner. Nobody.

Chocolate Basil Cake

Recently I did a guest post for Stark Bros on Blueberry Basil Meyer Lemonade (Shout out to me!), but thought, why not chocolate? So I put it in this chocolate cake. That’s…actually the whole story. It’s anticlimactic, but what do you want from me?

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Recipes Salty

Oven Roasted Coq au Vin with Mushroom Duxelles Recipe

Coq au vin is thought of as a fancy pants specialty by American standards, but like many French recipes, it comes from a very modest background. Coq au vin – literal translation: rooster with wine – is a rustic, poor-man’s recipe born from the agitated and exhausted farmer who, tired of early wake up calls, chopped the roosters right in their garbling necks and then had to find a use for its meat.

Oven Roasted Coq au Vin

Roasted Spatchcocked Chicken

Only the rooster meat wasn’t tender. When roosters spend their waking hours chasing plump-breasted hens, fighting dogs and generally being farmhouse terrors, their meat toughens. If you’ve never spent time on a farm, let me lay it out flat for you: roosters are assholes, and hens are hardly any better, which is why when I eat them, I laugh. I laugh for the time a chicken jumped in my face when I was a preteen and got its claw caught in my golden hair, and also for the time when, unprovoked and out of absolutely nowhere, a rooster flew at me and clawed my arm deep. The Amish farmer shrugged, probably thinking, “what did you expect from an asshole?” I laugh now because the tables have turned, chickens.

Roosters, as high-energy bros with a taste for blood, build tough, fibrous rooster muscles that aren’t really good for roasting, so other methods were employed.

The time-strained farmers of yore would throw the rooster in a stock pot with a bottle of burgundy, lardons or bacon, spring onions, carrots, celery and some herbs – or whatever they had on hand, really – and set it on low to cook while they worked their bones throughout the day.

Vin sans coq

 

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Recipes Salty

Foolproof Rice

Oh, hello there.

I know that this is my first post since being back in the States and I bet you think that I’m going to start this post with an introduction that emphatically shouts that I’m back and then predictably go on about how it’s good to be home in spite of how amazing Europe was and then segue into how trying to grocery shop in the States after 3 months of unbelievable European freshness is more painful than a bad case of dengue fever, but you’d be wrong. Let’s instead just skip it altogether and jump right into the good stuff!

Rice.

Fool-proof rice

Why am I doing a whole post dedicated to bland, boring, plain ol’ rice? Well, for one, rice is a staple for many cultures worldwide — most notably Asian and Hispanic cultures comprising the majority of the world’s population — who annually consume over 400 million tons globally. That’s a lot of rice. Also, there are literally tens of thousands of varieties of rice leaving no shortage of recipe variations. DOUBLE ALSO, it’s one of the most versatile grain in the world as it can be developed into starchy breads, creamy puddings or used as a basic side next to a Sunday night roast chicken. So while it may seem bland and boring on the surface, it has multiple dimensions to it and loads of potential to be made into a variety of impressive dishes.

I may have also forgot to mention that it’s incredibly easy to screw up, but worry not because I’m going to be your rice savior. By the end of this post you might be bowing your heads to a new divine being altogether: in rice we trust.

 

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Travel

Going Home

*This isn’t a funny post, nor is there really a food aspect to it. I know this is a food blog and you expect food, but sometimes it’s okay to break the rules.*

It’s over. I’m in London for the night and head back to the States tomorrow.

At the beginning of this trip I was still overcome with the crippling anxiety and worry that I couldn’t seem to shake. The unease and numbness from being bored, boring, wanting. Of feeling that I was stuck, of needing my comfort zone and relying on it while attempting to thrive in the small box I’d placed myself into.

Whenever someone asks me to try and explain what anxiety is like, I tell them it’s like dealing with a child, someone completely separate from yourself. Like children, anxiety is temperamental and can lash out at any time with seemingly no rhyme or reason. And the more you reason with it and contain its petulant behavior, the more it wants to be heard. There were times when I was so overwhelmed with such heavy anxiety I would be curled on the floor, nauseated to the point of wanting to die. I would speak to my anxiety and bargain with it, pleading for it to work with me. We will get through this together, I’d say, feeling nuttier by the minute. How could I throw caution to the wind and strip away the tethers that comforted me when going to the next town over sent me into a cold and sweaty panic? A person can only handle so much of that before it beats them down, leaving a shadow cast over who they used to be and who they want to be.

Anxiety isn’t as strong as it thinks it is.

In the last 3 months I’ve gone to so many beautiful places, ate many delicious and disgusting things, put myself into situations well outside of my comfort zone and thrived without the burden of anxiety. I quit my JOB, the most stable part of my life! To come to Europe! To cook and eat!

I don’t know what’s going to come of my adventure. Maybe something incredible, maybe nothing but these amazing memories I’ve built. But if nothing else, I pursued something I felt was beyond my grasp and defeated the worst part of my anxiety: the part that was always so convincing when telling me I couldn’t have what I really wanted for myself.

I wouldn’t say I’m lucky, because that discredits the work I put into it. But I feel so lucky.

I wouldn’t say I’m blessed, because that places too much holy into my very secular journey. But I feel so blessed.

Above these, I feel something I forgot I could feel until I got out of my own way and let it peek through layers of senseless worry I’ve accumulated year after year:

So. Flippin. Happy.

France Paris Recipes Sweet Travel

Nobody Likes Zombie Babies, Everyone Likes Chocolate Beignets.

Well, it looks like my aging body has shirked its responsibilities in maintaining my sprightly stamina to match my gloriously youthful face and boyishly ignorant delusions of how I actually look. Where each week in Spain and Italy met me with an overcrowded bus or train headed off in some direction toward a destination boasting “THE BEST” of some culinary offering or another, I’ve instead been taking it easy here in France.

Beignets au Chocolat - Paris, France

Many evenings after long culinary classes I’ve found myself alone and horizontal in my tiny Parisian apartment in prostration, the preceding months of endless go-time finally catching up to me. Not to mention the uneasy impending end of my travels and added unnecessary exhaustion of repeating two words I really should remove from my repertoire: what next?

I imagine this is what heroin addicts must feel to some degree. Is this what druggies have to go through? Wading in the euphoria of my China White travel high, but looking toward the approaching sobering up period with fearful eyes and sloppy, cracked lips. If this were Trainspotting, now would be the part where I see the dead baby crawling on the ceiling. I hate that part. I hate that part so much.

A big problem I’m trying to overcome is my tendency to focus my attention on what’s ahead of me rather than what’s already at my feet. I’m in one of the most highly acclaimed culinary spots and coveted vacation sites in the world and mentally I’m already back home in Tampa. You’re shaking your head at me. I understand, I’m shaking mine too.

 

Beignet au Chocolat - Paris, FranceBeignet au Chocolat - Paris, FranceBeignet au Chocolat - Paris, France

A few nights ago after a particularly stressful day, an ethereal figure came to me in my dreams. That figure was Beyonce. I know how this sounds, but just stick with me for a second. I don’t know why Beyonce was with me, I’m not even really a fan. I couldn’t name one album of hers if my KitchenAid’s life depended on it. But she forgave me my cardinal Beyonce sin and she looked at me in my eyes with a look of concern before saying, “boo, what do you think you’re doing worrying the way you are? Do you know where you is? ” and without responding, I thought about those words. I do know where I is. Why am I concerning myself with what’s waiting around the corner when there’s so much in my favor right now?

I laughed a little and went to respond but she stopped me in my tracks. “I actually don’t care what you have to say to me,” she bleated — because she was now a goat for absolutely no reason at all — before shooting me a smarmy wink and prancing off into the shadows, leaving behind nothing but the resounding click of her heels and some wise words to consider.

 

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