This past week, we’ve been eating our way through Austin, Texas. We went on this fun trip with about a dozen other family members, to watch Ally’s cousin Townley swim in his final collegiate meet for the University of Texas. Townley is an amazing swimmer – he swam for Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and even won a gold medal! (Ally does not share his athletic genes unfortunately…) The NCAA swimming championship was a new, fun experience for us and was a great excuse to check out Austin – neither of us have been there before and Ally hadn’t previously been to the whole state of Texas!
As usual for our blog, we’ll focus on the food! We went fairly traditional/touristy when we were in Austin, but everything was delicious! Of course, we had some breakfast (and dinner) tacos, BBQ, and everything meat!
On our first night, we went alone on a dinner date to Contigo, which was recommended by our favorite Texas natives. We didn’t take any pictures here, but the food was delicious and the portions Texas-sized! The chicken liver mousse from the charcuterie menu was spectacular, topped with smoked maple syrup and chopped pickled green beans. This is a combination I certainly would never have thought of, but it was amazing!
And we did manage to take a few pictures on some of our meals and treats! See below:
This isn’t the first time we’d tried a riff on stuffed peppers around here. I loved our last creation – Chicken & Couscous Stuffed Peppers, probably because I like anything with pearl couscous. This variation goes pretty much the opposite direction and is stuffed full of rice, cheese, and the American classic – hot dog. Think of it like a reverse loaded hot dog! A delicious, messy ballpark hotdog, stuffed inside a pepper instead.
We use Stadium/Ballpark mustard in our recipe (and pretty much anytime we need mustard). It’s a Cleveland thing – a mild brown mustard that has been used at the Cleveland Indians ballpark for decades. Apparently there’s a controversy about it – here’s the story. When Selim moved to the Mid-Atlantic, he was mildly appalled that he couldn’t find it in stores and that I had never heard of this miraculous substance. I was a bit skeptical, but he was right. Stadium mustard is definitely a family favorite for both of us now. We bring home a few bottles of Bertman’s every time we go to Cleveland.
Ballpark Stuffed Peppers
3 large bell peppers
1/2 cup rice
1 tsp oil
1/2 small onion, finely diced
3 hot dogs, chopped
1 tbsp mustard (see above for our favorite)
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 cup + cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the rice – in a small saucepan, cover rice with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. After it’s boiled, reduce heat to low and cover until water is absorbed & rice fluffy.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and toss with the oil. Then add the hot dogs to the dish and cover. Continue cooking for 10 minutes, until the hot dog pieces have crisped up a bit and the onions are soft and fragrant.
Once cooked, stir the onions and hot dogs into the rice, along with the cheese, mustard, and hot sauce.
Stuff the rice mixture into the peppers.
Place the peppers upright in high-edged oven-safe dish. Add a thin layer of water to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Serve topped with an additional sprinkle of cheese if desired.
Happy Mardi Gras (Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, etc)! Here in the US, we associate Mardi Gras with New Orleans’ celebrations alone. But this week I reminded myself that not everyone celebrates with beads, King Cake, Cajun food, and exposed breasts. So I looked into worldwide traditions, with the hopes of picking a different dish to make tonight. (I wanted a surprise for Selim when he came home from work, so I was looking for his favorite foods and flavors!) I learned so much – pretty much every country with healthy Catholic or Orthodox Christian traditions has their own celebrations. In my browsing, I decided I should definitely have been born in Cyprus. There, Carnival is a two week celebration – the first week is “Meat Week,” or Kreatini, which is the last week eating meat is allowed until Easter. The second of the weeks is “Cheese Week,” or Tyrini, which leads right up until Ash Wednesday. Cheese week!? A whole week for eating cheese?! How did I not know about this until now?
Tonight we made these Cypriot sweet fried cheese pastries called bourekia. (I’ve also seen the spelling pourrekia, I’m not sure the difference, other than just translation into the Latin alphabet?) To be truly authentic, they should have Cypriot anari cheese inside, but given that isn’t entirely readily available in the US, the internet assures me that unsalted ricotta is an acceptable substitute. The rosewater and cinnamon take the cheesy filling and make it sweeter and full of the flavors of the greater Middle East and Mediterranean. I’m still mildly terrified of frying things, despite our recent forays into frying (Southern Fried Chicken & Shrimp Beignets), but we jumped head-first into our first fried treat tonight! Good thing we have our Culinary Bucket List to keep motivating us.
I’m not going to lie, these were good, but not perfect. I’m happy enough with the result to share, but I need to work on the dough. I’m not 100% content with that. The filling however… Perfect! Sweet, but not overly sugary, with a delicious blend of flavors. The hint of rosewater is excellent!
Cypriot Carnival Bourekia
(Adapted from this publication from Toni Buxton & the Cyprus Tourism Organisation)
4 cups AP flour
1 cup neutral oil
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water (+ more if needed)
1 1/2 cups unsalted ricotta cheese
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp rosewater
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Oil, for frying
Mix together the four, oil, and salt. Knead together, adding small bits of a cold water if needed to create a smooth dough ball.
Wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir the cinnamon, sugar, and rosewater into the ricotta cheese.
After the 30 minutes, roll out the dough and cut out circles. Use the base of a glass to stamp them out. You want the dough to be fairly thin – mine were somewhere between 1/8th & 1/16th of an inch.
Spoon a small dollop of the cheese mixture into the center of each circle. Brush water on the edges of the dough circles and fold over into half-moons. Crimp edges together.
Heat the oil in a heavy, tall-sided pot to 365 degrees. Fry the bourekia in batches, taking care not to crowd the pot, for 3-4 minutes.
Remove them to a paper towel to drain and dry. Dust with powdered sugar prior to serving!
Happy March! We hope this will be a great month for everyone. We’re really excited about March, because we closed on our house on the first! We’ve spent much of this weekend over at the new house, planning our renovations, picking colors, and generally being proud homeowners! We made these potatoes when we got home to accompany some meatloaf. They’re so easy – perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. The cooking time is about an hour, but your hands-on time is less than 10 minutes! Easy to put together, with just a few ingredients, and delicious! What else can you ask for??
2 Russet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp truffle oil
1 tsp truffle salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp granulated onion
10+ turns fresh black pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice potatoes fairly thinly.
Stir together the oils, salt, garlic, onion, and black pepper. Toss the potato slices with the oil mixture.
Stack the potato slices horizontally in a glass baking dish and roast for 1 hour.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Return for just another 2 minutes to melt the cheese.