Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Deep in the heart of Texas...or maybe it's the Kidney of Texas

Spent the last week back in Texas, about an hour north of Austin. Road construction around the area I was in made it prohibitive to try and go back to Austin to explore after a hard day of wearing dress shoes and training software, so I stuck around town and ate local.

So, what does one eat while in a small Texas town? Well, gotta have some Mexican food or Tex-Mex, for sure. You can't get away from it. And, there's always Chicken Fried Steak, which may be the Texas State Dish, or pretty close to it. Of course, when you are training, there's always a trip to a Chinese buffet of dubious nature. Luckily, this one was small and not the 1,000 item extravaganzas with weird, non-Chinese food things...like chicken fingers and weird Jell-o concoctions. This place replenished their offerings often, and never put too many items out at a time. I did go to a little cafe and had the Chicken Fried Steak lunch special, and where I got a piece of lattice-crusted apricot pie. That was definitely a "worth the calories" day.

And then, after a long hard day of yakking my fool head off, I needed a beer and these things: White Wings. Looks like a tennis ball wrapped in bacon and deep-fried, doesn't it? That was about the size of the thing, but it was most definitely NOT a tennis ball.

These bacony delights were chicken breast that had been pounded thin, sprinkled with Monterey Jack cheese and diced jalapenos, then rolled up, wrapped in bacon, and deep fried to a crispy, molten center goodness. The ladies that I was with said they made their own at home, all the time, and grilled them. They made them smaller...more like golf ball sized...and used fresh jalapenos instead. That sounds pretty awesome, and I'll be throwing that on the list for summer grilling.

Okay, I must tell you about my new favorite pasta. It's from the March 2007 issue of Bon Appetit, which I have and the "why I didn't see it there to begin with," I'm just going to ignore. Anyway, it popped up on this Epicurious recipe gadget that I have on my iGoogle page, and I clicked on it to have a look. It's seems pretty healthy, and I made some modifications to it, pretty much based on what I happened to have in the house at the time, and it's now my new favorite thing to eat. Heck, I had it for breakfast this morning...yes, The Man is out of town to visit his mom and step-dad, who had surgery today. He's fine, but will probably be pretty achy and sore for the next couple of weeks. So, as usual, when left to fend for myself, I tend to make a large batch of something and eat off it for days. And, I'm thinking that this is also a good summer grilling side dish, too.

Campanelle with Tomatoes and Feta

Adapted from Bon Appétit | March 2007

8 ounces campanelle (trumpet-shaped pasta) or fusilli (spiral-shaped pasta)

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3-6 green onions, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1-2 pint whole grape tomatoes

1 10-oz bag fresh spinach

1 container (~4 oz) crumbled feta cheese


Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, while the pasta cooks, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over high
heat. Add green onions, garlic, and all tomatoes; sauté until tomatoes begin to soften and collapse, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta. Return to pot. Add tomato mixture, spinach, and remaining 3
tablespoons olive oil; toss until spinach begins to wilt. Add feta cheese and stir until it starts to get creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to plates and serve.

The first time I made this, I had a quart-sized container of grape tomatoes that were starting to get a little wrinkly, which made them sweeter, and really rocked this dish. The feta also gives it enough cheesy creaminess that makes me not miss throwing a ton of Parmesan in, and I think the 4 oz is enough--the original recipe calls for 7, which I think is too much. (I know, pick your collective jaws up off the floor...I actually said something about there being too much cheese...I can hardly believe it myself.

I had grilled some chicken breasts to serve with it during one meal, and The Man was helping me get stuff off the grill while I was juggling something else...I think the washer was trying to overflow. He cut up the chicken, because he thought I was going to be adding it to the pasta, and what the heck--it worked out great, too.

Tonight though, I had asparagus...grilled asparagus. The Man doesn't like asparagus, so I don't usually make as a side dish...but it was on sale at Publix for $1.99/lb and that's just hard to pass up. I tossed it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grilled it. Fire is a great and wonderful thing, don't you know! I had visions of taking the leftover grilled asparagus and adding it to the above pasta dish for tomorrow's breakfast, but alas, there were no leftovers.

(Someday, we'll have a whole discussion on my penchant for eating non-traditional breakfast foods for breakfast, but now, I've finally gotten sleepy enough to actually sleep...which is good, since I have to get up in 5 hours!)

No comments: