We took a couple of weeks vacation to get out of cold and snowy New York, and drove down through the Carolinas and Georgia to spend a week in sunny summery Anna Maria Island, Florida. And we want to tell you all about the sights and more importantly, the food.
We take a vacation so rarely that we’re incredibly excited when we get the chance to go away. In fact, long-term readers might remember our last travel report, from the UK back in 2013. This year we made the executive decision to take all our accrued holiday time for the last five years (this is totally not how freelancing works, by the way, you guys) and it just so happened that 1) Emily’s Mom had a big birthday celebration this year and we were invited to stay with the whole family in Florida for a week, and 2) Matt’s Mum is getting married in July and so we’ll have a summer trip in the UK.
Even though these two wonderful occasions are primarily mother-focussed (that’s not a curse-word, Moms), we realize that most of you come here for the food, so we didn’t want to disappoint you. And of course we both love to experience new and interesting cuisines and recipes on our travels. So here are some of our foody highlights from the trip.
A tasty, hearty, and yet simple and no-frills soup, created with nothing more than a carefully-selected local stone and water.
On the blog we get a lot of questions about how to combine various ingredients that you might have in your pantry. Last week we had a postcard from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales, whose son had dug up a large and unusually beautiful hunk of granite from the garden, and wanted to know if we had any culinary tips. Well, Mrs Trellis, we do indeed. Stone soup is one of the easiest traditions in our kitchen, and we’re going to show you how it’s made.
Our weeknight-friendly Creamy Tomato Soup is a favorite of kids and adults alike. Canned and sun-dried tomatoes give it loads of flavor, along with fresh herbs and a creamy swirl of Mascarpone cheese. Instead of plain old grilled cheese, we’ve paired it with the most delicious and buttery Roasted Garlic Cheesy Toast.
There’s something to be said for flavor combinations that kids love. Peanut butter and Jelly? Awesome. Tater Tots and ketchup? Move over Timmy, we want some too. Tomato soup and grilled cheese? Happy dance. And while, yes – you can heat up a can of Campbell’s and grill up some white bread with a slice of American cheese in the middle – for most adults it’s going to taste a little blah – somehow both too sweet, too salty and still bland. And while we’re not sticklers or anything, we try to keep our processed food intake to a minimum, especially when cooking a recipe like this from scratch is easy and gives you wildly better-tasting results, to boot.
Classic British chocolate teatime biscuits, with a traditional chocolate cream filling and two bonus fillings – whipped peanut butter, and matcha green tea with vanilla. These crisp, dark chocolate wafers are the perfect companion for a cup of tea or your preferred alternative.
Call it winter blues, call it having a massive sweet tooth, or call it being homesick for my mother country’s dessert items, but over the last few weeks I’ve had a big old hankering for biscuits. Brits (and Commonwealth-based readers) will know exactly what I’m talking about, but just to make the point clear: I don’t mean American-style “biscuits”, the savory (sometimes cheesy) risen doughy product with a soft interior that you might slather with butter and eat for brunch. Neither are they exactly “cookies”, in the strictest sense.
If I was the dedicated type, this is where I might insert a Venn diagram of dessert snacks with a big circle in the middle representing the set of “cookies”, and another circle representing the set of “biscuits”. Depending on who you ask, “biscuits” might totally be a subset of “cookies” (i.e., all biscuits are cookies), or it may have a significant overlap (many biscuits are cookies, but not all), but it’s hard to make the argument that the two are completely separate. As for the “all biscuits are cookies” camp, while that may be technically true, if you asked me for a cookie and I gave you a Rich Tea biscuit you’d be pretty miffed. So here’s the best definition of “biscuit” that I can come up with:
A small, lightly sweetened, unrisen baked item, that will break with a snap (it should definitely not bend), and is typically eaten as a light snack with a drink (tea, coffee, milk). Some are a single layer (digestive or Rich Tea), and some comprise two layers sandwiched with a thin cream filling (custard creams, Bourbons).
If it helps you to think of them as “tea biscuits” or even “sweet crackers”, feel free. Of course, living in Britain, few people would go to the trouble of making a variety of a store-bought biscuit, since it’s a matter of minutes to pop into the nearest shop and pick some up. Here in the US, though, we’re just going to have to roll up our sleeves and do it ourselves. And we’re going to start with the classic sandwich chocolate biscuit, the Bourbon.
Falafel – crispy fried nuggets of ground chickpeas, flavored with herbs and spices – are an essential Middle Eastern dish. Serve them as a meze appetizer with Lemon-Garlic Tahini Sauce, or stuff them into warm, home-made Pita Bread with a veggie salad.
All right, we’ll admit it: we’re unapologetically carnivorous. I mean, we’ll try anything, more or less, but when it comes down to “what to make for dinner”, at least a few times a week our protein of choice will be some kind of meat, hopefully raised and butchered responsibly, but still animal. And those of you who’ve been following us for a while know our shtick: we’re not adherents to any one particular diet or another, we don’t do paleo or Atkins or South Beach or whatever, we’re just home cooks who swear a lot and occasionally drop whole dishes of cauliflower cheese on the floor. But we do love vegetables, and the environment, and we also have friends who are vegan, or gluten free, or both, and who will squint and poke us in the ribs from time to time and say “What about me, bud? What about me?” These falafels, my friend, go out to you.
I don’t know why it took us so long to blog a falafel recipe. Emily grew up going to Mamoun’s (the best falafel joint in NYC), and her college years were spent bunked up with vegetarians, Moosewood cookbooks and, frankly, a severe lack of funds. This gave her a pretty good foundation in the dishes that could be put together with varieties of grains, beans and rice. And Matt rarely meets a bean he doesn’t like, but is frequently disappointed by boring veggie burgers. But these spicy deep fried delights? Yeah, these tick all our boxes. While the dried chickpeas require an overnight soak, and the mixture has to chill for a couple of hours, the rest is easy and actually a lot of fun to make. And the good thing is, you don’t even need a deep fryer.