The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

Powered by Blogger

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Can you fill your belly and your wallet?

Many people will celebrate New Year's Day with meals that have special signficance to them. Whether you're eating kraut and pork tenderloin, tamales or mochi, cultural traditions and the meals that go along with them are tasty ways to start 2007.

On Jan. 1, I'm going to prepare this dish, a family favorite that is steeped in Southern and African-American tradition. Eating black eyed peas the first day of the year is believed to bring you luck and money for the next 364. Why chance it? Go ahead and eat up.

Serve this with
greens or cabbage and corn bread for even more greenbacks next year, according to lore.

Hoppin' John
1 pound ground sausage (I recommend a spicy one)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green pepper
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 cup converted rice
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
2 14-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

hot sauce to taste

Saute sausage, onion, green pepper and celery in a large pot over medium-high heat. Drain and return to the pot. Add chicken broth, rice, garlic powder, salt, black pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add black-eyed peas to the pot and simmer an additional 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed into the rice. Add hot sauce to taste.
Makes about 8 servings (or 4-5 if your guests are a tad greedy).

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hot, sour and snack-worthy...

Two words describe the basis for my love of Target: Constant evolution. I find something new to love every time I go in there. It's like TJ Maxx, only more stable...

Last night, I went to Target for soap. But the siren calls that come from the aisles beckoned and my RedCard addiction won out. On the prowl for new, orange-stickered and all-around good stuff, I came across a treat with a twist: Hot and Sour Rice Corn Chips. They are part of the line of goodies known as the
Blue Ginger collection created by celebrity chef Ming Tsai. The savory, multigrain snack has all the flavors of the traditional Chinese soup. And they're baked so a bag ($0.99) of them contains just 200 calories and 0.5 grams of saturated fat (6 grams total fat), plus a little fiber and protein. That makes them just about perfect for the occasional snack, in my book.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas dinner reviewed

My mom makes a good roast beef for Christmas—she buys something big and cheap and roasts it really, really slow, as slow as her oven can go. It’s always juicy and beefy and tender—hers always better than mine, which probably means her oven can go lower. But after I roasted a fancier cut one year, I converted to spending lots of money for one rib roast a year at Christmas. This year I bought a 9 pounder at Avril-Bleh on Court Street. It’s such a great place, especially when it’s busy. There must be ten guys in white (well, white and bloodstain) behind the counter, filling people’s orders and chatting about food and joking with regulars and slinging around sides of beef. It is one of those places that define Cincinnati for me. That is, they do things the way they always have, and you have to figure out for yourself why it’s special because they aren’t going to hire a PR firm to let you know. Len Bleh cut the roast off the bone, then tied it back on so I could roast it on the bone for flavor but then simply cut the string and lift it off to carve it easily.
I slow-roasted it for about 3 hours in a 250 degree oven. It was so good: even cut in thick slabs, rib roast is soft like a pillow, at the same time keeping a beefy chew.

I also bought one of Avril’s smoked old-fashioned (no water added, partially cooked) hams, which was also very good; definitely a ham, but a little closer to a pork roast than most. While I was there, I got some of their dried beef, because my father was here for Christmas, and like a lot of guys who grew up in the Depression, he actually likes chipped beef on toast. I do too, actually, especially with the real stuff.
I could only afford a meat splurge like that once a year, but it was worth it: doubly so as I ate my leftover roast beef sandwich yesterday.
Avril’s is at 33 E. Court St., 513-241-2433

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Prepare to say goodbye to all the goodies of 2006. Soon, 2007 will be here, all fresh and rosy, with that unmistakable new-year aroma. You know the one... It smells like less fat, fewer calories and worst taste. Things start to look up around March when folks start reaching for the Krispy Kremes again...

Well, I resolve to do the opposite of what most people will when it comes to food: I plan to eat (gasp!) MORE in 2007. Not more from a quantity standpoint, but more variety... For instance, I want to try some of the fruit I marvel at in
Jungle Jim's, but always put back on the shelf. I'd like to visit the tried and true restaurants about town. You know the ones that don't advertise, but manage to stay in business for 50+ years? That's where I'll be, getting all nostalgic as I stare at tattered wallpaper and dig into comfort food... I also plan to grocery shop every Sunday and plan my meals weeks ahead so I can cook every day after work without stressing about it. Right now, my pantry is so bare it's an embarassment. Lastly, I want to be a more adventurous cook. Here are two dishes I've already put on my crazy-things-to-cook list for '07:

Doro Wat - A yummy Ethiopian stew I'd love to make at home, in spite of the laundry list of ingredients. I'll try to make injera, the traditional Ethiopian flat bread, while I'm at it. I wonder where I can find teff in Cincinnati...

Turducken - This is Paula Deen's recipe; I'll save this one for the holidays.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Lamb and a (not-so) traditional holiday treat

I'm kind of freaked out about the leg of lamb sitting in my fridge. I've never prepared one, and my main advisor on such matters is out of town. So I will ignore that part of our Christmas dinner plan and think about one of the things I KNOW how to do -- dessert.
I try to stay away from "Thanksgivingy" desserts at Christmas. We had plenty of pie back in November. Now this recipe is the kind of thing most people would make for a casual weeknight, but it was a HUGE hit last year at our Christmas meal, and that's enough for me to label it a tradition.

Chocolate eclair dessert

2 packages (2/3 of a box) graham crackers (broken into quarters)
2 3-ounce packages vanilla or chocolate pudding
3 cups milk
1 8-oz container of Cool-Whip
1 tub chocolate frosting

Line the bottom of a 13x9 pan with graham crackers. In a bowl, use a mixer to combine the pudding and milk. Add Cool-Whip. Spread half of the pudding mixture over the bottom graham cracker layer, then add a layer of graham crackers over the pudding. Repeat. Remove lid and foil from the top of the frosting, and microwave until the frosting is liquid. Pour over top of the layered pudding creation. Let chill (preferably overnight) and cut into pieces (the layers hold up pretty well).

Note: you can use low-fat graham crackers, sugar-free pudding, light Cool-Whip and skim milk to cut down on calories. Can't do much to lighten the frosting, but cutting back on the rest makes up for that one, right?

She's a rebel...

Yeah, yeah, yeah... I know it's ham and turkey season. But I cannot forsake my beloved: Chicken. I wonder how ANYONE could forget about that juicy, tasty, good-for-you-if-you-cook-it-right bird. Sigh.

Anyway, in this season of not worrying about whether or not food is healthy, I found the most delightful Creamed Chicken and Biscuits recipe ever. It's creamy and dreamy, and for crying out loud: It has CHEESE on top!!! The recipe follows in the comment section.

So kick back and make this easy dish soon. Your family will SO appreciate that it's not turkey or ham leftovers again. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Southern hospitality...

I wonder what happened when that patron foodie/genius first pitched the idea to create a network that was all food, all the time. I wonder if people thought he/she was crazy. I wonder if anyone had a clue as to how successful such a deliciously simple idea would turn out to be.

I'm a Food Network junkie. I love to check out the shows and the Web site for party menu planning, recipes, and all-around food-spiration. And while I like most of the shows and stars on the network, one Food Network star has a special place in my heart: Paula Deen. Between you and me, one of my goals is to have some of my recipes featured on her show. I'll let you know when her people get in touch with my people and ink the deal...

From her perfectly coiffed hair to the way she tells you to add eggs "one at the time," as opposed to one at a time, she's full of southern charm and wit. But be careful: Watching her show can raise your cholesterol a bit, especially when she breaks out the mayo (her favorite condiment) or the sticks of butter, like in this recipe for Double Chocolate Gooey Butter Cakes. I mean, the woman puts cheese on her corn on the cob. Paula is so bad (that means good, in this case) that she turns something as benign and healthy as green beans into a deliciously bad (again with the bad = good) dish with this recipe. Just remember to exercise (no pun intended) moderation when you enjoy southern goodness from Paula's kitchen.

Fried Green Bean Bundles
1 pound fresh green beans
1 bunch green onions, cut into strips
2 tablespoons House Seasoning, recipe follows
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
Oil, for frying

Bundle about 5 green beans by tying in the center with a green onion strip. Combine house seasoning and flour. Dip green beans in buttermilk and roll into flour mixture. In a deep frying pan or Dutch oven, fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chocolate chip cookies AND cheesecake?

This is one of those recipes that's a winner every time (except the last time I made them and overbaked them, but that's a different story). The original recipe comes from a former coworker who made them for almost every occasion. She moved to San Diego a few years ago (we miss ya Lisa!), but her cookie bar recipe is still a hit.

Lisa Bars (Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars )

2 rolls Pillsbury Cookie dough*
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Slice one roll of cookie dough and spread on the bottom of the pan. In a bowl, mix softened cream cheese, sugar and eggs (use a hand mixer, and mix until there are no lumps). Pour over cookie dough layer. Take the second roll of cookie dough, slice and spread over the cheesecake layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Let the bars cool for at least 2 hours before cutting (I let them sit overnight in the fridge).
* I always use Pillsbury -- for some reason the other brands don't work as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I know I said I was a seasonal eater...

I told you guys I'm a seasonal eater. This time of year, I get a hankerin' for marshmallows, butter-filled cookies, etc... I didn't mean this kinda seasonal. I wonder if these are to reindeer games what metts are to Reds games.

Can't you just see it: "Yeah, uh, lemme get a, uh, Rudolph special, hold the onions."

I'm not sure why eating Comet and Vixen on a bun is really any different than eating any other regular hot dog. It just is, OK?! Some things are just wrong. See Stephanie's post below about Wilbur and Famous Dave's for another example...

When you literally need to feed an army...

We've all said it or heard it before. Someone says a recipe "makes enough to feed an army." But have you ever thought about what it would actually take to feed an army? J.G. Lewin and P.J. Huff did.

They are the authors of How to Feed an Army: Recipes and Lore from the Front Lines. Filled with trivia and interesting facts about wartime meals, the book takes a look at our military through a foodie's perspective. (Who needs to concern themselves with "
Freedom Fries" when you have Freedom Fighting Foodies?) The people who came up with these recipes are true patriots, stretching every ration and using mind-boggling creativity (Vinegar Pie was a popular treat during World War I) to keep our troops fed. With each authentic wartime recipe, Lewin and Huff give the ingredients needed to make enough for an actual army (100 servings) as well as the version to feed 6-10 people.

Some of the recipes (like the ones for Lobster Newburg, Baked Tandoori Chicken and Greek Lemon Turkey Pasta) sound great. But there are others (like the
Baked Bean Sandwiches or Hardtack) that remind you that the men and women who protect our great country sacrifice a great deal to do so.

That's why whenever I see a man or a woman in their military uniform, whether I'm walking through downtown or an airport, I look at him or her right in the eyes and say "Thank you." That simple act of appreciation rarely leads to a full conversation, as the welling tears and tightening throats tend catch us both off guard. But the heartfelt "You're welcome" says it all.

The beauty of being an American lies within the few seconds of that exchange. We might not be the same age, gender, race or share religious beliefs. What we do share is a deeper understanding - a bond that lives within moments like that. And, in a way, the recipes in this book celebrate that.

And now for something completely different...

Just when you thought it was safe to open your paper...

The Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) is running a coloring contest. The subject: "Charlotte's Web" star (and cutest piglet around) Wilbur.

The prize? Dinner for four at a local BARBECUE JOINT.

What? As fellow foodie Lauren points out, that's like having a Mitchell's Fish Market next to the Newport Aquarium...

Oh, wait...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

To meringue or not to meringue?

One of the best diet treats out there is the Miss Meringue cookie. I found my first box of them at Target, but Kroger and plenty of other stores stock these sweet, lowfat puffs. My favorite is the mint chocolate chip, and the festive peppermint crush was a hit at a recent holiday gathering. They're not cheap, but if you're going lowfat and want something sweet, it's worth the $4.79 for a box of these little guys. Now that I'm cutting back on sugar, I was glad to find that they offer sugar-free chocolate and vanilla versions -- we'll see how those taste. My last attempt to eat sugar -free meringues was not so great -- just say no to the Heavenly Desserts Chocolate Meringues.

Cupcake city

Wow. I knew cupcakes were hot. But I had no idea... Check out the cupcake blog. Wild. It takes cupcakes to a whole new level. Old fashioned chocolate cupcake with coconut buttercream frosting? Yum. Lemongrass and "mooncake" cupcakes (a take on Chinese mooncakes, which are filled with red bean paste)? Just wild!

Perhaps I need to branch out from my usual white cake with cream cheese ice cream and Breyer's Natural Vanilla ice cream. (It was a yummy birthday cake this year though - thanks to Amy!)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pom-elicious tea time

I've had a thing for pomegranates since I was a girl. I won't say exactly how long ago that was, but trust me when I tell you it was way before "antioxidant" was a buzz word. Always a fan of the combination of sweet and tart flavors, I fell in love with the "jewel of winter" at first taste. Besides being delicious, the yummy, ruby-like seeds that are found deep within the thick, leathery skin are good for you.

Not in the mood to put forth the relative effort required to seed a pomegranate? Enjoy the flavor and the health benefits of poms and various teas with the delicious line of
pomegranate/tea beverages from Pom. I've tried all four flavors and they're all so good that it's impossible for me to pick a favorite. In fact, they're so good that you almost forget they cost $2.49 each. Almost. But I think they're worth every penny. I've spent more money on beverages that aren't nearly as tasty or healthful. These are good for you and they come in "keepsake glasses." Two good excuses to keep throwing 'em back...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Master of stollen

You would not believe how good the stollen at Frieda’s Bakery in Madeira is! I thought stollen was some kind of bread, but the way Armin Hack makes it (according to a recipe that has been passed down in his German family through four generations of master bakers) it’s very buttery-rich, like pastry or a big cookie, wrapped around marzipan and dried fruit and nuts. Wonderful. So old-world, so buttery, so festive. . . . I wish my life included some kind of afternoon tea ritual, because it would be perfect with that. It's $12 and they have it until Christmas, and then again at Easter. They also have schnecken, very much like the revived Virginia Bakery schnecken that Busken's is selling.

Our little secret

Love, love, love all the Indian restaurants in the downtown and Clifton areas of Cincinnati. Hate, hate, hate going out when it's cold and rainy/snowy. So I charged myself to find a superb Chicken Masala recipe. To the web!!!!

I found a million of 'em. But what I didn't like was the marinating of the chicken (I'm a child of instant gratification). But I found a wonderful Indian Chicken Masala recipe that did NOT call for soaking the chicken in a yogurt mixture for more than an hour, or even less than an hour.

Once the sauce was made, I sniffed its glorious aroma. I was in heaven. Then I opened my eyes. And then, I cheated.

It didn't look right. It wasn't creamy enough. So I did what I thought was right: I added heavy cream, about a cup or so.

You don't have to. You can follow the recipe to the letter. But I was blinded by all the delicious restaurant-prepared Masala I'd had, and knew I wanted to duplicate it to the max.

I made a good choice that day. And I'm telling the world about my indescretion. Just don't tell my husband. It's our little secret.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Peppered buffalo tenderloin

Wild Oats just sent me an e-mail featuring Light and Festive Appetizers, including this yummy one for peppered buffalo tenderloin with light horseradish cream. Yum. You can special order the buffalo from Wild Oats, or just use beef tenderloin.

Considering the fact that I just ate some delicious leftover filet mignon from The Precinct, sliced thin, chilled and smothered in horseradish, I think this is one for the "to try" folder.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Chocolate-covered grapes

If you have to take something sweet to a party in the next few weeks, I’ve got a great recipe for you. It’s from a very fun cookbook, "Happy in the Kitchen" by Michel Richard, fancy chef. I have read through every page., though there are not really that many recipes I could actually make in it: they are sort of science-y, and take a number of steps. But everything is so clever and appealing that I really considered buying the home meat slicer he is into for all kinds of creations. (the fact that there is no room in my kitchen for any such thing stops me.) But I did make these: chocolate-covered grapes. It sounds fussy, but it’s not. It’s simplicity itself. I served them after a dinner party, after dessert, for that hanging-around the table, finishing up the wine portion of the evening. What’s cool about them is that they look like rich little chocolate truffles, but they’re light, and they’re a real surprise to bite into. People acted like they couldn’t possibly eat one, then popped them in their mouths one after another. (Exactly what Michel says in his recipe introduction. )

1 pound cold firm seedless grapes
4 ounces 60% semisweet chocolate, melted, at body temperature
1-2 Tablespoons cocoa powder.
Wash the grapes and dry them well. Place them in a large bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the melted chocolate to the grapes, one tablespoon at a time, stirring thoroughly with a spatula. When it's all added and begins to set, sprinkle cocoa little by little on the grapes and gently stir, so they're coated with the cocoa. Spread on the baking sheet, and refrigerate until hard, or up to 1 day.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mmmmm...truffle oil

So a good friend of mine just got married to a fabulous guy who happens to be an amazing cook. He doesn't just serve food at dinner parties, he plates it. And of course, they're having fun using all their new wedding gifts off the registry (including a cleaver from me!), and cooking up a storm.

I was kicking myself for not having my camera handy last night, but dinner for five consisted of grilled pork chops with carmelized onions and a reduction of cranberries and apples; pan-seared brussel sprouts (which we plucked off the stalk - who knew?); and super-smooth mashed potatoes, consisting of both white and sweet potatoes. The best part of the creamy potatoes was the drizzling of truffle oil that went on top.

Truffle oil, apparently, is high-quality olive oil infused with black or white truffles. It's super earthy, and seems like a great way to make ho-hum mashed potatoes (not that these were) instantly gourmet. I'd had it in restaurants but never considered buying any for my home kitchen before. This recipe recommends mixing it into the potatoes, but I like the drizzling idea myself.

I called around, and Trader Joe's has black truffle oil ($8.99 for 8.5 oz. bottle, which sounds kinda cheap to me). They'd been out of it for a while, but it's back now. (None in white, though). It's a seasonal item, and will probably be gone by February.

Wild Oats at Deerfield Towne Center has both black (1.9 oz., $8.99) and white truffle oil (1.9 oz., $9.29). A bigger bottle of white truffle oil (3.4 oz.) is $17.49.

Besides making potatoes taste great, what do you use truffle oil for?

Go ahead... get Fresh

Here's the deal, guys: I'm cutting way back on meat to improve my health. Lucky for me, I love vegetarian/vegan options. Even luckier for me, I work down the street from Fresh.

My friend and fellow Enquirer staffer Byron McCauley and I stopped by the downtown restaurant earlier this afternoon. We both ordered the hummus and veggie sandwich (mine on a whole wheat bread, his on focaccia) and the wild mint tea. The menu is so healthy just reading it makes you feel good.

My sandwich was delicious albeit a tad pricey at $6.98. The downside? They offered pretzels or an apple - a Red Delicious apple! Needless to say, I passed on the apple, but Byron didn't. And here I thought he was a foodie...

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hot, hot, hot!

I was in bed all weekend with the crud that's going around, and a friend brought me two things: A wonderful drink concoction and a rice dish to die for.

The drink had tomato juice, some vodka and horseradish in it, along with some other stuff. Apparently it's a secret, and he won't tell me the rest. This recipe seems to come close.

The rice dish was phenominal. After all, not only did it taste wonderful, but it helped clear out my sinuses. Not usually a prerequisite for my food, but in this case... And I DID get the recipe for this one.

Tex-Mex Rice Bake

4 cups cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups shredded jalapeno cheddar cheese
1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Heat over to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine rice, 1 cup cheese, chiles, sour cream, scallions, salt and pepper; stir until blended. Coat an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spoon rice mixture into dish; top with remaining cheese. Cover with nonstick foil and bake 15 minutes; remove foil and bake 15 more minutes or until bubbly.

Yum! Goes perfectly with a tomato juice/vodka/horseradish drink!

Jim Borgman
Today at the Forum
Paul Daugherty
Politics Extra
N. Ky. Politics
Pop culture review
Who's News
Roller Derby Diva
CinStages Buzz....
The Foodie Report
Classical music
John Fay's Reds Insider
High school sports
UC Sports
CiN Weekly staff