Dining Out for Life and Spuds

dining out for life 2016One of the organizations close to my heart is the NO/AIDS Taskforce. Each year, they do a fundraising drive called Dining Out for Life, where a portion of the day’s proceeds goes to NO/AIDS Taskforce and the Food for Friends program (they home-deliver meals to those affected by HIV/AIDS and cancer in the New Orleans community).

The list of participating restaurants grows each year (check out the list here) so I always have new things to try as I make a meal matter.

This time, I headed over to Metairie to enjoy Spudly’s Super Spuds. After hanging a hard right to get onto the service road that runs alongside I-10, I found the little shack with big potatoes.

The menu offers a lot of choices if you just want a meal in a potato – over 20 varieties! I started with the fried mushrooms and then had a cheeseburger to the side of a huge baked potato.

spuds

The mushrooms were scorching hot but the ranch dressing cooled them down. The potato was light and fluffy and the burger was darned tasty with lots of melted cheese and a toasted bun.

The place is small and it gets busy but the staff stayed cheerful and friendly. All the servers were quick to check in, even getting me a refill on iced tea before I could ask for it.

I’m definitely coming back to try more of their potato concoctions.

 

 

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Pork Tenderloin and Politics

I had a couple of friends over for dinner last night. Great guys and politically astute, so it was fun to chat about local, state and national politics over a meal. In case you were wondering, we solved all the world’s problems (You’re welcome!). I also was able to borrow a glass cutting kit from one of the John’s, so the evening was beyond successful.

For dinner, I did a blueberry sauce on a pork tenderloin, using blueberries that I picked and put in the freezer. I also used a lovely blueberry extract I picked up at a farmers market. If you don’t have that, use balsamic vinegar.

I served cornbread stuffing with the pork. It tasted much better than the picture looks! For dessert we had more blueberries in my Aunt Khaki’s Blueberry Crunch.

pork and corn

Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry Sauce

1 pork tenderloin
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar or blueberry extract
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Lightly rub the pork with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Combine the rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a sallow dish. Roll the pork loin in the herb mixture. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Mix together the blueberries, sugar, vinegar or syrup and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the contents to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-20 or until sauce has thickened. Add the lemon juice and simmer for 10 minutes more. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and brown the pork on all sides until golden. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes and drop the temperature to 350 degrees F. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.

Remove the meat to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour the blueberry sauce into the skillet and reheat until bubbling. Scrape the bottom of the pan to stir up any fond on the bottom of the pan. Slice the meat and then toss it and any juices in the warmed sauce before moving to a serving plate.

Serve with cornbread stuffing.

 

Cornbread Stuffing

1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 pieces of cornbread or corn muffins, crumbled
1 cup chicken stock

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. When oil smokes, add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add in the celery, pepper, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes before crumbling cornbread into the skillet. Stir to combine with vegetables. Dampen the stuffing with 1 cup of stock. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

 

 

 

Pho Orchid Uptown

I met up with a friend today to give her a few hazelnut thumbprint cookies in exchange for a package of sourdough starter. She had been working out at St. Charles Avenue Athletic Club and was looking for something not too heavy, so we went for Vietnamese for lunch.

The Uptown Pho Orchid is a small place on St. Charles near the corner of Jackson Ave. Their pho is rather good and they have a pretty in depth menu of other items. Their other location is in Metairie (3117 Houma Blvd).

I had the combination Banh Mi – my sandwich was served on French bread and had grilled chicken, pork and Vietnamese ham along with pickled carrots and cucumber. A great combination of flavors.

banh mi

Gillian had the lunch special of scallops and veggies which she enjoyed to the last bite.

scallops

The service is pretty fast and, when I’ve gone on other times with other folks, the servers have been happy to explain the dishes to those new to Vietnamese nouvelle cuisine. Prices are quite reasonable – we both ate our fill for less than $15/person including tip.

Hazelnut Thumbprints

I turned on the television this morning expecting to tune into to a classic old Louisiana cooking show. Instead, I was treated to a woman making peanut butter chocolate mousse with tofu.

To get the horror out of my brain, I decided to use my new hazelnut flour and make cookies. Thumbprint cookies usually have jam – and you could still use some here. I think strawberry or blackberry would go really well. However, I’m not about to turn down an opportunity to use chocolate. I had planned to use Nutella but I was out so I sort of made my own spread with bittersweet chocolate and cookie butter.

The final result was nutty and chocolately and definitely what the doctor ordered to clear my thoughts of tofu surprise.

cookies

Hazelnut Thumbprints

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups hazelnut flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilia
1/2 teaspoon salt

¼ cup cookie butter
1 cup bittersweet morsels

Preheat oven to 350°. Separate eggs, reserving the whites.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until combined. Stir in egg yolks. Add hazelnut flour, cinnamon, vanilla and salt and stir to combine.

Scoop tablespoons of dough. Roll the dough into balls and brush the balls with the eggs whites. Place about two inches apart onto baking sheets.

Make indentations in the center of each ball with a small measuring spoon. Cook for ten minutes.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate and cookie butter together. After 10 minutes of baking the cookies, add a ½ teaspoon of the chocolate mixture to each indentation. You may need to remake the divots first.

If you’d rather do fruity thumbprints, slightly warm 1/4 cup of your preferred jam in the microwave, just enough to loosen it up a little. As above, after ten minutes of baking the cookies, spoon jam into indentions.

Bake until cookies are set and golden around the edges, an additional 5 to 8 minutes more, rotating sheets when putting them back in the oven. Let cool on baking sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to the rack to cool completely.

Oh, and these are gluten free, too!