Preparatory thoughts for this month’s Recipe Redux were perfectly timed with The Professor’s first (and let’s hope, last) cold-and-flu-like illness of the season.IMG_3712 (1280x853)

The theme for this month’s virtual recipe potluck was Spooky Spices, and, although two moves in two years had actually forced me to toss a lot of those spooktacular spices I never quite knew what to do with.recipereduxSPICES (960x479)

….there was one sitting up in the cabinet untouched, mostly still there because I’d inherited it from a roommate who used it once, after I convinced her to buy it, being so obsessed with my two other “You can only get them at TJMaxx” spice blends from Victoria Gourmet.

It wasn’t FEAR, but guilt that kept me holding on.

But I NEVER used it. EVER.IMG_3752 (1280x853)

So when The Professor took sick, it struck me that this was too eerie of a coincidence to ignore: after all, when you are sick and congested you need soup…and soup featuring sinus-clearing citrus and peppery spice can only be a boon to your recovery, no?IMG_3706 (1280x853)

Garlic, onion, and ginger, are all quite healing as well, of course. And I purposefully used chicken over veggie broth, since something in the chicken is good for curing what ails you.


Of course, when The Professor said, “Soup would be good, what I heard was, “Please feed me all the veggies.

I restrained myself.

A little bit.IMG_20141011_125710

And yes, I roasted the carrots and parsnips and onion separately. It probably didn’t make a flavor difference….but maybe it did.IMG_3709 (1280x853)

All I know is The Professor consumed at least 6 bowls of this….and he’s no longer sick.

So I guess this Halloween-themed spice magic worked?IMG_3714 (1280x853)

Healing Lemon Pepper Roots & Greens Soup

  • 2 cups sliced/chopped carrots
  • 2 cups sliced/chopped parsnips
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 4-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4-6 cups chopped fresh kale (or 2 cups frozen)
  • 1 Tbsp. no-salt lemon pepper
  • salt, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss together carrots, parsnips, and onion in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast carrots and parsnips for 30-45 minutes, just until fork tender. (May be longer depending on your chop size and oven calibration.)
  4. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Cook garlic and ginger for 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
  6. Add kale and 1 cup broth to the pot. Cook until wilted (or thawed, if using frozen).
  7. Add lemon pepper and remaining broth to pot. Bring to a boil.
  8. Stir in roasted root vegetables, and reduce heat to a simmer.
  9. Serve immediately, or allow flavors to develop for a few hours (with heat off) or overnight.


My New Favorite 5-Second Salad Dressing

by Sarah on October 16, 2014 · 1 comment

IMG_3758 (1280x853)1 part spicy brown mustard 


2-3 parts roasted pine nut hummus 


a splash of tamari (or liquid aminos) 


water to desired consistencyIMG_3760 (1280x853)

I’m not saying it’s fancy, or that it doesn’t probably end up having proportionally high sodium levels or some other nutritionally criminal quality…IMG_20141013_140806

….but I AM saying it tastes amazing on salad, and leftover salmon, and white sweet potatoes (which re actually yellow), and roasted veggies, and even one time this week I drizzled it on okra and then mixed it into a tomato bean soupy type concoction that was really ugly, but quite flavorful.IMG_20141015_133126_608 (1279x1280)

I just felt like I should share.IMG_3759 (1280x853)



North African Black Eyed Pea Stew

by Sarah on October 13, 2014 · 6 comments

My kitchen is a little excessively stocked with produce. For some reason I haven’t managed to accept the reality that many weeks I eat very few meals at home, and instead rely on chopped veggies, hummus, and crackers that I remembered to bring with me to the office, or handfuls of granola and trail mix that I keep stashed there.

Yet I keep stocking up on Costco-quantities of fruits and vegetables.IMG_20141006_165220

And how can I say no to the farmers’ market? I mean…really.IMG_20141011_074857

So when I found myself with two new eggplants, and a zucchini that I had never managed to cook from the week before, my mind flirted with ratatouille* but then recalled a dish I’d made in Austin but had never made again.

*See: Costco bag of bell peppers that is still unopened in my fridge.IMG_3812 (1280x853)

Not that I ever made many dishes again. Life as a constant blogger means you are constantly trying NEW things.IMG_3722 (1280x853)

But I’m no longer a constant blogger.IMG_3729 (1280x853)

So I no longer have that problem. :) IMG_3747 (1280x853)

This recipe was based on a tagine from the Tastes of Africa cookbook Papa Smart brought me back from Africa a few years ago.IMG_6571 (1280x854)

I left out the mushrooms this time to appease The Professor’s tastebuds.IMG_6575 (1280x854)

[I was already pushing my luck with a stew featuring cinnamon and the new inclusion of black-eyed peas.]IMG_3744 (1280x851)

The black-eyed pea fixation had appeared at some point this week, and I was determined to use the can I had in the pantry. Luckily, I found a recipe for Moroccan Ful Gnaoua that had the same spices…so I knew it had to work.IMG_3753 (1280x853)

And work it did.IMG_3814 (1280x854)

Now, I can’t 100% say the same about the cornbread I made to go with it. But when you substitute corn flour for corn meal, and bananas for applesauce, you’re bound to have slight texture issues.IMG_3807 (1280x852)

It didn’t really matter though, since the cornbread’s sole job was to soak up the subtly spicy stew beside it.

And it did that very, very well. :)

IMG_3808 (1280x853)

North African Black Eyed Pea Stew

(Serves 6-8)

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 2 cups chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 4 cups chopped eggplant (1 medium)
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini (1 large)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15-oz. can black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14.5-oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. turmeric
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika + 2 tsp. sweet paprika (or 1 Tbsp. paprika)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, ginger, and onion. Cook until beginning to soften.
  3. Add eggplant, zucchini, and 1/4 cup vegetable broth to the pot. Cover and cook 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add remaining broth, black eyed peas, tomatoes, and all seasonings, except cilantro.
  5. Bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer until everything is cooked through. (Flavor only gets better over the afternoon…so go ahead and turn off the heat and just let it SIT until dinner if you like.)
  7. Stir in cilantro before serving.

When I saw that the theme of the latest Recipe Redux contest, sponsored with the National Pasta Association to celebrate National Pasta Month, was “Pasta Fits,” I knew I had to enter.recipereduxNPA

After all, the one thing I can make that I know The Professor will happily eat–and what only a few days earlier, I can be quoted as saying I’d forgotten how much I loved–is pasta.IMG_3676 (1280x852)

Pasta really DOES fit-–not only into a busy schedule, but into the lives of two people of differing food natures–one adventurous and vegetarian-leaning, the other more satisfied by something hearty, simple, and familiar.Pasta-Fits

Inspired by the idea of combining these two outlooks into one, healthy, comforting dish, I took an old favorite from my vegan days–white bean gravy–and made a twist on traditional pot pie:IMG_3698 (1280x853)

I kept the flavors the same, but changed the mode of delivery.IMG_3638 (1280x853)

After all, making biscuits from scratch requires a whole lot of time I don’t have, and whole wheat pasta is a quicker and healthier (!) base for a myriad of toppings and sauces…IMG_3660 (1280x853)

….so why not pot pie?IMG_3642 (1280x853)

Or should I say….pot pasta?IMG_3702 (1280x853)

[Don't be scared by the list of ingredients for the gravy. It takes all of 10 minutes to make, and can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for a day or two (or probably three). The flavor just gets better with time.]IMG_3619 (1280x853)

White Bean Gravy

(Makes about 2 cups)

  • 1 15.5-oz can great northern (or other white) beans
  • 1 cup vegetable broth*
  • 1 tsp. liquid aminos, soy sauce, or tamari
  • 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dried whole thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin

*For a thicker gravy, reduce the amount of broth to 1/2 cup and add more if desired. However, if you use it for the full recipe, it will thicken as it cooks.

IMG_3626 (1280x853)

  1. Combine beans, broth, and liquid aminos/soy sauce in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process until smooth.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Blend well.
  4. Adjust seasonings to taste.IMG_3704 (1280x853)

Pot Pie Pasta

(Serves 4)

  • 1 recipe White Bean Gravy
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1  1/2 cups finely diced button or baby bella mushroms (may substitute 1 8-oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained)
  • s + p
  • 8 oz. whole wheat farfalle (or other wheat pasta of your choice)
  1. Spray carrots and onion with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast at 400 degrees until fork tender (about 20 minutes depending on the size of your slices).
  3. Put white bean gravy into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Stir in mushrooms, peas, and carrots.
  4. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  5. Toss drained pasta in gravy vegetable mixture.
  6. Dig in!


Autumn Squash & Sausage Gumbo

by Sarah on October 6, 2014 · 4 comments

The Professor was a little ‘miffed’ when he read my accusation of the fine cooks in upstate New York  marketing Manhattan Clam Chowder with okra as Seafood Gumbo.IMG_3529 (1280x853)

Well, he’s also going to be miffed that he was out of town when I made a MUCH more accurate version here at home.IMG_3564 (1280x853)

(Especially because I used local pork sausage that he had smoked, and I had frozen, and does incite happy dances on occasion…IMG_3502 (1280x853)

….AND because I finally cooked the brown rice 100% perfectly, with no sticking to the bottom, and no extra water, and just perfect light fluffiness.)IMG_3559 (1280x853)

Now, I’m not saying this is true gumbo, y’all…IMG_3518 (1280x853)

…because if you know me, you know I ain’t got time for no roux.IMG_3522 (1280x853)

But a little can of tomato sauce helps thicken everything up, and the smokiness of the already-cooked sausage helps create a rich flavor, further accentuated by a little help from Tony Chachere.IMG_3507 (853x1280)

I’m also pretty sure most gumbo doesn’t feature roasted autumn/winter/”whatever season it is is what you call it” squash…IMG_3513 (1280x853)

….but I was just so PROUD that I grew this kuri-kabocha-acorn squash hybrid my very own self.

So why the heck not?IMG_3469 (1280x853)

And of course, my proportion of okra to everything else* is also probably a bit skewed.

*10 pieces of okra for every one piece of other vegetable, yes? :) IMG_3490 (1280x853)

(But at least I know The Professor will not be miffed that he missed THAT.)IMG_3562 (1280x853)

Autumn Squash & Sausage Gumbo

  • 1 cup sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 links smoked* sausage (or vegetarian equivalent), cooked, sliced
  • 8 oz. frozen diced okra (although I add MORE!)
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted, chopped winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, etc.)
  • 1 8-oz. can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5-oz can fire roasted diced tomatos
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-3 tsp. favorite Cajun or Creole seasoning (added in increments to your desired level of spice!)

*If you don’t have smoked sausage, I recommend adding some smoked paprika to the pot, as it really adds a depth of flavor you miss by not making a roux.

  1. Heat a bit of olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and let them start to brown and soften.
  3. Stir in garlic and bell pepper. Cook another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Pour a bit of vegetable broth into the pan to deglaze.
  5. Add frozen okra and cooked sausage to the pan.
  6. Season with about 1 tsp. Creole seasoning. Stir well.
  7. Cook until okra has lost its iciness. Stir in squash.
  8. Pour in tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth.
  9. Season with another 1 tsp. of Creole seasoning.
  10. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  11. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  12. Serve over rice.

As always, this only gets better as the days go by.

[Cue Keith Urban.]IMG_3514 (1280x853)


…But At Least He Cleaned His Plate?

by Sarah on October 3, 2014 · 0 comments

Gotta love when you beautifully execute a number of dinner components—IMG_3212 (1280x853)

—roasting kabocha and sweet potatoes in Cajun seasoning…IMG_3200 (1280x853)

…steaming broccoli…IMG_3210 (1280x854)

…sauteing peppers…IMG_3203 (1280x853)

…and prepping the roasting packets for the fish—IMG_3207 (1280x854)

–to create a composed, restaurant-worthy* dish…

*Well, if everything had managed to actually be finished at the same time, so the potatoes weren’t slightly cold.IMG_3215 (1280x853)

And the only comment you receive is, “Gosh, the rice is good.”IMG_3204 (1280x853)

Which is the one thing you had no hand in truly making.

IMG_3206 (1280x853)


IMG_3214 (1280x853)

But I guess a clean plate still means I must be doing SOMETHING right…

(And that rice IS darn good.)


Spicy Shrimp Cacciatore

by Sarah on October 2, 2014 · 2 comments

One of Mama Smart’s rotation o’ dinners growing up was a Hamburger Helper-like product involving onion and pepper tomato sauce you poured from a jar over chicken, baked in the oven, and served with rice. Which, OK, is not really like Hamburger Helper at all. It was a chicken helper in a jar.IMG_3405 (1280x853)

And although I distinctly remember eating multiple servings (in betwixt practice lip sync session of “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors in the living room, using the darkened mirrors to check on my performance, which I also, oddly, distinctly remember) I always stumble when trying to remember what that Italian-themed saucy chicken was called.IMG_3386 (1280x853)

I do not know why cacciatore never sticks, but I’ll remember it every now and then when I have a stockpile of peppers, but, like my future as a pop singer, it will vanish into thin air.IMG_3368 (1280x853)

Even this past weekend, when I had planned out dinner, and I’d thought about it,  I’d prepped for it and I arrived home from a long day in the office ready to make this dinner happen in 40 minutes or less*….

*I wish I could be as quick as Rachael Ray, but I like a buffer.IMG_3332 (1280x852)

….I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember what it was called to be able to tell The Professor.IMG_3355 (1280x853)

Shrimp in spicy tomato sauce with, as The Professor noted, “a whole lot of peppers,”* sounds good to me, sure—

*He’s kind of scared of vegetables.

IMG_3377 (1280x853)

—but I felt better once I could more accurately identify it.IMG_3389 (1280x853)

Of course, once I identified it, and researched it, I learned that cacciatore is actually  hunter’s stew, and including shrimp doesn’t really make any kind of historical sense, anyway.IMG_3412 (1280x851)

But to that, I shrug my shoulders and just keep eating….even if tomorrow I probably won’t remember what it was called.IMG_3416 (1280x853)

Shrimp Cacciatore

(Serves 2)

  • 1/2 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp, patted dry and seasoned with Italian or Tuscan seasoning
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • s + p
  • dried oregano
  • red pepper flakes
  • fresh basil

pasta of your choice, for serving

  1. Sautee garlic and onion in a wee bit of olive oil.
  2. Once browning begins, deglaze pan with red wine. (Drink some as well?)
  3. Add peppers once onion begins to soften.
  4. Cook until peppers are fork tender.
  5. Slide peppers and onions to one side of the pan. Sear shrimp for 2 minutes, but not until cooked through.
  6. Remove shrimp and set aside.
  7. Add tomato sauce  and balsamic vinegar to the pan, stirring well.
  8. Season to taste.
  9. While sauce simmers, cook pasta according to package directions.
  10. For last three minutes of pasta cooking time, add shrimp to sauce, stirring well.
  11. Plate pasta and top with shrimp cacciatore sauce.
  12. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Vegan Pozole Rojo

by Sarah on September 29, 2014 · 2 comments

I tear a lot of recipes out of magazines, but I usually clip them all together and tuck them away, fully intending to work through them ‘one day’,* but the image of this Pozole Rojo in the October issue of Women’s Health was unrelenting, and I was fixated on, well, fixing it.

*When I graduate, maybe?IMG_3230 (1280x853)

So excited was I, that I initially didn’t even realize it was vegan (from the cookbook Thug Kitchen*) and featured tempeh, which certainly I could convince the Professor was ground pork. Certainly.

*Thug. There’s a word that is weird if you think about it too much.IMG_3241 (1280x853)

I also didn’t realize that in order to make it a thick and slightly chili-esque in consistency would require rehydrating dried ancho chiles.IMG_3316 (1280x853)

Considering I live in a town where the Spanish-speaking population approaches 0.5% only when I personally have had a few too many drinks and convince myself I’m back in Texas, those were going to be difficult to come by.*

*We do have an overabundance of jalapenos–pozolo rojo seems to require red?– in the backyard, however. Let me know if you want some.IMG_3234 (1280x853)

Luckily, Target makes a pure dried ancho powder. So what I would lack in viscosity, I could make up for in flavor.IMG_3228 (853x1280)

At least that was the idea anyway.IMG_3281 (1280x853)

(Cocoa powder and maple syrup were some of the original ingredients. I thought that might help win over The Professor.)
IMG_3251 (1280x853)

The balancing of flavors, with just powder, dried herbs, and broth, IS a little difficult, and I recommend following Stepmama Smart’s method of cooking midday, letting it all just sit for hours, then reheating on low about 30 minutes before you want to eat.IMG_3313 (1280x853)

He may have been distracted by the do-I-love-it-so-much-because-it-tastes-a-bit-like-cornbread? hominy, or perhaps the giant chunks of red jalapeno that were the results of my inevitable laziness and poor knife skills…IMG_3307 (1280x849)

…or maybe he was just really hungry.IMG_3285 (1280x891)

Either way, the bowl was empty and the dishes were  clean in the dishwasher before The Professor asked about the tempeh.

And that means, I’m totally cooking with it for him again.

::Evil Laugh::IMG_3292 (1280x853)

Pozole Rojo

(Adapted from Pozole Rojo in Thug Kitchen)

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 8 oz. tempeh, crumbled
  • 1-2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini or yellow squash
  • 2 15.5-oz. cans white or golden hominy, drained
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. ancho chili powder (or your favorite dark chili powder)
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • 1 Tbsp. agave
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt + pepper, to taste

chopped cilantro and crumbled tortilla chips (optional), for finishing

  1. Saute onion, garlic, and jalapeno in olive oil until softened.
  2. Stir in tempeh and soy sauce, cooking until tempeh begins to brown. (Add some warm water to deglaze the pan if necessary.)
  3. While tempeh cooks, whisk together water, chili powder, cocoa powder, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, agave, and lime juice.
  4. Add hominy and zucchini to the pot, and chili “broth” to the pot, cooking for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Stir in vegetable broth to reach desired consistency.
  6. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  7. Just before serving, stir in (or sprinkle on) fresh cilantro and crumbled tortilla chips.

A New York State of Mind(less Ramblings)

by Sarah on September 25, 2014 · 5 comments

Miss Smart: I’m not nervous about meeting everyone. I’ve already met your parents.

The Professor: That’s good.

Miss S: I am, however, nervous about the clothing situation. What are we going to do? Are there any special circumstances for which I might need anything unusual? Anything I might not be prepared for?

The P: Nope. Nah. No

Miss S: OK, then.

(30 minutes later, as Miss Smart’s thinking she can zip up the suitcase.)

The P: We might go kayaking.

::Palm to forehead.::

Miss Smart: See, THAT is the kind of thing I need to be prepared for.NYprofessor

And so began our travels to The Professor’s home state of New York. (Home STATE, please note. There is more to New York than that city. Like apples. There are good apples in New York.)IMG_20140921_130313

Travels that were blessed with free brownies from Starbucks, saved from the depths of food waste because they hadn’t been purchased and were still perfectly good (and unwrapped).IMG_20140919_161153

And a Miss Smart-style stocked fridge full of specially purchased yogurts and a whole tub of cut watermelon than I was told to eat all by myself. (Hello, hospitality!)


There was also plenty of peanut butter and raspberries for me to make a 4AM, pre-flight peanut butter and raspberry sandwich set.IMG_20140922_052547

Miss S: Look! I made sandwiches with the bread you threw away before we left but I took out of the trashcan and brought with me until just this moment when I could passive-aggressively remind you that it annoys me when perfectly good food gets thrown away. [See: Brownies from Starbucks.]

The P: I thought it would be all moldy by the time we got back.

Miss S: Well, now we’ve learned THAT lesson, haven’t we?

::Munch::IMG_20140920_182550_050 (1280x720)

Speaking of bread, we learned on Saturday night at The Professor’s parents’ 40th anniversary party that The Professor’s brother is a secret master baker of VERY delicious–and apparently I have to show you the ‘cut’ picture because, according to him, that’s what really gets the food pornographers going–bread.

It was after only 2 1/2 glasses of wine that I realized he should be called the BRO-fessor. :)


The P (via text) So, should we order veggie lasagna or eggplant rollatini?

Miss S (thinking): WTF? Is he making up words? Is he trying to trick me?

::Google search::

Miss S (via text): I’ve always wanted to try rollatini.

Rollatini. Totally a real thing.

IMG_20140920_192326_202 (1280x762)

Also a real thing? The dreams my taste buds were having about the blue cornbread  and maple butter at Empire Brewing Company, where we went to dinner on Sunday night.

It was good enough to distract me from the fact that calling a seven bean-and-seven vegetable soup a fourteen vegetable soup is sort of false advertising. I mean, sure, maybe legumes are vegetables, but I’m just saying, that was a lot of beans. And I and my  digestive system were staying with company.


Also, Manhattan Clam Chowder is apparently made with shrimp and okra and called gumbo in New York. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I just want you to know next time you go to order it.

(Sigh) Northerners.*

*Yes, I AM  from Pennsylvania originally.IMG_20140920_151817

Another thing you should do? Eat animal crackers with wine. Genius. (Although I’m still having trouble understanding why the giraffe is all neck and no head.)


Somehow, The Professor and I managed to wake up at 3AM (Central) on Monday, fly home as the sun rose, and get to the classes we had to teach on time.IMG_20140922_091722

I’ve decided this may actually be the best way to to say goodbye to such a fun weekend, because you are in such a fog of diminished awareness that you don’t have to time to be sad about what you are leaving behind.

I’m in a New York state of mind….?

(It totally rhymed.)


Druid City Garden Party 2014

by Sarah on September 15, 2014 · 3 comments

Despite his adoration of steeplechasing (at least once a year, in Charlottesville, anyway), I was a bit caught off guard when The Professor queried, “So, do you want to go the garden party?”IMG_20140914_194838

Of course, this garden party wasnot a pinkies-up tea party with floral dresses and petit fours–not that there is anything wrong with that– but a celebration of locally grown, locally made, and locally crafted food and brews, all to the soundtrack of a southern string band.Promotion-Poster_11x17_4.1.4_REV_FINAL-2014

The fact that is benefits the Druid City Garden Project, which develops sustainable teaching gardens in Alabama schools, was even better.DCGP logo

Although I usually get a 9 oz. pour when I go to Black Warrior Brewing Company, I managed to do some good work on the cup of Apricot Wheat I chose, but, of course, my focus was on the food.IMG_20140914_194649

As you see by the menu, it was pretty much local foodie and farmers’ market aficionado heaven.

We may not have an extensive number of restaurants here in Tuscaloosa, but the noteworthy ones we do have  can turn out some pretty amazing food, especially when they have such wonderful local produce to work with.druid-city-garden-party-menu-2014jpg-e4c001945f5feda4

Some highlights, for me, were (perhaps obviously) the Belle Meadow Farms Watermelon Gazpacho made by Chuck’s Fish, which had a subtle savory finish that balanced out the sweet watermelon perfectly…IMG_20140914_172347_846

…the Sweet Potato Crusted Catfish with (local) Andouille Cream Sauce, which just won’t ever look pretty served like this, but which I could have eaten an entire plate of, easily.IMG_20140914_180026_881

Epiphany turned out a Summer Melon Soup with Lemongrass Syrup and Pickled Honeydew that I am hoping is on their regular menu the next time I visit, because I could make a dinner out of that alone.IMG_20140914_175259_643 (1280x719)

Although a little sweeter than anticipated, you had to give Hotel Capstone points for presentation on their Goat Cheese Grit Cakes with Duck Confit and Orange Marmalade.IMG_20140914_172314_952

The simple, subtly rich Tomato & Okra Bake with Parmesan crust on top was comfort food in a cup…IMG_20140914_172659_211 (1280x719)

…and, yes all you crazy squash lovers, there WERE “Pumpkin” Pie Bars topped with a Harvest Spice SQUASH Gelato, made with both kabocha and delicata from Snow’s Bend. (Interestingly, I have both sitting one my counter. I will NOT be making this dessert. ;) )IMG_20140914_180449_579 (1280x719)

I wasn’t sure how The Professor would handle all that squash in dessert form, but he said he liked it. [Cue: Heart lifting.] One thing I never doubted would be his love of these BLT Bites, featuring local bacon and an incredible tomato jam that, as our friend Brian said, is reason enough to take a visit to the new Southern Ale House.IMG_20140914_172623_071

Great cause. Great food. Great friends to share it with.

If only I’d had enough money to outbid everyone else in the silent auction for the farm dinner for six at Snow’s Bend Farm.

Maybe next year. ;)