About C.E.

C.E. Hanifin is editor-in-chief and owner of Tallahassee Bite By Bite. She may be reached at tlhbitebybite@gmail.com.

Nosh News: Olé! Edition

At the Greensboro Supermarket, you can get dried chiles, a game of pool, a flat-top hair cut and the most authentic tacos in the Tallahassee area.

This Saturday, May 5, encompasses two events traditionally celebrated with lots and lots of alcohol: The Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo. If you’re looking to shake up your mint julep for this weekend’s run for the roses, check out the Kitchn’s roundup of five non-basic julep recipes, including a Cherry Julep made by my favorite talking head, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. To put a spin on the traditional Cinco de Mayo margarita, try Rick Bayless’ Champagne Margarita or Hotel California Jamaica Margarita. While you’re over at Bayless’ site, take a look at his collection of recipes for salsas, appetizers, entrées and desserts, too. The Chicago chef is one of our country’s great masters of Mexican cuisine.

With a Mexican native in my casa, we won’t be doing anything too splashy for Cinco de Mayo, since the Professor likes to point out that the holiday isn’t widely celebrated in his ancestral land. (It’s more akin to Casimir Pulaski Day than the Fourth of July). We’re always up for eating authentic Mexican food, however, so this weekend we’re planning to visit our favorite taqueria in the Tallahassee area. We love the picadillo sopes, bistek tortas and barbacoa tacos served at the little dining counter in the back of the Greensboro Supermarket, 119 Green Ave., Greensboro. The taqueria’s housemade tomatillo salsa alone makes the 30-mile drive worth it. The Greensboro Supermarket carries a variety of Mexican packaged goods, including all kinds of dried chiles, that can be tough to find locally, and also houses a pool hall and a hair salon. (Yes, I said hair salon). Now that’s one-stop shopping.

Have you dined at any of the eateries on the just-released list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants? I haven’t yet visited the heavy hitters ranked by Restaurant magazine, but several of my friends have marveled over chef Grant Achatz’s masterpieces of molecular gastronomy at Alinea. The Chicago restaurant, which claimed the No. 7 slot, is one of eight American eateries on the list published annually by the London-based magazine. Noma, a restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, nabbed No. 1. Personally, I’d love to compare the two menus of traditional and creative dishes offered by Biko, the Basque-Mexican hybrid restaurant in Mexico City that landed at No. 38 this year.

Nosh News and Best Bites: Jammed Together Edition

Now is the time to find ripe strawberries at local farmers markets and roadside stands.

Berry fans, rejoice: The local strawberries are ripe! I picked quite a few quarts on Tuesday during my volunteer shift at Full Earth Farm, and got to take some home. We ate all of them fresh — the first ripe strawberries of the spring never last more than minutes around here — but next time I luck into a berry bounty I’m going to restrain myself long enough to make this recipe, which was inspired by a dish served at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort: Simple Strawberry Soup from Christy Jordon’s Southern Plate blog.

Paella and flamenco make the perfect picante pairing. On Friday, April 27, you can relish both at Mission San Luis, 2100 W. Tennessee St. Award-winning guitarist Grisha Goryachev will perform modern and traditional flamenco music while local caterers Real Paella serve a sit-down gourmet dinner that includes sangria, Spanish salad, flan and, of course, paella mixta with vegetables, meat and seafood. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35. Visit the Real Paella website to order tickets or call 339-2043.

In the epic battle of the big coffee chains, I’ll choose Dunkin’ Donuts over Starbucks every time. So I was thrilled to discover that filmmaker Whit Stillman prefers the Double D, too. In fact, the crew on his just-released film “Damsels in Distress” was treated to two Dunkin’ Donuts runs each day. I found out about Stillman’s coffee predilections, along with a handful of unexpectedly intriguing everyday insights, when he was featured this week in Bon Appétit’s My Morning Routine series, which explores how people kick-start the day.

Do you dream of owning a food truck? Find out more about how to make it happen at the Food Truck 101 Workshop offered by the Tallahassee Food Truck Association. The event is set for 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Attendees will learn about required licenses and registrations, insurance, suppliers and more, and will have the chance to talk with food truck owners who’ve already hit the local streets.  The cost is $25. To register in advance, visit the Tallahassee Food Truck Association website.

Roll into National Bike Month with the Capital City Cyclists, who are encouraging Tallahassee-area bicyclists to get together for dinner at a different local restaurant on each Wednesday in May. The Dinner by Bike series kicks off on Wednesday, May 2 with a meal at Mike’s Stone Baked Pizza, 1313 Jackson Bluff Road. Start your ride from home, work or school and meet up with other riders at the restaurant anytime between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. For more information about Dinner by Bike and other National Bike Month events, visit the Capital City Cyclists website.

Cracking the Spine: Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans (Rajmah)

We’re boldly delving into our ever-growing stacks of cookbooks, seeking out recipes we’ve never made before.

Prepping the ingredients for Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans, or Rajmah, a hearty Northern Indian dish that’s perfect for the slow cooker.

I came late to the slow cooker.

Unlike so many born-in-the-’70s kids with working parents, I didn’t grow up with a Crockpot on the kitchen counter — on busy weeknights, my mom preferred to whip up some pancakes or rifle through our collection of takeout menus. I acquired my first slow cooker just a couple of years ago, when one of my friends pulled an extra one out of her cabinet and gave it to me.

Since then, I’ve made quite a few chilis and stews in the slow cooker, and the Professor uses the device just about every week to prepare a big batch of soup. But we haven’t done much with our Crockpot beyond making those classic comfort foods.

I’m an easily distracted cook who hates attending to a simmering pot of anything for hours, so a slow cooker, with its set-it-and-go simplicity, should be one of my most valued kitchen tools. I just needed the right enticement and the right recipes to encourage me to experiment.

I found both in the form of a cookbook I recently picked up, “The Indian Slow Cooker” by Anupy Singla, the Chicago-based writer behind the blog Indian as Apple Pie. Indian food is another culinary delight I didn’t discover I became an adult, and for years I’ve wanted to learn how to make spicy curries and creamy masalas at home.

“The Indian Slow Cooker” is packed with great recipes for all sorts of Indian dishes, from Chicken Tikka Masala to Goan Black-Eyed Peas. The cookbook also includes a guide to the spices, legumes and other ingredients most often used in Indian cooking.

For my first attempt at making an Indian dish in the slow cooker, I chose Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans, or Rajmah. Singla points out that this dish is considered the quintessential comfort food in Northern India. That sounded ideal to me, since I’ve come to think of my slow cooker as the ultimate comfort-food maker. The recipe for Rajmah couldn’t be simpler: Chop some stuff, drop it all in the slow cooker and crank the heat to high; 11 hours later, give the Rajmah a few whacks with an immersion blender (another kitchen tool I don’t use often enough) and spoon out a rich, satisfying meal.

If you’re looking for the Indian spices called for in this recipe (or any other dish) here in the Tallahassee area, I’d suggest making a stop at Little India, 1350 E. Tennessee St. In addition to spices and packaged goods, the grocery store also sells fresh and frozen Indian breads, including naan and paratha, that make excellent accompaniments to Indian meals.

Punjabi Curried Kidney Beans (Rajmah)
Recipe from “The Indian Slow Cooker” by Anupy Singla

Ingredients
3 cups dried red kidney beans, cleaned and washed thoroughly
1 medium yellow or red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and chopped or grated
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped or grated
4-6 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, chopped
3 whole cloves
1 (2-4 inch) cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon red chile powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon tumeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
9 cups water
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
1. Put the kidney beans, onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chiles, cloves, cinnamon stick, cumin, red chile powder, salt, tumeric, garam masala and water in a 5-quart slow cooker.*

2. Cook on high for 11 hours, until the beans break down and become somewhat creamy.

3. Remove and discard the cloves (if you can find them!) and cinnamon stick. If the Rajmah is not creamy enough, take an immersion blender and press it two or three times to break up some of the beans. If using a blender, take out about 1 cup and process in the blender, then return it to the slow cooker. Be careful not to process all of the beans; most of them should remain whole.

4. Stir in the cilantro. Serve over a bed or basmati or brown rice with a side of raita and an Indian salad.

Try this! After cooking, turn off the slow cooker and add 1 cup plain yogurt. Stir well and let the slow cooker sit with the lid on for about 10 minutes. This adds a unique tang.

* To make this dish in a 3 ½ quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. (I would suggest reducing the cooking time to 9 hours on high; that’s how long it took for the the beans to break down and become somewhat creamy in my 3 ½ quart Crockpot).

Rajmah makes a satisfying main dish for lunch or dinner.

Best Bites: Everything’s Gone Green Edition

Our weekly picks for the most enticing foodcentric events in the Tallahassee area.

Earth Day is Sunday, April 22.

With Earth Day coming up on Sunday, April 22, we’re all being bombarded with tips on how to go green. Here at Tallahassee Bite By Bite, we believe that supporting locally owned businesses, from farmers markets and shops to bars and restaurants, is an environmentally friendly act that we can choose to make every day of the year. To find your new favorite Tallahassee business, check out Locally Owned Tallahassee and Local Business Saturday.

Tallahassee’s fleet of food trucks will be out in force during Girlz Rock!, a night of music and dance performances by local women that’s part of Tallahassee PRIDEFEST 2012. The event begins at 7 p.m. Friday, April 20 at the All Saints Hop Yard, 453 All Saints St. Admission is free. Beer will be served by the Hop Yard and the Fermentation Lounge; a wristband for folks 21 and older costs $10 and includes 2 free drinks.

Friday, April 20 is the most wonderful day of the year for local mac ’n’ cheese fanatics. Bread & Roses Food Cooperative will host the 12th Annual Vegan Mac and Cheese Bake-Off from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 915 Railroad Ave. in All Saints. For a suggested donation of $2, you can sample all the entries in three vegan categories: traditional, innovative and dessert. If you’ll be entering your own killer mac ’n’ cheese recipe into the competition this year, arrive 15 minutes before the event begins with your dish, a list of ingredients and serving utensils. For more information, call Bread and Roses at 425-8486 or email breadandrosesfoodcoop@gmail.com.

Earth Day in the Park, Tallahassee’s annual downtown celebration of all things green, will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 22 at Ponce de Leon Park. The family-friendly festivities include garden and aerobics demonstrations, music, one-mile walking groups, and fitness, organic food, wellness and sustainability vendors. Admission is free. You can find out about additional Earth Day Week events around the area at the City of Tallahassee website.

Nosh News: Everybody Loves a Cheeseball Edition

April is National Florida Tomato Month.

Happy National Cheeseball Day! Don’t have the time (or the stomach) to ball up a wad of brie so you can celebrate? Well, Sunday, April 22, is National Jelly Bean Day. And you’ve got all of April to commemorate National Florida Tomato Month, along with National Soft Pretzel Month and the oh-so-unspecific National Food Month. Where did all these food holidays — seems like there’s at least one for just about every day on the calendar — come from, anyway?  Bon Appétit explains it all: How National Food Holidays Became a Thing.

When most people look at a hunk of cheese, they envision a snack or a meal. Painter Mike Geno, however, sees artistic inspiration. The Philadelphia artist has made a career out of painting portraits of beautiful blues, richly textured cheddars and other visions de fromage. Jeff Gordinier’s profile of Geno for the New York Times, Like the Mona Lisa, but on a Cracker, includes some delicious tidbits about the artist’s process (yes, he does devour his subjects after he’s polished off a canvas) and a slideshow of some of his works.

Know what goes great with cheese? Beer. If you’re looking for a new microbrew to savor, the Trot Line’s got you covered. The Atlanta-based website’s coverage of Southern culture includes detailed, thoughtful reviews of beers from all over the region. Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale from Mississippi brewery Lazy Magnolia, for example, sounds like a must-try to me. If you prefer the hard stuff, The Trot Line’s writers have a lot to say about bourbon, as well.

Farm Fresh: Welcome Spring with Snow Peas

We’re sharing our favorite veggie-centric recipes featuring the produce that’s in season right now in north Florida, and available at local farmers markets, produce stands and Community Supported Agriculture programs.

These fresh snow peas soon will meet their stir-fried destiny in the wok.

Bite into a snow pea, and you will experience everything that is most wonderful about spring. A just-picked snow pea tastes crisp and green, delicate enough not to overwhelm your senses but robust enough to be memorable.

We’ve been fortunate to receive locally grown snow peas in our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share for the past two weeks. Last week, we ate them fresh, in handfuls as a snack and tossed into salads.

This week, we decided to put our snow peas at the center of a dinner entrée. Nothing elaborate, of course, since produce this fresh requires very little adornment and, besides, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the weather is so lovely?

The folks at Full Earth Farm, who grow our CSA share, offered up the perfect suggestion. Their weekly email, in which they list the produce we’ll be receiving and update us on what’s new at the Quincy farm, also included a recipe for a snow pea stir fry.

I’ve tweaked the simple recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart’s website, so it will be spicy enough for my chile-loving household. Feel free to use 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, as per Ms. Stewart’s original recipe, instead of the serrano chili and Vietnamese chili garlic sauce I’ve added, if you don’t like your meals quite as fiery. We love to serve our stir fries on top of Asian noodles, such as soba or rice noodles; brown rice would be a great addition, as well.

Shrimp, Shiitake and Snow Pea Stir Fry
Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Vietnamese chili garlic sauce (Thai sriracha sauce also would work well)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved (large ones quartered)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 ounces (2 cups) snow peas, trimmed
1 serrano chili, cut into thin slices (you could use a jalapeno instead)
2 scallions (green parts only), chopped

Directions
1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, and Vietnamese chili garlic sauce.

2. In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, just until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic mixture and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add shrimp, snow peas and serrano chili and cook, stirring, until shrimp are opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes. To serve, top with scallions.

Best Bites: Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week Edition

Here at Tallahassee Bite By Bite, we’re excited about the first Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week, which kicks off today and runs through April 22. (Yeah, that’s a full week and then some). We’re planning to check out several of the special prix fixe menus offered by the local restaurants participating in the event. Look for our report on what we ate. We’d love to hear about your Restaurant Week experiences, too!

Here’s the full announcement about Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week from Visit Tallahassee:

Inaugural Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week Showcases Local Tallahassee Delicacies

Tallahassee, Fla. — Celebrating the diverse selection of culinary delights available in the Capital City, Visit Tallahassee is proud to announce the inaugural Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week, April 12 – 22, 2012. Participating restaurants will offer specially selected prix fixe menus during both lunch and dinner, featuring two to three course meals priced at $15 or $25.

During the culinary extravaganza, patrons will dine their way through Tallahassee, exploring the tastes of the area’s most popular neighborhood eateries from casual fare pizza and fresh seafood to farm-to-table and white tablecloth venues. As varied as Tallahassee’s ever-changing landscape — from rolling hills to the 78 miles of Spanish moss-draped canopied roads — is the diverse menu of authentic regional cuisine, fine dining and international fare.

“Tallahassee’s restaurant scene is evolving and we are proud to highlight the incredible dining options available to residents and visitors alike,” said Lee Daniel, Visit Tallahassee’s executive director. “The region has an array of local delicacies and we look forward to showcasing the world class food available in Tallahassee.

Capital Cuisine is part of Visit Tallahassee’s Natural Tallahassee campaign, which highlights the outdoors, culinary delights and numerous events and celebrations taking place in the region March through May. The restaurant week will span 10 days, giving diners opportunities to take advantage of Capital Cuisine deals and bring exposure to the area’s restaurants and locally produced foods.

Participating restaurants range from the casual and fun Momo’s Pizza, Po’Boys Creole Café and Barnacle Bill’s to the intricate menus and sophisticated ambiance of A la Provence, Georgio’s and Avenue Eat & Drink, just to name a few.

A fusion of cosmopolitan flair and charming personality defines the spirit of Tallahassee, Florida’s Capital City — where it all comes together for visitors. Situated just off Florida’s northern I-10 corridor, stretching along the state’s Panhandle, Tallahassee is a place where college town meets cultural center, politics meets performing arts and history meets nature — a place where the vibrancy of what to do is matched only by the city’s inviting hospitality.

For more information on Capital Cuisine Restaurant Week and a complete list of participating restaurants, visit www.NaturalTallahassee.com or call Visit Tallahassee toll free at (800) 628-2866.