Sunday, April 17, 2011

Faking It in Texas

Now that we’ve established that I live in the unhip, so-called “normal,” big-university town in Texas, let’s get back to the important part of this blog: the food!

Bouquet of Radishes

Grocery shopping in College Station is a bit of an adventure.  It’s not a reliable process.  Many is the time I have gone to a store in search of this or that, only to find that the kale is wilted, the onions are sprouting, and the baby spinach is MIA.  I try to shop with a list and a recipe or two in mind—it keeps me focused during the hunt—but when your key ingredient is in sucky condition, you must be flexible.

My two favorite places to shop for produce are Brazos Natural Foods (the hippie store) and HEB, a big conventional grocery store that often has good organic produce.  I try hard to buy organic produce, and those two stores have the best selection and location for me.  Yesterday morning, instead of going into the lab like I planned, I treated myself to an HEB trip, riding over there on my bike.  I had a short list—lettuce, kale, carrots, and raspberry kefir—which meant I would have plenty of space for spontaneous extras.  I was very lucky and found everything on my list in good condition, except for a tiny bit of kale wiltage.  It was a slow morning, so I had plenty of time to browse and consider my options.  I found amazing, crusty French baguettes, the kind that poke out of your grocery bag like you are some French beauty buying her daily rations.  The radishes looked terrific, so I took some of those home too, which meant I could make open-faced sandwiches with slices of French baguette slathered in butter and topped with thinly sliced radishes and a sprinkling of salt.  I picked up a bunch of asparagus, my first of the season, and I’m not sure what to do with it.  Normally I’d just roast it, but on Facebook, Pasolivo wrote about a side dish from Cooking Light in which they boiled asparagus briefly, sautéed grape tomatoes with lemon olive oil and garlic, then added balsamic vinegar and cooked a little longer.  Toss the asparagus with the tomato mixture, sprinkle with goat cheese (Shannon’s favorite!), and season with salt and pepper.

Doesn’t that sound totally delicious?  If I don’t make it with this week’s asparagus bunch, I definitely want to do it before spring ends.  

Still tooling around the grocery store, I bought some pantry staples, peanut butter and dried cherries, because I can never have enough of either of those.  And finally, I found something that totally made my morning: 

Vegetarian Delight!

I never expected to find soyrizo or vegetarian chorizo in my small town!  During my cookbook reading, I often come across recipes that call for chorizo or soyrizo, and I’d sort of resigned myself to not being able to make them unless I was procuring my ingredients from outside of College Station.  But poof!  There they were, sitting in a high rack in a most obvious place, the fake meats section.

So I scooped up a package, and now I have to decide what to make with my faux-meaty treasure.  Nigella Lawson has several tasty-sounding recipes in How to Eat: Kale with Chorizo and a Poached Egg or a Spanish Stew in which the chorizo is cooked in a sherry-spiked broth with lots of potatoes.  Another set of contenders come from The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon: Southwestern-Style Cornbread Casserole with Chorizo (or soyrizo) or the Frijoles Charros, a big pot of beans seasoned with soyrizo, onions, fresh chilies, tomatoes, and garlic.  (Holy frijoles!)

All these options sound so good, and yet I might just wing it.  One time, Ammie brought over these little appetizer bites with a soyrizo filling wrapped in her signature pie crust, and they were addictively good.  Another option might be to make a soyrizo taco or burrito filling, using up the various bits and bobs hiding around my kitchen.  I like that sort of frugal, thrifty cooking, the kind that cleans out the fridge and gives you a unique, satisfying meal.

And that’s another reason why I love cooking: in a home kitchen, the options are only as limited as your imagination and your food sourcing abilities.  I like to think I do pretty well on both fronts, compulsive listmaking and small town notwithstanding.

Happy cooking, my dears!  I’ll be back soon to talk about very readable cookbooks.


Laurie said...

Grocery shopping in College Station sounds a little like shopping in the teeny tiny town where I used to teach. There were two places to shop, but I struggled to find decent fresh produce. Ironically, the town was smack in the middle of farmland!

Rosiecat24 said...

Hi, Laurie! Yes, small-town life makes grocery shopping an adventure, doesn't it? My problem is that I'm too picky--I want organic produce, and more often than not, if the organic stuff isn't available or in good condition, I'll pass.

Luckily, the lettuce at HEB has been really great lately, and often the kale is good too. I love my greens!

Unknown said...

love the sounds of that asparagus dish!!