Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Food Blogger Potluck!

So here it is smack-dab in the middle of Spring and I have been busier than ever hosting different sets of out-of-town guests week after week. I'm enjoying every bit of it but finding absolutely no time to blog, in fact, my brain is so "blogged" it's hard for me to even think what I'm doing next. So considering that yesterday I attended my very first food blogger potluck in Austin, I think it's only natural - as well as appropriate - that I write about it.

I have known about this event for almost a month now and though I don't like to admit that I ever feel pressure in the kitchen, I must say that this has been a little daunting, if not downright stressful. I guess what's the most stressful is coming up with something original. In the world of all things food there are two types of eaters. First are your friends who don't cook but absolutely love eating everything you make and are willing to listen to you go on and on about food if it gets them closer to a second piece - I am convinced they are just future foodies that have not accepted the title yet - and second, actual "Foodies" - the people that have been around the world through culinary adventures in their mouths. These are the ones that are looking for anything and everything that will awaken all five senses, the ones that will travel great lengths to satisfy an urge for something they read or heard about locally. These are also the ones that will listen to your stories and childhood memories about how food inspired you, helping to make you what you are today. Foodies will also share in your woes, when that recipe you were so sure was perfect failed to impress even the dog, and then give you suggestions on how to correct it as well as convince you to try it again. Foodies will help you find ingredients for dishes and have no problem jumping in a car with you to find some ethnic market on the other side of town. Foodies love to share and they usually do not keep "secret recipes". The world of the "Foodie" appears to be complex on the outside because they will try just about anything, but on the inside, they are simply compassionate and adventurous souls that find simple pleasures in things as basic as coming across a new use for an everyday ingredient or being able to share a recent recipe discovery. This is the type of foodie that I hoped this group would be made up of.

I am pretty sure (though my Mom may not have realized it) that my brothers and I were raised to be foodies from the start. Whether it was my Mom's need to provide healthy food choices or her survival skills to produce enough food for a family of 5 on a small budget, I am forever thankful for her willingness to encourage us to seek out and taste new foods. I have tried to do the same with my kids and I feel quite successful in that both my children do not turn their noses up to food from other cultures and are willing to taste new foods at a drop of the hat, be it intimidating or not.

At this point you are likely wondering "Is she ever going to get to the recipes for the potluck event?" Of course! But what fun is a blog entry without a bit of a story first? So I was up early yesterday and still completely dumbfounded as to what I was going to make. I felt that I had to make something "worthy" of the group - an idea that was quickly put to rest once I arrived. I started thinking of spring and about the one thing that I tend to blog about quite a bit. That's how it works here: Stories - Seasons - Caffeine - Violá! All of a sudden, I have my two items for the event.

Stories: I love talking about our Meyer lemon tree and all the joy it brings me. Seasons: Lemons are perfect for spring.
Caffeine: It gave me the jump start I needed to get going!
Violá: Vanilla infused Meyer lemonade and Greek Unorthodox Empanadas!

It may sound a bit odd but that's what 2 cups of really good coffee can produce early in the morning. I decided to take some yummy Greek notes (preserved Meyer lemons, garlic, oregano, feta & ground turkey) and put them in a tasty empanada dough. The lemonade was something I came up with while squeezing Meyer lemons for my husband's annual batch of limoncello some month's ago, and thought it would be great on a sunny spring afternoon.

Nervously, I walked up to a group of people tasting food and taking pictures. Quickly, I was put at ease as I met some amazing people that not only enjoyed my crazy empanadas but had nothing but encouraging words to help me out with my blog. One of these lovely foodies shared with me her first experience with this group and said that when she walked away she felt like she had finely found "her" people. Though I am still new at all of this, I did truly understand what she meant when she said "her people". So if meeting new people and tasting new foods and gleaning plenty of tech info is what this group is all about, then beam me up Scotty because I, too, may have found "my people"! I'm jus' sayin'!

Greek Unorthodox Empanadas

Empanada rough recipe below

1 lb. ground turkey
1 Tbs. Olive oil
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1 Tbs. of fresh minced Sage
2 Tbs. of minced preserved lemons
1/4 C. minced onion
Salt to taste
1 tsp. lemon pepper
4 oz. of crumbled feta cheese

Sauté onions & garlic in 1 Tbs. olive oil until translucent.
Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.
Sauté turkey in the same pan, sprinkle with lemon pepper and salt to taste (not to much salt because the cheese is quite salty) When finished, drain and add to bowl of onions.
To the bowl add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Set filling aside.

Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch and cut desired size circles out. At this point they can be small appetizer size of large handful size.

Place a spoon full of filling (depending on size) in the middle and slowly fold dough over to create a moon shape. Crimp with a fork and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Brush each empanada with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs. of water) Place in a pre-heated 350 oven and bake until golden brown. Serve with the sauce below. I have been told they freeze well but never was able to control myself to freeze them, they were just to yummy!

Empanada Dough
(adapted from Laylita's Kitchen)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 stick of unsalted butter, frozen, cubed
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
4-5 T milk
1 egg, lightly whisked

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. In a food processor pulse the flour with the cold butter until you get a crumbly mixture. Transfer to a bowl. Add the egg and milk and knead in to form a sort of dough. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a ball. Pat into a circle of 1 inch thickness, wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Greek Unorthodox Dipping Sauce

1 16 oz container of plain Greek yogurt
1/3 Cup minced scallions
3 Tbs. minced preserved lemons
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. minced fresh sage
1 Tbs. agave nectar (or honey)

Mix together and refrigerate before serving with empanadas.

Vanilla-Infused Meyer Lemonade

1 1/2 cups of Sugar
1 1/2 cups of water
1 split vanilla bean

Place the above in a pot and bring to a boil and then turn off heat and let cool.

Combine 1 1/2 cups of simple syrup and 1 cup of Meyer lemon juice in a large pitcher, fill with cold water and adjust to taste.