Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can a geographer cook?

This is a first.

First entry of this blog, or any blog for that matter. First attempt to publically replicate a segment of a meal, aka food blogging. After getting hooked on the food blog craze by the wife and spending a week or so reading as many FBs as I could, I decided it was time to start my own.

I suppose I've always been interested in food from a very young age. My parents are good traditional cooks with a sense of adventure when it comes to good food, drink and friends and that was passed along to me. It just took 40 years for the intertubes to become available and my interest level to be piqued enough to think anyone would want the details of food and cooking presented this way. Cool. No matter now it's done, cool.

Oh, yes, the 'Lost Geographer'. Well, way back in college I had a major in geography and have been able to make a fairly successful career out of it. Actually, this is not the first interaction between Geography and food in my life. Toward the end of senior year and into graduate school, we had a great cultural geography professor who was able to integrate BBQ and maps to show the distribution of styles of sauces throughout South Carolina. Those were some good field trips. With upwards of 5 different styles of sauce and then 'dialects' of cooking stlyes within those sauces, it was indeed a fulfilling couple of years.

Food also drives how my wife and I travel and is something we're enstilling with the children. Afterall, would you rather go to Little Rock and experience all that chain food has to offer, or would a visit to Orca's Island off the coast of Washington state provide a more exhilerating culinary experience?

So, here we go. Geographer and food. Map in one hand and fork in the other.

Our first stop is in Asheville, North Carolina where the wife and I had breakfast earlier this summer. I had a wonderful breakfast of spinach cakes with eggs and tomato gravy. I decided to replicate the spinach cakes and gravy and with a little bit of effort came up with this sample using mostly leftover items. The basic steps follow:

Spinach Potato Cakes

1. Combine leftover mashed potatoes (in this case dried Yukon Golds) with chopped frozen spinach.

2. To that mixture add salt, pepper, fresh ground nutmeg, flour, one egg and blend thoroughly.

3. Shape them into whatever size patty you desire. In this case, each one is about 3.5-4 inches across.
4. Gently fry in a little bit of olive oil. Please, don't ever call it EVOO.

5. Fry them in batches and keep warm until all are done.

Tomato Gravy

1. For the tomato gravy, I started with some leftover homemade sauce. The sauce contains, fresh Roma tomatoes, onion, olive oil, red wine, can of crushed tomatoes, small can of tomato paste, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning (rosemary, basil, parsley, etc.).

2. Reduce the heck out of the leftover sauce. Natuarlly, there was enough leftover to make this, right??? Reduce it until it's nearly thickend to a solid mass. If it goes too far, add some water, sauce, wine, or whatever you have on hand and bring it back to a thinner sauce. If desired, you can use a stick blender to mince the ingredients a little more.

3. When the sauce is ready, combine the cakes with a dab or two of the sauce and combine with your favorite dish. In this case, we paired it with a salad and a bit of marinated skirt steak.

Have fun with this. It's really a matter of picking some good ingredients and going on with the cooking. Don't worry too much about quantities, season to taste and make enough for leftovers.


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