Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New twist on Tiramisu

The name itself means "pick me up", of course thanks to the coffee element of the dessert.  A southern-flavored cookbook has picked strawberry season (yes, that's a pun) to release a new twist on a classic dessert.

Strawberry Tiramisu Trifles

This recipe calls for 6 (9-ounce) glasses, but you could make this in a standard trifle bowl, a deep serving dish or even a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. From “The New Southern Garden Cookbook,” by Sheri Castle (UNC Press, 2010)

1 cup strawberry preserves

6 tablespoons Grand Marnier, Cointreau or other orange liqueur

6 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1 cup chilled whipping cream
*avoid store bought and whip your own

8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

7 ounces crisp ladyfingers or biscotti savoiardi

4 cups capped and sliced strawberries

6 perfect whole berries, for garnish

WHISK together the strawberry preserves, liqueur and orange juice in a small bowl.

BEAT the whipping cream to very soft peaks in a medium bowl. Add mascarpone, sugar and vanilla and continue beating until soft peaks form.

DIVIDE half of the whipping cream mixture evenly among the six serving glasses. (A small spring-loaded scoop makes this easier and neater.) Stand 4 ladyfingers upright inside each glass, spaced evenly. The whipped cream mixture should hold them in place. Divide half of the strawberry preserve mixture evenly among the glasses. Divide the sliced strawberries among the glasses. Top with the rest of the preserve mixture, followed by the remaining cream mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Just before serving, garnish each parfait with a whole berry.

Yield: 6 servings.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Soup kitchen cooks up a fundraiser for cash

Story courtesy of the Charlotte Observer

They're feeding more hungry people than ever in Mooresville, but costs are rising and donations are off.

Melinda Story was born and raised in Mooresville but never knew the town of 27,000 had a charity soup kitchen - or even needed one.

Then she lost her job.

"I'd been struggling for about three weeks when a friend said I should go to the local soup kitchen," Story, 47, recalls. "I remember thinking: 'A soup kitchen? Where?'"

Ten years later, Story is among the nearly 400 volunteers who work at the Mooresville Soup Kitchen, which served 40,000 meals last year.

That's a 7,000-meal jump over the pre-recession years, explaining why the 24-year-old nonprofit is selling tickets for its first-ever big fundraiser.

The plan is to host a community LobsterFest on June 3, with proceeds going to pay increased operational costs.

"When I first started coming, I didn't recognize anyone among the people getting help," says Story. "Now, I know a lot, including people I went to school with and people I went to church with. We all had jobs, and they've gone away."

Soup kitchen director Jody Schwandt says a lot of people don't imagine Mooresville has a poverty problem.

"Everybody thinks of this as Racing City USA, Lowe's corporate and Lake Norman," she says. "But they forget all the textile mills that were here. When those mills closed, those people were left without compensation."

Clients at the agency range from mothers with small children to people in their 90s, she says.

The soup kitchen makes it a policy not to make visitors prove they're local or even that they're poor.

"Our only requirement is that you walk through the door, and for 24 years, it has worked," Schwandt says.

"Some say we should continue that way. Others say we should screen people. I say we help neighbors - the people sitting next to you in church or in line with you at the bank."

As with Story, Schwandt has been a client, too. In her case, it happened when her husband was out of work due to cancer treatment, and the house payment and two auto notes became overwhelming.

"I'm a perfect example of someone who needed to be here, but we wouldn't have qualified for food stamps."

Lisa Qualls is the soup kitchen's fundraising chair, and she hopes to sell 400 tickets to the LobsterFest, raising $10,000.

Operating costs for the agency have risen about 10 percent the past two years, she says, putting the current budget at $160,000. Part of that increase is due to the fact that the soup kitchen expanded three years ago, moving off the property of First Baptist Church of Mooresville.

Most of the agency's money comes from churches, but that hasn't stopped donations from declining about 10 percent during the recession, she says.

"We don't want to wait until we're in a money crisis," Qualls says.

"There's a sense of ownership among the people who come here. And we're all looking for a way to make sure it stays around a long time."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sabi in Davidson

4 adults, 2 teens and 2 kids - we covered the gambit of tastes on Saturday at 5pm.  Yes, we got there a little early to avoid a crowd without a reservation.  We were greeted by a pleasant young lady that had to ask for help figuring where to put us.  Most tables are 4 tops, so 8 is a challenge when they are busy... it was 5pm.  The manager that assisted her was giving her a hard time because they had another group of 8 coming at 6:30.  Perfect.  Set us up there.  If you can't get us moving in 90 minutes, we got problems.  Sure enough (glitches and all) we were walking out the door at 6:10. 

After watching the hostess get reprimanded (wOw), we were seated in the far back of the restaurant.  Common when you dine in a nicer restaurant and have children - no worries.  Our waitress was prompt and friendly, took drink orders right away.  The adults all had water and that was not the right answer.  We were asked multiple times about ordering other drinks.  Really?  I can't imagine doing Sake shots with two teens and two adolescents present. 

We ordered 3 sushi rolls - a spicy tuna extra spicy, a Mt Fuji, and a Cali roll (soy paper instead of nori).  They all came promptly, we were asked for our drink order again (you get the idea) and we began to snack.  From the top... the Mt Fuji roll was exquisite.  The varying colors of the masago on top, the tilapia draped on the outside, it was a beauty.  It was $11.95, 8 pieces.  A little steep.  The spicy tuna roll was spot on.  Not extra spicy as requested, but very nice.  $6.25, 6 pieces.  That's a little closer.  Most in this area are $4.95-$5.95.  This is close.  The cali roll was a bummer.  Soy paper is a little thicker than nori, so the sushi chef must take that into consideration when wrapping.  Sure enough, thicker equals dryer and nothing stuck.  It was coming apart before the plate hit the table.  It was a crying shame and the waitress went missing for about 10 minutes - so she never got to find out.  Beverages went empty (must be because they were not adult beverages) and we had to verbally request refills as she passed by.  Being in the far back of the restaurant made catching her quite difficult in fact. 

Entrees ($10-$15) showed up well timed and we had all kinds of stuff coming out.  They do a spicy seafood trio that two of us ordered, sweet and sour chicken that is tossed with pineapple chucks (nice touch), got some tempura veg (incl asparagus and pineapple - nice touches as well), soup and a couple versions of lo mein.  Kids had chicken nuggets with fruit.  Great option having fruit instead of fries - kids need healthy options when eating out.

The seafood was well prepared - shrimp, scallops and mussells.  The mussells were out of the shell which is a great touch, and were cooked perfectly - almost melt in your mouth.  Shrimp were good as well, scallops were on the edge of overdone - which is forgivable being first in the pan I am sure.  All of that served with Asian veggies in a spicy sake ginger sauce.  Asian veg=broccoli.  Oh my too much broccoli.  Side of rice with all entrees.  Soup and tempura were good, sauce with tempura was not.  It has a ying yang dipping bowl with spicy mayo and wasabi mayo.  Neither were well received.  The conventional sauce for tempura has a little mirin and soy, served warm and delicious.  This wasabi mayo was rather bitter and did not pair with the spicy mayo at all.  Shrimp sauce helped cure the ails.  Back to entrees and loving the pineapple tossed with the sweet and sour chicken, yet leaving the chicken batter still crisp.  This was very well executed and certainly would have been a future re-order. 

Beef lo mein and chicken lo mein were just as you see anywhere, other than portions two could share (a plus) and the best value of the evening by far.  Where things really spiralled was the dark hair in the second spicy seafood.  Oh my.  Halfway through, pulling up a mussell and there it was in all it's glory.  The meal really came to a screeching halt at that point.  Again, trying to get the waitresses attention, it left us with too much time to discuss how un-enthused that made us.  She took it back without issue, apologized and came back to offer a replacement.  At that point the meal was essentially over so that was not needed.

This would be the opportunity for the ill-acting manager from our entrance to come and try to at least make an appearance.  Not looking for freebies by any stretch, just some reassurance that they recognize the issue and assure of it's correction.  Nada.  Really?  As we prepared to pay, things were rung wrong and we had to get the bill corrected.  After paying, as we left, we were not thanked, not given the "come back and see us", none of that.

Sadly, we discussed the option of going to the gym next door on the weekend and then going in for some sushi.  That might not be an option any more.  If you can't simply stop and thank folks spending their hard-earned money, let alone 8 people, then you really don't need to get any more of it.  Kobe Hero has better sushi at better prices and is 1 exit away.  Sushi at the Lake is right there too.  I don't need Sabi, and it appears they don't need me either.

Sabi Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 4, 2011

The little hot sauce that could

Sriracha (named for the region Sri Racha) is recognized for the green cap on the red hot sauce.  Can't miss that rooster either.  It went from asian heat to in every restaurant in the area.  Now there is even a cook book.  Being a seafood lover, this one caught my eye:

Sriracha Ceviche
From “The Sriracha Cookbook.”

1 1/2 pounds seafood, diced (such as shrimp, scallops, yellowtail or tilapia)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 to 3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large red onion, diced
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 ear fresh sweet corn, kernels only
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sriracha
1 cup tomato juice or V8 vegetable juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish
COMBINE the seafood with the lime and orange juices in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the flesh becomes firm and opaque, about 3 hours.

ADD the tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, corn, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, oil, sriracha, and tomato juice, stirring to combine. Cover and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in chilled bowls or martini glasses, garnished with sliced avocado and cilantro.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.