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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Dekalb Farmer's Market, A Chef's Utopia with Summer Berry Trifle

A few crazy scenarios in my life conquered, a few precious moments off, and here we are with another adventure! When I come home to Georgia I have several favorite places I like to haunt while I'm here and get to without fail. Safehouse Coffee and Tea in downtown Griffin is an absolute must. Thanks to my good friend Amanda Slade from Safehouse, The Dekalb Farmer's Market aka Dekalb Wolrd Market, is one of my favorite places on Earth. I am a brave soul to come here on a Saturday when it's at it's busiest. The feel of this place is as close to the frenzied chaos that surrounds me on a regular basis, so naturally I feel right at home! I love the bustle of busy people shopping, the variety of goods (17 different kinds of fresh chilies to swimming catfish), and the shear enormity of this place. It's been said that if you can't find it at the Dekalb Market, it probably doesnt exist. I'm happy to report there is truth to this statement, as the last time I was here I found the mysterious, extremely stinky Durian fruit.
Putting pen to paper (yes I'm archaic) I'm wondering just how to describe the cacophony of sounds and smells. The first smell to hit my nostrils was rich, strong black coffee. Whoa there darlin'! Necessary fuel to brave the largest farmer's market/specialty foods store I've ever been to. I thought Pike's Place market in Seattle was huge, but this takes the cake. Picture the largest Costco/Sam's Club you've ever been in and at least double it. I recently heard they are expanding said Market to make it even bigger. Hark! Are the angels singing again?! The scent of freshly brewed coffee brings me back to the task at hand and out of my delicious daydream of a bigger playground. I am a kid in a candy store after all. Coffee in hand, I am fortified with new focus(adult A.D.D. is a challenge) Without coffee I'm pretty sure I'd be distracted every few minutes by something "shiny" and all thoughts of a budget or list would be forgotten. I AM a "hot scattered mess", but I've been told it's part of my appeal. I'm betting I have a few peeps out there who "feel" me on this issue.

While this is not my first visit to the Dekalb Market it's always a memorable journey. My pictures don't do this market justice by far, but will give you a pretty good idea of the euphoria I feel every time I walk into the joint. The brilliant red of the roma tomatoes smacks my senses as I'm pulled away from piles of fragrant herbs to choose a few for salsa. The Earthy aroma is intoxicating. For me it brings up sweet memories of my Grandfather's tomato plants, and the none too sweet memories of the years in AZ that it was difficult to get my hands on a tomato that tasted like a tomato. There are rows and rows of fresh produce. Everything you could possibly imagine from seasonal berries to oddball Asian melons I've never seen before.With collard greens, every potato known to mankind, mushrooms of every size and flavor, it's seriously every chef's dream. I have some good friends that will travel the 45 min every week, one way, to shop exclusively here. I thought they were crazy until I experienced it firsthand. Now I'm terribly disappointed if I go home and miss coming to the market.

The produce gives way to isles of natural sodas from Stewarts to Hot Ginger Beer, but I'm on a mission. I skip through the sodas like a kid, ending up in the wall to wall tea section. Quickly making my choice (I love Yogi Stress Relief Kava tea), I skip back out of the specialty isles, dang proud that I didn't veer too far off my list. This is a serious accomplishment! Quit laughing! I'm headed down towards the meats and cheese sections on the other side of the store and got distracted by the daisies. I think by now we all know I'm a sucker for daisies. Thankfully I'm not far from the prize, stumbling across fresh summer berries. I'm heavily inspired by them to create a Summer Berry Trifle. It seems like everyone has a recipe for for trifle and I'm no different. Except mine's really good and terribly simple. So many folks want to mess it up with heavy pastry creams, and or (eeek) boxed pudding products. I take a simple and fresh approach to this by keeping it organic whenever possible. I'll be sure to tantalize your tastebuds with the pictures of the gorgeous meat cases, cheese displays, and seafood on a part two of Dekalb Farmer's Market. I'd really like to devote an adequate representation of what this place has to offer, so I'm sticking to the basics this go-around.  Please remeber to use fresh seasonal berries, organic when possible, and buy locally when you can. Wash your berries thoroughly, and allow to air dry completely on paper towels before you begin.

Gypsy Gourmet's Summer Berry Trifle
1 Qt Fresh Strawberries sliced 1/4 in thick
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
Zest of 3 key limes
3-4 T locally sourced honey
16 oz prepared angel food cake cut into 1"cubes
1 Qt heavy whipping cream
1/3-1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean

Prepare the heavy cream in a mixer or with hand held beaters by adding the cream, vanilla, and vanilla bean, alternately adding the confectioners sugar a little at a time until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat, you'll have butter! Set whipped cream aside. I preach "mise en place" or "everything in it's place" for a reason folks. This is a simple dessert and can be made quickly during the regular preparation of a family meal as long as all of the ingredients are prepped. The best taste and flavors happen when you prepare it before you start dinner and let it sit for 2-4 hours. It's also great the next morning for breakfast with dry cereal or granola, if there's any left. Find a pretty bowl, clear is best, that holds at least 6 quarts. Figure three layers and garnish for the top, so if it helps you, please seperate beforehand. Start the layering with cake cubes, next zest of one key lime, and drizzle honey over the cake and zest. Layer the berries next, with strawberries on the outside for presentations sake. Refer to picture for help. Next comes the whipped cream. Repeat the layering until you reach the top of the bowl. Garnish with remaining cake and berries and do a final drizzle with honey on the top. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Voila! Yummy refeshing dessert that you can hardly feel bad about. This is a great addition to any summer dinner, tea with the girls, coffee clatch, or Sunday brunch.

I hope any or all of you have the chance to see some of the places I've mentioned here in the blog. While I know that's an unreasonable wish, I know at anytime you can live vicariously through me. I believe with all my heart that if you do have the chance to visit the Atlanta area, this is a must see for any kind of foodie. It will not disappoint. Make it a daytripper, ending in the ecclectic Little Five Points area. Have fun with it! I do almost every time I'm home. Be on the lookout for more exciting adventures coming soon, and until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, be free, and be you.

gypsy gourmet

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Southern Staple or Gift from Heaven?

Hiya folks, GG back to give you a quickie! I'm working on a longer blog with lots of cool stuff involved but wanted to drop in with my newest discovery. You may ask, "How has she lived in the South this long and NOT experienced shimp & grits?" The answer to your question is," **Shrug** I dunno! Shame on me!" I'm enamored with this Southern staple. It was again like my experience with the tamles. I had a good idea of the method, but no real working knowledge of the spices or a recipe to follow. Picture being at the house after a few weeks on the road, a long day of trying to cram everything I've missed into one day, handling a claim for a broken windshield, trying to coordinate my roommate moving out, my co driver and bro working like crazy all day in the rain to get the truck ship shape, and after a quick trip to the local conglomerate all-in-one store for a new set of locks, it's now ten o'clock at night and I have a hungry crew. I know I write about chaos a lot, but seriously? This is the soundtrack of my life. I never stop. So I picked up some large shrimp, quick but not instant grits, and green onions. I figured a quick experiment would satisfy my crew and my curiousity all at the same time. Fortunately for me I had the luck of the South on my side and it was stupendous!

Now, Niki being from California had not ever had grits. The night before Ashley, Jared, Niki, and I had ventured over to the Waffle House in Jonesboro, and while the service was a nightmare, she still did get to try cheesy grits, and loved them. This was the motivation I needed to try something new myself. I just was pretty much beat with no motivation. Not even enough motivation to research a recipe. This is what my mom would call "Kitchen Suprise". I grew up in a family of foodies and the long standing joke between us when we had no idea what to make, was this phrase. (Also, when it was time to order out mom would tell us, "I'm making green Jell-O.") So back from the store, my meager supplies put away, I started my mise en place(Everything in it's place.) to begin. This recipe fed three hungry adults. It could feed four non-starving peeps.

Shrimp & Grits Gypsy Gourmet Style
2 lbs large shrimp 21-36 ct per lb peeled, devained, tails on
1/4 stick butter (real!)
2-3 tsp minced garlic, jarred or fresh
1 T heaping cajun seasoning without salt (Mine came from Dekalb Market. Trader Joe's, Local Co-Op, or Sprouts bulk will work. Or make your own.)
3-4 stalks of green onion , greens chopped and white part discarded
1 c Quick grits, follow package directions
1/2 c finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1/4 c finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4  stick butter (real butter, no plastic tub crap please!)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste


To begin with gather your supplies and cut the green onions and set aside. Fix quick grits according to package instructions adding butter, cheese, and salt, stirring well and set aside covered. Get a large skillet hot on med-high melt butter, adding shrimp, seasoning, and garlic. Cook until done, meaning they're pink and not grey at all. This will go fast, so don't walk away or you will over cook the shrimp. At the last minute add green onions and stir, removing from heat. Voila! Shrimp and grits. Serve grits in a bowl and spoon the shrimp over the top. Easy & delicious.

This dish was a comfoting melody of flavors and substance after a crazy day. It only took about 15-20 min to prepare from start to finish, and Niki declared that it was the "New avocado." her favorite weakness. She asked me if it would be hard to prepare on the truck, and warned me that she'd ask for it on a semi regular basis. Remember folks, this is our little health nut, and she adored this recipe. I'm happy to repot that while it may or may not be exactly traditional, neither am I, and it was superb. I have taken all the time I can allow away from my crazy schedule, complicated blog, and general chaos that surrounds me. So until next time, eat well, laugh often, be you, and be free!

gypsy gourmet

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Southern Menagerie a Damn Yankee's Attempt at Collard Greens

Hey folks! Gypsy Gourmet is back on the scene halfway across the country missing my "adopted" siblings (Jared & Ashley) like mad. I recieved a random text basically letting me know that there was fun in store for the weekend and am I coming home? Unfortunately scheduled maintenence and necessary repairs are keeping this team on the road. The final nail in the "homesick coffin" was, "P.S. Your Bubba misses you and is HUNGRY."

Ms Carol
Ashley & Jared
Now I'm thinking of Georgia and everything I have come to hold so dear. Ms Carol is my downstairs neighbor and my "east coast mama", her husband Mr Charles is a quiet man, loves to eat, and is our fix it guy. Ashley is Ms Carol's daughter, sister of my heart, and is carrying my new nephew Dustin James who is due this September. Ashley's eleven year old son CJ is my favorite Butts County Braves baseball player and a sweet young man. Last, but by no means least is Jared, Ashley's husband. He has been my soul brother, my protector, and an excellent friend. He's that guy who's always there to lend a hand, share a meal, or be a good listener. People say you can't choose your family and while that's partly true, I think I've chosen my extended family well. Or maybe they chose me. Either way they bring a whole lot of joy to my world. I love each and every one of these people like they've always been mine. The sweetest moments of this last year in Georgia have included these amazing people. They keep me motivated to work harder, so I can stay home longer.
CJ up to bat @ season open '12
Jared and his tempramental tractor

Our southern feast
The characters in this play I call life don't end here. I have an incredible menagerie of friends and loved ones both in Georgia and all across the country, but we've got to save something for future blogs! Just know y'all, you will most probably will get a call asking if I can include you, and y'all have NOT been forgotten. That being said let's get on to the food!

My daisies from Niki
While home I prepared another feast for the eyes and the senses, with plenty of help from Niki. We had baked chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, several fresh locally sourced fruits, jalapeno cheddar cornbread muffins, collard greens, and a summer berry trifle that I'm including in my next blog. We went with a few healthier choices to keep the guilt at bay, but didn't sacrifice too much on our traditional southern fare. While I'm on the subject, my education on southern food just began a little over a year ago. I am originally from Minnesota. I have lived all across the country and just settled in Georgia last year. I have been told that for the first year I'm a "transplant" and after that I am referred to as a "Damn Yankee". While some look at it as a slur, I'm proud of my "Damn Yankee" status, and have tried like hell to make the South proud by fixing traditional dishes on my own with as little deviation as possible. However, I am who I am, and do add a bit here and there to suit my tastes. We all know that most folks ain't seen nothin' like me yet, so hopefully I'm forgiven for being an original. This particular feast included traditional collard greens, which I am in LOVE with. They're a super food packed with good vitamins and are yummy enough I could eat a bowl and forget the rest. I thought I'd give y'all the recipe I came up with, as it was worth the small effort and so incredibly delicious.

 On a side note, Niki surprised me with flowers as a hostess gift(The girl's got manners too!). She bought me a lovely bouquet of daisies and they were so pretty I had to add them. I couldn't resist, I'm a sucker for daisies.

Damn Yankee's Attempt @ Collard Greens
2 pkgs prepared collards fresh (See even I cheat a little guys, I had a LOT to prepare. This took the guesswork out)
1 smoked ham hock
4-5 small russet potatoes peeled & 1/2 in cubes
1 lg sweet onion (Vidalia if in season, we're from GA!) julienned into 1/2 in strips
1/4 c minced garlic fresh or jarred
1 T Better Than Boullion Vegetable base
1 qt chicken stock
1-2 T Tony Chacherie's Cajun seasoning, I used the extra hot.

Use a heavy bottom large stock pot, I'm guessing 12 quart or better. I simply added the potatoes, onion, garlic, chicken stock, boullion, ham hock, and seasoning together, warming it up enough to dissolve the boullion. Then I added the two bags of collards, set the heat to med-low/simmer, covered it, and crossed my fingers. I had no idea how long to simmer, just used common sense and cooked until fork tender, checking occasionally to stir. When the collards and potatoes are tender, that's it. Voila! Collard greens so yummy there were hardly leftovers. Next up, turnip greens.

Every time I'm home it gets harder to leave. I love my little world. The safety, the feeling of "home", the sanctity of family, the holidays spent, the laughter, and the great joy surrounds us like champagne bubbles in your nose. It's a happy place that keeps me sane in this world of hustle and bustle, fast paced craziness, and just in time freight. Every day my life gets a little busier, with more demands on my time, more work to put out, bigger goals to attain, and larger dreams to chase. I'm no different than any of you, no matter where you come from or what you do for a living. Just remember folks, as busy as we all are, some things should never be taken for granted. Take the time to heal your spirit with adequate time with the people you love. Tell them just how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate them. Dorothy had it right, there's no place like home.

So until next time folks, while you're out there "just a-gettin' it" remember to eat well, laugh often, be you, and be free.

I love you ALL.

gypsy gourmet

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Jersey to Washington, Tilapia Made Easy

aWelcome to another adventure! We have a badass addition to the Gypsy Gourmet franchise, Ms. Niki Stewart (Rouund of applause please!) She's a southern Californian(San Diego) with an amazing work ethic, a great personality, and did I mention she's a hottie? This girl definitely knows her stuff and has taught this ol' bird a few new tricks as well. Nice not to be solo anymore (Sorry Harley we know you'd drive if you could) and it's certainly a good thing to be a smokin' hot team again. We're back on the just in time (JIT) freight, hazardous materials endorsed, specialized division where we belong. Our first week out was a lesson in learning the ropes, but our second week out seriously kicked tail. 7010 miles accomplished in one week, safely and legally! However, on weeks like this we are lacking in the gourmet food porn department. It's tough to remember that it can only take a few minutes of preparation to produce food that's good for the body and the soul. Try living off of protein granola bars, non fat Greek yogurt, and fruit for days on end and see if your generally sunny disposition takes a turn for the worse.

The trick to running hard (on the road and in regular life) lies somewhere in that grey area that equals balance. I know that some of my readers don't drive professionally. It may be hard understanding what it's like to schedule your life around bathroom breaks and fuel stops, but I do know that you're all busy in your daily lives and this level of understanding chaos is universal. You can be a mom, a dad, a writer, a carpenter, a chef, or any number of occupations that are demanding. The bottom line is that finding time to be good to your body and spirit is a daily challenge. This next dish is a simple reminder that a tiny bit of effort can produce that balance that we all crave. Being good to yourself sets you up for success amid the chaos, and better prepares you for the challenges ahead.

Tilapia is a versatile fish that can easily be cooked from a frozen or fresh state. It is readily available at the best fish markets or in your local grocery store or food co-op. This dish is a one skillet wonder and you can keep it simple with your favorite all in one seasoning blend. I used a blend that has become one of my favorites (Thanks Jay for the introduction!). It's called Tex Joy and can be purchased all over Texas or online at If either way is inconvienient for you, Tony Chacherie's Cajun seasoning is an excellent substitute and can be found in the spice isle at your local supermarket. Round off your meal with fresh fruit and a sauteed veggie and you've only taken about fifteen minutes out of your day to create a hot, home cooked meal that you don't have to feel guilty about.

One Skillet Tilapia for Two

2 tilapia fillets (4 if they're very small)
2 T. olive oil
1 T. REAL butter
Tex Joy or Tony Chacherie's seasoning to taste
4 c. fresh broccoli florets
1/2 sweet onion julienned into 1/4 in strips
small amount of water to steam (less than 1/4 c)
small additional amount of olive oil (less than a tablespoon)

Easy enough in a non stick electric skillet, but whatever your favorite is use it! Make sure you have a cover for it, for the slight steam process at the end. Get skillet good and hot (med-high for some or between 300-325 for others). While skillet is getting hot season both sides of the fish and set aside. Add oil and butter to skillet and allow butter to melt and sizzle before adding fish presentation side down. Generally the flat side is the bottom of the fish. Give the fish about 2 minutes to achieve a nice crispy brown, and remember this will cook fairly quickly and will try to fall apart if it's overcooked or flipped more than once. So curb your instincts and flip your fish only one time. After 2 min or your golden crispy texture has been achieved, flip the fish. Add the broccoli florets and onion around the fillets and sprinkle with a small amount of olive oil and seasoning. Emeril says his veggies don't come seasoned and baby neither do mine! Also this seasoning is to YOUR taste and needs not mine. So be creative and have fun with it. Check the fish for doneness by touching the center of the fillet. If its firm to the touch and springs back it's done. Place each fillet on a plate and stir your veggies well adding a little water and the cover for approximately one minute more. Uncover and plate veggies with the fish, add fresh fruit and enjoy!

On a side note, your Gypsy Gourmet is feeling great. I have been taking better care of myself than EVER, and have lost a few more pounds around my middle. I do love to eat and have not forgotten about the rich foods I enjoy; I'm just much more concious of portion size. The idea is to balance the good and the not so good with moderation. I have many more great ideas in the bull pen, my determination and drive are at an all time high(I think it helps to be happy and healthy). You can expect to see a lot more frequent posts on varied subjects. Please feel free to comment on ideas you'd like to see featured. Your feedback means a lot to me and I'm always willing to take a look, give advice, or generally know how I'm doing. Until next time folks, eat well, laugh often, be you, and be free!

gypsy gourmet