Friday, December 18, 2009

See you at Beyu Caffe

The cafe's motto is to simply "be you," which is easy to do at this new downtown Durham hotspot, Beyu Caffe. You could literally set up shop at 7am and not leave till late at night. Between the amazing coffee, fresh baked pastries, lunch and dinner menus, and the fully stocked bar you would never have to leave. Not to mention the relaxed atmosphere and helpful waitstaff. Among those willing to help you choose a coffee or a glass of wine is founder and manager, Dorian Bolden. He's right in the thick of things, meeting customers and generally making sure everything's running smoothly.

The cafe is open from 7am to 11pm, catering to both the early morning coffee crowd as well as the late night lounge group. If you're there in the morning try any one of the variety of coffee beverages from a cup of black coffee to an Oprah Mocha (espresso with dark chocolate, white chocolate and steamed milk). Pair that with your choice of pastries or a homemade crepe. The lunch menu includes a variety of salads and sandwiches, with daily soup selections, great for the cold weather setting in. Try the turkey panini for a delicious, rich combination of turkey, goat cheese and pear chutney. The dinner menu includes many of the salads and apps available at lunch with the addition of some larger entrees such as the Hanger Steak complete with herb butter and fries. To go along with your steak, try a glass of the Merlot, a smooth red full of fruit, or a spicy glass of Malbec.

To end the evening, there's a variety of cheesecakes, truffles and dessert coffees to choose from. Or try a glass of the Cava, a sparkling wine from Spain that's a perfect finish to a great night. Starting in the new year, the cafe will be featuring live music as well as spoken word to keep you entertained throughout the late hours of the night. All in all, this cafe is a great addition to Main St. and will likely attract a good crowd throughout the day as it offers something for every taste and mood.

Beyu Caffe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Simple and delicious Italian meal

Tomatoes are one of my all time favorite foods and they're best during the late summer months. But some vendors at the Durham Farmers' Market even offer delicious tomatoes during the winter months thanks to greenhouses. These tomatoes are great with just some salt and pepper but this simple pizza recipe makes for an easy, delicious dinner any night of the week. It only takes about 20 minutes total (including preheating time) and is healthy and satisfying.

I love this pizza made with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella (also from the farmers' market) and basil as it reminds of me of the time I spent living in Florence, Italy. In Florence, the food is amazing and often comes from the simplest ingredients and cooking methods. When the ingredients are incredibly fresh and well made, the techniques do not need to be complicated to create an amazing dish.

I also wanted to find a good Italian red that would compliment the pizza. I chose a Valpolicella, a red wine made in the Veneto region of Italy (near Venice), that goes wonderfully with the pizza. It's made primarily from the Corvina grape and has a wonderful balance of fruit and acidity that holds up well with the fresh flavors of the pizza. Go for a Valpolicella that is designated Superiore to ensure great taste as well as one that is labelled as Ripasso, a technique that involves refermenting the wine on the skins of the Amarone, a rich red wine made from partially dried grapes.

This entire meal could easily be found at any cafe in Northern Italy. So if you can't make it all the way to Florence, try making it at home for a travel experience without the price tag.

  • 2 pre-cooked pizza crust (I use whole wheat for the flavor and added health benefits)
  • 3-4 vine ripe tomatoes
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 6-10 fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (follow pizza crust instructions, temperatures may vary).
Brush a thin coat of olive oil over pizza crusts.
Thinly slice tomatoes and arrange on crust in one layer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice mozzarella (use fresh, it's much better than shredded).
Place over tomatoes as evenly as possible.
Cook pizzas for 10-12 minutes.
Remove from oven and scatter torn basil leaves over the hot pizza.
Slice and serve immediately.

If possible, decant the wine while preparing the pizza. Pour and enjoy this simple taste of Italy!

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Visit the Durham Farmers' Market

I've mentioned the Durham Farmers' Market in a few posts, so I figured it was time to give the market its due with a dedicated post. People across the country are choosing farmers' markets over large groceries stores as the move toward local and seasonal food gains momentum. Durham is no exception as many local restaurants frequent farmers' markets to stock their kitchens and to inspire their ever changing menus (Watt's Grocery being a perfect example).

The Durham Farmers' Market features vendors from around the state offering fresh, seasonal produce, homemade baked goods and local wines, not to mention the arts and crafts. Chapel Hill Creamery offers a great selection of cows' milk cheeses while Sunset Ridge offers buffalo meats in a variety of cuts, including the ground bison I used in my chili.

Even in the colder months, the farmers' market stays open and offers a great selection of winter vegetables as well as the aforementioned meats and cheeses. Most of my recipes have included ingredients from the farmers' market as they tend to work in dishes that are perfect for this time of year (hearty chili, thick soups, etc.).

So definitely check out the Durham Farmers' Market on Saturdays from 10am-12pm during the winter and 8-12 Saturdays as well as 3:30-6:30pm in the summer. You can't go wrong buying local and seasonal ingredients. Even prepared in the simplest way, these products will create delicious meals you can feel good about eating.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Roasted beet salad

Beets are another favorite of mine available during the fall and winter months. Fresh beets are far superior to canned so make this when you have the time to roast the beets. They can be done at any time during the day since they'll be served cold. All of the ingredients in this salad can be found at the Durham Farmers' Market or at your local grocery store. The creaminess of the goat cheese and sweetness of the beets pair perfectly with the spicy, peppery arugula. If you don't like arugula, try the salad with any mix of lettuce you like. I prefer the salad with a balsamic vinaigrette or even just balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. But use whatever you have on hand. This salad goes great with the pumpkin soup in the previous post or with grilled chicken or fish.

Roasted Beets:

Preheat oven to 450F.
Cut beet leaves off, leaving about 2 inches of stem.
Wrap beets in aluminum foil, about three beets per pouch.
Place pouches on a cookie sheet and put on the middle rack in the oven.
Roast beets for about 1 hour (they should be easy to pierce with a fork).
Let cool before peeling off skins. I cut off the two ends and then peel the remaining skins.
Be careful as beets make everything they touch a deep purple but it will wash off your fingers.

Toss washed arugula, beets and crumbled goat cheese in salad dressing, sprinkle with a little cracked black pepper and enjoy!

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pumpkin: So much more than pie

Although the winter months lack the abundance of produce available in the summer, there are some wonderful winter vegetables that make hearty dishes perfect for cold temperatures. I love all types of squash, which are plentiful in the fall and early winter. One underused squash is pumpkin. Although many people make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, we tend to forget that it's a wonderful ingredient in savory dishes as well. For this soup, I used a whole pumpkin but feel free to use the canned kind as it saves time and is always available. (Just make sure you don't buy sweetened pumpkin.) For instructions on how to cook the whole pumpkin, check out PickYourOwn's website, complete with pictures and tips.

Curried Pumpkin and Cauliflower Soup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 4-5 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 c vegetable stock or water
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2-3 c cooked pumpkin or 1 15 oz can pureed pumpkin
  • 1/2-1 c milk or cream (optional)
Heat olive oil in a soup pot.
Saute onions, celery and carrots for a few minutes.
Cut cauliflower into florets and add to pot with stock or water.
Season with cumin and salt and pepper.
Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
Add pumpkin and heat through.
Puree the entire soup with an immersion blender or food processor.
Season to taste.

I liked the soup this way but milk or cream would definitely be a nice touch and make a richer soup. Serve with toasted bread and enjoy pumpkin in a whole new way!

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bison: A New Take on Chili

Last Saturday, I braved the rain and headed to the Durham farmers' market. I was intrigued by the Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm stand selling bison meat on a previous visit so I decided to buy some and take a stab at cooking it. I love chili of all kinds--red chili, white chili, chicken chili--and figured that a bison chili would be a good place to start with this new meat. I used sweet peppers that were also from the farmers' market as well as the NC BBQ sauce discussed earlier.

This chili could definitely be made with ground beef or turkey, but if you get the chance, definitely give bison a try. It's more flavorful than turkey and much better for you than beef. For more information on bison and recipes using it, check out the Sunset Ridge website or the National Bison Association's website. You could also take your own favorite chili recipe and substitute bison!

Bison Chili:
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 lbs. ground bison
  • 1 T steak seasoning
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 sweet peppers, diced (I used a combination of red and yellow)
  • 1 15 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted but regular would work too)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 c bbq sauce
  • Dash of hot sauce (Or several if you like it spicy)
  • Salt and Pepper
Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet or soup pot over medium heat.
Saute the onions and garlic for a few minutes.
Add the bison meat and break into small chunks.
Season the meat with steak seasoning, chili powder and cumin.
Brown the meat almost completely and then add the peppers.
Finish browning the meat then add the next 5 ingredients.
Bring the chili to a bubble and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over rice and top with any of your favorite toppings (cheese, diced tomatoes, onions).

For an easy side dish, try roasted broccoli, which is nuttier and more flavorful than steamed broccoli:

Slice the broccoli into spears and toss it with olive oil, black pepper and parmesan cheese. Spread the spears in one layer onto a cookie sheet sprayed with Pam. Roast in a 450F oven for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

For a printable recipe click here

Friday, December 4, 2009

Six Plates: Good Wine

Six Plates is currently my favorite wine bar in Durham. The food is good, but I always go for the wine. The menu is set up with six small plates of food with a wine to match each plate. Each glass of wine costs around $6-8 and the additional glasses listed on the board are as low as $5. The wine selection comes from around the world and there's something to match everyone's taste. And owner Matthew Beason and his staff are always willing to make suggestions.

This last visit I decided to start off with a glass of Xarmant Txakoli from the Basque Country, Spain. Immediately the wine stands out for the number of x's in the name and was made famous by Dhani Jones on Dhani Tackles the Globe. But upon first sip, it is clear that this wine stands out without any publicity. It's made from the grape called hondarribi zurri and, although not sparkling, it definitely has a slight effervescence. With very little residual sugar, the wine is quite dry but has tons of flavor. It's definitely worth trying! And with a name that's hard to pronounce, it should be easy to spot on the menu. Six Plates often has it by the glass, so give it a try next time you're there.

In addition to the six wines matching the six plates, and the glasses listed on the board, the menu contains page upon page of wines by the bottle. The list includes sparkling, white, pink and red wines from around the world ranging from only $20 a bottle to well over $100. So whatever your taste and budget, there are plenty of wines to choose from. All in all, Six Plates is definitely worth a visit. Stop in for a light meal or just a glass of wine. And check the website for news on live music, events and menu changes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Difference is in the Sauce

The move toward buying local, seasonal ingredients is becoming more and more popular and, with plenty of local farmers' markets, it's definitely a move we can all start making. But you can't always go to the farmers' market since, in Durham, it's only open on Saturdays (more on the Durham Farmers' Market to come). Fortunately for us, supermarkets are now carrying more local items, giving us the choice to buy local any day of the week.

Recently, I went to Kroger and needed to buy barbeque sauce. I know that many name-brand sauces contain a lot of processed ingredients and aren't that good for you. This is when I discovered the section of the wall devoted to North Carolina sauces. So instead of a standard bbq sauce, I opted for Duplin's Finest Mild BBQ Sauce. It lists only six ingredients, all of which I can pronounce. It was only slightly more expensive than many of the sauces ($3.59 for 16 oz.) and was worth every penny. Not only did I feel good about buying it and later eating it, it was absolutely delicious.

I've made the following stir-fry several times and this was definitely the best. The sauce was the perfect combination of tangy and spicy. With only four main ingredients, this recipe (from Real Simple magazine) is definitely a keeper. And using a local BBQ sauce made it that much better!

Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 bunches of baby bok choy
  • 1/4 c bbq sauce
  • 1/4 c soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
  • S and P
Heat oil in a shallow pan with a lid.
Season chicken with salt and pepper, cook in oil till done, about 4 minutes per side
Remove chicken and add bok choy and 1/4 water
Cover and cook bok choy till nearly tender, 5 minutes or so
Combine bbq and soy sauce in a small bowl, add to pan
Bring sauce to a boil, add chicken, toss to combine
Serve over rice (I use brown rice for texture and added fiber)

For a printable recipe click here