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Top 10 fun eats to suggest for the new year: Part 2

January 10, 2012

The experts tell us that New Year’s Resolutions are more likely to be carried out if we 1) set reasonable goals, and 2) break those goals into bite-sized pieces. With those guidelines in mind, I hereby resolve to continue to eat tasty and interesting things in 2012. That’s a reasonable goal, and bite-sized pieces are a given. I’m golden. 
Last week I announced the first five of my now annual “Top Ten Fun Eats That I Didn’t Already Write About In 2011.” There was just too much to share about each dish to fit into one column, and like last week, there will be at least one pork product, one fried item, one dessert, and at least one super-healthy food (or some combination thereof) to spur us on to better eating in 2012.
No. 6: Edamame. I’m not sure I could have told you what an edamame was before this past year, which is kind of embarrassing, given that it’s just a soybean and Mississippi grows lots of soybeans. But edamame salad has a much more sophisticated ring to it than soybean salad, wouldn’t you agree? A bag of frozen edamame in the pod first made it to our freezer by mistake – apparently it was in the wrong section of the grocery freezer case and was grabbed along with a bag of broccoli or some such green vegetable. So it sat there a while and aged, until I got industrious and found something to do with it. My first attempt was a roasted edamame and corn salad from an Alton Brown recipe, which was quite good. I liked it so much that I bought some fresh pods from D & G Farm at the Community Market in the summer and made it again. Then I got lazy and bought a bag of frozen shelled beans (on purpose this time) and made a batch of edamame hummus, which ended up having something of a sweet element to it – the wife said it could almost be dessert hummus. It was good stuff, and I feel like I’ve also added to my vocabulary.
No. 7: Breakfast Polenta at City Bagel. I kept seeing it on the menu as an alternative to the breakfast bagel sandwich, but I just wasn’t sure. Truth was, I don’t think I’d ever had polenta before, and certainly not for breakfast. But I did know that it was a close cousin to grits, and not having had something before is rarely a good reason for me not to order it.  So I did, and now it’s my favorite. At City Bagel they prepare the polenta in a long, rectangular cake – sort of the antithesis to a spoonful of runny grits (though I’m not knocking that – just doing a shape comparison!). But their interpretation is still rich and creamy in its own right. I usually have it topped with egg, cheese and whatever breakfast meat I’m in the mood for that day. It’s a winner.
No. 8: Kentucky Bento Box. Talk about a merging of cultures. Bento boxes are essentially Japanese divided-plate lunch boxes, in the very simplest of terms. At the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, Chef Edward Lee, a Korean-American who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is the chef at 610 Magnolia in Louisville, Ky., put together what he called a Kentucky Bento Box. It was very Japanese in appearance, including chopsticks, but there was lots of Kentucky in the squares. It was all good, but two things really stood out. The meat part of the box was Pulled Bison Brisket. Say that three times fast, and meanwhile, I’ll eat yours. Dessert was Belle Chevre Ash Cheesecake with Togarashi Caramel. This has to be broken down a bit. Belle Chevre is goat cheese made in Elkmont, Ala. – not a bad drive from here. The ash was really ash, as in “what’s left after burning”, from leeks – another first for me. What did it look like? Ash. A thin layer, but an interesting one. Togarashi is Japanese for red chili pepper, so it was probably supposed to have a kick, though I was so caught up in eating ash on purpose for the first time that I missed the kick. 
No. 9: Organic Veggies. I have had organic vegetables before, but this year, thanks to the hard work of a couple of local organic farmers in the area, I had the chance to try some new ones.  As fall settled in we made a pot of carrot-top soup with some stubby little carrots (and their tops, of course) from Sam McLemore of Bountiful Harvest Farms – I also threw in some fresh dill from Phil Otto at Old Well Farm, which added a real depth of flavor. Later we had sautéed broccoli rabe that was truly melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Who’d have thunk?
10.  Pig Ear Stir Fry. This is both the “fried” and the “pork” entry for this week, rolled into one. The dish was described on the fall menu at Snackbar restaurant in Oxford as chickpea flour fried crispy pig ear, cayenne roasted peanuts, collard greens, shallots, tossed in a Sweet and sour tamarind vinaigrette. I just had to do it. And though I probably don’t need to order it again just for myself, it was really not too bad. Imagine fried calamari with an earthier flavor and it would be pretty close. Didn’t really look like an ear at all, which is more than I can say for the tongue taco I had in 2010.
Happy New Year. Resolve to try something different.

Jay Reed is a local pharmacist and foodie. He welcomes your comments at eatsoneate@gmail.com.

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