From the Road: Forsythia & Fried Green Tomatoes

Forsyth Georgia is a quaint town midway between Atlanta & Macon.  Every year, on the second weekend in March,  the good folks of Forsyth celebrate the coming of Spring with the aptly named Forsythia festival.  Artist and crafters setup around the beautiful downtown courthouse as folks from the surrounding area come out to enjoy food, fun and hopefully some good weather (this year was picture perfect!).

 

Pets weren’t allowed but somehow this little fella slipped in (yes, that is a pet goat)!

 

 

If you know us at all, you know that we like to seek out good food wherever we go.  While Forsyth isn’t necessarily a culinary mecca (no dissin’ here, they do have a couple of nice restaurants downtown) I did stumble on an interesting eatery in the small town of Juliette, a few miles away.  For anyone who remembers the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, you will recall the central role that the Whistle Stop cafe played in the film.  The building had actually been a general store that was converted just for the movie. After the movie was made, the owner decided to keep the cafe and to serve up the southern favorites made famous in the movie.

 

 

Here is a basket of the famous fried green tomatoes with the obligatory mason jar of sweet tea!

 

 

Here is the pit where the “special ingredient” was added to the bone sauce (and yes, he totally deserved it!).

 

 

The rest of Juliette is an homage to the movie with numerous shops dedicated to Idgie & Ruth.  If you enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes and you enjoy good southern food, it is worth a little detour to check out this piece of cinematic history.

 

 

Update: We received an email from a customer that the original Whistlestop Cafe that was the inspiration for the book is actually the Irondale Cafe in Alabama.  “They’ve been serving up fried green tomatoes for decades, and the cafe sits right by the railroad tracks. Fannie Flagg wrote the book, and she is from Alabama.”  Thanks for sharing!

Eating in Month: Spring Rolls

Every January Diana from The Chic Life runs a challenge called Eating in Month.  The idea is to spend the month of January cooking and eating from home.  During the busy holiday season we rarely cook (it’s often not worth turning over the kitchen to cook one meal), so this seemed like a great opportunity/excuse to try to change our habits for a bit.

We started the process making one of my favorite things – hmong style spring rolls.  Although the rolls are time consuming, it is a fun project for us to do together and it is awfully yummy.  As a warning, you do fry these.  This is the one and only thing we have ever fried in our house – neither of us like the smell, but we’ve found that if we open windows and then burn one of our peppermint clove candles afterward, it doesn’t linger long (shameless plug, I know).  {update: we are now making these without frying!  Keep reading below for details}

I adapted this recipe from Annie Vang’s site & modified it to make it veggie-friendly, smaller, and a bit easier for us to put together.

 

Spring Rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bagged shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (white or green is fine)
  • 1 package firm or extra firm tofu – pressed to release as much as water as possible.  (TofuXPress is great for this step)
  • 1 package cellophane noodles – pre-cooked and cooled
  • 2 eggs (reserve one egg yolk and set it aside)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 package of 25 spring roll wrappers (buy the frozen ones from an Asian store – not the refridgerated egg roll wrappers)
  • Oil for frying

Start by adding the ingredients into a large bowl.  I suggest sorting through your cabbage and carrots to ensure there are not large pieces mixed in that may come through the wrapper when you are rolling.  Take your pressed tofu block and break it up by hand.  You want small pieces that should be similiar in texture to a ground meat.  Take your cellophane noodles and cut them up into bite-sized lengths and add to the bowl.

Once all ingredients are in, it is time to mix. Hand mixing is easier for this part of the process and Wayne usually takes over.

I’m left to do the wrapping.  A few incredibly helpful hints: take your wrappers out of the freezer just 5 minutes before beginning to wrap them.  You want them to be very, very cold when you are using them – it makes it much easier to get a tighter wrap.  Also, once you’ve opened the package, make sure to keep a wet paper towel on top of the wrappers at all times.  Dried wrappers = a mess.

I turn my wrappers into a diamond shape and add a small line of filling.  I’ll fold the end over the filling as tightly as I can, then fold the edges in and roll up toward the top peak.  It is always a struggle to keep the wrapper tight, but I get better at it every time I do it.  Right before closing, take a small amount of the egg yolk that you’ve set aside and run it across the top of the wrapper.  This seals the spring roll for frying.

We use a very deep pot for frying just to avoid any splashing.  We pre-heat the oil on medium.  Wayne takes care of the frying while I wrap.  Our pot is not overly large, so we usually only fry three rolls at a time. Don’t push the rolls into the oil, but let them roll across the surface, but you do want to make sure all sides hit the oil.  Fry until a light golden brown – for us that’s around 3-4 minutes.

As you can see below, we use a cookie cooling rack with paper towels underneath to drain the oil off the rolls.  Too much oil = yucky, greasy rolls.

We always serve the rolls with a sweet chilli dipping sauce from the Asian store (Pantai is my favorite), but any sauce that makes you happy will work.

 

They are best served hot right after being fried, but I like them enough that we stick them in the fridge and either warm them up or eat them cold.  The crispiness will be gone, but they taste just as good.

{Update: As an alternative to frying, preheat the oven to 400.  Take a cookie sheet and spray it lightly with an olive oil spray.  Place the springs rolls on the sheet with a small amount of space in between.  Cook for 10 minutes, then flip and return to the over for 10 more minutes.  The result is a spring roll that is missing the all over golden brown look, but is surprisingly crispy and much better for you!}

The few tips and tricks above were courtesy of hmong friends who were kind enough to answer my 1,000 questions about their spring roll perfection.  🙂

 

Did you make any amazing recipes to celebrate the new year?

(Not So) Local Eats: The Atlanta Underground Market

A few weeks ago we visited Atlanta with my parents so my dad could dive with the sharks at the aquarium.  It was his birthday wish and we were more than happy to oblige.

Before leaving I happened to get an email that the Atlanta Underground Market was the same weekend.  What luck!  I had attended once before, but Wayne had never been, so I signed him up and we were on our way. Continue reading