Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

I Could Call Them Gougére...

...because I started out with a simple Pate aux Choux recipe. But with cheddar cheese and chipotle, ya gotta call 'em cheese puffs.

If you are hosting a party this holiday season or need something to bring to that New Year's Eve fete that is sure to impress, try these yummy treats!  It's easy and kind of addictive.

Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Puffs

Using a good, sharp cheddar (and not that orange block) really makes these suckers shine.  Smoky, cheesy goodness!

1 cup water
1 stick butter
2 tsp Chipotle powder
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425˚.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a stock pot, bring water, butter, Chipotle and salt to a boil.  Lower heat.  Dump in the flour in one fell swoop, and stir in one direction with a wooden spoon.  DON'T PANIC!  It's going to look like a hot mess for a little bit.  Just keep stirring.  Quickly a dough ball will form.  Stir for a little bit longer to dry out the dough just a bit.  Transfer to a bowl.

Keep stirring and add the eggs one at a time.  AGAIN, DON'T PANIC! It's going to look weird until the egg is fully incorporated.  Just keep stirring!  Once the eggs are incorporated, add cheese.  And keep stirring until fully combined.  Transfer the sticky dough to a pastry bag or a large freezer bag (and cut a tiny slit in one of the corners).    Pipe dough onto the parchment line sheets in little golf ball sized globs.  The trick here is to pipe in a circular motion so the dough piles on top of itself.  Damp your finger and push down any curly Qs to prevent burning.

Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes.  Turn oven down to 350˚ and bake for 30 minutes.  DO NOT PEAK!  You want to keep the oven nice and hot, so resist the temptation to open it.  After 30 minutes, you can check them.  The puffs should be firm and slightly crispy.  You may need to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, depending on how humid it is that day.  Cool and enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

That Forgotten Christmas Present

A couple of weeks ago, I was sorting through my ever growing collection of pots and pans attempting to thin out the crowd, when I stumbled upon a long forgotten gift.

Last year, my brother-in-illegal and his wife gave J and me a panini press. And we have never used it.

It's basically a grill pan with a heavy weight you use to mash on the sandwich.  Kind of a useless piece of cookware taking up space.  I mean, if I was industrious, I would just use my grill pan and mash on it with a skillet.  But, I took it out for a test drive and I love it! You can turn any sandwich into a delicious, flat work of art.  And it is another toy you can use when you play with your food.

So, if you are looking for a gift for that foodie friend or family member this year, consider the panini press.  'Tis fun for all ages.

Mediterranean Veggie Panini

This is just one I particularly enjoyed.  But play around with it!  You have a panini press for god's sake!

Roasted Red Peppers
Grilled and Marinated Zucchini
Sliced Red Onion
Oil Cured Olives
Pepadew Peppers
Fresh Mozzerella
Pesto Mayonnaise
Ciabatta Bread

Slice open the bread and slather that bad lad with the pesto mayonnaise (equal parts pesto and mayo).  Layer ingredients on and transfer to your preheated panini press.  Press that sucker and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Minute Gifts

'Tis the season to put off shopping.  So if you are stumped as to what to get that kitchen improviser in your life, might I suggest the following.

A holiday shopping hint:  check out a restaurant supply store.  You will be surprised how much cheaper this stuff is!

Salt Cellar

A handy dandy container that allows you easy access to that go to flavor enhancer while cooking.  I have no idea how I survived without one.


Love this thing!

Cuisinart Mini Food Processor

This has been a staple in my kitchen for years.  I use it to make pesto, vinaigrettes, and anything I need to whir up in a hurry.  Love Love Love this.


Ever wonder how to make those waffle fries?  Julienne veggies?  Make waf-fer thin slices?  Look no further!  These things a fabulous, but they are a bit dangerous as the blades are super sharp.  Best not get this for Little Timmy, unless Timmy is a bit more experienced in the kitchen.

Gourmet Today by Ruth Reichl

This is my absolute favorite cookbook.  Hands down.  Ever.  Period.  Over a thousand recipes compiled by the culinary genius behind the now defunct Gourmet magazine. (I still miss it so.)

The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins

This book by the Silver Palate ladies is an absolute classic.  Try the Chicken Marbella.  Who knew that prunes and olives could taste so good together?

And of course...

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck

It doesn't get more classic than this.

Merry Merry and Happy Happy!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To All My Hebrew Brothahs and Sistahs...Challah!

For the commemoration of the millennium, a group of friends and I took a road trip from Chicago to Woodstock, NY to ring in the New Year.  We were a rag tag group of not necessarily petite sized gay men, crammed into a Ford Jimmy truckin' across the country singing along to Macy Gray and discussing the merits of music by Moby.

When we arrived at our destination, a beautiful wooded retreat, we were welcomed with hugs, food, and libations from the parents of one of my dearest friends.  We survived a 12 hour journey, all limbs intact and still enjoying each others company.  The weekend was a debaucherous haze filled with laughter, hikes to frozen waterfalls, and tons of food.

One evening, Evelyn, our host's octogenarian mother who resided in an adjoining apartment, invited us, as any good Jewish woman would, over for scotch and chopped liver.  She was a short, sturdy woman with a quick wit and recipes filled with tradition. Now this midwestern boy was at that time no connoisseur of chopped liver, but I graciously accepted the grey mass on a toast point and chowed down.  It was an interesting bite to say the least; it tasted like...well, like liver.  The conversation was even more interesting that evening as Evelyn pontificated on a variety of topics with some Old World wisdom and attitude, quite often drawing forth riotous laughter and dropped jaws. Evelyn blissfully drank her scotch and nibbled on her chicken liver. It was a night to remember.

Sadly, Evelyn is no longer with us, and I don't see those dear friends nearly as often as I would like, but the memories remain fresh in my mind. So, 0n the first night of Chanukah, or as my friends call it, Chaka Khan, I offer up a spin on Evelyn's chopped liver.  Or as I like to call it Country Style Chicken and Fig Paté.

Happy Chaka Khan, y'all.

Country Style Chicken and Fig Paté 
It's tough to make chopped liver pretty...
(or Fancy Chopped Liver)

The figs add a delightful sweetness to the liver, taking away a bit of that offal taste, and the walnuts provide an unexpected crunch.

1 lb chicken livers
1 small shallot, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dried mission figs, diced
1/4 cup cognac
3 Tbl Pernod
3 Tbl heavy cream
2 Tbl stone ground mustard
1 Tbl capers, drained 
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped parsley
thyme bundle
1 bay leaf
milk, for soaking chicken livers

Carefully drain and rinse chicken livers.  Remove any "extra goodness" and place in a glass bowl. Cover livers with milk and soak for at least 15 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onions, shallot, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for roughly five minutes until soft.  Add thyme bundle, bay, and figs, and cook for an additional five minutes until figs begin to soften and plump.  Deglaze pan with cognac, reserving 2 Tbl, scraping up bits with a wooden spoon.  Allow the cognac to reduce by half, and add Pernod.

Drain chicken livers and add to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper and allow those little suckers to brown up (roughly 15 minutes).  Add the remaining 2 Tbl of cognac and allow to reduce once more.

Transfer mixture to a food processor, discarding thyme and bay.  Add mustard, cream, capers, walnuts,and parsley.  Pulse mixture until smooth, yet still a bit chunky.  Transfer to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap.  Chill for at least one hour.

Serve with crostini, radishes, and apples and a lovely white wine (or scotch).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What to Eat Before the Feast

 Like any red-blooded American, I love Thanksgiving.

And like an Olympian, I train for the event.  I want to make sure that I am in prime condition to enjoy the constant grazing and gorging that accompanies the day.  So I tend to eat a little less throughout the week.

In case you haven't noticed, I love soup.  So, naturally, soup and salad are a great way to eat a little lighter yet still feel satisfied, reserving plenty of room for the Simpson-esque shoveling of food on Thursday.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk
I didn't have another pumpkin for the pic.  But that's a pretty apple, no?

This is a great first course for Thanksgiving or a teaser meal leading up to the day.  Turkey Day flavors with a bit of a twist. Roasting your own pumpkin gives you a strange sense of satisfaction, but you can use 2 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree if you are a wuss.

1 3 lb. pumpkin
2 Tbl olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbl curry powder
1 Tbl turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp coriander
shaving of nutmeg
4 cups chicken stock
14 oz coconut milk
2 tsp lemon juice
salt n' pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Using a really sharp knife, slice off top of pumpkin. Slice into quarters, then into eighths. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle liberally with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for about an hour.  Remove and allow to cool.

In a stock pot over medium flame, heat olive oil, curry, turmeric, coriander, and cinnamon for one minute.  This will allow the spices to bloom. Add onion, garlic, celery, and apple to the oil and stir to cover.  Season with salt and red pepper and sautè veggies until tender for about 5 minutes.  Scoop out pumpkin flesh and add to pot.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Allow soup to cool slightly and purèe mixture.  Pass through a sieve and return to pot.  Add coconut milk and lemon juice.  Delish!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Biscotti and Macaroons

I've been busy directing a production of Urinetown: The Musical at Rhodes College (and it's a pretty darn good production if I say so myself).

We have a brush up rehearsal before we begin the second week of shows, so I thought I would bring some treats to some hungry college students.

Oh, and, if you're in town, come see Urinetown!

Walnut, Fig, and Rosemary Biscotti

I am by no means a baker, and these are super simple to make. The rosemary and lemon zest make add a happy surprise to this not too sweet cookie.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbl fresh rosemary, chopped
1 Tbl lemon zest
3/4 cup dried mission figs, diced
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and rosemary with an electric mixer.  Mix in eggs one at a time.  Slowly add dry ingredients until just mixed.  Stir in walnuts and figs.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and form dough into a log (about 3"x13").  Damp hands help out tremendously with this step as the dough is rather sticky. Cook until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Resist trying to move it to a cooling rack, lest that sucker should break half in two.

Using a serrated knife, slice log into 1/2" cookies.  Place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and place cookies on top of the rack.  This will help crisp up the cookies without having to turn them. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Coconut and Apricot Macaroons
These remind me of Passover and when I was a young Jewish boy.

One day I will learn how to make those delightful French macaroons, but until then I love these sweet little bites!

14 oz sweetened shredded coconut
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites at room temperature

1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325. 

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, apricots, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Keep them egg whites fluffy!

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper into roughly 1 1/2" blobs.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


'Twas a cloudy day and I am in need of some comfort food. Fast.

What could be better than tomato soup and grilled cheese. But as Ina says, "Let's turn the volume up."

Tomboy Tomato and Caramelized Onion Soup

A Bowl Full of Love
I first encountered this soup working at Tomboy restaurant in Chicago.  I managed to get the recipe and played around with it. It is so simple, and extremely satisfying.

3 lbs yellow onions, diced
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 stick butter, unsalted
2 Tbl olive oil
2 tsp cumin
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
4 cups chicken stock

In a stock pot over low heat, melt better and oil together.  Add onions and stir to coat. Let these suckers cook slowly, allowing to caramelize (roughly 30-35 minutes).  Once the onions are sweet and golden brown, add cumin and chipotle.  Saute for one minute.  Add tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes.

Using an immersion blender (or working in batches with a traditional blender), puree the crap out of it. Pass through a sieve discarding solids.  Serve hot with a garnish of goat cheese.

*For a fancy grilled cheese, try using a bold stinky cheese like Taleggio or Brie on ciabatta bread with some of my Onion and Fennel Jam! You'll be happy you did.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gorgeous Gougère

I've been busy.

Busy looking at a computer screen, waiting for the phone to ring, or watching a LOT of TV.  And not busy playing in the kitchen.

I guess you could say I've been in a funk.

Today, I vowed to slap myself out of my pity party and try to create one of my favorite San Francisco treats.  Not Rice-O-Roni.  But those delicious gougères from Tartine.  These fluffy, eggy pastries are one of my absolute must eats when I go to the City by the Bay.  Tartine makes them with just enough Gruyère and black pepper to keep things interesting and savory.  I didn't have any of that nutty cheese around, but I did have some Asiago...

Flecks of pepper and thyme make this a purty dish, too!
Asiago, Black Pepper, and Thyme Gougère

These tasty bites are a great little nibbley for a cocktail party or with Pesto Chicken Salad.

1 cup water
1 stick of butter
pinch of salt
1 cup of flour
4 eggs
1/3 cup Asiago, grated plus 2 tsp. reserved
2 Tbl cracked black pepper
1 Tbl thyme, minced

Preheat oven to 425 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a sauce pan, bring water, salt, and butter to a simmer. Once heated, add all of the flour at once and stir in the same direction with a wooden spoon. It will look freaky to begin with, but it will turn into a lovely little ball of dough in no time. You want to cook it until it dries out quite a bit. Take off heat and cool slightly

Transfer dough to food processor or mixing bowl, and add the eggs one at a time until dough is completely mixed and glossy. Stir in cheese, pepper, and thyme.  We're moving the dough again...this time to a piping bag. Or in my case, a gallon freezer bag with the end snipped off. Pipe out golf ball sized little poofs of love onto baking sheets.

Damp your finger and give the little poofy tops a push down so they don't burn. Pop 'em in the oven for 10 minutes on 425, then lower temperature to 375 for 20 minutes. During the last 7 minutes of cooking, sprinkle these poofy puffs with the reserved Asiago.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Point of Inspiration

I'm a kind of "Go With the Flow" kinda guy.

Well, not so much in life.

Perhaps in the kitchen.

Actually, I think my friends would probably tell you that I am quite bossy in the kitchen and a bit of a control freak.  My students would probably tell you the same.

But with a recipe, I kind of look at it as a jumping off point: a source of inspiration for some culinary play.  Last summer my friend and I were trying to be "good" about what we ate, and, as a result, I was trolling the interweb searching for healthy recipes with substance.  I found a FABU recipe for Hoisin Chicken with Cucumber Salad

I have since used this marinade for pork and sauce for grilled salmon, but I am constantly playing around with the ingredients:  using less garlic, adding Dijon mustard, using Thai chili paste instead of jalapeños, adding a ton of cilantro, using red wine vinegar.  You get the idea.  And it would always come out really tasty, but I would usually have a goodly bit left over (about 1/4 cup).

What to do with this extra deliciousness?

I know!  Add two additional teaspoons of rice wine vinegar and whisk in some olive oil and *VI-OH-LAY* you have a tasty vinaigrette perfect for hardy, bitter, greens.

Play wit-cho-food!

Bitter radicchio, radishes, and spicy wasabi peas play famously off the sweetness of this plumby vinaigrette!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

GLOBO to the Rescue!

I'm in a jam.

I am underemployed and in need of some funds.  Unfortunately, alas and alack, I need to break into ye olde retirement fund.  The only problem is, in order to get the ball rolling, I have to fill out a rather extensive form.  A simple task for most folks, however, when I first looked at this thing, it scrambled my brain and threw me into a full on panic.

Never fear!  The Glamorous Ladies of the Business Office are here!  Faster than a speeding email, those lovely ladies who crunch the numbers hours on end have agreed to help me get my do re mi!

And to thank them for helping me out of my jam, I'm bringing them jam.  Onion and Fennel Jam to be specific.  Something sweet and savory and a little out of the ordinary.  Like me.

Onion and Fennel Jam

This delicious condiment is a perfect accompaniment to a cheese plate, pork, and can liven up any sandwich.  Try it, you'll like it!

3 lbs. yellow onions, sliced
2 fennel bulbs, cored and sliced
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 Tbl salt
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar

Melt butter over low to medium heat. Add onions, fennel, and salt.  Stir to coat the veggies. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions and fennel begin to caramelize.  About 45-50 minutes.  Once mixture has reduced significantly and reached a rich caramel color, add sugar and vinegar.  Continue to simmer jam and reduce by half.  Cool and store in sterilized jars.  Refrigerate.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Heloise Moment: Chili Edition

In The South, there are two seasons:  Summer and Christmas.

Three if you count College Football.

Right now, we in Memphis are enjoying wonderfully cool weather.  The AC is off, windows are open, and I have even considered donning a summer sweater.  Shocking, I know.  And, when that little crispy bite permeates the air, I want one thing:  chili.

My Kick ASS Chili

Chili is the ultimate "play around" food because you can create so many different versions.  Not to toot my own horn, but I have been told on more than one occasion that I make the best damned chili folks have ever tasted.  And, I am completely embarrassed to put my recipe for chili on the interweb.  Basically it's opening a bunch of cans and dumping them into a pot.  BUT, thanks to a big sense of play in the kitchen, I do have a couple of tricks to elevate the flavor of canned beans and tomatoes to a level of chili excellence.

* Brown your meat first!  Whatever type of ground meat you are using (turkey, beef, chicken), brown that deliciousness in your chili pot and remove it before you start cooking the rest.  That way all of the flavors will stay in the pan and help season the pot.  And don't forget to give that meat some flavor love, which brings me too...

*Avoid the package seasoning!  Sure grab that bottle of chili powder, but don't shy away from adding additional seasonings.  Cumin, coriander, white pepper, cayenne, and even a pinch of cinnamon can wake up your chili.  Throw in some fresh cilantro at the end for a great bright flavor.

* Play with yo' peppers!  Different peppers add a different quality of heat:  chipotles are smokey, jalapeños are a bright blast, habaneros are...suicidal. You get the idea.  Play around to find which one best suits your palate.

* Season as you go!  Start by sauteing onions, garlic, and peppers with your spices.  Try throwing in some adobo sauce.  Keep adding spice as you add more ingredients.

* De glaze that pan!  You know there is a whole bunch of flavor lingering at the bottom of that pot.  Take advantage of it by adding wine, beer, or even coffee to add depth to your chili.

*Think outside the box.  Try adding black beans, corn, green chiles,  or sun-dried tomatoes. Mix it up!

*Make a ton!  Chili is always better with a crowd.  Invite folks over for the game (or the latest episode of Project Runway) and set up a chili bar with all the fixin's: diced onion, avocado, cilantro, cheese, jalapeños, tortilla chips.  And if no one shows, the stuff freezes like a dream!

Play on, Food Improvisers!

Note:  I love me some vegetarian cooking, but, in my humble opinion, you just need meat for chili.  And for those of you who like that beanless "chili" may as well open up a jar of spaghetti sauce cuz that ain't chili.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Requiem for a Grocery Store

When I was 16, I shot my first commercial.

It was for a St. Louis based grocery store chain called Schnucks.  I know...unfortunate family name, no?  The spot was one of those "how many happy people can we show eating fruit in a minute" type situations.  It was spring time, and they were getting ready for the summer fruit push.

I had stumbled into the gig; a mother of a friend of mine was a food stylist on the shoot and they needed a few fresh faced teens to stage a car wash and laugh and eat peaches.  A lot of peaches.  I think I ate about 27 in an hour, while being squirted with a garden hose in a parking lot on a beautiful (and chilly) spring day.  We tossed peaches to one another, taking a bite and making smiley faces to the camera. 

It took me a while to muster up the strength to eat another peach.  Like Prufrock.  Only younger.

When I moved to Memphis, several years later, I was happy to find the comforting sight of Schnucks just down the street from my home.  Something familiar in a strange town, and the point of inspiration for deliciousness.

Recently, Schnucks was sold. Yesterday, it was a ghost town in there as they attempt to clear their inventory to make way for the new owners. Bare shelves, nothing green, and crazy people stocking up on canned beans and bottled barbecue sauce.  All while Sarah McLachlan was piped in from above singing, "In the arms of the angel..."  It was the culinary version of a humane society commercial.

I left saddened and empty handed.  But mama still needs to eat. 

So, in homage to happy fruit eaters out there, I raided what was in my fridge to come up with a lovely lunch with strawberries, onions, and goat cheese.

Farewell, Schnucks.

I would have dared eat a peach (had there been one in the store).

Perfect for a brunch buffet or a light lunch!
Strawberry and Goat Cheese Flatbread Pizza

Take a little help from your store *shed tear* and use packaged flatbread wraps for your crust.  It's important to allow the bread to cool slightly before putting on your toppings.  This makes for a crispy crust.

1 spinach flatbread wrap
1/2 cup onion, sliced and caramelized
6 large strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup spinach leaves
Some Goat Cheese
Some Bleu Chesse (gorgonzola verde is the best)
Balsamic Reduction

Preheat oven to 400.  Lay wrap on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Flip wrap over and smear it around to spread out oil, then flip back over and season with salt.  Bake in oven for about 5 minutes, until it begins to brown.  Flip seasoned side down and allow to cool slightly.

Once cooled, layer spinach leaves, onions, strawberries and cheese and pop back into the oven until cheese melts slightly.  Garnish with basil leaves and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.

To caramelize onions:
In a small sauce pot, heat 2 Tbl butter and 1 Tbl oil over low flame until butter melts.  Add onions and toss to coat.  Season with salt and cook slowly for about 25 minutes, allowing the natural sugars to come out.  I sometimes de glaze the onions with a shot of balsamic just to brighten things up.

Balasmic reduction:
In a small sauce pot, bring 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Reduce until you have about 2 Tbl spoons of syrupy goodness.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm Ready For My Close Up

So...I had to make this video.

It had to represent my personality, my cooking, and all aspects of my life.

In three minutes.


After one false start, one delightful day making turkey meatballs (which quickly became a day of darkness when I realized we forgot to press "record"), and one marathon day makin' chicken.

Here's what I came up with.

To celebrate, I'm eating a flatbread pizza with grilled zucchini and eggplant, onion, oil cured olives, pepadews, pesto, Asiago and goat cheese.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The ShoeClad Count

Last night was a magical experience:  a simple supper enjoyed alfresco on a beautiful Chicago summer night with a trio of lesbians.  I felt like the Barefoot Contessa.

If she lived in Chicago.  And she had her lady friends over instead of her bevvy of gays.  And she were a dude.

I would be the ShoeClad Count.

Here is how the episode would have played out:

Cue Intro Music.  Close up on Scott.

I just got a last minute deal on a flight to Chicago.  My friend Amy is hosting my visit, and in return I'm going to make a light summer supper for her and her friends.  It's a backyard gathering with old friends, ShoeClad style.

Cut to Opening Theme Music and Food Montage.  There's a knife slicing through a fennel bulb.  There's Scott passing a platter of vittles and laughing.  Berries are tumbling into a colander.  Scott is blending soup.  Mmmm...look at that yummy salad.  Scott and J plop down on the couch with ice cream.  Uh-oh, here comes Buster Dog.  They laugh.  Fade to Logo.

My dear friend Amy was kind enough to open her home to me at the last minute, so to thank her I thought it would be great to have a couple of friends over for wine and cheese and an elegant backyard supper.  Most lesbians are vegetarians, feeding on twigs, berries, pumpkin soup, and salsa.  Fortunately, these gals are pescaterians and love seafood, and I thought, "Why not do scallops with grapefruit and fennel."  And that's exactly what I'm going to make.

First I want to start by making the salad.  Grapefruit and fennel are a perfect combination: the tartness of the grapefruit mixes deliciously with the sweet, anise taste of the fennel.  Slice the fennel...(and the ShoeClad Count assemble the delicious salad filled with grapefruit, fennel, julienne yellow peppers, honey and tarragon)

The salad is all set to go.  You know, since dinner is going to be so light, let's start off with a cheese plate to enjoy with some wine.  I'll call Amy to see if she can pick up some cheese.

Cut to Amy standing on front porch.  Her cell phone rings.

A:  Hey Scott! (trying to not look at the camera) I'm just about to walk in the door.

S:  Well turn back around.  I thought a cheese plate would be fantastic way to start things off tonight.

A:  But I'm about to walk in the house.

S:  I was thinking two firm cheeses and one blue.

A:  Well, I've been running around all day, and I would really like to...

S:  And maybe some olives, grapes, and almonds to go along with it.

A:  But...

S:  And some crusty bread.  Thanks!

Cut back to Scott

Scallops are actually a mollusk, and you won't believe how absolutely easy they are to prepare.  Once seared they take on a beautiful caramel color and are firm and sweet and perfectly delicious.  Let me show you how I do it. 

Cut to Scallop montage and voice over.  Perfectly manicured hands patting dry scallops. Close up on same manicured hands sprinkling salt and pepper on scallops. Close up on scallops entering a hot, dry pan.  Pretty hands using tongs to flip scallops.  Same lovely hands placing scallops atop a beautiful mound of Grapefruit and Fennel salad.

Now that looks like a simple supper that even the most finicky of lesbians would love.

Cut to Friend's Eating Montage, in a beautifully appointed backyard on a gorgeous summer night.  Prosecco is popped.  We over hear bits of conversation.

"These cheeses are delicious."

"Oh, Scott. The scallops are perfectly cooked!  So bright and clean..."

"Heather, with your hair like that, you look like a whore from a Bible movie epic."

A beautiful late night summer supper with friends.  How bad can that be.

Closing music and Fade to Black.

Please know that this is merely satire and that I kneel at the altar of Ina Garten.  I would eat anything and everything that woman makes, and my biggest wish is to live in her barn and bake scones with her all day long.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Still in a Sandwich Kinda Mood

We are nearing the end of 'mater season.   So take advantage of the yummy, juicy goodness and play around with another classic sandwich:  the BLT.

I add chicken and avocado to the mix along with a spicy chipotle mayonnaise to liven up the situation.  Swap out the toasted bread with a warm ciabatta roll, and you have a delicious sandwich with attitude:  a CABLT!

Try it!  You'll like it!

As you are an intelligent soul, dear reader, I'm going to assume that you can fry up some bacon and slice up some tomatoes and avocado.  Try making The Perfect Chicken Breast and add that to the party.  Then spice it up with some chipotle mayonnaise.

Chipotle Mayonnaise
Please forgive the light.  It's an overcast day and I work with the sun.

Using a lot of help from already prepared mayo, this spicy little sauce is great on a variety of sandwiches! If you want to spice it up even more, add some additional adobo sauce (you know...that spicy love in which those smoky peppers reside).

1 cup mayonnaise
2 medium chipotle peppers
2 Tbl cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime

Throw all of that goodness into a blender or food processor and let it whir until smooth.  Done.  And delicious.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hail to the Sandwich King!

While I was across the pond, being all artsy fartsy with the chillrun, Jeff Mauro, The Sandwich King, was chosen as the Next Food Network Star.  Throughout the entire season, he was funny, personable, and made some really great sandwiches. 

Well, sir, in honor of your coronation (and due to the fact that my butt is still jet lagged and I haven't quite made it to the store yet), I offer you one of my fave comfort foods:  the humble tuna melt.  However, like Ina, I turn the volume up by adding fresh dill, scallions, capers, stone ground mustard, and oil-cured olives to the delicious albacore and top it off with some extra sharp cheddar.  Finish it with baby spinach bad can that be?

Congratulations, Jeff!  Long may you reign.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Chapter

I have just had a life changing experience.  One of those moments that truly tests your mettle; one that celebrates your strengths and exposes your weaknesses which, in turn, presents you with no other option but to grow or perish.

For four years, I was a teacher.

The best group of kids a teacher could ask for.

This morning, after returning from the Farewell Tour with my students in Scotland, marks the first morning I did not make the 40 minute drive to school.  And I'm a little sad.  And I'm a little excited.  It's time for a new chapter.

There will be more foodie fun in the not too distant future. 

But today, I would like to thank every student, every teenaged actron unit, and every colleague I have had the honor and privilege to work alongside.  You have made me a better teacher, a stronger person, and you have taught me to value all of life's experiences.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Sorry I've been gone for a while!  It's been a crazy couple of days: whirlwind trip to St. Louis to audition for season 8 of Food Network Star (which went extremely well...was asked to be put on tape, so fingers crossed!) and now I'm getting ready for the Farewell Tour to the American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland with my kids.

I will see you in a couple of weeks!

Until then, have fun in the kitchen and keep playing with your food!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Confessions of a Theatre Widow

When one is in a relationship with a theatre artist, one must reside oneself to frequent solitary evenings.  While the ones you enjoy the most are off being creative, you are left to be alone with your thoughts...or thought.

You are a theatre widow.

Or, if you are in the South, a thee-A-ter widduh.

To pass the time, you have folded all the laundry, answered emails, walked the pup, surfed the interweb, caught up on your TiVo, finished the great American novel, and called everyone you can think of only to be greeted by recorded voices because they too are in rehearsals.


There is only so much Battlestar Galactica you can watch in one sitting.

So instead of throwing yourself that all too familiar pity party, get cookin' instead and treat the ones you love to a post rehearsal, late nite supper!

You can still eat well, even though it's late.  Remember, food is not feed!

Roasted Beet and Grapefruit Salad

I just love me a beet.
If your beet greens aren't too tired, try throwing them into the mix!

Some spinach
Some arugula
3 beets
1 red grapefruit
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups garbanzo beans
Goat cheese
Garlic, 2 cloves
Thyme bundle
Chili oil
Salt and pepper

Grapefruit Tarragon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 450.  Trim and peel beets.  Using a sharp knife, cut beets into small cubes (about 1").  Transfer beets to a baking sheet along with the whole garlic cloves and thyme bundle.  Drizzle with oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Toss to coat and throw in the oven for 20 minutes or until beets are caramelized and tender.  Discard garlic and thyme, and allow to come to room temperature.

Slice each end off the grapefruit to give you a steady cutting situation. Using a sharp knife, remove rind and pith.  Segment the grapefruit and place in a bowl squeezing any remaining juice out of that sucker.

In a large bowl, toss greens, onions, and garbanzos in vinaigrette.  Transfer to individual plates and top with beets, grapefruit, goat cheese and a sprinkle of pistachios.

Grapefruit Tarragon Vinaigrette
This is a damn good salad!

Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 Tbl grapefruit zest
1 Tbl fresh tarragon
1 tsp tarragon vinegar
1 small shallot, diced
1 glove garlic, minced
1 Tbl stone ground mustard
3/4 cup olive oil
salt 'n pepper

In a small food processor, puree all of the ingredients excluding the oil.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in oil.  Deliciousness.

Chilled Fennel and Carrot Soup with Tarragon

Once pureed the soup takes on a delightfully creamy texture (and not a drop of cream in sight), perfect for a late nite supper or as a first course for lunch.  Serve warm in the fall/winter's tasty hot, too!

1 medium fennel bulb, sliced
8 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbl tarragon vinegar
1 1/2 Tbl tarragon
1 Tbl fennel fronds
4 cups chicken stock (or water)
Thyme bundle
2 Tbl olive oil
Salt 'n pepper

In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium flame.  Add onions, fennel, and thyme bundle and saute for 5-7 minutes.  De glaze with vinegar and reduce liquid by at least half.  Add carrots and cook for an additional 10 minutes until carrots begin to soften.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat.  Add fresh tarragon and fennel fronds and simmer for 10 minutes. Take off heat and discard thyme.

Puree soup with an immersion blender (or working in small batches with a conventional blender).  Pass soup through a sieve.  Chill for 2 hours.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Revisiting my first video post

Vintage (and nasty lookin') Improvised Chef.

So here is how I did it.

Vietnamese Frittata

2 eggs
yo' left over rice noodles
4 green onions, chopped into 1/2" slices
1 tsp wasabi paste
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat eggs and wasabi paste together.  Add onions and noodles.  Combine ingredients well.  Heat 1 Tbl olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add noodle mixture and mush around until flat.  Yes...that is the technical term.  Mush it.  Cook for about 4 minutes until brown.  Carefully flip frittata (or grab another skillet of roughly the same size and turn out frittata).  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Serve with spinach tossed with a dressing of 2 parts hoisin sauce to one part red wine vinegar.

Please forgive my appearance.  It has been my last week of summer vacation, and I refused to shave.  Plus, how hot do you look after traveling for 18 hours?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Love them 'maters!

I love me a 'mater.

Sliced heirlooms sprinkled with a little salt and pepper.  A bright caprese drizzled with balsamic vinegar with tons of fresh basil.  Fresh grape tomatoes in a salad, exploding with 'matery goodness.  'Mater soup with a grilled cheese and 'mater sandwich. In braising sauces. In pastas. In couscous.  I love 'em.

However, some folks are not as enthusiastic about the tomato. 

Yet last night, I made a couple of skeptics true believers of the humble 'mater with the best darned side dish, perfect for steak or your backyard grill fest.

Roasted Tomatoes and Pepadews

Roasting the tomatoes with the garlic and thyme adds a wonderful depth of flavor, especially when combined with the bright, vinegary peppers and cilantro.

1 lb whole cherry tomatoes
4 cloves garlic (whole)
6-8 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup pepadew peppers, quartered
2 Tbl fresh cilantro
olive oil
salt 'n pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  On a baking sheet, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil onto the tomatoes, garlic cloves, and thyme.  Season them with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the flesh of the tomatoes begins to burst.  Set aside to cool slightly and discard garlic and thyme (although you may want to eat those roasty, toasty garlic cloves...yum).

In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, pepadews, and cilantro.  If it appears a bit dry, drizzle a little olive oil or pepadew vinegar over the whole shootin' match.  Toss together and serve. 

These are also fabulous at room temperature as the flavors will marry the longer they sit.  Just cover with plastic wrap.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Two Enthusiastic Thumbs up

When I first started this little project I had one goal in mind.

No, two.  Two goals in mind.

Wait....three.  Three.  I just thought of a third.

1)  To share my love of food and cooking.

2)  To encourage folks to step outside of their comfort zone and play with their food.

3)  I want to become the next Food Network Star (and become besties with Anne Burrell).

Last night, I experienced the most delightful combination of improvisation, food appreciation, humor and pathos:  a little film called The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  Think if Woody Allen had made Sideways with Brits and set it in northern England rather than Napa.

Do your self a favor.  Whip up a delicious plate of scallops, pour yourself a glass of Gavi, and watch this flick!

Seared Scallops with Grapefruit, Fennel and Yellow Pepper

A super simple dish that will totally impress.  The brightness of the grapefruit is a fantastic complement to the succulent sweet taste of the scallops. If you are not a fan of the grapefruit, substitute oranges.

1 lb.  bay scallops
2 ruby red grapefruit 
1/2 cup fennel, shaved (about 1 small bulb) 
2 Tbl reserved fennel fronds
1/2 yellow pepper, julienned
3 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl Pernod
salt 'n pepper

In a mixing bowl, toss together the fennel, yellow pepper, and grapefruit.  To prepare the grapefruit, cut off the top and bottom of one grapefruit to help steady that fruit.  Lay one of the flat ends on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, remove the skin and white pith.  Over the bowl, carefully run your knife between the fruit and the membrane to separate each grapefruit segment, removing any seeds.  Add the juice from the remaining grapefruit and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Set aside.

On a cutting board, pat those scallops dry, baby!  Season with salt and pepper.  Get a large saute pan screaming hot and place scallops seasoned side down into the dry pan.  Season the other side.  After three minutes, turn scallops (they should easily release from the pan) and cook for another two minutes.  Remove scallops from pan and immediately de glaze with Pernod.

The delish dish made with oranges.
Plating Bonanza:  nice little mound of relish in center of the plate, top with scallops, and finish with the Pernod love from the pan.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


No fuss.

Consider a spinach salad with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries, thinly sliced red onions sprinkled with ricotta salata, basil, and tarragon dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Are you considering?

I said, "Consider!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I am a practical person who has lived on a budget all of his life. Aside from the dining room table I bought for my 30th birthday, I tend to shy away from extravagant purchases or gigantic splurges.

Unless it comes to food.

Then I have no problem spending away. A $250 meal in Napa is completely's Michael Chiarello! $600 a month in groceries...I needed them.  Splurging on a whole salmon to make barbecue gravlax...?  Um, hello!  It was Tuesday...

So now I find myself soon to be without a regular paycheck.

But, mama still gotta eat good.

Necessity is the Mother of Invention (and Improvisation)!

Black Bean Cakes with Poached Egg and Avocado Cream

The egg makes for a delicious sauce. The avocado pushes it over the top!
This spicy little dish is perfect for brunch on a hot summer day and surprisingly easy to make! I'm sure you could be lah-dee-dah about it and soak your beans, but canned worked just fine.

Yields 6 cakes

2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed
2 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup pepadew peppers, minced
1 Chipotle pepper, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbl flour, plus 1/4 cup for dredging
2 Tbl cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
salt n' pepper

In a large bowl, mash up 2/3 of the beans using a potato masher.  Add remaining ingredients, including reserved beans, and stir to thoroughly combine ingredients. Roll up your sleeves, cuz it's gonna get messy.  Pat mixture into 6 cakes, approximately 3 inches in diameter.  Dredge each cake in flour.

Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook cakes for 7-10 minutes or until crisp enough to flip. Once flipped, cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Top each cake with Avocado Cream and a poached egg.

Avocado Cream

1 avocado
2 Tbl low fat Greek yogurt
Juice of one lime
pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt n' pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or food processor until smooth.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Hints on Perfectly Poached Eggs

* Make sure you use a large enough pot
* Add at least 3 Tbl white vinegar to simmering water
* Stir the water in one direction before adding the eggs.  The swirl will allow the eggs to fold back onto themselves creating the perfect little package.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Something Refreshing

In Memphis, it is 112.

I took my dog outside, and, if we stood in one place for too long of a time, he would lift up his wee, pork cop legs in a sad little "Burning Paw" dance.

As I have said, it is Africa hot.

Time to cool down and start a Harry Potter marathon.

Watermelon and Cucumber Sparkler

This refreshing little drink is great on its own, but feel free to spike it with either Hendrick's gin or cucumber vodka for a tasty adult beverage.

2 cups watermelon, cubed
1 cup cucumber, chopped
2 Tbl lime juice
1 Tbl honey
1 liter sparkling water
mint to garnish

Throw watermelon, cucumber, lime juice, and honey into a blender or food processor. Puree until smooth.  Pass mixture through a sieve extracting only the juice.  Pour into a pitcher and add sparkling water.  Stir well.  Serve over ice and garnish with mint.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Butt Is Going to the Beach...

...time to bust out the salad.

Caesar Salad with Asiago Crisps

The addition of arugula and cherry tomatoes brighten up the flavor of the romaine.  The crisps just make it a party.

2 heads romaine lettuce
I know 'chovies aren't everyone's cup of tea, but try 'em! You'll like 'em
2 cups arugula
1/12 cups cherry tomatoes
12 anchovy fillets (3 for each plate)

For The Best Damn Caesar Dressing Ever

4 anchovy fillets (oil packed)
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 egg
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp capers
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2Tbl Worcestershire sauce
a couple of dashes of hot sauce (I like Chipotle Tabasco)
ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil
In a small food processor, combine all ingredients except for oil. Mash it up good, until garlic, capers, and anchovies have become a paste. With the motor running, slowly add oil until dressing has thickened.  Pour over torn romaine and arugula.  Toss to combine.  Plate salad and top anchovies, tomatoes, and crisps.

For the Asiago Crisps

1/2 cup Asiago cheese, finely grated
Yields 12 crisps

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Sil-pad.  Arrange cheese in about 1" mounds.  Be sure to space them out as they will spread when you bake them.  Place on the middle rack of the oven.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.  Carefully remove from baking sheet using a spatula, they will be warm!  If you are feeling fancy, try laying them over the handle of a wooden spoon while they are still warm to create a fluted shape.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Psychological Problem

I have a psychological problem.

My friends would tell you I have many, however, the one that I most readily fess up to is the fact that I cannot stand an empty refrigerator.  I have a mini panic attack if I open up that fridge and it isn't just teeming with tasty vittles.  It's bad. 

So, when J and I returned from three weeks in San Francisco, I was downright giddy with anticipation for my inevitable trip to the grocery store.  And I went nutso.  I shopped with the wild abandon and unstoppable voracity of that baby gorilla in the trailer for that new Planet of the Apes movie, only not quite as homicidal.  Fresh fruit and produce, sausages and ground turkey, fizzy water and organic juices.  You name it and it went in the basket.  I drove home that day, trunk overflowing with grocery goodness, filled with the smug satisfaction of knowing that Mama was gonna be eatin' gooood for a while.

Then I realized that we would be leaving again in a week.

I have enough food to feed a third world nation. 


Over the next week, I did my best to feed the world (or at least a couple of friends) and had worked through most of the perishables.  Good job, me.  And then last night, I saw them.  Staring at me from the crisper drawer.  Those damn zucchinis.

What to do, what to do...

You work with what ya got, and you make soup!

This soup is great on its own or as a starter for a light summer meal.
Chilled Zucchini Soup with Lemongrass and Basil

Fresh lemongrass can be easily found in Asian food markets.  If you can't find it, you can use a prepared lemongrass paste (but those usually contain eeeevil corn syrup).

3 medium zucchinis, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks lemongrass
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, plus 1/4 cup chiffonade
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbl olive oil

In a large stock pot, cook onions for about five minutes in olive oil until they become translucent.  While onions are working, cut off the ends of the lemongrass stalks and whack the stalks with the back of your knife.  This releases the oils.  Add lemongrass and garlic to the pot and cook for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

To prepare the zucchini, slice off ends and make a cut down the center lengthwise.  Slice each half into 1/2" half moons.  Add to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Allow the vegetables to cook until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add water and stock.  Bring to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and add 1 cup of basil leaves.  Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.  Using a pair of tongs, fish out and discard lemongrass stalks.  They have fulfilled their destiny.  Puree the mixture with a hand mixer until smooth.  Pass soup through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids.  Add yogurt and puree entire mixture once more to smooth out the soup.  Allow to cool and refrigerate until completely chilled (at least 1 1/2 hours).

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a generous sprinkling of reserved basil leaves.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sometimes It's Better to KISS

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

A tasty way to start the day.

Greek Yogurt
Drizzle of Honey

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Soup

I've said it before and I'll say it again, "It's hot."

And, after my culinary stroll through San Francisco, I'm quickly looking like one of those unfortunate Wal Mart people.

So I am chubby and hot.

In an effort to cool off and slim down, I offer you...soup.

I'm sorry...I love this picture.

Chilled Carrot Soup with Dill

This is a fantastic little soup for hot summer nights. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and, vi-oh-lay, you've got dinner! Make it vegetarian by substituting water for the chicken stock. I find that veggie stock muddles the taste of this soup.

6 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
3 sprigs dill, plus 1 Tbl finely chopped
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbl olive oil

In a large pot, heat oil over a medium flame and add onions. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Create a bundle with the dill and thyme, and throw it into the pot.  Add carrots and cook until they soften a bit.  Add stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and discard the herb bundle. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Ladle the soup into a bowl through a sieve, pressing on solids and discard the pulp. Stir in reserved dill and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Garnish with a sprig of dill (and maybe a dollop of yogurt or sour cream).

Monday, June 27, 2011

'Tater Salad Revisited

As a kid, my mom was always in charge of bringing a salad to any church potluck.  Seven Layer salad, Caesar salad, some weird sort of Asian inspired thing with La Choy Chow Mein noodles in it (you know, to give it some crunch) name it, ask and Phyllis shall provide.

And she would provide it in the biggest Tupperware container my seven year old eyes had ever seen.  I mean this thing could hold a baby.  And not one of those Cabbage Patch Preemies, either.  I'm talkin' big enough to hold that unfortunate smoking baby big.

Okay.  So maybe not that big.

And someone should smack that baby's parents.


My fave was when my sweet mother would fill up that tub with her old school potato salad.  Good ol' Idaho Russets, finely chopped red onions, crunchy celery, and chunks of hard boiled eggs (why do all old school recipes have hard boiled eggs?)...all bathed in Hellmann's mayonnaise and a liberal sprinkling of Lawry's seasoned salt.  It was the most delicious, heart attack in a bowl I had ever eaten.

Well, summer is here, and, while I no longer attend church potlucks on a regular basis, it's always nice to revive a classic and put a new spin on it.  You never know when a potluck might pop up.

Now if only I could get my hands on that Tupperware...

Caramelized Onion 'Tater Salad 
Red, White, and Blue (ummmm...Purple) 'Tater Salad

'Tater Salad! with turkey cheeseburgers and asparagus.
I used a medley of red, purple, and Yukon gold new potatoes.  Feel free to use just one variety.  I do recommend using the smaller, new potatoes.  They'z prettier.  Having a hard time finding peppadews? Check out the salad bar!

2 1/2 lbs new potatoes, washed and quartered
2 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
4 celery stalks, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup peppadew peppers
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbl basil, chopped
2 sweet Vidalia onions, sliced
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
4 Tbl. butter
2 Tbl olive oil

3/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
1/4 mayonnaise
2 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 Tbl rice vinegar

In a large saute pan, heat butter and oil over a low flame.  Once melted, add sliced onions and cook them slowly, stirring occasionally, to bring out their natural sugars. When the onions have cooked down and are a beautiful golden caramel color, crank up the heat briefly and de glaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar, allowing it to reduce.  Remove from heat and set aside.

While the onions begin to cook down, get out a big ole pot and scrub them 'taters up good.  Slice them in half, then into quarters.  Dump 'em in the pot and cover with cold water.  Throw in the garlic cloves (whole), bay leaf, and season water liberally with salt.  Cover the pot and place on a high flame until they boil.  After they come to a boil, remove lid and simmer for about 5 more minutes until done.  A fork should slide easily into the potatoes, but they should still have a little bite to them. Drain potatoes and discard bay leaf and garlic.  You don't want to bite into that.

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, mayo, mustard, and rice vinegar.  Set aside.  While everything is cooking away, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the salad.  While the potatoes are still warm, combine all ingredients and toss with the dressing.  Allow to come to room temperature and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Season with salt and pepper.

If you like a creamier salad, add a touch more yogurt.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Da Bombe!

Here in Memphis it's hot.  As my friend C likes to say, "It's Africa hot."

So we were in need of something to cool us off.


Lemon and Vanilla Ice Cream Mosaic with Blackberry Puree

This is so freakin' easy to make, and there are endless possibilities with flavor combinations.  If you want to feel fancy, play around with adding some liqueurs to the puree.

1 pint lemon sorbet
2 pints vanilla ice cream
10 oz blackberries
2 Tbl sugar

Let the ice cream and sorbet soften in the fridge for about 30 minutes (or if you are in Memphis, just walk outside for a sec with it).  Place berries and sugar in a blender and mash 'em up good.  Strain through a sieve, pushing against the solids with a spoon.  Pop it into the fridge while you prepare your pan.

Lightly grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper or plastic wrap.  Spoon in the sorbet and ice cream so that the two are separate and evenly distributed about the pan.  Drizzle the blackberry sauce in between.  Continue to add layers of ice cream and fruit.  Using the back of a spoon, press down on the ice cream to remove air pockets.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until solid (about 3 hours).

Turn over pan onto a platter.  The mosaic should just slide out.  Slide in a thin knife if it needs a little coaxing.  Slice and drizzle with extra sauce.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I've Always Been Partial to Swine

So...there I was.  Back in M-Town, in my friend's kitchen, charged with preparing her a delightful meal on what was to be her last Friday night off until August. 

Tired of fast food and all things chicken, C asked for something tasty that was fresh, summery, and perhaps of the sea.  No problem. 

And we began to prepare a delicious hoisin glazed salmon with grilled asparagus and kale.

That's when it got funky.  And not in a good way.   The beautiful piece of fish I had purchased was decidedly...err...shall we say...past its prime.  However, I did not panic!  As C slowly recovered from the vicious assault on her olfactories, we hopped into the car and found perhaps an even better vessel for my Asian inspired goodness:  pork chops!

With the stank gone and delectable pig parts in hand, we got those chops marinating and grilling within minutes and Friday night was saved.

The Pork is mightier than the Salmon.

Hoisin Glazed Pork Chops

This glaze is great on chicken and, yes, even salmon.  If you are using it with fish, skip the marinade and brush on as you grill.

1/3 cup Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbl rice vinegar
1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 Tbl cilantro, chopped
1 Tbl. fresh ginger, chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbl olive oil

4 boneless pork loin chops, butterflied (6oz)

Place all of the ingredients minus the olive oil in a small food processor.  Whir away until smooth.  With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Place chops in a glass casserole dish and cover with marinade, reserving 1/3 to use as a sauce.  Let those suckers soak up the gingery, cilantro-y, hoisin-y goodness for at least 30 minutes (but no longer than an hour).

Preheat grill pan to medium high heat.  Throw on the chops and let them do their thing for about 7 minutes.  Flip and continue to cook for an additional 5 (for a nice medium).  Allow to rest.  Spoon on reserved marinade and enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

More From San Fran: A Little Indian in the Castro

J chowing down on his thali!
If you are looking for some fantastic Indian food while in San Francisco, look no further than Kasa.  This wonderful little "fast food" joint in the Castro offers amazing, homestyle Indian food that is beyond tasty and super cheap.  You can get either a Thali (the Indian version of a Southern meat and three) or Kati rolls (think a tiny Indian burrito), both of which will have your tastebuds dancing like a Bollywood musical.  What ever you do, don't miss out on the daal (a thick stew of cumin spiced lentils) or the karahi paneer (delicious Indian cheese served with sauteed green peppers and tomatoes).

Resolution:  I am going to figure out how to make me some daal and, if I'm feeling crafty, some homemade paneer.

Don't be scurrrred.  Try something new!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Makin' It Smell Like Home

I am a nester.

I never thought I would fess up to it, but I am.  Gone are the days of longing to be out and about in the thick of things.  I love being at home and futzing away in the kitchen.  J and I have been spending a great deal of time in San Francisco this summer, and, although it's been fantastic running around the city gorging ourselves on the fantastic food, something has seemed out of place.

Our place just didn't smell like home.

Well, I fixed that by fixin' a good ole roasted chicken.  Nothing makes a house feel like a home than the comforting smells of simple cookin' wafting through the joint.

Try it.  You'll like it.

That's what I'm talkin' about.
Roasted Chicken with Fennel and Lemon

The lemon and the fennel come together beautifully to make a bright, fresh taste that you won't mind turning on your oven even on the hottest of summer nights!

 1 5 lb chicken
3 lemons, plus the zest and juice of another lemon (so I guess that would be a total of 4)
2 yellow onions
1 head of garlic
2 fennel bulbs
Healthy squirt of anchovy paste
1 Tbl parsley, minced
1 tsp rosemary, minced (plus 2-3 sprigs for a bouquet)
1 tsp tarragon, minced (plus 2-3 sprigs for a bouquet)
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbl olive oil
1 cup prosecco
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 Tbl flour
pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt n' pepper

Preheat oven to 450.

Slice onions, fennel, and three lemons into halves, then thirds. Place a majority of the veggies in the bottom of a roasting pan.  The rest will be used to stuff the cavity of the bird. Drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Slice garlic bulb in half horizontally.  No need to peel it.  Rinse off bird, inside and out, and pat dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and place in the roasting pan on top of the vegetables.  Stuff bird with remaining onions, fennel, lemons, garlic, and rosemary/tarragon bouquet.  Tie legs together with kitchen twine.

In a small bowl, combine mustard, anchovy paste, lemon juice, zest, herbs, and red pepper. Drizzle in oil while whisking.  Slather that mixture all over the bird.  Cover with foil and place in oven.  After 45 minutes, remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes or until bird is done (165 degrees).  Remove chicken from pan, allowing it to rest for 15 minutes under a foil tent.

Place roasting pan over two burners on a medium high heat.  De glaze the pan with the prosecco, using a wooden spoon to get up those yummy brown bits.  Reduce wine by at least half.  Add flour and cook for 3 minutes stirring constantly.  Add stock and simmer, whisking to remove any lumps.

Carve up the bird, and spoon the lemony, oniony, fennely goodness all over that sucker!