Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Wine Blog Wednesday #16

With the challenge by Derrick to choose a wine this month that's just another pretty face, I wandered around the wine shop, discarding first one, then another, until I saw this wine. Isn't that a cute label? I love a winemaker with a sense of humor (the clever wine names from Bonny Doon come to mind). I was hoping for something a little more....shall we say esoteric...than a chardonnay but I just had to have it! And at $6.00 a bottle how much was I risking?

I was making pasta, and picked up a pomegranate at the grocery store. The sauce turned out to be a sort of herbed alfredo with sautéed chicken and pomegranate seeds. (I'll post the recipe when I make it again and get proportions. It was definitely worth making again.)

Some web searching reveals that the winery, Rex Goliath , located in Monterey County, California, makes several varietals under this label, supposedly named after a huge rooster that traveled with a Texas circus in the early 20th century.

We opened the wine and poured it. Our first whiff was not impressive. It seemed a bit short on the bouquet, with dusty overtones, which fortunately blew off after a couple of minutes, leaving a much more pleasant impression to the nose.

We tasted it. A hint of toasted oak, a bit of citrus and maybe apples. A little too acid for my taste at first. But it mellowed out with a few minutes in the glass. The finish, while pleasant, was not lingering. However I must say, the pasta, the creamy sauce and the tartness of the pomegranate seeds really did work well with the wine.

The final comment? I'd give it 8 to10 out of 20 points. Would I buy it again? I think for the price it was far better than I would have expected. I probably will, since it was one of the better inexpensive wines I've tried in a while.

And isn't that an cute label? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"French Leftover Beef"

Posted by Picasa When I was a young bride in Louisville, my husband and I were both school teachers and would occasionally be invited to the home of students for dinner. Since I taught French and he was a Fine Arts teacher, we usually had the kind of student that would allow us to accept: reasonably good students who were reasonably well behaved.

One of the homes we most enjoyed was that of Victor and Harriet Engelhard. They had three sons, all of whom one or the other of us taught. They lived in a real log cabin in the middle of a green woodsy area. Granted, it was a four bedroom, multi-bath home with all the modern conveniences, but the log-walled interior was as warm and welcoming as the hosts.

Mrs. Engelhard is an excellent cook. I have several recipes from her that I still use often. One is for “French Leftover Beef.” a recipe she got from a woman’s magazine years ago. It makes yesterday’s roast or steak worth saving, or as I sometimes do, cooking extra to make this dish. Recently I was left with some leftover roasted beef tenderloin (now that doesn’t happen often, does it?) and decided to make the dish for friends.

As I was getting ready to write about it for you, I was re-reading Elizabeth David’s “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine,” a collection of her newspaper and magazine writings. In it she mentions boeuf miroton, “the time-honored dish of every Frenchwoman who had to deal with…beef leftovers.” Of course I went looking for it in my French cookbooks and in the Larousse Gastronomique, the last word in French cuisine.

I came up with several variations of the recipe; this dish is indeed a version of boeuf miroton. Most of the French recipes call for putting beef slices on an oven-proof dish, covering with the sauce and baking, and none called for sugar, but everything else was present in one version or another. The French usually recommend this for leftovers of pot au feu (boiled beef), but I have used it successfully with roast, braised or even grilled beef.

All you really need to accompany the dish is a big green salad and cheese toasts. Butter slices of French bread, sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese, dust with paprika, and run under the broiler to brown just before serving. I think your friends will enjoy it as much as mine did…and there won’t be any leftovers!


2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup dry vermouth (or other dry white wine)
1/2 cup beef stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sweet paprika
1-1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1-1/2 tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups cooked beef, in 1” chunks or thick strips

Sauté the onions in the oil until golden. Add the flour and stir until lightly browned. Add the remaining ingredients except beef and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the beef and simmer for 15 minutes more, adding a bit more beef stock if it gets too thick. Serve on a platter surrounded with cheese toasts. Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Splendid Table Soirée

A few weeks ago, WKNO, our local public radio station, brought Lynn Rosetto Kasper to Memphis for a fun filled weekend. If you listen to her weekly show, the Splendid Table, you will be truly jealous to know that I was blessed to play sous-chef to her cooking class at the Viking Center. here in Memphis on Friday, and then on Saturday evening, we did a private, WKNO members only dinner at Mantia's.

If you have ever met "famous" people, you have learned that sometimes they can be distant and condescending...and others are every bit as warm, charming and knowledgeable as you would have thought. Lynn is truly one of the latter. After a few bites of each course, she was up and mingling from table to table, chatting, answering questions, and socializing. As far as the questions go, I listen regularly to her show (and in fact, am an underwriter for her show...which is Public Radio's term for "sponsor"). At the tail end of each show, she invites folks to call in with questions. I had always envisioned her sitting in front of a computer with all the search engines going full blast, and a staff of several sitting around her with tons of resource books. Not so! She fielded some pretty obscure questions with an enormous amout of knowledge...I was impressed and I don't impress easily!

She's written two books, The Splendid Table, which won a number of awards, and The Italian Country Table. Both are delightful to read for the background stories, as well as to cook from. Our dinner came from her cookbooks, and just to let you know what you missed, here is the menu, with the wines, selected by Elizabeth Mall of Delta Wholesale, a house here with a great list of Italian wines:

Aperitivo e Crostini
Little toasts with amusing toppings
Zardetto Prosecco Brut

Antipasti Misti
A plate of tantalizing bites
Cusumano Insolia Sicilia IGT 2004

Fusilloni con Salsa di Porcini con Pomodori
Spiral pasta with Piancenza's Porcini-Tomato Sauce
Cusumano Nero d'Avola Sicilia IGT 2004

Pollo a Due Tempi Il Vecchio Molinetto
Erminia's Pan Crisped Baby Hens
Fagliolini alla Bolognese
Sauteed green beans bolognese
Palladio Chianti DOC 2002

Budino all'Emiliana
Cinnamon and Clove Custards
Vigna Moscoti d'Asti Piemonte 2003 DOC

Saturday, November 12, 2005

More Catfish

I have gotten several e-mails asking for Sonny's catfish cake recipe referenced in my column of a couple of weeks ago, and posted yesterday. Never one to ignore my adoring public (you DO adore me, don't you?) here it is:


1-1/2 lb catfish filets
4 ounces Sonny Salt
1 each red, yellow and green bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
3 green onions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1 egg
1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Sonny Salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
2-3 cups bread crumbs, divided
(can be fresh, or packaged plain crumbs)
Vegetable oil for frying

In a large pot, bring about 4 quarts water and 4 ounces Sonny Salt to a boil. Add the whole catfish filets. Cook 10 minutes, remove from the water, drain and chill.

In a mixing bowl, combine the vegetables and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg. Add the worchestshire, mayonnaise, mustard, 1 tbsp Sonny Salt and black pepper. Whisk to combine well.

Break up the catfish to the size of lump crabmeat. Fold gently into the egg mixture until well coated. Add 1/2 cup of the veggies and 1/4 cup bread crumbs and fold gently to combine.

Put the remaining breadcrumbs on a baking sheet. Using an ice cream scoop, pick up about 1/2 cup of the mixture. Form into a pattie and put on top of the bread crumbs. Press gently to coat, then turn over and coat the other side.

Heat enough oil in a heavy skillet to come to 1/4" to 1/2" depth. Carefully pick up the patties, brushing off excess crumbs. Cook in the oil for 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Serve with a green salad and cocktail sauce (catsup, lemon juice, horseradish, tobasco, worchestershire and Sonny Salt, combined to your taste).

NOTE: These can also be made in 1" size, for great appetizers!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fancy Catfish

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As you all know, I am blessed with a cadre of friends who are great cooks. A few weeks ago I went to a catfish feast at the home of Sonny and Ginger Reese. Sonny, who in his "day job" is a manufacturer's representative selling commercial sound and paging systems, is the cook of the family. He also does occasional wedding photography, strictly by word of mouth, almost as a hobby. But food is one of his passions, and he takes every opportunity to cook and entertain friends.

When a house fire a few years ago did considerable damage to the kitchen, it was redesigned with Sonny in mind. The range, sink and cabinets are several inches taller than usual height. Ginger, who teaches English at Lausanne, and is a much shorter person than Sonny, is happy to sit back and let Sonny do it all! The remodeling includes an island that overlooks the cooking area, with tall chairs so guests can sit, chat, watch and share the treats as they come off the stove.

And that evening the treats were flying off the stove! Our first bites were excellent little hush puppies, crisp and brown on the outside, moist and fluffy on the inside. Next we had catfish cakes with a spicy cocktail sauce and grated parmesan cheese for dipping.

Then came a massive platter of fried catfish, with cole slaw and fries. And finally, when we all thought we couldn't possible eat more, a wonderful catfish meuniere, Creole style, with a zesty pecan butter sauce. Every dish was seasoned with "Sonny Salt." This is a unique blend of seasonings, which he created and has recently started having packaged to sell commercially. He uses it pretty much anytime a recipe calls for salt.

And we still weren't finished: for dessert we had a great lemon pie with just the right sharp citrus taste to top off such an abundance of food!

I had such a hard time trying to decide which dish to share with you...but the final dish of the evening was so tasty that I thought that this is the one you would most like to recreate. It looks like a long recipe, but some of it can be done ahead. And all it needs is a crisp green salad on the side. Give it a try!


Pecan butter:
3 tbsp soft butter
2 tbsp roasted pecans
3 tbsp lemon juice

Meuniere sauce:
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup seafood or chicken stock
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup butter

6 catfish filets, about 6 ounces each
3 tbsp Sonny Salt*
2 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup butter
8 ounces roasted pecans

Make the pecan butter: place all ingredients into a food processor and process to a smooth puree. Set aside.

Make the meuniere sauce: Combine flour and water to a smooth paste. Set aside. In a saucepan, bring stock, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to a boil. With a wire whisk, beat some of the hot stock mixture into the flour paste. Then gradually pour the flour mixture back into the stock, whisking constantly. Simmer briefly, then whisk the butter in a tablespoon at a time.

For the fish, sprinkle the filets with two tablespoons of Sonny Salt. Set aside. In a pie plate, beat eggs with milk. In another, mix the flour with the remaining Sonny Salt. Dip filets first in flour, then in the egg mixture, then in the flour mixture again and set aside on a baking sheet.

In a large skillet, heat half the butter over medium heat. Add half the catfish and cook 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown, turning once. Transfer to warmed serving platter and cook remaining filets.

To serve, spread the pecan butter evenly over the filets and sprinkle with the pecans. Warm the meuni?re sauce and pour over the top. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

NOTE: Sonny Salt is available locally in several specialty markets, including Mantia's. If you aren't in the Memphis area, use a good brand of seasoning salt, or e-mail us and we'll send it to you!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Entertaining meme...

Without a doubt this is my most indispensable entertaining item. I have lots of plate, platters, bowls, silver and pewter serving pieces, and sets of dishes to serve a cast of millions (well, perhaps I exagerate there...).

But what I love the most is a flower pot, made not of clay but of some sort of sort of foamy plastic, so it doesn't weigh a ton. I can fill it up with wine and ice--it will hold four or five bottles of wine--and first, IT DOESN'T SWEAT! So I can put it on almost any surface without worrying about water spots or white rings. Secondly, it makes for good insulation, and if I fill it up with wine and ice, the ice will be there long after the wine is gone, so I don't have to worry about keeping the wine cold.

I got three of these at Sam's Wholesale Club a couple of years ago and if memory serves, I paid around $8 each. One of my best investments!

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Warming lamb soup...

If you're a regular reader you know that since my accident, I've been peering into my freezer frequently to see what's hidden in there. And I've found some great forgotten goodies. This week I found a solitary lone lamb shank. Why would I do that, do you think? I mean, if I were cooking for guests and had one extra, wouldn't I have cooked that one to be sure of leftovers? Surely I didn't buy just one... It's a mystery.

Anyway, even though the weather here in Memphis is unseasonably warm for November--we set a record on Tuesday with a high of 86 F--I made soup. I've had Scotch Broth a few times but had never made it. I will certainly do it again! And if the weather had been chilly and damp it would have been even better. It may not look "pretty" but it sure was tasty. And as is true for many great soups, it is equally good the next day!


1 leek
2 tbsp butter
1 large lamb shank, or 1 lb lamb breast, shoulder or stew meat
1/2 cup medium grain barley
Water, as needed
2 medium turnips
2 carrots
4 stalks celery
1 medium onion
Salt and pepper to taste

Trim off the tough green tops and the root end of the leek. Cut the remaining white and pale green part in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2" slices. Melt the butter in a large heavy pot and cook the leek over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Put the lamb into the pot, just cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer, skimming as needed, for 30 minutes. Add barley and cook for 45 minutes more, or until the lamb is very tender, adding water just as needed to keep lamb barely covered. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the lamb, let cool slightly and remove from the bones in chunks. Discard bones and return the lamb to the pot.

Peel the turnips, carrots and onion and dice. Cut the celery into 1/4" slices. Add the veggies to the pot and simmer until tender, another 20-30 minutes. The lamb shank wasn't very fatty, but if you have too much fat, you can skim off the excess. Serves 6-8. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Apple-Cardamom Sabayon Gratin

I needed something sweet to go after a soup supper with friends last night. I didn't want to have to go to the market, so I looked at what I had. Apples! I caramelized them in a bit of butter and brown sugar, put them in gratin dishes and covered them with a brandy-cardamom sabayon (or zabaglione, if you prefer) and ran them under the broiler. The picture doesn't do them justice, I thought they were yummy. We had some tasty little cookies to go with them, but I wish I had put a little scoop of rich vanilla ice cream on top. Coffee ice cream would have been good, too.


6 good-sized firm apples (I used Fiji)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp brown sugar
6 egg yolks
5 tbsp white sugar
5 tbsp brandy
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 pinch salt

Peel and cored the apples and cut into thick wedges. In a heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook about 5 minutes, turning gently, until the apples are lightly browned. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook until almost tender. Remove the cover and cook until the juices are reduced and the apples are caramelized. Divide among six individual gratin dishes.

In a small heavy sauce pan, whisk together the egg yolks, white sugar, brandy, cardamom and salt. Over low heat, whisk until just starting to thickened. Don't overcook or you'll have scrambled eggs! Spoon over the apples.

Preheat your broiler. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the sabayon is lightly golden and just barely set.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fall Ravioli!

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"What can I do with pumpkin besides pie?" "What can I do with chestnuts besides stuffing?" Those are two questions I've been asked recently. I think I've found an answer to both!

A while back one of my cooking buddies and I decided to make ravioli from scratch. It was made a bit easier by the fact that I have a pasta rolling machine with a little motor on it. Still, it took both of us quite a while to get it done, with the pasta dough making, the resting, the rolling several times until the pasta sheet was thin enough and the forming of the raviolis. And at the end the kitchen and both of us looked as if a flour bag had exploded!

You're probably not going to do that, are you? And the next time we did it, we didn't go through all that, either. It is very easy to make ravioli using wonton wrappers. They are, after all, just pasta.

Here's the technique: Pick your filling and get it ready. You don't have to dust your work surface with flour, as you do with fresh pasta, but do make sure it is completely dry. Lay out one wonton wrapper and put a heaping teaspoonful of filling in the center. Brush the edges with water and top with another wrapper. Mold the center of the top wrapper around the filling to eliminate any air pockets, then press the edges together to seal. If you like, you may use a pastry cutter to "pink" the edges, or a cookie cutter to make rounds.

Put the ravioli on a cookie sheet and cover with a towel for about 1/2 hour before cooking, or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook. To cook, slip one by one into a pot of barely boiling salted water. They are done about 30 seconds after they rise to the top, or 3-4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander to drain.

The sauce is the same for both: just before serving, melt a stick of butter, add a splash of white wine and simmer a minute or two. Add two tablespoons of fresh sage, cut into thin strips. Save a few sage leaves to garnish the plate.

For your dinner, simply add a big green salad with a drizzle each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and some crusty bread.


1 cup roasted chestnuts
2 tbsp pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup water
1 tart cooking apple, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice

Coarsely chop the chestnuts. In a large skillet, cook the pancetta or bacon in the butter until almost crisp. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until the shallot is tender, but not browned. Add the chestnuts and the water and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and mash the chestnuts with a fork. Stir in the diced apple. Add salt and pepper to taste, and use to fill ravioli. After cooking, drizzle with the sage butter, grate a good imported parmesan over the top, garnish with sage leaves and serve at once.


1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can pure pumpkin (NOT pie filling)
or two cups cooked and purée fresh pumpkin
2 tbsp mango chutney, minced
A light grating of fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in the butter until just barely tender. Add the garlic and cook until tender and lightly golden brown. Add the pumpkin, chutney, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Heat gently for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Make and sauce your ravioli according to the instructions above.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Creole Crawfish!

I was poking around in the freezer and found a bag of frozen crawfish tails begging to be cooked. Hmm...I had several pasta ideas, but I was needing something for a sort of first course before a dinner-level soup. I dug around in my files and came up with a handwritten recipe. In a handwriting I don't recognize. Looking at the ingredients, it had to date from my days in New Orleans, almost 20 years ago. But it sounded quite tasty and just what I needed. And in fact I must say it was even tastier than it sounded! If you try it, be sure to get the crawfish tail meat that comes in bags with the juices and fat crom the crawfish. And don't forget the bread!
Here it is:

3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onion, with some of the green top, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup REAL mayonnaise
1/4 cup Zatarains creole mustard, or other whole grain mustard
2 tsp parsley, minced
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 egg
1 lb crawfish meat,
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Heat the butter in a sauté pan and add the veggies. Cook over medium high heat until tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, worcestershire, salt, cayenne and peppers. Blend well, then whisk in the egg. Add the crawfish with all the juices from the bag and gently toss.

Spoon into 8 half-cup ramekins. Pour 2 tbsp heavy cream over each. Sprinkle with paprika and baked until browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately with crusty bread to dip into the juices. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

French Paradox Round Table

I happened across this interesting article in The Morning News, a daily online magazine. It details a discussion by several French women who happen to be food bloggers as well, about the French paradox...or why French women don't get fat. I have spent no small amount of time in France, mostly in my younger days, and it brought back memories of the way I ate and lived there. Even eating what I thought was great amounts of new and richer foods, I inevitably lost weight there. Check it out and see how your diet and daily activity compares!

Is My Blog Burning - Soufflé

This is definitely a cheater's soufflé. I've been making it for years, and have never given out the recipe. It's WAY too simple. Here it is: 6 egg whites, beaten until stiff. Gently fold in one can of Solo apricot filling, available at most supermarkets. Put into six one-cup ramekins (one big soufflé dish won't work). Bake in a preheated 375 oven until puffed and golden, 15-20 minutes. Serve at once with fresh berries, or in a pinch, a package of frozen raspberries, thawed. That's it.

I usually take the filling out of the can before dinner (so my guests won't see how easy it is!). It's short work to whisk up the egg whites (a big copper bowl seems to help to give more volume) when you're ready to bake them.

Promise you won't tell anyone I know about this...

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What fun!

Well, don't say I don't keep you informed of fun things to do. Next week we must all head over to Pulaski, TN (a little south of Nashville) for the Chili, Cappuccino and Cornbread on the Square.

An annual event, held this year on October 27, they claim to have the best chili east of Texas, with prizes for team spirit, booths and of course, the hot stuff!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spanish Potato-Chorizo Gratin

Baked and yummy! Posted by Picasa

I love reading about food almost as much as cooking and eating it. Recently our chef lent me a book about regional foods of Spain, a large book with lots of pictures. I've been reading it bits at a time.

It brings to mind the trip I took a few years back with two friends. We spent about a week in Madrid, and then did what I like to do best when traveling. We rented a car and just took off in the general direction we wanted to go. We would look for a hotel in whatever town we found ourselves when we decided to stop, staying as long as we wanted.

I like to stay off the superhighways; you meet people and often find better places to eat in small towns or along the side of the road.

One day we were ready for lunch. It was sort of an understood rule that the driver got to choose the lunch spot and I was driving this particular day. Passing what was quite obviously a truck stop, I made a U-turn and went back. Three women entering among all those truckers might have been unusual, but three American women (or more precisely, two American and one English) had to have been a first. We seated ourselves, as the sign directed, but were escorted to a separate dining room, the larger being reserved for truckers only. We had a charming waiter and a great meal. In my journal I noted a potato-chorizo gratin.

Recently I invited friends to give it a try. I am not going to swear that this is the exact same dish, but golly, it sure is tasty.

I used Yukon Gold potatoes, but red potatoes would be equally successful. Baking potatoes get too soft and mealy in a gratin for my taste. Be sure to wash the leeks well; they are good at hiding bits of sand between their layers. If you can find sweet Spanish chorizo (which bears NO resemblance to the hot, fresh Mexican kind). use it. I used slicing pepperoni, which is similar in taste and texture. Manchego is a wonderful mild sheep's milk cheese from Spain, available in cheese and gourmet shops. You could substitute any semi soft sheep cheese, or in a pinch, Danish Havarti. This can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving. Add crusty bread, a glass of wine and a Flamenco CD and you're set for a rustic Spanish dinner.


1-1/2 lb potatoes
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 bunch (3 large) leeks
1/2 lb young Manchego in one wedge
6 oz Spanish chorizo or pepperoni, not too thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until just barely tender. Drain and let cool. Cut the root ends off the leeks and cut in half lengthwise. Rinse well and drain. Cut crosswise into 1Ó slices, up to and including the light green part. Discard the tough top dark green leaves. In a skillet cook the leeks in the butter until soft and translucent. Spread on the bottom of a gratin dish or shallow baking pan. Arrange the chorizo or pepperoni on top.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange over the sausage and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the wedge of Manchego on its side (so it is resting on a cut side) and cut off the thin brown top slice. Cut into thin pie-shaped wedges, discarding the bottom brown slice. You can leave the outside brown on the wedges, it is olive oil that was rubbed on during the curing process.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Paper Chef #11

Autumn Pain Perdu Posted by Picasa

During the warmer months (most of them here in Memphis) standard breakfast food doesn't seem to do much for me. A glass of OJ and a piece of toast fills the bill.

But when the weather starts to cool, and the pumpkins start to appear in the farmers' markets, along with the new crop of apples and pears, a heartier dish starts to look more appealing.

This month's Paper Chef ingredients include duck, nut butter, ginger and pears. is not among my favorite foods, and not readily available here (except in the oriental markets and then you have to deal with things like heads and feet). But we sell duck fat at the shop, and I had half a sourdough boule needing attention. "Pain perdu," the French version of French toast, it had to be.

Autumn Pain Perdu

1/2 large sourdough boule
3 tbsp macadamia nut butter
6 tbsp cream cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half (or milk)
a good pinch of salt
4 tbsp duck fat

One red pear
One Asian pear
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup Meyers rum
Saigon cinnamon

Cut the boule into four 1-1/2" thick slices. With a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each slice of bread. Mix the nut butter and cream cheese and stuff into the pockets. Whisk the eggs, cream and salt together. Pour into a flat pan and add the bread. Let soak briefly on one side, and turn to the other about half-way through the cooking of the pears.

Core and thinly slice the unpeeled pears. In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter. Add the ginger and stir a bit, pressing on the bits with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the pears and sugar. Toss and stir until the pears start to caramelize but are still crisp. Warm the rum slightly, pour over the pears and flame. (Or, if flaming makes you nervous, simmer a bit more to cook off the alcohol).

In another heavy skillet, melt the duck fat over medium heat. Add the stuffed bread and cook, turning once, until both sides are nicely browned. Remove to a plate, top with the pears and dust with the cinnamon.

Serves four.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wine tasting

For those who were at the shop last evening for the wine tasting, here are the wines we had:

Via Bisol Prosecco Brut (NV)
Lolonis Red Wood Valley Chardonnay (sorry I don't have the vintage)
Zaca Mesa Viognier 2003
B.R. Cohn Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Hardy's Whiskers Blake Port (NV)

And as promised, here is the recipe for the honey lavender vinaigrette:

1 sm Red onion; chopped
2 ts Lavender flowers; dried
2/3 c Rice wine vinegar
4 tb Dijon mustard
1/2 c Honey
2 c Extra-virgin olive oil

Place onion in food processor and puree. Add lavender, vinegar, mustard and honey and pulse until well blended. With processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil. Refrigerate for 24 hours for flavors to mellow. Good on any kind of salad, especially main-dish salads featuring seafood or poultry.

Chef Luke marinated the chicken satŽs in this overnight, then skewered and grilled them. Then he sent out additional sauce for dipping. I thought this was GREAT with the viognier, didn't you?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Spanish Travel Site

If you are planning a trip to Spain, you need to see this great Spanish food site. Besides some very interesting recipes, there is a wealth of information, and links to pages and pages of food culture goodies. There are also links to Spanish history sites, which, now that I think about it is pretty important in understanding the way Spanish cooking has evolved! There is even a link to the "real' music of Spain, with some sites that offer audio clips. If you think Spanish food, culture and music is like Mexican, you MUST check this out!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Last-of-the-Basil Mussels

End-of-Summer Mussels Posted by Picasa

I think I probably picked the last of the basil this weekend. Somehow basil means summer to me: red ripe tomatoes from the farmers' market and basil, or grilled seafood or chicken brushed with basil pesto and grilled, or with the spicy leaves torn into a salad. And picking the last of the basil signals the end of summer.

Another thing that means summer to me is mussels, probably because the first time I had them was in the summer on the Mediterranean coast. The family I was visiting built a great huge fire of grape vine trimmings, put a sort of fine meshed grate over them and poured mussels that had been coated with olive oil and herbs right on top. As they opened, we raked them off and, blowing on them and on our fingers, ate as many as we could hold, licking the charred herbs from the shells. I was hooked!

Well, we're not likely to do that in our back yards, are we? But mussels, one of the few shellfish I really like, are very easily available here and we can use the last of our fresh basil to make a great end-of-summer dish.

The mussels, which you have kept refrigerated, covered with a damp towel, need to be cooked at the last minute, but it will only take about 15 minutes, so you can have a nice glass of wine and nibble on a few olives with your friends first. Just be sure to have plenty of crusty bread to soak up the delicious juices!

(Italian inspired mussels)

2 pounds of fresh mussels
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large sprigs basil, chopped, stems and all
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup almond meal
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
Salt and pepper
More basil for garnish

Give the mussels a good rinse in cold running water. Pick over them, discarding any that are open and won't close when you give them a little tap on the counter on their pointy end.

Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven, add the garlic and stir a time or two. Add the basil, white wine and mussels. Cover and cook over medium heat until they are all opened, which could be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the mussels to a bowl and reserve.

Meanwhile, mix the almond meal with the vegetable stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and cook the onion and celery until transparent.

Strain the mussel cooking liquid into the almond stock and add the onion mixture. Taste and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Return the mussels to the pan and just heat barely through. Ladle into flat soup bowls, garnish with a sprig and basil and enjoy!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Panini and tramezzini galore! Posted by Picasa

There's a little something I feel obliged to clear up: The Italian word "panini" is NOT singular. It means "little breads." It is NOT, as I have heard from those who should know better, necessarily a grilled sandwich. It is the plural of the word "panino" which is a small roll baked so the whole roll is the right size for a single sandwich. It is often filled with prosciutto, salami, cheese and/or veggies. In bar-caffés in Italy, there is often a hot ridged grill used if one wants his panino warmed.

Sandwiches on what we might call "sandwich bread," or sliced white bread, are more properly known as "tramezzini' (also a plural word). They can also be found in the bar-caffés in Italy and often have herbs or other greenery included and are rarely grilled. The crusts are usually cut off and they are usually cut into triangles.

The picture above, from a bar-caffé in Bologna, shows both sorts of sandwiches. The ones on the rolls are the more likely ones to be grilled. The ones with the lovely arugula draping out from it are more likely to be eaten cool.

Just wanted to get that off my chest. I feel better now.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Simple Seafood Croquettes Posted by Picasa

I admit to being an incurable cookbook addict. I have been for years. I have hundreds of them. I still can't possibly go to a bookstore and walk past the bargain book table without perusing the available cookbooks. Some are hopeless, but I figure that if I can find a book with a good recipe or two for a couple of bucks, it's money well spent.

Recently I happened across one of these on my bookshelf, titled "Two Dollar Dinners," by Paul Gayler, (Artus Books, London, 1996). It had a bargain book sticker on it that indicates that I had paid a mere $2.98 for it. I hadn't picked it up for quite a while, and rifled through it to see what I might want to try. There were a number of recipes that I just don't think we're going to talk about: Hot Dog Fusilli, Tian of Sardines, French Onion Soup with Herring Crostini, or Cabbage, Turnip and Blood Sausage Soup.

However, the book fell open to a sure sign of a recipe I had liked: dirty, splashed pages. This one was for "Shanghai fishburgers with cumin and ginger ketchup." A great meal, I thought, for a casual weekend supper. I made a few changes to accommodate my taste, including changing the fishburger title to one more appealing. And voila!

Seafood Croquettes with Cumin-Ginger Aioli

1 lb boneless filet of white fish: cod, tilapia, or catfish
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
3 green onions, minced, using 1" of the green part
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp cornstarch
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
Lettuce leaves, for garnish

For the aioli:
1/2 cup real mayonnaise
1 tbsp catsup
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped

In a food processor, pulse the fish several times, or until just finely minced, not pureed. (Or you can do this by hand.) Transfer to a bowl and add the ginger, onion, cilantro, pepper flakes, soy sauce, eggs and cornstarch. Season lightly with salt and pepper and refrigerate at least an hour, and up to 8 hours.

Mix together all the ingredients for the aioli and refrigerate.

Shape the fish mixture into 8 small croquettes. Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté over medium heat until golden, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain briefly on paper towels. Serve atop a leaf of lettuce with a dollop of aioli on each one. Serves four.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Easy Party: A Quesadilla Buffet!

A Quesadilla Bar is a Great Way to Entertain! Posted by Picasa

Holy guacamole, did we have a good time or what? Recently, a few friends wanted to get together, but none of us had the time to do much in the way of cooking. I had just read in trade magazines about the popularity of quesadillas in fast-casual restaurants, and thought "What about a quesadilla buffet?"

So here's what we did: I picked up some nifty crunchy snacks at one of the Hispanic markets. Our host made a pitcher of margaritas.

Then we gathered together some interesting sounding bottled salsas: raspberry, apple, and a couple of tomato-based ones. We had red pepper jelly, Major Grey chutney, roasted red bell peppers and an interesting new pepper called Peppadew (available in jars from specialty markets). We had canned, rinsed and drained black beans, avocado, black olives, minced cilantro, sliced jalapeno peppers and marinated artichokes.

Of course you've got to have something to hold it all together, so we had several cheeses: grated Monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, Brie, mascarpone and a soft goat cheese.

We did do a little cooking: we sauteed thinly sliced onion in olive oil until very soft, then added a splash of balsamic vinegar and let it all cook down and caramelize. We did shrimp in a margarita sauce. We sauteed some sliced mushrooms (did you know you can buy them already cleaned and sliced in the grocery?). We grilled a couple of chicken breasts and sliced them very thinly. We also grilled some Mexican chorizo sausage from the Hispanic market. We made a pineapple-mango salsa and an interesting "drizzle" with chipotle peppers, honey and cilantro that I thought was really yummy.

Then we put out flour tortillas. We used the big ones, in white, spinach and sundried tomato flavors. Each person loaded his tortilla with whatever his fancy dictated, putting the ingredients on one half, then folding the other half over to toast on griddles. We had two cast iron griddles, one ridged and the other flat. I thought the best results came from starting them on the ridged one for the attractive grill marks, then flipping them over onto the flat one to finish. Since everything is already cooked, it only requires the time to heat it all together and melt the cheese all through it.

I would love to be able to tell you what combination was the best, but we all had such a great time that I forgot to write down some of the more interesting ones. And then there was the fellow who had absolutely everything in his! But the consensus was that we should have used the smaller tortillas so folks could experiment with more than one. The big ones made a pretty filling meal!

So head it to the market and wander through the salsa section, pick up a couple of cheeses, and check your pantry and fridge for unusual additions. Invite your friends and let them fix their own quesadilla dinner. Oh, and don't forget the margaritas!


1 small onion, slivered
3 tbsp olive oil
1-1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup bottled margarita mix
1/4 cup tequila

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil until very hot but not smoking. Add the onions and stir constantly for about a minute. Reduce the heat a bit, add the shrimp and cook, tossing occasionally for a couple of minutes. Add the margarita mix and continue to cook until just barely pink through. Add the tequila, and hold a long handled match above the surface to flambee. Shake until the flames go out. (You can skip this step if you like). Remove from the heat and place in a serving bowl. Makes enough for 8 quesadillas.


1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
2 tbsp honey
About 1/2 cup water

Put the cilantro, peppers and honey in a blender or food processor and puree. Add water gradually to make a thickish drizzle. Place in a serving bowl. This is pretty zingy, but the honey mellows it out nicely. Makes about ? cup. I would like this brushed on pork, chicken or fish on the grill, too.


1 already peeled pineapple (available in the produce section), diced
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1/2 small red onion, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Zest and juice of 1 large lime

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss. If you like a very hot salsa, use the flesh and seeds of the jalapeno. For a milder one, discard the seeds and interior veins, and use only half the flesh.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Jerry Feinstone's Corkscrew Collection! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Simple Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash Delight! Posted by Picasa

I have a friend who needs to reduce her carbohydrate intake due to a pre-diabetic condition, but who loves her pasta. Meanwhile, I was itching to try some of the new pasta sauce we just brought in from Lucini. And I was glad I did. This is the first bottled pasta sauce that I would be proud to serve to friends. Made with fresh tomatoes and that marvy Lucini olive oil, it tastes almost as good as I could make myself.

I picked up a spaghetti squash at the market. There are various schools of cooking them: I have a friend who sticks a few holes in them and cooks them in the microwave. Others bake them whole. I like to cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and bake the halves, cut side down, on an olive-oiled baking sheet. Then I let them cool and pull out the spaghetti-like strands of squash flesh with a fork.

For the sauce, I quickly sauteed about 4 ounces of Parma prosciutto crudo and then added the Lucini artichoke-tomato sauce, and just barely heated it through. I tossed some of it with the squash, and used the rest as a topping. With a little freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, I thought it was delicious!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Savory Creme Brulée

During the week I don't have a lot of time to play with my food or to try new things. I tend to stick with the familiar. On weekends, I like to experiment. Sometimes it might be inspired by a recipe I've seen and want to customize to my taste. Sometimes it might be a dish I've enjoyed in a restaurant and want to try to duplicate. A dish I read about in a restaurant review a while back inspired this recipe.

Everyone I know loves creme brulée. So when I read about a savory one, I knew I had to give it a try. The one I read about used a Muenster cheese from Alsace. This is a very full flavored, and, shall we say, aromatic cheese. A washed rind cheese, it is just too strong for many people's taste. I needed a soft cheese with enough flavor to make it interesting, so I chose a camembert from the Mouco Cheese company in Colorado. My second choice would have been a well-ripened brie-type cheese.

Not having access to the smoked Alsacien sausage mentioned in the review, I used smoked andouille. Any fully cooked sausage would do. I think any of the chicken sausages available in the freezer section of most specialty food stores would be excellent, especially the ones with basil or sundried tomato. Kielbasa or another smoked sausage from the grocery would also be tasty. I caramelized onions and finished them with a bit of honey and balsamic vinegar for the topping.

The restaurant served this in small ramekins as a first course. I think it would make an excellent beginning to a meal with a main course of almost any seafood brushed with lemon and olive oil and broiled or grilled. We, however, had it as the main course in a Sunday evening meal.

You can make the creme brulée mixture in advance. You can bake them a little ahead, top with the sausage and onion mixture and let them set at room temperature for up to an hour. Or you could bake them earlier in the day and refrigerate without the toppings; just make sure you take them out in time to get all the way back to room temperature before broiling the top, and set a bit further below the broiler so that it heats through.

This was a happy experiment; the friends who shared it with me pronounced it a great success. I am sure yours will too!

Savory Supper Creme Brulée

2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
5-6 ounces Camembert, Brie or, for the brave, Alsacien Muenster
1 good pinch grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 oz fully cooked sausage, thinly sliced
3 tbsp chives, minced

Preheat the oven to 325o. In a blender or food processor, place the milk, cream, eggs and yolks, the cheese (leave the rind on), the nutmeg, a generous sprinkling of salt and a pinch of pepper. Process until well mixed and strain through a fine sieve. Press down on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as possible, and discard remaining solids.

Pour into six individual baking dishes: gratin dishes, creme brulee dishes or ramekins. Place in a deep baking dish and add boiling water halfway up the sides of the dishes. Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the center is set but still a bit trembly. Baking time will depend on the size of your dishes. Shallow ones will take a little less, deep ones a bit more.

Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat, cook the onion in the butter until very soft but not at all browned. Stir in the honey. Add the vinegar and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook until the vinegar has evaporated.

When ready to serve, preheat the broiler. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and arrange the thinly sliced sausage on top. Cover with a thin layer of the onion mixture. Place about 6-inches under the broiler element and, watching carefully, broil until the topping is a bit bubbly and lightly browned. Sprinkle with the chives and serve at once. Serves 6.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Lindsay Olives --- Recipe Contest

I think we should all submit a recipe for the Lindsay Olives Pizza Recipe Contest. Heaven only knows that some of my friends can get pretty creative with pizzas and if you read the fine print, using olives well counts a lot more than taste...Go for it, and invite me for the final result!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

"Fixing" corked wine???

I read about this amazing sounding product in a French cooking magazine, Cuisine et Vins de France. Apparently your can pour corked wine into a decanter with a special filter that can complete remove that "corked" taste.

No US outlets are shown...maybe we wine drinkers should band together and bring in a case of 'em?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wine Blog Wednesday #13

Wonderful Wines.... Posted by Picasa

When I read Clotilde's (of Zucchini and Chocolate) challenge for Wine Blog Wednesday #13, to make a dense, almost sinful chocolate cake, pick a wine to go with it and talk about it, I was determined to make a contribution. However, I am not, I must admit, much of a baker. I have said more than once that if folks are still hungry at my house when it comes to dessert time, I sort of get my feelings hurt!

But I rose to the task. Clotilde included a recipe, which sounded just fine to me. The hardest part was picking the chocolate. I perused the chocolates in the shop, although I knew it had to be Valrhona, a wonderful chocolate from France. The one I used had 71% chocolate. But then I was drawn to the Lindt Excellence Intense Orange bar, dark chocolate with bits of orange and (I found later by reading the small print on the back) tiny bits of almond as well.

So I did what any of you would have done: I made two, with the only recipe difference being the chocolate. Interestingly, though, was the difference in the pans I used. One, the straight chocolate one, was done in a 8" spring-form pan. The other, with the orange flavor, was done in an 8" cake pan, but it was one of those insulated ones, with a layer of air between two layers of metal. I found that at the end of 30 minutes the spring-form pan cake was more than done. And the second cake needed a few more minutes.

There was an overwhelming preference to the texture of the cake baked in the insulated pan. It was moister and smoother on the tongue. Not that anyone left any of either on his plate!

Now came the choice of wines. My friend Larry rose to the occasion to pair the straight chocolate cake with a 1995 Banyuls. From Les Clos de Paulilles. Banyuls is the southern-most AOC appelation in France, on the Mediterranean, near the border of Spain Banyuls is a fortified wine...think of it as France's answer to port. Our wine was a deep dark, tawny, rich flavored mouthful. Made 100% with the grenache noir grape, with notes of dried fruit, particularly raisins and currants, and a nutty finish, I don't believe we could have had a better match.

I reached into my wine closet for a bottle of Domaine de Coyeux 1997 Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. I just love a good Muscat dessert wine! From the Southern Rhone valley, it is grown on rugged hillsides with low rainfall, so the Muscat flavors are concentrated. Fermentation is stopped by adding a bit of brandy, which fortifies it, and retains sweet fruit of the muscat grape. A sparkling gold in the glass, the bouquet was of rich floral and ripe grape aromas. Lush and heavy with apricot, citrus and honey flavors, it made a near-perfect match for the orange scented cake.

An interesting thing was this: the Banyuls really didn't complement the orange cake. The raisiny taste made the orange flavor taste muddy. And the Muscat REALLY didn't complement the straight chocolate cake. Funny how that works, isn't it?

You'll want to try one of these cakes for yourself. It couldn't be easier!

Clotilde's Melt-In-Your-Mouth Chocolate Cake
2 sticks, less 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
7 oz dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 heaping tablespoon flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter an 8" cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Break the chocolate into chunks and place in a glass bowl.. Top with the butter and microwave for 10 seconds. Stir and microwave for 10-15 more. Stir again. Repeat if necessary until chocolate has melted and mixed with the butter. (Alternately, you can do this in a double boiler.)
Scrape into a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Let cool slightly. With a wooden spoon, stir in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Finally stir in the flour.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven but let the cake set in the oven for 10 more minutes. Remove and place the pan on a rack to cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Take out an hour before serving. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan, remove and place topside up on a cake plate.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Paper Chef #10 - Is My Blog Burning Launch

Shrimp 'n' Grits Posted by Picasa

It's time for the Paper Chef Blog Event, and this month we are honoring New Orleans, home of some of the finest food in the country. In addition, we are celebrating the launch of the Is My Blog Burning? web site, a sort of clearinghouse for food blog events and news.

We were given four ingredients and challenged to come up with a dish that would do the Crescent City proud: shrimp, beer, tomato and sausage. The idea was to have a dinner party at home, and donate what we might have spent going out to eat to the Red Cross, or other relief effort, to assist in the disaster recovery.

Anyone who has ever eaten in New Orleans cannot fail to be impressed by the professionalism of their restaurant and hotel service staff, from the waiters at the finest restaurants right down to the bartender at a run-down looking neighborhood beer joint. In their honor, I will be forwarding my check to the New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund, spearheaded by the Brennan Family of Commander's Palace.

On Sunday, I gathered a group of friends, and several pitched in to help prepare this dish. I used andouille, a spicy smoked sausage, pretty much native to Louisiana. If you can't find that, use any spicy smoked sausage. We used green tomatoes, so beloved in the South.

We used a dark beer, Warsteiner Dunkel; with its rich smooth flavor it gave a great boost to the dish. I really liked the dipping sauce for the asparagus we made on Friday, so I used it again to drizzle over the finished dish.

The directions may look long but the whole dish can be completed in about 20 have a dinner in, invite your friends, and pass along your savings to the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief as well!

Shrimp 'n' Grits Katrina

Finishing Drizzle

1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dark beer
3 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (stripped from the stems) or 1 tsp dried


8 oz andouille sausage, sliced about 1/3" thick
olive oil as needed
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green tomato, cored and cut into large chunks
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1-1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
the rest of the bottle of beer (1 cup)
Salt and pepper


2 cups stoneground grits
4 cups water
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Mix all ingredients for the finishing drizzle together and set aside for flavors to mellow.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, sautŽ the sausage until lightly browned. If it doesnŐt give off a film of fat, add a little olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic and stir a couple of times. Add the onion and cook until the onion starts to soften, stirring frequently. Add the green tomato and continue to cook until the onion is tender and just starting to brown. Remove to a bowl and reserve.

Add the 1 cup beer to the skillet, bring to a simmer and stir, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the shrimp and cook until just pink, 3-4 minutes. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon and add to the bowl with the sausage mixture. Raise the heat and boil the beer until reduced to about ? cup.
When the grits are done, return the sausage-shrimp mixture to the pan and toss to just heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, for the grits, bring the water and salt to a full rolling boil. Add the grits in a stream, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the cream. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Put the grits in the middle of a large serving platter. Top with the shrimp mixture, drizzle on the finishing sauce and dig in! Serves 6.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Is My Blog Burning Launch Party!

It's a Party! Posted by Picasa

The popular clearinghouse site for food blogs, Is My Blog Burning is launching its newly refurbished web site today, and in honor of the occasion, is hosting a virtual cocktail party.

I am delighted to accept the invitation, and of course, I won't be coming empty-handed! I've made a little appetizer to share. Since our host is particularly fond of beer, I've used it in the sauce. I just love a party and can't wait to see what everyone else is bringing!


2 lbs asparagus, not too thin
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup dark beer (I used Warsteiner)
3 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried
Red or yellow bell pepper, cut into long strips

Snap off the bottom woody stems of the asparagus. In a wide skillet with a lid, put enough of the stem bottoms to cover the bottom of the pan. Add water to just barely cover and place over high heat. This will make a sort of steaming rack for the asparagus. When the water comes to a boil, lay the asparagus spears on top, cover, lower the heat to medium and steam for 2-3 minutes, or until just barely crisp-tender. Remove from the skillet with tongs and place on a rack to cool.

For the sauce combine all ingredients and whisk together. This benefits from a little resting time to let the flavors mellow. Arrange the asparagus and bell pepper on a serving platter with a ramekin of the sauce.
Serves 8 as an appetizer.

This sauce keeps well in the fridge. Drizzle over grilled steak, lamb or pork, or brush on vegetables before grilling.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Summer Green Bean Soup

Summer Snap Bean Soup Posted by Picasa
I don’t know how many people in the past have told me that their dream is to someday have a restaurant of their very own. Most have no idea of the toil, tension and day-to-day problems involved in owning and operating a restaurant. But there are benefits, not the least being the great people we meet everyday.

Another perk is the free subscriptions to various trade magazines that we receive. In one of these recently, an article mentioned a dish made by Seattle Chef Kevin Davis of the Oceanaire Seafood Room. It was a “smothered green bean bisque” inspired by a dish his Cajun grandmother had made. There was no recipe, but it sounded unusual enough for me to give it a try at home. I mean MY mom never made green bean soup, and I bet yours didn't either. But I thought it was pretty tasty stuff, so I am going to share it with you.

According to the article the chef simmered ham hocks in chicken stock for the soup base, and made his own croutons, but I think we can cut a few corners. This turned out to be quite a tasty soup, and with the garnish, substantial enough for a pleasant and simple one-dish Sunday night supper. With the Labor Day holiday on Monday, you’ll probably be having a big last summer hurrah cookout, so why not try it this Sunday?

The croutons give it plenty of crunch, but you might want to add crusty bread or corn muffins to your menu. For dessert, I mixed jarred pecans or walnuts in syrup (in the ice cream topping aisle) with a generous splash of Frangelico liqueur and spooned it over scoops of Haagen Daz peach sorbet. A crisp cookie with it couldn’t hurt. And then’s a holiday weekend!


2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped, or 1 or 2 serrano peppers, chopped*
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 Knorr ham bouillon cubes**
4 cups water
2 lb fresh green beans
1 package prepared croutons
4 oz Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese*, shredded
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Put the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir a couple of times. Add the onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken broth, water and ham bouillon cube. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer while you trim the ends off the beans. Add the beans to the pot and simmer covered until very tender, 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the beans. Puree in a blender, food processor or with a hand blender. (Can be prepared to this point and reheated when ready to serve.) Thin, if necessary, with water or chicken broth. Stir in the lemon juice and reheat just to a simmer.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with croutons, the tomatoes and the cheese and serve immediately. Serves 6.

*For a milder flavor, use the poblanos and the Monterey jack cheese. If you like a spicier taste, the serrano peppers and pepper jack cheese are the way to go!

**Available in specialty markets and most Latino or Mexican markets.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


One of my customers asked me to bring in Spanish Bonito del Norte Tuna. So I went looking and was a bit surprised at the price...but she wasn't.

Let me warn you: DO NOT BUY THIS TUNA. It has been known to be seriously addictive. It is like no tuna you have ever tasted. I, of course, had to try it (it is, after all, my duty to know about these things...ah, the sacrifices I make for my customers...). The first thing I did was to use it to make the traditional Tuscan tuna/cannellini bean/fresh sage antipasto salad. The friends who were here that night raved.

This past weekend, finding another jar handily in my cupboard, and having all the makings after my farmers' market trip, I made a Salade Niçoise (you know, this is SPANISH tuna and I'm making French and Italian food with it. I think that means I'll have to have it one more time!) With some lightly steamed haricot verts, tomatoes and olives on a bed of baby greens, it was a great lunch for two. I used the last of the Creole remoulade sauce (from last Saturday) for the dressing and boy! Was it ever good!

So be warned, this is the best tuna you will have ever had. Line caught and packed by hand in extra virgin olive oil, it will make you swear off Starkist forever. And there's the problem: it costs $12 for a 10.6 ounce jar, net weight 7.5 ounces. Indulging a bonito habit could lead you down the road to financial ruin. And how sad, if we were to find you, some day, in a gutter, clutching an empty jar, with tuna crumbs on your face...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Interesting but probably useless tidbits of information

I get several restaurant and gourmet market trade magazines. All kinds of statistics are included, and here are a few I have culled...this will probably be a work in progress. I'll update it occasionally. If you have any interesting ones to add, let me know!

From Restaurants and Institutions:

Taco Bell distributes 54 billion sauce packets for tacos and other menu items annually.

The highest grossing McDonalds location is in Moscow's Pushkin Square, with annual sales of $8.4 million.

From The New York Times:

Date of the first published recipe using tomatoes: 1692

Weight of the biggest tomato on record: 7 pounds 12 ounces

Annual per capita comsumption of fresh tomatoes in the US: 19 pounds

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Southern Grapes

Thank goodness, it's raining! It started during the night, and we've had a steady soft rain all morning. This is the first real rain we've had since August 6, so nobody in Memphis will be complaining about ruining a weekend.

My friend David asked me if I would like to go to the Agricenter Farmers Market with him this morning and I jumped at the chance. The good part was that I was able to get around fairly easily in the wheelchair (by the way, probably only about four more weeks of that!) since it wasn't at all crowded. The bad part was that some of the outdoor folks--Patsy the herb lady, Lindsey the flower man, Tinker the heirloom tomato man--weren't there due to the rain.

There was abundant produce, though, and I bought way too much...I'll have to get cracking in the kitchen. I'll tell you about some of what I do later.

But I thought those not in the South might find this interesting. Muscadine grapes are at the market right now. These are big, tough-skinned grapes, grown throughout most of the south. In fact they look more like small plums. Sorry for the blurry shot, but you can see how big they are. The bronze ones are called either white muscadines, or scuppernongs. They have an unusual flavor, very sweet and almost musky. In the South a lot of families will make wine from it...nothing you would serve with a fine French meal, but perfect for chilling and sipping on the veranda on a warm Southern summer afternoon. But I think the best thing to do is to make jelly.
Start with about 3 quarts of grapes. With a potato masher or the bottom of a glass, mash them, skins, seeds and all. Put in a pan and add water to not quite cover, probably around 2 cups. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the skins are tender. Strain through a fine-holed colander, pressing gently on the solids. Discard the solids, put the juice into a glass container, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Now you have two choices. If you want a very clear jelly, you must strain it again through a jelly bag (or through several layers of dampened cheesecloth), letting it drip for several hours. Or you can use the juice as is. Into a large pot, measure out 5 cups of juice . Add the juice of a lemon, a box of powdered pectin and 7 cups of sugar. Let it set for a few minutes, stirring a couple of times. Then over high heat, bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 90 seconds, remove from heat and skim off any foam. Pour into sterilized jelly jars, and seal.

This also makes a good hot pepper jelly. Just add a couple of chopped jalapeno or habanero peppers to the grapes for the first cooking.

Besides the obvious--spreading on a well buttered biscuit with your breakfast of eggs, country ham and grits--you can add a bit to the pan juices of roast pork, lamb or game. You can also melt it and brush on meats or chicken toward the end of grilling.

Too much trouble, or you can't get muscadines where you live? The jelly is available from several online sources, such as Calhoun Produce.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Speedy tasty shrimp

A vendor gave me a sample, two pounds of some very lovely big shrimp, with the hopes that we would stock it in our retail freezer. Of course, I had to try it. I rounded up a couple of neighbors and friends to help with the prep that I still find difficult (i.e. anything that requires standing for more than a couple of minutes).

Since my supermarket visits have been less frequent than they would be if I could drive, I had to dig around for some amusing way to do them. I seem to be doing a lot of that lately, and the good news is that it is thinning out my pantry of things I have bought or brought home from the shop, not because I needed them at the time, but because they sounded good. I betcha I'm not the only one who does that.

I found a package of Colorado Spice Company "Sicilian Pork Rub." Hmmm...but the ingredients sounded like they would be good with shrimp: mustard seed, coriander seed, garlic, fennel... I chopped a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and sautéed them in olive oil. I added a couple of tablespoons of the seasoning mix (available, of course, at Mantia's), a small jar of spicy marinated artichoke hearts (marinade and all) cut into chunks, and a good splash of white wine. Simmered a couple of minutes and tossed in the shrimp. Turned them over a few times until they were just pink and put them on a bed of rice cooked with the zest and juice of a lemon.

How much easier could it be? And extremely tasty...I would do it again!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bring your own party!

Since I fell and did enormous damage to my leg, many of my friends have tendered invitations to come to their houses for dinner/drinks/brunch/whatever.

Of course I am still stuck in the wheelchair, and it's a total pain to haul me around, since where I go, the chair goes too! But oh glory! The doctor told me last week that I can take that brace, you know, the big heavy one that goes from my ankle all the way up to..anyway, that I can go without it at home. Only at home.

So it seemed to me that the best bet was to have the party come to me. And my friend Jennifer Biggs arranged it for last night. Everyone she called brought some sort of great munchie and a bottle or two of VERY good wine. Some even brought flowers. Well, that's the kind of friends I have.

I fully intended to take pictures for you and give you recipes for the treats, but somehow that just didn't happen.

We had a marvelous crab-artichoke-cheese-roasted pepper thing. Just warm enough for the cheese to be gooey...yum. There was a savory cheesecake thing. Chicken saltimbocca, thinly sliced with a great dipping sauce. Crudites with a sort of olive tapenade. I had a bottle of Rao's great roasted peppers that are fab,and make wonderful crostini; go looking for them in your town (You know, obviously, where to get them in Memphis). Joanna and Roy brought the Earth and Vine Spicy Apple Jam drizzled over quite a nice goat cheese that had been mixed with a bit of fresh rosemary. A VERY felicitous combination. Of course, I can't do much from 10" below counter/stove level, but I got some lovely big cocktail shrimp. Two dipping sauces, one from Stonewall Kitchens, Tequila Lime cocktail sauce, yummy right out of the jar, and the other I made, a Creole remoulade sauce inspired by my Cajun next-door neighbor when I lived in New Orleans.

Here's was was in it: the finely grated zest and juice of a pretty big lemon. Most of a jar of Zatarain's creole mustard. One bunch of green onions, roots trimmed and the (usually) sort of slimey outside layer discarded, roughly chopped including any of the green tops that looked good. A couple of tablespoons of good red wine vinegar. A scant teaspoon of horseradish. A splash of really fruity olive oil. I whizzed all that in the cuisinart and scraped it into a bowl. I added probably a cup and a half of REAL mayonnaise. Not that wimpy reduced fat kind. Tasted and did maybe 6 dashes of Tobasco, some would want more, some none at all.

I did it shortly before the guests were due to arrive (I seem to have recently picked up the tendency to be a bit of a procrastinator...if I hadn't been so well prepared for that dinner party I would NOT have been lolling around on the patio, deciding to raise that *&@# table umbrella...but hindsight being 20-20 and all...) and it was pretty good. However, today my across-the-street neighbors invited me to dinner and I made a little app tray of leftovers and BOY! That sauce was so much better today. I'm thinking that I might use the last of it to make tuna salad. I'll get back to you on that.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Birds do it, bees do it...

...and now cookies do it Cookie Sutra, according to the publisher, the Kama Sutra meets the Joy of Cooking. Talk about food porn....

Friday, August 19, 2005

No more soggy scallops!

On the forum discussion at Chocolate & Zucchini (see the link on the side bar) there is a discussion about how hard it is to get scallops browned.

Here is the secret to nicely browned scallops: there are two ways to buy them. "Dry" refers to scallops that are fresh and not "processed." Processed scallops, which is what you ALWAYS get in big bags frozen at Costco, Sams, etc., have had a solution of salt and preservatives injected to keep them "fresh."

"Dry" doesn't mean how much you blot them 'cause you can blot the processed ones until the cows come home and they will still weep in the pan and keep from browning until they are too tough to be appetizing.

Dry scallops cost more, often as much as half again what the processed ones cost, but you don't lose all that water in the pan, and they brown beautifully and are still perfectly tender in the middle. The best are U-10, which means in a pound, there will be 10 or fewer. We order them regularly for our customers. Outside Memphis, you may have to seek out a good seafood shop to find them but once you've had the good ones, you'll never go back!

Here is a recipe I rather like. I did this for a cooking demonstration on Live@Nine at the Peabody Place a couple of months ago. Usually we are out in the atrium but that day we were filming under an overhang. I was about halfway through my spiel with hosts Mary Beth and Alex when the vapors from the pan set off the smoke alarms throughout the whole complex. So in the background, you could hear the horns going off: "Honka-honka-honka, please evacuate the building in an orderly fashion," and so forth. Mary Beth said "just keep going," so I did. Fire Department came...what a bunch of handsome young devils! I said "I confess, I did it! Wanna frisk me?" They decided to settle for a sample of the scallops instead. Oh well....

Yield: 6 Servings

2 tb Olive oil
2 tb Unsalted butter
1 1/2 lb Sea scallops; patted dry
6 tb Lime juice
8 tb Lime ginger butter
1/2 cup Walnuts; lightly toasted
Parsley; minced for garnish

8 tb Unsalted butter; room temp
4 ts Grated lime zest
2 ts Ground ginger
1 ts Salt
1 ts Pepper

Stir all ingredients for the ginger butter together in a small bowl. Shape into a log on plastic wrap, wrap and refrigerate until firm.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add the scallops and cook, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes. Pour off the fat. Stir in the lime juice and cook 1 minute. Turn the heat to very low, and stir in the lime-ginger butter (cut into slices) 1 tablespoon at a time. Cook just until the butter melts enough to make a thick sauce. Remove from heat and stir in the walnuts. Serve at once, sprinkled with parsley.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

This girl can EAT!

Thanks to Leslie Kelly, Food Writer for the Commercial Appeal, for drawing our attention to the Black Widow, second rated competitive eater in the USA, and her bratwurst eating record. A little bit of a thing, she ate 35 in ten minutes, almost doubling the previous record. Back in his college days, though, I bet my son and any of his buddies, could out-eat her...or at least it seemed like that then!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Luscious Lasagne

As you know, my mobility has been seriously curtailed due to an unfortunate tumble while attempting to raise a patio umbrella. I am several weeks into the healing process, and have a few more to go.

I would not want you to think, however, that I have wasted my time lolling around feeling sorry for myself. No indeed! Much of the time not spent in doing the small tortures devised by the rehab therapist has been spent most profitably: in web-surfing.

I am quite amazed at the number of food blogs to be found. I've had one for a while, mostly as a link from our web page...but I've found so many, each a sort of on-line journal, which can be about pretty much any topic, and can be as amusing (or, frankly, as boring) as the person writing it.

I've gotten into some of the French and Italian language food blogs and have become quite addicted to several, checking in daily and being a bit disappointed if there is no new entry.

One of the ones I check regularly is C'est moi qui l'ai fait or "I made it myself." This is written by a young French woman, wife and mother, who has quite a flair for interesting food combinations. And one of the recipes I found not only sounded quite tasty, but also sounded like one I could handle myself, with most of the work done either sitting or briefly balanced on my one good leg.

So with a little help from my friends, I gave it a shot. And what a delight it was, even better than I had thought it might be. So of course I must share it with you.

The recipe calls for pancetta. This is a sort of Italian bacon, spiced, cured and rolled and available in specialty food markets (and of course, at Mantia's). But it isn't smoked, so our bacon wouldn't be quite the same. We all thought prosciutto or other ham would be a little too lean. We finally decided that a good quality Italian salami might do the trick if you can't find pancetta.

The original recipe also called for all goat cheese but I thought that might be a little strongly flavored for the other ingredients, so I mixed it with ricotta. And although the original recipe didn't call for it, I roasted some asparagus and topped each serving with it, a felicitous addition. All in all, we loved it, and I bet your friends will too!

Mini Lasagnes au Pesto de Pistaches, Fromage de Chévre et Pancetta
(Individual Lasagne with Pistacho Pesto, Goat Cheese and Pancetta)

12 lasagne noodles
24 slices of pancetta (cut about bacon thickness)
1/2 to 3/4 cup pistachio pesto
2 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cup fresh (soft) goat cheese
1 cup shredded mixed asiago, pecarino romano and parmesan cheeses

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cook the noodles according to package directions in plenty of boiling well salted water. Drain and arrange on paper towels.

Place the pancetta slices in one layer on baking sheets and bake until done but not quite crisp, 10-15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Mix the goat cheese with the ricotta cheese.

Cut the noodles in half crosswise. In each of six individual oiled baking dishes place a noodle square. Top with a good tablespoon of the ricotta-goat cheese combination, a teaspoon of the pesto and a slice of pancetta. Repeat to make four layers altogether, ending with pancetta. Sprinkle with the cheeses. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until hot rhrough, and the cheese topping is melted and lightly browned. Serves 6.

Pistacho Pesto

1/2 lb unsalted shelled pistachio nuts
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
A big handful, closely packed, fresh basil leaves (about 3/4 cup)
1/4 cup, closely packed, flat leave parsley leaves
Salt and pepper
1 cup good extra virgin olive oil

In the best of all worlds, this would be made by hand, in an old-fashioned mortar and pestle. I just dontt think we're going to do that, are we? So in a food processor, place the pistachios and garlic and pulse several times to chop coarsely. Add the basil and parsley and pulse several more times. Add a good sprinkle of salt and several grindings of black pepper. With the machine running, add the oil in a thin stream, just until combined.

This makes more than you will need for this recipe. Store the remaining pesto in a container in the fridge, covered with a thin layer of olive oil, and use as a pasta sauce, or mixed into a vinaigrette for a salad dressing, or as a crostini topping, or drizzled over almost any grilled meat, poultry or seafood.