Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A beautiful piece of furniture!

 This cabinet belongs to our day manager, Joanna Martin. Over the years, many of you have expressed admiration for it. Since we're closing, and since she doesn't have room for it right now, she would like to find it a loving home. Up until we finally vacate the store, we are accepting, on her behalf, sealed bids for it. If you'd like to make a bid, drop by the store, or mail her a bid in care of the store (4856 Poplar Avenue, 38117) and we'll see that she gets it!
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spanish Shrimp and Pear Salad

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I cooked dinner for neighbors of my gentleman friend this week and made a lovely Latino beef stew that will be featured in my Weekend Entertaining column of the Commercial Appeal this Friday. When it is published, I'll add a link to it. It was really easy and truly delicious.

I started the dinner with a Spanish style salad that everyone seemed to enjoy, so I thought I'd share it here. I'd had a salad similar to this in Spain a few years back, made with fresh juicy ripe pears. Since it's not always easy to find juicy ripe pears, I've made it with good quality canned pears with success, which saves a lot of time.

The salad dressing can be used on all sorts of salads, but goes particularly well with the shrimp and pears of this recipe.


1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, with some of the green top
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
4 anchovy filets
Juice and finely grated zest of one large lime
2 teaspoons dried tarragon, or 1 teaspoon fresh

To finish:
4 handfuls salad greens (romaine or bibb work well)
12 cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp, chilled
1 16-ounce can good quality pear halves, drained
A few black olives

Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree well. Pour into an airtight container and chill until ready to use.

When ready to serve, divide the greens among four salad plates, top with the pears, then the shrimp. Drizzle with the dressing and scatter the olives around for garnish. Serves 4.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Italian Comfort Food!

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During an Italian vacation a couple of years ago I spent a few days in Tuscany. The very first day, at lunch in a small restaurant in a small town, I had ribollita. I loved it, and ordered it at least once a day, wherever we were. Each time it was different, but each time it was delicious.

Ribollita means "reboiled." Basically, it is the local version of minestrone, the second (or maybe even third) day. We tend to think of soup as a winter dish, but minestrone and ribollita are on Tuscan menus year round.

We found it in several forms. Sometimes it was in a flat soup bowl poured over a slice of crusty bread. Sometimes instead of bread, there was a round of garlic-rubbed toast. Once it was brought out in a tureen, topped with shaved red onion. The soup had been layered with the bread and the result was a much thicker dish. But my favorite was one that had the toast floating on top of an earthenware bowlful of the soup, sprinkled with fontina cheese and baked, much the same as French onion soup.

Over the years, I've developed a favorite recipe for minestrone, and recently made a big batch. It freezes well, so I like to keep a few quarts in the freezer.

A week or two ago, I was cooking with friends at their house. I pulled a couple of quarts out to thaw, and we made ribollita. It was such a hit that I knew I had to share it with you.

This recipe makes a pretty big batch of soup, so if you don’t care to freeze some, you can cut it in half. Enjoy some as minestrone, and make ribollita the next day, or even a couple of days later.

The Italians would serve this as a first course, but it makes a good casual supper with a crisp salad, followed by fruit and cheese for dessert. A glass of that Tuscan classic wine, Chianti, is the perfect accompaniment, and dinner is done!


2 cups dried cannellini or great northern beans
2 cups dried red kidney beans
5 quarts cold water
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil (preferably Tuscan, of course)
1/4 lb pancetta, cut a little thick, and finely chopped (see note)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, including leafy tops, thinly sliced
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 tsp dried, crumbled
1 head Savoy or Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and cut into 1/2” ribbons
2 cans (28-ounces each) whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand, with their juices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight in water to cover by a couple of inches. Drain and rinse. Put into a large soup pot with the 5 quarts water and bring to a gentle boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until just barely tender, 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pancetta, garlic, onion, carrot, celery and fennel. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables start to brown lightly, about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage and kale and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes, with salt and pepper to taste and simmer another few minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the pot with the beans and continue to simmer uncovered until the cabbage and kale are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve in soup bowls with a little more olive oil drizzled over the top. This will make 15-20 servings.

NOTES: Pancetta is the same cut as bacon, cured with spices, rather than smoked, and rolled. It is available in specialty markets. You may substitute thick-cut, not too smoky bacon for the pancetta.

TO MAKE RIBOLLITA: Heat the minestrone. Cut as many thick slices of country style bread as there are people to serve, toast lightly in the oven and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil. Ladle the minestrone into ovenproof bowls. Float the toasts on top and sprinkle generously with shredded fontina or provolone cheese. Bake at 350o for about 30 minutes, or until the soup is bubbling and the cheese on top is lightly browned.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yummy carrot soup!

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Usually when a recipe is handed along from person to person, it gets changed a little bit each time. That is certainly true of today’s recipe.

I am in a group of five couples who gather the third Saturday of each month for a wine dinner. Last month the dinner was at my home, and I made the spice-rubbed fish with lady pea succotash that I wrote about a few weeks back. It was every bit as good as the first time I made it, and I’m sure I’ll make it again soon.

Jennifer Biggs (Food Editor of the Commercial Appeal) is in the group. She made a really yummy carrot soup. She revised a recipe that a colleague, Peggy Burch, had given her, changing the seasonings to better match the Portuguese vinho verde that she’d wanted to share with us.

The recipe called for bottled peri-peri sauce. Peri-peri sauce is a hot pepper sauce brought from South Africa to Portugal by seafaring merchants. It has become a part of the Portuguese culinary tradition. The tiny peri-peri peppers are hot. And the sauce made from them is hot. Really hot. But used in moderation, as Jennifer did, it was the perfect seasoning for a soup to go with the crisp white wine.

Bottled peri-peri sauce isn’t widely available, so I went online to try to find a recipe that I thought would approximate the flavors. I tried the soup with a home-made sauce and while not exactly like Jennifer’s soup, it was still very tasty.

Some recipes call for pureeing all the sauce ingredients together (which is what I did), or working to a paste with a mortar and pestle. Others call for just very finely mincing the solids. That’s your choice. Either way, making it a day ahead will improve the flavor.

This makes more sauce than you’ll need for the soup, but you’ll like it later brushed on chicken or fish to grill, or in the butter used to sauté shrimp. Or marinate cubes of beef or lamb overnight for shish kebabs.

We had the soup warm, but it is also very good chilled. The apple relish on top is the perfect accompaniment. Enjoy!


For the soup:
2 lbs baby carrots, chopped
1 lb apples, cored but not peeled, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cups chicken stock
1-1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup peri-peri sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder

For the sauce:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 dash angostura bitters
3 cloves garlic
2 red jalapeño (or other hot) peppers
1 tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt

For the relish:
1 each Granny Smith and Gala (or other red-skinned) apple, cored and chopped
1 small hot pepper, seeded, finely minced
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
Juice of one lemon

Make the peri-peri sauce: either combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree, or very finely mince the garlic and peppers and combine with the remaining ingredients. Chill overnight if possible.
In a heavy pan, sauté the carrots, apples and onion in the oil for about five minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until carrots are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and puree in batches. Return to the pan and whisk in the sour cream and garlic powder. Either chill to serve cold, or reheat gently, without boiling, to serve warm.
When ready to serve, ladle into soup plates or cups and top with the combined relish ingredients. Serves 12.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beautiful Baskets

Friends of Mantia's, Evelyn Mosely and Cindy Gauthier, have come up with a wonderful idea for the holidays. They craft wonderful handmade herb and tea baskets with all kinds of goodies. They brought in samples this week, and I just couldn't wait to show them. The complete list of contents for each one is impressive. We'll have full information and pricing available within a few days.

The first basket shown is "All Things Tea," with a variety of teas and tea accessories.

The next one is "Total Comfort," with lotions, creams, herb soaking mixture and more.

And this final one is "Lovely Lavender." If you love the fresh scent of lavender (it always makes me thing of the fields in Provence), then this is the one for you.
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Thursday, October 02, 2008

And I don't even like dessert!!!!

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I was heading down Summer Avenue today and noticed Kay Bakery on a side street. I'd heard about them but had never been there. I'm going tonight to watch the VP debates with friends and thought I'd pick up something sweet to take along.

The bakery has been there for 70+ years, but was bought by a Hispanic owner a couple of years back. I had thought to just get some sort of cake but lordie, there were all these great looking pastries. I started to get a couple but the extremely helpful woman who waited on me explained each one, and I just couldn't seem to stop.

Well, I thought as she added up, I've really spent the week's groceries this time. But you know what? All these pastries totaled only $6.50. That's right! I'll report back when we've tasted them all!

Kay Bakery
667 Avon Road (off Summer between Mendenhall and Perkins)
Phone: 767-0780

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Panna Cotta with Rosemary Scented Blueberries

Every so often there are trends that tell us what is good for us. Remember a couple of years ago when the health buzz word was cruciferous vegetables? And while we might love our broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, there was no glamour there, no pizzazz. You just couldn’t make them look cute.

Lately the trend has been toward antioxidants, and imagine this: they are found in things that are delicious: blueberries are among the hot and trendy health foods now.

Well, heaven knows I want us all to be healthy. I’ve recently made this dessert several times. One friend, subjected to it at a couple of different dinners, said he could eat it every night. You may not go that far, but it is extremely easy and quite tasty.

“Panna cotta” is Italian for “cooked cream.” It probably originated in the north of Italy, where cream is used in cooking more than in other regions. But now it’s fairly common all over. Usually served with fruit, or sometimes with a caramel or chocolate sauce, it is quickly made.

The wine for this should be something fairly light, but it should be fruity and of good quality. I used an inexpensive sangiovese (the grape of Chianti) from California. You can reduce the wine in advance. Then bring it back up to a simmer and add the blueberries an hour or two before serving.

If any of the blueberry sauce is left over, crush the blueberries in it and simmer for a few minutes. Cool and use it over pancakes or ice cream another time. You could even put it over your morning oatmeal or cream of wheat. It is a health food, you know!


For the blueberries:
1 bottle sangiovese or other fruity wine
½ cup sugar
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 pint fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over

For the panna cotta:
2 packages unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons cool water
3 cups heavy cream
½ cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream

Bring the wine, sugar and rosemary to a simmer in a non-reactive saucepan. Simmer uncovered until reduced by slightly more than half. Remove from the heat and add the blueberries. Set aside, covered, at room temperature for up to three hours.

Put the water in a wide flat bowl, like a soup plate. Sprinkle gelatin over the top and let set for at least five minutes. There should be no dry spots. If there are, sprinkle a few drops of water over the top to moisten completely.

In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a simmer. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the gelatin. Whisk until all the gelatin has dissolved. Let cool slightly, then add the crème fraiche or sour cream. Pour into individual serving dishes. Clear glass tumblers or wine glasses look particularly nice. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least four hours and up to 24 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the rosemary sprigs from the room temperature blueberries. Spoon over the panna cotta and garnish with additional fresh rosemary sprigs. Serves 6 to 8.
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Friday, September 26, 2008

Parlez-vous fromage?

I subscribe to the newsletter from "Cheeses of France," a very interesting and informative website. With suggestions for cheese plating for various occasions, detailed information about each cheese, and an interactive map that helps you pinpoint where each of the more common cheeses originate. And you can subscribe to their newsletter as well.

There are also lots of links to other websites dealing with cheese, so you can while away several hours cheese-web surfing if you're not careful. (Does that sound like the voice of experience?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp

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Recently I was asked to do a private cooking class on grilling out. I came up with a full four-course menu of grillable recipes. I knew I wanted to use shrimp but I wanted it to be a little different from the usual lemon-garlic-olive oil marinade, as good as that might be.

I was wandering around the supermarket one afternoon and found something wonderful in the produce department. There were tubes of seasoning pastes in various flavors, but the one that appealed to me was the lemongrass.

I like the flavor of lemongrass, widely used in Thai, Vietnamese and other oriental cooking. It has a pungent lemon flavor that blends well with the other elements of those cuisines: garlic, cilantro and hot chiles. But it can be a little tough and fibrous if not prepared correctly. So when I saw the tube of lemongrass paste I grabbed it and went home to play.

This was served at the cooking class as an appetizer, but more recently I served it as a main course for a group of friends. I like to use the larger size shrimp (16-20 to a pound) for this so that it can be marinated a bit longer. Don’t let it set too long in the marinade, though, or it will get a little mushy from the acid in the vinegar.

If you’re using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them at least an hour in warm water so they don’t catch on fire if you are doing these on the grill.

I served it with Zatarain’s Caribbean Rice from the supermarket, which has pineapple in it. The slight sweetness was the perfect accompaniment to the shrimp. Add some fresh green beans, cooked until just crisp-tender and tossed in garlic butter, and you have a wonderful meal.


1-1/4 lbs large shrimp, raw, peeled, tail on
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 large pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
2 teaspoons lemon grass paste
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 wooden skewers, soaked for an hour in warm water

Place the shrimp in a bowl. Mix remaining ingredients. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the mixture and pour the rest over the shrimp. Marinate, chilled, for no more than an hour. Thread the shrimp on the skewers and grill for about two minutes per side. Drizzle with the reserved marinade and serve immediately. Serves 8 as an hors-d’oeuvre or 4 as a main course.

NOTE: This can also be done on a cast-iron griddle or heavy skillet on top of the stove, or under your oven broiler.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Side Dishes for Oriental Pulled Pork

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In today's Home and Garden Section of the Commercial Appeal, I published a recipe for an oriental style pulled pork sandwich. The side dishes I served with it came from prior columns. For those who don't cut out and save every column (and why not, I want to know!) here are the recipes.

For the two cole slaw variations I started with the Georges Bank salad dressing. I made it as published, except I used lime zest and juice instead of the lemon juice. I mixed it with packaged broccoli slaw (available in the produce section of markets). I also mixed it with an equal amount of mayonnaise for a slaw made with a small head of Chinese cabbage and a small head of bok choy, thinly sliced. I added a bit of slivered onion for flavor, and a slivered red bell pepper for color. You could quite handily substitute packaged cole slaw mix for the cabbage and bok choy. Both were liked equally by my guests, but I preferred the mayonnaise version.


1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste


3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup onion, diced
1 can Rotel with lime and cilantro
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire
1/3 cup dark rum (or fresh lemon juice)
4 cups (3 cans) black beans, not rinsed or drained

Preheat the oven to 350. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add garlic and stir a couple of times. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add remaining ingredients except beans and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add beans, stir to combine and place in a casserole. and bake for about an hour. Serves 8-10.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A really good fish dish!

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It started with leftover corn on the cob. We'd been part of a pot-luck cook-out and I'd made it the way I always do nowadays. I mixed the juice and finely grated zest of a lime into a stick of room temperature butter, slathered it on the shucked corn and wrapped it in foil. It takes about 20 minutes to cook on a hot grill, turning often, or in a 400-degree oven, on a baking sheet. Try it, and you'll never boil corn on the cob again.

I had four ears left over. I was going to my friends' house, Laretha and Bryce Randolph, to cook together and thought I'd like to try a version of a dish I'd read about in a restaurant trade magazine. At the farmers' market I picked up some lady peas and red bell peppers and we were set to go.
I used a spice rub Laretha had made for the fish, and a succotash to go under it. A bacon sauce on top made it what all at the table pronounced one of the best dishes we'd ever cooked together.

I know it looks long, but trust me, it's well worth it. I used golden tilefish, similar in taste and texture to the sadly overfished and expensive Chilean sea bass, but halibut or grouper would work well. You can made the rub any time, and you'll probably find lots of other things to use it on. You can make the succotash and bacon sauce earlier in the day and reheat at serving time. Then all you would have to do is sear the fish and you're good to go.


For the rub:
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
3/4 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

For the sauce:
4 ounces good smoked bacon, 1/4" strips
1 cup onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp unsulphured molasses
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock

For the succotash:
3/4 lb lady peas or lima beans
1 slice bacon, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 red bell peppers, diced
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, minced (see note)
4 cups corn cut off the cob, cooked or fresh
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream

To finish:
2 lbs firm-fleshed fish filet, cut into 6 servings
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine all the ingredients for the rub. Keep in an airtight jar at room temperature.

In a skillet, cook the bacon for the sauce until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. In the remaining fat, cook the onion and garlic until tender. Add the molasses and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost evaporated. Add the chicken stock and simmer briefly. Add the bacon and set aside.

Cook the lady peas with the minced bacon in water to barely cover, for about 20 minutes or until just tender. In a skillet over medium heat cook the bell pepper, onion and carrot until tender. Add the corn and stir to combine. Add the lady peas with their cooking liquid and the thyme. Simmer until the liquid is reduced slightly. Add the cream and simmer briefly. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Sprinkle the rub over the fish. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil and cook the fish until well-browned and just barely done.
Serve the fish on a bed of succotash. Drizzle the sauce with the bacon over the top and serve immediately. Serves six.

NOTE: One jalapeño pepper with the seeds removed will give a nice zing. Leaving the seeds in makes the dish hotter. Use your own taste in hotness as a guide.

Friday, September 12, 2008

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I stopped in Fresh Market the other day for one of those "Berry Mascarpone Coffee Cake" things that I really like, and on the way through the produce department, found these "Easter Egg Radishes." Aren't they pretty?

I had to have them, and took them home to share with a friend. In the classic French style of serving, I had some crusty bread, excellent French butter and a little pot of sea salt. What a nice little mini-feast it was!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Now I'm a Chef?

What a treat! To have one of Mantia's favorite recipes featured in the September issue of Memphis Magazine!

Now I'm pretty sure you can't read the recipe from this page but the photographer took almost an hour to shoot the final plated dish, and what a lovely job he did. So I wanted to show it off. You'll find the recipe below.

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1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine or cider vinegar
1 tbsp whole coriander seed, crushed
1 tsp whole cumin seeds, crushed
1 pinch ground cloves
1 tsp mixed peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, minced (see note below)
1/2 cup each seedless black, red and white grapes, cut in half

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the sugars, spices and salt and bring to a boil. Add the ginger and jalapeño peppers and simmer a minute or two. Remove from the heat, and add the grapes at once. Stir well and let set at room temperature for about an hour. This makes about 2 cups of salsa and is good with almost anything you grill, especially fish or poultry. It keeps very well in the fridge.

NOTE: For the mildest amount of heat, use one pepper and remove the seeds and inside veins. For or heat use all of one pepper. For those with asbestos tongues, use all of two peppers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Frugal Eating Tips from the Simpsons

"Cutting calories and saving d'oh: 25 lessons 'The Simpsons' taught me about cheap, healthy eating"javascript:void(0)
Publish Post

That's the title of an entry on the blog "Cheap Healthy Good." There are so many good food blogs out there that I rarely single out one to recommend, but this is good reading.


When grocery shopping, it helps to look for whole foods and stick to the perimeter of the store. It’s healthier and less expensive overall.

Homer: Olive oil? Asparagus? If your mother wasn't so fancy, we could just shop at the gas station like normal people.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

First Shot from San Diego

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I know, really I do, that I promised lots of news and shots from my San Diego trip, generously hosted by my friend Tom Price. But we stayed really busy most of the time, and besides I failed to take the cable to download pictures to the laptop.

We were amused to find that there was a comic book convention: 125,000 comic book lovers flooded the town, many in costume. Here you see me and my friend Merrill Lee Toole (who lives in Los Angeles) with a Mexican doughnut.

We were less amused to find that because of the convention, except for our first night we were not going to be able to stay in the lovely downtown Westin Hotel, since it had been booked for months.

It worked out beautifully though, since Tom found a newly renovated Clarion Hotel right around the corner from San Diego's Little Italy. It was also within walking distance of a lot of the things we wanted to see.

More about the restaurants in Little Italy (and elsewhere) in another post.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Really good brunch bake

I am often asked how I come up with all the recipes I use. The truth is, sometimes I’m inspired by a dish I’ve had in a restaurant. Sometimes it’s from a friend who has entertained and served something that had me whipping out my camera. Sometimes it’s something I just read about in a restaurant review or other food writing and tried. And once in a while it’s sort of serendipity, throwing something together that sounds good--and tastes good, too.

This recipe inspiration was none of the above. Looking through the coupon clipper section of the newspaper a few weeks back, I noticed a recipe in tiny print beside a coupon for Martha White products. I clipped it out (along with the coupon, of course) and stuck it on my refrigerator door.

A week or so later, I wanted something for a brunch dish, and there was the recipe staring me in the face. I gave it a try. As I tend to do, I made some changes to suit my taste. I thought it was delicious, and so did my friends.
There’s almost always some time during the summer that serving brunch or a hearty breakfast seems the right way to entertain. This is the perfect recipe for that.

If you use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, as I did, it will take only a little over half an hour from start to finish. If you chop your onion and bell pepper the night before and store in the fridge, it will cut a few minutes from the prep time. You can buy the cheese already shredded and mixed in the dairy section of the supermarket. You can make the dressing, shred the lettuce and dice the tomato while the base is baking.

It takes about half the meat from a small roasted chicken for this recipe, so you’ll have some left to make chicken salad, chicken soup, or just to nibble on.

This and a little fruit makes a perfect plate. This may well become one of your staple brunch recipes!


2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
About 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
¼ cup cilantro leaves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder (I used Mexene)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 can Rotel tomatoes (preferably with lime and cilantro)
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mixture
1 egg
½ cup milk
1 7-ounce package Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix (see note)
Salsa Dressing:
¾ cup buttermilk ranch dressing
½ cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon chipotle Tabasco sauce (or more, to taste)
½ cup purchased salsa verde
Juice and finely grated zest of one lime
To Finish:
3 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup Roma tomato, seeded and diced
1 avocado, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Make the topping: In a heavy skillet, heat the oil and cook the onion and bell pepper until tender, stirring often. Stir in the chicken, seasonings and tomatoes and simmer about 5 minutes.

Make the dressing: In a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse several times to blend but not quite puree completely. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Add the cornbread mix and stir just until combined. Grease a heavy 10” skillet that can go into the oven. Pour the cornbread mixture into the pan and top with the chicken mixture. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and the cornbread is done.

Let cool slightly and cut into wedges. Place on serving plates, top with the lettuce, avocado and tomato and drizzle with the salsa dressing. Serves 6.

NOTE: Most local Kroger stores carry the Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix. If you are unable to find it, use another variety that calls for milk and egg.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cute little desserts

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Some of my friends and I frequent the Carrabba's on Poplar in front of Clark Tower. Mostly we go for happy hour. It's a pleasant place, quiet (except for the occasional opera piece on their muzak system) and the folks who work there are unfailingly charming.

I was in with a friend this weekend to get one of their fire-baked pizzas. They were rolling out these cute little desserts. They offered us samples. (See why we love it?) Our favorite was the one with marsala-scented zabaglione topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries. I also liked the one with butter cake on the bottom, pastry cream and strawberries, but all were very tasty.

With six varieties, they are all $2.25 each and just the right size for following a big Italian meal. If you have a tableful of folks, or if you're a bigger dessert eater than I can ever be, the whole rack of six is $13.00.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Reed's Curried Carrot Soup

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog for a while, you know that I am truly blessed with great friends who love to cook.

One couple you’ve read about before are Reed Malkin and his wife Diane Benson. In the past few months they have initiated what has become a regular affair: the Sunday afternoon dinner. Folks trail in over the early hours of the afternoon, and enjoy a glass of wine, or a French aperitif. There are always dishes of olives and perhaps a few slices of salami to nibble on, and some of the guests might bring an appetizer to share.

Around 3:00 Reed will wander toward the kitchen and start bringing out the first of what is always several courses of really yummy food. And usually the lovely Miss Benson will wind up the meal with one of her home-made desserts. By 6:00 or so, everyone heads home.

I really like this idea and may steal it for my own. It makes an easy, casual way to entertain. The hosts aren't faced with a pile of dirty dishes late at night (or even worse, early the next morning). The guests can go home and do what they need to do to get ready for work the next day, and everyone can get to bed at a reasonable hour.

A recent gathering featured a wonderful curried carrot soup to start. The main course was a marinated and grilled tuna loin that one of the guests had fished out of the sea just the day before, with an orzo risotto and a great baked dish reminiscent of ratatouille, topped with cheese. Dessert was home-made ice cream and cookies.

You know how I love dishes that can be made ahead, so I had to ask for the soup recipe. It makes a great first course in the heat of summer. With its garnish of shrimp, I think you could make a great luncheon with a big green salad. And look how easy it is!


1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon curry powder (see notes)
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can (14-16 ounces) coconut milk (see notes)
Juice and zest of one lime
For garnish:
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
4 to 6 large shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

In a heavy pot, over medium heat, sauté the green and yellow onion in the butter until starting to soften. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender.
Add the carrots and the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
With a hand blender, or in a food processor, puree the soup until very smooth. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and zest. Cover and chill .
When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with the garnish. Serves 4 as a main course, or 6 as a first course.

NOTES: Reed used hot curry powder which gave it a pretty good kick. If you prefer, you may use mild curry powder. The coconut milk is the unsweetened sort, found in the oriental food section, not the sweetened cream of coconut found in the beverage mixer section of the supermarket.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Be Mantia's Sandwich Chef for a Day!

  It's easy! Just submit your idea for the perfect sandwich for Mantia's. Our crew will pick the five most appealing to them, and we will feature them as sandwich specials the week of June 2. If we gets lots and lots of good ideas, we'll extend into the following week.

The sandwich that sells the most will be named after its creator, and honored with a permanent place on our rotating list of sandwich specials. The person who submits it will enjoy dinner for two at Mantia's.

Votes may also be cast on our new Facebook page in a special section. You may also submit your recipe on our Facebook page.

In addition to the fame and fortune that the winner will enjoy, Mantia's will donate $1.00 for each of the special sandwiches sold during that week to the Kidney Foundation of West Tennessee.

Ask one of our associates for an entry form and let's get rolling!
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Saturday, May 10, 2008

A food trivia game--for serious foodies!

My sister and I always exchange "Day After Christmas" presents, and this year she gave me a food trivia game. With a lot going on to limit my personal free time, I hadn't gotten into it until recently.

Now I can't wait to have my foodie friends over to play it. With 1000 questions in five different categories, from food history and culinary expertise to dining etiquette and famous chefs, it promises a good way to spend an evening.

It may be available locally, but you can also order it online at Sur La Table (which is where the image above came from), for $18.95 plus shipping.

How about a food trivia play-off some Saturday afternoon at Mantia's?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The world's most expensive champagne?

The world's most expensive champagne, popping the records at 4,166 euros (around $6600.00) for a personalised bottle of bubbly, were sold in March, targeting a "super-rich" global elite. There were only 100 cases available and they apparently went fast.

Each case purchaser was brought to Epernay, in the Champagne region of France, for a private meeting with the cellar master, Hervé Deschamps, where they stayed in Perrier-Jouet's chateau for the visit.

Hmm...$6600 a bottle comes out to $1100 a glass. Maybe it's just my cheapskate mentality, but it sounds like more of a vanity than a pleasure!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Asparagus: A true harbinger of spring!

I knew spring had arrived last week when I found asparagus for forty-nine cents a pound in a local supermarket. Although asparagus is available year-round, it is at its best and most affordable this time of year.

My favorite way of cooking asparagus is roasted. Break off the woody ends and save them for soup if you like. Spread the spears in one layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with a good fruity olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher or sea salt, and roast at 400o for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on their thickness. Serve warm or at room temperature as a vegetable side dish, or atop a bed of salad greens with your favorite vinaigrette.
Another thing I like to do is make a flan, sort of a quiche without crust. I recently did this for a casual supper with friends, but it would also make a lovely first course with a tangle of arugula on the side, or as a brunch main course with some sort of fruit salad.
I made individual ones in tart pans, but it is easily made in one baking dish and cut into squares to serve, if you like. You can vary the cheese to your taste. I used a soft goat cheese, but if you prefer, shredded gruyère or fontina would work beautifully.

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1 lb asparagus
1 large lemon
3 tbsp butter, plus extra for buttering the baking dishes
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped, or 1 tsp dried
6 eggs
1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 cups shredded fontina or gruyère, or 6 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
Additional tarragon springs, or minced parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350o. Break off the woody lower stems of the asparagus. Place the spears in a glass or ceramic baking dish with a splash of water. Cover with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open to vent. Microwave for 4 minutes, or until just crisp tender. Let cool.

Remove the zest from the lemon in thin strips and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and reserve.

In a skillet, over medium heat, melt the butter. Cook the onion in the butter until very tender, but not at all browned. Add the tarragon, stir a couple of times and remove from the heat.
Divide the onion among six buttered baking dishes.

Cut the asparagus into 2” lengths. Reserving the tips, divide among the baking dishes atop the onions. Sprinkle with your cheese of choice.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, cream or milk, reserved lemon juice, salt and pepper until well combined. Pour over the asparagus. Arrange the reserved tips on top. Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the filling is set. Garnish with the lemon zest and tarragon or parsley and serve while still warm. Serves 6.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another Louisville restaurant

Once again my sister and I went to a new restaurant in Lousiville...well new to us at least.

The restaurant, Avalon, has been around for about 5 years, and has an excellent reputation. It is in the Highlands area of Louisville, which is the home of many original independent restaurants, cafés
and coffee shops. We were out grocery shopping for our mama's 88th birthday dinner, and stopped for lunch. It was a beautiful day, and the patio was sunny and inviting.

First, the food: I must say that the lunch menu didn't seem particularly exciting or inventive to me. We each ordered a cup of the crab & corn chowder with bacon. If there was bacon in it, the taste wasn't discernible, and the crab appeared to be the very inexpensive snow crab meat. At $6.90 for about 4 ounces, I expect a jumbo lump or two.

We split the "Shaved Peppermill Turkey Breast, Hoagie Roll, Granny Smith Apples, Bacon, Swiss Cheese, Garlic Mayonnaise." Although there was nothing wrong with it, it was indeed, pretty run of the mill. The fries were good, though, crisp shoestring fries, and plenty of them.
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The service was equally spotty. Although our server was a charming young lady, she was not able to open our bottle of wine without assistance from another server. We got our food but had no napkins or flatware, and it took several tries to get her attention to bring them. We asked the young man who appeared to be the manager to take a quick picture of us on the patio. He said he was busy but would be back. He never returned.

Now I must be fair: We looked at the dinner menu and it looked infinitely more inviting than the lunch menu did. We will almost certainly go back for dinner when we have the time. I'll report back!

Please note: The patio picture came from the Avalon website, since the gentleman didn't take one of us to show you. I took the food picture. I think I had the camera settings set wrong for the bright sun that day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Win a Prize for Pasta!

Italy Magazine, published in England is sponsoring a spring pasta recipe contest. For more information, or to post your favorite recipe, the full information is on their website.

The website is also a gold mine of information about traveling and eating in Italy. If you're planning a trip there anytime soon, you'll love this site.

I wanna be there, too!

For three days in July the Robert Mondavi Winery sponsors what looks to me like a wonderful program for lovers of food and wine, Taste3.

To quote their website: "TASTE3 brings together more than forty of the most compelling writers, thinkers, chefs, winemakers, journalists, artisans, and executives as speakers and hosts, joining 400 attendees who are every bit as tapped-in. TASTE3 will thrill, tantalize, engage, intrigue, provoke, and inspire both its audience and its speakers. The single-track program is broken into themed sessions filled with hard-hitting, engaging short-format presentations. Sessions are interwoven with breaks with networking opportunities and interactive exploration.

TASTE3 is presented by Robert Mondavi Winery. In the spirit of founder Robert Mondavi’s vision, passion and leadership, TASTE3 aims to push the exploration and marriage of wine, food and art."

You can find all the information you need, plus highlights and videos of last year's session at the Taste3 website.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Roman restaurant to put on your list

As many of you may know, I'm heading to Italy in late September. I'll spend most of the time in Umbria but I hope to get a day or so in Rome as well. One of the things I want to do is have dinner at Montevecchio. I heard Sylvia Poggioli do a report on it back in the fall and went looking for it on the NPR website, where I found this picture and lots of information. If you're heading to Rome any time soon, you might want to check it out.