Thursday, July 31, 2008

First Shot from San Diego

Posted by Picasa
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.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Cute little desserts

Posted by Picasa

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.