Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year! Last-Minute Tasty Bites and A Smoky Sipper

Let's send 2014 off properly with these delightful nibbles and sips (scroll down for recipes). 
See you all on the other side….. xxxooo

Fried rosemary potato chips

Caramelized onion, thyme, and Gruyere puff pastry bites

Calvados, Lapsang souchong, Champagne cocktail

Fried rosemary potato chips
makes a large bowlful

11/2 lbs or so of mixed sweet and russet potatoes*, scrubbed, knobs or ends trimmed, and sliced thinly on a mandoline
distilled white vinegar, for boiling
good flake sea salt, like Maldon
peanut oil, for frying
3 sprigs rosemary, torn into smaller sprigs

*I had red potatoes available and not russet, and did okay. General consensus is that russets produce a more consistent potato chip.

Soak the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water. This will help them release their starches, the enemy to a good fried potato chip. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add two tablespoons of white vinegar. Drain and rinse sliced potatoes and boil for 3-5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove slices, lay out onto tea towels, and pat them dry to be thorough.

In a large skillet, pour in about an inch of peanut oil and heat on medium high. Add potato slices in batches, a few handfuls at a time. Turn with a slotted spoon every 20-30 seconds, up to 5 minutes, until the potatoes stop "fizzing". When they have stopped releasing bubbles, there is no more water in them and it is this key moment in which they will retain their crispness, before they start to burn. Keep in mind smaller chips will finish sooner than larger ones.

Transfer finished chips to a large bowl lined with paper towels and sprinkle with sea salt. Repeat this process until you have completed the lot, tossing them for even saltiness.

Add the rosemary sprigs and turn as you did the potatoes until they stop fizzing. Add them to the chip pile, scatter a final pinch of salt on them, and toss to coat. Allow to cool fully.

Great alone or dipped into crème fraîche. Store remaining chips in a resealable bag at room temperature for one week.

Caramelized onion, thyme, and Gruyere puff pastry bites 
serves 20-30

4-6 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 cup Gruyere, finely shredded
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 package good puff pastry - I used Dufour
good olive oil
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Over medium heat in a heavy skillet, cook onions in a glug of olive oil, stirring occasionally, until they become translucent. Lower heat to low and cook onions until they have softened to collapse and become caramel in hue, about a half-hour. During this time, stir occasionally: you do not want them to brown, but they don't need babysitting. Add the thyme at the end and give a stir to incorporate.

Heat oven to 400 degrees (F). Roll out puff pastry between two layers of lightly floured parchment to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut the pastry into one-inch lengths, and into one-inch widths. At this size, there's enough to feed 20-30 people, so adjust scale (2-inch segments, for instance), if you have fewer mouths to account for. Chill on parchment-lined baking sheets for 5-10 minutes.

Score a square inside the perimeter of each pastry using a pairing knife. Pile a little caramelized onion mixture inside that square, topped with a pinch of shredded cheese, followed by freshly cracked pepper, and place into oven.

Start to check after 15 minutes, baking pastries until deeply golden. Rotate pans from bottom-to-top and turn front-to-back as they bake. Cool for a few minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a wire rack.

Serve warm. Store leftovers between layers of parchment in a sealed container, frozen or refrigerated. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator for a day. Reheat in a toaster oven or oven for same flaky texture as when first baked. Keeps for 2 weeks refrigerated, one month frozen.

Calvados, Lapsang souchong, Champagne cocktail
serves 2

2 oz Calvados
1/2 oz smoky Lapsang souchong-infused neutral spirit - I placed 8 teabags in 1 cup good vodka for one week, then discarded the teabags - keeps indefinitely
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar
juice from one lemon
Champagne to top off

Place all but the Champagne in a shaker and top with ice. Cover, seal, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into two coupe glasses and top with Champagne. Cin Cin!!!

I have loved sharing the fun and adventure of this year with you. Thank you for being here. 

Here's to many more adventures in 2015!!!!! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Rounding the Year out: Holiday Sips with The New York Times (Another Page 1!), Walnut Recipes with Food52, and More

The last few weeks have gone quickly by. There's a flurry of work which you should know about. Much great food and drink for winter days to keep you and your loves cozy, or, just yourself.

So important to give special things to yourself, and, hey, it all starts with you. Is there a little pep talk in there? Maybe. But if so, it's for me, as the start of New Years aren't an easy thing. It's like I have to figure out where I am, all over again….

Anyway. These are all great eating and drinking, so get some. :)

This feature was sparkly and huge on Page 1 - always something I relish - Christmas Eve. Both cocktails are lovely. I especially like the Apple Brandy-Islay Scotch-Champagne riff on the French 75. I have made similar at my own bar for a while, but used a Lapsang Suchong infused spirit I'd created instead of the Scotch. Bright, warming, and surprising.

Also with The Times is this tasty recipe, prepared with fresh pasta, chopped tarragon, yuzu juice, togarashi pepper (if you can find it - though cayenne makes a fine substitute), and delicious plump crabmeat.

Good eating indeed. And, this extra-special gingersnap cookie recipe.

While looking at these sweets, I was reminded of the gorgeous brownies I produced for the December Birmingham Magazine. They are utterly scrumptious. Use this recipe if you're looking to make a batch for yourself.

AND, there's more…. now you can see how the days go by in a blur over here!

My "What to do with a bulk of Walnuts" story is the newest installment for Food52's Halfway to Dinner column. If you haven't seen my other features, I also created recipes and the stories for capers (to die for), preserved lemons, and red quinoa!

 Roasted kabocha, celery, pomegranate, walnut, and fried sage salad

Beet, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, walnut, and mint salad

 Walnut pesto

 Bourbon-roasted squash soup with blue cheese and candied walnuts

This last recipe - a persimmon-walnut bread pudding - has a special place in my heart. And belly. I basically threw a bunch of stuff together while keeping the tenants of bread pudding in my back pocket, and came to the other side with an outrageously delightful dessert (or breakfast!). Please do let me know if you try it.

Well, that's almost all of it.

Christmas was spent somewhat uneventfully here, with the beau home but fiercely under the weather. We are both emerging, and if I have my way, I'll have a New Year's post up in a couple days. Please hold me to it! There are some other tasty bites I've been keen to share.

I hope you have had a joyous Holiday Season, and that you are feeling light with the days remaining in 2014. Woo-hoooo! xxx

Friday, December 5, 2014

Winter Stew and Soppressata Cheese Breads at Anthology & the 2014 Annual Gift Guide

I've made a lot of stories I'd call special. But this one is special in that it is a straightforward, delicious go-to in the cold weather months. And it possesses a sense of childhood indulgence (I'm pointing at you, amazing cheese breads). Finally, this story is special because the independent makers and excellent customer service folks over at Scoutmob helped me actualize my concept in full glory.

Here's the newest feature at Anthology: a fireside winter picnic with friends, delicious comfort food, and the beautiful objects that enhance our lives.

What is Scoutmob, you might be asking? A great curated collection of over 1000 makers who create high-quality and limited-edition goods, all made here in the USA. Real people making things. Beautiful things made to last. What's not to love?

The ceramic quail egg chili bowls set the stage for my three bean Tuscan inspired stew. Jessie Lazar makes contemporary heirloom pieces and her workmanship is delicate yet unfussy. 

As far as the stew goes, why settle for one bean when you can have the amazing textures and flavors of three? Savory and buttery great northern, flageolet, and cannellini. YUM.

This gorgeous solid walnut board made an ideal presentation for the cheat's soppressata cheesy breads. 

And the backdrop for lolling the afternoon away with amazing food and friends…? This colorful and hand-woven rug by Re:loom. I've included them in my annual gift guide, below. I love championing people who are doing things right. 

See the full story and recipes at Anthology!

Now, for beautiful objects to treat yourself and your loved ones - 

2014 Annual Gift Guide

1. I've gone crazy for ceramics this year. There are so many talented people producing in clay, and it is easier than ever (thank you Instagram) to access their creations. It can be a bit much to keep track of, but for me, it's quite tantalizing. I have to prioritize in my line of work! That said, I am in love with Marité Acosta's pieces. They are elemental and functional, and timeless. Her work appears in the stew story, vessels holding mascarpone and marbles (no, I didn't plan that tongue-twister…).

2. Made from repurposed and sustainably harvested Mango wood, these sleek candlesticks from designer Michael Dreeben reference modernist style while incorporating traditional craft practices. They make a graphic, elegant statement in any space.

3. I only recently found out about Brooklyn woodworker Ariele Alasko's gorgeous carvings and inlay work. It seems she has a lot of fans, as her shop sells out as soon as she has new work to share. Brava Ariele! And good luck snagging one of her unique creations.

4. The photography in Bitter is stunning, and honestly is what drew me to consider making it part of my collection. Aya Brackett is the talent behind the photography, and Jennifer McLagan the author of this seductive book on the bitter taste.

5. George Steinmetz, the famed National Geographic photographer, has named is opus Desert Air. His favorite places are those most hard to get to, and he captures them from a motorized paraglider. No big deal. This book shares page-after-page of stunning images that everyone will appreciate.

6. For the fur baby in your life, this fantastic hexagonal wall-mounted work of art is the purrrfect splurge.

7. This is the board I used for the stew and cheese bread feature, and I absolutely love it. Crafted in a timeless form, I look forward to all the entertaining uses it will serve!

8. All rugs by Re:loom are hand-woven from donated and repurposed fabric, by homeless and low-income families. This initiative, based in Atlanta, creates a sustainable income for people, as well as provides affordable housing and health care. Each is a limited edition product and made with great attention to detail. One of their rugs is the backdrop to my delicious stew story, and I am eager to incorporate it into my home. :)

9. Freedom Soaps is a local brand here in Alabama. Each of Chasity Curtis' body products smells amazing and contains only the most elemental ingredients. I'm a huge fan, so much so that I am photographing her product line for a new launch in 2015. This activated charcoal soap is one of my favorites!

10. Many of us already know about the beautiful goods at Quitokeeto. The addition of this potter's beautiful pieces is no exception. They're even oven safe! Now, to be fast enough to acquire one…

11. This Oaxacan Molé Sauce is rich, smoky, and spicy in all the right ways. It's another curated item at Scoutmob, something I keep on hand for unexpected entertaining, or even to dip into by myself. Small batch, out of Portland.

12. Kind of a dream piece, this gorgeous knife incorporates reclaimed materials, like old saw blades and burlap from coffee bags. That these are dream pieces may be a good thing, as current lead time for orders is 23 months (!!). With as much work as I have in the kitchen, this knife would quickly earn its keep….

13. Last but not least is another new-to-me maker out of New York. Susan Connor hand-designs each of her creations and incorporates wood block printing to articulate them. I'm taken with so many of her works. This pillow joins my lust-for collection.

If the notion of the holidays inspires you to give in the bigger sense, here are some organizations that will greatly appreciate your contribution:

Friends of the Earth - Campaigns in climate, food, land, and water to bring balance back to our ecosystems and our people. - Worldwide. People-powered, climate change-centered actions.

Center for Biological Diversity - Spotlights threatened and critically endangered species around the world, and mounts campaigns to raise awareness and halt further habitat destruction/poaching/harmful legislation, etc.

Real News Network - Telling the news the way it should be: based on facts. Ad-free, with contributions from award-winning journalists spanning the globe.

I'm still amazed we are nearing the close of 2014, but upon reflection, am so grateful for this knockout of a year. It's one for the record books!

Thanks for reading, as always, and for all the support you've given. It means the world to me!!! xxx

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! Black Truffle Stuffing, Pear Kuchen, and a Delicious Leftovers Sandwich at The New York Times, and Gooey Eggnog French Toast at Cup of Jo

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Here's to the soon-ending what's-turned-out-to-be an amazing year. May you all experience a memorable and love-filled holiday.

I produced four of the Fifty States of Thanksgiving in the latest New York Times Food section. The group was a lot of work to cook, style, and shoot. I am very happy with the results. And, needless to say, folks around here ate well in the aftermath….  Each of these is a fantastic dish, if you're still on the hunt for delicious food for your holiday gathering. :)

Above: Delaware, the DuPont family Black Truffle Zucchini Stuffing.

The Elsen sisters' South Dakota Pear Kuchen.

Kansas Harvey House Candied Sweet Potatoes.

A Turkey French Dip from Nevada. This one was the biggest surprise. Totally delicious (keep in mind, it's all in the proportions….).

Once the tryptophan has worn off, here is an indulgence with just enough eggs and sugar to welcome the weekend.  I was asked to produce this for Cup of Jo. It was even better than it looks….

There are some end-of-year goodies I'll be sharing next. Another great giveaway, a giving (and buying) guide, and of course, more really delicious food.

What plans do you have for the last days of 2014?

I need to slow down so I can be a little more deliberate. Time is precious. Our loved ones are gold. More time for loved ones, that's what I'll be doing with the remaining days this year.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Most Custardy Quiche

I did not see this coming.

That somehow, Food52 - where I am a contributor to Halfway to Dinner and Heirloom Recipes, including delicious stories such as this, this, this, this, and this (and a fab new one on the way….) - would share my little ole Saturday evening quiche with the Instagram Universe.

And then I would be demanded (well maybe not demanded) to share the recipe. It isn't a story I made for the camera. I just made it for my mouth, trying to use up a surplus of goodies in the fridge.

Good thing you all have asked for this recipe though, because it is SO GOOD. Once you have the groundwork laid, you can sub out the fillings of your choice. I had done roasted squash before (albeit with kabocha instead of delicata), and used pan fried speck instead of caramelized onions. Both are wonderful, so either works just as nicely.

I also happened to have handfuls of garlic chives available and so I thought, why not?

Here it is -

Roasted squash, caramelized onion, and garlic chive quiche
Serves 6-8

for the filling-
5 eggs - use only pasture-raised eggs if at all possible - the custard will be so much more dynamic
3 or 4 egg yolks, depending on how rich you're willing to go (same as above)
1 1/2 cups delicata or other pumpkin squash, halved, insides scraped out, and coarsely chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup heavy cream - use pastured milk, as it will be more flavorful
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
2 tbsp garlic chives, finely chopped - regular chives, or roasted garlic cloves work just as well
good olive oil 
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

for the dough - I adapted the Four and Twenty Blackbirds cornmeal crust, which was deeelicious
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup stone-ground cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup cold water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
a few ice cubes
Pulse the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together in the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse briefly to coat.  Pulse at 5 second intervals until mostly pea-size pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend). 
Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and pulse until it is fully incorporated. Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.
Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine. Shape the dough into a flat disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow. Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.
Bring disk out of fridge and remove plastic. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough  to 1/4-inch thick, turning 1/4 turn with each go of the rolling pin for evenness. Drape into an 8-inch springform pan, freeing dough from edge as you press it down with the back of your finger, flush to base of pan. 

Use any particularly high or thick points to patch thin areas or mend cracks. Prick all over with a fork and chill in the refrigerator.

Sauté the onion over medium low heat in a cast iron skillet, using good glug or two of olive oil. Stirring occasionally, you don't want the onions to brown, rather to sweat them and then allow them to slowly give way to the pan. This is a 20 minute or so process of occasionally stirring and then going about the rest of the work. If you don't have that time, many groceries carry onion jam or a package of caramelized onions in the specialty department. 

Meanwhile, roast delicata (or other squash) tossed in olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper on the stovetop or in the oven. For the oven, I do about 40 minutes at 325 (F) until the bottoms are dark but the flesh is still soft, or in a cast iron skillet over medium heat for the same result. This can be done a day or two in advance and refrigerated until needed.

If you did the above in advance, preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Place a sheet of parchment over dough and weight with baking weights, beans, or rice. Blind bake for 15 minutes, or according to your oven. Check after 10 minutes and see that the dough is not wet or particularly soft. Remove weights and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven, lower oven to 300 degrees.

Whisk together eggs, cream, nutmeg, thyme, garlic chives, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the squash and onions, and pour mixture into pastry. Top with grind or two of pepper and bake for 30 minutes, or until custard has *just* set. There should be the slightest jiggle in the center when agitated. Cool inside the oven with the door ajar for 10 minutes or so, and then fully cool on a wire rack. 

Release spring collar from around pastry. Use two spatulas or palette knives to transfer quiche to a serving platter. Serve with a shaved brussels sprouts dressed in lemon juice or with a mixed green salad, and enjoy!

If you are new to my blog, I am so pleased this is our first meeting! Welcome. Please have a look around and if you feel like it, leave a comment or reach out and say hello!

To that end, you also need to know about my latest giveaway, which is still happening. Scroll down to the giveaway part and enter - there's still a week left!

I'm in the middle of five (!) fantastic food projects and working my way through the fridge, bit by bit. Tough life. If you already follow me on Instagram, you'll see plenty more of the fun I have in the coming days…. More wonderful, delicious things soon… XO ;) 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Banana Salted Caramel Pie at Anthology & Chef Frank and Pardis Stitt for The Local Palate

Happy Halloween! If regular trick or treatin' isn't your bag, consider this magical pie. I didn't realize at the outset that I'd be willing to fight over it. Share it (and covet it)! This banana salted caramel pie is that good.

The combination of salty, crunchy pretzel bits and the brown sugar crystalized crumbs of digestive biscuits comprise the crumb crust. That's where the magic begins. I used Martin's Pretzels, a Pennsylvania Dutch style which is crisp, airy, and perfectly salty. Having made this pie once before and knowing I needed the win of a similar experience this time around, they shipped me an awesome package of pretzel bags. They'll do it for you too. Reason #11 (or 28, or 35…..) why You Need to Make This Pie.

Plus, with any leftover pretzels you may have, you can enjoy them with grain mustard and a nice beer….

Back to the pie.

Making [salted] caramel is so easy, and it, paired with the creamy bananas and tangy creme fraiche-cream mixture is pretty damn great. It's not really possible to imagine how good the combination of all this is. You just have to do it and experience it for yourself.

The story is now available - recipe here - as this month's Anthology feature. I hope you love it. When you've made it, come back and thank me….. :)

In the October Local Palate Magazine - still available! - is this wonderful story of an all-together different magic. It shares the story of Chef Frank and Pardis Stitt, and some insight to their beautiful hamlet in the country, Paradise Farms.

Here are some favorites from that day together -

adorable pooches, Fernando and Fiona

This gentleman, Freddy, is a former professional polo star and coaches Frank, as well as takes care of the horses and farm

Some very well-taken-care-of and happy horses

kitchen banter while prepping the dishes for shooting

a new drink created on the spot, incorporating one of my favorites, dry curaçao - recipe here

sardines and skordalia

a most delicious kuku sabzi - Persian herb frittata

a plate of everything good - click here for the recipe

pear and almond tart 

We had a fantastic day together and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you Amy, Carter and the whole Local Palate gang! And a special thanks to Frank and Pardis, for welcoming me into your world with such authenticity.

I'm off to create some more magic with The New York Times. Think turkey…...