Saturday, September 1, 2012

Local Food News: ‘Farm-to-Plate’ Initiative, Perl Catering Signs Lease, Just A Pinch Announces Universal Online Recipe Box

I’ve often talked about how much I love Nashville, especially in this post about my love for East Nashville establishments. I’ve gotten wind of a few neat things food-related happenings ’round these parts, so thought I’d share a little round up.

Lisa Shively’s ‘Farm To Plate’  Initiative

Local food advocate and publisher of The Local Table, Lisa Shively has launched a GoFundMe campaign to create “an online local food sourcing network that will connect Tennessee farmers directly to chefs, schools, hospitals and other institutions…The logistics for sourcing local food can be cumbersome and difficult for both farmers and chefs and this website will make the process simpler for each to connect with the other.” Watch the video below to learn more and check out her GoFundMe campaign here.

Perl Catering Kickstarter Campaign

I found Perl Catering at Food Blog Forum Nashville last year. They’re a husband-wife team committed to local eating and delicious food. We’ve hired them for our upcoming wedding and I couldn’t be more excited to serve our guests local meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies cooked with love. Earlier this year they launched a KickStarter campaign to raise funds for a brick and mortar location and recently announced they’ve signed a lease to open a location in Bellevue. Per a recent e-newsletter, “This spot will be the perfect place to house our cafe, retail deli and market and provide a space for evening events, dinners and catering functions. Our projected opening date is mid-October so that we can be up and running for the holiday season.” Yay!

Just A Pinch Recipes

Full disclosure: I work for Just A Pinch as I shared with you all in this post. We’ve just launched a very exciting new enhancement on the site called “Pinch It!” that allows you to save recipes to your virtual recipe box on from anywhere on the web! So, not only can you upload family favorite recipes of your own but you can now also save your other favorites from anywhere on the Internet. We’re the only major recipe site to do this and we couldn’t be more pumped!

What food news do you have?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Falling for Thai

I remember the first time I had Thai food. It was at a little place in Chicago called Cozy Noodle that was right around the corner from my first apartment there. I’d gone to lunch with my new roommate Leah – a girl I’d never met before we moved in together – in an effort to get to know one another better. 

While Leah has become one of my very best friends over the last seven years, I remember very little about the getting-to-know-you conversation we had. I remember the Pad Thai exquisitely.

I’d grown up in a small town where the most exotic thing one could eat was Americanized Chinese food. I went to college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and while that sweet small town has a lot to offer, while I was there, it was lacking in the ethnic eats department.

That first bite of Pad Thai at Cozy Noodle really blew my mind, with its sweet and savory sauce made with tamarind paste, fish sauce and sugar. Its crisp bean sprouts, fried egg and chewy noodles, all topped with a sprinkling of peanuts, a feathery mound of cilantro and a zesty squeeze of lime, really took my breath away. And it wasn’t just the flavors, it was the textures all working together, too. Each bite was a flavor/texture explosion to this Midwestern girl.

I’ve since branched out from my Pad Thai obsession and now love most any Thai dish. Tom Ka Gai soup, with its sweet and sour coconut broth, crispy fried fish cakes, delectable ginger-garlic salad dressings (though not sure how authentic these are) and any combination of noodles or rice with veggies, meat, seafood or tofu. Basically give me anything with Thai flavors in it and I’ll gobble it up with gratitude.

As much as I love Thai food, and as much as I love to cook, I surprisingly haven’t done much experimenting in the kitchen with authentic Thai ingredients. However, I recently whipped up a Thai-inspired grain salad, and I’ve been craving it ever since. I included elements of Thai cuisine in the salad – cilantro, peanuts, nam plah (fish sauce), Thai chili sauce, scallions, rice – though I wouldn’t claim this was any sort of authentic dish. It was the flavor and texture of Thai cuisine I tried to emulate in this inspired salad. I included black rice, too – a nutty, grainy rice with more bite and flavor that regular jasmine or brown rice in my opinion. Enjoy!


Thai-Inspired Black Rice Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Add shrimp or tofu to make this more of a main dish salad.


1 cup black rice, uncooked
2 cups arugula
2 cups broccoli slaw mix
½ peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
handful of cilantro leaves and stems, ends trimmed, roughly chopped
3 scallions, green and light green parts only, chopped
1 red pepper, julienned
½ cup raisins
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ cucumber, diced
lime wedges

1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon hot chile sauce, such as Sriracha
1 tablespoon nam plah (fish sauce)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


Cook rice according to package directions. Once rice is cooked, remove pot from heat and place a clean dish towel over the pot and under the lid. This will allow the rice to fluff without the steam condensing on the top of the lid and dripping back in. Let stand for 5 minutes then flush with a fork. Let cool slightly before mixing with salad.

Mix next eight ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and add cooled rice. Toss to combine. Combine dressing ingredients in a pint-size mason jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake to emulsify. Pour dressing around perimeter of bowl. Toss salad with tongs, moving the bowl the opposite direction you’re moving the tongs, to coat salad evenly. Serve with lime wedges.

This post also appeared in the Tennessean.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Ode to the Chickpea

I love chickpeas. I mix them in my garbage salads, serve them heated with spices as a side to fish, add them to tuna salad, and sometimes eat them right out of the can. I love their nutty flavor and grainy texture. Plus, rich in fiber and protein, they’re good for you!

I was pretty excited when I saw this post from One Particular Kitchen blog. I’d heard of people roasting chickpeas like this, but had never tried it myself. In her post, Erin seasoned them with salt and cinnamon. I took a more savory approach and used cumin, chile powder and salt. They were delish! I munched on them as a snack, and also tossed a few into a salad for some extra crunch. This would be a great snack for parties too. Enjoy!


Roasted Chickpeas

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 40-45 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Nutty, crunchy roasted chickpeas rule! The first time I made them I mixed in the spices before roasting. The flavor is much more pronounced if you do it right after they come out of the oven.


1 can chickpeas
Drizzle of olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon salt


Rinse and drain chickpeas. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. While oven heats, lay chickpeas out on a baking sheet lined with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Using a second layer of paper towels, gently press down and roll chickpeas around to further remove moisture.

When oven is hot, remove paper towels and drizzle chickpeas with olive oil.

Roast 30-40 minutes until crispy and golden brown, being careful not to burn. Remove from oven and top with spices. Roll around with a spatula or your hand until they're well coated. Enjoy!

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen ( as seen in One Particular Kitchen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hot Watermelon Salad

My mother doesn’t always like to mix sweet and savory. While we are alike in many ways, I am the opposite in this regard. I literally dream about salted caramel ice cream, for example, but I understand how the idea of salt in your ice cream to some could be a definite turn off.

Beyond just sweet and savory desserts, I have a real affinity for all kinds of sweet and savory flavors together. I love turkey burgers with mango chutney, salmon marinated in pineapple juice and cinnamon, pork tenderloin with peach preserves, and simple combinations like fruit and cheese. There is just something about salty and sweet that works for me.

One ingredient I love in savory applications is sweet, juicy watermelon. I spent some time in Mexico a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with the chili-lime watermelon sold by street vendors. It was so simple – a plastic cup filled with cubed watermelon, sprinkled with salt and chili powder, with a squeeze of lime juice on top. An amazingly refreshing and tasty snack! You could also buy mixed fruit cups with mango, melon and jicama with the same seasonings. I found it a perfect nosh in the later afternoon.

A few weeks ago I had dinner at Rumours East Wine Bar. I had a watermelon salad with big bright chunks of heirloom tomatoes and briny feta in a light vinaigrette. I wasn’t sure how tomatoes and watermelon would be together, but it worked wonderfully. The acidity in the tomatoes didn’t overpower the sweet, subtle watermelon, but rather complemented it. The salad was so appropriate for summer, and a really refreshing start to our meal.

That salad reminded me of a recipe I’d made a few years before. It was a watermelon salad with mint and a vinaigrette made with sriracha chili sauce. I made it for dinner with friends one night and everyone raved about it! It worked in part because the, well, watery watermelon helped quench the spice in each bite. The sweetness worked in tandem with the heat, instead of competing with it. After the salad at Rumours, I decided to try out the watermelon salad with tomatoes to see how it worked.

The results were top notch! Acidic tomatoes and sweet watermelon remains a great combination, and the punched up kick of sriracha with rice vinegar totally works. A bit of honey helped further balance the heat. I didn’t have any feta on hand, but I bet that would have been a tasty addition. I also tossed in some basil from the garden with the mint. The flavors literally explode in your mouth with each bite. It’s a fun dish to make for parties because at first glance no one is expecting a watermelon salad to be spicy! (Though be careful it’s marked well for kids.)

That’s one of the things I like best about about sweet and savory ingredients together – the flavor pop is such a surprise to your taste buds. Now if I could just get my mother on board.


Hot Watermelon & Tomato Salad

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes


1/8-1/4 cup hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1/4 cup rice vinegar*
1 1/4 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes seedless watermelon
2 medium tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
chopped fresh mint and basil


Combine chili sauce, rice vinegar and honey in the base of a medium bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk together until emulsified. Add in watermelon and tomatoes and sprinkle with herbs. Toss to combine.

If making ahead, mix dressing up in a mason jar and cube watermelon and tomatoes. Drain any liquid from the watermelon and tomatoes. Mix together right before serving and sprinkle with herbs. The longer salad sits the soupier it will become.

*Rice vinegar is made from fermented rice or rice wine. It may sometimes be called “rice wine vinegar” but since rice wine is made from fermented rice they are essentially the same thing. Seasoned rice vinegar means sake, sugar and salt have been added for flavor.

This recipe also appeared in the Tennessean.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pickled Beets from Scratch

I love beets. I’d never really had them before I did some work for a pickled beet client in Chicago. Aunt Nelly’s Pickled Beets opened my eyes! I now enjoy them roasted, boiled or pickled, and I’ve even juiced a few.

This spring, my fiance grew a bunch of beets from seed. Over the last month we’ve harvested tons of these little jewels from the earth! Since he’s not the beet lover I am, I decided to pickle the beets so we could save them for later.

A simple salad with my homemade pickled beets, goat cheese, carrots and arugula.

The process wasn’t hard, but it was time consuming. In a nutshell, you boil, peel, pickle and can the beets. I was really happy with the way they came out. They weren’t too vinegary or too sugary sweet. And while I did infuse the pickling liquid with pickling spices in some cheese cloth, that wasn’t overpowering either. The pickling spices have cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and other strongly-flavored spices that I think can compete with the earthy flavor of the beets if overdone.

Making pickled beets from scratch reminds me of when I made that pumpkin pie a few years ago completely from scratch. I started with a whole pumpkin and ended with a pumpkin pie. It was a sense of accomplishment for sure, and I learned a ton.

But did I make that pumpkin pie completely from scratch a second time? Nope. I learned not long after that one of the best canned products is canned pumpkin – without any additives and minimal processing, it’s exactly like roasting it yourself but without all the hassle. But I did it for the experience. I had a vague idea how to roast the pumpkin, but I didn’t know how to put it all together, and now I do. And I’ve applied that learning to other dishes I’ve made.

Will I make pickled beets again? Maybe, because I do love them, but it was a bit of a labor of love (if you love beets, that is). But I’m really glad I did it once. If you find yourself with a free afternoon and a bushel of beets, try this recipe!!


Pickled Beets

Yield: 6.5 pint jars of beets

Total Time: 3 hours

A very straight forward recipe for pickled beets! The pickling liquid isn't too vinegary or too sweet, just a perfect combination of sweet and sour.


7 lbs of 2- to 2-1/2-inch diameter beets
4 cups vinegar (I used 2 cups apple cider vinegar and 2 cups white vinegar)
1-1/2 teaspoons canning or pickling salt (kosher salt also works, it just takes longer to dissolve)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
4 tablespoons pickling spices
cheese cloth (medical gauze is a good substitue if you don't have cheese cloth handy)


Trim leaves off beets, but leave stem end and root end intact to prevent bleeding during boiling.

Boil beets for about 30 minutes until a fork can be inserted easily; drain. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and slice them.

Meanwhile, make the pickling liquid. Combine remaining ingredients and simmer with pickling spices in cheesecloth for about 30 minutes. Simmer sliced beets in pickling liquid for five minutes.

Stack beets in sterilized jars and pour pickling liquid over top. Process in a water bath for 30 minutes until cans are sealed. This recipe made about six pint jars and 1 half pint jar of beets.

This recipe was adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preparation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Art of the Food Truck

On this Fourth of July, I thought I’d salute a very special group of entrepreneurs pursuing the American Dream. The burgeoning food truck culture in this town is diverse and exciting, and while the delicious food is often the focus of coverage on these road warriors, I wanted to take a closer look at the artistry and creativity these ambitious small business owners bring to the table.

Recently I was lucky enough to be one of about a dozen food blog judges at DINING LOT 2012, Nashville’s first annual Food Truck Festival. I got to sample fare from about 15 food trucks of all colors and flavors. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

Beyond drooling over the culinary offerings, one of the first things I noticed about the cluster of food trucks as I approached the festival in Centennial Park was that they’re so darn cute! Clearly a lot of thought was put into the signage, logos, and design. As I perused each vendor I noticed artistic touches in everything from the attire of the vendors to the way their condiments were displayed and food was plated.

While one could easily argue that any small business needs to have a good look and smart design to attract customers, I was struck by a certain something extra about these trucks.

A few weeks ago I read an old post on theKitchn blog about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, a gourmet ice cream shop. (Nashville has one on the East side.) In the post, I was really struck by this quote from founder Jeni: “When I was at Ohio State [art school before starting Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams]…there was an installation where they had these giant vases filled with scent. You would walk up and pull the top off and smell the scent inside. I had already been making ice cream at home, and I was like, ‘this is art.’ If those vases filled with scent are art, then butterfat filled with scent that melts on your palate and explodes, that’s art too.”

That got me wondering if, like Jeni, any of Nashville’s food truck entrepreneurs founded their trucks as a way to make a living while also getting to flex their artistic muscle.

Tammy Fisher, creator of Dixie Belle’s Cupcakes, was a photographer before starting her truck. She still shoots part-time for certain clients, but mostly focuses on the cupcake business now. “It is pretty cool to have the photography and design background to bring to my business,” she says. “It makes me strive to be sure they look as good as they taste!”

Tammy Fisher, proprietess, Dixie Belle’s Cupcakes. Her sister sewed her decorative, ruffled cupcake apron!

Fisher’s Toffee Crunch cupcake, a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream topped with caramel toffee popcorn and caramel syrup, was as good as it sounds.

Co-owner Jay Jenratha, of Deg Thai, wanted his truck to be eye-catching. A native of Thailand, all the designs are Thai inspired patterns which include a little graffiti. His partner Chad Trout is a musician. He moved to Nashville in 1995 after getting a deal with Mercury Records and worked with country singer Del Reeves for years. They say they both try to funnel their individual creativity into the truck the best they can. “Jay loves being an artist when it comes to food…I love people and am always thinking of how we can market the business with music, videos and photos,” says Trout.

The Tiger Tear Salad I sampled was one of the best things I tried at the festival. It was composed of marinated and grilled top sirloin steak atop a bed of super crisp romaine. The dressing was a combo of lime juice, soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.

At The Grilled Cheeserie, while neither of the two co-owners are visual artists per say, co-owner Joseph Brogan says their logo was inspired by an old French film poster. When not on the truck, Brogan works in the music industry on the recording side. He says the truck is definitely an outlet for his creativity and agrees that food trucks do need to go the extra mile in their design. “When you’re stuck in traffic, driving a 25-foot truck, you definitely want to feel confident that the design of your truck is a good representation for your company.”

The tasty “melt of the moment” I sampled was fried green tomatoes, buttermilk cheddar and Benton’s bacon between slices of rosemary bread.

Herby Mustard and ‘Tot Sauce’ at Grilled Cheeserie

Wanderland Urban Food Park, an event management company, put on the festival. They specialize in working with mobile street food vendors, and help facilitate these mobile entrepreneurs by taking care of the permits, promotion and organization of group food truck outings in exchange for a portion of proceeds. They hold weekly markets

I didn’t have one favorite food truck – they all brought something interesting to the table. After meeting so many of the food truck owners, I have a greater appreciation for the craft of these entrepreneurs, both in their edible art and beyond.

Following are some photos of the fabulous trucks, vendors and fare I sampled at DINING LOT 2012 – a feast for the eyes, for sure!

Wild Bill’s Old Fashioned Soda Pop Co. – the panels attach to the outside of this pulled cart.

The taps, featuring flavors like Rocky Mountain Root Beer and Vintage Vanilla Cream (my two favorites)

Ginger Lemon Italian Soda from the Sugar Wagon

Such a cute sign!

Moovers and Shakers, the OMG – Rhubarb Shake drizzled with honey and cinnamon!

Meatloaf from The Bean and Tater. I loved the sweet glaze and nutty texture of this loaf.

Hot chicken from The Hot Spot. This chicken has a jamaican jerk seasoning on it, in addition to an Asian hot sauce. Not your typical fried chicken!

The Bistro Truck serves up grilled pizzas

I loved the Bistro Truck’s pizza. The crust is grilled, which makes it a bit stiff and crunchy, a bonus when you’re eating pizza outdoors standing up!

Got a favorite food truck?

*This story was also published in the Tennessean.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Loaded Veggie Pasta Sauce – Slow Cooker Style

A couple weeks ago I wrote about slow cooking in the summertime. Well, I’m at it again, this time with eggplant. I’d read somewhere that when slow-cooked, eggplant gives sauces or stews a really great texture, and it’s true! I found a recipe for Loaded Veggie Pasta Sauce from a user on that included two eggplants, so I gave it a try. It was a tomato-based sauce, and when slow-cooked, the eggplant kind of dissolved in the stew, adding heft and bulk to the tomato sauce without making it soupy or too heavy. The eggplant, plus the combo of peppers, onions, red pepper flakes and a bit of brown sugar, made this sauce a must-try!

I assembled it all in the morning, then enjoyed it over pasta with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped parsley for dinner. There is something so nice to coming home from work to a meal that’s already prepared!

The next night I sauteed some bacon and cabbage in a small, non-stick skillet, then added several spoonfulls of the tomato sauce. I made indentation with a spoon, then nestled two eggs into it, topped it with mozzarella and finished it in the oven. Tomorrow I plan to smear some rosemary bread we had left over from a weekend dinner with the sauce, then top it with cheese and grilled veggies. The sauce is thick enough to hold together for something like that.

This recipe makes a huge batch so be prepared to eat it for several dinners or freeze half. Enjoy!


Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 9-10 hours

The fire-roasted tomatoes add great flavor to this sauce, so really try to use those if you can find them. This recipe makes a lot, so plan to freeze some or use for a lasagna or two.


6 c eggplant, peeled & diced small (about 2 medium eggplants)
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
6 oz. tomato paste
2 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp italian seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes


Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and mix well. Cook on low, 9-10 hours. Enjoy!

Adapted from Teresa Jacobson, Jacksonville, FL, from


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summertime Slow Cooking

Summer weather is here, and that means grilling, outdoor dining and lots of fresh fruits and veggies from the garden. But think twice before you box up that slow cooker for the season. Long considered a standard for cool weather meals, with a little creative thinking, the crockpot can be a helpful tool for your summer cooking.

Like the Q-tip, the name “Crock-Pot” is a trademarked name that became so popular it’s how the entire appliance category is referenced. The Rival Company introduced the Crock-Pot in 1971, hence the olive greens, browns and oranges you may associate with those first slow cookers. I remember my Mother having a brown and tan one with colorful flowers illustrated on it.

There are lots of reasons for the Crock-Pot’s initial popularity that are still relevant today. It’s a great way to prepare inexpensive cuts of meat that benefit from long, slow cooking; it makes a one-pot meal, so cleanup is easier; plus dinner comes together fast after a long day at work.

My Mom bought me my slow cooker when I first moved to Chicago shortly after college. She thought it would help provide warm, home-cooked comfort food on Chicago’s many cold days (she was right). After I moved to Nashville, I stuck it in an out-of-the way cabinet and honestly forgot about it. Maybe it was the warmer weather that turned me off, or maybe it was because I’ve stopped eating as much meat the last few years. Having grown up in the Midwest, I mostly associated Crock-Pot cooking with roasts and meaty stews.

Either way, it stayed in its cupboard until earlier this spring. I pulled it out of storage in an effort to help get dinner on the table earlier – after working full days, it was often close to 9pm before my fiance and I sat down to eat. I soon realized another GREAT benefit of this simple appliance is that it doesn’t heat up the kitchen like using the stovetop and oven do – a nice perk during hot, humid Nashville summers.

The recipe below for Firefly Summertime Chili works great in a slow cooker, and is a good one for warm weather. It utilizes bone-in chicken thighs, which are much more flavorful than their white meat breast counterparts so you need less of them – a plus in the summertime when I’m craving lighter meals. I also like it because it doesn’t need to be piping hot to be eaten. It’s got a Mexican flavor profile, and really benefits from a squeeze of lime juice, the refreshing complement of cilantro and the cool creaminess of avocados – all summer flavors. It’s tasty on its own as a chili but also with tortilla chips like a dip or in a tortilla as a taco (it would be great with a jicama or cabbage slaw!).

Dried beans or chickpeas are ideal ingredients for Crock-Pots, because long, slow cooking will not only effectively hydrate them but will also give whatever spices you’re cooking with time to really penetrate their core. If you’re feeling meaty, try doing a pork shoulder in your Crock-Pot, but instead of eating pulled pork on a bun, serve it over a fresh salad with cornbread croutons. I haven’t tried this myself, but I hear eggplant is good in a slow cooker. The vegetable breaks down and its flesh adds bulk and texture to sauces.

I plan on exploring more with my slow cooker this summer. I’d like to try this Indian-spiced chickpea recipe, and this veggie pasta sauce recipe with eggplant. If I do, I’ll be sure to report back.

Think creatively and you can make this humble appliance a kitchen staple any time of year.

Got any summer-appropriate slow cooking ideas to share?

*This post also appeared in the Tennessean.


Firefly Summertime CHili

Yield: 4servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8-10 hours

The corn kernels look like shimmering fireflies amidst the dark beans and tomato-based broth. Serve this chili hot or room temperature, alone or with tortilla chips, over salad or in taco shells.


4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 can black beans, undrained
1 can pinto beans, undrained
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen brand)
½ can tomato paste
1 4 oz. can green chilies
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cans of water
2 cups frozen corn
Cilantro, lime wedges, avocado, plain greek yogurt or sour cream, green onions and/or shredded cheese for serving


In a non-stick skillet (easier to clean up when you're running off to work), sear chicken thighs over medium high heat until browned on each side.

Place seared chicken thighs in slow cooker and add next 10 ingredients (through water) to crockpot. Cover, and cook on low, 8-10 hours. Shortly before serving, add corn (it will thaw quickly) and serve with your choice of accompaniments.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shrimp in Adobo

Perhaps it’s obvious by now, but boy do I love Mexican food. I’m not talking about the cheese-smothered, high-fat Americanized version (though every so often who doesn’t need a queso fix), I mean fresh, flavorful REAL Mexican. I’m no purist – I don’t make my own tortillas or smoke my own jalapeños for chipotles. But I do believe in using fresh herbs, spices and ingredients, and trying to keep things authentic. Speaking of authentic Mexican food, here’s a post I did on the best guacamole while helping out a friend in Mexico

I recently tried a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine that I just loved! Shrimp in Adobo was super fast, extremely flavorful and very low in fat, always a plus. The adobo – a thick, dark sauce made with vinegar – would be good with more than just shrimp too. I served the shrimp in whole wheat tortillas with refried beans and feta (a good substitute for queso fresco) and a salad with radishes, cilantro and a lime vinaigrette.

The only tricky part is toasting the chiles in advance. I found my dried ancho chiles at K&S World Market, but I think you could probably find these in most large grocery stores today. When you’re toasting them, you do so in a hot, dry skillet (recipe called for cast iron but I just used a heavy bottom saute pan). Pinch off the stems, then toss in the chiles, turning and lightly pressing down a few times. They’re done in literally just a minute, and be careful not to overcook. I left two on just a bit too long, and after they cooled, they smelled burnt, instead of toasted, so I tossed those. Perhaps plan to toast a few extras,  just in case they burn. The rest is self explanatory. Note: The chiles below aren’t burnt, just really black, which is how they come.

Check out how dark, and intense the sauce gets from the chiles. Keep in mind this comes together with just a couple of ingredients. The color makes it look like there’d be more! Note: I only had about half as much shrimp as the recipe called for, so if you do make this, the shrimp won’t be swimming in this much sauce.

The shrimp cook in really just about 4 minutes. I let mine go for 5 just to make sure the sauce was cooked through since it had the shrimp marinating in it.



Shrimp In Adobo

Yield: 4 servings

This would be great with chicken or pork, or go vegetarian and use canned chickpeas or portobellos! It's basically an all-around easy sauce that's super flavorful.


6 dried ancho chiles, stemmed
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (I didn't have any so used pomegranate balsamic and white vinegar)
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sugar
2 lb small or medium uncooked shrimp, preferable wile American, peeled, deveined, cut into 1/4" pieces


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. After removing stems, toast at least 6 dried chiles (consider tossing in a few more in case you over toast the first ones!), for about 1 minute, until chiles begin to puff up and blister. Set chiles aside to cool.

Cut chiles into rings over a small bowl, reserving seeds. Pour 1/2 cup hot water over the rings and let rehydrate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a blender, toss next six ingredients into a blender. Add in chiles with their soaking liquids and the reserved seeds. Blend well.

Toss shrimp in adobo, then spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil for 4-5 minutes, stirring once. Shrimp will cook fast, so look alive!

Serve in tortillas, over salad, or plain with rice. Enjoy!

Bon Appetit magazine, June 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just A Pinch Recipe Showcase

Do you know what I do?  I am the PR/Social Media Manager for Just A Pinch Recipe Club, a new online social network devoted to food and recipe-sharing. And. I. Love. It! Perfect job for a self-described food enthusiast who likes to spread the good word, no? The site is devoted to celebrating real food from real cooks. We don’t mess around with celebrity chefs and fancy techniques – the purpose of the site is to make the regular home cook preparing food for his or her families the focus. There’s a really authentic, communal spirit about the site, which boasts discussion groups, live messaging and photo/video sharing beyond the core recipe-sharing piece.

At just two years old we’re growing like CRAZY. We nearly have a 1/2 million members, we have more than 90,000 recipes posted (all user-generated, a major point of distinction among our competitors), and the social functionality is causing people to start calling it the “facebook of recipe-sharing.” Basically we’re awesome. (Blatant plug? Heck yes – I’m in PR people!!). Anyway…

As the PR/Social Media gal, I’m in charge of working with journalists both in our members’ home towns, while also telling our unique start-up story to national outlets. I also manage our Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, TumblrGoogle+, Instagram and YouTube presences.

One of my very favorite parts about my job is planning and managing our Blue Ribbon Recipe Showcases. We run national recipe contests quarterly, and as part of the prize we fly the winner to Nashville for a $1,000 shopping spree at The Viking Store (small world ‘eh?), Grand Ole Opry tickets, and a Recipe Showcase where they prepare their winning recipe in front of a live audience! They are so stinking fun. We invite regional club members to attend, and when everyone gets there, it’s like one big love fest! Everyone is so kind, and happy to meet fellow cooks in person.

Recently one of our contest winners, the fabulous Melissa Sperka, asked me to write a guest post on her blog, Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen. Check it out here. I was so proud and honored she asked!

Here are some photos from the last Recipe Showcase featuring the charming Jackie Mento. You can also check out the video of Melissa’s showcase  here.

Jackie Mento, Cookie Celebration winner, with her “Hazies” hazelnut cookies!

Taping Jackie’s pre-show interview

Jackie, preparing her Hazies in front of a live audience

On the left is Janet Tharpe, Just A Pinch Food Editor, winner Jackie, and Melissa Sperka, former contest winner and Showcase emcee!

At Viking during Jackie’s $1,000 shopping spree!

The next Showcase will be in June or July for the Heirloom Recipe Contest. We challenged cooks to submit family – that is, heirloom – recipes along with the family stories that go with them. Did you know we got more than 1,ooo entries?! That’s A LOT! We’ll announce the winner in a couple of weeks on the site. Check it out! (There’s that PR thing again…)

Just a little window into my world. I feel so lucky to have found Just A Pinch and really look forward to the future. We’re only two years old and we’re growing so fast. I’m excited for what’s to come!