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!!

Print

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.

Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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. http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/pickled_beets.html

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 justapinch.com 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!

Print

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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Adapted from Teresa Jacobson, Jacksonville, FL, from www.justapinch.com.

 

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.

Print

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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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.

Enjoy!

Print

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.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Falafel Fail…Kind Of

I’ve always wanted a good falafel recipe. I love falafel, and it’s an interesting non-meat option to serve my veg-centric friends (and feed myself and my fiance when we’re avoiding carnivorous endeavors like we were here).

I found a recipe for Edamame Falafel with a Spicy Coriander Sauce in Everyday Food magazine that seemed simple enough. It called for dried chickpeas plus edamame along with cumin, parsley and lemon juice. I followed the recipe pretty closely, but used canned chickpeas instead of dried.

I know falafel is typically fried and this recipe called for frying, but I was hoping I could try some alternative cooking methods in addition to the deep frying. I wanted to follow the recipe properly, so I went ahead and heated an inch or so of oil in a skillet, and dropped in about 6 small falafel disks, reserving the rest of the dough for other preparation methods. After about 8 minutes in the oil, the falafel fell apart completely! It was an epic falafel fail! Literally the chickpea-edamame mixture disintegrated in the oil. It was completely ruined.  I was totally bummed, and worried that I hadn’t gotten the oil hot enough, or perhaps it was the shape of the falafel — I’d flattened the balls into disks to fit in pitas better. I also had guessed on the conversion between dried chickpeas and canned chickpeas, so perhaps that was it.

I ended up pan-frying the remaining falafel disks in a non-stick skillet in just a bit of oil until they were slightly browned on each side and heated through, and that actually worked just fine. There was no need to finish them in the oven as the skillet heated them sufficiently. Out of the ashes rose a pretty tasty falafel meal, with quite a few left over I enjoyed over salad greens. Without deep frying them they were a bit dry but the spicy coriander sauce the recipe called and some fresh salad greens definitely helped with that.

Once I sat down to write this post, I found other bloggers had had this exact same trouble with this recipe! The fellas from The Bitten Word in D.C. experienced dissolved falafel, as did a blogger from Maine who the Bitten boys linked to.

Vindication! The moral of the story, it turns out, is add an egg to bind it all together. I’ll try that next time, though I did like the effect — and fewer calories — pan-frying had. Enjoy!

Print

Edamame Falafel with Spicy Coriander Sauce

Yield: Serves 4

Prep Time: 30 minutes

A healthier take on falafel.

Ingredients:

Falafel
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed
10 ounces frozen edamame, thawed
3/4 cup parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
coarse salt
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
vegetable oil
pita, salad greens, cucumber and any other toppers you'd like

Spicy Coriander Sauce
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
a bit of lime juice

Directions:

Combine ingredients for Spicy Coriander Sauce and chill until ready to use.

In a food processor, pulse chickpeas, edamame, parsley, cumin and salt until well chopped. Mix in yogurt, mayo, coriander and cayenne. Roll mixture into about 20 balls.

Heat nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to coat bottom. Add falafel balls, several at a time, flattening as you add them to the pan so they fit in the pita better. Cook until browned, then flip. Repeat with remaining falafel balls.

Assemble pitas with coriander sauce and your favorite toppers, and enjoy!

Adapted from Everyday Food magazine

 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Parchment-Baked Tilapia with Grapefruit

I love tilapia. It’s one of the most sustainable fish, its mild flavor makes it a blank canvas for seasonings, plus it’s inexpensive. I prefer the Publix brand, as they come frozen and individually wrapped in plastic and make it very easy to grab one or two filets from the package to thaw overnight in the fridge.

I usually prepare tilapia on a baking sheet with a drizzle of oil and some kind of herb and spice blend. Though the April edition of Everyday Food magazine gave me a great new idea. There was a recipe for parchment-wrapped salmon with ginger and oranges gracing the cover. I’d seen this cooking technique used before with fish, but had never tried it myself. It was so easy with the tilapia! The texture was amazing – it honestly tasted like a different fish! It was super moist and really creamy and buttery. The parchment essentially steams the fish in the hot oven, making for a low fat cooking method and very easy clean up. The grapefruit was so tender and mild, and just melted with the spinach, avocado and feta.

Parchment-Baked Tilapia with Grapefruit

Pre-baked fish, nice and neatly stacked.

Rolled to make a seam with ends folded under.

A big heap of goodness.

Print

Parchment-Baked Tilapia with Grapefruit

Yield: 2 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

A fast, easy, healthy dinner, perfect for a busy weeknight.

Ingredients:

2 tilapia filets, thawed
1/2 a grapefruit, to taste
1/4 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 clove of garlic sliced
2 handfuls of spinach
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/8 cup feta, divided

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut two 16-in-long pieces of parchment. Place parchment on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut ends off grapefruit so fruit stands on end. Take knife and carefully cut rest of peel and pith off grapefruit taking strips off vertically. Slice grapefruit into 1/4-inch thick rounds, then in half.

Stack ingredients in this order: spinach, grapefruit, tilapia, onions, garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bring long ends together and fold three times so parchment is snug around the top of the fish. Tuck ends of parchment under the fish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until fish is cooked through (you'll have to open one packet to check).

Serve immediately!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe / Giveaway!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! How did this day become synonymous with sweets? Was it a ploy by the chocolate or sugar industries to get people to buy more? Is there some historical reasoning like maybe St. Valentine had a sweet tooth? It probably has something to do with the rumor that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. Though this is not a post about chocolate.

For my Valentine this evening, I intend to make a Naked Berry Pie. While I do appreciate chocolate, a free form berry pie — in winter no less — feels like more of a treat. Plus I have some blueberries that I picked this summer still frozen. It just dawned on me the irony of the recipe title, though I assure you it was accidental! Sheesh.

The recipe comes from “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe,” by Alisa Huntsman, Artisan, 2011. I was lucky enough to be invited to the cookbook launch party out at Loveless where guests got to sample a dozen or so of the desserts featured in the book as well as a lovely brunch spread including those famous biscuits. It was as awesome as it sounds.

I like this cookbook for a few reasons. First, Alisa does a great job of selecting classic, simple desserts to feature in the book. No elaborate baking techniques here – just straightforward preparations for straightforward Southern desserts. She even includes prepared pie crusts as an option for some of the recipes. While I enjoy a homemade pastry as much as the next person, there are times when a more convenient option is needed. I appreciate a classically trained chef who can embrace that flexibility.

Find recipe classics like Still Holler Blackberry Pie, Blueberry Peach Corn Bread Buckle and Harpeth Valley Hummingbird Cake in this book.

At the brunch, I was given a copy of the book to give away. If you’d like to participate in the giveaway, you can enter up to three times. Simply:

1) Follow @annakatet on twitter
2) Tweet this: I just entered to win a copy of “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe” by Alisa Huntsman from @annakatet at www.LaAguacate.com!
3) Like the Loveless Facebook page.
4) Tell me what your favorite Southern Dessert is!

Please leave a separate comment for any you choose to do. I’ll select one winner at random on Friday at noon CST. Good luck!

[THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. CONGRATS TO KELLI FOR WINNING THE COOKBOOK!]

Print

Naked Berry Pie

Yield: Makes 4 free-form pies

Recipe and recipe photo courtesy “Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe,” by Alisa Huntsman, Artisan, 2011

Ingredients:

Easy-As-Pie Dough

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 sticks (3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoons cold milk

1. Place the flour, confectioners' sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it is cut in and the mixture resembles coars meal. Add the egg yolks and milk and process just until the dough is smooth and evenly moistened. Do not process until the dough forms a ball, or it will be tough.

2. Remove dough from the processor and press into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap well, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

Filling

2 cups raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a mixture
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Coarse sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 sturdy baking sheets with parchment paper or foil and grease the liners lightly. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each out to an 8-inch circle. Arrange the dough circles on the baking sheets.

2. Just before you're ready to bake, place the berries in a medium bowl. Add the granulated sugar, flour, orange zest, vanilla, and cardamom and toss gently until the berries are coated. Immediately spoon a heaping 1/2 cup of berries on the middle of each dough circle. Fold the edges in toward the center, pleating the dough as necessary and leaving at least a 2-inch circle of fruit exposed. Brush the crust with egg wash and sprinkle the coarse sugar evenly over the tops.

3. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow juices to thicken.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Savory Veggie Bread Pudding

Perhaps the crowning jewel of my vegetarian month was this hearty bread pudding. I riffed off a few recipes I found, and in the process created a savory, flavorful and wholesome fast, easy dinner. I’ll definitely make this again.

Like many of the vegetarian recipes I post here, it’s customizable to your own tastes and preferences – or to whatever you have on hand. I was lucky enough to use a lot of local foods in this including eggs, milk, bread (Provence rolls I had frozen) and some goat cheese feta (thanks Bloomy Rind!). The veggies were just what I happened to have in the fridge/freezer. Cooked (and drained) spinach, leeks, kale, broccoli would all be good. Lots of possibilities! Experiment freely, and if you hit on a good combination, report back! Enjoy.

And you know, now that vegetarian month is over, I just might add a little bit of crumbled bacon to this. Though, for the record, this hearty dish totally stands on its own without the addition of meat. But a little bacon sure never hurt anything.

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Savory Veggie Bread Pudding

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: About an hour

This savory bread pudding would be good for brunch or dinner and is tasty reheated. Hearty and filling, you'll especially want to enjoy it when it's cold and rainy outside, mark my words.

Ingredients:

half loaf of bread
1 bunch scallions
1 c frozen peas
1 c milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 pkg sliced mushrooms
1 medium bell pepper, diced
4 eggs
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 glass baking dish with cooking spray or coat with oil. Set aside. Coarsely chop bread into cubes and bake on a rimmed baking sheet until toasted and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add milk, scallions and frozen peas, and bring to a boil (to scald milk). Once boiling, immediately remove milk from heat and cover to steep.

Heat oil in skillet. Add onions and cook, 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms begin to release their juices. Add peppers and saute until mushrooms and peppers are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Beat eggs until smooth; add milk mixture (slightly cooled so eggs don't cook). Place bread crumbs in prepared dish, toss with cooked veggies and feta. Pour milk/egg mixture over bread/veggie mixture and, using a large spoon or spatula, mix a few times until just combined. Add a bit more milk if mixture appears dry. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and not jiggly in the middle. Enjoy with a simple tossed green salad.