A Last Minute Holiday Starter with Endive

20 Dec

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Snow is falling on Mendenhall Street this morning and it couldn’t feel more like the holiday season. I’m looking forward to winding down and enjoying time with my family and friends in the Sunshine State. Our tables will be full of fresh citrus and local seafood. My childhood home continues to be a place of constant cooking and surprise guests. Our living room hosts a ongoing fire by the Christmas tree with the coming and going of my childhood friends, neighbors and family. There is something special about warming by the fireplace with the view of grapefruit trees in full fruit outside.

An easy holiday starter in Florida (or really anywhere with a good seafood market) is Roasted Shrimp Salad in Endive. I love endive because it’s healthier than a cracker with a fresh crispy bite. I’ve served everything from beet salad to blue cheese, pear and walnut in endive leaves. They present beautifully stacked like soldiers or presented like a blooming flower on a round platter. Also, if you haven’t seen this clip of Steven Colbert on endive, its a hilarious.

Shrimp salad is quick and unique. I roasted mine in good garlic olive oil (I’m loving my tin of Nudo Garlic Olive Oil right now) and mix with fresh dill, fresh lemon juice, white wine, red onion and salty capers. A little mayo will help everything stay together. An extra drizzle of garlic olive oil will help with presentation!

This is perfect to serve for an afternoon cocktail hour, before a late dinner or even a lunch. Serve with cocktails or red wine. I’m currently enjoying Rios de Chile red wine from the Cachapoal Valley. 

Happy Everything! I’ll share photos of my family celebration next week.

Roasted Shrimp Salad in Endive 

  • 1 pound shrimp
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Nudo garlic olive oil
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • 3 tablespoons red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 5 heads of California endive

Assembly: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss shrimp in garlic olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together mayo, lemon juice and zest, dill, vinegar, capers and onions. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Toss hot shrimp in dressing and refrigerate until cold. Arrange shrimp in the endive leaves to serve. I found that cutting the shrimp in half helped them fit nicely inside each leaf. Garnish with a drizzle of fresh garlic oil.

Truffled Deviled Eggs + Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

18 Dec

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Tis the season for holiday treats.  I am looking toward to wrapping up the year and wrapping up a few small gifts to celebrate the most cherished people in my life. If you are working on last minute gifts before the holidays wrap up (that’s me!), here are some gifts I’ve been giving and in envy of!  And, a recipe for a delicious and easy homemade appetizer fit for any season.

  • For really good friends, a Nudo Olive Oil Subscription could be the coolest gift ever. Literally adopt a olive tree in Italy and have seasonal shipments of freshly pressed olive oil! Or, a gift box of their excellent garlic oil is might be the sweetest food packaging I’ve ever seen. I’m in total envy of anyone who gets this!
  • For your favorite kiddos, I suggest the children’s book “Good Boy, Fergus.” I was lucky enough to read this book to a class of Lindley Park Elementary School kindergarten students this year. The book is a sweet narrative of a Westie who gets in a variety of troubles – much like my own, Winston.
  • For my teammates at work, I made these homemade truffled deviled eggs for our holiday happy hour at Dabney’s house using olive oil from the local MidTown Olive Press. And, gifted a take home of Makers Mark Boubon. You could certainly gift the ingredients – Midtown Truffle Oil, black sea salt from Savory Spice Shop and Massey Creek Farm Eggs! Check out the recipe below.
  • Any gift of consumables are perfect. I’ve already received many a cookie, some delicious homemade cheese straws and a jar of homemade jalapeno pimento cheese that I can’t wait to devour with friends. Tis the season for calories – so step up the pace on your walks and lean into the season.

Truffled Deviled Eggs 

  • 1 dozen hard-cooked eggs
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dijion mustard
  • 3(ish) tablespoons truffle oil
  • 1 heaping teaspoon, white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black lava salt

Halve the eggs  and transfer the yolks to a mixing bowl. I cut mine vertically to give the eggs a different look – you’ll need to trim the bottom to get them to stand up!

With a stand up mixer, whisk the yolks to a smooth consistency. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, truffle oil, mustard, white pepper and salt, and mix until smooth. Taste and season accordingly.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain or large star tip, then pipe the mixture evenly into the egg white halves.

Top each egg half with a tiny sprinkle of black lava salt.

Chutney Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Smokey Cheese Grits

16 Dec

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I must admit, I’ve become a pro at putting together homemade Friday night suppers at my house. It’s become a tradition. I put together an idea of a menu, inform my friend (and master sous chef) Margo of the meal and a recommended side, assign wine to my friend Andrew and invite a special wild card guest. With little effort, we all end up stumbling into my kitchen after a long week for much wine, whine, gossip and a delicious homemade meal.

This Friday, after a minor grant writing disaster, I arrived home at 6:15pm with a plan in my head for dinner…. and Margaret and Eric scheduled to arrive at 6:30! Luckily, my house was mostly clean and my friends are low in judgement! Here was my drill for a speedy Friday night dinner by the fire.

On Thursday night, I marinated two pork tenderloin pieces in Plum Hot Chutney from Beth’s Farm Kitchen over night. You can use any hot chutney but this was a delicious gift from my friend Nancy.

On Friday night when arriving home (hunched over with a slight feeling of karpaltunnel from typing all week), preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place marinated pork tenderloin on a roasting pan and roast for about 25 minutes – or until an internal temp registers 140 degrees. Allow to rest.

Meanwhile, cook quick grits according to instructions until creamy. Add goat cheese, to taste, and a good sprinkle of smoked hot paprika. Season with salt and pepper. You might want to add more cheese…this is up to your stress level.

Slice pork and serve over grits with your favorite side or salad. Margaret brought brined and roasted cremini mushrooms with pine nuts and a spinach salad. Enjoy by a fire (made by the friend who isn’t cooking) and a good wine. We enjoyed Rios de Chile wine. Cheers to Friday night suppers with friends. 

 

 

Running of the Lighted Christmas (Cheese) Balls

15 Dec

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This weekend marked the 3rd anniversary of Greensboro’s Running of the Balls. The tradition of lighted Christmas balls hung throughout the trees of Sunset Hills is something that is so undeniably Greensboro. No one would ever guess the marvelous display that bundled up chicken wire and lights can make when flung high into trees!

The Running of the Balls 5k(ish) race is one of the most endearing events that I’ve ever participated in. Nearly 3,000 runners and walkers are decked out in all kinds of Christmas gear. The race route is a marvelous display of a traditional historic Greensboro neighborhood sprinkled with holiday light — plus the addition of bands and choirs. In addition to all the fun, the race raises much needed dollars and pantry donations for local shelters. How warm is your heart feeling right now?

You can learn the background of the Lighted Christmas Balls from Justin Smith, who started the tradition with his family.  

My friend’s Jamey and Phil (who hung about 200 plus balls themselves) hosted a large gathering of neighbors and friends after the race. In trend with the evening, I made three large Christmas Cheese Balls for the party. They were so good that I received a phone call today at the office requesting the recipe! So, here it is! Martha’s recipe makes enough for all 3,000 runners – so feel free to adjust the proportions to fit your crowd.

If you’re in Greensboro – or near – it’s worth a visit for dinner and a drive/stroll through Sunset Hills to see the display. If you’re not here, its a reason to visit next December.

Martha Stewart’s Cheese Balls, Three Ways

BASE RECIPE:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

CHEDDAR AND CRANBERRY:

  • 8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought chutney
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • Water crackers, for serving

ROQUEFORT AND WALNUT:

  • 6 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1 shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons brandy (optional)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Vegetable chips (such as Terra Chips Sweets & Beets), for serving

GOAT CHEESE AND SCALLIONS:

  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 1/3 cup fresh curly-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, for serving 
  1. Put butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined. Divide equally among 3 medium bowls.
  2. Stir cheddar cheese and chutney with base mixture in the first bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Roll cheese ball in cranberries to coat before serving. Serve with crackers.
  3. Stir blue cheese and shallot with base mixture in second bowl; add brandy, if desired. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days; freeze up to 1 month. Roll in walnuts to coat before serving. Serve with chips.
  4. Stir goat cheese and scallions with base mixture in remaining bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Roll in parsley to coat before serving. Serve with cucumber slices.

 

 

 

Frittatas Two Ways

12 Dec

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The star of Winston’s Winter Walk brunch was two egg frittatas with a variety of interesting ingredients. My trick was to purchase as many precooked items as I could and choose easy ones I could prep right before brunch. I recommend starting at the olive bar – olives, roasted red peppers or Piquillo peppers, roasted garlic (The Fresh Market has so much to choose from!).  Then add things that are easy to prep – sauteed mushrooms and quickly steamed asparagus. Pick up interesting cheeses – I used feta and goat cheese but you can add your favorites! With almost no time, you’ll have the perfect combination in a large omelette-like feast!

Here’s how we (I must include my most valuable sous chef, Margaret) did it. Start with a large cast iron skillet. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  On the stovetop, heat about 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter (depending on how seasoned your pan is) on medium until melted.  Whisk 12 eggs with a couple tablespoons of milk. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Add egg mixture to the pan. Allow the bottom the the eggs to begin to firm while you layer your “toppings.” When you can see the edges of the frittata begin to set – move the skillet into your oven. When the eggs are puffed up and set, remove and serve hot! Garnish with fresh herbs!

Greek Frittata topping ideas – black olives, sliced Piquillo peppers, roasted garlic cloves, feta cheese and fresh dill for garnish.

Homestyle Frittata topping ideas – sauteed mushrooms, steamed asparagus, precooked potatoes, goat cheese and parsley or basil for garnish.

All you gotta do is get creative and be sneaky with short cuts. 100% of these frittatas were devoured by Winston’s guests. We call that a ‘home run’.

Easy Brunch Sides

11 Dec

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I decided on Sunday that a brunch might be the easiest party to host, especially when you position them at 12noon with a very casual dress code. In the words of my friend Alison, I recommended to friends to wear their “quitters” (sweat pants/ yoga pants) and come over for brunch on the sofa by the Christmas tree. And, I did my own fair share of short cuts. Pre-cut fruit from the The Fresh Market saved me hours of time cutting fruit. And, I tossed 4 packages of breakfast sausage on a cookie sheet into the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes to do the most simple side. Everyone loved the sausages and they were so much less of a mess than bacon!

Ina Garten always says that nobody has more fun at a party if you kill yourself in the kitchen before hands (that is, of course, paraphrasing). I agree, again with Ina. I couldn’t have been more relaxed when everyone arrived after having an easy morning preparing a big homemade (with shortcut) brunch for friends.

I’ll share the easiest recipe for two simple frittatas tomorrow!

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

10 Dec

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There is something very special about making homemade sweet rolls from scratch. I love finding a new recipe to prepare every year for Christmas morning. I’ve made a variety of orange sweet rolls, cranberry sweet rolls and the traditional cinnamon rolls over the past years. They don’t compare to the tube you’ll find in the grocery store. I’m not sure exactly why – maybe the butter and sugar content or the labor of love that take to make them.

I love a sweet roll because you can make them the day before. Wake up early for a final rise while enjoying a cup of coffee and then bake off right before guests arrive (or wake up). I made these homemade cinnamon rolls for my Winter Walk friends this past Sunday. They were a huge hit and renamed “homemade cinnibon’ during the party. I baked them in a large casserole dish but you can use two cake pans easily. Save these for Christmas or New Year’s morning – it’s worth the wait.

Our Favorite Cinnamon Rolls, Epicurious  | September 2014

For the dough:

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons bread-machine yeast or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Vegetable-oil cooking spray

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups chopped, lightly toasted pecans

For the glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher salt

Special equipment:

  • 2 9-inch round cake pans

preparation

Make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add flour, yeast, and sugar. Mix on low speed until well combined. Add eggs and mix on low to combine. In a small pot, heat milk, butter, and cinnamon over medium-low heat until butter is melted and mixture is between 120 and 130°F (use a thermometer).

Add warm milk mixture and salt to stand mixer. Beat on low speed 2 to 3 minutes, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula. Beat on medium speed until smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes. Dough will be very sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl with cooking spray. Form dough into ball and transfer to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

While dough rises, cut 2 pieces of parchment to fit 2 9-inch round cake pans. Butter pans, line with parchment, and butter parchment.

Make the filling:
Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl.

Make the glaze:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt.

Assemble and bake:
Preheat to 375°F and position rack in center of oven. Punch down dough and transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 16-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border on the long sides. Sprinkle filling mixture evenly over butter, then add pecans. Starting at a long edge, roll dough toward you into a log, pinching gently to keep it rolled tightly. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with a thin sharp knife into 16 equal slices.

Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up; rolls will be touching. Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Bake rolls until tops are golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up. Drizzle glaze over rolls and serve immediately.

cooks’ note:Rolls can be assembled, arranged in pans, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerated for several hours or overnight. If refrigerated, allow to come to room temperature for about 2 hours, watch for second rise (rolls should almost double in volume), and then bake.

 
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Winston’s Winter Walk Brunch

9 Dec

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This weekend, Winston the dog hosted a brunch for about 15 of his most community minded friends. The brunch benefitted Triad Health Project’s Winter Walk for AIDS. Winston has hosted this party for a number of years but took a year off and demanded (hear barking) to do the brunch again this year.

We had a spread of frittatas, homemade ‘Cinnabon’ and the easiest breakfast sausage and pre-cut fruit (cutting corners). All the food was devoured before a short walk to UNCG for the 1 mile benefit.

After the party,I cleaned while Winston recovered. I’ll post recipes this week

Winston’s Winter Walk Brunch Menu 

-Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
-Roasted Breakfast Sausages
-Fresh Fruit
-Frittata with Asparagus, goat cheese and mushrooms
-Frittata with spinach, black olives and feta dill Gruyere
-Apple Cider and Bourbon
-Fresh Grapefruit Juice and Vodka

My Favorite Holiday Desserts

4 Dec

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Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to take a photo of my mother’s Chocolate Bonet before it was devoured at the Thanksgiving table. Instead, I’ll share the sweetest photo of my dog, Winston.  The Bonet was something that I had never heard of – a mixture of cookies pulverized and mixed with dairy to make a rich chocolate flan like dessert. It was a huge hit – so much that my mother wants to duplicate it this year in instead of Chocolate Mousse. There will, undoubtably, be a protest.

In honor of the holidays coming, here are several of my favorite holiday desserts. And, the incredible bonet recipe.

 

Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Gruyere

3 Dec

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I started a community-wide dialogue (slight exaggeration but it did end up in Triad City Beat) about the difference between stuffing, dressing and savory bread pudding. I’m still unsure of the technical difference between a savory bread puddings and dressings. But, I do know that they are both share a common theme – a decadent blend of gluten-baked-heaven amongst delicious items like cheese, onions, pork products and mushrooms.

With all the chatter, I (easily) convinced my mother to prepare Ina Garten’s recipe for Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding for our Thanksgiving meal. The recipe is perfect because it can be prepared in advance and baked right before eating. It was delicious piping hot out of the oven – and was, frankly, the only thing I could eat for Thanksgiving Leftovers Part III.

Ina’s Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding

  • 6 cups (1/2-inch-diced) bread cubes from a rustic country loaf, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, small-diced
  • 4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts (4 leeks)
  • 1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and 1/4-inch-sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup medium or dry sherry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (6 ounces), divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender. Stir in the mushrooms, tarragon, sherry, 1 tablespoon salt and 11/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere. Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid. Stir well and pour into a 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.

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