Archive | February, 2013

Three Italian Sauces!

28 Feb


While making fresh pasta was fun – we needed some sauce to turn it into a cozy meal. We tossed the extremely long strains of linguini into three homemade sauces – a Seasonal Winter Pesto, a Wild Mushroom and White Wine and a Spicy Sausage Sauce. All were really tasty and complimented the homemade noodles really well. I made the sauces somewhat in advance and finished each off with fresh herbs before serving. The favorites were surely the mushrooms and sausage!

Finally, I can’t close the series on the Off Mendenhall Symphony Cooking Class without mentioning the dessert! Tiramisu! So simple and easy – and unbelievably good. I used the Cooks Illustrated recipe for Tiramisu here (and made it the night before!). 

What an incredibly fun night we all had at the Mortenson’s house that night. While I was so exhausted from pulling it all together – it was worth all the fun, food, new friends and support of the Greensboro Symphony!

Stay tuned (literally) for the next auction on May 17th and bid on my class!

Winter Pesto Sauce

  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red chile pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1 plum tomato,  coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated pecorino Romano cheese
  • Sea salt, to taste

Place chile, almonds and garlic in a food processor or blender; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add parsley, sage and tomato; pulse to coarsely chop. Add oil; pulse to combine. Add cheese; pulse 1-2 times or just until combined. Season with salt.

Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce

  • 1 1/2 ounce package wild mushrooms
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 8-ounce packages of cremini mushrooms,  chopped
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Crumble the dried mushrooms into a glass bowl or measuring cup and pour the boiling broth over them. Let steep for at least 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the drained liquid.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped button or portobello mushrooms and let sit, without stirring, for about four minutes or until they have thoroughly browned on one side. Stir and let them cook on the other side – again, without stirring – for about four minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, sage and steeped wild mushrooms. Turn the heat to low, and cook until they are all fragrant and soft.

Slowly pour in the mushroom broth, chicken broth and white wine. Bring to a boil and cook down. Add butter and parsley to finish the sauce.

Spicy  Tomato and Sausage Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 pounds fresh hot Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tablespoon, sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add sausage; cook until browned, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Drain drippings from pot. Add wine, diced tomatoes with juice, and crushed tomatoes; increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. Taste for seasoning – salt, pepper and sugar. Stir basil and oregano into tomato sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Homemade Pasta!

26 Feb




There is no doubt that the hit of the Off Mendenhall Cooking Class was not the eating – it was the pasta making! Almost everyone took part in the making of mounds and mounds of homemade pasta. Each had their own challenges and victories. Every noodle was delicious.

I highly recommend making homemade pasta for a casual dinner party. While everyone might not seem interested in the activity, its almost impossible not to jump in. It’s fun, interactive and very satisfying. If you don’t have a pasta machine, I recommend the Marcato Atlas hand-crank machine that attaches to a countertop. You might not use it too much but it will last for generations (mine was past down from my parents!). Or, find someone who owns one and ask to borrow it. Chances are, you both won’t use it on the name night. If so, combine your parties.

Here is the recipe for the Homemade Pasta dough. We rolled the pasta out to a #5 and cut it into linguini.

Homemade Pasta 

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • water

Add flour and eggs into a food processor and pulse under combined. Add water slowly while pulsing until the dough makes a ball.

Mound the dough on a clean kitchen counter or cutting board. Knead the dough with your hands – add more flour if the dough is too sticky.

The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.

Note: Do not skip the kneading or resting portion of this recipe, they are essential for a light pasta

Warm Italian Salad with Stuffed Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Balsamic Vinaigrette

25 Feb



And, I’m back! Excuse the break in posts. Emergency dental surgery gave new found light to hunger and the expression “it’s like pulling teeth!” A hard couple days in bed and I’m finally writing complete sentences again..

As I mentioned last week, we prepared a really delicious Warm Italian Salad with Stuffed Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Balsamic Vinaigrette at the Off Mendenhall Cooking Class for the Mortenson group a couple weekends ago. It was perfect starter for a cold night but would also be splendid during the summer with ripe seasonal farm-grown local tomatoes!

I prepared a tomato for each guest prior to their arrival (in no time). Instead of traditional breadcrumbs, I picked up garlic rolls from the Fresh Market and pulsed them into crumbs in my food processor. They added an extra buttery flavor to the filling. I highly recommend this trick!

Check out this salad as a light entree on a weeknight or starter for your next dinner party!

Warm Italian Salad with Stuffed Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Balsamic Vinaigrette 

  • Mixed Greens
  • Balsamic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Honey
  • Bocconcini (baby mozzarella balls!)


  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 4 garlic rolls, pulsed into crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 teaspoon capers
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Slice the tops off of the tomatoes and scoop out the pulp and seeds.

In a small bowl, toss together the pine nuts, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, pepper, capers and parsley.  Add one tablespoon of the olive oil and toss.

Stuff the tomatoes with this mixture and place them in a baking dish that is sprayed with a little non-stick spray.  Drizzle the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil over the tomatoes.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, until the tops are nicely golden.  Scatter with additional chopped parsley on top to serve.

Whisk balsamic vinegar and olive oil together (in equal parts). Season with salt, pepper and honey. Toss with greens and serve as a bed underneath the warm roasted tomato! Garnish with bocconcini.

Ed Winslow: Hummus Master’s Tips

20 Feb


I discovered Ed Winslow’s blog, Mid Law and Divers Items, last August when his daughter, Margaret, shared his post with me about a breakthrough in homemade hummus making. The blog post was sandwiched between entries on 21st Century Skill Sets and Benchmarks of 19th Century African American Attorneys. It shortly summarized a tip about microwaving chickpeas before processing in order to break down starchy crystals for smoother hummus consistency. He concluded the post stating that “This discovery is thought by some to explain the presence of certain microwave-like structures found at archaeological sites throughout the Middle East.”

The post piqued my interest. A well-respected attorney, civic leader and veteran is blogging about law and hummus in Greensboro? Go figure. Naturally, I set up a time to meet with him and get a better understanding of his interest and history with hummus.

Over a bowl of warm family-farm grown peanuts from Edgecombe County, I chatted with Winslow. While he comes across stern in person, he is just as humorous and witty as his writing.

Winslow’s first memory of hummus is somewhere between the Mediterranean and  North Africa around 1966 when he was studying “everything other than growing up in Eastern North Carolina” in the South of France. Years later he began making homemade hummus after reading a recipe in Cooks Illustrated Magazine on restaurant quality hummus. And today, he is a proud owner of his second 40 pound bucket of tahini – the sesame paste that is an essential ingredient in hummus. He makes that much hummus!

I asked, “but why?” He gave me a deposition on the essentials.


“Hummus goes back 3,000 years and is contemporary only because of food processors.  Hummus is a great equalizer in the world of cuisine. A child of the Middle East but speaks to all people. Hummus is a metaphor for the universality of the truth. And the next great leap forward is understanding the possibilities of tahini…”


“Tahini is a collaborative ingredient. It has its own voice yet joins in creating harmony with its fellows.”

Winslow purchases his tahini in bulk from Annah Awartani, the owner of Zaytoon Restaurant in Downtown Greensboro. Tahini should be stored in a cool dark space and has an extremely long shelf life. He credits Zaytoon for the best restaurant hummus in Greensboro.


“Chickpeas are the most popular legume in the world. High in protein and fiber. Low in calories and inexpensive. They rival sardines and bananas as the world’s wonder food.

Chickpeas don’t get the respect of bananas…but are higher in social status than sardines.”

Lemon Juice:

“The key to great hummus is controlling the amount of lemon juice. The right amount of lemon juice is problematic; I do not like too much, but there must be enough.”

Finishing Touches:   

“Pine nuts are the champagne of nuts.” Slivered almonds or pine nuts are a great garnish. Also parsley. Drizzle oil on top and add paprika or cayenne.

Nazareth Bread Company makes great whole wheat pita and Turkish flatbread.”

Closing Statement: 

When concluding my chat with Winslow I asked if he had a closing statement on hummus. He replied, “We need a good pun on hummus. Come back during pesto season.“


Winslow’s Straight Ahead hummus recipe has been public since he prepared it for the Canterbury Teachers Picnic years ago and they demanded the recipe. 

Ed Winslow’s Straight Ahead Hummus

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed – reserve 2 tablespoons chickpeas
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
  • ¼ teaspoon, salt
  • ½ teaspoon, cumin
  • 6 tablespoons, tahini
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons, olive oil
  • 1 or 2 lemons, juiced
  • Cayenne, to taste
  • Slivered almonds (if desired)
  1. Microwave chickpeas for 5 minutes to breakdown starches.
  2. Process chickpeas (except reserved ones) & garlic, pretty thoroughly in a food processor, push down sides.
  3. Add salt, cumin, dash cayenne & process
  4. Combine juice of 1 or 2 lemons with hot water.
  5. Combine about 6 TBS tahini with about 2 TBS olive oil, whisk to smooth consistency.
  6. Drizzle lemon juice & water through tube into running food processor and combine thoroughly
  7. Repeat with tahini/oil mixture
  8. Add water as desired to achieve consistency desired; add water/juice/oil if needed for taste; more water makes it more creamy; keep trying more and more water until you see what you prefer.
  9. Toast almonds
  10. Put hummus in bowl; sprinkle on top reserved chickpeas, almonds, some olive oil, some cayenne

Italian Sips and Snacks

19 Feb


Saturday night, at the Off Mendenhall Greensboro Symphony Cooking Class, we needed plenty of Italian sips and starters to get us through all the cooking! We made a variety of recipes together – including some rouge men stealing the anchovies for a snack! All of these recipes are really simple but impressive for guests. They are go-to recipes for any time of the year and can be made with ingredients from the pantry and garden.

I’m not sure what recipe was the biggest hit but they were all raved about. I recommend putting this as stand-by appetizer and cocktails for your everyday entertaining!


  • Ice
  • 1 1/3 ounces frozen gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2/3 ounce Campari
  • 1 orange wheel, for garnish

Homemade Rosemary Focaccia

For the Dough:

  • 1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 6 tablespoons really good extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for kneading
  • 2 teaspoons salt

To Assemble

  • Really good extra virgin olive oil
  • Leaves of 2-4 branches fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Coarse sea salt

For the dough, dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a medium bowl. Stir in 1-1/4 cups water and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
Pulse the flour and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Add the yeast mixture and process until a rough ball of dough forms, 1 minute. Briefly knead dough on a floured surface until smooth. Shape dough into a ball. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a large bowl. Roll dough around in bowl until coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Pour a thin film of oil into each of four 8-inch round cake pans. Quarter the dough and put one piece into each pan. Using your fingertips, spread dough out in each pan. The dough is elastic and will resist stretching. Let it relax for 5 minutes or so after you’ve stretched it as far as it will go. Eventually, it will cooperate and fill the pan.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Cover the pans with damp dishcloths and let the dough rest until it has swollen in the pans a bit, 30-60 minutes.

Uncover the pans. Sprinkle the dough with the rosemary. Using your fingertips, poke dimples into the dough in each pan, then liberally drizzle with oil so it pools in the hollows. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake the focaccia until golden brown, 20-30 minutes. Serve cut into wedges.

Crudites with Sundried Tomato and Olive Tapenade

  • 3 (8-ounce) cans of pitted black olives, drained
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon, Dijon
  • 4 Anchovies
  • 1 teaspoon, capers
  • pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor. Serve with bread, endive, fresh fennel, carrot and red peppers.

Melon and Prosciutto  – buy great melon and prosciutto – display on a beautiful platter! 

Parmesan Crisps

  • 1 pound asaigo cheese, shredded
  • sage, chopped
  • 1 cup pine nuts, chopped

Shred 1 pound cold asiago cheese. Place 6 tablespoon-size mounds of cheese about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet or silpad. Sprinkle each mound with 1/4 teaspoon each chopped pine nuts and sage. Bake at 425 degrees until the cheese is golden and the edges are slightly crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.  Repeat to make about 24 crisps.

Greensboro Symphony Cooking Class

18 Feb


Last Spring, the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra hosted a wonderful fundraiser on the top of a beautiful building in our Center City. Between many rounds of Name That Tune, emceed by the Canadian Host of CashCab!, they had a live auction. I was brave enough to subject myself – and a cooking class – to the bidding war. And, was lucky enough that my new friends, Rod and Linda Mortenson, were generous enough to win the bidding war (it was more like a modest battle).

After much anticipation, we get together this weekend with friends for an Italian themed dinner and participatory cooking class in the Mortenson’s beautiful home. Their kitchen was the perfect setting for fifteen friends to gather around the kitchen island and dive into pine nuts, capers, tomatoes, anchovies, lots of cheese, meats and greens from The Fresh Market. And, plenty of wine too!

The class was chaotic and loud, full of warmth (with snow falling outside) and spirit. It was a pleasure to to join the group and get to know so many new friendly folks. I’ll be borrowing photos this week – as I was talking and cooking (and probably sipping) too much to document the evening. Thanks to the Smith’s for sharing their photos.

I’ll share the recipes and a few photos this weekend!

PS: The Greensboro Symphony will host Name That Tune again this year on May 17, 2013 – stay tuned (literally) for details on tickets!

Off Mendenhall Greensboro Symphony Cooking Class Menu: 

  • Homemade Rosemary Foccacia
  • Crudites with Sundried Tomato and Olive Tapenade
  • Melon and Proscuitto
  • Parmesan Crisps
Salad Course:
  • Warm Italian Salad with Stuffed Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Homemade Pasta!
  • Seasonal Sauces: Winter Pesto Sauce, Wild Mushroom and White Wine Sauce, Spicy  Tomato and Sausage Sauce
  • Tiramisu!

Let’s Juice It

18 Feb


Let’s take a trip back to the color wheel. It’s really the hardest part about making fresh delicious juice beverages. There are few brown liquids that look appetizing. So, don’t mix things that are orange (like carrots) with green things (like kale). Or blueberries. I do want to make a purple drink though… beets and blueberries…let me report back on that one.

I have a T-Fal Juice Extractor ..and I’ve become a big fan the last couple of weeks. It’s a simple machine – but super powerful and easy to clean. And, it retails at less than $80 dollars.

Here are two of my favorite.  I recommend adding ginger to all drinks. It’s spicy and refreshing and makes you feel immediately healthy. I’m working on new juices – any suggestions?

  • Carrot, Granny Smith Apple and Ginger
  • Kale, Fuji and Granny Smith Apples, Ginger

My Furry Valentine

14 Feb


Happy Valentines Day from Mendenhall Street! Wishing you the most romantic of homemade treats. Winston prefers locally made ArcBARKS – you can buy them at The Fresh Market.


Banana Oat Pancakes with Fresh Blueberries

12 Feb

Today is International Pancake Day! The real thing, ya’ll! Don’t let them fool you – or do, and eat pancakes again today.

I haven’t made pancakes since last May when I led a team of pancake flippers and mixers at the Greensboro Curb Market for Strawberry Day. We flipped over 600 pancakes that morning and I deserved a break. But, with National Pancake Day coming and all the pancake photos online – I was ready for another batch. I was looking for a new variation on regular pancakes and arrived at an adapted Banana Oat Pancake with the addition of zero fat Greek Yogurt and low fat milk – oh and some cinnamon! These pancakes are not light and fluffy like the Lemon Ricotta Pancakes or the Old Mill of Guilford Whole Wheat Pancakes I’ve posted before. My Banana Oat Pancakes are dense and heavy but rich and delightful! While there is no oil or butter in the pancake batter – nothing beats a cake cooked in a little butter. The crispy edges will make your morning – or evening – or whenever you decide to mix these up.

I guarantee that you won’t clean your plate but you’ll enjoy every bite and miss the ones you skip! And don’t forget to be creative with your toppings – I picked blueberries but any fruit or nut would be delicious!


Banana Oat Pancakes with Fresh Blueberries, adapated from 
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup  brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • butter
  • blueberries
  • maple syrup

Mix together the dry ingredients and slowly add in the wet. Fold with a spatula and resist the whisk! Don’t over mix! Cook pancakes in a non-stick skillet with small amounts of butter on medium heat. When the pancakes are bubbling on one side – flip! Don’t press down on the pancake – it will loose it’s fluff!

Top with blueberries and maple syrup.

Breakfast Anytime

11 Feb


Oh sacred Sundays, how I miss you on cloudy Mondays. No matter how Sundays are spent – they are cherished on Mendenhall. My Sundays are spent in the company of many cups of coffee, lots of stretching (mostly the kind in between yawns), CBS Sunday Morning, occasional Face The Nation and breakfast between the hours of 11am and 7pm. It doesn’t matter when breakfast is. What matters is — what’s for breakfast.

Yesterday I splurged and created a full breakfast (which was photographed and taken back into bed) of Banana Oat Pancakes made with Greek yogurt and cinnamon, really thick Pepper Bacon from the Fresh Market and some assorted fruit and vegetable juices for nutritional value. It was colorful, delicious and youthful — and made getting out of bed no easier. Because anticipating faster times is best spent in panciolle (which literally means ‘with your belly to the air’), right?

I’ll share the recipes this week.

PS: Check out my guest post on Fondue for Valentines Day for the Southeast United Dairy Association!

Breakfast Anytime Menu 

  • Banana Oat Pancakes with Fresh Blueberries
  • The Fresh Market Pepper Bacon
  • Spinach Apple Juice
  • Carrot, Apple and Ginger Juice
  • Good Coffee or Espresso, duh



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