Iron Chef Suppers

12 Jan


As the working world returns to the grind of the new year, I find that weeknight suppers seem more and more challenging. If I were one of those people who planned my meals in advance, I might not be referring to the world of Iron Chef Suppers. But what fun is syncing your meals with the five-day forecast? The world needs more anticipation, more mystery, adventure, creativity and challenge! Yes, I’m still talking about after-work Tuesday suppers.

These challenges are easy and require no advance preparation! Just come home after a long days work, have no fear and get creative. You find a piece of salmon in the freezer, an extra slice of pancetta and a half a pomegranate in the fridge – plus a half open bag of pasta in the pantry. These things are a natural fit, right?

Render the fat of the pancetta (saving the crispy bits for garnish with pomegranate seeds), sear the salmon in the fat. Drop into the oven.  Meanwhile cooking the pasta to al dente. Tossing with good olive oil, any fresh herbs and remnants of salty cheese to toss in. Finish by topping with salmon and sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and pancetta bits. Not bad, right?

What’s in your fridge tonight? I challenge you.

Chocolate Truffle Tart

11 Jan



At 11:55pm on December 31, 2014, we sliced into this Chocolate Truffle Tart and poured flutes of champagne. I’m not sure anything else is more fitting for the last bite of 2014. Although, I’m sure I could come up with a very long list of foods.

This chocolate tart is surprisingly simple. A quick dough creates a rich, oreo-like crust plus a simple super sweet no-bake filling. This dessert takes some time because of various steps but is a good starter recipe if you are looking to get into baking. Enjoy!


Chocolate Truffle Tart, Cooks Illustrated

For the tart shell:
1 large egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup (5 oz.) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
¼ cup (¾ oz.) Dutch-process cocoa powder
2/3 cup (2 2/3 oz.) confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For the filling:
12 oz. good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. liqueur, such as Kahlua, brandy, or dark rum (optional)

  • To make the tart shell, whisk together the egg yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside.  Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Process briefly to combine.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses.  With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds.  Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch dish.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  (If refrigerated for more than an hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable.)  Unwrap and roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch round.  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan.  Mold the dough to the sides of the tart pan and remove the excess off the top.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to middle position.  Preheat the oven to 375° F.  Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen shell and over the edge, and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights.  Continue to bake until just set, 5-8 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  • To make the tart filling, place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan (or in the microwave).  Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes to melt.  Whisk together until smooth, then whisk in the liqueur.  Pour the filling into the tart shell and chill in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the filling is firm.  To serve, transfer the tart to a serving plate or platter.  Slice with a clean, sharp knife, wiping the blade between slices.



Roasted Beet Risotto

9 Jan



For special occasions, I love a dish with flair. And nothing could standout more than a bright pink roasted beet risotto! It’s totally simple too. Roast the beets and add them to a simple risotto (with excellent cheese) before serving. What a fancy trick! Enjoy!



Roasted Beet Risotto, Epicurious 


  • 3 medium beets (1 1/2 lb with greens), trimmed, leaving 1 inch of stems attached
  • 3 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth (28 fl oz)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Arborio rice (14 oz)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Tightly wrap beets in a double layer of foil and roast on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Cool to warm in foil package, about 20 minutes.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, discarding stems and root ends, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

While beets are cooling, bring broth and water to a bare simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan. Keep at a bare simmer, covered.

Cook onion in oil in a wide 4- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and simmer briskly, stirring constantly, until broth is absorbed. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 18 to 22 minutes. (Reserve leftover broth.)

Stir in beets, salt, and pepper(mixture will turn bright pink) and cook, stirring, until heated through. Thin as necessary with some of leftover broth, then stir in cheese and remove from heat.

Goat Cheese Mushroom Crostini

8 Jan


Brrrr. It was 10 degrees this morning ya’ll! And the temperature reminded me of when I decided to grill crostini in 17 degree weather on New Year’s Eve last week!

In an effort to keep the campers happy and awake on the big holiday, I made this incredibly easy and delicious appetizer. We made the recipe with button mushrooms because the grocery shopping campers didn’t know that a cremini mushroom is the same as a baby bella mushroom (cremini are baby portabellas ya’ll!). It was still delicious. I grilled the bread on the grill and quickly melted the goat cheese on the bread using the grill heat before topping with the mushrooms.

It’s a perfect winter starter!

Goat Cheese Mushroom Crostini, from MidWest Living 

  • 30 1/4 – inch thick slices baguette-style French bread (about 8 oz.)
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • tablespoons butter
  • shallots, coarsely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups) or 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • tablespoon packed brown sugar
  • tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoon snipped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ounces Capriole Fresh Goat Cheese or other goat cheese
  • tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf parsley) (optional)
  1. Arrange baguette slices on a large baking sheet. Lightly brush 1 side of each slice with some of the olive oil. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 2 to 4 minutes more or until lightly brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Set bread slices aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and brown sugar. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, for 4 minutes or until most of the liquid is evaporated, stirring frequently.
  3. Spread some of the goat cheese on each crostini. Bake about 8 minutes or until cheese is warmed through. Remove from oven. Top each with some of the mushroom-shallot mixture. Drizzle any remaining cooking liquid over crostini. If you like, sprinkle each with parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 30 crostini.

Winter Grilled Steaks with Herb Compound Butter

6 Jan





I spent New Years Eve in the North Carolina mountains with my good friends, my furry dog and lots of good food and cocktails. For the NYE holiday (after hiking Echota earlier that morning in 24 degree weather), we promised ourselves we would have a very late dinner in order to stay up until the ball dropped in New York. This late activity required a trip into town for beers at Appalachian Brewery, a couple homemade appetizers (I’ll share one this week) and special cocktails at the house. Check out the most delicious Old Fashion with my mom’s Florida sour calamondon oranges.

It was a bitter 17 degrees in Foscoe while we were celebrating – so a strong cocktail, a winter cap and determination to grill was essential. Luckily for my friends, I love to grill and was excited for the challenge.  So while most of my girlfriends were in black dresses and heals – I was in lined leggings, boots, a jacket and pink toboggan! Grilling tongs really add sparkle to an outfit.

For dinner, I made grilled filet mignon steaks with an herb compound butter over beet risotto with roasted brussel sprouts. Not bad, right? After all, it’s 2015!

A compound butter is an easy way to dress up any steak. A couple hours before grilling, pulse a stick of butter with a tablespoon of your favorite herbs – I used rosemary, thyme, parsley and sage. You could mix any variation – try a cilantro! Once the butter is combined, shape into a log and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for a couple hours, slice it and top the steaks right before they are to temperature. The heat of the grill will melt the herb butter on the steaks for the perfect topping!

New Years Re-Entry; Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra

4 Jan


The holidays are officially over, resolutions are in full-gear and re-entry begins tomorrow.  I had another fantastic holiday full of family, friends and delicious foods. I arrived back in Greensboro on Thursday in time for several movies, a good clean of my house, many hours at the gym and lots of time for resting.

Then Sunday came. In preparation for re-entry to work tomorrow, I spent a good hour at the gym with friends, stocked up at the grocery store and locked myself in the house for a nice afternoon making homemade chicken stock. They say that an “arctic blast” will arrive on Thursday, so I wanted to fully prepare for the worst with homemade soup provisions!

Nothing could be more relaxing than an afternoon stewing homemade stock (I used Ina Garten’s chicken stock recipe) will listening to Carly Simon, reading the newspaper and wearing in my new fuzzy slippers. Winston, my pup, enjoyed the aromas and potential for any chicken bones slipping between any utensils.

After making the stock, I made an easy Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra. It was spicy,delicious and hearty with the addition of okra. This is a variation on Ina’s Mexican Soup but I skipped the tortillas, sour cream and cheese (oh the resolutions) and added the okra for a nice substance.

I’ll post my recipes from the New Year’s Holiday this week!

Mexican Chicken Soup with Okra

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 bag, frozen cut okra 
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and frozen okra. Season to taste. Serve the soup hot!


Daniel Boone Country Ham Frittata

31 Dec


I’m celebrating the New Years holiday in the North Carolina mountains with friends, food and snow! Yesterday, as big fluffy flakes of snow fell in Banner Elk, the snow received a roaring applause from children and kid-like-adults (that’s me).

Before we headed into town….around noon while we still lounged in pajamas, I put together a quick country ham frittata using the local Daniel a Boone Country Ham! I’m a huge fan of country ham in just about anything… It’s salty bite is something totally unique to North Carolina and it was perfecting fitting for our setting.

Cautionary note: don’t over season your eggs or mushrooms! Country ham is super salty!

Here how I made it. I like my country ham quickly browned in a cast iron skillet with a good splash of coffee. You can also cook it in a little Coke! Meanwhile, I sautéed a pint of button mushrooms in a bit of butter and salt and pepper. At this point, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Once the country ham is hot and browned, chop it up. Whisk 6 eggs. Add a tablespoon of butter to the cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add the eggs. As the eggs begin to cook around the sides of the skillet, add the country ham, mushrooms, some cheese and a nice handful of torn chives. All of these ingredients are optional….use what you’ve got in the fridge. I literally used leftover cheese from our cheese plate the night before!

After the items have been added, place the skillet in the oven and cook until puffy and brown. Serve hot. Enjoy by the fire, with mountain views, good friends and fuzzy slippers (optional too).

This post is sponsored by the North Carolina Pork Council. 



Sunshine State Christmas 2014

30 Dec

I’m back from a warm and plenty Christmas holiday vacation in my homeland, Florida. Four fast nights were spent with friends and family plus a gracious amount of fresh seafood, citrus and delight. Gag gifts, small dogs and cocktails amused the small moments between catching up on a year’s time of weddings, graduations, vacations, achievements and television shows.

Christmas morning included my grandfather’s traditional Brandy Alexander – just a third each of brandy, creme de cocoa and heavy cream served in thimble sized servings by the Christmas tree and occasional fire (it’s Florida after all). That drink reminds me of my great grandmother’s favorite bourbon, Four Roses, served straight or with holiday eggnog. Two eggs, a dash of vanilla, 3 heaps of sugar, 2ish cups of cream blended with a nice helping of Four Roses will cozy you in any state. Don’t forget the nutmeg garnish. Finally, nothing beats my favorite winter drink – the greyhound. Fresh grapefruit juice with a splash of vodka will cure any winter blues. I pick grapefruit like a sport for these cocktails. Try Crystal Head Vodka the next time you’re in the ABC – the bottle alone will make you giggle.

Shrimp, oysters and Florida lobster paired well with just about anything this Christmas. I hope your holiday was full of new and old tradition. And, you’re looking towards a new bright 2015. Cheers!

A Last Minute Holiday Starter with Endive

20 Dec



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


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.


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