A few several Saturdays ago, me and a couple of my "steel magnolias" made a batch of "fried green tomatoes." It was a long Saturday of being in the kitchen, drinking cocktails, laughing, telling stories, and just enjoying each other's company - a rare thing for us these days. I'll never forget going into college thinking I'd never find friends as strong and fantastic as the ones from high school. My mom assured me that in every stage of my life I would make new friends and they would be "just as fabulous" as the ones before. I have to say though, my college group of gals is and will always be "my most fabulous friends." They are my best friends, as time goes on, I realize more than ever that it's going to take more than being in different cities, busy work and family lives, and finding less and less time to get together to break the close bond we created in college and have sustained as adults. It's crazy to think I've known these girls for over 10 years now, and near or far, we do the best we can to get together at least a few times a year (the constant 24/7 group text we've had going for several years now doesn't hurt either). These southern gals are my magnolias, and this fried green tomato recipe is dedicated to y'all... I hope we make them together for another 50 years!
Peanut oil - for frying
5 oz goat cheese - room temperature
1/2 lemon - juiced
2 tbsp basil - chopped
1 tbsp parsley - chopped
1 tbsp chives - chopped
1 cup flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
4-5 green tomatoes
Heat peanut oil to 350 degrees in a fryer or on your stovetop.
Make the herb goat cheese. Mix together goat cheese, lemon juice, herbs, and a dash of salt and pepper. Set aside.
Whisk 1 cup flour and 1 cup buttermilk together in a bowl. In another more shallow bowl, mix together the cornmeal, garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika.
Slice tomatoes 1/4 inches thick. Dry the tomatoes with paper towels. Salt and pepper them on both sides.
Dip tomatoes in buttermilk mixture and then coat them in the cornmeal mixture.
Step 4 Fry coated tomatoes until golden brown. Plate the fried tomatoes and dollop with goat cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!! AND BEST GIRLFRIENDS!!!
There was a time in my life when the thought of eating duck was not at the top of my list. But today, I'll take the fat and all of it. This recipe reminds me of parties. I love to throw them and I do often. I've made these duck fat fries a number of times for get togethers, tweeking the recipe along the way. I've learned it's also a great side for burgers or a nice juicy steak. We had it the other night with coffee rubbed filets, and I plan to share that recipe with you all very soon! I think I finally nailed the perfect duck fat fry, and this is the recipe I want to share with you!
Grocery List (4 people):
4 russet potatoes 2-4 tbsp duck fat (find it jarred at specialty food stores) Truffle salt Pepper 1 tbsp truffle oil 1 tsp garlic - minced 1 tsp rosemary - minced 1 tbsp truffle honey or regular honey 1/2 cup mayo Fresh parmesan
Roughly peel the potatoes. You will want to leave some skin on.
Cut potatoes in thick logs. You should get about 16 from each potato.
Soak logs in water for about 1 hour. This will get extra starch out and make them crispy.
Drain potatoes and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat 2 tbsp of duck fat in a sautée pan over medium high heat (keep the duck fat close by, halfway through you may have to add another tablespoon or two).
In batches, sautée potato logs for about 1-2 minute on each side in the duck fat. Place sautéed logs onto a baking sheet lined with foil. Sprinkle lightly with truffle salt and pepper.
Roast potatoes at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The last 5 minutes, change the stove setting to broil. This will get them nice and brown and extra crispy.
While the potatoes are roasting, make the truffle mayo. Heat truffle oil over low heat. Add minced garlic and minced rosemary. Heat for 2 minutes and set aside to cool.
When cooled, add olive oil mixture along with honey and 1/4 tsp of truffle salt (to taste) to the mayo. Mix together and taste. Add more salt if needed.
When potatoes come out of the oven, immediately sprinkle them with truffle salt and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with mayo along side.
Tomatoes are to July and August as pumpkin is to October. It's the official start of summer, and for me that means being on the lookout for farmers markets anywhere, everywhere, and anytime. But sometimes, it doesn't take a farmers market to find the freshest produce around. I learned that as a kid, and I'm rediscovering it now. Growing up in a small town in Mississippi, I can remember regularly seeing people in blue overalls sitting on the side of the road in chairs with an old truck backed up to the street, tailgate down, and fresh produce spilling right off the back of the truck. That description may sound like I saw it in a painting in the Cracker Barrel and just decided to roll with it as a "childhood memory," but it is in fact the truth. Even today when I go back to my hometown, I see people in those same spots selling tomatoes, watermelons, and all the beauties of a farmer's summer garden. Because I now live in the city, it's rare to see random farm stands and trucks full of produce on the side of the road, but luckily, I travel to small towns for work and it's a lot of fun to keep an eye out for these little pop-up produce markets. This recipe comes inspired by a random market I found in one of the small towns I regularly visit. Similar to a ratatouille, this dish full of fresh, slowly baked veggies with a little surprise on the inside: cheese! And as for the newest random produce stand I found on the street, I'll just say as soon as I cut into the tomatoes, there was no question that they had just been picked that day. My kind of summer produce!
Grocery List (2 people):
4-5 large, even sized summer squash and zucchini
4 oz mascarpone cheese - room temperature
4 oz goat cheese - room temperature
3 tbsp. basil - minced
1 tbsp. parsley - minced
1 tsp garlic - minced
12 oz marinara
1 tsp red pepper flake (optional)
1 large tomato - sliced thick
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and heat an oiled grill pan to high heat on the stove.
Cut the ends off of each squash and zucchini. One at a time, sit a squash upright with the cut side down so you have a flat, sturdy surface. Cutting downward, slice squash into long, thin pieces. Repeat with the zucchini. Avoid using the end pieces -- you only want the middle so each slice is even, thin, and easy to roll.
Place squash and zucchini pieces on a rack and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Let stand for 10 minutes so the moisture comes out of the veggies.
Lightly dry each squash and zucchini piece off with paper towels, trying not to remove all the salt from the veggies.
Grill each squash and zucchini piece 2-3 minutes on each side and set aside to cool.
2. While the veggies are cooling, prepare the filling by mixing together the mascarpone, goat cheese, basil, parsley, garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper.
Take one piece of squash and zucchini at a time, fill with about 1 tsp of cheese mixture, and roll up.
3. Lay each rollup down in a small baking dish (if you double up the recipe, use a large baking dish - 9 x 13 in). Cover the pieces with the marinara and sprinkle the top with red pepper flakes.
Top sauce with sliced tomatoes and grate fresh parmesan over the top.
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Top with more basil and serve immediately.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries… berries of any kind make me think of Saturday morning summers at the farmer’s market. Over the last several years, farmer’s markets have become a universally popular weekend outing. A long time ago, it seemed as if farmer’s markets could only be reached in European countries and big US cities, but now it’s a common weekend event in just about any city and small town. The Memphis Farmer’s Market is downtown and just walking distance from where we live. Tres and I rarely miss a Saturday to pick up fresh produce and local meats to use for the upcoming week. If I do miss a weekend at the Memphis Farmer’s Market though, it’s because I’m with my mom in Hernando, Mississippi, the small town I grew up in, at their farmer’s market on the town square. It’s quite charming, and being in Mississippi, there’s plenty farming to go around to share with the community. The first time I made this berry salad came from a farmer’s market trip, and it continues to be a healthy staple in out house. Don’t forget strawberries and blueberries at the market this weekend!
Grocery List (enough for 2 large salads or 4 small salads):
For the Salad: 5 oz spinach leaves 1 large bunch of basil (about ½ cup) 1 large bunch of mint (about ½ cup) 8-10 fresh strawberries - quartered 1 cup fresh blueberries ¼ cup toasted almonds (toast over medium heat on the stove for about 5 minutes) 4 oz goat cheese 1 large avocado - cubed
Optional: 1 lb chicken tenders Olive oil Kosher salt Pepper 2 tsp fresh thyme – chopped
For the dressing: ¼ cup balsamic vinegar 2 tsbp honey 4 strawberries – chopped 1/2 lemon – zest and juice 1 clove garlic – chopped ½ cup good quality, sweet extra virgin olive oil ½ tsp Kosher salt
Take the basil and mint off the stems. Wash, dry, and toss the spinach, basil, and mint together.
Step 2 (optional):
If using chicken, heat a grill pan to high heat. Brush olive oil on chicken and sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and thyme. Grill 3-4 minutes on each side. Set aside and let cool. When ready to top salad with the chicken, cut each strip into 3-4 pieces at an angle.
Make the dressing by throwing all the listed ingredients (except olive oil) into a food processer or blender and blend until strawberries are smooth. While the food processor is running, slowly add in the olive oil from the top until combined. Taste the dressing. Add salt and honey to taste.
Add half of the salad dressing to the greens right before serving and toss together. Top the salad with chicken, strawberries, blueberries, goat cheese, almonds, and avocado. Drizzle the top with a little more dressing. Serve the rest of the dressing on the side. You may have plenty of dressing left over. It can be stored in the fridge for about one week.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
Parties, parties, parties… they’re one of my favorite pastimes, and we have a lot of them at LeTard Loft. We had so many people over for get togethers and parties one year, I decided our little bungalow needed a nickname, so LeTard Loft stuck. Our condo is after all on one of the busiest streets in the city and above one of the most fun bars, so it only makes sense for our home to have a name. Along with that name comes wine parties, cocktail parties, dinner parties, and a whole lot of me in the kitchen, which is what makes me the most happy. I always plan the menu out well before, time how long it’s going to take to cook everything, and walk into the kitchen with my sleeves rolled up and a huge grin on my face. No really, sometimes when I’m deep into cooking, I will catch myself smiling so big for no reason at all but the simple fact that I’m standing in the kitchen chopping an onion or stirring a pot. It’s my heart and soul.
The other day, I was cooking for a special dinner party. My family is in town from Texas, and when they come in town, it’s always an exciting, fun time for us. We are all very close, so it’s always good to see them and host them. The theme that night was Pizza Night. I had my menu down of four pizzas and one dessert pizza as well as a large salad and an appetizer. Well, things don’t always go as planned in the kitchen. Any good chef knows, sometimes something can go wrong. Thursday night, the appetizer went wrong. I have an eggplant bruschetta recipe that’s a delicious, easy go-to for cocktail parties (I’ll share it with you guys soon). Anyhow, it did not work out. I was not keeping an eye on the eggplants and they overcooked and got all mushy. It would have made for a really disgusting first course, so I had to improvise. Sometimes an improvise is a hit. In this case, it worked! So I’m sharing it with you guys today!
1 loaf of French bread 16 oz fresh mozzarella 6 oz basil pesto – I homemake it sometimes, but jarred is easy and good too 2 tbsp olive oil and more for drizzling ½ tsp Salt ¼ tsp Pepper 1 bunch of mint leaves – chopped Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut bread into ½ inch slices and place on a baking sheet
Cut the mozzarella into small cubes and throw into a bowl. Mix in the pesto, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spoon about 2 tablespoons over each bread slice. Drizzle each cheese toast with a little olive oil. Put the toasts in the oven to cook for 5-7 minutes or until mozzarella is all melty and beautiful.
Put your toasts on a lovely plate, sprinkle with the chopped mint, and if your heart desires it, drizzle with balsamic.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
Never have I ever... Had too much to eat...? Pause. How would you answer? I’m assuming if this was a drinking game, everyone would be taking a swig right about now. We all have eaten too much at some point. Unfortunately, I think my answer to this question would be yes way too often. Between weekends, holidays, and traveling, I can't seem to get away from food. There just always seems to be a really good excuse to eat! However, there usually comes a time when I need to bring myself back down to reality of health, wellness, and quite frankly, weight. I finally decided last year, after weekends and weekends of constant travel and bad food, that my body was feeling off. I was feeling sluggish and heavy. Bad food can do that to you. Even if you haven't necessarily gained weight, it's inevitable to eventually start feeling gross on the inside. I've said it once and I will say it again and again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with bad food - fried everything, bread, pasta, cheese covered goodness - but only over a short period of time and only in moderation. Last year, I went through a whirlwind of these foods and just kept eating them. I had the holidays to blame as well as a lot of travel, but I finally decided to do something I had never done before: a cleanse. For about two weeks I drank juice, smoothies, ate small meals, and made this detox soup recipe my go-to. It got me right back on track to feeling good!
I still splurge on the weekends, holidays, special occasions, and travel, which is probably still too much, but when I'm feeling sluggish and like I've had more than enough food than my body can take, I turn to this soup as my “detox.” It’s simple, clean, and full of veggies.
This recipe in particular reminds me of one of my favorite food items and still one of my best food memories ever – Sopa De Pollo at Mexican restaurants with my family. As far back as I can remember, my family’s go-to restaurants have been Mexican joints. It’s simply one of our favorite foods. I can remember eating Mexican food sometimes a few times a week just because we liked it so much. When Tres and I started dating, he told me Mexican was his least favorite type of food... CRUSHING! However, he has warmed up to it, and when he’s traveling, which he does extremely often, I just meet my parents and we go eat Mexican food. It’s become quality time I spend with my parents, and I always look forward to it. We always order Sopa De Pollo, and if you have never had it at a Mexican restaurant, you should order it next time. It’s the best soup ever! This recipe is my “detox” version of it, and each spoonful reminds me of all the fun times I’ve had with my family over bowls of delicious soup!
3 sticks of celery – chopped 3 medium carrots – chopped 1 medium yellow onion – chopped 1 red bell pepper – chopped 3 jalapeno peppers – chopped (seeded if desired) 5 garlic cloves – whole 20 sprigs of fresh cilantro 2 bay leaves 1 tsp black peppercorns 1 tsp cumin seeds ½ tsp oregano 1 tbsp salt 4 cups low sodium chicken broth 4 cups water 2 limes - juiced 1 rotisserie chicken - breast meat (cubed or shredded) and skin only (you can save the dark meat for something else) 4 roma tomatoes – seeded and chopped 2 large green onions – chopped Avocado (optional)
In a large stockpot, throw in the celery, carrots, yellow onion, cilantro, bell pepper, jalapenos, habaneros, garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, oregano, salt, chicken broth, water, lime juice, and skin from the rotisserie chicken and stir. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer uncovered for at least one hour.
Strain the veggies and spices from the broth. Return the broth to the stockpot over medium-low heat.
If you wish, you can reserve some of the veggies and add them to the broth. I like the peppers, celery, and carrots, so I add about half back into my soup. Just make sure you don’t bring any of the chicken skin, garlic cloves, peppercorns, or cumin seeds back in there.
Add the chicken breast pieces, tomatoes, and green onions. Let heat for about 1 minute. Taste to make sure the salt seasoning is to your liking. Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top with cilantro and avocado.
*** You can refrigerate this soup for several days or freeze it for up to 3 months. I freeze in small, one portion containers and just reheat it with whatever protein and veggies I have around the house (chicken, turkey, mushrooms, spinach, kale, tomatoes, etc) whenever I need a quick, healthy lunch or dinner.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
As a self-proclaimed "chef," there are a lot of things I don't want y'all to know about me. But I'm going to tell ya anyway. One of those things is that I used to be an incredibly picky eater. Picky as in pepperoni pizza only, chicken strips with BBQ sauce only, hamburgers and hot dogs plain unless they were chili-cheese coated, no salads because I hated dressing, no sandwiches unless they were on "sub" bread because regular bread grossed me out as did mayo and mustard, no cheese unless it was on pizza, and never ever in a million years get fish of any kind near me - no, not even sushi.
Ew, ew, ew. That was my response to nearly everything. But there was a reason I was so picky. There's only ONE reason for a picky eater: they refuse to try anything new. They claim to "not like" certain foods, but I bet if you ask them if they've ever tried what they're claiming to "not like," I bet 99% of the time they haven’t. Ultimately, they shut themselves off from an incredible food society. I mean, I understand that we all go through a time in our lives - as children - that certain foods gross us out, but the reality is, if we never try new foods, we will never recover from the picky eater stage. I recovered. Thank goodness.
I have a low tolerance for picky eaters and I don’t feel bad about it because I used to be one. If you’ve tried it and you don’t like it, then “ewwwww” away! I realize as humans there will always be one or two or several foods all of our taste buds just don’t comprehend. Mine is blue cheese. I don’t care how much someone tells me I will love blue cheese one day, I know deep down inside of my soul it will never happen. However, if you say ew to something and I ask you if you’ve ever tried it and you say no, I have nothing for you.
The purpose of the cooktale and how it even relates to this recipe is that seven years ago, I would’ve turned my nose up to just about every ingredient in this dish, but thanks to my husband, I will now eat anything (except blue cheese). He, the non-picky eater that he is, encouraged me to try new foods and brought me to some of my very favorites that I never in a million years thought I would like. I’m talking escargot, bone marrow, duck liver, sweet breads… I mean, let’s get real, if a set of eye balls are on a platter, presented beautifully and someone tells me they’re delicious, I will at least try them. Trying these new, adventurous foods led me to discover my inner chef. I truly thank my sweet husband for helping me discover my love of food. In my opinion, he is responsible for every recipe I have ever created. He’s the reason I spend hours in the kitchen with a smile on my face because I can’t think of a happier place to be, and he’s the reason this blog even exists.
1 small mango – cut into small cubes
1 small avocado – cut into small cubes
1 small jalapeno – seeded and chopped
1 green onion – chopped (white and green parts)
2 tbsp cilantro – chopped
1 lemon – zested and juiced
4 Halibut filets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp good quality, fruity olive oil
1 lb of brussel sprouts - sliced very thin
1 tsp of pink peppercorns – crushed (if you don’t have these, you can omit)
½ lemon – juiced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp agave nectar
1. Make the salsa by adding all the chopped ingredients to a bowl. Then add the lemon zest, juice, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Stir and set aside.
(Remember: Mangoes have a long flat seed in the middle, so you have to slice around it and also remove the skin. Also, avocados have a pit. The best way to cube these are to cut the avocado in half, take the pit out with your knife, then cut little rows in both directions of each half, creating squares, and scoop them all out with a spoon, directly into the bowl).
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub each side of the halibut with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let bake for 10-12 minutes or until flaky.
3. Thinly slice the brussels. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add brussels with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss around and let cook for about 5-7 minutes or until a little bit brown on the edges. Set aside and let come to room temperature.
4. Make the dressing by crushing the peppercorns into a bowl. Then, add the lemon juice, vinegar, agave, salt, and pepper. Finally, whisk in the olive oil to combine.
Once the brussels are cooled, add the dressing and toss together. At this point, taste the brussels. It’s important to never serve until you have tasted – you may need to add more salt.
To plate: Put the brussels down first, put the fish atop the brussels and top the fish with the salsa.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
I wonder if every chef remembers the very first recipe they ever created all on their own. I do, and that’s the recipe and cooktale I’m sharing with you today. Pork ‘n Peaches. A classic meat and an essential summer fruit, and not to mention, butter, brown sugar, and roasted pecans. It sounds like a little southern dash of goodness doesn’t it? Well, let me tell ya’ll… IT IS! After about a year of doing nothing but watching Food Network, reading cook books cover to cover, studying recipes as if I had a test on them the next day and following them word by word with every measuring cup and measuring spoon I had in my cabinets, I decided to give up my fear of “a little of this and a dash of that” and boycott following recipes word for word. I mean, I could cook really well when I followed a recipe. It seemed everyone always loved what I cooked, and I had decent enough knowledge of food to give my family and friends tips regularly, so why couldn’t I just start making up my own recipes?
A Saturday morning at the farmer’s market and a sack full of peaches later, I walked in the kitchen and just downright went for it. I was scared. But I wanted to do it. I loved to cook, and I loved the challenge of a difficult recipe, so I thought it was time to start getting creative in the kitchen. In July 2012, my very own version of Pork ‘n Peaches was created, and that same day, my kitchen confidence went sky high. That was the day I went from “cook” to “chef.” I think this can happen for anyone who loves to cook. Don’t be afraid to get creative by taking ingredients you already have and just go for it! Does it always turn out perfectly? Heck no. But you learn and you move on to the next one. In the meantime, I’m happy for you all to follow my recipes, and hopefully I can teach you something along the way!
Grocery List (4 people):
2 lbs pork loin with fat trimmed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 orange (zest and juice)
2 lemons (zest of one, juice of both)
2 limes (zest of one, juice of both)
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
¼ cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh thyme – chopped
3 garlic cloves – minced
2 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
Peaches or Pears (whatever is in season):
4 peaches or pears (or one for each person) – halved, core or seeds scooped out
2-3 tbsp of melted butter (or more if more fruit is used)
1 tsp brown sugar for each peach/pear half
1 lemon – juiced
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup of mint – minced (plus some whole leaves for garnish)
Goat cheese – for topping
Pecans – for topping (recipe below)
¼ cup whole pecans
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of salt
Start by making the marinade. Combine all the ingredients in a plastic Ziploc bag. Put pork in the bag and make sure it’s covered in the marinade. Let the marinated porksit in the fridge for at least an hour or more.
Grill on medium heat, turning every 5 minutes (and basting with remaining marinade as you turn) for 30 minutes or until the thickest part of the loin is heated to 155-160 degrees. It can be grilled indoors on a grill pan or on an outdoor grill. I prefer an outdoor grill’s flavor for this dish.
Once the meat is the correct temperature, take off the grill and set aside. Tent the meat with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes.
To serve, slice meat in ½ inch pieces at an angle and top with chives for garnish. Serve alongside the peaches.
Peaches (these can be prepared when the pork is marinating):
Brush peach (or pear) halves with melted butter, liberally and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Set aside until ready to grill with the pork.
Grill for 3 minutes, cut side down. Flip, and grill for 2 more minutes on the other side.
For the dressing: combine the honey, lemon juice, vinegar, and chopped mint in a small sauce pan and whisk. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Take off the heat to thicken.
Top grilled peaches (or pears) with dressing, goat cheese crumbles, and pecans.
Pecans (these can also be prepared when the pork is marinating):
Heat oven to 350. Toss pecans with olive oil, sugar, and spices. Roast for 12-15 minutes.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
I don't always come home exhausted and not willing to cook. Typically, cooking is what makes me happy and relaxes me after a long day. But there's a difference in having a long day and being down right exhausted. For the last couple of years, grad school has been my "after work activity" one or two days a week. Funny enough, I discovered my love for cooking about the same time I started grad school, and unfortunately, there wasn't always time to come home and cook a big elaborate meal when getting home at 9 pm on some nights. I was grateful to have a husband who would cook dinner or order takeout for us while I was in class and have it plated up and ready by the time I got home, but some nights, I just wanted to cook. It just helped me wind down. It did then, and it does now. On these nights I had to come up with something quick and easy to cook. I'm happy to say I have graduated with an MA in Journalism (yay), but that's not to say there still won't be nights I'll need a go-to, no-fuss meal. This is one of those meals... a meal that most people in the world will appreciate. 8 ingredients, 10 minutes... done!!! Thank you grad school for challenging me in this way!
1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
Good quality olive oil - 1 tbsp for each filet, plus some for the pan
4 fresh salmon filets - skin off
4 tomatoes - firm to the touch
1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup of the balsamic and a pinch of salt to a boil and let simmer. Heat a saute pan with a splash of olive oil to the highest heat (like you're going to boil something) until olive oil is smoking. Sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper on each side of the salmon - about 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper.
2. When oil is smoking on the pan, place salmon on the pan face down and don't touch or move for 2 full minutes (not touching it creates an amazing crust... the kind you see on your salmon in restaurants). Flip salmon and let cook for 1 minute on the other side then put the salmon (pan and all) in the 400 degree oven for 3-4 minutes.
3. While salmon is cooking, cube the tomatoes and avocado, throw into a large bowl, and add the rest of the balsamic, 1 tsp of salt (or to taste), pepper, and stir together.
4. When the salmon is done, take out and set aside. To plate, put a serving of the tomato and avocado salad on a plate and top with the salmon. Spoon balsamic glaze over the fish and the salad.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
Mimosa... the simple drink that can create a million stories in a lifetime. It's the happy place every Saturday and Sunday for every brunching human out there. It's bliss. And it's two ingredients: sparkling wine (or champagne if you get really fancy) and OJ. Big brunch restaurants have spiced this drink up thousands of different ways, and I've maybe tried 100 different versions. I have to say though, the original is my sunshine in a glass. You just simply don't have to do too much to this drink to make it "the best mimosa ever." However, I've found fresh orange juice never hurts. And a little sweetness can make any little lady (or dude with a sweet tooth) happy. Here's a fun version that will present beautifully at any brunch party or morning gathering!
8-10 large oranges
1 bottle of sparkling wine, cava, prosecco, or champagne
1/4 cup of sugar
zest from one orange
Juice your oranges. You can do this by hand or with whatever juicing tool you have on hand. I simply juice mine right into a measuring cup by hand
Pour sugar on a small plate. Zest orange into the sugar. Stir together.
Take an orange slice and "rim your glass" with the juice from the orange. Dip your class in the sugar-orange mixture
Fill glass 3/4 way with the sparkling and after the bubbles settle add fresh OJ.
CHEERS TO HAPPY DRINKING!!!
Another pasta dish.. yes. Because everyone loves pasta. No matter where you are or what ingredients you have on hand, a pasta dish can come from it. And not to mention, those carbs... those ever-loving carbs. Why are carbs so good, anyhow? I wish I knew. Or I wish they had the same amount of calories in them as an apple. It's so unfortunate. This dish is also inspired by the Costa Rica trip. Any time I have known I was going to cook on vacation, I always pack a "chef's kit." My knife always comes with me along with Kosher salt, pepper, toothpicks, skewers, any spices I think I may need, and "special ingredients" because you never know what kind of grocery stores will be around you when you travel. Truffle butter was one of those special ingredients that came to Costa Rica with me, and it's a great thing it did because like I said in my last post, that grocery store blew my mind. They had nothing I wanted but apparently everything I needed to create two of the best pasta dishes ever, which also happen to be my first two posts on this blog. So Costa Rica... you've done a lot of right in my cooking world.
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots - chopped
1 garlic clove - minced
4 oz mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
2 lobster tails (you can do already cooked or uncooked.. cooking time will vary depending on which one you have)
1/2 lb shrimp - peeled, tails off (same here: cooked or uncooked, either will work fine)
1/2 lb crawfish tails (you can get these already peeled, but I used cooked unpeeled and Tres and I had fun peeling them together)
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 oz truffle butter
1 tsp salt and more to taste, plus 1 palm full for boiling the pasta
1/4 cup fresh parsley - chopped
Fresh Parmesan - shaved
Truffle oil - for drizzling
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pan, add shallot and a dash of salt (You guys will see I do a lot of "salting" as I go. It helps soften veggies and enhances flavor along the way). Sautee until translucent. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add wine and let reduce by half.
Peel crawfish, lobster, and shrimp if necessary. Chop lobster into 1 inch pieces and cut each shrimp in half.
Add the seafood with 1 tsp of salt. If the meat has already been cooked, it will just need to be heated through 2-3 minutes. If it's raw, cook until pink in color - about 5 minutes (be careful with this because when shell fish is cooked too much it becomes rubbery)
Stir in cream and truffle butter and let heat about 1 minute.
Boil pasta. Heat a pot over high heat with a palm full of salt. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook for 8-9 minutes or until al dente (cooked well but firm to bite).
Combine the seafood sauce with the pasta and 1/4 cup of pasta water. Plate up the pasta and top with leftover parsley, parm shavings, and truffle oil.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!
Sometimes there’s more than one cooktale for a recipe. If it’s good, you’re going to make it again and again with more stories to follow the first one. This is one of those recipes. I’ll start with the tale of the first time I made it.
There’s nothing like cooking when you’re out of town – particularly in a different country. You’re completely out of your element at the grocery store and quite frankly clueless of what half the ingredients are that you lay eyes on when you walk in the place – or so I discovered. However, it’s a great time to experiment with your culinary skills. The first time I created this dish it was completely by accident. It was my 30th birthday and New Year’s trip in Costa Rica with my best gal friends Ginger, Tracy, and Amy Claire, as well as my husband, Tres and Ginger’s husband, James. We rented a spectacular house in the mountains with an ocean view and the plan was to cook, cook, cook it up the entire trip. I had my recipe ideas written down and a grocery list ready to go, but as soon as we walked in the grocery store I realized no “planned” recipe was going to happen, as the store had none of the ingredients I needed. So, with help from the guys and gals, I just started grabbing whatever looked familiar that could potentially be put together and become meals. When we got back to the house, it was time for me to play Food Network’s “Chopped,” as our shopping trip ingredients had turned into one of those mystery baskets. That’s where this recipe came from, and I’m quite happy about it because it turned out G-O-O-D! Most of the meals we had that trip were a success, and I have to say it’s the first I ever played the game “use up everything in the fridge before we go home” and actually won at it!
I’ve made this pasta dish twice since Costa Rica. I made it for a group of 15 people when Tres and I were in Destin last month. We stayed in a condo on the beach, complete with a kitchen. Knowing it would be the biggest group I had ever cooked for, I thought what better to cook than pasta? It was a hit again, so I made it for Mother’s Day this past weekend. Surprise ingredients from a grocery store in Costa Rica became a staple, go-to meal for travel cooking and at home, and it’s now the first post on my blog.
1 package of large pepperoni slices
1 package of large salami slices
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion – chopped
3 garlic cloves – minced
2 tsp fresh thyme – chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp red pepper flakes
¼ cup red wine
1 (24 oz) jar marinara sauce
8 oz container mascarpone
1 lb package spaghetti
1 ½ tsp salt and more to taste (for sauce) and a palmful of salt (to boil the pasta)
¼ cup fresh basil – chopped or torn
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and spread the salami slices on one and pepperoni slices on the other. Bake until crisp for about 8-10 minutes.
Watch meat carefully when it’s in the oven… Ehh umm, this is a picture of what NOT to do. Yep, it happens.
When salami and peperoni are crisp (not burned), take out of the oven, let cool, and crumble into a bowl. Set aside with the basil and parmesan
2. While the meat is baking away in the oven, start the sauce. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add onion and a dash of salt (dashes of salt help soften veggies and increase flavor along the way). Let cook down and get slightly brown for 5-7 minutes.
Turn down heat to medium-low and add garlic, thyme, oregano, and pepper flake.
Stir and cook for two minutes. Add wine, scrape any brown bits created on the bottom of the pan, and let wine reduce by half.
3. Add marinara and let heat 2-3 minutes. Stir in mascarpone until sauce becomes light in color and cheese is dissolved. Add 1 ½ tsp of salt or more (to taste… this is a preference thing. I cannot emphasize this enough. If I am ever vague in my salt measurements on any of these recipes it’s because I am a strong believer in tasting your food before you serve it. Salt can make or break a recipe – it’s very possible for it to have too little or too much. Add with caution and taste before you add more. You’ll know if it needs more. A dish is at its fullest of flavor when it has enough salt).
4. Boil pasta. Heat a pot over high heat with a palm full of salt. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook for 8-9 minutes or until al dente (cooked well but firm to bite). Drain pasta but leave a little pasta water (about ¼ cup) in your noodles (this helps the sauce stick to the noodles and gives the dish a hint of that starchy pasta flavor). Combine the noodles and sauce or put sauce on top of the noodles.
Top with salami and pepperoni crunches, basil, and parmesan.
CHEERS TO HAPPY EATING!!!