Monday, September 28, 2009

Dark Chocolate-Ginger Bread Pudding with Crushed Pepper-Clove Cream

The Wife LOVES bread pudding, and yesterday, she decided to make it in a new and strange way. Ghiardhelli chocolate and Dutch process cocoa powder + candied ginger and ginger powder = a whole lot of flavor. She kept the rum and the (golden) raisins. It boasts the mark of an excellent dessert: all gone in less than 24 hours.
The spiced cream (we used Oikos fat-free Greek yogurt with honey) was enlivened by the weird addition of crushed pepper and clove since we were out of her first choice, cayenne. I'll see if I can't get her to give us the recipe.

Here it is!

One loaf of crusty bread, ripped into small pieces
3 eggs
1 cup milk or cream
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. rum
1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 squares melted chocolate and 2 tbsp. butter (cooled)
1/2 tbsp. ginger powder
2 pieces candied ginger, chopped

Whisk wet ingredients and cocoa powder together. Add chocolate and butter mixture and gingers. Pour over the bread and mix until coated. Pour this into a buttered pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

For the cream:
1 container of Oikos Greek yogurt with honey
1 tbsp. raw sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
crushed pepper
1/2 tsp. clove

Mix and use to top the bread pudding.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


Last night, we went to Chef Ben Vaughn's new restaurant Grace in Cooper-Young, and we are still talking about it this morning even before we have our coffee. It is located next door to Burke's Books in a transformed space that is light and beautiful with pale green walls, couches and chairs up front for small groups, and every detail meticulously in place. There are lots of local, seasonal foods in the dishes, and the idea is that there will be a revolving menu based on the ingredients available at the time. First, the brioche and butter brought to the table blew us away. Next, TCV tried the bluefoot and chanterelle mushroom quiche and the fried green tomatoes stuffed with goat cheese and sprinkled with pecans, and The Wife, vegetarian when it suits her, chose seafood bisque and a grits cake with all kinds of treats with it. AMAZING. Desserts we had were blueberry cornmeal crumble with blue cheese ice cream and a poached pear with pecan baklava. We are so excited about having this restaurant, with its deconstructed, elegant take on Southern food, in Memphis. Grace has just opened, so go for a leisurely lunch or dinner soon. Say hi to our friend Marshall who is in charge of the front of the house. Make sure to call before you go (274-8511) because it looks like word is getting out quickly about this lovely new spot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lobster ... Mushrooms, that is!

When I spotted fresh lobster mushrooms in the bin at Whole Foods, I knew I had to have them. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a nut for fresh, hard-to-find mushrooms. Since I had never tried lobster mushrooms before, it was a no- brainer for me. So I snatched up one of the bright coral-colored caps as my head began to fill with all of the ways I might prepare these beauties. I raised it to my nose and gave it a! It smells like fresh seafood. So the name not only comes from the color but also the flavor. I decided then and there that I would make a vegetarian version of shrimp and grits using my newly-found treasure.
I prepared them simply by brushing them with olive oil and sprinkling them with a cajun dry rub. Then I grilled them for 3-4 minutes per side in my trusty cast-iron grill pan. I served them on top of spicy grits with a homemade remoulade sauce and chopped arugula.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Refrigerator Pickles with Garlic, Dill, and Coriander

This is so simple you won't believe it. It is also a lot of fun because you can experiment with all kinds of different spices to make your own unique pickle. Gather these things and go to the kitchen.

2-3 cups white vinegar
2-3 pickling cucumbers
palmful dried dill
palmful of whole coriander seeds
3 whole cloves garlic
1/4 cup salt
1/8 cup sugar

Thinly slice cucumbers. I use the slicer blade on my food processor which works perfectly for this. Arrange cucumber slices in a glass container that is just big enough to hold them. You don't want a lot of extra space. In a pot over high heat add the vinegar and the rest of the ingredients. You will only need enough vinegar to cover the sliced cucumbers. Cook vinegar mixture until all of the salt and sugar has dissolved and it has started to boil. Pour the hot vinegar over the raw cucumber slices, allow it to cool on the countertop, cover, and stick it in the fridge. They will be ready the next day and will keep for about a month.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pasta with Fennel and Morel Mushrooms

I made this incredibly simple savory dish because I found some nice looking dried morel mushrooms at the supermarket. I love fresh morels, but they are very expensive and hard to come by most of the year. This package of dried morels was only 10 bucks.
The mushrooms and the fennel play off one another very nicely. The earthy smoothness of the mushrooms is offset by the bright crunch of the fennel bulb. It is unexpected and delicious. There were no leftovers last night.

You will need:
1-2 cups morel mushrooms (sliced into 1/2 inch pieces)
2 shallots (minced)
1 "not-chicken" bouillon cube
1 medium fennel bulb (cored, halved and sliced into slivers)
1/2 cup white wine
2 servings of pasta
olive oil
salt & pepper
4 oz fresh mozzarella

In a large saute´ pan over medium heat saute´ the mushrooms, shallots, and bouillon cube in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the shallot has browned and the bouillon cube has melted deglaze the pan with the wine and allow it to cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the sliced fennel and plenty of black pepper to the mix. Allow the fennel to cook briefly before adding the cooked pasta and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss. Taste. If it is too dry add a bit more olive oil. Pile pasta onto a warm serving dish and garnish with fresh mozzarella and fennel fronds.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thank You So Much!

Thank you Mo, Lindsey, Amelia, Paul, Gina, Amy, Alisa, Benjamin, Dave, Brittany, Mel, Bobby, Steve, and Blandy!

I have been bowled over by your generosity this week.

Thanks to all of your kindness I have now surpassed my original personal goal of $1000. Let's see how far we can take it before the race.

Click HERE to donate.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Running the Chicago Marathon, Raising Money for St. Jude

Sunday, October 11, 2009 will be the day I complete my first full marathon. Not too long ago, I could barely run to the corner, and now I am prepared and ready to go the distance. It took more than a year of hard work to get to this point, and it all started with the Firecracker 5K on July 4th of last year. My mother, Suzanne Burks, watched me cross that finish line, and she was so proud of me and of my brother Graham for meeting our goals that day. After a wonderful summer spent with family and friends, Suzanne passed away in a car accident on October 19, 2008. My older brother Graham and I decided that there would be no better way to honor mom's memory than to raise money in support of her favorite charity, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. It is amazing how much running has helped us navigate our way through the past year; now we want to use this new focus to make the world that Suzanne made so bright become even brighter for others who need hope. We ran as Heroes in the St. Jude Half-Marathon in Memphis last year, so this will be the second race for us as "Team Suzanne." This time we are joined by my longtime friend -- a veteran of the 2007 Chicago Marathon -- Kelly Robinson. The three of us are certain that Suzanne's spirit will carry us across the finish line in Chicago. We are happy for this opportunity to serve, and we hope you will help us honor Suzanne by supporting St. Jude in making an immeasurable difference in the lives of children in need.

Thanks for helping me reach my goal for the kids of St. Jude

Click HERE to donate

Friday, September 4, 2009

Market Value from Memphis Magazine

The Memphis Magazine story The Wife and I worked so hard on this summer is now posted on line. Click HERE to view and read it. It is a comprehensive look at the connection between farmers and chefs in the city of Memphis. Read it and let us know what you think.