Thursday, September 30, 2010

Olive + Mushroom Ravioli

This is a great vegetarian ravioli filling because the mushrooms lend a nice 'meaty' flavor while the olives add a briny note. The result is a welcome change from the more typical cheese-stuffed ravioli you find in restaurants and in the grocery store freezer section. If you haven't made your own ravioli, it's time to try it now. Follow THESE basic instructions. Like most things in life, it's a struggle at first, but then with a few attempts, you'll get the hang of it. You really can make handmade ravioli on a weeknight. I promise.

Olive + Mushroom Ravioli Filling

1/3 cup mixed Italian olives (pitted)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
2 cloves garlic (smoked if you have it)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (panko)
1/4 cup fresh parsley (loosely packed)
1 egg
6 mushrooms (baby bella, white button / sliced and sautéed in olive oil)
a pinch of lemon zest
a few turns of the pepper grinder

All ingredients go into your food processor and are pulsed until finely chopped. Serve this with your favorite tomato sauce and a little extra parmesan on top.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Under-the-Radar Places to Eat in Memphis

Check out this recent article of ours for a lot of really, really great local places to try over the weekend!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Naan Pizza with Coriander Tomatoes + Yogurt Cheese

I invented this cultural mash-up. At least I thought I did until a quick Google search revealed 10 billion similar recipes. Nevertheless, I was the first one in my house to make it, and surprisingly, it may just be one of the best things I have ever tasted. The marriage of pizza and Indian food sounds like a 3 a.m. dream food craving come to life, and it is. You must try this. It's delish.

The naan:

1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/8 tsp. garlic powder (fresh garlic will burn on the stone)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
about 1/2 cup warm water

The dry ingredients go into the food processor with the dough blade in place. Turn the processor on and drizzle the water in until the dough clumps into a ball and rolls around the bowl. Stop the processor, grab the dough, cut it in half, and roll each half into a ball. Cover and allow to rise for 45 minutes.

Place pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven. Turn the broiler on medium high and preheat for 20 minutes. This sounds strange, but it mimics the effect of a tandoori oven. Roll each dough ball out into an oblong shape that is about 12 inches on the longest side. Pull out the rack containing the stone, place dough directly onto the pizza stone, push the rack back in, and shut the oven door. Allow each bread to cook for about 3 minutes or until the top is blistered and brown. Remove naan from the oven.

The sauce:

2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp coriander
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp hot curry powder
1 jalapeno (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 white onion (thinly sliced)
capful of white vinegar

Toppings: yogurt cheese and cilantro

Add the butter and spices to a pot over medium-high heat. Cook spices in butter for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the onion and cook a few minutes until translucent. Add remaining ingredients. Smash the tomatoes with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer until thickened.

Now set your oven to bake at 450 degrees. Dress each cooked piece of naan with half of the tomato sauce and a few ounces of shredded yogurt cheese. Place on the pizza stone until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish each with cilantro. Spring this unexpected pizza on your next dinner guests.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Running 26.2 miles in honor of my Mom and for the benefit of St. Jude

On Sunday, December 4, 2010, I will be running my second full marathon. This has become a tradition for me; I run as a St. Jude Hero in honor of my late mother Suzanne Burks, whose favorite charity was St. Jude Children's Research Hospital here in Memphis, Tennessee. I think if my mom were here to see this race, she would tell everyone that I won the marathon, no matter when I finished it. It is also important to me that this year, the December 4 race day would also have been her birthday. Any support for "Team Suzanne" would mean so much to me and to the kids receiving care at this amazing hospital here in my hometown. Looking back on my races up until now, I see that running has offered me clarity of mind along with the strength to reach any goal I set in life. If all of my blog followers give a little then we will hit our fundraising goal with no problem. Please join me in your support of St. Jude and help me honor Suzanne Burks this December as I prepare to best my 4:50 time at 2009's Chicago Marathon and complete this one with a goal of 4:30

It only takes a minute to fill in the blanks and make a
small donation to a worthwhile cause. I promise it will make you feel good. Click THIS LINK and then the "donate now" button in the top right corner of my St. Jude page to make a donation. Fellow bloggers please feel free to post a link to my St. Jude page in order to help get the word out there.

Thank you in advance for your help,


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Purple Salad

I was imagining this one for a while: what would an all-purple salad look like? A one-off Halloween project? Lush and shadowy like an Old Masters still life? Or maybe just color-wheel opposite day? Keeping track of all the purple fruit and veg that I saw, I tried to figure out a way to gather all of them at one perfect time for the dark, moody salad I daydreamed about making.

This week ended up being the right time to transfer what was vividly locked in my mind to the plate. (Now I'm dreaming of salads representing each hue; red and yellow and green are easy...but what about, say, blue? Hmmm...)

Purple Salad

1 Detroit red beet
olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
crusty bread
4 leaves purple cabbage
4 leaves radicchio
purple baby romaine lettuce
10 purple basil leaves, no stems
20 red grapes
a purple plum

For the salad:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the beet and slice it into about 1/4-inch thick half-moons. Drizzle with a 1-2 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. honey; add sea salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 20 minutes. Set aside. Next, chop up the bread into small squares and drizzle it with olive oil to lightly coat it. Add salt and pepper. Put this into the same oven for about 10-15 minutes until crisp. Set aside.

Rinse and chop the radicchio and cabbage into small, thin strips. Rinse and spin the purple baby romaine and purple basil. Wrap these loosely in paper towels and allow them to chill in the fridge. Cut the red grapes in half; slice the plum with the skin on. Chill these, too.

For the goat cheese disks:
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/2 cup pecans
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. gray sea salt

Dry roast the pecans for no more than 5 minutes in a skillet on medium heat. Roughly chop them and spread them on a small plate. Mix up the goat cheese with honey and gray salt. Shape the goat cheese mix into 1-inch-round balls and smash them into the pecan mixture to flatten and coat.

For the purple vinaigrette:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. grenache vinegar
juice from half a lemon
sea salt and cracked pepper

Whisk all ingredients and drizzle the vinaigrette over composed salad.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Soup + Sambal and Cinnamon

At lunch on Friday, I saw a friend eating a bowl of thin, bright, gorgeous red pepper soup, and it looked so perfectly spicy, so very fall, that I swore I was going to make something like it this weekend. It helped that peppers are still at the markets -- actually, I was surprised by the amount of produce still going strong right now -- so we picked up a dozen red peppers from Whitton Farms for this, a Moroccan spin on red pepper soup.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup + Sambal and Cinnamon

12 small roasted red peppers
1 white onion
6 cl0ves of garlic
1/2 cup of white wine (We used chenin blanc.)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. sambal
1 peeled tomato
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. garbanzo bean flour
1 capful of vinegar
squeeze of honey
1 vegetable bouillon cube
sea salt and crushed black pepper

Roast the peppers right on the grill and wait until the skin blackens. Take them inside to cool and then peel off all the char under running water and pull out the stems and seeds. For the soup, chop thin slices of onion and sauté them (in a soup pot on medium-high) in olive oil until they're soft and starting to turn brown. Add the garlic, white wine, cinnamon, and sambal. Reduce until thick and syrupy. Chop the peeled tomato and add it to the mix.

Now push everything in the pan to the side and add a tbsp. of olive oil and garbanzo bean flour to the middle. Toast it up like a roux. Add vinegar and honey, salt and pepper, and all the prepared peppers. Add 2 cups of water and the bouillon to the mix. Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender. Taste it to check the seasoning before it's set to serve. (Yesterday we added local goat feta on top, some julienned peppers and English cucumber, and a slice of Sherri's honey whole wheat bread with sunflower seeds. A grilled cheese sandwich might be pretty great with it, too.) This is a versatile recipe. We served the leftovers as a roasted red pepper dip along side some rosemary and white bean hummus.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Date Marzipan No-Bake Truffles

I just saw fresh dates on the vine at the Mediterranean Grocery on Park. I'd never seen these before, so I snatched them up and brought them home right away. I decided to make cookies with no oil and very little added sugar, and dates are so sweet and inoffensively raisin-y, so they were the base. These refrigerator cookies reminded me of the Mexican marzipan disks made out of peanuts and powdered sugar and wrapped in plastic that's stamped pink and green.

Put 10-12 fresh dates, peeled and pitted (the skins slip right off when they're ripe) in the food processor. Add 1/4 cup roasted and salted peanuts and start processing. Use a small scoop to portion out round bits of batter onto a plate. Put them in the fridge for a couple of hours then dust them with powdered sugar. You'll love these tiny, sticky treats because they taste great and are healthy for you -- or you could just go ahead and coat them in chocolate ganache!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Tennessee Dinner

We so love our home state. A couple of new things made in Tennessee that we haven't tried until now starred in the best dinner this week: Waynesboro's Bonnie Blue Farm goat's milk cheddar on acorn squash, sage, and fennel gnocchi, and then a little Nashville Olive & Sinclair salt and pepper chocolate bar. Two of the best things I have ever had in my life -- sincerely!

The goat's milk cheese is aged one year and is more akin to a super-nice parmesan than a typical cheddar. It would work as well on pasta as it did on Italian dumplings because it has a nice funky, mushroom-y rind, a dry texture, and a salty tongue. And don't even get me started on the your heart out, Vosges! The chocolate itself is complex and smoky while the salt adds a nice top end and the pepper hits you in the upper nasal region. I cannot even fully describe it here. You must try it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Muscadine Soda

We couldn't resist the lure of the muscadines any longer, but we had no idea what to do with them. We bought a pint of black muscadines with a deep purple skin and a light green middle, and we set them out on the counter for a couple of days. There they sat.

Once I finally took a bite of one, I was immediately reminded of the flavor of grape soda and grape gum, and then it whisked me back to my childhood, in which I was always drinking Nehi peach or grape soda and eating dill-pickle-flavored potato chips while sitting on my skateboard in Germantown. My better half remembers her grandfather making muscadine wine every summer, but it was always weak, so everyone used it in place of vinegar. Due to all of the memories swirling around, this was a fun thing to try.

Muscadine Soda

20 muscadines
2 tbsp. agave nectar
1 bottle of sparkling mineral water

Run the muscadines through a food mill (or blend and strain) to catch the peel and seeds. Add agave to the juice and mix well. Pour this over crushed ice and add mineral water. Stir and wonder why you ever bought soda instead of making it your own self.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pickled Chanterelle Mushrooms

"If you don't like mushrooms and you don't like pickles, this may not be the dish for you," I told Alan. I knew the tiny crock of pickled chanterelles I brought to his house was a pretty unusual addition to the wonderful bruschetta and cheese plate he and his wife Courtney had set out. "I try to avoid both," he said smiling.

I urged him to give them a try anyway, and he did. I personally think the flavor and texture of chanterelles is so unexpected that it almost doesn't seem mushroom-y at all. As the mushrooms pickle, they become silky, rich, and meaty with a bright finish from the wine, white balsamic vinegar, and thyme. I really loved them, and even Alan went back for seconds.

1 1/4 cups chanterelles torn into slivers
1/4 cup white balsamic
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
a few black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig thyme

Everything but the mushrooms should be brought to a boil and then removed from the heat. Put mushrooms in a glass container and cover them with the pickling mixture. Place in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to a week. To serve drain pickling liquid, remove pepper and garlic, then top with good olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Asian Cabbage Wraps

After scouring the shelves for the first new vegetable seedlings at Lowe's this weekend -- cauliflower, butter lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, so many different things all set to grow now -- we decided to ditch the fall garden plan for a minute and go make some leafy wraps at home for dinner. (Looking at all the perfect pictures of hefty cabbage stapled to the front of the plant trays must have triggered a little craving!)

Somehow, in the midst of all the excitement, we forgot to buy the typical restaurant-wrap iceberg lettuce at the store, so the dense curly cabbage we did pick up ended up being a surprisingly good, nutritious sub for it.

Asian Cabbage Wraps

Roughly chop up one carrot, one bell pepper, half a head of napa cabbage, a shallot, one clove of garlic, and a 1/4-inch slice of ginger. Put all of this in the food processor and pulse until very finely chopped.

Cube a block of firm tofu into a small dice. Cook it in a saucepan on medium-high until crispy in a mix of olive oil and sesame oil. Set aside. Add those chopped veggies to the oil. Once they're heated through -- just a few minutes -- add a squeeze of Braggs or soy sauce, mirin, and sriracha. Allow some liquid to evaporate. Mix the veg with the tofu. Add 3 chopped scallions and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts to the mixture. Serve in chilled cabbage-leaf cups.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Trying Out Christina Tosi's Compost Cookies

I had to try them. Like a charm necklace or infinity scarf, this is a trend that I just could not miss. They may not be the healthiest cookie in the world, but they certainly are divisive and also hilarious.

Compost cookies were developed by my new pastry chef idol, the Momofuku empire's Christina Tosi of crack pie and cereal milk fame. These cookies gained some mainstream fame recently on Regis & Kelly, of all programs. This week, I meticulously followed Tosi's pretzel, chocolate, puffed rice cereal, and potato chip cookie recipe -- even its super-long mix time. I added a good dose of espresso powder in place of coffee grounds, which have been mysteriously omitted in this recipe.

These crazy cookies are very buttery. They really need an overnight chill in the fridge. In the end, they only lasted hours. They scare people a little bit, just as a good modern pastry should. Mine kind of reminded me of lacy oatmeal cookies plus unexpected junk food flavors. I think I will be passing this recipe down to my grandchildren…or at least a niece or nephew.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Apple + Walnut + Kale Ravioli

It's been ravioli night over here every Monday for weeks, and I've kept it pretty classic up until now. However, after an assignment photographing what goes on in the kitchen on No-Menu Monday at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen this week, I felt liberated and ready to push the boundaries of ravioli. I saw the guys stuffing handmade tortellini with creamed corn and serving it with shaved black truffles. Yeah!

So, I thought about what I could do differently in my own kitchen. Apples, onions, walnuts, and kale screamed fall. They came together really well; here's how it went.

For the pasta dough:
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup AP flour
2 eggs

Make a well with the mixed flours. Crack the eggs in the middle and mix with your fingers until dough forms. Knead it for 5 minutes. Wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

For the filling:
1/2 white onion
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 Pink Lady apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 bunch kale:
- veins and stems removed
- blanched in very salty water
- squeezed dry
1 clove of garlic
sea salt & cracked pepper
6 whole walnuts
1 spoonful of ricotta
1/2 slice of white bread
1 egg
lemon zest

Start with onions sliced into half-moons in a medium-low pan with olive oil. You want them to caramelize. Once the onions begin to brown, add the white wine and then the apple slices. Place the onion-apple mixture, kale, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, pecans, ricotta, bread, and lemon zest in food processor and pulse until it's well-incorporated but still a little chunky. Set aside in the fridge.

For the sauce:
4 medium green zebra tomatoes
1/2 onion
2 ribs of celery
1/2 green pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
a splash of white balsamic vinegar
small knob of butter

Finely dice the veg. Put it all in a saucepan -- along with olive oil -- on medium, and add white wine and vinegar once the vegetables start to get a little brown. Add butter at the end.

Roll out this dough to a #6 on the pasta maker. Trim the raggedy edges with a pizza cutter. Add about 2 tsp. of the filling to the along the sheet of pasta but leave an inch on each side of filling: you are going to fold the top over. Use a pasta tool to seal the front edge and sides. Cook in salty boiling water; as soon as they float, keep them in for another minute. Remove with slotted spoon and put them straight into the sauce. You may want to top it with parsley and parm. Ready to go! All the trouble will definitely be worth it.