Friday, June 26, 2015

Al Fresco

From rooftops, to terraces, to backyards, parks, poolsides and beyond, the allure of outdoor dining and entertaining (al fresco, to be exact) is never greater than during the longer, more relaxed, days and nights of Summer.

Whether you're hosting a special event, or simply relishing being under the open sky, al fresco affairs are their own kind of special.

 Now all that remains is to indulge.

Happy Eating and Living!

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ice Cubed Coffee + Milk

Bringing a bit of whimsy to my food and drink is one of the elements that makes the kitchen an exciting place to be in my world.  Playfulness and creativity up the ante of what's possible and keep me on my epicurean toes.

Sometimes, it's as simple as bringing a new spin or take to an old favorite.  And because I have a thing for beautiful, fancy ice cubes--and the season for iced drinks is squarely upon us--my latest twist is what iced coffee dreams are made of.  A "deconstructed" approach of sorts is how I see luscious coffee cubes + milk + simple syrup (because I like my coffee sweet).

As simple to make as freezing prepared coffee in ice trays, pouring milk on top and sweetening (or not) to taste.  I admit that this twist gets me giddy because the yield is a pretty little drink.  And I love pretty little things--especially in my eats and sips. 

So as the temperatures continue to rise, and remaining cool becomes a higher priority, add this fun, whimsical ice cubed coffee to your sipping repertoire. 

Cheers to more fun in the kitchen...and Happy Sipping!

Friday, June 5, 2015

{Discovering Southern}: The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

To say that last weekend was delicious would be an understatement of the grandest proportions. Indulging in the three-day fete that was the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival was delicious, yes.  But it was also so. much. more.  In its fifth year, the AFWF showcased the best in culinary and creative talent across the Southern region of the United States with a clear and simple mission: Discover Southern. 

Undertaking an exhilarating itinerary that began Friday afternoon, in the heart of Midtown, Atlanta, I feasted my way through a weekend that was as special for the people and experiences I encountered, as it was for the food and drink.   From restauranteurs, to chocolatiers, to acclaimed cookbook authors and chefs, to regional purveyors, equally eager festival goers, and beyond, I relished every moment of Southern connection and discovery--and left wanting more.

My first tastes of the festival were at the tasting tents, which featured more than 100 award-winning chefs. With a variety that mirrored the broad flavors of the South, there was something for everyone--and every taste.  Barbecue, seafood, tacos, Indian cuisine, gelato, chocolate, doughnuts, pimento cheese and deviled eggs (of course!), sips of all kinds, burgers, and on and on and on went the lineup of scrumptious eats that spanned four tents--and drew me back day after day. 

Beyond the excitement and indulgence of the tasting tents, I took in a few of the more than 90 classes (my selections included Bugs and Chocolate, Chilies in the South, and more), cooking demos, and a newly featured, Sunday Brunch.  Attendees could also opt-in to an expertly curated Connoisseur Dinner Series, hosted nightly at premier Atlanta restaurants and venues.

My dalliances left me prouder than ever of this part of the country that I call home, and I'm already counting the days until I get to do it all over again next year.  For more festival highlights, visit my photo gallery and check out my column in the July '15 issue of Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine, where I share a featured recipe from this unforgettable event.

Happy Eating!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

There are some flavors that I simply cannot get enough of.  And such are the flavors of one of my absolute favorite sauces: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa.  I began making this bold, tangy, bright and ever-so-scrumptious treat years ago as my go-to accompaniment to fish tacos--perfect for drizzling over crispy or grilled fish and for dipping with tortilla chips.  But, I soon realized that this treasure could be enjoyed on just about anything, from eggs, to steak, to enchiladas, to any way you please.

Tomatillos are used heavily throughout Mexican and Central American Cuisine

I especially savor this recipe because it yields a warm salsa that's somehow more delectable--a byproduct of the roasted vegetables.  Effortless to bring together, there is every reason for this to become a part of your condiment repertoire forever.  Forever. 

Happy Eating!

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

1 lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 large white onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves
2 jalapeno peppers
1/2 cup cilantro
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place vegetables on a baking sheet and roast in pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes.  Remove vegetables from oven and add to blender or food processor, along with salt, cumin, lime juice, vinegar and cilantro.  

Using the pulse function, blend to desired chunky texture.  Check for seasoning, serve and enjoy!
(Cook's Note: If a mild salsa is preferred, halve the jalapeno peppers and remove the ribs and seeds before using.) 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chilled Red Pepper Soup

So there I was recently--in my kitchen and trying to decide what to cook for dinner.  Oftentimes my taste for something will steer me right away, but on this occasion it wasn't happening.  So I did what any card-carrying food lover would do next--I reached for my sources of inspiration, specifically my Ottolenghi cookbook.  I hadn't cooked from it yet, so I decided that it was time that I finally break it in.

As soon as I could tear myself away from all the glorious dessert recipes (that's honestly what drew me in most when I considered buying this book), I stumbled upon a perfect, warm weather recipe--a chilled version of Red Pepper Soup.

 I'm quite the fan of Red Pepper Soup and my usual preparation, until now, had been a warm, roasted red pepper version.  But hey, it's Spring and the temperatures are rising, so a chilled fresh red pepper version sounded like the refreshing fare I especially crave this time of the year.

Peppers, herbs, aromatics, spices and seasonings combine for a beautiful puree accented with the texture of fresh vegetables stirred in at the end.  Finished off with a garnish of more fresh herbs--and my special addition of a scrumptious, flaky puff pastry crouton--rounded out this simple, yet satisfying, soup.

Happy Eating!

Chilled Red Pepper Soup
Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

1 large onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 sage leaves, finely chopped
4 large red peppers
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
Fresh basil leaves, chopped
Fresh parsley, chopped
Puff pastry dough
1 egg

Peel the onion and chop it coarsely.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and sage and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

While the onion is cooking, halve the peppers lengthwise.  Take a pepper half, remove the seeds and white flesh, and cut it into 2/3-inch/1.5 cm dice.  Set aside.

Remove the sees from the rest of the peppers, coarsely chop them, and stir into the saucepan with the onions.  Add the salt, bay leaves, cumin, sugar and red pepper flakes.  Saute for another 5 minutes.  Add the stock and bring it to a gentle simmer.  Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes.

Once the peppers are soft, remove the bay leaves from the soup.  While still hot, use a regular blender or an immersion blender to puree the soup until it is totally smooth.  Leave to cool down a little.

Once the soup is just warm, stir in the diced red pepper, lemon zest, and garlic.  Leave until it becomes room temperature and then refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.  Remove soup from the fridge half an hour before serving.  Stir well, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Sprinkle over a generous amount of chopped basil and parsley and top with a crouton.  Serve and enjoy!

Flaky Croutons
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out, thawed (but chilled) dough on a lightly floured surface.  Use a biscuit or cookie cutter for desired shape and cut dough into individual croutons.  

Place dough on a parchment lined baking sheet and using a fork, prick holes into the dough.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg beaten) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake in oven until golden brown on top, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from oven, serve and enjoy! 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

{Beach Style}: One Scarf, Two Ways

Beach holidays are meant to be fun, relaxing and relatively low-key.  And as the scene of oceans and powdered sands and abundant sunshine serves to woo you into an other-worldly dimension of rest and relaxation, a casual, yet chic, style agenda is the only way to go.

When we're talking the bare essentials of a day at the beach--beyond sunscreen, water, sunglasses, some tunes and a good read--my go-to accessory for an instant style kick is a beautiful scarf transformed into an extra-chic cover up.  

Worn around the waist, a large scarf becomes an instant sarong that lends effortless sophistication and a bit of sass to your swimwear look.

 An equally chic alternative is wearing the scarf full-length with a halter-tie at the top. (The flowy effect can't be beat if you happen to catch a good breeze. :) )

So as your travels lead you oceanfront in the days ahead, be sure this essential lands in your beach bag. Your R&R agenda will then be officially--and stylishly--complete.

Happy Styling and Travels!


Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Cook and Her Books

Now that it's Thursday, my mind is taking its initial leap towards the weekend--or rather to what to cook and eat over the weekend.  I suppose I foster similar notions throughout the week to some degree or another, but with the bit of extra time and leisure typically afforded at the week's wind down, I allow myself to ponder more.

Grabbing vintage cooking magazines, searching my favorite digital sources (like this app I discovered), flipping through current subscriptions and my own over-stuffed recipe book from my 'print everything' streak of days gone by, all offer the inspiration that I've come to rely upon.  But what truly gets me going and planning and, yes, possibly salivating, most of all are my books--my treasured (and growing) collection of cookbooks.

I've always been a lover of books and the written word.  And when my love for food and cooking emerged, that affinity naturally carried over to cookbooks.  Although they're not novels or memoirs or the like, they are lively and beautiful and motivating.  I curl up with them in bed and take sheer pleasure out of the decadence between their pages.  With no formal culinary education to tout, my cookbooks (along with all of my other sources of cooking knowledge and inspiration) remain my most beloved culinary tutor.

While I may never cook my way through every recipe I've amassed, the possibility alone thrills me.  And that's simply because this cook loves her books--and wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy Eating!
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