Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

My favorite time of year for salads is over. With no more fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden, I am looking for a some new ideas. Tonight's salad is a started with a can of black beans with lots of flavors and color added. The highlight of the salad is the sweet, Silver Queen corn, fresh cut from the cob and used raw.

Tonight's salad is a variation of the Guacamole Salad

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 ears corn, cut from the cob
3 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
2 cups chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
Zest from 1 lime
1 1/2 limes, juiced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings

Monday, November 2, 2009

Woodfire Grill

It doesn't get much better that having a Top Chef cook your birthday meal! And that is just what happened for Cheryl and me. Nan arranged an evening at Woodfire Grill and my favorite Top Chef, Kevin Gillespie, was kind enough to stop by our table for photos and questions about his experience in the competition.

The Woodfire Grill is a warm and inviting restaurant filled with the wonderful aroma of the hardwood burning in the open grill. The menu is planned daily around the freshest available ingredients. Our meal started was a tasty tarragon and fall veggie amuse-bouche.
The first course featured one of my favorite vegetables, fried okra served with white acre peas and tarragon aioli.

Pan seared scallops followed, cooked to perfection on a blackeyed pea puree with fried carrots and braised bacon.

Kenny selected the wood-grilled strip loin with horseradish greens and duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes while I had the wild Alaskan halibut both beautifully plated and equally delicious.

Cheryl's dessert was the most interesting dish of the night. The moist banana bread was topped with a bacon butter cream icing. Yes, I said bacon butter cream! The sweet icing included the smokey taste of bacon.

It was a lovely evening spent with good friends enjoying good food.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Skillet Apple Pie

It is apple season in Georgia and on a recent trip to Elijay, Kenny and I came home with an assortment of fresh apples. For the pie, I used a mixture of apples, sweet and tart. Serve warm with ice cream for the perfect ending to a fall meal.
Skillet Apple Pie
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced, tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup half and half
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Add the apples and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Mix together the remaining filling ingredients and add to the apples. Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until the apples are soft.
For the topping, mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender. Add the wet ingredients and stir together.
Spoon the topping over the apples. Sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes and golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: 8 servings

Monday, October 26, 2009

Barefoot at Quail Hollow

Today started out as one of those dreary, cold days in the South. The skies were overcast and the damp wind was a sure sign that my days of blogging outside were numbered! But what started out as a nasty day, turned into a warm afternoon and evening. This could possibly be my last blog on the back porch until spring.

Dinner tonight was delicious, thanks to the Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics book. The menu was simple, Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad and Baked Shrimp Scampi served over Grits Cakes. I always gauge the success of a meal by Kenny's comments. I was pleasantly surprised that he loved the tomatoes since they weren't from the garden. I followed the recipe as written and Ina was right, the long roasting brings back memories of a good summer tomato.

The Baked Shrimp Scampi was easy and tasty thanks to Mike the Shrimp Man. Mike delivers the shrimp fresh from the coast of Georgia and they were perfect in Ina's recipe. The Grit Cakes were made from leftover Nora Mill's Stone Ground Grits. The leftovers from last night's supper were pressed into a pan and refrigerated. For tonight, I cut them into wedges and browned in a non-stick pan and served with the shrimp to soak up the juices. After a meal with new recipes, I always ask Kenny if I can make it again and tonight his response was "Absolutely!"

Thanks Ina and Mike for a great dinner!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Basil Onion Pepper Jelly

In my search for a better pepper jelly, this one is a milder version with a wonderful sweet, herb flavor. The peppers are a blend of cubanelle, red cherry, sweet banana and tiny yellow bells from the garden. The basil and red onion add a depth of flavor that is wonderful when served as an appetizer on cream cheese with Ritz crackers.

Basil Onion Pepper Jelly

11 ounces peppers
5 ounces red onion
20 basil leaves
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 pouch Certo

Sterilize the jars and prepare the lids according to manufacturers directions.

Chop the peppers, onion, and basil in the food processor finely. In a large stainless steel pan, combine the pepper mixture with the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Bring to a full rolling boil and add the Certo. Bring back to a full rolling boil and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Ladle into hot jars, wipe rims clean and secure the lids and rings. Place jars in a canner covering completely with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Jalopeno Cheese Grits Two Ways

For many years, Jalopeno Cheese Grits have been a family favorite. Served for breakfast, as a side with smoked chicken or BBQ, or the base for Shrimp and Grits, this is one recipe that can't be beat. This year I decided to try topping the grits with fresh tomatoes from the garden and it was definitely worth the effort. When fresh tomatoes are available, I will be adding them.

Jalopeno Cheese Grits

3 cups water
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cups quick cooking grits
2 beaten eggs
3/4 stick of butter
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
8 ounces pepper Jack cheese, grated
1 - 4 ounce can chopped green chilis
3 or 4 shakes tabasco sauce
Optional: 3 - 4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

In a large saucepan, bring the water and evaporated milk to a boil. Gradually add the grits, stirring until thick, about 5 minutes. Add eggs and bring to a boil. Add butter, chilis, tabasco sauce, pepper Jack cheese, and all but 1 cup of the cheddar and stir until blended. Pour into a grease baking pan and top with tomatoes, if using, and 1 cup cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spicy Mustard Sauce

For our Labor Day BBQ, I decided to make a South Carolina mustard sauce. A quick search on the Internet resulted in a variety of recipes. After tasting, Kenny said it needed more sweetness and we decided to add some of our homemade pepper jelly. The result was a spicy, but somewhat tangy sauce. I plan to work on the recipe and next time cut down on the vinegar since the pepper jelly has a lot of vinegar.

Spicy Mustard BBQ Sauce

1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
I cup pepper jelly
Juice of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with pork or chicken.

Labor Day BBQ a Success

It was a time to gather with friends and enjoy good food at the barn. The BBQ was delicious. The Boston butts were delicious. After rubbing with McCormick's Pork Rub - 1/2 jar for each butt - they were smoked the night before and reheated before pulling the pork. The 4 Boston butts served our 40 guests with some leftover to eat and freeze. Friends provided the sides and desserts to complete the wonderful meal. After the meal, we all settled down to talk about our summer and enjoy the beautiful evening. It was a great way to end the summer.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Labor Day BBQ

It is Labor Day weekend and time for a BBQ at the barn! Today we smoked 4 Boston butts. This is so easy. One tip I will give for preparing the meat is to wear gloves, the surgical kind, to apply the rub. It is amazing what a difference it makes -- the rub adheres to the meat, not to your hands! We smoked the butts at 250 degrees F. for 8 hours and they are cooling the frig, waiting to be reheated tomorrow and "pulled" for the meal.

This year's BBQ is pot luck, with friends bringing the sides and desserts and using all the mismatched plates and napkins. It is going to be a perfect end to the summer season, visiting with family and friends.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fig Cake

At the Sprayberry family reunion each year, we all look forward to Boot's Fig Cake. The moist cake is packed with flavor and sweetness. It begins with a jar of Boot's fig preserves. This year she shared a jar of preserves and the recipe with me and it is becoming a house favorite. I wish I had a picture of the whole cake. It is a rich brown and absolutely delicious.

Boot's Fig Cake

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup Wesson oil
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1 cup fig preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves

Mix dry ingredients together. Mix oil, sugar, eggs and buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients. Grease and flour a tube pan and bake at 325 degrees F. for 45 minutes. (In my oven, it took 55 - 50 minutes.) Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Spoon or brush glaze over the cake after cooling.


1 cup sugar
1 stick oleo (I used butter)
1 teaspoon white Karo syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon soda

Mix well and boil 3 minutes. Pour or brush over cake.

As you can see, there wasn't much left! Thanks, Boots!

Fig Preserves

As a child, I remember my mother and grandmother making fig preserves. The strange looking brown fruit was cooked in syrup and left to stand overnight before cooking again the next day and preserving in decorative jelly jars. The sweet preserves were a staple at breakfast as a topping for hot biscuits and toast.

Several years ago we planted two fig trees with the hope of someday having figs, but that day has not arrived thanks to a late cold snap that has taken the summer harvest. But just 2 miles from our home, James and Mary are enjoying a bumper crop of figs and were kind enough to share.

Fig preserves are very simple to make but require an overnight soak. The 10 pounds of figs yielded 11 half-pints and 12 four ounce jars of preserves. James and Mary, thanks for sharing your delicious figs with us!

Fig Preserves

6 pounds figs, washed and stemmed
1 1/2 quart water
8 cups sugar
1 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine the water, sugar and lemon in a large pan and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Remove the lemon and skim off any foam. Add all the figs to the syrup, a few at a time so the syrup continues to boil. Cook rapidly, stirring frequently, until the figs are translucent, about 30 minutes. Remove figs from syrup and place in a shallow pan. Boil the syrup until it is as thick as honey. Pour the syrup over the figs and let stand overnight, covered at room temperature.
The next day, heat the figs and syrup to boiling and continue cooking until the syrup is thick, about one hour. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
While the figs are cooking, sterilize the canning jars and prepare lids and rings according to the manufacturer's directions. Spoon hot preserves into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Add syrup to 1/4 inch from jar top. Remove air bubbles wipe rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

If you have leftover syrup, can or refrigerate it and use as a topping for biscuits, toast, pancakes or pound cake.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eggplant, Artichoke and Prosciutto Parmesan

I love cooking from the garden and tonight's meal centered on today's harvest - tomatoes, eggplant and basil. The inspiration came from a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan that used eggplant minus the breading. I added frozen artichokes and prosciutto to create a more balanced flavor.

The counter was full of ripe tomatoes that needed to be cooked and preserved for later. I roasted the tomatoes as described in an earlier post and used some of them for the sauce. The Japanese eggplants were peeled, sliced and salted before frying in hot olive oil to a golden brown. The preparation was simple and easy and packs a lot of flavor in one dish.
Eggplant, Artichoke and Prosciutto Parmesan

2 Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Olive oil
3 cups roasted tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 - 9 ounce package frozen artichokes
1 ounce prosciutto, thinly sliced
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano

Salt the eggplants and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat olive oil in a large skillet to 375 degrees F. Add eggplant and fry until golden brown. Drain in a paper towel.

In the same skillet, remove all but 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and saute the minced garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the white wine and cook rapidly for 5 minutes. Add the basil and remove from the heat.

Cook the frozen artichokes in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.

In a baking dish, add 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce to coat the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of the eggplant and artichokes. Separate the proscuitto into thin strips and layer on top of the artichokes. Top with mozzarell and more tomato sauce. Repeat the layers one more time. Top with Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. Yield: 4 servings

Monday, August 10, 2009

Grilled Artichokes

Houston's Restaurant is one of our favorite dining places in Atlanta. I often use Houston's as a bribe to entice Kenny into a shopping trip to Lenox. I thought we had tried everything on the menu until our last visit. While sitting at the bar waiting on friends, enjoying one of their delicious Salty Dogs made with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, the bartender told us about his favorite appetizer, Grilled Artichokes. Grilled Artichokes? How had we missed them? It seems that are a special menu item, only available when artichokes are in season. And yes, they were on the day's menu and on our table.

Wow, were they good. But how did they create this tasty treat? After questioning our waitress and a search of the Internet, we now have a pretty good duplication of the recipe. Artichokes can be a pricey item, but 2 artichokes - $2.50 each - were a generous serving for 6-8. These tasty thistles barely made it off the grill before being devoured. I served them with basil mayonnaise for dipping, but to be honest, they needed nothing to enhance the flavor. Grilled artichokes will be a regular addition to our menu.

Grilled Artichokes

2 artichokes
2 lemons
1/2 cup extra virgin 0live oil
4 clove garlic, finely chopped

Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon into the water. Wash the artichokes and break off the tough outer leaves. Trim the remaining tips and cut in half. Toss into the lemon water, making sure they are submerged in water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the artichokes and cook for 15 minutes. The artichokes should be tender. Remove the chokes (the fuzzy stuff in the middle of the artichoke) and drain thoroughly. Chill for 1 hour.

Combine the juice from one lemon, olive oil and garlic.

Preheat the grill and oil the grill rack. Baste the artichokes with the oil mixture on both side and place on the hot grill. Grill on both sides about 5 minutes or until brown. Serve hot with basil mayonnaise or a lemon aioli. Serves 6 - 8.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes

It has been a long, productive day in the kitchen. Our 72 tomato plants are flourishing and now is the time to save them to enjoy during the winter months. In the past, the process for freezing tomatoes has been to dip them in boiling water, remove the skins, chop and freeze. This year I am trying something new. It all started with the selection of tomato plants. This year we planted Roma tomatoes in hopes of having a meaty tomato to use in sauces and soup. Inspired by this month's Gourmet magazine, I tried roasting the tomatoes with olive oil and garlic. After roasting the tomatoes, I used a food mill to remove the skins and crush the tomatoes which resulted in a very thick sauce with lots of texture and great flavor. The best part was the ease of preparation and cleanup. Today the garden yielded a harvest of Romas, Juliettes and Sun Gold tomatoes. The Juliettes look like a smaller Roma and have a great flavor. I cut the the Romas and Juliettes in half, drizzled with olive oil and added 6 cloves of garlic to the mixture. After roasting for 1-1/2 hours in a 425 degree F. oven, and run through the food mill, I had a thick rich sauce, suitable for soup for a rich sauce for pasta.Now for the Sun Gold tomatoes. These tiny, marble-size tomatoes are full of flavor. They were roasted for 1 hour along with the Romas and Juliettes. After being food milled, the sauce was thick and a beautiful gold color with a very sweet flavor. I don't think these will make it to the freezer, but will be added to pasta with some basil for dinner tomorrow night!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cream-Style Corn

There is nothing better than fresh, cream-style corn! Mama Head's was the best. I vividly remember the day she called the grandkids in to shuck and silk 12 dozen ears. We all sat under the shade of the oak tree in her side yard and complete our assigned task. I never shuck corn without fondly remembering that day.

This year, Payton planted his first corn. His backyard garden is beautiful and the corn has proved to be prolific and delicious. With 6 dozen ears, I devised a plan to make the task as efficient as possible. With the Gator parked in the shade, I began by cutting the top off the corn to make the shucking easier. While sitting in the chair, I shucked the corn, putting the corn in a laundry basket and leaving all the shucks in the Gator to be dumped into the compost pile.

The next task was to remove the silks. A vegetable brush works great and the cleaned corn was placed in a second laundry basket.

With a very sharp knife, I cut the corn of the cob, about 1/2 way down. You could do this inside, but I highly recommend you stay outside to cut down on the clean-up.

Once the kernels are removed, scrape the cob to get all the sweet goodness!
I tossed the clean cobs into the Gator, giving a few to our dogs, Libby and Lucy as a treat.
Once all the corn is cut and scraped, it is time to blanche it for the freezer. My mom and grandmother always did this in a large iron skillet, stirring constantly to keep the corn from sticking to the bottom of the skillet. This is where I have learned to use the microwave to speed up the process. I cook the corn in batches in a glass bowl, for 4 minutes, and then remove stir and add water as needed. Return to the microwave for another 4 minutes. Stir and add more water if needed. Now, how much water do I add? That depends entirely on the corn and the amount of starch it contains. You want the mixture to be thick, but not dry. Cool the corn, pack into freezer container, label with the date, and freeze. Be sure and save enough for your supper!

For supper, I cooked the corn in the microwave for about 7 minutes, stirring and adding water as needed and seasoned with salt, pepper, and bacon drippings. Or if you have some fatback on hand, fry it up and use the drippings for seasoning. Serve the corn with fresh sliced tomatoes, crowder peas, cornbread and a slice of onion for a delicious southern meal!

Back to Blogging!

I can't believe that it has been two months since my last post! During this time, we have been busy in the garden. Kenny, the Tomato King, has been nurturing his 72 tomato plants. Our plans were to plant more tomatoes this year, but we never dreamed we would more than double our normal crop. We had 34 tomatoes planted when Marshall called to say he had 50 heirloom varieties for us. After sharing some with our family and friends, we carefully planted the rest, and then went to work creating wire baskets and staking the plants. By mid June, we were harvesting our first tomatoes.

What started out as a wet spring, has turned into a very dry summer. Thanks to our well, we are able to water the garden and all the tomatoes have grown and flourished. Our heirloom varieties have been a welcome addition to the garden. One of our favorites is the Cherokee Purple. These tomatoes are beautiful, large and delicious.

In addition to the tomatoes, the garden includes a wide variety of peppers, Japanese eggplant, La France green beans, cucumbers, squash, beets, Swiss chard, herbs and zinnias.

So, will it be two months before my next post? No way! I have too much to share and can't wait to get in the kitchen and cook!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Upside Down Blueberry Cake for Taste and Create

For this month's Taste and Create, my partner is Bellini of More Than Burnt Toast. Nicole of For the Love of Food created this blog event and it is a wonderful way to connect bloggers and a fun event for my family and friends, since they are my official tasters. Bellini is from Canada and has a wonderful blog. I loved her weekly feature highlighting Canadian chefs. Even though Bellini lives in a condo in Canada, I feel a real connection with her when it comes to food. I will be a regular visitor to her blog to find out what she is cooking and give it a try in my southern kitchen.

It was extremely hard to decide on the recipe I would recreate. As is often the case, it all came down to what I had on hand and what was happening on the home front. Tonight we are going to Peg's for a BBQ and I am taking dessert. Bellini's Upside-Down Blueberry Cake was the perfect match. Our freezer is home to many packs of blueberries from last year's harvest, the main ingredient of this delicious cake. Another thing I loved about the recipe was the ease of making it. But next time, I will be sure and bake it on a cookie sheet, to catch the overflow of blueberry juice.
Thanks, Bellini, for another create Taste and Create!

Upside-Down Blueberry Cake

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 -1/2 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened,
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2- 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or orange juice
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine 2 tablespoons of the butter and the brown sugar in a small bowl, then spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of a lightly greased 9 inch round cake pan. Spread the berries over the mixture and set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Reserve. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup butter, the sugar, and the eggs, and beat until creamy smooth. Add the reserved dry ingredients, lemon or orange juice, milk, vanilla, and lemon or orange zest, and beat until well blended. Pour the batter over the berries and bake until the top is golden and a skewer tests clean when inserted in the center, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the insideof the pan and invert the cake onto the plate, fruit side up. Cool slightly before serving warm.Makes 1 (9-inch cake). Serves 8 to 12.

Note: I would place the cake pan on a baking sheet, just in case the blueberries bubble over.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quail Hollow Critters

The pond has come to life with 3 new families - 2 families of Canada geese and one of mallards. All are thriving and growing, thanks in part to Kenny's daily feeding. Our afternoons are often spent on the back porch, watching the action at the pond. Life is grand at Quail Hollow, for humans and animals!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whole Leaf Caesar Salad

For our recent "Cooking with Michael" night, I used a couple of the recipes from the It's All Here episode and prepared Spaghetti all'Amartriciana and Whole Leaf Caesar Salad. Now the theme of the show was using pantry items and I had everything needed for the salad. Our garden provided the romaine lettuce. I had leftover Ciabatta, the Kneadlessly Simple way, and the rest of the ingredients in the pantry or frig.
Now I have tried a number of Caesar dressing recipes and this rates with the best. One of the unique things about this version of the salad is using whole leaves of lettuce and finger-size croutons. The idea is to eat the salad with your fingers, and I must admit, it works that way. Kenny loved the idea and the salad. One good thing about the recipe is it makes enough dressing to use later.

Whole Leaf Caesar Salad
adapted from Michael Chiarello

1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 or 4 anchovy filets, minced
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Worchestershire sauce
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Romaine lettuce leaves
Parmesan croutons
Freshly grated Parmesan

In a large wooden salad bowl, add the egg yolk, anchovies, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and a dash of Worchestershire. Stir with a fork, crushing the garlic and anchovies. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to create a thick emulsion. To serve, toss the lettuce and croutons in just enough dressing to coat. Store the remaining dressing in the frig for use later. Yield: 4 servings.

Parmesan Croutons

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 slices ciabatta bread
6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute Add the bread and stir to coat. Toss the bread occasionally until both sides are golden brown.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana

It was another "Cooking with Michael" day at Quail Hollow. Michael Chiarello is one of my favorite Food Network stars. He creates a menu on each show and uses ingredients easily found in a regular grocery store. In It's All Here, Michael creates a wonderful meal with pantry items. I decide to check out the recipes and prepare his Spaghetti all'Amatriciana and Whole Leaf Caesar Salad for our dinner. Now I'm sure my pantry is quite different from Michael's, but surprisingly, I had most of the ingredients. The tomato puree was in the freezer from last year's harvest and the parsley and basil were from our garden. I did buy the pancetta and put it in the freezer to harden so it could be easily sliced. There was even a box of bucatini from a trip to the Dekalb Farmer's Market.

This menu was a success. Kenny's comment was "Wow!" which translates to "you can make this again." I will definitely do this again, but next time I am going to use fresh pasta so it will soak up the goodness of the sauce.

Spaghetti all'Amatriciana
adapted from Michael Chiarello

1/3 pound pancetta, partially frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup tomato puree
3/4 pound bucatini
Freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.

Cut the pancetta into thin slices across the grain. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for about minutes, but not crisp. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the red pepper, parsley, basil and vinegar and cook until the vinegar evaporates. Add the tomato puree and a ladle of pasta water. Simmer briefly to blend.

Add the pasta to the boiling water while preparing the sauce and cook about 8 minutes or until al dente. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan. Yield; 4 servings.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Skirt Steak Tacos with Guacamole and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

It has been a while since I have written on my blog, but that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Spring is a very busy time at Quail Hollow. The frequent rains have created a challenge when it comes to gardening. This is the time we are tilling the garden and getting it ready to plant, but the persistent rains have not made this an easy task. I know I should welcome the rain after a couple of years of drought, and I do, just not when I need to be in the garden!

There is very little in the garden for harvest at this time, so I have turned to the grocery store for my inspiration. As Kenny and I wandered through Publix we noticed skirt steak on sale, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. A search on the Internet resulted in a number of recipes that sounded good, and for our meal I used several and this was the result.

Skirt Steak Tacos with Guacamole and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 onion, cut into wedges
1 pound tomatillos, halved
2 serrano peppers
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound skirt steak
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon achiote molido (ground annatto)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 flour tortillas
Fresh salsa, your favorite brand from the grocery store

Place the onion, tomatillos, serrano peppers and garlic on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and broil in the oven for 5-8 minutes until slightly charred, stirring once. Moisten the skirt steak with 1 tablespoon lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let stand for 10 minutes. Combine the dry spices. Pat the steak dry and rub the dry spices on the steak.

Place half of the cooked onions in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Remove the charred skin from the serrano peppers, cut in half and remove seeds. Place tomatillos, serrano peppers, remaining onions, 3 cloves of garlic (reserved 1 clove for the guacamole), 1 teaspoon lime juice and cilantro in a food processor and chop finely. Chill the salsa.

Grill steak on an oiled rack until medium rare. Remove the steak and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cut diagonally into thin slices.

While the steak sits, grill the tortillas until puffed and lightly browned, about 1 minute on each side.

Serve steak, onions, tomatillo salsa and guacamole wrapped in the tortillas. Yield: 2 servings.


1 avocado
1 garlic clove, roasted and minced
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and chop. Combine the remaining ingredients.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Recipe for Healthy Tomato Plants

It seems like everywhere we go these days, our friends are asking Kenny to share his "recipe" for growing tomatoes. The recipe came from Henry, a well-known tomato grower in Newnan, written on a scrap of paper that Kenny stores in a sack of lime. As you can see, it looks like it is wrtiten in a secret code. To help you break the code, here are a few hints. SHF is "small handful" and TLS os "tablespoon." Since my small handful is not the same as Kenny's I needed a better measurement. So here iit is:

Recipe for Healthy Tomato Plants

1/2 cup bonemeal
1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
1/2 cup cottonseed meal
1 cup pelletized lime
1/3 cup 10-10-10 fertilizer

Mic all ingefients together. Dig a large whole for the plant and put a handful in the bottom of the hole. Cover with 1 inch of soil. Position the tomato plant in the hole and cover with soil, making a slight berm around the plant.

Our tomato plants thrive and provide us with an abundance of fruit, or should I say vegetable? Below is a picture of the first tomato of the season, planted 10 days ago.