Thursday, April 30, 2009
Two of the most interesting salads I have ever enjoyed were in Europe. My all-time favorite salad was at the Hotel Guittard in Zug, Switzerland. We checked into this small boutique hotel late one summer night. Perched high on a hill overlooking a beautiful lake the hotel offered amazing views from the balcony-including an inviting patio restaurant engulfed by candlelight.
On a recommendation I ordered their specialty salad and was delighted with the beautiful presentation. The variety of fresh ingredients-each neat pile complimented by a unique dressing provided a memorable dining experience and great Swiss beer.
I enjoyed a similar style of salad on the Rhine River in Germany. A tuna salad-not in the Nicoise-style but more like the Swiss-style I just mentioned. Both of these salads left a lasting impression and I regularly make similar interesting varieties in hot weather.
Although last night's salad was informal and quickly pulled together it delivered an interesting contrast of flavors and pleasant textures.
The salad dressing was an creamy light dressing-thin by American standards. It was combination of mayo, coconut milk, catsup, apple juice and fig balsamic. I added a tablespoon of snipped chives, a half teaspoon of garam masala powder and garlic.
Fresh ingredients included julienned carrot, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, banana, and I grilled fresh pineapple in Asian Chile Oil and garlic olive oil. The roasted pork was the meat (of course it was-I'm on the last 6 oz of that roast.) And it was served with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Ronald Mac was happy!
I know the rest of you probably have photos of your kids, pets and favorite art pieces on your refrigerators but my custom-made magnets are holding reminders of seasonal foods.
For instance, our visit Saturday night to the Little Hawaiian Restaurant reminded me that the vidalias are beginning to trickle in to area stores. Ron has requested my Roasted Stuffed Vidalia (recipe on my website) and plans have been made to include a favorite hamburger of my father's from his teen years in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Topped with a fried egg and a chow-chow type of secret dressing I have created a close replication made from cabbage and vidalia onions. I have roughly five months to buy up and create the dressing before the sweet onions disappear for winter.
I also took note at the farmer's market this week of seasonal seafood. In a few more days we should start seeing some fresh soft shell crabs-one of my all time favorite foods. I adore Soft-shell Crab Po-Boys and Louisiana Hot Sauce.
I have been working on my own rolls to create that crispy roll found only in Louisiana. Ron and I owned a sandwich shop in Gretna, Louisiana back in the 80's and many hours were spent hunting down the freshest seeded buns and French Bread for Po-Boys at Schweggman's.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I have finally come to the end of the second roast pork. I have surprised myself with all the creative uses for this succulent recipe-including some toasty appetizers with slivers of pork, homemade rolls rubbed with fresh garlic, topped with mozzarella and crunchy German barrel pickles.
The latch batch of homemade Italian bread was made into crunchy rolls using my muffin tin. It paired well with my pork sandwich topped with seasoned pineapple and chive mayonnaise.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I shouldered my Canon XL1 for almost three hours in a cold auditorium this past Saturday for the Georgia District of Kiwanis International Art and Music Showcase that takes place each of the past four years in Carrollton, Georgia. Did anyone see the baby whooly mammoth piece on tv this week? Frozen for 40,000 years she looked better than I did Saturday!
As always the hosts of the show and the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center were gracious and friendly, making the job a "piece of cake". I know you were wondering how I would somehow get this back around to food.
Afterwards a few of us made our way to a very lively restaurant right off the square in Carrollton. "Little Hawaiian" I had oysters and oysters! I would have had them for dessert but I would have embarrassed myself. Pictured here is the Showcase Chairman, Dan Lewis, his wife, Penny Lewis, Director of the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center and their two lovely daughters.
Kudos on another job well done, Dan. Ron asked me to remind you about that Master's golf shirt!
These were my resting ravioli-laced with a wee bit of fresh nutmeg and then stuffed with four Italian cheeses, saffron, turmeric and young shallot greens.
I blended the dough with half semolina and half unbleached flour. I cheated with my bread maker-kneading them for a short four minutes.
They were deliciously delicate with a perfect tooth. I served them with a red wine sauce and braised short ribs and I received a gold star for the day!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The night before a production job demands hours of gathering video equipment, batteries, tape and cameras. Each piece of equipment must be inspected thoroughly-ensuring a worry-free job.
You can imagine that process doesn't leave much time for dinner but with our renewed commitment to dine-in I made one of our favorite quick meals. Soft tacos with fresh avacado, cilantro, chiles and nicely-ripened tomatoes. Normally, I would top these with fresh Asadero cheese but it's becoming increasingly difficult to find in the gringo supermarkets-so I used a very fine Amish cheddar!
I sprinkle the avacado with fig balsamic-a delicate sweet contrast to the fiery flavors of the Chef Boy Hidy Habenaro sauce providing some nice heat! The lettuce is spiked with fresh chopped cilantro-another aromatic contrast to the chiles and cumin for the nose-stimulating all the senses before this heavenly pouch ever hits the mouth!
The magic bullet for the recipe is a flavor packet from GOYA-full of flavor from the annatto chile, cumin and cilantro. Inspired by the taco stands of Tijuana and Rosarita Beach I have made these for almost thirty years.
I am busy designing a home-version of a Mexican gadget used at the taco stands. My gadget will fit inside my infrared grill-simulating the process used for marinating and grilling the pork before slicing tender pieces onto softly fried or grilled corn tortillas. The aroma of the grilled meat wafting through the streets with bowls of fresh toppings remains a lasting memory.
Another favorite memory of Tijuana, a corn tortilla factory where the proud owner escorted us to the front of the line to admire his shiny equipment and enjoy the fresh warm corn tortillas rolling off the conveyor belt.
A Mexican friend who helps me around the house has generously shared her family secret for some of the finest pork tamales I have ever been privileged to taste-our bond strengthened by sharing our cultures through family recipes. Her fiery green sauce is a perfect accompaniment for the lightly-sweetened tamales.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Yesterday was a nearly perfect day!
The sun was bright, the air dry and the pollen almost finished! The rains this past weekend washed away most of the residue and finally, I could sit by the pool and relax!
Being in the initial stages of my first cookbook I have many organizational tasks ahead of me. I enjoy the process and find the work pleasant. Happily, the evening provided an opportunity for some quiet "alone" time with my food journal, pen and shaker of one of my favorite frosty cocktails.
Now that I'm thinking about it I wasn't totally alone . . . I think I had one cat on me, one on the table next to me, Zena was three feet away with another cat, Max, who believes Zena to be his mother!
The days are once again delightfully long, adding so much pleasure to each of my days. Not being an early morning person I can sleep until 10 and work quietly into the night.
The day was a great success, the bread rose and baked perfectly, the sushi was fresh and satifying and the cocktails were lovely by the pool!
I don't have a name for this but is the perfect shade of sable.
1 1/2 oz of dark rum
1/2 oz tia maria
1/2 oz dark creme de cacao
1 tsp marachino cherry syrup
1/2 oz 2% milk
Pour ingredients into a shaker with one cup crushed ice.
Stir until well-chilled and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with a cherry.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
O.K., so I have leftover brown rice, a tin of roasted eel and musago! Table for one, please!
On a recent trip to H-Mart I could see a crowd gathering around a cooking demonstration and made my way over to see what was cooking. As I approached the kiosk a woman was turning out the sheerest pieces of seasoned seaweed sheets with the help of a large conveyor belt and oven. Fascinated, my eyes were glued to the belt as it roasted and dried the seaweed. Still warm, the crowd was offered delicate, melt-in-you-mouth sheets of bliss.
Of course, I bought a package for home and tucked it neatly away in the Asian section of my pantry. Wondering what I would make myself for dinner tonight I remembered that Ron had suggested sushi! I had all the ingredients on hand, including eel and a free night to myself.
I question that the intended purpose of these delicate sheets is sushi-I thought possibly it might be intended for seaweed soup or some other tasty delicacy.
But still wanting to experience the delicate nature of the sheets I opted for roasted eel and musago sushi bites. The sheets were tough to roll but after cutting the pieces I wrapped a ribbon of seaweed around the bites and they held together long enough to be enjoyed!
The bites included roasted eel, seaweed salad, musago, brown rice and a small amount of cream cheese and black and white sesame!
Ron and I spent a pleasant evening in the kitchen.
Ron peeled and juiced the last of the lemons while I prepared a simple dinner of grilled tandori chicken, steamy brown rice with plump peas and carrots and sweet potatoes enhanced with pinch of ground coriander.
With a half cup of the Tamarind sauce made the day before, I created a fragrant peach sauce with the addition of a simple emulsion of carrots, cilantro, shallots, garlic and celery.
Chicken stock, cumin and tandori added sultry layers to the sauce as it bubbled in its shiny pot. The addition of the peaches soaked in dessert wine created the perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy goodness!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Completely fascinated by the shape, texture and earthiness of the tamarind pod, I often make a reduction sauce with the addition of black plums and red grapes. Once cooled I bottle and store the sauce in the refrigerator, pulling it out whenever I need exotic Indian flavors.
Reduced further it makes a delicious paste that can be added to minced onions, cilantro, red chile and cumin for meats and sauces.
I usually start with 10 pods of cleaned tamarind, cover the fruit with water, add whole fresh garlic and shallot, a piece of dried red chile, a tbsp. of fish sauce, 2 tbsp of sugar, 3 skinned and halved black plums, a clump of red grapes, chinese chives, 2 tbsp. cumin powder, 1 tbsp of dark soy and a tbsp. of chutney powder or ginger powder.
I cook the mixture for about a half hour on medium heat, reducing it by half. Once cooled I put it through a manual food mill, separating the seeds and pulp from the liquid. I'm left with a thick, dark sauce that takes dishes to a whole new level!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Taking a cue from Korean cooks, I roasted another pork on the infrared grill with a scallion sauce laced with sesame oil and lots of fresh garlic! The red potatoes were parboiled and placed on a marble slab to roast. I tossed them with olive oil, turmeric, paprika and the perfect amount of cracked salt!
They were creamy-seasoned to perfection and topped with a remarkable sour cream sauce full of earthy goodness derived from Srilankan curry and black cumin! I parboiled the beans in the potato water and then tossed them with garlic olive oil and black and white sesame seed!
The meal was one of the first I could taste after this long bout of bronchitis! YEAH!
Friday, April 17, 2009
Many people who stop to chat about Home At Last! usually ask about my favorite types of food. I'm often asked who inspires me and who do I enjoy watching on television.
The first question is the toughest-I love so many types of foods. I am a huge fan of Japanese food, I enjoy the passion behind Tuscan foods, and I often crave middle-eastern food with its rich, exotic spices and contrasting textures. So the answer changes depending on the day that question is asked.
Who has inspired over time is much easier to answer. I remember being captivated by Julia Child and she remains one of my favorite TV personalities. Jacques Pepin was another, Martha Stewart helped me realize that I was passionate about home and Francios Vatel, a famous French Chef inspires me to create beautiful food!
The radio and television personality that I would have most liked to meet was John McPherson, The Mystery Chef!
He predated Julia Child, starting out in radio in the 30's and he also enjoyed a short run on television is 1949. I have collected three of his cookbooks and he is one of my favorite reads!
The grapes pictured here are from the book. They are frosted rather than sugared and I think they work well as a garnish for cheese stations at an event. I know everyone knows how to sugar fruit and understands the method with beaten egg whites.
Here's John McPherson's method:
"Dip clean and dried fruit into apple juice. Allow all the juice to drip off the fruit before dipping into caster sugar."
I opted for a combination of powdered, granulated and pearl dust. It completely encased the fruit-so I took a pastry brush and brushed off parts of the grapes.
Most of my father's military tours were in Europe and Turkey, but when we were lucky enough to live in the states my father was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi.
As a young girl I loved the Mississippi Gulf Coast! There was so much for a little girl to do back then. We fished and crabbed the piers and rocks. We hunted tadpoles and sold them for pocket money. There were always school presentations, talent contests and fun family entertainment nights that took us a week to write, produce and perform.
One of our houses intersected with the road that emptied onto Beach Boulevard, with the Jefferson Davis Home, Beauvoir, on the corner. Back then, my mother allowed my sister and I to walk to the beach and even tour Beauvior by ourselves. My mother's only rule-hold hands when we crossed the big highway!
School lunches in the south were remarkably different from the school lunches on military bases overseas. Both left lasting impressions and hold a special place in my heart today!
One southern favorite from my school days was white beans served over steamy white rice. I worked the school cafeteria as a milk maid! Loved to pour the icy cold milk from the shiny stainless steel milk dispenser into these curvy-squatty glasses! Occasionally, I was allowed to ladle the beans onto the hot rice.
I still make white beans and rice for an easy dinner! Happily my husband loves them as much as I do! He often requests them and they are so easy! I make them the long way when I have time-but if not, I open these wonderful cans of Italian white beans, add a little smoky proscuitto, fresh garlic, green onions and spices. I can have this inexpensive, healthy meal on the table in under 30 minutes.
Here's an old tip from The Mystery Chef's (1930's cookbook) book I tried this week and it worked. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to your beans to reduce the discomfort (?) from eating beans! I tried it! Magic!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It was a beautiful night on the square-perfect weather for the Spring Taste Of Newnan. Crowds were good and there was plenty for the kids to do and lots of good eats! More Photos At Home At Last! Raleigh, a 120 LB. Great Dane puppy. A happy boy!
Two more shots I have to share! This is really intended for a new "blogger" friend, Doggybloggy, who is really like a male version of myself. We share the same rythym about food and I suspect we like a lot of the same foods. Plus, his blog is an interesting read!
Now, a couple days ago Doggybloggy had company and couldn't blog so he was "splaining" his situation. Instead of his usual blog about food with pictures- he wrote instead about his favorite tools and gadgets, he mentioned his impressive cookbook collection-a passion a lot of us foodies share! And, since I was in the midst of trying to relocate my own collection, I stumbled upon a favorite cookbook-one that I'm sure Doggybloggy doesn't have!
This arrived in my mail one day-a fun find from my dear friend Char! Inside handwritten apologies-she said she just couldn't resist!
Doggiebloggy. . .you can borrow it! Anytime!
On a final note, we shot four hours with Panera Bread, my new sponsor on Home At Last! The shots were pretty and we got our ad! Yeah.