June 9, 2013 § 15 Comments
“Pomegranate-Orange Flavored Gin & Tonics” for Summer Celebrations
Once again I found myself in the possession of a few treasures left over from a photo shoot. This time it was a package of Pomegranate Seeds and an Orange. Many of my blog inspirations come from such leftovers. I am lucky that such bounty comes to me. It is one of the many great things about my work as a food stylist. There was no way I was going to let those juicy deep red seeds go to waste…what to do…what to make..?
Along with a few cups of Gin, an orange and some sugar my plan formed. Infuse the gin with the pomegranate seeds & a bit of orange peel for the best ever G & T’s.
Here is how easy it is:
1. Put 2 cups pomegranate seeds in a glass jar.
2. Pour 3 cups of Gin over seeds.
3. Cut and add a long strip of Orange Peel.
4. Add 1/2 cup sugar to jar. Stir. Seal with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to blend.
The magic begins. Place the jar in a dark, cool place for 1 month. I use my front hall closet where this jar keeps company with bottles of Limoncello, Vanilla Extract and Poire William…all of which are some of my other concoctions. Dark infusions!
(tick tock, tick tock….one month later)
Isn’t this the prettiest color? Now the decanting….
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and pour into bottles with tight lids. I keep my Pomegranate-Orange Gin chilled.
My simple G & T for Hot Summer Days recipe:
1. Fill glasses with ice, pour Gin over ice, top with Tonic Water, add a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice, enjoy.
Salut! to this my 100th blog post. Join me in a toast with your own G & T this summer.
June 1, 2013 § 12 Comments
“Fresh Mint Tea”
Isn’t it odd how sometimes you have to get outside your everyday life to become aware of the most obvious things? Does this happen to you?
Fresh mint stepped in hot water, sometimes called a tisane, is a North African drink that is served in most sidewalk cafes and restaurants in Amsterdam. On our recent trip I sipped this caffeine free hot drink and mused on why I had never made this very refreshing and cooling drink at home. Mint has a naturally sweet flavor with a cooling after-sensation which makes it the perfect drink for these hot summer days.
All you need is fresh mint leaves, boiling hot water and if you like, a sweetener. I used some of my homemade Vanilla Sugar. It is just as “Easy As This”.
Gather fresh mint. I cut fresh Pineapple mint, Spearmint & Peppermint from my backyard. Mint from the grocery or farmer’s market is fine too. Rinse & dry the leaves.
Heat water in the kettle. Stuff a handful of mint leaves down into each cup.
Pour boiling water over mint leaves. Let steep for about 1 minute.
Stir in vanilla sugar to taste if desired. Honey, Agave nectar or any other of your favorite sweeteners.
Try my easy “Mint Sun Tea” for drinking iced. Stuff fresh mint leaves down into a glass container. Fill with water. Sit container in the sun for a few hours so that mint leaves can steep and release their flavors into the water as it warms.
Pour over ice, add sugar to taste if you like and fresh lemon.
Mint is vigorously easy to grow. If you do not have a garden or yard, just plant some in a pot and place in a windowsill or on a patio.
Drink your Mint and stay cool.
May 27, 2013 § 6 Comments
“Memorial Day Pimento Cheese Sandwiches with Arugula”
Graveyard Cleaning Day was what I thought Memorial Day was when I was a child. I have vague memories of going to visit & clean up family graves with my Grandmother & Aunts. Raking & tidying up all the winter debris that had collected around the headstones, maybe leaving a fresh wreath. As with all Southern ritual outings food was involved. Simple sandwiches, maybe some chips and pickles, sweet tea.
I know that I am a child of the South when I get out the jar of Roasted Red Bell Peppers/Pimentos and the slab of Cheddar cheese, start chopping and grating, dolloping mayonnaise, sprinkling black pepper & a bit of salt into a bowl for “Pimento Cheese Sandwiches”.
I cannot remember a time I did not love Pimento Cheese spread. My Grandmother, my Mother, real Aunts, surrogate Aunts, Mother’s of friends all made it for quick and easy run-out-to-play food, cool food for hot summer days, sandwiches to take along in cars to visit the deceased. When I was a child it was always spread on slices of soft white bread, no arugula or fancy lettuces, maybe a slice of homegrown tomatoes….that was all.
Gussied up a bit….good white Cheddar & roasted red peppers chopped… all mixed together with a generous dollop of mayonnaise, freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt, thickly spread over sliced whole grain bread…this is the Pimento Cheese I made for my girls. They still like it and every now and then ask for it. We do not visit the graves of our departed, tidy up and leave wreaths, but on this Memorial Day/Grave Cleaning Day/Decoration Day we will be together and enjoy our ‘mento cheese sandwiches.
Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup chopped Roasted Red Bell Peppers
2 cups grated White Cheddar Cheese
Mayonnaise (to your liking)
Salt & Black Pepper
Here is how you do it:
1. Mix it all together in a bowl. Adjust salt & pepper to suit your taste.
2. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid until ready to make your sandwiches. Spread on slices of whole grain bread. Add arugula.
Bite. Chew. Enjoy. Celebrate.
May 13, 2013 § 16 Comments
A few weeks ago I was working on a photo shoot with my friend Heather Skelton who is the cooking book editor at Thomas Nelson Publishing/Harper Collins. We were shooting a recipe that called for fresh apples. I quickly made up this “Apple Butter Jam” with the leftovers grabbing my iphone to take a few photos as I worked. This recipe calls for 4 ingredients and can be completed from start to finish in about 1 hour without any fuss. This same recipe could be done with pears or plums as well. The fresh lemon makes it especially good.
Here are the ingredients:
5 Tart Apples, cored, peeled & sliced
1 Meyer Lemon, sliced, seeds removed (any lemon will work)
Add both ingredients to a cooking pot along with 1/2 cup Agave Nectar or Honey & 1/2 cup water.
Bring mixture to a slow boil. Reduce heat to very low. Stir every now and then. You can do some other things, such as have a cup of tea, read a book or just meander around your house thinking lofty thoughts. In about 45 minutes to an hour this is what it all looks like. Thick, glossy and yummy. Not too sweet, not too tart.
Spoon slightly cooled Apple Butter Jam into glass jars. Add a lid and store in the fridge. It really is as “easy as that”.
Hot buttered toast with Apple Butter Jam.
April 25, 2013 § 25 Comments
“Dutch Baby with Fresh Carolina Peaches”
This week as we are about to embark on a trip to The Netherlands I was reminded of one of the things I love to eat when traveling there, Pannekoeken, Dutch Pancakes….Dutch Babys. This is a post I wrote last summer in honor of these lovely light & airy pancakes that I love to eat while sitting alongside a canal watching the world float by.
A couple of Sunday mornings ago it was one of those extraordinary dawns for early summer in Nashville. A bit chilly, the sun dappling through the trees, a cup of steamy hot coffee and the newspaper, nothing pressing..nothing to do…these times cry out for a quick & easy Dutch Baby for breakfast.
Dutch Babys are essentially puffy pancakes. They are easy and quick. They come out of the oven very puffy and quickly deflate. They are very delicious hot out of the oven savory or sweet, with fresh fruit or thick slices of crispy bacon. To the best of my knowledge Dutch Babys are not from The Netherlands, but from Germany…go figure?
If you have never made one of these beauties then you must. It is foolproof and fun. Kids love them..big and little kids.
Sitting on our kitchen table was a wooden bowl of perfectly ripe South Carolina peaches. The downtown Farmer’s Market had just gotten them in by the bushels & baskets. Soft & fuzzy on the outside, juicy & sweet on the inside.
Recipe for a Dutch Baby Pancake
1/3 cup raw sugar mixed with the zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour mixed with 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg & 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla flavoring
1/2 stick butter, softened
Raw Sugar for dusting + Lemon wedges
Fresh ripe peaches peeled & cut into slices
1. Turn oven to 450 degrees. Place a 10 to 12 inch cast iron skillet in oven to preheat with oven.
2. In an electric blender beat eggs until frothy. Add milk, flour mixture & vanilla to blender and beat until well blended.
3. Remove hot skillet from oven and add butter. It will sizzle & melt quickly.
4. Pour batter into skillet quickly and place in oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until pancake is golden brown and puffy.
5. Sprinkle pancake with the sugar-lemon zest mixture. Serve piping hot with slices of fresh peaches, lemon wedges to squeeze over pancake slices & additional raw sugar to top.
Dutch men named Wouter love Dutch Babys!
A little gallery of peaches:
April 15, 2013 § 16 Comments
“The Day the Welfare Man Came”
As if it happened yesterday I can see my Mother open the front door of our little house in West Tennessee for the Welfare Man. He followed her into the kitchen, his arms loaded with paper bags full of groceries. He sat them gently on the table. The light in the room was dim as I quietly and with shame watched from the doorway. As an adult I can only imagine the shame & sadness my Mother must have felt.
My father was off on one of his sporadic “disappearances” and we were left with no money for food. I do not know at what point my Mother broke down and made that phone call for help, but she did and the Welfare Man consquently stood awkwardly in our little kitchen, arms full of groceries. She did what she had to do to feed us. All I wanted at that moment was to feel not hungry, not to be ashamed and not to be sad.
This is how millions of people in America feel every day who do not have the resources to feed themselves or their families.
There are so many things we who have resources can do to help others and to educate ourselves about hunger in America.
Click on this site:
to learn more about what you can do to help and to see a clip from the new film “A Place at the Table”. You can find out from this site simply by entering your zip code after clicking on “Take Action”, events and needs in your area. Write your senators & congressmen, local politicians & officials to let them know that you, as a voting citizen, care deeply about this issue.
We should all have a place at the table without an empty plate.
March 20, 2013 § 16 Comments
The first day of Spring and Figs usually do not have a lot in common. But this first Day of Spring world’s collided when I found a bag of whole figs, fresh-frozen at the end of last summer and forgotten….buried underneath jars of homemade tomato sauce, pesto, bags of New Mexico chile peppers, my ice cream freezer canister & some pizza dough! Totally hidden away to be found this morning while I was cursorily cleaning it all out. Spring Cleaning. Get it?
Now I could in no way consider tossing these figs out. There was no freezer burn. They looked like they had been frozen yesterday. Rich, deep colors still intact. Jam the figs!
Recipe for figs jammed on the first day of Spring. You will need:
1. Two pounds frozen whole figs (or any other frozen whole fruit or fresh fruit) tossed with 1 cup white sugar & 1 cup turbinado or raw sugar in a non-reactive pan.
2. Cover pan with plastic wrap and allow to sit for about 6 hours unrefrigerated. The sugar will dissolve and the fruit will break-down somewhat creating quite a bit of juice.
3. Put figs & syrupy juice in a non-reactive cook pot. Stir into pot 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves, 1/2 cup pear flavored liqueur & 1/4 cup chopped mild to medium hot New Mexico Chile peppers (fresh, canned or frozen).
4. Bring ingredients to a low boil, turn to simmer and cook, stirring often, until liquid is reduced somewhat and thickened. While jam is thickening get your canning jars ready. Wash in very hot soapy water, rinse well & dry in a low temp oven until ready to fill. Place lids and rings in a pan of softly boiling water over low heat until ready to put onto jars.
5. Carefully fill glass jars with jam to about 1 inch from the top of the jar. Dry lids and rings with a clean cloth and top each jar, tightening gently.
6. Allow jam jars to cool completely. Will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. Freeze for later use (make sure they don’t get hidden!) or give as surprise Spring gifts!
What might you have “hidden” in your freezer that you could give new life to?
Welcome long awaited Spring, welcome.