Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Perfect For Summer.

Who would ban Cycles Gladiator?  (Besides Alabama...)  It is an AWESOME wine, perfect for summer.  Pair it with a simple salad and prepare to fall in love...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Because I Said So.

Today I feel proud to announce that I have an original recipe for you, that I was able to carve out a pocket of time to experiment, play and actually achieve.  Perhaps this small endeavor fits my taste buds alone, but I'm willing to toss the idea over to you to see what you think.  If you were in my kitchen, I might slide the plate into your hands and give you a sly, implicating wink.  Not that I'd blame you if you didn't appreciate it, because not everyone likes beets, and those who do can be a bit particular about them, as in, they must be served pickled, for example.  Anyway, I'm taking a gamble that you do indeed like beets, very much, especially served with an ample drizzle of homemade blue cheese dressing, chopped pecans and cilantro.   Fingers crossed, that is. 

We've talked before about the indicative health value of beets, so I suppose that's a mild selling point, but the real aspect tipping the scales is the homemade blue cheese dressing.  If you are like me, you'd probably eat your least favorite food, granted you could slather it in blue cheese dressing.  Yet for some reason, this dressing makes the beets taste rich, creamy and sweet in a way that almost hints of dessert.  The chopped pecans and cilantro garnish encapsulate and compliment the subtle flavor of the beets, making this a truly lovable dish.  However, you can always use the dressing for salads instead - and you'll have an easy, quick, outstanding blue cheese dressing staple to show off all summer long. 

The homemade blue cheese dressing recipe comes directly from The Kitchen Bible.  I used Grey Poupon Dijon mustard and crumbled a block of  Roth Kase for the blue cheese. Also, this dressing would be incredible with a spinach/bacon salad, so know that it will keep for a few days.

Blue Cheese Dressing 

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp finely chopped shallot
pinch sugar
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

To make the dressing:  shake the cheese, oil, vinegar, mustard, shallots and sugar in a jar until well combined.  Season with salt and pepper and shake again.  * Double the recipe for 4+ more people.*  The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before serving.

Beets with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing, Chopped Pecans & Cilantro

(serves 4)

10 small/medium size beets
1/3 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp chopped cilantro, for garnish

Step 1:  Steam the beets for approx 35 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a paring knife.  Rinse and peel outer layer, discarding tops & tails.  (The beets can be chilled prior to this step.)  Slice into thin peels, about 1/2 an inch thick.  Arrange on a small plate.  Drizzle dressing and toss lightly with your fingertips.  Add chopped pecans and cilantro.  Serve warm or chilled.

P.S.  Can you see the tiny heart beet?  If so, it means you are going to have a great week.  (Because I said so.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Me Oh My.

I'd be willing to bet that you're looking forward to the first official weekend of summer... so I thought I'd send out another amazing cocktail recipe from Design Sponge in order to celebrate!  Although I think I might be a little more excited about USA playing Ghana tomorrow (fingers crossed!) than I am about all the heat... however, this cocktail looks like the perfect way to celebrate and cool off.  What better way to do that than Ginger and Strawberry Bubbles?  Me oh my.  Happy summer indeed.  Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Homemade Ginger Ale:
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
7 cups water
In a small pot, add the grated ginger, sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve. Remove pan from heat and let the syrup steep and cool for about 30 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine sieve. Mix with the lemon juice, yeast and 2 qts of water. Whisk together and using a funnel, pour into a plastic bottle. Screw the cap on the bottle. Make sure it is a plastic bottle and not glass as the gases from the fermentation can crack the glass jar.
Let it ferment at room temperature for about 2 days until carbonation forms. Make sure to refrigerate after it starts to carbonate.
Strawberry Consommé:
1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced
½ cup sugar
In a bowl, toss together the strawberries and sugar. Cover the bowl and let them macerate for 24 hours. The strawberries will release all their juices.
Strain through a fine sieve. Do not press the strawberries too much as we only want to collect the clear juice.
1/2 cup homemade ginger ale
1 Tbs strawberry consommé
1 Tbs vodka to taste (optional)
Fresh lemon slices
In a rocks glass mix the ingredients.  Add ice to chill.  Squeeze a fresh lemon to taste and garnish with fresh lemon and strawberry slices.  Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Get In Touch.

Over the past few weeks, I've developed the irresistible urge to make salsas (all kinds!), especially after I return from my long afternoon lectures, exhausted and mentally drained.  As though guided by instinct, I grab tomatoes, boil fresh corn, unpeel cloves of garlic and hack away at fresh cilantro.  One particular distinction I gradually came to notice is that I was completely ignoring my food processor.  For some reason, using my hands made all the difference, made me feel more connected to the food I was working with, and helped me to unwind:  I found that I didn't need conversation, or background music, or a whirring machine's assistance.  What I needed was to hold the avocado or tomato, to feel the weight of its density in my palm, to test the firmness with my fingers.  For me it is enough to hear the subtle sounds inside the acts of slicing, dicing and chopping, or to measure with my eyes, nose and fingertips. Not only does it help me to unwind, but the end result usually tastes much better.

  There is an article in Food & Wine called "The Power of Touch" in which Chef Daniel Patterson "believes that in the kitchen, nothing can replace human hands."  I completely agree and especially recommend reading it if you are heavily machine dependent. (And also for some amazing tricks, like being able to tell if your meat or fish is done with a simple poke. )

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trust Me.

 Dearest Readers,

Just a little love note to let you know that I'm too busy to talk, but am thinking of you always.  Please enjoy the following recipe, it is just the ticket for summer.  Also, don't gorge  yourself on it like I did, but eat like the proper, well-bred person that you are, and avoid biting your hand whilst shoveling it into your mouth on that panicked run out to the car, okay?  I know it is delicious, but please heed my advice, because if you bite your own hand while stuffing your  face - no matter how great of a hurry you are in - you might begin to question your rightful place in society.  Trust me.

Thinking of you always,


Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Arugula & Prosciutto

Kosher salt
One-half medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into 3/4-inch florets (3-1/2 cups)
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
9 large fresh sage leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
6 thin slices prosciutto (about 4 oz.)
12 oz. dried orecchiette
5 oz. baby arugula (5 lightly packed cups)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Toss the cauliflower, tomatoes, oil, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper on a rimmed baking sheet; spread in a single layer. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the cauliflower begins to turn golden and tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the sage and garlic in a food processor until minced. Add the prosciutto and pulse until coarsely chopped. Once the cauliflower is golden, toss the herb mixture into the vegetables and continue to roast until fragrant and the cauliflower is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Boil the orecchiette until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture, arugula, cheese, and enough pasta water to moisten. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 530; Fat (g): 16; Fat Calories (kcal): 150; Saturated Fat (g): 3.5; Protein (g): 23; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 73; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 1100; Cholesterol (mg): 20; Fiber (g): 7;

photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 96, pp. 115a
October 24, 2008

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Only Growing.

[a guest table]

Today I thought you might like to see a few more amazing ideas for centerpieces from the spectacular wedding we attended.  These pictures are from the rehearsal dinner which was on a farm.  Per the bride and groom's request, the florist used only growing plants for decorations.  Hence, cauliflower, parsley, moss, cabbages, leeks, etc... as centerpieces!  Aren't they magnificent?  

[the head table]

 [guest table]

[my seat :)]
Oh and I mustn't forget the tree chandelier!


Have a [creative] Tuesday!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flower Power.

Some images sort of make me sigh and croon and place my hand over my heart.  Sometimes this is especially surprising because they have nothing to do with food.  Here's a prime example:

[photo via design sponge]

Why is this the best?  You could argue that it is the view that makes this image spectacular, or you could point out that it is the flower placement inside the kitchen, but I think it is the idea that the inside flowers - as charming as they are - came from directly outside, possibly from the garden in the view? 

[photo via design sponge]

I know it seems obvious that flowers and plants inside the home are pretty.  But I think that they go beyond aesthetic value, especially in today's world.  There is so much junk in the world right now - and there's plenty to feel overwhelmed about.  Two words: oil spill.  (I'll just say that this article will spell it out for you more clearly and this one will too... just in case.)  The simple appearance of flowers in the home can make you feel better about life.  They hold that much power, they hold that much optimism.  And although my home doesn't look this cool, and I have yet to scope out interesting vintage containers that look perfectly French, I'll show you a few examples in my home anyway, along with the statement of the fact that waking up to these flowers was/is heavenly.  At the very least, try to plant (or snip) more for your home in your spare time and see what an impact they have on you.  Also, I hope that at least these photos brightened up your Monday!  (Or the professional ones, anyway...)


P.S.  Also, here is a lovely post by my friend Tacy from Homemaking Habits - On Beauty.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 11, 2010

TGIF, Grilled Pizza Edition.

Right now, in this very moment, I wish I had a puppy.  Something soft and cuddly to pet and play with, a friendly pal to sit in my lap, or lick my face.  Or maybe even two. Yes, I'll take two of these guys, please.


Yet instead I have a test this afternoon, a test which I'd feel a little more prepared for if I had these little guys by my side.  You know...as a cute distraction?  Tangible affection? Moral support?  It's difficult to explain what I mean.  Maybe you understand?   Anyway, since this isn't a possibility for me right now, something has to be enough.  It has to be enough that today is finally Friday, and that tonight John and I are going to make some grilled pizzas.

[photo, instructions & recipe here]

These pizzas are unbelievably delicious. Never, will you ever need to order one again, and the dough is easily supplied from local pizzerias and/or supermarkets (and, of course, you can make it yourself).  We've made them before and I have the photos to prove it, but I'm typing this in the library, so no photographic evidence for now (sorry). Ours was a smoked salmon, capers & dill concoction, but the beauty of grilled pizzas is that pretty much any combination will be delicious, because they are grilled.  The very same leek and pecorino pizza recipe would taste even better grilled.  For some reason, the thought of eating these pizzas on a Friday night with John is the next best thing, in my opinion, to (not) having two puppies.  Let that sentence stand as a testament to how phenomenal they are. So invite your friends, tell them to bring a few toppings and let the festivities begin.... it is finally Friday!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What Do You Think?

Since summer classes are fairly long (2 hrs) and I have two of them every day, I've already learned that professors don't like to talk for two hours straight.  It strains their voice, which is................. a shame.  Anyway, it means we have to watch a video instead.  Upsetting, I know.  Today I'm doing the same and presenting a short but very interesting video where Michael Pollan discusses food labeling in supermarkets.  Whether you agree with his policies or not, you should thank me for finding the shortest video of Michael Pollan talking on the web.  Also, I would sincerely love to know what YOU think about what he says.

P.S.  sorry his face is so huge.  if it's too annoying for you, go here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Little Kings.

[photo via AFM]

For those of you who are around Athens for the summertime, and in case you haven't heard,  the Farmer's Market is now on Tuesday evenings from  4-7pm at Little Kings!  I declare, this is good news. Yet for those of you who don't live in Athens, but are planning to visit, mark Little Kings down as one incredible spot to chill out, lounge, drink a brew & listen to music - and also, now on Tuesdays, to purchase local and organic veggies!  


Happy Tuesday!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hand-Picked Berries.

We went blackberry picking on Saturday, and I can't wait to make this jam. Also, it felt so good to walk among rows and rows of bright red (and black) berries with a small bucket.  Unfortunately, summer school dictates that I stop rambling immediately, but,  please, if you can... go!  You'll love the taste of hand-picked berries, and being out in nature is just downright gratifying.

Also, I hope your week gets off to a GREAT start.  Happy Monday...?...!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Lovely Idea.

Just wanted to share some serious eye candy from the wedding we attended this past weekend.  One side of the outdoor tent was lined with hanging flowers and plants, potted in - what else? - Mason jars!  Isn't this a lovely idea?  So creative!

Happy Wednesday :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Bright Side.

Everybody has those days.  Well, I suppose it is my turn.  I would be outright lying to you if I said I wasn't feeling melancholy, and I would be making it a double whopper if I said it didn't have anything to do with the fact that school starts on Friday.  (Or that my dear relatives have returned home, much too far from here.)

Growing up I had a small sign in my bedroom that my mother hung on the wall.  It was of a mother goose being trailed by her ducklings.  The sign read, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one by one by one by one..."  Next to the words "by one" there was a duckling.  When I was mad I would see it in the corner of my room and it sort of soothed me back into the positive, the good, the bright side.  Perhaps not every time I was mad, but you get the point.  

A lot of blogs have "happy lists" and they are a similar concept, but happiness fades quickly.  A blessing sticks around, in my opinion, and doesn't lose its worth based on a changing emotion.  I may be wrong about that, I'm often wrong about many things, but I'd rather count blessings than count objects which make me momentarily happy. And now that I have said that, I must, with distinction, completely contradict myself and declare that I am very blessed to own a Breville Panini Press.  Yes, it is an object, but it is also a blessing to my life, because it makes sandwiches perfect in a way that I cannot. These photos of ooey gooey melted cheese and charred grill marks on sourdough are no lie, no trick of the photo-editing light.  Behold a blessed machine and the fruit of its hands-off labor:

Breville Panini Press

In short, this machine is non-stick (which means you don't need Pam).  Also, it heats evenly, melting cheese and blending flavors to an unprecedented taste-satisfaction level, and NO, I am NOT getting paid to write this.  This machine is the gift that keeps on giving me delicious sandwiches easily and quickly.  Would I mislead you?   Anyway, the thought of a perfect panini in my sack lunch is helping me face the eleven hours in which I am enrolled for June and July. This little press is more than a happy thought, it is a blessing that opens some sunlight from the bright side.

Caprese Panini
[from Williams-Sonoma]
Caprese Panini

Most of these ingredients can and should come directly from your Farmer's Market!


  • 2 slices country-style bread, each 1/2 inch thick
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise (optional, or make your own)
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tomato slices
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 fresh basil leaves


Preheat an electric panini maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

Brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil. Lay the slices, oiled side down, on a clean work surface. Spread the top of each slice with 1 Tbs. mayonnaise. Place the cheese on one slice and top with the tomato slices. Drizzle with the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Top with the basil, then with the other bread slice, oiled side up.

Place the sandwich on the preheated panini maker and cook according to the manufacturers instructions until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer the sandwich to a cutting board and cut in half. Serve immediately.
Serves 1.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.
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