June 25, 2009

Gettin' my Southerness on with Shrimp and Grits

People either love or hate grits, which is primarily based on which side of the Mason-Dixon line they call home. In the south, grits are an absolute staple and present at nearly every breakfast table. In the north, they are thought to be as bland as cardboard and are nearly impossible to find (yes, you will get weird looks from the grocery clerk if you ask for them). Personally, I love 'em. But I do recognize that they are really a vehicle for all kinds of yumminess (cream, cheese, butter, salt), and that the grits alone are a little less than fabulous. And don't even get me started on those instant types. Yuk! The first time I decided to make grits up here in NYC, the only kind I could find was a box of instant that looked like they had been there since the beginning of time; totally covered in dust and totally icky.

Now when grits are treated with respect and gussied up a little, they can be one of the most fantastic things you will ever put in your mouth (don't believe me? Take a little trip down to the Fish House in Pensacola, FL for the grits a ya ya, and then lets talk). For our rehearsal dinner, we decided to do a southern theme, since we were in the middle of GA and more than half the guest were yankees or Canadians (i.e. super yankees), and the shrimp and grits absolutely stole the show. People couldn't believe how good they were!

This recipe is just like that. It's delicious, hearty, and a true tribute to Mr. Florence's southern roots. Serve it up with a big glass of sweet tea and a side of cornbread and you will be totally set. Just don't blame me when you start throwin' around a few ya'lls. 

Adapted from Tyler Florence

For Grits:
3 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal (or grits, just not the instant kind)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper
  • Place a large pot over medium-high heat, and add milk and cream.
  • Slowly whisk in cornmeal.
  • When grits start to bubble, turn heat to medium low and let cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Remove from heat and stir in butter and extra cream to thin out a bit.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
For Shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into chunks 
1/4 cup ap flour
2 cups chicken stock
3 bay leaves
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
  • Place a deep skillet of medium heat and add olive oil.
  • Saute onion and garlic for a few minutes to soften.
  • Add sausage and cook until browned.
  • Stir in flour.
  • Slowly pour in chicken stock and stir to avoid lumps.
  • Add bay leaves.
  • When stock begins to simmer, add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes until firm and pink.
  • Add lemon juice, parsley, green onion and season with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, spoon grits onto plate and top with shrimp mixture.

June 22, 2009

Grilled Asparagus and Melon Salad

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Although we've been battling the elements up here in the northeast, we did get in a few outdoor activities. I am lucky enough to volunteer for an amazing organization, Girls on the Run, in which we help young girls train to run a 5k at the end of their school semester. Their big race was this weekend, and I am thanking the heavens that the rain held off just long enough for all of them to finish. It's so inspiring to see 3rd and 4th graders run a whole 3.1 miles. Great job girls! I never would have been able to do that at their age! We also played a little golf, but mainly stayed glued to the tv watching the US Open (Brad is actually there today to see the finals - lucky guy!). 

Now onto the goods. This is a delicious and refreshing salad that would be perfect for a barbecue or any summer time outing. This sucker has everything - savory, salty, crunchy, and sweet. It's colorful and is really beautiful when all put together. It's rather hearty, but the dressing and sweet melon keep it feeling light, making it a great dish to serve when the weather warms up (if that will ever happen!). I never would have thought of combining all of these ingredients together, but they work surprisingly well and really balance each other out. If nothing else, the idea of baking the prosciutto into little crisps is genius!

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis 

2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 small melon, cubed
4 ounces mozzarella, cubed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment, and place strips of prosciutto on top. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until crisp.
  • Place prosciutto on paper towel, then roughly crumble.
  • Toss together asparagus and 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium bowl, and season with S&P.
  • Heat grill pan over medium-high, and cook asparagus for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until tender but still crisp.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil. 
  • Season to taste with S&P, add melon and cheese and toss until combined.
  • Arrange asparagus on platter, then, using a slotted spoon, top with melon and cheese.
  • Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over top, and sprinkle with prosciutto and pine nuts.

June 17, 2009

Mint Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies

Does the name alone have you swooning? Oh yes, they are just as good as they sound. Maybe even better. Grace, of A Southern Grace, made these a while back, and let me just send a big ole "Thank-You" her way, cause these babies rock! Cream cheese brownies were already one of my favorite desserts, but the mint in these took them to a whole nother level. 

Considering that the mint oreo balls I made over St. Pattie's day were one of my most well received goodies ever, I should have known that there was something to this whole chocolate and mint thing. It's not just for girl scouts anymore! Keep the leftovers (if there are any) in the fridge, as they are totally awesome cold. 

Mint Chocolate Cream Cheese Brownies
Courtesy of A Southern Grace, who adapted the recipe from Here

6 tablespoons butter
4-ounces mint chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

8-ounces cream cheese, at room temp
1 egg yolk
5 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon mint extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Preheat oven to 350℉.
  • Spray a 9-inch square pan with non-stick spray.
  • In a large bowl, combine chopped mint chocolate and butter and melt in microwave on low. Start with 2 minutes, then stir, and continue cooking at 30 second intervals until completely melted.
  • Beat in sugar and eggs.
  • Add in flour, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla, and mix until combined.
  • Pour into pan in a thin even layer.
  • In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, egg yolk, sugar and mint extract until smooth.
  • Stir in chocolate chips. 
  • Place dollops of cream cheese mixture sporadically over the initial brownie layer, and using a dull knife, swirl together.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until that batter in the middle is just set.
  • Let cool and cut to serve. I also preferred these chilled, so I kept them in the fridge. 

June 15, 2009

Dumplings and Pineapple Fried Rice

I decided to try and participate in the Daring Cooks challenge this month, which was to make homemade dumplings. The challenge was put together by Jen of Use Real Butter. She has an awesome site and I've been a loyal follower for quite some time now. I was pretty excited that she picked dumplings, but was curious as to how difficult the process was going to be. I'll let you know right from the get-go I wasn't too thrilled that this would involve dough. The whole reason I never even contemplated doing Daring Bakers is because I'm a bit of a doughphobic. It's just sticky, finicky and destroys a clean kitchen. But this recipe only involved flour and water - how hard could that be? Ha.

Although time consuming, the pork filling was simple to make and smelled delicious. The dough also came together very easily and was pretty manageable to shape into little circles. Making those gash darn pleats were near impossible though. After throwing away like a whole dozen, I decided to scratch the original plan, and to fold them all like mini calzones. Way easier, and they worked fine in the cooking process.

I decided to try all three methods of cooking: steaming, boiling and frying. Steam and boiling were super easy, and yielded tender little pork filled pockets. Frying though, destroyed my kitchen. I've been cooking long enough to know that dumping water into hot oil is going to cause a serious (not to mention dangerous) mess. Not my brightest moment. Did you ever see that episode of The Newlyweds where Jessica Simpson was yelping as the oil burned her? Yeah, that was so me. Frying paid off though, as these were the tastiest of the three methods. No surprise, frying is always the tastiest. 

If you would like to a give these a shot for yourself, please visit Jen here for a step-by-step guide. Thanks Jen for a great challenge! 

I served these along side a fantastic pineapple fried rice, courtesy of Susan from Food Blogga. You can find that recipe here, and should definitely give it a try. It was the perfect mix of sweet and salty, and was devoured in no time!

June 11, 2009

No Grill? No Problem!

Every where I look these days, someone seems to be talking about grilling out. It's all over the blogs, magazines, even the tv. This would be fine and dandy, given it is summer and all, except for the fact that grilling is not so possible when you live in a high rise apartment complex. Not that this is reason enough to move out to the burbs or anything, but we all want what we don't have, and I would love nothing more than to throw some burgers on the grill on a hot Friday night. 

So what is a city dweller such as myself supposed to do (short of renting a house in the Hamptons with a huge yard and state of the art grilling station, that is)? Make this ridiculously good steak sandwich, of course! Yes, cooking a steak on the stove will probably fill your apartment with enough smoke to warrant a few red trucks, but it's totally worth it. The cooking method for the steak gives it that perfect crusty outside and medium-rare inside. And the onions and sauce and bread - oh, it's just so yummy! We paired it with a big bowl of berries and our all time favorite summer drink.

I want to send big hugs to Jamie at Life's A Feast, for honoring me with this award. She is as sweet as pie, and I'm so lucky to count her as one of my fabulous foodie friends. Thank-you so very much Jamie!

Also a big Happy Birthday to my baby brother (he might be 6'4, but he'll always be little to me), Cameron!! 

I also wanted to let ya'll know that I finally caved and joined Twitter, so please come play with me

Steak Sandwich
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 12-ounce 1-inch thick NY strip boneless beef top loin steak
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 large red onion
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 mini focaccia or ciabatta rolls
1/2 cup baby arugula
mustard mayo (recipe below)
  • Season steak liberally with S&P on both sides.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium saute pan over high heat, just until smoking.
  • Sear steak on both sides for 1 minute each.
  • Reduce heat to low and continue cooking 7-10 minutes, flipping only once halfway.
  • Set steak on a side plate and cover with aluminum foil for 10 minutes, then thinly slice.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in same pan over medium heat.
  • Add onions and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until onions are caramelized.
  • For sandwich assembly: spread mustard mayo on bottom half of each bun, top with a layer of steak strips, sprinkling of S&P, onions, and arugula. Press down on top bun and serve.
Mustard Mayo:
3/4 cup mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

June 8, 2009

Manic Mondays

Does my title have you singing yet? I'll go ahead and apologize if the Bangles are stuck in your head all day. 

I don't know very many people that get excited for a Monday. Even though I'm not really working at the minute, Sunday nights are still filled with a little bit of dread over the coming day. It's just something about the world waking up from its mini vacation and heading back into the trenches that makes everyone a little uneasy.

I generally don't pick up a newspaper, turn on the computer, or even phone friends on the weekends. By Monday, I feel completely out of touch (which is precisely the feeling I'm looking for). It's amazing how much catching up there is to be done when you take 2 whole days away from the world at large. So today I'm filing mail, paying bills, calling (or should I say staying on hold with) the incompetent tv repair shop that I've been dealing with for the past 2 months, and getting in the 11-miler that is on my running calendar. Ugh.

So if you're like me, and know that at 6 pm you will be in no mood to spend and hour in the kitchen, take a look at this quick and delish dinner option. It's like you spent all day roasting a chicken...only  you didn't. :) The skin gets crisp and flavorful, which is really the best part. And you can spend the 20 odd minutes that's it's baking away in the oven to prep rice and a veggie. Easy peasy and perfect if you have a manic Monday as well.

Lemon-Oregano Chicken
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Serves 4

2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
8 chicken thighs with skin (about 1 3/4 lb.) - I bought 4 larger thighs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tsp dried oregano
  • Preheat oven to 450℉, with rack in center.
  • Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt, using the back of a knife.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Pat chicken dry with a paper towel, then pour lemon mixture over top, being sure to get some under the skin.
  • In a medium skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and remaining oil until foam subsides. 
  • Brown chicken, skin side down for 5-6 minutes (it will not be fully cooked).
  • Transfer to a 4-sided sheet pan, skin side up.
  • Using tongs and a paper towel, remove any excess oil or burnt pieces from the pan. 
  • Add broth and remaining lemon juice and cook for 2 minutes, or until reduced by half.
  • Whisk in remaining butter and oregano, then pour over chicken on sheet pan.
  • Roast chicken in oven for 20 minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

June 4, 2009

Strawberry Gelato

This post is going to be short and sweet today. Mainly because I have forfeited my life over to a series of books that have captured the hearts of teenage girls everywhere. Yes, I am slightly embarrassed to say that I have jumped on the Twilight bandwagon. I know I'm a little late to the party, but I'm sure making up for lost time. I simply cannot put these books down! They have me completely mesmerized and life as I know it is paused until I've read every last word. 

I did, however, manage to pull myself away long enough to use up some of the seasons beautiful strawberries in this delicious gelato. It's pretty and pink and tastes just like fresh berries. And I can vouch that it makes for a fabulous breakfast (what, there's milk and fruit in it!). If you aren't the proud owner of an ice cream maker, I would highly recommend that you get yourself one asap. Not only is it fun and easy, but there is just no beating freshly made ice cream.

I also want to thank everyone so much for the wonderful well wishes for my 1 year. I've had such a great time writing this blog, and am so blessed to have made so many wonderful friends through it. Thank-you so much for always being so supportive and motivating! 

I also want to mention that one of my family's dear friends has a wonderful art blog (she is a fantastic artist) and is having a giveaway for one of her very special pieces. Please do go give Kendall a visit at Kendall Boggs Fine Art.

Strawberry Gelato
Adapted from Bon Appetit via La Divina Gelateria in New Orleans

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/4 cups sliced hulled strawberries
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • Whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.
  • Whisk in milk and cream and continue whisking while cooking over medium heat until it begins to thicken and bubble (about 5 minutes).
  • Pour liquid into bowl that is placed over ice and let chill slightly, stirring occasionally.
  • Puree strawberries in blender, then strain into the slightly cooled base liquid.
  • Stir in pomegranate juice.
  • Chill for 3 hours.
  • Process in ice cream maker per maker's instructions (mine took about 25 minutes).
  • Freeze at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.