Archive | January 2012

Crepes With Scrambled Eggs and Pimentos

crepes with scrambled eggs

Recently, a fellow food blogger, Meg Pitts,  made crepes and posted about them on her blog.  Then, in the latest “Clippings” from Atlanta Botanical Garden, a recipe appeared for crepes.  With that, my interest was peeked.

I haven’t made crepes in years.  The recipe I’ve always used came from a book a friend shared with me when she married 45 years ago.  It was a book published for new brides teaching them how to run a household. Given to brides by the store when registering for china and silver.  We used to laugh together about the idea of living like Laura Petrie.  That was the early 70’s, the women’s liberation era.

Now that crepes have appeared on the cooking radar screen, I decided to track that 50 year old recipe down and make some myself.

Ingredients copied from Happy Living, A Guidebook For Brides, 1965©
Makes 8 thin crepes

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 whole eggs
1½ cups milk

Mix the eggs and milk together and then pour into the flour and salt mixture. Mix until smooth. This can be done with a spoon. Ladle 3/4 cup into an eight inch non-stick,skillet. Allow the edges to bubble, about one minute and then flip to the other side for another minute.

Fill with scrambled eggs, pimento and top with cheese and garnish with fresh basil.

If you want crepes on the sweetness side, fill with fruit, wrap, then drizzle syrup and sprinkle confectioner sugar over the top.

Pimenocheese and Homemade Mayo, It’s a Southern Thang!

There are many great chefs who come from the south but one most notably was Edna Lewis, or to her great friend, Chef Scott Peacock, “Miss Lewis”.

Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis

Now deceased, Miss Lewis, was author of   The Taste of Country Cooking and In Pursuit of Flavor.  She  co-authored  The Gift of Southern Cooking.  I’ve been a great fan of Edna Lewis for years and found her stories from growing up in Freetown, Va. fascinating.

In his wonderful tribute to this icon of the south, David Lebovitz, writes that Miss Lewis shared her fears on when she wrote her first cookbook in that she used coins for measuring dry ingredients.  A quarter was a tablespoon and a dime was a teaspoon.  That is so southern.  My grandmother and mother would eyeball ingredients.  With years of baking and cooking, one just develops the eye sight measurement with ease.

During these final weeks of football playoffs, I find it easier just to throw finger food together rather than plan dinner around half-time.  So I decided, to make pimento cheese or as Chef Scott refers to it “pimenocheese”.   We here in the south love pimento cheese between bread slices or on a cracker or on a stick of celery. I’m not talkin’ about that creamy junk in containers you buy in the market. Rather real, roughly, shredded cheese.

pimento cheese snacks

But first, pimento cheese all starts with homemade mayo.  This is Miss Lewis’ recipe straight from her book The Taste of Country Cooking :

1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon or 1/2 lemon freshly squeezed lemon juice (put the other half in a glass of tea or water while you prepare)
1 teaspoon sea salt because sea salt dissolves better than kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 egg yolks (save the whites for baking or toss them, eggs are cheap)
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 tablespoon hot water

Put the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and mustard into a bowl and whisk until the salt and mustard are dissolved.
Add the egg yolks and beat until smooth.
Add the oil drop by drop at first and then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until all of the oil has been incorporated and you have a thick emulsion.
making mayonnaise
Stir in the hot water until smooth.
Place in a jar and refrigerate up to one week.

There is homemade and then there is Duke’s, the south’s mayonnaise. Duke’s is good but Edna Lewis Mayonnaise is far superior…why settle for less?
spreading mayonnaise

To make pimento cheese

5 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese
5 oz white cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
pinch of ground black pepper
3/4 cups Miss Lewis mayo
3 tablespoons finely chopped pimentos

Mix together the cheese then add the mayonnaise and mix well together until creamy. Add the other ingredients and taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Vidalia Onion, Georgia’s Official State Vegetable

Vidalia Onion

Vidalia Onions, known for their sweetness, come from only one location in the world…Georgia.  It is Georgia’s Official State vegetable. Legislation passed in 1986 authorizing a trademark of the Vidalia Onion.   Once only grown in Vidalia, Georgia due to it’s low sulfur level in soil, it has since been designated by the agriculture department that twenty other areas in Georgia are permitted to grow Vidalia Onions.

To be clear on it’s pronunciation it is  Vi dell ya.    Not the Martha Stewart way Vuh dawl ya.  You’ll be shot!

Many people try to sell onions and pass them off as Vidalia.  So if you see a sign saying Vidalia, the onion better have a sticker designating it’s location or it isin’t a Vidalia.

I know Vidalia’s are not in season just yet…but soon to come.   In the meantime, one can still enjoy sweet onions roasted in the oven or on the grill.

Right now, it is hard to find onions just brought out of storage that don’t have soft spots.

The best way to tell if an onion is suitable for eating is to press the top where the stem would have come out.  If it’s soft, it’s really old.

Roasted onions make for a great side dish with just about anything.  Roast several and you have the makings for onion soup…just add beef broth and a little red wine.

Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil doubled in a 12 to 16 inch square
Core the onion
sprinkle a pinch of garlic powder
sprinkle a pinch of coarse ground pepper
sprinkle a pinch of granulated beef bouillon into the core
drizzle a few drops of olive oil over and into the core
drizzle about one tbls of Worcestershire sauce over the onion
Close the foil up and around the onion and squeeze the top tight

Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F for about 45 minutes. Test for doneness by squeezing the foiled onion using a potholder. If there is considerable give, it’s done.

Cornish Hens, Elegant Yet Affordable

Small Chickens

Bred to appeal to foodies back in the 60’s, cornish hens make an affordable yet elegant dinner at $3.50 each.  They can easily be split in half to serve two.

Lay over a bed of wild rice blended with dried cranberries and pecan pieces and the level of elegance rises.

Add green beans, seared then braised in wine and you may just  find yourself placing candles and fine dinnerware on the table.

All for less than $8.00 a piece provided you have to buy everything at one time. But a good home chef always has items in their pantry to defray the costs.

Serving Two:
One Cornish Hen split in half after roasting/smoking $3.50 (Generally sold in packages of two, freeze one for later)
6 oz box Uncle Ben’s Original Wild Rice $1.99 (have several on hand)
1 lb generic bag of pecans $5.99 (have on hand)
6 oz bag cranberries $1.48 (have on hand)
1/2 lb of whole fresh green beans $1.50 (buy fresh or have frozen bags available)


Sprinkle Garlic Salt and Coarse Ground Black Pepper all over and inside the cavity of the cornish hen.

Smoke at 350° F for 20 minutes, then turn upside down, continue another 20 minutes. Continue this 20 minute process until the inside temperature taken in the thigh is 160°. Depending on the size of the hens, this could take at minimum of one to one and half hours. These shown above took 1:40 cooking time.

To roast in the oven, set the temperature at 350° F, and practice the same turning process as on a smoker.

Shrimp, Buy Frozen or Fresh?

Pasta and ShrimpYesterday I challenged myself not to run to the grocery store.  I try to go no more than twice a week because of the long drive back and forth and today was not that scheduled  second trip.

So…I went through my pantry, freezer and fridge and put together a very simple meal that only took 20 minutes.

I always have in my freezer, a package of cooked, de-veined, tail-on,  frozen shrimp.  I buy the 31-40 size bag because the shrimp are a perfect size, not too big and not too small.  The price is always reasonable so I usually purchase two packages just for times like this.

On a side note:  I buy frozen because of an incident that occurred one day while shopping the Farmer’s Market near Atlanta.  I went in for fresh shrimp, not really paying attention to the sign that said, “fresh frozen”.  They only had a few pieces and I asked for more, they pointed to the freezer across the way.  I said, “no, no, I want fresh”  this other person came up and explained that is where they pull shrimp from to place on the counter; from the freezer or the back when delivered.  So I walked to the freezer and pulled out a brand name of sorts package and held it up gesturing “this?” and the people behind the counter nodded, “yes”.

How gullible I was!  I thought it was flown in fresh every day.

Sometime later, during a cooking class, I asked Chef Steve Jou of Pyng Ho Restaurant if this incident at the market was accurate and he confirmed, the best time to buy really fresh is on Thursdays.   After that, I started buying frozen.

Now, 15 years later, I learn about the organic growers who purchase land in other countries to grow produce for the world and realistically, how can even that come in fresh? It’s harvested, trucked to a boat, floating in a refrigerator compartment deep in the bowels of a cargo ship (I hope) for a two week excursion to a dock in the states.  Then it is taken to a distribution center where it then is put on trucks and delivered to stores across the country.

Cynically thinking, fresh is out of my garden, onto my plate or the next best thing to fresh,  into a pot for blanching and preserved in a Ziplock or jar.  Which just happens to be what the big conglomerates do.

Watching the TV show, “Biography” one Sunday morning, I learned the Green Giant harvested produce and drove 1/4 mile to a FDA regulated building to can or freeze the same day. Those same vegetables are shipped to the distribution center and sent out across the country by day two.  I learned the same thing with my favorite canned tomato product, Muir Glen Organic.

Of course, I support the local farmers when they set up but I discovered this past summer, some of those vendors are not farmers but rather people who stop at the Farmers Market and set up a roadstand.  That’s ok, everyone needs to make a buck in this economy and I admit, I have bought from them.  Now,  I’m more careful to look over produce and try to find out where someone comes from to determine if in fact, they’re farmers.  Only because, I prefer to buy straight from the person who “played in the dirt”.  Once I have their names, I return to their stand each visit thereafter.  I’ve even been known to call a farmer ahead to see if they would be at the market the next day.  Yeah, I stalk like that.

I’m pretty much over the fresh thing and not so afraid of buying canned or frozen.  I still do though buy straight off the produce shelf in between the water sprays because there is nothing like holding something that appears fresh out of the garden, especially if it has dirt and sand all over it.

For two people

16 pieces of shrimp, thawed in bowl of water
two slices bacon, browned and chopped
one 14.5 oz can Muir Glen Organic Brand Fire Roasted Tomatoes
8 oz linguine
1/4 cup Marsala
One tbls butter

Begin boiling the pasta.  Fry bacon, drain the grease, de-glaze with Marsala and be sure to scrape the junk from the pan for flavoring.  Drop butter in to help thicken while de-glazing.  Add the shrimp to liquid.  Turn the shrimp for a nice flavorful coating.  Allow the liquid to cook down some then add a can of fire roasted tomatoes.   Add the pasta to marry the ingredients together.  Plate and top with chopped bacon bits.

Serve a nice mixed baby green lettuce salad topped with red onion and cherry tomatoes as a side dish and compliment with your favorite wine.

I Love Steak!

Sirloin Steak

This is Food Porn at it’s best.  Like the title says…I love steak!  Especially ladled with an oyster/mushroom sauce.

If I don’t have my weekly steak, I experience severe beef withdrawals.

My husband loves steak more than I do. He is the man behind this steak. Look at his plate.  Hardly what would pass the Iron Chef  “Plating” rules.   The first thing he does is ladle sauce all over everything and mix it up. Then he slices, scoops and inserts.  This is fine dining to him.  We could never go to a fine dining restaurant.  Anyone sitting at tables nearby or wait staff would stop dead in their tracks and gawk.  If food is to die for, table manners be damned.

Since I started photographing food, I have to take my own plate and style it and let him take his plate and start eating. Plating is not his thing.  He likes to look at food photos and loves the photos I take but to wait on me to style and photograph? Not gonna happen.  For this photo, I just happen to look over at his plate and said “freeze” and grabbed the camera, which is always within grabbing reach, and shot off six rounds.

I love to see people enjoy food.   I love to witness the beginning indulgences of a meal and hear the familiar sounds responding to fine cuisine… “mmm”, “mmm”, “m.m.m.m.mmmm.”   Eventually, a word emerges. “good!”   …then a few words, “this is great!”  …then an actual bonafide exclamation is made. “This is a really great steak!”  …and then a dialog begins, “…and, that sauce. Do I taste a hint of….?”   “Why, yes, you do taste…”  “What other ingredients are in this sauce?”

My husband grills the steak.  I can not provide instructions for gas grills since he only knows how to use a Big Green Egg.  His temperature is very high, around 600° and the steak is always at room temperature before placing on the grill. (all meat should be at room temperature before cooking)  He seasons with salt and pepper and then places on the grill searing each side for two minutes.  Then he closes off air passages on top and bottom and the steak continues to cook for three to four more minutes.  Depending on the thickness, it may take slightly longer.

Oyster/Mushroom Sauce:

Five or six medium size mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil for the pan
8 oz. beef stock
1 tbls. oyster sauce
1 tbls. soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbls. corn starch

On medium heat, sauté mushrooms until brown and tender then remove from pan and set aside.
Sauté garlic for 20 seconds then add all other ingredients. Allow to thicken.
Add cooked mushrooms back into sauce and warm.

Ladle the sauce over steak and listen to the sounds of savoring pleasures from your table.

We of course, use the same sauce for mashed potatoes as shown in the photo above.

The Marriage Between Football and Food

Chip Dip

There was a time when football was just that…football.  Today however, it’s football and food.  It has become the cliché “what comes first, the food or football”.

Beginning every fall weekend, tailgating, be it in the stadium parking lot or on the riverfront with boats tied together, has become the only way to enjoy football at it’s best.  People go to great lengths to trailer in smokers for barbecue.  Trays of food are prepared ahead at home and tables are set up at the back of SUV’s to spread out the food and drink.

Tailgating begins to wind down somewhat after the Christmas Holidays just like beach parties dwindle after July 4th.

The playoffs are finalizing, the games play late into the evening on the east coast but you still relate food to football.

A great late snack is the comfort of chips and dip.  You could even consider it dinner and spare the rush of cooking and cleaning of the kitchen.

I have no idea what this dip is called except by the trade name  “Ro-Tel”

One pound sausage, browned
Two-eight oz packages cream cheese
Two-10 oz cans Ro-Tel, diced tomatoes with chilies

Brown the sausage, drain any grease, add the cream cheese and let melt then add the cans of diced tomatoes. Let simmer a few minutes. Then…grab a Tostito Scoop and indulge.