Category Archives: Memoirs

Moussaka and Memories of Greece

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Greek Moussaka

Classic Greek Moussaka is one of the most popular Greek dishes, and a staple “comfort food” and main course meal in Greece (as Lasagna is in Italy). This tasty Greek dish is a culinary delight to those who sample it for the first time, and I experienced it when I went on a trip to the Greek Islands a few years ago for my birthday.

oia greece santorini

Some friends and I were in Santorini, a beautiful island in Greece in the Aegean Sea with pastel colors and gorgeous views, eating at a restaurant in Oia called Pelekanos, nestled up in the hills overlooking the sea.

Pelekanos

The sun was setting, the relaxing music was playing softly in the background and the atmosphere was just perfect. The waiters graciously came over and attended to our every need, and made our dinner a spectacular night with their attention to detail not only in the food and wine, but our dining experience overall.

waiter

The table was elegantly set, with fine china, white tablecloths, crystal glasses and silverware with beautiful flowers as a centerpiece. The waiters filled our glasses with water and wine, lit the candles on the table and gave us recommendations of the specials and enlightened us on some of their popular Greek dishes on the menu.

Fava Bean Dip

As we joyously dined, they quickly cleared our plates when we were finished eating, filled our glasses when they were half full, and stood by the table a few feet away with a watchful, attentive eye, to let us know they were on stand by for service, but just far enough away to not be obtrusive on our dining experience.

table setting

They always had a smile on their faces and let us stay at the table long enough to enjoy our dinner, engage in great conversation, take photos of our food and engage in the gorgeous bright red sunset that was going down over the ocean as we sat and viewed it in awe. I felt like I was sitting in a little piece of heaven up there and never wanted to leave.

Sunset

One of the most delicious dishes I ever tasted was the Moussaka, which I ordered that night. It was a perfect mixture of spicy meat at the bottom, layered with potatoes and tender eggplant, and tons of béchamel and gooey cheese on top. The vegetables were steaming as I dug into this gorgeous meat and vegetable pie – my mouth watered at the sight and smell of it. I became so obsessed with this luscious Greek dish that I decided I needed to make it for my big Greek birthday party when I got home from vacation.

moussaka

Moussaka can be made in many variations, but the classic recipe uses layers of eggplant, potatoes, a spicy meat and tomato sauce with a touch of cinnamon and a rich and delicious béchamel sauce and bubbly kefalotyri cheese on top. Other variations are Moussaka with zucchini or artichokes instead of eggplant, ground lamb instead of ground beef, or vegetarian-style with zucchini, eggplant and potatoes without the meat. Either way you make it, with its warm and rich flavors and gooey cheese you’ll be hooked.

I made this recipe with zucchini and potatoes, and combined ground lamb with ground beef together. The combination of all the spices from the meat and seasonings soak into the vegetables and once you layer some creamy béchamel and gooey cheese on top, you’ve got yourself a delicious heartwarming dish. Be careful to pat dry the vegetables though before layering in the baking dish, as you don’t want the liquids to make the Moussaka too watery as they are cooked down in the oven.

You’ll need a lot of time and kitchen space to make this dish, and if you’re cooking for a crowd, you’ll be safe to double the recipe and make two large rectangular baking dishes of it, as it won’t last long. The flavors in this dish really improve if you 
make it a day ahead. It’s also a very filling dish, so you may want to serve it as the main course, and accompany it with a Greek Salad, some Stuffed Grape Leaves and Tzaziki for a light side dish along with some Garlic Lemon Hummus and grilled pita. Serve with a red Greek wine and a shot of Ouzo as an aperitif.

Oia Santorini
Oia Santorini

Moussaka and Memories of Greece

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8

Ingredients

  • Zucchini/Eggplant Potato Mixture:
  • 1/2 cup Greek olive oil
  • 3 large zucchini (or eggplants), sliced
  • 3 large potatoes, sliced
  • Meat Sauce:
  • 3 onions, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves or garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground lamb or beef
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup red Greek wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Bechamel Sauce:
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 quart of whole milk
  • 4 eggs; beaten until frothy
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Zucchini/Eggplant Potato Mixture:
  2. Cut the zucchini/eggplant and potatoes into slices about 1/2 inch thick. If using eggplant instead of zucchini, peel the eggplant first. Brown the vegetables quickly in 1/4 cup of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until lightly golden brown, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside.
  3. Meat Sauce:
  4. Heat the remaining ¼ cup of oil in the same skillet and cook the onions until they are?golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the ground meat, tomato paste, cinnamon, cayenne, and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Pour off excess fat through a strainer and return meat mixture to the pan. Then add the wine, cooking until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato puree to the meat mixture and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer over low heat;?stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Remove the?mixture from heat.
  6. Make the Bechamel Sauce:
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  8. Make the white sauce by melting the butter?and blending in the flour, stirring with a wire whisk until smooth. Meanwhile, bring the milk to a boil and add it gradually to the butter-flour mixture,? stirring constantly. When the mixture is thickened and smooth, remove ?it from the heat. Cook slightly and stir in the beaten eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest and ricotta.
  9. Assemble the casserole:
  10. Grease an 11x16-inch baking dish or casserole dish and sprinkle the bottom lightly with?breadcrumbs.
  11. Arrange alternate layers of the zucchini/eggplant and potatoes and meat sauce?in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
  12. Pour the bechamel sauce over the top and sprinkle some additional Parmesan cheese on top. Bake 1 hour, or until top is golden.
  13. Remove from the oven and cool 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
  14. Top with additional chopped fresh parsley. Cut into squares and serve.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2015/04/06/moussaka-and-memories-of-greece/

  • Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.

 

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Tequila, Sunsets and a Mexican Feast in San Diego (Story + Recipes)

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San Diego Sunset
San Diego Sunset

I recently got back from an amazing trip to San Diego – one so lovely and rejuvenating that the sunsets are burned into my brain, leaving me wishing for more of the bright colorful skies, fresh air, palm trees swaying in the wind and cool sand between my toes.

The San Diego Crew
The San Diego Crew

This is a fun trip that started last year with an amazing group of friends and has now turned into a yearly tradition.

Beach House
Beach House

Seven of my friends and I rented a gorgeous beach house on Mission Beach in San Diego –

Beach House Room
Beach House Room

Our house had two levels, two kitchens, five bedrooms, a beach front patio, two grills, plus another two patios outside,

Upstairs
Upstairs

all with stunning views of the ocean from every angle and every room.

Windows
Windows

It all started as a birthday celebration trip for my friend Suzanne last year and now with another birthday girl, my dear friend Linda. Plus five other cool cats I’m proud to be friends with: Paula, Cris, Jackie, Janis and Andrew. What a crew.

Kristen and Paula
Kristen and Paula

great friends..

Janis-Paula-Suzanne
Janis-Paula-Suzanne

great times…

Andrew-Cris
Andrew-Cris

enjoying each other’s company with a Corona or two…

Mission Beach
Mission Beach

taking in the stunning views..

Mission Beach Boardwalk
Mission Beach Boardwalk

people watching on the boardwalk..

Seagull at Dusk
Seagull at Dusk

and making new friends.

Kristen-Paula-Linda
Kristen-Paula-Linda

There’s something about California that makes me feel relaxed, happy, and in a totally different world than the one I live in New York City.

San Diego
San Diego

No crazy traffic or cars honking, just beautiful beaches and cool, relaxed people up early for morning jogs and bike rides, swaying palm trees,

Magenta Sunsets
Magenta Sunsets

hazy blue and pink sunrises, and breathtaking bright magenta and orange sunsets that will blow you away.

Beach Houses
Beach Houses

The boardwalk is lined with colorful pastel houses and bungalows that look like Jordan almonds lined up in the sand.

Sand Volleyball players
Sand Volleyball players

We took daily walks down the beach, watching the surfers and volleyball players,

Surf's Up
Surf’s Up

catching some rays down by Crystal Pier while gazing out into the turquoise blue water.

Foodie Excursions
Foodie Excursions

To satisfy our foodie fix, we grabbed a fish taco and a Bloody Mary (or two) at the little beach side cafes and food stands on the boardwalk while soaking in the sunshine.

Patio Surfing
Patio Surfing

We took advantage of our gorgeous views and drank plenty of tequila and margaritas out on our beach front patio playing penny can, laughing and telling stories,

Frolicking on the beach
Frolicking on the beach

and frolicking on the beach at sunset like fools.

The Bar
The Bar

With a large group of eight people that all love to eat and drink, we spent over $1500 on our grocery bill and stocking our bar so we could take advantage of our two kitchens and grills and had massive amounts of cooking and eating (and drinking) going on each day. I swore after this trip I would never eat again – but that didn’t last long.

Jackie's Famous Eggs
Jackie’s Famous Eggs

Jackie made her Famous Eggs with Sausage, Mushrooms and Cheese, served with my Spicy Fried Potatoes, toasted bagels and plenty of bacon and mimosas to go around and feed the masses. Best Breakfast EVER.

Sunset Grilled Feast
Sunset Grilled Feast

Cris was our designated grill master, who made us a delicious feast at sunset with heaps of tender grilled steak,  shrimp and veggies – love those baby peppers on the grill!

Cooking up a storm
Cooking up a storm

Paula made us a yummy Chicken dish stuffed with Prosciutto, Sage and Provolone which I gladly assisted with while multi-tasking by drinking my Sauv Blanc with a HUGE mitt (just in case that wine glass gets too hot – LOL).

IMG_3376

She also made us a Flaky Egg Bake for Suzanne’s birthday breakfast – with layers of buttery phyllo dough filled with sausage, eggs, cheese, peppers, mushrooms, onions and baked into a yummy casserole fit for a Queen (ahem, Suzanne..)

Andrew's Chicken Marsala
Andrew’s Chicken Marsala

Janice and Andrew made their delicious Italian lunch of Caprese Salad made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar with prosciutto, olives and fresh Italian bread, accompanied by a few bottles of great wine. They also made a delicious Italian meal of Chicken Marsala over pasta with fresh parmesan cheese, parsley and Sauteed Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts for our last night in town – totally delicious and gone in five seconds FLAT.

Mexican Feast
Mexican Feast

My designated meal was to make a feast for Mexican night – when i say feast, i mean FEAST – we had enough food to feed the entire Mission Beach strip and enough leftovers that we seriously thought about donating it to a homeless person so we didn’t have to throw it out if we didn’t finish it all up the next day!

Guacamole
Guacamole

My Mexican menu included fresh Pico de Gallo, fresh Guacamole with lots of cilantro and lime and some jalapeno,

Tequila Lime Shrimp
Tequila Lime Shrimp

Grilled Marinated Steak with Lemon and Herbs and Sauteed Lime and Tequila Shrimp to go with the tortillas for tacos and burritos,

Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Chicken Enchilada Casserole

I also made a cheesy baked Chicken Enchilada Casserole,

Mexican Sides
Mexican Sides

Red Mexican Rice, Tortillas, Sour Cream, Warm Queso Cheese Dip, Hot Sauce and PLENTY of Margaritas to go around for at least three more days.

Pool sharks
Pool sharks

I think we all fell into a serious food coma by Night #3 and decided to kick it up a notch and wake ourselves up with some music and a few games of pool after dinner.

Stunningly Spooky Sunset
Stunningly Spooky Sunset

After all the eating and feasting, a breathtakingly spooky view appeared when the sun went down. We missed the Green Flash though – which apparently happens for a split second as soon as the sun goes over the horizon line and sinks into the abyss.

Night Out on the Town
Night Out on the Town

Jackie, Cris and I headed out to the bars for some debauchery and drinking activities at the local bars, involving Cinnamon Whiskey shots (ordered by Cris)..FIRE IN THE HOLE! 🙂

Breathtaking bask in the glow
Breathtaking bask in the glow

My favorite moment of the entire trip was basking in the glow of that big orange fireball in the sky one evening, dreaming of the day I can return to this lovely, lovely place. Until then, I’ve had my fill of tequila and Mexican feasts to last me another year. The sunsets? I never get tired of those – especially when they look like this.

California Guacamole with a Kick

Ingredients

  • 6 avocados
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 purple onion, minced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, minced fine, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Kosher Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Dash of hot sauce

Instructions

  1. Cut avocados in half and remove the pit. Scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl and squeeze lime juice on immediately (to prevent the avocado from oxidation and browning). Mash avocado well with a fork until slightly smooth but still a little bit chunky.
  2. Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin, salt and pepper, and hot sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap tightly and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or more to let the flavors meld.
  4. Serve with tortillas, chips, veggies or crackers with fresh made salsa (tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapeno, salt and pepper) and plenty of margaritas to go around.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/02/28/tequila-sunsets-and-a-mexican-feast-in-san-diego-a-true-story-recipes/

Sauteed Tequila Lime Shrimp

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup tequila, divided in half
  • Juice from 2 fresh limes (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deveined and seeded, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for marinade, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash and drain shrimp, and place in a medium bowl.
  2. Mix together 1/2 cup of tequila, lime juice, cayenne pepper, chile flakes, chili powder, jalapeno pepper, and olive oil in a separate bowl and pour over the shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain and discard marinade off shrimp in a colander or with a slotted spoon and set shrimp aside.
  3. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat for a minute or so. Add additional 1/2 cup of tequila to the saute pan (with pan removed off the burner to avoid flames!).
  4. Add 1/2 of the marinated shrimp to the heated saute pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside. Add the rest of the shrimp to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes until pink.
  5. Add two tablespoons of butter to the saute pan and return first batch of shrimp, adding it to the shrimp in the pan and saute while tossing the pan for another 2 minutes or so. Sprinkle salt and pepper into the shrimp to taste and mix through for another 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Serve the shrimp on a platter with the tequila-lime-butter sauce on top with a side of tortillas and all the dressings: guacamole, cilantro, hot sauce, sour cream, rice to make tacos or burritos.

Notes

Recipe inspired by Oprah.com

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/02/28/tequila-sunsets-and-a-mexican-feast-in-san-diego-a-true-story-recipes/

Layered Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), poached and shredded
  • 1 32-ounce container of chicken stock (for poaching chicken)
  • 2 cans of red enchilada sauce
  • 9 flour tortillas (large burrito size)
  • 2 cups of shredded Mexican-blend cheese
  • 1 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • Sour cream, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, cayenne, salt and pepper and hot sauce. Saute for about 5 minutes until onion is soft and golden. Add minced garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove onion-garlic mixture from heat and set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  3. To poach chicken breasts, heat chicken stock in a large Dutch oven or high-sided saute pan and cook chicken breasts in the stock, covered, for approximately 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let chicken sit in the pot (still covered) for another 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken breasts from the stock on to a platter and let cool for a few minutes. Shred the chicken with 2 forks and add to the onion-garlic mixture in to the mixing bowl.
  5. Spread 1/2 of the enchilada sauce from one can on the bottom of a rectangular glass casserole dish. Place three tortillas over the sauce, overlapping.
  6. Top the layer of tortillas with 1/4 of the chicken-onion mixture, spreading evenly over the casserole dish. Top with 1/4 of the crushed tomatoes and 1/4 cup of shredded cheese.
  7. Repeat 3 times until you have four layers and have used up all the enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken-onion mixture, crushed tomatoes and shredded cheese. (Like making a Mexican Lasagna!)
  8. Place casserole dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with chopped cilantro and sour cream.

Notes

Can also make casserole with ground beef or steak, and it can be made in a circular or oval casserole baking dish rather than rectangular if preferred.

Recipe inspired by Williams-Sonoma.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/02/28/tequila-sunsets-and-a-mexican-feast-in-san-diego-a-true-story-recipes/

Spanish Red Rice with Jalapenos and Cilantro

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, deveined and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups of long grain rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute jalapenos, garlic and onion about 5 minutes in a large saute pan.
  2. Add the rice to the saute pan and cook, stirring often, until rice is browned slightly another 5 minutes.
  3. Pour water, chicken stock and crushed tomatoes into the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes until rice has absorbed all the liquid and is cooked through.
  5. Remove rice from heat, uncover and fluff with a fork. Add rice to a large serving bowl and garnish with fresh cilantro for serving.

Notes

Feel free to add some fresh cooked corn, red or green peppers or peas to the rice for additional flavors.

Recipe inspired by Saveur.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2013/02/28/tequila-sunsets-and-a-mexican-feast-in-san-diego-a-true-story-recipes/

All photographs, copy and recipes are copyrighted by Kristen Hess/The Artful Gourmet © 2010-2013. Please do not share, use or distribute this content without granted permission from me. Thanks!

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A Dose of Southern Comfort & Down-Home Recipes :: Part 1

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Southern Porch
Southern Porch

I recently took a cooking class at ICE that was all about Southern Cooking. In the spirit of the Kentucky Derby, I wanted share some of the awesome down-home Southern food we made. These are classic Southern recipes you’d find on the Sunday “Supper” table with a large group of friends and family, that scream the words “Southern Comfort” all around. Think Deviled Eggs, Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Cornbread, Coca-Cola Cake, Fried-Green Tomatoes, Fried Fruit Pies, BBQ Ribs, Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Sweet Tea, Mint Juleps – savory, homey, sweet, hearty, comforting and yes, FILLING. I guess that’s why they call it ‘comfort food’ because once your done eating and your belly is full, all you really wanna do is take a big NAP (on a nice big hammock on the front porch – Yes Ma’am).

Mississippi
Mississippi

I had my first real taste of true Southern food when I visited Meridian, Missippippi with one of my best friends and her family back in high school. We rode in the back of a station wagon from Upstate NY to Mississippi in the sweltering heat for about 20 hours, and when we arrived I thought I had reached the equator – or HELL for that matter. I wasn’t there for even 2 hours before I got attacked by a swarm of tiny red ants when we visited her Grandfather’s farm house that first day, and almost passed out on the beach after laying out for 5 minutes it was so hot down there. But after a big glass of ice cold homemade sweet tea, some Biscuits and Gravy, a crunchy delicious piece of her Grandmother’s Fried Chicken and a plate of Fried Okra – all the hellfire deceased instantly. (Well at least for the moment!)

University of South Carolina
University of South Carolina

My second experience tasting Southern food was in Columbia, South Carolina when I went to USC for a few semesters and ended up transferring there because I was so charmed by this unique Southern town. I’ll never forget the game day tailgating parties full of glorious southern banquets (and Bourbon!) that took up the entire parking lot across from the football stadium and lasted all day until we passed out from the heat, or the food (or most likely the Jack and Coke’s we had in our water bottles that we snuck into the game with!)

South Carolina Memories
South Carolina Memories

There was also the local street vendor in Five Points (where all the bars and restaurants are on campus) who walked around selling spicy boiled peanuts to all the crazy drunk kids going in and out of all the bars staggering home to their dorm rooms. If you take a drive down to South Carolina, you can’t miss the huge giant peach water tower in Gaffney on the way down (or the massive retail outlet there!). Peaches are lovely. Peaches are everywhere down South. Peach pie, peach fritters, peach cobbler, peach tarts, peach salads, peach jam….ok, now I’m getting hungry.

Charleston SC
Charleston SC

We took roadtrips to Charleston, SC and experienced the low-country cuisine like Shrimp and Gravy, Red Beans and Rice or Frogmore Stew (a South Carolina specialty made with shrimp, corn, new potatoes and sausage). The downtown Sunday market is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, handmade baskets, art, crafts and great southern and low-country food. If you’ve never been to this town before, you MUST make a trip – the architecture, the Sunday markets, the seafood, cobbled streets, southern hospitality and warm breezes off the ocean will charm the pants right off of you.

Destin, FL
Destin, FL

Our Spring Breaks had to be semi-close by because none of us could afford to fly anywhere, so we hopped in our cars and took roadtrips to nearby towns like Savannah, GA or to the beach in the Florida panhandle (otherwise known as the Redneck Riveria – Destin, Panama City Beach, Pensacola) and ate spicy boiled Crawfish – “sucking heads and pinching tails”, while slugging down a good ice cold Budweiser or two.

Atlanta
Atlanta

Then, I moved to Atlanta after I graduated from college (swayed by a great friend of mine that I met at the University of SC) and unexpectedly stayed there for 12 years – and that’s where I really learned how to cook and love Southern food. There was something about the flowery, green smell in the air down in Georgia, and the charming friendliness of the people – a realness and down-to-earth manner that made me feel like I belonged in this strange Southern universe (even if I was just a damn Yankee that moved down South to get away from Mom and Dad after college).

Georgia Southern Food
Georgia Southern Food

Fried Chicken and Waffles, BBQ, more peaches (every street in Atlanta is named “Peachtree”), trips to the Dillard House in the Georgia mountains, day trips and weekends at the lake – I couldn’t get enough of this place. We grilled out almost every weekend on the deck or at the lake with our friends (and made awesome steaks and burgers with Dale’s Seasoning which are Ah-mazing).

Southern BBQ
Southern BBQ

My ex was from Alabama and Texas, so you can only imagine the Southern food and hospitality that I was exposed to. We ate the best BBQ south of the Mason-Dixon line in Selma, Alabama at a little truck stop called Lannie’s Barbeque, that served hot fresh bbq pork sandwiches on toasted buns with homemade cole slaw, southern green beans and a side of cornbread with extra sauce for mopping. There was never a trip to Selma without a stop here. Or a mandatory trip to Dreamland BBQ for a whopping plate of messy delicious ribs in Tuscaloosa for Alabama ‘Game Day‘. Roll Tide! (I was always still a diehard Gamecock fan though, even if Alabama kicked our ass).

Alabama Fried Catfish & Grilled Corn
Alabama Fried Catfish & Grilled Corn

His Mom was an amazing cook too, and every holiday we would go to their “camphouse” in the woods. The men would go deer and bird hunting for the day, and the women would stay home and prep for the big mid-day feast: slow-cooked collard greens with smoked ham, deep-fried turkey, slow-roasted pork butt, fried okra, skillet baked cornbread with jalapenos and cheddar, pecan pie, homemade flaky buttery biscuits, sweet tea, and the list goes on. On Friday nights we always went to “Mac’s Fish Camp” on the Alabama River (which tragically burned down in 2007 and is no longer around). We ate the best cornmeal-crusted fried catfish that would blow your mind – whole, right off the bones, served with fresh corn on the cob, cole slaw and hushpuppies. Even on the sweltering dog-days of Summer like they have down South, there’s something about the savory, buttery, comfort food down there that makes you feel right at home.

A Southern Feast
A Southern Feast

True Southern food and hospitality is all about eating and sharing big homemade meals with large groups of friends and family. My cooking class was almost 5 hours long and we made so much food you could feed a small Confederate Army. Thus, this post only has half of the food we made for our Southern feast that day so I’m making this Part 1. The recipes below include: Classic Deviled Eggs, Country Smoked Ham with Red-Eye Gravy, Southern Collard Greens, Cornbread, Coca-Cola Cake and of course, some homemade Southern Sweet Tea to wash it all down with. Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week for some more down-home, get-in-my-belly, authentic Southern Comfort food. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to take a nice, long nap on the hammock between now and then…

—–

Deviled Eggs

deviled eggs
Deviled Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs (1 week old eggs are easier to peel than super fresh eggs)
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise, or to moisten
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish, or to taste
Paprika, for garnish
1-2 tbsp chopped Parsley leaves

Equipment: ice water bath

Put eggs in a saucepan that will hold them in one layer. Cover with cold water by 1 inch. Heat just to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Allow the eggs to “cook” in the hot water for 15 to 17 minutes and then immediately transfer to the ice water bath to cool and stop the cooking.

When well-chilled (you may have to replace the ice water bath with cold water or more ice to keep them cold and fully chill), roll them gently on the countertop and crack the shell all over.

Peel under cold running water and reserve.

Cut the hard-cooked eggs in half length-wise and shave a bit from the bottom of each half so it will lay flat on a serving dish.

Remove and mash the yolks; combine with mayonnaise, mustard, salt and relish.

Refill the centers of the egg whites with the mixture (use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, ideally). Garnish with paprika and chopped parsley, refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 12 deviled eggs.

—–

Country Ham Steak with Red-Eye Gravy

Country Ham with Redeye Gravy
Country Ham with Redeye Gravy

1 bone-in fully cooked ham steak, about 2 pounds (salt-cured country ham or a center-cut slice of ham)
Butter, vegetable oil, lard or shortening, as needed
3/4 cup strong black coffee
Worcestershire sauce

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Melt sufficient butter or other fat to film the bottom of the skillet. Add the cooked ham, and cook to warm through and brown the meat. Reserve the ham.

Over high heat, add the coffee to deglaze the pan; scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits.

Bring to a boil and cook about 1 minute. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

To serve pour the gravy over the ham to serve with the ham or serve gravy in a separate pitcher.

Serves 6.

Country Ham in Roasting Pan
Roasted Country Ham
Ham Steak ready to serve
red eye gravy
Red-eye Gravy
Cut ham ready for red-eye gravy
Time to pass the Red-eye Gravy

—–

Southern-Style Braised Collard Greens

Southern collard greens
Southern-style Braised Collard Greens

2 pounds of collard greens (can substitute kale, turnip greens, or mustard greens)
1 ham hock (or 6 slices of cooked bacon)
1 medium onion, sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt
Sherry or cider vinegar, optional (for serving)
Tabasco/Louisiana Hot pepper sauce or pickled pepper juice, optional (for serving)

Clean and wash greens well; remove tough stems and ribs. Cut the greens up into large ribbons or chunks and place in a deep pot; add onion. Wash off the ham hock and add to the pot. Add red pepper and salt. Add enough water to cover greens, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook the greens until tender, about 1 hour (up to 2 or 3 hours is fine as long as they don’t get mushy). Add more water as needed, taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve with corn bread, and pass the vinegar and hot sauce.

Serves 4 to 6.

Slow cooking Collard Greens
Slow cooking Collard Greens

—–

Classic Southern Cornbread

Classic Southern Cornbread
Classic Southern Cornbread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease pan

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved (don’t over mix!). Allow the mixture to site at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Corn Bread Batter
Corn Bread Batter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and preheat a 10-inch cast iron skillet.

Melt butter in the hot cast iron pan
Melt butter in the hot cast iron pan

When ready to bake, coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with butter (and be careful – pan is very hot!)

Pour batter in the pan
Pour batter in the pan

Pour the batter into the prepared pan,

Cornbread ready for baking
Cornbread ready for baking

and smooth the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares or wedges. Serve warm or at room temperature with extra butter if desired.

We used to make it with green chilies or jalapenos and cheddar cheese – if you want to try this version, chop the chilies (about 1/2 cup) and some shredded cheddar (about 1 cup) and add it to the batter before pouring into the cast-iron skillet. Delicious!

Makes 1 (10-inch) skillet of cornbread, approx. 8 to 10 slices or squares.

—–

Coca-Cola Cake

Coca Cola Cake
Coca Cola Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup butter
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup Coca-Cola
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; grease and flour a 13×9 inch baking pan.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

Combine 1 cup butter, 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1 cup of Coca-Cola in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add marshmallows and vanilla, stirring until marshmallows are melted.

Pour mixture over dry ingredients and blend in well. Add the buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and pecans, if using. Beat well.

Spread batter in the pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake bounces back when lightly touched near the center. Cool completely.

Icing:

1/2 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 pound confectioners’ sugar
6 to 7 tablespoons Coca-Cola
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand blender), blend the softened butter with cocoa powder, confectioners’ sugar, and Coca-Cola. Beat ingredients until smooth and creamy; spread on cooled cake with a spatula. If desired, sprinkle finely chopped pecans over the top. Serve warm.

Makes 1 (13×9) cake.

—–

Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea
Sweet Tea

1 ounce loose black tea
1 quart hot water
1 quart room temperature water
Lemon wedges, for garnish

Infuse hot tea into hot water for 4 to 5 minutes, strain the tea into room temperature water. (we used to bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and then turn it off and infuse large tea bags in the hot water and add additional room temp water). Sweeten with simple syrup if desired and garnish with lemon wedges. Mint leaves are a nice twist too.

Simple Syrup:

3 cups sugar
3 cups cold water

For simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water in a small non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, and cook until sugar is dissolved. Cool completely (before putting ice in it or the tea will turn cloudy and taste bitter).

Can be kept in the refrigerator for a month or more in a tightly sealed container.

Makes 2 quarts.

—–

More Southern Recipes You May Enjoy:

Virginia Willis’ Grits with Corn and Sweet Onion

Paula Deen’s Corn Casserole

Neely’s Chicken and Dumplings

Deep Fried Kudzu’s Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

Tabasco’s Game Day Recipes

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California Dreamin’ :: Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Fontina Cheese Lasagna

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Room with a view
Room with a view

On a recent trip to San Diego with a group of friends, we made an awesome dinner one night, and definitely one to remember. We rented an amazing house right on the ocean at Mission Beach that had gorgeous views of the sunset  – –

Sunset
Sunset

a huge round disk of bright orange, yellow and red hues sinking into the horizon – absolutely breathtaking..

Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna
Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna

My friend (Paula) showed up with a delicious recipe for Chicken, Spinach & Wild Mushroom Lasagna (by Daniel Boulud) which was an amazingly creamy, savory dish to die for! The lasagna is made with a creamy base of sauteed celery and onions, white wine, nutmeg, flour and cream mixed with fresh spinach, wild mushrooms (we used Chanterelles but you can use any mix of wild mushrooms you prefer) and chicken breast. We topped off the lasagna noodles and chicken and mushroom mixture with several gooey layers of Fontina and Parmesan cheese, and baked it into a bubbly pot of goodness in the oven.

We served it with some Parmesan-Garlic Crostini and a green salad, and of course a few bottles of white wine to accompany. Daniel Johnnes, wine director of Daniel Boulud’s restaurants suggests choosing a wine from the Campania region of Italy, such as the 2009 Fiano di Avellino from Feudi di San Gregorio ($19). An alternative is Occhipinti SP68 IGT Sicilia Bianco 2009 ($26). Both of these choices are medium bodied with bold flavor and a soft texture.

Noodle Slap
Noodle Slap

**Note*** Men should definitely stay out of a female-dominated kitchen to avoid a big noodle slap when making a dish as good as this! Enjoy 🙂

Parsley and Fontina Cheese
Parsley and Fontina Cheese
Chicken-Mushroom-Spinach
Chicken-Mushroom-Spinach
Lasagna Ready For Oven
Lasagna Ready For Oven
Parmesan Garlic Crostini
Parmesan Garlic Crostini
Rooftop Sunset
Rooftop Sunset

Oh, and don’t forget the rooftop with great friends and an amazing view to top it all off. We had such an awesome time I’m already planning my next visit back to this gorgeous beach..

Dusk, Mission Beach San Diego
Dusk, Mission Beach San Diego

Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming about that fiery red glowing sunset… 🙂

California Dreamin’ :: Chicken, Wild Mushroom & Fontina Cheese Lasagna

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 10-12

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 medium onions, diced fine
  • 2 celery stalks, diced fine
  • 1 pound wild mushrooms (chanterelles, black trumpet, hen of woods), trimmed and washed, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pound spinach leaves, torn and washed, no stems
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus extra grease to pan
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • 16 dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 pound of Fontina cheese, diced or cut into medium-thin slices
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Prep all vegetables (chop onions, celery, spinach, mushrooms, parsley), cut up chicken and pat dry.
  2. Measure out all wet and dry ingredients (wine, cream, milk, flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, grated Parmesan).
  3. Cut Fontina cheese into small dice, or medium-thin slices for layering.
  4. Sauté celery and onions with salt and pepper over medium-low for 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add mushrooms, cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add spinach, salt and pepper, cook until wilted and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat and reserve.
  5. Add butter to same pot, adjust heat to medium. Season chicken on all sides with salt and pepper, add to butter. Cook stirring 6 minutes until chicken is browned. Add wine, simmer until almost reduced. Sprinkle flour over the chicken and cook, stirring for 5 mins, allowing flour to coat the chicken and absorb the liquid.
  6. Gradually stir in cream and milk, scraping pot, stirring with a whisk to break up cooked flour. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, allow liquid to thicken. Reserve 1 cup of liquid and remove pot from heat, add cooked mushroom and spinach mixture. Add parsley, season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Cook lasagna noodles 8 mins in salted water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with 2 tablespoons EVOO.
  8. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 baking pan. Layer 4 noodles on bottom. Top with 1/3 chicken mixture and 1/3 Fontina cheese. Repeat layers twice, finish with layer of noodles. Spread reserved sauce over noodles and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (can put in fridge or freezer at this point, tightly covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap).
  9. Cover with foil or lid and bake for 30 minutes. Increase heat to 400 degrees and remove foil and cook until golden brown and bubbly, another 10-15 mins.
  10. To make the Parmesan Garlic Crostini:
  11. Slice a loaf of Italian bread into 1/4-1/2 inch slices and drizzle with olive oil, shredded Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown and crunchy.
  12. Sprinkle the lasagna with chopped parsley, some extra grated cheese if desired, and serve with the parmesan garlic crostini.

Notes

Serve with a leafy green salad with a vinaigrette dressing, some crusty garlic bread and a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

The lasagna can be made a day ahead to save time, just keep it tightly covered with plastic wrap of foil and pop it in the oven when ready to bake.

Freezes well too - wrap in plastic and foil in individual portions and reheat in the microwave or oven.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2012/05/04/california-dreamin-chicken-wild-mushroom-fontina-lasagna/

 

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Roadtrip! Food and Fun :: Boston & Martha’s Vineyard

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VIEW SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS FROM BOSTON

Boston Waterfront
Boston Waterfront

I took the most amazing trip to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard over Labor Day holiday and fell in love. Boston is one of those places that feels like a big city but is actually pretty small and low-key if you ask me. I loved the slower pace, the still quietness of the South End on a Saturday night. The views of the harbor, the blue and white hues of sailboats and water surrounding the city’s edge. The amazing Italian food in the North End, the historic architecture all over the city and along the Freedom Trail, and the beautiful campus of Harvard University.

Charles River Sunset
Charles River Sunset

Watching the sunset at dusk over the Charles River. Amazing lobster and seafood on the harbor with views to match…and for a big city girl like me, I think I could live here one day.

The Colonnade Hotel Rooftop Pool
The Colonnade Hotel Rooftop Pool

We stayed at the amazing Colonnade Hotel (with a rooftop pool and bar!) in Back Bay.

Shop in Back Bay, Boston
Shop in Back Bay, Boston

The next day, we headed to Newbury Street in Back Bay for shopping…

Public Gardens, Boston
Public Gardens, Boston

then we wandered through the Public Gardens, heading to historic Charles Street to see all the beautiful old homes in Beacon Hill

The Hill Tavern
The Hill Tavern

before we stopped at The Hill Tavern for drinks and lunch.

Old City Hall
Old City Hall

We spent most of the day hiking the Freedom Trail to see all the old historic buildings and sites around town.

Shrimp & Polenta, Sibling Rivalry
Shrimp & Polenta, Sibling Rivalry

That night we had amazing dinner in the South End at Sibling Rivalry and had some delicious seafood.

Harvard University
Harvard University

Our last day there, we made our way to Harvard University and trekked around Cambridge! Boston is definitely small enough to see in a few days, but the views and slower pace will make you want to stay a lot longer.

Here’s a few places I went to that you don’t want to miss on your next trip to Boston:

The North End, Boston
The North End, Boston

North End (Boston’s Little Italy): If you are in the mood for Italian food and pastries, this is the place to go. Just head straight to Hanover Street and you’ll find a multitude of shops, restaurants and cafes, delis, pizzerias, bakeries, pubs and taverns. Many have lines out the door on a Friday night so reservations are highly recommended!

Lucca, The North End Boston
Lucca, The North End Boston

We had an amazing dinner at a really nice Italian restaurant called Lucca on N. Hanover Street (Grilled Veal with Truffled Mash and Asparagus) and Lobster Tagliatelle!

Cannoli from Mike's Pastry
Cannoli from Mike’s Pastry

Then we hit Mike’s Pastry for amazing cannolis and gelato. Um, YUM!

Giacomo's, The North End
Giacomo’s, The North End

Here’s a list of my favorite places in The North End that you don’t wanna miss: Lucca, Strega, Neptune Oyster, Giacomo’s, Fiore, Cantina Italiana, Dino’s Pizza and Subs, Mike’s Pastry, Modern Pastry.

Newbury Street, Back Bay
Newbury Street, Back Bay

Back Bay/South End These are two of Boston’s nicest neighborhoods in my opinion. Back Bay is the best place for shopping, art galleries, gardens, cuisine and culture in Boston. There are gorgeous historical homes and churches, clothing boutiques, spas and salons and fabulous restaurants to explore. Head to Newbury Street and make your way to the Public Garden to check out the Swan boats or just hang out in the park. The Charles River Esplanade is a great place to get a gorgeous view of the harbour and stroll along the river on a sunny day.

Sibling Rivalry, South End
Sibling Rivalry, South End

The South End is a tree-lined neighborhood known for its fine dining, art galleries, open market, restaurants and high end martini clubs and jazz bars. Head to Tremont Street and check out Sibling Rivalry, Stella, Tremont 647 for a nice dinner.

Enjoying a Blueberry Martini @ 28 Degrees
Enjoying a Blueberry Martini @ 28 Degrees

Then hit 28 Degrees for some great martinis..

The Beehive
The Beehive

and The Beehive for amazing live jazz and blues.

Seaport, Boston Harbor
Seaport, Boston Harbor

Waterfront/Seaport District – If you want a great view of the Boston Harbor, then you need to go to Waterfront and Seaport District. You can start in the North End near the Bunker Hill Bridge and then continue around Atlantic Ave to Christopher Columbus Park and view the harbor islands. From here you can walk to the Aquarium where there are several cruise lines that take you around the harbor. Head down to Rowes Wharf to check out the show cruise ships and Boston Harbor Hotel and Towers and then cross the old Northern Bridge to the Seaport District.

Legal Seafood
Legal Seafood

The two places I recommend for Waterfront Dining are the famous seafood restaurants Legal Sea Foods and across the street the Legal Test Kitchen

Shrimp Cocktail at LTK
Shrimp Cocktail at LTK

(we ate at LTK and I had the most amazing Shrimp Cocktail

Truffled Lobster Mac & Cheese, LTK
Truffled Lobster Mac & Cheese, LTK

and Truffled Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese – to die for!)

Tia's on the Waterfront
Tia’s on the Waterfront

For casual dining and terrific cocktails on the harbor, there’s no other place than Tia’s Restaurant and Bar on the Waterfront! Closer to the North End than the Seaport, but awesome place for happy hour and watching the sunset..

Martha’s Vineyard, MA

VIEW SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS FROM MARTHA’S VINEYARD

Vineyard Haven Harbor, MV
Vineyard Haven Harbor, MV

If there is ever a place I would like to go after retiring myself from the hustle and bustle of New York City, Martha’s Vineyard has to be top of my list. This charming island is the epitome of beautiful architecture, history, charm, quietness, tree-lined streets, locals, antiques and oh, seafood.

Vineyard Haven, MV
Vineyard Haven, MV

We took a train to Woods Hole from Boston and then took a ferry to Vineyard Haven, a lovely area of the island full of shops, restaurants, beautiful homes and even more stunning views of the ocean.

Black Dog Tavern
Black Dog Tavern

We strolled the streets for awhile and then made our way to the famous Black Dog Tavern, a restaurant and pub established in 1971,

Black Dog Clam Chowder
Black Dog Clam Chowder

famous for their Quahog (Clam) Chowder. Read my full review and get the recipe here!

The Edgartown Inn
The Edgartown Inn

Then we made our way to Edgartown, a quiet, beautiful little village on the island to check in to our Bed & Breakfast, The Edgartown Inn.

South Beach, Martha's Vineyard
South Beach, Martha’s Vineyard

We decided to hit the beach immediately, so we headed to South Beach, the smaller, quieter beach on the South side of the island.

The Edgartown Lighthouse
The Edgartown Lighthouse

After relaxing and watching the sunset, we decided to head over to the Edgartown Lighthouse

House in Edgartown
House in Edgartown

and take in the views of the beautiful old homes,

Edgartown Harbor
Edgartown Harbor

harbors and the Harbor View Hotel.

Lobster Bisque
Lobster Bisque

That night we hit The Seafood Shanty for some delicious Lobster Bisque, Seafood Pasta, and Grilled Scallops and Shrimp. Situated right on the harbor, this is a great place for fresh seafood and great waterfront views. The prices are pretty reasonable too! After we stuffed our faces, it was time to have some fun.

The Atlantic Restaurant
The Atlantic Restaurant

We headed down to a fun area near the harbor and stopped at a local pub, and ran into a wedding party who pretty much took over the whole center of town. To top off the night, we went to the Atlantic Fish & Chop House for a drink and headed back to crash out!

Vineyard Breakfast at Edgartown Inn
Vineyard Breakfast at Edgartown Inn

The next day it was raining so our plans to hit Aquinna Beach on the other side of the island were ruined, but we had an amazing “Vineyard Breakfast” at our B&B with homemade apple cinnamon coffee cake,

Awesome Breakfast at Edgartown Inn
Awesome Breakfast at Edgartown Inn

scrambled eggs and bacon and some juice and coffee. Such a cute place!

Chappy House
Chappy House

We walked off breakfast by strolling around on N. Water Street for awhile..

Main Street, Edgartown
Main Street, Edgartown

and then we took a stroll down Main Street to check out more beautiful old homes, bookstores, shops and antique stores before we had to leave.

Murdicks Fudge, Edgartown
Murdicks Fudge, Edgartown

One of my favorite finds was Murdick’s Fudge – delicious creamy fudge in about 10 different flavors! Who can resist that?

The Vincent House
The Vincent House

The Vincent House was also really cool – the original home built in 1672 was actually transported into Edgartown and you can tour the house to see the classic Vineyard architecture and antique furnishings.

The Vincent House, MV
The Vincent House, MV

Imagine cooking in a big old fireplace like this–Love the cast iron pots!!)

VIncent House Garden
VIncent House Garden

This was definitely one of the most fun trips I’ve taken in a while..and I’ll most definitely be back (maybe for good!)

Edgartown Harbor
Edgartown Harbor
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Looking Back on 2010: Top Food Finds in NYC

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New Years Eve

Wow. It’s New Years Eve already. The last day of the year. The last hurrah. It seems like last years New Years Eve celebration was just yesterday! I guess the old saying “time flies when you’re having fun” really is true. As I look back on the past year, I am thankful for where I am now, through the good times and bad times, the heartbreaks and newfound loves, for personal and professional growth and for friends and family that laughed and cried with me along the way. I’ve also fully realized my passion and love for food and cooking, writing and photography and all the amazing culinary gems and talent at my fingertips in New York City, the greatest food city in the world (well at least ONE of the greatest!!)

I am so lucky to live in the heart of Manhattan and to wake up every day with excitement just walking down the street and discovering a new restaurant, food artisan, or market on every corner. To meet a culinary genius and entrepreneur who is as passionate about food as I am. An ordinary dish or menu item made new. An atmosphere with a buzz you can’t resist. Customer service that makes you feel like a local and welcomes you with a smile and a hello by name when you walk in the door.  A unique dish that is so delicious you dream about when you can go back and get more.  As I look back on the last day of 2010, I salute the following restaurants and food artisans for all of the above, and most of all their passion and dedication to making delicious food and making me realize once again why I live in this wonderful city with all the culinary delights it has to offer. Wishing all of you a Happy New Year and prosperous 2011. SALUT!

Stuffed Artisan Cannolis

I first discovered these guys at Madison Square Park food market this Fall and ran into them again at the Union Square Holiday market. A small shop in the Lower East Side that specializes in over 20 different flavors of homemade artisan flavored cannolis such as Almond Joy, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter Cup, Cookies and Crème, Chocolate Mint and more. They even sell “make-your-own” cannoli kits with all the tools and ingredients so you can have a cannoli party and impress your mates with these delicious little sweets.

176 Stanton St. (between Clinton & Attorney St) |  212.995.2266

www.stuffedcannoli.com

Spices and Tease

Meet Bruno and Francois from Spices and Tease – the Italian-French 
native exotic tea and spice vendor duo in Madison Square Park, New
York City. Animated and full of life, cousins Bruno and Francois greet
 each customer with a smile and a warm invitation to enter their tent and 
experience the delightful sights and smells of their euphoric selection of 
hand-crafted and fragrant top-of-the-line tea, herbs and spice concoctions 
that they have imported from Europe and around the world. Try the Smoked
 Paprika, the Provence French Sea Salt, Kir Royale Tea and the Salad Spice Mix – fresh,
fantastic and flavorful! These guys are truly spicing things up in the New York 
City food scene. If you’re ever in New York City, you can find them at the local
 street markets all over the city. They are also launching their online store soon so you can buy these goodies all year around. A MUST try, MUST see!

www.spicesandtease.com

Bar Suzette: World Crepe Bar

Located in the Chelsea Market, Bar Suzette makes the most amazingly delicious crepes that are highly addictive. They offer both sweet and savory crepes – Nutella and Spicy Coconut crepes, Ricotta, Fig and Honey crepes, French Onion Soup made with sweet onions and melted Gruyere cheese, Chicken Curry crepes, and Ham and Cheese crepes are just a few of their classic and innovative flavor combinations that will knock your socks off! I also discovered these guys at the food markets in Madison Square Park and Union Square – friendly, laid back and fun – they’ll make you a fresh crepe on their hot crepe irons right before your eyes and you’ll never be the same!

524 W. 15th St, Manhattan NY 10014  |  917.207.7552

http://www.yelp.com/biz/bar-suzette-manhattan

Schnitzel & Things

Food trucks have become a hot new item in NYC and LA. There are at least 10 of them that hang out on different days of the week near my office on Park Ave South and Schnitzel & Things is definitely one of my favs! These guys make three different types of schnitzel: Chicken, Pork and Cod along with a variety of different sides to accompany such as Braised Red Cabbage, Austrian Potato Salad and Chickpea Salad. The schnitzels are pounded thin, lightly breaded and fried golden to perfection served with a lemon wedge. They also serve unique condiments such as Pesto Mayo, Chipolte Sour Cream and Ginger, Scallion and Garlic to add another layer of delicious flavor to the dish. Keep an eye out for the truck around town – you’ll be a devoted fan with just one bite!

http://www.schnitzelandthings.com/

Bar Stuzzicini

Bar Stuzzichini is a fine Italian dining excursion in the Flatiron District with a gorgeous interior and authentic Italian dishes and small plates. My friend and I discovered this place earlier this year because of their Happy Hour special from 4:30-6:30 Monday through Friday: order a drink and you get a complimentary small plate of your choice off the menu. My favorites are the Arancini Rice Balls filled with loads of melted parmesan cheese, the small plate of Spicy Meatballs and Sauce and a glass of bubbly Prosecco. They also serve Brunch on Sunday with an Italian Jazz trio from 12:30-3:30 for only $18 a person which includes your choice of 1 “Stuzzi”, 1 Entrée and a Glass of Prosecco. Totally worth the visit!

928 Broadway, New York City |  212.780.5100

www.barstuzzichini.com

Casaville

I recently moved to Murray Hill last Summer on 34th and 2nd Ave and discovered this Turkish Moroccan gem the day I moved. My friend and I sat outside on the patio with their adorable tiled tables and enormous palm trees and order a glass of vino and fresh made hummous and pita to take a break from the moving madness and fell in love with the atmosphere, the food and the service. The owner came by and greeted us personally and welcomed me to the neighborhood with a complimentary round of drinks on the house. They offer a unique menu of hot and cold Tapas and Small Plates including Steak and Frites, Chicken and Mushroom Croquettes, Moules Frites and Citronelle,  Cheese Plates, Moroccan Soup, Couscous, Garlic Shrimp and more. Their Tagines are their signature dish, chicken, salmon, lamb shank or mixed seafood baked with vegetables and sauce in a Moroccan Clay Pot. Their Paella and fresh Sangria is to die for! On weekends, the bar is buzzing, the music fills the streets, and you can even enjoy live bellydancing for some extra entertainment. One of my favorite finds so far this year! (And yes, I am a regular patron and do receive a warm welcome one every visit!)

633 2nd Avenue, NYC 10016 | 212.685.8558

www.casavillenyc.com

La Esquina

A unique little joint located in Noho, La Esquina is the best Mexican food in town, at least in my opinion. They have a Taqueria (takeout), Brasserie and a Café and food to die for. Their fresh and authentic tacos and burritos are bursting with flavor all made with fresh corn tortillas, homemade salsa verde and macha, and topped with queso fresco, onions, avocado and cilantro. Their grilled Mexican corn and quesadillas are delicious too and they have a variety of frozen and fruit margaritas to cool off your mouth on fire! Word of warning: the Taqueria is tiny but cozy with bar stools and a line out the door, so be prepared for a wait that is definitely worth the experience and tasty treat!

106 Kenmare St, NYC 10012 | 646.613.7100

http://www.esquinanyc.com/

Cask Bar + Kitchen

This Classic Vintage Bar is a unique place in Murray Hill that has a 100-year-old restored wood floor and antique bar. They offer hand drawn cask conditioned beers and craft beers and an extensive wine list. They also have a Cellar Bar downstairs for private parties and events. The dinner menu includes a variety of Small Plates, Burgers, Flatbreads, Salads and Big Plates and they also offer Cheese Plates and Charcuterie if you just want some delicious munchies at the bar. I fell in love with their Truffle Mac ‘n Cheese – made with black truffles, aged white cheddar and Reggiano cheese. This dish literally melts in your mouth with a creamy mixture of flavors and perfectly crunchy breadcrumb topping. The Meatball Sampler is a must-try served with Beef, Lamb and Pork meatballs and Marinara, Wholegrain Mustard and Tomato Chipolte dipping sauces to accompany. Stop by for a drink and some delicious small plates or for Brunch or Traditional Roast Dinner every Sunday.

167 E. 33rd St (Btw 3rd & Lex) |  212.300.4924

www.casknyc.com

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Kristen in Wonderland: Eataly NYC

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Welcome to Eataly – a journey through Mario Batali’s
Italian Wonderland

Ah, Eataly. The hottest buzzword in the New York food scene over the past few months. Grand Opening: August 31st, 2010. Mario Batali and Lidia Bastanich’s dream child venue – I needed to get there. Fast.

After hearing all the buzz about this grand Italian Wonderland, I decided to make several attempts to get a quick glance at this gem, but after two attempts of around-the-block lines of people, I started getting discouraged, as my anticipation grew to get a peek at this amazing palace, just taunting me with the sight of it. I could only peek through the windows with my jaws open, chomping at the bit to get in there. As if I were peering through the looking glass, into another land, surreal and far away from mine.

spices and tease

After waiting over a month to get in this place, I was determined to make my way in and begin my foodie excursion. One Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend and I went on a stroll to Madison Square Park, and on the way encountered a pop-up mini food festival and market. There we bought a variety of fresh herbs and spices and French salt concoctions, and then bought some artisan cannolis (Almond Joy coconut and chocolate, Pistachio Cream, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup – um, heaven!) while taking in all the other food stand delights, all the while holding ourselves back to pigging out on fresh Bavarian pretzels, gourmet burritos and Fatty Cue BBQ, knowing our Eataly destination was next.

espresso machine

When we arrived at Eataly, the line was surprisingly non-existent and we bolted through the front door like a couple of kids in a candy shop. We walked in the Coffee Bar entrance, and immediately my eyes grew large and my blood started pumping, taking in the crowds and grandeur of this palatial food hall. First stop: the Cappuccino/Espresso Bar with its enormous, shiny espresso machine and customers milling around it as if they were sitting in a café on the sidewalks of Italy, crowding around the bar, sipping their strong shots of Italian roast, with not a care in the world but to laugh and tell stories with their friends for hours on end. A few counters down and across were imported chocolates and homemade fine desserts such as pastry tarts and mousses, tiramisu and the like. My heart was really pumping now.

desserts

As we passed down the hallway, the floor to ceiling shelves seemed to swallow us in with rows of Lavender Honey, Italian teas, nuts and other bite-sized delights that flickered before our eyes at every angle. I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, who fell down the rabbit hole and woke up in a strange, new land – intriguing and familiar, enticing and strange. I wanted to explore more and this was just the beginning.

salumi

We made our way down to the Salumi area and picked up some Italian Proscuitto, spicy Sopressata and a big block of Parmigiana Reggiano – hmmm, appetizers for our Italian feast I have already started creating in my mind. Fontina, Romano, sheeps milk cheese, the selection was endless and daunting. The seafood counter was next, with shiny silver, pink and red whole fish, smoked salmon, baby octopus, clams, mussels, shark and swordfish. Some of the creatures were a bit eerie and scary, but fresh and beautifully displayed on ice with handwritten signs describing the fare.

seafood

Next we entered The Piazza – the grand food hall in the center of Eataly with grand arches and domed ceilings carved in fine architectural detail. You could feel a buzz in the air and the energy of a European outdoor marketplace where the Italians gather with family and friends for an all day feast. It emanated a sense of awe and drama, with its tall ceilings, food and wine stations in every corner, a bar and tall tables with stools in the center, as the waiters flew by with massive platters of gourmet cheese, fresh sliced meats, crusty bread and tall flowing glasses wine. I felt a bit claustrophobic as people were fighting their way through the crowds to get a seat in this hectic maze of food heaven.  I was excited. Amazed. I felt as if we had arrived at the Queen’s palace in all its glory and I wanted in.

piazza

We sat at the bar and ordered an Italian dry red, as we sampled some bread and cheese on a cutting board, watching the other patrons eat and drink with a zest for life. In one corner there was a fresh Mozzarella bar, around the corner “Il Pesce”, the seated counter raw bar and antipasto area. We took our wine glasses with us and made our way to the book store near the beer and wine area, and down to La Pizza & La Pasta, a seated counter and table area that serves artisanal dried and fresh pastas and Napoleon 10” pizzas. The smell of baked bread and garlic overwhelmed us as my hunger grew to find my own tasty morsels to whip up an Italian feast at home.

fresh pasta

We made our way to the shelved dry goods, an array of pastas, olive oils, imported cans of tomatoes, capers, artichokes and balsamic vinegars and my hunt became full on for the perfect ingredients for our feast. We bought some whole Cherry tomatoes, Extra Virgin olive oil and garlic, fresh Italian bread, artichokes and jarred basil pesto. I felt dizzy by the overwhelming selection of imported goods, and eventually our shopping cart was so heavy, we needed to take a quick rest from all the madness. We found a hidden kitchen in the back corner of the venue, where Lidia Bastanich holds cooking demos and classes and wine tastings, known as “La Scuola”. This kitchen was stocked and fit for a King as we sat in awe, sipping our wine.

balsamic vinegars

Our journey was slowly coming to an end, 2 hours later, and we passed through Manzo, the formal dining, and meat-centric restaurant, headed up by chef Mike Toscano. It was dark and moody, with a quiet elegant atmosphere. We felt a bit out of place as we snuck through to get back to the main hall to find our way out. We passed the Rotisserie meats bar, eyeing the roasted chickens and meats, and stood at the crossroads signage trying to figure out where to check out. With a slight head buzz from our wine, we passed through the gourmet hall once again, eyeing the chocolates and coffees and desserts. I resisted as the tiramisu and layered cakes and tarts taunted me from the countertops, as my taste buds said yes, and my wallet said no. Pure Torture.

rotisserie chicken

We finally made our way out and headed home, anxious to savor our Italian goodies and prepare our feast. Cracking open a bottle of red, we crushed the cherry tomatoes and garlic, sautéed the zucchini in olive oil, and threw in the parsley and garlic salt we bought from the Spice vendor in the park and our sauce was underway. Sipping our wine and waiting for the Spinach penne and Garlic bread to cook, we nibbled on breadsticks and basil pesto and smiled at each other as I grated the fresh Parmigania Reggiano for our pasta dish.

spinach pasta with cherry tomato sauce

I felt proud and accomplished, as if I had gone to a strange land on an adventure and learned something new. Bettered myself in some way. A fantastical getaway, if only for a moment…I was happy and complete. It felt good to be in the comfort of my own home, enjoying a homemade Italian meal with my man on a Sunday evening. Check. Mission Complete.

Check out all the pictures from my foodie excursion here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=314572&id=775480967 or in my Flickr Photo album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artfulgourmet/sets/72157625504117944/

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Jalapeno-Cheddar Meatloaf w/ Savory Tomato Gravy

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meatloaf tomato gravy

On a cold and rainy Sunday evening last November, I needed to warm my bones and fill my belly with something comforting and delicious, that reminded me of home, and what better dish to make than some homemade meatloaf and gravy? I found a few old recipes in my Mom’s cookbook collection and saw one from Southern Living that had Jalapeño and Cheddar cheese included and thought this was a winner! I added a few ingredients of my own and it turned out absolutely delicious – with just the right amount of spice in the meatloaf topped in a savory creamy tomato gravy, along with some buttery mashed potatoes and sauteed zucchini in garlic and olive oil on the side. A glass of red wine to top it off and voila! I was as snug as a bug in a rug on that cold rainy November night.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Meatloaf with Savory Tomato Gravy

Yield: 4-6

Ingredients

  • Jalapeno-Cheddar Meatloaf:
  • 1 pound Ground Sirloin (90% lean)
  • 1/2 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 zucchini, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped fine (6-8 slices)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/2 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dales Steak Sauce (soy sauce/garlic marinade)
  • Dash of Montreal Steak seasoning
  • Black Pepper to taste
  • -----
  • Savory Tomato Gravy:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of Montreal Steak seasoning

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Saute the chopped onion, garlic and zucchini in olive oil over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together, sprinkle spicy Montreal seasoning on top, and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees uncovered. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  3. Serve with Tomato Gravy (recipe below) and sauteed zucchini and garlic in olive oil with mashed potatoes.
  4. Savory Tomato Gravy:
  5. Melt butter in small saucepan; whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth and tomato sauce; reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Whisk in salt and pepper and dash of steak seasoning.
http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2010/11/16/jalapeno-cheddar-meatloaf-w-savory-tomato-gravy/

Recipe adapted from Southern Living and my Mom and Grandmother’s recipes.

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