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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Make the Bechamel Sauce:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.
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.
Assemble the casserole:
Grease an 11x16-inch baking dish or casserole dish and sprinkle the bottom lightly with?breadcrumbs.
Arrange alternate layers of the zucchini/eggplant and potatoes and meat sauce?in the pan, sprinkling each layer with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the top and sprinkle some additional Parmesan cheese on top. Bake 1 hour, or until top is golden.
Remove from the oven and cool 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Top with additional chopped fresh parsley. Cut into squares and serve.
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.
One of my favorite things to do in the world is traveling – especially with my group of awesome girlfriends. We usually do a few group trips a year as we all live in different parts of the country: Nashville, NYC, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia, LA..etc.
We decided to do a road trip to Houston, Texas this time around for a fun weekend of awesome food, cocktails and a trip to the annual Houston Rodeo! What a blast we had! I have to admit I’ve never been to a rodeo before but it was truly impressive watching those cowboys riding bulls and cowgirls racing around the rodeo field.
We even got to see the country star Billy Currington perform live, fireworks and all!
Another fun experience was the Pedal Party around the Montrose area of Houston – there was 15 of us on this big mobile beer wagon with music, a tour guide, bartenders, lots of beer, and we pedaled our way around this fun neighborhood bar hopping and drinking, eating…and drinking some more…
..so much fun!!!
Of course one of my missions on any trip is finding amazing food in each town we visit – and we had plenty of it! We had a truly delicious brunch at Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette – a great place with an outdoor patio and great food!
I got to meet Executive Chef Travis Lenig which was a delight. We ordered a feast fit for a king and his crew! Lobster Mac & Cheese, Buffalo Mac & Cheese, fresh Gulf oysters, pitchers and pitchers of Mimosas, Bourbon Maple Bacon, Eggs Benedict, Southern Biscuits, Tuna Tartare, Homemade Bacon Jam, Crispy Fish & Chips and were treated to Coconut Cream Pie and Bourbon Bread Pudding for dessert, compliments of the house! Click here to check out their awesome menu.
Bourbon Maple Bacon
Lobster Mac & Cheese
Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese
Salmon Eggs Benedict
Crispy Cod Fish & Chips
Crispy Cod Fish Sammie
Chef Travis & Jackie
Bourbon Bread Pudding
Coconut Cream Pie
Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette
Our awesome autographed menu
Gosh we are a spoiled crew. And we laughed our heads off with great conversation and autographed the menu (as we always do on our girls trips) for a fun keepsake. Such an awesome restaurant sitting outside on the patio in the sunshine and excellent hospitality and service..highly recommend a visit there if you’re ever in Houston!
We also decided to cook for St. Patty’s Day at my friend Pam’s house – I made a delicious Irish Stout Beef Stew, (click here for the recipe!)
a lovely fresh salad with greens from her garden, along with some Sourdough bread and red wine (and Guinness Stout!) to accompany…
with Butterfinger Pie for dessert! O.M.G. How delicious that was with a warm chocolate fudge sauce on top! YOWZA.
Such a great group of girlfriends and it was awesome making new friends too in the friendly state of Texas! Next on the map? The Hamptons in July and Austin in October! Stay tuned!
Check out more fun photos below from the trip!
Irish Stout Beef Stew Recipe
1 cup seasoned pan-searing flour
4 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 pounds boneless chuck beef or sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 bottles Irish stout beer (like Guinness)
1 14-ounce can low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste, mixed with 1/4 cup of water
2 cups baby carrots or large carrot chunks
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered into chunks
4-5 turnips, cut into large chunks
¼ cup corn starch or roux thickener and water slurry (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Sourdough or Irish Brown Bread and butter, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat in a large cast iron enamel braising pan or Dutch oven.
Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes, dredge with seasoned pan-searing flour and brown in 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add sliced onions to the pan along with another 2 tablespoons of canola oil and saute for about 5 minutes until tender. Add the 2 tablespoons of minced garlic and saute another minute.
Add Guinness beer and cook with onions for a few minutes, stirring and scraping pan to loosen the brown bits. Add the beef broth and cook for another few minutes.
Return the seared beef to the pot, add the tomato paste mixture, baby carrots, potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil.
Cover and place the pot into the oven and let the goods simmer for about an hour. Remove from oven, stir and reduce heat to 300 degrees. At this point, if the stew is not thick enough for your liking, add a slurry of starch or roux thickener mixed with some water (about 1/4 cup) into the stew and stir well throughout. You can also smash a few of the potatoes to thicken it up a little bit.
Add the turnips and place the stew pot back in the oven to braise for another 30 minutes to an hour.
Let the stew cool on top of the stove uncovered for about 15-20 minutes to let it thicken. Serve with Sourdough or Irish Brown Bread and butter with a fresh green salad and a glass of Guinness Stout or red wine.
I had the recent opportunity to have an intimate conversation with Trevor Kunk, Chef de Cuisine of Blue Hill New York about their history, philosophy, cuisine and thoughts on their recent James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant 2013.
We sat in the charming back patio garden room as he told me the story of the Barber Family, Blue Hill Farm, his Southern Florida upbringing and Culinary Institute of America training, and how he found his culinary calling at of one of New York’s most premiere farm-to-table restaurants. When I asked him what he thought made Blue Hill win this most distinguished and notable award, he simply stated, “we consistently produce delicious, fresh food.” After our conversation, it’s clear to see why.
With over 138 acres in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Blue Hill Farm has been in the Barber family for three generations and served as the inspiration behind both Blue Hill restaurants. Blue Hill Farm was originally a dairy, and was converted into a cattle farm by the Barber’s grandmother Ann Marlowe Straus, in the 1960s. She believed strongly in preserving land and connecting great farming and delicious food, which she passed on to them. Dan began farming and cooking for family and friends at the farm, and it is there that grew passionate about locally grown and seasonal produce.
In 2006 the brothers decided to redesign Blue Hill Farm back to its original form, and brought in local farmer Sean Stanton to manage the land. The farm is home to chickens, pigs, dairy cows, and laying hens, supplies the restaurants with vegetables and grass-fed meats.
BLUE HILL NEW YORK
In 2000, Blue Hill New York opened in Greenwich Village, New York City. A small intimate space, the restaurant occupies a historical “speakeasy” near Washington Square Park. It is both elegant and casual, serving seasonal American cuisine that celebrates the delicious offerings from the Hudson Valley.
Blue Hill’s menu highlights local food, cocktails, beer and wines from regional Tri-State artisanal producers. The majority of the ingredients come from nearby farms, as well as Blue Hill Farm in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, located in Pocantico Hills, NY.
In addition to Blue Hill’s a la carte menu, they also offer a 5-course Farmer’s Feast and a 7-course extended Farmer’s Feast, bothinspired by the week’s harvest, and have a regular seasonal menu that changes depending on what produce, poultry, meats and seafood are in season to offer the freshest foods possible. Asparagus, Rhubarb, Radishes and Fiddlehead Ferns are abundant on the current Spring menu, which will change as soon as the weather warms up to Summer months, bringing in a flux of new seasonal fruits and vegetables to feature.
They offer a variety of fresh and locally sourced Farm Snacks such as Blue Hill Farm Yogurt, Parsnips, Beets and Oats or the “Farm Bar” served with Goat Cheese and Strawberries. There are plenty of gorgeous, creative appetizers to start the meal too: Chilled Asparagus Soup with Pickled Green Garlic, Walnut Bread and Sorrel; Emu Egg Pasta; or Stone Barns Butterhead Lettuce Salad with Fiddlehead Ferns, Pickled Cauliflower and Hazelnuts.
They serve Raven and Boar’s Pig year around, but their Hudson Valley Chickens are only served from May through November when their pasture raised chickens are in their prime and able to run around and feed outside. They serve local shellfish such as Shrimp and Squid with Spring Vegetables and fresh Tarragon; Grass-Fed Lamb with Asparagus, Knotweed and Alliums; and Rotation Risotto with 12 local grains and seeds made with Brassica Puree and Chocolate Wheat. Desserts are also made with fresh fruits and ingredients from surrounding farms –Olive Oil Cake with fresh pears, brown butter and toasted almond ice cream and a Chocolate Bread Pudding made with salted caramel, pine nuts and cocoa nib ice cream are a few house specialties.
Their cocktails and bar menu mimic the culinary program and support local farms by using NY State and domestic distilleries, wineries and ingredients from Blue Hill Farm and local Hudson Valley farms. They make their own bitters and sweet vermouth in-house, and have a ‘bartender garden’ where they grow their own herbs and plants, including wormwood used to infuse vodka, which is then muddled with fennel and chartreuse to create their own absinthe.
BLUE HILL AT STONE BARNS CENTER AND BLUE HILL CAFE
Sourcing from the surrounding fields and pasture, as well as other local farms in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, Blue Hill at Stone Barns is an elegant restaurant that highlights the abundant resources of the Hudson Valley. There are no menus there, instead guests choose from a variety of fresh daily ingredients from the field and market.
Blue Hill Café offers light snacks, farm-fresh lattes and other locally grown and baked goodies, available to eat in the courtyard or take on a walk around the farm.
Shop for seasonal jams and pickles, rhubarb jam and pickled sunchokes in the Spring or apple butter and pickled cucumbers in the Fall. You can also shop for Blue Hill Farm Market items online.
The non-profit Stone Barns Center offers plenty of cooking classes and demos using local seasonal ingredients taught by well-known chefs and food artisans. You can also try your hand at some of their fun farm activities such as hands-on egg collecting, ice cream making, foraging for wild plants, making natural herbal remedies or maple tapping on the farm.
Visitors can also get a behind-the-scenes insider’s tour of Stone Barns, or attend one of their special events centered on farming and agriculture, such as the Sheep Shearing Festival in April or the Young Farmers Conference held in 2012. Check out this great video about Stone Barns Center’s mission to support a healthy and sustainable food system.
Blue Hill New York is open for dinner 7 days a week, and also hosts elegant events and private parties at its two restaurant locations and off-site venues. Whether it’s a trip to the farm or an elegant dinner in the city, Blue Hill certainly has earned its James Beard title for Outstanding Restaurant without a shadow of a doubt.
Blue Hill is a longstanding member of the NYS Restaurant Association (since joining in 2000), and is grateful for all the positive work NYSRA does to support their restaurants and businesses.
Blue Hill New York
75 Washington Place
New York, New York 10011
T 212 539 1776 (reservations and general information)
F 212 539 0959
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.
This is a fun trip that started last year with an amazing group of friends and has now turned into a yearly tradition.
Seven of my friends and I rented a gorgeous beach house on Mission Beach in San Diego –
Our house had two levels, two kitchens, five bedrooms, a beach front patio, two grills, plus another two patios outside,
all with stunning views of the ocean from every angle and every room.
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.
enjoying each other’s company with a Corona or two…
taking in the stunning views..
people watching on the boardwalk..
and making new friends.
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.
No crazy traffic or cars honking, just beautiful beaches and cool, relaxed people up early for morning jogs and bike rides, swaying palm trees,
hazy blue and pink sunrises, and breathtakingbright magenta and orange sunsets that will blow you away.
The boardwalk is lined with colorful pastel houses and bungalows that look like Jordan almonds lined up in the sand.
We took daily walks down the beach, watching the surfers and volleyball players,
catching some rays down by Crystal Pier while gazing out into the turquoise blue water.
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.
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,
and frolicking on the beach at sunset like fools.
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 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.
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!
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).
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..)
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.
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!
My Mexican menu included fresh Pico de Gallo, fresh Guacamole with lots of cilantro and lime and some jalapeno,
Grilled Marinated Steak with Lemon and Herbs and Sauteed Lime and Tequila Shrimp to go with the tortillas for tacos and burritos,
I also made a cheesy baked Chicken Enchilada Casserole,
Red Mexican Rice, Tortillas, Sour Cream, Warm Queso Cheese Dip, Hot Sauce and PLENTY ofMargaritas to go around for at least three more days.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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
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.
Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin, salt and pepper, and hot sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Cover with plastic wrap tightly and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or more to let the flavors meld.
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.
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
Wash and drain shrimp, and place in a medium bowl.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
Place casserole dish in the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with chopped cilantro and sour cream.
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.
Good Food Ireland, the first-ever, all industry network driving food tourism in Ireland, kicks off its international debut in the U.S.. Seeking to promote innovations in contemporary Irish cuisine and the country’s commitment to sustainable, authentic products, the organization also hopes to inspire Americans to travel to Ireland to experience and engage with its citizens and culture.
Good Food Ireland was established by Margaret Jeffares to link the agri/food sector with the hospitality industry. It was her philosophy that by supporting Irish farmers and producers, she could establish a healthy business environment where commercial opportunities for agriculture could be promoted through tourism and visa-versa.
“It is my mission to grow Ireland as a food tourism destination and to establish the ‘Good Food Ireland’ brand as the brand of choice for good food lovers everywhere,” says Jeffares. “One of Ireland’s greatest secrets is its locally produced ingredients and Good Food Ireland aims to set the standard for quality across a variety of industries – agriculture, food, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality.”
The premise is that by creating trusted and authentic Irish food experiences, Good Food Ireland will drive business to the hospitality sector and that, in turn,
inspires consumer purchase of more Irish food from farmers and purveyors,
contributing greatly to the local Irish economy.
Good Food Ireland’s U.S. launch includes:
They have kicked off the debut of Good Food Ireland Approved Provider foods at Dean and DeLuca’s flagship store in NYC, featuring the highest quality food the island has to offer. The foods available for sale in the Dean and DeLuca Store include:
In addition, there’s the opportunity to meet the people behind the products. Special offers and recipes are also available online, and I’ve included a few below.
2 shallots finely chopped
1 lb salmon, filleted and skinned
1 Tablespoon Kerrygold butter
5 fl oz dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Mashed Potatoes – no cream no butter
For the Coating:
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 oz soft white breadcrumbs
Pre-heat oven to 200c/400fgas 6
Butter and season a tray. Sprinkle with the shallots and sit the salmon on top. Drizzle with white wine and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 8- 10 minutes – the salmon should be firm to touch but still pink in the middle .
Sit the salmon in a colander over a pan to collect all the juices.
When all the juices have drained, place in a small pot and reduce on a stove to a nice syrup consistency.
Break up the salmon into flakes, add the syrup and chopped parsley, then fold in the potato until you have a binding texture. Check for seasoning and roll into 12 to 18 ball shaped cakes.
To Breadcrumb – Lightly pass through the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs, repeat the process again.
To Cook – Deep fry at 180c/ 350f for 4-5 minutes drain well.
Serving suggestion: Serve 3 per portion on a bed of steamed baby spinach and lemon butter sauce.
2 oz Porridge Oats
7 fl oz Milk
Heat the milk, add porridge oats and cook for 1 min serve with honey or salt.
Bircher Muesli made with Irish Porridge Oats
5 oz porridge oats
1 oz Irish honey
20 fl oz milk
14 oz natural yogurt
4 oz sultanas (raisins)
1 whole Banana, chopped
1 apple, grated
4 oz blueberries
Combine ingredients and devour!!
Good Food Ireland sets strict criteria for Approved Provider status based on a core commitment to using local Irish ingredients and operating at a standard that is “best in class” and its branding on packaging of authentic Irish products is already recognized as the standard bearer of the industry. Beyond food products, the Good Food Ireland brand can also be used by hotels, restaurants & cafes, cookery schools and markets that meet Good Food Ireland standards. To date there are 450 Approved Providers that ensure consumers that all products and services bearing the brand meet the strictest “best in class” standards. All products and service standards are independently assessed.
Since Good Food Ireland was founded approximately five years ago, almost 70% of its Approved Providers have increased their business profile or heightened their awareness of local food. As a result, 92% have increased their purchasing of Irish food over the last 3 years, directly contributing close to 50 million euro to the local economy. (Source: Grant Thornton Survey – April 2012).
The Good Food Ireland Food Experience Awards celebrates excellence in food experience, the Food Lovers’ Choice Award lets you have your say. Simply vote for your favourite shortlisted GFI Approved Provider from the list below. The provider that gets the most votes will be announced on November 20th in the Shelbourne Hotel and presented with an award from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D.
About Good Food Ireland:
Good Food Ireland is a grassroots industry network aimed at promoting innovations in Irish food, the country’s commitment to sustainable, authentic products across food, hospitality and travel industries – incorporating farmers, chefs, hoteliers and outposts of cultural interest. The organization seeks to promote its authentic products in the U.S. and to inspire Americans to travel to Ireland to experience the contemporary cuisine and engage with its citizens and culture. The cross section of agriculture, food & culinary, production/manufacturing and tourism industries seek to grow and sustain the Irish economy.
On a recent trip to Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend I discovered this awesome Big Green Egg grill. If you haven’t seen one of these things – its totally cool and easy to use. And it’s BIG. And GREEN. And looks like and EGG. It’s actually a ceramic grill and smoker that reaches temperatures up to 700 degrees F and has the ability to grill, smoke or steam everything on the planet in about 15-20 minutes. Very cool. We made a delicious Thai Sea Bass in Banana Leaves recipe from their Big Green Egg Cookbook and for our big BBQ party we smoked some amazing Texas-style Beef Brisket for about 11 hours and grilled a ton of fresh veggies from the farmer’s market. The result? Perfectly cooked crispy veggies and BBQ with a charred seasoned crust to DIE for – if only I could have one of these cool tools on my NYC rooftop, life would be even sweeter than it already is!
It’s funny how when you live in Manhattan, going to another part of town feels like going to another country at times. I discovered this cool market on a recent excursion to the Upper East Side when I went to a book launch party at Candle 79 for Michael Natkin of Herbivoracious. It’s more than a grocery store, and its not just a farmers market. Butterfield’s has an amazing bakery full of fresh baked breads, pastries, cookies, pies, tarts and cakes that will make you feel like you’re on a little hidden street in Paris. Rows and rows of fresh fruits and veggies, cheeses, frozen yogurt, gourmet prepared meals, sushi, sandwiches, soups and salads, imported goodies (chocolates, oils and vinegars, jams, caviar, coffees and teas..the list goes on) in their gift shop and a great catering menu to boot. Definitely worth paying a visit even if it means taking a trip to the other side of the world (just kidding!) or you can check them out and order some goods online.
I recently attended The Manhattan Cocktail Classic – a really cool event in a private suite at the Andaz Hotel sponsored by Mandarin Napolean liquor brand. The waitresses were decked out in French costumes, the lounge suite had old B&W movies with backgammon and zengo games on the table – and the outdoor bar had some really unique cocktails they whipped up featuring this delicious Belgian liqueur – a rich Sicilian Mandarin orange flavor-infused luscious brandy. Mandarin Sours, Belgian Coffee, Mandarin and Tonic, and Mandarine Mojitos are just a few of the creative cocktails we sampled at the event. The story goes that Napolean actually created the idea for this unique liquor back in 1892, by soaking Mandarin oranges in cognac – Mandarin oranges were a symbol of wealth and power, a perfect blend for the powerful ruler – and a legend to this day.
Manducatis Rustica is a cool little Italian place in Long Island City, run by owner and head Chef Mamma Gianna. They serve classic rustic Italian dishes and fresh pasta such as Lasagna, Wood-fired Pizzas, Antipasti, Chicken Piccatta, and Lobster Ravioli in Sage Lemon Butter and more. What’s even cooler are the life-sized statues out front, imported from Italy (which according to Mamma Gianna won’t be there much longer, so visit while you can!) and their famous homemade gelato in tons of different flavors like Pistachio, Mocha, Lemon and Tiramisu..mmmm!
I don’t know about you, but I’m an absolute sucker for a mean Grilled Cheese sandwich. Enter Melt Shop, the ultimate hot shop for comfort food in Midtown Manhattan, run by Spencer Rubin and Chef Katy Sparks. They offer 13 different kinds of gourmet Grilled Cheese sandwiches – try the Truffle Melt made with Havarti, Arugula, fresh cracked black pepper and truffle oil, or the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Melt full of Jalapeno-Jack cheese, red cabbage slaw and Melt sauce, or the 12-hour Braised Pulled Pork with sharp cheddar, dill pickles and homemade BBQ sauce. Their Tater Tots are amazing and come with 5 different types of dipping sauces like Parsley Pesto or Truffle Mayo, and they also serve a great list of Breakfast Sandwiches, Wraps and Biscuits and have a few tempting desserts and handmade milkshakes on the menu too. Don’t forget a side of Homemade Tomato Soup to dip your Grilled Cheese in for the classic comfort food fix.
Handpainted and made to order by RTR Packaging, these bags are just chic, creative and downright cool. Most of their clients are corporate but their bags are so fun that I might just need to track them down to get some hand-painted bags of my own – perfect for an event or party!
If you’re looking for a great Sunday brunch place in NYC – this is the place to go. Tello is a trendy Chelsea-based Northern Italian trattoria decked out with red-checkered tablecloths, a big brass and wood bar, year-round Christmas lights, a jukebox pumping out Sinatra tunes, outdoor cafe seating and a Prix-Fixe Brunch Menu including cocktails for only $20. I ordered the Moules Frites (steamed mussels soaked in buttery white wine, garlic and herbs) with a refreshing Mimosa while soaking in the sun on the patio reading a good book and being amused by the Chelsea crowd walking by. According to NY Magazine, their Fried Calamari, Penne and Meatballs in Tomato Sauce and Chicken Tello (boneless pieces sautéed in garlic and white wine with mushrooms and sausage) are a few of their specialties also worth a try.
Located on West Broadway in Soho, Barolo’s Italian Ristorante and Garden is just a beautiful place to eat, period. I went there with some friends this past Easter for Sunday Brunch, and we dined on their magical garden patio surrounded with Cherry Blossom trees studded with sparkling white lights. We sampled a delicious Watermelon, Feta and Arugula salad and Fresh Mozzarella with Basil and Tomatoes for starters while sipping Champagne and enjoying a beautiful sunny Spring Day. For entrees, we had the Risotto with Gorgonzola and Blueberries (interesting combination of flavors!) and their Classic Rigatoni with Sausage and Peas in a Tomato Cream Sauce. They specialize in Northern Italian cuisine from the beautiful wine region of Barolo, Italy and also have an amazing wine list with over 1,200 Italian and imported wines and also have a huge restaurant inside and offer space for catering and events. A must-see for a special or romantic occasion!
It’s amazing to me that I lived in Atlanta Georgia for 12 years and only visited this awesome international farmer’s market maybe ONCE?! I was down there for Memorial Day Weekend this year visiting friends and we took a trip over there to buy some fresh goodies for our Thai Sea bass we made one night. This market has fresh fruits and veggies from all over the world, and also has every kind of spice you can imagine along with fresh baked breads, seafood, meats, cheese, a pastry and dessert section, teas and coffees and ingredients that you won’t find here in the U.S at a regular grocery store. I bought about 12 different bulk spices (all for less than $10!), tea, Thai coconut, mini wild blueberries, pecans, pistachios, sea salt, seasonings and other dried goodies that I could take back in my suitcase with me. Oh, and you can’t take pictures in there (I actually got scolded and was asked to put away my camera LOL) but you’ll absolutely love this place – it’s like taking a trip around the world and finding the best international gourmet foods all under one roof.
I may be a die-hard coffee fan, but tea is something I’ve been trying to drink more of not only for its health benefits but also to reduce the caffeine buzz in my life. I discovered this Mayan Cocoa Spice tea at the Dekalb Farmer’s Market but I’m sure you can find it at health food stores or other gourmet grocery places. This delicious tea is a concoction of ground cocoa shells, (full of powerful antioxidants!) mixed with Ayurvedic warming and cleansing spices of Cardamom, Clove and Organic Cinnamon Bark, Black Pepper, Chicory Root, Natural Vanilla and Ginger Oil. Perfect way to start your day before a healing yoga session or a run – and it will get your blood flowing without the caffeine jitters with only 5 mg of caffeine. Serve it with a natural sweetener and steamed milk and you’ve got yourself a tasty Cocoa Chai Latte you can make at home!
I stumbled upon this handmade cheese-making mecca a few weeks ago while on a stroll to the Union Square Farmer’s Market in the Flatiron District in NYC and was blown away by the impressive facility and store/restaurant as soon as I walked in. Founded by Seattle cheese makerKurt Beecher Dammeier, Beecher’s offers customers a full range of handmade cheeses and gourmet artisan foods and wines with a cafe, coffee bar and store. There’s a huge window as soon as you walk in where you can watch the cheese makers, well, making fresh cheese in their in-house facility all day long. You can also visit their cellar and taste a glass of wine and check out their “cheese cave” where rows upon rows of cheeses are being aged to perfection. They also have three cookbooks with their signature recipes, and are famous for their “World’s Best” Macaroni and Cheese recipe which is in the book and you can also purchase pre-made in their shop or cafe. The retail store offers a bountiful, well-curated selection of the “best of” American artisan cheeses and charcuterie. While visiting, they’ll introduce you not only to their favorite cheeses and meats but also to the talented producers they know and love. You’ll also be provided with fantastic accompaniments- antipasti, crackers, honey, pickles, etc- for your carefully chosen cheeses and meats, all true to their mission of natural, additive-free foods.
I can’t believe I’ve lived in NYC for 7 years and haven’t been to this amazing place until last weekend when I stopped in for brunch. Veselka is a hopping little place in the East Village that specializes in Ukrainian foods and I had to stop in to sample their potato pancakes. Coming from a German-Polish family, my Mom used to make the best potato pancakes served with apple sauce and sour cream so of course I had to size these babies up to see if they compared, and I have to say they did. I had the brunch with a cheese omelette, a piece of their fresh made Kielbasa, rye toast and of course the pancakes. Bummer I forgot to order some of their famous Pierogies, Stuffed Cabbage and Beef Stroganoff – more family favorites I grew up eating..oh well, maybe next time! I’ll definitely be back for another foodie excursion to this yummy place. In fact, I just may grab a copy of the Veselka Cookbook to make some of these noms at home!
Veselka Restaurant was started in 1954 by Wolodymyr Darmochwal who had recently emigrated from the Ivano-Frankovsk region of Ukraine. In the early days Veselka was a humble neighborhood candy store and newsstand that had a small counter and a few tables where a small selection of Ukrainian dishes were served. The popularity of these homemade dishes helped Veselka to grow over the years and become a full fledged restaurant serving a large variety of homemade Ukrainian and American dishes. Some of their signature dishes include: Cabbage Soup, Pierogies, Kielbasa, Potato Pancakes, Ukrainian Borscht, Beef Stroganoff, Bigos (a hearty Ukrainian Hunter’s stew made with Kielbasa, Sauerkraut, Pork and Onions served with a side of mashed potatoes), Ukranian Meatballs, Veal Goulash, Stuffed Cabbage, Soups, Salads, Burgers, Brunch…the list goes on! The atmosphere is buzzing and busy, and the kitchen is open in the front near the fresh baked goods and desserts counter which you also should not miss.
I don’t get out to Brooklyn as much as I’d like to and especially Williamsburg – a funky creative foodie part of town that has some great restaurants. I stopped in to Roesling Tea Room after visiting a photographer friend of mine looking for a small bite to eat and a glass of vino after our meeting. I ordered at the bar and sampled a side of their luscious Macaroni and Cheese which was oooey gooey layers of cheese and shells with a dash of hot sauce topped with some fresh parsley. It was the perfect size for a small bite of goodness and was only $10 to boot. Their cocktail menu is pretty cool too with unique drinks such as “The White Witch” made with Flor de Cana and Creme de Cacao and Cream, or the “Way Too Early” made with Earl Grey tea, Gin, Lemon and Champagne.
They do have a full dinner menu (see link below) offering Apps such as Grilled Razor Clams, Raviolo with Garlic, Ricotta, Chili and Squid and a hearty Lamb Ragu over Vermicelloni with ground hazelnuts. If you’re hungrier and want a full meal, try the Steak Tartare, “Cock-a-leekie” Chicken, Grilled Hangar Steak or Softshell Crab. The atmosphere is dark and moody, with an open wrap around bar and is perfect for a quiet, intimate dinner with friends or a date. They also serve lunch and brunch with burgers, eggs, salads and fresh sides and offer room for parties and events in this impressive cool space and location.
If you’re ever in Chelsea in NYC, this is a must-see destination. The ultimate “Festival of Shops”, Limelight Marketplace is a theatrical and fun shopping experience, located inside the restored Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion of 1845, and the infamous swanky Limelight Nightclub that was hoppin’ in the 70’s and 80’s. Redesigned by Henry Bendel, it re-opened its doors in 2010 to reveal a 3-story grand emporium filled with shopping, food, fashion, restaurants, art and home furnishings, decked out with grand arched ceilings, and the recently uncovered huge stained glass windows and limestone arches from the original church architecture. Inside you’ll find some cool bars and restaurants like the famous Grimaldi’s Pizza, Cava Wine Bar (Italian Meats, Cheeses, Wines), Jezalin’s (artisan soups, sandwiches, salads and chartucerie) and soon Cross Bar. Upstairs on the top floor you can’t miss the Marie Belle Cacao Bar and Luxury Chocolates. They also have an outdoor garden atrium (which is currently decorated with Indian tents) where you can chill out and enjoy a coffee or just stare at the amazing grand old architecture in awe.
Funny story how I ended up here in New Haven, CT for Cinco de Mayo…last Saturday I was supposed to go to the Foodstock Festival up at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT to see a great lineup of speakers and check out some amazing food vendors. So I rented a car online, took an early 2 hour train ride up to New Haven Union Station to pick up my rental car. Well, apparently even if you’ve pre-paid for your car you still need a credit card to give them to take the car for the day. All I had was my camera, a Mastercard debit card and some cash – no go. Needless to say, my day in New Haven wasn’t all that bad. I walked around the beautiful campus of Yale University, went to the Yale Art Gallery, cruised around Chapel Street to grab a coffee and checked out the cute shops and boutiques. On my journey around town, I started getting really hungry for some Mexican and discovered a cool little place called Geronimo’s Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill, to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some margaritas and food.
I had a couple of margaritas since they were only $5 for Cinco de Mayo, and tried their Chicken Tortilla Soup which had huge chunks of white meat shredded chicken, fresh veggies and crunchy tortilla strips on top. The chips were handmade, and the salsa super fresh and chunky with lots of cilantro, just how I like it. For an entree I ordered the Pork Quesadilla which had shredded roasted pork bathed in a Chimayo chile sauce with chihuahua cheese and scallions; topped with fresh grilled corn salsa salad. Delicious! warning: just be super careful if you sample their homemade habenero pepper sauce – its super tasty but super HOT, believe me you only need a smidge to taste the heat!
My waitress was super cool and was patient with me as I ran around the restaurant taking pictures of all their cool Southwestern artifacts and cool interior design inside the restaurant. Chef Timothy Scott (Connecticut native who studied with Anne Willan at La Varenne Culinary School in Burgundy, France) and I chatted for a while as he showed me around the restaurant and told me about all the local, organic ingredients he uses and the South Dakota farms he visits to source all of his meats for some of their unique dishes as the Smoked Buffalo Brisket Tacos and Elk Chili. The menu has your typical Mexican dishes but they are infused with a “Santa Fe” New Mexican flavor, using traditional foods and flavors of the Native Americans, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-Americans that settled there. Its primary ingredients consist of corn, beans, chile peppers, rice, tomatoes, avocados, pork and bison. Slow-stewed meats and chilis, and natural heat from various chile peppers give the cuisine here a bold, rustic flavor that is distinct from other Mexican cuisine. Don’t miss it if you’re ever up visiting Yale or just cruising around New Haven for a day.
There’s a new kid in town – an amazing organic grocery market and restaurant called Forager’s City Grocer in Chelsea, sister to the Dumbo Brooklyn location. Everything inside the market is sourced from their local farms and made fresh daily on premises. They have a meat counter and prepared foods kitchen with fresh soups, salads, roasted veggies, house-cured pastrami, roasted chicken and herb-roasted porchetta (to die for!). Cruise towards the back and you’ll find a lovely cheese section, olives, cured and fresh butchered meats, and a full line-up of local, and more organic dairy products like yogurt, cream, butter and milk. They have plenty of spices, honeys, jams, imported pastas and other cool gourmet items. And in the front, you can’t miss the coffee bar and dessert counter where they have freshly baked cupcakes, croissants, and unique-flavored glazed donuts like Hibiscus and Blood Orange…Oh my.
The restaurant inside the market has a clean design with an open kitchen and bar, high tables and stools and lots of natural lighting. The cuisine has an Asian flair, offering lunch, brunch and dinner. All the menu items are created with local, organic ingredients, house-cured meats and fresh veggies straight from their farm. They have great salads such as Raw Dayboat Salad with Yuzu Koshu and Crushed Lemon Oil, or Fermented Tea Leaf Salad with Dried Shrimp, Sesame, Peanuts, Crispy Garlic and Split Peas. Or try the Wok-Tossed Berkshire Pork Short Ribs or Crispy Whole Prawns with Chiles, Prickly Ash and Green Onions. Brunch is a new thing, serving up fresh omelettes, buttermilk biscuits and gravy, cinnamon french toast, house smoked pepper bacon and house made quinoa granola with fruit. And don’t miss the Forager’s wine store attached to the market next door where you can find organic wines from grape farmers all around the world.
The Chelsea location has also launched the debut of their expertly handcrafted cocktails along with a menu of beers and eco-minded selected wines on tap. The new, eclectic cocktail menu was designed by head bartender Aaron Polsky (also of Amor y Amargo). The menu is heavily influenced by the market’s hyper-local foraged produce and seasonally inspired house-made syrups and infusions. Some of the cool new cocktails to try are:
Gordon’s Healthy Lunch – made with Dorothy Parker Gin, Foragers Farm spicy baby lettuce juice, lime, meyer lemon oleo saccharum
Doug’s Spring MP – with Tequila Pueblo Viejo Blanco, rhubarb, tarragon, raspberry shrub, soda
I recently went on a search of some pretty cupcakes for a photoshoot I am working on, and found this cute little place called The Cupcake Cafe in Hell’s Kitchen on 9th Avenue and 40th Street near Times Square. It’s a quaint little place with a tiny kitchen in the back where they bake and design their pretty floral cakes and cupcakes with great detail. Anne Warren, co-owner, also designs custom wedding and personalized birthday cakes and offers cake decorating classes and film catering. The interior has a cute bench, a table and a few stools where you can sit and enjoy a coffee and a luscious buttercream-frosted flowery cupcake, just because. No frills, just a cozy spot to indulge.
While on my journey around town in New Haven, I stopped into this cool, colorful store on Chapel Street called Metaphore -Eurostyle. I met the owner and artist, Liza Clayson, who showed me around her store full of custom art andgorgeous hand-painted furniture, shower curtains, linens, dishes, glassware, French pantry gourmet items such as sea salts, oils, honeys, vinegars, mustards, jams, teas, and cookies. We had an even more colorful conversation about the town, restaurants, blogging and marketing and who knows what else. I couldn’t help but start dreaming up all the cool photography and food styling sets one could design with her pretty hand-painted and imported goodies. Liza also has plenty of unique and unusual European-imported goodies in the store, thus the name “Eurostyle”. Many of her items are things you won’t find here in the U.S. – she has customers that come in the store from all over to buy her unique things. You just have to check it out for yourself. If you can’t make it to New Haven, you can call her directly and place a personalized order. Now that’s pretty cool.
If you like fried chicken like I do, great – but this is no ordinary fried chicken – this is Seoul, Korea-style fried chicken and a tasty one at that. Located on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building, KyoChon came to NYC from Korea, opened its flagship store here and never looked back. KyoChon has become a cult-like obsession with New Yorkers (including myself) with its fresh, crispy, juicy fried chicken and tasty dipping sauces. The Soy Garlic and Hot & Sweet Chile sauces are apparently are secret recipes that founder Won-Kang Kwon and his wife whip up in a secret room in the basement of their production facilities in Seoul. They claim to use only fresh, not frozen, chickens, and hand-trim and hand-brush each piece, which is apparent when you taste a piece of their crunchy chicken. This ain’t no Chicken McNugget, folks. They also have sandwiches, salads and wraps filled with fresh veggies and fruits and the interior is pretty cool looking too, with its bright red spiral staircase and clear acrylic Jetson-style chairs and tables. Oh, and the Sweet Potato Fries ROCK.
After living in Atlanta for almost 12 years, it was refreshing to find a honky-tonk fun place in NYC that reminded me of the South.Rodeo Bar & Grill is probably one of the ONLY places in New York that you’ll find local and regional country and blues musicians playing live, where you can sit and enjoy a Margarita and some chips and salsa. This Tex-Mex bar and grill is located on 3rd Ave in Murray Hill and serves a kickass portion of chile con queso and chips, and other Tex-Mex specialties such as Enchiladas, Slow-Smoked Texas BBQ, Quesadillas, Tacos and a nice selection of burgers, sandwiches, appetizers and soups and salads. The live shows are on pretty much every night with different artists, until midnight during the week and late on weekends. They have a great happy hour from 4-7 pm offering half price margaritas and bar food like wings, nachos and sliders. Grab your cowboy boots, get yourself some tequila and some live country and blues – too fun.
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).
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!)
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!)
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.
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.
Our Spring Breaks had to be semi-close by because none of us could afford to fly anywhere, so we hopped in our e-roller scooters 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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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…
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and preheat a 10-inch cast iron skillet.
When ready to bake, coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with butter (and be careful – pan is very hot!)
Pour the batter into the prepared pan,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 – –
a huge round disk of bright orange, yellow and red hues sinking into the horizon – absolutely breathtaking..
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.
**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 🙂
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..
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
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
Prep all vegetables (chop onions, celery, spinach, mushrooms, parsley), cut up chicken and pat dry.
Measure out all wet and dry ingredients (wine, cream, milk, flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper, grated Parmesan).
Cut Fontina cheese into small dice, or medium-thin slices for layering.
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.
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.
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.
Cook lasagna noodles 8 mins in salted water. Drain and rinse in cold water. Toss with 2 tablespoons EVOO.
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).
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.
To make the Parmesan Garlic Crostini:
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.
Sprinkle the lasagna with chopped parsley, some extra grated cheese if desired, and serve with the parmesan garlic crostini.
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.
Each team is given 5 1/2 hours to create two elaborate platter presentations, one centered around seafood and one on meat, each accompanied by three original garnishes.
The platters are presented before 24 judges, each among the most esteemed chefs in their country. The dishes are judged on overall harmony of flavors in the dish, presentation of the platter and techniques employed by each Chef and their teams.
Other notable Chefs participated in the event who are on the Culinary Council: Grant Achatz of Alinea, George Mendez of Aldea, Michael White of Ai Fiori/Marea and Chris Hastings of The Hot and Hot Fish Club and more.
Special thanks to event sponsor @KitchenAidUSA for inviting me to attend the event at CIA as a VIP to experience the excitement of the competition!
We sampled amazing gourmet food – shrimp burgers, falafel and hummus, baba ganoush, foie gras, cheese and Bridor croissants, short ribs,
French champagne by Nicolas Feuillatte and lattes and cappucinos by Nespresso. It was an amazing event filled with USA’s top culinary talent and I wish all the Chefs the best of luck in next year’s 2013 competition in France!
I also had the pleasure of meeting Chef Denny Tratham of Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC and Chef Billy Skiper of Sodexo/Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, GA.. It was such a beautiful day we had to take the French champagne outside!
Check out all of the behind-the-scenes photos of the event in the slideshow below: