Now that Summer is rapidly approaching, I am so excited about getting outdoors to enjoy the warm weather and especially cooking outdoors with friends and family. Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook in warm weather months, simply because it’s so easy and a healthy way to cook, and it usually takes place with a group of friends outside making fun memories and laughter to go with it.
I recently went down to Atlanta where I used to live to visit some old friends and we had a blast grilling outside on my friend’s outdoor BBQ grill in her backyard. We sat around the grill and made grilled sliders, shrimp, jalapeno poppers, and wings (with lots of snacks and drinks to go with of course!) It reminded me of the good old days when I used to live there… living and working in NYC we don’t get the opportunity to grill much anymore and it’s a precious occasion when I go to visit my friends and family who live in greener pastures.
One of my favorite things to make is big juicy grilled steak..it’s always a tasty treat, easy to prepare and everyone loves it…especially with some grilled vegetables, salad, potatoes and a glass of wine or beer while sitting out on the patio dining al fresco watching the sunset.
My go-to Summer recipe is Coffee Marinated Steaks, which I know you’re gonna love. The marinade has a light smoky essence from the coffee (I use Gourmesso House Blend Lungo Dark coffee, an espresso alternative to Nepresso capsules, with a beautiful dark and rich flavor; some spicy heat from the red chilies and black peppercorns; a touch of sweetness from the brown sugar; and is balanced out with a slight tanginess from the balsamic vinegar, Dale’s seasoning/soy, mustard, shallots and garlic. You simply mix all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor, then marinade the steaks for an hour or up to overnight for some really delicious flavor.
Then simply pop them on the grill for about 8-10 minutes and you have the most juicy, flavorful and delicious steaks you’ve ever tasted in your life. Not to mention, a great idea for Father’s Day to spoil Dad! Click here to see more of my grilling ideas and recipes for Father’s Day.
My go-to Summer recipe is Gourmesso Coffee Marinated Steaks, which I know you’re gonna love. The marinade has a light smoky essence from the coffee (I use Gourmesso House Blend Lungo Dark coffee, which is an espresso (alternative to Nepresso capsules) that has a beautiful dark and rich flavor; some spicy heat from the red chilies and black peppercorns; a touch of sweetness from the brown sugar; and is balanced out with a slight tanginess from the balsamic vinegar, Dale’s seasoning/soy, mustard, shallots and garlic.
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Gourmesso House Blend Lungo Dark coffee, room temp
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup Dijon mustard
1/8 cup low-sodium Dale’s seasoning (or dark soy sauce)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon red paprika
3 small red chilies
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse Kosher salt
4 (12-14 ounce) boneless Strip steaks
In a food processor or blender, add the shallots, garlic, Gourmesso coffee, balsamic vinegar, Dale’s sauce/soy sauce, brown sugar, paprika, chilies, peppercorns, and olive oil and kosher salt and blend together well. Pour half the marinade in a glass dish or large plastic ziptop bag, add the steaks and toss to coat with the marinade. Seal and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Cover the remaining marinade and set aside in the fridge until ready to grill.
Heat grill to medium-high and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove steak from marinade and discard the remaining marinade. Bring steaks to room temperature before grilling.
Season the steaks with salt and pepper and place on grill. Cook for 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare (less or more according to desired doneness), basting occasionally with remaining marinade.
Transfer steak to a cutting board and let rest tented in foil for 5 minutes. Serve with grilled vegetables or a simple green salad dressed with vinaigrette and a glass of wine. Enjoy!
You can make the marinade up to a day ahead of time and store in the fridge with the steaks in a plastic bag or covered dish.
I love grilling in the Summertime – and there’s nothing easier, tastier and healthier than Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Kabobs!
I also love a delicious salad using the fruits and veggies of the season – try my Heirloom Tomato, Peach & Mozzarella Salad which is bursting with fresh flavors!
I developed these recipes for my client Seven Barrels, who makes spectacular infused olive oils and vinegars. I wanted to create a refreshing recipe for their Summer promotion, so I created a marinade for the kabobs and a vinaigrette dressing for the salad using their Elderberry Balsamic Vinegar and Lime Olive Oil – a delicious combination!
Hope you’re enjoying your Summer and enjoy these recipes at your next cookout! 🙂
Grilled chicken and summer veggie kabobs in an Elderberry Lime Marinade - perfect for Summer!
Grilled Chicken & Veggie Kabobs:
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs (skinless), cut into 1-inch chunks
2 bell peppers (red, yellow, orange or green), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large red onion, cut into large chunks
1 large zucchini, cut into large chunks
1 large yellow squash, cut into large chunks
1 cup Elderberry Lime Marinade (recipe follows)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Elderberry Lime Marinade:
½ cup Seven Barrels Lime Olive Oil
½ cup Seven Barrels Extra Virgin Olive Oil
¼ cup Seven Barrels Elderberry Balsamic Vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil or parsley, minced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grilled Chicken & Veggie Kabobs:
Place chicken and vegetables in large plastic ziplock bags and pour 1/2 of the Elderberry Lime Marinade over each, letting marinade in the fridge for at least two hours up to eight hours.
Pre-soak wooden skewers in water for at least 15-20 minutes, and preheat grill on medium-high heat.
Thread the chicken and vegetables evenly spaced on separate skewers and discard the marinade except for a small amount to use while grilling.
Lightly oil the grate and grill chicken skewers until opaque and juices run clear (about 12-15 minutes) and the vegetable skewers for about 8-12 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Turn and brush with extra marinade frequently. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer the skewers to a warm platter and serve immediately.
Elderberry Lime Marinade:
In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, garlic, basil or parsley, garlic salt and black pepper. Cover and set aside until ready to marinade the chicken and vegetables.
A gorgeous Summer salad made with heirloom tomatoes, fresh peaches, mozzarella, basil, arugula in an Elderberry Lime vinaigrette dressing topped with sunflower seeds.
Heirloom Tomato, Peach & Mozzarella Salad:
2 large handfuls of baby arugula
2 peaches, cut into wedges
1 Heirloom tomato, cut into wedges
½ cup cooked corn
½ cup cucumber, cut into wedges
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/3 ball of burrata or fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Elderberry Lime Vinaigrette:
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Seven Barrels Elderberry balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup Seven Barrels Lime Olive Oil
Heirloom Tomato, Peach & Mozzarella Salad:
On a large plate, arrange the arugula, peaches and heirloom tomato wedges. Sprinkle corn and cucumber over the salad.
Carefully rip the ball of burrata or mozzarella into pieces and scatter on top of the salad along with the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with toasted sunflower seeds, salt and pepper and a few basil leaves.
Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the Elderberry Lime vinaigrette and serve immediately. Serve with extra dressing and additional salt and pepper, if desired.
Elderberry Lime Vinaigrette:
Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a medium bowl and whisk together well. Once combined, stream in the olive oil and continue to whisk until the vinaigrette comes together. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Note: The dressing can be stored and refrigerated for 1 week.
Sloppy Joes have gotten a bad rap in history over the years, haven’t they? When I think of Sloppy Joes I usually revert to some bad memories of the hair-netted lunch ladies in frocks serving them up on plastic trays in the cafeteria along with a side of some mushy peas and corn with a dried up chocolate chip cookie, along with the scary smells that came out of the school kitchen back in those days.
I had some extra ground beef in the freezer and wanted to make something different. Not another burger. Or meatloaf. Or batch of spaghetti and meatballs. But something I haven’t had in a loooonnnggg time, and Sloppy Joes fit the bill. But how could I remake this old-fashioned simple sandwich a bit tastier and appealing without looking like a big plate of mush?
I was determined to take these elementary school BBQ sammies to the next level by kicking them up a notch in heat level. I added some sliced jalapeños and Sriracha and some hot pepper sauce to the mix to give it some nice spiciness, but kept the caramel sweet undertones by mixing some honey into the brown sugar, and used Cabernet vinegar and shallots which are also a bit sweeter than traditional onion and help balance out the spicy heat a bit more.
The result was a perfectly sweet and spicy sauce mixed with the ground beef and peppers and jalapeños in every bite. Served on a buttered toasted bun, with a side of pickles and chips. YUM. What would have been even better is some melted cheese on the buns, which I highly recommend. So don’t be afraid of that old school cafeteria food – if you make it yourself and give it a little twist, it’s actually quite spectacular. And devilishydelicious.
There’s no better time than Memorial Day weekend to break out the grill and cook up some tasty BBQ to celebrate the beginning of Summer! I had the opportunity to create some recipes with Stoli Vodka for the holiday and decided to make Grilled Honey Orange Chicken Skewers with a Cucumber Orange Cilantro Salsa – a savory and light dish with tons of flavor and a hit of refreshment from the oranges and cucumbers. I used Stoli Ohranj (Orange flavor) and Stoli Sticki (Honey flavor) in both the chicken marinade and my delicious Honey Orange Blossom Cocktails.
The cocktails are made with a shot of each Stoli vodka flavor, honey, orange blossom water, vanilla extract, and organic lemon infused sparkling spring water, garnished with fresh orange slices and edible flowers. It’s light and refreshing with just a dash of honey and orange to cool your palette. It reminds me of a Creamsicle (remember those??) – the perfect treat for a hot Summer day.
I hope you enjoy the recipes and have an amazing Memorial Day weekend with family and friends..as for me, I’m hitting the beach for a dose of sunshine and R&R!
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Summertime is always my favorite time of year – when the sun is always shining, a warm breeze is in the air, and all the flowers, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are in full bloom. Everyone is out grilling BBQ, visiting the farmer’s markets, having picnics in the park and enjoying the sunny, lazy days with friends and family. With Summer quickly approaching, I created this great Father’s Day Menu you’ll love: Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Steak with Portabella Mushrooms and Peppers, a Bistro-Style Herbed Potato Salad and a refreshing Watermelon-Strawberry Salad.
This is an easy and delicious recipe for Grilled Rosemary and Garlic Steak with Portabella Mushrooms and Peppers that has a tangy garlic and red wine flavor. Start with Tavern Direct Roasted Garlic Cabernet (or any red-wine and garlic vinaigrette dressing) to marinate the steak and veggies before grilling to give it a tender robust flavor. After grilling, top it all off with Steak Sauce, fresh rosemary and a bit of Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper for a healthy, tasty Summer BBQ!
This Watermelon and Strawberry Salad is a simple combination of fresh watermelon, strawberries and a few blueberries mixed in with a little bit of lemon juice, sugar and water to make a simple refreshing syrup to macerate the fruit. This is how we traditionally make the fruit salad but you can also toss the fruit in a citrus-infused balsamic vinegar for a tangy contrast with the sweet fruit – I recommend Tavern on the Green Citrus Balsamic– a refreshing blend of orange, tangerine and lime essence.
The French-Bistro Herbed Potato Salad is made with salt potatoes and fresh herbs, a lightened up version from the heavier mayonnaise-laden salads from our family picnics of the past. It calls for salt potatoes (red or yellow), shallots, parsley and thyme tossed in an oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard base making it light and tangy. Fresh parsley adds some green…and the sweet shallots mixed with thyme, dill and onions gives it a nice tangy flavor. I added some dried dill (you could also use fresh) and a few chopped green onions for an extra dash of flavor – enjoy!
Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Steak with Portabella Mushrooms and Peppers
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
4 steaks (T-bone, NY Strip or Ribeye), about 1 ½ inches thick
3 red, yellow & orange peppers, julienned
3 Portabellos, stems removed, sliced
1 cup Tavern Direct Roasted Garlic Cabernet Marinade (or red-wine vinaigrette dressing)
Freshly ground black pepper
Steak Sauce, for serving if desired (Tavern Direct or desired brand)
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary, snipped
Preheat a charcoal grill or grill pan to medium high. Preheat a separate medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat.
Place steaks in a baking dish or large freezer bag and pour marinade over steaks, coating evenly. Sprinkle steaks with salt and pepper and rosemary and let marinate for up to 1 hour at room temperature uncovered.
Slice bell peppers and Portobello mushrooms and marinate in separate mixing bowls. Sprinkle salt and pepper over both and mix through, marinating for approximately 30-45 minutes.
Spray the sauté pan with cooking spray or olive oil. Sauté the sliced peppers until soft and slightly browned about 5-7 minutes. Remove and cover with foil.
Spray the grill or grill pan with cooking spray or olive oil and place Portabella mushrooms on grill. Cook approximately 5-7 minutes per side until soft and grill marks appear. Remove and cover with foil on a separate plate.
Let the charcoal grill or grill pan heat up to high again. Spray with oil and cook steaks approximately 5 minutes per side (for medium rare), 7-8 minutes per side (for medium).
Remove steaks from grill and let sit for 5-10 minutes under foil tent to let juices redistribute. Plate and serve steaks with mushrooms and peppers.?Drizzle the Steak Sauce over steak, if desired.
Sprinkle Kosher salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh rosemary.
1/4 cup olive oil (light yellow, not extra virgin)
3 tablespoons Dijon or grainy mustard
2 tablespoons Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoons fresh dill
½ teaspoon dried Fines herbes
1/4 small Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1-2 green onions, sliced
Place potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water so that potatoes are covered approximately under 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Cool potatoes under cold water then drain and set aside.
To make the salad dressing: whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, and herbs in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add cooked potatoes and chopped onion and 1/2 of the green onions to the dressing and toss to combine.
Let salad cool and marinate at room temperature, then garnish with additional green onions and parsley for serving.
*Chef’s Note: The only thing missing is dessert and wine to make it a full meal: I recommend a lovely lemon or pistachio gelato for dessert, and a bold Cabernet or hearty red wine to pair with the Steak and salads.
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 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 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.
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.
Summertime always remind me of home – when the sun is shining, a warm breeze is in the air, locusts are humming and all the flowers, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are in full bloom. There’s a small local farmer’s market up in Webster, NY not far from where I grew up that I used to visit with my Mom as a kid. We would buy fresh apple cider and donuts, pumpkins for Halloween and fresh corn and melons for our summer picnics. This year I went home to visit for Fourth of July weekend, and my Mom and I visited once again to buy some fresh fruit and veggies for our holiday BBQ feast.
I was craving some juicy watermelon and strawberries and went on a mission. There’s nothing like that first bite of sweet, cool, bright pink flesh of melon and ruby red berries in the summertime.
This Watermelon and Strawberry Salad is a simple combination of fresh watermelon, strawberries and a few blueberries mixed in with a little bit of lemon juice, sugar and water to make a simple refreshing syrup to macerate the fruit. This is how we traditionally make the fruit salad but you can also toss the fruit in a citrus infused balsamic vinegar for a tangy contrast with the sweet fruit – a good friend of mine made this salad and used Tavern on the Green Citrus which has a blend of orange, tangerine and lime essence and is just as delicious!
I found a recipe for a French Potato Salad made with salt potatoes and fresh herbs, a lightened up version from the heavier mayonnaise-laden salads from our family picnics of the past.
It calls for salt (or new) potatoes (red or yellow), shallots, parsley and thyme tossed in an oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard base making it light and tangy.
Fresh parsley adds some green…and the sweet shallots mixed with thyme, dill and onions gives it nice fresh flavor. I added some dried dill (you could also use fresh) and a few chopped green onions for an extra dash of flavor – délicieux!
Fresh market grown. Simple, fast and delicious. And most of all homemade with love, and my Mom – just like the good old days.
Fresh from the Farm Market: Herbed Potato Salad + Strawberry Watermelon Salad
Yield: 4-6 servings
Herbed Potato Salad:
2 lbs red or yellow salt potatoes, halved
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1/4 c olive oil (light yellow, not extra virgin)
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp dried or fresh dill
1/4 small Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1-2 green onions, sliced
1/2 c sugar
1 c water
1/4 watermelon, cut into cubes
3 c strawberries, halved
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 lemon, squeezed for juice
garnish: fresh mint leaves (torn into small pieces) or microgreens
Herbed Potato Salad:
Place potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water covering potatoes by about an inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
While potatoes are cooking, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, thyme and dill in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add cooked potatoes and chopped onion and 1/2 of the green onions to the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with additional green onions and parsley and serve at room temperature.
Strawberry Watermelon Salad:
To make the simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, let simmer for about 5 minutes and cool.
Place watermelon, strawberries and blueberries in a large bowl and add the syrup, mixing well. Add a dash of lemon juice and garnish with mint or microgreens.
Herbed Potato Salad recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A SLIDESHOW OF PHOTOS FROM THE AUSTIN TRIP!
So I finally had a chance to come back down from cloud nine and get back to reality after an awesome week-long conference in Austin, Texas with the International Association of Culinary Professionals. What an incredible time spent with amazing and talented professionals in the food industry! If you haven’t been to Austin before, its a must see foodie destination, full of Texas Barbecue and Food Trailers (not trucks like we have in NYC), and the perfect spot to host this year’s conference with a focus on Culinary Excellence and Innovation. I spent five incredible days meeting other food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, food bloggers, food stylists and photographers, agents and publishers – and was creatively inspired by all the incredible speakers and new foodie friends I met!
I flew in on Tuesday night with Rachel (The Fabulous Foodie) and Marie (Food Nouveau) and after arriving at the Hilton Austin, we decided to hit the infamous Sixth Street to try out a few of the hot spots in town. We made a new friend with a bartender who bought pickles to make us Pickleback shots with Jameson and Pickle Juice (per Rachel’s artful persuasion – don’t ask) which clued me in to what was ahead for the next five days in this town!
Day 1 Conference
We had a few hours before the conference started on Wednesday so Rachel, Marie, Nikki and I went to grab breakfast at the infamous Juan in a Million restaurant. We ordered some delicious Migas – platters made with scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions and tomatoes with tortillas and fresh salsa and guacamole,
a delicious Chicken Fajita Salad with Jalapenos and Guacamole..
and had the opportunity to meet Juan himself who was more than willing to get a snapshot with us!
My first session, DIY Video Production for Food Bloggers, was hosted by Daniel Klein of The Perennial Palate, John Mitzewich of Food Wishes, and Sara O’Donnell of Average Betty. We learned video production techniques, equipment and editing tips and saw samples of all the incredible video work that these video bloggers have produced as they told us how they got started and secrets of the trade.
Next we went to the IACP New Member Orientation, led by IACP Board Members including Author Kathleen Flinn and Lia Huber of NourishNetwork.com who gave us tips on how to get the most out of the conference and networking.
We headed over to the Host City Opening Reception at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum where we were greeted by cowboys and armadillos and cows, and sampled delicious Tex Mex food and cocktails from some of Austin’s finest restaurants in town.
Of course I couldn’t pass up the Late Night Club Crawl, where a small group of us went to East Sixth Street (led by Wendy Brannen of Vidalia Onion Committee and some other local Austonians who knew the hotspots!) – East Sixth Street is Austin’s funky part of town with groovy lounges, food trailer parks and low key outside bars.
and ended up at Liberty for some late night grub in a trailer park, munching on crispy Korean Chicken bites and Tempura Fried Beets. Weird? Yes. Delicious? Absolutely!
Day 2 Conference
The next day was full on with amazing sessions by Shauna Ahern, Gluten Free Girl, who led the Blog to Book breakout session focused on in-depth discussions with other talented food bloggers and food writers such as Marge Perry and Dixie Caviar, from around the country as we shared our goals and tips for success in the blogosphere.
where we loaded up on plates of fat, juicy Ribs, Beef Brisket, Sausage, Beans and Pickles washed down with huge Iced Teas to quench our thirst in the midst of the heatwave!
After lunch we saw a live demo with Ellie Krieger and Joan Auritt who showed us How to Cook on Camera with poise and confidence, and if anyone has those two qualities, Ellie does!
My last session of the day was on Networking – run by Mark Bitterman, Author of Salted and professional Selmier. In the session I had the pleasure of meeting Dianne Jacob, author and food writer, Tara Wilson, Event Planner and owner of Savvy Southerner, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Jessica Merchant of How Sweet It Is. Great conversation, great networking tips and great people to get to know!
The evening ended with an Awards Gala and Ceremony at the beautiful historic Driskill Hotel and Paramount Theatre, where some of the most accomplished food writers, editors, photographers, stylists, cookbook authors, chefs and food personalities were accoladed and awarded for their culinary excellence.
The ceremony was a classy affair, with classic cocktails and scrumptious hors d’oeuvres, prepared by Executive Chef Jonathan Gelman and award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Tony Sansalone.
My friends and I headed out for drinks and dinner afterwards to Annie’s Cafe & Bar for a delicious meal of Shrimp Creole, Watermelon Blush Martinis and Sauteed Spinach and Garlic. After all the festivities I still mustered up enough energy to attend the Food Styling session by master Denise Vivaldo – who is super talented and hilarious — perfect ending to a perfect evening!
Day 3 Conference
The next day was jam packed with superstar talent speaking about Crafting a Great Story led by Penny De Los Santos, Daniel Klein and Kim Severson from the NY Times. Penny is an amazing photographer and told us heartwarming stories about her trip to Mexico on her last photoshoot for Saveur Magazine with food writer Molly O’Neill – true passion and talent that shined straight through in her storytelling! Daniel showed us more of his fun food adventure videos and Kim Severson led the panel with wit and charm – she is the funniest person known to man!
The Culinary Expo and Culinary Book Fair was incredible – food artisans, vendors and gourmet products were on display including some amazing French Chocolate
..and tons of food samples to accompany our delicious Tex Mex lunch!
I met Dorie Greenspan outside at the Culinapp Trailer and got some amazing cookies and checked out the cool new iPad app she is featured in. I also bought two cookbooks at the Cookbook Fair – Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar (winner of the Cookbook Award!) and Good Food to Share by Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan of thekitchn.com (whom I both met at dinner that very same night..how cool is that?!)
One of my favorite sessions was a French Cooking Demonstration with Jacques Pepin and Amanda Hesser – Jacques made some of his delicious recipes – Mini Savory Cheesecakes, Chicken Supremes with Tapenade and Mushroom Sauce, and Asparagus with Chorizo and Croutons, as Amanda interviewed him about his life as a celebrity chef. Talk about a treat!
After the demo, I was able to meet him and sample more of his goodies up front afterwards which was an eventful part of the conference and a true honor to meet such a culinary legend as Jacques.
Next up on the line up was the dynamic trio of Food Bloggers: Kalyn Denny of Kalyn’s Kitchen, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes and Lisa Stone of BlogHer.com discussing the ins and outs of food blogging, offering sage advice to the audience.
Last but not least, and one of my favorite sessions was on Light and Photography with White on Rice couple Todd and Diane Cru – I was truly inspired by their beautiful and simple photography, their sheer talent, passion for their work and amazing presentation and offering of advice.
The party we were all waiting for was the Up in Smoke BBQ at Boggy Creek Farm – talk about crazy fun! A full on BBQ bash was awaiting us with Ribs, Brisket, Smoked Pig, and all the dressings: corn, beans, cole slaw, german potato salad and some fine Handmade Texas Vodka cocktails..
..as we sat outside listening to jamboree musicians on the big white southern back porch of the farmhouse.. Nothing better than this!
On our last night out, Rachel, Marie, Dave and I went out on East Sixth Street (again!) and hung out at Liberty –
a groovy dive bar with an awesome dirt patio in back with a food trailer, picnic benches and amazing food (same place we got the Korean Chicken Bites and Tempura Fried Beets).
We eventually moved on back to main Sixth Street to find some Flaming Dr. Pepper shots (aren’t those illegal now? The last time I had one of these was in college in Upstate NY!) and hit the pizza truck on the way home. Definitely a colorful street and colorful crowd – now I know where they got the saying “Keep Austin Weird!”
Heading back home to NYC
After four full days of talking and eating and networking and eating and talking and drinking – I had to get one last Mexican meal in. Rachel and I headed to SoCo (South Congress) to visit the legendary Guero’s Taco Bar.
The tortillas were handmade and grilled in front of our eyes as we watched with anticipation..
We noshed on Chips and Guacamole and Salsa, a few Pulled spicy pork and chicken tacos with beans and rice, and some Iced Tea to diminish the slight hangover from the Flaming Dr. Pepper shots the night before! (Not my idea, thanks)
My head is still spinning from all the sights and sounds, amazing food and amazing people I met, and I have to say that my trip to Austin will stay close to my heart forever. The new friends and talented culinary professionals I met have inspired me to do my best work, to follow my heart, to pursue my dream of a food writing and photography career – and I thank all those I shared it with for making this an incredible event I will never forget. Can’t wait for next year’s event in New York City – see you all then.