Jul 29, 2009

A soup for every season

This is a creamy & comforting soup that, at first glance, appears more suited for cold weather. The spicy ginger and tart lime juice really brighten it up though, so it makes a quick, easy and delicious year-round dinner.

Dinner For One: Gingered Lentil Soup

Generally if I was writing a recipe like this I’d start with chopped onion & garlic, but the first time I went to make this soup I didn’t have any onions. I did have shallots though, so I tried them and it came out great. I’ve listed them as ingredients here but if you don’t have shallots, just sub back in half of a large onion and a clove of garlic. The jalapeno adds heat and the carrot adds sweetness but if you don’t have/like one - feel free to leave it out.

What you need:
.5 cup olive oil
3 large shallots, peeled & chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled & chopped
2 TB curry powder, mild or hot
Salt & pepper
1 cup red lentils
14oz. can chicken broth
5.5 oz. can coconut milk, light or regular
1 lime

How you make it:
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute shallots, jalapeno, carrot and ginger until the vegetables are soft. Add curry powder, a few shakes of salt & pepper and cook for one minute. Add lentils, stir to coat in the oil and let cook for one minute. Add chicken broth, cover pot and simmer until lentils are soft, about 15-20 minutes. The lentils will absorb almost all the liquid, if it’s becoming too thick add water a quarter cup at a time until it loosens up. When lentils are soft, remove from heat and puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth.*

Reheat lentil mixture over low heat and add coconut milk and lime juice. Stir until everything is combined, taste to see if it needs more salt and serve immediately.

*Not in the mood for soup? Just stop here and serve the thick lentil stew over white or brown rice.

Jul 27, 2009

I Spy

A taco truck!! 

In Atlanta!!

Ok, not exactly in Atlanta but certainly within striking distance... a hell of a lot closer than LA. So I can get a taco fix without the cross-country journey. My life is perfect now.

Clockwise from top left:
1. The menu. Yep, that's right, tacos are just $.99
2. Ordering truckside.
3. Tacos. Muy bueno tacos.
4. Why does soda from south of the border taste so good? 'cause it's made with real sugar!

A big, big 'thank you' to my dear 'ol Mom for finding this little treasure. I promise you never have to go back...

Jul 24, 2009

Cherry Jubilee

This recipe is a lot like penicillin – On my way to making some turnovers I discovered something even better… the cherry filling that goes inside.

I like cherries. Kind of a lot actually. So when I came across some for $1.99 a pound at the farmer’s market this week it was easy to convince myself that I could eat almost three pounds of them. By myself. In a week.

Yeah… that’s a lot of cherries for one gal to eat before they go bad. I’ve been grabbing a handful every time I walk by the fridge but there was no end in sight… so I went looking for a way to use them up. This recipe for Sweet and Sour Cherry Turnovers caught my eye b/c I actually had every I needed to make them without another trip to the store. Yep, I even had a box of puff pastry in the freezer…I know, I was pretty surprised too.

I wasn’t prepared to make the goat cheese cream included in the recipe but I did have some plain cream cheese so I added a spoonful in the middle of each turnover and I thought it worked fine. And that’s exactly how I felt about the finished product: they were…fine.

The cherry filling was better than fine though…it was downright delicious and it couldn’t be easier. More like a quick jam, it’s a rustic, sweet & tart compote that would be great on ice cream, oatmeal, toast or pancakes. Actually, it would be incredible on pancakes…

So the next time I go overboard in the produce department I’ll skip the pastry, make a big batch of this sauce and invite a few buds over for breakfast-

Don't you just love the cute recipe card? I found the card generator through my new favorite site - go check them both out...

Jul 23, 2009

You've gotta...

scoop these up.

Ciao Bella Gelato & Sorbets are freaking amazing - nevermind the super cute packaging, the flavors are intense and actually taste like what they're supposed to! The Espresso tastes like the best iced coffee you've ever had...

I've tried a few different ones: Espresso, Hazelnut (smooth & creamy), Mango (like you bit into a perfect juicy fruit), Blood Orange (incredible color, tart & tangy), Maple Gingersnap (delish)... Chocolate Jalapeno is next on my list. Or maybe Coconut. Or Key Lime Graham Cracker...

You can stop by their site to find a local retailer or even order some on-line. Trust me, it's so worth it & you'll never feel the same way about Breyer's again.

Jul 22, 2009

That ain't right...

One of my oldest, dearest, former friends lives in Los Angeles. She sent me this email yesterday and I think it’s the straw that broke our relationship:

"So I almost called you at about 2:30am your time to tell you about a taco truck.

Chris and I were on our way home from the hospital last night and we stopped to get gas in a sketchy area of LA (think Rodney King, LA riots, etc...).

Coincidentally, it was the same place I stopped at about a year ago when I blew a tire on the freeway and two homeless people helped me change my tire. I have warm and fuzzy feelings about this particular off ramp.

Well... we get off the freeway at Vernon and Flower (you can google map this) and there is a taco truck on the corner. It was not your ordinary taco truck. They had a gyro-looking thing going on with a HUGE slab of pork cooking on a fire with a pineapple on top, out of the way of the fire. They slice the pork off the vertical gyro-like spit and then chip a little bit of pineapple into the air and catch it inside of the tortilla with the pork. For $1.25. Of course I bought one. In one word, AMAZING. I stopped at one because I was trying to be good. Chris ate three.

There was a woman next to the taco truck frying plantains. We may go back tonight."

So you see what I mean, right? It’s obvious I have to cut her out of my life forever. Because, seriously, who does that? What kind of “friend” would taunt you with the knowledge that she was off in the middle of the night eating delicious tacos al pastor on the side of the road WITHOUT YOU??

I think it’s been pretty well documented that I have a deep love of
taco trucks. And should I ever decide to turn in my Single Gal membership card and join the Marrieds, I am absolutely, positively doing this. You can totally come, ‘cause at $1.25 a taco the catering bill is going to be super cheap…

So anyway - If, by chance, anyone knows of a taco truck in the greater Atlanta Metropolitan area – could you let me know? That would be swell, thanks. Oh, and bonus points if there’s a fried plantain lady next door.

And listen up little Ms. LA – you’re dead to me.

Unless, of course, you find a way to ship me street tacos. Then we’re all good.

First Harvest

What a lovely pair of figs! I wonder who grew them?

Oh right - I did. And I plucked them off the tree in my front yard 
yesterday as I went to get the mail.

Love that.

Jul 21, 2009

Just call me 'Bubba'

I might have to put a sign over my front door that reads Bubba Gump ‘cause I’m in the middle of a serious shrimp phase! This southern favorite would be great to serve for a crowd – use the recipe below as a blueprint and increase the quantity of grits & shrimp until you have enough…

Dinner For One: Shrimp and Grits

Using quick-cooking grits means this can be ready in just a few minutes – perfect for a weeknight. I used leftover shrimp from last weekend’s Shrimpfest but you can buy a bag of frozen shrimp that are already cleaned and ready to go from the grocery store. They’ll thaw really quickly so just grab a handful out of the freezer when you get home. 

What you need:
1.5 cups water
6 TBs quick-cooking grits
1 TB butter
half cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
hot sauce (optional)
salt & pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
half a medium onion, chopped
6-8 large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
half a lemon
1 scallion, thinly sliced

How you make it:
Cook grits according to package instructions. When they’re done, remove from heat and stir in butter, cheese, a dash of hot sauce and salt & pepper to taste.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned, remove from pan and drain all but 1TB of the rendered grease. Add garlic and onion and sauté until the onion is translucent and starting to brown at the edges. Add shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Add a splash of lemon juice and reserved bacon pieces, stir to combine and remove from heat.

Serve shrimp mixture over grits with a sprinkle of green onion on top. Yum.

Jul 19, 2009

A Midsummer Night Dinner

Well that was lovely.

An evening filled with old friends, beautiful weather, good food, lots of laughter and an especially delicious sauvignon blanc courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Weir (truly, their taste in wine is superb).

In fact, I was having such a great time – and enjoying my wine so much – that I forgot to take photos until it was too late! So my apologies for the images below, I don’t think they do our dinner justice…

Clockwise from top left: white bean dip, family-style serving, the view from my seat, the too-late dessert shot.

This might have been the easiest menu I’ve ever made – even my shopping list was short. I had everything but the shrimp and fresh produce in my pantry, plus nothing required more than just a few minutes of prep time.

Menu (for 6):
White Bean Dip with Fried Garlic & Rosemary
BBQ Shrimp
French Bread
Green Beans with Mustard Vinaigrette
Peach and Cherry Crostata

White Bean Dip with Fried Garlic & Rosemary
I wasn’t going to serve a heavy appetizer since dinner involved a lot of bread & butter, but I really wanted a nice long cocktail hour to catch up with my buds and I didn’t want to leave them hungry…so at the last minute I whipped up a white bean “hummus”. Frying the garlic and rosemary helps mellow their flavors so they’re not too overwhelming.

What you need:
Two 14oz. cans white beans (navy or cannellini)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
One 4” sprig fresh rosemary
.5 cup olive oil
.25 tsp cumin
salt & pepper
Pita chips or crackers for serving

How to make it:
Heat olive oil in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add garlic and whole rosemary spring and let them sizzle away until the garlic is light brown. Meanwhile drain & rinse the beans and dump them in the bowl of a food processor with a pinch of cumin. When the garlic is ready, remove the pot from the heat, carefully pull the rosemary out and strip the leaves off the stem. Coarsely chop the leaves and add them, with the garlic and the oil, to the food processor. Buzz everything together until smooth, take a taste and add salt & pepper as needed.

BBQ Shrimp
This is actually a New Orleans-style BBQ Shrimp - essentially it’s whole shrimp cooked in a spicy butter sauce and served with lots of French bread to soak everything up. Traditionally the shrimp are left in their shells but since I had a recently reformed vegetarian on the guest list I wasn’t so sure how keen she’d be about ripping the little legs off her dinner before she ate it… so I cleaned and peeled the shrimp, leaving just the tails on. If you’re short on time, or just not into de-veining shrimp, you can actually buy them cleaned & ready to go for a little more money. And if you’re nowhere near an ocean, the frozen ones will work just fine.

What you need:
3lbs large shrimp, cleaned, de-veined and peeled
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 sticks butter
2 tsp garlic salt
.5 tsp oregano
4 tsp ground black pepper
.5 tsp onion powder
.5 tsp smoky paprika
Pinch ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
12 oz. beer
4 oz. (1/2 cup) Worcestershire sauce
Handful of fresh chives, chopped or snipped (optional)
French bread for serving

How to make it:
In a large pot, heat butter and garlic over medium high heat until butter foams up. Once foam subsides, add all the spices and stir to combine. Add beer and Worcestershire sauce, stir and bring to a boil. Add shrimp and cook 4-5 minutes until the shrimp are pink and cooked through. Sprinkle the chives over the top so it looks pretty, and then you’re done.

I brought the pot to the table, set it in the center with a big ladle and let everyone scoop out spoonfuls of shrimp and rich, dark broth into their bowls. We ate with our fingers and didn’t stop until we’d all sopped up every last bit of the sauce.

Green Beans with Mustard Vinaigrette
This is an easy, do-ahead way to serve a green vegetable. They’re crisp and tangy and make a great accent for the rich shrimp. And since we were eating our shrimp with our fingers we just picked these up with our fingers too!

I’m not doing an ingredient list - you can really make a vinaigrette with any combination of oils, vinegars and spices you have on hand. I used rice wine vinegar, a spoonful of mustard and a sliced shallot to make a mellow dressing and tossed it with green beans I had quickly cooked in a pot of salted water. I made everything in the afternoon and served them room temp but they’d be delicious hot or cold too.

Peach and Cherry Crostata
Using a ready made frozen pie crust makes this super easy and fast to assemble. Simply thaw the crust and unroll it onto a greased baking sheet, Chop four cups of whatever fruit you want to use and toss it with a handful of sugar (I used turbinado sugar) and a little flour. Pile the fruit in the center of your crust, fold the edges inward, brush with a little egg wash or cream, sprinkle more sugar on top & bake for 40 minutes at 425 degrees until the crust is golden and the fruit is bubbling.

I served it with a splash of cream but ice cream would, of course, be fabulous. Because really, when does adding ice cream to something ever really NOT work out?

Big thanks again to my friends for the fun time, the gorgeous flowers, the incredible wine, for doing the dishes, and for being the best new-recipe guinea pigs a gal could ask for.

Jul 16, 2009

OK, I'm Ready.

Wow. That took longer than I thought it would. I had no idea it would take me a week to get my bearings post-vacation but I’m back-

I’ve tackled the pile of laundry, paid the stack of bills, got caught up at work, and have almost finished unpacking my suitcase. That must mean it’s time to entertain!

This email went out to a few close friends:

hey pals,

I'm feeling the itch to entertain... with the disclaimer that I will probably be taking pictures of your food & writing anecdotes about your behavior... would you like to come to dinner at my house Saturday night? Completely casual of course & I may try to hunt up another guest or two (suggestions??) - hope you'll all join!

p.s. - Does shrimp freak anybody out? I'm still feeling beachy...

An essentials-only trip to the grocery store when I got back yielded a handful of almost ripe peaches, about a pound of sweet Rainier cherries*, and the knowledge that shrimp are on sale this week. Armed with a recipe for BBQ Shrimp I’ve been dying to try and a ready-made pie crust in the freezer (there’s a crostata in my future) - I see a dinner menu shaping up. I’m going to snag a fresh green vegetable and a loaf of really good bread from the Green Market tomorrow and I’ll be all set.

I’ll let you know how it goes… 

And just so you know - I've really missed you guys.

I’m playing around with some of the graphics on the site…but I'm not the most computer-savvy gal so bear with me while I figure it out, ok? 

Jul 12, 2009

A Vacation Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, brilliant and impossibly charming* Princess who went on vacation to a land far, far away. She spent ten glorious days in a beachside cottage with all of her favorite friends and loved ones**. She frolicked all day in the sand & surf while the sun tanned her to a lovely bronze***. Every meal was fit for a King, lovingly prepared by the kitchen slave-slash-cabana boy**** and evenings were a blur of good food, delicious cocktails and big belly laughs. The Princess returned home relaxed and refreshed and she lived happily ever after*****.

The End.******

*Hey, this is my fairy tale…
** Except for
you of course & you know who you are.
***Ok, not exactly. But if you’re standing far away & squinting, my brown freckles merge together…
****He’s a cutie patootie and should my cousin ever tire of him, I plan to snatch him up immediately.
*****Or at least until the vacation glow wore off.
******Until later this week when I come back with new content!

Jul 2, 2009


on vacation until the 12th. Have a lovely week + I'll be back soon!