Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wahoo Wine Tastings Offer Perfect Pairings

Atlanta has more than a few venues that offer wine tastings to be sure. However, finding an event that offers unique and fantastic wines paired with an exceptional tasting menu is a rare treat. That is exactly what I found when attending one of the monthly wine tastings at Wahoo Grill in Decatur.

At first glance, Wahoo Grill appears to be a quaint little neighborhood restaurant, but upon entering you find room after room of seating including a charming patio perfect for al fresco dining in better weather. Due to the chilly evening, I was seated in the bar area with a full view of the kitchen as the chef assembled the small plates.

With each tasting course, the knowledgeable sommelier would pour the corresponding glass of wine; on this occasion three French wines from the Languedoc wine region of France. He spent a few minutes talking about each wine, its vintner and some fun facts about the grapes. Hearing the particulars lends context to the taste and terroir of the pours.

The first pairing was a 2015 Château de Lascaux Languedoc Rosé served with Moules-frites: PEI mussels in a rosé wine broth accentuated with ginger, pink peppercorns, and a hint of basil topped with crispy shoestring potatoes. The crisp, mineral aspects of the wine emphasized the slight heat of the peppercorns and richness of the mussels.

Next a Domaine d’Aupilhac Vin de Pays de Mont Baudile “Le Carignan” Rouge 2009 was paired with Terrine de Campagne: a warm pork and chicken liver terrine made with wild mushrooms, warm spices and bay laurel topped with a dollop of excellent Dijon mustard and grilled bread. This rich red with bold cherry notes matched well with the rich game flavors, minimized the fatty mouthfeel of the pork and was a distinctive contrast to the Dijon mustard.

Last, I enjoyed Domaine Brumont Madiran Torus 2011 with Duck Confit in a thyme & juniper jus dotted with dried cherries, and a potato-rutabaga hash. This uber-tannic, juicy red with an unexpected bit of sweetness was a wonderful complement to the sumptuous duck and helped to cut the richness of the duck fat which might otherwise have been overwhelming.

While the dishes I’ve described may seem pretentious, this restaurant is not. Wahoo Grill was packed with regulars on this Wednesday night along with new guests there for the tasting event. Whether you are looking for a casual dining spot to gather with friends or an exceptional monthly wine tasting, Wahoo Grill is the place for you. And be sure to stop into Wahoo! Wine and Provisions for great wine selections and a free wine tasting every Saturday.

Disclosure: I attended this event as a brand Ambassador for CulinaryLocal. While the wines and dishes I sampled were complimentary, the content and photographs are original and all opinions are unsolicited. 

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Healthy Game Day Options at Sprouts Farmers Market

The Atlanta Falcons will be playing in Super Bowl LI after defeating the Green Bay Packers to become the 2017 NFC Champions. As you can imagine, within minutes of the win, everyone in the city of Atlanta began planning Super Bowl parties. However, many of us have been working diligently to meet our resolution goals and are looking for healthy options to typical game day fare.

Luckily, Sprouts Farmer’s Market teamed up with trusted food and nutrition expert Marisa Moore, RDN, to demonstrate several easy and healthy recipes to help score extra points with game-day guests while dodging deep-fried snacks and sidestepping junk food.

She began with her healthy spinach dip with whipped cottage cheese instead of mayo and plenty of garlic for flavor and spice. The beauty of this dip is that it can be served hot or cold. Chicken and spinach quesadillas made with a light smattering of Monterey Jack cheese folded into corn tortillas are a wholesome alternative to ooey-gooey nachos. Marisa uses corn tortillas rather than the commonly-used flour tortillas for an extra dose of fiber and protein.

Everyone knows you cannot have a Super Bowl party without the brownies… Marisa makes her version with black beans (yes, black beans) to substitute for a portion of the fat while still creating a moist and fudge-like chocolate treat. And no, there is no “beany” flavor. She shared her recipe made with products from Sprouts so you can taste for yourself.

1 can Sprouts no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup Sprouts unsweetened cocoa powder
3 eggs
3 tablespoons Sprouts extra-virgin coconut oil
½ - ¾ cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
½ cup chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)






Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with cooking spray.

Blend all ingredients in a mixing bowl with a mixer or food processor. Pour the batter into the greased baking pan and bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until the center is set.

Let cool and cut into serving size pieces. Refrigerate leftovers (of course, there probably won’t be any!)

Disclosure: Although we received a stipend for attending this event, all content, photos and opinions are original and unsolicited.

Yum

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Real-Deal Sauerkraut

Every magazine on the newsstand today has at least one article about the health benefits of fermented foods. The custom of fermentation to preserve foods has been practiced for centuries to preserve vegetables and other perishable foods without the use of modern-day refrigerators, freezers or canning machines. The metabolic process known as fermentation requires the presence of a carbohydrate source like vegetables, which contain glucose (sugar) molecules, plus yeast, bacteria or both. The yeast and bacteria microorganisms are responsible for converting sugar into healthy bacteria strains that help regulate many bodily functions.

Gut microbiota (also known as "gut flora") is the microbe population living in human intestines. The good bacteria living in someone’s healthy gut environment have been proven to be crucial for lowering the risk of just about every form of acute or chronic illness there is including brain disorders and mental illness, mood disorders, asthma, various autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

While fermented foods can now be easily found in most grocery stores, commercially-produced products may contain other preservatives that can detract from their probiotic effectiveness. Making your own at home is relatively easy and very inexpensive. The minimum equipment necessary is two quart jars with lids, some form of weights.*

1 (2 lb.) head of cabbage, head thinly shredded
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ cup whey
2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)

Rinse cabbage and remove any damaged outer leaves, reserving one clean leaf for the top of the jar. Cut the head into quarters and remove the core.

Slice the cabbage thinly. We like ours super thin so we use the highest setting of the blade on a mandolin.  As you slice each quarter, place in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt. Do this for the first three layers and add all remaining salt to the top layer. Add the whey and caraway seeds if desired and toss thoroughly. Squeezing the cabbage as you mix helps to bruise the cabbage and get the juices running. Set the cabbage aside to rest as you prepare your jars and do a little clean up.

Pack the cabbage tightly (using a muddler or wooden spoon) in a 2-quart jar. Be sure to pour in all the juices (and whey) extracted from the cabbage. Place the reserved cabbage leaf on the top and place a weight (if using) on the leaf. If needed, add distilled water to cover the kraut by at least one inch. All the cabbage should be submerged completely under the brine.

Allow the kraut to ferment at room temperature (68°F -72°F) for 3-4 days, then refrigerate for a week or longer. Don't open your container during the first two weeks to protect it from bacteria from the air.

If you have the equipment, place an airlock lid on the jar. An airlock system, while recommended, is not necessary. As long as your cabbage is weighted below the brine level, an anaerobic environment is created. You can place a lid loosely on the jar. Tightening the lid may cause the jar to explode as the fermentation process releases CO2. Place the jar in a bowl or plate to protect your furniture by catching any brine that leaks from the jar.

After the initial 2 weeks of the fermentation process, you can open the jar and enjoy your super-healthy sauerkraut loaded with probiotics. The kraut will continue to ferment and the flavors will continue to develop over the next few weeks. Under normal conditions, your sauerkraut will keep for several months in the refrigerator, if you don’t eat it all before then!

The most genius weighting system we have seen is to place a small jelly jar inside a wide-mouth, quart-size jar as seen here.

Yum

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lucky Dumplings for the Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year is one of the most significant of Asian holidays and is a time for feasting, reflection and renewal. Traditionally celebrated over 15 days, the holiday starts with the first lunar new moon of the year and ends on the full moon. Chinese New Year 4715, which begins Saturday, will be the Year of the Rooster.  The New Year's Eve family dinner represents a night of unity, reunion and harmony. Popular lucky dishes include anything whole (complete) or long (longevity). Traditional favorites include whole chicken, duck or fish served with long noodles, long leafy greens, and long string beans. Fresh and candied fruit, especially kumquats and oranges, represent good health, happiness, prosperity and blessings.

Chinese dumplings called jiaozi (“gee-OW zeh”) represent wealth because they are shaped like ancient silver and gold ingots which were used as currency during the Ming Dynasty. Interestingly, the first bank note of China was called "Jiaozi." I adore these hearty little bundles of joy filled with cabbage (prosperity and luck), pork (strength and wealth), and green onions (long life and eternity). Until this week, I have enjoyed them at Chinese restaurants. Amazingly, they are actually quite easy (and fun) to make at home. For those not ready to fully embrace the “from scratch” concept, pre-made dumpling wrapper are available in most Asian and ethnic markets.

Dumpling Wrappers:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 to 3/4 cups boiling water

In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt and then slowly add hot water to flour in 1/4 cup increments. Mix with chopsticks or a fork until a ball is formed and the dough is not too hot to handle.

On a floured surface, knead dough until it becomes a tight ball. This is harder than you think it will be. Keep folding and kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough back in bowl and cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest for about an 1 hour. Resting the dough is important because otherwise the dough is difficult to roll out and shape.

Working on a floured surface with floured hands, roll out dough to form a long 'noodle' about 1-inch in diameter. Cut 1/2-inch pieces and turn them over so the cut sides are facing up. Flatten with your palm and roll out thin using a rolling pin. The dumpling wrapper should end up about 4 inches in diameter.

Pork and Ginger Filling:
  • 3 cups Napa or regular cabbage, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 pound ground pork 
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg, beaten

Sprinkle cabbage with the salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Place the cabbage on a clean dishtowel or cheesecloth and squeeze out any water. You will be amazed at how much water can be extracted from the cabbage. The dryer the cabbage; the better.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix the cabbage with all of the other ingredients. Cook a tester to check the seasoning and make any wanted adjustments.

Place a small mound of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Be very careful not to touch the edges with the filling as this will impede proper sealing of the dumplings. Fold the wrapper in half to form a half moon shape. Starting on one end, pleat the wrapper tightly together until the dumpling is completely sealed. There will be approximately 10 folds per dumpling. Rest the dumplings with the folded edges straight up. You can also use a dumpling press, which makes uniform pot stickers and dramatically speeds up the process.

To cook, bring two inches of water to boil in a wok or sauce pot. To prevent dumplings from sticking during cooking, lightly coat the steamer basket with oil (or you can line the steamer basket with several cabbage leaves). Steam 6 dumplings at a time in the basket, being careful not to over-crowd, for 8-10 minutes with a tight fitting lid.

While dumplings are steaming, whisk together a tangy dipping sauce:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Combine all the ingredients and mix until honey is fully dissolved. Drizzle some sauce over pot stickers and garnish with chopped scallions. Serve remaining sauce in a small bowl for dipping.

Jan 30, 2014

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Stirring Up a Georgia Sunset


Photographers refer to the period shortly before sunset as the golden hour. During this time the daylight is warmer and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky. Of course, others of us consider that time to be the cocktail hour. Our entry in the Stirrings® “Stir It Up Holiday Blogger Mixology Challenge” is a concoction we have dubbed the “Georgia Sunset” to celebrate this glorious time of day in the Peach State. Made with Bourbon, Stirrings® Simple Peach Bellini Cocktail Mixer, Stirrings® Blood Orange Bitters, and garnished with Stirrings® Cosmopolitan Rimmer, this is a combination of unexpected flavors, made even better when shared with friends, that will leave you yearning for another glass.

The bourbon signifies the sky warmly lit by the sun trying to squeeze the last of its amber limbs over the rooftops, while the orange bitters adds a deep auburn glow. The peach nectar symbolizes the golden hue of the horizon as the sun melts below its surface with the rimmer epitomizing the dusting of light pink that hovers over the skyline as the sun (represented by the spherical ice globe) slowly disappears in the failing light leaving only sweet and salty memories of the day just past.



Georgia Sunset Cocktail
2 oz. Bourbon
½ oz. Stirrings® Blood Orange Bitters
3 oz. Stirrings® Simple Peach Bellini Cocktail Mixer
Stirrings® Cosmopolitan Rimmer

Rim coupe or martini glass with Stirrings® Cosmo Rimmer.

Combine all liquid ingredients in an ice filled shaker and shake well. Pour over spherical ice globe in the glass.

Share with friends. ENJOY!


For more cocktail inspiration, visit the Stirrings® website or connect with them on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.


Disclosure: While we received complimentary samples of Stirrings® products to compete in this challenge, all written content and photos are original and copyrighted.


Yum

Friday, January 13, 2017

Food Photography Lessons from an Expert

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a class on smartphone photography hosted by Alyssa Fagien at Bellina Alimentari. Alyssa is the founder of ATL Bucket List which began as an Instagram account representing a digital catalog of her Atlanta adventures in 2015.

The class was very interactive, in fact we didn’t even have chairs. The restaurant provided beautiful dishes perfect for drool-worthy photos that we used to apply the tips and tricks shared by Alyssa. For example, she recommends checking your surroundings: look for contrasting backgrounds, natural lighting, and elements that don’t complement your image.

She advises that you should move around to take photos from differing angles and distances and to take numerous photos, so you have plenty to choose from when it comes time to edit and post your finished picture. (Alyssa shared several more tips, but you will have to take her class to learn those.) She admits that real skill comes from practice and advocates for taking multiple pictures of everything you eat!


We put her suggestions to use as we snapped photos of Bellina’s popular misto board, their winter pesto pasta and a chocolate budino. Alyssa shared her favorite photo editing apps for perfecting our photos before posting them to Instagram. As an added incentive, she chose the person she felt had best used her tips to receive a goodie basket from Bellina.


We look forward to putting these expert photography tips to good use. Thanks to Bellina Alimentari and CulinaryLocal for this educational opportunity! 




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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

National Soup Month Seafood Chowder

Soup is one of the oldest forms of food right up there with bread.  Although it was not until the invention of waterproof containers, about 9,000 years ago, that soup came into existence, the fact that an entire month is devoted to celebrating soup is a testament to its continued universal popularity.

Soup can be dated back to about 6,000 B.C. and was first made of hippopotamus (disgusting, eh?). Soup is made by combining ingredients, such as meat, vegetables or beans in stock or hot water, until the flavor is extracted, forming a liquid meal. There are lots of variations on the basic theme of soup, each offering a wide range of nutritional benefits.

Soup, first known as "sop," was originally a piece of bread served with some type of broth. People used to pour sop over a piece of bread or over broken off chunks of bread in a platter allowing it to soak up all the broth and then they would eat it.  As time went by sop was placed in deeper bowls and the liquid became the focal point instead of the bread. In modern day, the word sop is used to define the act of sopping up food. 

Every country in the world has soup recipes and family traditions from long ago so it comes as no surprise that soup is a favorite in most households. We have all been nursed back to health with chicken noodle soup, warmed on a frigid day by a hot bowl of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches and celebrated holidays with green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup.

New England-style chowder is a favorite in our family with the ingredients varying depending on what is fresh at the market and what we have on hand.  This is the basic formula, but don’t be afraid to experiment to create a chowder that will become your own family recipe to be handed down to the next generation.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ lb. country ham or bacon, cut into 1/8-inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 6 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 4 cups russet potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lb. (30 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 lb. clams (and juice), chopped
  • 1 lb. cod, skin and bones removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • Fresh parsley, chopped for garnish (optional)

Heat a medium skillet over low heat adding enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add ham and cook for 5 minutes and then add onion and celery and cook, stirring, until soft.

In a separate stock pot, bring stock and bay leaves to a simmer. Add diced potatoes and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until just tender.

Add ham and vegetable mixture to the stock pot and stir to mix well. Then add shrimp, clams, and fish, and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Next, add cream and season chowder with cayenne, salt, and white pepper.

Remove the bay leaves and serve hot with parsley and Old Bay seasoning. We put some hot sauce on the table too.


January 21, 2012

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sautéed Greens (Verdi Saltati) for Luck

Sautéed greens are healthy, easy and wonderfully adaptable. They are an addition to our dinner table at least once a week. They can be mixed with pasta or white beans for a hearty vegetarian meal, served as a side dish or Dom’s favorite served in chicken broth with veal meatballs as Italian wedding soup. Served cold, they make a delicious summer salad, too.

Cooking greens, also known as “potherbs,” are leafy green vegetables which are among the most widely grown vegetables worldwide. The term “leafy greens” refers to vegetables like cabbage, endive, escarole, spinach, broccoli, rapini, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, Swiss chard and even dandelions. They are grown specifically for their leaves and stems, (though sometimes the stems are not edible.) Collards, which are considered to bring a year of good fortune if eaten on New Year’s Day, were cultivated and eaten by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They are the oldest leafy green within the cabbage family.

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch leafy greens, blanched (see below)
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Blanching is a technique used to soften vegetables before their final preparation. All leafy greens (except spinach) benefit from being blanched prior to sautéing.  For greens with thick stems or ribs, separate these from the leaves, and place them in boiling water and cook them for about 5 minutes. Add the leafy pieces and stir with a wooden spoon until the water returns to a boil. As soon as the greens are a bit limp, (but not soggy looking) which should take another 3-5 minutes, remove the greens to a dry towel and drain briefly.


Heat olive oil in a heavy pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add parboiled greens (or spinach) and cook, turning occasionally for about 5 minutes until just starting to brown. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper and took another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle water (up to 2 tablespoons as needed to keep the greens from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the garlic looks golden and the greens are slightly browned, remove to serving plate and salt to taste. Sprinkle with mollica for added texture.


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