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.


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! 


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


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.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Warm Prosperity Dip for the New Year

Those of us that live in the South are accustomed to the tradition of eating collards, black-eyed peas and pork on New Year’s Day to ensure luck, wealth and happiness in the coming year. Yet many do not know the symbolism behind each of the prescribed ingredients for prosperity.

Cooked greens of any sort, including cabbage, collards, kale, and spinach, are eaten on New Year's in different countries because the green leaves look like folded money, and symbolize economic fortune. It's widely believed that the amount of wealth you have is directly proportionate to the amount of greens you eat.

Eating a black-eyed pea for each day of the new year (366 this year because it’s a leap year) is said to bring luck and good fortune. According to Southern folklore this tradition traces back to the Civil War when many ran out of food while under attack. After the Northern troops commandeered Southern food supplies, all that was left was field peas (and greens and salt pork). The Southern residents felt fortunate that they still had food to eat thus making the peas lucky.

Legumes of all sorts are consumed on New Year’s Day in other parts of the world and are believed to be symbolic of money. Their small, round appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. For some, the tradition also signifies a year’s worth of good health. Black-eyed peas for example are high in nutritional value, containing calcium, fiber and protein, all for less than 200 calories a cup, depending on how you prepare them.

Now pork has an even stranger association: the custom of eating pork on New Year's Day is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress because pigs root in the ground, pushing forward. Thanks to the rich fat content found in pork, it also signifies wealth and prosperity. For us, pork symbolizes happiness because who isn’t happy eating bacon?!

In planning for our New Year’s Eve festivities, we want to create a dish with these traditional ingredients in mind. And, of course, it isn’t a party without dip, right? So, starting with the idea of the old reliable warm spinach dip, I headed to Sprouts Farmers Market to get fresh collards, where is addition to the gorgeous greens, I also found black-eyed peas in the bulk bins. A plan was forming in my head… beans would be a healthy substitute for cheese in our dip. A package of bacon and we were good to go.

Warm Prosperity Dip
5 bacon slices, cooked & chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups collard greens, blanched and chopped
2 cups black-eyed peas, cooked
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Tabasco (optional)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare collards by bringing a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Wash collards greens and remove tough stems. Place collards leaves in the boiling water and boil for approximately 20 minutes. Drain collards and let cool.

Cook bacon over medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan, drain on paper towels and set aside. Using the about 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings and stirring to loosen particles from bottom, sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Combine the cream cheese, cooked black-eyed peas (soaked overnight and boiled until tender with salt and pepper) sautéed onions, salt, pepper and Tabasco (as desired) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until fully combined.

Squeeze out the excess liquid from the cooled collards using a kitchen towel and then coarsely chop greens.  In a large mixing bowl fold collards into the black-eyed pea puree until fully incorporated then transfer the dip to a lightly greased 1.5-qt. baking dish or smaller ramekins.

Crumble the reserved bacon pieces and sprinkle the Parmesan cheese and bacon over the top of the dish. Bake in preheated oven until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Garnish as desired. We dusted the top with smoked paprika, but chopped scallions would be a nice addition as well. Serve with toast, assorted crackers, flatbread, crudities or whatever suits your fancy. We know it will be difficult, but leave a smidgen in the dish to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year.

And, did you ever wonder if there are foods you should avoid eating on New Year’s Day? Apparently, eating any winged fowl could cause your good luck to fly away. And because chickens have the tendency to scratch backwards, eating yard bird could cause you to dwell on the past and/or could lead to serious setbacks in the coming year.

To encourage everyone to eat healthy, wealthy and wise in 2016, Sprouts Farmers Market has provided us with a $50 gift card to share with one of our lucky readers. (We hope you ate all your black-eyed peas for this one!) Please enter below:

While the gift cards we received were complimentary, no additional remuneration was received. The recipe is our original creation and the opinions included herein are honest and unsolicited. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Italian Christmas Dinner at Bellina Alimentari

As most of you know, we cook quite a bit of Italian food in our home. As a result, we are always curious as to how other Italians cook, especially around the holidays where food takes center stage. When we saw that Bellina Alimentari was holding a class on cooking a classic Italian dinner, I jumped at the chance to attend!

We were greeted by owner, Tal Baum, who explained that Christmas in Italy is a time to indulge in decadent meals. The dishes are minimalistic and feature only the freshest seasonal elements; every ingredient counts. It's a custom in Italy to start a meal with “Tagliere misto di antipasti” – a beautiful board of assorted antipasti, pairing your favorite craft cheeses and charcuterie with honey and jams. Garnish with olives, fresh fruit and nuts, play with different combinations of crostini. She demonstrated several simple crostini recipes that are easy to make at home.

Ricotta, Walnut and Honey Crostini
4 bread slices, toasted
4 tablespoons walnut butter
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons honey
Pecorino cheese, shaved
Salt, pepper

Pick a style of bread that is easy to slice; baguette or ciabatta work well. Slice and toast bread in a 350ºF oven for about 8 minutes each side before topping with ingredients.

If you cannot find walnut butter, you can substitute another nut butter or make your own by pureeing ¼ cup walnuts with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Mix ricotta and walnut butter until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Top crostini with ricotta-walnut spread and drizzle honey generously over the top. Garnish each slice with shaved pecorino cheese.

Goat Cheese and Caramelized Apple Crostini
4 bread slices, toasted
1/2 Ib. Chevre or other soft goat cheese
1 small apple
2 tablespoons sugar
Kosher Salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
Extra-virgin Olive Oil
Fresh thyme

Dice the apple in small ¼” cubes and simmer slowly with the sugar until apples are tender and caramelized. Set the apples aside to let cool. Toast the crostini as above.

Spread goat cheese on each slice of bread, top with a spoonful of caramelized apples, garnish with a few thyme leaves, a light drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper.

In addition, to the crostini, Tal showed us how to create a deluxe cheese board for the holiday table. Starting with three cheeses (Asher bleu, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the ricotta spread above), she added a selection of charcuterie and intermingled olives, pickles and jam. Her advice is to place items on the board next to their complements (e.g., salami next to pickled mustard seeds).

As we nibbled on our crostini, she demonstrated how to prepare a butternut squash risotto with crispy pancetta. Starting with broth from scratch, Tal cooked the rice stirring constantly. As the rice absorbed the broth, she ladled in more cooking and stirring and again adding ladles’ full, until the rice was fully cooked and creamy. As the risotto is nearly done, the cheese is added with the crisp pancetta stirred in just before serving. The end result is a decadent dish perfect for celebrating the holidays.

No Italian dinner is complete without dessert. Plates of the restaurant’s panettone bread pudding were served as Sous Chef, Sidney Blackwell showed us how to make a classic zabaione. Zabaione is an Italian dessert made by whipping a large amount of air into egg yolks, sugar, and liqueur until it becomes a light custard. The zabaione was drizzled over the top of the bread pudding for an ideal finish to the meal.

Many thanks to Bellina Alimentari and CulinaryLocal for a lovely evening of holiday conviviality!


Friday, December 16, 2016

Anginetti Italian Lemon Cookies

It is not the holidays in an Italian household without the cookies! Each year, I make cookies for Christmas. There are always the almond biscotti and pizzelles, and each year I’ve been trying to find a new cookie recipe. We’ve made amaretti, Italian wedding cookies, and a lost-and-found clothespin cookie. This year, when searching for a new cookie to add to the repertoire, I enter the term “Italian cookies” in the Google search bar and the number one response (as well as the next 10 or 12) was for a frosted lemon cookie called “Anginetti.” When I asked Dom about them, he said he remembered something similar that tasted like wax… Yum.

After reading a boat-load of recipes that didn’t sound a bit like wax, I decided to give them a try anyway. You all know that I like to add a bit of history with recipes, but I could find very little with the exception that they originated in Naples and the southern regions of Italy. As with many, Italian cookies, they are not overly sweet. With lemon zest and flavoring along with a lemon juice glaze, these cookies are zesty and pillowy soft. While I suppose you could make these without nonpareils, almost every recipe online and off had the colorful decorative round sprinkles on top. They are a tasty and vibrant addition to any Italian cookie table.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup milk
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until frothy. Beat in the lemon and vanilla extracts, lemon zest, and salt. Add the eggs and beat for a full minute until light and fluffy, and then add the milk and baking powder beating for another 30 seconds.

Fold the flour into the batter taking care not to overmix or deflate the batter or your cookies will be tough (and taste like wax?) due to overdeveloped gluten in the flour. The dough will be very sticky. At this point, cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or longer.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon sheets. Using floured hands, roll the dough into your desired shape. There are three classic shapes for these cookies: simple balls, rings and knots. Bake cookies for about 10 to 12 minutes being cautious not to overcook. The cookies should be blonde on top and lightly golden on the bottom. If you are planning to freeze some of the cookies, allow them to cool and freeze before glazing.

2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Juice of one large lemon
2 teaspoons lemon extract
Water as needed

While the cookies cool, prepare the glaze by mixing the confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and lemon extract in a bowl until the glaze is smooth. Add water gradually until you reach the consistency you desire. If the glaze is too thick, add a bit of water and blend until smooth. If the glaze is too thin, add a bit more confectioner’s sugar.

Dip the cooled cookies into the glaze, so that just the top is coated, turning once or twice, then lifting to let the extra glaze drip off. Place the cookies on a rack adding the sprinkles before the glaze begins to set. Let the cookies sit on the rack until the glaze dries and the cookies can be stored in an airtight container.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

10 Must-Have Stocking Stuffers for Food Lovers and Cooks

When you want to get creative with your gift-giving, unique stocking stuffers are the way to go. They might be the least expensive items on your gift-giving list, and often they’re last-minute picks, but that doesn’t mean that stocking stuffers can’t be just as thoughtful as the other gifts you plan on giving. Whether whimsical, practical, or somewhere in between, these smaller gifts can be thoughtful, fun, and exciting to give. For the food lovers, cooks, and entertainers in your life, we've put together a list of creative and useful stocking stuffers.

  1. For the entertainers in your life, we love these useful little gems from Going Stemless™. These upscale magnetic cocktail charms are for use on ALL drinkware, especially stemless wine and champagne glasses on which traditional wine charms can’t be used. They also work well on tumblers and acrylics for outdoor get-togethers! Available is sets of six online or in Atlanta at The Cook’s Warehouse for $23.
  2. For your favorite mixologist, we highly recommend E. Harlow Magnolia Bitters from PourTaste. Magnolia blossoms are used as an aromatic and flavoring agent in these floral and slightly piney bitters that are sure to wow. The unique flavor profile shines brightest with clear spirits but also brings a refreshing nuance to brown spirits.  From PourTaste for $20. 
  3. Perfect for cooks and bakers, IKEA’s 100% cotton dishtowels are the ticket! A gifting trifecta of durable, inexpensive and cute, these workhorses serve as potholders, bar mops and are even pretty enough to stand in for napkins. Packs of four for $3.99 from IKEA.
  4. You can impress even the most hardcore chef with a Gray Kunz plating spoon. An elegant, ergonomic, stainless-steel spoon hefty enough to crack crab claws. Designed by chef Gray Kunz at Lespinasse has a generous bowl with a tapered edge allowing for precision when saucing a dish or making quenelles. Its handle is shorter and narrower than most chefs’ spoons, making it easier to hold and control. Twenty years ago, you could only get a Kunz spoon if you worked at Lespinasse. Now you can get them online or in Atlanta from The Cook’s Warehouse for $20.
  5. Less-than-sharp blades are major contributors to injury during holiday meal preparation. AnySharp Metal Pro Sharpener turns a dull knife (even one with a serrated edge) into a razor-sharp cutting instrument in seconds with just a few light strokes. AnySharp Pro securely attaches to a smooth surface or worktop with a PowerGrip suction base to ensure a safe sharpening process and is small enough to tuck into a drawer for everyday use. Available from Amazon for $16.
  6. In every kitchen in the nation you will find zip-top bags, but Kikkerland Mason Jar Stand-Up Zipper Storage Bags are not only adorable, but they are reusable as well. Modeled after classic French jam jars or swing-top jars, their clever design allows bags to stand when filled. Available in packs of 2, 3 or 4 online or in Atlanta at Richard’s Variety Store for $4.00.
  7. Anyone that spends anytime in the kitchen whether it's prepping, cooking, or washing dishes will completely appreciate a little TLC for their hands! Soaps designed to clean (Lava) and care for (Mrs. Meyers) hands, and lotions (Cucina) and creams (Burt’s Bees) designed to hydrate and nourish are a must for any friend that spends time in the kitchen. Prices range from $2 to $20 at major retailers and Amazon.
  8. Anyone who enjoys their Saturday morning outing to local Farmer’s Markets or foraging during a hike in the woods will find the Matador Daylite16 Backpack to be a MUST. Ultra-lightweight and compact, the Daylite16 is built from waterproof Cordura® ripstop material and has a 16-liter capacity which packs away to fit in the palm of your hand. Order directly from Matador for $50.
  9. For those food-enthusiasts who can’t resist taking a picture of each dish and posting to Instagram before indulging their tastebuds, needs these super portable, easy-to-use, clip-on camera lenses for mobile phones. With many options, our favorite comes with universal 5-in-1 lens available from Amazon for $14.
  10. Know someone that loves to eat but hates to cook? An Atlanta Dining Out Passbook will be the perfect gift. You can purchase a 2017 Passbook for ONLY $35 (65% off the regular price of $99) from DiningOut Atlanta using code 2DINEPASS2017. And, in the true sense of the season, all proceeds from the book go to The Giving Kitchen! This unique deal book features two-for-one entrées and other offers at more than 70 restaurants across Atlanta including Argosy, Bellwoods Social House, Bite Bistro & Bar, Campagnolo Restaurant & Bar, Einstein’s, Food 101, Meehan’s Public House, Murphy’s, Naan Stop, One Midtown Kitchen, Parish, Park Tavern, Sun In My Belly, Smoke Ring BBQ, STK, Tabla, TAP, Whisky Mistress, Zocalo and many others.

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