Friday, August 29, 2008

What's Your Favorite Kitchen Tool?

I just finished reading an article in one of my favorite cooking magazines about essential kitchen tools. It was filled with chinois, mandolins and other items used often in the professional kitchen. But, when fixing a fast and fresh dinner at home, I don't often employ them. So, I thought I'd blog about some of my favorite new gadgets that help me produce professional results quickly. We all know that freshly sliced, chopped, grated and julienned vegetables taste better than the ones available pre-prepared in the store. So, when you do have time, it's a big flavor boost to your food to do the work yourself. At our house, we love carrot and other vegetables julienned in our salads. So, the Julienne Grater is one of my kitchen must haves. Have you used one? It's wonderful. It will allow you to easily make those beautiful little "matchstick" pieces of vegetable that you see in food photography and on TV. They cook quickly and each individual julienne looks the same. The first time I saw one was a couple of summers ago while on a chefs trip to France. While we were there, we ate at a wonderful 3 star restaurant. (Ooh la la!)  Attached to the restaurant was a gift shop run by the chef's mother. As I was running my hands along all the wares, I picked up a grater with a funny looking attachment. It was a Julienne Grater, she told me in heavily accented english. It will make beautiful julienne with no effort. I was intrigued, and because I love julienned vegetables, and hate having to make them, I took it to the cash register, and paid about $25 for it. Wowza. (I got lots of ribbing from the other chefs!) But it was worth it. I brought it home and voila-beautiful julienne. But you don't have to pay that for one - there are several different brands out there for just about $8-$10.  Treat yourself to a new julienne grater and discover all the different uses for it! Here's a quick recipe to try with your new grater gizmo: Cashew Carrot Brown Rice Pilaf Saute 1 julienned large carrot and 2 thinly sliced shallots in 2 TB of butter, over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until shallot is wilted. Stir in 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper and cook for 2 minutes more. Add 3 cups low salt-lowfat chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 20 -25 minutes or until rice is done. Stir in 1/2 cup cashews and 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

BMWs as far as the eye can see!

We headed down towards Warm Springs, Georgia this past weekend for a fun drive with the Peachtree Chapter of the BMW Club. About thirty of us had waxed, polished and detailed our babies before we met at AllSpeed Autoworks in Peachtree City. Allspeed was a great starting point, with a showroom full of cars to drool over like a vintage Road Runner in neon green and lots of sexy coupes and convertibles, (more my speed!). After a quick briefing on the route by organizer Peter Waldeck, (yes, there is a connection, he's my brother-in-law), the group headed out and stopped on the side of the road for pictures and to admire each other's rides. Then we were off on twisty turn- y and obscure back roads. I don't often get a real glimpse of rural Georgia, so this was a treat to ride through the scenic tiny towns and mile after mile of rolling hills and small farms. Our destination, Warm Springs, is famous because of Roosevelt's Little White House. Before lunch, we strolled the sidewalks and checked out a couple of charming and quirky downtown spots. Don't miss the motorcycle museum. The name is a misnomer - there is much more than just motorcycles inside. For $5 you'll see everything from Marilyn Monroe memorabilia to Houdini's handcuffs! We took advantage of a tip on a popular local barbeque joint, Mac's Bar-B-Que. And we weren't disappointed. The juicy pork sandwich, tangy coleslaw and beans with brown sugar fueled us up for the quick interstate drive back to the city.

Salad ON Pizza

Here's a fun take on the tried and true salad and pizza combo. Our local Mellow Mushroom has a "Caesar Salad Pizza". Warm crusty pizza dough right from the oven, topped with a fresh and crispy Chicken Caesar Salad. Can it get much better? Pair it with a Micro Brew and dinner is served!

Monday, August 11, 2008

What's Your Comfort Food?

Some days, it just has to be curry. And not just any curry - Thai curry in all it's guises. Even in the warmest of summer,  the round rich taste of coconut milk sustains me like nothing else can. Although I am hooked on my local "Thai Diner" restaurant, a friend and I tried "Top Spice" in Smyrna the other day for lunch. Hiding out next to the Post Office and a gi-normous Toys are Us it was difficult to find. But I am glad we did! The cool dark interior was packed at lunch time with many asian patrons and lots of local office workers. The service was efficient and extremely pleasant. We followed an excellent piquant coconut chicken soup with perennial favorite Chicken Masaman and Beef with Broccoli in Red Curry. Did you know that Masaman is the Thai word for Muslim? This curry was probably brought to Thailand with traders. And, it's interesting to note that it is very close to a Portuguese Goan curry, since Masaman curries are not extremely spicy, but more sweet and sour. The Thai red curry paste is made from hot chile peppers, lemon grass and chili paste among other ingredients. Just because it's hot outside, doesn't mean spicy food can't cool you down. Grab a friend and find discover your favorite Thai curry comfort spot! Top Spice has several restaurants in Atlanta including Midtown and Toco Hills - Check out Top Spice in Smyrna at 2997 Cobb Pwky, Ste 200, Atlanta GA.