Monday, October 26, 2009

Celebrate You, Celebrate Me, Celebrate Life!

Sunday was a fun day filled with food, friends and Pomegranate Sparklers! I held a class for the Wellness Center at Piedmont Hospital – in honor of breast cancer survivors and friends. The room was filled with beautiful people and lots of pink. Representatives from Local Breast Cancer Organizations attended. It’s absolutely wonderful to have national organizations that support us when we have problems, but how lucky we are in Atlanta to also have such great local resources. The Wellness Center was well represented by Director and “Rock Star” Carolyn Helmer and super-Sara Batts, along with exceptional facilitators from the center: Dr. Jody and Barbara. One of my favorite “feel-good” people, Jennifer Dickstein was there with Hair With Care, (the woman is a magician with wigs), Trissa Carlton from Anchored Images talked about how she can help women regain confidence, Laurel Sybilrud from It’s a Journey – a fantastic local group that supports the Breast Cancer 2 Day Walk told everyone about their incredible support of the Atlanta community, and Lisa Vingerling, the fun and enthusiastic founder of Pink Heels, a group that works with young women under 40 with cancer informed the group of the Pink Heels resources.

The assistants backing me up were the A team. From James, the wonderful lead assistant, to Mary Catherine, Ben, Debbie, Sherrie, Paula, Madeline and Brenda – I couldn’t have had better help. They are the ones that make the magic; I just get to talk about it! (Thanks too, to Mallory, who helped me acclimatize to the brand new kitchen.)

And the new Cooks Warehouse in Ansley Mall is beautiful! If you are in the Atlanta area, you have to stop by. It’s a candy store of fun tools and ideas. Can’t wait to teach there again.

Here are a couple of recipes from the class to enjoy at home, along with the recipe (and the wine) for the Pomegranate Sparkler!

Savory Shrimp Bites

½ Cup Rice Vinegar

¼ Cup Sugar

3 Carrots, Grated (or about 2 cups)

2 Cups Red Onion, Minced

6 Green Onions, chopped – green and white parts

1 TB Lime Juice

Zest of 1 Lime

1 Small Red Chili Pepper, trimmed with seeds removed, minced

1 Tsp Minced Garlic

2 TB Fish Sauce

2 TB Chopped Fresh Mint

1 TB Chopped Fresh Basil

1 LB Cooked Shrimp, Roughly Chopped

Butter Lettuce Leaves – you may see the Brand Name “Sweet Gems Cups” at the store

Step One

Pour the vinegar and sugar into a bowl and stir to dissolve sugar. Place the next 8 ingredients into the bowl and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Add the shrimp. (Depending on how much liquid has been exuded, you may need to drain it. Roll about a TB of the shrimp mixture in the lettuce leaves and serve.


In Thailand fish sauce is called Nam Pla. It is is often made from anchovies, salt and water, and is often used in moderation because it is intensely flavoured. Anchovies and salt are arranged in wooden boxes to ferment and are slowly pressed, yielding the salty, fishy liquid.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Lemon, Orange and Smoked Paprika Dressing

The Dressing

1 ½ TB Lemon Juice

1 Tsp Lemon Zest

2 TB Orange Juice

1 Tsp Orange Zest

½ Tsp Dijon Mustard

3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pinch of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper plus more to taste

Pinch of Smoked Paprika plus more to taste

Pinch of Kosher or Sea Salt plus more to Taste

Shake or Whisk all the ingredients together – taste for Salt and Pepper.

The Salad

¼ Cup Very Thinly Sliced Scallion Greens

6 Cups Spinach

1 Cup Freshly Shredded Carrot

1/2 Cup Sliced Strawberries

1 Orange, Rough Chopped

¼ Cup Sliced or Slivered Toasted Almonds

Toss the Salad ingredients together and drizzle about half of the dressing over the top. Toss again and check to see if more dressing is required.


The white part of the orange, (pith) is the primary source of its flavonoids. Flavonoids are colorful pigments that support numerous metabolic processes in the body. The loss of flavonoids when you drink orange juice – or “supreme” an orange is one of the many reasons for eating the orange whole.

To Make a Pomegranate Sparkler start with Cranberry Pomegranate Juice. Add a couple of tablespoons to a wine glass and fill with either Sparkling Water or Sparkling Wine.

Cristallino Cava

When you are choosing a sparkling wine to go in a cocktail – you want to select a wine that is delicious on it’s own, but not the “top of the pop”. Cava from Spain is an excellent example of a crisp clean citrus sparkler that goes well with fruit juice. And Cristalino is a solid cava that lives up to that reputation. The grapes, a traditonal Spanish trio of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello are grown in the Penedes region of Northwest Spain. When you consider the price – about $10 in the grocery store, you can’t beat the quality of this easy drinking, light and refreshing sparkler.

Appearance: Hay Colored

Aroma: Bread, Citrus – Lemon and Lime

Taste: Green Apples, Cookie Dough, Almonds, and Lemon

Finish: Medium

Committee 0f 200 Dinner

A fascinating group of women convened in Atlanta last week – The Committee of 200. These 400+ movers and shakers are
some of the world’s most

successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. They represent over 100 industries in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada and Latin America, employ more than 2.5 million people, and generate more than $200 billion in annual revenues. So now that I have given you the amazing statistics, let me tell you how interesting, thoughtful and appreciative my dinner guests were on Saturday night. I had the pleasure of providing one of the “dine arounds” hosted by an extraordinary Atlanta member, whose gracious home provided a perfect background for a fun evening. The following is the menu for the evening, along with some of the favorite recipes from the evening, and wine choices with description.

COMMITTEE of 200 Dinner

MINGLE with Appetizers
South American Salsa with Corn Chips
Basil Thyme Pesto Cheesecake and Crackers
Garlic Marinated Olives and Fresh Roasted Almonds

Fresh Crisp Lettuces Tossed with Lemon Vinaigrette

Churrasco Style Beef and Fish Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Toasts
Herbed Green Beans
Peruvian Potatoes

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche

Basil Thyme Pesto Cheesecake and Crackers
Check out this week's Friday Four - Basil Thyme Pesto Cheesecake -103009 for this delicious recipe and a Wine Pairing, plus a couple of great kitchen tips!

Churrasco Style Beef and Fish Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce
2 Lbs Beef cut into Strips
2 Lbs Fish cut into Strips

1 Recipe Churrasco-style Dry Rub
Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Bread to Serve

Place the steak and fish in separate plastic bags and add ¼ - ½ cup of the dry rub. Close the bag and massage to coat. Leave in the frig 1 hour up to overnight. Grill or broil until desired doneness. Serve with on Grilled Bread with Chimichurri Sauce.

Churrasco-style Dry Rub

2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

2 Tsp Black Pepper

2 TB Garlic Powder
2 TB Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Ground Cumin

4 TB Dark Brown Sugar

Mix all spices together in a small bowl. Add brown sugar and mix thoroughly. 

Chimichurri Sauce

1 Cup Parsley, (Packed)
1/2 cup Olive Oil

1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup Cilantro, (Packed)
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled

¾ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Let set for at least 2 hours before serving.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche

4 oz White Chocolate
16 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
½ Cup Espresso or Very Dark Coffee
½ Cup Orange Liqueur
1 Cup Chopped, Toasted Pecans
1 LB Unsalted Butter
8 Eggs
Prepared Dulce de Leche, or a Very Dark Chocolate Bar
9” or 10” Springform Pan, lined with Parchment Paper and Coated with Non Stick Spray

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the chocolates, coffee, liqueur and butter in a double boiler, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

Step Two
Whisk the eggs; then add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir in the pecans and pour into the springform pan.

Step 3
Bake at 350F for 50 – 60 minutes, or until top looks set. Turn off the oven, open the door and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. Slice small pieces with a hot knife and top with whipped cream and if desired - Dulce de Leche. (Or for another “take on the cake” try grated a very dark chocolate bar over the whipped cream and the plate)

Crios Torrontos
A women winemaker with a fabulous reputation for high end Malbac, Susana Balbo is the mastermind behind this great-value-for-the-money white. Hailing from the slopes if the Andes in northern Argentina, this Torrontes is very fruity, floral and aromatic. If you are a fan of Viognier, Dry Rieslings or Gewurztraminers you will love wines made from the Torrontes grape.
AROMA: Citrus, Stone Fruits like Peaches or Apricots, Floral
TASTE: Green Apples, Floral, Herbs, Good Acidity
FINISH: Medium

Catena Malbac
This winner comes from a winery that produces 4 labels from inexpensive and good – to expensive and great. Malbac, one of the traditional grapes used in fine Bordeaux wines has been embraced by Argentina. And perfected there. Serious quality and exceptional price make this an excellent partner to any kind of South American or North American grill or barbeque.
APPEARANCE: Deep Ruby tending towards Purple
AROMA: Black cherries, black berries, vanilla, spice
TASTE: Dark Berries, Chocolate, Spices and Mineral
FINISH: Medium to Long

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Three Favorite Inexpensive Wines at This Very Moment…

When someone asks me for a recommendation for my favorite delicious but inexpensive wine, I always have to preface my answer with “this is My Three Favorite Inexpensive Wines at This Very Moment…

So, as promised to my readers of The Friday Four, here are the wine notes and food pairings from last weeks Du More Improv wine tasting. It’s always hard to pick only 3 wines, but I have been doing a lot of tastings and research around South America lately, and of course I am just wild about Australian Rieslings, cause they are some of the most delicious “food” wines out there!

1. Heath Wines "Southern Sisters" Clare Valley, Reserve Riesling 2004 – Cost Plus about $15
AROMA Classic “Petrol” Nose – Mineral, Citrus
TASTE Dry, Crisp with good acidity. Complex for the price. Lemon/Citrus/Minerals.
FINISH Medium to Long

2. Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – About $15 at Costco
APPEARANCE Straw Colored
AROMA Light, with Lemon, grapefruit and tropical flavors
TASTE Zingy Grapefruit, Pineapple. Medium Acidity.
FINISH Medium dry finish

3. Maipe Malbac 2008 – About $8 at Costco
APPEARANCE Dark Purple almost Opaque
AROMA Black berries, black cherries, herbal or floral
TASTE Fruit forward, hints of spice, blackberries, dark plums, medium acidity, smooth tannin
FINISH Dry but Jammy - Medium Finish

Heath Wines "Southern Sisters" Clare Valley, Reserve Riesling 2004

Cumin Crusted Lamb Chops

1 TB Cumin
½ Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

8 Lamb Chops
1 TB Olive Oil

Step One
Mix cumin with salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Baste both sides of each chop with a little oil, then sprinkle on the spice mixture. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Step Two
Non-stick spray a heavy skillet or grill pan, and place it over medium high heat. Cook chops for three to four minutes on each side for medium rare.

You can also prepare the chops outdoor grill. Ensure your grill grates are clean, and the grill preheated for at least 5 minutes on high. Cook the chops over medium low heat.

Creamy Cheese Polenta

4 Cups Water
Kosher or Sea Salt to taste
1 Cup Medium-grain Polenta (or Cornmeal, or Grits)
2 TB Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Shredded Pecorino Romano
1 8 oz Pkg Low Fat Cream Cheese

Step One
Heat water lightly seasoned with salt to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated.

Step Two
Lower the heat to a low simmer, add the butter and allow the polenta to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Step Three
Finish by stirring in the cream cheese and salt to taste.

You can prepare the polenta in advance: cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave, about 3 minutes on high, just before serving. Stir vigorously after reheating.

Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Shrimp in Avocado Vinaigrette

1 LB Large Shrimp. Peeled and Deveined

1 Large Haas Avocado, peeled and pitted
2 ½ TB Fresh Lemon Juice
4 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Grated Onion
¼ Tsp Crushed Red Pepper

Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to Taste

Shredded Romaine
Grape Tomatoes, Quartered

Step One Cook the Shrimp in heavily salted boiling water until just pink. Drain and rinse with cold water immediately.

Step Two Prepare the dressing by placing the ingredients in a food processor and blending until smooth. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper

Step Three Serve the Shrimp on a bed of shredded romaine. Scatter the grape tomatoes around and drizzle with the Avocado Vinaigrette.

It’s pretty obvious why the grape tomato earned it’s name. But did you know that you can’t grow more tomatoes from the seeds? (You’d have to order special seeds.) That’s because it is a hybrid – bred specially for it’s thick skin and flavor, which is noticeably sweeter than a Roma or cherry tomato. Some bars in Asia offer customers bowls of grape tomatoes instead of peanuts!

Maipe Malbac 2008

Peruvian Potatoes

2 1/2 LBs Fingerling Potatoes
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced or Grated
2 TB Chopped Fresh Cilantro
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Kosher or Salt
½ Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Tsp Thyme

Preheat the oven to 400F. Scrub potatoes well and cut into halves or quarters. (Your goal is to have 1” pieces). Toss with the garlic, cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Arrange in one layer on a parchment or aluminum foil lined sheet pan. Cook, turning occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned and tender

Churrasco-style Sirloin

2 Lbs Sirloin cut into 2” chunks
1 Recipe Churrasco-style Dry Rub
Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Bread to Serve

Place the steak in a zippy bag and add ¼ - ½ cup of the dry rub. Close the bag and massage to coat the meat. Leave in the frig 1 hour up to overnight. Grill or broil until desired doneness. Serve with on Grilled Bread with Chimichurri Sauce.

Churrasco-style Dry Rub

2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

2 Tsp Black Pepper

2 TB Garlic Powder
2 TB Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Ground Cumin

4 TB Dark Brown Sugar

Mix all spices together in a small bowl. Add brown sugar and mix thoroughly. 

Chimichurri Sauce
1 Cup Parsley, (Packed)
1/2 cup Olive Oil

1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup Cilantro, (Packed)
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled

¾ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Let set for at least 2 hours before serving.

Chicken For Julie, Julia and Us!

This August, almost 50 years after the book was published in America, Julia Child's ode to the food of France, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was number one on the New York Times Bestseller list in the “How To” category. How amazing is that? Because of the fun movie, (and even more fun book), Julie and Julia, a whole new generation of Americans are embracing the cooking and techniques of the grande dame of French cuisine.

Here’s what I found when researching Julia’s classic Roast Chicken recipe for a cooking class. Times have changed – and the birds we buy today, rather than the ones Julia had access to 50 years ago - have probably changed, too. So I cook my roast chicken a little differently than hers. But I think the take-away from Julia’s influence is her careful consideration and the precise instructions to the American home cook. The book is not just about aspic or tripe – but has some beautifully easy and delicious recipes that anyone can incorporate in their menu repertoire. Check out her quick Blender Mayonnaise, her incredibly delicious Onion Soup Gratinee, or the perfect Tomatoes stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Garlic.

Just like Julia, I have definite opinions about how to Roast the Perfect Chicken. Here's a couple of my ideas, that I hope will make your bird better every time!

1) Chicken on The Veggies – Often you will see a recipe for roast chicken that places the bird right on top of vegetables in the bottom of the pan. My experience is that the bottom of the chicken is soggy – and the veggies don’t roast correctly. Setting the chicken in a “V-Rack” in the roasting pan is my answer to allowing proper browning of both veg and chicken.

2) Starting at a very high temperature, then lowering it does not result in a crispier skin. A constant temperature maintained by a convection oven that circulates warm air is what creates the crispiest-crunchiest exterior.

3) Starting the bird breast side down, then turning it over, doesn’t make the meat any moister. Julia Child calls for rotating the chicken from side to side as the chicken cooks. Not only is this a lot of trouble, (AND dangerous – Hot! Heavy! Chicken!) I can’t see any difference in the results. Putting the chicken in the V-rack with the breast up results in juicy, juicy chicken.

4) Rubbing the bird with butter or oil before roasting does not make an appreciable difference in the end result. Also, basting the chicken constantly only makes the skin soggy – not crisp.

5) I like Big chickens. The “Roasters” often go on sale, and are a wonderful value for the money. Dinner for company tonight, leftovers tomorrow night, and soup for the weekend.

6) I think Beer Can Chicken, (or Vertical Roasting) is great. But I love being able to make almost entire meat in one pan – and the taste of the delicious roasted vegetables. So unless I am grilling outside, I’d still choose the V-rack.

7) Letting the Chicken Rest after removing it from the oven is a key point to remember. How easy is this? You can let the chicken rest for a half an hour after cooking. This allows the chicken to redistribute it’s juices, instead of having them run all over the cutting board. And speaking of carving:


Step One
Set the chicken breast side up. Pull the leg and thigh back to expose the joint that attaches it to the body (you can move the thigh section and pull it away from the body to help find the joint). Separate the leg and thigh from the carcass. Repeat the process with the other leg and thigh.

Step Two
The breastbone runs along the top center of the chicken carcass. Feel for it with your fingers. Slice along both sides of the breastbone and remove the entire half of the breast meat with the wing attached. Do the same to remove the breast meat on the other side.

Step Three
Now that you have all the parts off the bird, slice the parts into serving pieces:
• Turn the leg over and use the knife to cut through the joint that connects the leg to the thigh.
• Remove the wings from the breast halves and slice each half of breast meat crosswise, making 5 or 6 slices per breast half.

If you made it to the end of this really long blog post - I think you deserve a fun food fact ...
Here’s something about Julia Child that you might not know. What was Julia’s first meal for her new husband Paul? Believe it or not – Brains in Red Wine! (After trying to eat it, they threw it out, and had something else for dinner:)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tea for Two

When I looked at the beautiful women gathered last Saturday at Cancer Wellness - I got choked up. What a incredible group of survivors, each with their own story of perseverance and bravery. How lucky I am to get to work and share with them! And not only are they smart and funny – they look great in hats, as I am sure you will agree when you check out the pictures accompanying this blog.

I promised to post the recipes for the plate of tea treats I served on Saturday. Although I used them for a tea party – most would be perfectly appropriate at a cocktail party as well.

Dried Cherry and Toasted Pecan Goat Cheese Lollipops

½ Cup Chopped Dried Tart Cherries

1 10 OZ Log Goat Cheese, Room Temperature

1 Cup Toasted Chopped Pecans

24 Pretzel Sticks

Add the cherries, goat cheese and 1/4 cup of the toasted pecans to a large bowl. Mix well to combine. Put the remaining pecans on a plate. Using a teaspoon, scoop the goat cheese and roll into small balls. Roll in the pecans to cover all sides. Place the pretzel stick in the center of each goat cheese ball and serve.

Mini Italian Frittatas

Non Stick Cooking Spray

2 – 12 Hole Mini Muffin Tins

1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ Cup Minced Shallot

¾ Cup Chopped Speck - Smoked Prosciutto (you can find this at Costco. If you can’t find it, use regular Prosciutto)

¾ Cup Reduced-Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated (I like Cabot brand)

2 TB Chopped Chives, plus more for garnish

¼ Tsp Italian Seasoning

¼ Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

¼ Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

4 Large Egg Whites

2 Large Eggs

Step One

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with non stick spray. Warm the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and sauté 3 - 4 minutes or until wilted. Add the speck and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step Two

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked shallot and ham mixture. Spoon into 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until just set. Serve with additional chopped chives for garnish.

Dark Chocolate Tea Truffles

Okay, this is not health food – indulge in just a couple for a real treat!

8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (at least 60% Choc Liqour), chopped finely

¾ Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

2 TB Unsalted Butter

2 TB Very Strong Brewed Black Tea

½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Step One

Place the chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and the butter on the stovetop until it comes to a boil. Immediately remove it from the heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for about 5 minutes to soften the chocolate, then whisk the chocolate and the cream mixture together. Be patient, it will get smooth. Add the tea.

Step Two

Pour the mixture in a 9 x12” pan and cover it really well with plastic wrap. (Fats like butter and cream pick up off odors in the frig very easily, so you really want it well covered.) Place the pan in the frig for at least 8 hours, or overnight – or until it firms up.

Step Three

Place the cocoa powder on a plate. Remove the chocolate from the frig. Using a teaspoon, scrape the chocolate mixture into a small ball and place it in the cocoa mixture. Roll it around until it is coated, and then place on another plate. At this point you can return them to the frig, or serve them right away.

Apricot Stilton Stuffed Strawberries

Hull and slightly core ripe strawberries. Cut a cold, large wedge of Apricot Stilton, (or any other soft flavored cheese – or even just plain Stilton) into small cubes. Let the cheese soften to room temperature and then stuff each strawberry with the cheese.

Wild Mushroom Tartines*

The Mushrooms

½ LB Wild Mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 TB Unsalted Butter

2 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives, finely chopped

Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Sauté the wild mushrooms until softened and the liquid has evaporated about 5 – 7 minutes. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside

The Goat Cheese

1 Log Goat Cheese, Softened

2 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives

Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Mash the Goat Cheese with the herbs, salt and pepper

The Tartine Shells

1 Loaf Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced Whole Wheat Bread

Non-Stick Spray

3 Small Muffin Tins

2 ¼” Cookie Cutter

Step One

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with Non Stick Spray.

Step Two

Cut each piece of bread with the cookie cutter, and carefully put it into the muffin tin. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until the bread begins to brown.


4 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives, finely chopped for garnish

In each tartine shell, place a tiny dollop of goat cheese. Top with mushrooms, garnish with fresh herbs.

* Tartine is an open faced sandwich