Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cooking with Herbs and Spices

The article published by Health Watch MD last week about herbs and spices was so much fun to do. I did give some ideas about what herbs and spices paired with which foods - but I thought I would share some of my favorite herbs and spices recipes, so you could take advantage of the wonderful summer growing and grilling season.

To Prepare Your Meat or Poultry for the Grill:
Marinate chicken breasts, thighs or a pork tenderloin for 1 hour in a mixture of 2 TB Olive oil, 1 TB Chopped Rosemary, 1 TB Chopped Parsley, 1 Cup White Wine, (or Apple juice) and 1 TB Dijon Mustard. Remove from the marinade, pat dry and season with salt and pepper and grill. Add a green salad and a side of the Herb Cornbread Muffins and you have dinner!

Cilantro Barbeque Sauce

1 ½ Cup Minced Onions
2 TB Unsalted Butter

1 Tsp Turmeric

4 Garlic Cloves, grated
1 ½ Cups Ketchup (low sugar if possible)
¼ Cup Bourbon (optional)
2 TB Dark Brown Sugar

¼ Tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
2 TB Lemon Juice

¼ Cup Cider Vinegar

1 TB Worcestershire Sauce

½ Cup Orange Juice (if not adding bourbon, add another ½ cup orange juice.
3 TB Chopped Cilantro, plus more for garnish

Sauté the onion in the butter and turmeric until soft. Add the garlic and cook and stir for an additional minute. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes or until slightly thickened. Serve with chicken, portabella mushrooms or pork that has been seasoned with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

Easy Herb Cornbread Muffins

¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour
½ Cup Whole Wheat Flour
¾ Cup Corn Meal
    (Yellow or White)
2 TB Raw Sugar*
2 Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Sea Salt
1 Cup Light Buttermilk
    (or Nonfat Yogurt)
¼ Cup Canola or Oil
2 Egg Whites
2 TB Chopped Fresh Herbs (If using dried use 1 TB)

Step One
Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the flours, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.

Step Two
In another bowl, stir in buttermilk, oil, egg whites, and herbs.

Step Three
Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients - mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into 12 or 24 non-stick sprayed muffin tin. Bake 12 -18 minutes or until golden brown.

*I am using raw sugar here, because I am trying yo use a less processed sweetener - if you have plain sugar it is fine.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stacy and Julia.... A Guest Post by Taste and Savor's Culinary Intern, Stacy Maple

I am Chef Nancy's new culinary intern.  In twelve short weeks I will be graduating from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. I will be joining an elite group of chefs who have completed this degree, including the beloved, Julia Child.  Like Julia, I entered Le Cordon Bleu as a "non-traditional student":  married, middle-aged and a woman.  In light of her 100th birthday,  I find myself thinking of her and the impact she made on the culinary world...and, perhaps, on me.

Julia Child was arguably, America's first celebrity chef.  Many of us grew up watching her on TV.  I know I did.   Everything about her seemed exaggerated and almost cartoonish:  her unusually, large stature; her heavy French-like accent; her overly simple wardrobe paired with a string of pearls; her mop of hair; her painfully, extensive knowledge of French cuisine; and her unmistakable voice. She was not today's image of a celebrity chef, but none the less, Americans were drawn to her her...and some of us still are.

Julia was a pioneer in the culinary world.  I believe, her weekly television show did much more than she ever intended.  Not only did she introduce French cooking techniques and new ingredients to the American housewife, but she inspired them.  She made it possible for women to dream beyond their home kitchens and find jobs in professional ones.  Women can make careers out of something we have done since the beginning of time...cook. 

Happy 100th birthday, Chef Child.  And thank you!  I am looking forward to graduation and wearing that tall toque...with a string of pearls.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Savoring Summer: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Though the official end of summer is still a few weeks off, summer as I know it has come to an end.  Vacations are now cherished memories, my workload has picked up and the kids are back in school.  As many of you know, I had the opportunity to travel to Alaska last month with my parents and nine year old son.  My parents generously offered to take both of my children on a special trip.  Last year was a tour of Italy with my daughter and this year the Alaska trip with my son, Zach.  Although, not officially invited on either one of these trips, I could not help but tag along as they were both places I had not yet been in my travels.  The sad thing is, is that I only have two kids and have no wonderful trip to look forward to next summer.  Perhaps I can convince the parents, that my new furry, four-legged child Charlie needs a trip to Paris, after all, he is small enough to fit into a Louis Vuitton bag for convenient and chic travel and I know the French love taking their "petit chiens" out to the cafes.  I will certainly get working on that, but in the meantime will fill you in on my trip to Alaska.

I had no idea what to expect of this last frontier.  I knew there would be salmon, (Because, what else is there to think about on a trip other than what you are going to eat?) and mountains and maybe a moose sighting.  Quite frankly, I was a bit hesitant about the whole trip.  I have never been the rugged outdoor type, and felt like a complete fraud when I stepped into the R.E.I store for the first time in search of waterproof hiking boots and rain gear.  So, with my bags now appropriately packed, we headed to Anchorage and the start of ten glorious days of discovery.

We arrived to a dreary cold scene, which was actually a pleasant change from the 105 degrees we hit in Atlanta the week prior.  Our tour started with a bang.  The first night at dinner, we had the pleasure of meeting Petra the eighteen year old bald eagle.  She was regal and beautiful and just the beginning of the spectacular natural beauty we would see on this trip.

Everyone, I met before my trip, who had already been to Alaska, assured me that I would be awed by the beauty.  Blah, blah blah.....I really just wanted to eat good food and come back with some delicious culinary inspirations, as I had on last summer's trip to Italy.  That did not happen, while I did have several interesting meals, I had to put my love of food photography on hold.  It was really not that hard to find something amazing to take a picture of.  Iditarod sled dogs, Mt. McKinley, glaciers, running rivers, icy lakes, colorful flowers and the animals at the wildlife preserve.  It was amazing! 

There were many firsts for me on this trip.  Kayaking, a five mile mountain hike, a jet boat ride and a trip up in a small plane to view Denali, just to name a few.  But perhaps the most breath taking thing that I witnessed, was watching my son have the time of his life.  To see the grandure of Alaska through his eyes and personal experience was wonderous.

So, I did not come back from Alaska with an inspired recipe, but instead, a new love of nature, the great outdoors and of course, my new waterproof hiking boots.  The Alaskan's are passionate about their state and are the most resourceful group of people I have ever encountered. 

Now, as I plunge head first into the new school year and my busy fall work schedule, I will reflect fondly on the tranquility and beauty I found in Alaska and try to carry some of that with me in the hectic weeks ahead.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Grill Octopus!

While visiting New York earlier this year, I saw an "octopus" trend. Every menu seemed to include an iteration of octopus. Grilled, sautéed - even blackened. After returning to Atlanta, I watched to see how long it would take before the many-armed cephalopod made it's way to the south...It's here! So, I couldn't resist reposting a blog from the summer of 2009. Here's my first attend at octopus wrangling, aided and abetting by my fun and intrepid sister, Pat. After rereading the blog - I realized that I didn't share our wine choice for the evening. We drank a crisp Greek Assyrtiko - super refreshing for a hot summer evening.

On our way out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, we picked up some octopus at the Eastern Market in DC and we invited a good friend over for an adventurous dinner, lots of wine and stories.
The very good news: our briny buddy was cleaned at the fish market – Woo Hoo! Both my sister and I have enjoyed octopus in a variety of different preparations but, after deciding that it should be grilled, we set out to find out just how. I researched on the Internet – let me share with you there are some funky posts out there for cooking octopus! We couldn’t beat it on the rocks as they do in Greece. It didn’t sound right to just sauté it briefly and then grill – visions of rubber bands were floating in our heads. So, we decided to defer to the master of scientific cooking, (Harold McGee), and used his advice along with some hints and tips from Mark Bittman’s video blog to turn our slimy cephalopod into dinner.

First, my ever-intrepid sis cut off the arms and swimmers. (I’ve spared you a picture of this step – but basically she just trimmed off the arms and the webbing around them). Next, she blanched the octopus arms for 30 seconds in boiling water, and then placed them into a covered, dry cast iron pot, for about 4 hours at 200 degrees. Look at the beautiful maroon juices it gave off! (She used the juices to boil some potatoes, which were served on the side in a beautiful Greek salad). Finally, a quick turn on the grill to brown and caramelize the exterior and a bath in olive oil and spices. Our fun and delicious dinner was accompanied by Tzatziki, grilled flatbread and much laughter.

Here’s a quick and flavorful recipe for Tzatziki, a Greek Yogurt, Cucumber and Garlic Dip, great with flatbread, pita chips or raw veggies.

1 Cup Diced or Grated, Peeled and Seeded Cucumber
16 oz Plain Greek Yogurt
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced or Grated
1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
2 TB Chopped Fresh Mint or Dill or Combination of Both
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a Drizzle

Step One
Place the Cucumber in a fine strainer over a bowl. Salt the cucumber lightly and leave to drain about ½ hour. Remove the cucumber from the strainer and place in a paper towel. Roll to remove moisture.

Step Two
Place the yogurt, garlic, oil and lemon juice in a bowl and stir. Add the cucumber, and the herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with oil and enjoy.