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A spicy little blog about food and life....



Updated: 2018-04-20T06:41:39.032-05:00

 



San Francisco and Napa Valley

2018-01-31T15:39:14.024-06:00

Yesterday was our last day in Napa which theoretically meant that it was our last day to start tasting wine drinking before noon, but gosh darn it, we still had a bottle of Taittinger to take care of (because I don't check luggage) so......(Oopsy.....I started writing this on Saturday)We all agreed over a fabulous meal at SPQR last night that this was our best trip to Napa by far.  A combination of mostly perfect weather, a laid-back, just-the-right-amount tasting schedule, an inspired choice of wineries and restaurants, Exclusive Resorts accommodations, and MAYBE the fact that one of is now a restaurant owner which means complimentary tastings and discount wine prices.  MAYBE!Let's start with the ER propertiesI love the Ghiradelli property in San Fran because of the location.  Although it can be a little loud, the Bay views and easy accessibility to walking is the best. This is a view from Unit #306 which the bellman claimed was his favorite of the ER units.  We also stayed in #400 before heading to Napa and I much prefer the ones in the main building.  Ghiradelli is extremely convenient if you enjoy a morning walk along the water.  You can head one direction for a walk up through Fort Mason towards the Golden Gate Bridge or the other direction along the wharf towards where there are tons of restaurants and shopping and if you go far enough you'll end up at the Ferry Building.While in Napa we opted for the Carneros Resort and Spa location.  Our friends had stayed here several years ago when Plumpjack owned them and loved the little one bedroom casitas.  Since then it's sold and expanded including the two and three bedroom units of which ER owns four.  We had originally booked #12 for Monday through Thursday but when we checked into the unit, we immediately felt so comfortable we decided to ask if we could stay until Friday morning.  If we'd be willing to move to unit #3 we were welcome to stay.  I'm so glad we did this because....A) MORE WINE TASTINGS and B) we got to check out another unit.  This proved valuable.....while #12 has three bedrooms and is on the backside of the property, #3 has two bedrooms but an extremely comfortable den/tv room and is nearer to the front side/road.  I'll take #12 all day/everyday.  I'll give up the comfortable den/tv room for quiet any day of the week.  Unit #3 backs up to Sonoma Highway and that SOB is busy ALL NIGHT LONG.  And we were there in January.  I can't imagine the noise during the Fall/busy season, let along during harvest with the semi's trucking fruit.  Oh and there's a water fountain running all night right outside your bedroom.  If it hadn't been 30 degrees I'd have gone out at 2:00am and unplugged it.The courtyard of unit #12.....no fountain!!The rest of the property is very pituresque......a great place to walk with views of the rolling valley, plenty of places to eat, drink wine with friends, relax and use as a great home base for days of exploring the Napa Valley.  The spa was undergoing renovations while we were there so I can't report on that.The Inn is on the south side of the Valley close the downtown Napa, so it does require a bit of a commute to most the the wineries we visited, but it's worth it.FOOD!!!San Francisco.Hubs and I arrived on Saturday and our friends weren't joining us until Sunday afternoon, so after we checked into Ghiradelli, we headed to the Ferry Building to stock up on charcuterie, cheese and vino for the week.We bellied up to the bar at boulettes larder and chowed on some anchovies and then we might have hit up Humphry Slocombe.....Prather Ranch Mat Company, Cowgirl Creamery, and WINEOur friends arrived on Sunday afternoon and we drank Champagne and snacked on cheese and charcuterie while watching Philly eviscerate Minnesota and Brady stage yet another comeback.Dinner was at the charming Sons & Daughters.  Be warned that the only serve a nine-course tasting menu either with or without a wine pairing.  Tasting menus [...]



Faves

2018-01-22T10:09:44.421-06:00

We're currently in San Francisco for a few days before heading to Napa with friends for a few gluttonous days of food and wine.  I'll do a full post on the trip in a few weeks, but if you want to eat and drink with me, follow along on Instagram @jillbukerLet's get to it.......This book sounds so interesting. Axe throwing and beer.......what could possibly go wrong???Bobby Flay's Bar Americain shuts the doors.  Insert sad face.Will someone please do this with a Go-Pro and send me the pics.  I don't think I could muster up the courage.I've stalked Ashley Longshore on Instagram for a few years now and would love to have one of her big, bold prints on my wall.  She's the first solo female artist to ever exhibit at Bergdorf's.My brother introduced me to this Instagram account and it might just be the cutest thing ever.  Literally.The Muscle Shoals documentary is one of my favorites.  If you've seen it, you're familiar with The Swampers.  They never released any recordings of their own music, until Friday.  Worth a listen. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/album/2jYGw62GUnvHOfExADkezi" width="300">And five essential Muscle Shoals albums.The story behind Sweet Home Alabama.Change the way you cook vegetables.  Game changer.This stuffed shell recipe is my idea of comfort food.  It's definitely happening.Annie’s FavesGhost Train BreweryI recently bought some Ghost Train beers from Whole Foods (the only place to buy craft beers around here) and loved them. While in an area of downtown, my aunt and I passed the Ghost Train brewery and I knew I wanted to go back and visit. My sister and aunt aren’t really craft beer fans (yet), but I managed to coax them into coming with me. Oh, and Callan wanted to go too. We had the craft lager, the sour, and the golden ale, and we all had seconds! Great beers, great atmosphere, super friendly staff. And I met the love of my life, Dexter (sweetest dog in the world). If you ever get a chance, go spend some time at Ghost Train. City BowlsThis thing was to die for. Delicious combo of ingredients. Follow them on Insta @citybowls to find out where they will be next and go check them out! 400 RabbitsOkay, I’m sorry this is the second alcoholic thing on my list, but it really deserves to be on here. My uncle treated me and Jill to a few cocktails the other night and this was my favorite, hands down. Mezcal, lime juice, chartreuse, and maraschino liqueur. Quite the combo. Found at Fresco in Vestavia Hills. betterkombuchaBrand new and made in Birmingham.  So tasty! Check out Rhonda! Here is Rhonda’s new upgrade! All I want to do is drive around, it’s so amazing.  [...]



Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding

2018-01-16T13:59:50.420-06:00

Alabama is currently under a snowmagedden 2 warning.  Y'all remember snowmagedden 1, right?  2014.  Snow....ice....the one salt truck sent to another part of the state....panic, and pandemonium.  Fun times.  That's apparently happening again today.  Business and schools announced closings on last night's news.  The snow was arriving at 10:00am, the temperatures would start dropping and pandemonium would arrive by 10:01.  The grocery stores promptly sold out of everything you'd need to make your milk sandwiches, everyone made their liquor run (maybe that was just me) and hunkered down for a long winter's nap.  Except it's now 1:30pm and NO SNOW.  But I'm drunk, so........I made Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding.  That's a lie.  I made this on Saturday.  But if I weren't drunk I'd make this again today.  It is hands down the best sweet I've made since I don't know when.  Maybe snowmageddon 1.  And I lurve the addition of the banana.  I'd never hate on plain ole sticky toffee pudding, but add in some really ripe bananas?  I mean.  Crazy good.  And don't even think about skipping the sauce.  Or the whipped cream.  Because we're half-way through January and y'all know those resolutions are trash (again, maybe just me).  Drizzle half of the sauce on the cake while it's still warm from the oven and then ask your extremely tall husband to put the rest of it out of your reach until you're ready to serve the cake to your guests.  Or don't and keep dipping in for just one more taste until there isn't any left to pour over your guest's piece and you have to make that sauce AGAIN.  I swear that didn't happen here.Here's the recipe:Banana Sticky Toffee PuddingFood and Wine MagazineJanuary 2018Serves 9Ingredients:1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided plus more for greasing3/4 cup boiling water6 oz pitted dates, chopped (1 cup)1 tsp baking soda1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour1 tsp baking powder1/2 tsp salt1 3/4 cup brown sugar2 large eggs2 medium-size overripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)1/2 cup heavy creamWhipped cream for servingDirections:Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Grease a 9-inch square metal cake pan with butter.  In a small heatproof bowl pour the boiling water over the dates, stir in the baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat 1/4 cup of the butter with 3/4 cup of the brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  At low speed, beat in the flour mixture until just combined.  Add the date mixture and bananas and beat at low speed until just combined.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.Meanwhile in a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, the remaining 1/4 cup of butter, and the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar.  Bring to a gentle boil over moderate heat and cook until slightly thickened and deep golden, about 3 minutes.  Keep warm.Transfer the pan to a wire rack.  Using a skewer or toothpick, poke holes all over the cake.  Pour half of the warm sauce over the cake and let stand until absorbed, about 10 minutes.  Serve warm with the remaining sauce and the whipped cream.(If you don't use all the sauce, it will need to be reheated to use.)[...]



Friday Faves

2018-01-12T17:25:38.151-06:00

Happy weekend people!  I'm so excited to introduce y'all to the blog's newest contributor......my fabulous niece, Annie!  She's here to add a younger, much hipper, voice to this space.  She likes all the dogs, sour beer, great books, weird tv shows and is oddly attached to her car, Rhonda.  You'll love her as much as I do.She's the one on the left!  That chunk of cuteness on the right is Callan the terrific.Let's get to this week's links, shall we?I made this Chickpea and Fennel Ratatouille this week and my goodness was it tasty.  After reading the comments on the recipe I added in mushrooms and about a cup of red wine when I added the chickpeas and served it over some brown rice.  MmmmPhoto from the New York TimesI ordered Bobby Flay's new book Bobby Flay Fit and promptly marked practically every recipe, but I'll be starting with this one next week.I finished the Dirty John podcast....you MUST listen, and am on to this one.Ten things Joy the Baker has learned in 10 years of food blogging.  Love her.  What's In and Out in 2018 according to the Washington Post.  Mrs. Maisel is SO in!!Alabama is apparently in the midst of a flu epidemic.  Yikes.  WASH PEOPLE!Why you should keep your used dryer sheets.  Who knew?Our family is obsessed with tiny houses.  We all want one.  Here of 75 of the best!We talked about Miso earlier this week.  Here's Gwyneth's guide and a few more recipes.  Did you hear she's consciously recoupled?The New York Times 52 Places to go in 2018.  I see you Cincinnati, Ohio!And I just can't walk away without giving you my thoughts on this season of the Bachelor.  First of all.....NOT happy about it being Arie (didn't like him during Emily's season) but I have to say that the women are all beautiful.  I mean stunning.  And, of course, I have my early front runners.....and ones that I'd like to see get immediate therapy.  Now, I have to admit that I usually enjoy watching after I've read Reality Steve's post on who wins.  Made my (former) friends cray that I liked to watch the season knowing who "won".  I put that in quotes, because.....well.  But this season snuck up on me and I hadn't read said post, so I decided to watch it green.  So, here are my thoughts after two episodes.....Krystal....I just can't with that voice.  And does anyone else think it's like he's dating his mother?? Yup....Krystal on the left and Mama on the right.  I mean......Others.....Bibiana is CRAY.....those eyes.  Tia or Becca (short hair) for the next bachelorette.  I'm glad that Jenny finally got broken up with....that'll serve her well later in life.  STOP fucking crying Annalise.  And that taxadermy girl tho!!!!That's all I gotAnnie's Faves:'Dirty John' podcast-Defnitely worth the listen, but will most likely make you hate the fact that people like John ACTUALLY EXIST. I wish I could meet him in a dark alley somewhere and have him try to get $25,000 from me and my lead pipe... My Absolute Darling- While some of the issues in this book are tough, it is beautifully written with incredible attention to detail. Turtle Alveston is a character I will never forget. She is a 14 year-old badass. Black Mirror: Season 4 Episode 1 USS Callister-Do yourself a favor and watch this. If you've never watched a Black Mirror episode, I'm not sure what you're waiting on. I haven't watched every episode, but this one ranks among my favorites so far. Give it at least five minutes before you decide whether or not you will continue watching. Maho Shades!My uncle hooked me up with the shades that I'm wearing in the pictures above and below. I think the last time I owned a pair of sunglasses was probably 10+ years ago. I've just never really been into them or felt like I needed them. However, I do love these ones. They're really lightweight and they have polarized lenses. I think the[...]



Halibut in Miso Broth

2018-01-09T15:42:18.504-06:00

Let's get the obvious out of the way.....the apology for the picture.  It's winter and in Alabama that means it gets dark at 5:00pm so I get no natural light for beautiful photography.  Moving on.Now for confession time.  I've never cooked with miso.  Oh sure, I've eaten it.  Love it in fact, but never used it in a recipe.  What can I say?  New ingredientses (Real Housewives reference) intimidate me but I'm vowing to try new things this year,  So on January 8, it was miso.The recipe called for white or yellow miso.  So I'm in the miso aisle at Whole Foods and all I see is Shiro Miso.   Damnit.  Why can't things be easy? So I buy it and then take to Google.  This article is everything you need to know about miso.  It turns out that Shiro Miso is, in fact, white miso and the one that will work in most recipes.  Which could be why it's the only one Whole Foods carried.With that roadblock out of the way, the rest of this could not have been easier.  This is an under-30 minute meal.....chop the garlic, ginger and scallions....slice a few mushrooms......and you're ready to go.  Whole Foods had some beautiful wild Halibut, but if you can't find that, substitute Cod.  I couldn't find scallions (I know, right) so I used shallot and garnished with some chopped chives.  Improvise, people.This is definitely going into the fish rotation and with my favorite pescatarian arriving for a few month stay this afternoon, I'll need more just like this one.  Bonus info....this comes in at just 250 calories per serving and 9 grams of fat so it'll def fit into your New Year's healthy eating plan!Here's the recipe:Halibut in Miso BrothEllie KriegerServes 42 tablespoons canola or other neutral tasting oil2 ounces shiitake mushroom caps (4 caps total) sliced3 scallions, thinly sliced, dark-green parts reserved for optional garnish1 clove garlic, minced2 teaspoons peeled, finely minced fresh ginger root3 cups water3 tablespoons white or yellow miso pasteFour 6-ounce skinned halibut fillets (may substitute cod)1/4 teaspoon kosher salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 cup loosely packed baby spinach leavesDirectionsHeat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Once the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are browned.  Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.Reduce the heat to medium; add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan.  Add the scallion whites, garlic, and ginger; cook for about 30 seconds, stirring, until fragrant.Add 2 3/4 cups of the water to the skillet and bring to barely a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  While the water is heating whisk the miso paste with the remaining 1/4 cup water in a liquid measuring cup until dissolved then whisk that mixture into the skillet.Season the fish with the salt and pepper then place in the skillet, skinned sides down.  Cover and cook for about 8 minutes over low to medium-low heat, maintaining a gentle bubbling, until the fish flakes easily with a fork and is fairly firm.To serve, place one piece of the fish in each wide shallow bowl.  Stir the sauteed mushrooms and the spinach into the liquid in the skillet then remove from the heat.  Pour the broth with spinach and mushrooms around the fish in each bowl.  Garnish with the scallion greens, if using.[...]



Sunday Stuff

2018-01-07T13:29:58.840-06:00

Brrrr y'all.  Here's hoping things start to warm up this week.These pictures of Charleston in the snow are so beautiful.  Snow on palm trees and Palmetto's.....Who's is everyone pulling for in tonight's Golden Globes.  I have to admit that I've not seen ANY of the nominated movies because I hate going to the theater, but The Post and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri just  might change that.  Both look so good. allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nrXlY6gzTTM" width="560"> allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" gesture="media" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Jit3YhGx5pU" width="560">We loved The Crown (Netflix), The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) and Big Little Lies (HBO) so it would be fun for them to win.  Although I swear I thought Nicole Kidman already won a Globe last year for her role in Big Little Lies.....must have dreamed that!Speaking of The Crown, they NAILED the casting.Is anyone else listening to the podcast Dirty John?  If you like true crime stories, give this a listen.  I'm getting ready to start episode 4 and I'm obsessed.  If podcasts aren't your thing, you can read the story here from the LATimes.If you're looking for some of the best articles of 2017 these three lists are fabulous.  Click here, here and here.  And thank you Quartz for putting together this list of the 99 Best Things to Happen in 2017.  Maybe it wasn't so dark after all.Are thank you notes a dying art?  We went to two weddings in 2017 and gladly purchased shower and wedding gifts for the brides and grooms.  Not one single thank you note.  Not.  One.  I'm sending the happy couples this article.  (Not really, but.....)We're going to France in May to do a river cruise from Paris to Champagne and then back to Paris for a few days of the French Open.  We haven't booked a place to stay in Paris yet, but this hotel is stunning and what about this Airbnb?  Although......I would love to start a cookbook club.  It just sounds so fun.  Who's in?How pretty is this bowl?These recipes are goals for this week.....Cinnamon Scone Bread.  OMGThese Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk shortbread cookies are apparently very popularI vowed to get better at bread making this year, so I'm taking the King Arthur monthly bread challengePesto is my go-to sauce to toss with a big pan of roasted vegetables but I'm trying this lemon tahini dressing next timeAnd finally, this Halibut in Miso is happening (although I'll probably use cod since that's always available)And finally, we'll be in San Fancisco and Napa during this time, but I'd die to go to this event at Blackberry Farm.   I mean, just listen to these ladies. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/jillbuker/playlist/5CwQdalF9eJQH8QycjjbFG" width="300">[...]



Good Riddance 2017

2017-12-17T13:28:12.603-06:00

Anyone else ready to put a bow on 2017 and kick it to the curb??  Fucking exhausting, right?  And I live in Alabama so you can just imagine the last few months around here. (We did get that shit right, however.....thank you black women voters!!)On top of the political shitstorm that was this year, it's not been so fabulous on a personal level either.  I got the slow-burn dump from my closest group of girlfriends this year.  THAT was pretty soul crushing.  The only explanation being that I'm apparently not a big enough Kenny Chesney fan.  I know!  At least woman up enough to have an adult conversation......believe me I asked.  Moving on.That on top of two jaw surgeries in October.....beware of a simple crown on a cracked tooth that results in lockjaw that leads to some damn painful surgery and rehab.  Ugh.I also subjected myself to this.....Eeeek!!  That was three weeks ago and it's already MUCH better.  I might be ready to show some after pics in a month or so when the swelling is not as scary!So that's the not so pleasant of 2017.  Let's review the good shit, shall we??We travelled.....A couple of fun weekend trips to NashvilleTo Abaco in FebruaryThe Big Apple in JuneAnd to our happly place, Colorado, for the month of JulyBut the best thing to happen this year was this....Meet Callan Elizabeth Ansley who turned two months old on Saturday.  She's my great niece and I can't wait to watch her grow up!And some end of the year lists, because I love them!Hopeful images from around the world.The most hilarious wildlife photos of 2017  Ha!The Jealousy List.....all the stories Bloomberg wished they'd authored!The best Longreads of 2017New York Times 2017 in reviewThe 30 best Southern Albums of 2017 according to The Bitter SouthernerMy favorite songs of 2017 allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="380" src="https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/jillbuker/playlist/3h29bcizbvxQeEed37b0M9" width="300">Here's to brighter things in 2018......my nieces have pledged to help me resurrect this cadaver of a blog so you'll get the perspective of a 50+ year old, a 30 year old, and a new mother.  That should make things interesting!  Plus, we got some exciting trips planned starting in January.Happy New Year, y'all.[...]



Sweet Corn Risotto

2017-06-09T16:58:55.691-05:00

You'll have to pardon the picture.  I originally posted this pic on Instagram like I do most other food pics.....it's what we were having for dinner that night....never intending to blog about it.  More than one friend asked me to post the recipe and I aim to please, so.......Risotto is one of those things I can throw together on nights when there's not much to speak of in the fridge and I've already had a glass of wine and am not going to the store.  I've always got the basics in the pantry.....onion, garlic, arborio rice, WINE, anchovies, parmesan, and chicken stock.  Then I just scan the fridge or the freezer for something to "gild the lily".  If I can't find anything, Mr. B gets plain risotto, but most often I've got frozen peas, mushrooms, or another vegetable.  This night I had three ears of sweet corn that needed a home.  A trip to the herb garden and I've got dinner.The rest is just time and stirring.Here's the recipe:Serves 4-6Ingredients:4 tbsp butter2 tbsp olive oil1 large onion (either white or yellow), chopped3 cloves of garlic, minced3 anchovies, minced (add a pinch of salt to the chopped garlic and anchovies and mash them all together into a paste with the back of your knife)1 cup white wine....nothing sweet.  I typically use Sauv Blanc, but Chard or Pinot Grigio also work great.  Whatever you like to drink2 cups arborio rice7 cups chicken stock1 cup parmesan, gratedcorn kernels scraped from 3 cobs of corn (or you could use 1 1/2 cups frozen corn that has been thawed)2 tbsp fresh herbs...I used basil, but thyme or sage would work alsoSalt and PepperDirections:Put the stock in a large pot and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.  If you've scraped your corn from the cob, add the cobs to the stock while you bring it to a simmer and then remove them.  If you've used frozen corn, no worries.  Just skip that step.Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  When the butter is melted add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add about a tsp of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.   Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic/anchovy/salt mixture to the pan and cook for about a minute.  Add the arborio rice and stir, getting the rice all coated with the onion mixture.  Stir for about a minute.  Add the wine.  Stir constantly until the wine has mostly evaporated.Now comes the tedious part (I, however, find it relaxing).  You can't leave the stove for 30 minutes!  Get yourself (a large glass of wine) and ladle or a measuring cup and add that stock to the risotto a cup at a time, letting the stock evaporate between each addition......add a cup of stock and continuously stir until the liquid in the pan is gone, then add another and stir until evaporated, etc, etc. until all the stock is gone.  It should take 3-4 minutes for each stock addition to evaporate.  The whole process should take about 30 minutes.  Adjust your heat accordingly.When all the stock has been added, add in the corn and parmesan and stir to combine.  Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Stir in the fresh herbs, saving a few to sprinkle on after plating.[...]



Grilled Cauliflower with Tomato, Dill, and Capers

2017-06-04T15:21:41.931-05:00

The Food52 website recently started a couple of cookbook clubs.....one for baking and another for cooking.  This month's cooking selection is any book by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I have four out of his five books and have frequently cooked from them, but they'd been gathering a little dust, so when they were selected, I decided to knock off that dust and revisit them.His books are vegetarian....which is interesting because he says he's not one.  Neither am I but we try to eat vegetarian during the week.  We often only achieve pescetarian (hey Annie!), but it's an effort, at least!These books are great for summer....tons of ideas for fresh bright sides and salads along with grains, legumes, pasta, etc.  I highly recommend.  This particular dish could be either.  It's hearty enough to stand alone for dinner but also makes a great side.  It was a Saturday night dinner party over Memorial Day weekend when I served this and it was fabulous with some grilled ribeyes and a big fruit platter.  Full disclosure.....I couldn't find my vegetable grill pan, so I pan roasted the cauliflower.  Shoot me.  The dressing and dill in this is scrumptious.  Make sure you dress the cauliflower right out of the oven (or off the grill, if you're a rule follower) so that it really soaks into the veg.  Toss it with the rest of the ingredients and add more dressing to your liking.  I don't love a heavily dressed salad, so I served the leftover dressing on the side and everyone added to their taste.Here's the recipe:Grilled Cauliflower with Tomato, Dill, and CapersOttolenghi, The Cookbook(I doubled this as I was serving a crowd.....and maybe wanted leftovers!)Ingredients:2 tbsp capers, drained and coarsely chopped1 tbsp French whole-grain mustard2 cloves garlic, crushed2 tbsp cider vinegar1/2 cup olive oil1 small cauliflower, divided into florets1 tbsp chopped dill1 2/3 cups baby spinach leaves20 cherry tomatoes, halvedcoarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepperDirections:First make the dressing, either by hand or in a food processor (I used my Vitamix).  Mix together the capers, mustard, garlic, vinegar, and some salt and pepper.  Whisk vigorously or run the machine while adding half the oil in a slow trickle.  You should get a thick, creamy dressing.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.Add the cauliflower florets to a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 3 minutes only,  Drain in a colander and run under a cold tap to stop the cooking immediately.  Leave in the colander to dry well.  Once dry, place in a mixing bowl with the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Toss well.  (I skipped this step and spread the florets in a single layer on a sheet pan and roasted at 400 degrees until charred and tender.)Place a ridged grill pan over the highest possible heat and leave it for 5 minutes, until very hot.  Grill the cauliflower in a few batches  -  make sure the florets are not cramped.  Turn them around as they grill, then once nicely charred, transfer to a bowl.  While the cauliflower is still hot, add the dressing, dill, spinach, and tomatoes.  Stir together well, then taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve warm or at room temperature, adjusting the seasoning again at the last minute.Here are a few other recipes from the books that I've posted in the past.....This safron pasta in a decadent butter sauce is amazing.Another cauliflower offering.....in cake form!  Delicious and makes an impressive presentation!The group is cooking from these books through the month of June, so I've got my eye on a few more recipes to try......pistachio shortbread cookies because I lurve anything pistachio, a ton of tomato salads because the farmer's market tomatoes are here, and a salmon [...]



Zucchini Involtini

2017-05-26T11:52:25.974-05:00

 Friday's Italian lesson....involtini is a derivative of the word involto which means "bundle" or alternatively "wrap" or "packet".  It can essentially be any outer thing wrapped around some sort of filling.  In this case, it's zucchini wrapped around a ricotta filling nestled into a tomato sauce, sprinkled with parmesan and then baked to golden deliciousness.Sounds fancy, right?The end product does make a pretty fancy presentation but getting to that point is rather simple.Start with thinly sliced zucchini....I look for the most symmetrical ones I can find and use a mandoline to slice them but you can also use a vegetable peeler or if you have stellar knife skills, have at it.  Lightly oil and S&P them and bake until they're pliable.While they bake, make your filling.  Both of these steps can be done ahead of time and assembled when you're ready, which makes this a great party appetizer.When you're ready to assemble divide up the filling among the zucchini and roll them into little bundles.Put a thick layer of your favorite marinara....I swear by Rao's Arrabiata, but you do you, or make your own.Stand those little suckers on their ends and nestle them down in that sauce.Grate a healthy amount of parm on top and you're ready to bake.  I often do this in the morning, cover it with foil and put it in the fridge until we're ready to eat.  25-30 minutes in the oven....until it's melty and bubbly and you're good to go.Hubs and I have eaten this on it's own....with a salad.....the other night, with pork chops....versatile stuff.It's also a great idea to make extra filling and use to stuff under the skin of chicken breasts or top some toasts and then pop under the broiler for a few seconds.  So yummy.The filling is endlessly adaptable also.  I use basil, thyme, and oregano, but your favorite herb combos would, of course, work.  I've seen a suggestion of mint and chives which would be summery.  Add some sauteed greens....spinach, chard or kale would all work.Here's my recipe:Zucchini Involtiniadapted from Food52.comServes 2-4Ingredients2 large zucchiniolive oilkosher saltfreshly ground black pepperFilling:1 cup ricotta (I use whole milk)zest of one lemon heaping tablespoon chopped herbs...basil, oregano, thyme1 clove garlic, minced1 heaping tablespoon grated parmesan1/2 tsp salta few grinds of black pepperDirections:Preheat oven to 425 deg F.   Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or Silpat, or rub lightly with olive oil.  Trim the stem end of each zucchini.  Stand each vertically, and make 1/4-inch thick cuts down to create long slices.  Arrange the slices on the sheet pan.  Drizzle the zucchini lightly with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Transfer pan to the oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Remove pans from the oven, flip the slices over and roast for another 5 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven.  Note:  the timing on baking will depend on how thick you sliced your zucchini.  You're looking for them the be pliable enough to roll.To make the filling, in a medium bowl, stir together the all the filling ingredients....ricotta, lemon zest, herbs, garlic, parmesan, salt, and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings.Spoon tomato sauce into a 9-inch round or square baking dish....thickly cover the bottom.  Place a spoonful (about 2 teaspoons each) of the filling at one end of each of the zucchini slices.  Roll the slice into a tight coil and place it on its end in the tomato sauce.  Once they're all in the dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a healthy grating of parmesan.  Transfer to the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and cheese melted.[...]



Podcasts

2017-05-18T15:37:08.747-05:00

Do you listen to any podcasts?  I've really become hooked.  I'm like a lot of other people that got started when Serial became the big sensation a few years ago.  I then delved into sports related ones.....specifically college football.....and it's kind of grown from there.  I find it a great way to get through a workout, pass time in the car or listen to while I'm cooking.Here are my favorites....My walk with Fletch always starts with....This is all things Ohio State....90% football but they do occasionally have basketball commentary.  There would probably be more if the bball bucks were any good.  In the off-season this is all about football recruiting.  It's called the Morning 5 because it's supposed to be a 5 minute podcast that usually lasts 12-15.From the NYTimes and hosted by Michael Barbaro (I love his voice) and it delves a little deeper into the main headline of the day.  Now lately, yes, it's been all Trump, because duh.....but when the news cycle slows down, I find it educational in areas I didn't really know much about, i.e. they explained the crisis in Venezuela in detail, dumbed down the big hacking issue from last weekend, did a background story on Uber CEO Travis Kalanik, etc.  So when Trump isn't dominating the headlines it gets more interesting.  It is a great 20 minute listen and I feel a little more informed.This is another "what's in the headlines" podcast that just hits on the highlights in politics, sports, entertainment, etc.  It's 5 minutes and will allow you to at least nod like you know what's going on at the water cooler in the morning.NPR's version of the big stories of the day from politics to pop culture in 10-12 minutes.Weekly or bi-weekly Political....These are all from the newly formed (after November 8....) Crooked Media Group.  They've taken over the podcasting world and if you didn't vote for Trump, you've heard of them......they're former Obama speech writers and staffers.  So, yeah.  Look, I'm sure Fox News has something you'd like if these offend your sensibilities.This is my favorite of the group.  It drops on Saturday and is recorded in a live setting and the guests are usually comedians so it's pretty hilarious.  They sometimes venture down a rabbit hole, which can be a tad annoying but it makes an hour walking fly by.  Hosted by Jon Lovett (not the one from A League of Their Own) who was, yes, a speechwriter for Obama and Hillary, but is also a Hollywood producer and screenwriter who produced the show The Newsroom (a favorite) and created 1600 Penn.Weekly podcast hosted by Ana Marie Cox, political columnist and culture critic, with liberals and conservatives.  So there!  It's an in-depth conversation with a new guest every week about what divides us....and not arguing.  Hosted by Tommy Vietor, a foreign policy wonk under Obama who also sat on his National Security Council.  I've learned more about world politics here than any other place.  Bi-weekly with Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett and Dan Pfeiffer.....don't even consider this one if youre a Trumpster.Other political 'casts....From The New Yorker magazine.  This is just a reading of the comment section from that week's publication.Also from The New Yorker......a 20 minute political discussion.And YES, I do listen to some fun shit too.....From my favorite magazine, Garden & Gun, this dropped a few weeks ago and I've only listened to one episode....the last one about the S-Town podcast.  Totally enjoyable weekly.The decades old, award winning show hosted by Terry Gross.  I don't listen to them all but when she's interviewing someone that intrigues me, I'll download it.  If you're looking for a place to start, three dec[...]



Nicoise with Olive Oil-Poached Tuna

2017-04-19T15:47:41.514-05:00

We went to The Villages last week to hang out with the 'rents for a few days.  Have y'all ever been to The Villages?  It's a massive retirement community in central Florida......and I mean massive.  I've been going down there for about 10 years and I still couldn't drive anywhere by myself.  I'd never be able to find my way back home.  And GPS doesn't work there, I'm sure.  Too confusing even for technology.Anyhoo, the trip started out pretty shitty when we blew a tire on I75.  The good news is it was in the middle of Atlanta so getting it fixed wasn't as much of a challenge as it could have been but it did add a couple of hours to what is already a long trip.  The rest of the trip couldn't have been better.....my mother's lasagna, tons of pickleball, cocktail party with friends, Fletch met new friends and got golf cart rides,  Ohio State football and a trip to Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa (I'm going to do a separate post about Bern's because.....amazing!)So after all that gluttony, it was back to healthier fare this week.  We do a lot of salads around here and Nicoise is one of the mister's favorite.  But let's be real.....I'm not that into multi-prep dinners every night,  especially when it comes to salad.  So, when mama wants to put papa in a good mood (because she might have done a little shopping) she puts in a little extra effort.  Just sayin.I usually prefer to just grill the tuna because EASY, but I've been eying the olive oil poached tuna in Nancy Silverton's new book, Mozza at Home.  What a fabulous book.  I've dogeared practically every recipe in it.  Each chapter is basically a menu with several recipes but you can pick and choose.  The Nicoise chapter consists of separate, more elaborate recipes of each component, but I just wanted to try the tuna and the greens.  Hard to believe, but I'd never "olive oil-poached" anything before.  This seemed like as good a time as any.  So easy.  Look, you can always buy canned/jarred poached tuna, but this is so doable.The rest consists of hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, boiled baby potatoes, blanched green beans and a lemon vinaigrette to drizzle over everything.  Everyone can make hard-boiled eggs, but y'all......I got that Instant Pot that is all the rage right now and hard-boiled eggs have become my life. I like my yolks on the under-done side, so 4minutes at high pressure, manual release, 5 minutes in an ice bath and BOOM.  How gorgeous are those things!!Boil a pot of water, blanch the beans for about 4-5 minutes (I like them still crisp.....mushy green beans are my childhood nightmare), drop them in an ice bath and drain.  Use that same pot of boiling water to cook the potatoes.  Takes about 12-15 minutes depending on the size of your spuds.  Slice them in half while they're still warm and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.  It'll soak right into those babies and make them delish.Olive Oil-Poached TunaMozza at Home, Nancy Silverton(serves 6-8)Ingredients:(I halved this recipe to feed two)2 pounds (2-inch-thick) albacore tuna1 tablespoon kosher salt2 teaspoons fresh coarsely ground black pepper2 lemons3 cups olive oil1/2 cup champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)8 bay leaves, preferably fresh3-4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick lengthwise4 arbol chili pods6 (2-inch-long) fresh rosemary sprigsMaldon sea salt (or other flaky sea salt such as fleur de sel)Directions:Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 deg F.Cut the tuna into 3- to 4-inch chunks.  Sprinkle with the kosher salt and pepper and set the tuna aside for 10  minutes to come to room temperature while yo[...]



Tuna Poke Bowl

2017-03-13T14:26:33.581-05:00

So, what is poke (pronounced POH-keh)?  Basically?  Hawaiian tartare.  Food isn't rocket science, people.  But it seems that poke is having it's 15 minutes right now.  Birmingham just opened a new restaurant, Ono Poke, in the newly renovated Pizitz Food Hall downtown.  And because it's my current food obsession, I had hubs bring dinner home from there the other night.  And although it had a mayo based sauce which I like to avoid, it was delish (admittedly, quite possibly because of that mayo sauce!).  So I decided to make my own.  How hard can it be?  A little research determined not hard at all.  I also discovered that these are supremely customizable.I found a pretty straightforward recipe that closely resembled my tuna tartare recipe so I went with that.....raw yellow fin tuna, avacado, cucumber, toasted sesame seeds piled on top of a bed of grains with thinly sliced kale.Here's where it gets fun.....next time I might add some blanched edamame and some sliced jalapenos, or maybe a handful of golden raisins and slivered almonds or toasted pepitas.  Or if you're feeling a little Hawaiian.....macadamia nuts!  Feel free to switch out your protein too......sushi grade salmon or even some cooked shrimp.  I used quinoa this time but nutty brown rice would be delicious.  If you've got leftover rice from your Chinese take out, use that shit!  Or serve the poke as an appetizer and leave the grains out altogether to lighten it up.  Here's the recipe (based on myrecipes.com)Ingredients:2 cups hot cooked quinoa1 cup very thinly sliced kale (stems removed)2 tablespoons rice vinegar, divided1/4 tsp kosher salt2 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce or red pepper flakes (I like things spicy....adjust to your liking)1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger1 pound raw sushi-grade yellow fin (or ahi) cut into small cubes3/4 cup cubed seeded peeled cucumber1 small avocado, peeled and diced1 green onion, thinly sliced (white and green part)1 1/2 tablespoon white sesame seeds, lightly toastedDirections:Combine quinoa, kale, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and salt in a bowl.  Toss to coat.Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha, ginger and remaining 1 tablespoon rice vinegar in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Add tuna, cucumber, avocado, and green onion; toss gently to coat.Divide rice between serving bowls, Top with tuna mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds.  Serve immediately.And if you're into a mayo based sauce....mix 1/4 cup mayo with 1 tsp hot chili paste (sambal oelek) and drizzle on top of your finished bowl.  [...]



Fogo Island and the Fogo Island Inn

2016-10-23T16:16:21.275-05:00

It's finally time to catch the FerryBrand spanking new....only been in service since May"ish".  Very nice.Holds approx. 70 cars depending on how many large trucks and semi's are on board.There's so much in my head about this trip and I can't really sort it out.  I do know that this trip to the easternmost point of our continent worked it's way into the top five on my all-time list.  But to put it into words is really difficult because it was the intangibles that made me love it so much.....the kindness of the people, the tranquility of the island, the step-back-in-time vibe despite the overwhelmingly contemporary structure that is the Fogo Island Inn.  It seems to be a complete contradiction.....this Inn and this Place....but it isn't.  I'll do my best to convey the allure.Before I introduce you to Fogo Island Inn, read this 2012 NY Times article or this Globe and Mail article on the Inn's founder, Zita Cobb, and how inspiration for the Inn came about.  We had the pleasure of chatting with Zita over cocktails one night and she's a true representation of the island and its people.  Intelligent and charming.  Also, do yourself a favor and search her name on youtube and watch a couple of her speeches.The first glimpse on the ride in. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3ZyB6KjMQYk" width="560">Our room.....all of the furniture, and I mean ALL including the accessories, quilts,rugs, etc. are made on the island by the locals.   Even down to the handmade beds.  It's really quite amazing.This is not the normal Exclusive Resort room (this one is a bit smaller).  I do believe ER's normal sized room was reserved by a much more prominent guest and his travel party.  More on that later.  It didn't really matter to us.  The bed was amazing, along with the views and we really didn't spend much time here except for me to enjoy the first few cups of coffee every morning in my jammies staring at the water.  Speaking of the coffee....no need to call for room service.  An adorable little basket is waiting for  you outside your door every morning with a steaming thermos of coffee, juice, and freshly baked pastries.  It was one of my favorite parts as I HATE waiting for room service to arrive when I want my damn coffee.  #spoiledbratWe arrived at the Inn around cocktail hour so after checking out the room, we headed to the bar and ordered a bottle of wine.  The bartender suggested we enjoy it on the roof to take in the amazing views.  If you insist!!!  The delivered the wine along with glasses to the roof and we "oohed" and "ahhhed" and "omg-ed" like a couple of idiots!  But c'mon, dude......Even the roof of the dining room is pretty.  Details.  Everywhere.Casual elegance without an ounce of pretense ANYWHEREThey normally have two seatings for dinner every night, 6:30 and 8:30.  We opted for the early one because we're old.  Don't count on your typical restaurant.  The portions are small by American standards (hallelujah), you get a choice of 2-3 appetizers and entrees of locally sourced/fresh ingredients and dessert.  (Food is included in the price of your room.....alcohol, not.)  All of that being said, this is an extremely talented chef and let's not forget, the livelihood of this island is fresh seafood.  Simply fabulous. The atmosphere doesn't suck either.One part of your stay at the Inn includes a 2-3 hour tour of the island with a "community host"....meaning a local and most likely in their personal car.  Whatever you do, don't skip this.  [...]



Hallifax, Nova Scotia

2016-10-23T16:14:41.318-05:00

We opted to make our wal back to Alabama via a 36 hour stopover in Hallifax.   We stayed at the Prince George Hotel downtown.  Very nice hotel....the concierge was a bit of a turd, but no biggie.  It's a great location, nice beds, fun bar where I was taught the intricacies of Canadian football.  We were tired, hungry, craving some BEEF so we walked the block and a half to Barrington Steak House and Oyster Bar.  Highly recommend.  The best oysters we had on the entire trip, POUTINE and a perfectly grilled steak.  We woke up to cold, wind and for the first time on the whole trip, RAIN.  Pouring rain.  Samson was our tour guide and he did the best he could given the conditions.    He also gave up Thanksgiving morning with his family to show us around.  He was great.  We didn't have much opportunity to get out of the car so the pics aren't the best but we hit all the highlights. ( This is the tour company Samson is with you're interested.)The Citadel National Historic SiteTitanic CemeteryA piece of the anchor of the boat that caused the Great Hallifax ExplosionThe last part of the tour was a drive out to Peggy's Cove.  I think the rain was actually a blessing in this instance.  Apparrently, this is a huge tourist trap and the cove is SMALL so we didn't have to content with tons of people or large tour busses.  Quaint.Those large tour buses heading to Peggy's Cove don't get to stop here for lobster, however.  They only serve to the locals and friends of the locals.  If they don't know you or your host, any empty table be suddenly become "reserved".  Amazing lobster!!  Thanks, Samson. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UQnlrseUiT8" width="560">On the advice of our new Canadian friends, we made a reservation that night at The Bicycle Thief, an extremely busy restaurant in the Hallifax harbor area.  It was Thanksgiving and that place was PACKED.  Wish the weather would have been better so we could have walked around outside.  Maybe another time!That's it people.  We were home the next afternoon.  One of our favorite trips ever!  [...]



St. John's, Newfoundland

2016-10-23T16:10:46.546-05:00

To be completely truthful, I really have no idea where to begin these next three  posts about our trip to Newfoundland and Labrado and also Nova Scotia, so let's just start with the fact that I offered up Donald and Hillary to every Canadian I came into contact with in exchange for Trudeau.  NOT A SINGLE TAKER.  They all think our country is screwed either way.  They'd be correct.  Moving on.Exclusive Resorts has partnered with the Fogo Island Inn which entails three nights at the Inn with two nights preceding it spent in St. John's, the capitol of Newfoundland and Labrador.  It's not an easy place to get to, however, and I didn't want to waste any of the days on travel, so we opted to fly to Toronto and spend the night so that we could arrive in St. John's by early afternoon.We stayed at the Four Seasons and because my amazing travel-agent cousin hooked us up, we got the movie-star upgrade to this amazing suite.  BOOM!  (She can hook you up too....call her!)Too bad we only got to enjoy it for about 12 hours!!  What's there to say about the Four Seasons?  Great service, comfortable beds, fabulous bar and restaurant.Let's get to the meat, shall we.....Out of there bright and early and landed in St. John's shortly after noon.  We stayed at the St. John's Sheraton.  Look....it's a Sheraton but it was clean, they staff was friendly and the hotel is perfectly located.  A short walk to the downtown area where there are tons of restaurants and the harbor area.  It's also about a mile walk (up some STEEP hills) to Signal Hill for some fabulous hiking and stunning panoramic view of the city.  There are some new hotels under construction right in the harbor which ER may want to look into in the future.  Anyhooo....we dropped our stuff in the room and headed out to find some lunch.  Side note....when you pack for Newfoundland weather, make sure you account for wind because THERE WILL BE WIND.  Not a breeze, people.  WIND.  I tell you this because I DIDN'T PACK FOR WIND.  It was 49 degrees (oh, and practice your Celcius conversions before you go....Canadians can't convert to Fahrenheit and better than we can convert to C.) with a wind chill of about -20.  Needless to say, we didn't walk far.  But we did get lucky!Can we talk about the St. John's food scene?  This small city, population around 200,000 people is home to the #1 and #4 restaurant in ALL OF CANADA.  Think about that....not Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver....St. John's.  And the one's that aren't rated are pretty damn good too.  We were lucky enough to score a reservation at both restaurants and I'll talk about them in a minute.  But for lunch on our first day we went into the first one we walked by because WIND....Get Stuffed.  It was 1:30ish and we were the only ones in there.  We split the grilled calamari and it was fabulous.  The soups we got were adequate, but I highly recommend the calamari.We headed back to the hotel to put on 10 more layers of clothes so we could stand to be outside.  Neither one of us were interested in walking a mile in the cold and (you know what) so we grabbed a cab to take us up to Signal Hill to walk around. The road to the top was under construction, so we were dropped midway at the Visitor's Center and hiked to the top.  Here's the Wikipedia link if you're interested in the history of Signal Hill.  Marconi assembled his first receiver here, used in defense of the harbor,  blah, blah, blah.  I was interested the views and photo ops.  I'm shallow.A view of[...]



Salmon with Anchovy-Garlic Butter

2016-07-21T12:14:36.914-05:00

Are you a lover of salmon?  I think this is one of those foods that elicits a strong reaction....you either love it, or you hate it.  I happen to fall on the love side.  Mr. B?  Not so much.  This recipe changed his mind!I've been making a similar recipe sans the anchovy for quite a while.  It involved melting butter directly in the pan in the oven, then adding the salmon, flesh side down on a bed of dill and baking until almost done.  Flip the fish over and finish baking.  Voila'!  Delish.  But then I ran across this Melissa Clark version and was like, "Damn" why didn't I think of anchovies???  Ahhh anchovies. Another one of those love/hate foods.  My bestie's husband HATES them!  Or so he thinks.  I've been hiding them in dishes for years.....my bolognese, salad dressings, chili, etc. and he's been none the wiser.  And after reading this article I'll be doing it even more!  They add that umami, or extra savoriness, that makes a good dish great.  I like to smash them into a paste along with garlic and salt and add them early in the cooking process.....usually right after the oil/butter heats up.  Mellows out that "fishy" taste.  The anchovies will dissolve right into the fat and you'll never see them again!!That's exactly what happens here.  I've made this for just the Mr. and I, for family gatherings, dinner parties....EVERYONE raves.  It will become your go-to salmon.  I promise!!Here's the recipe:Salmon with Anchovy-Garlic ButterMelissa Clark - NYTimesIngredients:(serves 4)3 tablespoons butter (I use about 3/4 tbsp for each fillet)4 anchovies (one per fillet)1 fat clove of garlic (or 2 smaller ones)1/2 tsp coarse kosher saltFreshly ground black pepper4 (6-8oz) skin on salmon fillets2 tbsp drained capers, patted dry1/2 lemonFresh, chopped parsley for servingDirections:Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mince the garlic and the anchovies, then together with the salt, with the side of your knife smash them all together into a paste.  (If you're not sure how to make paste, this video will help)  Season the salmon with freshly ground pepper.  (Don't add additional salt....along with the salt in the paste, the anchovies are also very salty)Heat a large ovenproof skillet (I use cast-iron) over high heat until very hot.  Add the butter.  When melted and starting to brown, add the anchovy/garlic/salt paste.  After about 30 seconds, add the salmon - skin side down - and cook for about 2-3 minutes until the skin is nice and crispy.  Flip the fish to flesh side down and transfer the pan to the oven.  Roast until fish is just cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.  During the last couple of minutes of cooking, add in the capers.Remove the pan from the oven, place the salmon on plates, spooning a little of the melted butter and capers over each fillet.  Give each fillet a big squeeze of lemon and garnish with the parsley.  (The lemon is important here...salmon is rich on it's own and adding the anchovies and butter will only heighten that.  The acid in the lemon helps to cut through some of that richness.)[...]



Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Pesto

2016-07-14T13:44:33.286-05:00

I ran across this video the other morning and it basically is a direct reflection of my own personal experience.   It turns out that exercise isn't the best way to lose weight.  I can see all you gym rats rolling your eyes.  Look, I've been a "big girl" all my life.  I've also worked out all my life.  And yes, I've lost weight exercising......when I was younger.  But now that fucking hot flashes rule my life, exercise does nothing for me as far as weight loss.  Love the way it makes me feel and I still work out 6 days a week, but that's not why I've finally started to lose weight.I've always eaten relatively healthy, but changing how much I eat has been the most beneficial.  I never thought I was an overeater, but as Americans, our sense of how much food should be on our plate is seriously messed up.  Turns out we need a fraction of what we think.  In May, hubs and I spent a week in beautiful Laguna Beach with our niece, Annie, who recently became pescatarian....vegetarian that eats fish.  So in solidarity, we joined her.  And we liked it!  So that's how we eat 90% of the time now.....Mostly fruits and vegetables with some fish occasionally thrown in.Which reminds me of a funny story.....Right after we got back from Cali, my parents came for a visit. My mother had just had a bit of a health scare so she said she wanted to be more conscious of what she was eating.  My father pipes in...YES.  We should just be eating fruits and vegetables!!  He would so be on board for that!  I asked him if this meant he was going to give up his Bob Evans pancakes/eggs/bacon/waffles for breakfast with the guys every morning and his burgers/fries/etc for lunch after golf every afternoon.  Well, NO but he'd be happy to have fruits and vegetables for dinner!!  HA!Also, can I just say how EASY it is to eat healthily in California.  Every restaurant, no matter the cuisine, always has fresh, healthy choices.  Alabama.....not so much!So I don't know where I first saw this recipe (not claiming it as my own), but this Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Pesto has become something I make a big batch of almost weekly.  It's delicious, satisfying, very filling because of the quinoa and extremely versatile.  It works with whatever vegetable you have on hand/that you enjoy/are in season....it's accommodating!  I typically use fennel, red onion, brussels sprouts, butternut squash or sweet potato, red or yellow peppers and kale.  I've also subbed out zucchini and squash this summer although I like to roast them separately because they cook a quicker that the heartier veggies.I load up two sheet pans so I have plenty left over.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and roast them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until they're knife tender but still have a bit of a bite to them, rotating the pans halfway through.For the quinoa, I use a cup of rainbow quinoa (I like the different colors, but the white kind works just as well) cooked in a cup and a half of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until all the water is absorbed.Combine the veggies and the quinoa in a large bowl, add a cup of pesto, salt to taste, stir everything together and serve!  I've made this with good quality store bought pesto in the winter and it's fine, but when I've got tons of basil in the garden in the summer making your own is worth the effort.(Check this article out for everything you need to know about making your own pesto, and this one for som[...]



Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Frittata

2016-07-11T14:55:55.610-05:00

I had my girlfriends over for Breakfast at Wimbledon on Saturday morning and we may have actually watched a few points of the tennis.  Mostly we ate, drank champagne, laughed, drank tequila, laughed and drank wine.  Yeah.  Suffice it to say, Saturday morning turned into Saturday afternoon and drunkenly dragged into Saturday night. I didn't get out of my pajamas until Sunday night just to take a bath and get back into (different) pajamas and crawl into bed at 8:00pm.I'm too old for that shit.  But I guarantee it'll probably happen again.  Because of said champagne, tequila and wine, I didn't get a lot of quality pics but I wanted to share what I served because it was pretty damn good.  Humbly speaking, of course.We started with this Spinach and Sun-dried Tomato Frittata which I served in these adorable individual cast iron skillets.  Aren't they fabulous?!  Well, they used to be.  My amazing husband was nice enough to clean up the kitchen for his drunken wife and her friends and loaded those CAST IRON skillets into the ole dishwasher.  He sure did.  I'm sure I can bring them back to life.....they're in the oven right now loaded down with oil and salt to try and GET ALL THAT RUST OFF.  Ugh.  But I still appreciate that you cleaned up, Honey!!I also made these Blueberry Coconut Muffins served with a Maple Blueberry Butter and this Bahama Mama Banana Rum Cake with Rum Glaze that is the second most popular recipe on the blog.  That's a well deserved honor.  It's slap your mama good.We also tried out the new hot trend in drinks, which consists of dropping a popsicle into alcohol and letting them fuse together.  Meh....we were all a little lukewarm on this.  We tried raspberry in Champagne....don't be like me and do this with Veuve....use a cheaper champs.  It frankly just ruined my already perfect Veuve but this is a cute idea to maybe do at a bridal brunch, or something.  I suggest letting the popsicles soften for a bit in the glass before adding the champs so they can meld together.  I put mine in directly from the freezer and it took forever to melt.We also experimented with lime popsicles, tequila and club soda.  Again, the popsicles need to be a little soft for this to work.  Ours were frozen and we were pretty much just drinking straight Casa Migos (truly the best tequila.....I think it's actually just the tears of George Clooney, but...) so learn from my mistakes.Things were starting to get sloppy at this point and this was the best picture I was capable of taking.....So that was my Saturday.  Congrats to Serena and Andy and my apologies to Serena for not actually watching much of her record tying win.  And can I just tell the media to get off Steffi Graf's jock for calling Angelique Kerber to wish her luck and not calling Serena.  Steffi is GERMAN you idiots and she called her fellow GERMAN.  I'm sure Chrissy called Serena.  GTF over yourselves.  That's all.Click on the links above for all the recipes.[...]



Marinated Tomatoes

2016-07-07T15:56:45.250-05:00

Oh hey, y'all.  And by "y'all" I mean all two of you that are left actually following me!  So yeah....6 months no bloggy!  6 months no bloggy passion.  6 months not cooking much that inspired me to tell you about.  Sorry.  However, I've recently been feeling the "bug", so I'm back.  I've got a few great recipes to tell you about plus we're about to hit the road for a three-week trip to the Rockies to escape the fucking Alabama heat and I know I'll need to post about THAT!Speaking of the heat.....It's 99 degrees today, and this girl doesn't like to turn on the oven/stove/grill on days like this unless it's absolutely necessary.  So marinated tomatoes for dinner it is....I saw this as a sub-recipe (is that even a thing?) to a recipe for Grilled Cheese with Marinated Tomatoes in the weekly LATimes food newsletter.  (If you're not subscribed to that, do it.) and while I'll def make the grilled cheese someday, I thought the tomatoes sounded delish to serve by themselves with a big loaf of crusty bread to sop up every last bit of the marinade.I know, right?  Perfect, simple, sweltering-summer-day dinner.  I could also see adding some bocconcini to this, chopping it up and topping some bruschetta or tossing into some pasta for a summer pasta salad.  The possibilities are endless, I say!!Here's the recipe:Marinated Tomatoes1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme Pinch red pepper flakes, more to taste 1 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise 10 large basil leaves, very thinly sliced 2 tablespoons capers, drained and crushed 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced 2 pounds very ripe large tomatoes, cut into ½-inch-thick slices In a bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, parsley, thyme, pepper flakes, salt and several grinds of black pepper. Stir in the onion, basil, capers, and garlic. Spread a little of the marinade on the bottom of a large baking dish. Top with a layer of tomatoes. Spread over a little more marinade, then another layer of tomatoes. Top with the remaining marinade, cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving. The marinated tomatoes will keep up to 2 days.SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave[...]



Weekend Stuff and NOLA!!

2016-02-01T15:19:49.949-06:00

We went to New Orleans last week and it kicked our ass.  Which is why I didn't get this posted yesterday.  We got home Saturday afternoon and, yeah, I was still not forming complete sentences until this morning!!  It was our first time there (I know, I know) and I have to admit I had really low expectations because, Bourbon Street.  Friends.....I was wrong.  Not about Bourbon Street.  It's the petri dish that you think it is....don't go unless you're under the age of 25.  Seriously.  It stinks.But the rest of the city?  Completely charming and the food and alcohol is amazing.  Choices for days.  Seriously......anything you are craving, you'll find it there, but can I suggest for your first trip that you, at least, get in the New Orleans staples.Like gumbo........and muffulettaand oysters.....omg get the oysters at Peche and Felix'sLet's not forget the beignets.  If you want to avoid the lines at Cafe DuMonde, check out Morning Call in City Park.  Beautiful place to sit outside if the weather is nice.Sorry I took the picture pre-powdered sugar.  Once they were doused, they didn't last long!  Oh and have the Cafe au Lait, even if you think you don't like it!The only thing I really wanted to try but physically ran out of room for was a Po Boy.  Next time.  Exclusive Resorts has partnered with The Windsor Court hotel, so that's where we stayed.  The hotel is old and beautiful and very New Orleans....the bartender mixes a fabulous drink.....but I wouldn't say the room was "Exclusive Resort" value.  If you're a member,  you know exactly what that "value" should be on a daily basis.  So there was that.  Not a trip-ruining experience, but something that needs to be noted.  Moving on.  Directly across the street from the hotel sat John Besh's flagship Restaurant August so that's where we went Wednesday evening.  As expected, it was fabulous.  Beautiful high ceilings, gorgeous woodwork, white tablecloths.....perfect.  Plan on having a drink at the bar before dinner and leave room for dessert!!  Great experience.The next morning we went on a three-hour city tour with Al as our guide.  Oh, Al.  Quintessential New Orleans' character.  He knows every celebrity in town.....they exchange New Year's texts.....or so Al believes.  Actually, I believed him!  So fun.  Has lived in New Orleans his whole life, evacuated his family before Katrina hit but lost his business, all his money and the flood waters were up to the second story of his beautiful home which was not far from where the levees broke.  He doesn't blame the levees for the devastation, however, and has a theory that involves the long-ago destruction of New Orleans wetlands.  He may be right.  Very informative and I feel like it was essential to the trip.  It was a driving tour, so the only disappointment was not getting to take a lot of pics.....of say, his good friends' Sandy Bullock's and John Goodman's homes.  He could have at least introduced us......After that, off to a late lunch at Peche.  Very cool place and I loved the relaxed interior and vibe.  Fabulous cocktail that involved Gin, Ginger and Cucumber to start and then we ordered and dozen oysters (Ed anointed them the best he's ever had) and about 6 different tapas............and then my mind was blown when they brought the dessert menu that had liquor pairings, y'all. &[...]



Weekend stuff......

2016-01-24T11:05:54.946-06:00

Let's start with a little eye candy....I loved the transformation of this Brooklyn brownstone. Just stunning.57 small things to do for yourself this year. Sooo many good ones here but I find #26 to be especially true."We go from the freshest, deepest, coldest source of fresh water in North America, the Great Lakes, and we switch to the Flint River, which, historically, was an industrial sewer." Flint's water crisis......HOW in the hell does this happen? I mentioned last week that I'm reading this book. Here's an interview that Katie Couric did with Paul's wife, Lucy. "You know, we're sort of all guaranteed suffering. And it's up to us to strive to make meaning - to strive to be good, to do the right thing, to be better - and to live according to our values." We were all taught in grade school that no two snowflakes are the same. For those of you buried under massive amounts of those flakes this weekend, here's the science behind how those differences happen!Garden and Gun (can y'all tell it's my FAVE?) talked some of the South's best professional pastry chef's and biscuit bakers into taste testing biscuits from fast food chains. I guarantee the results will surprise you!!"Q-tips are one of the only, if not the only, major consumer products whose main purpose is precisely the one the manufacturer warns you against." I have always read to never put anything bigger than an elbow inside your ear canal, so I, obviously, don't use Q-tips, but Mr. B can't live without them.Here's the original Buzzfeed article regarding tennis's match-fixing scandal and here's a link to player's reactions. I think we'd be naive to believe it's not happening and only a matter of time before the names come to light. Should they be banned for life?Are you reading The Players Tribune? Lose yourself in the "Letters to My Younger Self" section....I particulary loved Joe Theismann's ("On November 18, 1985, maybe take the night off.") and Pete Sampras's letters. Then browse the rest of the site. It's a platform for players to connect directly with their fans, in their own words and it's an enlightening read. It's founded by Derek Jeter, so there's a heavy University of Michigan slant......avoid those areas!I loved this story about an Indiana Pacer's usher. You just never know how interesting someone's life story might be!!!So today's games will decide who will play this year's Super Bowl.....can you believe it'll be the 50th? FYI....I'm Team Brady. Haters gonna hate. (Speaking of the stud and his super model, this made me laugh!) I don't yet know my party plans, but if you're looking for some food inspiration..........50 Super Bowl Recipes for Super Bowl 50, these cashews sound delish and easy, and how about these 5 amazing chili recipes from around the South. To satisfy everyone's sweet tooth and because it's crazy simple, serve your party guests this Chocolate-Cookie Crunch Trifle!I'll be attempting this souffle this week because it sounds amazing, plus I'm a souffle rookie and I think it's time to slay that beast. Wish me luck.Enjoy what's left of your weekend and Go Patriots![...]



Malbec Fig (Chocolate) Brownies

2016-01-21T14:16:42.649-06:00

Yes.  My wine-addicted ass found a way to incorporate wine into brownies.  Let's clarify.  Not about my wine-addicted ass but that I found a recipe that incorporated wine into brownies.  And I was all like "hell yes".Let's just be clear here, however, just in case you're getting all weirded out by wine brownies.  These are CHOCOLATE in the deepest, chocolatiest of ways.  The wine adds an element, but you'll definitely know you're eating a brownie.  I mean look at that dark chocolate color....It called for a Malbec and since I recently spent three weeks south of the equator drinking Malbec...  Every.  Day, I consider myself an expert.  Off I went to my local wine shop.  People,  I can WALK to the nearest wine shop from my new house.  I didn't, but location, location, location.  I strutted myself in there all, "Do you have any Chilean Malbec, preferably from the Colchagua Valley?"  Yeah, so annoying.  He didn't.  Said he wasn't sure I'd be able to find one in Birmingham.  Which may be true since I'm not sure now much the wineries we visited export.  He sold me a nice one from Mendoza....a 2013 Don Manuel Villafane for $20!Now, if you're still hesitant about wine in your chocolate, listen to the tasting notes for this particular wine...."Shows a dark violet color with an incredible nose of rich cherry, cassis, and plum.  The full body shows hints of blackberry, mocha, vanilla spice and coffee with a sweetness of tannins."  Tell me all of those things don't pair well with chocolate.  And even if you can't find the exact wine that I used, it's fine.  All of those characteristics are pretty standard with Malbec.I guess anyone posting on a "food" blog should also be able to describe to you the flavor profile of a fig and just exactly what that fig spread is bringing to this party, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what a fig tastes like.  I love me some Fig Newtons and I'll shove figs wrapped in prosciutto into my pie hole all day long, because PRUSCIUTTO......but I cannot describe to you what a fig tastes like.  I'll shut down this site tomorrow but, in the meantime, just find yourself some fig spread.....I got mine at Fresh Market and I know Murfree's in Cahaba Heights carries their own homemade version....and follow the recipe!!These are rich and, like I said, really chocolaty....there's a full pound of chocolate in these babies so they're certainly not for the faint of heart.  I'd call these a "grown-up" brownie.  Maybe for your more sophisticated dinner party guests!  (of which I don't have many.....jk, jk friends)  Reducing the wine definitely brings out the cherry notes so if chocolate covered cherries....minus the disgusting gushy parts...are your thing, you'll love these.PS....the cherry is much more pronounced on the first day.  After these sat overnight, it was much more subtle.Here's the recipe:Malbec Fig BrowniesBaked From Scratch MagazineIngredients:2 (4 ounce) 70% cacao extra bittersweet chocolate baking bars, finely chopped1 cup unsalted butter, cubed2 cups Malbec1/3 cup fig spread2 1/4 cups sugar1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder1 teaspoon baking powder1 teaspoon vanilla extract2 (4-ounce) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bars, choppedDirections:Preheat oven to 350 deg F.  Line a 13x9 inch baking pan with parchment paper,  Li[...]



Slow Cooked Ham and Beans with Merken Ahumado

2016-01-19T07:41:09.296-06:00

At the end of our tour of Chile's Lago Llanguihue area we had some spare time to kill before our lunch reservation at Cotele in Puerto Montt (you can read all about that here).  Since it was right down the street from the restaurant, our guide gave us a tour of the port town's local fish market.  While I wasn't all that interested in the barnacle display, the lady with the bags full of spices hanging from the ceiling caught my attention.  Or I should probably say caught my nose's attention.  You could smell the smoke and heat a good ten feet away.  I wasn't exactly sure what I was buying but I knew it was a dried chile of some type or a mixture of dried chiles and I could tell by looking (and smelling) that there was a natural kind and a smoked kind.  They were priced at 1,000 Chilean Pesos/bag and after asking hubs to do that math for me.....because math is HARD....I shelled out roughly $3 and walked myself away with my favorite purchase of the entire trip.  I made the mistake of throwing them into the bottom of my purse where they sat for the next two weeks.  My purse still smells like smoked chiles!When I got home I did a little chile research and googled what was written on the bag.  According to Wikipedia.....Merkén or merquén (from the Mapuche mezkeñ) is a smoked chili pepper (or, in Spanish, "ají") used as a condiment that is often combined with other ingredients when in ground form. Merkén is a traditional condiment in Mapuche cuisine in Chile.   The base ingredient of Merkén is the smoked pepper "cacho de cabra" (Capsicum Annuum var. Lungum) a dried, smoked, red pepper, that is sometimes ground with toasted coriander seed and salt. The traditional process of preparation is slow, since it involves harvesting green peppers and then letting them mature to develop an intense reddish color. The peppers are dried naturally in the sun and are then smoked over a wood fire. They are then stored by being hung to dry prior to grinding. Once reduced to powder or flakes, the peppers are often mixed with salt and roasted ground coriander seed.  Commercially, merkén pepper with only an addition of salt is known as "natural merken" ("merkén natural"), while "special merkén" ("merkén especial") contains coriander seeds. The composition of "special merkén" is approximately 70% chili, 20% salt, and 10% coriander seed.  Merkén originates primarily from the cuisine of the Mapuches of the Araucanía Region of Chile, but is also used in the Chilean cuisine as a replacement for fresh chili. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Merkén has drawn the attention of professional chefs and has begun to find an international market. Merkén is most commonly used as the following: A general condiment for seasoning dishes such as lentils, gold potatoes, and sautéed vegetables. A dry-rub for tuna, lamb, pork, or duck. A sprinkle, spice rub, or boiling spice for seafood including crab. An addition to stews, savory pies, and purees. A spice for ceviches. An addition to cow or goat cheese. An addition to peanuts or salty olives. So, since Merken is a smoked chile, and "ahumado" means "smoked" is the Merken Ahumado double smoked?  We may never know!    "Entero" translates to "whole" so I'm guessing what I purchased is not in combination with any other spices.  So there you go!  And [...]



Weekend stuff.......

2016-01-17T10:10:39.061-06:00

I have the hardest time choosing wall art.....ugh....and for some reason, with this new house, I have this strange desire to only hang things to which I feel some connection.  Sooooo, I've been editing some of my favorite vacation photos and turning them into frameable images using this website.  I've been thrilled with the quality of the prints.  Now, to get them framed!!We have six remaining days to use before March 1 for this year's Exclusive Resort contract and since ER has recently gotten more creative and partnered with some fabulous hotels, hubs and I are heading to New Orleans to celebrate his birthday and our anniversary.  Can you believe I've NEVER BEEN to NOLA?! We've already planned, along with the requisite city tour, a private food and beverage tour and a private mixology lesson!  {hiccup}  I'm also trying to pull bits and pieces from this NY Times guide, this Anthony Bourdain guide (because....ANTHONY!) and this Joy the Baker guide (because I love her and who better to get advice from than a resident?)  I'm open to y'all's thoughts, too.We have a few more things planned for the middle of the year, but I'm also really excited about a trip to Newfoundland in October when we'll be staying here!  Talk about "getting away".I'm not much of a boxing fan.....something about watching one get his face bludgeoned???.....but this story and the lack of proper regulating is just downright sad.  And why do I think this may be more to the norm?The Australian Open starts this week (today?) and while it's probably the grand slam I watch the least because of the time differences, there may be hope on the horizon for the American men's game.  It's about damn time.  Could they be this generation's Andre, Pete, Jim and Michael?  Fingers crossed.The Wisdom of the Aged.  A NY Times writer and photographer followed six New Yorker's all over the age of 85 for a year asking the question, "What is reasonable to ask of old age?"  Loved this.I know y'all have seen this already because it broke the internet this week, but I can't stop watching it.  Isn't Adele the most charming?   allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Nck6BZga7TQ" width="560">Every year I resolve to read more books and less internet and THIS year, I'm DOING IT.  I'm currently reading this (oh, the writing) and this is next in line.  If you're having trouble finding something, check out this list of 53 Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down.  I can vouch for a few!If you're like me and cannot figure out Snapchat to save your life (damn if it doesn't make me feel old!) here's your help.  You're welcome??Spend your Sunday losing yourself in Garden & Gun's Back Porch Sessions.....Sturgill Simpson and Johnnyswim, please (just to name a few).Foodstuffs.......a genius hack for faster polenta (why hasn't someone mentioned this before....seems so simple).  This salad looks delicious.  I'm SO trying this because ALL of my cookie sheets are disgusting!  Pete Wells skewers Thomas Keller.  Ouch.  Seven women transforming the food industry.  Girl Power.Enjoy your Sunday, everyone.[...]