We have entered into two of my favorite themed-cooking seasons: Fall and hockey.
Seemingly disjointed and rather unculinary-like I know, but humor me with my explanation and invitation to join me on this strange road trip.
First off, Autumn time for food-lovers is a no-brainer but lots of-stomacher. Not only are cool afternoons the best time for comfort foods, but for a solid month you get to turn everything you eat into the shape of a zombie or a witch’s hat. What’s not to love there?
But October also means the NHL resumes its regular schedule and in our house, that’s also a reason to celebrate.
For much of the season, I coordinate our meals to include a signature dish from the Nashville Predator’s particular road opponent. It is a light-hearted theme but also a symbolic gesture of support in cuisine for my favorite team in my favorite medium. Unfortunately, I am also unreasonably superstitious, so depending on the outcome of the game, the dish may or may not be repeated or we might have to eat until every game night until June.
Even if Nashville is your second favorite team in the league, I invite you to enjoy these recipes for nights on the couch watching the game together, or on non-sporting event evenings as well.
We kicked off our 2013-2014 Cup run in St. Louis–a city we happily called home for over five years–with a toast of Toasted Ravioli. Unfortunately, we lost this game so this was probably the last time I’ll make it this season. (That shouldn’t stop you, though.) St. Louis Style Toasted Ravioli
1 package of frozen cheese or meat ravioli, thawed
Breading station of egg and Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil for frying
1.) Heat a couple of inches of vegetable oil in a deep pan for frying.
2.) Dredge each ravioli in the egg wash and then breadcrumbs. Lightly fry in oil for about 2-3 minutes on each side before drying on a paper towel.
Either serve right away with warmed marinara sauce, or put on a cookie sheet into a warm oven until face-off.
It may seem as though I’m dogging on the South a little bit lately, and I want to set the record straight that this is not the case. There are some things that the South is considerably superior over the geographic North. Namely, grocery stores.
Seriously, North, you don’t know what you’re missing.
And although there are many fine supermarkets to choose from here, Publix is, and has been, my personal favorite for almost 20 years. This is not a sponsored post, (but call me Publix, we’ll talk) but frequently this store, and others, offer excellent, fresh, ingredients and very reasonable prices.
This week, fresh figs, (Brown Turkey, Black Mission, Kadota) are on sale as they are about twice a year. I always want to figure out a way to use them because I just can’t pass them up easily when they are that plentiful and cheap.
So I came up with this recipe using another fine grocery store secret–fresh pizza dough from the bakery section–for a lovely appetizer or light dinner. So easy but it will look and taste as though you’ve hired a personal chef.
Fresh Fig, Walnut and Goat Cheese Pizza
Pizza dough from the bakery (if you use a tube that’s been sitting in the refrigerator case we’re going to fight.)
2-4 fresh figs, sliced thinly
1/4 cup walnuts
2 oz. goat cheese
Honey, enough to drizzle
1.) Preheat the oven to 400°. Divide pizza dough in half, and roll out to desired shape and thickness. (It will rise in the oven.)
2.) Place dough on a pizza stone or baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and lightly salt. Top with sliced figs and walnuts.
3.) Bake for about 15-20 minutes–check frequently so it doesn’t burn. Remove from oven, and sprinkle goat cheese on the warm pizza. Drizzle with honey and enjoy no matter where you live.
I’ve been asked for my hand in marriage. (Yes.) I’ve been asked if I want fries with that. (No.) I’ve been asked if I wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. (No, yes, no, no.) I’ve been asked what I want to be when I grow up. (Still waiting to grow up.) I’ve been asked for my I.D. (Ok, not in a very long time.) I’ve been asked for my advice, opinion, and counsel. (Stay in school, the one on the left and don’t read Internet comments.) Paper or plastic? (Canvas, please.) I’ve even been questioned as to who wrote the book of love, what’s love got to do with it and what’s eating Gilbert Grape. (I’ve got satellite radio and a Netflix account.)
But in 29 years of combined school grades and teachers, I’ve never been asked to be the Room Mom.
The teacher who proposed such an obvious travesty of scholastic volunteerism is new, so I quickly said yes before she Google search me. (Rookie mistake.) Since I’m new to the Room Mom game, I had some questions of my own. Like, is there a union per diem minimum? (No, in fact you’ll be expected to pay out-of-pocket for countless expenses.) Will my yearbook profile include high res photos or standard? (We don’t exactly feature parents in the yearbook.) When driving to field trips, do I collect gas money from the kids before or after I drop them off? (Wait, what?) Are there any allergies I should notify the caterer of for the class parties? (We don’t use a caterer, maybe we should talk…) My first arts and crafts project is wallpapering my bathroom so I’m going to need 4,288 glue sticks added to their required supply list. (On second thought, we may not need a Room Mom this year.) Your Tuesday Reading Circle is on my preferred spa day, so can I move in a massage table on those carpet squares? (@#$%^&*) Why is your face so red? Who are you calling? Are handcuffs really necessary?
And now I’ve also been asked if I understand my rights as they’ve been explained to me. (Best. School. Year. Ever.)
One of the recipes I get asked about the most–Guacamole.
3 ripe avocados
1 red onion, diced
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Salt and Pepper
Nothing else or you’ll ruin it
I mean it
Mash the avocados with the back of a fork in a medium bowl. Mix the 3–exactly 3–ingredients together. Resist the temptation to make it more complicated than it is–you will thank me later. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy by the handful or use tortilla chips.
Note: The only variation I will allow is the addition of fresh cilantro if you love fresh cilantro, or a squeeze of a fresh lime. Ripe avocados are a must. Buy the nice blackish-skinned ones, but if they aren’t quite ripe yet place in a brown paper bag for a day or so and they’ll ripen quickly and guac-ly.
One of the very best happy accidents of this new venture has been how much more crowded my kitchen has become. As soon as I mentioned the new blog to my friends, they have jumped right in offering recipes, taste-testing, opinions, and wine-glass filling. The test kitchen has become my favorite place with some of my favorite people along side offering their generous and delicious additions.
Such was the case when my friend Mikki came through town this summer.
After a bottle of wine or seven, we came up with the most decadent deviled eggs you’ll ever meet. These are so good and so rich, you’ll move up a tax bracket after just one bite.
Deviled Eggs Benedict
18 eggs, hard boiled and peeled (Use organic eggs, worth the splurge when the eggs are the star of the show.)
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon champagne vinegar
4 slices prosciutto
2 english muffins
chives for garnish
1.) Cut whole eggs in half lengthwise and place on a large platter. Put yolks into food processor. Pulse until smooth.
2.) Add vinegar and lemon juice; pulse again until smooth. With processor running, add the meted butter through the feed tube and blend until smooth and creamy. Use spatula to scrape sides, add salt to taste, blend again. This should resemble and taste like hollandaise sauce.
3.) Place yolk mixture into a plastic bag with the tip cut off for piping. Pipe into eggs. If mixture is slightly runny or soft, it is ok, it will set up nicely in the refrigerator.
4.) Chill eggs for at least an hour. Meanwhile, set oven to 400°. Place prosciutto on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes to crisp up. (You could also do this on the stove top if you prefer.)
5.) Toast English muffins and lightly butter if desired. (It really doesn’t need it.) Cut muffin into small, crouton-sized chunks.
6.) Assemble eggs by placing a piece of the crisp prosciutto, muffin crouton and a sliver of chive on each one.
Although we have settled in nicely into our new home, there are still a couple of aspects of Southern life that I have yet to get used to. Oh, I’ve mastered yelling “UNSWEET” quickly after I order my iced tea. I’ve figured out what a Meat and Three is and I’ve even learned that rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey, as well as making Tennessee cars slow to .4 mph. But even after all of these Southern life lessons, my biggest conundrum remains: how anything gets done around here.
I’ve said before that someone could make a fortune actually providing services that people want and need down here, and yes, I realize that makes me sound like a Yankee carpetbagger. But then at least YOU’D HAVE SOMEONE INSTALLING CARPETS, SOUTH.
Our homeowner troubles began before we even moved in when the landscaper from the previous owner wanted to charge us $5600 for yard work. On the yard that he had been paid to maintain. And then it was the cable company who installed cable in the house, but if I wanted any “non-covered” services like moving the TV or putting batteries in the remote, I could pay them cash on the side.
We hired a carpenter to build some shelves and install a wine cooler. After months of excuses, on the day he was supposed to deliver it his wife emailed to say the cooler had died in an unfortunate car accident on the way to our house along with the receipt and dental records.
I had a repair man come out to fix our gas grill. Before he even rounded the corner to the back yard, he threw up his hands and declared that “on behalf of myself and Sears, I decline to work on this equipment,” as if he was stating his intentions to a hidden NSA agent. He said I didn’t have a “grill,” I had a “De-luxe Bar-B-Cue System,” that required a specialty repair service from a fire and hearth store, despite having bought the stupid thing at Sears the year before.
We’ve had three different trash companies because they just stop picking up, you know, trash?
I’ve been on the phone getting solicited to sign a service contract with an A/C company that I’m already under contract with. When I reminded them that I was due for a service call, I had to wait 2 1/2 months before they could find an opening. And they even had to reschedule that appointment because “it looked like rain.”
When we decided to get an outdoor fireplace built like many of our neighbors, I started calling the numbers from some of the home magazine advertisements. Only one actually came out and then wouldn’t show us a rendering until we paid a deposit so we wouldn’t use anyone else. I went to a store that had outdoor fireplaces on display at its entrance. I filled out a request form in person for a contractor to contact me. Not only did they never call, but I think they blocked my number and put my picture on the wall warning that I was as dumb as, and therefore not to be sold any boxes of rocks.
So when in a last ditch effort for outdoor warmth a postcard addressed to “Resident” which I was beginning to doubt referred to me, arrived with pictures of fire pits and hardscapes I was not only hesitant and skeptical, but perhaps a bit masochistic when I placed the call.
I left a message knowing full well it would only end in ignored heartbreak, but much to my shock and awe, he returned the call. And he came out that same day to take measurements and give me a brochure. And then he emailed me that very night with an actual price quote.
And then if I heard him right over my screams of joy, he said he could start the work on MONDAY.
When the orchestra of angels quieted, I sent a quick note to my Homeowner’s Association letting them know that s’mores were being served at our house next weekend and instead of offering to bring graham crackers, the woman sent back an architectural modification request form and instructions that it would take 45 days for a response.
45 days? South, have you met you?
Because I assume that a Homeowners Association are owners of homes associated with my geographic area and therefore know that the number of obstacles, natural disasters, suspicious fires, and shiny things that can derail a home maintenance project in the South are only outnumbered by the amount of cowboy boots and aspiring country singers at Tootsies on a Saturday night.
And before you think this is only limited my bad northerner luck, our neighborhood clubhouse holds a support group for grief-ridden residents mourning the loss of their deposits and souls to a driveway sealant company every Tuesday.
At the time of this publication, I face a dilemma. Do I listen to the proverbial angel on my shoulder telling me to submit the required paperwork, wait for the inevitable approval a month and half later and based on nothing in my history, experience or common sense hope that the contractor will still be in business, available and/or not incarcerated? Or does the devil’s advice of submitting the paperwork but going ahead with the project before the actual approval comes and risking nasty letters and possible fines from HOA win out?
I hear official stationary makes the best kindling on cool Southern nights.
Fire-roasted, Marinated Red Peppers and Olives
(Adapted from the Viking Cooking School) vikingrange.com
2 large red peppers
3 Tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
5-6 oz. pitted olives such as kalamata
Vinaigrette (Use the extra on a salad or a dip for fresh bread)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
!/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
1.) Char the red peppers by placing directly over an open flame such as an illegal outdoor fireplace or your gas stove burner. Hold with tongs to blacken the entire surface then place into a bowl and tightly wrap with plastic. Let sit in wrapped bowl for 30 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
2.) Peel away all of the skin off the peppers, remove core and seeds, and slice into thin strips. Arrange on small platter.
3.) Mix the first 6 vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil to form a dressing. Season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Set aside.
4.) Pour half of the marinade over the peppers, rough chop the olives and mix in the remaining marinade. Layer olives over top peppers and sprinkle on capers. Serve at room temperature.
5.) Serve proudly at the next HOA Disciplinary Hearing.