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Friday, August 26, 2011

All Shapes and Sizes

Ode to Pie

I have hastily been taking photographs of PieLab pies for its new Grid Iron To-Go Pies which will have its official website page open on Monday to celebrate Alabama Tailgating. So, I leave you this Friday with Ode to Pie, a tribute to all of the lovely pies I have had the opportunity to photograph this week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lunch On-The-Fly

Spinach, Bacon and Feta Tart

This dish was inspired by my bore of eating the same old stuff for lunch everyday. Like most, I often do not have time to sit and have a nice hour lunch break. I wanted to develop a dish that I could eat through out the week either at my desk or on-the-go. Tarts are a perfect solution to my mundane, on-the-go lunches. And this one combines my love of cheese, spinach and bacon. But feel free to interchange any of this tart's ingredients with other cheeses, leafy greens or protein you enjoy. Let us no longer settle for a peanut-butter and jelly lunch, up the ante with this delicious tart. Add a nice side salad and you have yourself a simple, gourmet lunch. 

Spinach, Bacon and Feta Tart Recipe

Makes: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

1 pie dough crust
200 grams baby spinach
6-8 bacon strips 
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons heavy cream
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup fresh Parmesan, grated
1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and Pepper 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In an greased tart/quiche pan, press crust dough into the pan. With a fork, poke a few light holes in to the bottom and sides of crust. Freeze for 10 minutes. Remove and cover top with foil, pour dried beans onto the top of foil until covered. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. 

In a medium skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove and place on paper towels to drain. Pour half of the grease out of the skillet. Pour onions into skillet, cook until translucent. Set aside. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, wring out and chop. 

To a medium bowl, add bacon, onions and spinach. Mix to combine. Add eggs, cream, feta, chives, 1/6 cup of Parmesan, and salt & pepper to taste. Combine. 

Remove foil and beans from the crust and pour egg mixture into crust. Top with remaining Parmesan. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees until golden brown. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Squares Get a Boost

Lemon-Lavender Squares

I have a special place in my heart for lemon squares. On top of a mountain in Tennessee, lies the small college town of Sewanee. Within the Sewanee gates is a quaint dining place by the name of The Blue Chair. While in college at Sewanee, I frequently grabbed the best scrambled cheese eggs and a vanilla milkshake for breakfast. On my way out I would grab a few of their famed lemon squares to snack on later in the day. This recipe is a recreation of my beloved lemon squares with an added twist of dried lavender to the crust. As the smell of the baking crust filled my kitchen, it took me back to those wonderful Saturday Blue Chair breakfasts and the dear friends I shared them with.

Lavender-Lemon Square Recipe

Makes: 24 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almonds, ground
2 teaspoons dried lavender flowers
2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, cream butter and confectioner's sugar. Add the flour, ground almonds, lavender and lemon zest. Beat until dough looks like crumbs. Press dough into an ungreased 13 x 9 baking dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes until edges are golden brown. 

For the filling, combine sugar, flour, baking soda, eggs and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisk until combined. Pour over warm crust. Bake for another 20-25 minutes until top is light golden brown. Remove and let cool. Cut squares and lightly dust with confectioner's sugar. 

Serve immediately or refrigerate. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sister Kate's Chicken and Biscuits

Southern Fried Chicken

My baby sister has always disliked cheese, butter and seafood. Last week she called me and said she loved the photos on my blog, but hated that I always included cheese and seafood in my posted dishes. I asked her if I could cook anything for her what would it be and she said, "Fried Chicken." I promised her that my next post would be fried chicken. In addition, her only other request was that I fried it in a skillet, because she did not own a fryer. I agreed to the challenge. When developing the recipe for fried chicken, the dish was missing something and I thought of course Kate loves biscuits. What is better than fried chicken and biscuits, not much in my book! With love to my sweet sister, who always inspires me.
Honey Biscuits

Southern Fried Chicken Recipe

Makes: 10 serving pieces
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

5 chicken drumsticks
5 chicken thighs
4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups canola or peanut oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce

Rinse the chicken pieces with cold water, pat dry with paper towels. 

In a small bowl, combine 3 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and cayenne pepper. Rub well over all chicken pieces. Place chicken in a baking dish and cover with foil. Refrigerate for one hour. 

Remove and pour buttermilk over the chicken pieces until all pieces are covered. Add Tabasco Sauce and mix to combine. Cover again and refrigerate overnight. 

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat at 375 degrees. 

In a medium bowl, combine flour, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Toss to combine. Remove each piece of chicken from buttermilk and shake off extra liquid, dredge in flour and let sit on drying rack for 5-10 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and line baking sheet with paper towels. 

Fry chicken a few pieces at a time, do not crowd the skillet. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn after 7 minutes to ensure all sides are crispy. Remove chicken and place on paper towel cookie sheet. Put in oven to keep warm. Repeat. 

Honey Biscuit Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup of whole milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, sift in flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Mix in 2/3 cup of milk and combine well with hands. 

Place dough on floured service, roll out and cut into circles or drop dough in tablespoon sizes onto the cookie sheet. 

Cook for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Remove and brush honey onto the top of the warm biscuits. Serve immediately. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Simple Side

Cucumber and Feta Salad

Before the weekend, wanted to enter a quick blog post for this Greek inspired side dish. I made this for an office party yesterday and it was a nice addition to the grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. So if you have a picnic, family reunion or do any outdoor grilling add this cucumber-feta salad to the menu. You can add fresh homegrown tomatoes, diced red onions or shredded carrots to up the texture factor if desired. However you prepare the dish, it is sure to be a hit! Have a great weekend!

Cucumber and Feta Salad

Makes: Enough for a Crowd
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: None

5 medium cucumbers, diced 
5 ounces fresh feta, crumbled 
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1 lemon, juiced
2 scallions, finely chopped
Fresh cracked black pepper

In a large serving bowl, add cucumbers, feta, oregano, basil, vinegar, scallions and pepper. Toss to combine. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve, or serve immediately. 

If serving immediately, add olive oil and lemon juice. If not, add olive oil and toss when ready to serve. 

*Remember you can add tomatoes, olives, bell peppers, red onion, etc. to this salad and none of the above ingredients would have to change. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Great Escape

Shrimp Pasta in Lemon-Butter Sauce

I believe in Greensboro, Alabama today the temperature is 101 degrees with  54% humidity! When developing my recipe for this week's post I wanted to create a light pasta dish that takes no time at all to prepare, because lets face it we still deserve great food even though the weather is unbearable. Shrimp pasta always reminds me of Olive Garden, where they drench the pasta in a heavy Alfredo sauce (which do not get me wrong sometimes I love) and top with a few shrimp for good measure. I wanted to take that idea I have of what shrimp pasta is and put it in reverse in order to get it down to the bare bones which is shrimp and pasta. To build on the 'bare bones' I added quality ingredients in homegrown tomatoes and basil I pulled from my garden and sauteed lemon peel. This dish turned out to have an incredibly refreshing flavor that everyone is sure to appreciate in the summer heat. So lay back and enjoy this simple, no fuss pasta dish. 

*Great tip for faking homemade pasta (now if you make your own pasta more power to you, but I am one of the unfortunate ones who has tried and tried with no success): take a tip from Jamie Oliver by purchasing store-bought, high-quality lasagna noodles, boil them and cut each noodle into 2 or 3 large strips. Your guests will never know! 

Shrimp Pasta in Lemon-Butter Sauce Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 3 Main Dishes 

3 homegrown tomatoes, chopped 
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 2 peeled into thin strips
1 lb. lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined 
Pinch of red chili flakes
1 bunch of basil, chiffonade (garnish)
Shaved Parmesan (garnish)

Bring a large salted pot of water to boil, add lasagna noodles. Cook as directed. Make sure to separate through out the cooking process; they tend to want to stick together.

While noodles are boiling, bring a large saucepan up to medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Once melted, reduce to medium-low and add lemon peel and pepper. Cook until peel is softened, about 4 minutes. Add shrimp, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Cook until shrimp begins to slightly curl and turn pink, 3-4 minutes. 

Strain lasagna noodles and cut into strips. Add noodles and tomatoes to the shrimp pan. Carefully toss to combine. 

Serve pasta topped with basil and freshly shaved Parmesan.