Friday, July 9, 2010

Recipe Review: Southern Living's Okra and Corn Maque Choux

The heat of the summer has left me craving lighter meals, and this month's issue of Southern Living Magazine delivered some great inspirations! The "Summer's Glorious Trinity" article of recipes using tomatoes, okra, and sweet corn had us positively salivating! At first glance we were both agreed that we had to try the Okra and Corn Maque Choux. If you're not familiar with Maque Choux (pronounced mock-shoe), it originated in Louisiana and I believe it was a Cajun spin on a Native American dish.

I faithfully followed Southern Living's recipe, which isn't an easy thing for me to do, resisting the temptation to add Herbs de Provence, which I add to most everything I cook. This was such an easy dish to make and it was so tasty. Here are a few of my notes on the newest staple to our summer recipe collection:

  • I used Rodger Wood Polish style smoked sausage, which is made here locally in Savannah. This sausage gave a nice smoky flavor to the dish and had a nice texture. Next time I think I would use their spicy version, as Southern Living used a spicy smoked sausage when testing the recipe for the magazine.
  • I chopped all of the vegetables before hand, mixing them in two separate bowls per steps of cooking. That way everything was prepared and I only had to dump in the bowl of vegetables that were required at each step. The corn took the longest to prepare, so it was well worth doing in advance.
  • OK, I didn't completely follow their instructions. Since I wasn't using spicy sausage, I added a sprinkle of red pepper flakes with the green peppers, onion, and garlic.
  • I found that 6 ears of corn yielded 3 cups. Most of the ears were fairly large too.
  • For a vegetarian version, omit the sausage but do add a few drops of liquid smoke as the vegetables used really benefit from having that smoky flavor. You could even add tofu or mushrooms, adding them at a later stage than the sausage so that they are not over cooked.
  • As with most dishes, this was tastier on the second day.
  • We chose Jacob's Creek 2008 Riesling to have with this, which we thought turned out to be the perfect pairing.
  • Left overs: we made amazing wraps with the left overs and some BBQ pulled pork. Such a fantastic combination. Am thinking this was better than eating it on its own. If I made it specifically for wraps, I would leave out the sausage as the pulled pork would be enough meat. For me at least.

With a few ears of corn left, I'm looking forward to trying their Tomato and Corn Pizza!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Real Women of Philadelphia Contest Hosted By Paula Deen

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the Lucas Theater to watch Paula Deen announce the winners of the Real Women of Philadelphia Contest. This contest, sponsored by Kraft, was an on-line competition hosted by Paula Deen looking for women across the country to submit their recipes, all using Philadelphia Cream Cheese. There were four groups of women last night in which Paula was announcing the winner from each group. Each winner was chosen by Ms. Deen along with an expert panel that consisted of the infamous Aunt Peggy, Robin Ross (Group Manager at Kraft's Culinary Center of Excellence), and Lori Lange (
The evening began with a very amusing introduction by Paula Deen talking about how she got her big break thanks to having self published a cookbook and the help of a good rain storm. I have to say, she came across as so warm and likable with a wicked sense of humor. The audience was in fits of laughter at her self-effacing and witty humor.
During the introduction, I spotted none other than Paula's Michael in the middle balcony. If you look hard you can see his trademark beard. It was so cute seeing him sitting in a prime location looking on at his beloved Paula.
The first round brought us the four finalists in the Side Dish category.
The winning dish was Mandy Heaston of Seattle with her recipe for Asparagus and Parmesan Cream Pastry.
Next up were the four Appetizer finalists.
The winner of this category was Caryn Ross of Oklahoma City with her Sassy Tailgate Sandwiches. These cute little ham & cheese sandwiches looked like a fun staple perfect for not only tailgate parties but picnics too.
At one point of the evening, much to Paula's surprised, she was joined on stage by a group of the "Real Women of Philadelphia" for an energetic performance that she jumped right into join in. Let me tell you, she might catch a lot of flak about eating a ton of butter but that lady can shake her money maker with the best of them - and did!
Round three brought us the four finalist in the Entree category.
Sheila Cutchlow of Washington, D.C. was the winner of the Entree category with her Joy Bundles and Rice. Upon being presented with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, she was greeted on stage by her beautiful daughter. It was so moving to witness their genuine joy at winning along with their strong bond. I have to say this left me a little choked up.
Last but not least were the four Dessert finalists with their sublime submissions.
Winning with her recipe for French Apple Cake, KC Quaretti Lee of Venice, Florida took the cake in the dessert category. Being a Sarasota girl with family in Venice, I was secretly pleased to see KC take the title.
All in all it was an amazing night. The recipes looked superb and I'm sure it was a very tough deciding on a winner from each category from so many fantastic dishes. Each of the winners receives the opportunity to create a cookbook with Paula Deen along with $25,000 cash. Not bad, eh? The projected didn't end last night either. Starting in July, we can submit our recipes to be included in this cookbook! Keep an eye on this page or Paula on Facebook for upcoming information on how to submit.

I've Moved! From the Suncoast to the Hostess City of the South

Hello friends, it's been a while. The past several months have been a whirlwind. So many things have been going on; some great, some not so good. The biggest thing was a welcomed relocation to my favorite area of the country. Yes my friends, I moved 400 miles north-east to live the South! Left behind is my beautiful hometown of Sarasota for the lovely historic city of Savannah, her islands, gorgeous salt marshes, and the Lowcountry. This change has also brought on a renewed desire to pick up where I left off with Artichokes and Lemonade. Yes, there will still be recipes to come, but please stick with me as I share some new discoveries in my freshly adopted home town. I hope you enjoy what you see and keep me company as I explore and get acquainted with this gorgeous area of the US. The food of this region completely inspires me, so I'm sure there will be no shortage of good things to post.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Hope you are all surrounded by family, friends, and good food!

I'm off to start the roast beef and Yorkshire puddings! (More on that later!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pimento Cheese: My Latest Food Obsession

Pimento Cheese is an iconic food in the South. Most Southerners have idyllic childhood memories of eating Pimento Cheese Sandwiches on a hot summers day. This is one food that most people are passionate about, I've heard few negative comments about Pimento Cheese. My recent run in with the stuff at the Happy Tomato Cafe in Fernandina Beach has sparked my latest food obsession. Lucky for you, you don't have to live in the South to eat it, and it couldn't be easier to make. Ingredients:
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Mayonnaise (Dukes is THE only mayonnaise in my opinion!)
  • Jarred roasted peppers, chopped
  • Olives, chopped
  • Hot Sauce (Cholula rocks my world)
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Mix it all together:

You have probably noticed that I don't give measurements. That is because you really don't need them. You can make this with any amount of cheese you have on hand, though you will probably want to use at least one 8 oz block to start with.

Put cheese in a mixing bowl and add a little bit of mayonnaise to bind. Stir, if it seems dry, just add a bit more.

Next I add the chopped pepper (pimento) and olives. For 8 oz cheese, I use about 1 whole pepper from a jar of roasted peppers. Adjust to your taste. This also goes for the amount of olives you use. I just use a few olives to enhance the flavor, but not overwhelm the taste of the cheese mixture.

Once the pimento and olives have been mixed in, add a few dashes of hot sauce and fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Mix well.

At this point, some like to process the mixture in a food processor to blend into a smooth mixture and create more of a uniform taste. I like to keep mine rugged. The good thing about Pimento Cheese is that there really is no right or wrong way of making it, add or omit what suits your taste buds. I've seen many recipes that call for chopped dill pickles or absolutely no extra add ins at all. In true Southern fashion, just have fun with it and enjoy!

What to do with Pimento Cheese?

Pimento Cheese is traditionally used as a sandwich spread. In fact, the Pimento Cheese sandwich is the official food of the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Served with a little chopped sweet onion and some watercress, this is a sandwich even non-sandwich lovers can't resist. You could also use it as a dip for chips, or even top a steak with it.

A new favorite of ours is to have it on a pulled pork sandwich. You'll have to excuse the quality of my photos (or lack there of), my priority was getting to the main event of delighting my taste buds:

The next night we had it on a burger. That was divine! Seriously divine. My one tip would be to put the cheese on the top of the bun, then add lettuce, tomato, pickle, etc. so that the cheese does not come in direct contact with the burger. I put the cheese directly on the burger and the heat from the meat melted the cheese, causing most to run off. Yum, can't wait to try that again!

Spicy Boiled Peanuts at the Palace Saloon ~ Fernandina Beach

Centre Street on Fernandina Beach is the very well preserved main corridor of this lovely Victorian seaside Island.
One of our favorite places to visit is the Palace Saloon. The Palace Saloon proudly boasts itself as being Florida's oldest continually operating saloon, serving suds under that name since 1903.
The interior completely fits in with the Victorian exterior feel of Centre Street. The staff and local patrons are very warm and welcoming, making you feel completely at home.
My main goal for the day was to stop and buy some boiled peanuts from a roadside stand on the way home. Jane's trip wasn't going to be complete without trying the Southern staple of boiled peanuts. While I've never been a fan, it had been 20+ years since I had tried them so thought it would be fun to experience them together. On the way up we had passed a few stands, some of which advertised spicy boiled peanuts. As a lover of all foods spicy, I thought this might make a more palatable option. Our wait was over when a man entered the saloon with a basket selling none other than spicy boiled peanuts!

At first bite, Jane wasn't completely convinced. Its mainly getting over the initial sock of the texture, being softer like a bean instead of crunchy like we're used to eating peanuts. After a few bites, we were all hooked. They were amazing*. The heat level was just right: enough to compliment the peanut but not too hot. Between the four of us we happily polished off the bag.
We liked them so much that we flagged the man down that was selling them and bought some more to take home with us. If you are in the Centre Street area of Fernandina Beach, be on the lookout for this man and give his spicy boiled peanuts a try, you'll be glad you did!

* If you like hummus, chances are you will like boiled peanuts. They reminded me a bit of hummus, only in a shell. Saying that, I don't think I would like plain boiled peanuts nearly as much, the flavor of his boiling brine completely made these peanuts a success.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Happy Tomato Cafe ~ Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island

The first week of November was very exciting for me. My friend Jane (from Cakebook) came over from England to visit us for 10 days. Our friendship formed 10 years ago over our mutual love of food and we've been great friend ever since. While I haven't seen Jane in 4 years, there is rarely a day that passes that I don't speak to her in some way; e-mail, Facebook - it's amazing how you can keep in touch these days. We had been planning what to do for months and seemed to come up with a Southern food theme. We took a trip up to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island (close to the northern boarder of Florida's east coast) and had great expectations of a lovely Southern lunch.

Noon rolled around and we were in search of somewhere to eat. While on the way to a place on 3rd Street I wanted to try, our noses were treated to the most heavenly, smokey BBQ smell. It was a good thing the place I wanted to go to was closed for the day, as it gave us no choice but to follow our noses back to the Happy Tomato Cafe...
The cafe itself is in a small wooden building with an outside deck...
... and courtyard seating...
We had a quick look at the menu and got in line as the place was quickly filling up. This place seemed to be very popular with the locals, which is always a good sign.
My Dad and James were with us and there was one item on the menu that caught all of our attention: THE WORKS. The Works is a pulled pork sandwich with pimento cheese! Yes, pimento cheese!!! This isn't the sort of thing I would eat on a daily basis, but it did sound good and we were on vacation after all. It's not everyday I get to have lunch with Jane! We were all very happy with our choice. The Works is served with a side of BBQ sauce (I highly recommend the Mustard based sauce) and dill pickles. Jane ordered a side of coleslaw, which was also very good.
Enjoy a close up glimpse...

The sandwich was so filling there is no way I could have eaten anything else. Sitting outside on a sunny day with great company was the icing on the cake. I can't wait to go back!

The Happy Tomato Courtyard Cafe & BBQ

7 S. 3rd St, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034

(904) 321-0707

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fancy a Cuppa Up Top of Java Dawg's Double Decker Coffee Shop Bus?

Several weeks ago the most popular coffee vendor at the Sarasota Farmers Market turned up in a 1978 English Double Decker Bus! Java Dawg's Double Decker Coffee Shop Bus is a great place to grab your morning Cup of Joe while enjoying a bird's eye view of the market. It is a very welcomed addition to my favorite market.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Aunt Barb's Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are a bit of a family institution. For as long as I remember, no Birthday or Christmas was complete without a batch. My Aunt Barb gave me the recipe and after about 5 years of disasters, I've finally mastered her level of yumminess. I should mention that baking isn't my fourté. I should also mention, a couple of years ago I also discovered that these cookies weren't exclusive to my Aunt Barb - the recipe was also familiar to a few of my friends. Regardless, they will always make my think of my special Aunt and the smiles of many years opening packages to find these soft cookies. I hope you enjoy.
  • 1 & 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup shortening (yes, I know it is horrible for you - but you really must use it)
  • 1 egg - well beaten
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (I find that 3 come to exactly 1 cup. Also, I use a pastry cutter to mash - easiest way that I have found to mash bananas.)
  • 1 & 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 package of chocolate bits

Sift together flour, sugar, soda, salt, and spices.

Cut in shortening.

Add egg, bananas, rolled oats, and chocolate bits.

Drop onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400F, about 15 minutes. (12 minutes in my oven)

Makes about 3 dozen.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Must Make Martha's Macarons!!!

French Macarons, or Macaroons as they are more commonly referred to by English speaking people, are the most heavenly, sublime, wonderful treat on the planet. To my taste buds, at least. They are so delicate, the colors so sweet. Eating a macaron honestly feels so indulgent. Despite my recent discovery that Morton's Market now sell them, I really need to get over my intimidation and learn how to make them. As I'm notorious for losing or forgetting about recipes that I intend to make, I'm "archiving" this recipe on my blog from Have you made macarons? Do you have any advise to share? I would love to hear from you!

French Macaroons
The basic batter and the fillings for these delectable little desserts can be varied endlessly simply by adding different flavorings and colorings; for starters, there's chocolate, coconut, peanut, pistachio, raspberry, and vanilla bean.

Makes 35 macaroons.
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
2 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam, for filling

Chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour.
Coconut: Substitute 2 tablespoons desiccated unsweetened coconut for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon rum; sprinkle with additional coconut before baking.
Peanut: Substitute an equal amount finely ground unsalted peanuts (peanut flour) for the almond flour.

Pistachio: Substitute 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios (pistachio flour) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour, and add 2 to 3 drops forest-green gel-paste food coloring.
Raspberry: Add 1 tablespoon fresh raspberry puree, strained, plus 3 to 4 drops dusty- rose gel-paste food coloring.
Vanilla Bean: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use.

Chocolate: Chocolate Ganache
Coconut: 1 cup Swiss Meringue Buttercream, mixed with 1/3 cup angel-flake coconut.
Peanut: Chocolate Ganache, or store-bought dulce de leche, jam, or peanut butter.
Pistachio: 1 cup Swiss Meringue Buttercream, mixed with 1/3 cup finely chopped pistachios.
Raspberry: 3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam.

Vanilla Bean: 1 cup Pineapple Buttercream , 1 cup Swiss Meringue Buttercream, or 3/4 cup store-bought jam or preserves.

1. Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.
3. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macaroons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.
4. Let macaroons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macaroons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macaroons.)
5. Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with 1 teaspoon jam. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.
Copyright 2009 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Want to give as a gift? One reviewer of this recipe, AmberLee, also left a link to her blog where you can get the cutest template for labels that she designed for a bake sale. Her blog was such a fun discovery with loads of gift ideas. French Macarons would make a great gift.