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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Way to a Man's Heart

I have a wonderful husband.  He and I are partners in the kitchen. He bakes yeast breads (not an easy feat in the humid South).  I make desserts.  He is always looking to try something new.   I work on perfecting the dishes we decide are keepers.  So, when Father's Day rolled by, he new exactly what he wanted.  Fire-roasted artichokes with roasted garlic aioli, B.A.L.T.'s (bacon, avocado, lettuce, and tomato) sandwiches, and a fresh peach pie.  My husband definitely appreciates seasonal ingredients!

Now, you know I wasn't just going to don some dowdy sweats for this! I have this amazing vintage reproduction dress by Pinup Couture that Thomas brought back from a business trip for me (remember, I told you he was wonderful!) So, I put on my Betty Draper look and went into the kitchen.  Although, I left out the smoking and the dysfunction!

Image courtesy of Pinup Couture

Artichokes are lovely, strange things.  I can only imagine the first person who said, "Hey, let's eat this prickly, overgrown thistle!"  But, who ever did, thank goodness, 'cause they are delectable!

Fire-roasted Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Aioli:

2 artichokes, trimmed of points and halved

2 lemons

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 head garlic, topped

1 T. lemon juice

1/4 c. olive oil

Pinch seasoning salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large pot squeeze lemons into 4 cups water (then just throw in the lemon halves as well).  Place artichoke halves face down and bring to a boil.  Cover and steam on medium heat for 40 minutes.

In the meantime, place garlic in a small oven proof dish and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Once the artichokes are steamed, remove them from the pot and set aside until ready to eat.  Don't worry, we'll roast them just before serving!

For the aioli, squeeze the head of cooled, roasted garlic into a small bowl.  Add mayo, lemon juice, and olive oil. Whisk well. Add seasoning salt and pepper to taste.

You can roast the artichokes on a hot grill or on the stove top (this is what I do).  For the grill, fire that puppy up, brush the 'chokes with olive oil and place on the hot grill face side down for 5 minutes.  For the stove top, using a griddle, heat pan on high until very hot.  Brush with olive oil and place face down on hot pan for 5 minutes.  Done!  

Serve with aioli and enjoy!

Now, for the B.A.L.T.'s.  It's not rocket science here, my lovelies, but it is delicious! Tomatoes are in season here in the South and, my goodness, they are perfection.  I literally eat them just with a bit of salt and pepper as a snack.


1 lb. good quality bacon (I prefer center cut and/or applewood smoked)

2 ripe avocados

Fresh romaine (although a great substitution is arugula)

1 ripe tomato, thinly sliced

Good quality bread, such as 5 grain, rye, or sour dough, toasted

Salt and pepper to taste for the tomato

Toast bread, cook bacon, slice avocado, slice tomato, assemble, eat.  Fresh summer ingredients at their best!

Last, but not least, the fresh peach  pie.  I live close to Chilton County, Alabama, and while I have eaten many a wonderful Georgia peach, they do not compare with smaller, sweeter, and juicier Chilton County peaches.

The first cookbook I ever bought was the Betty Crocker 40th Anniversary edition Cookbook.  It has served me well over the years.  While I have tried many other recipes for pie crusts and pies in general, I always turn back to this book for the best tasting crust and pies.

Fresh Peach Pie:

For the crust: (Don't be tempted to use a store crust, it's just not the same.  They taste like cardboard.)

1 c. shortening

2 2/3 c. all purpose flour

1 t. salt

8 + T. cold water

Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add shortening. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut  the flour and shortening in together until the particles are the size of small peas.  Add water a tablespoon at a time, and tossing with a fork until all the flour is moistened and pastry cleans the side of the bowl.  Add more water if necessary to achieve this.

Gather pastry into a ball and split into two halves.  Tear a sheet of wax paper about 12 inches long and sprinkle with flour.  Place one half on the wax paper and roll out to desired size for pie pan (it should be about 1/8 inch thick).  Invert onto pie pan and trim.  Repeat for the top sheet of crust.

For the peach filling:

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/4 t. ground cinnamon

8 c. sliced fresh peaches (about 8-10)

1 t. lemon juice

2 T. butter

Preheat oven to 425 f.  Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon in a large bowl.  Stir in peaches and lemon juice.  Pour into pastry lined pan.  Dot with butter.  Cover with pastry top and slice lightly to allow for venting.  Seal and flute the crust.

Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice bubbles through slits.

There is nothing that says summer like a peach pie, so cut yourself and slice, pour a glass of prosecco, and enjoy!  

Cheers, my lovelies!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

It's hot.  Not warm.  Not toasty.  It's- sweat running down the back of your neck, makeup sliding down your cheeks, put on the extra deodorant 'cause you're gonna need it- hot. Today reached 96 F (or 35.5 C for my international friends).  So, not to let that deter my need for food or fashion, I conjured up the intense sensuality of a classic:

Lounging in a silky chemise on crisp white sheets? Oh, yeah, I'm like a cat on a hot tin roof...Just with red hair instead of black and two different colored eyes instead of violet. There are a few other differences too minor to mention, but I digress.

Wondering where you can get such lovely lacies in which to lounge? My wonderful friends at Jane's Vanity have launched their online store, and there is something for everyone.  Sweet and simple?  Check.  Dark and delicate? Check.  Corsetry? Oh, you betcha!

And, in honor of June being Jane's birthday month you can receive free shipping by entering HAPPYBIRTHDAYJANE as your promotional code!  Like a sign from above, my lovelies, go splurge on something for yourself.  That way, when it's crazy hot outside, you can lie about looking hot in a completely different way!

Image courtesy of Jane's Vanity

Have I mentioned that my wonderful husband makes the best breads ever? Well, he does.  In his extensive repertoire is a fabulous pizza dough.  (See? There are definite perks to wearing all that lingerie!)  We have adapted Ina Garten's recipe for White Pizzas with Arugula to accommodate our love for garlic and to lighten up the cheeses.

Without arugula...

And, my personal favorite, with arugula...

White Pizzas with Arugula:

For the Pizza:

1 1/4 c. warm water (100-110 F)

2 packages dry yeast

1 T. honey

Olive oil

2 c. bread flour

2 c. "00" pizza flour

Kosher salt

4 garlic cloves, sliced

5 sprigs thyme

2 sprigs rosemary

1/4 t. red pepper flakes

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 c. grated fontina cheese (freeze before grating to make it easier)

1 c. sliced fresh mozzarella 

6 oz. crumbled chevre

For the dough, combine the water, yeast, honey, and 3 T. olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer with the dough hook.  In a separate bowl mix the two flours. When the yeast is  dissolved, add 3 c. of the flour mixture, then 2 t. salt, and mix on medium speed.  While mixing, add up to 1 cup of flour, or just enough to make a soft dough.  Knead dough for about 10 minutes until smooth.  When done, turn out on to a floured board and knead by hand about a dozen times. (Or stand about while your husband does this part with a glass of wine in hand, complimenting his skill and strength.) Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and turn to cover it lightly with oil.  Cover the bowl with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the garlic oil.  Pour 1/2 c. olive oil, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Cook for 10 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't burn.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the dough onto a board and divide into 6 equal pieces.  Place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel.  Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.

Press and stretch each ball into an 8 inch circle and place onto parchment lined pans.  Brush with garlic oil, and sprinkle each one liberally with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with cheeses.  Drizzle each pizza with a tablespoon more garlic oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until crusts are crisp and the cheeses brown.

For the Salad:

1/2 c. olive oil

1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

8 oz. baby arugula

meanwhile, for the vinaigrette, whisk together oil and lemon juice, 1 t. salt, and 1/2 t. pepper.  Toss arugula with vinaigrette and serve on top of pizza.  Serve immediately after giving your hubby (if he helped with this) a big smooch.

Now, no Southern summer would be complete without Banana Pudding, and I'm not talking about that refrigerated topped with cool whip kind.  I'm talking about the kind grandmother's used to make with homemade cooked pudding, loads of vanilla wafers, and fresh meringue to top.

Southern Baked Banana Pudding:

  • 2 cups milk

  • 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 tablespoon butter

1 box vanilla wafers

3 bananas, sliced thinly

3 egg whites

1/4 c. sugar

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat milk until bubbles form at edges. In a bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Pour into hot milk, a little at a time, stirring to dissolve. Continue to cook and stir until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Do not boil. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and butter.

Once the pudding is made, layer the pudding, vanilla wafers, and bananas in a casserole dish.  Repeat until all the wafers, pudding and bananas are gone.  But, always end with the pudding-nobody likes dry wafers.

In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form.  Add sugar, and continue mixing on high until glossy and stiff peaks form.  Do not over mix or meringue will be dry.

Top pudding with meringue and using your fingers, touch lightly to pull up peaks.  Bake at 375 until peaks are browned and luscious.

Embrace the heat, my lovelies! Summer is here, now where did I put my Mint Julep?