Saturday, November 26, 2011

A moment of happiness with the Knox Heritage Summer Suppers Cookbook

This afternoon, I finally got to hold in my hands the Knox Heritage Summer Suppers Cookbook--a three year labor of love. It is such a wonderful moment when something you've envisioned not only becomes real but looks exactly as you envisioned it. Kudos to Robin Easter Design for making it happen. And thanks to everyone who contributed a recipe or otherwise helped make this dream a reality.

Here it is--all 320+ pages of goodness.

You can purchase the book now at the Knox Heritage website. You can also purchase it at these upcoming events.

Thursday, December 8, 5-7 pm at Union Ave Books (refreshments from the cookbook provided)
Saturday, December 10, 12-7 pm  at The Holiday Market/Beth Meadows' booth downtown
Saturday, December 10, 4-6 pm at Bliss Home at the Gallery Shopping Center on Kingston Pike (refreshments from the cookbook provided)

From now through December 31, you can purchase a cookbook for $20. (In 2012, the retail price will increase.) All proceeds from the cookbook go to support Knox Heritage's mission: working to preserve structures and places with historic or cultural significance in Knox County.

And how's this for a deal? On December 8, 5-7 pm, for every Summer Suppers cookbook you purchase at Union Ave Books, you'll receive a 10% discount on an item at the bookstore. Thank you for your support, Union Ave Books!

Besides over 300 recipes, the book includes histories of the Summer Suppers, Knox Heritage, and the East Tennessee Preservation Association; vignettes about local treasures such as Savage Gardens, Cruze Dairy, the Historic Homes of Knoxville, Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams, and the Henley Bridge; reminiscences about Summer Suppers--and Lee Ingram's fabulous covers from the Summer Supper booklets.

Look for a story about the cookbook in the News Sentinel on December 1. Here's the dish I made for their photographer this afternoon.

Pesto Potatoes--a dish featuring sauteed potatoes, onions, green beans, and cannelini beans tossed with pesto--served at "Fresh from the Garden 2005." That's what we're having.

Thanksgiving with Friends

I do a lot of cooking solo--with just Caesar (hoping I'll drop something) for company, so it's always fun when I have the opportunity to cook with a friend who loves it as much as I do. This Thanksgiving, friend Janet Testerman and I spent the day cooking at her mother's house for a small group of family and friends. (For those who don't know, just so you don't get confused later, her mom's also named Janet.)

My first job was prepping the brussels sprouts. Janet's brother Ben announced that God must have taken the day off when brussels sprouts, beets, and peas were invented. Ha! I disagree because I love all three. I threatened to invent a dish including all three and name it after Ben.

 While I chopped, minced, sliced, and diced, Janet turned her attention to the potatoes.

And the stuffed pork loin, which we had instead of turkey.

Around that time Vicki Gillenwater arrived. She doesn't cook, but she joined us in having a drink we christened "champoms"--champagne, pomegranate juice, and pomegranate seeds.

While Janet and I cooked, Vicki visited with Ben Testerman and Francis Norris. That's Janet's dog Riley with them.

While waiting for the last few items to bake, Mama Janet, Janet & Vicki checked out The Blue Streak, Cynthia Moxley's blog. They were especially interested in the item about the Laikens and their reasons for leaving Knoxville. This led to quite a discussion about fashion and culture in Knoxville.

Dinner is served. Think we had enough choices?

Brussels sprouts with apples and bacon

Squash Casserole

Broccoli & Blue Cheese Casserole

Carrot Souffle

Green Beans

Mashed Potatoes

Stuffed Pork Loin

And even though we didn't have turkey, we had dressing

and cranberry chutney and gravy.

Mama Janet was first in line!

After dinner, Kevin Kampf and Vicki broke out the eggnog.

Ben opted for pumpkin ice cream--two bowls!

We also had peppermint ice cream, pumpkin cheesecake, and caramel cake.

Thanksgiving with friends. That's what we're having.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Last Supper...

Paella over Saffron Noodles...

...Before my colonoscopy on Monday.

No food for me tomorrow. If you're over 50 as I am and haven't had a colonoscopy yet, please do. I should have had my first one 6 years ago at age 50, but I was always too busy. It's good to remember that if you're diagnosed with cancer, all that "too busy" stuff becomes pretty irrelevant.

The best and funniest essay ever written on this topic is by Dave Barry. I just re-read it and laughed so hard I cried. I may have to read it a couple more times in the next day or two. I thought everyone had read it, but Bill hadn't and enjoyed it, so if you've not read it, check it out.

Anyway, before I move on to a one-day diet of clear liquids and gosh-awful prescription concoctions, I wanted a nice dinner, so what we're having is quick & easy faux paella. I was inspired to make this after we attended the holiday open house on Friday night at Avanti Savoia, a wonderful international web-based food business located in Halls. Yes, you read that right. It's on the way to Maynardville, just after you pass the tractor supply place.

I came home with lots of goodies. Here is just a small selection:

I also spotted this saffron-flavored pasta and decided it'd be perfect with the faux paella (which I usually serve over rice.)

The faux paella calls for saffron in the broth, but I ran out a couple of months ago--and a replacement vial will set me back around $20. Now, admittedly, you don't use much at a time or use it often, but still...there's something wrong about a few strands of saffron being the most expensive item in your grocery basket. (Note: The best price I ever found on saffron was at a market in London. The air fare cancels the good deal, but if you happen to find yourself in London, you might want to stock up on saffron.)

Easy Simple Faux Paella

6-8 oz. andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 in. dice
1 1/2 lbs. shrimp, peeled, deveined
1 T. olive oil
2 scallions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. frozen peas, thawed
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. saffron threads, crumbled
1 bottle clam juice + water to make 1 1/2 c.
1/4 c. dry white wine
Red pepper flakes to taste
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Cook chorizo with 2-3 tablespoons water over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until water evaporates and chorizo is lightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon. Add shrimp to drippings and cook just until pink and firm. Remove. Add oil and add scallions, red pepper, and garlic. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until vegetables soften. Stir in peas, oregano, and saffron. In a bowl, combine clam juice/water mixture, wine, and red pepper flakes. Whisk in cornstarch to dissolve. Stir into skillet and bring to simmer. Add chorizo and cook until sauce thickens and chorizo is heated through. Add shrimp and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve over rice.

Note: For my version, cook pasta. Before you drain the pasta, reserve some pasta water. Put it and cooked pasta in pan. Add faux paella, toss, and serve.

Here's what it looked like in the pan:

On the plate:

Quick & Easy Faux Paella over Saffron Noodles--that's what we're having.

The less said about what I'm having and not having for the next couple of days, the better. But Dave Barry is right; I'd be a weinie if I didn't do it. And we are not having that!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Great Food at Crown & Goose for a Great Cause

I didn't know what to expect when I was invited to dinner at the Crown & Goose to benefit UT Medical Center Cancer Institute, but what we had was great food and drink for a really great cause, specifically the Mobile Mammography Unit, which hits the road early six days a week providing services to women in rural areas. This is a worthy cause.

The Crown & Goose (Knoxville's only gastropub) in the Old City closed for the evening and set up five tasting stations with drinks matched to each station: fruit and cheese, raw bar, outdoor grill, carving table, and dessert. You could visit each station as often as you liked or just pick a station and stay there. I could have stayed at the raw bar all night.

Here's the cheese station.

And right next to it were the fruits.

Very pretty--and tasty. Then we went through the faux phone booth entrance to The Underground, the Crown & Goose's new (and fabulous) raw bar. modeled after London's Underground. Brit Jeffrey Nash and his wife Pat have created a stylish nook in the Underground, a spectacular accompaniment to the Crown & Goose.

If you enter from Central Avenue, you'll come through the speakeasy door. I'm not sure what the regular password is, but I'll let you in on a special one later.

First up were prawns, crab claws, and oysters--unbelievably fresh oysters, different kinds, from different locales. Oh my. Did I mention I could have spent all evening in the raw bar?

The oysters were so fresh I could taste the ocean they came from. And then there was the smoked trout, salmon, and haddock. Tip: Try the haddock.

Here's my plate.

I am not ashamed to say that I went back for seconds.

Then we had some bangers from the grill in the beer garden. They were only serving beer with the bangers, but since I prefer wine, they delivered some--pronto. Thanks, Scott.

I was enjoying the autumn weather in the beer garden, but Bill wanted to try the carving table.

Very sweet of him to bring a sampling.

The prime rib was especially good. The final course, dessert, was served with port. You had your choice of sticky toffee pudding or a chocolate ganache. How to choose?

Both were great. I left Bill, who had already enjoyed a plate of sticky pudding, to finish the small amount of chocolate left on my plate.

Meanwhile, I wandered back to the grill and was offered a roasted oyster with a tomato salad topping. This was not on the menu, but chef Jeffrey Dalejandro was having some fun. I love it when chefs have fun--and love it even more when I'm standing nearby. After being asked by Jeffrey to name this delight, I christened it Oysters Gazpacho.

I'm not sure if they'll add it to the menu (they should!), but rumor has it that if you show up at the Underground's speakeasy door and say "Oysters Gazpacho," they'll not only let you in--they'll roast you some of these oysters.

A great time at the Crown & Goose for UT Medical Center Cancer Institute--that's what we're having.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Brunch a Trois

On Saturdays and Sundays I enjoy poking through the pantry and refrigerator and pulling together a late morning meal. Here are three brunches we've enjoyed recently.

Brunch #1 was prompted by a bowl of apples. I sauteed the apples with brandy, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and golden raisins, making both a side and a syrup substitute for buckwheat pancakes.

 I heated some chicken-apple sausages in the pan juices left from the apples and added more brandy for flavor and sizzle.

I don't make pancakes very often, so when I do, I practice my technique: Count to 5 quickly while pouring batter slowly onto the griddle. Flip the pancake when bubbles form. This one's ready to flip.

Sauteed apples, sausages, and buckwheat pancakes ready to serve.

The next brunch was inspired by my desire for a savory egg dish to accompany one of my new favorites, rye bread from Harry's Delicatessen. I discovered it when I bought a half-price loaf at Just Ripe.

I love it so much, I happily pay full price and have a slice or two almost daily.

I decided rye toast would go well with Eggs in Purgatory. Here's the recipe.

Eggs in Purgatory

Olive oil as needed
1 red or white onion, thinly sliced
Handful Mediterranean olives, pitted, sliced
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes diced, drained
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained
Dried basil
7 eggs
Freshly grated parmesan

Heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and light brown. Add the olives and tomatoes, season lightly with salt and basil, and cook over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes. Crack the eggs into the pan, keeping them whole and separated. Cover with a lid or foil and cook 3-4 minutes, until the whites have set but the yolk is still runny. Sprinkle grated cheese over and serve from the pan.

Note: Retain juice from fire-roasted tomatoes and add by spoonfuls if tomatoes get too dry while simmering. You want the tomatoes to be moist but not runny or watery. Can use half sliced bell pepper & half sliced onion if desired.

Eggs in Purgatory with Rye Toast:

Here's all we left in the pan. And that's OK because this is a dish that doesn't reheat well. The eggs get rubbery.

Today's brunch started with an omelet filled with artichoke hearts, Greek olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. Love that moment when it's ready to flip.

Just flipped isn't bad either.

Omelet, grits, and turkey bacon.

That's what we're having.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Frighteningly Good Time at Hearthscares Ball at James White's Fort

If you missed the Hearthscares Ball, a fundraiser for James White's Fort, you missed a great time. Here are some of the scarily dressed folks we saw there.

Vicki Baumgartner and I had fun guessing who was behind this mysterious mask.

We had decided it was Melynda Whetsel when husband Bob, dressed as Davy Crockett, showed up at her side and confirmed our guess.

Marsha and Duane Grieve made cute lumberjacks.

Cynthia and John Stancil said they were Jelly Bellies.

Michael Foltz as driver Rickey Bobbie was accompanied by wife Judith who made a sensational witch.

Judith, Marie Alcorn (middle), and a mystery woman had their own witchy coven.

Brett Grimm and friend Caroline came in complementary outfits: cow and cow girl!

Moses's sign was an attention-getter.

Rick Russell (center) had on a very scary mask.

While the fabulous Chillbillies took a break, Michael Jackson showed up with some zombies.

The Fort's board (below) posed for a photo. Executive Director Sam Maynard (front row, 3rd from left) had planned to come as James White, but he was too busy getting ready for the party, so he came as a Non Profit Director, complete with tin cup.

The next night I caught up with Sam (this time dressed as James White) and some friends on their way to "Nightmare on Gay Street" at Sapphire. Sam makes a great James White, don't you think?

Accompanying James White were a pirate (Tim Allen), a witch (Julie Koella), and Tippi Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (Karen Kluge).

A frighteningly good time at the Hearthscares Ball--That's what we're having.