Tomorrow morning you’ll find me with tomato juice dripping down my chin at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. It’s time for the Ugly Tomato Festival! In addition to a contest for the Ugliest Tomato in town, the market will also be hosting the city’s largest tomato tasting. A huge variety of locally grown heirloom tomatoes will be free to sample, and I plan to do just that.
Sadly I have no tomatoes to enter in the contest, but can’t wait to see what kind of fuglies show up. Does your garden have anything similar to the mutant shown above? If so, bring it along with you and you just may win some fab prizes! For more details, click here.
Photo Credit: tomato mutant by westerndave
When it comes to food, I have a very short list of dislikes. For many years, slaw was at the top of that list, but not too long ago I began to realize that I shouldn’t just instinctively turn my nose up at the mention of that word.
Definition of cole slaw: a salad dish of shredded raw cabbage in a dressing.
I like cabbage and I like salad, so technically I should like cole slaw, right?
Here’s the problem- when I hear “slaw”, I immediately envision the creamy mayo-laden version. For someone that really detests mayo, that’s not a pleasant sight. You should see how my face kind of scrunches up as I type that. It’s really that unpleasant for me.
Several months ago, a commenter on the Nashville Scene Bites blog mentioned a blue cheese slaw that was always a hit at dinner parties. When I saw that the recipe had not a hint of mayo, I thought, now I can get behind some blue cheesiness. So when tasked with creating a side dish to go along with burgers and hot dogs for a weekend at the lake, I searched through the Bites archives until I found the link to this recipe. Of course, as is the case with pretty much every recipe I try – I tweaked it a bit. The end result was this creation:
Colorful Veggie Slaw
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 cup raw snow peas
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or blue cheese
In a mixing bowl, whisk the olive oil into the mustard until slightly thickened. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the vegetables. Toss to coat all the vegetables. Top with cheese to serve.
The veggies are super crunchy and the dressing is tangy, so I think it’s a perfect dish for our steamy southern summers. It caused quite a sensation at the lake house the weekend it made it’s debut, and since has made several encore appearances at our house. Blue cheese, the ingredient that initially attracted me to the recipe, has been replaced with feta in my last few preparations. Surprisingly, even being a major blue cheese lover, I think I’m digging the feta version even more. But hey, you make the call- either way, I think it will change your mind about slaw- I know it did mine!
Know what you get when you cross a room full of girls with a box of Cupcake Collection cupcakes? Noises that are almost obscene, that’s what.
You should know that I’m not one of those girls that got all caught up in the cupcake craze. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good cupcake, but I also like a rich piece of pecan pie, a really awesome peanut butter cookie, a heavenly tiramisu, an amazing peach cobbler…well, you get the picture.
I’m not going ga-ga over cupcakes just because they’re cute. They have to taste good too. So even though I’ve eaten several cupcakes around town over the past couple of years, I hadn’t yet found one that evoked such an impassioned response. Until now.
My friend Leslie was in town visiting from NYC for a mutual friend’s birthday celebration this weekend, and she was thinking cupcakes would be the icing on the cake to make the party complete. Her mom suggested The Cupcake Collection. Well, actually it was the mere statement that TCC’s strawberry cupcakes were as good as her own strawberry cake that sent Leslie to their doorstep. A cupcake as good as her mom’s homemade cake?
In addition to a dozen decadent cupcakes, Leslie came out of there with tales of long lines and near riots when a fresh batch came out of the oven. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a teeny bit, but there really were enough indicators that before even tasting one, she could tell she had something special in her hands. Our assortment included red velvet, coconut, strawberry, lemonade, wedding cake, banana nut, and several chocolate flavors that I didn’t have the opportunity to try. I’m not even sure I can pick a favorite, but I know I was definitely blown away by the lemonade- the perfect amount of lemon flavor without being too tart. And each of them is the perfect ratio of cake to icing, not to mention that the icing is incredible!
From now on, this may be my new go-to for parties and birthdays when I don’t have time to bake myself. Lucky for me (and you), HalfOffDepot.com currently has $20 gift certificates for only $10. That means over a dozen cupcakes for $10. That’s less than $1 a cupcake! And I know I said I don’t go ga-ga over cuteness, but they are pretty darn cute too….
If you’ve been to a farmers’ market recently, chances are you’ve noticed baskets overflowing with peppers of all sorts, and this is a great way to take advantage of the crop!
Let me tell you- they are scrumptious, and I’m not the only one that thinks so. A sure sign that your dish is as good as you think is when strangers at a party go out of their way to track you down and get the recipe. This weekend I took a tray of these to my friend’s birthday soiree and they were a huge hit- not one, not two, but multiple guests inquired about the ingredients.
Grilled Pepper Poppers
Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 2 peppers). Adapted from Cooking Light.
7 oz soft goat cheese (I used garlic and herb flavored)
4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
2 Tbsp thinly sliced green onions
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/2 tsp kosher salt
16 jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded*
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
Combine firsts 7 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. Spoon cheese mixture into each pepper half. Place pepper halves, cheese side up, on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill peppers 5 minutes or until bottoms of peppers are charred and cheese mixture is lightly browned. Carefully pick up peppers with small tongs and place on serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro.
Keep in mind that being jalapenos, these pack a little heat, and although I think the cheese really helps temper it a bit, they may be a smidgen much for some folks. I’m happy to report that the filling works just as well in other small, sweet peppers. Last week a co-worker gave me a big bag of banana peppers, so I experimented with a few of those, and they were definitely a different flavor, but just as good. Actually so good that I ate 4 of them within 5 minutes of taking them off the grill!
*Tip: Wear latex gloves when seeding or chopping hot peppers. You don’t want the oils on your skin or in your eyes- believe me, I’ve had firsthand experience with this, and it’s not pleasant! To remove the gloves after handling, turn them inside out and dispose of them in the trash can, then wash hands thoroughly.
The secret is out. Remember how I said I was attending the Nashville Lifestyles Bartender Bash on Thursday? Well, I sort of left out a bit of info- I was actually judging the competition. Yes, my first celebrity judging gig. This blogging thing has its perks!
My 2 fellow judges and I had a blast tasting 24 cocktails. Key word here is “tasting”. Please know that I did not consume 24 full cocktails, as that would be very dangerous. (although there were a few that I held on to for a little longer than necessary) Of those 24, we were tasked with the tough job of choosing only two as winners- Best Martini and Most Creative Cocktail.
And the winners were…….
Best Martini: Pear Martini by Ashley Thompson of 360 Wine Bar and Bistro
grey goose pear vodka, olive puree, blue cheese chips
Sounds like a very simple, straightforward martini right? well, it wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Ashley incorporated some molecular gastronomy, making an olive out of an olive. Without getting completely technical, let’s just say that she used all of these crazy techniques that made her olive puree form a film around itself, creating a sphere. When that little sphere hit the tongue it exploded, filling the palette with olive puree. wow!
Most Creative Cocktail: Hot & Cool by Eric Cooper of Morton’s
grey goose vodka, muddled cucumbers, st. germain, ginger beer, cayenne pepper
People’s Choice: Chocolate Basil Martini by Mike Reynolds of Sambuca
grey goose vodka, godiva dark chocolate and white chocolate, frangelico, basil simple syrup
Now for some others that really got my attention:
The Rosewater by Austin Ratliff of Lime
grey goose citron, honey, rosemary water, splash of lemon, garnished with sugar cane
(this one was actually THE toughest decision. Too bad we couldn’t give out 2 awards for Most Creative Cocktail)
Umami Martini by Christopher Krantz of Rumba
grey goose vodka and domaine de canton sprinkled with cayenne and cinnamon, garnished with ginger gelee and deep fried pear wedge
Dirty Geisha by Grit Greer of The Palm
grey goose vodka, kosher salt, soy sauce, pickled ginger juice, wasabi salt rim, garnished with cucumber and radish
Fuji Apple Saketini by Jamey DeRusha of Virago
grey goose pear vodka, pear juice, sparkling sake, garnished with asian apple slice
Blueberry Pumpkin Martini by DW Clarke of Eastland Cafe
grey goose citron, muddled blueberries, shakka red apple, pumpkin smash, lemon squeeze, orange squeeze
Please let me offer my apologies to all of you bartenders if I left out any ingredients in your fabulous drinks. As you can imagine, taking notes while consuming 24 cocktails can result in some interesting language. As in, I thought I was writing in English at the time, but now looking back, I think maybe I was practicing my Mandarin. Next time I think I’ll ask for a secretary.
Photo Credit: Please have a martini or three by A-Wix
Have you noticed that I delight in uncommon cocktails? I thought so.
So do you think there is any chance that I would miss out on an event that highlights the creative genius of 12 of Nashville’s most talented mixologists? Absolutely not.
Tonight’s Nashville Lifestyles Bartender Bash at the Union Station Hotel will be a cocktail connoisseur’s heaven, and I’ll be on Cloud 9. (sorry, that was completely dorky wasn’t it?)
What better way to spend an evening than sampling drinks and noshing on tasty hor d’oeuvres while watching the bartenders work their magic? The competitors have their sights set on taking home the title of Most Creative Cocktail, Best Martini, or People’s Choice, and I have my sights set on tasting each primo potion! Come join me and have a drink….or two, or three…
Nashville Lifestyle’s 4th Annual Bartender Bash
Union Station Hotel Lobby
Nashville, TN 37203
$25 in advance or $30 at the door
Sponsored by: Nashville Lifestyles, Union Station, Prime 108, Lightning 100, Roberts & Lyons GM, and Grey Goose.
While in San Francisco a couple of years ago, my husband and I dropped into Cantina, a funky little lounge next door to the Hotel Rex. With its lack of signage and the fact that it had only been open for a few weeks, only the locals knew about it at the time. These hidden gems are what I seek out when visiting other cities. Add to that their truly unique, inspired cocktail menu made with fresh ingredients and I was enamored. That night, the Laughing Buddha- a concoction of crushed ginger, serrano chile pepper, Hanger One Buddha’s Hand vodka and ginger brew- was the object of my affection. It had that nice little kick to it that I tend to enjoy, a little heat from the chile offset by the sweet and spicy ginger.
Always on the hunt for an exciting new cocktail, the Food & Wine 2009 Cocktail Guide never fails me when looking for inspiration. As I was flipping through the guide in search of a drink for a friend’s surprise party this weekend, I stumbled upon an entire chapter of pitcher drinks from non other than Duggan McDonnell, owner of Cantina!
This recipe using Tabasco and Pimm’s No. 1 (which has become a favorite in our house this summer) was calling my name. It was meant to be shared, but I will be honest- I was a little greedy with it. (I wasn’t purposely hiding it in the fridge indoors when all of the other cocktails were in the coolers outside. Really, I wasn’t.)
I wasn’t completely hoggish, I did at least share with the birthday boy, and he LOVED it! I also gave out a few sips to other guests and enjoyed seeing the look of surprise on people’s faces when that tickle of heat hit the back of their throat.
Makes 8 drinks. By Duggan McDonnell in Food & Wine Cocktails '09
12 oz of vodka
4 oz of Pimm's No. 1
8 oz of fresh lemon juice
4 oz of simple syrup
1/2 Tbsp Tabasco
8 oz of chilled 7-Up*
Thin lemon wheels, for garnish (optional)
In a large resealable container, combine all of the ingredients except ice, 7-Up, and the lemon wheels. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour. Cover tightly and shake, then pour into an ice filled pitcher. Strain into ice-filled rocks glasses, stir in the 7-Up and garnish with lemon wheels.
For those of you who love spicy as much as I do, you might even want to sprinkle a dab of cayenne pepper in your glass. The drink definitely already has some heat, but that'll make it a scorcher!
*Note: I made just a couple of slight adjustments to the final product before serving. When I transferred the chilled lemon/vodka mixture to the pitcher, I also went ahead and added the 7 Up. After taking a sip, I determined that it was just a bit too tart for my tastes, so I added a little more 7-Up, probably about 2 or 3 more ounces.
Photo Credit: free for use by Pink Sherbet
Sometimes the best recipes start with one simple ingredient. In this case it was my friend Kathleen’s roasted garlic & basil ricotta. I knew I wanted to use it in some sort of dish that really highlighted it, and pasta seemed like a good fit. With Meatless Monday on my mind, I let my kitchen dictate the rest of the ingredients. No trips to the store- I would make the most of whatever I already had on hand.
With an abundance of fresh tomatoes from a co-worker, basil and oregano growing in my back yard, a box of fettucini and a jar of artichoke hearts in the cabinet, I had my base. A little of this and a little of that turned into this big bowl of creamy pasta that vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will love!
Fresh Tomato, Ricotta, and Artichoke Pasta
Makes 4 servings.
12 oz whole wheat fettucini
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tsp fresh oregano, finely diced
1 14 oz jar marinated, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup shredded basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used Eastside Cheese Co. garlic & basil flavored)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
Bring water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add artichokes and cook 2 minutes.
Add pasta, shredded basil, red pepper flakes, ricotta, and parmesan to sauce. Toss until sauce coats pasta, cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
Photo Credit: artichoke tomato by baracute