Friday, September 30, 2011

Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup

I am beyond, ecstatic about sharing this recipe with you because I know you & your family are going to fall head over heals in love with this!!  This is my ode to what was my arch nemesis for the last several years, tomatoes.  Most of ya probably already know the story so I won't bore ya with the details.  But now that we are officially friends again, I am churning out delicious tomato dishes & so thankful to be able to do so.  This soup is comforting, creamy, tangy & smells so delicious that you will never again have to search for the PERFECT Tomato Bleu Cheese soup, you found it!  Your husband will love this because it's so hearty.  You will love this because it so easy & can be prepared in about 1 hour or less.  And you get a creamy soup but with unique texture from bite sized diced tomatoes (you could even do "Rotel" tomatoes for a spicier version)'s the best of both worlds.  Everyone WINS!!    

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoons garlic
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 qts chicken stock
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, blended in food processor or blender
1/2 lb (buttermilk) bleu cheese
1 tablespoon salt & 1/2 tablespoon white pepper

In a 5 1/2 qt dutch oven or bigger (cause this filled mine to the top), over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onions & saute til soft, then add garlic, cook for about 1 minute.  Add your flour to make a roux, let cook for about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in your chicken stock, til smooth.  Add tomatoes, bleu cheese, season with salt & pepper.  Turn up the heat to medium high & bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat again & allow it to simmer for 40 mins.

Makes 8-10 servings  

Inspired by Bronte Bistro's Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup (at The Booksellers at Laurelwood)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brilliant to Basic Ya'll by Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis will be in Memphis on Tuesday October 18, 2011 

Time: 6pm - 8pm

387 Perkins Road Extended

Memphis, TN 38117

Look forward to seeing you there!!!

Virginia Willis's new cook book hits the shelves Tuesday, September 27 & we were very honored to get a peak.  Virginia combines southern cooking with French techniques.  And she is just as brilliant as the cookbook title, itself.  In Basic to Brilliant, Ya'll, she takes classic southern cuisine, gives us fancy & simple ways to prepare each dish.  Each recipe has a basic version & a brilliant fancier option.  So you can make one version for your family & then take the same recipe & fancy it up for a dinner party, for example.  This book really is brilliant & the techniques she describes in detail will surely appeal to a wide variety of folks.  And will be cherished for years to come.  This book, is especially one that foodies will not be able to put down because there's so much to learn.  And the icing on the cake, her stories about Julia Child & Paula Deen.  Don't miss what happened behind the scenes, at the Paula Deen show tapping.  So, whether you are looking to learn some French techniques or create dishes that will quickly become family traditions, I guarantee you this book will make you smile, laugh & love food, like never before.     

The first recipe that caught my eye was her Sweet Potato Grits, it's the perfect fusion of 2 southern dishes that no one will be able to resist.  She impresses upon us the importance of using real stone-ground grits and why "quick-grits" just won't do.  So, I went out and purchased real grits from a local Mississippi company & can't wait to make this!!   

The recipe we decided to make, was her Tarragon Egg Salad & it was the BEST Egg Salad I have ever put in my mouth. She explains exactly how to soft boil an egg & the end product, produces this creamy yoke that for 6 eggs, only requires 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, WOW.  Simply knowing how to avoid overcooking the egg, actually allows us to essencially cut calories because the yokes are so creamy, not as much mayonnaise is needed to help it come together, brilliant!!  

There are so many recipes that we can't wait to make & wish I could list them all but for now you must go grab this cookbook, curl up in a quiet place & enjoy everything is has to offer.  And we will look forward to seeing you on October 18 at 6pm at 

for Virginia's signing, can't wait!!!!  

Monday, September 26, 2011

Southern Mustard Greens Pesto

The idea of a southern pesto, hit me as a great alternative to the more traditional basil pesto.  It's less expensive, gives you that gorgeous green earthy color & easily compliments any pasta dish.  Now, I love traditional basil pesto but sometimes I feel like it imparts so much flavor that it can easily steal the spotlight.  With my southern pesto, the flavor is mild and has the ability to compliment an array of pastas & many other additional ingredients (such as roasted tomatoes, see below).  This pesto allows you to be as creative as you want, adding many different ingredients, that your family loves & discovering flavor combinations, you might not get with a more traditional pesto.     

1 (1 lb) bag mustard greens
1 1/2 oz asiago cheese (or parmesan)
3 small garlic cloves, grated
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
season to taste (suggest: 1/2 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp white pepper)
dash cayenne (optional)

In a 5 1/2 qt dutch oven, filled halfway with water, bring to a boil.  Place mustard greens in boiling water & cook for 2 minutes, drain & pat dry with a paper towel.  Place mustard greens, cheese & garlic in a food processor and pulse until it appears loosely chopped.  Slowly add your olive oil & continue pulsing until it forms a nice thick sauce.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.    

Makes about 2 cups

Southern Pesto with Roasted Tomatoes & Chicken (see note below)

Roasted Tomatoes
1 lb heirloom cherry tomatoes 
Cut in half, season liberally with salt, pepper & drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Roast at 350F for 50 minutes, stirring them halfway through.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cafe Eclectic in Memphis, TN

Open for breakfast, lunch & dinner
603 N McLean Blvd
Memphis, TN 38107

Cafe Eclectic is tucked away in Midtown, in the beautiful Evergreen District, just around the corner from the Memphis Zoo & Overton Park.  The moment we stepped through the door, we were in love.  There was a case of fresh breads, pastries, coffee & homemade preserves that made us feel right at home.  It reminded me of a down home Cafe Expresso.  And they have outdoor patio seating that's goes perfectly with a warm cup of coffee and buttery blueberry scone. We opted to visit the cafe for our Sunday supper.  Knowing we would definitely be back for breakfast.  

Some of the menu items had been 86'd (restaurant lingo for this stuff is so good, it got devoured): Chicken Pot Pie & Mac & Cheese, so we will have to try them next time.  

The homemade Peach & Mixed Berry preserves 
both caught our eyes

Homemade Glazed Donuts
oh, I think I sense an addiction forming quickly 

Awww, Blueberry Scones
it was all I could do to not have them package up every one of them...we are definitely going back for breakfast cause these are a must

Homemade salad dressings
this is how you know you have hit a jackpot, I always ask if dressings are made in house, Avocado Ranch...5 stars, loved it

Chicken & Pineapple Panini

This dish is the perfect combination of sweet & savory with the roasted tomatoes, juicy pineapple with fresh spinach, a little mayo and all on the BEST (lightly grilled) homemade ciabatta bread I have EVER put in my mouth.  I even begged them to let me buy some but they don't sell it to the public.  Little do they know I don't give up that easy ;) Served with a side salad & homemade avocado ranch that was fantastic!

Any questions? 

JJ's Patty Melt 
featuring Neola Farms ground beef, caramelized onions, provolone cheese & spicy mayo

Cafe Eclectic on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Broccoli and Pepper Jack Cheese Soup

As Fall is just around the corner, our kitchens will be simmering with fresh soups, so here's a new one that you & your family are sure to fall in love with.  This is hands down, BEST broccoli cheese soup we have EVER had!!  And I have no doubt that when you try it you will agree.  This broccoli and cheese soup puts a unique twist on an old classic.  By spicing it up just enough but remember you can control the heat by adding more or less cayenne, to suit your tastes.  Cayenne also acts as a flavor enhancer, not just spicy heat, so it's actually great to have on hand to add a pinch or dash to a dish, here and there.  When I garnished with the cayenne, it really kicked it up the heat level so that's why I suggested the garnish as optional if you prefer less heat.  But what goes in the soup itself, is a must & just right amount to not overpower it at all. 

2 cups broccoli, chopped
1 onion, diced
4 tablespoons butter (divided)
2 large cloves garlic, grated
2 tablespoon flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups half & half (whole milk)
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) pepper jack cheese, grated (avoid using pasteurized processed)
season with salt & white pepper to taste (suggestion: 2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Garnish with pepper jack cheese & dash of cayenne (opt)

  • In a 5 1/2 qt dutch oven, slightly salted, bring water to a boil & blanch broccoli for 2 mins.   Drain, rinse in cold water to stop the cooking & set aside. (skip this if you bought frozen)
  • Return pot to the stove & reduce heat to medium, melt 2 tablespoons butter then add onion.  Saute' for several minutes, until translucent and soft.  Add garlic & cook for 1 more minute.  
  • Push everything in the pot, away from the center to create a hole in the middle to make your roux.  Melt last 2 tablespoons butter, add flour and stir together til all the flour is soaked up, don't worry if some of the onions get mixed in.  Stir everything in the pot together and cook for 1 minute to get out the raw flour taste.  
  • Slowly add in your stock & half & half, 1 cup at a time, stirring to incorporate.  Simmer for about 20-30 mins (be sure it doesn't boil, just needs to get hot enough to thicken up).  
  • Add pepper jack cheese, stir still melted.  Then add broccoli, season to taste & finally your cayenne, at the very end.  ENJOY!!

Makes about 4 servings

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mustard Dill Pork Tenderloin

After a day of making 37 doz cookies, I was thrilled to be able to come home, throw this together in about 5 minutes, toss it in the oven & dinner was ready in about 40 mins.  Since, pork can be served at 140F, it doesn't need to cook for very long.   So, that makes it the perfect weeknight go to meal, giving chicken a break.     

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dijon
2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
2 lbs pork tenderloin
season with salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, dijon, ground mustard, garlic & dill.  Pat the meat dry with a paper towel (this helps the mixture adhere).  Brush on the mustard dill mixture.  Season liberally with salt & pepper.  Place in oven & bake for 30 mins or until temperature reaches 140F.  

Serves 8-10 ppl

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Crock Pot Pork Butt

This is one of the easiest & most flavorful meats you will ever have.  It's fall off the bone (except this boneless) tender.  You will know when it's done because your thermometer will go in like it's butter, OH MY!  We have made Spicy Pork Sandwiches (sauted in hot sauce & butter), you could serve it on chips for BBQ Nachos, you could make BBQ Potato Skins, add it to a pasta dish & use a bbq sauce, as your sauce.  Yes, we have tried that & it's fantastic!  You could do a pizza, ok so the options are endless.  So, next time you want something quick & easy, here's what you can WOW your family with.

Try to pick one with a nice layer of fat on it, like mine..YUM!  Season liberally with your favorite season, we used Masterchef Whitney Miller's blackened seasoning from her cookbook, plus salt & pepper.

Place in dutch oven & sear on each side for 3-5 mins each

When it's ready, it should look like this

Place in crock pot (fat side up) with 2 cups of apple juice, 
4 garlic cloves grated & cover.  Cook on high for 4 hrs or until so tender your thermometer goes in like it's butter :)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (2lb) Pork Butt, fresh from the farm
Season with salt, pepper & your favorite seasonings
2 cups apple juice
4 cloves garlic, grated

In a dutch over over medium high heat, sear on each side for 3-5 mins.  When it's slightly browned, transfer pork to the crock pot, filled with apple juice and garlic.  Turn on high & cook for 4 hours.  Shred it & enjoy.  

Makes approximately 6-8 servings

Monday, September 12, 2011

Creamed Mustard Greens

In the south, our veggies are simple, inexpensive & so much fun to update.  So, here's what we created.  A simple yet elegant side dish that is my version of creamed spinach.  What's great about this side vs creamed spinach is, the texture of the mustard greens remains crunchy & holds up better when the liquid is added, than the spinach does.  Which lends to the feeling, that this is a much heartier & certainly healthier compliment to any southern meal.  

For those that might never had tasted mustard greens before, they are similar to arugula, in that they have a peppery background.  I love arugula so this was a natural transition for me.  Mustard greens are also packed full of vitamins & minerals so you can feel good about eating them.  Next we are doing a Pesto with them, can't wait.  This was a huge hit at our last family dinner so I am looking forward to you sharing it with your family too.  Enjoy!!

1 (1lb) bag mustard greens (took a short cut, cutting up the leaves adds an extra step)
2 tablespoons duck fat or bacon grease
2 small garlic cloves, grated (or 1 large)
1/2 cup half & half (or whole milk)
2 oz cream cheese, cubed
1 cup monterey jack cheese
couple grates of nutmeg
dash cayenne (optional)
salt & pepper to taste (suggestion: 1 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp white pepper)

In a 5 1/2 qt dutch oven or similar, bring to boil, slightly salted water.  Add mustard greens & blanch for 2 minutes.  Drain & place in a water bath (bowl that is filled with ice & cold water), let them sit in the bath til cool, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Drain & pat dry (opt) most of the water will cook off in the skillet.  

Meanwhile, in a skillet, over medium heat, melt fat and add garlic, cook for 1 minute.  Add greens, half & half, both cheeses, nutmeg, cayenne (opt) & salt & pepper.   Stir everything together, til it begins to thicken.   

Makes about 6 servings

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bookseller Bistro (formerly Bronte Bistro) in The Booksellers at Laurelwood

Welcome to the new face of The Booksellers at Laurelwood!!!  In celebration of their brand new sign going up on the building, we couldn't resist heading over to celebrate in Bronte Bistro for the an evening of fantastic food.  

387 Perkins Road Extended, Memphis, TN 38117
Phone (901) 683-9801

What we love most is that they feature different specials, each month, based on the latest cookbook releases.  Next month they will be featuring dishes from Virginia Willis's new cookbook, Basic to Brilliant Ya'll.  Which is set to release, end of September (more info to come).  Click here for their menu on Facebook.  Their website should be up & running soon, so be sure & join their Facebook page for more info.

Tomato Bleu Cheese soup
Our waiter, John, was kind enough to bring us a sample of this creamy, yet slightly tangy celebration of all things comforting & warm.  One gulp & we both melted in it's deliciousness.  The addition of cream rounds off this dish, to a perfect high note.  And the symphony of harmonious flavors continue working together to make up, this classic & elegant soup.

Michael Lamonoco’s Alpine Chicken Pasta
chicken (not shown)
This peppery macaroni & cheese is every southern girls dream.  Rich & hearty, this dish takes on a whole new whelm of how we think about macaroni & cheese.  Here the addition of cream, parmesan & fontina cheese, yields a light cheesy flavor.  But don't let that fool you, this sophisticated macaroni & cheese will exhilarate your taste buds with the addition of a generous amount of black pepper.  

Baked Chicken Avocado Wrap
Wrapped up in this package is lightly seasoned blackened chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, jalapenos and avocado.  Served with a mandarin orange sauce & sour cream.

America's Test Kitchen Avocado BLT
Salty, smoky bacon, creamy avocado & little spice from the chipotle mayonnaise makes this the perfect BLT, on toasted wheat bread.  And the shrewd addition of the wheat bread, makes you feel good about eating something that some might deem as not so healthy.  

Bookseller Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Onion Petals (aka Chili's Awesome Blossom, remake)

Like most of ya'll, I can easily recall being in my early 20's & watching everyone go crazy over those onion blossoms, from Chili's.  At the time, I was working there so I watched them go flying off shelves like there was no tomorrow.  But no one, I knew, could duplicate what they were able to pull off in that commercial kitchen, until now.  Here is a simple way to enjoy this amazing treat in your own home & with your family.  We don't deep fry very often so when it happens, you know it's for something that is fantastic!!  One bite & my entire family was instantly hooked.  My father, who is rarely seem without a giant potato on his plate for dinner was eating these as fast as we could pull them out of the fryer.  My mom pulled out the deviled egg plate & they fit perfectly!  And when they were gone, I could have swore I heard Taps playing in the background.  

1 yellow onion, large
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cumin
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Cut off both ends of the onion, cut in half & then in quarters.  In 2 separate shallow dishes, combine 1 with eggs & buttermilk, set aside.  Combine 2nd dish with flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, cumin.  Dip onion in egg mixture, then dredge in flour, shake off any excess.  Place in deep fryer & cook til brown, about 1-2 mins.  Be sure and do it in small batches so that they won't stick together.  Remove & place on paper towel to drain.  Serve with jalapeno mayonnaise (recipe to follow).  

Jalapeno Mayonnaise
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried jalapenos
1 large garlic clove, grated (2 small)
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp onion powder
8-10 dashes hot sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Mix together & let marinate for several hours or overnight.  

IDEAS: We have served the mayo with chili, as a dressing for a salad, spread on sandwiches & I even spread it on sourdough bread, then topped it with cheese & stuck it in the broiler to make a spicy cheese toast (my personal favorite). 

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