Musings on Food and Life

Musings on Food & Life


Food is my passion. I create, read, write, breath, eat, photograph, love and live food. As a chef and culinary instructor, each day is a quest to learn something new about a food ingredient, recipe, history, or fact about all things edible. Three silly dogs share my passion for eating and I'm blessed to be married to my best friend Tracy. Tune in for my thoughts on food, recipes, dogs, travel, music and life.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

It's Plum Time for Dessert

The Porgy and Bess lyrics, "Summertime, and the liven' is easy..." stroll through my mind this time of year.   With Atlanta temperatures hotter than ever, summer truly means simple, effortless meals that don't heat the kitchen nor require much energy to prepare.  Since my sweet tooth does not take a vacation, dessert too must be a simple, preferably seasonal dish featuring the bounty of Georgia fruits while placating my sweet tooth.  And without turning on the oven, of course!

When food shopping at the Asian market for a recent cooking class, I spied fresh, ripe black plums and frozen wonton wrappers.  Students love dessert and I didn't have a sweet treat on the menu.  The idea was planted!  Wonton wrappers are so versatile and reign as a key ingredient for Asian dumplings, ravioli or fried crispy noodles.  Inexpensive and widely available, why not pair them with thin, ripe, sweet slices of plum to create a panfried dumpling?  Add a coating of confectioners sugar and voila, my sweet tooth is salivating with anticipation!  With one bite, the bright, inviting plum slices are exposed and the crispy, golden brown wonton is perfectly coated in powdered goodness.  Try these with seasonal stone fruit or berries.  Freeze any leftover wonton wrappers for another dose of fritters this summer.

Wonton wrappers laid out and ready!

Slices of gorgeous ripe plums

Plum sliced placed off center on the wonton wrapper

Wetting the first side of the wonton

Wetting the second side of the wonton wrapper 
before folding the empty wonton half over the fruit

Two down, two to go!

Refrigerate the filled wontons for 30 minutes before frying

Pan fry on each side until golden brown...not long!

A good dose of powdered sugar to coat

Hope you're hungry!!


Plum Wonton Fritters

  • 2 small, ripe black or red plums
  • 16 wonton wrappers, thawed if frozen
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • water, as needed
  • canola oil for frying 
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Method:
  1. Slice the plums into 16 thin slices and set aside.  
  2. Lay the wonton wrappers about 1 inch apart on a clean work surface or  cutting board.  Place two thin plum slices shingled together on one diagonal half of the wonton wrapper, skin side toward the center.  Using water or a pastry brush, wet the two sides of the wrapper on the half that holds the fruit.  Wrap the other wonton half over top of the fruit and press to seal together.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to fry, at least 30 minutes.  
  3. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add about 1 inch of canola or vegetable oil and when hot and shimmering (but not smoking), add the wontons to the hot oil without crowding the pan.  Fry on each side until golden brown.  Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate for just a few seconds and then on to a paper bag with confectioners sugar.  Shake to coat completely and place on serving platter.  Devour immediately!!!   
Note:  If you prefer to use nectarines or peaches, slice them 1/8-inch thick and cut in half if they are too long.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome to New York

I was giddy with excitement as the wheels touched down on the runway.  Finally....I was going to New York City.  Manhattan.  Field of Dreams like no other.  Broadway.  Food.  Fashion.  Innovation.  Ellis Island.  Television.  Celebrities.  Central Park.  Shopping.  The world in a nutshell.  Yes, finally I was going to New York City for the first time. 

What would I See?  Taste?  Touch?  Would I fall in love with it?  Why did I wait so long??  All of these questions and more would be answered in the next few days.  Wide eyed with wonder, there was the Manhattan skyline as the taxi skirted the water and then drove over the bridge toward my destination.  This shot of the Chrysler building was taken from the Saveur Magazine conference room window. 


 Now that I'm back home, I can't wait to return.  Soon.  Very soon.  A few days at a conference barely skims any surface of experiencing what New York really is.  The promise that it holds.  The beauty.  The forgotten.  Dreams waiting to blossom and those that have already withered.  The excitement of what is and what will be.  The history of what has gone before.  I will be posting experiences from the International Association of Culinary Professional's annual conference for 2012 and things I saw,  people I met, what I hope to see next time, and all in between.   

And if you have not been to New York, make your plan, pack your bags and take off for the experience of a lifetime whether it's to take in a Broadway show, sample delectable food, buy that perfect pair of shoes, or to simply be.  Now I understand the phrase "I Love New York".

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Thousand Blogs

It's been several months since my last blog entry.  Not that I have not thought about blogging.  I have written countless blogs in my head on many topics including the Strip district in Pittsburgh, PA, the First Note Music Hall in Santa Rosa Beach, FL, amazing Thanksgiving traditions and celebrations, about the many dogs I have met through dog rescue and have wiggled their way into my heart,  and of course, food, glorious food!  Stay tuned for a new blog entry soon.  Very soon.  And on paper, not in my head!

Meanwhile, please enjoy gearing up for this blessed Christmas season.  Take time for the things that Matter.  Be thankful for your many blessings, especially those that you take for granted.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The No Good Very Bad Week

One thing certain in life other than birth, death and taxes, is that some days are better than others.  Bad things happen.  Remember the book entitled, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"?  Occasionally days are despicable.  Some weeks are worse, a string of bad days on steroids.  Last month one of those weeks slithered into our lives.

It started with my husband's job layoff.  He was alerted about definite possibility.  We prepared for it, well, as ready as one can be.  We decided to continue on a trip North in spite of the upcoming announcement.  No matter how ready you are, it hurts to be downsized.  Unappreciated.  Dumped.  By itself, this event was both unwelcome and stressful.  However, it was only the beginning.

Our Pom mix Curly had been ill for a few weeks, suffering from partial kidney failure.  He was our first dog together when we returned from living in Chile and had graced our lives for 11 years.  The day we left town, Curly didn't want to eat, so my wonderful Tracy trekked to several stores in search of a rotisserie chicken.   Poultry was without a doubt Curly's absolute favorite meal.  Leaving town yet feeling hopeful, our kind, sweet dogsitter stayed with the goobers, instructions in hand that if anything went wrong, she should take him straight to the vet.  We didn't have to wait long.  After enjoying his special chicken dinner that evening, he got sick.  The next day he went to the doggie hospital for I.V. fluids and evaluation.  Our sweet neighbor visited him and snapped a photo, which she uploaded to Facebook.  The sweet boy seemed comfortable and was in good hands.  We were only going to be gone a few days. 


Our caring vet gave us an update daily.  After three days his kidney numbers weren't improving as well as she hoped.  I was conflicted about staying, anxious to hold him in my arms to comfort both him and me.  We only had two days before heading home, but we could leave sooner if necessary.  That night I couldn't sleep nor get Curly off my mind.  I cried and cried, praying that the Lord would comfort him in my absence.  To be with the little dog, so he wouldn't be alone.  I left the vet a message saying we could come home the next day, just let us know how he was.

In the morning, Tracy took the call we didn't want.  Curly had passed just an hour before.  We were immediately heartbroken in a way that I could not imagine.  I was not there for my boy.  Did he suffer?  Should we have stayed home?  Did he miss us?  Did his little body just give out?  The flood of tears burst forth and I thought I may never stop crying.  I felt desperate to get home.  There was only one decision left to make. 

Back in Atlanta, I picked up the small, furry body encased in a thick, black plastic bag, It was hidden inside a clumsy, white, “slightly too big” cardboard coffin.  It felt so heavy, just like my heart.  So very heavy.  I didn’t know how I was going to get him to the car.  Hot tears stung my cheeks.  My vision blurred as I stumbled out the vet office door and somehow reached the parking lot.  It seemed right to bury him in the backyard.  A tranquil, shaded place where he romped, sniffed, chased, wandered.  When I close my eyes, I smile and envision him laying on the deck, keeping our home safe from any wayward squirrels, rabbits and deer.  Yes, the backyard was perfect, a place where we could look out the french doors and remember all that he was to us.  Goodbye sweet Curly.  We will always love you.  Thanks for loving us so well. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ripe & Ready!

Ahhhh, the face of summer has arrived. The tomato beckons in all of its shapes, colors, and beauty.  In our raised bed garden, a few plants have grown tall with small yellow flowers to produce this treasured fruit, that is if the deer decide the salad bar in the back yard does not include these luscious gems.  One of my favorite little darlings is the Sungold, a small, orange, delicate variety that is especially scrumptious whole in salads or on top of pizza.  I just can't resist them when I go to the local Farmer's Market; they practically dive into my bag! 

My mouth is watering with the thought of fresh corn and tomato salad with lots of basil (and shrimp!) or a simple lettuce and arugula salad with handmade feta or goat cheese, highlighted with a colorful tomato garnish.  Last night, dinner was gorgeous offering of a simple BLT with peppered applewood smoked bacon, thick slices of ruby red beefsteak tomato, vibrant green leaf lettuce, and a dab of Hellman's mayo.  Not to mention the toasted sandwich bread by Holeman and Finch (the BEST sandwich bread ever, made by a local bakery - thank you Chef Linton Hopkins!).   The BLT will be on my menu plan again soon!  Very soon. 


The versatilility of the tomato ensures its place on our dining table often.  Raw, cooked, pureed, baked, stuffed, you name it.  While living in Chile, the "Ensalada Chilena" became a treasured accompaniment to any entree.  It celebrates the marriage of ripe tomatos and onions with a little chopped hot pepper and a drizzle of oil and vinegar or lemon juice.  Homemade manicotti with marinara sauce uses either crushed tomatoes or fresh, whichever you prefer for your sauce. 

Baking the tomato brings out its delicate flavor and is almost as easy as, well, pie.  While tomato pie would be pulling out all the stops, this subtle scalloped tomato just might rock your taste buds.  Red and yellow tomatoes together are visually stunning - the look of sunrise and sunset!  I think you will make this one again and again.  Thanks to Gena Berry for sharing the original recipe.

Baked Tomatoes with Herb Crust
Yield:  6 -8 servings

6 large tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/3 inch thick (heirloom preferred)
kosher salt & fresh-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 clove minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chiffonade fresh basil (about 8 leaves)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (fresh-grated Parmigiana Reggiano is especially good)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 F.  Lightly oil a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

Place the tomato slices in the prepared dish, overlapping the slices as necessary.  Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  In a small bowl, combine the Panko, garlic, thyme, basil and cheese.  Spread the topping over the tomatoes and then drizzle with olive oil.

Bake the tomatoes for 35 mintues until the tomatoes are tender and the breadcrumbs are crispy and golden.  Serve hot.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Inspired

Chef John Besh & Chef Rosemary

Food, glorious food.  Something very, very special happens when food people come together to share and learn from one another.  Last week I had the extreme pleasure of visiting Austin, TX to attend the 2011 conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).  So many classes and workshops, so little time!  Some of the most vibrant print media writers, bloggers, chefs and accomplished food professionals I have ever seen via books, articles, TV and internet were present.  I lapped up knowledge like a hot, thirsty dog at a cool water bowl!

 Who would not feel blessed to watch the incredible Jacques P├ępin create five dishes from his latest cookbook?  He has such wit and charm, and his recipes were simple with vibrant flavor.   And to hear Ellie Krieger give suggestions and tips for working on camera while doing food segments?  She is so lovely, no wonder the camera embraces her.   To see the beauty and grace in the stories that Penny de los Santos achieves through her photographs about food and culture.  You can feel her respect for the subjects and her love for her craft.  And Chef John Besh, who took inspiration from local college students in New Orleans on adding lemongrass to his Shrimp Creole.  Wow.  I am still processing all that I heard, felt and saw.

In one segment about food writing, I met Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder, authors of The Big Book of Appetizers, one of my favorite appetizer books.  Hearing writing tips from revered writer and coach Toni Allegra, award winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, and Washington Post food writer Joe Yonan.  "Speed Dating for Entreprenurs" allowed those who own and run their businesses to ask questions of three distinctly different panelists whose advice has already proven invaluable.  Learning from people whose blogs now attract over a million readers each day.

I could go on and on about what I learned but one thing became obvious to me at the conference.  These successful people in the food world have passion for what they do.  They had a dream and went for it.  They are simply people with unique gifts and talents who succeed by following through on their dreams.  Taking action one step at a time.  Asking for advise from their peers, friends and fellow foodies.  They strive to learn something new each and every day.  

As the saying goes, so much to do and so little time.  I am continually evaluating who I am as a chef and my fit in this complex food world.  It's time to take action on some of my dreams and put others to rest.  As Seth Godin writes in his book The Dip, you have to quit some things to make room for the right things.  I'm ready....bring it on!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Welcome May!






May is a busy month for most folks with graduations, parties, the end of the school year, and Memorial Day holiday weekend, the official start of summer fun. Personally I'm excited about seeing my neighbors at our local pool, enjoying the sun and fellowship there. I had two really fun events for friends and neighbors this month that included buffet-style meals. Nothing like seeing a very sweet one-year-old boy with his chocolate birthday cupcake, icing in his hair and everywhere! And seeing a family decorate their lovely deck and yard to celebrate two very special graduates. Food really does make these events memorable.

Some of the dishes served at these events were black bean hummus with roasted red peppers, spicy feta dip, turkey sliders, spicy cilantro shrimp with Asian dipping sauce, marinated flank steak with salsa and tortillas, zucchini, corn and herb pasta salad, and Greek village salad. The key to any great buffet is an array of different colors, flavors, textures, and temperatures of the dishes.


At formal or informal gatherings, the food always brings guests together and creates great memories. Enjoy your picnics this Memorial Day in celebration of those who serve and have served in our military. May your food be fun, tasty and memorable!