Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Morning Breakfast Ideas for Berry Good Boys & Girls!

Not many days left to peel back on the advent calendar. In no time at all, it’ll be Christmas morning—and that, my friends requires a sugar and carb infusion of the highest order.  New word for “short-stack” anyone? I’m drawing from my Sunday Best repertoire on Wednesday, December 25th and would advise anyone with the same lust for life (and pancakes) to stock up this weekend on King Arthur Flour—the best for pancake house-style flapjacks—eggs, sugar, butter—the essentials for enough fluffy pancakes to take everyone through the learning curve of new gadgets and sporting equipment sitting under your tree.            

I believe the headlining photo on this blog, featuring Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with Berry Good Maple Syrup, can revv up the family on Christmas morning and turbo power their snow shoes! I haven’t made a habit of posting many of my book’s new recipes on my blog, but am doing so today as a gift to those “birds of a feather” out there who love pancakes as much as my family does. Other Christmas Day secrets that can put the wow factor into a Chris Cringle inspired table setting involve my Monkeying Around Bread (fun at any age!), trick for making inside out omelets, Canadian Bacon prepared just so (click on this Chipotle Spiced Bacon post to learn how to make it a legend in your household, too) and Cranberry Oatmeal Scones with Pine nuts.  For those bolded recipes, there is still plenty of time to download Sunday Best Dishes, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. It really makes a great Xmas gift!

Other Winter Day Breakfast Ideas….Faking Buttermilk in a pinch, etc…..

Buttermilk Biscuits with a savory gravy are also a great way to go for Christmas breakfast….but what if you open the fridge only to find you’re running low on precious buttermilk?  A lot of Apple commercials would tell you there’s an app for that. I won’t offer you that as a solution, but I can pass on a little cooking trick that can turn plain old milk into a buttermilk knock-off for all your breakfast recipes. Just pour ¾ cup of milk into a measuring container, add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and set the mixture aside for 5 minutes at room temperature. The result is as close to actual buttermilk as it needs to be. 

If kids are part of the Christmas package this holiday season….

Here are a few tips for decorating pancakes in ways that’d tickle Santa pink!
  • ·        Use sliced strawberries and cover the top half of the pancake with them to represent the red-felt hat. Squirt a big dollop of whip cream for the powder puff on top of Santa’s hat and continue on with the Ready-whip to make the big white beard.
  • ·         Banana slices with Hershey’s kisses in the center make great eyes and maraschino cherries are a terrific nose!
  • ·         Triangles of French toast can be arranged into a Christmas tree, with a star shaped cut of pineapple just prefect for the star on top!
  • ·         Make Rudolph using bacon for antlers, blueberries for eyes and a dime sized pancake in the middle, strawberry on it, for the world-famous nose.

It’s not rockets science….it’s reindeer science! I hope your Christmas is full of love and magic, everyone. See you in the New Year with lots of new cooking advice and recipes! 

Buttermilk-Blueberry Pancakes with Berry Good Maple Syrup


1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup fresh blueberries
Pour the syrup and blueberries into a saucepan and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is thickened and the blueberries begin to burst, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to very low to keep the syrup warm.

2 cups pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ to 1 cup blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, milk, honey and vanilla.  Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth.         

Heat a griddle (or large non-stick skillet) over medium high heat.  Ladle batter onto the griddle to form 4-inch pancakes.  When the pancakes are just set, sprinkle with a few blueberries. Cook until the pancakes are golden on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is golden, about 2 minutes more. (If you are cooking the pancakes in batches, keep warm in a 200° oven or warming drawer.)

Serve the pancakes with a ladleful of syrup and garnish with a few extra fresh blueberries. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oh My Gnosh!

Tips for Serving Gourmet Spreads and Cheeses (as a gift or…) at Your Next Party
CHEESE makes a marvelous gift for the people you love. Yes, CHEESE: worthy of all caps—that is, if you present it well and offer pairings that make those already heavenly flavors pop. I love stories from hostesses that are told with a sigh—how guests at the Xmas party nibbled at their cheese plate, and asked, mouths full, if there would be a hostess/guest gift exchange. “Uh…darling? That dreamy little block in your hand with the cheesemonger’s initials engraved right into the rind? THAT was your gift.”

Point of story:  If the cheese isn’t speaking for itself and needs a little help, this Extreme Party Planner has come to your rescue with tips on how to make the perfect cheese plate.
Consider the 4 basic categories of cheese before you shop: Cheese is sold soft, hard, aged and blue; a representative from each category is a nice way to go, and an expert behind the cheese counter will be happy to help you. Personally, I believe the safest bets are cheeses that don’t have a pungent odor (I’m looking at you, Camembert), but do possess those nice sharp, tangy, earthy and/or nutty flavors we all love—that’s why I concentrate on the kind of milk used to make it, i.e. sheep, goat and cow. Go with manchengo (made from sheep’s milk, it’s a favorite tapa in Spain), aged 15 to 24 months cheddar and anything manufactured by Santori—their stuff is the friggin’ bomb.  Familiarize yourself with their logo via this photo:

Take the cheese out at least an hour before the party, unwrap it and let it breathe. The flavors shine through more this way.  Plan on 3 to 4 ounces of cheese bliss per person; this can easily translate into 3 to 6 different types of cheeses—ideal for a small party; one or two cheeses serve a gift basket well—you just have to find yummy accompaniments…like a sweet fig spread, crackers and assorted olives. More on those (olives!) later.     

Don’t worry about a carb overload—no such thing on a cheese platter. Use crackers AND sliced bread:  Be sure to vary up the textures on these--that’s every bit as important as diverse cheeses.  Reserve an extra cheese spreader to plunge into a jarred condiment that works well with a cheese plate, i.e. fig spreads (I’ve linked to a good one), Grey Poupon mustard or pretty pickles—which I published a recipe for in Sunday Best Dishes.
Stock up on Olives—loading a ramekin full of them works out nicely next to your cheeseboard Moroccan beldi olives are particularly tasty with any fine cheese—they come in so many pretty colors—from big plum colored purples to small and shriveled marble sizes. Roasted red peppers pair well, especially the ones that have marinated in a spicy vinaigrette, and kalamata olives deliver the perfect punch! Just check out this olive bar photo to get in the mood.
Prepare a few descriptive adjectives about each cheese before you serve it—it’s a fun way to put on a few pounds before the party, but hey…we all have to do our homework! Use a separate knife for each cheese and, obviously, group like-smelling cheeses, otherwise (as the song goes) ya gotta keep ‘em separated!

Parting tip about cheese for your next killer risotto: Use cheese rinds in your cooking; it’s perfectly edible and will flavor a rice, casserole or soup like nobody’s business. Parmigiano Reggiano is ideal for this. As far as what drinks are loveliest to wash your cheeses down with, I searched high and low before I was satisfied and found this article, worth pinning to Pinterest: Some exciting drink pairing for cheese.
Enjoy your cheese within 24 hours of unwrapping it, and be sure to refrigerate between uses…I’m off to carve off a little more of that Santori….

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Huge Wine Tasting Event Featuring Full Thanksgiving Spread…What a Grand Idea!

Ever witnessed an idea so fine, you wished you thought of it yourself? That’s how I felt about the Thanksgiving Wine and Food Gala put on by Doris’ Italian Market. I hope they do it again next year. As soon as the store closed for regular business hours last Friday night, the doors opened wide to about 150 wine lovers; ladies were handing out wine glasses like long stemmed roses, and everyone was encouraged to head straight to the Thanksgiving banquet built around—and because of—the 62 wines available for tasting.

As you can see from this photo, a full, traditional Thanksgiving dinner took center stage, giving guests a chance to try pairing all sorts of wines, to see what worked best.

There was a wine specialist on standby, answering all the typical FAQ, like, “turkey can be so bland. Are there any wines that bring out its flavor instead of just overwhelming it?” To which Mr. Oenophilia answered, “all of the wines here today were carefully selected to pair well with turkey and all of the classic sides for Thanksgiving Day.”

The specialist was also asked what HE would be drinking on Thanksgiving, and he motioned toward this bottle of grapes:  

The Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Sauvignon, adding that it was “just lovely.” On the wine point system it ranked close to 100, the best a wine can get. At over $30 a bottle it did hover just a little bit above the suggested $25-per-bottle-maximum a lot of Thanksgiving wine tips tell you to set. The reason caps are set fairly low is for quantity reasons. You really should have a bottle of wine for every 2 guests, which, on Thanksgiving adds up quick.

A less expensive wine that popped up as the wine specialist’s “Next Best Thing” (My Sunday Best book fans will know why I inserted a smiley face here : ) ) is the St. Michelle Indian Wells Red Blend. I tried both wines and they were—just as the specialist said, really, really, lovely and nice.     

I knew I was going to pick up a bottle of red, white and at least one dessert wine—but not until I’d tried as many as I could; these wines, besides the 2 mentioned above were the clear standouts:

  • 667 Pinot Noir (This was just so fantastic with squares of parmesan cheese that I could go on for pages….) If you’re having a round of appetizers before your big turkey meal, this is really the way to go—but it tastes great with the main event, too.
  • Morning Fog Chardonnay: Just read the description in this picture. Get in my cart, you rascal!
  • Gnarly Head Authentic Red: The labeling looks like a scene out of The Legends of Sleepy Hallow; it’s got a concentrated dark fruit flavor and comes from a city in California (Lodi) where the vineyard vines really are gnarled.
  • Dreaming Tree Everyday White: This was the driest white wine to ever cross these taste buds—and I could see a lot of people liked that at this tasting. Guests were standing at end caps in the store, balancing their holiday plates on crates stacked high with Dreaming Tree. The dry and subtly sweet nature of the wine went so well with the roasted turkey breast drowning in Doris’ gravy.
  • Frostbitten Ice Riesling: This emerged as the event favorite; the store ran out of this awesomely sweet-but not too much—wine in the first hour and, as of yesterday, is still sold out! It comes in a beautiful bottle with a snowflake on it, and is such a great pairing with all the holiday pies you’ll comes across in the next 3 months that I wholly advocate it as a stocking stuffer. Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz was the next best thing.

So, what did I learn at this event? The short answer is that Pinot Noirs, Rieslings and Chardonnays are some of the safest bets when you’re talking turkey. Give some of them a swirl (in your tasting glass!) and you’ll see what I mean.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let’s Talk Turkey!

Different holidays prompt the funniest questions from home chefs. I came across one at Easter that admitted to having to google how to make hard boiled eggs, year after year. That got me thinking that the same might be true when it comes to turkey prep on Thanksgiving.  The truth is, not many people roast a magnificent, heavy bird on a regular basis, and come November perhaps some of us have forgotten how. This 2nd blog in my 2013 Thanksgiving series is on brining and other important steps in roasting your turkey to perfection.

So without further adieu….

I prefer fresh, organic turkey. It’s hardly a shock—but I find they cook in half the time of a frozen bird and are tender and juicy, beyond compare; the best bird I ever had was a 24 pounder we nicknamed Harry. He was fresh off the farm and overflowed the roasting pan. I prepared him using my age-old recipe in At Home in the Kitchen for Herb and Sherry Roasted Turkey with Savory Gravy—click the recipe link for step by step instructions with juicy photos!

This year I ordered mine from New Life Farm in Boon, NC—way, way in advance of November. I called New Life just to chat with the farmer-in-chief about how hard it is to come by a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving. It turns out, he sold out in September! He says that the average weight of (one of his) free range turkeys is around 16 pounds. He raised and sold about 50 turkeys this season, and saved one for his family, which he plans to brine for up to 2 hours in salt and herbs and smoke on a Green Egg grill. YUM! He recommended Bare Essentials as another place to find a competitively priced bird, at around 3.95 per pound.  If you’ve ordered through New Life, you can pick up the star centerpiece to your Thanksgiving at the Watauga Farmers Market, or simply pick it up at the farm. These birds really must be good, as Cory told me that he’s been asked to supply Bare Essentials with all their turkeys next year. Congrats to New Life! I’m proud to be a customer : )

Here are some other places (in North Caroline & beyond!) that know how to talk turkey:

·         --The Fresh Market (click the link to start an order)
·         --Whole Foods
·         --Trader Joe’s (hey, South Florida friends—have you checked out the 1st TJ’s in Pembroke Pines??)

All that being said, I realize not everyone could lay hands on a fresh turkey and may have to welcome a frozen one; just make sure to follow the USDA guideline of thawing it properly, in the refrigerator or very cold water, around 40 degrees; the formula for thawing is one day for every 4 to 5 pounds. In cold water, rather than the fridge, you can cut that time in half—about 30 minutes per pound; a big cooler with ice just might do the trick.

Here are some other important things to remember when you’re talkin’ turkey….  

     Add flavor to your turkey with moisture! Get a juicy finished product by making sure that most of the flavor enhancements going into your turkey are moist, i.e. honey, butter, molasses, citrus juices and broths. I’ve always rubbed the turkey up and under with herbed butter. Soaking the flavor in a brine solution works wonders too. 
·        Let your turkey rest about 1 hour after it comes out of the oven. It’ll be moister and easier to carve once you’re ready to dig in.   About brining….You want to soak the turkey in the brine for about 1 hour per pound of turkey, adding 1 ½ cups salt per gallon of water. The water must be cold—once again, at about 40 degrees.

This Simple Brining Solution Makes for a Really Juicy Outcome!

Use 3 cups cider, 2 gallons cold H20, 8 sprigs fresh rosemary, 5 cloves garlic, ¾ cup Kosher salt, 2 cups brown sugar, 3 tablespoons peppercorns, 5 whole bay leaves and about 3 quartered oranges with the  peels still on.

My turkey roasting technique…

I preheat the oven to 450, place the turkey in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 325 degrees. Cooking time is 15 to 20 minutes per pound. Add five minutes per pound if the bird is stuffed—for some excellent variations on stuffing, check out this link on the Food Network, who snagged me with their cranberry, caramelized onion and goat cheese stuffing recipe—might just have to try that one, in addition to my foolproof White Raisin Stuffing that I can’t wait to try with a bottle of Pinot Grigio. For the gravy, I defer to my blog post from November, 2011.

So get crackin’, home cooks and call or write immediately if you want my help—I’ve cooked my share of turkeys. In fact, an exact number of how many might just depress me. Good thing, I’ve got another blog on choosing the perfect wine on the November blog publishing schedule—look for that one on November 23, 2013.  Cheers!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

How to Give Your Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce the Attention it Deserves!

In a parody about Thanksgiving cranberry sauce (I posted it to Facebook), one line about the notorious, obligatory, sweet n’ tangy side dish got stuck in my head; it was the cranberry sauce saying: “ I’ve got feelings, I’m scrumptious, and I deserve more.”
You know what, cranberry sauce? I couldn’t agree more. I know that a lot of people remember sad little cans of the stuff served in the Thanksgivings of their childhood—even then it wasn’t terrible, but I’m here to tell you it can be infinitely more than just OK. If anything, cranberry sauce is the perfect palate for early winter fruits, spices and late autumnal flavors—pomegranate, maple soaked, cinnamon flavored notes that can hit the palate just right…that is, if you’re willing to prepare your cranberry sauce with love.

Everyone familiar with my entertaining style knows that, whenever possible, I like to make up food in advance. Cranberry sauce is something you can check off your to-do list as early as 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. Your typical recipe for it yields so much ruby-colored sauce that you’re well advised to divide up half of it, seal it for the freezer, and enjoy the rest at Christmas dinner. It’s great for so much more than taking up that reserved, compartmentalized space on your plate, near the mashed potatoes. When you futz around with the recipe, thinking of last minute thickening agents like molasses and orange segments, you can dial up cranberry sauce’s texture to be a relish or a chutney, great for slathering over sandwiches, or serving atop a cracker with melted goat cheese.
I produced a saucy version when I made it this week, and enjoyed my cranberry sauce a number of ways. I whipped up a Cherry Crumble Cake from Sunday Best Dishes and used it as a sweet cranberry syrup over the top. I mixed a half cup of it with champagne in a punchbowl (YUM!). I even whisked a little red wine vinegar in, at one point, and made a vinaigrette for a strawberry and chicken salad. I’m telling you, it’s a very versatile side dish and prompted me to look at how different celebrity chefs make their’s. The Pioneer Woman basically reduces cranberries with pure maple syrup and a little cinnamon; that’s all. Alton Brown likes to blow through a lot of oranges, and Martha Stewart sets her’s apart by featuring the seasonal freshness of pomegranate seeds in (one of many) her version. Some famous chefs call it a day with the simplistic approach of using just cranberries and red currant jelly—it’s a delicious result that may be simple, but beats emptying a can with the ridges still showing on the sides of the cranberry sauce, am I right?           

The cranberry sauce recipe, I’m featuring in today’s blog was done with lots of refreshing citrus zest; the maple syrup I swear by in a pancake recipe from Sunday Best, and a fair amount of lovely green Anjou pears because they are a staple for me this time of year.  I also used a splash of dry red wine, which “classes up” cranberry sauce like nobody’s business.  My results were sweet and tangy enough that I’m upgrading the dish I typically use for cranberries this Thanksgiving.  It’s a side dish that should be wearing its Sunday Best, even if we’re celebrating Thursday night!

Thanksgiving Cranberry Sauce

2 (12-ounce) bags fresh cranberries
2 large, ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and diced, about 1 cup
Zest of 1 medium orange, about 2 teaspoons
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 1 tablespoon
½ cup dry red wine
1/3 cup natural cane sugar
¾ cup Molasses
1/3 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick

·       Place the cranberries, pears, apple, orange zest, ginger and dry red wine in a stock pot and bring to a boil.
·       Turn heat to medium. Stir continuously until cranberries start to break open, about 15 minutes.
·       Reduce to a simmer and pour 1 cup water and sugar over the cranberry mixture. Stir in the  molasses and honey. Add the cinnamon stick.
·       Simmer 10-15 minutes; remove cinnamon stick after cooking.
·       Remove cranberry sauce from heat, and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Let’s Talk Beer and Burgers…on a Sunday….Does It Get Any Better than That?

Ladies and Gentleman, The Sunday Best Grilled Beef Brisket Burger
Another weekend is here, and I can think of only one thing…well, two things if you want to get technical: burgers and beer! You can make 8 burgers with my "Sunday Best Burger" recipe...and of course, everyone at the table needs something extra special to wash it down with--and that's what prompted me to get on the trending subject of craft beer and how it not only compliments a burger, but elevates its flavors into Napkin Heaven! The simplicity if this recipe is just beautiful, and wholly worthy of a Summer Wheat beer to go along with--beyond the 3 pounds of brisket, all you need to finish the job are olive oil and Worchester, garlic and S&P (make that kosher salt and pepper straight from the mill!)

But I’m not here to talk about meat, so much as beer.
Everyone knows I’m a wine enthusiast, but I’ll be the first to admit the ol’ bottled grape has had the upper hand for way too long. Beer is a formidable opponent when it comes to food pairing; its carbonation—all those tiny bubbles—scrub your tongue and make each bite extra flavorful. The ultimate pairing tip is so simple with beer: you simply match like with like, and with those spicy dishes remember that sweet calms heat. If your entrée has some bitter, earthy undertones, you’ll want a bitter beer. If something is super fatty, a hoppy beer will cut through that heavy feeling in your mouth. If you’re drinking beer to go along with your “Death by Chocolate” dessert, a nice thick stout works wonders. The scenarios are endless and look even better with your beer goggles on, LOL!    

So now that I’m talking India Pale Ales (IPAs), stouts and lagers for the first time on my blog, I’ll go ahead and divulge my key sources of information on this topic: my son, Jonathan Morgan, who got his first brewing kit from Williams-Sonoma, and Bobby Gordash, a professional brew master who makes the occasional public appearance (recently at my local Whole Foods) and dishes on what he’s learned since winning the Sam Adams Home Brewers Award. Gordash has brought us beloved beers like Panic Attack, Swamp Ape and Holy Mackerel—really, good stuff!

First, my son’s thoughts…and let me preface them by reminding everyone that without Jon the drool inducing ebook that is Sunday Best Dishes would never have been possible. Here’s his litany of libations—or to put it more simply, the beer he’s made so far.

·         Summer Wheat

·         Smoked Wheat/chestnut brown ale (his favorite; made it twice)

·         Chocolate Maple Porter

Says Jon:  I've always wanted to try brewing, ever since my freshman year of college when I experienced some outstanding craft beer in Italy. While I was working at Williams-Sonoma, I used my employee discount to get a brew kit at a reduced price—I’ve made a few batches since. When I pair dinner with beer, I go with a smoky flavor theme.  I’ll grill up some turkey burgers with chipotle pepper mixed into the meat (along with a little chicken broth to add moisture and carry the chipotle through the whole patty), and then top it with some slices of smoked gouda and charred bell peppers and onions. It’s important to toast the buns on the grill with some mayonnaise until JUST starting to blacken on the edges. I try to use a charcoal grill if I can, as gas grills won't impart the same kind of smoky deliciousness.”
What can I say: Apple….Tree!

So try out a beer kit like Jon did, or simply patronize a brewery near you; they have started cropping up all over Florida. For my NC friends, the craft beer trend is clearly established with the presence of SIXTEEN breweries in Ashville alone. Jon recommends the Fat Tire and Duck Rabbit!  If you’re shopping beer in Lauderdale, he recommends Total Wine & Liquor, and encourages you to look for some of the strong Danish and Scottish Ales in the +6% ABV rangethen come on home and make something chargrilled and amazing from Sunday Best!

OK—I’ll get off my beer box now!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Sunday Stroll that is Yellow and Green & Everything In Between

Yellow and Green aren’t Fall colors, but on the lips of my South Florida friends as the harvest season begins and the largest farmers market in Broward gets underway, opening its doors from 8 to 4 every weekend. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but it’s worth a thousand words, pared down into one simple FYI: did you know you can hop a train to the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood? Of course, you can drive too; it’s on Sheridan Street, but if you’re a big fan of greening up your kitchen and saving gas, give Tri-Rail a try. The Sheridan train-stop sports some great signage that points in the direction of the Farmers Market, and it’s a very short walk from there to all kinds of things you won’t want to miss.
When you walk in, the first thing you’ll notice is the HUGE mural of a farm, created with such realism that you’ll swear you can hear someone ringing a dinner bell somewhere beyond those big bails of painted hay. There are dozens of aisles of giant, low-priced fruits and veggies, and to anyone who isn’t used to the tropics that might seem strange. But, hey, October through January is our growing season! You can pick up a big canvas tote at the general information booth (next to the spicy, gourmet pickles) where a smiling woman can tell you in English, Creole or Spanish that the Yellow Green Farmers Market is celebrating its first anniversary this October. The tote bag seems big, empty and deep, and it’s your objective to fill it! In the meantime, here’s a little preview of what’s in store.
Olive oil, olive oil and MORE olive oil—but you’re the master of infusing it with whatever flavors you see fit. For $8, I filled a bottle with dill, lemon, garlic, cilantro and basil infused oils—but that was a safe bet. This corner of the farmers market had wasabi and many other flavors (like “Steak”), too. They had buckets and buckets of big juicy olives that you could sample—and a small restaurant, where people were sampling wines and ordering harvest soups, even on a warm day.

I went from that outpost to another manned by a Jamaican Farmer, who let me taste Breadfruit, lychees and assorted Caribbean produce that I’d never heard of before. I did know about dragon fruit, and appreciated that he had halved some of it, so that customers could see how awesome it looks inside. I’ve included a photo of it below.

I left with about 3 pounds of pre-sliced jackfruit and a mental note to try deep frying that slightly bitter (but buttery!) breadfruit; the farmer had offered me a slice, raw, and I didn’t care for it—yet I could see his point that it would be fabulous if I deep fried it. This is a Sunday Inspiration if ever there was one!
But I think my favorite table was the salt table, pictured here.
The vendor encouraged us to sprinkle whatever we wished to try over small cups of roasted corn; I bought an ounce of black truffle salt that tasted….well….to say “heavenly” wouldn’t do it justice. I’d have to say it was over-the-moon-curl-your-freaking- toes-good, and  can’t wait to add it to every winter soup and salad I make for myself while I’m back in my Florida home town.

If you want to meet me there, at the Yellow Green Farmers Market one of these Saturdays or Sundays, look for me at the station where they squeeze fresh Tamarind juice. We can have some refreshment together and hit all the stops with our big yellow green bags!            

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Send us your Sunday Best!

Your Photo Could Win the Newly Released Cookbook: Sunday Best Dishes: a Cookbook for Passionate Cooks!

When the little girl in this black and white photo said “cheese”, it was somewhere in the mid-1950s—a time in American culture and cuisine that inspired me to create a career in food. A capricious 7-year old by 1960, I have so many memories of life in the Ozzy & Harriet days, when taking joy rides in the family car on Sundays worked up a serious appetite. Well I remember that winding road to Grandma’s house after church. Her blueberry pancakes and homemade preserves were next to Godliness. I also recall the baked beans, scalloped potatoes and smoky franks of all those after-game picnics. Getting back to the time and quality people used to devote to dinner time has been the impetus of everything I’ve ever written. I will always be a family-style cook, and my newest cookbook is a culmination of everything I’ve learned and loved in my 30 odd years of cooking for a living.

So, it is with GREAT pride (and a sigh of relief after more than a year of hard work) to introduce my sixth book: SUNDAY BEST DISHES: a cookbook for Passionate Cooks. This book is extra special for me because it was the first time I collaborated with my family to publish something. I owe my sons, who worked on this project with me, sooooooo much!

My son Jonathan Morgan, a graphic artist and a super-genius, built my book that was once just a 3-ring binder full of recipes, into an interactive e-book with click and tap widgets that show even the most novice home cook how to cook like an Iron Chef. My other son, Chris, click his name to see his incredible photography portfolio, snapped each and every one of the drool-inducing photos that appear in Sunday Best Dishes.

The best part of my collaboration? I got to spend so much extra time with my boys. We lived this cookbook together for a whole year and had so much fun, cooking and growing together. Tears are hitting the keyboard just typing that. My thanks to the entire Morgan clan, and all my recipe testers that have become like part of the family along the way. I hope they’ll take part in the contest I’m proposing:

The Contest: Submit a photo of you or a group dressed in your Sunday Best, or at the Sunday dinner table—it can be recent or from years ago—to my assistant: or simply post it to “The Nana Network.” We’ll pick a winner and announce him or her on Grandparents Day, September 8th, 2013. To get a good gander at what you’re winning, check out the book’s exclusive website and photo gallery at

Good night and Good luck!              

Monday, August 5, 2013

Football Season Is Almost Here….Take these Ideas to Your Next Tailgate!

Photo courtesy of Christopher Morgan Photography

With September and October around the bend, it’s time to start planning your NFL football season! Just let the scent of honey maple BBQ and fresh corn on the cob, roasting in its husk beckon you down the street (or out to your own backyard!) for the next great tailgate or block party. A sports fan or not, the beginning of fall is all the motivation you need to plan a party or wax nostalgic.

Who doesn’t remember their high school football games, circling the track and watching the field, cup of hot chocolate in one hand and hotdog in the other?  Now you’re ready for something more sophisticated than those concession stand snacks you grew up with. Relax, I’ve got you covered.    

When a fan and editor at Woman’s World got in touch with me last week, it was to ask for advice on tailgate food. I gave her a mouthful, and took to my blog to share the love. Whether it’s in a parking lot or someone’s backyard, outdoor parties are the perfect excuse to get to know your neighbors better, swap cobbler and nacho recipes, or simply give the kids an excuse to throw water balloons at each other.

Personally, I like to use tailgates as a method of sharing everything I’ve learned in my decades of being a Dolphins fan.  When the current draft picks were toddlers, I was already making a science out of cooler contents. This is a cheat sheet to get you started:

·         Sophisticated, Filling, Ooey Gooey Sandwiches that Pack Up Neat! Braised short ribs covered in melting munster cheese turn out awesome on a Panini grill. While the sandwich is still warm, wrap in Reynolds combo parchment/aluminum foil with the foil on the outside. Stack the sammies on top of each other and place into a thermal container. Serve when the tailgaters get their hungry on. Hero sized subs are a great idea, too! My favorites incorporate cobb or grilled chicken caesar salad, with anchovy laced caesar dressing.  Alternatively, I like to utilize leftovers, like my barbecued salmon hoagie with apple cider slaw. Whatever the filling, take the insides out of a long baguette. Stuff the bread and place the top back on. Wrap tightly in parchment paper. When it's tailgating time, slice the sub into sections (right through the paper) and hand out to your fans.
·         Done with stale boring nuts? Me too! Toast your favorite nuts on a baking sheet. Make it your own by adding your favorite spice, like chili powder. Place the nuts into a bowl and add raisins or dried cranberries. Toss in brown paper lunch sacks; roll over the tops and seal with chip clips. For the party, remove the clips and roll back the tops so that the bags make their own nut bowls.
·         You can't go wrong with friend chicken. Think outside the KFC bucket and prepare your own buttermilk fried chicken before you trek to the game. Place the pieces into a napkin lined basket and make it the star on your tailgating table.
·         Burgers, burgers, burgers. Earn the blue ribbon by stuffing your burgers before you put them on the grill. Stuffers include sautéed veggies like peppers and onions, and melting cheeses like provolone and mozzarella. Don't forget to butter the buns for toasting as you grill the burgers.
·         Sides That’ll Get You Tailgated: My favorite salad sides are purple potato salad, toasted corn and poblano slaw and pasta primavera salad. 
·         Bring a Pinwheel Platter: If you are bringing the dish to the tailgating party make a huge platter of bite size picnic pinwheels. Wrap 10-inch tortilla around your favorite fillings. My favorites are smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers; provolone, roasted turkey and avocado with cornichons, and my Ruben inspiration which is filled with sauerkraut, corn beef, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing – Yumm!
·         Stuffed Cupcakes:  Make your favorite cake batter and bake the cupcakes. When they are cooled uses a squeeze bottle to stuff the insides with your favorite filling, like peanut butter and jelly, chocolate ganache, marshmallow fluff or my favorite – Nutella! Don't have a squeeze bottle – don't worry. Cut the tops from the cupcakes, use a melon baller or spoon to remove some of the insides, and scoop your filling into the cupcake. Top and frost!

It’ll all be so good you won't remember the score ; ). Let’s swap recipes before the season’s done!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Greek Yogurt Craze: Just a “Fage” or Here to Stay?

America must be obsessed with Greek yogurt. How else can you explain the 2 billion dollar industry that is Chobani and Fage? Even Pinkberry has started selling Greek yogurt, topped to order, with a range that’s going past the sweet stuff and into truly savory territory—think yogurt topped with herbed tomatoes and balsamic. If you can’t picture yourself going to an ice cream shop for lunch, try this at home: open up a container of Greek yogurt and adorn it with the ingredients you were saving for salad. You’re going to love it, I promise.
Southern Living Magazine calls this concept picnic in a glass.

Yep, that’s Greek yogurt in there—and it’s the perfect, light fare for bikini season. If you’re watching your weight, it’s good to know that Greek yogurt has the same flavorful effect as Ranch dressing, sour cream and mayo.
But calorie counting isn’t the name of the game for us foodies. It’s about inspiration!  Many home chefs aren’t aware how trendy restaurants use Greek yogurt. It’s in cocktails! You can add it to fried Brussels sprouts and cauliflower for a creaminess and tang you never realized existed in cruciferous veggies; you can dredge your chicken through it (I do in my oven fried chicken recipe), and last but not least, make your smoothies infinitely better.

The most creative thing I’ve done with Greek yogurt, to date…..
Sauté a healthy-sized dollop over high heat, with the result of creating a Saganaki fried cheese knock-off. I bet you’ve ordered Saganaki in a Greek restaurant before and burned your tongue because it was so good you couldn’t wait for it to cool off. Hint: Cool down by mixing up one of these yogurt cocktails I found on yummly!

So where did this “plain muse”, as Bobby Flay puts it, start—at least for the USA? According the New York Times, it was back in the 80s, when small business owners from Greece were craving the yogurt their grandparents used to make, and just couldn’t find anything like it in the United States. I don’t know about you, but the idea of New Yorkers standing in line to taste a century-year-old recipe that originated on a window sill in the Mediterranean sunlight, made me want to try to make my own from scratch, too. 

Watch this Awesome Video About Making Your Own Yogurt. It’s Not Scary, I promise!

I’m struck by how easy it is. I found this youtube video, and encourage you to not only watch it, but scratch that fancy “yogurt maker” off your wish list. I almost never say that about kitchen gadgets, but you really don’t need one here. So long as you have milk, live cultures (cheap at any health food store), a jar with a lid, cheesecloth and oven in which to place the yogurt overnight, you don’t need anything else. Anyway, watch Tressa Yellig’s explanation of the creamy process in this video. She distinguishes between ordinary and plain yogurt, shows you the whey that gets drained off, and makes truly delicious Greek yogurt parfaits right before your eyes with so few kitchen gadgets, and with such simplicity, that I wonder what her food is like at Salt Fire and Time.   

Guess I’ve given you enough creamy 411 to get inspired—so get out there and buy (or make!) a tub of yogurt and start experimenting! Your Sunday Best inspirations are ready for the Mason Jars and pretty labels!  
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