Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Brunch

Brunch has quite possibly become my favorite meal these days. What could be more perfect than a delicious assortment of seasonal fruits, decadent pastries, savory omelets, perfectly browned pancakes and waffles, cheesy grits, exotic coffees, hot teas and sweet juices?

I'm always in the mood for brunch - morning, noon or night.

This rainy Sunday morning seemed to be calling for me to try my hand at my own homemade brunch (putting my normal bowl of cold cereal or instant oatmeal on hold). My coffee pot just brewed an intoxicating pot of Joe, and the paper was waiting for my leisurely stroll through its pages. My fridge was stocked with yummy-ness from a lengthy trip to the store planning for my week, so why not whip up some magic?

Caramelized onions. Rosemary. Simple, yet savory and sweet - the perfect combination for my omelet. I had never actually caramelized onions myself (save for a cooking class once, with heavy eye from the chef instructor), and I must say, it was delightfully easy. Combined with a bit of fresh rosemary from my "garden," my mouth was watering to take the first bite.

Now came the test: success!

The sweetness of the onions with their caramely goodness and the savory freshness of the rosemary infused throughout the omelet making my taste buds water with each bite. Can you mourn food that you've eaten? If so, I did. Although, I was full and satisfied, the sight of an empty plate where such goodness had once rested, made me long for the good times we'd had together...all 15 minutes of bliss from plate to mouth.

For all you brunch-lovers, bon appetit!

Rosemary Caramelized Onion Omelet

2 eggs
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
½ small Vidalia onion, sliced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and the olive oil in a small skillet on medium

2. Add the onions; let them cook until they are golden brown (about 15 minutes), stirring frequently

3. Mix the eggs, milk and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl until

4. Melt the remaining butter in a nonstick pan on medium-low heat; add the egg mixture and sprinkle the top with the rosemary

5. Let the egg mixture cook until bubbles begin to appear on the top and the egg
mixture does not run when you rub the spatula around the sides of the pan

6. Add the onion to the top of the egg mixture; gently fold one side of the egg mixture over the other

7. Continue cooking until egg is done in the center of the omelet

8. Garnish with rosemary if you like

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Basil: The Perfect Herb

Basil, oh sweet basil. This divine herb is God's gift of freshness to food. The bright, lemony, crispness that it brings to any dish - pasta pomodoro, chicken salad, or even a simple bowl of tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper - is enough to send me swooning like a girl giddy for her prom date.

This spring, I decided (once again...) to try my hand at growing basil myself, so as to have this perfection at my disposal anytime. In the past, I've had a brown thumb with herbs, but 2009 was a new year, and anything is possible with resolution! (And my green-thumb gurus on speed dial.)

As I picked up my annual assortment of spring flowers at my local Home Depot, I strategically surveyed the bountiful selection of herbs. Carefully, I chose the sweet basil plant that looked most hearty. After all, this poor plant had a long road ahead with me...

After replanting the starter in a pot of its own, to my surprise, a few weeks and waterings later, my basil plant had grown inches and was sprouting new leaves daily. Success! Now, I just walk out my back door and with the snip of some scissors, I have perfection in living form any time. My taste buds are singing from the homemade pesto, pasta sauce, chicken salad, and other creations I've enhanced with this perfection.

There is almost nothing more pleasing to my soul than washing up a basil bunch, fresh off the vine, and feeling the softness of the leaves in my fingers as I delicately julienne the leaves, releasing the intoxicating smell of pure bliss. Ah, basil, the perfect herb.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Recipe That Started it All

For the last six years, I have been an avid - ok, slightly obsessive - fan of "Barefoot Contessa." Anything Ina Garten makes not only makes my mouth water, but even more amazing, all sense of apprehension about trying a new recipe magically disappears when I watch her. Apple cake tatin? No worries! Risotto? I scoff at you!

My obsession can really be traced back to just one simple recipe: Turkey Lasagna. One Saturday afternoon, I watched her effortlessly make this sumptuous dish in no time flat. Most impressive was the fact that she didn't even cook the lasagna noodles! For some reason, that step - boiling the water, cooking the noodles, draining them, and letting them cool - just sends me over the edge as a seemingly needless complication. Why? I don't know. I suppose it would be the same reason any recipe with the word "cheesecloth" makes me run the other way.

As I watched her feed her fabulous friends in her fantastic East Hampton kitchen, I longed for the laughter and joy coming from the gathering, and the clinks of silverware and squeals of delight as her guests tasted their first bites, cheese strung from their forks to the plate. Cheesy Italian goodness bite after bite, followed by the warm bite of fresh basil and tomatoes. I had to have the cookbook that contained this sublime recipe. I began planning my weekends around episodes of "Barefoot Contessa." Living for Saturday morning at the local market. Filling my fridge and pantry with spectacular ingredients to make savory sauces, tangy marinades, and luscious baked goods. Enter obsession. Only feeding my obsession, my hero father stood in line for three hours to get Ina Garten's signature on her cookbook containing the recipe as a surprise Christmas gift. Of course, being a grateful daughter, I spent the better part of January drooling over glossy photos of roasted vegetables, homemade blueberry muffins, lemon pound cakes, roasted chicken with fresh herbs, and the list goes on.

Over the years, I have made many Ina Garten recipes, yet ironically, until tonight, I had never made the infamous Turkey Lasagna. (Rest assured, it will become a staple in this house!) I had the perfect excuse - channeling my inner Ina - with a house full of precious girlfriends and a table full of delicious potluck dishes. As I looked around the room, my guests' plates full, laughter ringing story after story, and my pup Max waiting for a morsel to fall, I smiled. Thank you, Ina, for my own fantastic East Hampton kitchen right here at home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Mighty Mississippi

Oh, the mighty Mississippi! I grew up with a fresh sense of the power and beauty of this river, one of this country's greatest national treasures (aside from it being on the spelling bee list of every 4th grader in the Midwest). The sign marking our crossing of the river signaled the downhill side of the 16-hour trip to my native Missouri each summer...and more importantly, grandma's cooking. Watching the water gushing under the bridge as we crossed, I could smell the brisket in the oven, and the beef and noodles on the stove. Home cooking from the heart. Heaven.

This weekend, in a bit of an homage to the mighty Mississippi, I tried my hand at a dessert that has always intrigued me, and until recently, never really appealed to me (I have since learned to embrace nuts in things): Mississippi Mud Cake. I must admit, I was a bit intimidated. I mean, homemade frosting? A jelly roll pan? What if I burn it? Or worse yet, it just turns out a goopy mess of chocolate? Buck up sister. Get busy.

I used a "tried and true" recipe from Southern Living that was, according to the description, worthy of the women of Birmingham's Huffman United Methodist Church. How could I mess that up? (Oh, I can think of a few ways...) The cake ingredients came together in no time. Within another 5 minutes, I was licking the beaters of a creamy, buttery, bowl of decadent chocolate frosting and anticipating the opening of the bag of mini-marshmallows waiting to be melted onto the top of the warm, fudgy cake. After 30 minutes of smelling yumminess coming from my oven, I removed the cake, added the final touches of black and white drizzled goodness onto the cake and closed my eyes, mouth watering in anticipation that it tasted as good as it smelled.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived. The cake was cooled enough to cut and plate. Come to mama.

Oh, praise be to the mighty Mississippi! If that wasn't heaven on a plate, I don't know what would be. From the moment I tasted the first bit of sinful sweetness on my lips, I knew I was going to have to keep these puppies under lock and key. As I cut the cake into squares, I (quite nearly unsuccessfully) resisted the urge to have more than two.

Ok, three.

Tasting such baking perfection, I smile and am taken back to the abundant and joyful dinner tables of both my grandmothers. Even though they didn't contain this particular cake, they were full of love and comfort. Just the way I want my dinner table to be. Oh, the mighty, mighty Mississippi.