Wednesday, February 22, 2017

World Food Stories - Persian with Pegah!

I love ethnic cuisines. Nothing is more thrilling for me than to try dishes from different cultures and countries. Dining out to experience different cuisines is great, but there's nothing quite like learning from a cook in their home. There is no need for ego.
Along with watching their process and learning about new and unfamiliar ingredients, I get a chance to listen for their food stories. We laugh together. I see how their love and food memories are interwoven into the meal.

Welcome to “World Food Stories”, a Happily Edible After special feature, where I join up with old and new friends to explore the flavors from their culture. This idea has been brewing inside me for a little while now and I'm ready to dive in.

I’m in the kitchen today with my Atlanta friend Pegah Moghaddam, diving into the world of Persian/Iranian food. Pegah grew up with traditional Iranian food in her home. Her parents, Nahid and Manoochehr, hailed from Shushtar, an old, rural town in Iran.

Growing up she remembers eating “yogurt on everything” and reminisces about enjoying a family favorite – a picnic sandwich consisting of mortadella with mayo, tomato, and parsley on a hoagie roll. Another common family dish was a cutlet with potato and ground beef.

Pegah and I talked about what makes Iranian food unique. Here are some of its special characteristics:

· Simple foods, like kabob and rice are very common
· Lots of vegetables used, like okra, squash, eggplant, tomato
· Mixing a lot of flavors together
· Not as “potent” flavor-wise as Indian food
· Moderate, nothing is too spicy
· Presentation is important and a source of pride
· Lots of sides are served

For our get-together, Pegah decided to prepare and share a khoresht. Simply, a stew. Stews are very popular in Iranian cooking and typically go the route of a green or a red stew. They can be vegetarian or include meat. Her khoresht was a “lubia” stew with green beans, tomatoes, beef, and a very interesting special ingredient {we’ll come back to that!}.

She made traditional rice with the lovely “tahdig” or crust that is formed on the bottom of the pan during cooking.
We also sampled bites from an easy-to-throw-together platter of Sabzi Khordan, featuring fresh herbs, feta cheese, pita bread, tomatoes, cucumber, nuts, and olives.
Of course, yogurt had to show up on the table, and Pegah prepared a traditional yogurt dip called Mast Va Khiar. It is made from greek yogurt, chopped cucumber, onion, fresh mint and dried mint. Pegah typically makes it with only dried mint, but wanted to try it with fresh mint as well this time. It was a delicious, fresh accompaniment to all the food, particularly the stew. And hard to stop eating, it was so good.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Matcha Shortbread Cookies

Matcha is a special form of  powdered Japanese green tea, used for centuries in Japan during ceremony. It is earthy, bitter, and a bit of a superfood darling in the culinary world these days. 
I was first introduced to it in a yummy matcha latte and was intrigued by the flavor and gorgeous bright green color. I ended up purchasing a cannister from Do Matcha. Oh, and the traditional bamboo whisk...makes it much easier to blend in water.

 It is high in antioxidants and amino cup of matcha has 10x the antioxidants of a regular cup of green tea. With matcha, you are actually getting the whole tea leaf ground up, not just an infusion of tea leaves in water. Not only does it make a nutrient dense cup of is fun to use in cooking and baking. Good quality matcha is not inexpensive, but a little bit goes a long way. It may feel like you are really dropping some serious $$ for a cannister, but it will last you quite a while {unless you are drinking matcha lattes on the daily!}
Some folks like the buzz you get from matcha {yep, it's caffeinated!} better than coffee, saying that it feels cleaner. 

I thought making a shortbread with matcha would be interesting and a nice way to showcase the flavor. It came out good, definitely full of matcha flavor and not too sweet. Not as buttery as I am used to with shortbread though. Bonus....these guys stayed fresh for several days after baking.

How else can you use matcha? What about in your morning smoothie, chia pudding, oatmeal, or guacamole! Check out some other ideas and recipes for using matcha: 

Matcha Tea Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 15
Adapted from Lovescool

3⁄4 cup confectioners' sugar
5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 large egg yolks
1 1⁄2 tablespoons matcha green tea powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
Whisk the confectioner’s sugar and green tea together in a bowl.
Add the butter and green tea/sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth and light in color. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined.
Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated and a mass forms.
Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 30 minutes).
Roll the dough out to 1/2” thickness. Cut the dough with a round cookie cutter. Roll each cookie in a bowl of granulated sugar to coat the edges.
Place the cookies on a parchment lined pan. Bake at for 12-13 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Best Lemon Blueberry Streusel Bread Ever!

You gotta trust me on this one. 
This is the absolute, without-a-doubt, most delectable quick bread 
I have ever made.
Not sure if it's the moist, lemony, fine crumb with the burst of juicy blueberries OR the crunchy, nutty, buttery streusel topping that rocks my world more. They go hand-in-hand and are a perfect complement. Kind of like Barack and Michelle. 
Or french fries and ketchup. Or summertime and sandals. 
Or beaches and pina coladas {I may be ready for warmer weather}.

Confession time. I really made this because I love streusel and I wanted an excuse to eat some.
This came out so good, I have to admit I was a little surprised. 
Not because I didn't think it would be tasty. I've just never thought of quick bread as magical. 

I really enjoyed making it and sharing it with Jay and a few other folks. 
I hope you enjoy making it too....because when you do, you are gonna make someone very happy. Maybe just yourself. 
Just remember...sharing is caring.
Maybe I should call this the "Big Smile" bread. I ate it and couldn't stop smiling. It is perfection.
Oh. Please don't skip the zest or the streusel. 

The Best Lemon Blueberry Streusel Bread
Makes one loaf

Bread recipe adapted from Serious Eats 
Streusel recipe adapted from Alton Brown 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 tablespoons buttermilk
Not quite a half pint of blueberries, tossed in a bit of flour

Struesel: {this make about 1 1/2 cups - a bit more than you need}

*Yes, I know.....some of the measurements here are in ounces. Don't panic. If you don't have a scale, just know this: 1 ounce = 2 tablespoons. Go!

2 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour
3 ounces light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 ounces walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Make the streusel:
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and walnuts  in a medium mixing bowl.
Add the butter and use your fingers to lightly knead into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is well incorporated.
Make the bread:
Grease a regular size loaf pan. {I used olive oil spray, but you can use butter or oil or spray}.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in lemon zest and mix. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Add buttermilk, followed by dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Fold in blueberries.

Place batter into prepared pan and smooth evenly with an off-set spatula. Sprinkle the streusel generously all over the top. 

Bake until golden on top and a cake tester inserted into the middle of a loaf comes out clean, about 45 minutes or longer. Let cool five minutes then gently release from pan and cool on a wire rack.

*Best sliced with a serrated knife.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Recipe Share - Thai Cauliflower Pizza

Doesn't this make you hungry? Looks amazing to me.
Sharing this recipe from Lesli Schwartz, Atlanta food blogger at Asian Caucasian 
After a few months of holiday indulging....I'm ready to eat a bit cleaner and this gorgeous pizza from Lesli really speaks to me. 
I love the Asian flavors in the sauce {fresh ginger....sambal oelek...yum!}, toppings, and that a cauliflower crust. Sure, I love pizza with chewy, bready crust and gooey cheese, but....I feel like I need a long nap afterwards.
Here's wishing you all a healthy New Year, fun times in your kitchen, and nourishing meals.

Thai Cauliflower Pizza
From Asian Caucasian
Makes 2 pizzas

Cauliflower Pizza:
2 ½ bags frozen riced cauliflower (Trader Joe’s)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Pizza Sauce:
½ cup all-natural peanut butter
¼ cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

Pizza Toppings:
1 cup shredded chicken
1 cup fresh snow peas, halved
¼ cup shelled edamame
½ cup red and yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 Thai chili peppers, sliced
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup green onions, sliced

Directions for the crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook cauliflower according to package directions in a microwave oven. Make sure most moisture is gone. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Let cool.

Stir in cheeses, eggs, cilantro, red pepper flakes, chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Combine well with cauliflower. On two large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, press and shape the mixture into two pizza crusts.  Bake in the oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool. (You can make these ahead and put in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap.)
Directions for the sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. (Add one tablespoon of water if sauce is too thick.)

Directions for the pizza:
In a sauté pan, lightly sauté the snow peas, edamame, peppers, and mushrooms.  Remove from heat and cool.

Top both pizzas with first the peanut sauce and even amounts of chicken, the cooked veggie mix, bean sprouts, cilantro, and green onions. Bake in the oven for about 7-8 minutes until toppings are cooked through. When ready to serve, drizzle the top of the pizzas with remaining sauce and fresh cilantro.

Can add cheese on top of pizza when baking, if desired.
Can also garnish with chopped peanuts.
Sambal oelek can be found at specialty Asian markets and some local grocery stores.

Inspired by:
California Pizza Kitchen


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Baked Avocado Fries with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

I don't know why but I've been dreaming about avocado fries a lot lately. Never had them before today, but been seriously wanting to make them. And yes, they are good, especially with a spicy yogurt dip. Could be an easy appetizer....or in my case they were dinner. 
I couldn't eat more than three though....quite rich. 
Good heart-healthy fats though and loaded with fiber and nutrients! More potassium than banana too.

I love avocado pretty much any way I can get it. In salads, guacamole and chips, on sammies, mixed in breakfast egg wraps, sushi rolls, spread for an avocado toast with toasted sesame seeds, pureed for healthier chocolate mousse, with tuna tartare, and just straight up plain.
These fries would even be good smashed into a sandwich with a hearty whole grain bread, lettuce, tomato, spicy sauce, and maybe some pickled onion.

These are easy to make and if you want to go vegan with them, you can substitute aqua faba (chickpea liquid) in place of the egg during the breading process. 
I think they would be tasty with a honey mustard or lime cilantro type of sauce as well. 
Tip: use avocados that are ripe but still a bit firm. If they are mushy, you'll have a tough time slicing them into wedges without them falling apart.

Baked Avocado Fries with Spicy Yogurt Sauce
Serves 2-4

Two Hass avocados, ripe but slightly firm {I used 1 1/2 avocados}
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Few pinches of cayenne pepper
Two eggs

Small container of plain Greek yogurt
Sriracha, to taste
Salt and pepper
Dijon mustard or Dijonnaise, to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.
Place a cooling rack on top of a half sheet pan and set aside.
Mix together the panko, some salt and pepper, smoked paprika, and cayenne in small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk the eggs together. 
Cut your avocados in half lengthwise and twist to open. Remove the pit with your knife. Holding a half in your palm, gently make three cuts to make three wedges {don't cut through the skin}. Using a spoon, gently scoop out each wedge and place on a plate. Repeat with other avocado halves.
Dip each wedge into the eggs and then gently coat with panko crumbs all over. {It helps to use one hand for the egg and the other hand for the crumbs.} Place wedge onto cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the wedges.
Place baking pan into the oven and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden, rotating the pan halfway through.
While fries cook, make your sauce by mixing the yogurt with some sriracha and mustard to taste. Season with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Scrumptious New Fall Menu at Twelve Eighty

I had a "triple delight" kind of evening the other night dining at Twelve Eighty Restaurant in Atlanta.
First, I got to hang with a fun bunch of food bloggers and meet some new ones! Second, my husband Jay tagged along and took some awesome photos for me {he's the best!}. And third, we got to preview delicious food from Twelve Eighty's new fall menu. 
Win, win, win!

I've walked by Twelve Eighty and peeked in the windows many times, after visiting the High Museum of Art. It is situated right there, in the center of the Woodruff Arts Center and is such a pretty, sleek-looking spot. I was thrilled to get an invite to try out their new fall menu and even happier when I realized that my friend and incredible chef Andreas Georgakopoulos is the new Chef de Cuisine there. 

Our group was warmly greeted and seated in the bar. Chef Andreas and Executive Chef John C. Metz came out early on to welcome us and introduce their new fall menu offerings. Knowing Andreas, I expected that the food would be impressive. What I didn't expect was that we got to sample several cocktails from the menu. Woo hoo! After quite the arduous drive to get into Atlanta from my hood, I was ready for refreshment! They did not disappoint....creative, pretty and tasty libations! My favorite was the Strawberry Caipirinha......doesn't it look so good?

Strawberry Caipirinha - Cachaca, Strawberries, Lime

It's kinda funny to see a group of food bloggers together in a restaurant. Everyone is up and down, out of their seats, turning and re-positioning plates to try and get the best food shots they can. 
I imagine that other diners see us and scratch their heads a lot. 
We probably look dorky. 
I'm cool with that. 
I like taking pictures of food. We eat with our eyes first right? If my food picture gets someone hungry and jazzed to try a new restaurant, then I don't mind looking like a dork. 

We tried a lot of dishes and I tried to only take a few bites of each. Good luck with that effort right? Everything was full of gooey, crunchy, savory, sweet, and luxurious flavor. Not licking my plate was a challenge!
Here are a few of the dishes we enjoyed:

Roasted Beet Panzanella Salad with Red & Golden Beets, Brioche Toast, Crushed Burrata, Sweet Onion, Baby Arugula, Caper Berry, and Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Ahi Tuna Poke - Hawaiian Style with Avocado, Teriyaki, and Crispy Wontons
"Orchestrated" Fried Green Tomato Napoleon with Old Bay Shrimp, Crispy Green Tomato, Crumbling Goat Cheese, and Spicy Pickled Remoulade
Pastrami Spring Rolls with House-cured Pastrami, Swiss Cheese, Oyster Mushroom, Pickled Red Cabbage Slaw, and Spicy Green Peppercorn Aioli

Seared Jumbo Sea Scallop and Shrimp, Jalapeno and White Cheddar Logan Turnpike Stone Ground Grits, Sauteed Peppers, and Oven Roasted Tomato Beurre Blanc

Monday, October 31, 2016

Hired Guns Dinner at Gunshow with Chef Vivian Howard!

Food is memorable when it wows your taste buds. When you eat it and you immediately smile, because all the flavors work together like a symphony. And it's even more special when the food is creatively and beautifully plated. Just had this experience last week.
Jay and I just celebrated our anniversary and we treated ourselves to a night out at Kevin Gillespie's Atlanta restaurant, Gunshow. We had been wanting to try it for a while and then we noticed that Vivian Howard was coming as a guest chef for his Hired Guns series! Woo hoo.... super excited to see her collaborate with Kevin!

I have been a fan of Chef Howard since I first watched her television series on PBS, A Chef's Life. The show captivated me from the first episode and I never miss it. It is such an interesting depiction of what it's like to be a female chef/wife/mother and to run your own restaurant in a small southern town, and deal with all the challenges that naturally come with that. I love how Vivian focuses on one ingredient in each episode and tells the story of the farmer who grows and provides that ingredient to her and the community. Then we see her work some culinary magic with it in her own kitchen. There is such a sincerity and a realness to the show and I appreciate Vivian and PBS for producing such a quality program. Her restaurant is Chef & the Farmer and located in Kinston, North Carolina. She also owns The Boiler Room, an oyster bar in Kinston.

Vivian's first cookbook just came out, Deep Run Roots, and I am looking forward to getting my copy. I imagine her book tour is part of the reason she made it down to Atlanta for this Hired Guns event....lucky for us!

So let's talk about Gunshow. I have heard lots of buzz about the restaurant because it has such a unique concept. It is similar to a dim sum restaurant, in that, dishes are rolled through the dining room on carts. You choose what appeals to you and it is all a la carte. The restaurant is really one big room with an open kitchen where you can see the action happening. Fun!
The Hired Guns series of events at Gunshow involves a special guest chef coming to collaborate and show off their style and flavors in dishes, alongside items off the regular Gunshow menu. They mingle with diners and share their personal stories.

What would we be eating? We had no idea. We didn't know the menu until we sat down. It ended up being 10 courses, with two courses from Vivian and one from Kevin. It was very cool to see Vivian and Kevin in his kitchen, working side by side, along with the restaurant's Executive Chef Joey Ward and other talented culinarians. 
A cocktail cart comes strolling by to tempt you with libations {like the "Cierto Verde" above with Mezcal, Carpano, Lime, Ibarra, Falernum, Balsamic, and Salted Basil} or you can order other drinks from the kitchen bar. Jay enjoyed his "Delta Dram" with Pecan Vodka, Coconut Vermouth, Cynar, Spiced Pear, and Orange. Both were so good. Jay said his drink tasted like "Christmas."

Generally you sit at long tables with other diners at Gunshow. We did and as some folks nearby were seated earlier than we were, we sort of got to peep the dishes coming before we got them.
One thing is for sure...presentation is done beautifully and thoughtfully here. 
Ten courses {that Jay and I shared} is a lot of food. After about seven course, I was pretty full - but it was such a varied mix of items and we wanted to taste everything. I had my favorites for sure and I'll tell you the ones I enjoyed the most in just a minute.....

Here was our menu:

  • Down East Shrimp and Catfish Stew {Vivian's}
  • Charred Chicories, Persimmon, Pecan, and Pecorino {Vivian's}
  • Nagaland Style Pork Fritter, Coconut Collards, Ghost Pepper Chutney {Kevin's}
  • Raw Diver Scallop, Green Apple, Wasabi, White Truffle
  • Duck Pate en Croute, Foie Gras, Pistachio, Duck Fat Aioli, Caramel
  • Riverview Farm Pork Belly, Rutabaga, Cheddar, Chestnut, Pear
  • Sunburst Farm Trout, Lentils, Squash, Cauliflower, Peanut, Berbere
  • Pan Seared Fois Gras, Churros, Chocolate, Apple, Almonds
  • Local Radishes, Butter, Pine Nut Cream, Dill
  • Spiced Pumpkin Ganache, Acorn Cake, Malted Milk, Yogurt
And here are the visuals...try not to drool!

Down East Shrimp and Catfish Stew
Charred Chicories, Persimmon, Pecan, Pecorino
Pork Fritter, Coconut Collards, Ghost Pepper Chutney

Raw Diver Scallop, Green Apple, Wasabi, White Truffle

Duck Pate en Croute, Foie Gras, Pistachio, Duck Fat Aioli, Caramel

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Nut Butters from Georgia Grinders - Inspiring Amazing Recipes!

First off, I should said hello. Hi, it's me. Remember me? I've been away for a short while. But I'm back. 
Jay and I moved into our new home about a month ago and it's been quite an adventure settling in, unpacking, and finding my way back to the kitchen and a little sanity. 
I didn't realize how much Jay likes to organize things until we moved into this house...he's like the ninja organizer. After looking for my kitchen utensils repeatedly, he finally had to walk me through the kitchen and give me a tour of his layout. And it actually all makes sense. This also explains why he is a much better dishwasher loader than me. And you should see the layout he has in the garage....unreal!
I'm still finding my way around.

Getting an invitation to attend a food blogger dinner with Georgia Grinders was the perfect excuse to reacquaint myself with some fun recipe development. All the bloggers were invited to pick out two of Georgia Grinders nut butters, create some tasty dishes, and bring them to share at the dinner. What a cool concept to bring food-lovers together.

Jaime Foster left the corporate world in 2012 to start Georgia Grinders. She wanted to start a food business with a high-quality product that would express her passion for a healthy lifestyle and she began making almond butter in small batches based on her grandfather's recipe from the '70's. 
Based out of Atlanta, the family company has continued to thrive and grow and create delicious new products. They have a wide variety, including several NaturAlmond almond butters and almond flour, peanut butters, cashew butters, and pecan butters. They recently released three powdered peanut butters as well - oh hello breakfast smoothie!
With flavors like Maple Caramel Almond Butter and Cinnamon Vanilla Pecan Peanut Nut Butter how can anyone resist? 
I can't...I eat it right out of the jar. 
High quality, natural and non-GMO ingredients....just some straightforward goodness.