Thursday, March 28, 2013

extra dirty, dry, vodka martini - up

a classic and a fav.
Senior year of college, there was a swanky martini bar called Alto, about two blocks from our house. Being above the Pittsburgh Deli Company, it was quite out of place, but my friends and I loved it. This is where I met the Extra Dirty Martini.
About 1/3 shot glass dry vermouth
3 shots chilled vodka
1 1/2 shots olive juice 
Shake with ice like life depends on it...
Essential shaker and metal cup, martini glass (fill with ice and water to chill the glass),  Trader Joe's Garlic-Stuffed Olives, Tribuno Extra Dry Vermouth (the cheapest), Ketal One Vodka (pricey - in truth, I only have this in the house for my parents...with my dirty martinis I usually use Smirnoff or Absolute).
You should still be shaking...seeking for ice-bits. Strain into the glass (use the glass shaker and metal cup to let the liquid and ice chips fall in but not the ice cubes). 
Chin-chin! I hear in Japanese this toast is rather dirty! Like our martinis.
Garnish with an olive and enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

spring finds

This weekend was the Spring Fling opening of the Nashville Flea Market. My friends Jill, Courtney and I went for some treasure hunting. 
Reproduction porcelain Nippon Chocolate pot and cups
$2 salt & pepper shakers! 
Vance has been working nights so I occupied my time by cooking & shopping this weekend. I wanted to update my wrists for spring and found some new pieces at J. Crew and Nordstrom.
Gold spikes by Tasha, pink and green bangles from J. Crew & Expandable Wire Bangle by Alex & Ani.
Here I am doing spring shopping and it supposed to snow tonight in Nashville! I am so ready for real spring.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

luck o' the irish

As if Vance and I need an excuse to drink Guinness and eat cheddar...but you know how we like to observe holidays!

Guinness Irish Stew

  5 tablespoons olive oil
1.5 pounds stew beef, cubed
course salt and fresh ground pepper
2 cups leeks, sliced (just the white part, the green fronds can be drizzled with EVOO and S&P and roasted for a healthy snack)
2 cups Guinness beer
  5 cups beef stock
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  2cloves garlic, minced
  3 teaspoons dried rosemary
3 teaspoons dried thyme
1 cup peas, shelled or frozen
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch Oven), heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Dry the beef well with paper towels. When the oil is hot, add the beef and brown evenly in batches being careful not to crowd. After browning on all sides (about 5 minutes) remove the beef from the pot and set aside. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil and the leeks and saute until soft - remove. Add beef stock, Guinness, tomato paste, sugar, 1 teaspoon Thyme, 1 teaspoon Rosemary, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Add beef back into the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
While the beef mixture is simmering, combine the parsnips, carrots, potatoes and garlic in a large bowl. Toss with remaining olive oil, salt and pepper, 2 teaspoons thyme and 2 teaspoons rosemary. Place the vegetables in a roasting pan and place in a 400-degree oven. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove the vegetables from the oven and add the roasted vegetables, sauteed leeks, and peas to the beef mixture. Simmer uncovered for about 45 more minutes.
Serve with Irish soda bread (Whole Food's is delicious) and (yet another) Guinness. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Last week I went to the deep south for the first time. Here, I had thought I was in the deep south all along, but my Nashville friends explained that Alabama is the deep south (and I might need a translator). I really enjoyed going to Birmingham and then visiting the University of Alabama - where we toured the football stadium. 
roll tide!
Mussels for lunch at Chez Fon Fon - amazing.
Beef carpaccio at Bottega.
and aracini - insanely delicious.
I do have a recipe to share - a cous cous & wheat berry salad. My friend Jill had dinner at her house last week and everything was delicious! This is a light and easy side.
2 cups cooked cous cous
1 cups cooked wheat berries
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded & diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup Craisins
1/3 cup almonds, sliced & toasted
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup EVOO
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
fair amount of course salt and fresh ground pepper
1/3 or so cup goat cheese, crumbled
Whisk vinegar, oil, syrup and S&P in bowl. Combine all other ingredients (except goat cheese) in large bowl. Pour vinaigrette over salad. If it seems a bit dry you can make a bit more dressing or add some EVOO. Top with goat cheese.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

and that is why we don't churn our own butter

A few weeks ago, I made mayonnaise  - "may-oh-naize" it sounds more refined than "man-aze." I also roasted my own red peppers - which provides very few photo ops. In keeping with the "do it yourself" theme, I decided to make butter. I like the idea of flavoring homemade butter with honey, orange, or herbs. I think this is a great accompaniment to some delicious toast at brunch.
In the mixer, whip a pint of cold heavy cream on medium-high speed.
It takes about 7 minutes to get to whipped cream and then it starts to get chunky and a bit yellow. Whip for about 11 to 12 minutes and remove to colander. Push out all the butter milk.
Squeeze the butter to remove all liquid, mix in your ingredients. I used about 1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage and salt to taste.
 Butter is something interesting to try - but honestly you only end up with a small amount - definitely not more economical to make your own!
I also made an apple skillet cake in my Lodge Cast Iron Skillet.
Apple topping
1-3/4 stick Butter
3/4 cups Sugar
2 whole to 3 large Granny Smith Apples, Peeled, Cored, And Cut Into Six Equal Piece
Cake batter
1 stick Butter
2/3 cups Sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
2 whole Large Eggs
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1-1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 whole apple, peeled and cored
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 9 to 10-inch skillet, melt 1 3/4 sticks butter over low heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar to the pan and stir around, then place apple slices, cut side down, in the pan. Don’t pack them too tightly, but try not to leave overly large gaps. Allow this to cook over low/medium-low heat while you make the cake batter.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 stick of butter and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Add sour cream and mix well.
In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Stir together then gradually add flour mixture into the creamed mixture until just combined. Gently stir in 1 chopped apple.
Remove skillet from heat. Spoon batter over the top, then spread gently so batter is evenly distributed. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and bubbly. Allow cake to sit in skillet for five minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

Bake until golden, allow to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes. Take a large plate for the flip...
Ta-da! Enjoy with ice cream or a good cup of Joe.