Tuesday, August 30, 2011

See-Food


 Just yesterday, I bantered about the onslaught of Fall, hinting that some of my favorite foods and opportunities for entertaining come during this season.  I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes that makes use of plenty of fresh seafood.  Enjoy!

MM 

Cioppino – A San Francisco staple, done southern style with plenty of fresh seafood from the gulf.  This hearty and satisfying stew is a nice dish to fight back the chill of autumn.  Substitute any of your favorite seafood below to create your own spin on this classic.

4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Vidalia Onion
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Pepper
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
¼ Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
¼ Cup Tomato Paste
1 Bottle Amber Ale or 1 ½ Cups Dry White Wine
1 Large 28 oz Can San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes, broken apart by hand with juices reserved
4 Cups Seafood Stock
2 Bay Leaves
1 lb Littleneck Clams, scrubbed
1 lb Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 lb Large Fresh Gulf Shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail on
1 lb Halibut or Salmon Filets, cut into thick chunks
Parsley, chopped for garnish

Add olive oil to a Dutch oven over medium heat.  When oil begins to shimmer, add onions, salt, and pepper; sauté, stirring on occasion for 10 – 12 minutes, or until onions are translucent and tender.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for another 2 minutes.  Next, add tomato paste, mixing well to combine with the onions.  Deglaze the pan by adding either the beer or wine, scraping up any of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan using a wooden spoon.  Add the tomatoes and their juice, seafood stock, and the bay leaves; cover and reduce heat to medium low, simmer for 30 minutes.  Next, add clams and mussels to the pot and cook covered for 5 minutes.  When clams and mussels have just opened (discard any that do not open), add the fish and shrimp, cover and cook until both are just firm, about 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and serve in large bowls, ensuring an even distribution of seafood and broth.  Garnish with parsley and serve.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Change in Seasons


I woke up this morning, stepping outside to cooler temperatures, albeit still hot-as-all-get-out for a Southern morning, yet there was a hint of change in the air.

It's rather hasty of me to proclaim the coming of Fall, but it's cooler temperatures are soon upon us.  I've made previous mention to a great James Taylor song 'September Grass' when he describes this moment of change with the following:

Well the sun's not so hot in the sky today
And you know I can see summertime slippin' on away
A few more geese are gone, a few more leaves are turning red
And the grass is as soft as a feather in a feather bed

Thanks JT - couldn't have said it better myself.

So with that said, I'm looking out on the Fall horizon today (hence the picture).  Football, pumpkin ales, soups, and mountain weekends are all things to look forward to in the months to come.  

It's my favorite time of the year - for sports, food, weather, and entertaining.  

So stay tuned, and soak up your last few moments of summertime.

MM

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Popular Plates Magazine

  
A few "first's" for me this morning.

#1.  I opened up my mail to find the new FALL issue of Popular Plates magazine.  I was excited to be included in this great publication, in fact this is my FIRST time in a NATIONAL magazine.  Sure, I've been lucky to score some great PR on national television and the like, but I am grateful for being a part of this issue.

#2.  I made the front cover!  Well, my food made the front cover . . . and it's pretty small . . . but hey, you've got to start somewhere right?  I suppose I'm most proud that it was my photography that had the chops to be showcased along such other great dishes on the front cover of the magazine.  Pretty cool!

The magazine will be out in the coming weeks at stores everywhere!  Go pick up a copy and make my Gameday Chili.

MM

Friday, August 19, 2011

1, 2, 3 . . . Nor'Easter

That's right . . . it's been another year, and I'm gearing up for my annual Nor'Easter Trip.  This year's destination?  Philly.  Ah yes, the land of liberty, cheese steaks, and flash mob beat downs.  Sounds like an exciting weekend.

Only question is . . . which network (I called you all out above) wants to sign on for the next best travel/entertainment/food show? 

I'll keep my phone by my side.

Until then, I'm out on the weekend!

Cheers!

MM

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quick Cajun Stir Fry
















Time ain't on my side.

It just feels like I can never catch up these days.  Between working, writing, traveling, exercising, etc . . . I just don't have as much time as I would like.

I understand why so many families decide to 'outsource' their meals - after all, having to put dinner on the table is just one extra duty that many of us just don't feel is worth the time.

It's worth it.  When you 'outsource' your meals, you put your health - and also your family time at risk.  For those in the dating world - eat in!  (Not on the first date, that's creepy).

Meals at home don't always have to be 5 star or glamorous.

Take my dinner tonight, for example.  I arrived home to find a bag of frozen vegetables, some frozen shrimp, and a leftover link of andouille sausage from a weekend cookout.  Some might think, "okay, so where's he going with this?"

I'll tell you where.  Just follow.  Oh, and for those of you keeping track, here's another 5 ingredient meal - with virtually no carbs to boot!

Quick Cajun Stir Fry

1/2 lb Large Frozen Shrimp
4 oz Andouille Sausage, sliced thin
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 16 oz Bag Frozen Stir Fry Blend Vegetables
Tony's Cajun Seasoning

Quickly thaw shrimp by rinsing them in a colander under cool running water.  Peel and devein shrimp; set aside.  Add the sausage to a saute pan (or wok) over high heat and cook until just browned.  Add oil, followed by the shrimp and cook over high heat until the shrimp are just turning pink.  Remove sausage and shrimp to a plate.  Next add vegetables (and more oil if necessary) and saute until tender and slightly charred, shaking the pan on occasion, about 3 minutes.  Return the sausage and shrimp to the pan until the shrimp are firm and bright pink.  Season entire dish lightly with Cajun seasoning, toss, and serve.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Greek Omelet with Hot Pork Sausage
















Cook.  Eat.  Repeat.

That's basically my plan for the day.  It's a hot Saturday here in Nashville, TN and if you are any sort of regular reader of my blog, you know that this is indeed a rare day here in my camp.  i.e. I'm home on a weekend!

And the best part?  The Titans kick off the season tonight with a 7:00 game against the Vikings.

Anyways, I've been cooking non-stop for the past two days, with no end in sight.  A few friends of mine just had a beautiful baby girl, so I signed up to make them a meal so that they could enjoy their Friday evening.  In fact, has anyone heard of MealTrain?  What a great site to put together, organize, and provide meals for friends.  I figured that most of their meals had consisted of lasagnas and casseroles, so I wanted to step outside the box.

Greek style pork tenderloin - marinated in olive oil, balsamic, oregano, and garlic - served with caramelized onions, kalamata olives, and marinated artichokes was the main course.  I did a cold orzo greek pasta salad and some grilled veggies to round out the rest of the dish.  And for dessert?  Grilled peaches with vanilla Greek yogurt.  Oh, and a nice light Pinot Noir to wash everything down.  FYI - Greek food is awesome light/comfort food on a hot summer day.

After dropping everything off I . . . well, I took advantage of being at home on a Friday night by tossing back a few cold beers with friends at several of my favorite local haunts around town.  Good times.

Nevertheless, I'm moving a little slow this morning.  Upon opening my fridge, however my hangover was soon to be cured.  You see, I had all these great leftover ingredients to make a killer breakfast to ease my nausea and fight the sting of my headache.

It worked.

MM

Greek Omelet with Hot Pork Sausage

2 Links Hot Pork (Italian) Sausage
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Red Onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Bell Pepper, diced
5 Grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 Tablespoon Kalamata Olives, diced
3 Eggs, beaten
Kosher Salt
Cracked Pepper
2 Tablespoons Feta Cheese, crumbled

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, brown the sausage for 2 minutes on all (4) sides.  Remove from heat and tent with foil to keep warm.  Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a non stick skillet over medium high heat and saute onions and peppers until just tender.  Add tomatoes and olives and continue to cook until tomatoes have softened, about 1 minute.  Add eggs and season with salt and pepper.  Using a wooden spoon carefully lift the cooked portions of the eggs and tilt the pan to allow the runny portions to reach the heat.  Do not scramble.  Continue in this manner until the eggs are set in the pan and no runny portion remains.  Add the cheese to one side of the eggs, and fold over the other side.  Serve omelet with pork sausage on the side.  A cold beer with breakfast is optional, but highly recommended.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Anti-Pasta + Country Music



















I'll admit - the title to this post seems a bit strange, if not flat-out confusing.  After all, shouldn't I be enjoying cheese, wine, cured meats, stuffed grape leaves, and red wine to the likes of Sinatra, Pavarotti, or some other Italian crooner?

Instead, I'm diving into friend Luke Bryan's new album, Tailgates and Tanlines.  For those of you unfamiliar with Luke and his music, just turn on the television, open a magazine, or check out his album on iTunes (currently at #2).

It's no secret that food and music have a great affinity for one another.  Casual jazz at an outside bistro transforms a weeknight meal into a vacation.  But just like an unconventional wine pairing (Cabernet + Dark Chocolate, Chardonnay + Deep Fried Speckled Trout, Expensive Cotes du Rhone + Cheap as shit Tombstone Pizza), sometimes I like to change up the soundtrack to my meals.  The more unusual the better.

The result?  I am pleased - and it's not just the wine talking.

A huge prop to Luke and his entire band, crew, and team on this great (3rd) album.  I'm 2 spins through (still eating and drinking) and I'm gonna go ahead and say that this is his best thus far.  Couldn't happen to a harder working group in Nashville.  It also helps that they are all great people.  Proud of Michael Carter (guitarist) for landing a great cut as well, Faded Away.  Sure I'm biased, but I hear a single.

Country music ain't all about corn bread and chicken.  We dress up every once in a while . . . even though we still wear our cowboy boots to a black tie affair.

Cheers!

MM

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No Frills



















From the culinary sense, I'm not always inspired.

Take tonight for example.  After spending an entire day traveling across the country, I just wasn't in the mood to create a wonderful meal worthy of a photograph.  As we sometimes say, I just needed to fill the hole.

It's too bad all of my fresh produce went to waste while I was gone - perhaps it was because I failed to turn on the A/C while I was away - creating a nice welcome of 94 degrees and fruit flies upon my arrival.  Lesson learned.

I had to go with my instincts.  A few thawed chicken breasts, a can of green beans, and a can of diced tomatoes.  Maybe throw in some garlic, a dash of dried oregano, and maybe, just maybe - yes, an aged tidbit of leftover parmesan left from a dinner party before leaving for my trip.

I'm in business.

Heat up the cast iron, add a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, then quickly saute some garlic . . . the smell is heavenly - and suddenly I don't feel like I'm sitting next to some old dude on Southwest Airlines anymore.  Add in the chicken to sear for flavor; salt, pepper, oregano . . . turn on television, flip chicken, add diced tomatoes - deglaze - drain green beans - add to pan - simmer. simmer. simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, top with cheese.  Voila.

Sitting down I realize that I sub-consciously created an outstanding, inspired meal.  Up the stairs, grab the camera, snap a pic . . . and savor the flavor.  Just what I needed.

That's all for now - but I gotta ask . . . What inspires you?

Cheers!

MM

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Jimbo Sandwich (Son's of Italy) Athens, GA


















One of my more popular posts here on HHOFD is my Grilled Flank Steak Sandwich with Garlic/Basil Mayo and Caramelized Onions.  Check it out asap, as it's rather tasty.

This got me thinking . . . after all of the hard work that I put into creating outstanding meals - do people really just want to read about sandwiches? 

I thought it prudent to call on a good friend and former Athens, GA legend Kirk Alexander to assist in my quest.

I've called on Kirk to describe one my favorite sandwiches, The Jimbo.  This sandwich is arguably the best sandwich I've ever eaten in my life, at arguably one of the greatest establishments that ever existed, Son's of Italy.

Over the next few weeks, I will be trying to recreate this sandwich, all the while calling on guest authors who will provide you with a glimpse into a great piece of culinary and college history.

Ladies and gentleman, I give to you Kirk Alexander (ladies - he's single).

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You really knew what you were working with within the first two bites. Was the bread too soft or was it burnt? Too much (or not enough) cheese? Ample portion of chicken? How spicy was it? Did you choose fries or chips? Did they forget the pickle? Is someone really playing Exile on Main Street in its entirety on the jukebox? All of these questions would be considered – and emphatically answered – within the first two minutes of picking up your Jimbo sandwich from Sons of Italy in Athens, GA. These questions had to be conquered in order to properly grade the finest spicy breaded chicken & mozzarella sub sandwich ever offered in a patio restaurant/bar/hippie shanty setting.

You see, me and my group of friends/roommates in college would give the Jimbo a grade (ranging from C-minus to A-plus) each time we ate it (which was at least once a week – Sons on Sundays at 5 PM was our church service – throughout college). And it wasn’t merely a sign of how tasty the sandwich was that day. It was also an indication of who was working the kitchen, who was pouring the $6 pitchers of Miller Hi-Life, what jam band legends were drinking sea-breezes and bitching about the Atlanta Braves’ current losing streak, and what hippie chick was taking the orders (and what pharmaceuticals she had in her system at the time).

Sons of Italy was, above all else, an atmosphere. And the college kids (mostly Greek-system products) who flocked there kept returning because the atmosphere was perfect for Athens in the 1980’s through the early 2000’s. I spent the better part of my food and beverage budget at Sons (specifically on Jimbos and Hi Life) because I enjoyed the people, not to mention jukebox spins were $.25 a song. Sundays and Thursdays were the best times to go to Sons and kick back with your buddies and talk about life as we knew it at the time (main topics of discussion being that hot Zeta or Tri-Delt you saw at last week’s social, plans for Georgia-Florida, Panic’s recently-released tour dates and, of course, the Dawgs’ prospects for the fall).

Hell, I spent so much time at Sons that I knew the staff and the establishment inside and out. I knew that Danny would give an extra pickle spear to regulars. I knew that Kellie loved baseball T’s and Curtis Mayfield. I knew that the guy who signed his bathroom graffiti “Da Broiler” was really Billy from Pi Kap. I knew that Darren the bartender was a heavy pour (meaning we shunned Hi Life for vodka tonics when he worked) and showed up drunk & stoned to softball games (yes I even played on the Sons intramural team for a season). And in the greatest piece of intel, I knew that if you tried to play B08 the jukebox would somehow malfunction and play N03 (turning Steely Dan’s Peg into Walk of Life by Dire Straits). It was like an inexplicable black hole of the music universe.

Whoever made the decision to move Sons to the east side (effectively giving the restaurant and the lifestyle it enabled a death sentence) has a lot of blood on his hands. Sons of Italy and the Jimbo sub were Athens institutions, and I’m happy to have had my moment in time with both of them. While the Jimbo’s grade may have fluctuated from time to time, Sons always got an A+. Except for when it was at capacity and you had to retreat across the parking lot to Steverino’s

No one wants to eat at Steverino’s.

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Well said Kirk.  Tonight I'm trying to emulate this sandwich for what it was.  No frills, i.e. frozen chicken tenders.  The result?  In the words of John Bell, I'm satisfied.

The Jimbo Sandwich

1 Sub Roll, sliced (Publix Sub Roll)
2 Large Frozen Chicken Tenders (Tyson Southern Style Tenderloins)
2 Tablespoons Hot Wing Sauce (Crystal Louisiana Hot Sauce)
1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese (Grated, do not buy packaged)
Blue Cheese Dressing, for dipping (Naturally Fresh Brand)


Prepare chicken tenders according to instructions (oven or fried).  While hot, toss in wing sauce and add to the sliced sub roll.  Top the remaining sub roll (cut side) with mozzarella cheese.  Add sandwich to an oven heated to 500 degrees F until the edges are browned and the cheese is melted.  Serve with blue cheese dressing, a pickle spear, fries, and a cold Miller Hi-Life.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Lemon-Oregano Grilled Chicken + Greek Chopped Salad



















As a kid, I was fortunate to spend time during several of my summers in Sarasota, FL.  For my sister and I, spending time sans parents, and with Aunt Marcia and Uncle Al was an escape into a world very different than our home in Lilburn, GA.  Our mornings were passed on the golf course, enjoying an afternoon lunch at the club, followed by an evening meal at one of the many fine establishments that scatter the Sarasota/Long Boat/Siesta Key communities.

To be fair, I'm sure Mom and Dad enjoyed our time away with equal enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, my beloved Aunt and Uncle were "foodies" before the word became fashionable in magazines and blogs.  In fact, I remember enjoying some of my very first "culinary discoveries" while spending time at their home:  cured salami, roasted leg of lamb, mint jelly, scrambled eggs with heavy cream, homemade fettucini alfredo, club sandwiches, and baked chicken with feta.

I'm always appreciative of the insight they provided.  It was a look into a culinary world different than my own.  Don't get me wrong, momma is my hero in the kitchen . . . but like anything else, it's life's experiences that open our minds and shape our impressions for years to come.  I have happy memories of those times.

In fact, I was thinking of those days as I prepared this meal on a hot, humid, summer day here in Nashville, TN.  (Much like the FL weather during the summertime)

This is certainly a dish that I've made all of my own, yet I enjoy it more with each bite when I think about the careless days spent among friends and family of my youth.

Cheers!

MM

Lemon-Oregano Grilled Chicken

2 Chicken Breasts, pounded thin
1 Lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper

Allow chicken breasts to sit in the remaining ingredients for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat a grill over medium high heat.  Grill chicken over direct heat for 2 minutes, turn 45 degrees, and cook for another minute (creating nice grill marks).  Flip chicken, move to indirect heat, and grill until firm to the touch and cooked through, 3 - 4 minutes.  Remove from grill and rest for 2 minutes.  Serve.

Greek Chopped Salad

2 Vine Ripe Tomatoes, diced
1/2 Small Cucumber, diced
1/4 Small Red Onion, diced
1/4 Cup Kalamata Olives, diced
1/4 Cup Crumbled Feta
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Fresh Cracked Pepper
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Kalamata Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Mix thoroughly, cover and set aside until ready to serve.