Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hiki Tiki Glamour Porch or Korean BBQ Pizza... Holy Kimchi Batman!

Two summers ago we held an On the Plate event which sadly proved to be our last. We wanted to do something for summer and we wanted it to be fun and different. So I came up with the idea of doing a polynesian evening. A luau of sorts. At first I don't thing Stuart my partner was into the idea. But with a little creative collaborating and me calling it "the Hiki Tiki Glamour Porch" he was in and we set about planning the evening. He got so into the idea that before I knew it he had a hula troupe coming to perform at the party. I mean fun right!!

For the party we served cocktails. Mai Tai's and Hawaiian Punch that packed a punch! And the food we decided should be cocktail party food, nothing too heavy, nothing needing plates. We settled on a number of dishes which we decided to bill as "Pacific Rim Tapas".

Asparagus and Mushroom Wontons with Soy Aioli
Bacon Wrapped Baked Bananas with chili Sauce
Korean BBQ Beef Pizza with Cool and Spicy Kimchi Topping
Dan Dan Noodles in a chinese box
Ham Bacon and Pinnapple Quesadillas with Sour Creme
Spicy Crunchy Sesame Peanut Chicken Salad in a chinese box

So that was the total menu. And I have to say the food all came out really well. Everyone enjoyed it and they ate heaps of it. I was a little proud of the fact that I was able to translate some very western foods into something that the group seemed ultimately to enjoy. I mean we wanted it cheeky, not authentic, with a nod to the east and the pacific but fully western and a cocktail menu. I think I did OK.

So for those of you all who have asked in the past year for this recipe I will now give it up. It's really simple and easy and makes a really nice change from the normal pizza dinner especially if you have people in the house who are meat eaters. I will warn you it may change your mind about what belongs on Pizza, but isn't that what reading these things is about! Enjoy Ya'll

Korean BBQ Pizza with Spicy Creamy Kimchi Topping


1 pizza crust round or rectangle ( I like rectangle)
1 lb short ribs ( cut up into strips)
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4/ cup dark rice wine ( or sherry)
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 pinch chili flakes
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup Korean pizza sauce ( 1/4 cup canned pizza sauce and 1/2 cup thai chili sauce ( mild) )
1/2 cup red onions sliced into fine half moon ribbons
1 cup cheddar cheese

For Korean Beef
Place Short RIbs slices and next 8 ingredients into a plastic bag and shake well till all combined
Place in fridge and marinate overnight
Remove from fridge and bring to room temperature.
Cook in large skillet in 2 batches till mest is done and browned and tender
Cool and reserve

For Kimchi ( My quick recipe)

3 cups shredded green cabbage
5 scallions sliced on the bias
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon Sriracha  Hot sauce
1/2 red bell pepper cut into small ribbons
1/2 red onion sliced into small dice
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon Mayonaise
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Combine all ingredients and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

For Pizza

Spread out dough on a greased baking sheet
Spread with sauce
Add Korean beef
Red onion and cheese
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 30 mins till crust is brown
Remove from oven let cool for 5 mins
Top with Kimchi and serve sliced immediately


Saturday, February 25, 2012

One toast Soldier rides away..Smoked Salmon Tartare, Pickled Fennel salad, Horseradish and Toast Soldiers

One of the things that being a "Son of Norway" on one side of the family gives you is an appreciation for a number of things. One is Christmas traditions and traditional sweets . One is late night suppers with warming soups and open faced sandwiches. And one is sardines and other smoked fish and fish products. I mean I could throw Aquavit in there too but really my love for beer is more cultivated than my love for the liquor of the Motherland.

Norway is a little known country in the US. unless you are in certain parts of the Midwest. It's foods and it's traditions are blurred together with the more well known and vocal neighbor Sweden ( I mean who can compete with Abba and Ikea as icons). Even it's meatballs aren't as well known as it's neighbor's although different and very tasty. ( More on that in another blog). But Norway had a big impact on this nation and it's people contributed mightily to many regions of the US. not just the Midwest. For example, did you know that after the turn of the century and before WWII Mobile Alabama had a large Norwegian population that was involved in the ship building industry there. Or did you know that in the early part of the last century there were more Norwegians in Brooklyn than Germans, or actually in Norway itself for that matter. Gone are there communities for the most part although to this day in a part of brooklyn there is a small smattering of Norwegian shops, churches and stores. But only the very old remember any real community or sense of tradition being there. That's the odd thing about transitions in the US. Whole groups of peoples have come and gone from areas and left nary a trace.

My mother's family on her father's side all came over on the boat. She is on that side of the family the first generation American. Not so on her Mother's side. But because of this European connection I have  relatives who grew into being Americans. They all learned English as a badge of honor, not wanting to be separated from the people that they were living amongst. Immigrants then learned english. In fact it was somewhat of a duty. It wasn't easy, lets face it English is actually a complex tongue compared to many. So many ways to say the same thing. My Great Grandfather used to say in frustration " I just learned how to say JELLY, when they changed the word to "Y"am! " The J being pronounced like a Y in Norwegian made this a riot! Ah, those simple times!

Being half Norwegian my Mother learned all about the traditions of the Norse peoples. From the Christmas traditions to the stories of the homeland her relatives shared things, and of course they shared the foods. Most of what came down to my brother and myself were Christmas sweets and cakes, and an appreciation for certain spices in savory dishes like Nutmeg and Allspice. We also got a fair dose of smoked seafood and fish. And a love for dark brown and rye breads with certain meals. All in all not a bad dose of culinary knowledge.

Today's recipe is something that I picked up over my time working in the NYC restaurant and catering scene. It is a dish which embodies a few elements which I have found fit into the flavor palate that I grew up with at home with Norway in the background of the cooking that the women of the house were doing. Which may explain why I took to it! It also is an easy dish that looks and tastes so elegant that it's sure to be a crowd pleaser. And unless people have an aversion to fish in general it's also a great way to make a tartare that it not really raw. Don't get me wrong I love a good steak tartare or a fresh tuna tartare. But there are those folks you might have over who have a problem with eating raw meat or seafood. This is a bridge between the two worlds and boy is it a tasty one. So grab your ring mold and your mandoline and lets get cooking!

Smoked Salmon Tartare with Cucumbers and Pickled Fennel   (serves 4 as an appetizer)

Special equipment you will need:

A 2 inch metal or plastic restaurant mold

A mandoline ( slicer, you can use a knife and do this by hand but it's so much easier to cut paper thin slices on a mandoline)


10oz smoked Salmon ( I like to use Gravlaks or Pastrami smoked salmon when available it has such great flavor)
2 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill chopped plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon dijon
dash of worcestershire sauce
dash of tabasco
pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
2 persian cucumbers sliced thin on a mandoline into rounds
1 small head of fennel sliced paper thin on a mandoline
white vinegar
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons both mustard seeds and dried coriander seeds whole
lemon juice


Place the fennel in a bowl pour the vinegar over it to cover, then all the next 3 ingredients. stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight

Next finely chop the salmon into fine dice
Mix all the rest of the ingredients together gently
except the cucumbers
Cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour

When ready to serve

Place ring mold in the middle of the plate and fill with the tartare
place a ring of overlapping cucumbers around the ring. Pour a little lemon juice on the cucumbers.
Take the fennel out of the fridge and taking a few strands top the tartare with a little nest of the fennel, make it artistic and twisted. Not too much just to give it some drama. Then garnish with the dill frons. Serve with white toast soldiers. Which are white bread toasted crusts cut off and then cut into toast "fingers".
And there you have it a very classy appetizer that it also really easy to prepare. Enjoy Ya'll!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Truffled Mushroom and Asparagus Panzanella ( from On the Plate )

So every year for the past 5 years in the summer I have thrown a roof party. This involves a BBQ and a buffet dinner as well as copious amounts of fun and drink.

It is really a blast to do, and I have gone fancy, and I have gone simple. But whatever I do I try to do at least one thing that is new and different and no one has had me cook before. It's a chance to put out a new recipe that I think will be good and get the feedback from the people attending.

In the past few years I have become a big fan of the Panzanella salad. Panzanella for those of you who do not know is a traditional Italian Bread Salad. Made with day old bread and tomatoes some basil and good olive oil and some vinegar. Maybe some cheese is thrown in but it's a simple salad and quite an ingenious way to use up day old or slightly stale bread.

My first real encounter with the versatility of this salad came in the catering world about 10 years ago. I was working for a very forward thinking catering chef and he threw a ton of veggies and a savory dressing into the bread salad and called it a Market Panzanella. There were a variety of versions of this salad over the years that I saw at work or in cookbooks including one of my favorite versions, the Greek Panzanella. I make a mean Greek Panzanella, as my Mother and her friends will tell you, because she has used my recipe to many accolades from the Ladies of Mt Pleasant!  But without a doubt no matter how many versions of this salad I have made none of them were as popular as this version which I served at the BBQ party last year.

You see I really don't believe that there are that many new things under the sun, however, sometimes something comes along and reminds us in a new fresh manner why we liked something to begin with so much. So it is with recipes. Nowadays it's all in the twist. The fresh approach. Or the combination of something with something else. That's where this salad came from. Well that and necessity!

By necessity I mean that  I had planned on a certain number coming for dinner to the BBQ.  In and amongst the items I had chosen for the buffet to go with the BBQ food was a mushroom and asparagus salad. However, when more people decided to let me know that they were going to come I could not increase the amount of salad ingredients I had already purchased but I could figure out a way to stretch it! And that way was bread. You see that's why I love Panzanella for a big party. BREAD IS CHEAP. You can make a big bowl of it and as long as you have the bread dressed well and slightly moist from the dressing but still with some crunch, you got a taste sensation people will love. They forget what else is in there! Well not really but it just sort of all goes so well together.

In this case I had had a salad in mind that was rich and decadent. It was a mushroom and asparagus salad with Arugula and onion in a lemon truffle salad dressing. Simple, fresh and very deep and savory. Normally one would think of it was a Fall or Winter salad but in this case adding other elements made me feel like it could be a summer salad winner. The problem was I had purchased what I needed to make the salad for a certain number of guests. now I was facing twice as many coming. So I thought what if I tweaked this just enough to come up with a volume I needed but retained the excellent taste I wanted to offer. This idea worked.

The original salad relies on the Umami of the ingredients. Umami is the Japanese idea that a taste or profile of tastes make up another sense in terms of physically enjoying food. It's the seventh sense. There are lots of foods that have umami, but this salad was full of them. It's a recipe I have derived from a salad that Jean Georges made in Food and Wine magazine several years ago, and has been a favorite of mine ever since. But the idea of turning it into a panzanella was a little fun.

So armed with the original salad ingredients and some added cherry tomatoes for color, I assembled the Panazanella. It really beautiful. Green, earthy, red, purple and soft crusty white bread with tinges of yellow from the lemon zest. And it tasted really really good. It was gone in no time. A testament to it's goodness. I know that it made an impression because a food critic from a local rag mentioned it in his column about where and what he ate during that weekend. It was "perfect for summer"! Well I think it can actually be perfect almost every time of the year. But you be the judge of that. Give it a try and see if you don't just like it! Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's Truffled Mushroom and Asparagus Panzanella
(makes 10 to 12 portions as part of a buffet dinner)


1 large bunch fresh green asparagus
1 large bunch fresh white asparagus
4 tablespoon oilve oil
2 pounds baby bella mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 package dried morel mushrooms
1/2 package baby Arugula ( more if you want to stretch the salad)
1 large sour dough country bread loaf cut or ripped for texture into 1 inch cubes including crust
About 5 to 6 cups
1 large red onion sliced into ribbons
1 small pint cherry tomatoes sliced into halves ( 1/4 cup reserved for garnish)
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 bunch scallions chopped ( 1/4 cup reserved for garnish)
1 cup sliced almonds
Olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar for final dressing
Sea salt to taste

For Dressing

1 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup truffle oil
2 tablespoon minced jarred garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper


Trim asparagus so fiberous ends are gone.
Cut asparagus up into 2 inch ribbons
Place in microwave proof bowl and cook for 4 mins. on high.
Check to see if done but not overly soft, if they need more then cook more in 1 min increments till done
Place oil in a skillet and heat. When hot, add mushrooms and saute till done and liquid is absorbed. Add dried thyme and add the morels* ( see below) . Cook for about another 3 mins
Remove from pan and cool.
 *(Place Morels in hot water and let soften. When done drain and cut morels in half longwise 
and add as in above.)
Place Bread cubes on baking sheets in one layer. Heat oven to 325.
Place bread in oven and toast for 15 to 20 mins
remove and cool.
When ready to serve, place all ingredients into a large salad bowl.
Slowly add half the dressing mixing slowly with your clean hands.
Continue to add dressing till salad is nicely coated.
You should use all the dressing but do it to taste
If salad is still to dry add more olive oil and Balsamic vinegar till moist.
Garnish with the reserved scallions and cherry tomatoes and serve.

For dressing

In a blender add all ingredients except the 2 oils
With blender going add slowly both oils till incorporated and smooth.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shrimp and Grits the Charleston Signature Dish

I have to say that the most requested thing that people ask me to cook for them in New York City is Shrimp and Grits. It is funny to me in a way. I don't mean funny "HA HA", but funny strange.! It is strange to me that New Yorkers seem to have a love affair and a fascination with Shrimp and Grits in such a major way. I mean I get the fascination with all things southern and even the evil grin that comes from talking about Paula Dean. But truly aside from fried chicken I can not think of a food item that is more iconic to Yankees up here than Shrimp and Grits. Ok that being said, there are not that many restaurants in NYC that even serve it. The Redhead in the east village does a nice job, but the portion is so small compared to what I am used to in Charleston  and is a little bit of a put off.  I would have to say in fact that, in New York I have yet to have really good Shrimp and Grits in a restaurant, unless you count the ones I had at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola after I gave the Chef my recipe. (Which by the way I hear has been changed since. But at least my recipe was on a New York city menu for a hot second!) Thank you Marc and Tim!

No offense Redhead but for all ya'll in NYC in particular, you should just learn to make this dish at home. It's not hard. And that's exactly where the dish came from. It is a low country shrimpers breakfast. It use to consist of basically shrimp cooked in a butter sauce and placed on top of a bowl full of grits. Very simple, clean, tasty. It was the breakfast that the shrimper's would have when they set out in the mornings for the day. This culinary tradition is carried on today the the Wreck Restaurant on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant SC. serving up down home breakfasts including Breakfast Shrimp and grits. So as this dish evolved it has come to include all sorts of other ingredients like pork fat products and other savory add in ingredients. But that original version which is so simple, is still very good.

My version of Shrimp and Grits comes from a variety of places. My Grandmother and Mother have made this dish based on a recipe from the "Charleston Receipts", a cookbook of Charlestonian cookery which was first published in 1930. It's subsequent versions still include the recipe for "Breakfast Shrimp and Hominy" the name in the original 30's version or Breakfast Shrimp and Grits in the 1976 revision. My version also calls upon my experiences in dining out in Charleston over the years and having tried a variety of different chefs take on the dish. Everytime I go home I have to have this dish at least one time while I am home. It's sort of a tradition with me.

There are just about as many Shrimp and Grits recipes out there are there are cooks. I think that's the beautiful thing about this dish. You start somewhere and before you know it you have developed your own unique version of this dish.  And that's the joy of cooking at home, you are the chef, you call the shots! So that being said for me the taste of this dish is all in the sauce. It's the glue. And there are two primary ingredients my Grandmother and Mother used to make this dish that gives it the flavor from the old school recipes. One is Seafood seasoning, that's right Old Bay. The other is Ketchup. Yes Ketchup. All the flavors that it has already make it willing and easy base for the rest of the sauce. A little strange perhaps but such are the secrets of home cooks. They also make it easier than making shrimp stock and adding all sorts of herbs. Not that that is bad but why when this base sauce is so easy and so good.

So here in the thick of Martis Gras I give you this celebration of the southern table. Give it a try at home, and tinker with it after you have made it per recipe the first time. Make it yours and people will be asking for you to make it again and again. Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's Famous Shrimp, Sausage and Smokey Grits ( 4 servings)


3 cups of whole milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/4 cup stone ground Grits ( don't use instant)
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda and white cheddar cheese mixed half and half
4 tablespoons butter

Bring liquids to a boil add salt
Add grits slowly using a whisk to stir in making sure that they do not clump
Reduce heat to simmer
Stir till it starts to thicken a bit.
Cook 20 to 25 mins or per package instructions
When done add butter, pepper and cheese stir till melted and mixed well.
Hold Warm.

Shrimp and Sausage Sauce

1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound Andouille sausage cut up in small pieces
3 strips smoked uncured bacon ( not apple smoked)
1/2 green bell pepper finely diced
1/2 red pepper finely diced
1/2 onion finely diced
1/4 cup finely diced up celery
1 teaspoon finely minced or jarred garlic
1 tablespoon Old bay Seasoning
2 good dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup of Water to thin sauce
2 Tablespoon heavy cream
dash or two of tabasco
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 green onions chopped ( held in reserved for garnish)


In a heavy skillet cook bacon, remove and reserve grease in the pan add 1 tablespoon butter.
Add Shrimp and 1 sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of the Old Bay, cook 2 to 3 mins till done remove from the pan hold on the side.
Add sausage  and the bacon and brown then add all vegetables.
Saute till soft but not overly brown about 5 to 7 mins.
Add rest of Old Bay and W sauce and garlic and Ketchup and hot sauce. Cook till incorporated.
Add  lemon juice  and the cream and about 3 tablespoons of the water.
Add shrimp and warm through.
Add parsley. if sauce is too thick add water a tablespoon at a time to thin.

To serve

Divide the grits between 4 bowls ( flat bottomed pasta bowls work well)
Top with the Shrimp in a circle
Then spoon sauce over the shrimp and grits filling in the spaces between in the shrimp.
Garnish with the green onions.
See wasn't that easy!
Pretty and tastes good too!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

We're Fish House Fancy Now! Old School Florida Fish Dish

My earliest memories of Florida are standing on the seawall of the beach at St. Augustine or Jacksonville Beach with my Mother and Grandmother. I was one years old but I  can still remember the roar of the waves and the cool blue gray colors. We lived right there and went often on walks to the beach. The ocean has long been a part of my conciousness and a big part of life. I lived near or at the shore for the first 11 years of my life. Sun and sand and water and sky were all a part of my everyday.

After we moved to Washington for my father's business we took our first trip to the beach one year after arriving there. My Mom drove us out to the Delaware coast to Bethany Beach and to a church camp retreat with our church group for a week. When we arrived both my brother and I were so excited to go and see the beach. We collected our towels and things put on our bathing suits and walked the 2 blocks from the Camp to the beach. When we got there we were dumbfounded. My brother burst into tears stating " This is not the beach" having been accustomed to the beauty of Hawaii and Floridian and Carolinian beaches all his life. I too was so upset. The gray Atlantic with the muddled brown sand and the dark grey of the evening sky did not make it the dream we had waited for and we hadcome to know and love beaches far different from this one. Of course with the rise of the next days sun and a few trips into the water from the shore we were happy to be at the beach again, in any form.

The other part of living near the shore growing up was the presence of seafood. We would cook it at home. But when I was little and living in Florida often those dinners were not as memorable as the ones had occasionally at the Floridian Fish houses or Spanish Restaurants we would go to. Later back in Charleston I really came to enjoy the Southern style Fish House and the foods offered there.

 Eating out when I was growing up was a treat not the norm. That was actually true for most of the US. Until the 1980's there was by no means the number or variety of dining options we have now in the US. Many cannot remember a time when we didn't just go out if we did not want to cook. That wasn't always so easy. It meant negotiating crowded places with lines or no tables at all because you had to have a reservation to get a table. The dining out trend grew in the 1970's but only in the larger cities. However, there was one area that had a plethora or options for dining out and that was vacation spots. And lets face it Florida became the vacation darling of the US in the 60's and 70's. So there were lots of places to eat. And because of the geography fish was always on the menu, and seafood was king!

So it was that I discovered my love of Seafood. Beyond my Mother's Puffy Fish ( a story for another day) I grew to love shrimp, scallops, lobster, and fish prepared the old school way. Fried, stuffed or smothered with yummy sauce. Grilling came later and baking was in the game but those were the preparations I learned to love growing up and mostly at Floridian Fish Houses. Now dining at a floridian fish house was somethings special. There were always courses and side dishes to be chosen and the meal normally would start with a amuse of smoked blue fish dip with crackers. Yum!

I rekindled my love of the Florida fish house when I spent years as an actor working down there. Six seasons at Seaside Music Theater in Daytona Beach, Florida taught me to love old school Floridian Seafood Houses again. We would go for the "early bird special" before the show and have a bounteous meal for little money. It was great.

So now in NYC I have craved the Florida Fish House experience and have been so disappointed. I mean Red Lobster is a poor substitution for them and Marysfishcamp.com is really excellent and  comes very close but for the price I have a hard time justifying it.

So I have resorted to doing it at home. Now it's hard to recreate restaurant food at home so I thought about trying to make old school Florida home recipes. So given that I wanted to try something that home cooks might have offered up at the table in the 1960's, that would also have a fish house flavor to it, I sought some retro recipes. One source that I found was in an obscure florida website for the seafood industry that had a collection of older recipes and preparations by fishermen and their wives which were published in the 1960's. the pictures alone were amazing!!  Among these was one for a preparation that struck my fancy and made me interested in trying it. I did and as strange as it sounds and as silly as the ingredients are, it was really really good. It's easy and have an old school flair to it. So I have worked on it and made it my own. So here it is for you to try. I hope you enjoy it.

Baked Festive Fish Filets Florida Style


6 fresh solid white fish fillets squared off as much as possible by fishmonger ( Cod, Halibut, Mullet)
1 1/2 cups french dressing ( yes aka Wishbone etc.)
1 cup cheezit crackers
1 cup ritz crackers
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup melted butter


Run Crackers through a food processor till crumbs add cheese and parsley and mix well in a bowl
Grease a baking dish
Pour dressing into a bowl
Place fish filets into dressing coating liberally with dressing
Then dredge in cracker mixture till well and thickly coated
Place into dish repeat till all filets are done
Sprinkle well with Paprika
Cover dish and place into fridge for 10 mins
Preheat Oven to 500 degrees
Remove from the fridge and pour melted butter over the fish filets
Place into oven and cook for 10 to 12 mins until fish is cooked through and flakey.
Serve with a nice side salad with a creamy blue cheese dressing, and as side dishes for the fish, my green cole slaw and a loaded baked potato with butter, sour cream, green onion and bacon.
Now you are Fish House Fancy! Enjoy Ya'll!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tarpon Springs..Going Greek in Florida or Pappas and Potatoes!

Tarpon Springs, Florida. I don't know if you know Tarpon Springs but it is a charming little hamlet just north of Tampa Florida on the gulf coast. Named after Lake Tarpon an inland body of water and settled first in the late 1800's, Tarpon Springs came into the national view after Greek settlers brought the sponge diving industry to the Florida coast. During the 1930's this industry thrived accounting for a major portion of the US sponge production. It was even the subject of a movie " Beneath the 12 Mile Reef" filmed on 1953. However, the film was partially historical at that point. In 1947 a red tide swept through sponge beds practically killing everything in it's path and almost wiping out the sponge industry. A final death blow was dealt it around the same time as synthetic sponges became available and cheaper and drove the natural sponge business out.

Tarpon Springs was and is to this day the largest Greek community in the US. and today has benefited from the residents of the 1950's turning it into a major tourist destination both for the Greek food and the history and tradition of the post sponging industry, and the deep sea fishing industry.

In the late forties savvy Greek fishermen decided to cash in on the one resource they had in abundance, heritage! They recognized that they had culture, food and fishing knowledge that could translate to dollars if marketed correctly.  One such savvy businessman was Michael Louis Pappas, son of Louis Pappas. The Riverside cafe opened in 1925 under the senior Pappas's direction and created what has generally in the USA been accepted and served at Greek restaurants everywhere as "Greek salad". You know lettuce with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and black olives in a lemon herb oil based dressing. Believe it or not Pappas is actually credited in the Greek community with creating this style of americanized "Greek Salad"  and it is now served nationwide in Greek restaurants and diners everywhere. In 1952 after his father's heart attack the younger Pappas took over running the family business and grew it into a small dining empire. Pappas's restaurant was so famous that at it's peak it boasted 19 cashiers, 30 cooks and 90 servers and is said to have served 4000 people one Easter Sunday. Pappas did a lot to push his town forward but he also did a lot to change the salad created by his father. He added a variety of veggies, improved the dressing making it distinctive and also added a base of potato salad which made it truly a meal in itself. At one point the restaurant sold 1000 of these salads a day on average.

Pappas closed his Riverside Cafe in 2005 and passed away in 2009. It was bought and reopened and remains open today but word has it it has lost the panache of it's original owner.

My Mother's parents moved from Chicago to Tampa in the early 1950's trading in the big city for a smaller town and frigid winters for Floridian sunshine. My grandmother being the adventurous sort she was and not shying away from new experiences or culinary explorations, and my grandfather enjoying the fishing thing, found Tarpon Springs a nice respite and close getaway from Tampa and the everyday. It was there that they first encountered Pappas and the salad he made famous.
Of course the renown of this salad spread to the Tampa area and for the most part in that part of the state if you order a Greek Salad you are going to get one in the style of Pappas.

So as you can imagine this was the version of Greek salad I grew up eating at home. In fact the first time I had one away from home I was disappointed by the lack of ingredients, and flavor. I have been making this salad for years myself now and I enjoy people's reaction to eating it. it's so rich and full and satisfying.  Of course I have made improvements and changes but it's still along the lines of the original. I made it for a group of friends years ago in Charleston and my friend Autumn, who was among that group, asked me to make it again over  this past Christmas,when we had her and her husband over for dinner. She said she just remembers it being so good. And so it is. So for those of you who want to try a twist on the ordinary Greek Salad, here you go. Give it a try it makes a great one dish party meal with some garlic bread and can pretty much be done in advance so can spend more time with your guests.  Enjoy, Ya'll!

Forrest's "Best Ever" Greek Salad (after the Pappas Riverside Cafe Tradition)


1 large head of Iceberg Lettuce ( or 3 hearts of Romaine trimmed) shredded.
3 cups of Greek potato salad ( recipe follows)
1 red onion diced
1 med cucumber diced into cubes
2 Tomatoes 1 diced and 1 reserved cut into wedges
1 green bell pepper diced
1 can of beets diced
12 small cocktail shrimp cooked and peeled
1 jar Kalamata Olives in juice drained ( reserve juice) from this 1/2 cup diced Kalamata olives reserve rest for garnish
8 radishes slices into discs and reserve 1/2 of the radishes for garnish
4 green onions diced
12 ounces Feta cheese ( 2 crumbled and 2 chopped into squares)
1 8 oz jar greek Salonika peppers drained ( 1/2 chopped the other half reserved as whole
4 anchovy filets diced
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Greek Potato salad:

6 large yellow potato boiled and cut up
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 bunch green onions diced
1/2 cup parsley chopped
1/2 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoon minced fresh or jarred garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Method for Potato salad: 

Take all ingredients and combine in a bowl
Mix gently and place in the fridge ( best if made the day before) chill well.

Forrest's Best Ever Greek Salad Dressing 

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup reserved olive juice/oil
1/4 cup regular Greek yogurt or mayo
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
4 tablespoons Dried Oregano
2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Place everything but olive oil in blender and while running pour oil slowly in from the top till creamy.

Method for Salad:

Get a large serving platter out

Mound the potato salad in the center of the platter

Place all ingredients from salad list except the reserved green onions, whole olives, feta cubes, tomato wedges, radishes and shrimp in a bowl.

In the bowl dress and mix the salad fixings generously till dressed to your liking ( I like it wet but not dripping)

Carefully cover the potato salad with the dressed salad, mounding it till the potato salad is hidden.

Garnish the salad first with the shrimp, then the tomato wedges around, then sprinkle the feta, olives, radishes. Finnish off with the green onions to give some visual punch.

Serve within 10 mins. And watch them ooh and ahh!! When you serve make sure you dig down and get the potato salad underneath. Serve with my garlic bread from another post!! You'll be a rockstar trust me!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

PLT a Twist on an Old Sandwich Favorite

Necessity is the Mother of invention they say. I would agree and from my experience also a great motivator.

This post today is a simple reminder of that. Yesterday I was at home nursing a cold and I thought that I would just lay around all day and order food in. Well time came for me to eat and I realized that I did not have any cash to pay the delivery guy from my favorite Thai place, which happens to be cash only.

So I looked into the fridge and realized that while I was far from starvation I was not sure what if anything I wanted to eat out of the fridge. Then I saw some left over pork shank and thought that might be good, but the portion was too small. What I thought can I do with other things in there. I did not feel like really cooking ( believe it or not) but I was willing to see what I could put together from leftovers.

Then it struck me, "make a Sandwich"! So as I looked through my options I saw that I had the pork shank  piece. The only bread I had was a package of Martin's potato roll hot dog buns I had rescued from the trash at work. And for veggies, the only greens I had was some ice berg lettuce hanging out in the crisper. I was wishing I had a tomato when it hit me, I did but in the form of a jar of sun dried tomatoes. I also had all the condiments you could want. So I thought alright I will make a sandwich out of all of these and some condiments.

I leapt into action chopping the pork into a chipped pile a pork goodness all sweet and rich from the sticky sauce I had made for it ( see pork osso buco entry for description).  I then shredded the lettuce finely and chopped some pickled jalapenos mixing them together with some mayo and black pepper. I chopped the sun dried tomatoes up and found some red onion which I finely sliced and laid in a bowl. I then poured off a little dill pickle juice on them and let them set up for ten minutes for a quick pickle. I toasted 2 buns and lightly spread them with mayo.

Then to assemble. Bun then the lettuce and jalapeno mixture then the tomatoes then the pork and then as garnish and to add visual interest the lightly pickled red onions on top.

I wish I had taken a picture, because it really looked impressive. It tasted even better all the salty, sweet, spicy. pickled tastes all worked well together. YUM!

So I have a new sandwich. I think that any kind if pork roast leftover would do with a little BBQ sauce but recreating this might take some doing. But regardless, necessity got me to invent a great sandwich for lunch. And that's what is great about cooking, sometimes things happen one time, but at least they happen if you try to do something new. That's the adventure of the kitchen.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pork Osso Buco the Roast that dare not speak it's name!

 Osso Buco. It is a dish whose name conjures up the most amazing food visions. Rich meaty bones on a platter laden heavy and smothered in some fabulous sauce. And that meaty goodness sitting on a bed of some starchy, ridiculous, cheesy or buttery laden side dish. It's a winter dish fit for a king, and a very good idea for entertaining. One pot wonder and all.

Osso Buco is an Italian dish generally served one of two ways. It is Veal Shank braised with a brown sauce and served with a gremolata, or in a rich tomato sauce. The first is the older of the two preparations and is traditionally served with saffron risotto. The more modern version is generally served with mashed potato or polenta. Either way it is a 19th century dish which made it's way into the modern Italian kitchen and has stayed there.

I first had Osso Buco when I was in Europe and was treated to a dinner of Osso Bucco by one of the lady's who I was aquainted with through work. She had me and another colleague over for dinner and prepared this as the main course. She was from Tessin in Switzerland, which is the Italian speaking portion of that country. She made this dish in the old style and served it with amazing risotto flavored with mushrooms and herbs. Wow, was that good. Like so many foods I had in Europe for the first time I was amazed that this meat preparation even existed. It was so far from my normal knowledge of the braised meats of my home cookery. Which resided in the camps of the English, German, and Scandinavian camps. But this was awesomely different and special.

Since then I have made traditional and tomato based Osso Buco a few times. But it's an expensive and a time consuming dish. Veal shanks are not the cheapest cut of meat after all and the braising process can take 3 to 4 hours traditionally. So obviously I was wanting to try something a little different. Plus I was cooking for the girls. They were coming over and I had to put a really good feedbag on for them. So I started thinking about lamb. No that too was rather pricey. Then I stumbled on an article while looking around for pork belly recipes that mentioned pork shanks. Cheap and pretty hearty I thought. Oh why not. I am up for a new experience. So lets do them.

So I did a little research and many of the things I read made me recognize that the long braise seemed in my future. I was also unsure of the sauce quality and the flavor profile that the dish might have. I am obsessed with sauce on braised meat. I want it thick and full of flavor. But then I thought. Well, we just did short ribs with an overnight marinade and a 2 hour stove top braise with an amazing sauce. Why not try this with the pork shank. What do you have to lose. I mean if it doesn't cook in the two hours you will just keep cooking it. Not only that but prunes, which are in the marinade go really well with Pork naturally.

So the plan began. I returned to Esposito's Pork Shop espositosausage.com home of some of the finest Pork and Pork products in the city and talked to my guy there. I told him I was interested in getting some Fresh Pork shanks and having them cut and tied like Osso Bucco. I got a package of six large beautiful pieces of Pork Shank for under 15 dollars and headed back to the kitchen.

The process was pretty easy just like the Short Ribs had been. Although, I wasn't sure this time if it would work. I made the marinade, prune juice, teriyaki sauce, and water and placed the pork shank pieces into it until they were submerged. Then clipped the lid of the bucket on and placed it in the fridge. That was it.

In the later afternoon about 4 hours before my party ( because I wanted time to make sure things had cooked correctly) I took the container out of the fridge, poured the liquid into a braising pot threw in 2 star anise pods, brought it to a boil, and then turned down the heat to a simmer bubble thing and returned the meat to the pot and put on the lid. 2 hours later I took off the lid and tested the meat. Fork tender! Unbelievable! I carefully took the meat out of the liquid and removed the star anise I had added as flavor enhancer.  I added 1/2 cup Carolina Gold Mustard based BBQ sauce ( I make and keep this or you can buy it, if I buy it I like Cattleman's BBQ sauce it's my favorite go to red or yellow sauce in a bottle) This was for smoke and edge and 1/4 apple cider vinegar and 1/4  pancake syrup to balance it out. I brought the liquid to a boil and boiled it down, down, down till it was so thick it would have coated and hung onto a spoon like a gravy. It took awhile but when it hits that soiling point it looks like dark caramel in a pot. YUM! I then returned the Pork to the pot and ladled the thick sauce over the meat till it was glistening. I held it until I was ready to serve over very very low heat, then brought it up a little right before serving. I served it over a winter veggie hash that had a vinegar edge and went very well with the sweet smoky sauce, but it could have gone over mashed white or sweet potatoes with lots of butter and garlic or even horseradish. Or a polenta, grits or risotto would have been nice.

It was incredible. Really good. So next time you want to impress your family or your guests try this. Your butcher should be able to help you. You just have to have him cut the shank into 2 pieces and cut the ends off. beforehand. This will give you an ample piece of meat. Enjoy!!

Forrest's Pork Osso Buco with Smoky Sweet Blackened Vinegar Sauce
serves 6


3 pieces of pork shank cut like osso buco and tied up ( get your butcher to do this)
This will give you 6 portions
2 cups prune juice
2 cups low sodium Teriyaki sauce
2 cups water
2 pieces star anise
1/2 cup South Carolina Style Yellow Mustard BBQ sauce
1/4 cup Apple Cider vinegar
1/4 cup Pancake Syrup Maple Flavored


Mix prune juice Teriyaki sauce and water and place in an airtight container
Submerge Pork in the liquid and let sit in the fridge over night at least 10 hours
Next day take from fridge and pour liquid out and bring to boil in a braising pot on stove.
When boiling reduce heat, return meat to the liquid and simmer on low bubble for 2 hours
Then remove cooked meat carefully and hold.
Remove the Star anise and add the other liquids. Bring to a boil and reduce till very thick and bubbling almost like sugar when it's boiling and it coats a spoon thickly like a gravy. ( if sauce ever gets too thick thin with a little water)
Turn down the heat and return the meat to the sauce. Coat liberally with the sauce and serve warm over your choice of side dish.
Enjoy Ya'll!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Greener Version of Cole Slaw

I love cole slaw. Well not all cole slaw I like all cole slaw that doesn't come out of a can or a tub in the refrigerator section of the deli. I mean ok,  there is one exception and guilty pleasure. I love the cole slaw from the Colonel. Yes I said it....KFC. I love the cole slaw from Kentucky Fried Chicken. I had this whole discussion with the previous chef at work about how it was really amazing. However, it is not the slaw of choice on my table.

No the cole slaw I love is a simple yet tasty one and comes from my attempt to make slaw one afternoon when all I had were a head of green cabbage and some herbs. I found myself with out any red cabbage or carrots which are normally in cole slaw. So I thought, lets try a color coded cole slaw.

I have been very interested in foods that have a strong color profile and can stand next to other foods and make then look really good. I mean strong color contrast without shades of different colors involved. For example, asparagus or green beans when cooked to a brilliant green can off set a piece of chicken or beef quite nicely and complement them on the plate. So I began to think about side dishes that could be more monochromatic and do the same thing. Cole Slaw always has a milky multicolored quailty, not a strong color. So what if you changed that so that it was green and vibrant like beans can be. That would mean reducing or changing the ingredients so that it has one color. So I chose Green. I suppose it could be red as well since red cabbage has great color too, but I had green cabbage that day so that's where I ended up.

So the thing about a good coleslaw and why KFC's coleslaw is so good it the contrast it has between the creamy, the salty, the vinegary, and the sweet. It is really well balanced. So I wanted the same thing. But I wanted it to also be monochromatic.  So this is what I did.

Forrest's House Recipe Cole Slaw with Pickle Relish and Green Herbs
Makes 4 to 6 servings depending on the eaters!

Take 1/2 head of firm Green Cabbage shredded
1 bunch flat leaf parsley finely chopped
1 bundle of chives finely chopped
1 bunch green onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons Dill pickle relish
2 tablespoons Sweet pickle relish
1/2 cup mayonnaise ( I use Dukes, but you can use the H Word)
6 tablespoons dill pickle juice
1 tablespoon Black pepper
salt to taste

Place everything in a bowl and mix well.
That's it, enjoy it!!

Bacon's Brother, Pork Belly, And an Artist's Birthday

Ok so I know I know bacon is out. It's no longer cool. It's over! But Pork Belly is so in!

In it's latest incarnation Pork Belly has become a popular menu item all over the place. I mean I grew up in the South and I never really ate a lot of it. I never even really was aware of it, until the resurgence of Pork, which happened in the last 20 years. Pork was such a low class meat. it was always the meat of the poor, or a meat which was associated with budget dinners like Pork chops and applesauce. ( thank you Peter Brady ). Of course bacon was big, and popular, but cuts of pork were popular because of their economy more than just their taste.

As US. pork producers turned their attention to breeding lower fat beasts, they hoped that they could turn Pork's image around from an unhealthy alternative to other meats, to one which had the nutritional value of those other meats. You know "the other white meat". And as we see on menus at the finest establishments they succeeded to some extent.

So with the swell of bacon's popularity in the food economy, Pork Belly took it's place among the culinary preparations popularized by such Chefs as Jamie Oliver in England and April Bloomfield in NYC. Pork Belly is bacon. Uncured and fresh it is the same cut of meat used to make bacon. So it has a high fat content and a lot of flavor. Because let's face it, fat equals flavor. It became a popular preparation in the gastopub revolution that happened in Britain. British chefs rediscovering and reinventing their national dishes and pork belly was amongst those foods popularized again by this movement. Here in the states as pork became king of flavor again it was a natural cut of meat to become popularized.

My first contact really was in the catering world. As chefs continued to follow the foodie trends and offer it as an alternative meat. Mostly shied away from by most clients, it showed a connection to and a hipness  for, the most modern food trends out there. But I thought when I had it that it was really good. I mean I had had it at Chinese restaurants but had never thought twice about it. BBQ pork Belly was something I had tried at those places but never recognized it as bacon's brother.

So one day out of the blue I decided to make it at home.  Well it was not exactly out of the blue, I was walking home from Hell's Kitchen ( that's a neighborhood in NYC if anyone was wondering) and I called a friend of mine Angelo Musco, whose birthday was the next day. Well long story made short, next thing I knew I was making dinner for him and 2 other friends that night!

OK so dinner on the fly, something impressive, and worthy of my friend's place and space in my life. I met Angelo Musco in 2002, ten years ago. And not only was he voted the best new friend of 2002, but he has become one of the most important and pivotal people in my life over the last ten years. Sharing wonderful times and heartache alike this is a person I love and adore. He also happens to be an amazing artist as well as an amazing friend. You can check out his work at AngeloMusco.com .

So you can see that planning this dinner on the fly was going to be no short order. But I had a secret weapon. I had Esposito's Pork Shop. Yes this classic NYC butcher was steps away from where I was when the invitation was finished to dinner. So into Esposito's I went.

Now for those of you who do not know about Esposito's, it is a bit of a legend in the NYC food scene, and one of the oldest butcher shops outside the Meat Packing district for home cooks left in the city. It is famous for Pork and Pork products, although you can buy anything there. So I go in and tell my guy what I am trying to do. He says how about Pork Belly. I say oh no that will take to long I thought that needed hours of braising. He says to me I will give you a recipe that can have it on the table in one hour and ten minutes cooking time. So I said, lets do it!

So armed with my Pork and my recipe I head home. One I get home I think well I should have everything I will need. The recipe seemed almost too simple. Pork, Onions, apples, white wine. I have all that. But as I begin to put together everything on the fly, I realize someone has eaten the last apple and has drunk the last bit of white wine hanging out in the fridge. So I start to think. Well, I could substitute the apples with dried prunes and prune juice which I have, and I an use beer instead of wine. OK, well hope it all works. I put everything into the pan as directed, crank up the oven to 425, and we are off. After cooking 30 mins at high heat I add the beer and let it cook another 45 mins. In the meantime, fix a salad, plan a side dish ( stovetop Mac N Cheese with a Grueyere cheese sauce) ,  get the table set and plan dessert. No small feat.

Well, when dinner was served what went out to the table was spectacular. The Pork has crisped and caramelized, the onions were sweet and salty, and the prunes plump. This on top of a bed of the Mac N Cheese was really impressive.
                                          In the pan with the sauce waiting to be reduced

                                         On the plate with grueyere mac n cheese and onions on top                                                

So I give you my new Pork Belly recipe. Please give it a try, do not fear the pig! And all will be well in Zion and on your table! Enjoy!

Individual Pork Belly with onion Confit  Gastopub Style


2 lbs pork belly cut into 4 pieces
2 large yellow onions
1/2 cups Prune Juice
1/4 cup dried prunes finely chopped
salt pepper
3 tablespoons BBQ seasoning ( I use Bluesmoke Flavor Blend )
2 cups Beer

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Place onions, prunes, and prune juice
in the bottom os a heavy roasting Skillet ( I use cast iron )
Sprinkle with salt
rub pork belly with spice
place on top of onions
place in the oven and bake for 35 mins
Then pour the beer into the pan and bake for another 45 mins.
Bake until the pork is crackled and brown. and remove from oven.
Take pork out of pan.
Place skillet on stove top and bring to boil.
Reduce till juice in pan is thick and syrupy and onions are well coated.
Return pork to pan and top with  mound of the onions
Place into warm oven till ready to serve.

To serve place on top of side dish of choice and garnish with chopped chives or parsley.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bow Tie Pasta with Bacon, Sundried Tomatoes and Blue Cheese in a Cracked Pepper Cream Sauce

Pasta is not something you would typically think of when you think Southern food. It belongs to the realm of Italian Restaurants along with antipasta and broccoli rabe. But this pasta dish is inspired by my first visit to the "new southern" restaurant Magnolia's in Charleston SC. It was in 1987 that  I was in college and my parents had moved back to Charleston from the Washington DC. area. Leaving my brother and me to drive down during the first break in the school year at Thanksgiving. It was exciting returning to Charleston. I had grown up away from the city and was now returning with adult eyes to see the city I only remembered from being a boy.

So much had changed about Charleston. And much had stayed the same. ( It is Charleston South Carolina after all. One of my favorite stories about flying to Charleston involves a flight attendant, who made the announcement as we landed " Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Charleston SC. Please set your clocks back 200 years!" You get the idea! )
Well it was a few years before that Hugo, a storm that in it's wake brought as much change to the city, with it's influx of repair money and northern workers, as the Civil War had, occurred. But even then Charleston was changing. New businesses and international investment and corporate development had brought new customers to downtown's businesses. And many locals were reclaiming old buildings and bringing to life new businesses and living environments.

The Charleston restaurant scene was also undergoing a transformation. Gone were the days of Henry's and Perdita's and The Long Room ( Where George Washington had dined) . And in were fancy new places like Carolina's. These were restaurants celebrating the "new southern" cuisine which was first making it's appearance at that time. Southern Chefs bringing new life to old dishes and traditional low country foods. Chefs across the south were rediscovering local and sustainable foods like never before.  Magnolia's was the first of several restaurants brought to life by a partnership guided by Tom Purcell. A car dealer, who got out of cars and into food.

It was on that visit during college that my father took us all out to dinner at Carolina's where I first encountered the food of the "new south". Then later after college I moved back to Charleston  and in 1990 I went to Magnolia's right after they opened, for the first time. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Gourmet Shrimp and Grits and outrageous house made potato chips with melty Clemson Blue Cheese.  Along with this very southern menu was this pasta dish. Of course it caught my eye seeing that it had bacon and blue cheese in it. It was also billed as a "small plate" so I ordered it as my appetizer. It arrived at the table warm and creamy garnished only with parsley and some blue cheese crumbles. It proved to be delicious! It was like a blue cheese carbonara. The sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes offset the sharp richness of the cream sauce. In short it was awesome. I immediately recreated the dish at home for a gathering

 and was really pleased with the results. I served it for years when I lived in Charleston. But over time and with all the new things I learned since moving to NYC, I forgot about this dish. I was reminded only recently by a notation I saw about Magnolia's in my notes.

I recently visited the web page for Magnolia's and found that as I suspected the menu had changed over time and no longer included this dish. Even so I wanted to recreate it and add it back into my repertoire. So I made it last night. I think it may be the best pasta I have ever made. As you know I don't claim to be the best pasta maker in the world. But this is really good. I hope you try it out! It may not be exactly the Magnolia's recipe but I think it's close, so enjoy Ya'll.

Bow Tie Pasta with bacon, Sundried Tomatoes and Blue Cheese in a Cracked Pepper Cream Sauce
( ala Magnolia's Restaurant Charleston, South Carolina. )


10 oz of bow tie pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 teaspoon mince garlic
1/2 cup bacon ( I believe Magnolia's used Applewood Smoked Bacon, I used Trader Joe's Brand                Applewood bacon)
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
3 ounces or Blue Cheese ( I used Maytag, which is close to Clemson Blue Cheese)
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
4 to 5 tablespoons chopped parsley


Boil the pasta in heavily salted water for 80% of the cooking time on the package
( pasta will finish cooking in the sauce, package said 10 mins I boiled mine for 8 mins)
Drain into the sink and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking, then place into the fridge to cool for 20 mins. ( when you bring it out rinse again with tap water to release the noodles from each other as they will likely have clumped)

In a large sauce pan add oil and cook the onions till soft but not brown. then add the bacon and cook, add sundried tomatoes and the 2 ounces of the blue cheese the cream and the black pepper as well as 3 tablespoons of the parsley.
Allow sauce to cook and reduce slightly until it has thickened up.
Add noodles and toss with the sauce until it's coated and heated.
Place into 4 bowls for a main course or 6 for a starter.
Garnish with blue cheese crumbles and sprinkle with parsley.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Vickery's Artichoke Dip and a Dinner Party with the girls from the office

So I have invited the girls from my office over for dinner. This is a little intimidating as we all work in the  food business. We serve food at events in NYC and they sell the parties and the food our company makes. Plus both had culinary and food studies backgrounds from great schools. So while it's good to have the girls over, it's also a little scary.

I mean let's face it. I am talking the big talk here on the Cookforrestcook. Telling everyone how good what I make is. And how any given recipe is perhaps the best possible version of whatever it is, and that you might want to have it in your recipe box. I mean that's my goal. To create recipes that everyone can enjoy, have in their arsenal, and wow their family and friends with on special dinner occasions.

 Ina Garten is probably my favorite food channel cookbook author for that reason. If I wanted a good go to, she would be it in my humble opinion. She does the basics and a few interesting dishes well.  Her recipes always work and they are easy to understand and follow. She's limited in that she really only stays in that realm of the ordinary. But a solid ordinary.

I am a little more all over the map. But it is my goal as well to give you recipes you can use easily but will take you out of the ordinary. Plus my southern background keeps me looking at the world through that well traveled lens and grounds me I would like to think in solid cooking ideas.

So for dinner tonight I have tried to keep things simple but turn up the wow factor. I want an impressive but simple to prepare meal that allows me time with my guests and only a little time in the kitchen.

The Menu:

For starters I am making an old standby, Vickery's artichoke dip. ( recipe to follow)

Then a simple salad of Campari Tomatoes with toasted California Walnuts, Maytag Blue cheese, basil, and Green Goddess vinaigrette.

Then a Pasta course featuring a dish that is one of my favorites.
Bowtie pasta with Applewood smoked bacon, sundried tomatoes in a blue cheese Cracked pepper cream sauce.

Then the main event Pork Osso Bucco with caramelized Fennel and Apples.

For dessert. English Block toffee and cordials.

So this is the menu. I will post the rest of the recipes this week. But for today here is the artichoke dip that people come to my house and go a little nuts for. Vickery's Artichoke dip!

Vickery's Artichoke Dip

So you might ask what is this Vickery's? Well it was only one of my favorite bar/restaurants in Charleston before I moved to NYC. Even after living up here I would visit home and my friend Karen and I would go to Vickery's and hang out and catch up.

Vickery's opened by some guys from Atlanta, who decided they loved the beach. So they took their Atlanta concept and moved it to Charleston. They renovated an old Goodyear Tire shop and turned in into an very interesting space. It was very popular with the late night crowd and was a service industry hangout. Karen and I had a lot of crazy nights there, laughing till we could not see straight and saw some crazy stuff as well.

One of the hallmarks of the Vickery's menu was the bar food. No wings, no nachos, no anything ordinary. Instead they had things like low country eggrolls and backbean cakes and Thai calamari. But the best thing on there was the artichoke dip!

Now artichoke dip is a staple of the southern housewife from way back. There is nothing wacky about it. It's artichoke, it's mayo, it's cheese. But this artichoke dip at Vickery's was somehow special. Served with warm pita its a winner everytime. Our friend Walt was our server for many years when we would come in. He then went on to become the manager. When I moved to NYC he took me back to the kitchen and showed me how to make this so I could always have a little taste of home in the big city. The method is simple but it does produce a high quality dip, better than most. Where I work they make an artichoke dip, but like many versions they grind it all up in a food processor. It's a creamy mealy dip, plenty tasty but just not as good. The Vickery's recipe combines everything well and then hand mashes the artichoke hearts with a masher. So the pieces are larger and the mouth feel has more texture. That and the  addition of green onions in the mix and a touch of vinegar gives it a little tang.

So for the many people who have over the years in NYC asked for this recipe after enjoying it at my parties. Here it is. Enjoy Ya'll.

Ingredients: Makes a 4 person serving for a dinner party

1 can Artichoke hearts drained
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 green onions sliced White and grean parts ( 2 table spoons of the green parts reserved for garnish)
1 teaspoon Apple cider vinegar
1 splash hot sauce


Combine all ingredients in a bowl, using a wire potato masher roughly mash into a paste
Pour into a small oven proof crock or bowl
Bake in the oven for 15 mins or until heated and bubbly.
Then broil on hi till top is browned
Remove from the oven.
Garnish with the remaining green onion slices.
Serve with warm pita triangles.