What's Cooking in Carolina?

Mainly creative menus and recipes (usually healthy) and always from scratch with tips for party planning, theme parties, weddings and decorating tips so you can give swank parties or dinners to delight your guests from a part time caterer, owner/operator of a coming soon Entree Vous, but mainly a cook and eater who grows much of her own food and loves to laugh.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Cilantro in Guacamole and Pablano Pepper Relish

We are still in the vineyard every day so meals either have to be fast or planned ahead. Last night we made turkey burgers with pablano relish (Bobby Flay) and a guacamole cream (Greek yogurt, avocado, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper) along with our second picking of asparagus EVER! We planted them several years ago and didn't pick a one last year, and this year we can only pick for a few weeks. We planted 2 varieties but only one of the purple ones have come up. We grilled them with a little garlic and olive oil. Great! Of course, we didn't come inside until dark, so dinner was at 9:00.

We also had Mexican inspired last night. It was planned ahead. It was red chili roasted chicken with potatoes, served with guacamole, marinated onions and a salad; from one of Rick Bayless's cookbooks. The chicken was okay; I think if I were to do it over again I would either cook it or marinade it a lot longer. The guacamole was, as always, wonderful. Just avocado, minced onion, serrano chili, chopped cherry tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt. The onions were a great addition, I might add; just very thinly sliced tomatoes with a tablespoon or two of cider vinegar at least an hour before you eat. A simple but tasty condiment.

Why this obsession with south of the border? Well, two things. I stopped by A Southern Season and picked up there calendar. OMG! Diane Kennedy is coming!! I am signed up and so excited. Also Patrica Wells and Jo Anne Weir! World Class Chef's and Instructors! Wow. Then I was coming back in from the vineyard and walking through the remains of last years garden (read weeds) and no hopes of preparing it for a spring garden for at least another week, I discovered many random patches of cilantro in areas that will need tilling. This is the favorite herb of the founder and and host of weekend herb blogging, Kalyn, of Kalyn's Kitchen; Be sure to go there for the recap on Sunday. I grabbed a handful of it each evening on the way in and featured it in the pablano relish and in the guacamole, making it my herb of the week.

The recipe for the relish:

Pablano Pepper Relish (From Bobby Flay's Grilling For Life)

Serves 4

2 pablano chiles, grilled, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large dill pickle, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c lime juice
1 tea honey
1/4 tea salt
2 T finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 tea black pepper.

Combine all ingredients. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving.

That's it for today. Check out the website for more recipes.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Anise Almond Biscotti

Although the weather has warmed up quite a bit, we are still finishing up on wintry foods. This week we had corn and crab chowder and country style steak. Tonight we're converting to summer by grilling some chicken teriyaki and serving it with a salad. Maybe spinach! That's leaping into summer mode. Check out some of our recipes at Swank Catering.

In the meantime, I've been experimenting with Biscotti. I made four different recipes, and I mean really different recipes. One had olive oil, the rest had butter. The consistency of them was very different. I tried making the long ones and had real problems with breakage. So I went back to a medium size, even though I prefer them small. I am making them for a small coffee gelato shop, experimentally.

These are the kinds I made over the last few days.

Almond Anise

Pistachio Cranberry

Chocolate Orange

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut

And the winner is.......well, although the prettiest is the pistachio, my favorite for flavor is Almond Anise. So my ingredient for the week is Anise, also known as anise seed or aniseed, submitted for weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by my friend Kate who has a wonderful blog Thyme For Cooking. Go and see what she's cooking and growing, which is consistently incredible; but especially go back late Sunday or Monday for the WHB roundup to see what foodies are cooking around the world. Back to Anise: According to The Food Lover's Companion, anise is known as far back as 1500 B.C. It is an annual plant and member of the parsley family. Both the leaves and the seeds have a distinct, sweet licorice flavor. The greenish brown oval anise seed flavors a variety of sweet and savory dishes. It also flavors drinks: Patis, arrack, annisette and ouzo. Anise seeds have been used as a digestive for centuries, and in India they are chewed after a meal not only as a digestive but to sweeten the breath. I grown quite fond of it and may even try planting it this year.

Michael Chiarella's Tra Vigne’s Biscotti

Makes about 40 cookies

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tea baking powder

1 tea salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup turbinado sugar (he calls for crystal sugar, but it's too expensive and hard to find)

1/3 c packed light brown sugar

5 large eggs

6 T anise seeds

1 cup unblanched almonds, toasted

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In mixing bowl with paddle attachment, cream butter with both sugars. Add eggs, flour mixture and aniseeds. Beat on low until it just comes together. Add almonds and mix until just distributed. Do not overwork. On a floured surface, shape into a ball, flatten, put in a bowl in the frig to chill about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into 2 pieces. Roll each into a log about 3" diameter. Roll in more sugar, if desired. I didn't. Place on prepared sheet, flatten slightly. Logs should be several inches apart.

Bake until firm and light brown, about 1 hour. When poked it should feel firm to the touch and not collapse or cave in. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 300.

When cooled completely, move to a cutting board and cut into 1/2" slices with s serrated knife. Cutting on the diagonal is a nice touch. Lay the slices down on a baking sheet and return to the oven for 50 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may need to turn them. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Another quick idea we just uncovered for Anise. Have you seen the April Gourmet Magazine? They have the cutest idea for an "April's Fool" dessert. You basically make a recipe similar to the one above but bake it in a loaf pan. You cut them into slices, so they look like a slice of bread. You take extra large eggs and cut the tops out. You sterilize them in boiling water and try completely and fill first with a light lemon pudding (the whites) then with a lemon curd (the yolks). You serve them out of the shells and it looks like eggs and toast. It is so cute, I have to try it. I'll bet you can go on line and find the pictures and the recipe.


Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saint Patty's Day with Bay Leaves

My little bay tree. It is small but growing!

Saint Patrick's Day is over and what did you eat?

We kept with the green theme and had braised pork chops with leeks along with shamrock pasta with broccolini, garlic, red pepper flakes, a touch of stock and finished off with the undisputed king of cheese, parmesan reggiano. We were going to add a salad to that but decided it was green enough.

It was good with a touch of wine.

Our herb for this Weekend Herb Blogging is Bay Leaves, also known as laurel and is native to the Mediterranean. Technically, it is not an herb at all, but an evergreen perennial from the tree Laurus nobilis, its leaves are used dried or fresh. Bay leaf crowns were used for centuries to honor scholars, victors and heroes and as part of weddings and funerals. Baccalaureate = bacca + laureus = berry from laurel; one "earns her laurels" means honor and praise and "winning you laurels" is a symbol of triumph. Greeks dedicated the bay tree to Apollo as an emblem of the Sun God's power; believed to protect man from evil and his social well being. Delphic priestesses held bay leaves between lips when making prophesies.

* Sources: The Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and The Pleasure of Herbs by Phyllis Shaudys

There are two main varieties: one, Turkish with 1-2" oval leaves and the other, Californian with narrow 2-3" long leaves. The Turkish variety is more subtle than the Californian. Frequently used to flavor soups, stews, vegetables and meats, they are generally removed before serving.

My absolutely favorite dish to serve them with is Braised Pork in Balsamic Vinegar and Bay Leaves. The recipe is on the website. However, this weekend we used them in Braised Pork Chops with Leeks which was pretty darn good.

Braised Pork Chops with Leek

2 T extra virgin olive oil
4 3/4" thick pork chops
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
one small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 325. Heat olive oil in a pan that can hold all of the meat. Salt and pepper pork chops and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes, total. Remove from pan, reserve and add leeks and onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic. Stir one minute. Add wine and stir one minute. Return pork chops to pan, making sure the leeks and over the pork chops. Add bay leaves and chicken stock. Cover and put into preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve over something to sop up all those yummy juices.

Make sure you head up to Boston to check out this weekend's herb blogging by Becky at Key Lime and Coconut!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pruning and Turkey Leftovers

For those of you who lead normal 9 to 5 lives, you can not understand what March is to us. Pruning. It takes us most of the month to prune the vineyard. Yea, we take breaks and run out to the store. But most of the day light is spent clipping. After the first week the numbness and soreness in your hand seems to lessen. Last year, or the year before, we changed our technique. We used to just start at one side of the vineyard and go until we reached the other side. Now, we prune the muscadines first, then move to the muscadine hybrids (we may even be pruning the first marketable seedless muscadine! How exciting is that!) then finish the rest of the vineyard. What this means, is that we prune the hardest 'stuff' first and then it gets easier and easier. By the time you are over the soreness, it's a breeze and at the end, it is a piece of cake.

We finished the muscadines today, and tomorrow start the hybrids. The last few days have been unseasonably hot. Everyone else is saying how wonderful it is. When you prune muscadines by hand, you are covered head to toe; long pants, long sleeves, glasses and hats even if it is 80 degrees, which it has been. I don't remember pruning when it has been this hot. I would prefer it 15-20 degrees cooler.

What dies this have to do with food? Everything. It's what you have to do to get food on the table, if you're not one of the buy-everything-from-the-supermarket types and farm. And, if you want to eat, you have to plan around it, especially for really busy times like this. Yesterday, at one of our breaks, I put a turkey breast in the oven on a timer. Our oven can be timed to cook it for a length of time and then hold it. We had turkey with mashed potatoes and butter beans. On the way to the store, the next night, I stopped to drop off something at the neighbors and they invited us to stay. We had surf and turf: grilled steaks, twice baked (stuffed) potatoes, broccoli and left over desserts from our party, mainly mousses and truffles. Then it was turkey pot pie

and Italian wedding soup

with the turkey leftovers. Yum! All wonderful comfort food for the return of cooler weather.

The recipe for Italian Wedding Soup is on the website. I'll try to get around to putting the Pot Pie Recipe on their as well in the next day or so as well as adding some vineyard shots.

Until then, Cheers!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Instead of a focus on the ingredient or dish, let's try a different focus: garnishes. It is so important if you want to look pretty! Yes, Pretty! To be a garnish, it should be edible as well as complimentary to the food it is decorating. I made a lot of the garnishes for this party. I made candied orange rind and dried pepper/vegetable confetti and used chopped parsley, chopped dill, mint, basil leaves, strawberries, raspberries, almonds and chocolate covered espresso beans, all as garnishes. We also made crème fraiche and clotted cream to top several other things. Everything on every plate was edible, except the cups holding the truffles. I'll follow a recipe for candied orange peel. The menu was all finger food. Sorry, I didn't get pictures of everything.

The Menu:


Puff Pastry Wrapped Shrimp stuffed with Crab Meat
Asparagus Wraps
Smoked Salmon Spread on Brown Bread
Baby Potatoes with Crème Fraiche & Caviar

Three kinds of Biscotti: Almond Anise, Parmesan with Pine Nuts & Green Olives, Orange with Pistachio & Black Olives

Bruscetta with two toppings: tapenade & fresh mozzarella, tomato & basil


Chocolate cups with three Mousse Fillings: Chocolate, Raspberry & Amaretto

Chocolate Truffles

Cream Tea Scones with Raspberry Jam & Clotted Cream

Recipe for Candied Rind, in this case Orange

Rind or zest of one orange, but into pieces. Nice strips are nice, 1/3" x 1 1/2", but any size will do. Boil rind gently for 10 minutes. Drain, run under cold water and dry on towels.

Boil 1 cup sugar with 1/3 cup water to 230 degrees. Remove from heat. Stir in peel and 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Let peel stand in syrup for at least 30 minutes. Take out and cool, separated on wax paper until dry. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use. It keeps a few months in the freezer.

We are submitting it to weekend herb blogging, hosted this week by the newly married Anna at Morsels and Musings. Send her a note congratulating her then go check out the round up on Sunday night or Monday. It is always worth the time.

Try it and enjoy!

For more recipes check out our website or better yet, hire us for your swank party! Cheers!

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

There's something fishy going on..

Something's fishy. The truth be known, they didn't smell fishy. ‘Twas the husband's birthday and he loves fish so I headed out to Kroger and couldn't find anything that looked appetizing so I went to Whole Foods and found some great fresh flounder fillets and bought them. Then I saw some sea trout and bought them too. And they had fresh shrimp for $4.99/lb and I bought that too. We had a friend here for the birthday dinner. I fixed the flounder the birthday boy's favorite way: salted and peppered, dredged in buttermilk, then in cornmeal and lightly sautéed. It was really tender and fresh tasting, not fishy at all. They were out working in the vineyard and on the trip to and from, discovered some broccoli rabe that was still good, so plucked it up and sautéed it with garlic and served over some soft polenta. For lunch the next day, we had the shrimp. Have you ever tried a recipe that turned out to be good, but you'll never do it again? That was how I felt when we had this shrimp for lunch. It was beautiful and tasty but waaaayyyyy too much trouble for me to make again, like this.
Last but not least, we grilled the trout and served it with a tomato vinaigrette, roasted asparagus and roasted potatoes.
Lovely. I should note that the moon rising in a full eclipse was the coolest thing to happen on one's birthday and why I didn't get a picture of that dish.


For recipes, check out the website and if it's not there, send me a note. It will get me motivated to get it on the list.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 02, 2007

Parsley and Pasta

Do you ever get in the mood for a food and you can't seem to get enough of it? It's been that way lately for me and pasta. No, this is not South Beach friendly. We did try it after it first came out. The first thing everyone needs to know is that every diet doesn't work for everyone. We were on it, very strictly, for 2 months. My husband, who has heart disease, had his cholesterol go UP 100 points in 2 months as a result
of the diet. It freaked his cardiologist out and he (we) can't follow it anymore. He (we) do try to limit the starches most of the time. But not this week.

First we had Broccoli Rabe with store bought pasta, noted in our previous blog. Then we tried Roasted Eggplant Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce ala Tra Vigne.

Totally yummy. Roasting the eggplant, tomatoes and onions that went inside the ravioli then roasting the tomato sauce that sauced it make the flavors very intense. Being as eggplant is already the hus's favorite vegetable, this will become a staple, I am sure. Whole Foods had Sicilian Eggplant. They were huge, and even though I really object to the big seedy eggplants, I decided to try it. Hus thought it looked like a football. It really was very good and not very seedy considering the size.

We followed that with Spaghettini Squared, from the same cook book. It is spaghetti and zucchini spaghetti. You need a Benriner Spiral cutter. I don't have one but borrowed one from our wonderful neighbor, Marne, who is a very accomplished cook herself. (Hopefully, she's going to be part of my Entrée Vous venture.) The recipe was simple and it is below. I made the pasta and the dish turned out as a simple but delicious and beautiful way to eat pasta. If you don't have a spiral turner, you can julienne the zucchini with a Mandolin or cut it very very small with a knife.

Here's the recipe the way I cooked it. It is based on the recipe from Tra Vigne, by Michael Chiarella

Make a pound of spaghetti noodles (using 2 cups flour, 2 eggs, 2 T olive oil and enough water to hold it together.)

2 large zucchini
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 tea red pepper flakes
4 T basil, chiffonaded
3 T flat leaf parsley, minced
1/2 cup plus 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat water for pasta. Make pasta.

Cut zucchini into spirals and set aside.

Heat 1/4 c oil in large skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add garlic and saute until lightly starting to change color. Turn off heat and add pepper flakes. Quickly add basil and parsley. Remove from heat.

Put fresh pasta in boiling water and bring to a boil. Remove, drain (reserving 1/2 c pasta water) and pour into warm serving bowl. Add zucchini, remaining 1/4 cup oil, the garlic mixture and 1/2 cup cheese. Toss well, adding pasta water, if necessary to make a smooth sauce. Taste for seasoning, add salt and pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

For more recipes, check out the website!

Eat, drink and be merry! And as far as dieting goes, I am a firm believer that you have to burn more calories than you take in. For the most part and for most people, it is that simple. Eat less, everything in moderation and exercise more.


Labels: , , , ,

Food Blog
Top Sites