Friday, June 27, 2008

I sigh, you sigh, we all sigh for summer pie!

I LOVE pie. And I LOVE summer. Therefore, it's no surprise that I LOVE summer pie. There are so many possibilities for pie in the summertime; with so much fresh fruit in season one almost can't go wrong.
Here are some of my most recent pie creations:

Early Peach Pie
I got some early peaches at Jones Orchard in Millington and while they're a little bit tedious to slice because they're pretty small, boy were they good. I love peaches in the summertime. A little cream, a little brown sugar, a few spices, and a ton of early peaches made the perfect filling for this lattice crusted beauty.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
TTDF. Totally To Die For. The key with any rhubarb dessert is to not get carried away with too much sugar and to not let the other main ingredient, in this case the strawberries, steal the show. Rhubarb is a "wallflower" flavor and easily overwhelmed by the luscious strawberry or the dazzling raspberry. I tend to think of rhubarb as the Ally Sheedy of summer produce: subtly pretty, kind of quiet- remove the glasses and brush her hair and you've got a real winner.

Blueberry Pie
I'll also call this one 'my new favorite breakfast'. The filling is almost entirely fresh blueberries so I can easily justify it as 'health food'. In fact, I just make this one a double-crust... you know, to make sure enough I get a healthy amount of "bread" with the meal... maybe a little ice cream for dairy...

The difference between a good fruit pie and a stellar fruit pie lies in... the fruit. It seems elementary that one should choose ingredients whose flavor is good enough to stand alone, but surprisingly few people seem to follow this bit of logic. People figure that if it's going to be cooked or mixed with other ingredients, it's okay to cheat on quality. My dad always told me "never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink on its own" and I believe that bit of wisdom applies across the food ingredient spectrum.

Ok, the post is getting a bit long (and I'm getting hungry), but never fear... I imagine I'll rhapsodize about pies many more times over the course of the summer!

Have a great weekend!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

yummy dinner recipes

Saturday night, Thomas and I had an impromptu dinner party. Preston and Tanisha had the shop well in hand, so Thomas and I quickly scanned the thicker-than-my-thigh folder of 'recipes to try out' also known as the 'good culinary intentions' folder.
We settled on a simple halibut and pasta recipe from Real Simple and we already had loads of fresh produce from our weekly trip to the downtown farmers' market that morning. So we settled our menu: orange-ginger halibut, whole-wheat angel hair pasta, sauteed squash (mixed varieties) with sweet onions, French bread, marinated tomatoes, and blueberry pie.
We had everything we needed except the fish, so we made a quick trip to Wild Oats where we discovered that halibut was a little out of our twenty-something people budget for feeding seven adults. The very helpful grocer suggested the (much) more modestly priced wild cod as an alternative and it was delicious!
I don't know what was more enjoyable for Thomas and me, cooking together in the kitchen with the dogs stretched out on the floor (obviously lounging wherever our feet needed to be) or actually sharing it with friends that we don't see as often (no one ever tells you that you have to schedule 'hanging out' once you're a grown-up!). The whole evening was splendid!
Here are a few recipes (sorry- not giving away the pie recipe! teehee). Please let me know if you try it and your opinions!

Thomas' Cod and Angel Hair (adapted from Real Simple's halibut recipe found here)
4 tangelos (recipe calls for oranges, but he already had tangelos in ice box!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
6 4oz pieces wild-caught cod
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch green onions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
1 pound whole wheat angel hair pasta
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Cut the oranges into segments, removing the surrounding membranes as well as able. Don't sweat over this too much, just know that the membranes and pith will make it more bitter. Squeeze the membranes over a bowl to catch their juices.

Heat a cookie sheet or other pan in oven with a little oil so that pan is hot before adding fish. Add ginger and cook about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the halibut with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, cumin, scallions and oranges and continue cook about 10 minutes, turning mid-way through, until the fish is the same color throughout and flakes easily.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions while the halibut cooks.

Farmers' Market Squash (aka. shameless promotion of buying local produce)
Step 1: Buy a variety of squash. I used one zuchini, two yellow ones (real name?), and a totally cool scallop squash. I'd never cooked a scallop squash but it just looked to interesting to pass up.
Step 2: Buy a sweet onion.
Step 3: Chop them all up (I only used 1/2 of the sweet onion).
Step 4: Saute in olive oil, freshly cracked pepper, and kosher salt until a bit softened up.
Step 5: Add some hot water to the pan and allow to continue cooking until soft, but not mushy.
Step 6: Eat and say "mmmmm"!

Marinated Tomatoes (one of my favorite things in the world)
Ripley tomatoes, sliced into thick rounds
Olive oil
Fresh basil (I used a little of my own new garden supply: a mix of columnar basil and sweet basil)
Mozzerella cheese
Salt and pepper (freshly cracked)

Place tomato slices on paper towel to soak up extra water, then transfer them to a plate.
Place pieces of fresh mozzerella cheese on top, then torn up pieces of basil.
Drizzle with olive oil and then a wee bit of salt, and a more generous amount of pepper.

Blueberry Dessert
We served a blueberry pie (my own recipe) heated up with our guests' choice of a scoop of Hagendaaz vanilla ice cream or Ciao Bella coconut sorbet. The coconut sorbet is a fantastic accompaniment to blueberries, whether plain or cooked into a pie or cobbler. Sadly, Wild Oats doesn't seem to carry the coconut flavor anymore, but Fresh market does. Sublime!

Well, that about wraps up our dinner party! Here are a few of the vendors we used:
Wild oats: cod, ginger, pasta, ice cream
Fresh Market: Ciao Bella coconut sorbet
Memphis Farmers' Market: Bluebird Farm by Van Cheeseman: sweet onions, flowers (he supplies some of our eggs in the shop!) and also Tims Family Farm: tomatoes and I think that's where I got the squash, but not positive

Have a great day!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


It's official. Summer has begun. I saw the first lightening bug!
Ok, maybe you've already seen one and mine wasn't actually THE first, but still, I just wanted to share.
You may now go on about your business. :)

my foray into the world of botany

Confession: I have a notoriously black thumb. I am the accidental culprit behind many a plant's untimely demise. You could call me (if you're a Law and Order fan)... The Perp.

Despite this, each year, I try again. Each year, I venture into Dan West and choose my victims. It's a bit depressing actually to know that they huddle together in fear... they know the Black Thumb Cometh.

This is so sad because for years I've fantasized about being a green thumb... coaxing little shoots through the soil, tenderly caring for the green leaves and fragrant blossoms while birds chirp a song at my shoulder and little woodland critters comically frolic at my feet. Each year I am determined to shake off this curse that must have been placed upon my head by some irritated fairy godmother (my parents swear they didn't offend one, but who knows).

However, This Is My Year! I know it! I WILL nurture these plants and they WILL grow and flourish under my care.

These are my babies and I'm so excited because I know that this is the magic year. I've planted arp rosemary (a hardy strain of a hardy plant, just in case), columnar basil, and even... a blueberry bush. I treated the soil with a little concoction for acid-loving plants (the blueberry) and followed the directions to a tee. I glowed (profusely) in the dirt beds making sure they were free of weeds and tilling the soil. I am following the watering guidelines carefully.
In other words, Really Trying.

Here's what I'm asking:
1. Clap if you believe I can do this... actually, just cross your fingers for me and send some really good vibes my direction!
2. If you have a green thumb and have some good advice for me, please comment below!

Wish me luck!!!

New Favorite Sunday Brunch

Ok, if you haven't been to the Beauty Shop yet for brunch on Sunday, you are missing out... Big Time. One of my favorite meals is brunch, so I'm a good judge.

The mimosas are enormous (huzzah!), the atmosphere is fantastic, and the food... ah, the food. I could gorge all day on challah French toast, lemon ricotta silver dollar pancakes, fruit salad, eggy fritattas, and cheese grits.

I like to follow up my feast with a strawberry milkshake (extra strawberries for me) that is out of this world. It's smooth, creamy, and rich without the little icy crunches found in many lesser milkshakes made from (gasp!) powders.

Karen Carrier (sheer genius woman behind Beauty Shop, Do, Automatic Slim's, and Mollie Fontaine Lounge) isn't paying me for this glowing endorsement, but if she wanted to drown me in milkshake, I wouldn't complain. :)

Beauty Shop... 966 S. Cooper... Memphis, TN 38104

Monday, June 2, 2008

Washington, DC

I spent Memorial Day weekend in DC for a friend's wedding and after the festivities, Thomas and I got to toodle around Georgetown. The weather was perfect, the shops were great, and we discovered a couple of bakeries- yum!
We found a little cupcake place called Georgetown Cupcakes that was delish and sophisticated; definitely stop in if you're planning a trip to the capital!

Also, we found an Austrian bakery, Leopold's, that had all kinds of yummy treats.
I'm most inspired to try making macaroons like theirs- the traditional flavored ones that are little sandwich cookies. We tried peach, pistachio, raspberry, passionfruit, and of course, chocolate. Mmmmmmm!!!