It has been years since the incident, but it’s been burned in my memory, and to be perfectly honest, it still haunts me. I invited a couple from the Midwest to dinner, and watched as they sat there at the dinner table, not quite knowing what to do with the food I had prepared. They just looked at the platter with a blank stare. I had prepared a beautiful medley of grilled veggies, charred French bread slices and a big scoop of ricotta in the center. I had drizzled a lovely balsamic reduction over the entire array of vegetables and topped it with ribbons of fresh basil. Sound familiar? Who knew this type of dish would be a huge food trend years later? When I asked the couple if they would like something else, their reply was simply, “Um, we’ve never eaten like this. We usually have meat and potatoes for a meal.” But they eventually warmed up to the idea (the wine helped) and devoured the entire platter! Today, I still make the same dish with red peppers, zucchini and vegetables in season. But now, I love making the grilled medley with homemade ricotta and homemade balsamic reduction. For the reduction, I add two tablespoons of Port. If you have it on hand, it adds a wonderful complex flavor to the balsamic vinegar. For the homemade ricotta, if you can find raw milk, you’ll get a much better yield. (Sprouts is your best bet) It’s quite a bit pricier than the whole milk but well worth the money for the amount of ricotta it makes. Make these two recipes and you’ll be upping the ante on Antipasto!
If you’re from Detroit, I hope this column brings you many happy and delicious memories! If you know someone from that area, just ask them about the iconic, fun and fabulous-tasting Bumpy Cake and then sit back and watch them smile. Once you’ve heard of Sanders Bumpy Cake, you may become as obsessed as I am over this decadent chocolate cake with white icing “speed bumps” piped along the top and then covered in a rich and creamy pourable chocolate ganache. Think Hostess Cupcakes, only much more fun and just as tasty. Sanders Bumpy Cake has been around since 1875. Ask anyone from Detroit and they will tell you that this is the go to cake often purchased for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. So get the electric mixer out, and see why this is the ultimate treat for Michiganders, and have a blast going over the speed bumps!
As the old adage goes, what’s old is new again. In this case, a cheese that has been enjoyed for hundreds of year in another part of the world, Cyprus, is now trending here America. Halloumi is a fan favorite for foodies, who love the idea of grilling cheese and adding it to a boozy mixture of dried fruits happily soaking in Sherry. The cubes of grilled Halloumi emerge as the surprise savory bite amid the sweet and spirited chutney-like combination, made all the better when it’s spooned on a slice of charred crusty French baguette. Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese that can be made from goat, sheep or cow’s milk. What makes it perfect for this dish is that Halloumi, known for its chewy texture and tangy taste, has an extremely high melting point, so it can easily be grilled without melting. There are many ways to enjoy Halloumi, but this is by far my favorite! I discovered it while on vacation last year and absolutely had to recreate it. This dish is simple to prepare yet it yields complex flavors from the first bite to the last. You can always find Halloumi in Middle Eastern grocery stores like Caspian Market in Scottsdale and Baiz Market in Phoenix. But it’s becoming more likely that you’ll find Halloumi in your regular grocery store. Please avoid the temptation to buy cooking sherry in the baking aisle. This recipe deserves a nice (and it’s inexpensive!) bottle of Sherry from the wine section of the store. Halloumi is becoming a rising star in the food trend universe, and this is the type of dish that will keep its star on the rise!
When I first started to teach cooking classes a year and a half ago at Sweet Basil Culinary Center, I was introduced to a new cooking vessel that would change everything for me. It’s called a stove-top smoker and it works perfectly on the cook top, on the BBQ or in the oven. It’s fantastic for fish, vegetables and chicken, but it really shines when you throw a rack of ribs in, close it up, and 90 minutes later you have a succulent stack of ribs mopped with your favorite BBQ sauce! This recipe for Chili Rubbed Baby Backs with Espresso BBQ Sauce is one of my new favorites, given to me by a co-worker who knows I’m a rib fanatic. Even if you don’t have a stove-top smoker, these ribs and sauce will be a hit no matter how you prepare them! The dark beer (it really should be a Guinness!) and espresso powder combine to give the ribs a deep and rich flavor that melt together to create the umami you want in a rack of ribs! The recipe calls for a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce or if you have a homemade version, use that! (A few years ago we did a taste test of the country’s most popular store-bought BBQ sauces. Topping the list of brands were Stubbs, Rufus Teague, Sweet Baby Ray’s and Bone Suckin’ Sauce.)
If you’re a French fry foodie, you may have tried what is now the big rage; double frying the fries. It definitely makes a big difference in the crispiness and flavor. And while you have your Dutch oven out, there’s no better meal to pair those tasty fries with than classic fish and chips! You’ll be frying the potatoes before and after the fish, surprisingly with no fishy flavor. I love this dish and I hope you do too!
It was the 1920’s. The place, Chicago, Illinois. Francois and Antoinette Pope made they mark on the culinary scene first with the Antoinette Pope School of Fancy Cookery. Then came the television show hosted by the couple. Finally, their cookbook, The Antoinette Pope School Cookbook. I would never have known about any of this had one of the Pope family members not presented me with a copy of the cookbook. The more I read about the Pope’s, (on line there are even blogs about the cooking duo with comments by the many people who graduated from their school or who have called the cookbook their “go-to” cooking bible), the more fascinated I became with their story. The Crunchy Top Butter Cake is one of the many delightful recipes from an American heritage cookbook that elevated the art of cooking to “Fancy Cookery.”