Friday, July 31, 2015

Tomato Grilled Cheese with Beer and Bacon Marmalade

If you're a subscriber of Garden and Gun magazine (and if you're not, you should be....and not just if you're a Southerner) you couldn't have missed the pic of this mouthwatering sandwich.  Even without reading the accompanying article, I knew this was happening.  And then I found it originated at an Alabama restaurant and that sealed the deal.  I've not been to Acre in Auburn but this would made it a worthwhile trip.  Probably not during football season, but.......

The real magic of this sandwich begins with the Beer and Bacon Marmalade.  If you can, make this a day ahead so everyone in the jar can really get acquainted.  This is rich and sweet and salty and I'm probably just going to constantly keep a jar of this in the fridge.  No, I'm not.  My ass won't allow it, but damn if I don't want to put this on EVERYTHING.

The heirlooms at the farmer's market have been beautiful this summer and this is a perfect vehicle to use them up.  The tomatoes are crucial to balancing out the richness of the cheese and marmalade.

Mr. Buker lurved this bad boy.....I only know because he kept moaning after every bite.  Declared it "holy shit amazing".  Doesn't get better than that.

Here's the recipe:

Tomato Grilled Cheese 
with Beer and Bacon Marmalade

Acre in Auburn, Alabama

makes 1 sandwich

2 tbsp softened unsalted butter, divided
2 slices white bread, preferable thick
1/4 cup Beer and Bacon Marmalade (recipe follows)
2 slices American Cheese (don't hate....that melty goodness is crucial here)
3 slices heirloom tomato

Spread butter onto one side of each piece of bread.  Place a cast-iron  skillet over medium heat and toast the buttered bread.  Remove from the skillet and place it on a cutting board, toasted side up.  Slather the marmalade over the toast, and then stack the cheese and tomato on top.  Put the sandwich together and spread the soft outside with the remaining butter.  Return it to the skillet and toast until golden and cheese is gooey.  Serve with beer!

Beer and Bacon Marmalade

12 oz. smoked bacon
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 tbsp minced garlic
3 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup beer, preferably a porter or stout
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

Cook bacon slices in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until crispy....about 5-6 minutes...and then remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Reserve 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan, and add the shallots.  Cook them over medium heat until they begin to brown (about 3-5 minutes), and then add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds before adding brown sugar, honey and both vinegars.  Simmer until reduced by half, and then add coffee and beer and continue to simmer until the mixture is reduced to a syrup-like consistency (about 10-12 minutes).  Remove from the stove, season with salt and red pepper and allow to cool.  Crush or chop bacon into small pieces and fold them into coffee-beer mixture.  Store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cherry Crumble Pie

File this pie under things you can still learn about your husband after 25+ years of marriage.  

I always knew that cherries wouldn't be his first choice in a fruit but I never imagined he wouldn't even eat them in a PIE!  I mean he doesn't sit around all day gnawing on lemons either, but slap a lemon meringue pie in front of him and that bitch is GONE.  I figured the same philosophy applied to cherries.  (And speaking of lemon meringue pie....the one at FOODBAR in Cahaba Heights might be the best I've had.  Get you some of that.)

Anyhoo....this recipe was a hint more than my deep dish pie plate could hold so I squeezed out an addition "side pie" if you will.  Which is what I served to Mr. Picky after dinner the other night and received that reaction all significant others recognize as "I'm just not that into this but damned if I'm saying that OUT LOUD!"  So, I'm like, "Geez, I know you aren't a huge fan of cherries, but NOT EVEN IN A PIE?"  And because he values his life, he says, "No, No....I want the pie.  I'm sure it's fabulous."  So he eats the pie and when he's done, it's all gone, BUT THE CHERRIES.  He ate around them.  WHO does that? 

So he basically at a pie crust crumble??  He missed out on some really great cherry pie.  The cherries are perfect this time of year and I loved the crumble topping versus a double crust pie.  I should have made this a few weeks ago when my mother was in town.  She loves cherry pie.  Unlike MY HUSBAND.

Here's the recipe:

Cherry Crumble Pie
adapted from Bon Appetit


1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water
1 large egg yolk

1 cups plus 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes

6 cups fresh cherries pitted, or 2 pounds frozen pitted sweet cherries thawed, juices reserved
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1 tablespoon cognac, kirch, or brandy
Pinch of salt


Blend flour, sugar and salt in processor 5 seconds.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Beat 2 tablespoons ice water and egg yolk in small bowl to blend  Add to processor, pulsing until clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.  Gather dough into ball flatten into disk.  Wrap in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes.

Blend oats, flour, sugar, almonds, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl.  Add butter.  Rub in with fingertips, pressing mixture together until moist clumps form.  Chill at least 30 minutes.

Mix cherries with any juices, sugar, tapioca, cognac, and salt in large bowl.  Let stand until tapioca looks translucent, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F.  Roll out dough disk on lightly flour surface to 13 to 14" round.  Transfer to 9-inch deep-dish glass pie dish.  Trim dough overhang to 3/4 inch.  Fold edge under and crimp decoratively.  Spoon filling into crust.  Sprinkle with topping.

Bake pie 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 400 deg F.  Continue to bake until filling is bubbling thickly and tipping is brown and crisp, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 25 minutes longer.  Cool pie on rack at least 30 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

You should be listening to............

Athens, Alabama's very own Anderson East.

If you love old-school soul with a modern vibe, you need to check him out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cold Brew

Am I the last one to the cold brew party? 

So, I like coffee just fine.  Not like I like WINE, but I start my day with a cup of brew every morning.     I'm no coffee connoisseur.  Hence, I always thought "iced coffee" and "cold brew coffee" were the same thing.

Then hubs started working with the young woman who started Icebox Coffee through his volunteer duties at Innovation Depot here in B'ham.  He explained to me the difference between the two...."iced coffee" is coffee brewed with hot water poured over ice and "cold brew" is coarsely ground coffee beans soaked in cold or room temperature water for 12-24 hours and then strained.  I've tried the iced method before and remember thinking, "This is just a cold watered down version of hot coffee that's even more bitter than the original."  Not a fan.  So I was skeptical of cold brew.  I shouldn't have been!  Apparently, with the absence of heat, coffee doesn't become bitter, so after straining, you're left with a smooth, bitter-free, slightly sweeter version.  I'm addicted.

It's been so freaking hot here for the past month this is what got me through the two weeks of hell that were moving in.  I'd have a small cup of my regular brew to wake me up in the morning, then pour myself a tall glass of cold brew and almond milk and start tackling cardboard.  

I make mine by mixing about an ounce or maybe a little more over ice and then adding unsweetened vanilla almond milk to top off the glass.  I don't put sugar in my coffee, but if that's your thing, by all means.  My niece likes a shot of cold brew mixed with hot water for a better version of a hot cup of coffee.  Her hubs drinks the stuff a shot of espresso.  They also prefer the New Orleans blend (which I assume has a chicory flavor?) of Icebox to my preferred Madagascar Vanilla.

Icebox is available online at and throughout the South, but if you'd like to make your own, checkout this tutorial on Food52.  It can be made in your French Press (which makes the straining part easy) or in a container large enough to hold about 4 cups of water.  You could also get fancy and go this route!!  A little expensive, but how cool would that look sitting on your kitchen counter?  And check out a few ideas on other things to do with your finished product here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

I'm back......

I totally didn't plan this, but it appears that my last blog post was April 20, which means that I've been on "vacation" for exactly three months.  In that last post, I told y'all that we had purchased a new home that was under construction.  We've since moved in.....about three weeks ago.....and I feel like I can, once again, breathe!  To say it was a tumultuous building process would be a gross understatement.  We've built from scratch/finished construction on seven homes over the last 25 years, and this was absolutely the worst builder we've experienced.  We take our share of the responsibility for not doing the proper due diligence on his reputation (because since we've moved in, we've discovered we've got plenty of company) but, WOW, it's hard to fathom that a guy of this character is still in business.  At one meeting where we were pressing him about many of the things he promised during the initial meeting, that didn't appear to be getting done and was clear that weren't going to get done, his response was "Hey, I say a lot of things."  So yeah.  There were major integrity issues.

But that's over and we're in and thankfully we know several reputable tradesman that we've dealt with in the past that will come and fix what's not up to par.  Money we shouldn't have to spend, but it's clear he has no interest in honoring his word, so we'll cut our losses and move on.  Which may be what everyone else decides too.....explaining how he's still in business.  Grr.

There were also several lessons learned on the move itself.  The most important being when you know you'll be downsizing by more than half, GET RID OF SHIT.  Get rid of MORE SHIT THAN YOU THINK YOU SHOULD!  When going from seven bedrooms to four, you're not going to need 20 sets of king size sheets.  Sell them BEFORE you move, so you aren't like me and store them for 12 months only to have to move them again and unpack ALL OF THEM one more time.  I thought I had done a good job of purging before we moved out of our last house.  I was wrong.  We had to have the movers come back and take a garage FULL of stuff back to storage.  I'm giving myself three months to get rid of it, then I'm calling a local charity to come pick it up.  Enough.

But we're in, the last of the boxes were cleared out this weekend and we're finally getting into a groove.  There are loads of little projects that need to be addressed, but I'm not sweating it.  I'm going to take my time to find the perfect pieces to fill the blank spaces and enjoy the process.  There's plenty of time.

Besides, Fletcher seems to have found the best spot from which to govern the neighborhood.

I'll be back much more regularly now that things are back to normal.  Promise.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Summer Quinoa Salad

I'll get to this oh-so-amazing salad in a minute but first you have to indulge me some Fletcher pics of his first 5K this past weekend.  My niece volunteers for a local animal charity Hand-in-Paw and they held their annual Mutt Strut 5K on Saturday.  


I was a little worried he'd be all over the place during the race with all of the other dogs, but he did great.  I conned my niece's husband, Ben, into walking with me because every time I try to jog with Fletch, he totally spazzes out.  We're working on it.  So we hung near the back and let all the serious runners have their space.

The good news is that we weren't last!!!  Although there was a prize for that, so I'm not sure why I'm bragging about being like third from last, because NO PRIZE FOR THAT!!

We even went to a couple of the local brewery's after the race to hang out because they're the few places in town that allow you to bring dogs.  Fun.  And Toby and Fletch bonded.  Or maybe Toby tolerated Fletch.

Anyway......great experience, great charity, great event.

So, this salad is from the new book, The Sprouted Kitchen, bowl & spoon, by Sara and Hugh Forte.  They are also the author and photographer, respectively, of the wildly successful blog, also called The Sprouted Kitchen.  I am in love with this book.  I've already made her Seedy Olive-Oil Granola no less than three times and a salmon recipe that is part of a larger recipe twice.  The husband proclaimed it the best salmon he's ever had, so because I'm your friend and the recipe is so beautifully simple, I'll give you the deets on that at the end.

I know this is titled "summer" salad, but I guarantee you're going to start making it this Spring and continue making it until the last of the corn in the Fall.  I get that this will be much better when all of the ingredients are fresh from your garden, but it's was still delicious with frozen corn and packaged grape tomatoes.  Work with what you've got, I say.

This hits all the taste buds.....bitter kale, salty feta, sweet tomatoes and corn, and the tart dressing.  It's just perfect.

We've eaten this with the salmon, for lunch with a fried egg on top, and I even mixed in some grilled chicken thighs for a leftover dinner the last night.  This would also be a huge hit at a potluck for a meatless option.

sorry for the horrible pic!

Here's the recipe:

Summer Quinoa Salad
The Sprouted Kitchen, bowl & spoon

1/2 cup quinoa  (or 1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa)
1/4 cup water or broth
3/4 pound cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/4 cups corn kernels, from 2 small ears of corn
2 1/2 cups stemmed, finely chopped kale
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata or get cheese

2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Rinse and drain the quinoa.  Put it in a pot with the water.  Bring it to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.  Fluff it with a fork, turn off the heat, set the cover ajar and set aside to cool completely.

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 325 deg. F.  Halve the tomatoes and spread them on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle on 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss everything to coat.  Spread the tomatoes in an even layer and roast for 30 to 35 minutes until slightly dried at the edges.  Remove to cool.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the corn kernels and sauté, only stirring once or twice, for 2 minutes to just char the outside.  Set aside to cool.  Both of these steps may be done 1 day in advance.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled quinoa, kale, and cilantro.  When the tomatoes and corn are completely cool, add the along with the pine nuts and cheese to the bowl.  

For the dressing, in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, pulse or smash the garlic cloves.  Add the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, buttermilk and a hearty pinch of salt and pepper and mix everything to combine.

Toss the salad with the desired amount of dressing  This salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for 3 days.

For the salmon:  Preheat the oven to 325 deg. F and brush a large baking dish with olive oil.  In a small bowl, combine the zest of one lemon and 2 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tbsp minced shallot and 2 tsp herbs de Provence and mix to combine.  Lay two salmon filets in the baking dish skin side down and season the fish well with sea salt.  Spread the seasoning mixture on the flesh. Pour 1/2 cup white wine (I use a sauvignon blanc) into the bottom of the dish; it's fine if it comes up the sides of the fish a bit.  Bake on the middle rack for about 20 minutes until just opaque in the center.  Cooking time may vary,  5 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the fish.  Sprinkle the fish with the parsley when it's out of the oven.

Friday, April 17, 2015

S'mores Bars with Marshmallow Meringue and Friday Faves

Fave Sweets:

I think I've admitted this before, but I'm pretty selfish about my cooking.  Meaning that I don't very often make things that I don't particularly like.  Meringue would fall into that category.  Take meringue pies, for instance.  I'll replace that shit with whipped cream every.  time.  It's not a taste thing because what can taste bad about egg whites and sugar?  It's totally the texture.  Oh my gross, it's squishy.  Like those Easter peeps.  Ugh.  Hate them.

But I saw this recipe in last month's Food and Wine and I really wanted to make it but I couldn't reconcile replacing the meringue with whipped cream.  I mean who has heard of a S'more with whipped cream?  I considered making a marshmallow topping or even using some large marshmallows and browning them with a kitchen torch, but then in some random conversation with the husband, he mentioned how much he loves meringue and I mentioned how much I hate it so that's why he never gets it and he got all pouty-faced so......

I made the fucking meringue.  And I still don't like it.  But he did and I earned a brownie point of which I don't have many.  Speaking of brownie.....if I made these again (and I probably will but I'm going to try the marshmallows) I'd make the graham cracker crust thinner and the brownie portion thicker.  So you might take that into consideration.  Or not.

But you should make them because they're really tasty (if you take the meringue part off), really easy and they make for a great presentation.  And they don't require you to chop any logs and build a fire in order to get a S'more!!  Bonus.

Here's the recipe:

S'mores Bars with Marshmallow Meringue
Food and Wine
April, 2015


3 cups graham cracker crumbs (12oz)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Brownie filling:
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cubed
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1.4 tsp fine sea salt
2 late eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cream of tarter

Make the crust:  Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F.  Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, allowing 2 inches of overhang on two sides.  In a medium bowl, using a fork, mix all of the ingredients until evenly moistened.  Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, just until lightly browned.  Let cool completely.  Leave the oven on.

Make the filling:  In a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla and salt.  Whisk in the eggs until smooth, then stir in the flour until just incorporated.  Spread the batter evenly over the cooled crust.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until the edge is set but the center is still slightly jiggly.  Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.

Make the meringue:  Preheat the broiler.  In a heat-proof medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk the egg whites with the sugar until the whites are warm and the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.  Transfer the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk.  Add the vanilla and cream of tartar and beat at medium speed until firm.  Increase the speed to high and beat the meringue until stiff and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes.

Mound the meringue on top of the filling, swirling it decoratively.  Broil the meringue 8 inches from the heat until lightly browned at the tips, about 1 minute  Cut into bars and serve.

The bars can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Fave Listening:

I like to listen to music on my walks with Fletcher but lately I've been into a few different podcasts.  They're anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour long and they really make the walk pass quickly.  Here are a few of my favorites:

This is an extension of the Cherry Bombe magazine which features women in the food industry.  The podcast is hosted by food-writer, Julia Turshen, and she talks to some of the most influential women in food today.  My favorites have been her interviews with Mimi Sheraton, Ina Garten, Sara Moulton and Dorie Greenspan and Christine Muhlke.  If you need a fun drinking game, drink every time Julia says "that's so"....anything.  You'll be wasted!  If you're just going for a good buzz limit the drinks to anytime she says "that's so funny".

This is hosted by Food52 founders Merrill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser.  There have only been three of these so far but I really enjoyed the one on cookbooks.

The Mad Men Pre-Game Show
All things relating to the final seven episodes of Man Men.  I'm really gonna miss this show.

Mad Men AfterBuzz TV AfterShow
Yes....more Mad Men discussion

I've only listened to one of these but I really liked the host, Dan Pashman, and I can't wait to listen to more of them.

Because I've read both of her books and love her "voice",  I can't wait to get started on back episodes of this one with Molly Wizenberg.

All of these can be downloaded on iTunes.  What are your favorites?

Fave Food Links:

Local strawberries are starting to show up and the farmer's stands around town so.....

This Strawberry Summer Cake from Smitten Kitchen is one of my all-time favorites.

My next Friday night will include a big, ole pitcher of these Strawberry Basil Margaritas

This Strawberry Pistachio Tart sounds so easy and so yummy!

And it's rhubarb season.....glorious rhubarb!!

I made this pie today and OMG.....Straight Up Rhubarb Pie

Have y'all ever had a drink made with a shrub?  And no, not the kind from your yard.  It's a vinegar based syrup, and apparently its a thing.  This Shrubarb Cocktail (see what they did there?) made with a rhubarb-ginger shrub is happening.  

These Rhubarb and Rose Hand Pies are adorable!!

Fave Internet Reads:

What the beautiful writer, Anne Lamott, knows on the eve of her 61st birthday.  Good.  Stuff.

Oh! Oh! Oh!  Carrie Bradshaw is coming back to HBO!!!  No one is killing it like HBO right now.  Great programming.

This workout made me cry.  

When does your food really expire.  I'll be cleaning my cupboards now.

How to make the perfect bed.  When you get this mastered, will you come make mine?

Gisele Bundchen's body asked her to retire from runway work.  Bless her heart.

Have a great weekend everyone.  Wish Fletcher and I luck on our 5K tomorrow.  I'll need it.  He won't.

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