Prosciutto & Manchego Cheese Crackers

Prosciutto & Manchego Cheese Crackers

Nutty, salty, crunchy, cheesy crackers—what could be better? I absolutely adore this recipe. It is easy yet a show stopper.

On top of that, this recipe is my take on a southern classic: cheese straws. As a southern girl, my go to cooking style is just that. When I get the opportunity I jump at the chance to revamp a classic southern recipe.

Every true southerner has been to a party or shower and sampled some homemade cheese straws. They are nutty, spicy (because of the use of red pepper), baked crunchy little cheese treats. Like sweet tea, cucumber sandwiches, or deviled eggs, you will can usually find cheese straw on the table of a party that is below the mason Dixon.

A stack of square baked manchego cheese crackers

Although I could not find any reliable sources on the true origins of this southern delicacy, I can tell you the idea behind them (at least in my not-so-expert opinion). The base recipe is a simple, half biscuit-like mixture and half shredded cheddar cheese. You pipe out the cheese mixture onto a sheet pan and bake them until nice and crispy.

Since you use shredded cheese, it is very easy to swap out cheddar with any comparable semi-hard cheese. To make my version a bit more fancy (cue my favorite Reba song), I swapped out the cheddar for Spanish Manchego cheese. Manchego is close to the top of my list of favorite cheeses.

A jar of manchego cheese crackers filled with cripsy proscuitto ham

I wanted to take the flavors a little further and balance the cheese flavor, so I crisped up some prosciutto and tossed it into the mix. You do not have to toss ham in, you can keep the prosciutto soft and serve it on the plate with the cheese crackers. I also thought a note of sweetness would be nice, so I plopped a jar of fig jam next to the platter.

The result, a slightly updated classic that everyone at the party I attended loved just as much (if not more) than the tried and true original version.

As with most of my recipes, this one is interchangeable. You can use any semi-hard cheese, toss in something extra, pair the finished crackers with any cured meat, and use any type of jam you would like. Challenge yourself and see if you can come up with your own winning flavor combination.

A slate tray of two types of manchego cheese crackers and proscuitto ham

Eggnog Overnight Oats

Eggnog Overnight Oats

In many of my posts I speak about using what you have in the fridge. Groceries are expensive and it is very easy to waste food when you have a small household. I cook for two, my husband and I, and cook a lot.

There always seems to be a baked good on the counter or leftovers in the fridge. Although my husband gives a valiant effort in eating everything I make, most days it is just impossible.

Bowl of mixing ingredients, oats, chai, yogurt

So where I can, I attempt to reuse or repurpose food. Even if you do not have a small household, limiting waste is never a bad idea.

Since the holidays, I have had a brand new jug of eggnog just sitting in my fridge bugging me. Although eggnog is a holiday flavor, I still wanted to use the jug even after the holidays passed.

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Everyone has started their New Year’s diet, so I figured provided a healthy (kind of) recipe would be ideal. This one is very simple as well, consider it a bonus. I say kind of healthy because I use eggnog in the place of milk, and eggnog has full fat.

This recipe is very versatile in that you can change out a lot of ingredients. For example, you can use a flavored yogurt instead of plain, pecans instead of almonds, and so on.

Sealed and stacked jars of overnight oats

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Butternut Squash & Lentil Curry

Colder weather means throwing something in the crockpot before work, letting it cook all day, and coming home to a bubbly, home cooked meal. The preceding is especially true when your book club decides to host their monthly meeting at your house.

I can think of no better way to feed a bunch of hungry ladies than to prepare something that is quick and easy.

If you are like me, crockpot cooking can be difficult because there are so few dishes or variations of dishes that you can make in a crockpot—soup, roast, or chili seem to be the go tos.

I tested out this recipe a few weeks ago on my husband, so when my book club meeting was scheduled for my house I thought the recipe would be perfect. The most work this recipe requires is steaming some jasmine rice for the side.

A beautiful bowl of lentil and butternut squash curry

There is no added fat or meat, which results in a relatively healthy dinner. The base is made entirely of vegetables and a little bit of low sodium chicken stock. Low calorie cooking means more room for wine.

As the seasons change you can trade out the butternut squash for something more seasonal like mango or sweet potato. You literally throw everything into the crockpot the morning before your meal is planned, and let the lentils cook down with the vegetables until a thick creamy curry is created.

Just like you can switch out the vegetables that fill this curry, you can pick any of you favorite toppings to sprinkle over each finished bowl. I opted for cilantro and pickled onion, but the leftover seeds from the butter squash would have also been delicious roasted then peppered over the top.

Chopsticks sit besides this rice filled bowl of curry

Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

Chocolate Stout Bundt Cake

Just as fast as they went last year, the holidays are upon us again. Although my waistline hates it, my heart gets excited to bake and cook as much as humanly possible over then next few months.

Which means this week, I have been testing recipes so I can bring the perfect dessert to our Thanksgiving feast. When coming up with recipes I like to take classics and add a slight twist, so a macadamia nut pie, instead of pecan, was on my list to try out. I will post the recipe soon.

This past weekend we had some friends over for a laid back night (but also so I could test out my pie recipe on them). Filet, truffle mashed potatoes, rosemary focaccia, and a few stout beers later, we were almost – almost – too full to eat pie. We still ate it though. And I am happy to report that the pie only needs one or two tweaks.

The next morning, waking up full and happy, I realized I had a bit of my stout beer left over. I do not like to waste food, so it was the perfect opportunity to throw a second dessert contestant into the mix. For some reason I could not get the idea of a stout bundt cake out of my head, so I began baking.

An upclose picture of the salted caramle glaze

I used a Dutch process cocoa powder, which is darker than the normal stuff, because I had it leftover from a previous recipe that I tested. Also, the use of cake flour would be perfect to lighten the dense texture of a chocolate bundt cake.

The only issue was deciding on what to top the cake with. Flavor contenders included espresso, caramel, and more chocolate. My husband does not love chocolate cake, so I landed on caramel to ensure that he would like this cake. The last touch, a little salt in the caramel to cut through the very decedent flavors.

This recipe turned out better than I could have imagined, and I didn’t have to change a single thing in the recipe. This may be one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever baked, and I will definitely proudly take it to our festivities on Thursday.

Confession: As soon as the cake was cooled and I snapped a few pictures, I ate a slice for lunch. That is the reason there are so few pictures in this post.

…I ate a second slice after dinner that night.

A slice of chocolate cake with salted caramel on top

Toasted Barrel

Toasted Barrel

I can’t think of two more delicious items than cheese and bourbon. Everyone (save a few picky eaters) loves rich, decadent flavors that deliver the paradigm of what Southerners have been taught that good food is supposed to be.

Luckily for Savannah, Michelin Star-trained Chef Thomas Ciszak felt the same. Last weekend marked the beginning of his ideal whiskey/cheese mash-up with the opening of the low country’s newest casual dining bar and restaurant—Toasted Barrel. Toasted Barrel is the creation of delectable food maestro Chef Ciszak.

As Chef Ciszak put it, “Toasted Barrel is an ideal place to enjoy a cocktail or a light meal, featuring fresh, [and] delicious ingredients.”

The location is perfect for locals and visitors alike. The artfully decorated restaurant sits on the corner of Oglethorpe and Montgomery, within the SpringHill Suites and just a short stroll from the new Cultural Arts Center.

If you have not figured it out by now, “Toasted” refers to the long list of toasted sandwiches and dishes available on the menu, and “Barrel” represents the over forty available high-end bourbons.

The stand out cocktail for me was the Smoky Deal—a bacon-infused bourbon-based mixture. Head bartender Jordan Sox explained how the insanely unique infused dark liquor is created:
“We take bacon fat and we take Four Roses bourbon, we put them together and we freeze it.”

The mixture is, of course, strained before it is used, and the final flavor tastes like the most concentrated (and delicious) maple bacon essence you’ve ever tasted. Overall the finished cocktail tastes like a smokey sweet bourbon dessert.

The recommended sandwich pairing is the Bacon Schmelz—because one can never have too much bacon in their life.

One Hot Cucumber is the ideal cocktail to balance the richness of each gooey cheese sandwich. Citrus forward and piney Hendrick’s gin is combined with fresh lime and light coconut water for a smooth and easy-to-drink companion that pairs well with a lot of Toasted Barrel’s rich, savory sammies.

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The Monkey Barrel was created by Sox for the grand opening of Toasted Barrel. “It is a variation on a daiquiri, but with overproof Jamaican rum, Four Roses bourbon, creme de banana, and fresh lemon juice,” Sox explained as I sat at the bustling and beautifully adorned bar.

The reason for the addition of bourbon into a rum drink is due to Toasted Barrel’s focus on bourbon, but the additive is not anything but complementary to the base drink.

As the name would suggest, the grilled cheese selection is robust. I am confident in saying there is a toasted masterpiece perfect for any toasty dairy connoisseur.

Chef Ciszak selected Auspicious Bakery bread to adorn each one of his cheese filled artworks, and as anyone who knows grilled cheeses knows, the bread is extremely important.

Starting at the very top of the list, the Classic Cheese grilled cheese sandwich is just as bold as any of the unique combinations listed on the menu. Often times the simplest dishes are the most difficult to execute well, but The Toasted Barrel has simplicity figured out.

A river of melted cheddar cheese flows between slices of buttery grilled Auspicious toasts, and the robust serving of cheese inside is created by the use of double the amount of cheese of one of their other sandwiches. Simple yet well seasoned, this rendition is the quintessential toasted sandwich.

Fluffy scrambled eggs, sweet sausage, and sharp cheddar cheese make up the Breakfast Melt. Any good cook or chef knows just how difficult a good scrambled egg is to perfect, yet Chef Ciszak has done so. The succulent eggs add moisture to the spiced sausage and salty cheese.

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My favorite was the Toast “Monsieur,” a grilled cheese upgraded with salty sweet maple glazed ham, ultra savory gruyere cheese, and tangy grain mustard. The grain mustard serves to add texture and cut through the richness of the ham and cheese combination.

I saved the Crispy Goat for last because it could almost be dessert. Fork tender roasted beets come layered with sticky fig jam, tart balsamic, and velvety chèvre cheese. Any earthy flavor of the beets were cooked away with the roasting leaving behind a delicate root vegetable that held up well to the sweetness of the fig jam. Chef Ciszak’s use of balsamic vinegar rounded out all of the sugary notes, while the smooth chèvre cheese brought the entire dish home.

If you do not end up trying multiple sandwiches, a side item or two accompanies any main dish properly.

I grabbed multiple servings of Toasted Barrel’s Hand Cut Fries, and I do not know which tasted better, the fries themselves or the sriracha mayonnaise accompanying them. The Belgian style fries, cut thicker than most, are pillowy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and speckled with just the right amount of salt. The mayonnaise was not too spicy, instead working to coat the mouth with silky savory taste of sweet vinegary pepper.

When you find the Tater Tots listed on the menu of sides, do not be fooled into thinking you will be served modest rounds of white potato. Chef Ciszak created his own version using sweet potatoes and parmesan cheese. Tender, tiny pillows of silky sweet potato are fried until they have an outer shell of crunchy goodness. The petite crunchy clouds are then served with salty and nutty parmesan cheese to balance it all out.

Finally, because what is a grilled cheese without tomato soup to dunk it in, the restaurant offers their San Mariano Tomato Soup accompanied with five spice croutons as a side item.

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Like any succulent homemade tomato soup, their version is thick with seasoning and spices visibly floating about the savory soul warming concoction. The five spices on the crouton only deepen taste of the vivacious dish.

Original article is here.

 

Ultimate Cornbread

Ultimate Cornbread

Officially, it is the time of year for parties, potlucks, family gatherings, and anything in-between. Fall is the time of year that I love most, mainly because all of the festivities gives me an excuse to cook – as if I needed one. For most cooks, the love of cooking comes from sharing your finished dish with others.

But with all of the doing and making everyone gets a bit tired, which is where quick and easy recipes come into play. A home cook can never have too many delicious quick recipes, the kind you lean towards when in a pinch or too busy to really put work into a dish.

A homemade batch of cornbread can easily fill in the gaps for any potluck or gathering. For me, the problem is that making perfect cornbread is not something I have mastered – until I came up with this recipe.

There are many schools of thought on cornbread; some like is sweet, some like it course, some like it filled with things, etc. Personally, I love the sweet version that comes straight from a box. I grew up eating sweet skillet cornbread, so anything short of what I grew up with was was never good enough.

Until this recipe, I did not know out how to make sweet cornbread that stayed together when sliced. And because everyone has their own preference in cornbread, I wanted to include as much in one recipe as possible…creating the ultimate cornbread.

My version uses honey as one of the sweeteners along with fresh sweet corn on the cob stirred right in. To balance everything out, fresh jalapenos are added for a little heat. Finally, smoked cheddar cheese is grated over the top to add a final layer of umami. As the cornbread cooks, the cheese becomes bubbly and browns on the top of the bread.

The best part, the dish takes only 15-20 minutes to mix together and bake – perfect for anyone in a pinch or just plain overworked.

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The Grey Market

The Grey Market

IT WAS only last month that Netflix announced that its award-winning documentary series Chef’s Table would feature local Savannahian and prized chef Mashama Bailey and her business partner John O. Morisano.

The episode, premiering next year, is set to tell the story of how the two created the Savannah’s The Grey, and how Chef Bailey is the first African American woman nominated for and a finalist in the runnings for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

Chef Bailey ventured all the way down to Savannah from New York after connecting with Morisano, the brain behind the revamp of the old Greyhound bus station that now holds The Grey.

It goes without saying that The Grey and the team behind The Grey have helped put Savannah on the culinary map—finally! Chef Bailey showcases local ingredients and culture while bringing in inspiration from global influences.

The Grey houses two seating areas, each with their own menu, yet both offering patrons one of those dining experiences that you don’t forget.

Morisano is also from New York, so the idea to bring Savannah a third concept from The Grey team originated as he sat at a lunch counter in his home state.

“I went to a place in Washington Heights, a Dominican lunch spot, and I was like Savannah needs something like this,” he told me as we chatted at a high-top in his bustling new store front.

After visiting the one-of-a-kind new location, I couldn’t agree more that Savannah had a hole that is now filled by The Grey Market.

The concept of The Grey Market is simple—part store with high quality food related products and part restaurant with a food counter where you can perch and eat your lunch. Morisano explained the concept to me perfectly:

“Everything about this is a little familiar to Mashama and me, sort of like the bustling lunch counter with people almost throwing food at you.”

As for the bodega side, the thought was to aid those that work downtown and may need to stop into a store to grab one or two items.

You can also forgo stopping in to grab one or two items you forgot to pick up for dinner, and grab an entire precooked dinner created by The Grey. The market offers grab-and-go dinners (for an extremely reasonable price might I add) that usually features a meat, two sides, and bread.

“We tried it on the first night and it sold out immediately,” Morisano said, referencing the popularity of the family meals. Some of the items Morisano and Chef Bailey are considering featuring with the take-away meals include baked pasta, pork tenderloin, whole roasted fish, meatloaf, ribs, and fried chicken.

“All of the products that are in the market we [the Grey’s team] use. When we were talking about dry pasta, there was only one dry pasta in [his] grandmother’s Italian kitchen. Everything is picked that way,” Morisano explained describing the process of selecting products available for sale in the market.

Modeled after a true New York food hall counter, the menu is divided into breakfast, after 11 a.m., 4 p.m. to close, and all day items. You will also find baked goods and fountain sodas.

Also, the bagels are a big deal. “They are straight up New York bagels. Our baker is from New York, from the same borough of New York City I grew up in,” Morisano told me. I asked Morisano about why they chose New York style bagels over the rest.

He said, “in a way we don’t have a choice, we are all New Yorkers and do not know any other kind of bagel.”

Keeping true to The Grey’s northern roots, lox is offered alongside the bagels that are baked fresh daily. Chef Bailey’s version of lox is beet cured and served alongside cream cheese, red onion, and watercress.

Every single baked good, available in the store and both restaurants, is baked in-house on the top floor of the new marketplace.

I was told by Morisano that their NYC, a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, is another menu item that is 100 percent authentic to the big city. A true NYC bacon egg and cheese is served on a kaiser roll, and not a bagel or toast like so many southern versions.

“One of the thing Mashama and I knew had to be on the menu was a New York bacon egg and cheese,” said Morisano after I mistakenly asked if their version was served on a bagel. He told me you can get the sandwich on a bagel, but the true New York way is on a kaiser.

The Sizzlin’ Smoky Pig is a sandwich, on the All Day side of the menu, based on one of the original menu items served at The Grey, the Sizzlin’ Smokey Pig. It was pork served sizzling in a cast iron skillet with a cracked egg on the top. The new version features smoked pig, pepper relish, and a fried egg all served on a kaiser roll.

I asked Morisano what he personally picked to feature on the menu:

“I was interested in seeing how Mashama could take some of the things we cooked over at The Grey and use that as inspiration for doing things here…I was really interested in connecting the DNA of The Grey with The Grey Market.”

The Grey Market has a list of approximately thirty wines that was curated by the wine and beverage director Caleb. Per Morisano, “there are more fun and big wines here, we are not limiting ourselves to the old world wines like The Grey.”

So far The Market has hosted a few impromptu wine tastings, and plan on hosting more at the standing counter.

Original article is Here.

Cherry Upside-Down Layer Cake

Cherry Upside-Down Layer Cake

This year was a big year for me—I turned the big 3-0. I know, by no means is thirty old, but it has taken some time for me to get used to the idea. That is the reason why this post is so late. My birthday was several months ago.

Almost every year for my birthday, I make myself a cake. My opinion is who better to do the job than yourself? Personally, I do not like super sweet, sugary cakes. I can count the number of cakes that I have truly enjoyed on one hand. So, the challenge this year was to make a balanced, grown-up cake; something truly representative of my new age.

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One trick to cutting down on the sweetness of a cake is to replace traditional icing with whipped cream. The use of tart fresh cherries would also help to counter balance the sugary cake layers. The overall result was perfect, a light, sophisticated, and beautiful (in taste and look) cake.

This recipe forgoes traditional livening ingredients, baking soda/powder, and replaces them with folded in egg whites. Which means you will need to be a bit more careful with your bake.

I used three eight inch cake pans for my version, which created pretty thin layers. If you like thicker layers, I recommend switching the eight inch pans for three six inch pans.

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Pluot & Almond Galette

Pluot & Almond Galette

Summer is all about seasonal cooking with the freshest ingredients (and laying by the pool too), so when I make a trip to the store I grab the produce that looks best and is in season, it automatically drives what I will make next. The same applies if I spot something fun and unique that I have never tasted before–my mom taught me to try everything at least once. Not too long ago I spotted pluots, a plum and apricot hybrid. A fruit that has the best of both and that is easy to bake with.

Being lazy after a long summer day laying by the pool, I do not always have the most energy to really make my baked goods pretty. Sometimes you just want the end result without all of the work. A galette is perfect for that baker.

A galette is essentially a free form pie, great for those of us that struggle with making our baked goods pretty. A bit more rustic, you simply roll out your pie crust, pour your filling in the middle, and fold the edges up and over. The center stays open allowing the sugar in the filling to cook down and get extra gooey.

For this recipe I use brown sugar instead of regular sugar; it adds a deeper flavor to the baked good

There are a few tricks to remember when making a pie crust because we all know they can be very tricky:

  • Make sure your butter is very cold, the same applies if you are using lard or shortening.
  • Use a pastry cutter, and if you do not have one use a large fork.
  • Do not overwork or your pastry will become tough.
  • Adding a bit of vinegar allows the glutens to relax, so your dough is not tough.
  • Always let your dough rest in the fridge at least 30 minutes before using.

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Cherry Cheesecake Ice-Cream Sammies

Cherry Cheesecake Ice-Cream Sammies

August is notoriously sweltering hot in the low country. For cooks, this means foregoing recipes that use an oven to avoid heating up the house and instead opting for recipes that cool you down. I can think of no better way to cool down in the summer heat than with ice cream.

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Growing up in the south, my mom loved to make us homemade peach ice cream with one of those old fashioned ice-driven churners. The result was loosely churned ice cream with chunks of cold fresh peaches. A perfect treat after playing all day on a long, sticky summer day.

Even today, when my husband and I visit my mother for a summer holiday or gathering, she loves to make ice cream with the same machine–and many times it still includes peaches. So of course when I registered for my wedding, I wanted to include an ice cream maker. I thought it would be so lovely to be able to make my own ice cream at home

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Tips to perfect your own ice cream:

• If you want a more pungent flavor, soak your flavoring in your milk starting the night before you make your ice cream base.

• The difference between this ice cream and others is the larger amount of cream and egg yolks used in the recipe.

• Always temper your eggs to avoid creating scrambled egg ice cream.

• Make sure you completely cool you base in the fridge before you add it to the ice cream maker.

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Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream Sandwiches

Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:

• 1 Stick of Butter, softened
• 1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
• 1 Large Egg
• 1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
• 1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
• 1/4 Cup of Cocoa Powder
• 1 1/2 Cups of All Propose Flour

Directions:

  1. Beat together butter and sugar until thoroughly combined and continue to beat for another three to four minutes until fluffy.
  2. While beating, combine your remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix together.
  3. In a small bowl, beat together you extract and egg.
  4. Mix 1/2 of your dry mixture into your butter mixture.
  5. Follow by your adding in your egg mixture, beating until fully combined.
  6. Finish by mixing in your remaining dry mixture.
  7. Shape dough into a disc, cover in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for one hour.
  8. On a well floured surface, roll out your chilled dough to an 1/8 inch thickness.
  9. Use your desired cookie cutter to cut out your cookie rounds.
  10. Place all of your cookie rounds on a slip-mat lined cookie sheet.
  11. Let the cookies rest in the fridge for another ten minutes before baking. While the cookies chill, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  12. Bake for 10 minutes or until just done. Let cool completely before using.

Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream

Ingredients:
• 1 Block of Creamed Cheese, softened
• 1/2 Cup of Granulated Sugar
• 4 Large Egg Yolks
• 1 Cup of Whole Milk
• 2 Cups of Heavy Cream
• 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
• 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
• 1 Cup of Fresh Cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1.  Pour your milk and cream into a large sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Do not let the milk heat over a simmer.
  2. While the milk heats, whisk together cream cheese, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt and egg yolks until thoroughly combined. Continue to beat for an additional one to two minutes until fluffy.
  3. Slowly temper the egg mixture with your warm milk. Start by adding about 1/2 a cup at the time, pouring slowly while you continually whisk by hand.
  4. Once all of the milk has been tempered in, pour the custard back into your saucepan.
  5. Heat over medium and cook the custard, stirring continually. Heat until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon or is at least doubled in thickness.
  6. Remove from the heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer.
  7. Let the custard cool completely in the fridge before churning, about one hour.
  8. When ready, add the custard to your ice cream maker and churn according to the machines instructions.
  9. Once churned at soft, stir in your cherries.
  10. Place ice cream into a sealable container, and let harden for at least one hour before serving.