Month: April 2014

wild card wednesday: brown butter catfish with stir-fried collards



“The Mississippi Delta is shining like a national guitar,” a line from Paul Simon’s “Graceland” from the album of the same name is a great analogy for the food of the region. Among the many dividing line’s the nation has, the Mississippi River is peculiar in that it is permanent and literal, and that it also leads to the truth that we are one great melting pot. The delta is a place that calls us all out on our iniquities while also pointing to the fact that we, from our founding, have been a nation of self-reliance (and perhaps cosmic irony). Tonight’s meal is a tribute to the forgotten, the cast-offs, and the offal that shows that even in the dredges there is beauty. I have learned so much about this region and its culture through this challenge and carry a much fuller respect for Southern Foodways because of it.

Catfish is a bottom feeder, collards were considered an inferior to turnips and designated for servants, and hominy hardly has an identity of its own. The people of the delta–this wonderful, multi-cultural area– made these foods delicacies that are now regularly finding their way to the menus of America’s greatest chefs. This meal is an ode to all the cultures that make this region special (I learned in researching the area that several Asian-Americans settled in the region after the California gold rush ended and added immediately made collards part of their cuisine to replace bok choy and other cabbages common in Asia).

In other words, America might have learned to farm in the mid-atlantic, to hunt in the wilderness, and to fight in colonies, but the delta is where America learned to cook. This meal is an ode to those who found a way to make plates from scraps and build society around compost.

It was also delicious.

Brown Butter Catfish

1 stick butter
8 Filets catfish
2 cups water
1/4 cup white wine
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
30ish whole peppercorns
Pinch salt

To begin, melt the butter in a heavy pan over medium heat. Allow the butter to froth and then calm down. When brown flecks begin to appear, swirl the pan. Keep cooking for about 7-8 minutes until the butter is mostly brown. Heat another minute and pour into a container away from heat.

Add the water, wine, garlic, pepper, salt, and bay leave to a deep frying pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Uncover and raise the heat to being the liquid back to a boil. Cut the temp to medium low/simmer and place the filets into the liquid. Poach for about five minutes.

Turn broiler on. Place the catfish filets on a foil lined broiling pan. Pour enough browned butter on each filet to cover. Broil 4-5 minutes until the butter is bubbling. Remove and serve immediately, with lemon if you choose.

Velvety smooth.

Velvety smooth.

Stir fried collards

1 lb (bunch) collards
3 strips sliced country ham, chunked
1 can golden hominy
1 tbsp bacon fat
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 tsp canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fish sauce

Fill a stock pot with water and bring to a boil and prep an ice bath. Chop the collards into 2-inch squares. Blanch the collards in the boiling water for about and minute. Remove and dunk in the ice-bath. Lay a double-layer of paper towels on the counter and place the collards on the. Cover with an additional layer of paper towels to dry.

In a deep pan at medium high heat, saute the ham and hominy together in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper and saute about 3 minutes. Add the canola oil and then the collards. Stir in the fish sauce for 2 minutes and reduce heat and continue to cook about 5 minutes.

Corn and Pork, the South in food.

Corn and Pork, the South in food.


Plate with the collard mix in a dish and top with fish. Enjoy. Keep bounding into Graceland.

wildcard wednesday: hot tamales, Mississippi Delta style


OK, so as soon as Alex declared April’s Wildcard Wednesday theme to be the Mississippi Delta, we knew that one of us had to try tamales.  If you’ve ever been to the region, you know that catfish is king, but hot tamales are also a delicious roadside treat.  Many barbecue joints in the Delta also sell hot tamales, and even though many of us might only associate this foodstuff with Mexican food, you should also know that its an integral part of Mississippi Delta food culture.  You can read more about this strange and wonderful connection at the Southern Foodways Alliance website.

A few words on tamales: they’re not difficult to make, but it is an undertaking an time-consuming.  They’re also delicious and totally worth it.

I made these on a Wednesday afternoon (that continued into that evening…) while Alex was at a meeting, but when I make them again, I’m going to make sure that we’re both home or that I invite over a few friends to help with the process.  I also broke a rule I usually live by: never serve dinner guests something you’ve never made before.  Our friends Frank and Heather Pendergast came over for a tamale supper last Wednesday, and the company was grand!  I think the tamales were pretty grand, too.

Mississippi Delta Hot Tamales

Makes 2 dozen

24 corn husks (available at Mexican food stores–Macon people, go to El Carnaval on Pio Nono Ave.)

4 lbs. pork shoulder, cut into large cubes (about 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch)

1 Tbsp. cumin

2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. salt

1 Tbsp. paprika

1 jalapeno, quartered

1/4 cup canola oil

1 Tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. cumin

4 cups masa mix (finely ground cornmeal, available at most grocery stores)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

3/4 cup lard (yes, I said lard–it’s worth it in this recipe!)

4 cups meat broth (from cooking the pork)

First, place the corn husks in a clean sink and fill up with warm water; let sit for about two hours.

Next, place the cubes of pork, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, paprika, and jalapeno in a large, heavy pot and fill with water until it covered the pork.  Bring to a boil, then place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and cook for about 2 hours.  After the 2 hours time is up, remove the pork from the water and let cool for about 10 minutes.  When the pork has cooled slightly, shred the meat with your hands (this should be relatively easy).  In a large pan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat and add the chili powder, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin to the oil and stir.  Add the shredded pork and cook for about 8 minutes, then turn off the heat and set aside.

Next, mix the masa, baking powder, salt, and lard with your hands until the mixture is evenly combined.  Add about 1/2 cup of the meat broth at a time until the dough resembled a mashed potato consistency.

Next is assembly.  Take a soaked corn husk and place the thin edge toward you and the wide edge at the top of your assembly space.  Take about 1/4 cup of the masa dough and thinly spread it in the middle of the husk.  Next, take about 1 Tbsp. of the pork and place it down the middle of the dough, then gently (think sushi here) roll the corn husk so that the masa mix forms a protective layer around the meat, then tuck the thin edge under and keep the top open.


This takes a while, but once you have all of the tamales assembled, place them open-side up in a large pot so that there are enough tamales for them to stand up with the support of the other tamales.  Being careful to not spill water into the tamales, fill the pot with water up to the part of the corn husks where the masa ends.  Bring to a boil, then place the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low, and cook for a little over an hour.

In the Mississippi tradition, I served these tamales with some slaw and beans, the quintessential barbecue sides.  Enjoy!


lunchbox life: “here’s the the ladies who lunch” sampler


I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m a huge Broadway fan.  I wish I could say that I was the type of theatre fan who always knew about the next big thing, the off-, off-, off-Broadway underrated gem, or the best low-budget, high-quality show that everyone on the inside knows about, but alas, I’m a part of the majority.  Give me the blockbusters: Les Miserables, Into the Woods, Wicked, Cabaret, Chicago, and all the others, and I’ll turn up my car speakers to maximum volume (mostly so I cannot hear my own horrid voice) and turn into Eponine, the Baker’s Wife, Elphaba, Sally Bowles, or Velma Kelly–at least in my mind.  There is a fabulous song from Stephen Sondheim’s Company called “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and it outlines a disenchanted woman’s thoughts on wealthy women who don’t work, living a life of leisure, who have the privilege of dining out with friends midday.  It’s a fabulous song that’s fully of salty one-liners and a biting tone, and it’s especially fitting if you’ve had a crazy day at work and need to get some frustration out of your system.  On a personal note, I don’t begrudge “ladies who lunch” in the slightest; it sounds like a fabulous way to live to me!

This week’s lunch is inspired by ladies who lunch, particularly the Southern country club set.  I’ve included a small scoop of egg salad and a small scoop of chicken salad on a bed of local greens with a few nasturtiums (edible flowers) for a fancy look befitting the leisurely set, plus a side of fresh fruit with cantaloupe, honeydew, and pineapple.  The eggs, greens, chives, and nasturtiums came from this week’s box from our local CSA, The Dirt Farmer.  We have sung the praises of this weekly subscription ever since we signed up, but I’ll say it again: they’re amazing!  Unfortunately, they’re not taking any new customers at the moment–a good problem to have since they’re currently at customer capacity.  If you’re interested, I suggest going to their website and contacting them to get on the waiting list–totally worth the wait.

As usual, I’ve substituted 0% Greek yogurt for mayonnaise in both the egg salad and the chicken salad.  This week’s egg salad is similar to the egg salad I posted a few weeks ago, but I’ve added chives and dill relish here.  The chicken salad gets a special depth of flavor with the addition of some soy sauce.  It doesn’t taste Asian, and it almost makes the chicken taste more chicken-y (weird, but it’s a thing, kind of like how coffee makes chocolate taste more chocolate-y).

WW info: 5 PP per lunch (1/3 cup egg salad, 1/3 cup chicken salad, greens, and fruit)

Egg Salad

24 eggs, boiled and peeled

4 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped

4 Tbsp. dill relish

1 cup 0% Greek yogurt (I recommend Fage brand)

1/2 cup yellow mustard

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper

Chop the eggs into small cubes and place in a mixing bowl, then add the chives and relish and mix to combine.  In a small bowl, add the Greek yogurt, mustard, salt, and pepper and stir until combined and smooth.  Pour the dressing over the egg mixture and fold in.

*I used about 1/3 cup in my lunch, which would give you approximately 24 servings in this recipe.

Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts

1 Tbsp. dry minced onion

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. red pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. white pepper

1 cup red grapes, sliced in half lengthwise

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1/2 cup 0% Greek yogurt

1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

You can cook the chicken in any way you like, but here is my low-and-slow favorite preparation:  Cut the chicken breasts into large chunks (about 1 inch by 1 inch) and place in a small pot.  Cover the chicken pieces with water, add the spices, then bring to a boil.  When the water begins boiling, place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low.  Now, go do laundry, do the dishes, take a nap, etc.  When the two hours are up, remove the chicken chunks from the water and place on a cool surface.  Let the chicken cool for about 10 minutes, then, with your hands, shred the chicken and place it in a medium mixing bowl.  Add the almonds and sliced grapes and mix to combine.  In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, soy sauce, salt, and pepper, then pour this dressing over the chicken mixture and mix to combine.

*I used about 1/3 cup in my lunch, which would give you about 8 servings for this recipe.


meatless monday: sandwich king- grilled artichoke sub and carrot cranberry salad


Prepared last monday, this meatless monday special might be right up your alley for the coming week. I was inspired for this meal after watching the great Sandwich King on food network. His show is a pretty entertaining and inventive twist on the sometimes pretentious shows on the network’s line-up and is a huge step up in watchability from Guy. It also airs on Sunday morning, a great time to get you excited about comfort food.

This sandwich and salad combo was not paired on the show itself, but it allowed me to use some of the great items from out CSA (the eggs and carrots).Thus, it is a timely, springy meal with some great bold flavors. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think you will too!

Sub- adapted from

1 head garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
1 12oz jar of marinated artichoke
1 large Italian sweet loaf
4 to 6 vibrant leafs of red leaf lettuce
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted with salt and a pinch of red pepper

Cut the top off the garlic and wrap in foil with some salt and pepper and olive oil. Roast for at least 20 mins on 350. Remove when brown and caramelized and place on the board to cool.

Mix the cheeses, basil, and lemon zest in a bowl. Squeeze the garlic out of the bulb and mash on the cutting board. Add to the cheese mixture and mix.

Toast the pine nuts in a pan with the salt and red pepper over medium-low heat. Check and roll regularly to make sure the do no over-toast. This process will give the nuts a fuller flavor.

Heat a grill pan to medium high. Place the artichokes on and cook about 5 mins per side, until marks show. While they are cooking, lightly toast the bread in a 250 oven.

Split the loaf and smear the cheese on both sides. Add artichokes to one side and nuts to the other. Fill with the desired amount of lettuce and close it up.

Sammich time.

Sammich time.


Carrot cranberry salad– again adapted from food network.

2 egg yolks
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 tbsp dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded carrots (about 8 medium)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

In food processor, add the yolks, honey, mustard, vinegar, and lemon items. Turn on processor and slowly drizzle the oil into the mixture. Blend about 10 seconds and remove. (This is an adaptation of another Sandwich king recipe!).

Place the shredded carrots, cranberries, and pecans in a large bowl. Add the aioli mix to the bowl and stir. Refrigerate about 20 mins and stir before serving.
Serve together and enjoy your bright, springy-lemony meal!

Prepared 4/21/14

lunchbox life: quinoa bowls with velvet chicken, veggies, and miso


Apologies for the late post this week; I returned home yesterday from a four day trip to DC and Philadelphia to see some of my best friends and I was absolutely tuckered out last night!  We had a lovely time catching up, sightseeing, and eating our way around these two historic cities, and getting back to the daily grind today was as tough as it always is when you return from a vacation.  However, I had a lovely time this afternoon checking out my CSA delivery from the weekend and deciding what I should make for lunches this week, and this is what I came up with: quinoa bowls with velvet chicken, veggies, and miso.  Why velvet?  Well, I have to give a shoutout to Chef Teddi Wohlford at Robinson Home for teaching me the secret that many Asian restaurants use to make their chicken breast so moist and tender: the velveting technique.  This technique is simple: cut up the chicken (or pork) into the desired size pieces, cover with milk and spices, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (and up to four hours).  I was mesmerized, and once I tasted the tender chicken in her fantastic green curry chicken soup, I was a believer.  I researched this technique on ye old internet, and apparently, this is the hidden knowledge of many Asian chefs.  Who knew?  The velveting technique couldn’t be easier and couldn’t be tastier.

To complement the velvet chicken, I sliced up some commonly used veggies in Asian cuisine that I picked out from this week’s CSA box: spinach, carrots, and mushrooms.  I also used miso paste in a simple dressing to bind the chicken and veggies to the quinoa.  Miso paste is frequently used as a soup base to which many restaurants add small slivers of tofu, mushroom, and green onion.  I love its earthy aroma and salty flavor, and I think it works well here with the fiber-rich quinoa, delicate chicken, and sharp veggies.

Quinoa Bowls with Velvet Chicken, Veggies, and Miso

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups water + chicken bouillon cube OR 2 cups chicken broth

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1 tsp. salt

2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1/2 pint milk

spice mix (1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. white pepper, 1/4 tsp. coriander, 1/4 tsp. Chinese five spice, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)

2 cups fresh spinach, chopped

1 cup sliced white mushrooms

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

3 Tbsp. miso paste

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. water

In a plastic bowl container, add the chicken, milk, and spice mix, then place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  In a rice cooker or pot with a lid, add the quinoa and 2 cups water and bouillon or chicken broth, garlic, one of the sliced green onions, and salt.  Cook according to package directions.  When the quinoa is cooked, turn the heat to simmer (the keep warm function on the rice cooker) and add the spinach and mushrooms, mixing the combine; replace the lid and let this sit for about 5 minutes.  Heat a large frying pan to medium-high heat and coat with nonstick spray.  When pan is warm, use tongs to remove each chicken piece from the milk and place in the pan; cook for about 6 minutes on each side and discard of the remaining milk mixture.  When the chicken is done, add it as well as the carrots and pine nuts to the quinoa mixture and turn off the heat.  In a small bowl, add the miso, remaining green onions, vinegar, and water and whisk to combine.  Pour the miso dressing over the quinoa and stir to combine.  Enjoy!

lunchbox life: chicken spring roll wraps with kale + bok choy salad


For this week’s lunches, I’ve yet again invoked the help of our CSA, The Dirt Farmer.  This whole wheat wrap, much like a spring or summer roll, is full of chicken, cabbage, and carrots, and the kale, bok choy, and baby swiss chard salad mix was an easy pairing with some extra carrot slices and a yummy peanut sesame dressing.  The peanut dressing on the salad includes a personal favorite product, PB2.  PB2 is an all natural ground peanut powder and, mixed with water, it’s the same as peanut butter but with 85% less fat and calories.  I’m a big fan of peanut butter, and I love this product!  You can find it at Kroger in the all natural and organic section of the store, and you can also find it here.  Bell Plantation, PB2’s home base, is in Tifton, Georgia, so I like the idea that this nationally-distributed product is created just and hour and a half down the road from me.

Chicken Spring Roll Wraps

1 lb. chicken breast tenderloins

1 tsp. Chinese five spice

1/4 tsp. cayenne red pepper

1/2 tsp. white pepper

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. cracked black pepper

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 Tbsp. white sesame seeds

2 tsp. honey

1 small head savoy cabbage, chopped into 1/2 inch ribbons

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. grated ginger

1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons

5 whole wheat tortillas

In a small bowl, mix the Chinese five spice, cayenne, garlic powder, white pepper, salt, and pepper.  In a medium bowl, add the spices, the canola oil, and the chicken breast tenderloins and let it sit on the counter for about ten minutes.  While the chicken is quickly marinating, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add the canola oil and grated ginger.  After about two minutes, add the cabbage, soy sauce, and fish sauce.  Give the cabbage a quick stir-fry, tossing frequently, for about 3-4 minutes; set aside.  Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and add the chicken tenderloins.  Cook for about six minutes on each side, then chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.  Toss chicken pieces with sesame seeds and honey.

To assemble the wraps, lay out the tortillas and layer the cabbage, chicken, and carrot ribbons.  Roll up each tortilla and slice in half on the diagonal.

Kale + Bok Choy Salad

4 cups baby kale, bok choy, swiss chard, or a combination

1/2 carrot, peeled into ribbons

for the dressing:

2 Tbsp. PB2

1 Tbsp. water

juice of half of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp. sriracha

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Whisk or shake the dressing ingredients together and dress the greens and carrots.


WW info: 1 wrap + salad = 7 PP


meatless monday: mexican soup with avocado filled quesadilla


Rainy days and Mondays, you guys. Those two things in conjunction are something far worse than just a Carpenters song or something that doesn’t simply get you down. The wicked combo forces you to find inspiration to not just consider the day cancelled and sleep for an extra 24. Unfortunately, the jerk who invented work made it down from the Big Rock Candy Mountain and made Monday the start of the work week. And so it goes, that’s just how it is.

But, thanks the ingenuity of the human race, we have developed cures for the doldrums of the rainy monday– the soup and grilled cheese combo. The very definition of comfort food. It’s a combo that makes you feel like you are in a snuggie that is somehow stylish and you are proud to strut along the promenade.

Of course, a simple grilled cheese and tomato soup combo is not what you demand. Had to kick it up and notch with a South of the Border (Mexico, not Pedro’s amusement park on the Carolina border on I-95) soup and quesadilla combo that is spicy, warm, creamy, and decadent.

The soup is a basic vegan soup with a vegetable broth base that is loaded with veggies, spices, poblano, and lime. The non-vegan portion, the quesadilla, is a standard queso fresco grilled cheese with simple avocado spread.

This meal is well balance and perfect pick-me-up for this dreary day.

Mexican Vegetable soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, pressed
1 Poblano pepper, ribs and seeds removed and cut into strips
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp oregano
1 14 once can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 14 once can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Bunch cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or dutch over over medium low heat. Add the onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. In frying pan, roast the poblano strips until the skin on the outside blisters. Remove from pan and finely chop. Add the peppers and garlic with the onions and saute for another couple of minutes. Add all the spices, then the tomatoes and beans. Stir and saute for anther minute. Add the oregano the broth, raise the heat to medium high and stir in the lime, salt and pepper, and 1/2 the cilantro. Once it is at a boil, reduce back to medium low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Garnish with remaining cilantro.

soup pot dome


During the simmering, make the quesadillas.

Avocado filled quesadilla

1 tortilla per diner
1/2 tbsp butter per quesadilla
1 hunk of queso freco
2 avocados
1 tbsp heavy cream
2 pinches salt
Juice of one lime
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Peel the avocados and place in a bowl. Add the salt, garlic, cream, and lime and beat together with a wisk.

Heat a large frying pan to medium low and melt the butter. Once bubbly, add a little garlic powder and salt to the butter. Swirl the pan until the butter coats the pan and place the tortilla into the butter. Crumble queso frseco to cover the tortilla all over. Cover for 30 seconds to accelerate the melting. Once the cheese has melted and the tortilla is browning on the edges, spoon two scoops on avocado on one side of the tortilla and fold the other half over the avocado. Press to make the cheese stick. Cook an additional 20 seconds per side, until crisp. Cut in half to serve.


like a warm food blanket

like a warm food blanket

Nom on get happy.

lunchbox life: lazy spinach lasagna


Let me just say that some Sundays are perfect for lunchbox prep: I’ll have the whole day to run errands and cook as I please, get the creative juices flowing, and come up with something novel or out of the box.  Today was not one of those Sundays.  We had a lovely weekend in Helen for a friend’s wedding, rushed back to town this afternoon and went straight to our Sunday TV Dinner Group for a viewing of episode 4 of True Detective, and while were there had an absolutely delicious, handcrafted, authentic lasagna made by our friend Adam.  He made his own pasta, sauce, and meatballs, and it was glorious.  By the time we got home, I checked our CSA delivery box for inspiration and found some gorgeous large, leafy spinach.  This type is very different from your standard plastic bag or box of baby spinach, but you could certainly use that here.  I thought back to one of first dishes Alex made for me: spinach lasagna.  At this point, opportunity met inspiration, but I knew that I didn’t have the time or energy do a homemade lasagna justice, so that’s why you’re getting my quick and easy, shortcuts included recipe.  One of the biggest shortcuts is the no boil lasagna noodles.  They’re really pretty good and they’ll save you a lot of time.  Another shortcut is the crushed tomatoes.  For a sauce like this, I’d normally doctor it up with some roasted garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes, but the mildness of the tomatoes works well here with the creaminess of the ricotta and mozzarella and the infusion of the garlic in the filling.

This recipe is also great because once you quickly assemble the lasagna and place it in the oven, you can do other Sunday night rituals (laundry, shower, organization for the week, etc.).  I’ve cut this lasagna into six pieces, but you could certainly make your pieces larger or smaller depending on your appetite.

Lazy Spinach Lasagna

4 no cook lasagna noodles

28 oz. crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 lb. part-skim mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick

32 oz. part-skim ricotta cheese

3 to 4 cups spinach, torn into pieces

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

3 garlic cloves, minced or grated

Shredded parmesan cheese, for topping

Heat the oven to 375 F.  Soak the lasagna noodles in warm water for about 4 minutes, then remove from water and set aside.  In a medium sized bowl, mix the ricotta, spinach, egg, salt, and garlic until evenly combined.  In an 8×8 baking dish, place one of the lasagna sheets on the bottom and spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture onto it, then add about 1/4 of the mozzarella, then about 1/4 of the crushed tomatoes.  Repeat x2, then on top of the fourth lasagna sheet, spoon on the last 1/4 of the tomatoes and top with the last 1/4 of the mozzarella.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until dish is bubbling and cheese begins to turn golden.  Let rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.  Top with shredded parmesan and enjoy!


wildcard wednesday: new orleans style barbecue shrimp


What is it really?

What is it really?

Welcome to the month of April where it is oddly appropriate to deceive friends, so I thought I would kick off our series of Wild Card Wednesdays on food from the Mississippi Delta with a deceptive dish. How many of you, like me, fondly remember Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue from Forrest Gump listing all the ways to prepare shrimp. The intriguing list went on and on, but on the first thing he says is “you can barbecue it” and well you guys, this is it.

It is deceptive because it is not grilled, not cooked over a flame or even on a flat top. The shrimp is slowly sauteed in a bath of butter, worchestershire and spices. It is almost as though it is mimicking the flavors of barbecue without coming close to a smoker. It is a favorite of New Orleans shrimp joints and fine dining establishments alike, all with different spins, different flavors or techniques, but the basics are always butter, garlic, and worchestershire. More specifically:

Without Lea and Perrins, you are doing it wrong

Without Lea and Perrins, you are doing it wrong

This is actually a very simple dish in execution. It doesn’t take long, has relatively few steps, and it is best served with a big hunk of bread and a bib. With a dish like this, you’ll get messy, get full, and get happy (just like a trip to the place of my birth- New Orleans).

I chose to serve this with grilled broccoli and Fresh Market’s wonderful rosemary and sea salt bread. It was a wonderful compliment to the layers of spices and seafood flavors.

There are few better things than sopping with this bread.

There are few better things than sopping with this bread.


New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp

1 1/2 pounds wild caught, shell on shrimp
2 sticks of butter
2 lemons, juiced and peeled
1/2 cup Lea and Perrins Original
1 tbsp kosher salt
1tbsp paprika (the spice of bbq)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp white pepper
5 whole bay leaves
1/2 tsp minced onion
4 cloves fresh garlic
1Tbsp heavy cream
Green onion to garnish

In a heavy pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and add the lemon juice and peel, worchestershire, and all the spices. Bring to a simmer and let it rest for five minutes.

Add the shrimp and bring the heat to medium. Stir until the shrimp start to turn pink. Add the cream. Cover the dish and remove the pan from heat and let it sit for 15 minutes to allow all the flavors to marry.

Transfer to a bowl and top with the green onion.

Dig in with your hands and get to sopping!

Grilled Broccoli
In Emile Henry from Robinson Home

In Emile Henry from Robinson Home



tasty tuesday: bbq pizza with caramelized red onion


Leftovers never looked so good.  Alex made ribs on Sunday and, since he always makes enough food for a small army, we had leftovers even after feeding eight people for our True Detective TV group.  When thinking of a way to reuse this foodstuff, I thought about BBQ chicken pizza, but instead of chicken, we’re taking it to the next level with the meat from pork ribs.  This is manly stuff, people.

You could certainly use BBQ pulled pork here or shred some baked chicken and mix in some BBQ sauce.  You could also skip caramelizing the onions and just use raw red onion, but I think that the caramelized onion stands up to the high oven temperature, plus I personally don’t love raw red onion (I know, I’m weird).

I served this with a super simple green salad with some sliced radish and lemon vinaigrette.

BBQ Pizza with Caramelized Red Onion

1/2 cup water

1 packet active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 part whole wheat flour and 2 parts white flour)

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese, plus more for finishing

1 1/2 cups BBQ pork or chicken, shredded

1 red onion, sliced into half moons and caramelized (simmered in butter for about an hour)

8 oz. part-skim mozzarella, 1/4-inch slices, then cut each slice in half

1 tsp. cornmeal

some type of green garnish (I used pea shoots, but you could use arugula, parsley, spinach, or cilantro)

For the crust: Heat the oven to 225 F for 5 minutes, then turn it off.  During this time, pour the water and yeast into the mixing bowl of an electric mixer and let sit for 5 minutes.  When the time is up, add the flour and salt and mix on medium speed with the dough hook until the dough forms into a ball.  Turn the speed down to low and mix for 5 more minutes.  Take the dough ball out of the mixing bowl, coat the bowl with the olive oil, place the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the warm oven for 30 minutes.  Take out when time is up.

To assemble the pizza: Heat the oven to 500 F or as high as it will go. When the dough is ready, roll it out on flat surfaced that has been sprinkled with flour.  Take out a cookie sheet and sprinkle the cornmeal on the surface, then place the rolled out, oval-shaped dough onto the cookie sheet.  Tuck the edges over about a 1/2 inch to form the outside crust.  Sprinkle the shredded parmesan on the dough, then layer the BBQ pork, then the onions, then the cheese on top.  Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese begins to bubble.  When the pizza is ready, take it out of the oven and simply slide the pizza onto a cutting board (this should be easy because of the cornmeal).  Let cool for at least 5 minutes and top with something green–herbs or leafy greens will do.  Slice it up and enjoy!