Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Firefly

A few nights ago some friends of mine and I went to Firefly in Green Hills and had such a fun time!  The atmosphere is unique and festive and the service is friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about the menu (the regular menu along with the bar menu....all the important stuff).  Though we had a great time, our party was a large group and I think the ambiance of Firefly is best suited to smaller crowds.  That is not to say that the servers and the kitchen cannot handle large groups, but the intimate setting is far more conducive to small tables enjoying a meal over candlelight surrounded by the memorabilia and Christmas lights which adorn the walls.  The drinks were spectacular, the presentation of the dishes was exquisite while still being packed with flavor and, of course, the company was to die for!






Clearly we had a great time and enjoyed our meals!
Then there is the macaroni and cheese which might need to be an entire blog post all its own!  
Just do yourself a favor, order it the next time you visit this neighborhood gem!
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Cucumber Salad


Cucumber salad is one of those cool, refreshing salads that seems to be a staple on picnic tables around the South in the summer time.  When I think about the recipe, it seems that many years there must have been some child who was simply too excited to wait for the cucumbers to turn into pickles and simple opened the jar a little too soon and thus the salad was born.  When the cucumbers become abundant in the garden, this is a fabulous way to use a few along with a sweet vidalia onion.


Cucumber Salad

4 cucumbers, thinly sliced 
1 small white onion, thinly sliced 
1 cup white vinegar 
1/2 cup water 
3/4 cup white sugar 
1 tablespoon dried dill, or to taste 

Toss together the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl.   Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and pour over the cucumber and onions.  Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold.  This can also be eaten at room temperature, but be sure to allow the cucumbers to marinate for at least 1 hour.
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    Monday, June 27, 2011

    Pork Scaloppine Perugina


    For Sunday dinner this week we decided to try a new recipe.  With our love of pasta and our desire to eat better we thought we would compromise.  We still had pasta but without the heavy cream sauces we so love.  It turned out to be quite a refreshing dish full of flavor!

    Pork Scaloppine Perugina

    4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 3/4 inch thick)
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
    2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
    4 ounces very thin slices proscuitto, cut into 1/4 inch strips
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
    2 teaspoon all-purpose flour
    3 cups dry white wine
    1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
    2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
    8 canned anchovy fillets, drained, rinsed, and chopped
    4 cups hot cooked fresh fettuccine (1 [9-ounce] package)

    Place each piece of pork between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound each piece to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin.  Combine 1/4 cup flour and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture; set aside.  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. 

    Add capers, prosciutto, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes.  Combine broth and 1 teaspoon flour, stirring well with a whisk.  Add broth mixture, wine, rind, sage, and anchovies to pan, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour sauce into a bowl; keep warm. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in pan over medium-high heat.

    Add pork to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Add sauce to pan; cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Remove pork from pan. Return sauce to pan and add pasta to pan; toss well to coat. Place 1 cup pasta on each of 4 plates; top each serving with one chop.

    We decided to top the pasta with some Parmesan Reggiano cheese before placing the pork on top.  
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    Chicken Fajitas


    My friend, Jacqueline Towery, first taught me how to make fajitas this way when she hosted a girls dinner a few years ago.  There isn't really a recipe, so the pictures will have to do, but basically get all of your favorite fixin's for fajitas, sprinkle the chicken with taco seasoning and cover in salsa then bake for about 30 minutes, or until done, at 350 degrees.  Easy as that!  Saute up some peppers and onions and you are on your way to an awesome, inexpensive meal!  Pinto beans are a MUST!!!

    Take the chicken out of the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before serving.  
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    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Zucchini Nut Bread


    Several years ago when I was flipping through my aunt and grandmother's recipes getting ready to make cookbooks of these family heirlooms, I realized there was an abundance of zucchini bread recipes. Of course, there were many different varieties, some with nuts, some without, but in the end I figured if there were so many recipes they had both collected, there must be something to this!  As I mentioned it to friends and family, really just gauging their reaction to what I thought would be an odd tasting bread, they all had their stories about whose grandmother and whose mother made the "best" zucchini bread. So with said endorsements I figured I would give it a shot.  Now, when the zucchini is finally coming in in the garden I look forward to my first batch (of many) of this southern favorite.


    Zucchini Nut Bread
    (This recipe came from Aunt Nellie in 1977)
    3 eggs
    2/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 1/2 cups sugar
    2 cups grated raw zucchini, firmly packed (You can use a blender for this)
    2 cups flour
    2 t. baking soda
    1 t. baking powder
    1 t. salt
    2 t. ground cinnamon
    3 t. vanilla extract
    1 c. chopped pecans

    Beat eggs.  Add sugar, oil and zucchini. Combine dry ingredients and add to egg/zucchini mixture.  Mix well.  Add nuts and vanilla.  Pour into greased bread pans.  Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.  (Check it after 40 minutes.)  
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    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream


    If you were to ask anyone who has known me for more than 5 minutes what my ideal night would consist of, it would include family, friends and a big meal!  There is nothing I enjoy more than being with the people I love, cooking a huge dinner and eating together around a great big table.  To me a dining room table is more than a functional piece of furniture.  It is a place where laughter is abundant, tears are sometimes shed, friends are made and family comes together.  I have great memories of sitting around our dear family friend, Mark Harrison's big round table on Thanksgiving night hearing his mother tell stories about her children and grandchildren all of which left us rolling with laughter.  I also recall great meals at my grandmothers where card tables were added to the end of the dining room table so that everyone could sit at the same table to catch up on what every one has been doing.  Whether it is at the beach with a huge bowl of steamed clams, a picnic table in the backyard with burgers and hot dogs, or a cozy dining room with Mom's famous 16 bean soup, these are the moments I cherish.  I cannot think of any of these times without feeling the warmth of love that has permeated each one of these tables. 

    This recent Saturday night turned into just that kind of night!  After a long day at Corner Pup watching Vandy play in the college world series, Maggie had the great idea of cooking a great big pot of pasta and moving the party to their house.  The company was fantastic, the dogs were wearing each other out (yes...there were 8 people and 9 dogs) and the meal was to die for!  I couldn't ask for anything better than being with the people I love, the animals that make me so happy and a meal that left us all on the back porch, full as a tick and ready to pass out at any moment!  Here is what we had....

    Bowtie Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes and Cream

    1 (12 ounce) package bow tie pasta
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled (we used half hot sausage and half sweet sausage)
    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    1/2 cup diced onion
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 (28 ounce) can Italian-style plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.  Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Cook sausage and pepper flakes until sausage is evenly brown.  Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until onion is tender.  Stir in tomatoes, cream, and salt. Cover and simmer.  Simmer until mixture thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.  Stir cooked pasta into sauce, and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.  
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    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Our version of a 1920

    Our Version of the 1920
    Maggie and I decided to try to recreate, in our own way, a drink we had tried, and loved, the night before at Tavern, on Division.  It is called a 1920 and consists of gin (a new found love of mine), grapefruit juice, ginger syrup and crushed basil.  In an attempt to recreate this at home, we tried it with ginger beer instead of waiting for the ginger syrup to be ready, and we simply garnished with the basil instead of crushing the herb.  I must say, they were delightful Friday night at Tavern and still incredible on the back porch Saturday night!  Another delicious summer cocktail successfully found!!!!


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    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Caffe Nonna

    If you are looking for a local restaurant with a neighborhood feel and an Italian flavor you absolutely must head to Caffe Nonna on Murphy Road!  Whether you are sitting outside on the patio with pillows all around you or are seated at an intimate table inside, your experience is going to be nothing short of heavenly!  The menu is filled with homemade pastas, sauce made from recipes handed down from the chef's grandmother, entrees made from the freshest ingredients and desserts that can be described only as sinful!  Caffe Nonna is that kind of restaurant that tastes like it should break the bank while being very reasonably priced.  If you have never been, do yourself a favor, put it on your Nashville wish list and head there as soon as you can! Enjoy!
    Homemade sauces for sale!



    Caesar Salad (a personal favorite and trust me, I am a Caesar Salad connoisseur)
    Fettucine with the White Clam Sauce and the portabella, sun-dried tomatoes, calamata olives and capers
    Spinach Gnocchi with the Arrabbiata Sauce
    Penne Pasta with the pesto cream and scallops
    Hearts of Palm Salad with Chicken
    Ahhh, the bread! Life doesn't get much better than this!
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    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Tiramisu Ice Cream



    Ice Cream
    2 cups mascarpone (do not substitute cream cheese)
    1 cup half-and-half
    2/3 cup sugar
    Pinch of salt
    1/4 cup Kahlua
    3 tbsp. brandy
    Mocha Ripple
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/3 cup light corn syrup
    1 tbsp. instant coffee granules
    6 tbsp. cocoa powder
    1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

    For the mocha ripple, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, instant coffee granules, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. 

    Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.
    Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. 

    Chill in the refrigerator before using.
    For the ice cream, puree the mascarpone, half-and-half, sugar, salt, Kahlua, and brandy together in a food processor until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Make sure that all of the cheese is mixed thoroughly so that you don't have lumpy ice cream and the mixture is smooth.

    Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
    Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. 




    As you remove the ice cream from the machine, alternate layers of mocha ripple with the tiramisu ice cream in your storage container (we just dumped the mocha ripple mixture in with our ice cream and it was delicious).

    Note: The one thing that the directions did not suggest that I will definitely do next time is to let the ice cream sit in the freezer for at least an hour before serving once it has come out of the ice cream maker.  Ours was delicious but needed a little more time to solidify.  As you can tell the dogs were unimpressed..........
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    Chicken in Puff Pastry

    This is a variation on a recipe I saw Rachel Ray do on the food network.  The main change that I made was using raspberry preserves instead of the fig preserves that she used, which I am sure would be delicious as well.  We decided to try this for Sunday Dinner in our ongoing attempt to find new and flavorful ways to cook chicken....well this was a HIT!
     
    Chicken in a Puff Pastry
    4 pieces skinless chicken breast, boned (about 8 ounces each)
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    2 to 3 sprigs fresh finely chopped rosemary
    1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    1 sheet puff pastry (11 by 17-inch), (recommended: Dufour)
    8 slices Italian fontina cheese, slices should be 2 to 3-inches square and 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick, cut in 1/2
    1/2 cup raspberry preserves
    1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper and rosemary. 
    Cut each piece of chicken in half across the breast giving you 8 equal portions. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the chicken on both sides, 5 minutes total. 
    Remove from heat.
    Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pastry into 8 pieces (make sure to roll them out a bit or you will not be able to fully wrap the chicken in the pastry). Place a piece of cheese on each pastry square and top with spoonfuls of raspberry preserves and the chicken pieces. 
     
     
    Pinch and seal the dough up and over the meat and cheese, seal with egg wash, flip the pastry packets over and brush the tops with remaining egg wash. 
    Bake 12 to15 minutes, until golden.  
    For entree portions, simply leave chicken breast whole and cut the pastry into quarters. 

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