Sunday, December 18, 2011

let's review: corleone's trattoria

     Our party of six stopped in at Corleone's on Friday night. It was our first time visiting this quaint little trattoria in downtown Savannah.
     As you round the corner of Broughton Street onto MLK Boulevard, the aroma of garlic assaults the senses, leaving one quite weak in the knees before even making it through the door.
     The wine-red facade and striped awning beckons passersby to peek in the large, bottle-lined windows.
     The cozy interior exudes a friendly, neighborhood vibe. I can picture myself becoming a regular. They'll shout my name as I enter, just like Norm on Cheers and I'll politely say, My usual table please, dahhling.
quaint exterior. photo courtesy of Corleone's
     Perusing the extensive menu, I was torn between two lovers...veal piccata: white wine, lemon, garlic, capers, spinach over potato gratin OR, the herb encrusted salmon: pan seared and served over linguine with olives, capers and tomatoes. These menu descriptions aided my indecisiveness.
     One of my companions chose the veal, so I decided to bravely go with the salmon. I'll let you in on a little secret... even though I enjoyed the pasta, I was a bit disappointed with the fish. The menu says, herb encrusted, but doesn't mention a breaded exterior. The salmon was fresh. I would allow it to shine rather than hide under a bushel... of crumbs.
     The veal was amazingly light. I should have stuck with my first instinct. Ms. Smartiepants, who did order it, thought the piccata a bit lemony on it's own, but not me.
     I'm a huge fan of anything citrus. We agreed that the potatoes gratin cut the sauce's tartness and gave the dish a velvety finish.
     Our other lady friend ordered the eggplant parmesan. The eggplant was lightly breaded and fried, served over linguine, then topped with marinara and mozzarella.
     She enjoyed her choice immensely, but thought the use of marinara excessive. The solution for next time? Ask for a light hand on the sauce.
PEI mussels. photo courtesy of Corleone's
     My husband went for Prince Edward Island mussels simmered in white wine and garlic over linguine (AMAZING,) and another spouse ordered shrimp fra diavolo sauteed with whole cherry tomatoes in spicy marinara served over linguine.
     I'm surmising that the shrimp was good, as he quickly joined the Clean Plate Club. The four who had linguine all agreed on its perfect texture and freshness.
shrimp fra diavolo. photo courtesy of Corleone's
     Husband Number Three ordered a dramatically presented kabob, brought to the table on a high wooden stand, meat swaying over the plate like a crazy-big cocoon dangling from a branch.
     As our server set it on the table, oohs and aahs intermingled with the sounds of tinkling glasses and chatty diners. Corleone's menu offers your choice of filet, shrimp, veggies or a combo. The kabobs are served with Israeli couscous, spanikopita and salad.
     Finally, here is a tip on saving a bit of hard-earned moolah on your evening out. When I called to make reservations, I inquired about the specials, including wine specials for the night. The host mentioned a corking fee.
     This means you are allowed to bring your favorite wine with you. The restaurant charges $10 per opened bottle, no matter the size. They open and pour for you and loan you glasses to drink it out of. Isn't that nice?
     Corleone's wine menu is extensive. The price for a bottle begins at $30. Since we split the corking fee, we saved money for dessert and coffee.
     This particular evening, we walked next door to Lulu's Chocolate Bar, since we were with some Savannah newbies. Next time I visit Corleone's, I'm ordering the veal or maybe the Lobster Ravioli and saving room for their decadent looking cannoli;)
Corleone's Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

when what to my wandering eyes should appear... AAACK!

Twas two weeks before Christmas and all through the house, the creatures were grumbling... the cause was my spouse.
The stockings all hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
When out in the kitchen there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the doorway I flew to my man as he tore open the boxes and threw up his hands.
The shine of the lights on the glass tile aglow gave the lustre of  starlight to counter below.
When what to my wandering eyes should appear but a mismatched display and sad hubby so dear.
He was dressed all in flannel from his head to his shoe.
His clothes were all covered with dust and with glue.
A bundle of rags he had flung on the ground and he looked like a hobo just turning around.
His eyebrows how frowny, his dimeanor not merry. His cheeks were so sallow, his nose like a cherry.
His drawl little mouth was drawn up in a pout. The stubble on his chin was as gray as the grout.
A wince of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had something to dread.
He spoke not a word but went straight to his work
Stripped off the wrong tiles then turned with a jerk.
Waving a palm toward the offending sku 
 and giving a nod, I knew just what to do.
So up to the Depot, the courses I flew with a car full of cardboard and glass tiles, too.
But I heard him exclaim as I drove out of sight... 

Well, never mind. This is a family-friendly blog and some tales are best left unfinished;)
Wish me luck on finding the right color

Sunday, December 11, 2011

breakfast bruschetta

     Bright and early Saturday morning... Surprise. And not in a good way. No more yogurt. No more english muffins.
     Hmmm, what to have for breakfast? Just as panic began to set in, I had a rare moment of clarity. Here is the happy result:
     Blend goat cheese and honey together to make a spread. Next, slice up a multi-grained baguette and smear cheese mixture on each slice. Top with apple slices.
     Grate a bit of nutmeg over it all, then pop the whole thing into the toaster oven to melt the cheese and toast the bread. Serve with clementine wedges and a piping hot latte.
omg... I'm a culinary genius! Hahaha

Thursday, December 8, 2011

peppermint bark brownies

     Besides an appointment for your Christmas pedi, this is the easiest thing you will make during the holiday season. Really, it is.
     I've seen lots of recipes that require more steps, like chopping pieces of peppermint candy in the food processor or making icing. They are lovely to look at, but not necessary.
     For the simplest version, you will need two main things: A box of peppermint bark candy and your favorite brownie mix. You could also make brownies from scratch, like my recipe for Helen Gurley Brownies, found here.
     Peppermint bark is easily found in discount stores such as Ross, Marshall's, TJ Maxx or Homegoods. After a false start to my holiday baking, I now have two one-pound boxes in my pantry, ready to go.
     I made mine yesterday with Ghiradelli Squares, the only thing available at the time. The little squares must be individually unwrapped and cost a bit more per ounce. The difference is that they aren't dark chocolate and we all know what that means... no antioxidants. If you're going to indulge, you must be able to say it's good for you. Am I right?
     So... bake brownies according to package or recipe directions. While brownies are in the oven, unwrap the peppermint bark and break into pieces. The minute they come out of the oven, drop broken pieces of bark onto the top of the piping hot brownies in pan. Wait a minute or two for the candy to become soft and gooey.
     Gently spread it around with a spatula or knife until all of brownies are covered, adding more if needed. If you want to fancy them up and take them out to a party, you can add some chopped up peppermints. The pink, white and red flecks scattered over the dark, fudgey squares are SO festive!
     Cool and cut into squares. Place on a sparkly holiday platter or devour them immediately, washing them down with the coldest milk possible. Merry Christmas eating!

food maven's blustery day

     A week ago, we were sweating. Yesterday was balmy. Last night it rained. Then this afternoon, as I exited the local Sam's Club with my shopping cart a mighty change came over Mother Nature. Instantly and without warning.
     First, a few sprinkles. Next raindrops fell in earnest. And finally... the wind. I grabbed my umbrella and popped it open. It immediately turned wrong-side out.
     The gusting wind attempted to steal my cart while I was distracted with the umbrella. A buggy racing willy-nilly through the parking lot, dodging light poles and aiming for car doors. That can't be a good thing.
     I am reminded of the trials of Pooh and Piglet on a similar day when the east wind switched places with the west wind. Suddenly, I'm wishing for a slicker and some galoshes. Brrr...
Happy Winds-day, everybody;)

Monday, December 5, 2011

quickie parmchickie

     I made a quick version of chicken parmesan for supper the other night. I thought I'd shared the recipe with you long before... But I guess not. Sorry.
     This version is a bit healthier than the breaded and fried dish often served in Italian restaurants. I usually use chicken breast cutlets, but had some boneless, skinless thighs on hand, so they were the bird of choice.
     The thighs came out moist and tender. My daughter's boyfriend remarked that he couldn't believe that this was a normal weeknight meal for us. I informed him that this ParmChickie was SO simple, HE could easily make it the next time.
     I like to make and freeze my own marinara, but if I am using sauce from a jar, I love Gia Russa brand. They make several varieties. I wait for them to be on sale, then stock up.
Ingredients
1 pound spaghetti noodles
2 t. olive oil
2 T. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
4-6 chicken breast cutlets or boneless, skinless thighs
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 jar marinara or 1 qt. homemade sauce
sharp provolone cheese ( I like Boar's Head Picante Provolone)
Directions
Bring large pot of water to a boil. Salt liberally, then add the pound of pasta. Meanwhile, mix flour, salt and pepper together on a plate. Rinse chicken and place on a plate. If using thighs, pound a little until thin. Lightly dust chicken with flour mixture. Brown both sides in a saute pan on medium heat with oil. When chicken is nearly cooked through and golden brown, splash a little white wine in the pan, scraping up the yummy bits in the bottom.
Pour in marinara sauce and stir to blend. Place lid on pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for another few minutes, until chicken is cooked completely. Just before serving, place one slice of sharp provolone cheese on each cutlet. Replace lid to melt cheese.
Serve chicken over cooked spaghetti noodles. Make sure to have a salad or steamed veggie with it;)
     Now, wasn't that simple?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

soulmates and other drugs...

     Next week, my good friend, The Housewife will be visiting my humble abode. I can barely contain my excitement. Most people who know us can't say the same. 
     We have more fun than a barrel of monkeys, providing said monkeys love strong coffee, dusty bookshops and hilarity that borders on the insane. For some reason our jovial demeanor annoys others.
     Last year, I feared being tossed out of a quaint downtown bookstore. Friendly competition in book buying, a game of Marco Polo when one of us was lost and a little whining about the lack of fire in the fireplace might have put a less stalwart bookseller off... but not this one. He attempted to ignore our un-library-like manners, quietly sorting books, only rolling his eyes once. Or twice.
     We long ago discovered our kindred spirit while living in a suburb of Memphis. She's still there and I'm in exile here in Coastal Georgia. We take to the highways and sky-ways for a reunion whenever possible.
     In honor of her impending arrival, I am posting a few of the one liners that cause us to roar with laughter. They are historically ours, so most of you will be bored to tears. 
     In the great Blogosphere, this is a big no-no, a real faux pas... posting something no one else understands. You'll just have to bear with me. I'll be back to normal programming soon. I promise;)


AREYOUOUTOFYOURMIND???

I fail to see the humor in this

Susan and Michelle found Jesus at the Bi-Lo

Teensy farted

I can't believe you made me eat a whole bowl of MOLD!


It says, "BI" hahahahaha

click on it, retard

I'm fightin' a cold

Alot of men would pay alot of money for this!

be strong and hide often

BOBS... bitter old broads

Am I the only person who thinks that it is a little strange that there are dead people on Facebook?

My name is Doctor Pooty Pootwell!

The worst thing my wife ever made was this awful Tomato Pie...(HEY, that's MY recipe!)

I can't believe she went dressed like that... and she didn't even know them! (my mom, after hearing of our fated first meeting)

creamed chicken: crisis relief

     Imagine this scenario: You rush in from work or carpool. Your coffee spilled on the car's upholstery, traffic was horrendous, the kids are disagreeing loudly, your spouse is due any minute... and will be ravenous. What can you do, besides pack a bag and slip unnoticed out the back door?
     Never fear. It's your favorite super hero, The Food Maven to the rescue... Now, where did I put that cape? Anyway, take a deep breath. Follow these simple steps and everything will be fine.
     Go to my recipe for Sauce Veloute found at the bottom of the post entitled Bechamel Mucho. Remember class, veloute is a fancy French name for gravy.
     Combine 1 recipe of the veloute and 3 cups cooked, chopped chicken or other poultry. (This is a perfect use for leftover Thanksgiving goodies.) Heat the two together, taste for seasoning and serve over egg noodles, toast, rice or biscuits... or even leftover stuffing.
     Now, wasn't that effortless? Wait, what? It's too simple? Okay, here are variations on the theme:
     To make creamy chicken divan, add blanched fresh or thawed frozen broccoli to the mixture. Heat through and serve with healthy brown rice. Sprinkle a few toasted, slivered almonds over it, just before you set it in front of an astonished spouse. Pause with hands on hips, back straight, chin out, in your best superhero pose;)
     For a twist on a down-home fave, add cooked vegetables such as peas, carrots, celery and onion. It then resembles chicken pot pie, without the pie. Serve over hot, flaky biscuits.
     You can also make this more a little more fancy and grown-up. Suppose a couple of unexpected guests drop conveniently by at dinnertime. Add a splash of dry white wine. Then stir in sauteed shallots, mushrooms and fresh herbs, such as thyme or sage leaves.
     Bake some frozen puff pastry cups, pull out the center and fill them with the fancified creamed chicken, replacing the little pastry cap as a garnish. Serve with a dollop of whole berry cranberry sauce on the side and a nice green vegetable.
     When they ask, be sure to tell your awestruck guests, in a slightly snooty tone, that the dish is called Poulet Veloute [poo-lay vel-oo-tay.] Crisis averted. The world is safe once more.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

thanksgiving, 2011: the afterglow

     This year was a bit unusual for me. We had five for Thanksgiving dinner, two or three stragglers arriving later and six friends arriving later for dessert. For a person accustomed to serving around a hundred people on a weekly basis, this can be a little sad. And quiet.
     After initial clean-up, our girls, two human and three canine, are dozing. My mother-in-law made her way through the fifty pound newspaper that arrived in the morning. I snuck off to begin posting before pictures. And the men run upstairs in search of football.
     We enjoyed our spread... so very thankful for the abundance God has provided. As we sipped coffee and contemplated another piece of pie, I began to mull over the Christmas decorating.
     Hmmm, when will we get our tree? Which ribbon will go with the new ornaments my sis bought me? What will I put on the mantle this year?
Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the afterglow lingers on. 

     "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  Colossians 3:17

Thursday, November 24, 2011

countdown day four: dessert day


     Pecan pie. Check. Toasted coconut pie. Check. Apple pie. Check.
     Brother-in-law bringing pumpkin pie, friend bringing pumpkin bread pudding with bourbon creme anglaise AND Barefoot Contessa's espresso brownies. Check, check and check.
     Coffee and espresso machines on standy. Table finally set. Air filled with cinnamon-scented anticipation.
     Have I mentioned my love of Thanksgiving this week? :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

countdown day three... the thanksgiving meltdown :(

     I'm pulling out my antique brown transferware to set the Thanksgiving table.
     My original post, designed to regale you with stories of a lovely tablescape never quite materialized. I'm going to be real with you... seeing that we have become so close and all. Today, I had a Thanksgiving meltdown. A real doozy. 
     It was a result of being the sole Thanksgiving visionary in this household. I can't seem to sell these other people on adopting my carefully thought out plan. They all seem to have plans of their own.
     I went as far as packing an overnight bag and placing it in the back seat of my car. Are you shocked? Disillusioned? Well, let's all be honest, now. We've all been there. Maybe not on a major holiday, the night before your mother-in-law is to arrive, but somewhere, sometime, we've all had a meltdown of one type or other. 
     That was earlier. It was still light out. I hadn't eaten dinner. My spur of the moment plan was to drive to Florida to spend the rest of the week with my mom. I'm still here, though, faithfully writing my post for countdown day three.
     During the meltdown, I briefly abandoned my plans for a fabulous day of being thankful. I questioned my reason for being saddled with less enlightened humans. 
     I later remembered our founding fathers, the brave soldiers through the years and all they endured for our freedoms. I also remembered our Heavenly Father, sending His Son to die, just for me... and for you. Boy, everything else really pales in comparison. Happy THANKSgiving;)
     Oh, I AM running away first thing in the morning. (I'm going to the salon for a haircut.) I'm going to ask them to wash that spat right outta my hair;)

Monday, November 21, 2011

the food maven's homemade bread stuffing

     Last Thanksgiving I decided to make my stuffing with cubed bread of different types, instead of buying the usual Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix I usually use... not that there's anything wrong with that;) I am easily bored and needed a creative change.
     I bought several types of bread a few days before. French bread, sourdough baguette, pumpernickel, multi-grain and challah. I cubed, mixed together, then stored the bread in zipper bags. The night before, I prepped and tossed all of the veggies together, then lightly sauteed them.
     On Thanksgiving morning, everything was ready to go. I made a pan of plain stuffing with celery and onion only, for the picky people and one with mushrooms, celery, onion, sage, apples, toasted pecans and dried cranberries... That one disappeared first. (This year it is the only one I'll make.)
Ingredients
5 loaves day old bread of different types, cubed
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
3 ribs celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 c. chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3 apples, cored and diced
4 c. turkey stock
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage leaves
thyme leaves
italian parsley
Directions
Cube bread. If doing this ahead of time, store in zipper bags. May be frozen until needed. In large saute pan, melt butter with olive oil until hot. Toss in onion, celery and garlic. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. After veggies in pan become translucent, add mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, place chopped pecans on cookie sheet and toast in 350 degree oven for ten minutes. Check to see if they're toasty enough. Cook longer if necessary. Cool until needed.
When veggies are done, place them in a large mixing bowl with bread and remaining dry ingredients. Mix well then pour stock over. Mix everything lightly, just until bread is moist. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Turn into a large baking pan. Bake for thirty minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with lots of gravy, then later, piled with cranberry sauce on your turkey sandwich.

countdown day two: monday

     So, what shall we discuss today? In my kitchen, we will be thawing various loaves of bread for stuffing. IF I get the chance, I'll chop and saute the veggies. 
     I seriously thought about heading to the church kitchen to do some tidying while no one is about. One thing that might be a game-changer for this day... My husband is taking the entire week off and most women know what that means.
     His projects become my projects. Well, we'll see. Stay tuned for the stuffing recipe:)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

turkey 101

     Every year I use the same method to cook my turkey. The spices, rubs and things stuffed inside may change from year to year, but I've always relied on Reynolds Oven Bags... Turkey Edition.
     Last year, I blended room temperature butter, pressed garlic cloves, fresh minced herbs like sage, parsley, rosemary and thyme, plus lemon zest, salt and lots of black pepper to make a paste to rub over the skin before roasting.
     The inside of the bird was filled with an onion, whole garlic cloves, the zested lemon, salt, pepper and whole branches of the same herbs.
     Close up the oven bag, place it in a roasting pan and follow the cooking instructions enclosed. The turkey comes out golden brown and juicy.
     Let your bird rest for 20- 30 minutes out of the oven, then open, remove and carve. Be sure to reserve liquid in bag for that delicious gravy you're planning to make. Don't have a gravy recipe? You can use mine. Click here to see it.