Monthly Archives: September 2009

Creamy Yummy Luscious Risotto.

That’s a lot of adjectives, but that’s how much I love this dish from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver (sometimes known as the Naked Chef).

This is one of those dishes that never enters my mind during the warm months. Even now in September a tropical system is sitting on top of us making the air thick with moisture. I won’t be making this any time soon, but I can think about its goodness…especially with roast chicken.

Risotto takes a little patience and preplanning…you’ll want to have all your ingredients measured and chopped before you begin. If you’ve never made risotto before, read the recipe all the way through a couple of times so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Equipment you’ll need: 2 large pots, 1 ladle

Ingredients you’ll need:

2 pints chicken stock (the better the stock, the better the risotto)

2 T olive oil

2 T butter

3/4 C white or yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped 

3/4 C celery, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 cups Aborio rice

2 C dry white wine or dry vermouth

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

3 T butter

4 oz freshly grated Parmesean cheese

Heat the stock in one pot to a simmer, turn heat down, but keep warm

1.Put the butter and oil in the other pot. Melt the butter and add the onion, garlic, and celery and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, or until the veggies are soft. Add the rice and turn up the heat.

2. The rice will start to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute or two, it will start to look slightly transparent. Add the wine and keep stirring…notice the fabulous smell.

3. After the rice has absorbed the wine, add your first ladle full of stock and a pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer–you don’t want the rice to cook too quickly. Keep stirring. Everytime the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle full of stock. After about 15 minutes, taste the rice…it should be almost (but not completely) soft. Keep adding stock and stirring. If you run out of stock, add boiling water.

4. When the rice is done, remove from the heat and add the remaining butter and cheese…stir well. Put a tight lid on the pan and let sit for two minutes. Enjoy as soon as possible.

This is not really a do-ahead type of dish, but if you want to make it for guests, just invite them into the kitchen while you’re cooking.

I promise that the effort for this dish is worth it.



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Caesar Salad and A New Favorite Product

The first time I ever had a Caesar Salad was on a business trip to Minneapolis. It was made tableside with great fanfare and I loved it.

I’ve been making Caesars ever since, but something just wasn’t right. It took a trip to Cafe Nonna in Nashville for me to figure it out–I was trying to do too much. I was using too much garlic, too much cheese and too much oil.

I came home, scaled back and started over.

Like any salad dressing recipe, the amounts are iffy, so taste as you go.

Dressing ingredients:

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 lemon

olive oil

kosher salt

dijon mustard

1 egg boiled for 3 minutes

Salad ingredients

Romaine lettuce

sundried tomatoes (I know–it’s not what the purists would include but I think they’re great)

pine nuts (again, not traditional, but a good addition)


finely grated parmesean

anchovy fillets (up to you)

In the bottom of the same bowl you’ll be mixing the salad in, add garlic, juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt. Let that stand a few minutes so the garlic will soften.

Whisk in about twice as much olive oil as there is lemon juice. The dressing should thicken up a bit.

Add in about a half tablespoon of mustard.

Taste everything. Is there too much acid? Too much oil? Play with the flavors until they suit you.

Now bring a small pan of water to a boil and drop the egg in. Cook for three minutes. Rinse the egg in cold water for a bit so you can handle it. Break it open and add the yolk to the dressing. Whisk everything together and give a final taste. Adjust with more lemon, oil or salt if necessary.

Add the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, pine nuts and croutons and toss.

Serve in chilled bowls. Add anchovy filets last–lay on top.


I found these in the produce section at Publix a few months ago and have been using them ever since. They’re perfect for sprinking on salads and resealable containers are, in my opinion, just about the best invention ever.



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Kiss My Grits

Next time you have a dinner party try this. Cook up a pot full of ground corn meal. Mix in some butter, salt and cheese. When your guests ask what it is, tell them it’s polenta. They’ll ooh and aah and compliment you on your international palate.

Then, a few weeks later, do it again. Only this time tell them that it’s grits. If you live outside of the South, you risk their derision. They’ll laugh at you behind your back. Question your pedigree. And quite possibly drop you from the gourmet dinner group.

But polenta and grits are essentially the same thing. Only one has cache. The other doesn’t.

For some reason, grits, more than any other food I know of, carries with it a taint of uneducated, backwoods, redneck miasma. Something the Beverly Hillbillies would’ve served as a side dish to possum friccasse.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’ve washed down grits with Cristal champagne. I’ve served them with my finest linen, china and sterling silver.

Around here, grits are the rule, not the exception.

Like pasta, rice and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grits are a palate. Begging for butter, cheese, herbs and savory goodness.

The most common way you see grits served in Middle Tennessee is in a casserole. Every cook worth her Henkel knives has her own recipe.

Here’s mine, before they are cooked:

uncooked grits

 And here’s the recipe:

3 c water

1 c quick cooking grits (not instant)

1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can diced Rotel tomatos

handful snipped fresh chives or tablespoon dried

2 eggs

1 cup milk (any will do)


paprika, chili powder, cayenne

Bring water to a boil and stir in grits. Cover and cook over very low heat for two minutes. Stir grits and cover, move off heat.

After a couple of minutes, stir grits until smooth.

Add butter and cheese.

Cover and let stand for 10 minutes.

Blend grits, cheese and butter.

Add garlic, Rotel and chives… stir

blend eggs into milk

Add to grits

Add salt to taste

Dust top with paprika, chili powder, cayenne

Bake at 350 for approx. 1 hour, or until middle is set.

 cooked grits

These grits are especially good with grilled meat, like my shish kabobs…


The moral of the story is this…grits are good. Really, they are. Give them a try.


Filed under Recipe