Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin
{Serving up Tomato Mozzarella Salad with Capers}

This is one of the most engaging memoirs I have read in a long time. I didn’t know anything about Jacques Pepin’s personal life, his childhood or training in the culinary industry. After reading this book I know so much about him and enjoyed each and every chapter. The funniest story, ok it was a little gross too, was about the calf’s heads. Actually there were many amusing stories in this book so it’s hard to pick just one. Sometimes memoirs can be dry, a bit on the boring side. Not this one. I found myself reading some passages aloud to my husband.

As a child he worked in his mother’s restaurants and loved the hectic pace. His younger brother Bichon was the same way while older brother Roland felt it was slavery. As Jacques moved to an apprentice position in his first real job you learned how the new kid was “initiated” by running a fool’s errand for the chef. He was sent off to a neighboring restaurant to get a heavy kitchen appliance where it had supposedly been loaned. Oh no, they had loaned it to another restaurant and so, off he ran. He was sent on to other places until he secured the item, making his way back across the village with a heavy load strapped to his back. It was just a load of bricks but it showed the drive and initiative of the young apprentice.

As he gained more experience he moved to larger restaurants and more responsibility. Learning to cook by observing and making a dish over and over and over was the teaching method. No recipes, no measurements.

The most surprising thing to me was he was in on the ground floor of Howard Johnson’s restaurants learning to reproduce good quality food that would be consistent in any of the HJ restaurants. He turned down a chance to work as a white house chef under the Kennedy administration to pursue his initial (American) career at HoJos. The standards were higher back then and you didn't get sub-quality foods. That changed over the years, particularly after Howard Deering Johnson died. Subsequent owners concerned themselves with cutting costs at the expensive of good dining.

Reading about the differences in French and American cultures as seen through young Pepin’s eyes was interesting. Can you imagine being mocked for asking a question in a college class? That was another good chapter where Pepin saw a startling difference between the two nations. Showing up for a dinner and patiently awaiting the bread and wine to arrive, only to realize the American hosts were tucking into their roast beef, potatoes and carrots without a thought of wine. Many more examples are detailed and I don’t want to ruin some of these stories for anyone who has not read the book.

You'll meet Pierre Franey, Craig Claiborne and Julia Child in this book and hear of their good times and business involvements. You’ll learn about hunting wild mushrooms, his military service, working for de Gaulle and his first experiences arriving in America.

Recipes follow each chapter so there are many to select and drool over. French cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Any of the French cookbooks have call for absolute simplicity and this is what Pepin delivers.

This was the Cook the Books Club June/July selection with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen hosting. Great choice!


Semi-Dry Tomatoes and Mozzarella Salad

1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes (about 6) cut lengthwise into halves
¾ teaspoon salt
10 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch slices
2 tablespoons drained capers
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind
About 1 cup loose basil leaves


Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Arrange tomato halves cut side up on the sheet and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the salt on top. Bake 4 hours. For a shortcut you can heat the oven up to 400 F and put the tomatoes in then turn off the oven. I do this as an overnight method sometimes.

Now remove tomatoes from the oven and place in a serving bowl. Let them cool then add mozzarella, capers, remaining salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil and lemon rind. Mix gently to combine.

Drop basil leaves into boiling water and cook about 10 seconds. Drain and cool under cold running water. Press basil between your palms to remove most of the water, then chop finely. Add to salad and toss well.

The next selection over at Cook the Books Club is A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi and the host is Debra at Eliots's Eats. Join in, it will be good food and reading.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Off the Spice Rack is the theme.
Basil and Paprika are the stars of the salad.

It’s time for dishes or salads using a spices at I ♥ Cooking Clubs this week. I joined in doing an adaption of Nigel Slater’s tomato and mozzarella salad. I added corn and it was a good compliment to the traditional versions. Maybe I added too much corn. But it was good and refreshing, nice and cold.

Basil is an herb, I know, but it's so good in a salad. Smoked paprika is a good addition and fits the theme :-)

Nigel Slater
The Observer, April 2008

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Corn


2 ears fresh corn on the cob
About 8 ounces of grape tomatoes (if you don’t have grape tomatoes just cut up several plum tomatoes)
6 ounces mozzarella, not the shredded type, cut into small pieces
8 basil leaves, chiffonade (roll leaves and slice thinly)
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 minced garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

Cut corn off the cob and place in a bowl. Now add tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Give this a little stir to mix it up.

Add lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, smoked paprika, salt and pepper to the bowl. Gently stir, I used a wooden spoon, and mix it well. Make sure this goes in the fridge for a bit as it’s very good cold.

Click on the link to see some other good dishes inspired by Nigel Slater's books and foodie columns. The gathering is at I ♥ Cooking Clubs.

Wow...can you believe we are the midway through July already?!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Selvapiana Chianti Rufina & new wine glasses

Try saying Selvapiana Chianti Rufina after a glass or more of this refreshing ruby red wine. The name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but the taste is deliciously juicy with blackberry and a hint of spice. Cinnamon comes to mind, but a light touch of it.

I saw these wine glasses used in a few movies and in a few cookbook photos too. The appeal of the stemmed glass, a traditional wine glass, wins out over these stemless varieties. Still, I had to try them. The glass itself is delicate and well-shaped but there is just something about holding the glass in my hot little hand that I don’t care for.

With regular stemware I sip and sniff. Obviously you wouldn’t want to use them with white wine as it would warm the vino too much. We are keeping the glasses but now that I have tried them, definitely prefer a traditional stemmed wine glass.

Still loving that chianti though!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Birds, lots of birds

These photos were taken at Holbrook Recreation and Camping area at Ft Stewart, Georgia.

Look at all these birds. They roost so high up a closeup shot is impossible. Of course, I am using my phone so I didn't expect a great photo.

There is the natural beauty of the swamp and woodland blending.

It makes you realize how this entire area was covered with this flora and gators and live oaks - what a swamp to make your way through. I don't know how anyone settled in the south hundreds of years ago.

You don't have to warn me more than once about alligators. My son said people don't pay attention to the signs and still throw a ball into the water for their dogs to fetch. Many dogs have been eaten in this lake because of that and the people cry out, we didn't know! I can read a sign - and there is more than one sign around this lake.

This is as close I could get to one bird.

I just had to share these pics - it's a pretty area to walk around.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Drick's Savory Chicken Quarters
{Charcoal Grilled}

I want to send a big fat shout out to my friend Drick over at Drick's Rambling Cafe. If you are a fan of southern cuisine by all means, click on his site and you'll find scores of recipes and good stories there.

A recipe he is still tinkering with is a rub for his Savory Chicken Quarters. I don't know why he would change anything in this rub - it's phenomenal. Just the perfect blend of herbs and spices. The final result bursts with plenty of flavor without being overpowering.

Doug grilled over a charcoal fire (of course) and we served with sides of corn and mashed potatoes he first night.

The second night we had Rainbow Swiss Chard as the side. This is our first year trying chard, yes...we were sheltered, but happy to have tried it as we are loving it. It's much more flavorful than I imagined it would be.

A good Pinot Noir goes with soooo many food combos. If in doubt, serve a Pinot!

Here is the recipe below. I didn't write it out, just took the lazy way, showing you a photo :-)

Thanks again to Drick and if anyone grills up a batch of chicken using this rub, please let us all know. Bet you'll love it.

Some of his recipes we have enjoyed so far include:

Creamy Seafood Pasta
Seafood Pasta (again) when combined with Nigella's recipes
Marinated Artichoke Pasta Salad
Green Bean casserole
Bourbon Chicken
Green bean and Artichoke casserole
Southern Style Beef Bourguingnon (with ribs) and many more.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wine Wednesday - Pio Cesare 2011 Barbrera d' Alba

Lots of plum and dark fruits pop at you right off. Nice silky texture and deep ruby coloring, great mouth feel. I like this Italian wine quite a bit and wouldn’t be opposed to stocking more in the wine fridge.

This Italian wine is 13 and half % and under $20. Pretty bottle too :-)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Chevre Stuffed Dates
A fantastic appetizer ...promise

The weekends go by so terribly fast, don’t you think? This past Saturday we did much of our shopping early, partially to beat the heat but also to save some gas by hitting stores and markets in the same area. Shopping isn’t one of our favorite chores but now we are well stocked.

A trip to Jones Country Meats in Climax, Ga. to fill the freezer, a stop at Wine Warehouse in Tallahassee to fill the wine fridge, PAWS and the Tractor Supply store for dog food, a grocery store run and finally gassed up both cars. Done…all in one day.

To celebrate our free day where we can read, nap, take the dogs to the park or whatever we please, we had a very nice dinner and one of our splurge wines. A splurge wine for us is one out of our ordinary rotation.

But I didn’t want to talk about wine – I want to share an amazingly delicious appetizer we scarfed down.

WOW. These are so good you could make a meal out of them! Let cool for a few minutes or you’ll burn your mouth. Yes, that’s hard to do, waiting 5 minutes until they cool but you won’t be sorry.

Here is the recipe - too good not to share!

Chevre Stuffed Dates
From 101 Things to Do with Bacon, Eliza Cross


½ pound sliced bacon
1 pound pitted dates
4 ounces goat cheese (I used Ile de France)
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves washed and stems removed


Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut bacon strips in half, set aside. Split dates lengthwise and stuff with a heaping teaspoon of cheese. Press halves together and wrap with a basil leaf and bacon strip.

Secure with a toothpick. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven and drain on paper towels.

We had a few of these before Doug grilled a rib-eye we’d just purchased from Jones. And the splurge wine. More on that later. I couldn’t wait to share these with you and I do hope you’ll try them one day. Four ingredients, 20 minutes in the oven. Simple stuff. You’re welcome :-)

Coming up will be my contribution to Cook the Books and wine talk. Hope all is well in your world!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wine Wednesday - 2013 Cheverny and
Sea Scallops & Salad Nicoise

Cheverny is a French white wine from the Loire Valley. A Kermit Lynch import so you know you can't go wrong. Pretty much anything we see from Kermit Lynch is a winner.

Hoisting my glass I noticed a clarity giving the appearance of pale pear juice. It doesn't taste like pears at all, rather lightly apple to the nose and palate. Nice finish.

This wine is 85% Sauvignon Blanc & 15% Chardonnay. It paired very well with Salad Nicoise and buttery garlic scallops

Never exciting, mostly delicious, always have wine.....


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