March 30, 2015

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint


Spring is finally here. My daffodils are blooming. The trees and bushes are budding. Green grass is poking through the lawn. I feel like spring is the time the entire planet exhales after a long winter, releasing all the pent up tension of the past three months. Usually, I hold my breath all winter long....waiting for the next bout of depression, the next panic attack.

Usually.

This winter has been much different. Thankfully. Since December, there hasn't been as much sadness or anxiety. I've taken deeper breaths of life. So, this spring has a different feel as well. Instead of relief that another cold, dark winter has passed, I feel energized by the longer days and warmer sunshine.

Just as the earth renews itself in spring, I feel renewed every time I cook. It's the creating something that is so worthwhile for me. (That's also why I've been so into knitting lately...the creation of something new.)

So, when I needed to do some creating in the kitchen, I decided to make cheese.

Labneh is a Middle Eastern cheese made by straining yogurt. Draining out the whey results in creamy, soft curds that retain the tanginess of the yogurt. Labneh is typically drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with mint, and served with pita seasoned with za'atar (a blend of oregano, thyme, marjoram, and savory, sesame seeds, and sumac).

I topped my homemade cheese with a salty, sour, crunchy, fragrant mixture of olives, lemon, hazelnuts, and mint. Easy and impressive.

Labneh with Olives, Hazelnuts, and Mint
slightly adapted from The Design Files

February 12, 2015

Farro Risotto with Butternut & Kale


This is a photo of Sean Brock's Farrotto with Acorn Squash and Red Russian Kale from his new cookbook Heritage. I've had my eye on this recipe since I got the book in October. And last night, I finally made it.

Farrotto is essentially farro, an ancient wheat variety, cooked slowly with stock like risotto. It gets creamy with a nutty, chewy texture. It's a pretty hearty dish, but better for you than arborio rice. Apparently, "it’s rich in the cyanogenic glucosides that stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol."

I didn't follow Brock's recipe exactly--because I am so horrible about following recipes & it was a week night--but my slightly altered version was quite delicious. Brock calls for toasting the farro in the oven and roasting the squash then pureeing it. I toasted the farro on the stovetop and just sautéed the squash in some olive oil with the onions & garlic. I didn't mind the chunkier texture. I seasoned the cooked farro with Herbs de Provence and added a little sour cream to finish the dish.

I served the farrotto with a piece of simply seared cod on top (seasoned with salt & pepper and finished with lemon juice & butter).

I don't have any pictures of my dish because I was too busy being smitten and googly-eyed over my new guy (together 10 weeks tomorrow, y'all), who came over for dinner. 

February 9, 2015

Spring 2015 Cooking Class Schedule


My upcoming classes include a few new menus: a Mother's Day brunch on May 10 (two words: doughnut muffins), a sushi class on May 16, and a Girls' Night Out class featuring dessert and cocktail pairings (two words: jello shots) on June 26 (two more words: butterscotch cupcakes).

I have several Date Night for Couples classes, including a beer pairing class (March 29), a steak class (April 12), a comfort foods menu with rosemary fried chicken & caramel apple pie (June 7), and a summer supper featuring grilled chicken with bourbon bbq sauce (June 12).

I'm also teaching my popular Harry Potter kids' class (which is sold out for the next 3 classes scheduled this spring) again on June 28.

Below is my schedule through June. To register, call Kitchen Conservatory at 314-862-2665 or register online.

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEERS - Sunday, March 29 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands on)
  • We'll prepare beer cheese fondue with soft pretzels, local lager with spicy sriracha chicken wings, fruity Belgian wheat beer with grilled scallops and Mexican corn salad, plus creamy stout with chocolate hazelnut cake & vanilla ice cream.
TOOL TIME: VITAMIX - THE REAL POWER TOOL -  Saturday, April 11 @ 12:00-2:30 (hands-on)
  • Whether you own a Vitamix or are thinking about adding this powerful tool to your kitchen, this hands-on class is designed to optimize its strength, from piping hot soups to refreshing smoothies. We'll make blueberry-banana oatmeal smoothies, vanilla coffee frappé, horseradish cheese dip with baked pita chips, antipasto salad with Italian dressing, bread with freshly-made butter, avocado-tortilla soup, pasta with basil pesto and sun-dried tomato sauce, plus almond-peach sorbet.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: HIGH STEAKS - Sunday, April 12 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Bruschetta with seasonal fruit, brie and fennel-infused honey, smoked lentil salad with creamy sriracha dressing, cedar-grilled flat iron steaks with cayenne-coffee rub, sweet potato and goat cheese "tater tots", bacon-wrapped green beans with brown sugar and garlic butter, plus salted caramel pots de crème.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: LIFE IS A CABERNET - Sunday, April 26 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Learn to cook with the wonderful flavors of wine in this class where you'll prepare mushroom-red pepper salad with red wine-herb vinaigrette, oven-roasted beef tenderloin with roasted red grape wine sauce, homemade black pepper fettuccine with chardonnay cream sauce, plus fabulous flourless chocolate-red wine cake with rosemary ganache -- all enjoyed with a glass of cabernet wine.
MOM'S THE WORD - Sunday, May 10 @ 1:00-3:30 (hands-on)
  • Surprise Mom with a unique celebration of her day, as this class creates a tasty brunch of bacon waffle Benedict Florentine with hollandaise sauce, maple-glazed pork and apple meatballs, goat cheese Monte Cristo sandwiches, crispy herbed potato cakes, cinnamon-sugar doughnut muffins with espresso gelato, plus a grapefruit-mint mimosa.
MISO HUNGRY FOR SUSHI - Saturday, May 16 @ 11:00-1:30 (hands-on)
  • Tempura vegetables, miso soup, edamame salad with ginger-soy dressing, crab and mango inside-out rolls with teriyaki glaze, spicy tuna hand rolls, crunchy shrimp rolls with avocado-chile cream, & sweet plum ice cream.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: AN A-FARE TO REMEMBER - Sunday, June 7 @ 5:00-7:30 (hands-on)
  • Discover the fun of cooking together, as this hands-on class prepares grilled panzanella salad, rosemary fried chicken, mac-and-cheese with peas and bacon, ratatouille, plus caramel apple galette, with two remarkable beer pairings ideal for dinner and dessert.
DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: SUMMER LOVIN' - Friday, June 12 @ 6:00-8:30 (hands-on)
  • Grab your partner and fall in love with the smells and flavors of summertime. This class will create "BLT" bruschetta with pepper-jelly bacon and tomato jam, classic Caesar salad with smoky shrimp and zucchini, grilled spatchcock chicken with bourbon barbecue sauce, crispy and cheesy hasselback roasted potatoes, plus blueberry pound cake with lemon glaze and limoncello gelato.
GIRLS' NIGHT OUT: BUTTER + SCOTCH - Friday, June 26 @ 6:00-8:30 (demonstration)
  • Inspired by a trendy New York retro-style cafe and bar that serves cupcakes and cocktails, I'll serve up an outstanding selection of sips and sweets. Enjoy butterscotch cupcakes with scotch-lemonade punch, raspberry-bourbon gelatin shooters (because Jello shots are the original dessert and booze pairing), "Dark & Stormy" popcorn flavored with ginger, lime, & rum served with its namesake cocktail, s'mores pie with vanilla-orange prosecco cocktail, plus honey-nut shortbread with an espresso martini.

January 3, 2015

Hoppin' John

2015. Finally. FINALLY. I couldn't wait to get through the holidays, for the past year to end. I was ready for a fresh start. And, so far, the new year hasn't disappointed. 

After 3 months of heartache, depression, anxiety & anger, December ended up being a pretty great month. I started dating a new guy. Nick is simply amazing...kind, funny, understanding, generous, handsome, and dead sexy. See?

I'm a goon, but he's cute.
And another...because WE are cute together.

I'm seriously smitten with him. Like whoa. 

We spent Christmas evening and New Year's together. We ate caviar with champagne and had a shrimp boil for Christmas, we had charcuterie and more champagne for New Year's Eve, and I made Hoppin' John for dinner last night. I love cooking for him. He loves hanging out in the kitchen with me. 

Did I mention that I'm smitten? Seriously.

Anyway...I'd been wanting to make a recipe from Chef Sean Brock's beautiful new cookbook Heritage ever since I met him in October at a book signing/tasting dinner in St. Louis. I've said it before: He is just so damn adorable. See?

There's that silly fangirl look again.

I figured this recipe, the first in the book, was the perfect way to begin my new year...one that promises to be full of love, fun, adventure, and hope.

Lowcountry Hoppin' John
slightly adapted from Sean Brock's Heritage