Mother’s Day: Spaghetti with Venison Bolognese Thursday, May 10 2012 

One of my fondest earlier memories is of my mother teaching me to swim. She floated on her back and I held to her ankles and kicked and kicked, my chubby little legs making more splash than headway. She then held underneath me so I’d learn to use my arms. She taught me how to hold my breath and swim underwater. That’s trust. That’s powerful trust. I never hesitated trying because Mama was there and told me I could do it.

There’s not much I haven’t tried because Mama has always been there. She instilled in me a belief in my ability. Recently, we were talking about me driving alone to DC to go to culinary school years ago. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t or that it was odd or dangerous. Mama told me how much it worried her, but she didn’t mention it at the time. I was surprised at myself that I had never ever considered how my antics might actually effect her. I’m a fairly altruistic and empathetic person, but my trust in her belief in my ability was so strong, that it never occurred to me she actually had any doubts.

The bedrock of our relationship is that we have always been good friends. I was always a bookish child and still seem to be. I was never one of the popular girls, so that means I wasn’t hanging out after school in high school with the others, I was at home with Mama.

We travel a lot together and have a silly amount of fun. It’s really incredible and I feel more blessed and fortunate that I could ever share. I’ll be asked to go teach a class or be in a festival and I’ll call her up and say, “Mama, let’s go.” She pretty much without fail will say yes and off we’ll go.

It’s not all work. We vacation together, a lot, too. We’ve tromped up winding stairwells in Greece and Italy, I got us lost looking for a farmer’s market in Turkey, looked for sea turtle nests in South Florida, goofed around at Rancho la Puerta in Mexico, where we were crying we were laughing so hard, when she was channeling her inner yogi. You can see from the smiles in these photos that we have a lot of fun.

A couple of months ago I asked her to join me in Savannah and she was a hesitant. She didn’t want to drive by herself on unfamiliar roads. We talked about it and I kept reassuring her she’d be okay. She continued to be unsure. I asked her if everything was okay, or was she experiencing memory loss or other kind of health issue. She wouldn’t really respond, but kept hemming and hawing. It made me scared. Very scared.

I’m slowly moving into that uncomfortable club that many folks enter in their 40s. I have friends whose parents are aging, some have become sick, some have passed away. Indeed, we’ve had our own scare. Mama had a surgery for breast cancer in 2003, but she’s been cancer free for nearly 10 years.

Finally, I told her we had to talk about it. I said that we couldn’t not talk about it.

We did and everything is fine. She’s okay, we just need to be aware that she’s aging. That same day I heard a report on NPR that elder drivers are disproportionately responsible for the amount of car accidents. It was good to hear and I needed that reminder. Mama’s always there for me. I can’t conceive of not having her in my life.

Thinking about losing my mama takes my breath away.

I am thankful beyond words for our friendship and relationship. I am thankful for her love, trust, and support. I am thankful for her presence in every last thing I do every last single day, because she taught me belief and trust.

Mama, I love YOU the Most. Thank you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
VA

Mama’s Spaghetti Bolognese with Venison

Serves 6 to 8

My family grew up eating spaghetti with a traditional meat sauce. Well, sort of. . . . The meat was ground venison from a deer Daddy shot, and Mama always added Dede’s homemade scuppernong wine. She also used a McCormick’s seasoning packet, still does. (In my version I add porcini mushrooms to bolster the flavor instead.) This was one of those rare meals mama didn’t make completely from scratch. And, I am not sure why, but she always broke the spaghetti noodles in half and cooked them far, far past al dente, more like “all done.”

I’ve enjoyed Bolognese in Rome, “gravy” in Jersey City, and even served marinara sauce to none other than Giuliano Hazan, but Mama’s “Southern-style” sauce is still one of my favorite dishes in the world. Food memories are precious things. The sense of smell, more so than any other sense, is intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion. One whiff of this and I am immediately transported to my childhood. Buon appetito, y’all!

1 tablespoon pure olive oil

1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

2 pounds ground venison, or 1 pound ground round beef and 1 pound ground turkey

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms

¾ cup dry red wine

1 (16-ounce) package spaghetti

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and all the liquid in the pan has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the ground meat and crushed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into small chunks. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the dried porcini and wine. Stir to combine. Decrease the heat to simmer and cook until thick, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or according to package instructions.

Drain the spaghetti through a colander placed in a large serving bowl (to heat the bowl). Drain the water from the bowl and pat dry. Put the cooked spaghetti in the now-warmed bowl. Spoon over 1 large spoonful of the sauce and toss to coat. Spoon over several additional spoonfuls, depending on how many are at the table. Serve immediately.


Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Behind the Scenes & Free Recipe Sampler! Tuesday, Sep 27 2011 



Basic to Brilliant, Y’all is now on sale! 

We sealed the deal on Christmas Eve of 2009.

Can you believe it? Writing a cookbook is a long process. Most folks aren’t aware of just how long it takes. Yes, some books are pushed quickly through the system and some books, frankly aren’t always carefully produced. My experience with both of my books has been one of slow, careful growth. I like it. I love it. I feel that something worth having is something worth the wait.

First, there’s the tiny little wisp of a thought that might, just might be something. That little thought needs nurturing, so I roll it around my brain and marinate on it until it’s bona fide, the real deal. Then, I write my proposal. This is the piece for the publishing company to be able to understand the idea, see if they are game, see if they think it’s bona fide, too. (My words, not theirs; they are from Northern California, I am from the South.) My proposals have a full recipe list, sample chapter, a selection of recipes, as well as a summary of each intended chapter. It’s basically the skeleton, or the outline, of the book. Once the proposal has been accepted, in both instances, I’ve had one year to complete the manuscript.

Basic to Brilliant, Y'all

Completing the manuscript means writing, testing, and developing all the recipes. For this process, in my experience, it means that I have one year to complete the task. It also means some of the recipes listed in the proposal may fall to the wayside and replaced with better ideas – but just a smattering. I build my proposals with real intent.  I also learned recipe testing from Nathalie Dupree and Anne Willan. It’s a meticulous process.

First, I write a rough recipe before I even walk into the kitchen. I may have been cooking supper or eaten something somewhere that sparked my interest. It’s not always from absolute zero that an idea becomes a recipe. But, then, I test and test again. And, it needs to get an A or a B. If it gets a B, we retest it. Often, if it gets a C, I’ll walk away from the concept. I’ll test a recipe 3 or 4 times. If it can’t achieve an A – I feel like it’s not just meant to be.

For Basic to Brilliant this meant 150 Basic recipes — and 150 ways to make them Brilliant. There’s a lot of information packed in that book!

Once the year has passed and I turn in all my recipes with my manuscript, it starts the editorial process. From the time it’s turned in until it’s printed, it’s an additional year. For Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, I worked with an editor, a series of proofreaders and copy editors, and a designer for 6 months. It takes the proverbial village. Only after all that work is it sent off to the printer to be printed, and that takes another 6 months!

Basic to Brilliant, Y'all

Food Photographer Helene Dujardin

As I was working on my manuscript, I started looking for a potential partner for photography. I wanted a partner, not someone to just take pretty pictures and move on to their next project. For Basic to Brilliant, Y’all I started looking around online, on blogs, on websites. One super special magical day I came across a really wonderful blog called Tartelette by Helene Dujardin. I subscribed, I watched, I read, I looked and each week I was absolutely overwhelmed by the beauty of her images.

Long story short? I sent Ten Speed her link and we all talked. We agreed it was worth a shot. I sent her a tweet and our conversation started.

I had already asked Angie Mosier and Gena Berry to collaborate with me again. They had both worked with me on my first book.

We packed up our cars and headed down to Charleston. We had a team of 6 interns and culinary students helping cook the food. We were shooting 6 photographs a day; it’s quite the production. And, it’s a lot of groceries! Gena would send the food out of the kitchen to the studio and Angie, Helene, and I would set the scene. Each surface had to blend with the next, have the same feel, but not be repetitive. Betsy, the designer taped each shot to the wall and mapped out the entire book. It was such satisfaction to look at the new images from the day before at the beginning of a day. We were watching it grow.

Technically, Angie is listed as the prop stylist, Gena is the food stylist, and Helene the photographer, but we all worked together. No one person has one job. At the end of the day, it’s my name on the cover of the book, and I had to approve, but I love to work with talented people and let them do what they do.

Basic to Brilliant, Y'all

Me and the beautiful and talented Angie Mosier

That’s the way I like to work. Collaboration. It’s the Pork Chop Theory. The Pork Chop Theory is based on the premise that if you put one pork chop in the pan and turn the heat on high, the pork chop will burn. If you put two pork chops in the pan, however, and turn the heat on high they will feed off the fat of one another. It’s the ultimate in giving, sharing, and developing mutually beneficial partnerships and relationships. It’s not about competition; it’s about sharing the fat, sharing the love.

It’s about everyone getting what they need to be satisfied and happy.

And, you know what? The older I get, the more I know that’s what life is all about.

Following your heart and being happy. This book, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, makes me happy. It’s the collaboration of many folks sharing their love and talents.

MAMA’S READING LIST

Lordy Mercy, I’m on Oprah. Here’s a little bit on Oprah.com about my Beurre Monte in a piece about How Chefs Make Food Look Good — (but, Oprah I only want to add, “Taste Good,” too!)

Wendell Brock wrote a lovely piece on Basic to Brilliant, Y’all in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. And, check out these amazing photos by Renee Brock.

I’ve got a Virtual Potluck going on! A special group of folks are posting the recipes on their blog. If you read one of the blogs and buy a book, I’ll send you a bookplate! I’ll let you know as they post.

The first one to give it a go was the lovely Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy. She loved my Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes. I loved her kind words! Thanks Cousin!

If you want to take part, cook from the book and send a photo to info@virginiawillis.com. And, fill out this form, and I’ll send you a signed bookplate if you buy a book in the next two weeks!

Please make sure if you cook from my book to send me a photo or a link!

I hope you enjoy my recipes and stories. Thanks so much to everyone for your support.

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

VA

Click on the link below to download the FREE recipe sampler! 

Basic to Brilliant Sampler

Helen Dujardin’s photo by Taylor Mathis.
Cover photo by Helen Dujardin.
Angie and me by Jenni Coale.

Twilight: End of Summer Garden Thursday, Sep 15 2011 

It’s that twilight time in the garden and at the farmer’s markets.

The magic in-between time that gently divides the seasons. The summer darlings such as heirloom tomatoes, vibrant peppers, and the last stubby fingers of okra sit adjacent to mottled wild pears, aubergine-colored scuppernongs bursting with sweet juice, and tender, young winter squash.

The slate of a garden, of a season, is not quickly wiped away. It’s more akin to gentle strokes. The natural transition of the garden is slow, soft, and gentle.

I love the twilight.

Although I’ve enjoyed tomato sandwiches for literally both breakfast and lunch many days this week on pullman loaf Southern sandwich bread from HF Bread Co, it was a real pleasure to take home a taste of fall from the Grant Park Farmers Market last Sunday.

The tomatoes seem to be the stalwart vegetable of summer. Somehow it seems that summer has officially arrived when the first “good tomatoes” come in — and it seems that summer is really leaving us when the tomatoes wind down.

Well, folks, it’s about that time.

I maintain that Southerners have been eating seasonally and locally for generations. It wasn’t “locavorism” or some other such bizarre seemingly made-up word.

It just was. It all seems new again, but really, the concept is as old as when the 1st plowshares were thrust into the earth. We just lost our way for a bit. Some folks still need guidance. Yes, I admit there’s a practical aspect to it. It’s hard to find everything local — and sometimes it’s expensive. There’s no doubt there’s a complicated landscape.

My friend and colleague Sherri Castle has a lovely book, The New Southern Garden Cookbook, to help remind us, to help us once again find our path.

Don’t be fooled by the title. It’s not just for Southerners. It’s to help everyone think about eating what’s in season.

The reviews have been very impressive.
“A celebration of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, from apples and asparagus to winter squash and zucchini.”
 –The New York Times Book Review

“If you see the garden as an extension of your kitchen, and if you happen to appreciate a Southern sensibility. . .you’ll be happy with the vegetable-focused recipes.” –The Washington Post

“A must-have cookbook for backyard gardeners and farmers’ market aficionados alike.” –Taste of the South

It’s a beautiful book, full of mouthwatering photos. It’s one of those cookbooks that does it’s job. It makes you hungry.

Sherri’s shared with me a lovely recipe for a Slow Roasted Tomato Tart. Slow roasting the tomatoes really helps those that are less flavorful than those picked at the zenith of summer. And, in a nod towards what’s just around the bend, I am sharing a recipe for Kale Salad with Lemon. I hope you’ll enjoy!

Mama’s Reading List .

  • New recipes and photos at virginiawillis.com
  • LOTS of events on my book tour schedule and new ones coming soon!
  • A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to an old friend, Amanda Hesser . We shot a video for Warm Summer Shrimp Salad for Food52
  • Lastly, here’s what Amanda had to say about my new book, “Virginia Willis could cook a memorable meal from a sock and some twigs. Whether she’s making southern food (her home turf) or French country dishes — or helping you get ready for company as she does in this treasure of a book, Virginia is someone you want by your side in the kitchen.” Wow! Isn’t that nice!! 

Bon Appetit, Y’all!
VA

Kale Salad with Lemon
Serves 4 to 6

1 bunch kale
2-3 slices baguette, toasted
1/2 garlic clove, mashed to a paste (see below)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, more for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, more for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

First remove the stems of kale then slice then into chiffonade. Chiffonade is is a classic French technique that means thinly slicing an herb, such as basil, or a leafy vegetable, into strands or ribbons. To make chiffonade, stack the leaves one on top of the other, and roll them tightly into a cylinder. Using a chef’s knife, slice the cylinder crosswise into thin strips. Place the kale ribbons in a large bowl.

Using a microplane or box grater, grate the bread into the kale. Add garlic, cheese, oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper flakes. Toss to thoroughly coat. Refrigerate to wilt and let the flavors marry, at least 30 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper before serving.

Garlic Paste
To prepare garlic paste, place the broad side of an unpeeled clove of garlic on a clean work surface and give it a whack with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Remove the papery skin and trim away the tough basal plane at the top of the clove. Halve the garlic lengthwise and remove any of the green shoot, if present, as it is bitter. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle it with coarse salt. (The salt acts as an abrasive and helps chop the garlic.) Then, using the flat side of a chef’s knife like an artist’s palette knife, press firmly on the garlic, crushing a little at a time. Repeat until the garlic is a fine paste.

Slow Roasted Tomato Tart
Serves 8

1/2 recipe Basic Pastry I (recipe below)
1/2 cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons wholegrain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
3/4 cup crumbled soft, fresh goat cheese
3 cups Slow-Roasted Tomatoes (recipe below)

Fit the pastry into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Bake and cool to room temperature according to the directions.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the creme fraiche and mustard and 1 tablespoon of the thyme in a small bowl. Use the back of a small spoon to spread 2 tablespoons of the mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart crust and set the rest aside. Sprinkle the cheese into the crust.

Cover the cheese with the tomatoes. Working from the outside of the crust toward the center, arrange the pieces in concentric circles and overlap their edges so that very little of the filling shows.

Bake the tart until the tomatoes are just beginning to lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of thyme. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature with a spoonful of the remaining creme fraiche mixture on the side.

Basic Pastry 1
Pastry for one double-crust 9-inch pi e, two 9-inch regular or deep-dish pie shells, or two 9- or 10-inch tart shells

The keys to this flaky, flavorful pastry are chilled vodka and lard. Sherri explains the vodka, “Pastry is flaky when its chilled liquid evaporates quickly in the oven, leaving little steam pockets between the grains of flour. Because vodka evaporates even more quickly than water, this pastry is more flaky than most.”

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
1/2 cup lard, cut into small cubes and chilled (about 4 ounces)
4 tablespoons vodka, chilled
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
Instant flour or additional all-purpose flour, for rolling

If you do not have a food processor, use a pastry blender or your fingertips to work in the fat.

Place 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade or pastry blade and pulse to combine. Scatter the cubes of butter and lard over the flour and pulse until the pieces of fat are the size of small peas. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Transfer into a large bowl.

Sprinkle the vodka and 2 tablespoons of the ice water over the flour mixture and stir with a fork or rubber spatula to form large clumps that pull in all of the dry ingredients. Squeeze a small handful of dough; if it doesn’t hold together, stir in more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Although the pastry should not be wet, it works best when it is a little sticky.

Gather the clumps into a smooth ball of pastry. Divide the pastry in half and shape each piece into a ball. Flatten each ball into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days. This gives the pastry time to rest, so the flour can continue to absorb the liquid and the pastry will be easier to handle. For longer storage, place the wrapped pastry in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Makes 3 cups

3 pounds ripe Roma or other paste tomatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Core the tomatoes, cut them in half lengthwise, and use your fingers to scoop out the seeds. (A small tool called a tomato shark is the best way to remove only the core without lopping off the end of the tomato.)

Place the tomatoes cut-side up in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the salt and drizzle with the oil. Roast until the tomatoes have collapsed and their centers are mostly dry, yet still slightly soft and plump, 2 to 4 hours, depending on the size and moisture content of the tomatoes.
The pieces should have the texture of a moist prune. Let the tomatoes cool to room temperature on the pan. Gently pull off and discard the skins. Set aside for tart.

Sherri’s recipes and images from THE NEW SOUTHERN GARDEN COOKBOOK: ENJOYING THE BEST FROM HOMEGROWN GARDENS, FARMERS’ MARKETS, ROADSIDE STANDS, AND CSA FARM BOXES. Copyright © 2011 by Sheri Castle. Photographs © 2011 by Stewart Waller. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Labor Day Appetizers and Summer’s Sweet End Thursday, Sep 1 2011 

I’ve spent the summer in New England. It’s been an eye-opener on many levels.

First, I was told all about the corn. “Our corn is the best in the world,” she said.

In my mind, I silently dismissed it.

“Oh-okay,” I responded. The half acknowledgment that conveys the unspoken sentiment, “You really don’t know what the h*ll you are talking about…”

Best in the world? Yankee corn. Seriously?

Well, let me tell you. It is the best corn I have ever tasted.

I had no real idea. The amount of agriculture in the area is astonishingly prolific. They pretty much grow all the things we grow down South, it’s just the season is shorter and the peak of the season comes a few weeks later. In fact, due to the extreme heat in the South, some things grow better up North.

It’s been a great lesson.

There’s a farmer’s market in the area practically everyday of the week. Also, everyone with a substantial garden has a little shed, stand, or table at the end of their driveway for selling produce and sometimes, flowers. One of my favorites is the farmer with his battered old Ford pickup truck open and backed toward the road. The roadside tables – or tailgates – are filled with freshly harvested produce and a handwritten sign, often on the back of a cardboard box, with the price list. Sometimes there’s a moneybox, but sometimes there’s just a Mason Jar or an old dinged up cookie tin. No lock, no strap, nothing to prevent theft.

I grew up in the country. Montezuma, Georgia. The population at the time hovered around 3000. It’s nice to once again have a healthy, wholesome dose of real country living.

This summer has enlightened me. Over the course of these past few months I have realized, that for the most part, country folks are country folks all across the US.

Sure, I get some funny looks with my  slow drawl and Southern accent, and believe me, we sure don’t sound alike. I’ve heard some voices straight out of central casting – curmudgeonly old Maine fisherman with their here-uhs and there-uhs, Yo-Joey Italian American foodies from Rhode Island, and fast-talkin’ BAHSton city slickers.

I feel like I am in the middle of a Rockwell painting with the red, white, and blue bunting that graces so many of the windows and balconies, farm stands at every turn and curve, and tall white spires of 18th century churches piercing the crisp blue cloudless sky.

Freedom of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear.

There’s something about the summer holidays that bring out a heartfelt feeling of pride and patriotism. Memorial Day is a day that honors those that have died in service, July 4th celebrates our independence, and Labor Day is dedicated to the achievements of American workers that have contributed to the strength and well-being of our country.

What I’ve grown to appreciate, once again, is that at the end of the day, we’re all Americans.

My friend and colleague Judith Fertig has a new book out titled Heartland: The Cookbook that celebrates another seemingly Rockwellian region of the US, the Midwest.

It’s a an absolutely beautiful book and embraces that eating local and farm to table is really just plain old eating for many rural Americans. It’s like I wrote for a piece called “Being Southern is a State of Mind” for CNN’s Eatocracy, “We were country when country wasn’t cool.” Residents of the Midwest have been living off the bounty of the land since the pioneer days.

Judith is one half of the dynamic duo, the witty, wise-crackin’ BBQ Queens along with Karen Adler. The two of them have written over 20 cookbooks together – and sold over 1/2 million books. Phew.

However, Judith isn’t simply tongs and tiaras. She is a fellow alumni of Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne and part of Anne Willan’s La Varenne Mafia.

This cook knows her stuff.

Heartland marries modern cooking with an authentic approach to the bounty of the land, presenting 150 recipes for farm-bounty fare. It’s far more than pig and polka. Heartland embraces the spirit and flavors of the modern farmhouse. Judith highlights ethnic food traditions, seasonal flavors, artisan producers, heirloom ingredients, and heritage meats.

Included are recipes for Chocolate Buttermilk Poundcake, Heirloom Bean Ragout stuffed in Acorn Squash, Four Seasons Flatbread, and Bacon Bloody Mary – with housemade bacon vodka –  that you are certain to enjoy regardless of where you call home.

Since you’ve likely got the grill going with BBQ Chicken or Steaks this weekend, I am featuring a couple of recipes to serve for apps and snacks. I’m sharing my own recipe for Quick Pickled Vegetables to go along with Judith’s recipes for Smoked Goat Cheese, Branding Iron Beef, and {End of} Summer Sangria.

Mama’s Reading List

A couple of weeks ago I started a section to let you know where I’ve been and what I’m up to. As tour dates firm up I’ll add those here, too. This section happens to be my mama’s favorite. 

Kim Severson, author of Spoonfed and writer for the New York Times asked me about field peas for a piece titled Last Call for Summer. Other delicious treats to make sure you have before summer’s end include peaches, flank steak, corn, and blackberries. (Click through to see them all — and it’s interactive. You can share your essential summer eating recipes, too.)

Icebox pies are hot according to the Oregonian. Leslie Cole speaks to Martha Foose and also recommends a litany of Southern books by me as well as Nancy McDermott, Sara Foster, and Hugh Acheson.

Check out what tea-expert Lisa Boalt Richardson says about coffee and  My Southern Pantry!

And, by the way, I’ll be back at Williams-Sonoma at Lenox Mall this Labor Day weekend on Saturday 3 September from 12-4 pm for the Artisan Market series.

Bon Appetit, Y’all!
VA

VIRGINIA’S PICKLED VEGETABLES
Serves 8 to 10

1 cucumber
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 cups assorted cut vegetables such as carrots, cauliflower florets, green beans, wax beans, and small okra
6 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cup sugar
¾ cup kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, cut into slivers
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
4 small red peppers

Prepare an ice-water bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Remove alternating stripes of peel from the cucumbers. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. Place the 8 cups of vegetables in the boiling water and let cook until vibrant in color but still firm, 1-2 minutes. Drain the vegetables well in a colander, and then set the colander with the vegetables in the ice-water bath (to set the color and stop the cooking), making sure the vegetables are submerged. Drain well. Set aside.

Place ½ the red onion, garlic, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in the bottom of a large sealable bowl or jar. Transfer the blanched vegetables to the jar, layering to alternate the color and texture. Layer in remaining ½ onion, cucumber, and peppers.

Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until the mixture comes to just under a boil. Pour mixture directly over vegetables and spices. Depending on the size container and the size of the vegetables you may not use all of the vinegar. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Cover or seal and store refrigerated, stirring occasionally, for at least 48 hours. Serve well-chilled.

How to Smoke Tomatoes and Goat Cheese:

When you’re already grilling something else, put these on at the end and you’ll have double the pleasure. You can make any quantity of smoked tomatoes or goat cheese with this easy method.

1. Prepare an indirect fire in your grill, with no fire on one side. For a charcoal grill, place about 1 cup wood chips on ashed-over coals. For a gas grill, place ½ cup of wood chips in a metal smoker box or in a homemade aluminum foil packet with holes punched in the top; place the smoker box or packet nearest to a gas jet.

2. Stem and core the tomatoes, brush them with olive oil, and put them in a disposable aluminum pan. Brush a log of goat cheese with olive oil and place it in a disposable aluminum pan. Place the pan(s) on the indirect side of the grill. When you see the first wisp of smoke, close the lid. The tomatoes and goat cheese take about 30 minutes or until they have a burnished appearance and a smoky aroma.

3. Peel and seed the tomatoes. To puree, put the peeled and seeded tomatoes in a food processor and puree until smooth.


Branding Iron Beef with Smoked Tomato Drizzle
Serves 8

Kansas is, literally, “home on the range”—at least it was to Brewster Higley, the Smith County settler who wrote the song there in 1871. Today, there are still deer and even a few antelope, but mainly beef cattle in the Flint Hills and the western prairie. To make your taste buds sing, get your outdoor grill a-smokin’ so you can rustle up this easy version of beef carpaccio. The beef gets a little tasty char around the outside, is very rare inside, and has a smoky sauce to finish. You can make the sauce and grill the beef a day ahead, then assemble the thin slices a few hours before your guests arrive and keep chilled.

For the Smoked Tomato Drizzle:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon smoked tomato puree (see How to Smoke Tomatoes and Goat Cheese)
¼ cup bottled smoked chipotle pepper sauce

For the beef:
1 pound boneless eye of round, top loin. or beef tenderloin
Olive oil for brushing
Coarse kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper
Drained capers and baby arugula for garnish

1. For the drizzle, whisk together the mayonnaise, tomato, and smoked chipotle pepper sauce in a small bowl until smooth. Transfer to a plastic squeeze bottle. Chill 8 appetizer plates.

2. Prepare a hot fire in your grill and place a cast iron skillet or griddle on the grill grate to heat for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Brush the steak with olive oil and season the exterior with salt and pepper. When the skillet is very hot, sear the beef on all sides until blackened, about 1 to 2 minutes per side.

4. Let the beef rest until it is at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap. To serve the same day, place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up. To serve the next day, place in the refrigerator, then in the freezer for 30 minutes.

5. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the beef into paper-thin slices and arrange on the chilled plates. To serve, drizzle the sauce on each plate in a cross-hatch pattern and scatter with capers and arugula.

{End of} Summer Sangria
Serves 8

Stir up a pitcher on a hot day, then sit back and relax. It’s summer! Choose a semi-dry white wine from Heartland wineries and a Triple Sec made in Cincinnati, Ohio. Perhaps a Prairie Fume from Wollersheim in Wisconsin or the Vignole from Sainte Genevieve Winery in Missouri, and De Kuyper Triple Sec from Ohio.

2 bottles semi-dry white wine, chilled
2/3 cup Fresh Herb Syrup (see below)
2/3 cup Triple Sec
1 liter sparkling water
½ cup fresh lime juice, or to taste
2 cups fresh fruits in season, such as peach slices, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, or gooseberries
Fresh lemon balm or basil sprigs to garnish
1. Combine the wine, syrup, Triple Sec, sparkling water, and lime juice over ice in a large pitcher. Add some fruit to the pitcher, portion the rest among 8 glasses. Pour in the sangria, then garnish with a sprig of lemon balm.

Fresh Herb Syrup
Makes about 1 cup

For this recipe, use the freshest, most aromatic tender herbs you can find, such as basil, mint, or lemon balm.
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup fresh, aromatic herb leaves, packed, coarsely chopped
1. In a large, microwave-safe glass measuring cup, combine the sugar, water, and herbs. Microwave on high until the sugar dissolves, about 3 to 4 minutes. Let the mixture steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, strain the mixture into a bowl and let cool. Use right away or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

corn, pickled vegetables, and field photos by me.

Judith’s recipes and images from Heartland: The Cookbook by Judith Fertig/Andrews McMeel Publishing
Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Guest Cook: Slow Cooker Beef Stew on pauladeen.com Monday, Nov 30 2009 


Hi there – Hope everyone had a happy and safe Thanksgiving. We had a very nice time. It was very bittersweet because this was our last holiday at the family home.

I’ve been taking lots of pictures. I think I will miss the pond the most. It is truly, truly one of my favorite places on earth – and I am counting Paris, the Alps, and the Caribbean in that list. And, don’t worry – I am taking Meme’s cabinets! It's a long story, as most family dramas are, but at the end of the day, it really is the best thing for mama. This house is too big and too much for her, needs too much work.

Logic and emotion rarely exist on the same plane. I am feeling a little wounded, feel like I need a little cotton padding around my heart. It’s been very sad, almost like dealing with my grandmother dying again. I stand and wash the dishes, looking out the window, knowing it is all ending soon. That all those meals I enjoyed in that heart of pine kitchen will only be a memory and that the heart of pine kitchen, as well as part of my heart, will be razed along with the rest of the home.

I wrote this article months ago for Pauladeen.com , not knowing about the timing, not knowing just how much a comforting bowl of beef stew would be. My original thought was that it would be perfect after Thanksgiving. (‘Cause, if you haven't eaten all the leftovers, I have to say, it's time.) I knew that I would want something radically different, but still comforting and satisfying, and most of all? NOT turkey.

But, it’s more. My little story is about Mama, Dede’s cows, memories of steamy windows on cold fall days. It’s Uncle Frank and my father skinning the buck they shot in the valley east of the pond. It’s the little bit of France I brought back and couldn’t wait to share with my dearest Meme.

Home is where the heart is, there is no doubt, but memories and love aren’t held in walls of wood and brick. Walls crumble, wood rots. Memories and love are everlasting.

Click through to check out my visit as guest cook in Paula's Kitchen and for my recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Stew.

Many thanks to Libbie and Paula for the opportunity.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Thanksgiving Morning: Two Great Ways to Start the Day Wednesday, Nov 25 2009 

Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and websites – everywhere you look are recipes or stories about Thanksgiving sides or The Best Turkey. I’m guilty, too having sent out recipes for winter greens and winter vegetable gratin just last week.

But, I was talking to some folks this past weekend at Mistletoe Market in Perry, GA and we were talking about making breakfast for a crowd. I suggested they try my recipe for French Toast Casserole. It’s great. (If you click on the photo you can see it featured in Paula Deen’s magazine.) I’ve shared it before so excuse the redundancy, but it’s perfect and I don’t think you’ll mind because it tastes soooo good.

Breakfast can get the short shift on Thanksgiving. There’s so much food later in the day, but the morning can be hectic. When my sister and I were young, our favorite mornings were when Mama would prepare French toast for breakfast. The smell of butter, kissed with cinnamon, combined with the heady scent of sizzling egg was a most welcome greeting as we bounded down the stairs.

Sounds great – but nothing to make with a full house of people and lots of cooking still left to do. So, instead of another side dish to compete with Mama’s Sweet Potato Casserole or dessert to compete with Cousin Kathy’s Buttermilk Pecan Pie, I am sharing a couple of recipes for breakfast or brunch. (I will admit however, I have served the cassserole before as a dessert, but that’s neither here nor there 😉 )

My French Toast Casserole is made the night before, so you won’t find yourself camped in front of a hot griddle in the early morning, groggy and in need of caffeine. Make it tomorrow night and then, Thanksgiving morning remove it from the fridge to take the chill off. Grab a cup of coffee and pop it in the oven. Turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, give many thanks you aren’t in that crowd lining the streets of NYC, and basically, breakfast is ready. It’s a sturdy dish, nothing to fuss over, and responds well to being kept in a low oven while family members emerge for the day.

If you want to go for an even more simple way to start the day, try Sauteed Pears with Vanilla Yogurt and Honey Peanuts. The pears can be sauteed the night before and even microwaved in individual servings on Thanksgiving morning. I love the flavor combination of the peanut and the pear.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I have so much to be thankful for – no, not everything is perfect by a looooong shot – but I am so grateful for what I do have. I have my health, my family, good friends, and love in my life.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

SAUTEED PEARS WITH VANILLA YOGURT AND HONEY PEANUTS
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 large Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of fine salt
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup low fat vanilla or plain yogurt
1/4 cup honey roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium high heat. Add pears and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until softened. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, ginger and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of fine salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Keep warm.

In a small bowl combine the peanut butter, honey, and yogurt; stir until smooth. Set aside.

To serve, place the pears in a shallow bowl. Top with yogurt mixture. Sprinkle over peanuts. Serve immediately.

Mama Says It’s Okay: Root Vegetable Gratin Monday, Nov 16 2009 

Last week I wrote about “messing around with greens” with a recipe for Meme’s loooonnnggg-cooked greens and the wisdom of not changing the sacrosant and inviolable Thanksgiving menu.

This week? I’m feeling a little frisky. Actually, a lot.

I’ve taught a lovely recipe for a Root Vegetable Gratin for my next book in class several times over the last few weeks. Everyone has really loved it.

Mama was in town as my date for the Georgia Restaurant Association Awards. (They kindly honored me by asking me to be their keynote speaker.) I was showing her my photos over the past month or so. She drawled, “That’s pretty,” commenting on the golden, bubbly gratin. I told her about it and she thought it sounded nice.

I ventured out on a limb, “I uh, I thought I would maybe try that for our Thanksgiving.” She slightly lifted her brow and queried, “Oh?” Bravely, I proceeded, “Well, everyone really likes it.” (Of course, immediately bringing to mind deeply buried memories of being a child and a parent saying something along the lines of “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you?”)

Mama smiled sweetly – as only mama’s can do – and replied, “I think we should try it.”

Hope you do, too.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

PS. Here’s a picture of mama down at the pond earlier this year. Shh! Don’t tell.

ROOT VEGETABLE GRATIN WITH SAUCE MORNAY
Serves 6 to 8

French chef Antonin Carême evolved an intricate methodology by which hundreds of sauces were classified under one of five “mother sauces”: Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise, and Tomato. Béchamel, one of the most useful sauces, is a white sauce made by stirring heated milk into a butter-flour roux. The thickness of the sauce depends on the proportion of flour and butter to milk. Mornay, the sauce in this gratin is a sauce derivative of Béchamel created by simply adding cheese.

DON’T get caught up on the vegetable combination! It’s a mixture of root vegetable and tubers. Can’t find celery root? Use Yukon Gold potatoes. Try sweet potatoes instead of carrots and rutabagas instead of parsnips. Get all crazy and add a turnip or two. Mix it up and don’t overthink it.

2 cups reduced fat milk
10 peppercorns
3 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
4 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 small parsnips, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 celery root, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1⁄4 cup unsalted butter, more for the baking dish
1⁄4 cup all purpose flour
1 1⁄4 cups freshly grated Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup Panko or dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the milk in a small pot until just simmering. Add the peppercorns, parsley, and thyme. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°. Butter a large gratin dish and set aside. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. (You can also parcook the vegetables in the microwave until just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes depending on the strength of your microwave.) Add chopped herbs and stir to combine. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour and cook for a minute or two until foaming. Pour in the milk and bring to a boil, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens. Season and simmer for 2 minutes. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Take the sauce from the heat and stir in half of both cheeses until they melt. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the vegetables and stir to combine.

Spoon the vegetable mixture into the prepared gratin. Cover with foil and transfer the gratin to the oven and bake until the vegetables are tender, 45 to 60 minutes. (Or, if using parcooked vegetables, only about 30 minutes.)

Heat the oven to broil. Combine the remaining gruyère, panko, and Parmesan. Sprinkle over the top of the gratin. Broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes, depending on the strength of your broiler. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly, and serve.

To make ahead and reheat: Do not add the layer of breadcrumb mixture. Remove from the refrigerator, and let come to room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes. Cover with parchment paper, and reheat in a 400° oven for 20 minutes. Top with breadcrumb mixture, and broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Messing with Winter Greens Tuesday, Nov 3 2009 

DSC_0331

Check out this mess of collard greens!

I was teaching in Fort Valley, Georgia a few weeks ago at the Peach Palette and I asked Beth to go out and get some greens for the Tangle of Winter Greens. I think I said 4 bunches. This is HALF of what she came back with! And, being that it was Fort Valley – she just pulled up to the farmstand pickup truck and he put them in her trunk. Drive Through Collards. Only in the South. We had a good time with it and my cousin Kathy Waites took this great picture.

Love it. Love greens, too. Cabbage, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens. All are brassicas and have a little bite.
DSC_0536

I am on the road again at the Women Chef and Restauranteurs Conference in DC. Great group. But, Mama and I are already talking about the Thanksgiving menu. The amusing thing about Thanksgiving it is the one meal that is almost immovable in terms of menu. Each family member has that one dish that is their favorite and for some, it’s like the entire holiday is absolutely positively ruined if the sweet potatoes are topped with something other than toasty brown marshmallows or the Squash Casserole is missing. A day which is supposed to be a joyful gathering of family and friends instead becomes a day without sunshine. This I know. The deal is, dishes can be added, but nothing can be removed from the menu. I learned this the hard way. As a chef and now in charge of most of the savory aspects of the Thanksgiving meal (Mama still does the desserts) I have tried to branch out a bit. I once put panko breadcrumbs on the squash casserole and I sincerely felt like an enemy of the state.

One dish I absolutely won’t mess with is the mess of greens. I have had without fail, some form of cooked winter greens at every Thanksgiving meal of my entire life. I dare say even longer than turkey because my grandmother, whom I called Meme, cooked them for hours until they were meltingly soft. They were indeed appropriate as pabluum for an infant. During the fall, I generally like them a bit more toothsomeness, but I know better. For Thanksgiving I cook them just like Meme did, in a salty smoky broth flavored with hog jowl. The fat melts and the pot likker is oily and slick, perfect for sipping later and enjoying with a wedge of cornmeal.

In late November, the fields have been kissed with a touch of frost, something that Meme said brings out the sweetness in the bitter collard, kale, or mustard greens. They are at the beginning of the peak of the season and absolutely the epitome of eating local and in season. Sweet potatoes and panko are one thing. Messing with the greens is quite another.

The saying if it’s not broke, don’t fix it comes to mind, but here are a few choices for your fall and Thanksgiving menus.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Tangle of Winter Greens
Serves 4 to 6
Kale, collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens are dark leafy winter greens that are nutritional powerhouses and familiar friends on the Southern table. Look for brightly colored greens free of brown spots, yellowing edges, or limp leaves. Try flavorful seasonings such as smoked turkey or ham hock for the meat eaters and smoked salt or chipotle chiles for the vegetarians.

I once demonstrated this recipe on a local morning TV show. Aunt Louise was watching and told Mama later, “She took those greens out of that pan just like they were done!” You won’t believe how fast they cook, either.

The best way to clean greens is to fill a clean sink with cold water, add the greens, and swish them around. The dirt will fall to the bottom of the sink. Lift the greens out, drain the sink, and repeat until the water is clear and the greens are free of dirt and grit.

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 medium cloves garlic, mashed into a paste (see below)
1 medium bunch kale, collards, turnip greens, or mustard greens (about 11/2 pounds), cleaned, tough stems removed and discarded,
and leaves very thinly sliced in chiffonade
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper 

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and slightly damp ribbons of greens; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the greens are bright green and slightly wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Garlic Paste
To prepare garlic paste, place the broad side of an unpeeled clove of garlic on a clean work surface and give it a whack with the flat side of a chef’s knife. Remove the papery skin and trim away the tough basal plane at the top of the clove. Halve the garlic lengthwise and remove any of the green shoot, if present, as it is bitter. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle it with coarse salt. (The salt acts as an abrasive and helps chop the garlic.) Then, using the flat side of a chef’s knife like an artist’s palette knife, press firmly on the garlic, crushing a little at a time. Repeat until the garlic is a fine paste.

COLLARDS WITH HOG JOWL
Serves 4 to 6

Kale, collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens are dark leafy winter greens that are nutritional powerhouses and familiar friends on the Southern table. Look for brightly colored greens free of brown spots, yellowing edges, or limp leaves. Try flavorful seasonings such as smoked turkey or ham hock for the meat eaters and smoked salt or chipotle chiles for the vegetarians.

The best way to clean greens is to first remove the tough stalks and stems. Fill a clean sink with cold water. Place the greens in water and swish around, allowing the grit to fall to the bottom the sink. Lift greens out of the sink and transfer to a large bowl and rinse the sink. Repeat the process at least three times or more as needed until no grit remains.

2 pounds assorted greens, such as collard, kale, mustard, or turnip
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium Vidalia onions, chopped
2 cups water
1/2 pound hog jowl or fat back, sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the water and hog jowl and bring to a boil, gradually stir in the greens, allowing each batch to wilt before adding more; season with salt and pepper.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, until greens are tender, stirring occasionally, about 60 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Using a slotted spoon, transfer greens to a serving dish.

NOT MEME’S GREENS! SPICY COLLARDS WITH SMOKED TURKEY
Serves 8

5 pounds assorted greens, such as collard, kale, mustard or turnip
2 medium Vidalia onions, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 smoked turkey leg, about 1 1/2 pounds
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a clean sink with cold water. Tear greens into large pieces and place in water to soak. Lift greens out of the sink and transfer to a large bowl, allowing grit to fall to the bottom the sink, rinse sink. Repeat process at least three times or more as needed.
Using a large pot over high heat, combine onions, oil, jalapeno and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, gradually stir in the greens, allowing each batch to wilt before adding more. Add the turkey leg and cover with greens, season with salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, until greens are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes, being careful not to over cook. Remove the
turkey leg, cool slightly and remove meat from leg. Dice meat and add to greens. Using a slotted spoon, transfer greens to a serving dish.

Cookbooks 101 & Media Training for Culinary Professionals Thursday, Oct 8 2009 

IMG_2056

Many of you that read my ramblings are fellow bloggers and food writers. I want to share with you a series of seminars I am hosting in DC next month.

COOKBOOK PUBLISHING 101:
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT WRITING COOKBOOKS AND COOKBOOK PROPOSALS

Saturday, November 7th, 2009
10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
The session seeks to educate and inspire those who dream of writing a cookbook and examines the publishing process from all angles and perspectives. Attendees will have the opportunity to “pitch” their cookbook idea to the group for feedback.

Topics covered include:
– Helpful resources for locating and working with a literary agent
– Pros and Cons of Working with an literary agent
– What exactly is a proposal and how do I create one
– Building marketing, platform, and brand
– Recipe research, writing, and testing
– Proposals and cover letters
– Crafting your Unique Selling Point
– Nuts and bolts – practical finances and what to expect
– Agent as advocate during the publishing process
– Getting to know the players in the culinary publishing world
– Organizations to network through and join

The course concludes with a Q & A session, although questions are encouraged throughout the presentation.

HONING YOUR EDGE:
CUTTING EDGE MEDIA SKILLS

Sunday, November 8th, 2009
9:30 am – 4:30 pm.
Beginning with an overview of today’s media environment, the course examines television, internet, print, and radio interviews from all angles, as well as personal appearances and cooking demonstrations. The goal is to replace intimidation and fear with confidence and energy and, ultimately, to help chefs, chef educators,product spokespeople and cookbook authors perform as well in front of the camera as behind the stove.

For full detailed course descriptions please visit lisaekus.com

To register or to inquire about these courses, please contact Daniele Mathras at 413-247-9325 or Daniele@LisaEkus.com.

Tuition for the full-day HONING YOUR EDGE course is $699 (including
lunch) and tuition for the half-day COOKBOOK PUBLISHING 101 is $325; no refunds.

IACP members and L’Academie students, faculty, and alumni receive 15% off tuition fees. So, take that down to $595 for the full day and $275.

Out and About: News and Notes Thursday, Oct 1 2009 

29_Virginia_Willis

Hi there – Hope this finds you well. I left the sunny beaches of South Florida and have been zipping up some serious skymiles. Currently I am writing from New York en route to Philadelphia for the Les Dames d’Escoffier conference.

IMG_2007

Last I touched base I had just taught in Maine. Since then, I’ve made a little jaunt through Indiana and Ohio, had a great time in Greenville SC at Euphoria with Shaun Garcia and his posse at Soby’s, taught in Savannah and had a great food and wine dinner at Local 11 Ten with chef Jeff Rodgers. I always try to sample the local – the really local food when I am in town. So, in Owensboro KY I sample BBQ mutton, West Lafayette IN, I paid a visit to the XXX – no! not that kind of XXX, and in Cincinnati? You’ve got it – SkyLine Chili!

photo

After Philly, I have a brief stop in Memphis on Tuesday 6 October, I will be in Memphis teaching a class on Mother Sauces at the Viking Culinary Arts Center I love, love, love teaching that class!

2.1212200400.world-of-coca-cola

I’m kicking of The World of Coca Cola Cooking with Coke Series on October 10. Click through on the link above to buy tickets. It’s a great value for a fun night out. I’ll be doing a demo and there will be free samples created by Tony Conway’s team at A Legendary Event as well as Wine and Specialty Beverage Tasting and a Tour of the World of Coca-Cola. Finally, parking is FREE. I'll be doing a booksigning, so you can purchase books onsite or bring your copy to have signed. The holidays are just around the corner, so think about anyone who may need a copy of BAY for a gift. (Shameless plug, I know.) The deal is, the folks who follow me are none other than Atlanta chef Richard Blais and Food Network star Paula Deen! They told me that, and I was pretty incredulous, to put it mildly. You want ME to lead off?

Paula & VA

Speaking of Paula – my appearance on her show aired again recently. Thanks so much to everyone for their notes, emails, and FB messages. She was a blast. I’ve also been asked to write for her new website, so keep your eyes open for that!

swing.4384755_std.JPG

Another really pretty cool thing going on is that my friend, colleague, and James Beard award winner Martha Foose and I are featured Cookbooks of the Month on Chowhound ! Can you believe it? Pretty ding dang awesome if you ask us! It’s really, really great. Real live readers, real people are cooking from our books, giving feedback, and asking questions. You know, I wrote yesterday that all the awards and nominations in the world mean a lot, but there’s nothing like someone showing up to my class with a dog-eared, stained copy of my cookbook. Nothing. Thanks Chowhounders!

There are a couple of professional events I want to tell you about, as well. My colleague Lisa Ekus-Saffer and I have developed a program called Honing Your Edge It’s media training for culinary professionals. We have 2 series of seminars coming up, one in DC and one in Seattle. There is also an additional seminar in DC on Cookbook Publishing 101.

Click on the link to find out more about it. In DC IACP members receive a 15% discount and in Seattle, we are extending the discount to members of LDEI. For more information, shoot Daniele an email at Daniele@Lisaekus.com

Just around the corner? Charleston SC, Athens GA, and St. Louis MO! Mexico, DC, and Seattle! Who knew there were so many folks liking Southern food all over?! Lot’s of fun classes, events, and ways to participate in good food and cooking all over. So, please come out and have a great time.

In the meanwhile, please enjoy my recipe below for Mama’s Apple Pie. Apple season is upon us and there’s not much better than a steaming, spicy slice of hot apple pie.

Bon Appetit, Y’all!

VA

image_03

Mama’s Apple Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie

Even though peaches are considered the quintessential Southern fruit, the phrase “as American as apple pie” applies to the South, too. Apples grow in the cooler mountainous regions from Georgia to Virginia. There is no longer an issue with refrigeration, but apples were an important fruit for people in the country who lived off the land. When held in a cool cellar, apples lasted for months, providing much needed vitamins and nutrition in the winter.

Many factors affect an apple’s juiciness: the age of the apple, the weather and climate where it was grown, and how it has been stored. In a pie, there’s sometimes a fine line between juicy and sopping wet. Flour is one ingredient that will help absorb some of the cooking juices.

This is my sister’s favorite dessert and she always requests it on special occasions.

Double recipe All-American Pie Crust, in 2 disks, (see below)
7 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar, plus more for topping the pie
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon water

Prepare the pie pastry. To shape the crust, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out one disk of the dough into a 13-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough round to a 9-inch pie plate. With a sharp paring knife, trim the dough flush with the rim of the plate. Freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes.

To make the filling, place the apples in a bowl; sprinkle over the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to combine and coat. Place the apple mixture in the unbaked pie shell. Dot with butter bits.

Roll out the remaining half of the pie crust on a lightly floured surface. Cover the filled pie crust with the round of dough, and trim so that 1 inch overhangs the pie plate. Fold the dough under, and crimp the edges by pressing with a fork or your fingers. Chill in the refrigerator until the crust is firm, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, to bake the pie, preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush the top of the pie with the water. Sprinkle over a teaspoon or so of sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes.

Transfer to a rack to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

All-American Pie Crust
Makes one 9-inch pie crust

When I was her apprentice, Nathalie Dupree spent hours on my baking and pastry education, patiently showing me again and again how to create perfect pie crusts, homemade breads, puff pastry, and rolls, until I had the techniques down cold. She crafted this recipe for beginners: it’s an easy crust for novices because it’s made in the food processor and because of the combination of butter and shortening. Shortening does not melt as readily as butter does and makes for a more forgiving dough. As Nathalie knew, a beginner’s first taste of sweet success in the pastry kitchen can be inspirational.

For a double-crust pie, simply double the amounts and divide the dough before rolling out.

11/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, preferably Crisco, chilled and cut into pieces
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3 to 8 tablespoons ice water

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the flour and salt, then add the vegetable shortening and butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With the processor on pulse, add enough of the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough holds together without being sticky or crumbly. Shape the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill until firm and the moisture has distributed evenly, about 30 minutes.

Flour a clean work surface and a rolling pin. (If making a double-crust pie or 2 pie shells, work with one disk at a time, keeping the second disk chilled.) Place a dough disk in the center of the floured surface. Starting in the center of the dough, roll to, but not over, the upper edge of the dough. Return to the center, and roll down to, but not over, the lower edge. Lift the dough, give it a quarter turn, and lay it on the work surface. Continue rolling, repeating the quarter turns, until you have a disk about 1/8 inch thick.

Ease the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim 1 inch larger than the diameter of the pie plate; fold the overhanging pastry under itself along the rim of the plate. For a simple decorative edge, press the tines of a fork around the folded pastry. To make a fluted edge, using both your finger and thumb, pinch and crimp the folded dough. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Next Page »

%d bloggers like this: