This Week I’m Hosting Martha Stewart Living Radio! Monday, Jul 23 2012 

Greens, Gardening, & Grilling

Quick note to let you know I’m hosting Martha Stewart Living Radio this week at 3:00 pm EST.

Today, Monday July 23rd I’m with vegetarian cooking expert Nava Atlas, author of the awesome new book, Wild about Greens. I’ll also have BBQ Queen Judith Fertig on the line with her new book, The Gardener and the Grill. We’re talking about greens, gardening, and grilling!

Canning & Preserving

Wednesday is all about Preserving. I’ll be talking to canning expert Sherri Brooks Vinton, author of Put Em Up! We’ll review simple approachable ways to can and preserve that will help you put up some great summer produce.
I am also thrilled to be chatting with NY Times best-selling author Mark Kurlansky, who has written a biography on Clarence Birdseye. (Yep, that one, the man that essentially invented frozen food.) I am a huge fan of Mark’s work and am so excited to have the opportunity to interview him. His book Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World changed my life and how I consider seafood.

What’s HOT!

Friday is “What’s Hot”. There’s nothing much hotter right now than food trucks in the food world. I’m excited to have John T. Edge on the line talking about his new book The Truck Food Cookbook with recipes and great photographs by Angie Mosier.

When it’s hot I love nothing more than a ice-cold glass of tea. I’ll be joined by tea expert Bob Heiss, owner of Tea Trekker, one of the pre-eminent tea stores in the country and author of The Tea Enthusiast’s Handbook.

Please listen and call in with your questions! You can also follow or ask questions on twitter at @MarthaRadio and use the hashtag #CookingToday. It’s Martha Stewart Living Radio, channel SiriusXM 110. If you would like to listen in but do not have Sirius, you can sign up for a FREE 7 day trial!

Lastly, if you miss the 3 PM broadcast, you can catch the re-play at 6 PM or 10 PM EST.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

4G Summer: Glorious, Gardening, Grilling, & Garlic + Three Condiment Recipes Wednesday, Jul 4 2012 

Life is Good

This summer has been glorious. Life is good, love is good, work is good. I am happy.

The past weeks have been filled with lots of gardening and grilling. I absolutely love to dig in the dirt. It’s so therapeutic. I can’t tend a houseplant to save my life, but vegetables? Love. It is so amazingly satisfying to watch them grow — and then eat them!

I am a simple creature, I really am. I insist. Feed me, love me, and I am good to go. Or grow, as the case seems to be.

Decompression from working and writing is spent in the garden. At the end of each day we go to the garden to weed and water. We enjoy drinks in the Adirondack chairs as the grill heats. It stays light quite late, it’s so beautiful outside, and grilling keeps the heat out of the kitchen. Last night we picked our first squash which I grilled seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and just a hint of oil. We also had salad from the garden – that I didn’t grill – but we enjoyed with a simple garlic dressing. It’s garlic harvest now and although we didn’t plant any in our garden, we’ve been buying fresh, sticky, hot delicious garlic at the Farmer’s Market. We’ve been putting it in everything.

Gardening, Grilling, and Garlic. That’s pretty much my summer in a nutshell.

I told you I was a simple creature.

Simple Food

Simple food is best to me. “Let the goodness of the ingredients shine” is my philosophy, especially in summer when the produce is fresh and bright. My friends and colleagues the BBQ Queens, Karen Adler and Judith Fertig have a tasty new cookbook that is spot on perfect for this summer. The Gardener and the Grill brilliantly combines the bounty of the garden with the sizzle of the grill. It’s packed with recipes for honest, good food. The photography is mouth-watering and it will inspire you to do more than the typical hot dogs and hamburgers on your grill this holiday weekend.

The recipes emphasize seasonality, sustainability, and recognizes that grilling from the garden has two rewards: growing your own food AND making it taste good – which I wholeheartedly endorse! Their book has new twists on grilled produce and great vegetable sides. And, there’s far more. Karen and Judith include an explanatory pantry chapter with recipes for homemade salts, seasonings, and dressing to enhance your grilling experience. Then, they break out the grill for appetizers; sandwiches, flatbread, and pizza; soups and salads; meat, poultry, and fish; and a sweet finish with fruits and desserts. Even if you aren’t able to grow your own,you will find plenty of recipes to use with vegetables from your local farm stand.

One recipe that caught my eye of course, involved garlic. I adore Romesco Sauce. So, in honor of my 4G glorious summer I want to share some garlicky goodness condiment recipes with you – Bagna Cauda and Aioli. With the 3 of these simple condiment recipes you can have a glorious picnic, too!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

PS Click here to see my video for the Washington Post on How to Pack a Perfect Picnic!

Flame-Licked Fingerlings with Romesco Sauce
Makes 8 servings

Flame-licked? More like finger-licking with this full-flavored Romesco Sauce! Try it with grilled zucchini or even grilled meats such as steak or chicken. Pretty much tastes good on anything.

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 roasted red bell peppers or jarred roasted red bell peppers, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 slice white bread (crust removed), toasted and crumbled
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
Pure olive oil, for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a food processor, grind the almonds. Add roasted peppers, garlic, bread, parsley and hot pepper flakes. Blend until it becomes a paste. Add the vinegar and pulse to blend. With the motor running, gradually pour the olive oil through the feed tube in a steady stream until the mixture thickens like mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. (Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

Meanwhile, prepare a hot fire in your grill. Drizzle the fingerling potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fingerlings in a perforated grill basket or an aluminum pan with holes in it. Place over the hot fire and close the grill lid. After about 3 or 4 minutes, open the grill and toss the potatoes. Clove the lid again and repeat the tossing in about another 3 or 4 minutes. Cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve the grilled fingerlings on a platter with a bowl of the Romesco sauce set in the middle for dipping.

Adapted from THE GARDENER & THE GRILL © 2012 by Karen Adler & Judith Fertig, Running Press, a member of The Perseus Books Group.

Lisa’s Bagna Cauda
Makes about 3/4 cup


Instead of a mayonnaise or sour cream based dip, try this recipe for an exquisite warm oil-based dipping sauce. It is a lot of oil, but it’s heart-healthy olive oil. Packed with flavor that pops, all you need is the quickest, lightest coating on the dipped vegetables.

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets in oil
6 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh garden vegetables, for serving

Place the oil, anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until smooth. Transfer the mixture to small heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat 15 minutes, stirring, occasionally. (The sauce will separate.) Serve with fresh vegetables.

Virginia’s Aioli
Makes 1 cup


This is an indulgence, but oh-my-goodness it is some kind of good. It’s homemade garlic mayonnaise and is awesome on grilled bread or vegetables. This would take your burger bash to a whole new level.

2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste with salt
1 cup oil such as canola, olive, or a combination, room temperature
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grilled bread, for serving

Whisk the egg yolks, mustard, white wine vinegar, and garlic together in a medium bowl until smooth and light. In a slow steady stream whisk the oil, a drop at a time, until the mixture starts to stiffen and thicken. As the mixture thickens you may add the oil, slightly faster. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Note: Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health or immune system is compromised should not consume raw eggs.

Potato Photo credit: Steve Legato
Bagna Cauda and Aioli: Virginia Willis

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.

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.

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