This Valentine’s Day, let’s take a trip around the world without leaving your own cozy kitchen. Let’s create a menu inspired by far-away places. Let’s create a dish or two to share with those you may not have seen in a while. And while we’re doing all of this, let’s share some LOVE…’cause all you need is….
Food that you can share with your loves. Canvas and Cuisine, the book I wrote with Susan Fazio is filled with foods that are inspired by our travels. But, more than this, the book is about love… love of family, love of neighbors, love of friendships. My gift to you this Valentines’ Day is all about LOVE. It’s about creating dishes that inspire you. Food that takes you just a bit your of your comfort zone. And dishes, that beg for your inventiveness.
I’m embarking on a new year of writing that celebrate others like me, who LIVE TO EAT! Just such a person is 28-year-old Alex Rold.
Rold takes eye popping, UNREAL, mouthwatering Instagram photos of all his foodie adventures in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s not the marketing analyst’s day job but perhaps it should be. I know his mother…yet I found my foodcentric cohort on his IG page, @roldinginthe_eats through drool of mouth. Sufficed to say, I was hardly the first one to notice Alex’s keen eye for superlative places to eat.
He was featured on Atlanta Eats a little over a year ago, when he said his nosh hobby really took hold and sent him on a photographic tour of the famed Buford Highway – a 7 mile path of restaurants, food halls and markets, that really are a dream come true for anyone with taste buds.
Buford Highway has its own China Town and massive food courts, with stalls that are like a United Nations in food: Korean, Mexican, Vietnamese, Dominican, African, you name it!
“If you’re not used to Buford, it can be overwhelming. The diversity you’ll find there, sometimes language barriers – it’s the best Asian food, best true Szechuan food, I’ve had in my life. I’m there almost every night of the week,” said Rold.
He recommended we all try the numbing peppers at Good Luck Gourmet and Masterpiece. Nam Phuong is definitely a favorite haunt for Vietnamese food.
Rold said his near daily trek down the four-lane highway, stretching from just north of Atlanta (Brookhaven) to Duluth, GA in Gwinnett County, has been the path toward more than just amazing food.
Being food oriented has also been the path toward the best friendships of his life.
“I recognize friends from Instagram on Buford Highway all the time – people I never would have met were it not for our shared love of eating,” he said.
Clicking through the IG pages of his fellow Atlanta food advocates, one can find recommendations for the best fried Korean chicken wings, dumplings, tandoori chicken, Pho, tacos, burgers and ice cream.
I, @jorjmorgancooking have followed them all and urge my own food blog subscribers to do the same. The photo below is one of Alex’a Instagrams. It reads:
The Shed Burger – @creekstone_farms grass fed angus beef on brioche topped with homemade bacon jam and smoked Gouda. Served with fries.
If you are looking for similar pics of gorgeous grub, check out his friends on these Instagram pages:
In the meantime, here’s a list of best international Buford Highway restaurants according to the Travel Channel, and my solemn vow that I will persuade Alex in the near future to join my Super Supper Book Club – because I know he likes to cook almost as much as he loves to go out. Don’t worry, Rold. I won’t breathe a word of what happened when you invented your own ice cream flavor with limited edition Captain Crunch.
Speaking of gourmet, here’s Alex’s own effort at making Japanese soufflé pancakes, which he said his New York Times Cooking subscription taught him how to make.
I may feature my own version of these fairy tale cakes sometime in February, and bring a short stack to my next Super Supper Book Club, should we decide to feed and read on a novel like Crazy Rich Asians next.
Since I was seventeen, I spent my Christmases in Florida… most of them in Fort Lauderdale. While the palm trees swayed from ocean breezes outside, we watched old movies and drank hot cocoa inside. It was a fun way to pretend we were having a White Christmas!
While the Season included baking and tree trimming, shopping and wrapping were not far behind. I remember all the personalized gifts purchased from Paper Mpressions and all the beautiful tablescapes on display at Special Additions. I remember buying the boys matching holiday outfits from Flora Ottimer and finding crafty creations at Cross Stitch Cupboard.
Small businesses have always been a part of our community, like patchwork squares in a storied, family quilt. Our friends are their owners, our families are their customers and together we keep each other wrapped in friendship.
While some of these stores have disappeared, some are still going strong. Cactus Flower, owned by Candy Johnson has been in business for over 30 years. Her customers are not only her friends, they are each other’s friends. In the spirit of friendship (which is celebrated in Canvas and Cuisine), I hope my Fort Lauderdale pals will drop by to say hi, sip some bubbly and support Candy Johnson’s store this Thursday. I look forward to seeing you!
3020 N Federal Hwy
While you’re there, take a look around. Cactus Flower’s vendors are both old and new, and the combination leads to whimsical tables perfect for entertaining.
Meanwhile, please accept this simple, yet elegant holiday party dinner plan as my gift to you. It allows you to prepare everything in advance, so that you can enjoy your party as much as your guests do. And, if you are looking for the perfect serving platter for the salmon, or cake stand for the jam cake… then I’ll see you at Candy’s on the 12th! Merry, merry!
Simple Holiday Dinner Party Menu
Pan Roasted Veggies
Cumin Crusted Salmon with Tarragon Caper Sauce
Cranberry Jam Cake
Pan Roasted Veggies
serves a crowd
45 minute cuisine
16 to 20 Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon, about 2 tablespoons, plus more for the other veggies
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the other veggies
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for the other veggies
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper, plus more for the other veggies
16 to 20 Baby New Potatoes
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
16 to 20 Whole Baby Carrots
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground curry
16 to 20 Asparagus Spears
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Large Yellow Onions
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Cut each Brussels sprout in half and steam (or blanch) until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Cut each potato in half and steam (or blanch) for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with mustard, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Steam (or blanch) the carrots for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with brown sugar, curry, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Cut the onion into wedges leaving the root intact. This will help to keep the onion together. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
You can prepare the vegetable up to this point several hours in advance. When you are ready to serve, roast the veggies until they begin to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. You can serve them warm or at room temperature.
Cumin Crusted Salmon
with Tarragon Caper Sauce
serves a crowd
20 minute cuisine
1 (2 ½ pound) center-cut whole salmon fillet with skin
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup cream
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the whole fillet, skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet, coated with vegetable oil spray. Drizzle the lemon juice on top.
Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the salmon, coating well. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
Place the salmon into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast until the salmon is rare in the center, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness, or about 15 to 30 minutes for the whole fillet.
For the sauce, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream, capers, tarragon vinegar and fresh tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the salmon with the sauce on the side. Garnish with fresh lemon or orange slices and fresh tarragon sprigs.
Cranberry Jam Cake
serves a crowd
60 minute cuisine plus baking
1 (12-ounce) jar cherry preserves
¾ cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, (about 3 to 3 ½ cups)
8 large egg whites
3 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature
Zest of 2 large oranges, about 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 to 2 tablespoons half and half (optional)
Place the filling ingredients into a deep pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries soften and begin to pop, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mush up the cranberries. Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Spread the filling into a shallow pan. (A cake pan or pie plate works well for this.) Place the pan into the freezer to cool thoroughly while you make and bake the cake.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 2 (9-inch) square cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a square of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and spray again. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the whipped egg whites to a large bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Use the mixer to combine 1 cup butter and granulated sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Add ⅓ of the flour followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk have been added. The batter will be quite thick.
Fold the egg whites into the batter using about ⅓ of the whites at a time. This will lighten the batter. Use a spatula to scrape and smooth the batter into the two pans. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a rack, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Now is a good time to remove the cranberry filling from the freezer. You want it to be chilled – not frozen!
Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sugar a little bit at a time. Alternate the sugar and the remaining orange juice. If the frosting is too thick, you can thin it with a bit of half and half.
Now, here’s the fun part. You can turn this into a four layer cake, by horizontally slicing each of the square cakes in half. Or, you can just use one layer of jam frosting in the middle of the two cakes. It’s up to you how much cranberry to put in the center. Either way you will have cranberry jam left over which is the whole idea. The jam is perfect as an accompaniment to your favorite pork or poultry dish or spread onto your morning Christmas toast! Spread the frosting around the sides and the top of the cake.
My chef “friend”, Grant Allen, from New Zealand had a post on his Facebook page last week. He showed off his evening supper, a classic combination of beans and eggs with sides of hash browns and bacon. It looked pretty darn good! This traditional breakfast food (we all love breakfast for dinner, don’t we?) reminded me of the Full English breakfast we enjoyed in London several years ago. This one includes bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding which is a combination of…. well, let’s just call it another type of sausage.
Then, I got to thinking about the combination of eggs and beans, and my hungry brain went straight to Huevos Rancheros. If you are unfamiliar, this is a dish that tops a lightly fried tortilla with black beans, cheese, and a fried egg, sloshed with a spicy red sauce and garnished with salsa, sour cream and avocado. It’s a spicy bite of South in your mouth. A yum, yumm of a dish!
As you might expect, with my brain on an egg and bean train, my trip to the market this past Saturday got my (pepper) juices flowing. I mean, the peppers and tomatoes were just gorgeous, see?!
And the inspiration came. Why not create a dish inspired by the others with a truly unique Southern flare? And here you have it.
Baked beans spiced with onions and peppers, topped with hand-grated cheddar cheese, sautéed ham in mustard-maple butter, fried eggs and garnished with diced avocado and (farm fresh, of course) chopped tomatoes. This is a great dish to share with friends, especially when most (if not all) of the ingredients are probably sitting in your pantry and fridge. But, it’s also a great binge-watching dish, as it will take you some time to eat your way through a large portion!
Southern Style Huevos Rancheros
serves 2 large or 4 small portions
30 minute cuisine
For baked beans:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
1 bunch green onions, tough tops removed, cut into thin slices, about 1 cup
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
1 (16-ounce) can baked beans, drained
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
For the tortilla:
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 (10-inch) spinach tortillas
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
8 slices deli ham
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese, about 1 cup
4 large eggs
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1 small tomato, diced
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, jalapeno pepper and onions and cook until the bacon begins to crisp, and the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain as much liquid as you can from the baked beans and pour them into the skillet. Season with some of the salt and pepper, stir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the beans while you cook the ham.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully lay one tortilla into the oil. Cook for a few seconds. Use tongs to turn the tortilla to the other side. Cook for a couple seconds more and transfer to a large platter. Repeat with the second tortilla and transfer to a second platter. Add the butter, mustard and maple syrup to the same skillet. Stir together to melt the butter. Add the ham slices to the pan (you can do this in batches). Cook until the ham begins to brown and crisp on the edges, turning several times, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
Spoon half of the beans onto one tortilla. Top the beans with half of the shredded cheese. Arrange four slices of ham on top of the cheese and beans. Repeat with the second tortilla. Crack the eggs into the same skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the whites of the eggs are set, and the yolks remain runny, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer two eggs onto each tortilla. Top with diced tomatoes and avocado.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock rock concert. More of a generational milestone than a show, the event was marked by the hundreds of thousands of people that attended and the peace and love demonstrated during a time of national unrest. Sounds a bit familiar, yes?
To recreate that feeling now, we got all groovy and welcomed Chef James, who embraced everything 1969 by recreating dishes that brought back the taste of the day.
We started with a co-ed (my “old-man” was in tow) cocktail party that featured passed hors d’oeuvres right out of the glossy mags of the day. Stuffed celery, bacon wrapped shrimp, pigs in a blanket and pineapple and ham topped pizza. Here’s a few snack images to start your California dreamin’….
The highlight was the chips and dip placed on each of the tables. I just couldn’t get enough of those homemade crispy chips with globs and globs of oniony dip! Pretty groovy, man……..
Continental breakfast included home baked “Pop Tarts” and granola bars, avocado toasts and peanut butter and banana toasts with a drizzle of maple syrup. I was ready for the dawning of the age of Aquarius….♬ and the golf that followed.
Lunch included plated cheese balls coated in nuts with Saltine crackers and buffets filled with fresh green salads, quiches, ambrosia salad and tomato aspic. The meals just kept taking me higher and higher!
But the real mouth-watering fun was at the “pot” luck supper. Chef served all the foods of the day that one would bring to a communal dinner. We started with a huge pot of cheese fondue and all the dippers you can imagine. As the ladies sat for the meal, everyone broke off a piece of beau monde seasoned Swiss cheese bread (a recipe right off the pages of every 70’s era Junior League cookbook). The dinner buffet offered other memorable favorites including chicken a la king, Salisbury steak, deliciously soggy green beans, mashed potatoes with carrots and peas, and of course a liberal interpretation of the famed Hamburger Helper, pasta with tomato seasoned beef.
Dessert featured banana cream pie with a shortbread crust and grasshopper pie. And then there were the brownies!!?!! With a little help from my friends, supper was digested by dancing to songs from Janice to Richie.
It was quite an event, one that will be remembered for the food, the fun and especially the camaraderie. You don’t have to wait for an anniversary to remember the good ol’ days. Just kick back, invite your pals, encourage them to bring a dish from their childhood and break some communal bread. As Sly would sing, You Can Make It If You Try!
And that’s the why behind this Far Out recipe for homemade chips and onion dip. Instead of tearing open an envelope of onion soup mix, why not take a few minutes and give the real thing a try? Season the warm potatoes with your favorite combination of dry spices and fresh herbs to create the utmost gourmet chip treat.
Oven Baked Seasoned Potato Chips
with Caramelized Onion Dip
Yield about 2 cups dip
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 4 ½ cups) Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar 1 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise 2 large baking potatoes Vegetable oil spray 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon hot paprika 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the Balsamic vinegar and cook until the onions are syrupy. Place the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and chives into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until creamy.
Add the caramelized onions to the processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer your finished chip dip to a serving bowl.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Use a mandoline to cut the potatoes into paper-thin slices. Place the slices onto 2 baking sheets. Coat both sides of the potato slices with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the chips begin to turn golden, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of each chip. Mix 1 teaspoon coarse salt with ½ teaspoon hot paprika. Sprinkle the chips with this mixture.
A mandoline is a hand-operated machine that uses an adjustable blade to slice and julienne firm vegetables and fruit; it has legs, allowing it to sit safely on your countertop. The best part of the mandoline is the carriage, preventing the vegetable slicer from touching your fingertips! The food processor’s slicing blade attachment is a good substitution for the mandoline.
My friends, the farmers, are all over social media promising the fruits of their spring labors – I start drooling and reaching for my tote bags every time I go online. I couldn’t wait to get to my favorite place in the mountains, Watauga Farmers Market, which opened for the season on May 4th. Over the last few weekends, I’ve gotten my hands on those lovely purple spring onions and the coils of garlic scapes, painted and cooked a lot within the pages of CANVAS & CUISINE: the art of the fresh market.
Watauga will have early (greenhouse) tomatoes this year and the tender leaves of baby greens. Here I come, and will continue to come through October!
After my first visit this year, I created a dish that pulls together some of my favorite farmer’s market finds: tender collard greens and rich pork belly. It makes for a lovely first course or a wonderful side dish…once you’ve chopped up the belly and stir it into the greens. Either way, it’s sure to delight and perhaps motivate you to find a fresh farmer’s market opening near you. If you find a new one in your neighborhood, please share the experience with us! I love posting scrumptious possibilities to my social media @jorjmorgancooking.
Now, please excuse me while I simmer my greens…
Collard Greens with Slow Roasted Pork Belly
serves 6 or more
30 minute cuisine plus slow cooking
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 (1 ½ pound) piece pork belly
3 bunches collard greens, stemmed, rolled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
3 to 4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Mix together the onion, garlic and chili powder with salt and pepper. Season both sides of the pork belly with some of the seasoning. Reserve about a tablespoon for the collards. Heat your slow cooker (or Dutch oven) over medium high heat. Place the pork belly into the cooker and brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the pork and brown on the second side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the pork belly to a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and cook on low heat (about 275 to 300°) for several hours until the meat falls apart when pulled with a fork.
Place the onion into the bottom of the slow cooker and cook until soft. Add the chopped collard greens and stir. Season with the remaining spices. Add 2 cups of the chicken stock. Set your slow cooker on high and place the lid on to top. If you are using a Dutch oven, place the lid on top and move it into the oven with the pork belly. Continue cooking adding more liquid as needed to produce soft, syrupy greens. Before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Serve the collard greens on a plate with pieces of tender pork belly on the top. Drizzle the juices from the pork belly pan over the top.