Saturday, April 20, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Strawberries, Crispy Prosciutto, Toasted Pecans & Feta Featured in Southern Living!

I have SUCH big news to share with you...I have a recipe featured in the May issue of Southern Living magazine, y'all!  After months of anticipation, it has finally hit store shelves.  In fact, we just got back from the grocery store, where I saw it for sale for the first time.  I may have bought 4 copies and excitedly shared my glee with the cashier while checking out.  :)

Southern Living has always been one of my favorite magazines.  Growing up, I remember my mom and grandmother's dog-eared copies lying around the house.  Never did I think my name would ever grace the pages!

I love the magazine so much, that back in July 2005, I started 2 back-to-back marketing internships for the publication.  It was an incredible experience, where I made great friends and had the opportunity to be a part of on-location photo shoots, marketing campaigns, and fun events like the Southern Living Cook-Off, which was hosted by Tyler Florence that year.   And the prop sales...OH the prop sales!  Those were such fun times.  :)

My featured recipe is for a mouth-watering quinoa salad that is packed with amazing flavors.  It incorporates crispy prosciutto and toasted pecans that are perfectly complemented by fresh strawberries, making this quinoa salad unforgettably delicious!  It is included in the May Community Cookbook, on page 16, as part of a feature for "The South's Tastiest Blogs."

I'm super excited about sharing this dish with you all and hope that you enjoy it.

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Quinoa Salad with Strawberries, Crispy Prosciutto, Toasted Pecans & Feta
By:  Celeste Ward

For the Dressing:
1/3 cup red onion, finely minced
3 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. lemon zest
A pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Salad:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 Tbsp butter
4 oz. prosciutto, torn into small pieces
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup pecans, shelled
1/2 cup arugula
1 cup quartered strawberries
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a small bowl, and whisk well to combine.  Set to the side.

Combine 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter and stir well.  Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. 

While the quinoa is cooking, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the prosciutto and sauté for approximately 3 - 4 minutes, or until the prosciutto becomes slightly crispy.  Remove to a paper towel -lined plate.

Next, lightly spritz a baking sheet with cooking spray and spread the pecans on the baking sheet in a single layer.  Place on the middle rack in the preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until the pecans become aromatic.  Keep a close eye on the pecans, as they will burn quickly.

Fluff the quinoa with a fork and pour into a large bowl.  Add the arugula while the quinoa is still warm and stir well, allowing the arugula to wilt slightly.  Next, add the prepared dressing, sautéed prosciutto, toasted pecans and strawberries.  Carefully fold in the feta cheese, and serve immediately.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quinoa with Pork, Parsley & Bell Peppers + A Gourmet Garden Giveaway!

In celebration of surpassing 2,000 Facebook fans, let's have an awesome giveaway, shall we?!

I recently met Mary from Gourmet Garden at FoodBlogSouth 2013 back in January.  They were sponsoring the conference, and I got to taste samples of their goodies.  I love the convenience of their products, because I'm not always able to have a big selection of fresh herbs hanging out in my fridge.  That's where Gourmet Garden really comes in handy.  

Their herbs are organically grown, and then washed, chopped, blended, and packed into handy little tubes for everyday use.  They also last months in the fridge, which is another big plus for me.  Some of their varieties include Parsley, Cilantro, Chili Pepper, Basil, Garlic and even Lemon Grass!

Last night, I whipped up their recipe for Quinoa with Parsley & Bell Peppers.  I added some diced, leftover roasted pork loin from the night before, taking it from a simple side dish to a full meal.  This dish was a healthy and easy weeknight recipe, packed with yummy flavors.  In my book, that's a winner!

 First up, here's the recipe (keep scrolling for GIVEAWAY details!):

Quinoa with Pork, Parsley & Bell Peppers
Adapted from:  Gourmet Garden

1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup wild rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup diced green onions
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 small yellow bell pepper, diced
1 tsp Gourmet Garden Parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper 
2 cups diced, roasted pork loin (see note below)

Rinse quinoa.  In a large skillet, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Add the quinoa, stir, reduce heat to low and cover.  Continue to  simmer, about 15 min.   

Ina  medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to boil.  Add the rice and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until done, about 40 min.  Drain, if necessary.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, green onions, bell peppers, parsley, and chili. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add quinoa and rice.  Stir.  Serve warm.

Note:  I added about 2 cups of diced, leftover roasted pork loin to this dish, which made it a full meal!  Leftover chicken would also be great.


Now, to the fun part...the GIVEAWAY!   

This giveaway is for a small cooler FULL of Gourmet Garden herbs and spices:

How to  Enter:
Simply leave a comment on this post, which answers the following question:

What is your favorite herb or spice to cook with?

Also, for extra chances to win, simply do the following and leave SEPARATE additional comments letting me know that you did:

The Rules:
  • Entries must be submitted by midnight (CST time) on Tuesday, April 30th
  • A winner will be picked at random (using and will be announced on Wednesday, May 1st.
  • Please make sure you include your name and email address so that I will have a way to contact you if you win...especially if you leave a comment using the "Anonymous" option.
  • At this time, the contest is open to US residents only.
Good Luck, and THANKS for stopping by!  :)

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette

Eating healthy is really important around our house, but every now and then, a girl just needs a plate of delicious fries, I tell you!  

Am I right?!?

This recipe is a keeper.  Large wedges of russet potatoes are coated with a quick vinaigrette of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, shallot, garlic, oregano and parsley (which comes together in a flash with the help of a food processor).  Next, they bake up all beautiful and golden brown in the oven for about an hour.

The flavor is fantastic, and you could even add a little Greek feta cheese as a garnish if you really wanted to take them over the top.  

Next time, I will probably cut the vinaigrette quantities in half, because I did end up with extra vinaigrette.  This isn't a terrible thing, though, because you could use it up in other dishes.  I bet it would be delicious on a roasted chicken.

Well, I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette
Adapted from:  Bobby Flay, Food Network Magazine, April 2013

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 large shallot, quartered
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, plus 1 Tbsp chopped, for garnish
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 lbs. large russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into wedges

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the first six ingredients in a food processor.  Add 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.  Puree until mostly smooth.

Toss the potatoes with 1/2 cup of the prepared vinaigrette in a large bowl and spread in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet (Reserve the remaining vinaigrette).  Roast the potatoes until tender and golden, turning occasionally, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the potatoes to a platter and drizzle with some of the remaining vinaigrette.  Season with salt and garnish with the chopped parsley.  Serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.


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Monday, April 8, 2013

Chef Chat: Interview with Andrea Griffith

Photo courtesy of Pursell Farms

My latest culinary road trip took Brad and me to Pursell Farms, where I recently had the opportunity to sit down with award-winning Chef Andrea Griffith during our Easter weekend visit (read about our fun weekend HERE!).

With over 13 years of experience, Chef Griffith is no novice and is using her passion for farm-to-table southern cuisine to create exciting new menus and culinary experiences at Pursell.  She was gracious enough to sit down with me after a long day to answer a few questions, which I think you'll really enjoy.  Read on as she talks about trying to duplicate an elusive Canneles de Bordeaux, her advice for home cooks, and making authentic Polish Pierogies with her grandparents:

Let's start with what everyone wants to know about an award-winning chef:  What are 5 items that you always have stocked in your kitchen?
1.  Sriracha
2.  Sweet chili sauce
3.  Grits
4.  Greens (collards, turnips, etc)
5.  Bologna (for my kids!)

I love that you're passionate about farm-to-table Southern cuisine.  What are some key points about this philosophy that you think readers should know?
My biggest thing is the importance of what you put in your mouth.  Nowadays, everyone is so conscious of health, and they're so conscious of any kind of pesticides, bacteria or any sort of crazy growth products, hormones, or chemicals given to the animals and things that are sprayed on foods.  There's nothing better than for a chef to be able to say I know exactly where your food came from, exactly how it was treated, how it was sprayed, if anything was put on it, how it was picked and cared for, how it was cleaned, washed and prepared.   

From the beginning stages, I'd be able to tell even more about the soil because Pursell Farms has been doing soil tests for so long.  So, information about what's in it, where it's from, what minerals are in it, and what nutrients are in it is available.  It's not just so much the fact that I can go in my yard and grow something.  Everyone can do that.  But, they can't do it on such a big scale.  We are doing it in a huge way at Pursell.  We're even trying to grow enough so that we can eventually go to the market and sell it. 

An outstanding meal can be life-changing.  Tell me about your most unforgettable meal. 
I would have to say it was when I staged at The Inn at Little Washington.  Since I worked in the kitchen, they wanted me to try everything, so it was a 9 course meal with pairings.  My husband drove up to meet me, and I didn't know he was coming, which made it a big surprise.  They have these huge Dalmatian dogs as mascots in the restaurant with you.  It was just a very unique experience.  Of course, my husband surprising me made it even cooler.  There's nothing in particular that made it the best thing in the entire universe, but it was the experience - the feeling, how everyone was so interactive, and the great service. 

I remember the dessert best, because I am a chocoholic.  I love mint chocolate chip ice cream, and it was the one thing I didn't see when I was working there.  I was trying to decide what to have for dessert, and they told me they'd bring me their famous ice cream, and said "I hope you like mint!"  They brought it out in a bowl.  The bottom of the bowl was smeared flat with green ice cream and covered with chocolate ribbons piled up on top.  The server picked the spoon up and started cracking the chocolate ribbons, and mixing it in, turning it into mint chocolate chip ice cream.  My husband got a brandy snifter, and it had rum raisin ice cream in the bottom and a disc of white chocolate on top.  They poured this hot rum sauce over the white chocolate, so that it melted and dripped into the bottom, becoming like a hot toddy.

The one thing that I had there that I still to this day try to duplicate are the Canneles de Bourdeaux.  You have to have a certain brass mold to cook them in, which I haven't been able to find.  They almost look like a Charlotte mold.  They are golden brown on the outside, and when you bite into them, they are crunchy, buttery, yummy, and almost like creme brulee on the inside.  I have no idea how they did it.  You have to get these certain molds, pour beeswax into them, and then pour it out.  They sell different molds now, but you have to have this certain type in order to make it happen.  No one I've ever met has made them like that.

The Inn at Little Washington does a lot of really cool things.  They're in a historical little hotel, and their whole thing is focused around culinary, so it reminds me of what we're doing here at Pursell Farms.  They do cool, little intricate things. 

When it comes to developing new recipes, what inspires you the most?
The product.  There's nothing better than the simplest little things, like an egg.  Everyone thinks that it's just an egg, but, an entire dish can be built around that egg.  There's nothing better than when a farmer from two doors down comes and brings you eggs that are still warm.  When you crack them, they are neon yellow.  You just can't get that kind of color, richness and flavor from a grocery store.  Then you start building from that point.  The sky's the limit.  As soon as you see something, that's what drives me.  I see a product and ask myself  "How can I cook this, and what can I do to make it different from anything else I've ever done?"  I try to be more creative.  Before, it used to be all about manipulating a product to the point where it's overly touched, and the integrity of what you've taken out of the ground has now been beaten to heck and put back together.  I just don't think that's the right way to be.  I've dabbled in molecular gastronomy and have done some sous-viding, but the product itself needs to speak in the dish.  You need to be able to taste every single flavor and every single bit of dirt and earth that's on it.  So, I think about how you're going to taste something the best and what's going to bring those natural flavors out the best.

Is there a particular culinary trend for 2013 that you're most excited about?
I'm excited for the molecular gastronomy to go away (laughs).  The big trend now is farm-to-table.  It's what everyone wants.  It's a matter of being able to be in the right place to do so.  I believe that with where I'm at, I've found that place.  I look forward to continuing to develop my farm-to-table, and the farm's concept for it.  I don't think I'm going to change anything I do because of what other people are doing.  It just makes sense here.

If you could eat dinner tonight anywhere in the world, where would it be and what would you order?
There's so many answers.  I'd have to say I'm a total daddy's girl.  I would definitely want to go to a place called Tony Luke's.  That's my dad's and mine's favorite place in the entire world to go to eat together in Philadelphia, which is where I was born and raised.  My father and I haven't both been back in Philadelphia at the same time in probably 3-4 years.  So, I'd love to go there with my dad.

At Tony Luke's, I would order either a Pork Sandwich or Fried Hots.  To make Fried Hots, you take hot peppers, roast them in the oven, peel off the skin, let them sit in a little olive oil with crushed garlic and then put them in a pan and fry them in that same oil/garlic.  Then, stick them right on top of your steak.  It's amazing!  Also, you can't get a roll like you can get at Tony Luke's.  They call them Amorosa rolls.  People who go to Philadelphia get these rolls and individually wrap them to take home!

Then again, I could probably also eat at Joel Robuchon's, or Gordon Ramsay's The London, Thomas Keller's French Laundry, or Alinea.  I also would have loved to have gone to dinner at Charlie Trotter's closing.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen?
It would probably be Country Crock spread.  People would think that was weird, especially for a chef.  My husband is a total Country Crock-a-holic, and if I buy normal butter, he won't eat it.  And a chef would totally be like, "Why do you have plastic?!?"  Because it's plastic...that's basically what's in it.  It's gross.

What advice would you give a serious home cook?
Follow your palate and follow your heart.  Look at something, taste it and experiment!

What are your favorite foods from childhood?
My mom's version of spaghetti when we were kids was elbow macaroni with ketchup and butter.  So, I ate that for probably 12 years of my life.  As a chef, I make all this wonderful stuff like my own spaghetti with bolognese sauce, but if I'm having a really weird day I'll still make it and eat it.  It's gross, but I like it.

I also have really fond memories of my grandparents, who were always cooks.  Before my grandmother passed away, we'd always make fresh homemade Pierogies because she was Polish.  They sell Mrs. T's Pierogies at grocery stores, but it's nothing like a fresh Polish Pierogie.  It doesn't taste anything like that.  We'd make the dough and all the fillings.  If you go to the old Polish markets in Philadelphia, you can find them still like that today.  A Pierogie is made out of a real fine sour cream kind of dough and is rolled out.  Classically in Poland, they'd make a filling out of cabbage that was cooked in rendered down bacon fat and butter.  The cabbage would be cooked really slow for almost 4 hours, until it almost broke down completely.  Then they'd add a pinch of salt, so that it had almost a caramelly, buttery smokiness.  Then they'd let it cool, and then fill the pierogies with it, crimp the dough, boil them and then pan fry them with caramelized onions and a little sour cream.  They're amazing.  I have some of my grandmother's recipes, so every now and then I'll make them.

If you were deserted on an island and could only have one ingredient and one tool, what would they be and why?
I would bring jerky and a knife.  The jerky will preserve itself forever, so I'd have a protein.  A knife would help me cut fruit, climb trees and hunt!


Thanks again to Chef Griffith for taking the time to chat with me!  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Weekend at Pursell Farms - A Culinary Treasure

Three things that I love are:

1)  Fun & relaxing weekend getaways
2)  Awesome food
3)  Beautiful surroundings

This past weekend was filled with all three of these things during our stay at Pursell Farms in Sylacauga, AL.  Brad and I loaded Ava up in the car and made the one hour journey to the countryside, where we had such a wonderful time.  And OH, the food!  It was incredible.  I just can't help but share the details with you all.

The trek led us out of the city, only about an hour away.  Upon arriving, we were greeted by a pretty gate, with the Pursell Farms sign beckoning us in.  A long, winding road led us through the beautiful property, with trickling streams, open fields, shaded woods, and views of the golf course along the way.  A sense of calm came over me...a relaxing weekend on the farm was just what I needed.  I breathed in the fresh air and got excited about the events of the weekend to come.

We arrived at Parker Lodge and before I was even able to put my hand on the door knob, it opened, and I was greeted by name and welcomed inside.  What a nice touch!  The entire weekend, the Pursell Farms staff was incredible.  They truly made us feel like family, from the moment we arrived.  We couldn't have asked for better service.

Next, we were shown to our room, which was luxurious and beautiful, but not in an over-the-top sort of way.  I didn't feel like we were in a hotel room, instead, it felt like we were a guest in someone's home.  It was comfortable, perfect and no detail was overlooked.

Parker Lodge

Parker Lodge Lobby

Our Guest Room

After we got settled in, we hopped on a golf cart and explored the property.  The farm sprawls across 3,500 acres, so there was PLENTY to explore.  We saw all kinds of wildlife while there - turkeys, deer, cows, even a bobcat!  They have entire fields devoted to bird hunting, a 5-stand shooting range, fishing lakes, and of course the gorgeous golf course.

Little Ava LOVED playing in the open fields!

After our exploration for the afternoon ended, we headed back inside and got ready for the Cadbury Chocolate Egg Class.  In this class, Chef Andrea Griffith taught us how to make the Easter favorite from scratch.  It was so fun!

Chef Griffith teaching the Cadbury Chocolate Egg Class

Brad hard at work

The results!

Next, we headed into the lodge lobby for appetizers & champagne before dinner.  A selection of cheeses, fruits and crackers was served, and we got the chance to mix and mingle before dinner time.

When 7:30PM rolled around, it was the time I'd been waiting for...Easter Evening Dinner!  We all gathered in the dining room and Chef Griffith came out to greet us and tell us about the meal.  In fact, she came out before every course and explained the selections, which I really loved.  The meal was phenomenal....seriously.  Course after delicious course was served, and each one was cooked to culinary perfection.  Here are some photos of our selections:

"A Celebration of Festive Bites"
This consisted of deviled eggs, and eggs with caviar.  

Farm-Fresh Truffled Scrambled Egg
Served with a grilled ham steak, pickled mushroom and garlic shoots.

Sweet Pea Soup
Served with pea tendrils, crispy Benton's ham, and clubhouse ricotta

Border Springs Lamb Loin
Served with roasted baby garden vegetables, arugula pesto and confit tomato

Easter Celebration Dessert
This was a tasting of assorted desserts, including:
1.  Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and Spiced Pecans
2.  Toasted Coconut Cake with Lemon Curd and Blueberries
3.  Chocolate Peanut-Butter Egg with Dark Chocolate Cake, Peanut-Butter Mousse and Shaved White Chocolate

Needless to say, I was VERY glad that I went to dinner hungry and was able to enjoy this excellent meal to the fullest.  Dinner was served with wine pairings with each course.  We had Rosé with our appetizer, an exceptional Pinot Noir with the lamb loin, and a delicious Port with dessert.

After dinner, Chef Griffith took the time to sit down with me for a "Chef Chat."  Stay tuned for this interview in a follow up blog post!

The next day, guests were able to enjoy a 6:30AM Easter sunrise service, an Easter egg hunt and an Easter Brunch that once again proved that the folks at Pursell Farms know how to serve an incredible meal.  Chef Griffith was on-site making made-to-order omelets, and a huge spread of breakfast deliciousness greeted everyone.

Easter Brunch

The chefs whipping up omelet goodness!

After brunch, we made one last trip around the property, exploring and seeing all the sights.  We left with happy tummies, happy memories and happy smiles.  We will definitely visit Pursell Farms again (hopefully sooner rather than later).  It's our new favorite little hidden gem.

Thanks again to the staff at Pursell, for making sure that our weekend was picture-perfect!