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Pork Milanese | Sun Gold Tomato Relish | Purple Basil

September 30, 2011

I really like fried crispy foods.  A flavorful crust of breadcumbs is ethereal, especially when encased in it is juicy, succulent pork loin. Whenever I have absolutely no idea what I want to make, this is an amazing recipe to go to. It can be done with chicken, beef, veal, duck, lamb, fish and even vegetables – but it is superlative with pork (obviously).

We had just moved into the new house when I made this dish, because I knew it would be extremely easy to put together. I had a 2 lb piece of pork loin from my friends Weldon and Ariana of Emerald Glen Farms, which i started slicing up into cutlets. I created my dredging station – some seasoned flour, egg wash, and breadcrumbs.

But, I couldn’t find the breadcrumbs.

Somewhere in the craziness of moving, I honestly, couldn’t find them ANYWHERE. It was bizarre. And now, I was so deep in the milanese experience, I couldn’t imagine eating anything else. Crispy, crunchy, juicy deliciousness was the goal – and we were gonna get there, no matter what.

This is where sometimes, you just gotta get creative. We had some bread in the fridge. I got the end pieces off the loaf and started pulling them apart to make fresh bread crumbs. I had some corn flakes, which I crushed with my hands. I seasoned this impromptu mixture up and went about on my merry way. It came out great, just as it always does.

And as much as I love eating fried meat cutlets, it’s great to have a side that is really bright, acidic, and fresh to cut through the richness of the breading. The beautiful sun gold tomatoes we got from our CSA don’t need much. A little bit of sliced garlic, some fresh herbs, a  little bit of hot chile, and a general dose of olive oil and basil. It’s always a perfect side dish – especially when the tomatoes are that good and fresh.

It’s also really good with mashed potatoes, or sauteed mushrooms, or a kale salad, or gravy. A very versatile dish that should definitely be part of your repertoire.

Pork Milanese | Sun Gold Tomato Relish | Purple Basil

(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti – serves 4)

1 lb of boneless pork loin, cut into 4 equal pieces

1 cup of all purpose flour

2 eggs

1/2 cup of milk

2 cups panko breadcrumbs (don’t worry, you won’t have to do my crazy subsitution, but it was about 2 slices of bread crumbled, and 1 cup of corn flakes, crushed)

1 T garlic powder

1 T chopped fresh rosemary

1 T smoked paprika

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set up your breading station. On one plate, spread the flour out and season lightly with salt and pepper. Mix everything to combine. In another plate/bowl, add the eggs and milk. Whisk until they are combined and season lightly with salt and pepper. In a third plate, add the breadcrumbs and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, and paprika. That is standard breading procedure.

Next, start on the pork loin. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your cutting board, and put one slice of pork loin on it. Cover that piece with the remaining plastic wrap (or get a new piece if you didn’t have enough). Then, use a meat mallet or a really heavy cast iron pan, to pound it out until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with the remaining pork slices.

Dredge the pork loin in the flour until completely coated, and pat off the excess. Then dip in the egg wash, and let the excess drip off. Lastly, put in the breadcrumbs and make sure every little bit of the pork is completely coated in it. Then put on a plate, while you finish breading the rest of the pork.

(PRO TIP: Keep one hand for dipping into wet things, and one hand for dipping into dry things. This way, you can avoid breading your fingers, which is not a good look.)

Once all the pork is breaded, stick it in the fridge for about 20 minutes, while you make the tomato salad. This will help the crust adhere to the pork, so it won’t slide off when you’re eating.

To make the tomato salad: Combine 2 cups of sliced sun gold tomatoes, 1 cloves of minced garlic, 1 red jalapeno chile minced, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, and a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let this sit for about 10 minutes to let the flavors come together.

Now, time to make the pork. Get a pan over high heat and add two tablespoons of canola oil. Remove the pork from the fridge. Once the oil is almost smoking, add the pork loin and sear on each side, about 3 minutes per side, until the breadcrumbs are crunchy, and the pork is cooked through (about 140 degrees internal temperature).

Remove from the pan and put on a plate lined with paper towels, or a cooling rack. Cook all the pork in the same way.

(PRO TIP: If your crust is browned, but the inside is still raw, stick it in a 375 degree oven for an extra 5 minutes)

Serve the pork milanese with the tomato salad and you got a great meal, folks. Enjoy!







Mushroom Pizza | Lazzaroli Mozzarella | Fresh Herbs

September 26, 2011

Delivery pizza is ubiquitous in this day and age. When we were kids, we used to live in this apartment complex that was conveniently, about 75 yards away from Domino’s. And even though my sister and I loved mom’s cooking, sometimes all we ever wanted was a pizza pie. We’d probably order from that Domino’s at least once a week, and sometimes more.

During college, pizza was a food group. Every student org meeting at the beginning of the year had free food to try to recruit new members. For those smart collegians, looking to save a buck and get a free meal, that translated into “eat free pizza for a week”. Surrounded by pizza places, and inundated with weekly coupons, pizza really was the food that kept us going. Whether it was piping hot, or ice cold after a day or two in the fridge, we ate it. And we ate it a lot.

There is something magical about this creation of bread, sauce, and cheese that no other food is able to replicate. Since those days, we rarely order pizza anymore. But when the craving hits, we make it from scratch at home. We have pizza almost every other week, or every three weeks, so we can really put some great local and seasonal ingredients on it. It’s one of our favorite meals!

The constant in all of our pizza now is Tom’s amazing fresh mozzarella cheese from Lazzaroli Pasta. When we make pizza, it’s always Saturday or Sunday, right after we’ve procured some of that creamy goodness. It’s not pizza without it.

This pizza is just simple – a little bit of crushed tomatoes, some fresh mushrooms tossed with rosemary and thyme, slices of mozzarella, a shower of parmigiano, and some fresh basil at the end. It’s simple, and it’s delicious. You can put whatever topping you want – squash, pepperoni, garlic, peppers, or something else; you are limited only by your imagination.

And at the end of the day, whether it works out or not, there’s always the trusty delivery guy.

Mushroom Pizza

(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

Pizza Dough (recipe found here)

1 cup of sliced mushrooms (a combination of white, shittake, cremini, and oyster, or whatever you have)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary and thyme leaves

fresh mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated parmigiano cheese

a few leaves of fresh basil

1/4 cup tomato sauce (either homemade or jarred)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Toss the mushrooms with the garlic, rosemary, thyme, 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Roll out the dough until it’s pretty thin and circular. Put a little bit of cornmeal on a pizza peel or a pizza pan, to prevent sticking and lay the dough over. Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza. Sprinkle the mushrooms over the top. Add as much mozzarella cheese as you want – I usually add about 4 thick slices. And then, cover with the grated parmigiano. Add a few drops of extra virgin olive oil over the top and bake in the oven until the crust is crispy and the cheese is brown, about 10 minutes.

When the pizza comes out of the oven, put some basil leaves on top, and cut into slices. Enjoy!




Speckled Trout | Tomato Bacon Stew | Basil Oil

September 20, 2011

Lazy days. Lazy, lazy summer days.

I’ve been a little lazy lately with my posts – for that, I apologize. For me, it has in fact been quite an eventful summer. We made some really big changes in our lives.

We moved into a new house, which is charming and serene. Although the move itself was anything but – can you imagine cleaning up 18 years worth of stuff?

I started a new job with a company that I am so happy and proud to be working for. It was the perfect opportunity that I was looking for and it just happened to fall into my lap. I’m both excited and grateful.

It feels like a fresh start, a new opportunity, and an exciting adventure. Who knows where it will lead? Regardless, I’m feeling pretty happy right now. And I’m ready to ride this fresh start to see what the future will bring. Life has never been better.

This simple dish is just that. Something that came together on the fly – just combining great ingredients from the market. When things are in season and fresh from the farm, they just taste better. PERIOD. The stew can cook for 20 minutes (like I did) or for an hour – it’s just good. And there’s nothing better than a little fresh fish, which has thanks to Chris and Robert of Louisiana Seafood Company, become a staple of our weekly meals. This fish could be anything – just make sure it’s fresh.

Speckled Trout | Tomato Basil Stew | Basil Oil

(recipe courtesy of Vivek Surti)

4 4 oz. portions of speckled trout (or whatever fish is fresh – snapper, halibut, salmon, tilapia, etc)

3 slices of bacon, diced

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 serrano chile, minced

3 fresh tomatoes, diced

1 tsp champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil

basil oil (2 cups of basil, 1 cup olive oil blended together for 5 minutes until smooth, and strained through a cheesecloth)

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

First, make the tomato and bacon stew. Put the diced bacon in a cold pan and turn the heat up to medium. Let the bacon fat render and the pieces get crispy, about 7 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt, and let cook until soft. Add the serrano pepper and cook for another minute. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. You could let this cook for another 20-30 minutes, if you wanted on medium low to low heat. Season with champagne vinegar and salt and pepper. Taste it right before you are about to serve. If the tomatoes were too acidic, you may have to add some sugar. Before serving, stir in the fresh basil.

Get the fish going. Season it on both sides with salt and pepper. Get a pan over high heat and add a little bit of olive oil or butter. Sear the fish on one side until it’s nice and brown, about 2-3 minutes. Flip it over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until done.

To plate, put some of the stew down. Top with the fish, and put some more stew right on top. Garnish the outside with basil oil.

This weekend just reminded me of what it’s like to surround yourself with awesome people. And if it is any indication of what’s to come, we have a lot to look forward to. On Saturday, we woke up early in the morning. I picked up my CSA share and a beautiful raw milk brie cheese from Jennifer and Robin of Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese. I dashed back home to put everything in the fridge before an early morning tailgate. My Vanderbilt Commodores were going to play the Ole Miss Rebels. There’s something about tailgating that just gets me excited – the excitement, the people, the fanfare; there is nothing quite like it. (And we ended up winning, so we’re 3-0!)

On Sunday, I rubbed some spareribs with a special dry rub and headed over to watch NFL football with Amy and Derek (whose twitter handle is now #TwitterlessDerek). We watched our Tennessee Titans beat the Baltimore Ravens. We ate.

We ate A LOT. Amy prepared some awesome tomato-pancetta butter, into which we dunked slices of great bread. She also made mac n’ cheese with a beautiful panko top, homemade beef and bean chili, cheddar-chive biscuits, and chocolate liquer brownies. I threw some ribs on the grill and taught Amy how to make some authentic southern gravy (with homemade sausage, of course!). And Derek made some amazing drinks. In his own words, “bourbon, really cheap lemonade, and a splash of coke”. It tasted like tea and was absolutely delicious.

A lazy summer weekend. One of those that you cherish because it was just perfect.



Charcutepalooza Project #9 – Packing

September 15, 2011

Sometimes, I have to put this whole Charcutepalooza thing into perspective. There is basically some 300 bloggers around the world buying some… untraditional  cuts of meat and manipulating them via curing, aging, grinding, packing, and stuffing to produce food in a way many of us never have at home. It’s kind of odd. But it’s also kind of exciting.

I mean, I’ve dealt with pig jowl, intestines, hog casings, pink salt, and the dreaded beef bung. I’ve had cured duck breasts hanging in my garage and a huge corned beef brisket take up about 25% of the room in my fridge. It’s…interesting.

Despite that, we’ve been doing things that, frankly, will become part of my culinary repertoire for a long time! I’m pretty sure I’ll always be making my own bacon (it’s really good). I’ll try to have a few sausages made and kept in the freezer so I can pop them out and eat them at my convenience. I might even make some pates for a special dinner party. And, they can all be done with things that we all find pretty regularly.

That is to say, don’t be scared of charcuterie for fear of eating pork liver or other types of offal. Your run of the mill pork shoulder, a beef brisket here and there, or even a chicken are all good vehicles for applying the charcuterie craft. Even better, you can use these techniques to create some equally great meals.

This English pork pie was a cinch to make. Essentially it’s a pate encased in a flaky crust and baked. And it’s made with stuff you would probably always find in your fridge – some ground pork, some seasonings, a pretty easy pie dough, and voila you have a beautiful dish.

I tinkered with the seasoning here to make it with more of an Indian influence. We have a pretty famous dish in India called “keema”, which is ground meat (usually lamb or goat)  cooked with onion, garlic, ginger, and an array of spices. My favorite version comes with peas, so I mixed a couple of those into the pate as well.

With the simple recipe in Ruhlman’s book, the meat is mixed with some salt, pepper, and thyme. When it comes out of the oven, it just screams for a great tangy, grainy mustard. Maybe some pickled onions. Something acidic and spicy to cut through the richness of the crust and the meat is fantastic.

The flavor combinations are endless – I think a Moroccan flavored pate with some ras el hanout, dried apricots, and pistachios sounds pretty awesome. You could do Spanish and add spicy pimenton, piquillo peppers, and chorizo or serrano ham. You are only limited by your imagination here!

I’m so very glad I’m learning some techniques that I can really use everyday or even for entertaining guests at home. I can’t wait for this month’s challenge, which is “stretching“.



Blackened Cobia and the Nashville Lifestyles Bartender Bash!

August 25, 2011

I’ve never really been a huge seafood eater. Besides the occasional catfish and shrimp, we are pretty landlocked here in Nashville and as such don’t always have access to really fresh seafood. But that all changed a few months ago when Chris and Robert come from Baton Rouge up to Nashville to start the Louisiana Seafood Company. I positively raved about their fresh shrimp in this previous post.

The first fish I actually bought from them was cobia, also known as lemon fish. So far, it’s become one of my favorites. Cobia is a firm, white fish and it was so fresh that when I smelled it, there was no “fishy” scent – instead it smelled like the ocean. I crusted the fish with some of my homemade dry rub and seared it an an extremely hot pan to get it “blackened”. Such a meaty fish, really moist, and flaky – it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites!

Another reason I love these guys is last Friday at Night Market, they grabbed some towels and a fillet knife and started shucking fresh oysters for everyone! Let’s just say they created quite the line with their impromptu oyster bar. It was delicious.

So, take advantage of this opportunity, and get thee to the Nashville Farmer’s Market to check out Chris and Robert’s place. They open up Friday mornings and go until Sunday afternoon. They sell out, so make sure to get there quickly! And even if you aren’t a huge seafood fan, go there to get their amazing boudin (pork/rice sausage) and andouille (smoked pork sausage). You will fall in love. Go check ’em out!

In other news, today is one of Nashville’s most popular event – the Nashville Lifestyle’s Bartender Bash. Basically, you have all of Nashville’s top bartenders making cocktails, for a chance to win “Best Martini”, “Most Unique Cocktail”, and “People’s Choice Cocktail”. Here are the details:

When: Today! Thursday, August 25 from 6-8pm

Where: Union Station Hotel

And guess what – I’m one of the judges for the event along with the amazing Morgan and Christy from Nashvillest! We will be tasked with tasting all of these amazing cocktails and deciding on the first two accolades! (I know…it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!)

Hopefully, you’ve already bought tickets, but if you still have to, get over to their website now and get some! At $25, it’s a steal – you get two free Grey Goose cocktails, a sampling from all the bartenders, and some cool appetizers!

And if you see me around, come say hi! I’d love to meet you!

Blackened Cobia

(recipe from Jacques Leonardi of Jacques Imo’s in New Orleans, LA)

4 4oz pieces of cobia or lemonfish

Blackening Spice:

1/3 cup paprika
1/3 cup salt
1/4 cup powdered garlic
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons powdered onion
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons dried thyme

Combine all the ingredients and mix. Store in a sealed container.

Get a pan (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Add some oil and wait until the oil is almost at the smoke point. Dredge the fish in the spice mixture, pat off any excess, and lay the fish in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes until you have a really nice sear and flip the fish over. Cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and let rest for just 1 or 2 minutes.

Serve over a side of your choice. It’s summer and hot now. So I just wanted a really easy salad – cucumbers, lettuce, some cherry tomatoes, and bell pepper was good enough for me!



Meatless Monday: Sun Gold Tomato Gazpacho

August 22, 2011

Tomato season is in full swing now. I look forward to it every year. Tomatoes so ripe, you could eat them like an apple – juice gushing down your chin. They are sweet, a little acidic, and just plain delicious. I love them in sandwiches (with bacon – but this is a meatless monday post!), roasted for soups, cut up into a salad, and even made into a terrine. But my absolute favorite way to eat these treasures of late summer are in a gazpacho. Ice cold and refreshing, there is nothing better when the heat is getting up to 100 degrees. It’s not even hard – you can make it a few days in advance, stash it in the fridge, and pour some whenever you’re hungry.

It just keeps getting better.

The sun gold tomatoes we are getting from our CSA are absolutely amazing. They are small, yellow and have a lovely acidity to them. And their texture is unmatched – these little tomatoes just burst in your mouth when you eat them. I almost picked up my entire CSA load of tomatoes (close to 4 lbs) by gathering these sun golds! They are THAT good.

The soup only requires you to put everything in a blender – it’s really as easy as that. But if you want an exquisite gazpacho, follow the steps below. I strained the initial puree of tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, onion, and red bell pepper to get rid of all the tomato skins. Then, I put it back in the blender and slowly added oil, almost like making a vinaigrette. This emulsion of oil makes the texture of the soup so velvety and ethereal.

It’s truly a joy to eat.

And while we enjoy the bounty of the season, just sit back and relax, instead of spending time inside a hot kitchen. Go outside and enjoy the evenings that are finally getting cooler.

Take a sip of that luscious gazpacho. And keep another bowl nearby, because when you finish, you’ll definitely be digging in for seconds.

Sungold Tomato Gazpacho (serves 6-8)

(recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)

1 cup cold water

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

2 pounds Sun Gold or other yellow cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 english cucumber, peeled

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into large pieces

1 red bell pepper

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp piment d’Espelette

kosher salt

freshly ground white pepper

3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced chives (NOTE: I adjusted this and used fresh basil instead)

Pour water into a large bowl and add the onion and garlic. Reserve 1 cup of tomatoes for garnish, and add the remaining tomatoes and their juices to the bowl.

Peel the cucumber and cut lengthwise in half. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and cut 1/2 the cucumber into half circles. Add that to the tomatoes. Cut the other half of the cucumber into a small dice, and reserve for garnish.

Add the yellow bell pepper to the tomato mixture. Core, seed, and finely dice the red bell pepper for garnish. Refrigerate the vegetables and the separate garnishes until ready to make.

Transfer the vegetables with the marinade/water to a blender and start pureeing until smooth. (If you want, you can add the oil know and be done with the soup).

If you want the best texture ever (and why wouldn’t you?), then strain this puree through a sieve and get rid of the tomato skins. Rinse our your blender and return the strained puree to it. Add the vinegar and Espelette pepper. Season with salt and white pepper to taste and then blend to combine. Slowly add the olive oil, blending until the gazpacho has a rich, velvety texture. Taste and re-season accordingly. Refrigerate the gazpacho until cold, or for up to 2 days.

If the gazpacho has separated, just throw it back in the blender or whisk it up until combined again. Pour into bowls and garnish with the tomato halves, cucumber, red bell pepper, and basil. Enjoy!








It’s a Tomato (Pizza) Pie!

August 17, 2011

I have really been enjoying one specific restaurant lately. I’ve gone there maybe 3 times in the past month and a half – which is a lot for me. In fact, it’s almost unheard of. You see, I always like to try different restaurants and not go to the same place too often. But there is something about Tandy Wilson’s City House in Nashville that keeps me coming back again and again.

The atmosphere is great, the drinks are thirst quenching, and the food is second to none. A few weeks ago, Zarna and I headed over there – and this was actually her first time there. We went for Sunday Supper, which is when Tandy makes a special menu every week featuring whatever is in season and is oftentimes a very playful menu. We saw this pizza on the menu – a tomato pie. Pretty standard, right? But what came after it got me really interested – mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise! I mean…really?

I love tomato sandwiches, and it’s tomato season right now. And mayonnaise is my favorite condiment. On a pizza? I wasn’t sure how it would taste, but I knew I had to get it.

We ordered the pie. And because we were sitting at the pizza bar (the best seat in the house, in my opinion), we got to watch Tandy make our pizza, shred cheese right in front of us, and put it in that amazing wood burning oven. A few minutes later, the pizza came out, charred, gooey, cheesy, and smelling like tomato heaven.

I took one bite and my mind was blown. This was perhaps one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. It was so playful because it was just like a tomato sandwich…but on a pizza. Incredible.

The other day, we decided to make pizza at the house. We get about 4-5 pounds of tomatoes each week with our CSA and I picked up some mozzarella from Tom at Lazzaroli’s. I was determined to recreate Tandy’s pizza. I got my homemade pie dough, spread some mayonnaise on it, topped it with basil, and then put sliced tomatoes. As far as cheese, I just put a little bit of mozz and a whole lot of parmigiano.

The pizza came out delicious and I was transported back to City House. An unbelievable combination that I would have never come up with. It’s a testament to Tandy and what he does at City House and it makes some mighty fine eatin’.

Try it out – I think y’all will love it.

Tomato Pie with Mayo, Chiles, and Parmigiano

(recipe adapted from Tandy Wilson)

Pizza Crust – see recipe from this post 

A few tablespoons of mayonnaise ( I used storebought, but you could make your own)

8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (sliced)

1 heirloom tomato, sliced

a pinch of crushed red pepper

1/2 cup of parmigiano cheese

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Roll out the dough to make one big pizza. Spread the mayonnaise on the bottom for an even coating. You don’t want it to be a thick glob, just a thin coating. Then sprinkle basil leaves over the mayo.

Put the tomatoes in a circular pattern around the entire pizza. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper. Then shred the parmigiano all over the top.

Bake in the oven until the crust is nice and crispy and the top is brown. Slice and serve.











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