Friday, July 31, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 17

I can hardly wrap my head around the fact that August 1 is TOMORROW. How did that happen? Sometimes it feels like the days are long and never-ending, but the weeks and months just seem to fly by. I'm desperately trying to find beauty and positivity wherever I can these days, so I was grateful to spot this glimmer of a rainbow on a recent walk. It certainly brightened my day (and it doesn't take much to brighten them these days!)

I have another recipe for you guessed it...the TOMATO. I promise I'll get off them eventually, but they're in peak season right now, so it would be a tragedy not to use them. I used what I had in my fridge and made this up. I realize I should probably try a recipe more than once before I share it with my readers, but I just don't have time for that. Plus I was quite pleased with these results.

Pesto Tomato Tart
-1 refrigerated pie crust (like Pillsbury)
-2 ripe tomatoes, peeled
-1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (plain, or flavored like Chive & Onion or Garlic & Herb)
-1/4 cup cottage cheese
-3 TB pesto
-shredded Parmesan
-salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Unroll your pie crust into a pie dish and poke the bottom with a fork, to make little holes. Put it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then let it cool for 5.

Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes 1/4" to 1/2" thick. Salt them and lay them on a paper towel-lined plate, so as to draw out the water. 

In a mixer, combine your cream cheese, cottage cheese and pesto. You could choose to omit the cottage cheese and double up on the cream cheese, but I wanted to add in some extra protein. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Spread this on the pie crust, then top with the tomato slices. Bake for 20-22 minutes, then sprinkle on some Parm and bake for 2-3 more minutes. If the crust starts to get too dark, cover the edges with foil. Let cool slightly before serving, and store the leftovers in the fridge.
Pesto Tomato Tart

*Alternatively, you could slice the tomatoes, drizzle with pesto, sprinkle with salt, pepper and feta cheese and call it a day.

I would be remiss if I didn't share with you my favorite, indulgent, go-to summer drink: Banana Sexies. Years ago, a friend returned from her tropical honeymoon raving about these drinks, and I've been making them ever since. I won't be drinking them anywhere tropical this year, but my back deck works just fine.

-1 tube frozen pina colada mix (I use about 1/2 a tube for 2 drinks)
-Spiced Rum (like Captain Morgan)
-1 peeled banana, cut into 1 inch cubes and frozen for at least 30 minutes
-Baileys Irish Cream
-ice cubes

Put all ingredients into a blender. Eyeball the amounts. Blend. Taste. Adjust as needed. Enjoy. See you tomorrow.

The Disaster Artist - This was a really intriguing and nuanced performance by James Franco. This film tells the story of Tommy Wiseau and his infamous movie "The Room", which I subsequently attempted to find, of course, but had no luck. A lot of mystery surrounds the man behind the "best worst film ever made" - his origin, financial status and age are still pretty unknown to this day. Franco's chemistry with real-life brother Dave, and the fabulous supporting cast of comedic stars makes this a weirdly enjoyable film to watch.

Clueless - One of my favorite films of all time. I watched it at a too-young 8 years old and half of the jokes went right over my head. If you haven't watched it in a while (it had been 10 years for me), it is worth the re-watch every time. Alicia Silverstone is at her peak as clueless teen Cher, living the Beverly Hills dream. The film could not have a better supporting cast, soundtrack, costume design - the dialogue is perfection, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this 1995 classic. And it's on Netflix!!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 16

Is everyone surviving these insane summer temps? The only upside is the plethora of crazy good produce available right now, so I'm sharing 2 of my favorite summer dishes for you this week, spotlighting the honorable TOMATO. By the way, if you're looking for a fun way to beat the heat, check out the New Orleans Snow Cone stand at Country Park - as of right now, they're open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm and Sunday from 12-7pm. You can mix flavors, and you'll want to - they have more than just your standard Cherry or Grape (Wedding Cake anyone?)
I mixed Watermelon and Cotton Candy, natch.

When I think about my favorite recipes that my grandma makes, three immediately come to mind: Pimiento Cheese, Italian Cream Cake and Okra & Tomatoes. A few years ago, I was inspired by the bounty of ripe tomatoes at the farmer's market and decided to master her Okra & Tomato recipe once and for all. I'm pleased to share it with you today. Non-okra fans will be converted.

-3 TB butter
-20 okra (about 2 cups)
-1/2 cup onion, chopped
-3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
-1 and 1/2 tsp sugar

Cut the tip and the base off the okra, then slice into 1/4 inch thick bites. Melt the butter in a dutch oven or other large, deep pan over medium low heat. Add the chopped okra and onion and sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and sugar, a little more salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and let it cook for about 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes will soften and stew and release their juices, and it is heaven on earth. Taste for seasoning before serving!
The best.

Another favorite summer recipe to use up your ripe tomatoes is Rynn's Cornbread Salad. My former neighbor Rynn brought this to a potluck and my mom and I lost our minds over it. We begged her for the recipe, and here it is:

Prepare your favorite boxed or homemade cornbread recipe (or shortcut and buy pre-made from the store). Once cooled, cut into 1 inch cubes, and layer in a 9x13 casserole or trifle dish. Top with:

-2 cans pinto beans, drained
-1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
-1/2 cup chopped red pepper
-1 large tomato, peeled and diced
-1 can corn, drained (or 1 ½ cups fresh kernels off the cob)
-any other miscellaneous veggies like edamame, peas, chickpeas, what have you

Pour 8 ounces ranch dressing over the top, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. It tastes WAY better than it looks, but considering the ingredients, what's not to love?! 

Cornbread Salad - it tastes better than it looks!
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - You might start this film and think, what alternate universe have I walked into, where Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell have agreed to star in this story about an Icelandic musical duo who strive for greatness in the Eurovision Song Contest? But keep watching. It's actually quite entertaining and heartwarming, and will win you over by the end. A musical montage in the middle will have you smiling and singing along. And Dan "Milk Toast" Stevens...out of nowhere! He just crushes it! This film reminded me that Rachel McAdams is one of our generation's best actresses, who hasn't received nearly enough accolades for her work.

2001: A Space Odyssey – If you can get through the first 25 minutes, you should be able to make it through the rest. It clocks in at 2 hours and 48 minutes, but with striking visuals and beautiful music, it’s a classic for a reason. Definitely timely, playing into the world of A.I. and the fear that robots may one day take over. I can appreciate a good sci-fi film, just not one that’s this long!

Friday, July 17, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 15

I’m back to the bird posts, y’all. Here are some shots of my dad's hummingbird feeder, that has attracted male and female Goldfinches like crazy! We love spotting little Goldie!

Such a striking bird!
Going for a dip!

I wanted to revisit a childhood favorite this week - My Dad's Hamburgers. Everyone has their preferred burger seasoning, method of cooking, toppings, bun, etc. But this has been mine since I was in 3rd grade. My dad flexed his culinary muscle when he came up with his signature marinade, back in 1995 when we were living in Greenville, SC. 

-1 pound ground beef
-Store bought teriyaki marinade
-garlic salt
-onion salt

Score the meat to make 4 patties. Shape and flatten, but don't overwork the meat (that makes a tough burger!) Pour the Teriyaki marinade on each patty, then pour more around the patties, directly onto the plate. Don't skimp on this! The beef will absorb the flavor and it is sensational. Sprinkle one side of each patty with garlic salt and pepper, then flip them, and add a little more Teriyaki if it doesn't look wet enough. Then sprinkle that side with onion salt and pepper. Let these sit covered in the fridge for about an hour. 

If you have a grill, by all means, go for it, but I like to cook my burgers in a skillet on my stove, and use my meat thermometer so I can control the heat and retain the moisture and fat in the pan (otherwise it drips down into your grill and you lose all that flavor!) When the burgers are cooked to your liking, top with a good melting cheese, cover and let the cheese melt a minute. Top with any condiments your heart desires (I'm a mustard-ketchup-pickle kind of gal) and serve it on a good bun like a potato roll or buttered, toasted brioche bun. Serving it with the Pickletown Dill Pickle Lager is the right move here. One bite of this immediately transported me to when I was 8 years old. It's crazy how food can do that.

Word's Burger.

One of my favorite summer desserts is made by using Bisquick (or Hungry Jack or any other pancake mix) to make Shortcakes. I follow this recipe for the shortcakes, but I skip the fruit macerating step (fruit this time of year is so good and ripe, it doesn’t need extra sugar.) Pro tip – don’t whip all of the heavy cream – save a little to pour just a bit directly onto the warm shortcake. It makes it super moist and it’s just delicious.

Ibiza: Love Drunk - A friend recommended this to me back when it was released on Netflix in 2018. It's a quintessential girls' trip story, and absolutely hysterical. It made me want to travel and go out and have fun with my friends, so you may want to wait and watch this when we're actually able to go out and do that sort of thing. It tells the story of Harper and her friends who take a life-changing trip to Barcelona. I've never wanted a mojito on the beach so badly.

David Foster: Off the Record – I didn’t realize how important of a producer David Foster is, until I watched this documentary about his life. He was an integral part of some of my favorite songs – Whitney’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” Andrea and Celine’s “The Prayer”, Celine’s “To Love You More”, and countless others, not to mention discovering Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. He is clearly a workaholic, seems to lack empathy and at one point even describes himself as an a-hole, but this film isn't all about the man behind the music - it highlights the music, because of the man. Fascinating, especially if you're a music fan.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 14

Hi everyone! I was grateful to be able to take a few days off work last week. Even working at home during these crazy times, it's important to remember to take care of yourself and unplug every now and then. Since my annual summer beach trip is currently on hold, I decided to take a few fun day trips and it was much needed and appreciated. The best day trip of all, was the one to Chapel Hill. 
The Old Well

The Bell Tower

This week, I wanted to share one of my favorite summer dishes: Tomato Tart. The dish was originally inspired by this recipe, but I've added a lot of shortcuts that I've found make it easier.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
10 TB cold butter (I always use salted), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 egg yolk
3 TB cold water

Combine the flour, cornmeal and S&P in a food processor. Add the cubed butter and pulse until it starts to form small pieces and slightly come together. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and water. Add this to the dough and pulse until it comes together, like a cookie dough. Take this mixture out of the food processor and knead it on a floured surface a few times, then shape into a flat disk. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or you can do this in advance and chill overnight.

2 TB butter
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kernels from 1 ear of corn
Any miscellaneous veggies you have - zucchini, squash, okra (optional)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled 
6oz. flavored cream cheese (like Garlic & Herb or Chive & Onion)
Any miscellaneous herbs you have - thyme, basil, cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375. Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and corn kernels (and any additional veggies you like!) and continue cooking for 3 or so more minutes, then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, slice your tomatoes about ¼ inch thick. Salt them and put them on a paper towel to absorb some of their water.

Grab your dough from the fridge and place on a floured surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll it out until it's 1/8" thick or about 12” in diameter. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the cream cheese on the dough, leaving a 1 inch border around the edge. Layer the tomatoes on the cream cheese, then top with the corn mixture. Carefully fold the edge of the dough up, to cover the edge of the tomatoes, then brush the crust with the beaten egg. Bake for about 45-50 minutes (check to make sure the crust isn't getting too dark!) and then let it cool before you slice it. Sprinkle any miscellaneous herbs you have on top as a garnish!

The tart in all its glory.

Summer goodness at its absolute finest.

The King Of Staten Island - A Pete Davidson/Judd Apatow collabo. Need I say more? It's definitely a tour de force by Davidson - love him or hate him, he does a great job in this film. It's based very loosely on his life as a young adult, struggling to come to terms with his firefighter father's death. Marisa Tomei, wonderful as always, plays his mother, trying to do what's best for herself and her troubled son. This film is more in the vein of Apatow's "Funny People", as opposed to the more slapstick "Knocked Up" or "The 40 Year Old Virgin", though there are some comedic moments. Great supporting cast. 

Irresistible - A Steve Carrell/Jon Stewart collabo. Need I say more? Carrell is brilliant (no surprise) as a strategist for the Democratic party, who seeks out a rural activist (Chris Cooper) and molds him to run for office. Rose Byrne is fabulous as the foe, and always hits a home run when she plays an ice queen. This film is timely, and combines comedy with political drama. If you're into "The West Wing" or "House of Cards", give this a watch.