Wednesday, July 30, 2008


There are so many influences that determine what recipes I search out and decide to prepare. Sometimes I see a cooking show that inspires me to try a new dish, or a new ingredient tempts me to give it a world, other times I am motivated by a cooking technique that I have never tried. There are several things when it comes to food that move me. This particular recipe was inspired by a wedding gift we received. My sister visited DC this past week and I was showing her all of my wedding gifts and came across a set of Arthur Court "Fleur Di Lis" spreaders that I have not used yet. My in-laws are in town and I wanted to make an appetizer for them to snack on mid-day. I thought this would be the perfect excuse to use our gift and a good chance to make a spread (which I have never done before). Luckily, Cooking Light had a recipe that interested me.

Chicken Artichoke Spread
Cooking Light April 1997


1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
Cooking spray
2 (4-ounce) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1/2 cup minced green onions
3 small garlic cloves, minced
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 drops hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper (not in original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (not in original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon salt (not in original recipe)


Preheat oven to 350°.

Place artichoke hearts in food processor, and process until finely chopped. Spoon into a bowl, and set aside.

Place a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from skillet, and let cool. Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces, and set aside. (I used chicken breast from a rotisserie chicken that was already cooked so I skipped this step)

Recoat skillet with cooking spray, and add onions and garlic. Sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Place chicken and onion mixture in food processor;

process until finely ground. Add yogurt, mayonnaise, cheese, and sauces,

and pulse until well-blended. Add chicken mixture to artichokes; stir well. Spoon mixture into a 1-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake mixture at 350° for 25 minutes or until heated. Serve spread warm or cold with French bread or crackers.

I tasted this spread during preparation and felt it needed more spices. I added salt, pepper and cayenne to jazz it up a bit.

Monday, July 28, 2008

You say "Polenta", I say "Cornmeal"

As I set out to purchase the ingredients for tonight's dinner I found myself standing stumped on Aisle 11 looking for answers. I needed to buy polenta and all I could find was cornmeal. Were these two ingredients the same thing? Or did I need to search harder for polenta? I called my brother-in-law who is a great cook and uses polenta in recipes often. He said that they were indeed the same thing and that if I purchased cornmeal I would have achieved my goal. So I picked up the cornmeal and went on my way. Later that night he emailed me an article to let me know that they were made of the same ingredient but the size of the grind is what separated the two. I researched further on the Internet and could not find a definitive answer. There were several conflicting reports. Some stated that the size of the grind was the difference (like the article from Robbie). Others said that polenta was what the Italians called cornmeal - indicating they were the same thing. And then finally, I found several articles that described polenta as cooked cornmeal that results in a porridge like side dish. So can any of my readers enlighten me? What is the difference, or is there any?

Polenta Crusted Shrimp with Mustard and Herb Mayonnaise
Giada De Laurentiis

Mustard and Herb Mayonnaise:
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves ( I omitted this ingredient)
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Polenta Crusted Shrimp:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten (I used Egg Beaters)
1 1/2 cups polenta
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tail-on
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, for sprinkling

To make the Mustard and Herb Mayonnaise:

In a medium bowl combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, tarragon, and chives. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the Polenta Crusted Shrimp:

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees F. Cover a heavy-duty baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine the flour, sea salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour the beaten eggs into another small bowl. Mix together the polenta, paprika and thyme in a medium bowl.

Working in batches, dredge the shrimp in the flour. Shake off any excess flour. Dip the flour-dredged shrimp into the eggs and then coat with the polenta mixture.

Drizzle the shrimp, on both sides, with the olive oil. Place the shrimp on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to12 minutes until crisp and golden. Sprinkle with the kosher salt.

Serve immediately with the Mustard and Herb Mayonnaise.

This was a really yummy dish. The cornmeal/polenta gave the shrimp a delicious crunch and the Herb Mayo was very tasty. We had it as a main entree but it would be amazing served as an appetizer at a party too!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Snappy Scallops

We had a massively busy weekend. Friday night was a big fancy work party at the Ritz-Carlton, Saturday was Sarah's end of summer pool party in the day and the the Graviss' Grilled Pizza party at night. I was so exhausted from the hectic fun-packed weekend and I didn't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen tonight. The following recipe was the perfect solution. I was able to throw it together in less than 20 minutes and it was healthy, light and delicious.

Seared Scallops with Fresh Linguine and Romano Cheese
Cooking Light August 2008


1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated linguine
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about 1 1/2 ounces) finely grated fresh Romano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops
4 lemon wedges


1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Drain pasta in a colander over a bowl, reserving 2 tablespoons pasta water. Combine pasta, reserved 2 tablespoons pasta water, 1/4 cup cheese, 1 tablespoon oil, chopped basil, and pepper in a large bowl; toss well.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. Sprinkle salt evenly over scallops;

add scallops to pan. Cook 1 minute on each side or until golden.

3. Place 1 cup pasta mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 3 scallops and 1 1/2 teaspoons remaining cheese. Serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Not your typical BBQ

Our friends mentioned to us that they wanted to have a BBQ to utilize their new deck and use it as a good excuse to get everyone together for a summertime party. I have been wanting to try my hand at grilling pizza's so I suggested we have a Grilled Pizza party. They happily approved the idea and so the 1st annual Graviss Grilled Pizza party was born. Both the hostess and myself had never grilled pizzas before so it was an adventure as well as a celebration. We had to conquer several unknowns but in the end it turned out awesome. All of the party goers were impressed by the idea and the pizzas were delicious. There were six different pizzas served at the party and the two below are the ones I brought.

Three Pepper Sausage Pizza
Adapted from William Sonoma


I package of pizza dough
1 to 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/3 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick
1/2 orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick
1/4 lb. Italian sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick
slices (I used spicy Italian Chicken Sausage)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano

Prep the Peppers by cutting them into strips.

Roll out the pre-made pizza dough using a rolling pin into a 12in diameter circle.

Preheat grill to 350 degrees and place pizza dough on grill for about 3-4 minutes.

Remove dough from grill and brush both sides with olive oil. Top the cooked side of the dough with pizza toppings

and return pizza to grill until cheese begins to melt

Grilled Potato and Pancetta Pizza
Adapted from William Sonoma


14 oz. red potatoes (about 6 medium), sliced
1/8 inch thick
2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
4 oz. pancetta, diced
All-purpose flour for dusting
1 pre-made whole wheat pizza dough
3 Tbs. olive oil
8 oz. fontina cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups baby arugula
Freshly ground pepper, to taste


Put the potatoes and the 2 tsp. salt in a saucepan and add water to cover the potatoes by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and let cool.

In a fry pan over medium heat, fry the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over high heat.

Dust a wooden pizza peel with flour. Divide the pizza dough in half and form each half into a ball. Using your hands or a rolling pin, stretch or roll out 1 ball of dough into a 10-inch round.

Lay the dough on the pizza peel. Using a spoon, spread 1 Tbs. of the olive oil evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the edge. Sprinkle half of the cheese evenly over the dough. Arrange half of the potato slices

on the cheese and sprinkle half of the pancetta on top.

Using the pizza peel, carefully slide the pizza onto the preheated grill. Cover the grill and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover the grill and turn the pizza 180 degrees. Cover the grill and continue to cook until the crust is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes more. Using the pizza peel, transfer the pizza to a large cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the second pizza.

In a bowl, toss together the arugula, the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil, salt and pepper. Scatter the arugula evenly over the pizzas. **I accidentally forgot the arugula at home :-(

I was shocked at how easy grilling pizzas turned out. I would definitely do this again and would even make it for a weeknight meal because it was super simple and fun!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Chocoholic and the Diabetic

So what do you make for dessert when your two dinner guest consist of a a chocoholic and a type 1 diabetic? Well it actually is really simple. Especially when the chocoholic is your insistent
older sister from out of town who is used to getting her way and the diabetic is your accommodating easy to please husband who you cook for every night - you make whatever seems like the most chocolate ridden dessert you can find. Sorry Forrest - break out the insulin!

Molten Chocolate Cake
by Stephanie Jaworski

1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Generously butter 4 - 3/4 cup (180 ml) molds, ramekins, or custard cups and dust the insides with granulated white sugar. Place the prepared molds on a baking sheet and set aside while you make the chocolate cakes.

In a stainless steel bowl suspended over a saucepan of simmering water,

melt the butter and chocolate.

Remove from heat and set aside while you whip the egg yolks.

In your electric mixer beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup (65 grams) sugar until thick, pale, and fluffy. (When you slowlyraise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) Beat in the vanilla extract and then fold in the melted chocolate mixture.

In another clean bowl whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1 tablespoon of granulated white sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula or wire whisk gently fold the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, just until incorporated.

Do not over mix or the batter will deflate. Divide the batter between the prepared molds, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the outside edges of the cakes are set but the middle still looks a little wet. You may have cracks on the top surface of the cakes.

Immediately remove from oven and let them rest for a minute or two. Run a palette or sharp knife around the edge of each cake and then invert onto the center of each serving plate. Carefully remove the mold. Sprinkle the top of each cake with confectioners sugar and place a dollop of softly whipped cream, clotted cream, crème fraîche, or vanilla ice cream on top of each warm cake.

These cakes were really yummy and I don't even like chocolate. Next time I would cook them for 17 minutes instead of 15 and I would serve them in the ramekins because they weren't pretty once I inverted them onto a plate. (As you can see above)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Lost Heirlooms

I love the idea of an Heirloom. I am very sentimental and something that has been passed down for generations through family members has a certain endearing quality. Knowing that something in your possession once belonged to family members before you that you may not have even known is very special. The care taken to preserve these treasures only adds to the meaning. Unfortunately being born into a family that has lived in New Orleans for several generations I do not have very many heirlooms of my own. It isn't that people in New Orleans aren't sentimental or don't cherish some of the possessions of their ancestors. Despite the efforts made to keep and pass on heirlooms, if you live in New Orleans chances are that every 40 years a huge Hurricane comes and wipes away your goods and the goods of those before you. Depressing, I know - forgive me. But in light of this discouraging phenomenon I have decided that it is my generations job to start over and hope for the best ( or move out of New Orleans ). So until I decide what these special items will be that I pass on to my future generations I have chosen to cook all of my heirlooms for inspiration - I am referring to the tomatoes....

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Stack
Cooking Light July 2008



1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash of ground red pepper

4 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very thinly vertically sliced red onion
1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 small)
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)


1. To prepare dressing, combine first 9 ingredients in a small food processor or blender; process 30 seconds or until pureed, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Cover and chill.

2. To prepare salad, slice each tomato crosswise into 4 equal slices (about 1/2 inch thick). Place 1 tomato slice on each of 4 salad plates; sprinkle slices evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Top each serving with a few onion pieces and about 1 tablespoon avocado.

Repeat layers 3 times, ending with avocado. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing over each serving; sprinkle with black pepper, if desired.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Have Ice Chest, Will Travel

When we went home two weeks ago we drove and driving home has one huge advantage - I can bring as much of New Orleans back to DC as I can fit in my mid-sized Acura. During the trip I collected several frozen New Orleans ingredients and packed them in an ice chest to take back to my kitchen. I was determined that for the next several months I would not have to reject a single recipe that interested because I didn't have the proper ingredients. I am proud to say that although I can find Andouille Sausage in DC, my next few recipes with Andouille will use 100% authentic Andouille Sausage from the "Andouille Capital of the World" secured for me by my mother in law. There is nothing like it and the andouille you can buy in the supermarket in DC doesn't even come close. You have already begun to see the fruits of my Louisiana Crawfish smuggle so I wanted to round it out with another recipe featuring my well traveled grub.

Andouille Burgers with Grilled Sweet Onions and Creole Remoulade Sauce
Recipe Courtesy Emeril Lagasse


6 ounces andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 1/2 teaspoon Essence, recipe follows
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large Kaiser onion rolls
4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices sweet onion, such as Vidalia, Maui or Walla Walla
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar
Creole Remoulade Sauce


Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Place andouille sausage in food processor.

Finely chop the andouille sausage in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the beef, garlic, Worcestershire, 1 teaspoon of the Essence, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.

Blend together being careful not to overwork the mixture. Form mixture into 4 (1-inch-thick) patties.

Grill the Kaiser rolls just until golden, turning, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to plates. Brush the onion slices on both sides with the oil and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon Essence, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill until golden, turning, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the grill.

Place the hamburgers on the grill and cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the cheese over the tops of the burgers and cook until melted.

Spread the insides of the buns with the Creole Remoulade Sauce. Place the hamburgers on the bottoms and top with the sliced onions. Serve immediately.

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 2/3 cup

This burger was so yummy. I rarely cook things that are so "junk foodish" and I am glad that when I did it was a gourmet twist on an American classic. It didn't even really taste like a burger at all. The flavor of the Andouille was so strong and gave the entire burger a surprisingly different twist . Both Forrest and I really enjoyed it!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mama Mia !

This weekend my girlfriends and I went to see Mama Mia at the National Theatre. Mamma Mia is a stage musical, based on the songs of ABBA, the 70's pop music group. I am a sucker for the performing arts and can't tell you a musical I have seen that I didn't love but this one was fabulous! It was my first time seeing a production at the National Theatre and it was very exciting. The evening was so enjoyable that I decided I shouldn't miss any Broadway productions that come to DC. I enjoy them too much to let them pass me by.

In the meantime I wanted to pay homage to Mama Mia! through dinner. Mama Mia! is set on a fictional Greek Island and I decided I would make a Greek inspired dish to help the memories of the musical live a little longer in my mind.

Greek Orzo and Grilled Shrimp Salad with Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette
Recipe Courtesy Bobby Flay

3/4 pound orzo, cooked al dente
1 large cucumber, seeded, quartered lengthwise, and sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional for brushing shrimp
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound feta cheese, crumbled
16 medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Combine orzo, cucumber, green onions, and tomatoes in a large bowl.

Place dill, vinegar, and mustard in a blender and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and blend until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo mixture and stir well to combine. Gently fold in the feta cheese.

Heat grill to high. Brush shrimp with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for approximately 2 minutes per side or until just cooked through. Divide orzo salad among 4 take-out containers or plates and top with 4 shrimp. Garnish with additional dill.

This pasta salad was very delicious, easy to make and I have a feeling it will make great leftovers!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

And the Crawfish They Caught in Arabi

I have lived several places in and around New Orleans but grew up in a small town about 15 minutes southeast of the city named Arabi. Arabi is really small town and like most small towns it moves at a very slow pace and has several unique characteristics. In Arabi everyone refers to you as dawl'in whether they are an old friend or you are meeting them for the first time. Can you imagine my culture shock when I moved to DC where people avoid eye contact on the street and go out of their way to ignore your greeting? The people of Arabi exemplify southern hospitality. Everyone is friendly, everyone is excited to see you and everyone acknowledges each other on the street. This hospitable nature carries into other aspects of conversation and when you see someone you haven't seen in a while instead of asking "how is your family?" they leisurely inquire, "how's ya mama and them?" Unless you lived in Arabi you really had no reason to be there. You didn't pass through on your way to another town and there was nothing there you couldn't get or do elsewhere. For me it was never my ideal geographical location. The hospitality was refreshing but I never wanted to settle in a small town. Although I knew I was destined not to stay, I am certainly happy it is where I started. Something about that close knit community in which you know you can rely on others is very comforting.

Since Arabi is such an obscure town with very few "passer throughs" it wasn't a place that most fellow New Orleanians knew much about. I went to high school in the city and anytime I told someone where I was from I got the same reaction - "Oh yeah, that town from that Christmas song!" Arabi got its 15 minutes of fame when it was the featured in the classic New Orleans Christmas Carol Spoof, The Twelve Yats of Christmas. In the first line of the song Benny Grunch states, "On'da foist day'a Christmas mah Mawmaw gave'to me a Crawfish'dey Caught in Arabi". The funny part about this line is that I never knew a person to catch a crawfish the whole time I lived in Arabi and couldn't tell you where you would go to do so- but who cares right? If it got us on the map then it was worth it, despite its accuracy.

Louisiana Crawfish Cakes
Recipe adapted from James O'Donnell of the House of Blues

1 tablespoon Olive Oil
10 tablespoons yellow onion, 1/8-inch diced
3 tablespoons green bell peppers, 1/8-inch diced
3 tablespoons red bell peppers, 1/8-inch diced
3 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds crawfish tails
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon of Zatarain's Crab Boil
1 teaspoon of Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning
6 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan, ground
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons bread crumbs
Parsley sprig, for garnish

Heat oil in sauce pan and sweat onions and peppers for 1 minute. Add garlic and crawfish tails and heat through. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt and Cajun Seasoning.

Remove from heat and let cool. Beat eggs in stainless bowl and add crawfish mixture. Fold in Parmesan and 1 cup bread crumbs.

Combine all ingredients and form into 5-ounce patties. Dust cakes with additional bread crumbs.

Heat crawfish cake through in broiler. Place Rémoulade sauce in the middle of the plate. Place heated crawfish cake on top. Top each cake with a 1/2 teaspoon of remoulade sauce. Top cake with parsley sprig.
Forrest and I were invited to a dinner party (a very great one I might add with awesome food and equally as awesome company) this weekend and I volunteered to bring the appetizer. I was delighted to make something that offered a little piece of where I came from!