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Arugula Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

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I know that it may feel like I’m bogging you down with salads, but what can I say?  During the summer I am salad crazy.  So when Sam at A Chef’s Kitchen shared this arugula salad with strawberry vinaigrette on Friday night, I couldn’t make it and then not  share it with you!  Not to mention, this salad prompted the line “I like my salad like I like my women- tall and sexy.”  I was charmed.

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I varied from the recipe a little.  The official name of the recipe is “Arugula Salad with Balsamic Syrup, Toasted Candied Pecans and Strawberry Vinaigrette.”   The recipe calls for toasted pecans tossed in brown sugar, olive oli, and sea salt.  Since I stilled had some of my Cayenne Candied Pecans sitting around (Dan is an addict so I keep making them), I threw those in.  He also made caramelized balsamic vinegar, but I didn’t think I could make any less than what the recipe calls for without it not working correctly, so I cut that out too.

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The strawberry vinaigrette is delicious, and I served the salad with whole pecans, crumbled pecans, and fresh sliced strawberries.  I know I’ve mentioned before that I absolutely adore arugula, and the peppery flavor works so nicely with this dressing.  The dressing is a wonderful blend of the sweetness of strawberries and the acidity of the shallots and vinegar.  It turned out perfectly.  It was tall and sexy, just like Sam said.  And, incidentally, not unlike the giant bust of George Washington at President’s Park in Williamsburg.

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Arugula Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
Source: A Chef’s Kitchen

For the dressing:

2 tbsp lemon juice

1/3 cup diced fresh strawberries

1 tbsp champagne vinegar

1 shallot diced

1 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, combine everything but the two oils.  Slowly add the oil while blending.  This will suspend the oil in other ingredients, giving it a creamy texture.

For the salad:

1/4 cup candied pecans (recipe here)

1/4 chopped fresh strawberries

4 cups arugula

Toss the arugula in the dressing.  Top with pecans and strawberries.

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Skillet Cornbread

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The deciding factor in our debate over whether or not we should elope was, truth be told, our families.  We weighed all of our options, made a pro/con list, and ultimately decided that being able to celebrate our commitment with our friends and family was worth all the hassle of wedding planning.  In the year that we’ve been at it, we’ve definitely had some bumps in the road.  On the upside, there have been some really wonderful moments and I’ve been touched time and time again at how the people we love have come together for us.

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This past weekend, I was treated to a wonderful adventure in celebration of our wedding.  My grandmother, mother, two of my aunts, and my cousin joined me in Williamsburg, Virginia for an incredible weekend.  We met on Friday and worked our way through Williamsburg, focusing mostly on eating.  We took in some history, but to be honest, our days revolved around food.  One of my favorite parts of the weekend was the first planned activity we took part in.  My Aunt Paula used her googling skills and found a restaurant called “A Chef’s Kitchen.”  The basic premise of their operation is to bring the instructional aspect of cooking shows to a real audience, who in turn get to watch, learn, and eat.

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They serve a five course meal, paired wine.  The menu changes each month based on seasonal ingredients, and they make 3/4 of the meal in front of you.  You’re also sent home with all of the recipes, so today I’m sharing what was one of my favorite elements to the dinner, their skillet cornbread.  The cornbread was the first thing that was cooked in front of us, and it was paired with a lovely arugula salad.  The cornbread course followed a corn soup, and afterwards we were served a scallop over a bed of cilantro pesto noodles, succeeded by berkshire pork and ratatouille.  The whole thing was topped off with a chocolate terrine with (as my Aunt Jill pointed out in excited whispers) triple layered ganache.

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I can imagine that you are already booking your reservations so that you can partake in the TRIPLE GANACHE as soon as possible.  I’ve already promised Dan that as soon as we have a free weekend (so, after September) we’ll be taking a trip down there because I just know that he would love everything about it.  Other sites in Williamsburg that were a big hit were the Cheese Shop, where I partook in my favorite pass-time- eating cheese, the colonial herb garden, where I got talked into buying a floppy straw hat, and the Fat Canary, where there were signs informing diners that both the water and the plumbing was historic.

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I will admit that making this at home proved more difficult than drinking wine and watching them make it.  I’m not sure if I just didn’t cook it long enough, if my skillet wasn’t hot enough, or if I bought cornmeal that was too coarse, but it turned out a little off.  Even after doubling the cooking time it wasn’t cooked through, so I will have to revisit the dish.  Dan still claims it was delicious and suggested that since he doesn’t feel obligated to be nice to me when I don’t deserve it, I have no reason not to believe him.  All I know is that I can’t wait to try more of the recipes from Friday night, and I will definitely be going back to A Chef’s Kitchen.  This weekend was far better than I could have ever expected it to be, and time spent with celebrating my family was exactly what Dan and I had in mind when we decided to include our families in this crazy wedding.

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From left: Jill, Paula, Marlene, Jessie, Cathy, Elena

Skilled-Baked Cornbread
Source: A Chef’s Kitchen

1 3/4 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

2 cups buttermilk

1 tbsp butter

For this recipe, you need a cast-iron skillet, preferably one that is well seasoned.

Preheat your oven to 450, with the skillet in the oven.  After the oven is preheated, leave the pan in for an additional 5 minutes.

Whisk together cornmeal, sugar, salt, b. powder, and b. soda.  Add the egg and buttermilk and whisk until smooth.

Remove the skillet from the oven and add the butter.  Allow it to melt and brown.  Swirl it around so that the edges and bottom are coated.

Pour in the cornbread batter and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.  Turn out onto a cutting board and serve warm.

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Grilled Peach Salad

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One of my favorite summer fruits are peaches.  And I know that I keep telling you that different summer fruits are my favorite summer fruit, and well… guilty as charged.  But I really do love peaches.  And I really do love hitting that point in the summer where you start to see peaches at the grocery store and farmers market because seriously guys, what experience is more SUMMER than sitting outside with peach juice running down your face?

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This salad is quick, easy, and delicious.  I decided to grill the peaches because grilling them brings out their flavor and creates a wonderful crust.  I also like the grillmarks.  In addition to grilled peaches, this salad has candied pecans, cinnamon-honey chicken, and a little cheese.  Because what salad doesn’t need just a little bit of cheese?  The flavors of all the different ingredients come together to make a salad that is really dynamic.  The sweet juicy peaches play well off the crunchy spicy nuts, and the chicken is both savory and sweet.  It’s a pretty perfect summer salad, if you ask me.

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Grilled Peach Salad

1 chicken breast

1 peach

1/4 cup candied pecans (recipe here)

4 cups mixed greens

3 tbsp honey

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Parmesan cheese

Mix together cayenne and cinnamon, and rub into chicken breast.  Cook over medium heat until cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking heat up your grill or grill pan.  Brush the grill with vegetable oil.  Slice your peach and brush each side with vegetable oil as well.  Grill over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side.

When the chicken has cooked, slice and return to pan.  Pour honey over the chicken and allow to simmer.

Build your salad with mixed greens, grated parmesan, candied nuts, peaches, and chicken slices.  Top with the dressing of your choice (we recommend raspberry vinaigrette)

Serves 2

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