In early April, I went on vacation with two of my best friends of 25 years, including our families – kids, pets and all. We rented a beach house on St. Simons Island and spent the week eating to our hearts’ content, lounging on the beach and having jam sessions by the pool. It was the ideal vacation, complete with dolphin watching, strolling on the pier and working on our tans, but the most fun I had all week was when we rode our bikes to the pier for a little crabbing adventure. Continue reading “Aunt Adela’s Cold Georgia Blue Crab Dip”
This time of year is filled with holiday parties and fun get-togethers, and most importantly good food. If you’ve been invited to a festive shin dig this season, one of the most crowd pleasing appetizers you can take along is an antipasto platter. Even if you’re the party host, this platter makes an excellent option to serve guests while the final touches are being put on the main course. Continue reading “How to Assemble an Antipasto Party Platter”
April is National BLT month, and it just so happens that one of my signature recipes takes this classic sandwich to the next level with spicy pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes. Continue reading “BLTs Turned Up a Notch”
Twas the day after the Super Bowl and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even an Atlanta Falcons fan. Continue reading “Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Dip for the Win”
In my family, Easter Sunday has always been a special time to gather around the kitchen table after celebrating the resurrection of Jesus at church. I can’t think of a better way to give praise than with a bounty of beautiful food. Whether you’re popping a spiral ham in the oven and pairing it with scalloped potatoes, or opting for a special mid-morning brunch after the Sunrise Service, I hope some of my favorite recipes will tempt your palate. I’ll share three that are menu must-haves including Vidalia Onion Quiche, Best Grape Salad and Spicy Cheddar Long Straws. Choose one, or make them all. Happy Easter, y’all!
Vidalia Onion Quiche
This recipe appears in the cookbook “Savannah Celebrations” by Martha Nesbit
- 4 Slices bacon, minced
- 1 Large Vidalia Onion, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 3 Eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 ready-to-roll pie crust
- ½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Fry the bacon in a medium skillet until it is very crispy. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain. Drain off all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease. Saute the onion in the grease until it is very tender and just beginning to turn brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the flour.In a quart measuring cup, measure the half-and-half. Add the eggs and whisk together. Add the salt, pepper, and thyme. Place the pie crust in a deep-dish glass pie dish. Crimp the edges. Prick the bottom and sides of the crust. Layer both cheeses in the bottom of the crust. Distribute the bacon pieces and sautéed onion over the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over all.
Place the pie dish on a cookie sheet for ease in handling and put in the center of heated oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes longer or until the center of the quiche is set. You may need to cover the outer edge of the crust with foil to prevent over-browning.
Best Grape Salad
Adapted from Food.com
Who doesn’t love cream cheese and graham crackers? Beware–the cold and juicy grapes in this crowd-pleaser are addictive. Thanks to my Aunt Susan for introducing me to such a fabulous recipe!
- 2 lbs green seedless grapes
- 2 lbs red seedless grapes
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, to tasteTopping Ingredients
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed, to taste
- 1 cup crushed pecans, to taste
- Graham Crackers, crumbled to taste
Wash and stem grapes. Set aside. Mix sour cream, cream cheese, white sugar and vanilla by hand until blended. Stir grapes into mixture, and pour in large serving bowl. For topping: Combine brown sugar, and crushed pecans. Sprinkle over top of grapes to cover completely. Chill overnight.
“Our best tip for successful cheese straws is to shred your own cheese. It’s stickier and blends better than pre-shredded cheese.” – Southern Living
I can testify to that! These cheese straws have become one of my go-to snacks for entertaining any time of the year. I think they’re especially great at brunch with a Bloody Maria. Their buttery texture crumbles and melts right in your mouth.
Spicy Cheddar Long Straws
- 1 (10-oz.) block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons half-and-half
Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare dough, and turn out onto a well-floured surface; divide in half. Roll each half into a 12- x 8-inch rectangle (about 1/8 inch thick). Cut dough into 3/4-inch-wide strips using a sharp knife or fluted pastry wheel, dipping knife in flour after each cut to ensure clean cuts. Place strips on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until edges are well browned; cool on baking sheets on wire racks 30 minutes.
For more brunch inspiration, check out these photos (provided & styled by The Stylish Steed) from a brunch party I hosted at home. Some Kinda Good, good food and good company, that’s what it’s all about!
What are your favorite springtime dishes?
Grape jelly combined with apple hickory BBQ sauce and hot pepper jelly is an unlikely combination, but when paired together with perfectly seasoned meatballs, they make the most decadent and savory bite. Continue reading “Georgia Cocktail Meatballs Make a Perfect Party Appetizer”
It’s one of those appetizers that’s always present at family gatherings in the South, especially around the holidays. I’ve seen savory cheese balls and sweet cheese balls. There’s a variety of different recipes out there, but this one comes from Mama with a few of my own touches. I contributed this cheese ball to my office Christmas party and it was a hit! It has pops of red and green color for the holidays, and it’s versatile. You can add or take away whatever flavors you like. Spreadable and creamy, this cheese ball has crunch and sweet heat. It’s cold and satisfying.
The cheese ball comes together quickly and is edible right away, but has a more firm texture when chilled. I recommend making it a day ahead and letting it set up in the fridge overnight. If you’re short on time, 30 minutes to an hour will do.
- 1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1 cup of pepper jack cheese, shredded
- A few jarred jalapeno peppers, chopped
- A tablespoon of jarred jalapeno pepper juice
- A handful of maraschino cherries, stems removed and chopped
- 1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
- 1/4 cup of chopped onion (I used purple for the color, but a sweet Vidalia onion would be great too)
- Dash of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 tablespoon of Braswell’s Green Pepper Jelly
- 1/4 cup of pepitas (Pumpkin seeds)
- Seasoned salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup Georgia pecans, toasted and chopped
Dry roast pecans in a saute pan over medium heat, flipping occasionally until fragrant and golden (5-10 minutes). Set aside. Using a hand mixer, blend the cheeses together until incorporated. Add in remaining ingredients, reserving the pecans for the outside, and season with seasoned salt and pepper. Blend on low-speed until everything is incorporated. Turn the mixture out onto plastic wrap and form it into a ball. Remove the plastic wrap and roll the ball in the chopped pecans until covered. Let chill. Serve with buttery crackers, like Ritz, toasted bread or even Scoops tortilla chips.
Note: If you’re using a food processor to chop your onion and bell pepper, be sure to drain any natural water from the vegetables before adding them to the mixture. Additional water will make your cheese ball runny, and you wouldn’t want that.
Serve the cheese ball on a round dish if you have one! It enhances the natural shape of the appetizer and is fun to surround with crackers. Presentation is everything! I served the cheese ball with snowflake-shaped crackers for a little Christmas cheer, but this recipe is wonderful year around with whatever kind of crackers you like. Enjoy!
The older I become, the more I realize that so much of life is about our experiences. When I auditioned for ABC’s cooking competition reality show “The Taste” last year, I couldn’t have predicted the friendships that would result and never would have imagined I’d be hanging out in the Music City with the co-owner of an award-winning food truck eating chicken liver pate and drinking cocktails with smoked bacon. I’m talking about my friend, Carlos Davis of Riffs Fine Street Food. You may have seen him on the Cooking Channel’s Eat Street or featured in the Nashville Scene. He’s the coolest Caribbean I know, with a local, inside perspective on good eats. On a chilly Saturday night in early spring, Carlos and I reunited for the first time since we’d both hopped on a plane Southbound from Burbank, California in September 2013. Carlos showed me around a Nashville neighborhood known as the Gulch, and introduced me to The 404 Kitchen, led by Chef Matt Bolus.
As noted on The 404 Kitchen’s website, the restaurant is “Housed in a former shipping container…and offers a modern take on classic European cuisine with an emphasis on local, seasonal fare, including herbs grown on the rooftop garden.”
A semi-finalist in the Best New Restaurant category of the 2014 James Beard Awards, The 404 Kitchen features indoor and outdoor seating to accommodate 56 guests for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday.
We decided to forgo the entrees all together and jump right in with Starters and Cocktails. We took our seats at the bar where Carlos quickly pointed out The Nearest Green, a libation featuring Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Laird’s Rare Apple Brandy, Benton’s Smoky Mountain bacon and citrus infused Tennessee honey. It had every flavor going for it–fruity, smoky and sweet. Who wouldn’t love a cocktail including bacon? I was all in, and it didn’t disappoint. When I had finished sipping the cocktail, I shamelessly ate the bits of bacon in the bottom of my glass with a spoon to which Carlos commented, “You would be weird if you didn’t!”
The next order of business came in the form of Crudo, an appetizer of Cobia, blood orange, fennel, bee pollen (that’s right, bee pollen), pistachio and vidal ice vinegar. Now, I grew up in Blythe, Georgia and Twiggs County farm country. My folks and I didn’t eat quite like this. I had no idea what the majority of these ingredients were, but I tasted them with gladness and what a refreshing combination! I learned that Cobia is a type of fish. I loved the crunch of the pistachios and fennel. The vinegar and citrus flavors gave every bite a noteworthy kick. As for the bee pollen, I was at a total loss.
Starter number 2 was delivered on a butcher block: Kennedy Farms Chicken Liver Pate, served with whole grain mustard, pickled radish and the Lowcountry’s popular benne wafers. A pate is a mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste. Nothing about that sounds appealing to me, and by the looks of it, you’d think it came directly from a Spam can. Tasting chicken liver pate was another first for me, and the truth is, I really liked it. Reminiscent of humus in texture, its flavor was rich and herbaceous. When the dish came out, I looked directly at Carlos and said, “Alright chef. Teach me how to eat this.” He took a healthy portion of the pate and spread it on the wafer, then topped it with a bit of the spicy ground mustard. I asked, “What about the radish?” to which he informed me it was a palate cleanser. Makes sense! This home cook surely enjoys having chef friends.
Next up came my pick for the evening, and my favorite of all: 14 Month Aged Benton’s Country Ham served with buttermilk biscuits, Tennessee whiskey jelly and red-eye gravy. In the moment the plate came, Carlos tweeted, “#CountryHamAndBiscuits @The404Kitchen. @SKGFoodBlog just squealed.” It was true. I had church with this appetizer. The biscuits were perfection, the country ham was salty and sliced to the perfect thinness, and the jam? I can’t. I could have turned the red-eye gravy ramekin up and drank it, but civility got the best of me.
With each new dish, the bartender switched out our silverware and brought new small plates. Lastly, we tried the Burrata featuring celeriac, grapefruit, black truffle, pine nuts, leeks and calabrian peppers. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. Smooth like butter, I’d never known a cheese could be elevated to such heights. Other Starters on the menu that night featured Lamb Sugo, Winter Squash Soup and a 3 Cheese Plate. Entrees included Rabbit, Cioppino, Swordfish, Pork Ragu and other mind-boggling dishes. Dining in a place like The 404 Kitchen reminds me of just how much I have to learn about the world of gastronomy.
We wound the evening down with dessert. The grand finale was brioche bread with bittersweet chocolate, and a banana nut loaf alongside cold ice cream. With a daily changing menu, this is a place I could return again and again.
With clean plates and full hearts, we left The 404 Kitchen satisfied, anticipating the next great food adventure. From the service to the atmosphere, topped only by the food, The 404 Kitchen was Some Kinda Good, and the perfect spot to catch up with my culinary pal. After all, good food and good company is what it’s all about.
Learn a place is underground and it’s immediately cool. Add a classy atmosphere, an attentive wait staff, well-presented food and creative cocktails that enliven your taste buds–now, that’s a place I’ll hang out. Jazz’d Tapas Bar in Savannah encompasses all these qualities. Let me show you.
Meet the Pomegranate Martini – $9: Vodka, Pama Liqueur and triple sec with a lemon twist. I love a good bartender that takes pride in his drinks. I can hardly wait to get back and order another one of these. Fruity. Cold. Smooth. Clean. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout!
The Traditional Bruschetta- $9: Grilled garlic rubbed baguette, layered with tomatoes tossed in balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and Mozzarella. It’s topped with shaved Pecorino Romano cheese. Absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. Loved the grill marks on the bread and…the cheese, LAWD at the cheese.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appétit magazine recently said, “Great nachos are about architecture.” Same concept here. Would you just look at the construction of this bruschetta? It’s the perfect bite(s). Hats off to the chef!
Sesame Tuna- $11: Sesame crusted Ahi tuna slices over an apple-fennel salad. Garnished with a balsamic glaze. Note to self: That green stuff is not avocado. It’s wasabi. Will tingle nose hairs. The good-looking man I was with says, “I’m here to tell you, that’s some good eating.”
The bar is elegant and sleek. Located in Savannah’s Historic District on Ellis Square, you can celebrate Happy Hour right here from 4 – 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday.
I visited on a rainy Thursday night and dined to the sound of Trae Gurley singing Sinatra. It was fantastic entertainment. That’s another thing I love about Jazz’d–live music six nights a week featuring blues, swing, jazz or local talent.
If you’re like me and are fairly new to this idea of tapas, don’t be afraid. The concept originated in Spain and just means a wide variety of appetizers and snacks, usually ordered with the intent of sharing. The menu at Jazz’d explains: “An Americanized version of centuries old Spanish tradition.” They have over 35 tapas to choose from like Potato Leek Frittata with Mango Fig Chutney, Southern Crab Cakes (NICE!), Seafood Paella and the popular Martini Marinated Tenderloin Tips.
So, what’s the hold up? Let your hair down, get your good time on and head on over to Jazz’d!
You need only five ingredients to make this delicious Buffalo Chicken Dip. The dip really packs a flavorful punch and is awesome with salty tortilla chips. Easy to put together, this dip makes an appearance at most of the gatherings I host, and there are never any leftovers.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 10 oz can of chicken
- 1/2 cup ranch salad dressing
- 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
- Tortilla chips and celery for dipping
Soften an 8 oz block of cream cheese in the microwave, then spread evenly into an oven safe dish. Drain the canned chicken and shred it using two forks. Top the softened cream cheese with the chicken. You can always use fresh chicken instead of canned, but I find the canned chicken to be a time saver and just as tasty.