Friday, October 23, 2009

Steak and Onion Rings

The cool thing about being a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher is that you get to participate in their Tastemaker program. In other words, they will send you samples of food, gadgets, etc. for you to try out and write about on your blog. Imagine my delight when I got my very first package--a box with Emeril's Steak Rub, Essence of Emeril and Beef Stock.

I decided that my first entry would be a recipe (well, two actually) that I had been dying to try since I first started my blog. On a rare Saturday off last fall, I was lounging on the couch channel-surfing and stumbled upon Barefoot Contessa. I had never watched Ina Garten before, but I was instantly intrigued by her show. That day, she was making Steakhouse Steaks with Cornmeal Onion Rings and Sauted Wild Mushrooms. Love at first sight.

I decided to take her steak and onion ring recipes and tweak them a bit, adding Emeril's steak rub and Essence of Emeril seasoning. They turned out pretty good--considering that I have never cooked steak or onion rings before. The steaks were definitely too salty, but still good. I'm sure that adding the steak rub added some salt. However, I absolutely LOVED the addition of Essence of Emeril to the onion rings. It gave them a nice little kick that was just delish!

Steakhouse Steaks
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten
Episode: Steaks and Sides


2 (10-ounce) filet mignon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon fleur de sel

1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tablespoon Emeril's Steak Rub
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with vegetable oil. Combine the fleur de sel, cracked pepper and Emeril's Steak Rub on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.

When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.

Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter, if using, and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak.)

Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings

adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten
Episode: Steaks and Sides


2 large Spanish onions (or 3 yellow onions)
2 cups buttermilk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp Essence of Emeril, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (medium) yellow cornmeal
1 quart vegetable oil

Peel the onions, slice them 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick, and separate them into rings. Combine the buttermilk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon Essence of Emeril in a medium bowl. Add the onion rings, toss well, and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes. (The onion rings can sit in the buttermilk for a few hours.) In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon Essence of Emeril. Set aside.

When you're ready to fry the onion rings, preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a large pot or Dutch oven. (A candy thermometer attached to the side of the pot will help you maintain the proper temperature). Working in batches, lift some onions out of the buttermilk and dredge them in the flour mixture. Drop into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown, turning them once with tongs. Don't crowd them! Place the finished onion rings on the baking sheet, sprinkle liberally with salt, and keep them warm in the oven while you fry the next batch. Continue frying the onion rings and placing them in the warm oven until all the onions are fried. They will remain crisp in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


So I know that this blog is primarily focused on cooking, but I just HAVE to give a little plug to my new favorite (out-of-state) restaurant--Margaux's in Raleigh, NC. My parents moved to North Carolina two years ago, and this quickly became their favorite dining spot. On a recent trip to visit them, Mom and Dad were nice enough to treat me to dinner. Words cannot express my gratitude. Dramatic, but true. This place is THAT GOOD.

We started out at the bar with our favorite cocktail-- Apple Martinis (actually, Dad got a Gin and Tonic--he's not that girly) to enjoy the atmosphere and watch a little football. The decor is very eclectic--it's not stuffy, but still upscale. The menu changes periodically, and they always have seasonal specials. I had my eye on a dish that I found on the menu a few days earlier (doing my due diligence--I always look at menus before I go to new restaurants. It gets me excited), but my parents warned me it might not be on there any more. I'm happy to say they were wrong. Not only that, but when the bartender described the dish to them, they decided that they would get it too! We're all about variety, in my family.

Anyway, the dish was Pan Seared Lobster Tails with Shrimp and Scallops, served with a Smoked Bacon and Pumpkin Sage Risotto. I can't even type it without drooling, but the best part was the presentation. My photo does not do it justice (the restaurant was very dark), but the dish was served in this adorable mini pumpkin. I all but licked my plate clean (pumpkin included). And though we didn't really have room for dessert, I couldn't resist their White and Dark Chocolate Mousse. In a word--heavenly. Food is my best friend (sorry, Husband).

Monday, October 12, 2009

Homemade Pumpkin Bread

About a year ago, I started this very fun, stressful, fulfilling and time-consuming thing--my blog. It's been a great year...I mean, no book deals or movies with Meryl Streep, but I've definitely learned a lot about cooking and even more about myself. Cheesy, I know. Anyway, I decided to celebrate my anniversary by paying homage to my very first blog post--those decadent Pumpkin Pie Waffles. But instead of waffles, I would venture into baking my first ever homemade Pumpkin Bread. We all know how great I am at baking (insert sarcastic comment here), but something about the cool, fall weather inspired me. Or maybe it was the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks, I can't be sure...

Anyway. I found this easy (idiot-proof) recipe at RecipeZaar and decided to give it a whirl. The bread was moist, delicious and full of my favorite pumpkin flavor. This will definitely be one to share over the holidays!

Pumpkin Bread
adapted from RecipeZaar, recipe #264721


1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup olive oil (can sub with canola or vegetable)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice


1.Preheat oven to 350°F.
2.Sift together flour, salt, sugar and baking soda.
3.In a separate bowl, combine pumpkin, oil, eggs, water and spices.
4.Combine pumpkin mixture with dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix (this will make the bread tough).
5.Pour into a well-buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a thin skewer poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

Serving: One 9x5 loaf

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baby Shower

Well I think the hard work paid off. I successfully schlepped (almost) every entertaining piece that I owned to Atlanta for my dear friend Anna's baby shower (or as Husband liked to refer to it, "the thing that took over my life and my dining room). Husband looked at the pile on the living room floor as he was about to load the car and said, "Ok, how about we leave half of this stuff here." I ignored him. Of course, as soon as we arrived Anna's sweet mom saw our stash and said, "I have dishes, you know." I might have gotten a glare from Husband at that point, but I can't be sure.

Anyway, our resident photographer (aka my mom) got some great shots of the food, table and of course, beautiful parents-to-be. It was an incredibly special day and we were so happy to be a part of it!

My pride and glory--the diaper cake. I decided that instead of flowers, I would make this the "centerpiece" of the table.I mean, flowers are beautiful, but diapers are useful. I followed the instructions on this helpful wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be! Don't you love it when that happens?

After I put it together, I decorated with some cute ribbon that coordinated with the invitations, plates and napkins that I picked out (because I'm a big nerd). I topped the "cake" with some fresh hydrangea and used an ivory cake stand (one of my favorite wedding gifts) to display it. I was really excited about these adorable socks I found at Swoozie's. Anna and Jeremy have decided to wait until the baby is born to tell us his name (believe me, I have tried to get it out of them) so they affectionately call him "Little Buddy." Imagine my delight when I found little baby socks embroidered with (you guessed it)... Little Buddy! Perfection!

Oh, the food. My favorite part of any gathering. I have to give a HUGE thank you to Anna's amazing father, Mr. Yanni, who slow-cooked his own BBQ pork for us to make mini BBQ sliders with. It was incredible. I filled out the table with Warm Swiss and Bacon Dip, Artichoke Dip with Pita Chips, Mini Roast Beef and Havarti Sliders, Red Potato Salad and some fresh veggies.

Dessert included Brownie Bites, Petit Fours (with blue baby booties--adorable!) and Anna's favorite pregnancy craving--Oatmeal Cream Sandwiches. It was actually the only thing she could eat for about three months.

As another gift to Anna and Jeremy, we asked the guests to write down some words of encouragement or blessings for the parents-to-be. I added their baby pictures to the table in some adorable frames that they can use for the nursery. Note: Given the number of swine flu cases that had been diagnosed at the time of the shower, we asked guests to sanitize their hands. Anna thinks of everything.

Congratulations Anna and Jeremy! We can't wait to meet Little Buddy!